CAMRA campaigns against short pints

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has released new figures showing 26.6% of pints served in UK pubs contain less than 95% beer. CAMRA is mounting its campaign for a full pint launching a national petition calling on the Prime Minister to put an end to short beer measures.

At its website, CAMRA states:

– 26.6% of pints are more than 5% short measure.
– Short measure costs consumers £481 million a year, or over £1.3 million a day.
– Pubs serve customers 208 million more pints than they buy in.

CAMRA has created an online petition to make joining the protest easy.


Brewhouse ransacked for copper parts

Thieves broke into the Wachusett Brewing Co. in Westminster, Mass., to steel copper that can easily be peddled as scrap.

The saddest part if the copper was part antique German-made brewhouse, far more valuable than scrap.

The copper components were part of a large antique onion-dome style copper brewhouse that was made in Germany in 1951. Company president Edward C. LaFortune III said he and his two partners bought it in 2004 from the former owner, who paid $100,000 to have it shipped to this country. The owners planned to refurbish the brewhouse because it is unique and a lot larger than the stainless steel one currently in use.

He said all the components that were stolen probably have a scrap value of $2,000, but will cost a minimum of $20,000 for the company to replace.


Dogfish Head wants your shorts (short films)

Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware has put out the call for entries for the 2nd Annual Dogfish Head Short Film Competition.

First place is worth $3,000, 2nd $2,000 and third $1,000. Also, the top three films will also be screened at this year’s 10th Annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival (in November).

Inspiration from the website:

We want to incorporate as many different, individual, vignettes of the ‘little engines that could’ into the world of Dogfish Head and we want to celebrate filmmakers whose visions jibe with our own. In addition to the copious booty we will lay on first-through-third place annual winners, we will show many of the competition submissions online and in our pubs and breweries as well. Our goal is to build a short film competition that is as far from the mainstream as our 90 Minute I.P.A. is from Bud Light. So what are you waiting for? Crack open a cold on, pour it into a nice snifter, and let it come up to cellar temperature while you storyboard. Sip. Brainstorm. Sip again. Write dialogue. Sip again. Cast. Sip. Make that film. Good luck. Cheers.

Start here for details.


Gluten-free beers in the news

A couple of newspaper stories this week about beer for those who are gluten intolerant . . .

A bit of background: According to government statistics, more than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease. The genetic disorder causes stomach cramps and digestive problems and can lead to other serious health risks. People with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. Those are the grains traditionally used to brew beer. has an overview of what’s available now. Those range from the hard-to-find Ramapo Valley Brewery Honey beer to much-easier-to-locate Redbridge from Anheuser-Busch, a sorghum beer released in December and available throughout the country, including outlets such as Wal-Mart.

It can still be confusing, as the story explains:

Unlike food labels that say “reduced sodium” or “trans-fat free,” the Food & Drug Administration hasn’t established a definition for “gluten-free” packaging. But for now, Scott says, “you’re not supposed to put ‘gluten-free’ on the packaging. You can only list it as ‘wheat-free.’ “

A syndicated column by William Dowd (here’s the version from the Falls Church News-Press) includes three beers in development at Dark Hills Bbrewery in Arkansas, itself a progress in work.

Sexy LagerFounders Leigh Nogy and Connie Rieper-Estes are building a gluten-free facility to assure no cross-contamination. They plan to have their beers certified gluten-free. Most will be rice-based.

Dowd conducted a tasting with seven beers, including a lemon beer, an amber and a stout from Dark Hills. The tasting notes:

Sweet Stout) “A caramel nose, something like burnt brown sugar. . . . Really full-bodied. . . . I don’t know if I’d drink a lot of it, but I can see how it would be a substitute if you have a celiac problem.”

(Amber Ale) “Reminds me of some good ciders I’ve had. . . . Lingering aftertaste instead of just disappearing, which I like. . . . I could have a few of these. . . . Goes really well with food.”

(Lemon Ale) “This one makes me think of summer . . . Like a lemonade-style drink, but a little more syrupy. . . . . Limoncello, that’s what it’s like. . . . I could drink this over ice like a liqueur.”

There’s ongoing discussion among brewers about how closely beer brewed without traditional grains can match the flavor of beer made with those grains. To what standard should “gluten free” (or almost free) beers be judged? Dowd chose to treat them just like any other beers. And his standard is how a beer handles pizza.

We had gathered to assess a wide variety of beers in a blind tasting I devised to give a new import and some new domestic products – a true trial by fire against established mega-brands as well as against cheese, mushroom and pepperoni pizzas.

In my view, how well a beer fares against others of its kind is strictly a matter of personal taste. But, if a beer can’t hold its own against pizza, it has no business being sold in these United States.

Unless he went to a particularly special effort – and didn’t mention that – the pizzas were made with grain-based dough, not something celiacs can tolerate.

This is a different approach than some beer distributors have used in introducing sorghum-based beers, most notably Redbridge. They are targeting restaurants that offer gluten-free dishes. That seems like a more sensible approach.


Beer with a whiskey chaser

The Oregonian in Portland takes a look at the relationship between brewing and microdistilling. Of the approximately 90 craft distilleries in the U.S. nine are in Oregon, and at least four more Oregon distilleries are planned to open this year.

“Spirits will be the most dynamic growth over the next five years,” said Jim Parker, the former director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, the craft beer industry group. “They’ll grow from a handful to perhaps two dozen. And look for more than just white spirits such as vodka. Expect to see more rums, whiskeys and fruit brandies made from Oregon ingredients — you’ll see distillers experimenting more.”

Parker is in the process of opening a new brewpub, Green Dragon Ale House, where the surrounding 12 square blocks are already home to three craft distilleries and two brewery/pubs. A distillery will go in next door and and Parker’s brewery will supply the base for some of the spirits.


No news here: Craft beer sales strong

Here are some headlines from past years:

2001: Craft beer sales up 4.2%
2002: Craft beer sales top $3.3 billion
2003: Craft beer sales surge
2005: Craft beer sales soar
2006: Craft beer sales soar

Do you see a trend here? At some point this doesn’t look like news. Craft beer is not a novelty. (That doesn’t mean we should be complacent, or quit beating the drum to make the beers we like even more readily available.) That’s a good thing.

The Brewers Association, having already announced that craft beer volume sales were up 11.7% in 2006 yesterday issued a press release stating that scan data from Information Resources Inc. shows craft beer with a 17.8% increase in supermarket sales for 2006.

Those are dollar sales, not volume sales. Dollar sales now account for 6% in stores that IRI tracks, and predictions are that number will reach 7% this year. Next week at the Craft Brewers Conference in Austin the topic of one panel discussion is: “Funding and Developing Capital to Get to 10% Share.” Just a few years ago the discussion was if craft beer could get to 10%.

And with craft brewers headed to Texas, this news arrived today: First quarter sales for Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing were up approximately 35% from a year ago.

“The Texas beer market used to consider craft beers a novelty, but in recent years beer drinkers throughout the state have been trying and adopting more flavorful beers,” said brewery founder Brock Wagner. “We are gratified in seeing how many Texans are embracing both the local and craft aspects of our brews.”


Scratch-off label ‘too sexy’ for UK

Sexy LagerA British watchdog has banned a beer from UK shelves because its label is “too sexy.”

The Independent Complaints Panel found that the beer’s image associated itself with sexual success, which is banned under the Portman Group’s Code of Practice on the naming, packaging and promotion of alcoholic drinks.

Labels of “Rubbel Sexy Lager” from Belgium feature woman in a swimsuit that could be scratched off to show her naked.

“The fact is that alcohol is not like other products, and it has the capacity to lower people’s inhibitions, and affect their judgement and behavior,” said David Poley, chief executive of The Portman Group.

The thing is that this beer has been sold in the UK for seven years. Geoff Cook, general manager of Beer Paradise, said that nobody has complained in that time.

“It’s a storm in a beer bottle really,” he said. “The amount of the beer that’s sold is minimal. We’ve bought it in for the last seven years, it’s always had that label and no-one’s ever complained about it until now.”

And what might the beer inside be like? It’s in the 9th (yes, single figures) percentile at Rate Beer. One comment: “If the naked teenager on the bottle is the best thing going about this one then we are all in trouble. Would have been better for me just to scratch off her bikini and discard the bottle, beer inside. Saves the pain of drinking it!!!”


Santa’s Butt bites Maine Liquor Bureau

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression picked a Maine agency’s ban on Santa’s Butt Winter Porter as one of the nation’s most egregious violations of free speech in 2006.

Joshua Wheeler, associate director of the Jefferson Center, said the Shelton Bros. case illustrates a common problem involving the way states restrict how alcohol companies market their products. “We think they step over the line in terms of regulating speech about alcohol and alcohol products,” he said.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., finished first on the list for calling on the Justice Department to investigate The New York Times after it published information about government surveillance of international financial transactions.


New beer supports Colorado Fourteeners

Ascent 54Anheuser-Busch has added another specialty beer to its “reigional only” lineup.

Its Fort Collins brewery brewed a German-style dunkel weisse called Ascent 54 for distribution in Colorado. It will be sold only on draft. The beer is made with 50% malted wheat, combined with Munich, caramel and chocolate malts. The hops are German Hallertau-Hallertau and Hallertau-Tettnang. A Bavarian weisse yeast strain was imported for fermentation.

The name refers to the 54 14,000-foot high peaks in Colorado (known as 14-teeners or simply “teeners”). The tap handle features a climbing axe embedded in a mountain rock, with blue and white diamonds on the handle. The rock symbolizes the ruggedness of the Rocky Mountains. A diamond-shaped plaque positioned in the center of the rock displays the beer’s name and is similar in color and typeface to the Colorado license plate.

In addition to paying homage to Colorado’s peaks through its name and tap marker, Ascent 54 is supporting the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI), a non-profit organization that maintains and improves hiking trails and educates the public about minimum-impact use of fragile mountain areas.

Ascent 54 is part of A-B’s specialty beer program. The program was launched last year at A-B’s Merrimack, N.H., and Columbus, Ohio, abreweries nd was later extended to the company’s St. Louis brewery.


SABMiller may bid for Scottish & Newcastle

Brewer SABMiller is considering a bid to acquire rival Scottish & Newcastle in a $12.8 billion deal, Britain’s Sunday Express reports.

Quoting unnamed sources it said were close to SABMiller, the paper said a bid could be made for the rival brewer within days.

The newspaper reported that, if it succeeded in acquiring the rival company, SABMiller planned to sell Scottish & Newcastle’s British interests — including the country’s best-selling lager Foster’s — and the firm’s French business interests to spirits giant Diageo. also reports that India’s United Breweries has the first right of refusal when it comes to an S&N deal.


Brews & Blues festival trip giveaway

Flying Dog Brewery in Denver is giving away a trip to the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival Sept. 14-16 in Telluride as well as many other prizes as part of its sweepstakes.

The deadline to enter is May 31, with entry forms available where Flying Dog beers are sold as well as online.

Flying Dog is a sponsor for the festival, which includes a Saturday afternoon tasting with 50 breweries represented.

When B.B. King performed here in 2004, he sat on this same stage, looked out at the mountains before him, and told the crowd, “Out of the 90 different countries I’ve been to, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than what you have here.”


‘American Brew’ and legal beer

American BrewWe’d be ill-advised to pretend that celebrating the 74th anniversary of America’s brewers returning to business would be as much as as being there in 1933, but there’s certainly plenty going on Saturday:

– Brewers Association members across the country celebrate “Brew Years Eve.” The BA has a list of sites where you can participate.

One of the more interesting parties is at Elysian Brewing’s Capitol Hill brewpub in Seattle. The brewery will have a bathtub full of foaming ale in the dining room. The clawfoot display is a play on bathtub gin, the often foul-tasting liquor brewed in large quantities — maybe even in bathtubs — during Prohibition.

“Part of the reason is to call attention to the fact that there’s a very strong neo-prohibition movement,” said Elysian co-owner Dick Cantwell.

– The movie “The American Brew” debuts on A&E at 10 p.m. Eastern (9 Central, and so on). Anheuser-Busch commissioned the movie as part of its Here’s to Beer campaign. Flortenine Flims/Sherman Pictures produced the movie, which is presented in a documentary style.

It ambitiously covers a lot of territory in 50 minutes, old and new, large breweries and small, beer production and appreciation.

The movie leans heavily on American beer history and heritage, and not surprisingly Prohibition plays a major role in the story. The movie is educational an several levels. As “The American Brew” points out, because of Prohibition an entire generation of Americans lost contact with beer and beer culture.

Much of that has been revived since Fritz Maytag – he’s among those who appear in the film – saved Anchor Brewing in the 1960s and a generation of microbreweries followed. Along the way a variety of myths about American beer history from the 1850s through the 1950s became confused with the truth. Maureen Ogle did much to dispel many of the errors in her book, Ambitious Brew, and she elaborates in the movie.

This new generation plays a prominent role in the film. Viewers marginally familiar with the rise of what is generally called “microbrewed” beer may recognize Maytag, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada, American Homebrewers Association founder Charlie Papazian, author-brewer Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and others.

Those a level deeper into craft beer will know immediately who Dick Cantwell of Elysian Brewing, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing and Jennifer Talley of Squatters Brewpub are.

A DVD of the movie will be sold at beer stores and in taverns across the country (it is also available at the Here’s to Beer website for less than $6). It contains 42 minutes of outtakes, such as a lengthy conversations with beer authority Michael Jackson, with All About Beer magazine’s Julie Johnson Bradford and Daniel Bradford, and with Carol Stoudt of Stoudt Brewing.


How much would you pay for a beer pager?

Do you think this is real?

We’ve worked our way through a maze of gadget websites linking to this. And not a one tells you where to find a product you can actually buy. But is funny, so here goes:

Ever been at a party and couldn’t find your beer? Do you sometimes feel like that darn can is trying to elude you? I sure did! Alas, there is an end to this! The Beer Pager! Drop your can or bottle in it, clip the remote to your belt and enjoy the party. If you’re unable to find your drink, just press the red button, and a friendly belch will help you pinpoint its location.

This gadget can act both as a beer coaster and cup holder (though it looks quite bulky as a holder). Promising ‘Remote activation up to 60 feet’, the Beer pager will belch (literally) and flash some colorful LED’s when you press the red key on the remote. The cup holder also promises to ‘Keep you beverage chilled’.

Hopefully different beer pagers use different radio codes or imagine this: big party, at least 3-4 of these scattered around a room holding the same brand of beer, and all going [burp] and flashing when someone tries to locate ONE beer. Nasty, huh?

Click here for a photo.

The next belch you hear . . .


Lewes Arms loyalists win

It looks like the locals at the Lewes Arms in Sussex have won.

The Publican reports that Greene King is expected to bow to consumer pressure and reinstate Harvey’s Best Bitter. The brewing giant had dumped the local beer to sell only its own brands.

Adam Collett, marketing director for Greene King’s managed pubs, acknowledged his company had “underestimated the strength of feeling which led to many locals boycotting what was once a great British pub. As a result, it has lost some of its character and greatness.”

The decision to remove the beer is still subject to internal review, but there’s little doubt how it will turn out.

A local campaign to get the ale back in the pub, which included a boycott of the pub itself, attracted national newspaper headlines and airtime on radio and TV.