Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter, dies

Michael Jackson, whose writing about beer literally changed what is in the glasses of beer drinkers around the world, has died. He was 65.

Jackson, universally known as The Beer Hunter, recently revealed that he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was battling other health problems. He remained active, speaking at beer and whisky events around the world and most recently addressing British beer writers before the Great British Beer Festival. He wrote about the past year in his last column for All About Beer Magazine, now available online.

Jackson began working for a local Yorkshire newspaper in 1958, when he was 16, having even earlier submitted news stories and jazz reviews. Working as both a writer and editor during the next 20 years he contributed to dozens of publications and also made documentary films. In his frequent travels he became deeply interested not only in drinking a wider range of beers, but how they were made and their origins.

Shortly after the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) rekindled interest in traditional beers in Great Britain in the 1970s, Jackson began to write more about beer.

He recalled in a 1996 interview:

“I had nothing to do with the starting of CAMRA, but I joined early on. I’d already traveled quite a bit as a journalist, and I’d tasted interesting beers in other countries. Particularly, I was very aware of the Belgian traditions and to some extent the German tradition. I thought, it’s very good that CAMRA is fighting for British tradition, but what about the tradition of these other countries? I think the motivation was almost like the motivation of some of those musicologists like Alan Lomax who went down to the Mississippi Delta in the ’50s and recorded old blues men before they died. I wanted to kind of record Belgian beer before those breweries didn’t exist anymore. I certainly didn’t see it as a career possibility, but I think all, or many, journalists have in them a sort of element of being an advocate.”

He published his first book about beer, The English Pub, in 1976, but it was his second, the World Guide to Beer (1977) that dovetailed with a quite young beer and brewing revolution in the United States. The book became a bible for both brewers and drinkers reconnecting with traditional beer.

In the 30 years since his books about beer and spirits – he was as authorative writer about Scotch as he was beer, but this is a beer publication – sold millions of copies. His television documentary called The Beer Hunter remains a cult classic almost 20 years after it was compiled.

He considered himself a journalist first, but also took equal pride in the words he put to paper.

They are only part of what he left behind and that list is endless. The tributes have just begun. It is the only topic of import today in beer blogs, on beer discussion boards and in various e-mail lists.

Expect the flow of words to continue for months.

They won’t be enough.


Lagunitas ‘Kill Ugly Radio’

Kill Urlgy Radio LabelAs promised last year, Lagunitas Brewing in California has released the second beer in its Frank Zappa series.

Kill Ugly Radio, featuring the inside album art from Zappa’s second album, Absolutely Free, is in stores now. Last year Lagunitas brewed Freak Out! to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the first album by Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and Kill Ugly Radio commemorates the 40th anniversary of the second.

Lagunitas founder Tony Magee obtained the permission of the Zappa Family Trust to use the original album art for both.

The beer itself? A hefty 7.8% and not surprisingly brimming with West Coast hops, a blast of citrus and Northwest pine, and unapologetic bitterness.


Rogue Nation picks Turkey as official bird

With an eye toward Thanksgiving, the Turkey has been named the official bird of the Rogue Nation.

An e-mail missive from the Rogue News Service explains:

To commemorate this momentous occasion Rogue Juniper Pale Ale has been dedicated to “the turkey in each of us.” An axe and the dedication have been added to the serigraphed 22oz bottles and Juniper Pale Ale tap stickers.

The Pilgrims were ale drinkers and most likely enjoyed beer at the first Thanksgiving. According to the Nation’s Department of Agriculture turkey is not just for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s table but is honored daily by consumption. Even if some do not eat turkey the bottle is a perfect gift for their turkey friends.

According to Garrett Oliver, author of the “Brewmaster’s Table”, the question most often posed to sommeliers is “What wine goes best with turkey dinner?” The answer, he says, is beer!

Under those conditions it isn’t clear how turkeys might feel about this “honor.”


The Wall Street Journal meets Beer Pong

Today’s Wall Street Journal made a story about Beer Pong one of its free reads.

The summary: “A new wave of young people are trying to make money tapping into their peers’ devotion to beer pong, a cross between ping-pong and beer chugging. The market appears to be expanding as fans continue playing post-college.”

Many have mixed feelings about Beer Pong. For instance, in 2005 Anheuser-Busch sponsored tournaments across the country in a promotion called Bud Pong. But the company abandoned the game after media reports suggested it promoted binge drinking.

But as you’ll read in this story – and it comes with a video – some people have figure out how to make money from it.


Hickenlooper sells stake in Wynkoop Brewing

Brewpub pioneer John Hickenlooper has sold his share of Wynkoop Holdings, which operates seven Denver restaurants, to his employees.

Observers estimated that Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver since 2003, received in the neighborhood of $7 million for his 40% share of some of the best-known eateries in Denver.

Hickenlooper and the late Russell Schehrer founded Wynkoop Brewing in 1988 and soon opened or consulted on the opening of dozens of other brewpubs across the country. The Wynkoop influence can still be seen and tasted in brewpubs from San Francisco to Buffalo, N.Y.

The Rocky Mountain News reports:

Lee Driscoll, CEO of Wynkoop Holdings Inc. and the second- largest shareholder of the restaurants, with 35%, said there are initially six new owners.

But there will be about 20 owners when shares are granted to managers of the restaurants, head chefs, and other key executives and longtime employees, he said. However, it will not be an employee stock ownership plan, in which every employee typically can own shares, he said.

Hickenlooper said he first learned about the offer about a month ago.

“They were pretty far down the planning before they approached me,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper had been laid off from his job as a geologist in 1986 and shortly thereafter visited Falling Rock (soon to be called Triple Rock) Ale House in Berkeley, Calif. There was a line out the door on a Wednesday night, and Hickenlooper — who began homebrewing in 1971 — was taken by the concept of serving fresh beer brewed on the premises.

He borrowed a book on writing a business plan from the library, hooked up with Schehrer (the 1985 American Homebrewers Association Homebrewer of the Year) and, a mere two years later, Wynkoop was open.


What would George Thorogood drink?

Straub Brewery in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, the smallest remaining “old-style” brewery in the country, has rolled out a third brand.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers played at a concert to celebrate the debut of Peter Straub Special Dark.

The beer is available only on tap for now, because the brewery’s bottling line is running at capacity to keep up with deman for Straub Premium and Light, both sold mostly in St. Mary’s and the immediate region.

“This beer is our answer to the rise in craft brewing market. A lot of people are trying different beers. We’re trying to open up an option for them to try something from our brewery that is a little different,” said Straubs Sales Representative Gene Williams.

The brewery is famous, of course, for its Eternal Tap. Customers may walk in (during business hours) and pour themselves a free beer.


Blue Paddle champion at Lager Festival

Craft Lager FestivalNew Belgium Brewing’s Blue Paddle Pilsener won Best of Show at the fifth Craft Lager Festival, held earlier this month in Manitou Springs, Colo., outside of Colorado Springs.

The festival attracted beers from 31 breweries across the country, and from as far away at Hawaii and Massachusetts. All profits from the event are donated directly to local open spaces.

Judges particularly liked the beers of Carver Brewing, a brewpub located in Durango. Three Carver lagers – including its Spring Tonic Elixir brewed to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition – brought home medals in judging held before the festival itself.

The results:

First: Blue Paddle Pilsener – New Belgium Brewing
Second: La Plata Pilsener – Carver Brewing
Third: Polestar Pilsener – Left Hand Brewing

First: Light Lager – Rock Bottom (Colorado Springs)
Second: Longboard Island Lager – Kona Brewing
Third: Session Premium Lager – Full Sail Brewing

First: Ltd. #2 – Full Sail Brewing
Second: Rye Bock Lager – Left Hand Brewing
Third: Butthead Bock – TommyKnocker’s Brewery

Strong Lager
First: None awarded
Second: Warning Sign Eis Bock – Good Ol’ Boys Brewing COOP
Third: Dutch – Rockyard American Grill and Brewery

First: None Awarded
Second: Steam Engine Lager – Steamworks Brewing
Third: Ornery Amber – TommyKnocker’s Brewery

Other Specialty Lager
First: Spring Tonic Elixir – Carver Brewing
Second: Cerveza Real – Carver Brewing
Third: Hop Goblin – Il Vicino Brewing (Albuquerque)


The Dunkelweizen, Irish Red referendum

Samuel Adams contest choices

Boston Beer Co., brewer of Samuel Adams beers, has begun conducting tastings around the country where consumers can help pick one of the beers that will be sold in the 2008 Brewmaster’s Collection 12-pack. The winning beer will also be sold in six-packs.

This year’s contenders are a spicy, fruity (particularly banana) Dunkelweizen and rich, caramel-accented Irish Red Ale.

In similar contests, a Brown Ale won voting in 2005 while Honey Porter bested a Smoked Lager in 2006.

Information about where to find a tasting event is at the Samuel Adams web site.

archives archives

Picture of Jesus holding beer causes uproar

News from Kuala Lumpur:

A police report was lodged against a Tamil newspaper for publishing a front-page picture of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other.

The report, lodged by a Puchong MIC member at the Tun H.S. Lee police station, alleged that the picture was a “threat to national harmony”.

Makkal Osai, a Tamil daily, printed the picture in its Tuesday’s edition with a caption quoting Christ as saying: “If someone repents for his mistakes, then heaven awaits them.”

This is a serious ruckus. The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Murphy Pakiam, said: “It is very sacred to Catholics. As such, this caricature of Jesus is a desecration and therefore hurtful to the religious sentiments of Catholics.”


Dogfish Head celebrates 10 years of ‘exporting’

Ten years ago, to celebrate exporting the first Dogfish Head Brewery beer from Delaware, founder Sam Calagione built a sliding-seat rowboat and rowed a six-pack of Shelter Pale Ale 17 nautical miles from Lewes to a beach at Cape May, N.J.

He’s ready for the return trip, and this time on a bigger boat. Monday (Aug. 27) Calagione will host a trip on the Cape May Lewes Ferry.

Calagione wanted to deliver a keg when he sold his first beer outside Delaware in 1997, but soon figured that wouldn’t fit in the boat.

“It was a long, strange trip and pretty disorienting,” he said. “I couldn’t see land for about half the trip.” A party at a Cape May bar followed with Dogfish Head beer on tap. “But we all took sips from the six-pack that I rowed across the bay,” Calagione said.

To celebrate the anniversary, Dogfish and the Cape May Lewes Ferry are hosting a series of events Monday.

Calagione will host a beer & cheese sampling at the Rock Pile Bar in the Cape May terminal from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Along with selected cheeses, Calagione will sample the brewery’s Shelter Pale Ale, 60 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale and the 2007 release of Punkin’ Ale.

The boat will head for Lewes at 4:30 p.m. (check-in time us 4 p.m.). During the ride, Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale will be on tap in the Debraak Lounge. Calagione will be on hand pouring samples of some hard-to-find Dogfish Beers, talking with guests about the company, and signing copies of his two books, “Brewing Up A Business” and “Extreme Beer.” Books will be available for purchase.

Upon arrival at the Lewes, Delaware terminal, he will host a beer sampling from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Gerald’s Bar & Grill. Beers to be sampled include Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale, 60 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale and the 2007 Punkin’ Ale.

Tickets are now available and include round-trip ferry travel and beer sampling at listed locations.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 1-800-643-3779.


More data that beer can be chic

More good news for the beer industry, following last week’s data about craft beer sales going strong in the first half of 2007.

From BrandWeek:

Beer sales from food, drug, liquor and convenience stores for the year ended June 2 grew 1.1% in volume, faster than spirits, which edged up 0.3% but trailed wine, which grew 2.7%, per Nielsen Monitor Plus. While Nielsen (which, like Brandweek, is owned by Nielsen Co.) touts that liquor and wine growth rates fell during that period, Impact, the New York-based trade publication, said all the categories grew in 2006 by more than 1% in volume.

BrandWeek also reports on a proprietary analysis for liquor clients by Information resources, Inc., which provided much of the information for last week’s press release from the Brewers Association. IRI found that consumers drinking less booze are substituting with high-end beer, light-calorie brews and wine. IRI figures show case sales of imports and craft beers increased 3.7% for the year ended July 15 while spirits slipped 1.1% and wine rose 4.4%.

Bump Williams, general manager of IRI’s beverage and alcohol unit, said craft beers are catching up with spirits in terms of cachet: “If they’re not drinking a martini or a vodka tonic, they want to be seen with a Corona, a Sam Adams or a Fat Tire. They’re unique, individual and chic.”

Nothing like feeling chic on a Monday morning, is there?


Steve Harrison, Sierra Nevada executive, dies

The body of Sierra Nevada Brewing vice president Steve Harrison, was found yesterday in the Sacramento River. Harrison, 54, had been missing for more than a week. There was no sign of foul play, according to authorities.

Harrison was the first employee at Sierra Nevada and was friends with company-founder Ken Grossman before conception of the brewery.

More at ProBrewer: In Memory of Steve Harrison.


First pumpkin beer of the season spotted

Jack's Pumpkin SpicePay no attention to those thermometer readings in Dallas or Cincinnati, pumpkin beers are on the way and fall can’t be far behind.

Anheuser-Busch this week announced the return of Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale, first released in 2005. More pumpkin beers distributed nationally, regionally and locally will soon follow.

Brewed with seasonal spices and Oregon-grown Golden Delicious pumpkins at A-B’s Fort Collins brewery, Jack’s (5.5% abv) pairs with traditional dishes such as turkey dinnners and pumpkin bisque, but also others like like teriiyaki chicken and mild Italian sausages.

“For adults who’ve never tried a pumpkin beer before, we’d encourage them to experiment with Jack’s,” said Florian Kuplent, brewmaster, Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “Because the pumpkin and spice flavors are so well-balanced and subtle, Jack’s doesn’t overpower foods and makes for an ideal culinary experience. Year after year this is one of our favorite beers to brew and we hope beer drinkers who enjoy trying new flavors will sample this seasonal ale.”

Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale is brewed with two-row, caramel and carapils barley malts, a blend of imported and domestic Hallertau hops and domestic Saaz hops.


The tipping point, indeed

A few months agon Jack Curtin used the term “the tipping point” (which comes from Malcolm Glaldwell’s book with that title) in writing about the spread of what those of us around here understandably describe as “real beer.”

And today the Los Angeles Times joins the fray by headlining the story on the cover of its Calendar section “At the tipping point: Roll out the barrel, beer lovers are eager to taste local microbrews.” (Registration may be required.)

This look at how and why Los Angeles has finally come to “get beer” includes a lengthy list of places to drink these beers and a shorter one of brewery restaurants.

“Wine paved the way here,” Sang Yoon (of the Father’s Office, long a bastion for better beer) says. “The success of wine has opened the door for craft beer, as people now have a basic understanding of wine they didn’t have 20 years ago. People are realizing that beer can taste like peaches, or beer can taste like a coffee, or beer can taste like a chocolate milkshake. It’s a far broader palate than wine. It’s like suddenly being handed a big box of crayons.”

This story appears just a day after the Brewers Association announced craft beer sales were up 11% in the first half of 2007 and dollar sales up 14%.

And before we could even get the link to the LA Times posted, this in from the Sun Sentinel in Florida: The Sunshine State is making a name for itself with great craft brews.

What’s next, North Dakota?