Coors, Miller to combine U.S. operations

And then there were two.

The Big Three of American brewing with become the Big Two. Brewers Molson Coors Brewing Co. and SABMiller said today they will combine their U.S. operations in a joint venture.

The makers of Miller Lite, Original Coors and Coors Light said they will share ownership equally in the new venture, but because of the economic value of their respective units SABMiller will have a 58% economic interest to Molson Coors’s 42% interest. The deal is expected to close by the end of he year.

Miller is the second largest brewing company in America and Molson Coors the third, both well behind Anheuser-Busch. Even combined they will still be smaller than A-B.

SABMiller and Molson Coors said they expect the combined brand portfolio, scale and combined management strength of the joint venture will allow it to better compete in the U.S marketplace, improving the standalone operational and financial performance of both Miller and Coors.

“This transaction is driven by the profound changes in the U.S. alcohol beverage industry that are confronting both of our companies with new challenges,” said Molson Coors Vice Chairman Pete Coors.

“Consumers are broadening their tastes and are increasingly looking for greater choice and differentiation; wine and spirits companies are encroaching on traditional beer occasions, and global beer importers and craft brewers are both taking a larger share of volume and profit growth. Creating a stronger U.S. brewer will help us meet these challenges, compete more effectively and provide U.S. consumers with more choice, greater product availability and increased innovation. The Molson and Coors families are firmly in support of this strategic transaction.”

The press release.


Garrett Oliver editor for Oxford Companion to Beer

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery, has signed on as the Editor-In-Chief and leading author of The Oxford Companion to Beer, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

The book will offer thousands of entries on beer-related topics, from history to styles, detailed methods of production, ingredients and their varieties, politics of beer, topics of debate, yeasts, climate change, wild fermentations, innovations and more.

A press release from Oxford press states, “It will be unlike any beer book ever published.” It points to Jancis Robinson’s seminal book The Oxford Companion to Wine to give readers and idea what to expect. That book weighs almost seven pounds.

“We couldn’t be more happy to be adding this title to our Oxford Food Reference list,” said Christian Purdy, director of publicity for Oxford University Press.

Oliver is author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, which won the 2004 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Book Award and was also a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Book Award. Oliver has been brewing for 18 years and is a veteran of more than 500 beer dinners and tastings in eight countries.


Oktoberfest records include lost dentures

Munich’s Oktoberfest closed Sunday, setting a daily record for beer consumption at 419,000 liters, up from 383,000 in 2006.

Organizers reported it attracted 6.2 million visitors who drank 6.7 million liters (the equivalent of 11 million pints) of beer, ate 104 oxen and lost three sets of false teeth. Some 50 lost children were also recovered.

“Without wanting to put a gloss on it, this really was a great Oktoberfest,” Munich Mayor Christian Ude told a news conference.


Even without Paris Hilton, Oktoberfest decidely hip

Oktoberfest in Munich, with tennis icon Boris Becker leading scores of celebrities and a growing number young Germans under the age of 30 to the festival.

“The Oktoberfest has discarded its old fashioned image and is chic again, especially for the young,” observed Germany’s normally critical Der Spiegel magazine. “The new generation voluntarily dons the Bavarian peasant look – long socks, leather trousers, aprons and blouses from which squeezed breasts quell forth like steamed dumplings.”

Although the Oktoberfest has the equivalent of a written constitution which prohibits advertising, the event was hijacked last year by Paris Hilton attempting to market canned Prosecco. The car hire magnate Regine Sixt also advertised her firm with the help of a large BMW saloon and a posse of samba dancers.

This year the Oktoberfest, which ends today, has banned explicit advertising although beer mugs and mats and napkin rings are still allowed to be decorated with company logos.

[Via The Independent]


Oops, tainted beer was an accident

Labatt Breweries has figured out why some bottles of Stella Artois sold in Canadian bars were filled with concentrated alcohol.

It turns out it wasn’t a matter of tampering. A handful of bars accidentally placed the potent bottles filled with concentrated alcohol in their beer fridges. The brewery had filled them with the replacement liquid because they were intended for display only.

Neil Sweeney, vice-president of corporate affairs for Labatt, said Canadian bar owners worked in collaboration with the brewery to inspect every bottle of Stella Artois being served across the country to ensure they were in fact filled with beer.

A press release from the brewery said new control procedures have been put in place to prevent a similar incident in the future.


Cargill to resume malting in Wisconsin

Cargilll is reopening its malting facility in Sheboygan, Wis., three years after it closed.

The facility will focus on producing limited quantities of specialty malt products for the craft brewing industry.

“That’s great news,” said Russell Klisch, president of Lakefront Brewery Inc., a craft brewer based in Milwaukee. Klisch said the prices of malt and hops – both key ingredients in beer – are increasing.

The addition of a new malting facility in Wisconsin will help reduce shipping costs for the state’s brewers, Klisch said.

However it won’t alleviate higher costs brewers across the nation are facing. Many will pay 30% to 100% more for barley malt in 2008 than they did in 2007, and similar increases hop prices are common.

Cargill has used the site as a distribution warehouse since it quit malting there in 2004. The plant’s reopening will create 11 jobs.


Czechs won’t put Budvar brewery on market

The Czech government has decided not to take what might have been the first step toward selling the Budejovicky Budvar brewery, the Prague Daily Monitor reports.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said there on no current plays to privatize the brewery. “This is no privatisation,” he said, adding that transforming the brewery into a joint-stock company would take about 12-18 months.

He also dismissed speculation that his adviser Marek Dalik is in talks with US brewing giant Anheuser-Busch.

An earlier story.


Charlotte Oktoberfest

Reported by Banjo Bandolas

Our arrival in the shining southern city of Charlotte was a bit of a letdown initially. We’d found our way through the Gordian knot they call a traffic system to the Metrolina Expo Trade Center (a name that conjured elaborate images of glass and chrome in my mind). I now stood before us in all its steel-barned-beauty. My wife, Bonne, who’d joined me on this trip as official photographer, shot a look over the car that could’ve killed a lesser man. Thank god it missed and browned the swath of grass behind me instead.

“This is the BIG Oktoberfest you’ve been looking forward to?”

Charlotte Oktoberfest

“Honey,” I said gesturing to the hundreds of people streaming past us towards the entrance, “It’s sold out, they must be doing something right.”

As we drew closer the sweet strains of the Moonshine Racers belting out the old Hank Williams Sr. song “Moonshine Soul” drew me into as unique a fest experience as I’ve seen to date and an age-old lesson. Something about books and covers I think.

The Charlotte Oktoberfest, produced by the Carolina Brewers Association, offered over 350 different beers and was divided into three large rooms and a huge back lot. The first room held national and international beers, the second, homebrew clubs and the Beerlympic village, and the third regional breweries closer to home and heart. The venders and music stage were outside.

As much as I wanted to go out and listen to the Moonshine Racers, the beer was calling and you know what the boss says, work comes first. I planned to start in the regional room with the southern brewers but got confused and ended up in the national and international area. I made the most of it by treating myself to a Rogue Hazelnut brown to start a beery fine day. “Ahhhh” I breathed, pondering the dark brown liquid in my tasting glass, sweet hazelnut aroma drifted to my nose. The enjoyment of the first beer, like the last cookie in a package, should always be given more attention in my opinion. The nutty flavor is nice without crossing over into sweet, and a smooth malty finish with coffee notes leaves you ready for a second taste before the first has left your mouth.

Charlotte OktoberfestA short time and few bruises later I’d worked my way thru a handful of Northeast breweries and found a keeper with Saranac Pumpkin Ale. It’s the first pumpkin ale I’ve had this season. The pour was a nice golden reddish brown topped by a billowy head.
The light pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg aroma was anchored by the expected pumpkin pie taste (light but it’s there), with a bit of cinnamon in the finish. This beer hit the spot for me because, after a long hot summer, I am so ready for fall.

The next area we entered, room two, held the Homebrew clubs; the Battleground brewers, Carolina Brewers Assoc, Charlotte Palmetto State Brewers, Carboy Brewers, and the Wort Hawgs. A testament to the pride and craftsmanship of these small-batch brewers were the enormous lines, as big as any brewery line I saw, for the special homebrewed beers being poured.

I met Tom Nolan at the Brew Hawgs table and he let me sample his Baltic Porter, the 2006 GABF ProAm competition gold metal winner. (Pro-Foothills Brewing’s Jamie Bartholomaus and Am-Tom Nolan) The beer was dark and multileveled with different tastes surfacing with each sip, dark fruits, chocolate, and coffee notes folded into a nice soft maltiness with a strong roasted malt finish. Very nice. The Brew Hawgs were also the first of the homebrew stations to run out of beer. A coincidence? I don’t think so.

The rest of the enormous room two area was filled with the Beerlympic Village games. This is what truly made this event different for me. There were banks of every beer game I could think of and some I’d never seen before. Here’s a quick run-down. Twister, bag toss, beer tidily winks, beer pong, Frisbee golf, a large screen video game called tilt. And probably half a dozen or so other games I missed. It was a great way to disperse the crowds and give the attendee’s more ways to have fun. The games were provided through the Creative Loafing Beer Club of Charlotte and training for the series of Beerweek events held around town for a week in mid April each year.

After Bonne finished snapping a few pictures of the Beerlympians we moved on the third and final room, the regional breweries. The room was crowded and a beach ball was continuously bouncing back and forth across the room when we entered. As I moved down the line from station to station, keeping a wary eye out for that damned beach ball as I went, my selections were rewarded by the following finds:

Asheville Brewing – Ninja Porter. The dark, black bodied beer with a rich tan head,
smells of roasted malts, chocolate, and a hint of licorice. The taste is roasted malt with chocolate notes and roasted malt finish with a hint of hops. Very drinkable.

French Broad – Wee Heavyer Scotch Ale – Smelled of a nice blend of dark malts, dark fruits, and earthy spices. The taste was a big sweet malt flavor with undertones of caramel and nicely balanced hop bitterness in the finish.

Azalea Coast Brewery – Teaches Chocolate Stout – My wife’s favorite and by-god I liked it too. A clear dark brown stout with a wispy beige head, the light milk chocolate aroma, didn’t prepare me for the rich chocolate flavor (The brewer actually uses Hershey’s in the recipe), nice balance between milk chocolate sweetness and light astringent bitterness, bittersweet roasted finish, niiiiice. Another Azalea Coast Beer I really liked was their seasonal dopplebock, Navigator. The dark amber beer’s smooth softness coated my throat with molasses, roasted nutty malts and dark fruit then left me smiling with a balancing bitterness in the finish that tied it up and made a beautiful little package on my tongue. Well done guys!

The following night I joined fellow beer enthusiasts just down the street from the Azalea Brewery at the Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, North Carolina for the national toast to the memory of Michael Jackson. Front Street brewer Kevin Koziak, produces a delicious selection of beers there. My favorites were his Oktoberfest, and Scotch Ale and we used them to toast the great man’s memory.

“Here’s to you Michael, and good job on the Charlotte Oktoberfest guys, Cheers!”