Primo: Is it water or is it beer?

Oops. Might the resurrection of Primo beer hit a snag? Or is Primo Water an interloper?

Primo Water Corp., headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., is defending its rights to the Primo name, which it has used since 2005, against Pabst Brewing Co., which owns Honolulu’s Primo Brewing & Malting Co., the maker of Primo beer.

The legal essentials:

Last month, Pabst announced plans to reintroduce the beer next week in up to 40 Oahu restaurants and bars, and in bottles this spring.

Primo Water requested that the U.S. District Court in North Carolina order the cancellation of Primo beer trademark registrations and rule that Primo Water’s use of the name does not infringe on Pabst’s claims to the Primo beer trademarks or weaken the beer’s brand.

Pabst asked in a Sept. 7 cease-and-desist letter to Primo Water that the company stop using the Primo trademark on bottled water, according to a filing submitted Thursday by Primo Water. Pabst warned in an Oct. 31 letter to Primo Water that it “is prepared to litigate” before federal courts.

Jack Curtin has more interesting details about Primo beer.


Southwest Indians may have made beer from corn

New research indicates Indians in the Southwest may have used corn to ferment beer before Europeans arrived.

Ancient and modern pot shards collected by New Mexico state archeologist Glenna Dean, in conjunction with analyses by Sandia National Laboratories researcher Ted Borek, open the possibility that food or beverages made from fermenting corn were consumed by native inhabitants centuries before the Spanish arrived.

“There’s been an artificial construct among archeologists working in New Mexico that no one had alcohol here until the Spanish brought grapes and wine,” Dean said. “That’s so counter-intuitive. It doesn’t make sense to me as a social scientist that New Mexico would have been an island in pre-Columbian times. By this reasoning, ancestral puebloans would have been the only ones in the Southwest not to know about fermentation.”


Portland Holiday Ale Fest

Report and photos by Banjo Bandolas

Slate gray sky capped the Willamette valley as I drove up I5 North to the last beer fest of the season, Portland’s 12th annual Holiday Ale Fest drew me out into Oregon’s cold wet winter with the promise of 41 special Holiday beers. The thought of spending the day tasting beers with names like Bad Santa (Pelican), Brewdolph (Lompoc), Tannen Bomb (Golden Valley), Kringle Krack (Calapooia), and Blitzen (Rock Bottom) had me salivating and driving just a little faster than the law allows.

Dave White and Tim PyattI’d gone about 30 miles when I noticed two men walking down the south-side shoulder of I5, flying a Rogue Ales flag high and proud. Luckily I was coming up on an exit so I was able to swap directions quickly and find out what was up.

Dave White and Tim Pyatt are part of the crew making the annual walk from Portland to Eugene to raise awareness for their cause, “The Wounded Warriors Fund.” The group takes the four days leading up to the Oregon football civil war weekend (the annual Oregon State vs. University of Oregon grudge match) to cover the 100 plus miles from Portland to Eugene. They carry two flags, one for their favorite team, the U of O, and the other for one of their biggest supporters, Rogue Ales of Oregon. Since the they began in 2000, the money raised for “The Wounded Warriors Fund” has helped wounded service men and women and their families with travel expenses in their time of need. This is a very worthy cause and I plan to contribute to it myself. If you’d like to support the Wounded Warriors Fund go to for more information.

Portland Holiday Ale Fest

An hour after talking to Tim and Dave I was in the heart of Portland’s downtown. The tents for Holiday Beer Fest filled Pioneer Square as snuggly as a cork in a bottle. With expected crowds topping 15,000 for the three day event I was a little worried I might be experiencing that same feeling once inside. My worries were well founded, Friday night at the Holiday Ales fest was a lesson in patience. The beers were great, but the lines were long and the tents were very crowded. Most of the people were getting a full mug and going directly to the next beer line. The lines typically took over 20 minutes, so I was just finishing the previous beer as I approached the pouring table for my next. These were all big beers. Santa’s Private reserve by Rogue Ales was the lowest in alcohol I saw at 5.3%. Most of those I tried were above 8%, which can make for a bit of a woozy evening.

Holiday Ale FestThe good thing about the lines, if there is a good thing about a line, is it gave me a great opportunity to meet lots of fellow Oregon Beer Enthusiasts. We discussed the different beers and tossed recommendations back and forth as we inched forward. I can honestly say I didn’t find fault with a single beer I tried, but here are some of the beers I recommended to my new found friends:

Lagunitas Oaked Brown Shugga, A Strong Ale (9.9% abv) originally a 1997 failed attempt to replicate an Olde Gnarlywine recipe, this beer is deceptively smooth and drinkable. I know a lot of people don’t like the sweetness of this beer but I’m not one of them. The aroma is sweet and malty with some dark fruit and floral hop accents rising from the glass. It produces a nice, well-carbonated, head. The brown sugar is evident in the flavor which is bready malt, dark fruit, and some well balanced hoppiness followed with a dry, robust finish. A delicious beer, that’s done nothing but improve with barrel aging.

O’Holy Hops by Max’s Fanno Creek Brewpub, an Imperial IPA (8.5%). Beer writer Lisa Morrison told me she was going for Big Hoppy beers this year (because of the hops crunch) and recommended O’Holy Hops as the best she’d tried so far. That was enough for me to cue up for a plastic mug full. The nose of this beer telegraphs the hop character long before it gets to your face. If you like big hoppy northwest beers this is one you should seek out. The hops were so strong they almost crossed over from bitter to sweet, and it wasn’t very complex, I mean that in a good way. This is a good, honest, Imperial IPA.

After an evening of big beers it was nice to dial it back to 5.3% with a full mug of Rogues, Santa’s Private Reserve, a hopped up version of Saint Rogue red with double the hops and a mystery hop called Rudolph. The nose was a nice balance between hops and malt with citrus notes. The taste was strong on hops followed by a mixture of caramel, toast, and kind of a seesaw between chocolate and smoke but not quite either. (I had been thru quite a few beers by now so forgive my failure to pin it down) and a crisp bitter finish. It’s a very nice hoppy “Red Ale” and I’ll recommend it to my Hopheaded friends.

Okay, so what can I say about the coldest, latest, and most crowded beer fest of the year? In the immortal words of the Governor of California… “I’ll be back!”


Bell’s-brewed beer pouring again in Chicago

Bell’s Brewery, which pulled its beers from the Illinois market last year after a dispute with distributor National Wine & Spirits Inc., once again is pouring beer in Chicago.

The new brands are called Kalamazoo Amber, Kalamazoo IPA and Kalamazoo Porter and are brewed with different recipes than the Bell’s brands sold around the country.

It can be confusing but Chicagoist has an interview with Bell’s founder Larry Bell (thanks to Steve H for the link).

Bell expects NWS to sue to halt sales, so stay tuned.


Church celebrates birthday with a beer

What better way to celebrate a 750th birthday than with a beer brewed for the occasion?

UK brewer Wadworth has produced a special beer to commemorate the event for nearby St. Mary The Virgin Church in Potterne.

“Divine Ale” is a 5.1% abv dark and bitter porter – “an older style beer in keeping with the great age of the church and ideal for cold winter days and nights at Christmas time.”

The brew was the brainchild of Julian Richards, landlord of The George and Dragon in Potterne and the vicar’s wife Ann Howard.


Primo returns to Hawaii

Pabst is bringing a beer called Primo back in Hawaii, although brewed to a different recipe than when Stroh (later acquired by Pabst) produced the beer in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pabst, which has about 30 employees working on the Primo brew and one staffer at the Honolulu office, has been conducting market research here for the past 18 months to make sure the beer could be successful.

Keoki Brewing Co. will produce Primo under contract.


A-B sees good demand; will raise prices

Anheuser-Busch will continue raising prices to counter a rise in the cost of ingredients, Chief Financial Officer W. Randolph Baker told a group of stock analysts at a conference in New York.

Baker hit several optimistic notes in his presentation, including an apparent increase in consumer interest for domestic beers. He said beer industry growth in 2007 has continued to exceed expectations, up 1.8% to date.

“We see the resurgence in interest in beer. With the momentum there, it’s likely you’re going to have strong demand for beer,” Baker said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has in depth analysis of A-B’s standing the market and plans for the future. Some highlights:

– The top priority is boosting Bud Light, the company’s best-selling brew. The beer has “under­performed” this year.

– Bud Light and Budweiser will get an extra $70 million in television ad support next year.

– A new Michelob campaign will account for another $30 million.

– Fewer brands will be advertised on television.

– The average A-B distributor now handles 147 brands, more than double from five years ago.

– Analysts said the nearly-flat sales volumes for A-B’s main brands — even as the overall industry is growing at a strong clip — is a cause for worry. Bud Light, for one, is losing market share to Coors Light and its “cold” marketing message, said analyst Mark Swartzberg of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.


Goodness, that’s a lot of Guinness (and Bud)

What do you do with 450 kegs of beer?

Post them on eBay? Host a giant kegger?

Well, someone broke into the Guinness brewery in Dublin and stole 450 kegs of beer. Well, 180 kegs of Guinness stout, 180 kegs of Budweiser and 90 kegs of Danish beer Carlsberg. Recalling an old joke, but that’s another subject.

From the Times Online:

It couldn’t have happened at a worse moment: just as Operation Freeflow was getting under way, putting more police on Dublin’s streets as a pre-Christmas warning to drink-drivers, an opportunistic thief drove out of the Guinness brewery with 40,000 pints.

About 450 kegs of beer and stout were lifted from under the noses of security guards in what is believed to be the first raid on the historic St James’s Gate Brewery at Victoria Quay along the River Liffey.

It took place as the police announced their Christmas traffic blitz, giving warning that 160 officers would be on patrol over the coming weeks and urging motorists in the traffic-choked city to leave their vehicles at home.

The blitz would target drink-driving, speeding, offences involving HGVs, dangerous driving and people not wearing seat-belts, a senior officer said.

Meanwhile, the lone raider, who has already been nicknamed “the Beer Hunter” by Dublin wags, was driving his own HGV through the Guinness security gates, attaching it to a well-provisioned trailer and taking off with the makings of a very merry Christmas.

Police said it would be difficult for the thief to sell the stolen beer without attracting attention, unless he has criminal associates who own a network of pubs.


Wall Street Journal profiles Westvleteren

In the Wall Street Journal today: Trappist Command: Thou Shalt Not Buy Too Much of Our Beer:

The Trappist monks at St. Sixtus monastery have taken vows against riches, sex and eating red meat. They speak only when necessary. But you can call them on their beer phone.

The popularity of Westvleteren beers is hardly news in the beer community, but still interesting to see how a mainstream business publication treats the subject. Be sure to watch the video &#151 just geeky enough to make you smile.

It brings us back to an interesting question. How rare can Westvleteren 12 be given that it has been rated 1090 times (at this moment) at Rate Beer? Meanwhile Firestone Pale Ale, called the best pale ale in the world by Men’s Journal and produced at a brewery more than 10 times the size, has been rated 175 times.

Look here for another perspective and trip inside the Saint Sixtus monastery.

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Orkney’s Dark Island Champion Winter Beer of Scotland

Orkney Brewery’s Dark Island ale has been named Champion Winter Beer of Scotland.

The ale won the accolade at the 21st Aberdeen and North East Beer Festival, organized by the Aberdeen, Grampian and Northern Isles branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

The 4.6% abv ale has twice won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Scotland award, while the brewery’s Skullsplitter ale took runner-up spot in the Champion Winter Beer category last year. Orkney Brewery is operated by Sinclair Breweries.

Norman Sinclair, managing director of Sinclair Breweries, said: “We’re absolutely over the moon to win such a prestigious award. Dark Island has always been extremely popular with customers, but it’s a boost to have it judged independently and see it come out on top like this, beating off some really stiff competition.”


Gene Muller of Flying Fish profiled

Why is Flying Fish Brewing in New Jersey called that?

“I have lived in New Jersey all of my life, but ‘South Jersey beer’ wasn’t going be a big seller. All of the good animal names were taken. We just thought it would stand out,” said brewery founder Gene Muller.

Muller “tells all” in an interview at

“Please get my title correct,” Muller said at the outset. “It’s president and chief janitor.”


Oskar Blues celebrates 5th canniversary

Dale's can and mini-kegWhat better way to celebrate five years of microcanning than by releasing really big cans?

That’s not exactly what the folks at Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colo., are doing, but it sort of looks like that doesn’t it?

Not long after the brewery started selling Dale’s Pale Ale in cans, founder Dale Katechis said:

“People see the can and think they need to drink right from it. You’d never drink a full-flavored beer from a bottle. This is a better, safer package than a bottle. It’s draft beer in a mini-keg, and you don’t drink draft beer right from a full-size keg.”

Now the mini-kegs are getting a little bigger. The brewery is rolling out 5-liter/1.3 gallon mini kegs. Keg cans (with built-in taps) Dale’s Pale Ale will reach select stores along the Front Range starting Dec. 3. They will retail for around $24.

Visitors to the Oskar Blues pub in Lyons can buy these cans filled with Dale’s Pale Ale, as well as Old Chub Scottish Style Ale, Gordon, Ten FIDY and the brewpub’s other-in-house beers. These cans have replaced the traditional glass growler at Oskar Blues.

The brewery has also added its Ten FIDY Imperial Stout (the name is an allusion to motor oil and the dark luscious color of the 9.4% abv beer) to its can lineup. The suggested price for a four-pack is $12.99.

Since selling its first can of Dales Pale Ale in November of 2002, and being followed by scores of other craft breweries selling beer in cans, Oskar Blues has grown twenty-fold.

The brewery sold 700 barrels the year before installing its first table-top, two-cans-at-once filler, and this year will ship 14,000 barrels.

“It’s been an incredible run for us,” Katechis said. “We launched our Canned Beer Apocalypse as something of a joke, and a way to draw attention to our brewpub. Some of our peers thought we were nuts at the time. But we heard from many retailers and consumers back then who loved the irreverence and practicality of the idea.”


New from Lost Abbey, Left Hand and Alaskan

Post Brewing/Lost Abbey in Southern California will put three new beers on sale this weekend, which based upon the recent release of its highly sought after Angel’s Share will mean long lines at the brewery door. Thus Lost Abbey has set limits on how much of each beer a customer may buy.

Older Viscosity: The barrel-aged version of Old Viscosity. A dark, strong ale aged over a year in American oak bourbon barrels. Release: 120 cases; 375ml cork-finished bottles. Maximum 6 bottles per person. 12% abv; $10 per bottle.

Amazing Grace: A barrel-aged issue of Lost & Found Abbey Dubbel. Aged 6 months in French Oak Red Wine barrels. Release: 80 cases; 750ml cork-finished bottles. Maximum 4 bottles per person. 8.5% abv; $12 per bottle.

Gift of the Maji: A deep golden caramel-colored Bière de Garde, 9% abv and bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces. Release: 170 cases; 750ml cork-finished bottles. Maximum 2 bottles per person. 9% abv; $12 per bottle.

Beers go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday. Details are at the Lost Abbey website.

Left Hand GoosinatorLeft Hand Brewing in Colorado has shipped Smoked Goosinator Doppelbock. From its press release: “The ‘Goose’ pours deep amber in color, with an alluring butter-cream colored head. Smokiness dominates the nose up front, with hints of caramel malt and spiciness on the backside. Malt sweetness hits the palate immediately, followed by the intense smokiness that appears to dominate throughout, with the exception of a splash of spiciness from the German Hersbrucker hops that shine through. At 7.7% alcohol by volume and 27 IBU’s, Smoked Goosinator Doppelbock will change your perceptions about what 2nd hand smoke can do for you.”

Alaskan Brewing Co. will offer a limited release of its award-winning Alaskan Barley Wine in 22-ounce bottles for the first time ever in January. Alaskan Barley Wine is produced in small batches each year. Typically this higher alcohol beverage is brewed in the spring, cellared in the tunnels of the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine for the summer and retrieved in time for its release at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival in January.

“The release of Alaskan Barley Wine has been highly anticipated every year since this recipe was introduced on draft at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival in 2003,” said co-founder Geoff Larson. “People from all over have been asking us to bottle it, so we decided to try a limited-edition bottle run this year.”


Beer sales in British pubs hit 70-year low

The British Beer and Pub Association reports beer sales in pubs have slumped to their lowest level since the 1930s.

The facts:

– Total beer sales – in pubs, off licences and supermarkets – have fallen from 12 billion pints a year in 1979 to 9.5 billion in 2007, according to BBPA figures.

– Pubs have been particularly affected. Some 29 million pints were sold each day in pubs 28 years ago, compared with 15 million pints a day this year.

– Tax on beer has increased by 27% since 1997 – compared to 16% for wine, 3% for spirits and 11% for cider.

– The BBPA also said the smoking ban had had an effect, with a 7% drop in pub beer sales this year alone.

The BBPA has called for a freeze on beer taxes, and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) offers its support.

A spokesman said: “It is no coincidence that Britain has the highest level of excise duty in the EU and sales in the on-trade are falling, and yet binge-drinking is on the increase as supermarkets cynically exploit the consumer by offering cut-price booze to drink at home. A pub is the proper place to enjoy a drink in a responsible and regulated atmosphere.”