Strong Beer Month starts this evening

The announcement:

“Beer Lovers! Join us! Thursday, January 31st at 6p.m. at the Toronado on 547 Haight Street San Francisco for a kick-off event for the 6th Annual Strong Beer Month between the 21st Amendment Brewery and Magnolia Pub and Brewery. Each brewery will be pouring one of their strong beers including a special cuvee blend strong beer made between the 21st Amendment and Magnolia.

“February 1st, marks the start of the 6th Annual Strong Beer Month. The brewers of the 21st Amendment and Magnolia Pub and Brewery once again bring you an astounding range of memorable brews to lift the winter doldrums. Visit both breweries, try all twelve beers and keep the special commemorative glass. Commemorative t-shirts are also available. The festivities begin February 1st, but check back often as special kegs and casks of vintage and barrel-aged beers will appear throughout the month and runs the entire month. These special beers and glasses will be available from February 1st until they run out.”

The details.


Hundreds of new recipes for the Super Bowl

Great Food Great BeerIt would seem you might measure the history of how Americans perceive the relationship between beer and food, and thus the status of beer itself, based on the covers of beer cookbooks. And perhaps the photos inside.

Witness the progression of covers for what we call “beer cookbooks.” Bob Skilnik writes in Beer & Food that breweries of the early post-World War II took a disjointed approach to putting beer and food together in consumers’ minds. Storz Brewing in Nebraska was unique, long publishing booklets and eventually a hardcover cookbook in 1956 that was jammed with recipes.

The cover of that book, however, featured unplucked game birds hanging upside down and awaiting attention. Few photos accompanied the recipes themselves. By 1983 Anheuser-Busch did a little better with The Official Budweiser Cookbook, an 80-page collection of recipes on medium paper stock with nearly 20 full-page color photos. But, like the cover featuring Potato-Kielbasa Salad and Beer Rye Bread, most were hearty “down-to-earth” dishes.

Great Food Great BeerCompare that to the recently released Great Food Great Beer: The Anheuser-Busch Cookbook, 300 glossy pages thick with luscious photos filling every other page. Pure food porn. The one on the left features Roast Red Peppers with Garlic and Garlic-Stuff Mushrooms (recipes below).

The 1983 cookbook opened with a quick history of Anheuser-Busch and just the briefest primer on how beer is brewed. Great Food Great Beer begins with a bit more history, goes even lighter on the beer making and instead gives a dozen pages to the aesthetics of beer &#151 such as pairing food with beer, pouring beer, glassware, and menus for entertaining. Each recipe includes a suggested beer pairing, always suggesting a beer A-B brews or distributes as well as style — for independent souls who might go their own way.

As one review of the book noted, “with the Clydesdales now pulling the bandwagon for beer-and-food pairing, the concept is likely to get a much wider airing.”

The beer-and-food education, in case you were wondering, is not as extensive as in the first half of Lucy Saunders’ The Best of American Beer & Food, nor are the recipes introduced with the extra bit of information that emphasize the artisanship at the core of her book.

The recipes also do not appear quite as challenging or perhaps as wide-ranging as in Saunders’ book, but we’re not talking meat and potatoes or “Fried Pheasant al la Storz” (to choose one from the 1956 book). Recipes such as Grilled Snapper Packets or Leek and Chanterelle would even impress a wine drinker.

Available in clubhouse stores and online before Christmas, Great Good Great Beer hit bookstore shelves this month. Just in time for the Super Bowl.

Roasted Red Peppers with Garlic

8 red bell peppers
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the broiler. Place the bell peppers on a baking sheet and broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat source until the skins are blackened and blistered all over, turning as needed, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper or plastic bag and close tightly. Let stand for 10 minutes (the steam will loosen the skins).

2. Meanwhile, on a cutting board, using the flat side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic with the salt, then transfer to a small bowl. Add the olive oil and pepper, stirring well to blend.

3. Peel, stem, and seed the roasted peppers and cut lengthwise into strips 3/4 inch wide. Arrange the pepper strips on a platter and drizzle with the garlic oil, scraping it out of the bowl to get all the garlic. Garnish with the parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Tip: Roasting intensifies the flavors of vegetables, and red peppers are no exception. You can roast the peppers in the oven or on the grill. You can prepare these peppers up to a day ahead, then cover and refrigerate. Let them come to room temperature and drain off any excess liquid before serving. Be sure to use very fresh garlic, as old garlic will taste bitter and strong.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Garlic-Stuffed Mushrooms

2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs; see Cook’s Tip) or plain dried bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
24 large button or cremini mushrooms, stemmed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small saucepan, combine the garlic and cream over low heat. Slowly cook until the garlic is soft enough to mash with a spoon, about 45 minutes. (The cream will be reduced and thick.) Remove from the heat and mash the garlic into the cream with a fork, making a rough purée. Stir in the panko and salt, mixing thoroughly.

2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lay the mushroom caps, top side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the edges with the olive oil and fill the centers with the garlic mixture.

3. Bake until starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to plates or a platter, discarding any released liquid. Sprinkle with the pepper and serve.

Cook’s Tip: The vast amount of garlic here is tempered by being slowly cooked in cream, resulting in a rich, mild garlic stuffing. Panko, or Japanese bread crumbs, is very light and crunchy. You’ll find it at Asian markets.

Makes 4 to 6 servings


Court rules for regulators, against Costco

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has upheld key parts of a Washington states system for regulating beer and wine sales, overturning an earlier ruling that favored Costco Wholesale Corp.’s effort to upend decades-old beer and wine distribution laws.

The appeals court handed a victory to Washington state alcohol regulators, upholding key parts of the law, including a ban on volume discounts and a rule keeping retailers from taking delivery of beer and wine at a central warehouse. The lower court had struck down eight of the nine legal provisions that Costco contested.

The appeals panel agreed with Costco on one matter: Beer and wine prices should not have to be posted publicly and remain in place for 30 days, as the state now requires.

Costco’s 2006 triumph grabbed national attention because it suggested that major changes might be in store for the three-tier system of regulating alcohol sales put in place after the repeal of Prohibition.

Costco is deciding whether to appeal the ruling. “We are pleased that the central part of the anticompetitive restraints provisions was struck down,” said David Burman, a Seattle-based lawyer handling the case for Costco, referring to the “post and hold” provisions. “It will be good for Costco members and other consumers.”

A spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The ruling is “a very significant victory for the state of Washington,” said Phil Wayt, executive director of the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.


Move over, Utopias; There’s a new priciest beer in town

Carlsberg’s announcement that it has found customers for its $400 a 375ml bottle of a new beer known as Vintage No. 1 has sparked plenty of conversation in the online beer space.

Basics about the beer from Denmark

Brewmaster Jens Eiken said only 600 of the bottles will be produced, and most will be sold through three of Copenhagen’s most exclusive restaurants.

The first 52 bottles were sold last week.

“We believe that there are people out there who are willing to part with this amount of money just so that they can taste an amazing beer or to keep it on their mantelpiece,” he said.

Eiken said part of the secret of the 10.5 per cent alcohol beer is the way it is stored in special Swedish and French oak casks in a dimly lighted crypt 15 meters under the company’s old brewery.

The brew’s taste hints of prunes, caramel, vanilla, oak and cherry port bitterness, he said, adding that it is best consumed with gourmet blue cheese or on its own with “a very special friend.”

Some Copenhagen residents, despite the Danish capital’s high standard of living, expressed doubts that any beer would be worth that much.

“Only showoffs will buy this beer,” said TV journalist Marie Grundtvig Buss. “There can’t be any justification for such a price for a single bottle of beer.”

And some of the reaction:

Price vs. Value
Are You and Utter Fool?
The discussion at Beer Advocate
The discussion at Rate Beer
Who’s threatening us now? Bling beer!


German beer sales down 2.9%

Germany’s beer consumption has dropped to the lowest level since the government began collecting statistics in 1993.

Beer consumption in Europe’s largest economy fell 3.7 percent (in 2007) to 88.5 million hectoliters, the lowest since the Federal Statistics office, based in Wiesbaden, started collecting figures excluding non-alcoholic beer in 1993, a report showed today.

“Beer consumption is dependent on the weather and also tends to peak when we have special events,” Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, a spokesman for the Brauer-Bund brewery association in Berlin, said in an interview. “Our industry hopes for a long, hot summer and that the German soccer team will do really well in the European soccer championship this year.”

Beer sales have also been declining in the past decade as more and more Germans switch to lighter or non-alcoholic beverages, the group said. German brewers sold 2.9 percent less beer last year, the biggest drop since 1998, the report said.

One story suggest that microbreweries and brewpubs could help reverse the trend.

Berlin’s Oliver Lemke, who owns four small breweries, said the overall slump reflects the destruction of small local breweries by big corporations.

“There used to be 100 breweries in this neighborhood alone,” Lemke said. “They died out in the 1970s with the trend toward mono-breweries. The big breweries – for example Warsteiner or Licher – said: ‘We’re only going to make one sort of beer, a premium pilsner, and we’ll market it nationwide.’ And that inevitably leads to a dead-end. At some point, even the world’s biggest idiot notices that there’s virtually no difference between a Warsteiner and Licher.”

The story has a familiar ring to it: “It’s difficult for independents to break through against the conglomerates. The big brewing companies control distribution networks and encourage pub owners to feature their products exclusively by offering loans, price rebates and free tapping and refrigeration systems, beer glasses and even ashtrays.”


Carlsberg, Heineken finally get S&N

After more than three months of negotiations, Scottish & Newcastle agreed a takeover offer from European rivals Carlsberg and Heineken.

S&N, Britain’s largest brewing company, produces Newcastle Brown and many other brands, including Foster’s and Kronenbourg 1664 beer.

Carlsberg of Denmark and Heineken will divide Scottish & Newcastle’s assets between them and share the bill, with Carlsberg taking a slightly larger part. Heineken will obtain the British business, and Carlsberg will take full control of Russia’s largest brewer, which it owned with Scottish & Newcastle.

Analyst point out that Carlsberg’s interest in the Russian market – where it and S&N shared a partnership – was a driving force behind making the deal.

The takeover will give Heineken access to Britain’s cider market, which is growing 18.6%. It will also get Scottish & Newcastle’s businesses in Ireland, Portugal, Finland, Belgium, the United States and India.


Lost Abbey, Full Sail offer new beers

Lost Abbey CarnivaleFrom Lost Abbey: The brewery in San Marcos, Calif., will celebrate a Venetian tradition with a New World twist, throwing a party and at the same time releasing a new beer.

Carnevale di Lost Abbey on Feb. 2 draws inspiration from Carnevale di Venezia, during which citizens of Venice dress up as paupers, princes, ladies, lovers and fools, and gather in the Piazza di San Marco to dine, drink and dance. Lost Abbey will transform its brewery into a Venetian piazza, offering party-goers food, music and Lost Abbey’s award-winning ales. The party starts a 6 p.m. Admission is free for those in costume, $10 for those not.

Carnevale ale, a blonde saison accented with American hops, will debut at the party.

From Full Sail: The Oregon brewery is rolling out Slipknot Imperial IPA (7.8% abv, 80 IBU) this month as part of its Brewmaster Reserve series. It follows with Top Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter in February, continuing its vintage barrel aged series.

Full Sail will celebrate three years of aging beers in bourbon barrels by pouring all three at events Feb. 7. That will include the bourbon-barrel-aged 2004 Imperial Porter, barrel-aged 2006 Black Gold Imperial Stout and this year’s 9/85% barrel-aged Top Sail Imperial Porter. The special tapping will take place at 5 p.m. at the Full Sail Tasting Room and Pub in Hood River, and at Full Sail’s Riverplace Brewery in Portland.


Wickwar’s porter Britian’s Champion Winter Beer

Wickwar Brewing Company of Gloucester won Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2008 during the Campaign for Real Ale’s National Winter Ales festival in Manchester.

Station Porter (6.1% abv) bested Robinson’s Old Tom and Hop Back Entire Stout for the top award. Wickwar describes the beer as “a rich, smooth dark ruby brown ale.”

Old Ales & Strong Mild Category
Gold – Purple Moose, Dark Side of the Moose (Porthmadog, Gwynedd)
Silver – West Berkshire, Maggs Magnificent Mild (Thatcham, Berkshire)
Bronze – Highland, Dark Munro (Birsay, Orkney)

Gold – Hop Back, Entire Stout (Salisbury, Wiltshire)
Silver – Spitting Feathers Old Wavertonian (Waverton, Chester)
Bronze – Spire, Sgt. Pepper Stout (Chesterfield, Derbyshire)

Gold – Wickwar, Station Porter (Wickwar, Gloucestershire)
Silver – E&S Elland, 1872 Porter (Elland, West Yorkshire)
Bronze – Acorn, Old Moor Porter (Barnsley, South Yorkshire)

Barley Wines
Gold – Robinson’s Old Tom (Stockport, Cheshire)
Silver – Durham, Benedictus (Bowburn, Co Durham)
Bronze – Mighty Oak, Saxon Song (Maldon, Essex)


Anderson Valley celebrates 20th anniversary

Anderson Valley Brewing

Anderson Valley Brewing has planned a serious party to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Festivities begin at 2 p.m. on Feb. 2 with tours, carriage rides and disc golf. Beer tasting and hors d’ oeuvres begin at 4 p.m., followed by a four course dinner at 6 p.m. Admission is $65 per person. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 707-895-2337, ext. 23, or visit the AVBC website.

Anderson Valley will also release its 20th Anniversary Imperial India Pale Ale on Feb. 2. This special brew comes in bottles and cases printed with a unique, colorful sunrise label. The 20th Anniversary Imperial Pale Ale is a limited edition batch.


Fuller’s spilled for the good of cinema

If you wait until about the two-minute mark of this promo for “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” you’ll see Nicholas Cage maneuvering a Mercedes through the streets of London as kegs of Fuller’s London Pride drop off the truck in front of him and explode.

The car chase scene took a reported nine weeks to film due because the film crew’s access to London streets being limited to weekends. More than 40 cars were destroyed in creating the chase scene . . . and countless pints of London Pride were lost.


Carlsberg, Heineken move on Scottish & Newcastle

After three months of battles, Scottish & Newcastle has agreed to enter discussions that would result in Carlsberg and Heineken taking over the UK brewing giant.

The Times Online reports:

S&N agreed to open its books after the pair increased their bid for the third time to 800p a share, ending a three-month takeover stand-off.

The group’s chairman, Sir Brian Stewart, had fiercely held out against the Dutch and Danish suitors, but sources said the two sides entered talks this week.

Heineken and Carlsberg first approached S&N in October. S&N owns the Newcastle Brown, Kronenbourg and Strongbow brands, but the center of interest is Baltic Beverages Holding, the fast-growing Russian and Baltic brewer that S&N jointly controls with Carlsberg on a 50-50 basis.


A-B takes Clamato Cheladas national

Budweiser CheladaAnheuser-Busch has taken its Budweiser & Clamato Chelada and Bud Light & Clamato Chelada national.

The name Chelada is a shortened form of the Spanish word michelada which loosely translates to “my cold beer.”

A-B successfully tested the products in several markets, following the heals of the spectacular success of Miller Chill. The drinks blend Bud and Bud Light with Clamato Tomato Cocktail, made by Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages (CSAB).

A press release suggests, “best enjoy Budweiser & Clamato Chelada and Bud Light & Clamato Chelada, gently rotate the chilled can once before pouring. Then, serve cold, or pour over ice, into a traditional goblet-style glass and garnish with a slice of lime or celery stalk. Salting the rim of the glass or adding a dash of hot sauce to the beer allows adults to further customize Chelada. The beers also pair well with traditional Latino dishes such as ceviche, chicken enchiladas and tamales.”


A-B considers controversial ads

Adweek reports that Anheuser-Busch is considering running advertisements that tout beer over liquor as an alcoholic beverage of choice.

The notion of promoting beer as a drink of moderation is hardly new. Following World War II, the Brewers Foundation commissioned popular magazine artists to produce a series of 115 paintings using the theme “Home life in America” and showing folks socializing at home with beers at hand.

These portraits appeared as advertising in all the popular publications, noting “perhaps no beverages are more ‘at home’ on more occasions” than American beer. Each included the tagline, “Beer belongs … enjoy it.”

However, the A-B messages would be controversial because “they play up the regret factor of a one-night stand following an evening of consuming too many shots and cocktails.”

In the spot from the woman’s perspective, she wakes up in “Darrellville”—the bedroom of a hairy-chested man in a robe who invites her to “come here and nibble me.”

Both spots conclude with screen text: “Minimize the surprise. Stick with beer.”

Bob Lachky (vp of global industry) acknowledged that the message is risky and has the potential to offend anti-alcohol activists and stir a hornet’s nest within the liquor industry.

The effort should not be viewed as a unilateral attack on the liquor industry. It would be a part of A-B’s two-year-old “Here’s to beer” initiative.

Adweek reports that A-B has not yet decided if it will release the ads.


Imports fuel growth for Anheuser-Busch

Anheuser-Busch’s announcement that beer shipments increased in 2007 and in the most-recent quarter sent its stock soaring. Prices rose 5% after the report.

Although A-B’s shipments increased by 2% during the year most of the growth was in imports. A-B’s core brand shipments increased by 0.3 percent.

The overall growth was “due to the success of our initiatives to broaden the company’s beer portfolio,” said August A. Busch IV, chief executive, in a statement. The wider portfolio and a planned increase in marketing to accelerate core beer sales “position Anheuser-Busch for growth in volume and earnings” this year, he said.

Sales from distributors to retailers grew 1.3% for the full year and fourth quarter of 2007, adjusted for the number of selling days. But after acquired and imported brands were subtracted out of the equation, sales of core brands actually fell.

“Momentum remains elusive for A-B,” said Mark Swartzberg, an analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., in a research note Monday. “Core brands have yet to produce sustained growth.”