Newport, Oregon, has gone to the dogs

Banjo and MaggieWe recently attended the 2nd Annual Brewer’s Memorial Ale Fest in Newport Oregon and it was a howl.

Brewer’s Memorial Ale Fest honors the memory of Rogue icon Brewer the Brewdawg. This festival was something new for me because, though I’ve seen dogs at other beer festivals, I’d never been to a festival that so many dogs were expected to attend or brought my own along. My wife Bonne (official photographer) and I were a little nervous entering the Ale Fest. Our dog, Maggie the Golden Retriever, is very friendly and easy-going but this was going to be a new and intense dog-experience for all of us, we took a deep breath and crossed the threshold into a whole new kind of beer festival.

Why have a beer festival for a dog, you ask? Besides the obvious answer of “Who needs a reason to have a great beer fest?” (I’m serious, who needs a reason! I want names, people!) Brewer the Brewdawg was not your average canine. Born and raised in the brewery, this beer and business savvy Black Lab ruled the brewery and thru dedication, hard work, and sucking up to his master, Brewmaster John Maier, he eventually rose to the rank of CEO of Rogue Ales. (really!)

In May of 2006, at the ripe old age of 13 years, Brewer passed away. To commemorate his life Rogue Ales decided to do the thing they do best, put on a kick-ass microbrew festival for dogs and nobody would have enjoyed the special event more than Brewer. In Brewer’s honor Rogue Brewery and opens its doors to dogs of all shapes and sizes and their human caretakers for two full days of fun, food, and music. (The festival benefits the Oregon Coast Therapy Animals and the Central Oregon Coast Humane Society.)

As I said, I was a little apprehensive because our dog, hadn’t been exposed to this kind intense dogdom before, and there were dogs EVERYWHERE, but our fears turned out to be totally unwarranted. I’ve never seen so many nice dogs. It was as if they knew the festival was for them and they were all on their best behavior. I didn’t hear a cross bark or malevolent snarl the entire weekend.

The festival featured lots of dog activities and we thoroughly enjoyed watching the Doggy Olympic events, Doggy Dancing, and of course we got our dog washed. Oh yeah! There was a pretty good selection of craft beer there too, many of which were specially brewed to honor the fest and the brewer’s own dogs. A few of those beers were…Laurelwood’s ShihZuu Brown, Boulder Brewing’s Mojo IPA, Steelhead’s Wiley RyePA, Astoria Brewing Company’s Bitter Bitch Imperial IPA, Calapooia’s River Dog ESB, Block 15’s Ridgeback Red, Ninkasi’s Oatis Oatmeal Stout, and last but not least Brewer’s Ale by Rogue. Note: This was the second year for Brewer’s Ale a seasonal single batch release and Rogue debuted a 750ml ceramic Brewer’s Ale bottle.

Though an Ale Fest in name, the event had a completely different feel from your typical beer festival. There was a closeness and camaraderie between strangers. How often have you felt isolated in a beer fest crowd because you didn’t know the people around you and you were too shy to say hello? The dogs broke down those walls. I couldn’t walk anywhere without people and dogs reaching out in friendship to greet my dog Maggie and I and there was an overwhelming sense of community. For a beer fest there seemed to be very little discussion of beer, it was more about the dogs and we all delighted in the beautiful Oregon day with the four footed friends we love so much.

I was interviewed by Ted Fouke who was shooting video of the festival for Purina, he asked me the question, “why do beer and dogs mix so well?” I don’t remember my answer; in fact I think I said something stupid like “Uh … they just do.”

Upon reflection, of course it’s always easier to come up with a snappy comeback after you’ve allowed it to peculate in your brain a bit, I’d have to say the reason they go together so well is dogs and beer affect us in similar ways. I’m sure I can find lots of correlations but I’ll just give you one. Petting a dog and sipping a fine beer have the same effect on the human psyche, it slows the world down and allows you to lean back and enjoy the moment. Brewers Memorial Ale Fest just became an annual outing for this family, see you there next year.

An album of photos from the 2nd Annual Brewer’s Memorial Ale Fest can be found on at Brewer’s Memorial Ale Fest 2008.


Sapporo will brew a ‘space beer’

Sapporo Breweries plans to offer a “space beer” in November.

The beer will be made with barley — to be harvested this weekend — descended from seeds that spent five months in 2006 aboard the International Space Station.

Spokeswoman Momoko Matsumura said the test batch will produce 100 bottles. “We’re really looking forward to tasting it when it’s ready,” she said.

The barley project started when Sapporo teamed up with Okayama University biologists working with the Russian space team. The team took 0.9 ounces of barley into space for storage inside the space station from April to September 2006.

Sapporo isn’t planning to sell the special brew, at least for now, and hasn’t decided how it will distribute the planned 100 bottles, Matsumura said.


F.X. Matt vows to rebuild after fire

A massive fire has ravaged the F.X. Matt brewery in Utica, New York.

The fire broke out in the canning and packaging area of the brewery Thursday afternoon.

By the end of the night, fire crews had managed to get about half of the fire under control, but were still battling the other half, including various hot spots.

Fire officials say they could very well be here for days. And brewery officials say they won’t know how much of an impact this could have on future business until they have more time to assess the damage fully.

“We will rebuild,” said Fred Matt, vice-president of the brewery. “We’ve been in business 120 years. We went through prohibition when we couldn’t produce beer … and we will be a force to be reckoned with as we go forward.”

Read more.


New York brewers call for help

The New York State Brewers Association is asking for help from beer fans.

We are asking for your support of the NY Craft Brewers’ efforts to pass an important amendment to the laws governing beer distribution in New York.

Under current law, it is very difficult, expensive and sometimes practically impossible for small brewers to switch from one wholesale distributor of their beer to another. The laws now in effect were enacted about 15 years ago to protect beer wholesalers from unfair distribution contract termination by large, multinational breweries. Wholesalers were legitimately concerned because all too often when a brewery moved its brands, the former wholesaler went totally uncompensated for all the time and effort spent in building sales of those brands.

In 2008, however, the beer and brewing landscape is very different. Although there are fewer wholesalers, those remaining are much larger companies and while multinational breweries certainly exist, the rise and proliferation of small, local craft breweries means that many brewers are smaller than the wholesalers they do business with.

Yet, these small craft brewers are required to operate under the same “franchise” laws that were created to protect the wholesalers from large brewers. Unfortunately, today these same franchise laws are being used by wholesalers to lock in the distribution rights and restrict access to market for these small brewers. Clearly, this is not good for small brewers, but it’s also very bad for consumers because it means less choice in terms of fewer brands and fewer breweries available on store shelves.

S 6101 proposes a change to that law so that any small brewer that is less than 5% of a wholesaler’s business will have the ability to terminate a relationship with a wholesaler providing they pay fair compensation to that wholesaler, i.e. what the brand has transferred for with other wholesalers over the past 12 months or a minimum of 2 times gross profit. Thus, S 6101 relieves small brewers from the franchise laws but importantly would continue to compensate the wholesaler for value of the brand rights if they are terminated.

On behalf of the New York State Brewers Association, please call or email your New York State Senator at his or her Albany office as soon as possible and urge them to support S 6101. This bill has already passed the Assembly and could come up for a vote in the Senate at any time.

Here’s how to contact Senators.

For more information visit Support Your Local Brewery.

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InBev, A-B rumors run hot

“Brew Blog” summarizes the skinny from the Financial Times that it looks InBev had plans for an outright takeover of Anheuser-Busch.

And the big question if InBev pulls the trigger on its bid is whether it will go hostile — and whether fifth-generation brewer August Busch IV will be willing to sell the company that bears the family name.

A highly detailed report in the Financial Times — which laid out the terms of the putative offer ($65 per share) as well as names of banks and advisers involved — notes that InBev approached August Busch IV in October about a deal.

An offer of $65 a share for A-B is a nearly 24% premium over Thursday’s closing price of $52.58.

InBev is looking pretty serious about this.


Democratic Convention (cars) to run on beer

The Environmental News Service reports the flex-fuel vehicles at this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Denver will be running on waste beer from Coors Brewing.

Molson Coors is donating all the clean-burning ethanol fuel for the fleet of 400 General Motors flex-fuel vehicles to be used for the convention’s transportation needs. The fleet will be for the use of U.S. House and Senate Leadership, DNC officials and state party chairs, delegates, staff, and members of the media.

Coors’ ethanol is not the corn-based variety — it is made from waste beer generated at the Golden, Colorado, brewery, which now produces about three million gallons annually.

General Motors has pledged that half of the vehicles it produces by 2012 will be flex-fuel capable, and two million flex-fuel vehicles are now on the road. The company currently has 11 flex-fuel models for 2008, and more than 15 planned for 2009.


Mendocino White, Flying Fish Summer Ale hit shelves

A couple of beers new to the shelves:

Mendocino Brewing has released “Limited Edition Summer Seasonal White Ale.” Unfiltered and cloudy, it “features
a thirst quenching blend of sweet orange peel and the subtle spiciness of coriander, topped off with a delicate twist of lemon.”

Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale is back for the 12th summer. It’s brewed with Belgian two-row pale malt and 7% wheat, lightly filtered, and has a earthy, spicy character from Styrian Goldings hops.


Belgian pub toilet game: Don’t cross the streams

Two Belgian inventors have created a video game for men to play while using public urinals, Reuters reports.

Werner Dupont, a software developer, and Bart Geraets, an electrical engineer, got the idea while drinking Belgian trappist beers, they told Reuters Television at a local festival on Sunday.

“This thing had to be invented by Belgian people and that’s what we are,” they said.

The ‘Place to pee’ booth is designed for two users at a time and offers two games – blowing up aliens in outer space or skiing down a virtual slope. Gamers hit their target by aiming at sensors positioned on either side of the urinal.

A specially designed paper cone allows women to play too.


What could drive beer prices higher? More taxes

As if the rising cost of ingredients weren’t already driving beer prices high enough it appears lawmakers have plans to add on more taxes.

Miller’s Brew Blog reports:

Miller Brewing Company’s top lobbyist warned distributors gathered here that Washington may look at boosting the federal excise tax in 2009.

The scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts and ongoing budget issues “will create a tax fight that we have not seen in this town for over 15 years and will probably produce the largest tax bill and rewriting of the tax code since the days of Ronald Reagan and Dan Rostenkowski,” Timothy Scully told Miller distributors attending the National Beer Wholesalers Association’s legislative conference on Tuesday.

And in North Carolina the governor wants to raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol to help pay for teacher raises and mental health reform.

Raising the tax on beer “four cents a can” would make North Carolina’s beer tax the second-highest state-levied tax in the country. Currently the state is fourth.


San Diego beer culture alive and well

by Banjo Bandolas

San Diego pint Having previously lived in California’s second largest city I tend to look behind the Chamber of Commerce’s curtain of descriptive verse that refers to San Diego as a place ”Where blue skies keep watch on 70 miles of beaches and a gentle Mediterranean climate begs for a day of everything and nothing.”

What comes to mind when you think of San Diego? Is it the Sunny Beaches, Balboa Park, Sea World, the Zoo? For me it’s the sons-of-beeches you fight on the highway as you try to make it from place to place. I’d pretty much given up on enjoying myself in a town that had long ago outgrown the image of a Mediterranean paradise promised by the department of tourism. At least that was my opinion until the gem of California’s south coast started building a world class beer culture. Now each time I return something new and fresh is happening.

San Diego’s beer culture is a diverse collection of breweries, sewn a together like a modern day Frankenstein monster, and infused with high voltage, premium quality, brew. And just in case there is any doubt in your mind, “IT IS ALIVE!”

With over 30 craft breweries in San Diego County alone to draw from and countless pubs and taverns expanding their tap selections to offer craft beer, the San Diego beer community is strong and growing.

Even though I was pretty busy with the Craft Brewers Convention and World Beer Cup in Mission Valley, I did manage to get around to doing a couple things that always seemed to fall off my list. Some high points.

The Chula Vista area down in the South Bay, less than 10 miles from the US/Mexico border (Chulajuana to those of us who lived there), was more or less a fizzy yellow beer wasteland in the past. The area had grown exponentially over the last 5 years so while visiting family I decided to update myself on the local beer scene. I found two interesting spots to check out. The first place I went to was the Chula Vista Brewery, which is an enigma wrapped in a mystery because there is no brewery on premise, in fact they don’t even make beer, in fact, I don’t think they’ve ever even been to a brewery otherwise they wouldn’t ever have included the descriptive word “brewery” in the name of the establishment. I’m sure I’m not the only poor schlub in search of decent brew to enter the Chula Vista Brewery “Pizza Parlor” and leave with a bad taste in his mouth.

The Brew House After leaving that place whose name I will never utter in print or otherwise again, I was tempted to abandon the search, but the distance was short and I had time to kill so I turned toward Otay Lakes and the other location on my list. The Brew House at Eastlake.

The only thing that could have made my arrival at The Brew House more heart lifting would have been the swell of triumphant background music as I stood, mouth agape, in front this beautiful example of a brewpub done right. Pride in ownership beamed from the facility and I noticed the names of the owners displayed in the window to the left of the door as I entered.

Owner Doug Chase treated me to the best fish taco’s I’d had in years and samples of six of the seven beers they make. All were delicious examples of the craft and a couple, like the Palomar Pale Ale, and Otay Lakes Oatmeal Stout were outstanding and worth sending to the Great American Beer Fest for judging in my opinion. The Brew House in Eastlake is not the easiest place to find, but its well worth the effort and your taste buds will thank you.

My next little trip took me to Point Loma and the Ballast Point Brewery on Linda Vista Rd., yes it is a homebrew shop with a 15 bbl brew house in the back and not too fancy in any way . . . but the beers, oh the beers are diverse and exxxxxxcellent, just plan to drink them standing up. My favorites were the Navigator Dopple Bock, and the Black Marlin Porter. Ballast Point also has a brewing and bottling facility in their new Scripps Ranch location so watch for their brew where you buy beer, but the Point Loma location is the place to go a-tasting because you never know what kinda strange wonderful brew they’ll have on tap.

Stone Brewing Last but not least I finally got over to the Stone Brewing facility in nearby Escondido. I heard reports about and seen pictures of the new brewery/restaurant/existential experience but kind of wrote them off as “eh…a brewery is a brewery.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Words fail me. The facility has to be experienced with all your senses to be appreciated and I recommend anyone who loves beer and a truly unique restaurant experience to make the pilgrimage to Stone Brewing Co. when you are in the area.

New and Interesting news

NEW – San Francisco’s famous Toronado has seen the writing on the wall and is opening a location in the North Park area on 4026 30th Street, grand opening set for May 24th, 2008. Check website for updates.

INTERESTING – Brewery Tours of San Diego “Transportation for a beer education” Put a group together and map out your own tour or take one of the three specially developed tours like Thank God its Friday Tour, Not So Sober Saturday Tour, or the Sunday Funday Tour. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.


Oskar Blues to produce whiskey ‘wash’

Oskar Blues Brewery is taking over production of the distiller’s wash for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey in Denver. Oskar Blues will make about 3,000 gallons of Stranahan’s wash each week in its Longmont facility. Stranahan’s will purchase the wash and truck it to its Denver distillery.

Stranahan’s had been making its Straight Rocky Mountain Whiskey from distiller’s wash provided by Flying Dog Brewery in Denver. In January, Flying Dog shifted all its brewing to Frederick, Md.

“This is a very big deal for us,” said Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis. “Jess and his team are whiskey mavericks, they’re doing for whiskey what craft brewers have done for beer. They’ve proven that with guts, talent and a blind eye to the status quo, one can make whiskey as good as any out there.”

Oskar Blues and Stranahan’s intend to develop various cross-promotional programs to highlight their collaboration.


Magnolia Pub & Brewery remodels (behind closed doors)

Magnolia Pub & Brewery in San Francisco will be closed until next Wednesday.

Owner Dave McLean sent this message to the pub’s e-mail newsletter subscribers on Sunday:

At long last, after a seemingly endless spring of preparation and planning, we’re closing tonight after dinner for nine days of remodeling. An incredibly talented team of artisans and craftsmen will show up tomorrow morning and dive headfirst into a variety of projects to make Magnolia look and feel better than ever. Some parts of this process have been underway for weeks and are just awaiting final installation, like the new bar and table tops built from wood salvaged from the original Levi Strauss building. Others, like extensive painting and restroom tiling, require a closed and quiet pub to commence. And a few projects will continue on over the next two months.

Meanwhile, Brandon and crew are putting the finishing touches on the new menu, which will be ready to go for the re-opening. If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve been running with an interim menu for the past six weeks while behind-the-scenes work on the fully-realized version pushes on toward our longstanding gastropub vision. The new menu will be full of beer-friendly snacks. charcuterie, and re-invented classics like our local catch & chips or a fun riff on shepherds pie. Brandon has reached out to the producers whose philosophy aligns most closely with our own, bringing Marin Sun, Cattail Creek, Devils Gulch, Wolf Ranch, Liberty and other farms into Magnolia for the first time.

The menu has never felt more seasonal, nor more full of delightful hooks for food and beer pairing. Even the Prather Ranch hamburger has improved in recent weeks with the new bun from Cake Box Bakery that fits it like a glove. The most exciting addition, however, is the unveiling of our new sausage program(!), with a selection of five different house-made sausages (including a veggie one). These sausages will change with some degree of regularity and can be had on their own or with a choice of any two of our new seasonal sides.

The sausage program is the first step toward our goal of being a neighborhood gastropub that celebrates nose-to-tail and farm-to-table cooking alongside our artisan beer making, inextricably linked the way we think it might have been in the great pubs of the past. We’ve been working toward this for over a decade and now that we’re here, we have to give you a newly refreshed space in which to enjoy it. As we hopefully hit our stride with these ambitious but necessary changes, look for more signs of our commitments to sustainability, seasonality, local sourcing, traditional butchery, farm-fresh produce, house-made desserts (thanks, Jenna), and more.

In the meantime, behind the papered windows, Mike, Oliver, Howie, Greg, Ray, Chris, Martin, Kevin, Devin, Neil, Ben, Brandon, Dean, and I, along with an enthusiastic group of assistants and volunteers, will be putting in long hours to make Magnolia as beautiful, comfortable, and cool as we possible can.

Come see how it all turns out on Wednesday, May 21st, when we will re-open for dinner.

In the meantime, we’ll try to keep you posted on our progress as best we can via our blog, at, and maybe even with a twitter or two, at And if you’ve got a thirst for Proving Ground or one of our other beers, Alembic (1725 Haight @ Cole) will be serving Magnolia beer from all ten of its taps during the downtime (along with the usual array of cocktails, spirits, bottled beer, wine, sake, and small plates).

Find out what McLean is writing about when he mentions the “path to a better pub.”


Guinness will keep St. James brewing, cut jobs

Drinks conglomerate Diageo has announced a plan to upgrade the famous Guinness brewery at St. James gate and build a new brewery near Dublin, but also that it is selling property around St. James Gate and cutting 250 jobs.

This has led to speculation Diageo intends to sell Guinness, one of few beers in a portfolio dominated by spirits such as Smirnoff.

Paul Walsh, the chief executive of Diageo, said instead that Diageo had a five-year plan for Guinness. “This should make Guinness a more valuable asset for Diageo and its shareholders,” he said. “It would be a very convoluted way to go about selling Guinness.”

Rumors swirled a year ago that that Diageo would sell St. James’s Gate after it announced a review of the site. Walsh confirmed that this had been an option, but was discarded in favor of the new plan.

The company indicated plans to invest $1 billion at St. James Gate and on the new brewery. When work is completed in 2013, the firm’s existing plants in Kilkenny and Dundalk will close.

Diageo said its Kilkenny and Dundalk breweries had “played a critical role in the historic success” of Diageo’s beer brands in the Republic.

But a lack of scale “necessary for sustained success in increasingly competitive market conditions” meant that new plans had to be made.

Read more from the BBC and The Times.


InBev sales off; Recall hurts Samuel Adams

Brewing giant InBev has reported disappointing first-quarter earnings, a combination of lower beer sales and higher ingredients prices.

In the United States, craft beer sales leader Boston Beer’s sales continued strong but the company lost money in the first quarter because of its bottle recall.

InBev, based in Belgium, predicted the second of the year would be stronger. Beer sales fell in key market Brazil, partly due to inflation, an early Carnival holiday season and poor weather conditions. In eastern Europe, another key driver of growth last year, volumes were off 5.7%.

Cost of sales grew by almost 10%. InBev said weighted average inflation in the countries in which it operated was moving towards a 5-6% range, higher than the 4% it had foreseen.

Boston Beer, brewer of the Samuel Adams beers, had a net loss for the quarter of $3.7 million, with the estimated negative impact of the recall on net income of $8.8 million. Its depletions from inventory increased 12%, indicating continued strong sales.

“We achieved 12% depletions growth in the first quarter over a very strong first quarter last year,” founder Jim Koch said. “We feel good about this growth and the continued overall positive craft beer category trends, even as our whole category has raised prices in the face of significant cost pressures.”