New stuff: beers, labels and guides

Press releases from our email box:

  • “Your Beer. Your Label.” For a limited time a Newcastle Brown Ale microsite includes an application allowing visitors to create their own personalized beer labels. Final concepts are also added to an online gallery for fans to vote for their favorite design.
  • Back in Brown. Speaking of labels, Dundee is putting the 1994 label back on its Original Honey Brown. They are also lowering the price and billing this as a return to the beer’s roots.
  • Canadian Airport Beer Guide. The press release suggests this is “just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.” Whatever, has compiled a “Canadian Beer Lover’s Airport Guide” that makes a good companion to the U.S. airport guide already offers.
  • Luna LagerStep right up. Coney Island Craft Lagers (Shmaltz Brewing Co.) has announced it will release a beer called Luna Lager to commemorate the launch of the new Luna Park 2010 on Coney Island. Based on the original Luna Park (1903-1946), one of Coney Island’s four historic amusement parks, the park – operated by Zamperla USA – is due to open Memorial Day weekend.
  • Great Divide Brewing Company is adding Hoss Rye Lager and Claymore Scotch Ale to its year-round line up of beers. The beers were both intended to be seasonals when released in 2009. They will be joined by two returning seasonals, Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout and Colette Farmhouse Ale. Colette Farmhouse Ale is a renamed version of Great Divide’s Saison, available only in 22-ounce bottles last year.
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    Independent British brewers flourish

    Local, meaning mostly smaller, breweries are outperforming the overall beer market in Great Britain. According to the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) there was a 16.8% average increase in individual brewers’ sales turnover.

    “In 2009, through the worst of the recession, local brewers record volume growth of 3.75%,” the report states, and “those in production throughout 2008 and 2009 grow 3% year-on-year.”

    It attributes the success to several factors, “including the continuing strength of the real ale movement, the boost given by Smaller Brewers Relief, the success of SIBA’s affiliated commercial Access to Market operations, and the modern purchasing trends of an increasing proportion of consumers, who demand distinctive quality and the provenance of true local produce.”

    It also points out that while the current industry “is deeply rooted in proud British traditions” that two-thirds of its 700 members have been in business less than 10 years.

    SIBA has 443 full brewing members. More than 98% are “local brewers” or “microbrewers.” In fact, more than half brew fewer than 1,000 hectoliters (about 850 US barrels) per years.

    Although the report is long on good news it also includes SIBA’s pre-election manifesto, which calls for continued backing for tax breaks offered by Progressive Beer Duty (PBD). It calls the beer duty escalator to be canceled, beer duty frozen, and lower duty rates for lower strength beers.


    Brewing, cooking stars plan Manhattan brewery-pub

    This press release sent a shock wave through online beer world Saturday:

    Four well-know brewers are joining forces with Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Italian food emporium Eataly to open a brewery-pub on a New York City rooftop with breathtaking views of the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings.

    The four breweries collaborating on this project include two Italian craft brewers – Teo Musso, Brewmaster of Birrificio Le Baladan and Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra del Borgo, and two Italian-American craft brewers – Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Vinnie Cilurzo of the Russian River Brewery.

    The first floor of the building at 200 5th Avenue will house Eataly, an epic Italian specialty foods market and multiple restaurants which pair gourmet foods with artisanal beers and wines. Additionally, there will be an 8,000 square foot rooftop brewery and restaurant operated by B&B Hospitality’s Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.

    The rooftop bar and restaurant will house a copper-clad brewing system. “The idea is to create an artisanal, old world Italian craft brewery that just happens to be located on a rooftop in Manhattan,” says Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione. The four brewers are working together on recipes for Eataly’s house beers. Those beers will feature Italian and American ingredients. The beers will be unpasteurized, unfiltered, naturally carbonated, and hand-pulled through traditional beer engines for the most authentic and pure presentation. The four individual brewers will also occasionally brew beers under their own names on site. The rooftop restaurant project will pair artisanal rustic, homemade beers with the artisanal, rustic cooking of Chef Mario Batali. Additional Italian and American regional craft beers will be served both at the rooftop bar and within the downstairs restaurants.

    Craft beer sales continue to gain traction in America and around the world. With all the diversity, complexity and food-compatibility of world-class wine at a fraction of the price, the craft beer segment enjoys continued growth in a challenging economy.

    The four consulting brewers met in Boston this week to brew the first test batch of Eataly beer, an English Mild fermented with Italian chestnut powder (photos above). Plans call for Eataly New York to open late summer 2010.

    More from the brewers . . .

    “Eataly is the representation of the earth, its products and an example of real Italian taste. The brewery will surely be a fusion of Italian and Italian/American styles and I am very happy to make this journey with this fantastic group!”
    – Teo Musso, Brewmaster , Birrificio Le Baladin

    “In 2006 I went to the Slow Food Salone del Gusto in Italy. Upon meeting many Italian craft brewers, I was not only impressed by the quality of their beer, but, their passion for brewing as well. It was at that time I learned how great Italian craft beer was! To now collaborate with two of the most dynamic Italian craft brewers along with my friend Sam Calagione at Eataly New York will not only be a lot of fun, but, very educational as well.”
    – Vinnie Cilurzo, Brewer/Owner, Russian River Brewing Company

    “Eataly Brewery will be a great fusion of the well-known Italian gastronomic culture and our rising beer culture with the taste and the creativity of the American craft beer movement. This may well be the craziest and amazing brewery in the world.”
    – Leonardo Di Vincenzo, Brewmaster, Birra del Borgo

    “While the Italian craft brewing renaissance started later than ours here in the states , they have quickly made up for lost time with world class artisanal beers. Both Dogfish Head and Russian River have pushed the boundries of beer, particularly those that pair well with food, for many years. We are looking forward to working with our Italian Brewing Brethren, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and the folks at Eataly to further strengthen the bond between world class beer and world class food in the most beautiful setting for a brewery I have ever seen.”
    – Sam Calagione, President/Founder, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery


    Pennsylvania 6-pack battle resumes

    State Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, joined by the Pennsylvania Convenience Store Council and the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, has backed a new bill that they said would “make sweeping and historic changes to the way beer is sold in Pennsylvania.”

  • It would allow a six-pack, a 12-pack or a case of beer to be sold, for the first time, at convenience stores and groceries. Currently, most beer is sold by state-licensed beer distributors, and only by the case or keg; under the new bill, they also would be able to sell one or two six-packs.
  • It would strengthen efforts to make sure beer isn’t sold to underage youths. It would require “carding,” or the showing of valid ID, by everyone buying beer, regardless of how old they look. The system would use “electronic age-verification machines to ensure that minors are not buying alcohol illegally.”
  • Many taverns and restaurants in the state do have “R” licenses allowing them to sell one or two six-packs at a time. Also, a few large supermarkets — which have created sit-down restaurants inside their stores where beer is served for patrons’ consumption on site — can now sell a six-pack or two for takeout.

    The measure is destined to meet strong opposition. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the details.

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    Mardi Gras, Magic Hat style

    Mardi Gras comes a little later in Burlington, Vermont, than New Orleans, but then so does spring. The 15th annual annual Magic Hat Mardi Gras weekend begins Feb. 26, featuring music, moonpies, parades and community aid. This all-ages extravaganza is a “party with a conscience” to benefit the Women’s Rape Crisis Center of Chittenden County (WRCC), raising over $100,000 over the years.

    Festivities start at 9 p.m. Friday with Connecticut-based funk rockers Deep Banana Blackout on stage in the ballroom at Higher Ground. Pre-parade rituals begin at noon Saturday with be Caravan of Thieves, a swingin’ good Gypsy-inspired quartet. At the same time concert poster artist Jim Pollock, who will be signing and selling his specially designed Mardi Gras prints to benefit WRCC. Burlington’s own band of Afro-Brazilian music makers, Sambatucada, follow at 1 p.m. There’s a costume contest at 1:30, with the Magic Hat co-founder Alan Newman crowning the King and Queen of Mardi Gras, who will each win $500 cash!

    Thirty floats are expected for the parade along Church Street, beginning at 3 p.m. Per tradition, those on the floats will toss Lake Champlain Chocolates, moon pies and beaded baubles to those lining the bedazzled crowds lining the Church Street Marketplace.

    The Mardi Gras Parade Post-Party begins as soon as the last float has been filed away.


    Britain appoints minister for pubs

    The British government has appointed a minister of pubs, who will be in charge of trying to slow the rate at which pubs are closing.

    Wentworth MP John Healey, also housing and planning minister, will head a five-minister task force. The Morning Advertiser reports he is considering tax breaks for pubs and giving tenants the right to buy pubs from landlords if they are threatened with closure.

    British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said the rate of pub closures slowed from 52 a week in the first half of 2009 to 39 a week, but remains a serious problem.

    The BBPA hailed the decision as “great news” and a “clear sign” that its campaigns, Axe the Tax and I’m Backing the Pub, had had an impact. “Pubs now have a strategic place in Government and we could not have asked for a better minister than John Healey,” said BBPA director of communications Mark Hastings.

    Healey himself said: “Pubs are often at the heart of community life. And they are important meeting places for many people. While we can’t stop every pub from closing it’s right we do everything possible to back them. But they need help now so I am determined to have a deal on the table with a package of practical help in the next few weeks.”


    New Goose Island Green Line is, well, ‘green’

    Goose Island in Chicago has rolled out a new beer called Green Line Pale Ale that is part of the brewery’s Green Line Project, an initiative to reduce the brewery’s environmental impact.

    Goose Island is making the beer available only on tap, which reduces packaging. The tap handles were made from reclaimed ash trees killed by the ash borer in Wilmette.

    “We had been thinking of ways to brew more sustainably for a while,” Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall told the Chicago Tribune during and event to launch the beer. “So we did an organic beer for Whole Foods a few years back but we wanted to do something more local. We know that when you go into Chicago alleys you often see a lot of garbage, bottles and boxes for beer. We wanted to find a way to reduce that and so we figured one way would be to go with an all draft beer.”

    What does it taste like? From the Tribune story:

    “Monica Eng, who claims no beer expertise whatsoever, says: nice malty nose, a light refreshing flavor lovely corny finish.

    “Josh Noel, our beer correspondent’s take: Considering how good Goose Island’s higher end products are (Matilda, Sofie, Bourbon County Stout) and how middling the lower end stuff is (312, Honker’s Ale, IPA), I wasn’t optimistic about this pale ale. But it’s a winner. Green Line Pale Ale is so drinkable because it doesn’t try to do a lot. The hops are clear (more in the taste than nose), but don’t overwhelm. The malt is roasty, but appropriately restrained. It could stand to pop with a few more grapefruit notes like a good pale should, but a brewer said he expects future batches to be improved in this respect. Green Line will make a particularly fine warm weather beer for those who want a little more muscle than 312. It immediately vaults to the top of Goose Island’s more affordable beers.”

    And from blogger Andrew Gill:

    “I thought it was kind of like an India Pale Ale with training wheels. Brewmaster Greg Hall said his inspiration for Green Line was mixing 312 with Goose Island IPA at the Pitchfork Music Fest. I think that’s exactly what it tastes like – a session beer with just enough bitterness to be interesting.”


    Beerdrinker of the Year finalists set

    Wynkoop Brewing Company’s judging panel has picked its three finalists for the brewpub’s 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year award.

    They will compete in the Beerdrinker of the Year finals on Feb. 27 at Wynkoop in Denver. The event is open to the public and admission is free. Two of the three were also finalists in 2007. They are:

    Phil Farrell, a Cumming, Georgia commercial pilot, homebrewer, and beer judge. He has tasted beer in every country in Europe, 1000 of the world’s pubs and 400 brewpubs. He’s known to many in the beer community as the “Chicken Man” because he’s hauled his homebrew club’s mascot, a rubber chicken, around the world and photographed it with thousands of beer people.

    His philosophy about beer: “Beer is first and foremost a social drink. It is the most flexible and universally affordable fine beverage there is. Every social gathering and every food item is enhanced with beer. Beer is the greatest gift ever given to the human race and meant to be shared with others.”

    William Howell, a Sterling, Alaska, college administrator, retired Navy officer, homebrewer, and beer educator. In 2007 he created a new course for Kenai Peninsula College entitled The Art and History of Brewing, and has traveled extensively across Alaska and the West in pursuit of great beer.

    His beer philosophy: “I have been a lover of craft beers since 1984 and a homebrewer since 1989. Since my retirement from active duty I’ve been really been able to “get serious” about beer. I decided it was time to start giving something back to the world of craft beer that had given me so much.”

    Logan Perkins, a Denver, Colorado beer enthusiast who has tried nearly 5,000 beers in 45 states, 21 European countries and 5 Asian nations.

    His philosophy of beer drinking: “Drinking beer is about enhancing the quality of life through flavors, feelings and friends. I love beer alone, but especially enjoy sharing it with others. I believe in handling, collecting and tasting beers with the same respect as a wine lover. I try to keep everything in moderation, including moderation itself.”


    ‘Beer Wars’ heads to home screens

    Beer Wars, a documentary which played in theaters across the country for a single night last April and in limited screenings since, will be distributed for home viewing through Warner Bros. and Netflix.

    Ducks In A Row Entertainment offered details in a press release:

    In the U.S., Beer Wars is available to rent On Demand through Digital Cable and Satellite providers Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision, Charter, Insight, Bresnan, Verizon FiOS, AT & T U-Verse, Dish Network and DirecTV. It is also available for download on iTunes, Amazon Video On Demand, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

    In Canada, the film is available to rent On Demand through Digital Cable and Satellite providers Rogers Cable, Cogeco, Videotron, Sasktel and Shaw.

    The film is also available on Netflix either on DVD or “Watch Instantly” beginning February 2nd. And the DVD is available for purchase from Amazon.

    More information is available at the company website.