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Beer culture

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Gluten free beer festival

The first ever gluten beer festival held anywhere (that we’ve heard of) drew a happy crowd of 1,600 earlier this month in Chesterfield, England.

Supported by Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) it even featured cask-conditioned gluten free beer. Check out the pictures. The site comments “Not everyone in the pictures are coeliacs, some are friends and family, and others will be at the festival to drink non-GF beer. For once you cannot tell the difference! The coeliacs are as likely to have a beer before them as the non-coeliacs!

The tasting notes – peppered with comments like “I can drink beer again” – should make you smile, and include the vitals (abv, amount of gluten) for each beer.

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Got a good recipe that uses beer?

The name of the website may leave you a little disoriented: Eat Beer.

Even when we consider a beer such as Celebrator Doppelbock liquid bread it is still liquid and we pour it in a glass instead of eating it with a fork.

OK, silliness aside, the the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) is holding a contest to promote beer as an ingredient when cooking. Its “Cooking with Beer Challenge” is designed to find the best recipe in the country featuring brew. The winner will receive a seven day trip to Cancun, Mexico. The press release says “to soak up the sun and enjoy America’s beverage” and if you’ve previously been to Cancun you’ll understand the importance of the part in quotes.

Recipes entered by July 31 will be judged by a panel of food experts to determine which top ten recipe creators will receive an expense-paid trip to participate in the final cook-off in New York City this fall.

“This cooking contest reinforces several of our key messages with consumers,” said NBWA’s Vice President of Public Affairs Michelle Semones. “It highlights the immense variety of beer found in stores around the country – something that would not be possible without distributors to help get these smaller products to market. It also reminds consumers that beer has a natural place at the dinner table – whether livening up a recipe or as the perfect accompaniment to one.”

Beer is the only required ingredient in the recipes, which may be for any type of dish: appetizers, soups, entrees or baked goods. The more creative use of beer as an ingredient the better.

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Beer passion on display

Stephen Beaumont of World of Beer started with a compliment:

First off, let me say for the record that I like both ratebeer.com and beeradvocate.com and feel that they both fill important needs within the beer world, allowing aficionados casual and obsessive the chance to share and discuss their views about this beer or that.

But he surely knew what would happen when he offered some perspective on a RateBeer’s press release touting “The Best Beers in the World.”

The discussion has reached 8 pages this morning. Jump in anywhere and you might be moved to offer a variety of comments.

The one that seems most relevent this week: Here’s the passion that’s missing from the first Here’s to Beer commercial (that debuted during the Super Bowl).

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Weekly Therapy: More on beer’s image

Did you wake up this morning feeling better about beer?

Any different at all?

Should you feel different because the “Here’s to Beer” campaign officially kicked off during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl?

It wasn’t one of the commercials generally talked about this morning as every publication from the Wall Street Journal to USA Today debates who had the best spot, but Seth Stevenson of Slate did offer some thoughts:

An ad from something called the “Beer Institute” shows us people all over the world enjoying their brewskis. “Here’s to Beer,” says the tagline. I’ll drink to that. But what I’m wondering is whether I can snag some sort of fellowship at the Beer Institute. Is it like a think tank? Can I get beer tenure? (By the way, this ad was actually paid for by Anheuser-Busch. Miller is also a sponsor of the Beer Institute but apparently scoffed at the idea of random beer cheerleading. Miller spokesman quote: “We are happy and supportive of Anheuser-Busch spending its own money on an industry campaign. We will be making our own investments in marketing Miller brands.”)

Yes, A-B paid for the spot ($2.5 million for 30 seconds!) and the St. Louis-based brewing giant has been the driving force behind an effort to improve beer’s image. You may have thought we wrote enough about the subject on Friday, so we’ll try to keep the thoughts short:

Jay Brooks has already unloaded on this campaign a couple of times in his blog. Give that a read and we’ll try to not repeat much here.

– The Here’s to Beer website looks and feels like others promoting drinks companies who command a premium price for their products: Heineken, Grey Goose Vodka, Corona and even Sam Adams.

That makes the target audience pretty obvious. When Anheuser-Busch executive Robert Lachky began promoting the idea for this effort last fall he said, “Remember, the enemy is hard liquor and wine.” He outlined a four-prong consumer campaign that would center on the social value of beer, the “romance” of the product, viewing beer differently and the health benefits of beer.

Jay complains, “If you want to turn someone on to better beer, this is not the place to send them.”

That would be the point. This campaign is not about “better beer” but about convincing consumers to buy the international lagers they are turning away from (for beer made in small-batch breweries and other drink products).

– We’ll follow with interest about how this plays out. The idea sounds good: Improve beer’s image. Then stop to think about it. Does New Belgium need a better image? Sierra Nevada? Saint Arnold Brewing? Victory Brewing? We could list hundreds more that don’t need an image facelift.

But they may well benefit by osmosis, or perhaps as the campaign takes twists and turns along the way.

Lachky promised A-B won’t get discouraged easily. “I think you’re talking about a two-year play at least,” he said.

As a follow up to the “Slainte” commercial that ran during the Super Bowl, director Spike Lee has made two spots where a celebrity is asked who he or she would share a beer with.

The first features actor Michael Imperioli, tough-guy Chris of the Sopranos, toasting another tough-guy: Humphrey Bogart. That ad may run during the Winter Olympic Games. The other commercial, expected to debut at the start of baseball season, features Lee himself toasting baseball great Jackie Robinson.

Lee knows how to tell a story, just as small-batch brewers know how to tell a story. We’re pretty sure that A-B can figure out how to tell a story, but the brewery (and other producers of international lagers) need to come up with one we want to hear . . . make that one we want to drink.

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Beer’s ‘new’ image: Part I

After month’s of discussion about improving beer’s image, brewing giant Anheuser-Busch will put its money where its mouth is. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the brewer will provide one of its coveted Super Bowl spots for an ad promoting the industry.

“It wasn’t too difficult of a decision because everyone in our company realizes the need for Anheuser-Busch to lead an industry platform,” said Bob Lachky, executive vice president of global industry development at A-B’s domestic brewing unit.

The spot, dubbed “Slainte,” in reference to a Gaelic toast, will air during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, in which 30 seconds of ad time sells for about $2.5 million.

“It starts to send a different signal about the demographics of beer,” Lachky said. “It starts to paint a slightly different picture than what people might come to expect (from beer), and it totally puts a different face on beer.”

Beer Therapy will comment Monday after seeing the spot, and surely add some comments of our own about beer’s image.

A-B certainly isn’t overlooking any possible new ways to reach potential consumers. The company will make its Super Bowl ads available for postgame downloading at Budweiser.com. The beer giant worked with Maven Networks of Massachusetts to create an application that allows consumers to download their favorite beer commercials and watch them on video iPods, laptops, and computer screens.

The “Slainte” spot will also promote a new website, www.herestobeer.com, that goes live on Sunday. It features sections that educate consumers about the brewing process and offers food-pairing suggestions, historical facts, recipes using beer and “beertails,” suggested ways to mix beers.

The importance of the campaign became more apparent on Wednesday when A-B announced the impact of flat sales and higher costs in the fourth quarter, with profits plunging almost 40% from a year ago.

A-B’s problems reflect those of all the largest brewers. Overall beer sales were flat in 2005, although early reports indicate the craft segment grew at about a 7% pace.

Miller adMiller Brewing has already told distributors about its plans revive the flagging Miller Genuine Draft brand by targeting young adults in their 20s and 30s. The campaign goes national March 1, with a “bridge” advertisements already launched. Miller’s advertisements – featuring the catch phrase, “Beer. Grown Up.” – are aimed at those in their late 20s to 30s who have drifted away from mainstream beers and switched to other alcohol-based drinks, or even craft beers or imports.

“We’ve found our target consumer, 26- to 40-year-old strivers that are being neglected by the beer category,” brand director Terry Haley said in introducing the campaign. “It is perfect for Miller Genuine Draft.”

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Beer as good for you as wine

You probably already knew this but we like to repeat it a few times a day: the health benefits of beer are not all that different from the benefits of wine.

Here’s a nice report about how “Beer Isn’t All It’s ‘Cracked Down’ to Be.” On the list:

– Bone protection.
– Lower risk for cardiovascular disease.
– Better heart attack survival.
– Improved cholesterol levels.
– Sharper brains.
– Healthier kidneys.
– Antioxidant effect.

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Blind Tasting Test

Oregon Craft Beer Week gets more packed with events every year.

News comes from Portland that the Oregon Brewers Festival has added a fundraiser the evening before the festival officially starts. The inaugural OBFl Blind Tasting & Test, a benefit for the Oregon Blind Commission, will take place from 5-9 p.m. July 26 on the festival grounds at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

The Blind Tasting & Test begins with the tasting portion, in which a total of 24 different beers will be served: 12 IPAs brewed in Oregon, and 12 Pale Ales brewed in Oregon. Beers will be served on a tasting tray in two-ounce samples. Patrons will be encouraged to vote for the “People’s Choice,” one vote for each of the two styles. Following the tabulation, the winning brewery from each beer category will be announced, with the two winners receiving a trip to a European beer festival for the brewer and a guest.

For the Blind Test, patrons will be asked to identify each of the 24 beers served. Votes will be tabulated, and a winner from each category will be selected. The two winners of the identification test will also receive a trip each to a European beer festival for themselves and a guest.

At the conclusion of the blind test, all 24 of the beer taps will be opened and the attendees will be invited to sample beer in their souvenir mugs until the taps close at 9 p.m.

The festival itself runs July 27-29.

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It’s the chips, dummy

A Danish study published in a British Medical Journal reports that people who buy wine also buy healthier food and therefore have healthier diets than people who buy beer.

Note that the issue is that bag of chips you have along with beer, not the beer itself. We must admit that there are tradeoffs when it comes to beer and your health. Here’s one point and countrpoint:

Point
Beer contains significant amounts of magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, and is chock full of B vitamins.

Counterpoint
Alcohol destroys Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex. Drinking beer that has not filtered out the Vitamin B (such as English “real ale,” many microbrewed beers and homebrew) will help combat the effects of alcohol — most notably a hangover.

More comparisons.

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A gathering of St. Louis breweries

Poor Richard’s Ale, made by about 100 breweries across the country to makr the 300th anniversary of Ben Franklin’s birth, let to a surprising gathering of breweries in St. Louis. The Post-Dispatch reports:

A Schlafly beer served at the St. Louis tour center of Anheuser-Busch Cos., the nation’s largest brewer? Tom Schlafly, owner of the St. Louis Brewery Inc., sipping an Anheuser-Busch product?

These sights might cause people to do a double take, but that’s what happened Tuesday afternoon, when staff from Anheuser-Busch and St. Louis Brewery, the maker of Schlafly beer, gathered to toast Benjamin Franklin’s birthday.

A-B is lobbying other breweries to get involved in a campaign to boost the image of beer, and this reflects their effort.

“There are things we can do together that could make our overall industry get a higher profile in consumers’ minds,” said Bob Lachky, executive vice president of global industry development at A-B’s domestic brewing unit. “And everybody (in the beer industry) would benefit.”

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A dilemma for beer drinkers and sellers

An excellent question from the Accidental Hedonist:

Is it socially acceptable simply to say “I drink alcoholic beverages” and leave it at that?

Or are qualifiers like this necessary? “What I’m trying to say is this: I drink alcoholic beverages. I do so for a variety of reasons, including taste and for the slight buzz it may bring. I endeavor to drink responsibly, and I never drive after drinking, nor drink if I’m driving.”

The article points out how American culture has changed in the last 50 years. Beer culture certainly has. In the 1950s the beer industry worked together to provide advertisements that said “Beer Belongs” and a message that beer was the beverage of moderation.

Now, a new move afoot would boost beer’s image, but there’s much work to be done, according to an article fromt he Wharton School of Penn University. Marketing professor Patricia Williams says breweries “have trended cruder and cruder” in an attempt to break through the clutter of TV ads and have dug a deep hole for themselves. “They have just descended into the depths as a product category. Unless that stops, no industry ad campaign will do it for them. I don’t see that happening.”

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Wrong! Sometimes smaller is better

Headline:Beer Is Proof of Stereotypical Sex Roles.

The point: “So finally, beer teaches us about competition: The microbrewers appeared on the scene to tell the ignorati (myself included, back then) that there were infinite possibilities.”

Maybe not quite right: “The big American breweries can do anything smaller brewers can do, and better. They don’t do what the smaller brewers do partly because they don’t want to. To produce niche flavors is costly, and you’ll notice that large brewers typically charge around three to five dollars per six-pack, while the micros start at $7.”

The large breweries can’t do everything smaller ones can better. Part of it is a numbers thing: There are scores of small brewers across the country thinking up something different every day. Many of the ideas will be terrible, but some will be terrific.

It isn’t necessarily great business but it is great art. And if you like flavorful beer you benefit.

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Beer friendly prof under fire

A Harvard professor moonlighting for beer giant Anheuser-Busch finds himself under fire from substance abuse counselors for saying the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption outweigh the risks. And for how he appears to be benefiting from the stance.

Meir Stampfer, a leading researcher on alcohol consumption, has traveled to Chicago and New York to tout the benefits of alcohol at Anheuser-Busch sponsored lunches.

While the company never paid Stampfer for his talks, it footed his travel expenses and donated $150,000 in scholarship money to the Harvard School of Public Health.

[From BostonHerald.com.]

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Mexican beer gets serious

Could Mexico be developing a microbrewery culture?

SignOnSanDiego.com reports Tijuana’s International Beer Festival was a step in the right direction.

“We don’t have the money to compete” with Corona, Pacifico, Dos Equis and other megabrews, one microbrewery owner said. “But I can provide to my customers what the others can’t, even with all their money. Because it’s not about a marketing concept.”

The story comes complete with tasting notes.

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Beer, and pubs, for dogs

No, no drinking was conducted before posting of this dispatch.

Yes, Dog Star Brewing Co. – in Napa Valley, it figures – makes beer for dogs.

Yes, all Rogue Nation Embassies – also known as pubs – offer gourmet treats for dogs.

First, the doggie beer. The Napa Valley Register has all the details about Dog Star’s Happy Tail Ale – which might have started as a lark, but turned into a serious venture.

The basics:

Dog Star’s first Happy Tail Ale recipe consisted of soda water, yellow food coloring and beef bouillon. Right away the Millers learned one quick lesson about combining bouillon cubes in soda water, “It explodes like a volcano,” said Jamie with a rueful laugh. Additionally, they discovered dogs really don’t like carbonation. “It upsets their stomachs,” she said.

With that, they began more research. Through visits to microbreweries and brewing suppliers Jamie learned more about beermaking. “I had only been a beer drinker, now I was turning into a beer brewer,” she said.

Jamie eventually came up with a formula very similar to beer but without alcohol, carbonation or hops, which can cause dog seizures. The final recipe consists of water, malted barley, glucosamine, vitamin E and lactic acid. Natural beef drippings provide additional flavor and sodium benzoate prevents bottle fermenting.

There’s plenty more to the story – local bars are even stocking the beer.

Rogue now offers Gulley’s Dog Menu at all six of its brewery/restaurants. A burger and fires combination runs $9.95 but most items are around a dollar. These include a carob cupcake, a peanut butter bone and a croissant with beef.

Rogue has long been dog friendly. Brewmaster John Maier’s best friend, Brewer, is pictured on the front of the website (click on his photo), as well as some Rogue beer bottles, condom package, T-shirts and posters.

He is also Master of Ceremonies at Doggie Days fundraisers held periodically at Rogue pubs.