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Beer culture


Philadelphia beer hero

Joe Sixpack profiles Joel Derricks, Philadelphia’s best known beer delivery guy, who’s delivered more than a million kegs in 33 years.

“I don’t know if I can ever leave,” Derricks said. “It’s not just a job for me. It’s family. I get introduced to everyone down here – they treat me like one of the family.”

Be sure to check out the accompanying video.


Beer festival horror story

The way blogs work, the most recent article goes on top, so you might see this first, but perhaps you should read “On beer festival season” first.

If that didn’t scare you a little when thinking about beer festivals, this will. Donovan Hall of Spirit World describes his effort to get into the Long Island Beer Festival:

When we get to the Huntington Hilton, we can hear the roar of conversation. The convivial banter of hundreds of people in an outdoor space drinking beer. Through the windows I can see wall to wall people inside, jam packed like commuters on a bus at rush hour. My wife and I head toward the door and a bald guy in a blue sport coat steps up making a sawing motion with his hands like some quarter back had just made an incomplete pass. “If you’re going to the beer festival, there’s no more tickets,” he says.

“But I have tickets,” I say. And I hold up my two tickets to prove it.

“Doesn’t matter,” he says. “They aren’t letting anybody else in. There’s too many people inside already.”

“But I paid $90 for these tickets,” I say.

“Too bad,” he says. “Nobody else can go in.”

Hall didn’t get in. He didn’t get a refund. That doesn’t mean he won’t, but don’t you think these promoters would have realized more than 1,000 people were likely to show up?


On beer festival season

Writing in his blog, Brew Confessions Tom Baker of Heavyweight Brewing writes that beer festival season can go on without Heavyweight.

. . . most of even the well-run fests are no longer sampling events. They are merely opportunities to get pie-eyed on 35 dollars. I don’t know, maybe I’ve just gotten grumpier and crotchety in my old age. I just long for the days in my myopic memory, when festival attendees asked about the beers and styles and cautioned me about pouring a small sample so they could enjoy the rest of the fest. Or maybe that was a dream I had last night.

He finds a balance in his post, pointing out that there are still good festivals, and that some of this may be personal fatigue.

But he leaves you something to think about.


Nine good reasons to drink beer

The Publican reports that many health benefits of moderate beer drinking are unique to beer.

At a conference in Brussels, a researcher said: “The media and public tend to focus on wine. However, the emerging evidence is the real benefits are related to the alcohol itself and so the positive story also relates to other drinks such as beer.”

The researchers noted that moderate beer drinking:

– Reduces the risk of heart disease
– Helps keep blood pressure down and reduce the risk of stroke
– Benefits the immune system meaning healthy adults are less prone to get infections
– Has anti-inflammatory effects which contributes to heart health
– Could play a role in the battle against osteoporosis as it
– Improves bone mineral density which contributes to healthy bones
– Helps fight cancer because of compounds in hops called flavinoids
– Decreases the risk of dementia due to its beneficial effect on preserving brain function in old age
– Can protect against type II diabetes.


Beer Hunter’s book wins Beard award

Congratualtions to Michael Jackson (aka The Beer Hunter) for winning the prestigious James Beard book award for Whiskey : The Definitive World Guide.

It won in the wine and spirits category, besting the much talked about Emperor of Wine.

Whiskey will remind you a little of Jackson’s Beer Companion, which we always thought should have won a similar award. Problem is that the publisher didn’t nominate it.

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Weekly Therapy: The people’s choice

Working for the Anheuser-Busch breweries in Columbus, Ohio, and Merrimack, N.H., has been a little more fun recently.

Why? Burnin’ Helles, Leaf Peeper Pils and Old Eyepopper for starters.

The idea to have a contest that lets customers pick what might on tap in their local pub is hardly new, and the idea for this one might have come from the marketing department but A-B’s promotion has involved brewery employees just as much any similar program would at a small-batch brewery.

This is where things stand now: Residents in New England and Ohio can log onto to cast their vote for a beer they figure they want to drink.

In Ohio the choices include: Burnin’ Helles, Racer Snake Red and Old Eyepopper. In New England they are: Devil’s Hop Yard IPA, Stone Face Ale and Leaf Peeper Pils. The names and beer styles were created by local employees at the Columbus breweries. Voting continues through Sunday, the winning beers will be brewed at the Columbus and Merrimack breweries, and then go on tap in their respective regions June 26.

Most voters will probably make their decision based only on the online descriptions, but batches of each of the beers were brewed in A-B’s St. Louis pilot brewery and are available for sampling.

At Merrimack, more than 500 brewery employees and local distributors contributed ideas, which included suggesting a beer style and a beer name. Then a committee of 12, chosen from different departments such as accounting or packaging, picked the three beers and formulated recipes.

“This was a fun project,” said assistant brewmaster Mitch Steele. “We put up a spread sheet, bounced around ideas about hops, hopping schedules, malt, and so on.”

All three choices in New England are ales. “We’ve wanted to brew more ales out of Merrimack,” Steele said. One simple reason is that Bare Knuckle Stout is brewed in Merrimack, and it’s easier to keep yeast healthy when it is put to work regularly.

Merrimack was a logical choice because of the strong craft brewing scene in the Northeast and because the brewery can produce smaller batch sizes (400 barrels versus 1,000 and more at most A-B breweries). “I think part of it was the success of the seasonal beers (released beginning last fall). The idea of doing some regional beers has been around for a while,” Steele said.

Steele formerly worked in the specialty beer group, formulating recipes that were sold under the Michelob Specialty and A-B American Originals brands. Included were many recipes that never reached the public (although they made the company picnic more fun).

“We tried to get an IPA out there,” Steele said, thinking back to 1997. Now New England customers can vote for Devil’s Hopyard IPA, which is hopped with Cascade, Columbus and Palisades to the tune of 60 IBU.

“I think we are a bit more adventurous than nine years ago, don’t you?” Steele said.

“We’re trying to provide an alternative for our core drinker.”

Who wouldn’t notice the similarity between the Devil’s Hopyard IPA name and that of the immensely popular Victory HopDevil IPA from Downington, Pa.?

We’d rather A-B picked a different name, but it’s also our opinion that members of the HopDevil Nation aren’t likely to jump ship based on a name. Meanwhile, if the Devil’s Hopyard is the voters’ choice, a few A-B loyalists have are going to have an opportunity to broaden their beer horizons. And that’s a good thing.


Ben & Jerry’s apologizes for ‘Black & Tan’

Reauters reports ice cream makers Ben & Jerry’s have apologized for causing offense by calling a new flavor “Black & Tan” – the nickname of a notoriously violent British militia that operated during Ireland’s war of independence.

The ice cream, available only in the United States, is based on an ale and stout drink of the same name.

“Any reference on our part to the British Army unit was absolutely unintentional and no ill-will was ever intended,” said a Ben & Jerry’s spokesman.

This is why you should remember that if you order a drink mixing stout and an lighter colored ale in Ireland to ask for a “half and half.”


Take that, West Coast brewers

Don Russell, aka Joe Sixpack, writes about Philadelphia-area winners in the World Beer Cup, properly pointing out that if beer drinkers weren’t supporting the beers outside the norm that brewers couldn’t continue to experiment.

He lets Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant brewer Gordon Grubb – whose Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse now has won three major medals – make the point. Grubb now brews so much of the sour wheat beer that he believes tiny Nodding Head is “far and away” the largest producer of Berliner weisse on this side of the Atlantic.

“It’s definitely one of those beers that’s not for everyone,” Grubb said. “It’s a love or hate situation. But once they get to know it, they often love it.

“What I’ve learned here is that if you do anything outside the norm, here in Philadelphia people are willing to try different kinds of things. Whether it’s beer or different restaurants, people want to experience different things with an open mind.”

The Brewers Association, which conducts the World Beer Cup, echoed the thought in a press release. “While these results are great news for American brewers, they also tell us something about American beer drinkers,” said Ray Daniels, Director of Craft Beer Marketing for the BA. “In order for breweries to make a beer, they must have consumers to drink it. So the breadth of beer styles made in the US indicates the diversity of beer styles and flavors consumed in the US compared to other countries around the world.”

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect a little regional chest thumping. Another BA press release pointed out that California brewers won 10% of all medals, and that story has been repeated often by West Coast media.

So back to Joe Sixpack:

The result, Grubb continued, is that Philadelphia “brews a really great range of beers. It’s not like, say, California, which puts out some very hoppy beers and maybe a few Belgian styles. We run the whole gamut here.”

We figure the West Coast guys can defend themselves.


Homebrewing dates to remember

– New Mexico’s Enchanted Brewing Challenge May 19-20 features a special competition for “radical beers.”Judges will also have the opportunity to evaluate beers in the Radical Beer Open.

– Saturday, May 6 is National Homebrew Day and once again an excuse for homebrewers around the country gather for Big Brew.

– The Milwaukee Monster Mash includes competition in only six BJCP categories, but that way all six winners may have their beer brewed at Wisconsin breweries. The May 7 competition is held in conjunction with World of Beer 2006.


Not exactly all the pleasures of beer

The headline from the New Scientist reads: “All the pleasures of alcohol, with no downsides.”

The discussion is about a “cocktail of drugs that mimics the pleasurable effects of alcohol without the downsides.” Pay close attention.

Alcohol exerts its effects on the brain mainly by latching onto signalling molecules called GABA-A receptors. There are dozens of subtypes of these, some of which are associated with specific effects of alcohol. Memory loss, for example, seems to occur because alcohol binds to a subtype in the hippocampus called alpha-5. [David] Nutt says it would be possible to design molecules that bind strongly to the good subtypes but more weakly to the bad ones.

In theory, a new drug could “deliver alcohol’s pleasurable effects, notably relaxation and sociability, without the aggression, nausea, loss of coordination and amnesia” . . . as well as hangovers.

But what if you like the flavor of beer? Or that it makes your meals taste better? That’s also a pleasurable effect.


New CAMRA site

CAMRA redesigns its website. Although the organization has always been politically active, that purpose is even clearer no.

CAMRA Head of Marketing Louise Ashworth said in the press release: “One of the main aims of the new site is to have more of a campaigning focus and enable consumers to get involved in some key CAMRA campaigns.

“This ranges from protesting about the closure of a brewery, lobbying for an honest full pint or showing disappointment in the Chancellor’s recent budget decision to increase duty on a pint of beer whilst freezing it on champagne. You can email the Chancellor from our home page to show what you think of his decision!

“We wanted to make it clear what CAMRA stands for, and that we campaign for quality real ale, good pubs and consumer rights in relation to the drink’s industry.

“We hope that visitors to our site will be able to gain more of an understanding of why our 80,000 members feel real ale is superior to other beers.”


Dogfish offers ‘Off-centered Films’

Dogfish Head in Delaware has announced a film competition. Like everything else from Dogfish it will be a little different.

We heartily believe in the DIY-grassroots-david- beats-goliath approach. And now we want to give independent-minded, aspiring filmmakers the chance to let their own freak-flags fly by making their own films that celebrate the perseverance of the underdog!

We want to incorporate as many different, individual, vignettes of the ‘little engines that could’ into the world of Dogfish Head and we want to celebrate filmmakers whose visions jibe with our own. In addition to the copious booty we will lay on first-through-third place annual winners, we will show many of the competition submissions online and in our pubs and breweries as well. Our goal is to build a short film competition that is as far from the mainstream as our 90 Minute I.P.A. is from Bud Light. So what are you waiting for? Crack open a cold on, pour it into a nice snifter, and let it come up to cellar temperature while you storyboard. Sip. Brainstorm. Sip again. Write dialogue. Sip again. Cast. Sip. Make that film. Good luck. Cheers.

Dogfish already has “Off-centered Films for Off-centered People,” properly described “as anti-ads lampooning the macho, misogynistic posturing of the big breweries and their commitment to drinking everything ICE COLD!”

The brewery can’t afford to show them anywhere but its brewpubs and the Internet, but the downloads are easy and it’s equally handy to e-mail the spots to your friends.


The Beer Hunter holds his own

Jay Brooks reviews Michael Jackson’s appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien.

Jay gets it somewhat right when he notes, “Conan and the two previous guests were, I thought, quite rude at times to Michael and the entire segment could be seen as a metaphor for the general ignorance of the public about beer.”

Actually, it seemed that Lucy Liu was mostly putting up with Jon Lovitz, who was a jerk. Conan could have posed better questions but was civil – particularly compared to the audience, which takes us back to the point of the attitude toward beer by the general public. Jackson last appeared on O’Brien’s show more than seven years ago and you wonder how much progress thas been made in the interim.

On the other hand, if it weren’t beer then Jackson likely would not have been there. Correct us if we’re wrong, but do food writers go on this show or wine writers? Jackson was invited because he is a professional beer drinker, and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

Did O’Brien even mention that the Beer Hunter was in town to sign books at Whisky Live New York? Or that Jackson has been nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award for his book Whiskey?

Three books in the world were nominated, but Jackson was on Late Night with five beers in front of him and reminding people to visit because of beer. Yes, beer deserves more respect – but it has appeal, and there’s much to be said for that.


Beer Hunter and Conan, Round II

Great Beers of BelgiumIt’s been more than seven years since Michael Jackson, aka The Beer Hunter, appeared on Late Night With Conan O’Brien but we still remember how much fun that was and look forward to an appearance tomorrow (April 5) night.

Jackson will be discussing beer (of course), perhaps whisky and certainly the release of the latest version of “The Great Beers of Belgium,” the fifth fully revised and expanded edition of the book, including more than 300 new photographs.

As the last time he appeared on Late Night, Jackson will be taking beers for O’Brien to taste. Look closely and you might catch a glimpse of the first labels for the Lost Abbey brand from Port Brewing, including one for Avant Garde.