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Beer culture


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.

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Weekend link-o-rama

Oops, wrong glass – not the best idea when you are promoting your beer sophistication.

Grain Belt brew bouse receives National Preservation Award – wonderful pictures.

Results from Great American “Premium” Beer Challenge

Decanting Rober Parker – (ree registration required) a balanced profile of wine’s lightning rod.

Let Us Praise the ‘Wine Snob’ – hear him out.

Cute wine labels – es, beer is guilty too.

Fun fast food facts – and scary.

Arctic temperatures near a prehistoric level when seas were 16 to 20 feet higher – no, not beer and not light-hearted.


Don’t forget the traditional Irish pubs

Slate discovers the faux Irish pub revolution. A wonderful lead begins the story: “Ireland, as much of the world knows it, was invented in 1991.”

It looks behind the business of exporting Irish pubs – and as much Irish-ness – as possible in fascinating detail. The story also details how St. Patrick’s Day has recently changed in Ireland:

A few decades back, St. Patrick’s Day was a relatively quiet day in Ireland. It was a religious holiday; pubs were closed, and no one dyed anything green. A typical Dubliner might attend Mass, eat a big meal with the family, and nod off early. In the ’90s, my friends who grew up in Dublin used to go to a hotel on St. Paddy’s Day to watch the American tourists sing Irish drinking songs and celebrate excess.

Where there is celebrated excess, there is a market to exploit. In 1995, the Irish government saw potential in international “Irish” revelry. They reinvented the holiday at home to kick-start the tourist season. Now thousands of partiers head to Ireland for the “St. Patrick’s Day Season” as Guinness has called this time of year. (It used to be called “March” or, for Irish Catholics, “Lent.”) In Dublin, the festival lasts for five days and adds about 60 million euros* to the economy.

All quite true, but a new book, The Parting Glass: A Toast to the Traditional Pubs of Ireland, reminds us that the real thing is alive and well in Ireland.


Turn any beer into low-alcohol beer

Andrew Gordon begins this story in the Olympian with the proper disclaimer: “It might sound like blasphemy, but it’s time to talk about nonalcoholic beer. Now, now, hear me out.”

He’s talking low alchol and flavor.

All you need is an oven, a large pot (brewers already will have this), and an oven thermometer (unless you have a newer oven with precise temperature controls — it’s not unusual for an oven to vary 20 degrees to either side of the temperature setting.)

Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature setting — the boiling point of ethyl alcohol is 173.3 degrees, so you’re aiming for about 180 degrees. Verify that you’re in the ballpark using the thermometer. To the pot, add beer you’ve either brewed or bought, and put the pot into the oven uncovered.

You’re using the oven instead of the stovetop to provide more even, controlled heat, providing fewer changes to the overall character of your beer. In 30 minutes, the alcohol will have boiled away and the brew can be cooled.

The yeasts will have been killed off in the evaporation process, so you’ll need to go to your friendly neighborhood homebrew store to buy some yeast and priming sugar. Boil between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup of the sugar with a pint of water and add to the brew, then add yeast and mix well, using a sanitized metal spoon. (To sanitize, either put the spoon in the brewpot at the beginning of the evaporation process, or soak it in a mild bleach water solution for five minutes.)

You can then siphon the brew into sanitized bottles or a keg.

There are some other moving parts, so read the whole thing.


Weekly Therapy: The Black & Tan

Beer cocktails – concoctions that mix two different beers or even beer with a variety of spirits – have recently been touted as a good marketing tool in U.S. bars that otherwise pay little attention to beer as a beverage with taste.

We generally leave it to others to discuss the “joy” of mixing vodka, gin, tequila, cranberry juice and beer (yes, there’s a bar that puts all those in the same glass). After all, brewers worked hard to produce a drink that can be appreciated on its own. But the fact is that blending two beers together to produce something different – and this may take place in the brewery itself or wherever you are enjoying beer – is hardly new.

StoutThe best known mix is a Black and Tan or Half-and-Half, and whether these are the same or different depends on where you order them. With since everybody is thinking about St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, it seems like a good time to review the basics:

– You may use any brand stout or lighter colored ale or lager to make a Black and Tan (many brewpubs do this with house beers), but most patrons of Irish theme pubs in the United States think in terms of Guinness Stout and either Bass ale or Harp lager.

– The layering of a Black and Tan – that is the dark stout floating above the lighter beer – is said to be common only in American bars. When you begin drinking the beers will mix anyway, so some places choose to let them mix as they are poured.

– It is easier to produce a layered Black and Tan if the stout is dispensed from the special spouts use by Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish as well as those used in some American brewpubs for their own stouts. Also if the stout is pushed with nitrogen. You begin by filling half the glass with the ale or lager. Next, slow the control on the spout tap and pour the stout slowly over the back of a spoon (Guinness even makes a decorative spoon just for this purpose). The stout will remain on top.

The name itself does not come from the use of a black beer and something lighter. It is derived from a political reference to the black and khaki military uniforms worn by the special auxiliary force – “The Black and Tans” – who were brought in to Ireland fight the Irish nationalists in 1920.


Brew Year’s Eve

How can you not like an event called Brew Year’s Eve?

On April 7, breweries all over America will raise a pint in celebration of the day that beer once again became legally available at the end of prohibition.

We Want Our Beer

While full repeal came on Dec. 5, 1933, an amendment to Prohibition legalized beer with 3.2% alcohol by weight (4% by volume) starting on April 7 of that year. From that date on, the country’s brewers were back in business and Americans enjoyed legal beer for eight months before wine and spirits were once again legitimate.

“Today more than 1,300 small, traditional and independent breweries operate in the US and because of them Americans have plenty to celebrate,” said Ray Daniels, Director of Craft Beer Marketing at the Brewers Association. “Brewers provide jobs, pay taxes and contribute to tens of thousands of community, charitable and service organizations each year.”

To celebrate repeal brewers across the country will be host Brew Years Eve parties on April 7. Details are at


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.


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.


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 and 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).


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.


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 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,, 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.”


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.


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.