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 in the mainstream press

– The Washington Post’s once-a-month beer feature focuses on Jerry Bailey of Old Dominion and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery.

– Missed this last week, but a great lead in the Wall Street Journal (pay site) on a story examing Anheuser-Busch’s struggles to increase sales: “It’s good to be king — except when your realm is shrinking.”

– John Filson in the Toronto Star: “Keep in mind there are tons of beers that call themselves pilsner, but are lukewarm examples at best. It’s an industry problem: if a beer wants to call itself a pilsner, it just does, even if it’s too bland or bad or out of character to deserve the designation. Just consider the ramifications if Loblaws decided to call any cut of meat sirloin and you’ll see why that’s a problem.”

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).

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.

TGIF Beer: Mirror Mirror

No, the folks at Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, weren’t stuttering when they named their first barley wine Mirror Mirror.

Mirror Mirror fermentingThe press release calls it “a beer so nice we named it twice” but if it isn’t exactly double Deschutes’ Mirror Pond Ale it comes close enough. Barley clearly is the star in this beer, with hops – still distinctively Northwest – and wood adding secondary layers of complexity.

Mirror Mirror is the first selection in Deschutes’ newly created Reserve Series. The brewery plans to offer one or two Reserve beers a year, subject to how inspiration grabs the brewers. This is actually the second version. The first draft-only batch was brewed in 2004, aged in a potpourri of barrels (Pinot Noir, bourbon, port) and then blended. By many accounts, it could have used more focus.

For Mirror Mirror 2.0, started in February 2005, the brewers stuck to only French oak wine barrels. The beer was already 10 months old (four in wood) when they dry hopped it a few days and bottled it early in 2006.

You can’t exactly call a barley wine that’s 9.9% abv restrained, but the bitterness (52 IBUs) is low by Northwest standards. Hop aromas intermingle with higher alcohols to provide a perfume-like floral impression as well as typical American hop citrus character. Dark fruits, particularly raisins, arrive at the start and linger through a long husky finish.

It has the malt depth to signal this is a beer to age, but the balance to drink now – which might make it hard to keep around for long. Nonetheless, the questions are fun to think about: Will the citrusy hops continue to give way to whisky undertones? Will the emerging dessert-apple tone turn toward toffee? What direction will the wood take the beer?

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.”

Gluten-free beers

Good news for those who have celiac disease – two American brewers now offer gluten-free beer.

– Passover Honey Beer is made by the Ramapo Valley Brewery of Hillburn, N.Y. It contains no barley nor any grain. It’s brewed with just honey, a “hint” of molasses, hops, kosher-certified yeast and water.

That may sound more like mead than beer, but Ramapo’s co-founder, Egon Lizenberg, insists that Passover Honey is a beer. “I haven’t seen any wine with hops yet,” he said. The federal labeling authorities apparently have agreed.

– Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery last fall began selling New Grist, an all-sorghum beer. In releasing the beer, the brewery noted: “New Grist is the first ‘official’ gluten free beer in the U.S., although it cannot technically be called ‘gluten-free’ until established governmental guidelines are determined for all products claiming ‘gluten-free’ status. In the interim, this Celiac-safe beer can be called ‘barley-free.’ ”

What your drink says about you

Waiter Rant “reveals” what your drink says about you and takes no prisoners.

Of course we have to point to the beer entry: “Blue collar, simple, and an old standby. (I think a girl wearing a t-shirt and jeans while drinking a good ‘ol Bud is very sexy.)”

A few more:

Chardonnay – You know what you like. Boring. Predictable. The Missionary Position of White Wine.

Sour Apple Martini – You have a sense of fun but overindulgence might cause dancing on tables and bad karaoke singing. (Beth?)

Campari and Soda – You’re a gourmand. A good aperitif. A bitter drink for bitter people.

Champagne
– You’re reserved, classy, or a stripper.

And then there is one of the comments: “Not subidviding “Beer” is somewhat like not distinguishing between wines. Someone drinking Budlight isn’t THAT similar to someone drinking microbrews.”

Amen.

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.

St. Pauli Girl 2006

St. Pauli GirlWe learned long ago that the best time to buy beer at our local Oktoberfest is when the St. Pauli Girl shows up to sign posters – because that’s where the line will be.

So as a public service announcement we offer this: To mark the annual selection of a new St. Pauli Girl the brewing company will give away 400 free posters each day on the brand’s website. Additionally, from March through May, another 40 free posters will be given away each day to consumers on a first-come, first-served basis. And, a downloadable version will be available on the St. Pauli Girl Beer website as a screensaver.

By the way, Brittany Evans is model chosen to adorn the 2006 poster and represent the brand throught the year.

Weekly Therapy: Why skunky beer is skunky

Cheers to the Wall Street Journal for a deciphering the code large brewers use in listing “freshness dates.” (Unfortunately, WSJ is a paid site, so we only linked to the front page).

It begins: “A loaf of bread has it. So does a carton of milk. But if you’re looking for the expiration date on a bottle of beer, forget about it — for many brewers, that information is a closely guarded secret.”

But reporter Bruce Knecht reveals some of the secrets. For example:

Take Sapporo, a Japanese beer we purchased in Los Angeles, which was imprinted with “K1205FL” on the bottom. Lost in translation? Well, the code indicates the beer was made Oct. 12, 2005. In the case of Sapporo, the first letter represents the month of manufacture: “A” for January, “B” for February and so on, through “M” for December. (As if the system weren’t complicated enough, this one, like many of these codes, has an extra twist: The month code skips over the letter “I” and uses “J” for September.) The next two digits, “12,” refer to the day of the month, and the two numbers after that, “05,” are the last two digits of the year.

Corona uses two different alphabetical codes. The year, the first character, is coded from A for 2001 to F for 2006, while the months go from L for January to A for December. The day of the month is expressed numerically. So the bottle we bought with the code “EE08” was made Aug. 8, 2005. The company doesn’t publicly disclose its code, but people familiar with the company’s practice confirm our translation.

Track down a copy of the Weekend edition if you can, or find it in your local library. The story includes a chart telling you how to read the code on 15 beers, ranging from Anchor to Tecate.

Although “skunky beer” is at the center of the story, it doesn’t exactly explain how that ties into freshness. So just in case you were wondering . . .

Few beer tasting terms are more descriptive or straightforward than “skunky.” Quite simply, a skunky beer emits an aroma it didn’t have when it left the brewery.

The smell is the product of the chemical reaction that takes place in the bottle when bright light strikes the hops, creating what’s technically known as “light struck” beer. The reaction is stronger with paler and hoppier beers. The resulting chemical is identical to that in a skunk’s defense system, and light-struck beer puts off one of the most powerful aromas around.

Green and clear bottles do little to protect a beer from skunking, and while dark brown bottles are much better they are far from perfect. Because many of the best known imports come in clear or green bottles consumers have come to associate a skunky aroma with imported, often more expensive beer. That doesn’t mean their brewers intended them to taste that way.

The brighter the light and the longer bottles sit in that light the stronger the skunky smell will be. Even dark brown bottles won’t guard a beer from the bright fluorescent lights popular in grocery stores and many other beer retail outlets for very long.

You don’t have to settle for that beer. In some stores you’ll see six-packs sitting on tops of cases. Don’t grab that one, but get your beer from inside the case. A sealed case is even better. If you want beer from the cooler don’t be shy about asking if there are unopened cases in the cooler and buying a six-pack from one of those.

Buying beer that has been kept out of the light gives you a better chance of getting a “skunk free” beer. It’s up to you to keep it that way — mostly by continuing to keep it out of direct light — until you drink it.

How tall is the lime?

Corona Extra, the best-selling imported beer in America, is buying big twin signs at Times Square. The signs, which are scheduled to go up on Monday, each measure about 92 feet high by 35 feet wide and show open bottles of Corona with limes wedged into the necks.

[Via the New York Times, free registration required]

Barley Wines of the Times

“Wines of the Times” means barley wines this month, as a New York Times (free registration) panelists curl up by the fireside with 25 or so.

The panel made Hog Heaven from Avery Brewing in Colorado its favorite, giving it 3-and-a-half stars. Flying Dog Horn Dog (Colorado), Anchor Old Foghorn (California) and J. W. Lees Harvest Ale 2003 (England) all received 3 stars.

The story notes:

The quality in general was so high that we could not possibly include all the ales we liked in our top 10. Not to be forgotten are ales like Dogfish Head’s Old School, which managed to mask its 15 percent alcohol behind fruitcake flavors; Young’s Old Nick, a creamy-rich British classic that is a mere 7.2 percent; and (Garrett) Oliver’s own Brooklyn Monster Ale, another creamy, balanced brew.

It also points out the difference between British and American offerings:

I was mightily impressed by the entire field. These ales were superbly brewed, and the range of styles was fascinating. Some – the British versions in particular – were sweet and creamy, yet not cloying, their complexity offering enough intrigue to keep me coming back for more. The American ales tended to be dryer, more robust and spicy, with heavy doses of American hops, which offer piney aromas and a pleasing bitterness.

Must be time to see if 2006 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot has arrived at the local beer store.