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.

JW Dundee joins aluminum bottle crowd

High Falls Brewing Co. has begun to package JW Dundee’s Honey Brown lager and American Pale Ale in flashy 16-ounce aluminum bottles as a single-serve product for bars, restaurants, groceries and convenience stores.

“We’re looking at this as a way for people to sample the product,” said High Falls Chief Executive Officer Tom Hubbard. “These are just more ways for us to gain the momentum of the craft line of products that we are offering.”

[From the Rochester Democrat& Chronicle]

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.

Beer School

BusinessWeek Online interviews Steve Hindy about Beer School, a new book he wrote together with Tom Potter. Hindy and Potter quit their day jobs to launch Brooklyn Brewery in the industrial neighborhood of Williamsburg. Today, the brewery is an international brand pulling in $11 million in annual sales.

A sample question and answer:

In your original plans, did you set out to launch a microbrewery or did you intend this to end up as the international, multimillion dollar brand that it is now?

We always intended on becoming as big as we could. When we started, we felt that there were lots of small breweries, particularly on the West Coast, and New York City had a tremendous brewing history. We believed this tradition was not forgotten and somehow we could tap into that and it would be a fantastic market to build a branded beer.

We had planned on building a regional brand on the East Coast, but now we’ve begun expanding into Europe. It was kind of a surprise, but we have caught on in Britain and Japan, and we have a serious foothold in Denmark. We’re going into Sweden, Finland, and eventually, Norway.

Madonna, beer expert

Pop diva Madonna reiterates her affection for Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. Keighly News reports:

In a bout of friendly banter on his ITV1 show on Saturday, Maddona snapped back when Parky claimed that London-based Fullers was a “much superior pint”.

Quick as a shot, Madonna said: “I disagree. I think Timothy Taylor is the champagne of ales”.

He then asked: “Am I arguing with an expert?”

And she responded: “I think you are.”

Malt liquor on the wine menu

Each Friday the Wall Street Journal helps its readers prepare for the weekend with a bit of advice about liquid refreshments.

Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher are among the nation’s finest wine writers, and this week they look into Sauternes class of 2001, which is just being released. Sauternes, from the Bordeaux region of France, is the world’s greatest sweet wine, with good bottles starting at $40 at retail and prices rocketing higher. That’s a 750ml bottle, about 25 ounces.

This Friday the WSJ offers an alternative: malt liquors, served in 40-ounce bottles. The headline calls this Malt Liquor’s Moment and the story reports:

But in a few places across the country, malt liquor is having something of a cultural moment. It’s showing up on the menu of popular restaurants like Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack in San Francisco, where Mickey’s is served in an ice-filled champagne bucket. Some microbrewers, who pride themselves on their “craft beer” made with fancy ingredients, have launched their own lines of malt liquor: Pizza Port in Solana Beach, Calif., periodically makes its Brown Bag Malt Liquor, and Piece, a restaurant and brewery in Chicago, offers Dolemite, named after a 1975 blaxploitation film. There’s even a cadre of collectors who pay as much as $300 on eBay for rare specimens of the 40-ounce bottles — even empty.

There’s even a picture of Dogfish Head Brewery’s Liquor de Malt, including the paper bag it comes in.

Tomme Arthur, who brews the Pizza Port Brown Bag Malt Liquor, previously has pointed out that he asks to judge this category at the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival each year.

“Some like to shun their past. Me, I embrace it,” he said.

[Note: The WSJ is a subscription site.]

The bitter battle between Miller and A-B

We can’t really call the latest round of commercials from Miller Brewing, the “Great Taste Trial,” much ado about nothing because there’s all kind of advertising money involved, they’ll be seen by millions and they’ve generated plenty of additional publicity.

However, as our old editor liked to ask: Is there a story here?

Basically Miller claims Bud Light increased its bitterness by nearly 11% this year, reversing steady declines of bitterness over the last 15 years. Light beers in general, including Miller Lite, have decreased their bitterness. Miller also says Bud Light’s carbonation level rose this year by about 4%.

Now the St. Louis Post-Disptach asks beer experts if drinkers can taste changes that were measured in laboratories.

“It seems they want to make something out of nothing,” said Michael Lewis, professor emeritus of brewing science at the University of California at Davis.

Brewers constantly tweak their recipes.

“Beer is a natural product, and agricultural products shift from year to year, much less generation to generation,” said Keith Lemcke, vice president of Chicago-based Siebel Institute of Technology, which trains brewers. Any minor variations Miller might have found couldn’t be detected by consumers, he said.

Beer pong at Darmouth

The Dartmouth student newspaper offers “a three-part series looking at the evolution of beer pong as a social and cultural phenomenon at Dartmouth.”

From the first part:

But the pong players of today, whether or not they realize it, are partaking in a pastime that has come a long way from the original game. Pong consisted of two cups of beer per side from the 1950s until the 1990s, and the last 10 years have seen a proliferation in the amount of beer consumed during one game. The most common pong formations at Dartmouth include “shrub” and “tree,” which consist of seven and 11 cups of beer, respectively. According to common definitions of “binge drinking,” even a single game of pong can cross the line from social to binge drinking.

From the second:

For decades, speed pong dominated — a fast-paced game of table tennis with the added target of beers on the table. Eventually, slam pong came into fashion. In slam pong, one partner lobs the ball to his teammate who slams the ball toward the cup, similar to a set and spike in volleyball. This version, also known as volley pong at the time, was invented around 1979 and came into style in the early 1980s.

“Slam was for the hardcore,” Marriott said. “Regular pong was for women and [fre]’shmen.”

Saga of the 10-ounce can

Newcomers to St. Mary’s County (Maryland) may not understand why beer is available in 10-ounce cans and why they are so popular. It costs the same, if not more, than a 12-ounce can. So why would people buy it?

‘‘It’s just become a big item in the county,” distributor George Guy said. ‘‘People feel it’s something they created. It’s something that belongs to them.”

[From Gazette.net]

Rodebach adds markets

RedbachRodenbach and Rodenbach Grand Cru – which returned to the U.S. market earlier this year – are now available in New York and North Carolina and are on the way to Ohio.

Winking Lizard Taverns in Ohio will be the first in the United States to serve Redbach. Redbach is based on Rodenbach, with unfermented cherry juice blended in.

Rodenbach brewmaster Rudi Ghequire and Kris Walgraeve of Palm Brewery helped kick off Rodenbach’s entry into New York City earlier this month. Along with Duvel USA, they sponsored and participated in parties at The Blind Tiger, Grammercy Tavern, DBA, Le Frit Kot, the Hop Devil, the Waterfront Ale House, and BXL Café.

Beer, saloons and booze on TV

The History Channel has them all today. And coffee, too. Their description of the beer segment:

It’s one of the world’s oldest and most beloved beverages–revered by Pharaohs and brewed by America’s Founding Fathers. Today, brewing the bitter elixir is a multi-billion-dollar global industry. Join us for an invigorating look at brewing’s history from prehistoric times to today’s cutting-edge craft breweries, focusing on its gradually evolving technologies and breakthroughs. We’ll find the earliest known traces of brewing, which sprang up independently in such far-flung places as ancient Sumeria, China, and Finland; examine the surprising importance that beer held in the daily and ceremonial life of ancient Egypt; and at Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, an adventurous anthropologist and a cutting-edge brewer show us the beer they’ve concocted based on 2,700-year-old DNA found in drinking vessels from the funerary of the legendary King Midas.

At 10 Eastern and repeated during the wee hours.

New beer fight erupts

Does it really seem to you like the nation’s largest brewers are likely to join in a campaign to boost beer’s image?

It seems as if they should be getting along better for that to happen. USA Today reports: “Miller Brewing, a unit of SABMiller, said Tuesday several cable networks pulled new Miller ads on complaints by rival Anheuser-Busch (BUD), the largest U.S. brewer.”

This is related to commericals we reported on yesterday that claim the recipe for Bud Light has changed.

More from USA Today:

Several cable networks have temporarily placed the Miller spots on hold and asked the company to provide substantiation for the claim, Miller said, adding that it was providing the requested substantiation.

Anheuser-Busch responded to what it felt were negative ads by Miller, an Anheuser-Busch executive said.

“We addressed this directly in a way that was most appropriate,” Douglas Muhleman, group vice president at Anheuser-Busch, said in a faxed response. “We saw negative advertising that included our product, and we were in the best position to explain that to the networks that these claims are not true.”

Pyramid Q&A

The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., visits Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle for a Q&A with with Mark House, head of brewery operations and a company veteran, and marketing director Paul Curhan. Not surprisingly, answers about Pyramid focusing on wheat-based beers dominates the conversion.

For Curhan on competition with Widmer:

Over the years we’ve done more traditional consumer research, qualitative and quantitative. We have been preferred 2-to-1 or greater to (Portland’s) Widmer, which is probably our biggest competitor. An excellent beer, but a very different taste profile.

Ours is more of a citrusy, aromatic, smoother hefe. Widmer is a little more bitter.

From House on innovation:

We have a lot of things on the docket. One thing is the whole fruit category. I think we’re going to have fun with that. We have R&D sit-downs with our brewers, coming up with new ideas. Our Oktober Weizen is the first ever, we think, wheat Oktoberfest beer in the U.S. There is innovation.

We have restaurants up and down the West Coast, and one huge advantage is I can make one keg of (experimental) beer in the Seattle alehouse. We’ve got thousands of people here who can try (new beers).

A hoppier Bud Light?

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required, sorry) reports that Miller “is expected to claim in new cable-TV ads this weekend that Bud Light has ‘changed,’ and that Miller Lite still tastes better than the new version, according to Miller executives and a memo the brewer sent out to its distributors late Friday.”

Peter Marino, a Miller spokesman, said that through its continuing testing of Bud Light, Miller had noticed “a statistically significant increase in bitterness units and carbonation.”

More hops? That’s OK with Realbeer.com.

However, Anheuser-Busch, which brews Bud Light as well as Budweiser, is quite specific in denying any changes:

“Like all brewers, our brewmasters are constantly making small adjustments in the brewing process to account for seasonal changes in raw materials in order to ensure that the taste of our beers are consistent year in and year out,” said Douglas J. Muhleman, group vice president of brewing operations at Anheuser. “To suggest that we have made a formulation change in the way we brew our beers is a marketing ploy and is simply false. The recipes for Budweiser and Bud Light have not changed. We too analyze our competitors’ beers and note changes in their products all the time.”

Editor’s addition: Brandweek has details about the memo and advertising campaign.