Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Magic Pyramid

I just learned that Magic Hat has filed a letter of intent to buy Pyramid, a cross-coast merger that will take Pyramid private, and possibly give it some of that Magic Hat magic. Magic Hat's offering $2.75 a share for Pyramid stock, a nice premium over Monday's close of $1.76. Pyramid's board has approved the transaction, as have "certain shareholders" who own about 29% of the company's stock.

From BusinessWire:

“The combination of these two well established, high profile craft breweries will be very complementary given our respective brand portfolios and the geographies in which we predominantly operate. Additionally, there will be a number of important benefits for Pyramid to be part of a private company versus continuing to operate as a stand alone public entity. This consolidation makes both good strategic and financial sense and is well timed, particularly as the beer industry’s competitive dynamics continue to intensify,” said Pyramid CEO Scott Barnum. “The Company will continue to have offices in Seattle, its historical home, and will seek opportunities to capitalize on the enhanced assets and capabilities of the new combined entity,” he added.

Martin Kelly, CEO of Magic Hat said, “We have a great deal of respect for Pyramid’s brand heritage, award-winning beers and its dedicated employees, and look forward to consummating this transaction, which provides both strategic and financial benefits both to Pyramid’s and Magic Hat’s stakeholders.”


The deal is subject to the agreement on a merger transaction, and is expected to be completed by the end of August. It includes the Pyramid and MacTarnahan Alehouses.

Well...as Scott Barnum said, it certainly looks like a complementary merger. There's not a lot of market overlap -- though it's a question whether either company really has the reach to meet in the middle -- and the portfolios should mesh well. People have been murmuring about Magic Hat looking to be bought for years; apparently they preferred to do the buying. My big question is...how come? Why combine a solidly Northwest brewing company with a solidly New England brewing company? Can't be the great success Redhook has had with their New England expedition. I would suspect it's more a craft-based case of the consolidation fear that's gripping the world's big brewers: pair up and get large now, before all the good partners are gone and you're left as an also-ran.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Can't Taste Anything

I hate this time of year. I have allergies to a variety of springtime pollen -- grass, birch, gum tree -- and the mild winter means they started about two weeks early this year. Usually I'm good till about May Day, but things have sucked since about the 20th. I took much medication to be in shape to judge at Manayunk on Saturday, and paid for it with cottonmouth afterwards.

So...not a lot of tasting notes for a bit. If I get a clear nose for an hour or so, which happens on odd occasions, I'll try to get one in, because -- bizarrely -- my nose is actually extra-sensitive during these periods...when I can manage to get some airflow over it. In the meantime, every beer just smells/tastes Phlegmish, as my friend Mike says. Whiskey's a little better, but it wouldn't be fair to do tasting notes except in those rare windows.

I hate this time of year. Just thought I'd let you know.

PLCB Blog -- Reason #2

Mutations occur all the time in nature. Two-headed calves, wingless birds, albino alligators: they're not normal, they're not how things were meant to be, and they rarely survive without being kept alive by human interference.

Kinda like the two-headed monster called the PLCB.

Reason #2:

Buy More Booze! (But Don't Drink It!)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Memphis Revisited -- with food

After judging at the Manayunk beer festival again this year (1st -- Rock Bottom KoP IPA; 2nd -- Stoudt's Maibock; 3rd (tie) -- Legacy Hoptimus Prime and Tröegs Troegenator; and we may or may not have given an Honorable Mention to the Triumph Rauchbock, I had to leave and that was the talk as I bolted), I GPS'd my way across new (to me) areas of Philly, past folks selling used stoves on the sidewalk, to Memphis Taproom again. I felt the need to sit and decompress, and have a bite to eat.

I got me a Tröegs Sunshine Pils and the "King Rarebit," a chunk of solid bread with two fried eggs and cheese/ale sauce, with a small side of the delicious fries. I was enjoying this when in walked Uncle Jack Curtin and his posse: Dan & Kelley Bengel and Steve and Joy Rubeo. After much loud helloing and hand-shaking and hugging, they all got Sprecher Black Bavarians and we chatted. The King Rarebit cheese sauce was nicely funky, good stuff, and it made a great pick-me-up on a cool afternoon.

Then a bunch of damned beer judges walked in, all from the prelim rounds of the AHA national competition taking place at Yards this weekend, and there was Lyle Brown, a buddy I'd already given up on having a beer with because of schedules. Turned out they'd decided to swing over to Memphis Taproom instead of Standard Tap (they found the selection of beer ho-hum there last night...jaded), and they all got the Poperinge Hommelbier (Brendan told me he was on his fifth keg of this beer since Tuesday, his fastest seller). We all talked, but then I had to run. A pleasant late-afternoon encounter...I think I'm going to be at this bar a lot.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dave Schlosser leaves High Falls

Just got a tip from a reader to check the Beercraft site (and yes, I've added it to the list, sorry I missed that one) for news of Dave Schlosser leaving High Falls in Rochester. I contacted Dave, and I'm sorry to say that it's true. He's left the building -- not necessarily his idea -- and will be thinking about where to go next.

Bluntly, this sucks. Dave made some very good beers there, like the Dundee Pale Bock and IPA, and was a breath of fresh air. He was a nice guy, very knowledgeable, and seemed like the right guy to put Genessee/High Falls on the Saranac path to regional craft brewery. I hope this is not a statement that High Falls is leaving that path. The other rumor -- which remains a rumor -- is that High Falls is prepping for a buy out. We'll see.

My apologies, by the way, for the low level of NY brewery news. I'll try to do better.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

PLCB blog -- Reason #1

The new blog is attracting media attention already, and I just put Reason #1 up this morning. I'm going to be putting teasers up here for the Reasons; if you're interested, go look. Oh, and take the poll, too, first of a series.



Oh, where to begin?

I knew when I started this that the tough part would be picking the first reason to abolish the PLCB. Should it be the government retail monopoly, or the crap selection, or the loss of revenue to bordering states, or the 18% Emergency Tax, or the lack of service to retail accounts, or the costs of the State Store system, or the licensing system... The list just goes on and on, and they're all terrible.

But when you get down to the root of it, the base cause and source of the problems with the PLCB is that it reeks of the patronizing attitude of do-gooders. We, the itty-bitty wittle citizens of the Commonwealth, just can't handle our liquor -- or wine -- so the State has to do that for us.

Reason #1 on why the PLCB should be abolished:

We deserve to be treated like adults.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Long distance information, give me Memphis...Taproom

Memphis Taproom is open.

We've all been waiting for this, some longer than others. Brendan "Spanky" Hartranft and Leigh Maida, business and life partners (and sappy as that sounds, they make it work), opened the booger tonight. Was it early, was it late? "Brother, it was about as late as it could get," said Brendan. "I never worked so hard without getting paid!" Leigh laughed, really happy to see the door open.

I'll be honest: I think it was the first time I've ever been on Cumberland St., although I've crossed it plenty of times, it's not far from Yards -- er, I mean, Philadelphia Brewing. Both breweries were represented on the taps, by the way: Kenzinger and Philly Pale. O'Reilly's Stout was on, too, Sprecher Black Bavarian, Nodding Head Melvin (Melvin? I asked Curt Decker. "Yeah," said Curt with his constant wry grin, "one more in a series of one-offs." It was a pretty nice hoppy ale, one -- like most Nodding Head beers -- I'd be happy to drink all night), Popperinge Hommelbier, Ace Pear cider, Rogue Buckwheat, Monk's Sour, and one more I just can't remember. Curt told me the beer engine had just come in today, so that will be added soon.

We sampled some hush puppies, some french fries, but I wasn't really there to eat. I was there to catch the vibe, and it was live. Brendan's parents were there, Bill and Sheila, and just proud as could be. Everyone was happy to see the place open; as I said, some of us have been waiting for this a long time.

Brendan's about 30; I met him 12 years ago, when he was a waiter at the Blue Ox, and he was a hustler then, moving, learning, asking, offering, making the table happen. He found out I was a beer writer, and he asked me questions all night. I like to say I knew he was going places, and the truth is, I did. I followed his progress through various Philly bars -- he stayed in touch and made that easy -- and he reached that point at Nodding Head where there was only one place he could go: out on his own.

He's there, and in a perfect position for Spanky: Fort Apache. The neighborhood -- "Port Fishington," at the intersection of Fishtown, Port Richmond, and Kenzington -- is actually nice: small, neatly kept rowhomes, clean streets, families on the sidewalks (free parking, as I pointed out to Curt Decker). But it's Fort Apache for beer: he's an outpost, like the Grey Lodge has been for years. There's nothing else around (not quite correct: see the comment from Mr. Thursday, and a tip of the hat to him for it), and he's going to have to get local trade to survive. I don't think that's going to be a problem. Spanky will make it happen, and before they know it, Port Fishington residents are going to be drinking Kenzinger, and O'Reilly's, and Ace Pear, and not even blinking an eye (prices aren't bad for Philly, either: $4 for a pint of good craft beer).

He's got plenty of backup: note the crew on the corner (that's Jimmy Wiggins, craft beer guy from Origlio Beverage, Tom and Fergie of Monk's Cafe along with chef Adam Glickman, and the aforementioned Curt Decker, all taking a break from the hustle and flow inside). But this is going to be Brendan and Leigh, making things work. The place is a beautiful corner bar, the kind of place that makes me kick myself for settling in the suburbs. The menu looks great, the beer will be excellent, and the service will be top-notch, I promise. Get on down, brother (you too, sister), and you won't be disappointed.

Why the PLCB should be abolished: Reason #17

I see in the Inquirer this morning (in Michael Klein's Inqlings column) that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has sent a cease-and-desist letter to former PLCB chairman Jonathan Newman. What do they want him to c&d? Long story short...oh, hell, no, let's do the whole story.

Background: Newman got himself appointed to the PLCB board, educated himself on wine, then brought new power to the PLCB chairman slot, bringing PA's purchasing power to bear on getting the state stores some great wine deals, and then selling those (largely excellent) wines as "Chairman's Selections." He was also behind the state stores opening on Sundays. For reasons unknown (p*a*t*r*o*n*a*g*e), Governor Rendell appointed a PLCB "CEO" (a former state legislator who found himself out of work after the post-pay increase elections...), a new position with a $150,000 salary -- which would have been about "Why the PLCB should be abolished Reason #14," by my count -- and apparently no interview process, which knocked Newman out of the driver's seat. Newman, rightly pissed that he had not even been asked to interview for this job after arguably being the best PLCB chairman ever, resigned in protest. He rested a bit, then opened a wine brokerage business, a privately-owned for-profit business.

Well, the PLCB sent the C&D letter to Newman. It's Klein's story, I'll let him tell it:
On Friday, Newman got a 60-page cease-and-desist complaint from the LCB, sent by the Center City law firm Eckert Seamans.
The LCB grumbled about a graphic on Newman's Web site, which showed a mockup bottle bearing the tiny wording chairman's selection. The LCB also was irked that Frank's Union Wine Mart in Delaware had dared to put its own sign reading "xChairman's Selection" next to a wine display.

Can you say "petty bullshit"? I knew you could. Pennsylvanians, think about this. The PLCB, which has a whole damned troll-cave full of lawyers its ownself, hired a Center City law firm to draft a 60-page letter to get Newman to take down that graphic? (The graphic's gone, by the way: Newman as much as said that all they'd have had to do was call him about it.) That's what, at least 20 billable hours at around $300 an hour? And the PLCB's response to Klein's question about the incident? "The board's interest is in protecting the taxpayers; this is not personal." What exactly did you protect the taxpayers from? Free enterprise? Damn that attitude.

We are treated to the exhibition of a government monopoly suing a private business because that private business may slightly dilute the value of one of the monopoly's marks...a mark that was devised and built by the person who owns that private business. The letter of the law, yes, but... “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot." Thank you, Mr. Dickens.

I may just have to do a series of reasons why...in fact, I will. See my new blog: Why the PLCB Should Be Abolished. I won't be updating it often, but there should be plenty to write about.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kennett Square Brewfest does "the right thing"

Kennett Square Brewfest is not taking free beer from brewers any more...kinda. Uncle Jack the Homeboy got it up first, as it rightly so: he is Da Kennett Square Boy. KSB is paying brewers an honorarium for bringing beer to the fest (they're also cutting down on the number of tickets sold, so less crowding, hurrah, hurrah).

I got an e-mail on this today from Jeff Norman, one of the organizers of the Kennett Square Brewfest who I've been harrassing about the beer festival taking free beer from brewers for a beer festival. For the record, Jeff's been working on this, and he's been hampered by the non-profit status of the group and the "community" image (which pisses me off; the "community" can't be seen to be making money off selling beer? They're doing it, aren't they? It's better because they're selling beer someone gave to them? But don't get me started...). But this is another feather in the cap for Kennett Square's beer festival. They're Doing The Right Thing. Here's to other festivals getting the right idea, and brewers holding them to it.

Speaking of which...as I noted over at Uncle Jack's site, The Cystic Fibrosis benefit beerfest in Harrisburg (largely done by Tröegs) is also doing this, and providing hotel rooms to brewers as well. Nicely done.

Otter Head Ale

I saw Otter Head Ale at the World Beer Festival last fall, and importer Jim Lientz (that's him holding the beers on the right) was very excited to have me try it. I'm not sure why, cuz at 5.8% ABV, it's sure not a session beer, but it was quite nice. We exchanged cards, and he said he'd send me a sample. Which he did, and...I put it in the fridge. That was in December.

When the fridge died two weeks ago and we had to get a new one -- a very nice black one with a fast ice-maker -- I came across that bottle. Whoops. I put it up front to be sure to drink it, and tonight was its turn.

Otter Head is an English strong ale, and it tastes it: it's solid and malty, a mouthful that puts me in mind of Young's Old Nick, a big beer that tastes like it could easily go higher than the ABV it is. I've seen people say it's not very hoppy, but I disagree: it is, but it's not Cascades or Centennial, it's Fuggles and Challenger, hops that a lot of the American geekerie just don't get, or even know how to notice (please, before you make a bunch of "I do too!" comments...I said "a lot," not "all"; assume I was talking about someone else. I probably was. As far as you know.), and they're very, very nice here.

But the malts are the stars, and no surprise: the label says they're using both Maris Otter (natch!) and Golden Promise malts, the favored malts of finicky Brit brewers (or so we've been led to believe). This is finely layered stuff, and the low carbonation really brings it all out. I long to try this on cask, I can only imagine what it must be like alive.

Definitely worth a spin. I don't know why people always talk about all the beers with dogs in the names and on the labels: I'm liking hell out of otter beers lately (tip o' the hat to the Gilded Otter in New Paltz, NY, too: be seeing you guys on my way to the Mondial!).



Another great reason for a longer primary season...

I've long been an opponent of the "front-loading" of primaries that the political parties have been pushing for years. Get it over with quickly, they say, and let's get on with beating our real opponents; the not-so-secret subtext being that the quicker it's over, the less time we spend beating up on each other, leaving a bruised and poorer candidate. All too often it leads to the selection of a candidate who may not be the best, who hasn't been tested, and to states like Pennsylvania, with late primaries, not getting a voice in the nomination process.

This "wisdom" has been shown to be bogus in this election, as the two Democratic candidates not only have become stronger -- Obama sharpens his positions and got a fantastic opportunity to make a major speech on race relations, Clinton loosens up a bit and gets a major boost from Chelsea (anyone remember the great job Mike Nutter's daughter did?) -- but they've continued to raise huge amounts of money.

Best of all, they've gotten so run ragged by the campaign that they're rolling up their sleeves and having a drink. See the great picture above (from today's Philadelphia Inquirer's, taken by Sarah J. Glover) of Obama at Bethlehem Brew Works, teeing up for a beer with Peg Fegley -- looks like maybe he's got an ESB? (Yes, that's what it was, according to an e-mail from BBW, and the Senator's reaction was "Now that's a good beer. I like that. That's good stuff.") Hillary had a photo op boilermaker in Indiana -- appropriate, in Purdue-land -- and is reported in today's Inky as being fond of Blue Moon with an orange slice (oh my, a Democrat, drinking a Coors product, that's made in Canada? Oh, the humanity!).

Kidding aside, folks, this is good. Everything that puts beer or whiskey (anyone know what whiskey Hillary drank in Indiana? Ruch, I'm not posting any comments from you...) in the mainstream, as part of a normal person's life -- which it is -- is good. Showing national figures drinking one drink without going on a mad binge is good.

And, well, Obama in a brewpub...that's freakin' gold, people.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Otter San

Otter Creek continues the World Tour -- to be honest, I hope they never stop, because this has been one fun ride. I thought it was a gimmick at first, but there have been some damned good beers in the series (unfortunately, what I thought was the best name -- Otterbahn, a weizenbock -- seemed to have packaging problems and was sour).

The latest is Otter San, a "Japanese-style beer brewed with sake yeast." And yes, it's brewed with rice ("of course," as the label says) and koji, the weird little fungus they use in sake.

There are Hallertauer hops, but they used a light hand: this is about layers of sweet, with just a leavening of bitterness that keeps it from being sticky. You drink this beer -- I had it with spicy tuna sushi, cliche maybe, but I like sushi -- and you'd swear there were flowers in it somewhere from the aromas' and flavors' light edges; they're sweet and a bit exotic. Very good job making this beer so interesting: there are twisting curls and veins of different sweetness running through this, it's almost like a napoleon of layers of grain character: first the malt, then the flowery edge, then the doughier rice sweetness, then a nutty-edged pastry note... Definitely deserving of some thought.

I like it more as it warms and as I taste more different flavors. Don't drink this too fast; let it develop, and you'll develop a liking for it.

Take a look at The Beer Brotha

I don't usually make an announcement when I add someone to the list of blogs/bloggers over on the left side there. I'm making an exception this time, because The Beer Brotha deserves some hits. It's a different take on beer and beer blogging, written by a black American from Texas, who goes by "The American Don." I wish the guy would post more often.

"Don" made a comment on my Cinder Cone tasting note, and Blogger automatically linked his Blogger profile to his name. So I clicked it. I liked the way he wrote, and what he wrote about, and when I saw he only had 45 hits on his visitor counter...I thought I'd lend a hand.

Yes, some of this is race-based. I only know three black beer geeks (Dell, James, Eric...yeah, I'm pointing at you), and about that many black brewers. I'd like to see more -- I'd like to see every part of America in the craft beer scene. So when I found The Beer Brotha, and liked it, well, you do your part to broaden, y'know? Do your part and check it out.

Don -- Heat's on, man, get blogging.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Back in Business

Long story short: My old Dell is finally crapping out on me after 7 years. No shame, really. But it's become excruciatingly slow, and the past three weeks it's been just unbearable. So I've been slowly porting things over to a new machine, and tonight I made the big move. I'm up and running on the new Dell. MUCH faster. Good stuff. More work done. Yay.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Deschutes Cinder Cone Red

Deschutes has always been one of my favorite breweries, by quality of output, attitude, business style, and setting. The unavailability of their beer on the East Coast is painful, but something I understand and respect.

So I was pretty happy when I apparently got on their mailing list for samples a couple weeks ago. A box from Deschutes showed up at my maildrop, and I just couldn't wait to rip it open and see what they'd sent. There were two beers inside: the Cinder Cone Red seasonal and the relatively new Green Lake Organic Ale. What with all the mess and fuss in the last two weeks, it was last night before I had a chance to pop the Cinder Cone with dinner (gnocchi with chicken sausage, red bell peppers, and fennel).

Cinder Cone is a bemedalled and well-reviewed beer, and the reasons why were apparent from the get-go. The aroma was energetic, fresh, and nostalgic: this wild West Coast ale freshness was one of the things that hooked me on American craft beer way back in the mid-1980s. It blossomed with green hops and juicy esters, a beer that grabbed me by the hand and said 'Let's go, let's drink!'

I did, and that's where I went off the rails with this one. The first gush in the mouth was great, delivering on the promise of the aroma with shovelsful of that hop character and fresh beer character I'd found so beguiling. But after it came a heavy-handed rush of caramel malt, accompanied by a grainy, husky dryness -- an addition of roasted barley is probably the source -- that could have been an asset if it had been less insistent. It was almost enough to make me angry; this beautiful promise crushed by an overplayed hand.

I'm not used to Deschutes doing stuff like this; the other beers from them that I love are balanced, drinkable, and brilliant. I'd blame extreme beer, but I don't really think it's to blame. I'd guess it's just over-exuberance. I will admit that I'm baffled by the popularity of this one, but that's what makes craft beer wonderful: something for everyone. Thankfully, Deschutes has something for me, even if it's not this one. I'll try the Green Lake soon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Brewing to return to Titusville -- UPDATE

Four Sons will rise from the ashes.

Okay, it didn't actually burn, and it's not going to be called Four Sons anymore, but anyone who's been following the explosion of craft brewing in western Pennsylvania knows what I'm talking about. Matt Allyn e-mailed about it yesterday, and this appeared in the Erie Times-News today.

Matt Allyn e-mailed again, and there are some corrections below, one of which corrects an error in the newspaper article cited above.

Pertinent points:
  • The new owners are Keystone Brewing Co., which is managed by Bill Zimmer, a Corry (PA) native (just like Matt and North Country's Sean McIntyre...who knew they had such a hospitality program at Corry High?) with "a résumé full of Montana resort experience."
  • (Update: the company does not include J. Michael Allyn, Matt Allyn's dad: "J. Michael Allyn is the director of the [Titusville] Redevelopment Authority. And happens to be my dad," says Matt. Another reason, he adds, that his name is not on the paperwork.)
  • They signed a lease last Thursday, and hope to open by June 1.
  • Matt Allyn will be brewing "a more traditional German-style lineup."
  • The chef will be, once again, Jeremy Potocki (a partner in Keystone), and cheers to that.
  • The name has not yet been announced. (Update: the name will be "Blue Canoe": it's "almost set" according to Matt.)
  • Keystone still needs to secure a brewers license -- which should be pretty easy, given that it's a re-licensing -- and a liquor license, which shouldn't be too hard in the area.

The article also mentions that Four Sons was $400,000 in debt when they closed on 1/1/07. Ouch. Matt seems confident (always did) that the site can be profitable...if run right. And no, this will not affect any of the plans for Voodoo in Meadville.

Good to see brewing return to Titusville!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Celebration of History at Tröegs

I wish I had some pictures of this, but I don't (hint, hint, anyone who was there...): last night was the "New Beer's Day" anniversary celebration at Tröegs, and we had a blast. I had a very easy run up the Turnpike to Harrisburg (and got 44 mpg with the diesel; better than expected!) and got in a bit early, so I treated myself to a Zoigl Star Lager at Appalachian before heading down Cameron Street to Tröegs (Zoigl's getting a bit long in tooth, but holding up beautifully; delicious kellerbier, stop by and have some).

In honor of 3.2 beer, the drink that post-Prohibition America found "surprisingly good," Tröegs brewed up a version of their old ESB with all English hops, malt, and yeast that came in a little over 4% ABV. I had a glass of that while waiting to give my speech (the evening was a benefit for the Harrisburg Historical Society, so yes, I paid for my beer. That one, anyway, after that, people just put them in my hand...) and it was nice, tasty, refreshing, flavorful, but not hammering.

When 8:00 came, a local fellow read what was apparently one of FDR's speeches...mostly about bank reform. Historians. I stepped up to the mike and told them I was there to talk about beer. This, like the original legislation back in 1933, was met with a roar of approval. I told them how Prohibition was something we deserved -- the booze industry was out of control -- but that it was overdone: I once used the analogy that putting in Prohibition to fight booze business corruption was like shooting your dog because he farts real bad when you feed him beef jerky. It would be much less drastic and much more effective to stop feeding him jerky...or open a window and both of you live with it. They liked that, too. Once Prohibition was in, again it was about money: political money for politicians who supported it, illegal money for the bootleggers and illicit producers, and no tax money for the dopey government that put it into force. Repeal, of course, was all about money: the Depression made Repeal almost necessary. Repeal meant 50,000 jobs and millions in taxes for jobs programs: done deal.

We're only celebrating the advent of 3.2 beer, I told them; full Repeal would have to wait another 8 months. But -- taking a sip of my ESB -- just like people found out back then, low alcohol beer can taste "surprisingly good!" We toasted the return of beer -- never to go away again! -- and then I stepped up to the firkin of ESB, took the big wooden mallet, and pounded home the tap. Did fine, too, didn't spill a drop. And the cask version tasted just great.

A very good evening, and a successful fund-raiser for the Historical Society; by 9:00, they'd already decided to do it again next year. The band, the Hoppin' John Orchestra, was not just fantastic, they were perfectly appropriate, and my hat's off to whoever decided to have them for the event.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sam Adams recall: a quick warning -- and new follow-up

Boston Beer has announced a voluntary recall of bottles that may contain small bits of glass. Check all your bottles of Samuel Adams beers for the following code at the base of the bottle: N35 O-I . These are the only numbers that matter: if the bottle has an N35 code, don't drink it, use the website below to get a refund. I got an e-mail from my long-time Boston Beer contact, Michelle Sullivan, on this: "We know that your readers are our drinkers, so we hope you will help us spread the word about this situation." They are right out in front of this.

There's more info at the BBC website, and I have a story up on Portfolio.com. Be safe, people.

Note to those of you who may be wondering about other craft brewers' bottles with N35 O-I codes: I just got an e-mail from Boston Beer brewing manager Grant Wood. Grant says that as far as they know, there is no reason to be concerned about other bottles with the N35 code; the bottle in question is not the generic 12 oz. brown longneck, but a custom-made Boston Beer bottle.

Another anniversary

Just got a press release from the Schneider brewery in Kelheim, Germany, the brewers of the fabulously delicious Schneider wheat beers. They're celebrating a pretty significant anniversary this month, too:
This year, the "Weisses Bräuhaus in Kelheim” celebrates its 400th anniversary of brewing wheat beer. At the brewing site of the “Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn GmbH,” the first batch of wheat beer was brewed on April 16th, 1608 under Duke William 1st. Numerous events will celebrate this anniversary. Among these are an official ceremony, historic brewery tours, a publication on the history of the brewery, an art exhibition in the gallery “Altes Sudhaus”, as well as a special historical exhibition in the archaeological museum. Moreover, there will be a special brew, named “Georg Schneider’s 1608”, available only in limited quantities.

Having been to the Kelheim brewery a few years ago, I would say that if you have the chance to get there for this, you should go: the Altes Sudhaus has a beautiful collection of commercial brewery art, and the brewery is fantastic. Prost, Schneider!

New Beer's Day: celebrate with a session beer!

Is today the 75th anniversary of Repeal? Not really: April 7, 1933 was when changes to the Volstead Act laws took place and redefined the level at which beer became "intoxicating" as 3.2% ABW instead of 0.5%. The 21st Amendment, ending national Prohibition, wasn't ratified until December 5th, 1933. On top of that, only 19 states and DC had laws in place to handle beer sales on 4/7/33, so it was hardly the national death of Prohibition. Of course, if you wanted wine or spirits, Prohibition was still in place for 8 more dry months.

But you know, the people who are whining and kvetching about this not being the 75th anniversary of Repeal remind me of those Millennium Weenies who went around the last half of 1999 telling everyone they could grab that January 1, 2000 was not the first day of the new Millennium!! Well, no, it wasn't...technically. But no one cared, because everyone saw the big odometer roll over from 1999 to 2000.

Likewise, no one really cared in 1933, because they were all so excited that they could legally get beer, real beer from real breweries, even if it was only 3.2%. In the words of a Wisconsin radio reporter (quoted as part of Maureen Ogle's nicely done run-up to April 7), 3.2% beer "is all that has been promised -- and more. It is agreeably surprising," containing both the flavor and "stimulation" of lagers brewed during the "pre-drought days."

Well, of course it was. It was session beer, right? 'Who wants to drink 3.2 beer?' some of the Repeal nit-pickers ask, with an implied sneer. Well, I do. I'd love a drinkable 3.2% lager beer, or a nice mild or bitter. Which I think is a great way to celebrate this day, the day Americans got legal beer back. Seems like a real Session Beer Project way to do things.

Repeal: rubbing it in

Realizing that yes, I'm talking about Repeal, the anniversary of which doesn't happen until December 5, I came across this quote (in the Wikipedia Prohibition article) from formerly ardent Prohibitionist John D. Rockefeller (yeah, that Rockefeller) on the occasion of Repeal, in which he admits the failure of Prohibition, and it was just too good to waste...because it nails the problems that Prohibition brought...and prohibitions always bring:
When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.

John's actually wrong: contrary to general belief, there are no numbers to support the notion that drinking increased during Prohibition. Talking about drinking increased, wanting to be drinking probably increased, but there were enough people who did abide by the law -- and enough strangulation of source -- that drinking either dropped or stayed level. The rest of it, though, is dead-on. Lessons to be learned.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A relic of Belgium, for the folks at DC-beer...

Just a little fun...it's for those who know. For those who don't, well, be thankful I don't do more in-jokes, and let it slide!

Okay, back to work

Thanks for all the fun we had yesterday, but...I'm really still writing, and loving it. I've got interviews for a story on Harpoon Brewery today, putting new memory in my computer, and packing for WhiskyFest Chicago, which happens Friday. And working on our taxes, yippee.

Cheers!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

That New Project: a new life for me

It's time to reveal that new project I hinted about here. It's a major step, more than just another market, and this may be the end of Seen Through A Glass.

My kids are getting towards college age, and they're both in parochial school; more to the point, they're both doing well, and reaching the point where they need to branch out beyond the standard offerings of education. That put us in a position where we had to look at all our options to keep the kids in the caliber of school they deserve.

One of those options was me "getting a real job." That was a hard nut to swallow after finally reaching the point where I was doing well, getting into some major markets, and making connections that led to better assignments. But I had to face the facts. While I was finally making the same kind of money I made as a director-level executive in the pharmaceutical business back in the early 1990s, time had marched on and that kind of money isn't what it was 15 years ago. I had the potential to make more, and our situation -- and other factors -- demanded that.

I put out some feelers, talked to people I knew, and started interviewing. The libraries that were interested in me for director positions offered excellent pay, but would have required us to move, something we just didn't want to do. I talked to some business research firms about doing beverage industry analysis, but while everyone I talked to told me that I had clear knowledge of the business that was superior to most people in the field, company policies required that I have an MBA, and Cathy and I agreed that I just didn't have the time, even for an accelerated program.

Then it hit me. I was always getting press releases, and complaining about the writing in them...why not look for work there? After a lengthy search, I found a small firm that wrote press releases the way I liked them as a writer: full of facts and meat, with substantive quotes, and with a minimum of marketing jargon. After sending them a portfolio, they asked me to come to their offices to interview. I was very excited: these were my kind of people.

The interview went great, and they asked me what it would take to get me on board full time, as soon as possible. Money, I told them; big money. We haggled over a few percentage points, and vacation time, and dental benefits (they actually hung tough on dental), but finally reached a great package.

As of April 15, I will be working for the public relations firm of Fuhrman & Schmidt, a small group in the far suburbs of New York. It's a long commute, but I'll only have to go to the office twice a month; the rest of the time I'll be working at home or traveling to meet clients and get the real story on their products and services. So now I'll be writing those press releases, sending out honest information about new products, new hires, new fixes to problems, and new settlements for product liability lawsuits.

I'll miss writing about beer and whiskey. I'll miss it a lot, I'm crying as I write this. But I'll still enjoy beer and whiskey, and though I'll just be an amateur like so many others, maybe it will allow me to enjoy things on a simpler level. Maybe. But I'm sure it's going to be worth it.

It's been fun, folks. See you around the beer festivals.

Ummm...not. Fuhrman & Schmidt was an old PA brewery, I'm still writing about beer and whiskey, and the kids -- and our finances -- are doing fine. Cheers!