Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
News comes Friday that the Pabst deal is final. Connecticut investor C. Dean Metropoulos bought the company from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation for an undisclosed price; the erstwhile chairman of Pabst, Lou Giraudo, would only say that the speculated price of about $250 million was incorrect. Metropoulos made no comment. A Reuters story said that "The foundation listed its total assets as $62.3 million in its tax return for the year ending June 30, 2008." The story also noted that
"Sales of Pabst Blue Ribbon in food, drug and other retail outlets rose 33 percent to about $172.7 million in the 52 weeks ending April 18, The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing data from market research firm SymphonyIRI Group."So that's done. Now we'll see what the Pabst drinkers -- the reputed hipsters and bike messengers -- are going to do. I suspect they're going to keep drinking Pabst.
Friday, June 25, 2010
No, I'm not kidding. Tröegs has just announced that they will be building a new brewery in Hershey, Pennsylvania (not far from their current brewery in Harrisburg). Here's the release (I don't usually do this, but I'm in a rush today):
Chris and John Trogner, founders of Tröegs Brewing Company, announced today they have reached an agreement to open a new craft brewery in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Construction on the existing facility, located at 200 E. Hershey Park Drive, will begin immediately with a projected completion date of Fall 2011.
“This is an exciting new chapter for Tröegs Brewery,” said Chris Trogner. “When John and I started planning the brewery in 1995, we didn’t even know if we would ever make it to the actual brewing stage. Since opening in 1997, we have been fortunate to grow the Tröegs brand and increase our distribution into eight states. This new location will allow us to maintain our commitment to Central Pennsylvania and continue pursuing our brewing dreams in a state-of-the-art brewery with an expanded tasting room to give our customers an even greater beer experience.”
“Hershey is a special place, not just for people who call it home, but for the millions who come to visit each year,” said John. “We want to create an experience that compliments the other Hershey attractions, creating an even more vibrant and exciting destination for all visitors,” added Chris.
As part of the new facility, Tröegs Brewery will be installing a new brewhouse, fermenters and a kegging line. Once the new brewery is operational, all equipment will be moved from the Harrisburg plant to Hershey with no interruption to the beer production schedule. “Running two facilities simultaneously will create a series of challenges,” said John Trogner. “But we need to continue producing beer in our current location until the new location is completely operational.”
The Hershey facility will provide a unique brewing experience -- featuring a 5,000 square foot tasting room with the new brewhouse as the focal point of the room. The tasting room will open onto an outdoor seating area. “Visitors in our tasting room will be sitting literally in the middle of the brewhouse, said Chris Trogner. “They will be able to watch our brewers in action.”
When designing the concept for the new brewery, the goal was to make a customer really feel like they are a part of the brewing process. Visitors will be able to watch the brewers in action and take a self-guided tour down a window-lined hallway through the heart of the brewery. The smell of barley and hops will fill the air as the customer gets a glimpse at the fermentation process, packaging room and oak barrel-aging room, and lab. One exciting addition to the layout is the pilot brewing room where experimentation takes place and their famous Scratch beer series is dreamt-up and made. Tröegs will also continue to provide guided tours of the brewhouse on designated days.
“John and I have visited a lot of breweries over the years and we want to create an interactive facility where our customer really gets an understanding of what goes into making quality beer, Chris noted. “We want to showcase what we do best.”
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Wow. You know that 10th anniversary beer at Iron Hill Media I told you about? I couldn't make it over that day, so I asked IH Big Mahoff Mark Edelson (you know, the Weekend Closer at the Hooters in Concordville?) how long he thought it would be on. Short answer: not long. Long answer:
On average, a batch is on for about 4 weeks. Bob and I estimated originally it would be 3 weeks. We released it on Thursday and have sold about 40% of it already. Lucky to get through the weekend. Now people who want it for 4th of July are asking me how long it will keep in a growler!!Bob Barrar, ladies and gentlemen, Bob Barrar!
Picked this up from Uncle Jack's site,and it's everything he says it is and a bag of crisps. A goofy, cheap-video look at what happened around here in 1996: Dogfish Head, Iron Hill, Flying Fish, Yards, and Victory opened, and pressed on when other places didn't (Independence, Red Bell, Brandywine, Valley Forge, etc.). But don't for a moment think it's serious; it's not. It's goofy and fun and effin' brilliant. Fire it up, have a laugh, and be glad these guys didn't give up.
Monday, June 21, 2010
A Full bodied Imperial IPA with ten things that make this beer perfect:
Friday, June 18, 2010
If you're interested in doing a book signing event when Pennsylvania Breweries 4 comes out this fall (late September, early October), shoot me a message and we'll work on scheduling a proper event. Thanks!
*If you're a bar owner, and you're wondering whether you're in the book, feel free to drop me a line to ask. Not every good beer bar's in: if you weren't close enough* to a brewery, or I just didn't know about you, or, well, I brain-farted, you might not have made it, in which case I'll explain why and apologize if necessary.
*"Close enough" is an arbitrary distance that varies depending on how rural or urban your area is. It might be five miles, or 30, depending.
Leftovers from Philly Beer Week? Great planning? Patriarchal lovefest? I don't care, but Devil's Den just told me about some beers they're going to have on for Father's Day, and suddenly I think I'm going to have to have a talk with Cathy and the kids about where we're going on Sunday...check this out:
Not bad, eh? Maybe it's true what people were saying: Every week is Beer Week in Philly.Brotherly Suds #1 - ESB brewed for Beer Week by Sly Fox, Yards, Stoudts, Troegs & Victory - amber color, toasted toffee, caramel body, notes of dark fruits, citrus & pine hops. 6%Russian River Registration Ale - IPA brewed for Philadelphia, golden color, light caramel malt body, strong grapefruit, citrus hops with mild spicy pine hops. 75 IBU 7.5%Russian River Consecration - dark sour ale brewed with brett, aged 8 months in Cabernet barrels with currants added, garnet color, sharp, with funky notes of dark fruits & oak. 10%Port Brewing-Lost Abbey 4th Anniversary Ale - strong pale ale, hazy amber, toasted malt body, touches of caramel & spice with big juicy citrus hops & alcohol warmth. 10%
Posted by Lew Bryson at 13:45
I'll be taking over John Hansell's seat in All About Beer's long-running Beer Talk beer review section, effective immediately. John's handing over the next four beers to be reviewed to me tomorrow. I'm honored to be part of this small, select group, and doubly-honored that John nominated me directly to the magazine staff as his replacement. Should be fun, swapping review opinions with Steve Beaumont.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Things are a lot better. Maud is recovering, her sutures are healing well, and she's being very tolerant of her enforced rest. John's recovered well, sounds much better, and is working on renovating his brother-in-law's house. And my dad...well, it turned out to be a blocked bile duct that was successfully operated on yesterday. He's just been released from the hospital (with news from the latest imaging that his cancer has not spread), and told me he's really, really hungry. Best news I've had in weeks.
So...sorry to be so public with that, but I've found it really hard to focus. I hope things are better now.
The magazine I've been with longer than almost any other, Malt Advocate, has been sold to M. Shanken Communications (the publishers of Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Food Arts, Market Watch, and Impact). This is big news for whisky-lovers -- Malt Advocate is the clear leader in the American market, and thanks to John Hansell's blog, What Does John Know?, a world leader as well -- and it's also big news for me.
The details are here. It's a great opportunity to increase the magazine's circulation, given the experience and resources the parent company now brings. We'll have opportunities to do more stories, maybe go to 6 issues a year, and get more support for WhiskyFests.
If you're worried about what it might mean for the quality and independence of the magazine...don't be. John's made it clear to me and to Mr. Shanken that the magazine will continue an independent path, without connection between editorial and advertising, the same as it's been from the beginning. John will continue as editor and publisher, his wife Amy will continue as events director, the offices will stay in Emmaus with the same staff. I'm still the managing editor, and the writers are still the same.
But we've got a chance to bring you more Malt Advocate now. Time for us to join the big leagues.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Well, it was Philly Beer Week, right? Sorry, a lot went on this week. I'm behind...again. Part of the reason is that Maud had surgery and I've been worried and occupied with that; part of it is that my father's having surgery today. I'll get back on it.
Meanwhile, I just got the latest attempt to co-opt bloggers: a "creative writing contest" open to bloggers. In 300 words or less, we're invited to describe -- well, "an event", we'll say, that just happens to feature this company's product. The best "entry" will win a prize. And, of course, the company will win gushing free blogger praise from all over. Happily, I'm not quite that stupid. No writing contests here.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
I've got an interesting tour planned this afternoon: I want to hit at least three PBW events before my own event tonight at the Grey Lodge. Follow me on Twitter (or Facebook, if you're one of my friends there)!
Friday, June 4, 2010
I was looking at an old blog post this morning -- 2/26/12!! -- when I realized that I had written most of a post about the testimony of Joe "CEO" Conti at the beer registration raid fiasco hearings back in 2010...and never finished it or put it up. I know it's out of date now, but it's still illustrative of how the PLCB is inept, incompetent, and determined to mislead the Legislature into allowing it to continue to exist, despite the clear will of Pennsylvanians. So I put it up. Apologies for not doing so sooner. Feel free to ream me for this, but remember; I could have just left it in limbo!
It was Joe "CEO" Conti's turn, the PLCB CEO. Remember, Conti is very familiar with this venue; he was a legislator himself (until he decided not to run for re-election in the wake of some questionable attitude problems involving -- I kid you not -- a $5,000 water heater after the pay-raise foofaraw in 2005...and Ed Rendell bestowed this $150,000 a year plum on him). Conti was flanked by Jerry Waters (director of the PLCB's office of regulatory affairs, the man responsible for brand registration (and, we assume, all the screw-ups that went with it)) and Rod Diaz, a PLCB lawyer.
Conti opened up (again, these are direct quotes from written testimony, and I'll warn you: it's dense legal stuff. You might want to get a cup of coffee) with his interpretation of what was going on, and it was shady at best; at worst, it was deliberately misleading. First: boilerplate from the feds and The Almighty Liquor Code. "Both state and federal law require that all brands of malt and brewed beverages including beer must be registered prior to being sold in Pennsylvania. Federal law provides that no manufacturer, wholesaler or importer of beer" [...okay, look, I'm going to paraphrase here, because this is lawyer bullshit: you can't sell packaged beer unless it's labeled in conformity with ATTTB regulations, which say labels must include the brand, "class designation," name and address of the bottler/importer, net contents, and alcohol content. I'll go back to full quotes here.]
"In Pennsylvania, section 445 of the Liquor Code and section 9.108 of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's Regulations [note: there's the Code, and then there's the Regs] require that all beer be registered with the Board prior to it being offered, sold or delivered. Registering a beer in Pennsylvania consists of filling out the application, paying the appropriate fee, providing a copy of the federal Certificate of Label Approval or COLA (which contains a copy of the label) and providing a copy of all territorial agreements affecting the beer." (Like I said before...it really looks to me that 'brand registration' is really about the state marking wholesalers' territory for them. Can anyone tell me why it's the state's responsibility to enforce exclusivity agreements?)
Conti then proceeded to show the COLA for Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Red Ale. The COLA has a slot for "Brand Name," which the importer, Win-It-Too of Santa Barbara, CA, has indicated is "MONK'S CAFE." Conti seizes on this to prove that it's not the agency's fault, it's the fault of the feds:
"...there is very little guidance on what constitutes a brand name; nor does there appear to be any strict rules as to the conformity between the actual name registered and the name on the label...you will see the COLA for Win-It-Too Inc., which has registered the brand "Monk's Cafe." However, as you can see from the label, which is located at the bottom of the COLA, the label on the bottle actually reads: Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale...there is no way to be completely confident that the brand name and the label name are referring to the same thing other than by looking at the actual label attached to the COLA. The Board has no independent authority to question whether the brand name listed on the COLA is accurately reflected on the attached label."
Pardon my French, but does the Board need "independent authority" to wipe its own butt? The labels provided to the ATTTB say either "Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale" or "Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Red Ale." They say it very clearly, and I would suggest that only a damned lawyer could care whether it said Flemish Sour Ale or Flemish Sour Red Ale. Brand registration is a hollow-cored piece of garbage anyway; these guys are getting excited over whether it's Monk's Cafe Ale, Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale, or Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Red Ale on the label? You're got to be kidding me! When you're talking about a database that is so full of errors that even after this spotlight was shone on them, they're STILL getting things wrong (I quote to you from the PLCB's Registered Malt or Brewed Beverages Brands database, dated May 31, 2010: SIERRA NEVADA 30TH ANNIVERSARY SERIES- FITZ & KEN'S ALE. Really? That's the famous "Fitz" Maytag, I guess.), does it really matter whether the brewers get the name right?
(Let me take a little chuckle break, too: if you'll flip back to this post, the one about the letter the BLCE sent to Local 44 about the final disposition of all this? You'll see that they still can't get this right: "YOU, BY YOUR SERVANTS, AGENTS, OR EMPLOYEES, IDENTIFIED MONKS ALE BEER WITH A TAP LABELED MONKS FLEMISH SOUR ALE BEER ON MARCH 4, 2010." And the PLCB's "data"base still calls the beer that the BLCE is quibbling about...MONK'S CAFE ALE. Not "MONKS ALE," which is apparently what the BLCE thinks it should be. Talk about the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight; even when they're trying to cover their ass, they miss by a mile.)
He then talked about the dangers of unregistered beers. "Unregistered beer present in the Commonwealth is problematic for a number of reasons. First, without confirmation that the beer has a valid COLA issued by the TTB, the Board has no way of knowing whether the contents of the container conform to what is represented on the bottle." Joe, Joe, Joe...I hate to rock your world, but even if there is a valid COLA, you still have no way of knowing if the contents of a bottle conform to what is represented on the bottle. All the valid COLA means is that if the contents DON'T conform, you can fine them. Ooooo...
Then he brings up the use of brand registration to save us from beer gone bad, bringing up the e.coli contamination of produce, and how difficult it was to track the source of the contamination. "This difficulty would not have been encountered if the product recalled had been beer. Brand Registration enables interested parties, including the Board, to determine the source of any beer to its manufacturer in a matter of hours rather than days."
Really. This ignores Dominic Origlio's testimony of how he and other wholesalers pulled Samuel Adams beers off the shelves -- beginning in hours after the first alert -- and without any need for "brand registration." They had their own records. They needed no prodding from the State, and to the best of my knowledge, received none, nor thanks, either. It also ignores the pathetically bad job the PLCB did in maintaining the database that Conti claims would allow them to swing into action in hours. Not likely. Finally..."determine the source of any beer to its manufacturer"? Look above: federal regulations require the name and address of the bottler/importer to be on the label. You don't need a damned database, just pick up a bottle and look at it.
This whole rant was indicative of this really weird thing going on with both the legislators and the bureaucrats. They seemed to have this bizarre concern that there was some massive "homebrew" ring that was slipping unsafe beer into the system. Folks: there is no such problem. First, you're the PLCB; you don't give a damn about whether the beer we buy is in good shape as long as the taxes get paid. Second, as has been said, no human pathogens -- organisms that can kill ya -- can grow in beer. Beer can go stale, it can get sour, but it is not a disease-carrying vector. Finally, there just isn't enough margin in making 'moonshine' beer -- because PA's beer taxes are blessedly low. High taxes on spirits are essentially a subsidy for moonshiners and smugglers: if there isn't a big tax burden, there's no point to evading the system. This is a non-issue.
This is vintage Conti: this is the law, we're right, and that's all there is to it. He read the regs to bury the proceedings in bullshit, to obscure the real problem, which is that the Code is inadequate to the situation, and that the PLCB -- specifically Director Waters' division -- has failed significantly in keeping up the registration database that was the whole basis of this hearing. He seemed to be deliberately missing the point: not that some of the beers were indeed unregistered, which no one was really contesting. The points were that
- The PLCB's "list" of registered beers was so full of errors and omissions as to be useless, something that would be bitterly expanded upon by the BLCE officers;
- The raids were an absolute overreaction;
- The raids were obviously motivated by personal issues, not concern for the law, indicating a serious issue with the complaint process and with the delegation of enforcement responsibility to the Pennsylvania State Police;
- The wrong people/entities were catching the heat: the responsibility for brand registration lies on the brewer or importer, not the wholesaler or retailer.
Jerry Waters was up next. The first words out of his mouth (after salutations) were significant (again, these are direct quotes from written testimony): "It is important to note at the outset that it is the Pennsylvania State Police, BLCE and not the PLCB that enforces the Liquor Code...While the Board is often called upon to provide information to the BLCE to assist in its investigations, the Liquor Code does not authorize the Board to take an active role in enforcement actions." Translation: he was throwing the cops under the bus. They did the raids, not us. (And of course, when it's the cops' turn, they will reach out from under the transit vehicle and grab Waters by his finely tailored suit and yank him in there with them; watch for it.)
There was more of this...but I have to apologize, it's now history. I just thought you'd like to be able to look back and see the kind of butt-covering bullshit that went on. Sorry I didn't get this up earlier.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
So what's the big deal? Daura is gluten-free, or as near to it as to not matter (really: not my opinion, celiacs say so). Which means that this is easily the best gluten-free beer I've ever had: it tastes quite close to a normal lager, which is revolutionary.
It's not that surprising, though: Daura is made with malt, like a normal lager. Now, malt is low in gluten, but it's not gluten-free. How's that work? Here's the brief from importer United States Beverage:
Daura is a beer made with barley malt that is certified and guaranteed to contain gluten content below 6 PPM. This is a result of a proprietary brewing process that breaks down the gluten protein during the production process. Research and product development was made by Damm brewmasters in cooperation with the CSIC and Coeliac Association.Deglutenized barley malt. Nice. Which definitely explains why it tastes like beer: it is beer, and not mead, or a sorghum beer, or a millet beer, some of the usual end-runs around gluten...which just don't taste like barley-malt beer. This does.
Mostly. There's just a tiny bit of astringency to it, which makes me think of Kaliber, the non-alcoholic beer. Back when I did a taste-test of NA beers, I got almost exactly the same reaction on Kaliber from everyone who drank it: tastes fine...until you have something else. Daura tastes different enough from something like Heineken or -- for instance -- Estrella Damm that it might taste funny if you switched away from it. But celiacs aren't going to be doing that! Besides, Daura tastes more like Eurolager than any of the NAs I've had, too.
Celiacs: your beer has arrived.
I told myself I wasn't going to get into pimping PBW events -- cuz you know, with over 900 listed events (suck that, "other" so-called "beer weaks") it's not fair to pick and choose -- other than my own, of course. But one event is setting another world beer record here in Philly, for a while at least, and I wanted to talk a bit about the venue, too, so...
City Tap House will be pouring 31 different draft Bell's beers on Monday night, June 7. This is more different Bell's beers than have ever poured anywhere else, including Bell's Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo, even in Larry Bell's house. That's all draft beers, pouring on City Tap House's very nice tap system. Some of these are Philly Beer Week exclusives, and you may see them around town next week, but you'll only see all of them here. What? You want a list?
Porter, Le Pianiste Ale, Two Hearted, Le Contrebassiste Ale,
Third Coast Old Ale, Le Batteur Ale, Kalamazoo Stout, Smoked Lager (vienna), Oberon, Golden Funk Ale, Double Cream Stout, Kal-Haven Rye Ale, Oarsman, The Wild One, Expo, Pastel Raspberry Ale, Lager, Consecrator, Wheat Love, Wheat 2, Cherry Stout, Wedding Ale, Black Note, BB Hell Hath, Harry Magill's, Q Falls, Debs' Red, The Oracle,
Sparkling, Batch 9000, Batch X000 (undecided as yet; "something from the archives").
How's that? Pretty damned sweet, no? Well, let me tell you about City Tap House a little, you want to talk about sweet. Cathy and I went to the opening a couple weeks ago, and I was impressed. First, it's a huge space; two immense rooms (bar and dining room) plus a very large outdoor...what, more than a deck of a balcony, something the size of a helipad, with big open gas firepits. The food: they were bringing around samples of stuff like lamb lollichops (with a delicious dipping sauce), bruschetta, and a variety of pizzas including one with truffle-oiled mushrooms and what looked like a fried free-range egg in the center (really good, but kind of hard to split up).
He had interesting news, to wit: the craft taps had been handily outselling the mainstream taps for the ten days that they'd been open. In fact, he said, they were shipping kegs of mainstream to their other operations (Field House and Public House) because they were sitting unused at the Tap House. Now, it's still very early, but it looks like Penn kids like to get their drink on with craft beer. God knows, they have the money to afford it.
Maybe we really will have a big-assed multitap that succeeds in Philly. Good thing, bad thing? I'll need to see it in action for a while longer. In the meantime...I might just mosey on down there for this Bell's thing... (Parking wasn't horrible, either.)
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I've been pretty quiet about Philly Beer Week -- hell, I've been pretty quiet -- but there's still time for me to give you some very useful advice.
If you don't have an iPhone? You're covered! My Philly Beer Week allows you to scan the whole calendar of events, pick out what you want, and either print a list, print a Google map with all your events, or download it to Outlook or iCal on your mobile device of choice. Again, you can search the list by a variety of parameters to find what you're looking for.
And if you just don't give a damn about all this technical crap (and if that's you, what are you doing reading a blog?), you can pick up today's Philadelphia Weekly to get the huge printed supplement with all this jazz on good old newsprint. That's nice, too.
Hope to see you at my event at the Grey Lodge Sunday afternoon, and I hope to see plenty of you out and about this week. If you see me, say hi!
From the actual Lord Chesterfield, not the Yuengling brand. I got this in my A Word A Day e-letter this morning (a free service that I highly recommend as educational, fun, and engagingly weird at times).
Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket, and do not pull it out and strike it merely to show you have one. If you are asked what o'clock it is, tell it, but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman. -Lord Chesterfield, statesman and writer (1694-1773)I present it not only for its worthy message, but for its messenger: appropriate this week, because Lord Chesterfield will be visiting Philly Beer Week. It's true, you can look it up with the Philly Beer Week iPhone app (which is not only cool, but it works, too: you can schedule ahead, you can search by venue, brewery, date, or type of event (would have been nice if you could search by Pay As You Go; just a suggestion, because these are the kinds of events it is easiest to drop in on by whim), or by GPS-determined closest to you). Yuengling is bringing Dick's daughter Jennifer Yuengling and an actor-portrayed Lord Chesterfield to town for some light-hearted meet-and-greet.
Ralph Archbold needs some competition to keep him on top of his game!