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New postings or changes elsewhere on this site are indicated by the date shown beneath the appropriate link in the left-hand column.

29 October 2007
Everybody's got to be somewhere...
...and where I got to be is New Orleans. Leaving early tomorrow, back late Thursday.

I'm so messed up these days that I can't remember if I even mentioned this here before, nor do I have time to go look. No matter, it's simple: Dixie Brewing is celebrating its 100th Anniversary and Halloween on Wednesday night with a big costume party out front of the old brewery and I'll be there, with other selected members of the beer press as guest of the brewery and its national distributor, Distinguished Brands Inc.

Do you know what it means, to miss New Orleans, to miss it each night and day?

Me neither. But by Friday, I just might.

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[Posted 9:30pm edt]

24 October 2007
A beer I am definitely looking forward to.
Alan Shapiro of
SBS-Imports emailed me last night with news about a beer which is almost a year away and which I am already eager to try:

Just thought I'd let you know that yesterday Rob Tod confirmed that Allagash will be the collaboration partner for 2008. The beer (style not yet determined) will be brewed right after Zythos in March and released late summer or early fall.
Those who have been paying attention (and don't think I haven't noticed a few of you nodding off in the back rows there and made a notation on your Permanent Records) will recall that I was more than a little taken with Signature Ale a collaboration between Tomme Arthur and Dirk Naudts, so you can understand that I will be anticipating one between Mr. Tod and Mr. Naudts.

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[Posted 12:40pm edt]

If this works, look for a book from Sam on how to sell real estate.
What do you do if your new brewpub General Manager, a guy you hired almost a year ago, is doing a great job but is really unhappy that his wife and daughter are still living several hours away in a house they've so far been unable to sell?

Well, if you're the creative folks at Dogfish Head, you do this.

The house looks kinda neat ( check it out) and all that Dogfish swag might be enough to sway your Beer Geek heart into relocating to rural Utica. Or you could talk that annoying neighbor of yours to do so and settle for the $1,000 finder's fee and dinner at the Rehobeth pub (best case scenario, annoying neighbor is not a beer guy at all so you get the swag and the fee and the dinner).

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[Posted 12:40pm edt]

Too much information? Not in this case.
I assume everybody say that neat Philly Beer Week 2008 shirt being worn by Flying Fish head brewer Casey Hughes in
this posting (click on link or just scroll down slightly)? Very cool, and I particularly like the America's Best Beer Drinking City sub-title.

I gots to get me one to wear to, and maybe a couple to give away at, Beerapalooza 2008 in San Francisco next February.

But...

Shouldn't the shirt have the, you know, DATE on it?

Just askin'.

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[Posted 12:40pm edt]

23 October 2007
Wanna get seriously depressed?
Just read through
this post and the comments that follow.

Seriously.

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[Posted 14:45pm edt]

Anonymous is as anonymous does.
A mysterious photo arrived via email late last night from a brewer who signed himself "anonymous in Delaware," from which I can only assume he does not work for either Dogfish Head or Iron Hill.

It was taken at GABF in Denver:

Since LDO has not acquired legal permission to use these famous images (and, for that matter, has no intention of doing so), I will only identify the participants as (front, left to right) America's Last Non-Driving Man, a Former Elvis Impersonator in Drag & a Clearly Angry Birthday Celebrant (not surprising, given his job), and (rear, left to right) a Southampton Expatriate and Some Guy Who Apparently Wandered In.

Thanks to Anonymous. If anyone knows him, please ask him to contact me so I can see to it that he gets what's coming to him.

The only clue I have to his identity which might help you find him is the apparently misspelled name in the "To" box of his email:

Ric Hoffman.

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[Posted 10:15am edt]

Man does not live by beer alone.
Hard to believe, I know, but it's true. Really.

Nor do a lot of breweries, comes to that. Sometimes, they also depend on quality itmes like gourmet Root Beer.

The story is right here, where it should be.

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[Posted 8:45am edt]

22 October 2007
A style by any other name.
The excellent Merchant Du Vin monthly email newsletter (which you can find
archived here) takes a look at beer styles in the current installment and offers these suggestions for brewers, publicans and consumers, along with a final thought about something which has bugged me for a long time:

For courtesy to the consumer, a brewer should stick within the generally-accepted range of flavors if he chooses to use a style name on the label. If it's a truly innovative style never seen before, call it by the varietal name without a style.

Bartenders, servers, and beer store retailers can provide better service to their customers if they have at least a general understanding of styles.

If you are just getting into fine beer, determine the style of a couple of your favorite beers, then try versions from other breweries. Then you can move to other styles.

"Belgian" is not a style (it's an adjective that means something that came from Belgium) and "Trappist" is not a style either.

With regard to that latter, the way to identify a Belgian-style beer is, well, "Belgian-style." Not so difficult, is it?

And if you call it a "Belgium beer" or a "Belgium-style beer," then you're just plain illiterate.

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[Posted 10:25am edt]

Book report.
I've had a pile of beer & food books piled up here on my desk for months and months now. The idea was to add a periodic book review section at the
Beer Yard site, to enhance its appeal for beer geeks.

Right at the bottom of the pile is the Garrett Oliver classic, The Brewmaster's Table, the sine qua non volume in the genre. Michael Jackson's Ultimate Beer is there as well, since the last third of it is devoted to pairing and cooking food with beer.

The most recent addition to the stack was Grilling With Beer by my pal, Lucy Sanders. And right under that is Beer & Food, by Chicago beer writer Bob Skilnik. I asked for review copies of both, so I'm feeling guilty as hell about it all, especially since Lucy has already gone ahead and released yet another, more extensive volume, The Best of American Beer and Food: Pairing & Cooking with Craft Beer.

And now comes Great Food Great Beer from Anheuser-Busch brewmaster George Reisch and executive chef Brent Weiz of A-B's Kingsmill Resort & Spa in Williamsburg, Virginia. It's a big, beautiful paperback, more than 300 pages with lavish full-color photographs on each spread. It's totally A-B-centric (i.e, each recipe is matched with one of their beers), which perhaps limits it appeal, but the recipes look pretty interesting at first glance and the pairings are general as well as specific (i.e., "Serve with an English-style pale ale, such as Michelob Pale Ale), so perhaps not. It is entirely about pairing beer with food and not cooking with beer, based on a quick thumb-through. A cover letter says that the book, published by Sunset, is currently available online at BudShop.com (that doesn't seem to be the case as of this posting) and will move into the big chains in January.

Anyway, this is a project that I needs must get to, and soon, both here and at the Beer Yard. In so doing, I plan to add yet another new component to LDO. Just because I can.

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[Posted 10:25am edt]

20 October 2007
The Brewer's Plate, a double portion.
The secret cabal planning Philadelphia Beer Week has so far been playing it pretty close to the vest with specific details, although they do now have
an official, albeit still nascent website and they did hold a news conference/press party out in Denver. The folks at White Dog Community Enterprises (formerly the White Dog Cafe Foundation), however, are going to "Homie don't play that game" route and have spilled some news about the Fourth Annual Brewer's Plate.

The news is good. In fact, it's excellent.

There will be not one, but two sessions this year. The one in March which has become an early year staple and a second one in September.

Sunday March 9 is the date for the first Brewer's Plate, making it an opening weekend anchor for Philly Beer Week. It will be moved from Reading Terminal Market, site of the first three, to the Independence Visitor Center in Olde City, between the Liberty Bell and the National Convention Center, which will provide room for a bigger and better event and should be a superb setting.

The second Brewer's Plate will be back at the Reading Terminal Market on a date not yet set.

For those of you not familiar with the event, I guess I should explain that it's a three-hour beer-and-food pairing event featuring local breweries (15 in 2007) and restaurants. Chefs prepare two dishes, each to compliment a particular craft beer, and serve those creations at stations around the site alongside the brewers who pour guests samples of the corresponding beer. Unlimited samplings and tastings are available for the price of admittance.

Oddly enough, I've never been to a Brewer's Plate. I was in Prague when the first one took place and waited too late to buy a ticket last year. I think it just somehow slipped right by the year in between. With two sessions in 2008, I plan to remove that stain from my record, perhaps twice.

There is, I should point out, especially after having had my fun with the Beer Week team, a broad listing of events at the "calendar" tab on their website linked above. You should be marking off March 7-16 on your calendars right now.

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[Posted 2:48pm edt]

19 October 2007
Quickies.
Wow! Did I underestimate the crowd at GABF last weekend. I said that it was "in excess of 41,000," which was last year's record-breaking total, in most stories I wrote, but now I'm seeing estimates of 45,000 to 46,000 attendees, or more. What I haven't seen is an "official" figure from the Brewers Association, but I'm updating my stories where I can with the above numbers.

I've updated the The Dude goes to Dock Street story to reflect further information I got in a talk with Rosemarie Certo, the pub's owner. Some of the nitwit set are all a-twitter about the fact that he's only there temporarily, by the way, sure that this means the demise of Dock Street, taking as a further sign the fact that their website isn't updated hourly with current beer lists and hourly specials, not to mention replete with flash animation. Chill, folks. The Dude wants to do his own place as soon as he get it right amd meanwhile is gainfully employed and making beer, he's delighted to be where he is, they're delighted to have him and he may even be training his successor. What's the problem?

Also at BeerAdvocate (what, you thought the above stuff was happening on random street corners I just happened to be passing?), this surprising post in a long-running thread about the Origlio acquisition of Kunda which started as a result of my Beer Yard story, should get some people talking. Origlio ownership is dead serious on being a serious player in the craft beer segment, trust me. "[H]er post was well placed and timely," commented one prominent West Coast brewer with whom I'm been exchanging thoughts about the situation. The Origlios are dead serious about becoming major players in the craft beer segment, trust me, and their history shows that they try and do what they do right.

A quick personal note: in addition to skipping my trip to GABF to get my life back in order, I sort of stumbled into a two-week diet as well. I've knocked off 10lbs as of this morning. Granted, two or three of those were probably what I can "phantom" lbs., the ones that show up the morning after a couple of days of real excess and then go away anyway when I get back to my regular routine, but gone they are and that counts. I've cut back on food and virtually eliminated beer since two weeks ago today. All I've had was a pint of Victory Harvest Ale at lunch with Dan Weirback at the Spinnerstown Hotel a week ago last Monday and a pint of Sam Adam's Traditional Lager at lunch with my ex-wife last Friday (two occasions which I am sure you will agree merit breaking my beer fast) and a bottle of Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA Wednesday night (just for the hell of it). The plan was to end the drought at the now-cancelled Baltic Thunder release party tomorrow. Now I'm at loose ends.

To drink or not to drink, that is the question...

And I'll bet it's one you never thought you'd hear from me.

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[Posted 4:00pm edt]

17 October 2007
Breaking yet another BIG, BIG story.
If this keeps up, somebody is gonna have to start paying me more.

Yards has found its new location.

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[Posted 6:15pm edt]

Just call him Dock Street Dude (again).
This the BIG story I promised yesterday. Scott Morrison is again taking over the brewing responsibilities at Dock Street, at least for a while.

This is still not official but an assistant brewer at Dock Street just posted it on the Burgundian Babble Belt online, so I've put up the basic story.

More to come. Soon, I hope.

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[Posted 1:30pm edt]

16 October 2007
Look, I don't want to be a show-off, but...
...I do believe I have found me another blockbuster story ready to bust out in the next 36 to 48 hours.

You'll get it soon as I got it, via a note here and a full posting at the usual place, which is how we roll.

This time, the news won't be quite as earth-shattering and far-reaching, but it will still be BIG.

And you will love it. Guaranteed.

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[Posted 2:40pm edt]

Another major beer wholesaler merger.
Origilio Beverage, the region's largest wholesale beer distributor, will acquire Kunda Beverage's wholesale distribution operations as of January 2008.

Here's the story.

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[Posted 8:01am edt]

I'm hearing rumors...
...more than rumors, actually. Reports from all over the spectrum which steadily corroborate and expand the ones that came before them.

They've been coming steadily through the evening, via both email and telephone calls. Some from people in the know, some from people wanting to know.

I've put it all together, asked the questions and made the calls I could, and I think I can report with certainty as I toddle off to bed that something REALLY MAJOR is about to go down in the local beer biz, something which has far-ranging implications which can scarcely be imagined at this point.

Come back here or check the Beer Yard site tomorrow morning. 8am seems a nice time.

The truth is out there...

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[Posted 12:01am edt]

15 October 2007

Mr. O'Reilly's Very Excellent GABF Adventure.
I spoke with Sly Fox's Brian O'Reilly this morning about his trip to Denver and asked him in passing how he felt when he heard Victory Prima Pils called out as the Silver Medal winner in the German-Style Pilsener category (i.e., did he think that meant his Pikeland Pils had probably been shut out). "It all happens so fast you don't have a chance to think that deeply," he said. "I was immediately happy because Prima is a great beer and deserves the recognition; then I heard our name called for the Gold and I was really happy. Taken together, those medals just show that this area kicks ass for Lager beer."

O'Reilly added that he brought assistant brewer Steve Jacoby, attending his first GABF, up to the podium with him to get the Gold Medal. "Steve brews a lot of batches of Pikeland these days so, for all we know, he could have brewed the very beer that won. He deserved to be up there. These medals were won by all of us in the brewery."

He also said that several brewers asked him afterwards if the winning Pils had been submitted in cans and were a bit surprised when he told them yes, that he had just pulled a sixpack from the packaging line and sent it in. These days, when brewers make special limited batches of beers most customers never see just for submission purposes and target specific brews for special categories to enhance their chances of winning, a brewer readily assuming that his regular beer is good enough probably is kind of mind-boggling.

And admirable.

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[Posted 5:00pm edt]

Final GABF: more Beer Yard posts, some minor carping, no sour grapes.
In addition to the
list of local medal winners which I posted yesterday at the Beer Yard site, I've posted an overview for the East Coast, something I do each year to record GABF honorees from Maine down to northern Virginia, and, just now, a list of winners of media and wholesaler awards.

I have to note, although it may sound like carping (guilty) and even sour grapes (not guilty, I had no entries in the category), that I have a problem with one of the Brewers Association Beer Journalism Awards. The winner entry in the Consumer Print Media category for local writer Marnie Old (Philadelphia Magazine et al) was "Beer Takes the High Road," published in Santé magazine in June 2007. Marnie's story may have been wonderful (I haven't read it), but Santé is a controlled circulation publication for restaurant and hospitality professionals and is definitely not part of what is generally understood as "consumer media." Her story should have been entered and judged in the Trade and Specialty Beer Media category won by All About Beer's Julie Johnson Bradford.

To reinforce the "no sour grapes" thing, I had two entries in that Trade category, so I'm actually suggesting that my own competition should have been even stronger than it was. I just believe somebody should have been paying more attention to the writing equivalent of style guides.

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[Posted 5:00pm edt]

13 October 2007
Lots of Gold for local breweries at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival.
I've just posted a story about local GABF medal winners
at the Beer Yard site and have some comments on it to post here. Go read. I'll wait.

First off, I've been saying for a long time now that what makes Philadelphia the best beer region in the nation can be summed up in a single word:

Lager.

In addition to doing every style that all the other breweries around the country are doing, our local guys make some of the best lagers in the whole freakin' world right beside all the double/triple/ohmygod big ales and Belgian styles and speciality beers which get so much attention from the beer geeks and the mainstream press. It is the full range of high-quality beers produced in the Delaware Valley, a diversity found nowhere else in the nation, that underlies my argument.

And now I have the evidence, approved and stamped by GABF judges.

Look at that German Pilsner category. Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Gold; Victory Prima Pils, Silver. When you consider that Prima has regularly won acclaim nationally and internationally as one of the world's great examples of the style, that's damned good evidence of local strength right there.

Add to that Golds for Victory Festbier and Troeg's Troegenator Doppelbock, Silvers for Stewart's Oktoberfest and Stoudt's Ofest and top it all off with a Bronze for Sly Fox Instigator.

This is Lager Land, my friends.

Then there's McKenzie Brew House, written off by the craft beer types after the dismissal of Scott "The Dude" Morrison last year. A Gold and Bronze probably mean there's some crow to be eaten...or, at least, beer to be tried. Hey, I'm as guilty as the next guy on this. McKenzie, removed from the Links list here after Morrison was fired, is back where it apparently belongs.

Finally, while Iron Hill maintained its streak of winning a medal in every GABF it has entered since 1996 (the Bronze winning Kriek de Hill was entered under the Media address so I assume that Bob "medal machine" Barrar also kept his streak alive), Mark and the gang probably aren't too happy. It's a bit of a comedown after winning multiple medals every year since 1999 and Large Brewpub of the Year in 2005.

Six Gold and four multiple winners, not a bad year that. Overall, though, I have the impression that the East didn't do as well as usual. It will take a more serious perusal of the full results and more time to allow me to make any intelligent commentary about that.

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[Posted 7:25pm edt]

12 October 2007
Two brothers, one clueless lady.
Wanna hear Chris and John Trogner try to explain craft beer, beer styles and all that good stuff to a truly non-comprehending host on a major national radio show?

You got it.

The Bros. are quite good, as you might expect. Their questioner? Not so much.

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[Posted 6:40am edt]

11 October 2007
I appreciate your support. Thank you.
I'd just like to give a shout-out of gratitude to everyone who was moved to send along a small token of his or her affection for what I do here at LDO after I
posted this semi-plea last month. It do give a guy a warm feeling to know it's not all just ego-boo going on here. One reader even included a note saying it made him feel good himself to be able to say "thanks," so I might even argue that my setting up a way to "tip the bartender" was a real public service.

Okay, maybe not. But thanks, really.

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[Posted 9:10am edt]

Swallowing my pride...the WordPress option. Help?
So that
Bryson guy emails me a couple of weeks back to say that John Hansell is setting up his own blog over at the Malt Advocate site and, like me, is hardheaded enough to want to do it on his own and not use either Blogspot or WordPress. Could I maybe explain how I set up my own RSS feed here so he could do the same over there?

Well, sure I could. But as I set out to do that I was kinda stunned at how intricate the explanation was. Yeah, the setup is a one-time thing, but you have to update a feed.xml or feed.rss file with each posting as well. And to create a link, I needs must also post each upload twice, once here and once in an archive file. Why the heck would anybody want to do all this, I asked myself.

Lew responded a couple of days later to apologize and say that my effort wasted because "John gave in to our logic and decided to take the easy route and use WordPress,", adding the Big Question: "So...when you are gonna give in to logic?"

I'm ready, big guy, I'm ready.

I am sore tired.

But still a bit obstinate.

In fact, it was not just what Lew had to say that got my off my high horse. When I checked out Hansell's blog, What Does John Know?, my heart went all a-flutter. For all practical purposes, he has done exactly what I would like to do in terms of design and structure.

Thing is, he had a web designer do it all and all I got is me. My efforts to set up WordPress to run here onsite were frustrating and confusing. I could do it, but not the way I wanted. I want to recreate the feel of the existing page, with the logo atop, the postings beneath and some, not all, of the links and the like to the left in neat, readable columns.

Gulp!

That was me, swallowing my pride. 'Tis is an evil thing and I've assuaged mine by proving I could create this complicated work-around and make it, well, work.

Sort of.

So now I'm wondering if there's anybody out there who can, and would, give me some assistance (first I thank you for sending money, now I ask for help; I may have to register as a charity if this keeps up).

I need somebody who can either set me up or guide me through it. I should note that I did try following the guides provided by WordPress and support sites but couldn't entirely get my mind around it all. I suspect that I may have sacrificed a few brain cells in the service of writing about beer over the years.

I wouldn't mind at all using exactly the same template as used for John's page (I assume it's based on one of the free formats) with a few tweaks. It is pretty much how I envisioned things when I was working on my own.

If you have the ability and the interest, please go look at What Does John Know? and contact me. We can definitely work out some form of remuneration if you'd like, especially if it involves beer.

Understand, I will already pay a huge price for this in the wave of "I told you so!" messages, both emailed and verbal, that should begin shortly after this goes up.

Gulp!

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[Posted 9:10am edt]

If a tree falls in the forest....
While simplifying things around here is my primary reason for wanting to take another shot at WordPress, a strong secondary one is my feeling that the "Comments" section isn't getting much, if any attention. For the most part, we appear to be exchanging thoughts in a vaccuum over there and that's a shame because some of the responses are informative, amusing or both.

In the most recent postings, for example, a reader puts the delay in the release of Baltic Thunder in a bit of (weird) historical perspective and fellow beer scribe Stan Hieronymus allows as how I could might maybe have made me a profit on my cancelled hotel room in Denver by auctioning it off because there's a room crunch in the city due to another event going on there the same time as GABF, which opens tonight.

Until and unless I find a better way, I note for your edification that the "See All Comments" link beneath this, and every, post here takes you to the complete "Comments" page, not just to any that have been made in answer to the specific post.

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[Posted 9:10am edt]

10 October 2007
A FOLDO has big plans.
FOLDO? Why, Friend of Liquid Diet Online, of course.

Hanza Kocka, the Czech Republic beer guy who turns up here more often than you'd think a guy who lives in Prague would, posted this on the members-only Brewers Association website last night:

With two friends of mine we purchased a closed micro brewery from Hungary and if everything goes well, we will brew our first batches in December, with regular production in January of next year. It is really a micro one - 6.5 hectos per brew, 13 hectos for fermentation tanks and lagering tanks (1500 annual production). This way we won't change the Czech brewing tradition where the pale lagers are about 95 percent of our market (the rest are dark ones and non alcoholic ones), but we will be the first one to brew pale ales, weizen, and hopefully one day imperial stouts etc.

One of the reasons we try to do this is our experience with American craft brewing part of the your market and your beers. It was and it is an inspiration for us to go a different way than the regular breweries here (even micro ones). After drinking your beers, visiting breweries, beer festivals like GABF etc, we decided that we have to show the Czech beer drinkers that there is a completely new world of beer for them ...so thank you for showing us what a beer can taste like.

This is Honza's beer website.

Not that you can read it.

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[Posted 8:45am edt]

9 October 2007
If I had a hammer...
Been waiting for, anticipating, in a hardly-able-to-bear-it-frenzy for Victory Baltic Thunder?

Gonna have to wait a little longer.

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[Posted 8:30pm edt]

When titans clash.
Brew Blog, the Miller Brewing-supported blog which delights in taking pokes at mega-giant Anheuser-Busch, managed to lay hands on
a memo sent out by August A. Busch IV today in wake of the announcment of the formation of MillerCoors, a joint venture between America's second and third largest brewers which is slated to become a fait d'accompli by the end of the year.

This is the text:

October 9, 2007
To: All Anheuser-Busch Wholesalers and Employees
Re: Miller-Coors Announcement

As you have read, SABMiller and Molson Coors announced today the formation of a joint venture of their U.S. and Puerto Rico operations.

We believe this new structure presents a timely opportunity for all of us—as most game-changing incidents do. This new entity does not match our size or portfolio of beers, yet there are undoubtedly synergies that this new company will eventually realize. At the same time, there will be significant transition confusion from this change, and it's up to us to capitalize on this disruption now.

Our recent realignment of senior management responsibilities affords us the opportunity to look at things differently, but does not present the unsettling shifts among top executives that occur when two companies and cultures merge or combine. In addition, there is also likely to be great concern within the SABMiller/Coors field sales and wholesaler organizations as people attempt to determine if they will have a role in this new structure. Our new region assignments bring the industry's most seasoned, competitive and talented team to the field level to lead this process and help our entire organization get closer to our wholesalers.

We are studying the implications of this competitive move further—but we must not lose sight of the fact that this joint venture represents an attempt by these companies to better compete against us. With our leading core brands, our import alliances, the inclusion of regional craft brewers in our portfolio, as well as the non-alcohol additions to our product offerings, all of which have gained us entry into key accounts and provided leverage for growth, we are an even more formidable opponent today than we were just 12 months ago.

In three weeks, we will be together with wholesalers in Dallas. Until then, I ask for all eyes and ears to be on the ground uncovering opportunities and driving performance. Please email me directly with any information...

Respectfully,
August A. Busch IV

This is going to be fun.

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[Posted 6:10pm edt]

Kennett Square -- the crowd and the lines.
I waited to post about the Kennett Square Brew Fest because I wanted to see if there was any public outcry about the crowd at the main session.

I only attended the Connoisseur Session myself, then walked uptown with Patrick "the Tom Peters of the suburbs" Mullin, Richard "I should be home spamming the world" Ruch and Wanderin' Joe Meloney for lunch at the Half Moon Saloon. On the way back down the hill, we were warned off by a steady stream of early departing fest-goers, among them The Big One and The Other One (together again for the first time). They all said the lines at each brewery's table were enormous. Since I only intended to stick my head in and see exactly that, the size of the crowd, I neatly peeled off to where my car was parked on a side street and came on home.

Comments about the problem, all civil and not enraged (which is not usually the case), did begin to show up in this BeerAdvocate thread yesterday but were quickly defused by an admirable post from festival honcho Jeff Norman, acknowledging the problems and taking full responsibility. It was, I must admit, a lot classier response that you'd normally expect from a Notre Dame guy. Jeff done good.

So, rather than rant and/or rave here, I just got in touch with him, got me a bit of news about next year's tickets, and posted it all just where I should.

There's more to come on this story, folks, if everything goes well. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned.

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[Posted 12:45pm edt]

Kennett Square -- the rest of it.
Things started off very well on Saturday and only got better. It was a beautiful morning and not yet oppressively hot and my drive back to my old home town was easy and pleasant. Knowing the town, I was able to park on a side street just off the festival site and as I walked up to the entrance, fell in with the three bad companions noted above.

When I walked up to "Will Call" to get my ticket and announced my name, one of the other festival folks rushed over to shake my hand and introduce himself as "The Good Jeff." I mean, hot damn. I was there, with friends, beer was waiting and a shot had already been taken at Norman. A helluva start.

Continuing the pattern, the first table I approached once I'd joined the Connoisseur crowd (see above, before the arrival of the wild horde) had the two beers that I specifically had promised myself to sample during the afternoon. The Victory Braumeister Pils was exactly the delight I had anticipated it being from previous year's quaffing and Dock Street Satellite Espresso Stout, the first beer I'd get to try done by new brewer Julius Hummer, was also dead on. I chatted briefly with Julius and got the word on Dock Street's first release of beers to its wholesaler.

I was enjoying my first Sprague Farms Lightning Rod Ale (my first Sprague Farms beer ever, comes to that) when I was told that Loren Verkovod, once known as "Venom" on the BeerAdvocate site before being cast into the darkness (or maybe the light) as part of a massive purge a while back) was pouring Lost Abbey Devotion with a "picnic" pump a bit farther down the row. Turns out he had emailed Tomme Arthur about the festival and asked if he'd like to send something and damned if didn't. It arrived at the distributor and was delivered to the site that morning without any advance notice.

Like I said, the day just kept getting better.

Right next to where Loren was doing his thing was the booth of the nascent Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont. "His saison in the best beer here," I was told, not once, not twice, but three times as I got into line to give it a try. Annika was a truly awesome interpretation and was, I learned a few minutes later from brewer Shaun Hill, whom I immediately sought out, named in honor of a German girl he met in New Zealand a while back and whom he is visiting in London this week. Brewed with New Zealand hops and also inspired by that nation's wines, it was definitely the highlight of my afternoon.

Annika and Hill's two other beers on tap were all pilot brews for the 4bbl brewery he is currently putting together in a shed behind his home in Greensboro. He hopes to do 110-150bbls a year, "mostly bottle-conditioned, a little draught, and sell it all in Vermont if I can; if not. some of it might make its way down here." He seemed an improbable guest so far from home and given the small size of his brewery, but this was again Venom's handiwork; he urged him to come and pressured Leonard to invite him (the boy do seem to have his way with brewers, do he not?). Hill brewed at The Shed in Stowe for two years and is currently the head brewer at Trout River. That's Shaun ahd Jeff above.

The next booth over was Flying Fish, where they were pouring Iced Bourbon Barrel-Aged Oktoberfish, which both intrigued me and made me shudder. I haven't had this year's Oktoberfish, but I keep reading where it was selected the best or favorite in this voting or that one and seeing where people I respect are giving it massive props (Scoats, for one), so I've been meaning to give it a try. On the other hand, while I am by no means a Style Nazi, I do believe there are some beer styles you don't mess with and Oktoberfests and Marzens fall squarely in the center of that belief. I was appalled when Sly Fox put theirs on the handpump (and I was right, trust me) and this seemed a step even farther down a dark path.

But there were Casey and his trusty (stolen from Stewart's) assistant John, a Batman & Robin pair if ever there was one, determined to have me give it try. Okay, that was only fair. I took a sip...then another...and it was....wasn't....well, it was okay. Drinkable. What it wasn't, of course, was Oktoberfish in any recognizable way, or an Oktoberfest of any sort in any discernible fashion. Seems to me that if you're gonna freeze a beer or barrel-age it, the end result should have some of the characteristics of the original, or what's the point?

I had a few beers I've had before, Troegs Scratch Beer #3 (Tripel) and Stewart's Bourbon Barrel Aged McBride's Ale (a bottle of which I have aging in my own stash and actually, now that I think about it, the Barleywine may have been the beer pouring at Kennett--I'm sure fine brewmaster Ric Hoffman will straighten this out via email) among them, and the session was done. As noted above, I had lunch at the Half Moon with my pals, enjoying pints of Young's Double Chocolate Stout and Yards ESA (handpump) along with a delicious Turkey, Brie and Apple Slices sandwich on really, really, really good wheat bread.

As alway, going back to the old home town stirs up memories. This was my first time attending the festival since they moved the venue down by the high school. When I went there, it was a "consolidated" school (i.e., all grades from 1-12), the largest such in the country. Now the building looms even larger but houses only those final, upper grades. Got to admit I stared at it for a minute, looming in the background of the event site, trying to picture the me and the world way back then.

Long time gone, that guy, that time and place.

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[Posted 12:45pm edt]

7 October 2007
One door closes, another opens.
That's what the optimists say, right? So that's the way I'm looking at a pair of choices I made this week and have just now confirmed with action.

Within the hour, I cancelled both my hotel room and flight reservation for Denver this week, deciding not to attend the 2007 Great American Beer Festival for both professional and personal reasons. I'd had this set up for months now, at least the hotel room, which was in the downtown Marriott which is GABF headquarters for the festival. I got good prices on everything and with my local clients helping to pay the freight, it was a very doable trip. But a man's gotta do what he's gotta do and what I gotta do is take some time to get my ducks, which are all the hell over the place, back in line. Simple as that.

On the other hand, on Friday I also confirmed a three day trip to New Orleans at month's end, Halloween at Dixie Brewing to mark its official reopening. A trip to the one great American city which I've never visited? Not to be missed. It is no longer the Big Easy of my youthful dreams, is in fact now a place where we've been seeing the dark side of the American dream ever since Katrina, but it is New Orleans.

Yes, for the record, this will be a "press junket" with my pal and PR maven Sheryl Barto and the fine folks at Distinguished Brands, Inc. What that means is they'll get me (and four or five other journalists from around the country) there and back; what I see there, what I learn there, what I conclude there...that's all me. I work in the trade press and this sort of thing is SOP, of course, but I keep feeling compelled to post caveats about everything these days because I'm still sorting out my feelings about that Blogging & Ethics stuff. I'll stop now, promise.

The Big Easy. All Hallow's Eve. Who knows what ghosts will haunt the night. I am psyched.

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[Posted 2:00pm edt]

Right back where I started from.
This weekend I also finalized my agreement to take over the "Eastern Pennsylvania" column in Mid-Atlantic Brewing News from Dale Van Wieren, who is giving up the ghost after seven years to work on revising his seminal and important American Breweries, one of the more valuable research volumes in my library.

Dale and I are playing a bit of Bush/Clinton/Bush/(probably) Clinton here. I actually started the column back in the first issue of MABN (2000, I think) and he took over when I left after about a year and a half (as you can see, that Bush/Clinton analogy only works if I take the "Bush" position, so let's just forget I mentioned it, okay?),

I left the first time because the pay was lousy. It still is, if not quite so much so, but the gig now fits in very neatly with my Beer Yard gig and Celebrator Beer News column, so it's all good. My initial installment will be in the issue after the one you soon see all over the place (in which I have a short Michael Jackson remembrance).

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[Posted 2:00pm edt]

5 October 2007
Rising costs and the future of craft beer.
I've been trying to find the time for weeks now to do something serious on the financial pressures hitting craft brewers on all sides because of increasing costs for damned near everything, and still haven't gotten to it. Maybe I don't need to, give that David Kesmodel and Janet Adamy of the Wall Street Journal do a heckuva job with the topic
right here.

Here's the gist of the issue as they present it:

Consumers could pay 50 cents to $1 per six pack more in the coming months for many small-batch "craft beers," as brewers pass on rising hops and barley costs from an unpalatable brew of poor harvests, the weak dollar and farmers' shift to more profitable crops. Other makers of craft beers, the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. brewing industry, say they may eat the higher ingredient costs, which will pare their profits.

[ ... ]

The cost pressures could slow the expansion of American craft brewers, which account for about 5 of U.S. beer revenue, and even put some smaller ones out of business. Craft-beer makers also are battling other cost increases, including higher prices for glass, cardboard, gasoline and the stainless steel used to make beer kegs. "People are very concerned," says Kim Jordan, co-founder of Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co., which makes Fat Tire Amber Ale, a top-selling craft beer. "It significantly affects profitability."

Big American brewers like Anheuser-Busch Cos. and SABMiller PLCs Miller Brewing Co. also face cost increases, but the impact isn't nearly as great for them. They use much less hops and barley in most of their beers, which is why they are lighter in taste and calories. A barrel of craft brew Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, for example, has about twice the malt and as many as five times the hops of a mass-market brew, like Budweiser or Miller High Life.

Large beer makers are also better able to secure long-term contracts to mitigate the impact of rising ingredient costs. Most spirits makers, such as Diageo PLC and Fortune Brands Inc., also face a relatively limited impact from global increases in the cost of grains such as corn.

I'll do my own follow-up based on talks with local brewers as soon as I can manage it, but the basic story is right there. Everybody I've talked to is concerned and scrambling. If push comes to shove, beer geeks, the first things to go will be the big, hops-intensive high alcohol beers. Lew Bryson and his Session Beer Project may turn out to be as prophetic as it has been popular.

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[Posted 2:30pm edt]

WTF? I mean, seriously, WTF?

The sweet and lovable Ed Yashinsky sent the above via email this morning and asked if I and other recipients would get the word out.

Before you ask, I figure this one gets a pass on that ethics thing I just talked about because, well, it is pretty much unreadable.

Plus there is something vaguely pornographic going on in the center there and I dont post nearly enough of that kind of thing here.

If you click on the image you will be taken to a place where you can find out what Ed wants you to find out.

If you instead are consumed by a desire to put on bell-bottom pants and play an old Mammas and Poppas CD (I was gonna say "record" but I dont have time to explain), well, I understand.

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[Posted 10:00am edt]

3 October 2007
The latest brewspapers and a Michael Jackson story which didn't see print.
The bimonthly brewspapers are starting to show up. By the way, I really hate it that Celebrator Beer News, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and Ale Street News all have the same publishing schedule.

Given the unavoidable lag in writing for print (i.e., we write it and it doesn't appear for four weeks or more), it's sad that an additional four to six weeks goes by before our immortal prose shows up in hard copy in any of those venues once again because they all skip the same month. You'd think somebody would shift to a January, March etc. schedule, although I suspect the current is one is set-up so everybody can break out a new issue at GABF. There are ways of working around that, I'd think.

Down off soapbox, moving on.

CBN (which is gonna confuse a lot of people at first glance, because the cover photo of the Brickskeller's Dave Alexander sure looks a helluva lot like last issue's cover photo of the Toronado's David Keene) has my "Atlantic Ale Trail" column as usual, a long one this time, which tries to provide an overview on all the wild going-sonin this region over the summer for the national audience and includes a quickly written short remembrance of Michael Jackson on the afternoon of his dying. I'll get that posted up here soon.

ASN has a short piece I managed to get squeezed in at the last minute about Victory Brewing's hops contract with a Bavarian farmer and it's impressive October beer release schedule, both the fresh-hop

Braumeister Harvest Ale (already out) and Braumeister Harvest Pils (eagerly anticipated in this corner) and the long-awaited Baltic Porter. I thought they deserved some props for reminding us what craft brewing is all about once you get past all the "bigger and sourer than yours" fuss that seems to dominate the headlines. I'll post that piece shortly as well.

What is not in the pages of ASN is another short Michael Jackson tribute which was cut, I assume, due to space limitations. Here it is:

Remembering Michael
As lover of beer and other malt beverages, I loved what Michael taught me about them and the easy manner in which he did so. He invented the language and taught it to us, writer and reader alike, but he could never teach anyone how to do it as well as he. Genius is not transferable. Thankfully, in all the volumes he wrote, the interviews, the "Beer Hunter" television tapes, his words remain available. And preciously constant.

As a colleague, I relished Michael's friendship and advice and the way he made each moment seem special when I was in his company. After nearly a year, he could jump right back into a conversation or apologize for not answering an email without missing a beat. When I once followed in his tracks for several days for a story for a mainstream magazine, he kept referring to me as his "Boswell," a nice way of indicating that he felt I would do a good job at the task. That story never saw print in its intended fashion, but I've used bits and pieces of it often over the years. I wrote a lot about Michael.

As a writer, I was--am--in awe of Michael's clear style, of his ability to say what he had to say simply and directly, always imparting all the information necessary to make his point. I was particularly taken with his skill of bringing it all down to the perfect closing line while still leaving the reader wanting more.

I was even a fan of Michael's famous digressions, those flights into a verbal wonderland where only he could take us and from whence even he sometimes found the path back home a bit tricky. Especially in recent years, such loquacious adventures could make a crowd inattentive and even slightly angry. I admit to having lost focus occasionally myself. Mostly though, when Michael was in full-digression mode, jumping from some bit of esoteric information to a full-scale recounting of history or mythology or telling stories from his life, quoting the likes of Dylan Thomas and Woody Allen along the way, I was in heaven. I could figure out the beers in front of me on my own, but the product of that agile mind, drawing up gems from some deep and seemingly limitless mental storage bin, was priceless.

A confession. Once, a few months after he had lectured on a dozen or more Czech lagers at The Smithsonian, several brought into the country especially for that night, Michael called me and asked if I could remind him what he'd said about some of the more obscure beers, because he couldn't remember. Not having to heart to tell him he'd only actually gotten to two beers before the two-hour session was shut down, I said I was sorry, but I couldn't recall. However, I added, I could recount in great detail his extended dissertation on Good King Wenceslas from that evening if that would help.

Still to come is Mid-Atlantic Brewing News in which I know I have a longer Jackson piece, having seen the issue in draft form online (I wish everybody did this as well, both only MABN and American Brewer do at this point). I'll let you know when that's out and also will have some news about what I'll be doing for MABN starting with the following issue.

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[Posted 2:15pm edt]

Beer, cheese and...cheesy journalism?
I was sent a very nice package by the PR people at Miller Brewing a few days back, which consisted of two bottles of Pilsner Urquell and two "limited edition" Pilsner Urquell cigars and a cigar box. I'll have to find a home for those latter, but two bottles of the signature pilsner in the world seemed just the ticket last night. Before coming home, I'd stopped at
one of my favorite places to pick up some fresh coffee beans and decided to grab a chunk of Queso Iberico, a Spanish cheese with which I was totally unfamiliar to try with the beers

It turned out to be a great match. Queso Iberico turned out to be a hard cheese, hare enough that it would be easily gratable of that were your inclination, and delightful on crisp thin crackers. It was surprisingly salty, but in a pleasant way which worked very well with the brew. I did some research online afterwards and found that Quest Iberico is made from a mixture of cow, sheep and goat's milk. The source I found recommended serving it with Spanish red wines, which would work, but I'd personally suggest a crisp, clean pilsner.

That "cheesy journalism?" reference in the headline? Just last night I read a posting Jay Brook's blog about the ethics of beer blogging, which was occasioned by a lengthy discussion going on at Stonch's Beer Blog, a very good and interesting blog out of England. The whole thing was stirred up by the Stella Artois web thing which I wrote about here last month.

I skimmed through everything on both Jay's and Stonch's sites and found it, while very intriguing from my perspective as a writer and a blogger, something of tempest in a teapot (to not coin a new phrase), especially in using the Stella campaign as a launching point. I got it, I went to site, saw that the video weren't my cuppa, as they say, and moved on.My mentioning it and linking to it, I nevr felt like I was somehow playing into some major campaign to sell Stella, much less any beer. I ever felt compromised, certainly never felt my readers were. To go on about that is silly.

Admittedly, I may regret saying even that much upon further and more intenstive reading of the controversy. And the bigger picture of blogging and ethics certainly deserves more thought. I'll hold off until I do that and then decide if I need, or want, to say more here.

Meanwhile, this is my credo:

I always try report and not distort and to put what I report into perspective when that is needed.

When I am reporting hard facts or news, I hold myself to the same standards I would for any publication, online or in print.

When I express my opionion, it is mine and you can take it or leave it, whether it be about beer or any other topic. My standards there are saying what I think.

When I am just having fun and rambling on, I'm just having fun and rambling on, there ain't no journalism involved and I trust that is evident. I figure you can tell the difference.

MOre probably, I try, and perhaps don't always manage or remember, to keep my relationships clear and upfront.

I inform you that this beer or that beer was given to me or sent to me, for example, when I write about it. That shouldn't matter, and it doesn't matter, but I make sure to tell you so those who care can have the information. Ditto, on beer dinners and beer events (albeit sometimes only indirectly and try to get better about that).

When I get to visit London or Prague as part of a trip sponsored and paid for by a brewery or an importer or both, I make that clear, not only here, but in the print press (in fact, look for one of those dastardly trips to be announced here on Friday).

When I quote or comment on other sources, whether I agree or disagree with them, I link to them if possible so you can go to the source.

The reason I make clear my website job with the Beer Yard (in fact, it is the that relationship by which I will be proudly identified on my press badge at GABF next week) and my work on the webite and occasional news releases for Sly Fox Brewing is so you can, if you wish, take what I write or say about either with the proverbial grain of salt (or send me any angry email that I would be so bold).

In short, I do the best I can to make sure you have the background necessary to draw your own conclusions.

And when I'm just have soming fun, when I make shit up, I work, as I said above, on the assumption that anyone choosing to read these ramblings is smart enough to figure it out.

Also, of course, even when I, telling lies, I might just be telling the truth in a different way.

That's the Irish way, as I have said in the past.

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[Posted 2:15pm edt]

Archived.
The complete September 2007 postings have been archived here.


Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

--A. E. Houseman

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