Today, it’ also the 53rd birthday of Knut Albert Solem from Oslo, Norway, who has one of the premiere beer blogs in Scandinavia, Knut Albert’s Beer Blog. Though I’ve never met him in person, we have corresponded a time or two through blog comments and I certainly enjoy his perspective on beer. Join me in wishing Knut a very happy birthday.
Today is the 34th birthday of Jeff Bell, whose alter ego was, until a few years ago, Stonch, one of England’s best bloggers. He retired from blogging to concentrate on his new job as landlord of a London pub, The Gunmakers, in Clerkenwell, a village in the heart of London. I stopped by to meet Jeff on my way back from a trip tp Burton-on-Trent a few years ago. And three years back, I saw Jeff several times during GBBF week. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.
Jeff Bell, a.k.a. Stonch, at The Gunmakers Pub in central London.
Wednesday’s ad is for Ballantine, from 1957. Showing a dinner party, or really a soup party, paired with buckets of Ballantine Ale. In a rarity for beer advertising, they’re touting the hops used to brew the beer, a British hop known as “Brewer’s Gold.” According to HopUnion’s hop varieties booklet, Brewer’s Gold was developed in Great Britain as primarily a bittering hop by a Professor Salmon in 1934. Ballantine refers to it as a “rare, choice hop.” And hop about this great tagline at the end? “Enjoy the genuine — it’s the trend, friend!”
Tuesday’s ad is another one for Schlitz, from 1956. Showing another backyard barbecue, or “cookout,” it’s another group of well-dressed hipsters, enjoying some brewskis with grilled meat. The barbecue man is even wearing a chef’s hat and white apron. And according to the ad, Schlitz is not only the “World’s Largest-Selling Beer” but is also as “refreshing as all outdoors!”
Just when you think things can’t get any stranger, beer drinkers in three states — California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey — have filed a class action suit against Anheuser-Busch InBev. The L.A. Times is reporting in Beer drinkers accuse Anheuser-Busch of watering down brews, that the lawsuit alleges the following:
Ten Anheuser-Busch products were named in the lawsuits: Budweiser, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.
Former employees at the company’s 13 breweries — including some in high-level positions — are cooperating with the plaintiffs, said San Rafael, Calif., lawyer Josh Boxer, the lead attorney in the case.
“Our information comes from former employees at Anheuser-Busch, who have informed us that as a matter of corporate practice, all of their products [mentioned in the lawsuit] are watered down,” Boxer said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a simple cost-saving measure, and it’s very significant.”
The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3% to 8%, he said.
ABI, naturally, is calling the lawsuit “groundless,” but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Cartoon by Tony Husband.
UPDATE: NBC News is also now reporting this story, in Budweiser waters down its beer, lawsuit alleges. Apparently, Bloomberg broke the story earlier today, and also the AP, the BBC and Business Day have all weighed in.
UPDATE 2: I’ve seen a lot of commentary on this story in the interwebs suggesting that since there appears to be no test results from the Plaintiffs in this case that perhaps they are simply confusing high-gravity brewing with actively lowering the final alcohol percentage, which is a reasonable assumption. But there may be another possibility. Thanks to Stan at Appellation Beer for pointing out a post from last October by Gary Spedding at his Alcohol Beverage Testing News. I’ve known Gary for a number of years. He runs a lab in Kentucky called Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services, LLC and also most years presents an orientation exercise for GABF judges the day before we start each year. It’s sort of a continuing education component of the judging experience. His presentations are always interesting and informative and, needless to say, Spedding’s expertise is unassailable.
Last October, he posted Gaining its airs and losing its graces — a Tale of Two Buds, which he wrote in response to a popular article last fall from Bloomberg Business Week entitled The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer. In addressing the suggestion in the article that Budweiser beer had changed after InBev took control of Anheuser-Busch, noted the following experiences he’d had with the beer in recent months.
Bud has been our control beer in our laboratory … for calibrating our alcohol instruments Bud goes in after calibration to see hopefully 5.00% abv. pretty much on the nose. Not so recently. Now as low as 4.94% after slipping from 4.98% earlier in the year. Losing it graces by higher airs it may be toppling from its top spot and is no longer our control beer of choice. But it is changing. A tale of two Buds (early and late) would reveal much more. Over the years the international bitterness content has declined from about 12 in the late 90′s to 7-8 today — another parameter to watch.
That original post also included a discussion of increasing oxygen levels, but Spedding had a lengthy discussion with Paul Cobet, who’s the Director of the Technical Center for ABI in St. Louis. The oxygen question is apparently now less of a concern and appears to be instrument-driven, and Gary updated that with a newer post, Regaining its Graces — Driving Oxygen Down — Good for Budweiser. So while the plaintiffs may not have tested the beer — still odd, admittedly — there is apparently some reason to think their case may hold water after all.
Today is the 69th birthday of Art Larrance, co-founder of the Oregon Brewers Festival, and also a co-founder of Portland Brewing, too. Art later started the Raccoon Lodge, in 1998, and more recently launched the Cascade Barrel Brewing House to concentrate on sour beers. In 2012, Art was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. But I know him best for his continuing work on OBF, which he’s been doing since the beginning of time, or at least 1988. Join me in wishing Art a very happy birthday.