Beverage Industry’s State Of American Beer Report

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The Atlantic magazine had a good round-up of the State of American Beer, based on a report from the trade publication Beverage Industry. Beverage Industry’s March issue had a series of articles on different segments, including Craft brewers’ sales growth continues, Domestic beer case sales decline, Mexican beers dominate imported beer growth and Hard cider draws in consumers from outside the beer category. In addition, at the same time they released a separate report, the 2014 U.S. Beer Category Report.

You could spend the time to read through all of them (and I’d encourage you to do so) but to get an overview of the reports, The Atlantic’s coverage provides the highlights (and even does a better job with the charts). For example, here’s the top craft brands from 2013.

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And here’s case sales by brand in a piechart.

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And this last one, the percentage change in case sales, is amazing because is shows just how fast Lagunitas is growing, though Stone’s doing pretty well on the growth front, too.

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Bistro IPA Festival Winners 2014

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For the fourth straight year I missed the Bistro IPA Festival, as I was in Yosemite National Park with my family. Happily, owner Vic Kralj was again kind enough to send me the list of the winners. Citra Extra Pale Ale, from Knee Deep Brewing in Lincoln (and a new brewery and tap room in Auburn), was chosen best in show, out of 75 IPA offerings, at the 17th annual IPA Festival yesterday at the Bistro in Hayward, California. The full list of winners is below.

EU Negotiating For Protected Beer Names

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Apparently in Washington, our Congress is hard at work negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU. Not surprisingly, the EU is asking for protective status of European products that are traditionally from Europe. You can’t really blame them. For instance they’re asking for the names “feta” and “parmesan” only for cheese made in Europe. I don’t know the history of those cheeses, but I’m guessing Greece and Italy do, and believe their cheeses to be the true expressions of them. They’re also asking that “‘bratwurst’ be allowed on only European-produced sausages.” Again, I don’t know the history but given that German and other European immigrants came to America and started businesses making bratwursts a hundred years ago, or more, it seems a tough sell. I likewise assume it was Italians in the U.S. who began marketing parmesan cheese here long before Kraft got in the game.

But according to an article in the USA Today, Senators: Back off our brats, beer, they’re not stopping there. I might have expected that Belgian beer might be part of the negotiations, since Belgian brewers aren’t thrilled about American beers labeled as “Belgian” instead of “Belgian-style.” But it’s “Oktoberfest” they object to. According to the story, “[i]f U.S. negotiators agree to European demands, U.S. manufacturers would have to change product names to “Oktoberfest-like ale.”

But since an “Oktoberfest” beer has certain style parameters that just about any brewer worth his salt could replicate, I can’t see how that one makes sense. I’ve never known German brewers to complain about that the way that I’ve heard Belgian brewers, but maybe I’ve missed that. Can a beer style, once created in a geographic area, sometimes because of the locally available ingredients or water source, only be made in that same place to be considered authentic? I think we can say yes for lambics, but others? What do you think?

There’s also countless local American Oktoberfest events throughout September and October each year, some have been taking place for decades or longer. Does Germany object to those, too?

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Beer In Film #91: The Self-Refilling Beer Can

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Today’s beer film is a short break from featuring the Michael Jackson Beer Hunter series, which will conclude tomorrow. Because it’s April 1, our video today is one from my friend and colleague Marty Jones about Cask Brewing Systems — the Canadian company that started microcanning — and their latest innovation: the Self-Refilling Beer Can (SRBC). According to the press release, “The SRBC is a unique Cask invention that enables consumers to refill empty beer cans with the beer that was originally packaged in the SRBC.”

More from the press release:

The can has the potential to significantly change the canned craft beer segment.

“We’ve been providing innovative equipment to craft brewers since the 1980s,” says Cask president and founder Peter Love. “We’ve also been helping craft canners since 2002. But this may be the most innovative thing we’ve ever done.”

“For years,” Love says, “we’ve touted the fact that aluminum cans are infinitely recyclable. Now we can say they are infinitely refillable.”

The can was developed at Cask’s brewing research laboratory with the help of Professor Phelyx, a Denver, Colorado microcanning scientist.

“This can has incredible benefits for craft brewers,” Phelyx says. “The Self-Refilling Beer Can allows breweries to increase their beer production without
having to actually produce more beer.”

To create the SRBC, Phelyx and Cask experts first created a unique resealing mechanism called the Lid Occlusion Lock (LOL) that reseals an opened can when the consumer gently rubs the can’s opening with their finger.

Once the lid is resealed, the beer drinker then lightly shakes the can to activate the In-Can Brewing System (ICBS) that then “rebrews” the original beer that was packaged in the can.

“Perfecting the ICBS was the crucial step in creating the Self-Refilling Beer Can,” Phelyx notes. “Once we were able to make that work, the Self-Refilling Beer Can went from a dream to a reality.”

In addition to providing a lifetime of craft beer to consumers, the SRBC has other benefits.

“It will quickly shrink the packaging costs for our customers,” says Cask’s Jamie Gordon, “and eliminate any waste from dented cans prior to filling. It could eliminate the need for beer can recycling, too.”

The initial response from retailers to the SRBC has not been favorable. “The lost sales alone would be devastating to my industry,” says Ron Vaughn, of Denver, Colorado’s Argonaut Wine & Liquor. “We don’t want to see it in the market.”

To address these concerns, Cask is developing a royalty system that will compensate retailers for any losses from the SRBC.

Cask officials are releasing the first samples of the SRBC to the craft brewing industry on Tuesday, April 1.

Cask officials are not divulging the price of the cans.

Cask Brewing Systems invented the beer industry’s first microcanning equipment in 2002. Cask now supplies a range of affordable, compact, high-performance canning systems to small-scale breweries and packagers worldwide.

Cask has installed over 300 canning lines in 20 countries, and is the official supplier of Ball Corporation printed aluminum cans for its Cask customers.

Marty Jones and Professor Phelyx
Marty Jones with Professor Phelyx.

PilsNOIR Urquell, Czech Brewery’s New Black Pilsner

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The pilsner style, with it’s brilliant golden color, was first brewed in the Bohemian town of Plzen in 1842. Pilsner Urquell started a revolution in brewing and it became the most widely copied type of beer, quickly transforming it into the most popular beer style in the world.

After over 170 years making just one beer, Plzeňský Prazdroj decided it was time to do something different and today are launching PilsNOIR Urquell, a totally new black pilsner. Made with the same Moravian barley and their signature Czech Saaz hops along with the naturally soft local water that’s made Pilsner Urquell to make one of the finest beers in the world, it’s sure to start another revolution.

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April Fools!

Just kidding. Mark Dredge, who’s been doing some work for Pilsner Urquell in England, sent me this mock-up spoof the brewery created just to have a little fun. No matter which beer you choose to drink today, remember to have yourself a little fun. The real copy should read:

“We’ve been making the same beer in the same way for 172 years. Why change now. Even on April Fools Day.”

Top 50 Breweries For 2013

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The Brewers Association has also just announced the top 50 breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2013. This includes all breweries, regardless of size or other parameters. Here is the new list:
ba-top-50-breweries-2013

Here is this year’s press release.

Not too much movement again this year, except for a few small shufflings, and no changes at all in the top ten. Only three new breweries made the list; Ballast Point, Narragansett (which had been on the year before in 2011) and Left Hand Brewing.

For the past six years, I’ve also posted an annotated list, showing the changes in each brewery’s rank from year to year. This year, the BA thoughtfully has already done that, saving me a lot of time and math. If you want to see the previous annotated lists for comparison, here is 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Top 50 Craft Breweries For 2013

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The Brewers Association just announced the top 50 craft breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2013, which is listed below here. For the seventh year, they’ve also released a list of the top 50 breweries, which includes all breweries. Here is this year’s craft brewery list:
ba-top-50-craft-2013-revised

Three breweries are new to this year’s Top 50 Craft Breweries list; Sixpoint Brewing, Gordon Biersch (the production brewery, not the brewpubs) and 21st Amendment Brewery & Restaurant. Here is this year’s press release. For the past six years, I’ve also posted an annotated list, showing the changes in each brewery’s rank from year to year. This year, the BA thoughtfully has already done that, saving me a lot of time and math.

Prohibitionists Insult New Hampshire Senate

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I’m sure like most politicians, the members of the New Hampshire Senate have been called a lot worse, but this morning Alcohol Justice called them “fools” simply for not voting the way they wanted them to, and then somewhat misrepresented the facts. In AJ’s tweet, they claimed “Fools turn blind eye to alcohol-related harm http://bit.ly/1o7BZFN New Hampshire Senate approves booze billboards.”

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If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll no doubt be unsurprised to learn that the state Senate didn’t exactly turn a blind eye to anything, but vigorously debated whether to allow alcohol companies to advertise on billboards. According to the Telegraph newspaper report, they spent hours discussing the bill.

One senator, David Pierce (D-Hanover), said “it’s clear to him this ban is an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of speech that would not stand up in court.” In an odd show of seemingly not understanding her job, Senator Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith), said “that wasn’t a good enough reason to lift the ban.” If being unconstitutional isn’t a good enough reason to change a law, please tell me what might be considered “good enough?”

Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), logically said “critics of this should seek to ban alcohol advertising in newspapers and on radio and television airwaves. The restriction should be across the board and not simply on a board. That’s the distinction,” she said. Which makes sense, if something is legal in other media, it makes no sense that it should be illegal in another. Apparently, only five states currently ban alcohol advertising on billboards.

After a long debate, “[u]ltimately, the Senate passed it 13-11 after Senator Sam Cataldo (R-Farmington), changed his mind and decided to support it.” But with the bill’s passage it doesn’t actually “approve booze billboards,” but fixes an unconstitutional law and will now “permit alcohol makers to apply for” one, or more, of the state’s current highway billboards. They still have to compete against every other business or company who might want their message on one of New Hampshire’s billboards.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of AJ’s calling the Senate “fools” for doing their job, was the image they sent out with the tweet.

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With this picture, they come right up to precipice of opening themselves up to a defamation suit from ABI, because they never come out and say this is a real billboard for Budweiser. It is, however, fairly implicit that that’s their intended meaning. At a minimum, I think most people would do a double take, and wonder if it’s a real ad. And you can be excused for thinking that, because AJ doctored the ad, presumably just for that reason. A Google image search brings up numerous comedy websites that include the image, and for reasons unclear claim it to be Canadian, as you can find the satirical billboard among Freeple’s Canadian Billboards, Jokeroo’s Canadian Billboards, and Izismile’s Brazen Billboards From Canada.

But there’s one critical difference between the image that AJ used in their tweet and every other instance of it that I could find on the internet. And that’s a watermark identifying it as having been created by dribbleglass.com, a humor website billing itself as the “internet’s official humor site.” So in the original image, it’s obviously a work of satire and not meant to be taken seriously.

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It’s also clear from the original image that AJ simply removed the watermark identifying where it came from, cropping it, and thereby making it appear more like a genuine billboard. And yet they’re the “watchdogs” who claim to be keeping the evil alcohol industry honest. Who exactly are the fools here?

Global Association Of Craft Beer Brewers Founded

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Here’s an exciting development and a sure sign that the world of beer is growing smaller as the reach of better beer extends around the globe. Today in Berlin, the formation of a new international trade organization was announced: The Global Association of Craft Beer Brewers (GACBB).

From the press release:

The Global Association of Craft Beer Brewers was founded last month, becoming the first international organisation for independent craft beer brewers. Sebastian Mergel, co-founder of the Berlin craft beer brewery Berliner Bierfabrik (formerly beer4wedding), was elected the association’s founding president. The association’s goal is to empower smaller independent brewers by connecting them on an international level, and to provide resources via association tools and collaborations with other members. With its international reach, the association also looks to provide its members with access to material goods and services that allow them to expand into new international markets.

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The founding board members represent breweries in five different continents.

  • Sebastian Mergel, Bierfabrik, Berlin, Germany
  • Mark Andries, Browerij De Vlier, Belgium
  • David Cohen, The Dancing Camel, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • John Kyme, Stringer’s Beer, Ulverston, United Kingdom
  • Kristian Strunge, Stronzo, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jakub Veselý, Pivo Falkon, Zatec, Czech Republic
  • Alex Acker, Jing A, Beijing, China
  • Eric van Heerden, Triggerfish Brewing, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Aleem Ladak, The Big 5 Brewery, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Diego Rodríguez, Barbarian, Lima, Peru
  • Diego Perrotta, Cerveza Zeppelin, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Nathaniel Schmidt, Agua Mala Cerveceria, Ensenada, Mexico
  • Rodrigo Silveira, Cervejaria Invicta, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
  • Shane Welch, Sixpoint Brewing, Brooklyn, NY, United States
  • Kevin Watson, Elysian Brewing Co., Seattle, WA, United States
  • Dan Kenary, Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA, United States
  • Ricky Stilla, Birra & Blues, Valencia, Spain
  • Tiffany Needham, Magpie Brewing Co., Seoul, South Korea
  • Shawn Sherlock, Murray’s Brewing Co., Port Stephen’s, Australia

To be a member of GACBB, breweries must be “local, independent, and creative.” The group’s first event will take place later this summer in Berlin, which they describe as a “celebration of craft beer from around the globe. The GACBB Global Craft Beer Festival, Craft Beer Award, and Craft Beer Conference will all take place this July in Berlin on July 25th through 27th, 2014.” The downside is that’s the same weekend as the Oregon Brewers Festival. On the other hand, it’s been awhile since I’ve been in Berlin.

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Recent Addiction News Roundup

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Regular readers know I frequently write about my belief that AA and other abstinence-only programs are doomed to fail and are not the way we should be approaching people with drinking problems. Here’s a couple of recent articles to add to the mounting evidence that our peculiar dogma about addiction is unraveling.

The first is Addicts Are Made, Not Born: And It’s Not the Drugs That Create Them, which was in SF Weekly. It covers a study done at Columbia University that concluded that the “[m]ost commonly held fears about meth are unfounded, just as they were with crack, just as they were with marijuana.”

“The science points to opportunity and surroundings as the key factors in determining who ends up ‘addicted.’ Provided choice, people will opt not to start on the road to being a fiend. Given nothing else to do, they may try drugs.” So we continue to attack the drugs, or the alcohol, but ignore the reasons people try them. Brilliant.

The second was in Psychology Today, entitled Failure as the Antidote to Addiction, which suggests that by never allowing kids to fail at anything, they never learn how to deal with adversity, or more importantly, overcome it. It seems like the same thing as with disease, where by keeping everything totally sterile and hygienic, we don’t build up the immunities to fight diseases when we encounter them.

The article features a school in Pennsylvania that’s letting kids fail at small tasks and then giving them the tools to learn from them.

Failure is an indispensable part of all innovation. When students design or build something and it fails, everyone can see that it failed; there is nothing abstract or removed about it. The most important part of the learning process is what happens next: trying to figure out why it failed and what can be done to fix it. This is how students learn to be resilient.

The other benefit is that students who learn to fail are less likely to become addicts later in life. Because “[a]ddicts react to challenges and failure by. . . you know. Somehow they failed to learn that failure is a necessary part of living, the only route to success, to coping, to dealing with the universe. And learning how to cope with failure can only occur when people, kids, encounter reality directly.”

I also think that’s why we need alcohol education, and not continue to have policies that keep kids away from alcohol or people drinking it. It, too, creates the same dangerous situation where they know nothing about the etiquette of drinking and end up bingeing in secret, which is far more dangerous, and which is also the whole point of the Amethyst Initiative.

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