5,000-Year-Old Beer Recipe Found In China

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There was exciting news yesterday about a find in China by a research team from Stanford University. According to one source, “Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the earliest direct evidence of beer brewing in China, a trove of beer-making equipment dating from between 3400 and 2900 BCE, discovered at the Mijiaya site in Shaanxi province. Along with this archaeological find, scientists conducted an analysis of residue on the ancient pottery, jars, and funnels found, revealing a surprising recipe for the beer.” Their findings will be published in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Here’s the abstract:

The pottery vessels from the Mijiaya site reveal, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence of in situ beer making in China, based on the analyses of starch, phytolith, and chemical residues. Our data reveal a surprising beer recipe in which broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and tubers were fermented together. The results indicate that people in China established advanced beer-brewing technology by using specialized tools and creating favorable fermentation conditions around 5,000 y ago. Our findings imply that early beer making may have motivated the initial translocation of barley from the Western Eurasia into the Central Plain of China before the crop became a part of agricultural subsistence in the region 3,000 y later.

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Significance

This research reveals a 5,000-y-old beer recipe in which broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers were fermented together. To our knowledge, our data provide the earliest direct evidence of in situ beer production in China, showing that an advanced beer-brewing technique was established around 5,000 y ago. For the first time, to our knowledge, we are able to identify the presence of barley in archaeological materials from China by applying a recently developed method based on phytolith morphometrics, predating macrobotanical remains of barley by 1,000 y. Our method successfully distinguishes the phytoliths of barley from those of its relative species in China.

I’m not sure how that squares with Chateau Jiahu, the beer made by Dogfish Head based on a 9,000-year-old find in China, from Northern China. They also found preserved pottery jars “in the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province.” The difference, as far as I can tell is the ingredients themselves, although in both they do use barley. This beer recipe calls for broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and tubers to be fermented, whereas the earlier one from Jiahu used “pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers.” So their claim that this is older seems suspect unless there’s some qualifier I’m missing. As is typical, academic papers are only available online if you’re already an academic or are willing to pay to look at it for a short period of time, so I’ve not been able to look at their full claims or at the recipe itself, except what’s been written about it by more mainstream news outlets.

According to Gizmodo’s coverage:

Step aside with your claims to long legacies, craft breweries! This reconstructed beer recipe is over 5,000 years old. It’s the earliest beer recipe—and the earliest known use of barley—in China.

Archaeologists at Stanford University, while digging along China’s Wei River, made an intriguing discovery: A marvelously complete set of brewing equipment. And at the bottom of that equipment was something even more wonderful: Residue from the drink it once brewed.

After scrapping that gunk from the pots, researchers analyzed it and confirmed that it was, indeed, leftover froth from a 5,000-year-old beer. They were also able to pin down the recipe of that beer to an unlikely, but delicious-sounding, combination of broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers.

So they claim, or rather Stanford claims, this is “the earliest known use of barley in China.” I didn’t think that the Chateau Jiahu added the barley to the original recipe, which was developed with the Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania, and I have a call into Dogfish Head to find out. But failing that, there’s a 4,000-year difference in the two claims that it seems hard for me to believe the Sanford team wouldn’t have uncovered.

The report from CBS News calls the barley a “secret ingredient,” which seems really odd, but seems to reflect the surprise of the researchers on this project. But McGovern’s find in the Jiahu area of China is more than ten years old, and got considerable media attention when the modern version of the beer was first released in 2007, so again I’m not sure a) how they could have missed it or b) what makes this find different, and if it is why none of the news reports are addressing that difference. Some news outlets, such as IFL Science, do mention that beer is older than 5,000 years, which is fairly well-known. Whether it was known in China at the very beginning, as it was in the fertile crescent seems to be gaining ground as a theory.

Although most of the paper is unavailable, there is supplemental information that is available, and that does give some information about the brewing process:

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Prohibition Party 2016

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My friend Paul Marshall sent me this delightful little story about the state of the Prohibition Party in 2016. And yes, that Prohibition Party. Believe it or not it’s the oldest independent third-party still active, and they field a presidential candidate every four years. The party was founded in 1869, and its single defining platform was that they were, and still are, “opposed [to] the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages.” I knew they were still around, hoping to convince people that Prohibition was really a good idea, and we should try it again, despite all evidence to the contrary. But what I didn’t know was just how small they’ve become.

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In their heyday, before the 18th Amendment passed, they were active in American politics and contributed to the discussion, and even after Prohibition was enacted, continued to agitate for even stricter controls until they faded into obscurity. How obscure? In the 2012 national election for President of the United States, the Prohibition Party candidate, Jack Fellure of West Virginia, received 518 votes. But that’s not even the low point. One of their 2004 candidates, Earl Dodge of Colorado (there were two that election due to a split in the party), got 140 votes. At their peak, in 1892, John Bidwell of California received 270,770, which represented only a little bit less than half a percent of the roughly 63 million people then in the U.S. Seven times they cracked the 200,000 vote line, though not since 1916. The last time they hit over 100,000 votes was 1948, and 1976 was the last time they garnered more than 10,000. In the last three elections, less then 1,000 people voted for the party candidate.

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2008 Prohibition Party presidential candidate Gene Amondson of Washington state, the last year for which they’re selling buttons on the party’s website store. When I say store, it’s actually a Cafe Press store, and the party website itself was created for free using Wix.com. The party coffers are apparently not very full.

According to the Guardian article by Adam Gabbatt, A sobering alternative? Prohibition party back on the ticket this election, revealed that this year’s candidate is Jim Hedges of Pennsylvania, and his running mate is Bill Bayes of Mississippi. Hedges is actually the only known member of the Prohibition Party to have held any elected office — local, state or national — in the 21st Century, when he was the Tax Assessor for Thompson Township, Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2007.

Gabbatt went to Pennsylvania to interview the candidates, and it’s a fascinating read. It’s interesting to hear him talk so matter-of-factly about such an anachronistic idea that most people have moved past, with the obvious exception of the anti-alcohol groups that still exist. But even they seemed to have abandoned trying to get Prohibition going again (even though they’d certainly be in favor of it). Instead, they’ve been slinging mud and trying to disrupt the manufacture and sale (though especially access and advertising) of alcohol pretty much since before the ink was dry on the 21st Amendment.

Not surprisingly, the makeup of the membership skews to an older demographic, and according to Hedges “the current members are over 50, many in their 70s and 80s, and many are ultra-conservative.” But one of the most surprising reveals in the article is just how small the Prohibition Party of today really is. Hedges said that there are “currently about three dozen fee-paying members, who each contribute $10 a year.” So that’s $360 the party receives in dues for the year, plus there was a trust set up in the 1930s that provides additional funds. In most elections recently, that’s allowed them to be on the ballot in just one state, though this year Hedges is hoping to make it onto the ballot in six states, with an ultimate goal of getting 1,000 votes in each. But he’s realistic about his changes of becoming president, which he states are simply. “Zero. None whatsoever.” Still, despite the great divide between his party’s platform, and my own politics, I still think he’d make a better president than Donald Trump. If only there were a button available.

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Jim Hedges and Adam Gabbatt in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, taken by Guardian author Adam Gabbatt.

Jackson Family Wines To Build Sonoma County Brewery

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You know the brewing industry must be doing something right if one of America’s largest producers of wine has decided to jump in with a new brewery. Brewbound has the scoop, with Jackson Family Wines Proprietor Launching Sonoma County Craft Brewery.

It’s certainly not the first time. Does anybody else remember Sonoma Mountain Brewing? And more recently, Carneros Brewing built a brewery on the grounds of their Ceja Vineyards. And don’t forget that Korbel Winery once launched their own small brewery, hiring a young brewer to make the beer. After a short time, they decided to get out of the beer business, and brewer Vinnie Cilurzo obtained the name and moved Russian River Brewing to downtown Santa Rosa, and with his wife Natalie Cilurzo, built it into a destination brewery that’s undoubtedly helped put Sonoma County on the map for beer, as well as wine. So some have worked great, others not so much.

This one at least seems off to a big start. It’s not officially a project of the Jackson Family Wines, but Christopher Jackson, who is the son of winery founder Jess Jackson. Of course, most start-ups don’t have the resources to start by “constructing a 25,000-barrel craft brewery” with “an initial brewing capacity of 8,000 barrels.” Most start-ups don’t have $8 million as their initial capital, even though Jackson states that “[i]t is a passion play” and I “am the sole proprietor and it is my project going forth, but we are employing a lot of similar philosophies from my wine background.”

The new brewery will apparently be called Seismic Brewing Company, which name Jackson bought from San Diego’s Rough Draft Brewing. The new brewery will be located at 2870 Duke Court, Santa Rosa and plans to open in late summer.

It sure seems like Sonoma County is indeed becoming a “craft beer Mecca,” as Jackson called Santa Rosa. I think that’s truer of the whole county, but certainly between Santa Rosa and Petaluma the county’s doing pretty well. Sonoma County currently has 31 licensed breweries, at least according to the latest number from the CCBA, which means we’re nowhere near the 100+ that are now open in San Diego County. Still, I think Sonoma probably has more than most counties.

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ABI Buys Birra Del Borgo

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Anheuser-Busch InBev announced yesterday that they’ve notched another brewery, this time it’s Italy’s celebrated Birra del Borgo. Under the terms of the deal, Birra del Borgo will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of AB InBev, though the price was not disclosed.

From the press release:

Birra del Borgo is happy to announce that it has decided to partner with Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). The partnership will give Birra del Borgo, one of the leading craft brewers in Italy, a unique opportunity to make the necessary investments for expansion while continuing to independently manage its business and define how to grow.

AB InBev will provide the support to allow Birra de Borgo to expand its brewery know how and infrastructure, continue to innovate and bring new great beers on the market through its distribution system. Founder Leonardo Di Vincenzo will continue to lead Birra Del Borgo as CEO of the company.

In 2005, Birra Del Borgo was founded by Leonardo Di Vincenzo in Borgorose, a small town in the province of Rieti on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo in Italy. Leonardo started brewing beer at home for enjoyment while at University studying biochemistry. He traveled frequently throughout Europe to explore the traditional beer styles; getting to know the German and Belgium master brewers was crucial to his education. One of Leonardo’s most formative experiences was brewing at the Starbess brewery in Rome, which later led to his conception of Birra del Borgo. Leonardo’s initial inspiration comes from English & Belgian beers, but he then reinvented the styles to root them in the Italian gastronomy culture. Leonardo currently produces ten beers year round, some famous such as ReAle, Duchessa, DucAle. Other Birra del Borgo products include 4 Seasonals inspired by local ingredients and several unique beers brewed with original techniques, under the “Bizzarre” family. Leo’s inspiration is dictated by the moment and seasonality related to the main ingredient, with a passion to reinvent styles and push boundaries.

Leonardo will remain the CEO of Birra Del Borgo.

Leonardo Di Vincenzo said: “Our voyage since we started in 2005 has been a great adventure. Today the beer sector has become very competitive and it necessary for us to make a next step to ensure that we can continue to evolve in terms of brewing techniques and in terms of the complexity and taste variation we can offer to consumers. We believe partnering with AB InBev is a great opportunity to do exactly that: it will allow Birra del Borgo to grow in a sustainable way while staying true to our unique identity and the philosophy that we have followed since the very beginning.

The partnership with AB InBev will bring us many advantages, from technological improvements and access to scientific research to the possibility to grow from a commercial point of view. Moreover, this partnership also means that we will be able to focus much more on what we enjoy most and do best: creating and experimenting with exciting new beers and pushing the boundaries of beer evolution in Italy.

He added: “We will continue brewing all of our beers in Borgorose, which will allow us to grow by continuing to invest in our local community, as we have always done. At Birra del Borgo, we have a great team with enormous enthusiasm and love for what we do every day. It is with this team that we start this exciting second chapter in Birra del Borgo’s history. The heart and soul of Birra del Borgo will remain unchanged and it is with the very same passion and love for beer that we will continue Re(Thinking) Ale”.

Simon Wuestenberg, Country Director for AB InBev Italia, said: “We have been very impressed by what Leonardo and his team have built since 2005. They have been at the forefront of redefining beer in Italy, bringing a unique mix of inspired innovation, quality and consistency. Leonardo’s vision for beer and his passion for brewing will be great inspirations to our whole team, and we’re very excited about partnering up and growing together. As a challenger on the Italian market, we have been successfully developing our business with a great portfolio of premium and specialty brands in the last few years. Today, that portfolio becomes even stronger with some of the best of “Made in Italy.”

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FredFest Coming May 15

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If you’re not familiar with FredFest, it was created to mark the 80th birthday of legendary Portland beer writer Fred Eckhardt. That first festival took place in 2006 and the festival became an annual event put on by Hair of the Dog Brewing. Last year’s event celebrated Fred’s 89th birthday. Unfortunately, in August of last year, Fred passed away, which means this will be the first FredFest that he will be unable to attend. Hair of the Dog brewmaster and owner, Alan Sprints, wants to make this year a special one and make the festival a celebration of Fred’s life and his contributions to craft beer, especially in Portland. So it certainly sounds like this is the one to be at, and I’m planning on flying up for it, as well. It’s a short hop of a flight from the Bay Area, and there will be some great beers, and people, there.

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Alan Springs and Fred Eckhardt during OBF Week at the Hair of the Dog Brewery in 2008.

If you want to join me and celebrate Fred’s life, tickets are available at the Events page at Hair of the Dog. The events itself is from 1:00 to 5:00 PM on Sunday, May 15 at the Hair of the Dog Brewery located at 61 SE Yamhill Street, in Portland. A ticket gets you “a commemorative glass, endless beer food buffet, and over 25 Beers from a special selection of Brewers.” Also, since “100% of FredFest ticket sales go to charity” — Hair of the Dog covers all expenses for the event — they “encourage you to pay more than the suggested ticket price,” to help support the charities, which are the Mittleman Jewish Community Center (where Fred was once an instructor) and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

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Fred and me after the OBF Parade in 2011.

The breweries expected to pour their beer at the fest include 10 Barrel, Avery, Barley Brown’s, Beachwood, Bear Republic, Berryessa, Big Island, Block 15, Breakside, Crooked Stave, Chuckanut, Commons, Ecliptic, Firestone Walker, Golden Valley, Hill Farmstead, Hair of the Dog, Holy Mountain, Jester King, Shelton Brothers (importers), Sixpoint, Stone Brewing, and Upright, with a few more to be announced as we get closer to the event.

The only remaining questions are how can I get there, and “What Would Fred Drink?” (WWFD?). Figure out the first, and we’ll help with the second. See you in Portland.

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Indian Gov’t Issues Arrest Warrant For Mendocino Brewing Owner Vijay Mallya

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Those of you who’ve been in the beer world for a few decades will no doubt remember the tumultuous period around 1997 when Vijay Mallya, and his UB Group, which also owns the Indian beer Kingfisher, started buying up breweries. They picked up Nor’Wester Brewing first, along with a few others, and UB Group consolidated their U.S. holdings under the name “United Craft Brewers, Inc.,” or simply “United Craft.” The first five included Nor’Wester Brewing Company of Portland, OR; Aviator Ales of Woodinville, WA; Mile High Brewing of Denver, CO; Bayhawk Ales of Irvine, CA; and North Country Brewing of Saratoga Springs, NY. United Craft later added Mendocino Brewing Co. of Hopland, CA and Humboldt Brewing of Arcata, CA, and then Carmel Brewing of Carmel, CA. United Craft lists a Sausalito address, which is coincidentally where owner Vijay Mallya also built a multi-million dollar home. But essentially only Mendocino Brewing remains of the breweries as a viable brand, although Humboldt was sold off.

I remember when UB initially bought Mendocino Brewing and Mallya began visiting their distributors. He would attend distributor meetings with an actual entourage, including bodyguards, which was not exactly endearing to anybody. Within a short time the Mendocino brand, which had been very successful locally, began to fall precipitously. It’s never really recovered, though they do quite a bit of contract brewing out of their Ukiah facility. Mallya has a fairly ruthless reputation for his business practices, and I’ve spoken to at least two people who’ve done business with him in other industries who’ve had nothing flattering to say about the way he conducts himself, so the news being reported by the Drinks Business came as no surprise, except perhaps as to why it took so long. Undoubtedly, there, as here, the rules for billionaires are different than it is for you and me.

According to Drinks Business report, “Indian authorities have issued an arrest warrant against Vijay Mallya, the former head of United Spirits, just days after freezing his passport.”

The warrant was issued on the “third strike and out” practice of the Indian Enforcement Directorate (ED) when the colourful former tycoon failed to appear at the third time of asking at a Mumbai court to answer allegations of misuse of funds loaned to his Kingfisher Airlines by a state-owned bank, IDBI.

This is one of 17 Indian banks seeking to recover some $13 billion from Mallya. Last month they rejected his proposed scheme to repay $600 million.

It is alleged that Mallya used part of the $134m loan from IDBI to buy properties overseas. The airline, which was never profitable, collapsed into bankruptcy in 2012 with debts approaching £1bn.

Mallya has consistently denied impropriety and his private holding company, UB Group, said that the full loan, including up to $65m alleged to have been diverted to Mallya’s personal use, had been “used for legitimate business purposes only”.

The statement said that the arrest warrant was “erroneous and unjustified”.

Mallya, who is thought to be in Britain, has been ordered by India’s supreme court to disclose all his assets to the authorities.

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Inside the newer Mendocino brewery in Ukiah.

Czech Republic Wants You To Call Them “Czechia” To Sell More Beer

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This is interesting, if odd, news. The Czech Republic wants you to call them “Czechia,” believing that the shorter name is easier to remember and will ultimately sell more Czech — excuse me — Czechia beer. According to the CIA World Factbook, the official name of the country is simply the Czech Republic, in the local language, “Česka republika.” The “name derives from the Czechs, a West Slavic tribe who rose to prominence in the late 9th century A.D.”

The nation’s website claims that “apparently it’s difficult for a country to make its way in the world if it has not got a shortened, easy to pronounce, name; something that fits in big letters on a shirt. And the Czech Republic has been dealing with that handicap ever since the split up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Various unofficial options have been tried, Czech, the Czech lands, for example, but the safest option has often been to revert to the full, official name. After months of deliberations, they think they have a solution. Here’s what they decided.

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Now, the Czech Republic appears ready to end confusion and take the plunge with an official choice. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, who is often confronted with confusion over the name, explained what is at stake.

“We are not talking here about the official political name, Czech Republic, Česká Republika, which is clearly established. But in Europe, every country or almost every country, has a shortened geographical title, for instance the Polish Republic is just Poland, and the same follows for others. In our case, unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple because we have not been able to share with the rest of the world the shortened name we use in Czech, Česko. But for us there exists just one possible option as a correct translation of that and that is something along the lines of Chequia or Czechia.”

Czechia in English, and various similar forms in other languages, is reckoned to be the most faithful translation of Česko. And it will be raised at a meeting on Thursday evening attended by the foreign minister, prime minister, heads of two chambers, and the president. If the idea is approved, then the shortened name will be registered with the United Nations, and should start to become common verbal and visual currency.

Minister Zaorálek says sporting bodies for one appear to be keen for a final agreement on a shortened name.

“Perhaps it will be something of a relief for them because it will be clear what must be written on the kits and there will be a general agreement about that. The problem is that we have not been able to agree on this as fast as we would have liked. I had the idea that it would be great if we could have got this done in time for the Olympic games but this whole process of approval by constitutional officials and the government has taken a certain amount of time and in the meantime they have had to start making the uniforms. So if it not this time it will be the next. And I have seen that sportsmen and women are willing to do this but they need some time to prepare.“

Some are asking whether Czechia might not cause confusion among the geographically challenged. In a far from isolated example, in 2013 the US broadcaster CNN confused the Russian province of Chechnya with the Czech Republic, suggesting that the Boston Marathon bombers came from the Central European country.

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It’s worth noting that the local term for the country is “Česko,” so it’s not to far off from that, though it seems like it will take some time to get used to it.

Business Insider asserts in their headline that The Czech Republic is changing its name to Czechia to make it easier to sell beer, adding “Because the name of the country is quite long, companies often brand their merchandise with the word “Czech” to show which country their product comes from. One company that does this is Pilsner Urquell beer, which has “Brewed in Plezen – Czech” written on the bottle. The problem with this is that the word “Czech” is an adjective so can’t really be used as a proper noun.”

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So the official line doesn’t mention beer as one of the reasons for the country’s new nickname, but several news outlets have brought it up. For example, the New York Times mentions Pilsner Urquell, and their use of “Czech” on packaging already, rather than the official “Czech Republic.”

Variants that did not make the cut included “Czechlands,” “Bohemia” and, simply, “Czech.” (Pilsner Urquell, the storied beer maker, uses “Brewed in Czech” on its cans.)

But they’re hoping to make the change before the Olympics take place, hoping that the Czech Republic’s team can be referred to instead as the team from Czechia later this year in Brazil.

“It’s not good when a country does not have any clearly defined symbols, or cannot say clearly what its name is,” Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said on Tuesday, unveiling the proposal. “It would be good to set the record straight once and for all. We owe this to ourselves and to the world.”

On Thursday, Czech officials said they would have the name added to the United Nations database of geographical names, which records country names in the world body’s six official languages.

Fans of the change have set up a website, Go Czechia, to dispel myths about the name, its origins and other facts surrounding it.

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There’s also an interesting post from transculture, written by faculty of the School of Humanities within the Faculty of Arts, University of Wolverhampton, entitled From Czech Republic to Czechia, in which they reprint an excerpt from an article by linguist Tom Dickins, who wrote ‘The Czech-speaking lands, their peoples and contact communities: titles, names and ethnonyms’, published in The Slavonic and East European Review, 89 (3), 2011, pp. 401–54. Here’s what Dr. Dickens had to say:

“The degree of acceptance of short forms for the Czech Republic in foreign languages varies significantly. Some languages have largely embraced a new descriptor; for instance, French Tchéquie, German Tschechien and Spanish Chequía. Others have proven more resistant. Neither Czechia in English nor Cechia in Italian (which is perhaps too close to cieca [blind woman]) have become so well established, despite their endorsement in 1993 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, and their appearance in official geographical lists.105

There can be few precedents of a small state attempting to impose usage of this type on the speakers of major foreign languages, so it is difficult to predict the likely degree of acceptance of the promoted forms. For what it is worth, a poll conducted in 2006 found that ordinary Czechs overwhelmingly prefer the adjectival form Czech (used as an odd-sounding substantive in English) to Czechia, Czechlands and Czecho.106 Amongst native English speakers, Czecho, the misnomer Czechoslovakia (cf. continued references to ‘Yugoslavia’), the Czech-speaking lands and the Czechland(s), all appear to be more common than Czechia, for which there is only one citation in the Bank of English corpus.107 It is striking that even English-speaking Bohemicists are reluctant to adopt Czechia, and in some cases oppose it on the not altogether rational grounds of euphony.

To some extent, the Czechs recognize the anomaly of the situation, as exemplified in the variety of terms which they use to promote themselves abroad, including Czech/CZ made (which invites the unfortunate pun šmejd [junk]), Made in Czechia, Made in (the) Czech Republic, Made in Czech R./Rep./CR/CZ, Czech (Team) or Czech Republic (on sports kit), Czech beer or Brewed in Bohemia/the Czech Republic/in Plzeň, Czech (on the Prazdroj bottle) and Moravian wine.”

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Asahi Buys Grolsch, Peroni & Meantime

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Business Insider is reporting that Anheuser-Busch InBev, who’s in the process of closing the deal for SABMiller, agreed to sell off Grolsh, Peroni and Meantime Brewing, which is part of SABMiller’s portfolio, most likely in order to smooth the regulatory approvals necessary to close the transaction. In fact, this deal in contingent on the other one, so that if the ABI/SABMiller deals fall apart, then this one won’t go through either and they’ll remain part of SABMiller.

SABMiller posted a short press release today:

SABMiller plc (“SABMiller”) has been informed by Anheuser Busch InBev SA/NV (“AB InBev”) that following its announcement on 10 February, it has accepted the binding offer from Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd (“Asahi”) to acquire certain of SABMiller’s European premium brands and their related businesses (excluding certain US rights), following completion of the relevant employee information and consultation processes applicable to the sale of these brands and businesses.

The acquisition by Asahi of these premium brands and related businesses (comprised of the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brand families and related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and internationally (“the Business”)) is conditional on the successful closing of the recommended acquisition of SABMiller by AB InBev as announced on 11 November 2015, which itself contains certain regulatory pre-conditions and conditions, and the approval by the European Commission of Asahi as a purchaser of the Business.

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NBWA Brewery Count Over 4,800

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Some very interesting analysis from the NBWA, and their economist Lester Jones, about the number of breweries in America. Lester’s analysis uses slightly different metrics from the TTB and doesn’t define craft breweries as narrowly as the BA, and also the TTB doesn’t distinguish exactly what mat beverages are being made, if they’re licensed as a brewery then they’re included in the data. Those difference in calculating show the NBWA’s number for how many breweries there in America is 4,824, or over 550 more. But even more remarkable is that based on the number of “permitted breweries on record” at the TTB by the end of last year, that number could swell beyond 6,000, which seems absolutely crazy. The number is California alone, at 788, is just shy of 800. Sheesh!

Here’s the entire analysis below since the whole summary is worth reading:

Each year, the NBWA requests data from the TTB on tax paid withdraw volumes by size of brewery. Once again, this year’s TTB data provides some interesting brewing industry insights into the dynamics of the U.S. brewing industry. This data also is helpful for us to supplement the Brewers Association data on overall independent craft beer growth and brewery count. According to the BA, craft brewer volumes grew by 13 percent to 24.5 million barrels in 2015. The BA also reported 4,269 total operating breweries for 2015. As with all statistics, how the numbers are collected and reported can vary across organizations. In our industry, the numbers also change quickly.

As of April 2016, the U.S. domestic brewing industry had 4,824 reporting breweries according to the TTB. As with the BA’s brewery count of 4,269, this number is expected to change as additional new brewers are counted that may not yet have been fully recognized and/or reported by either the TTB or the BA data. The data presented below is for all types of malt beverage manufacturers and recognizes only the individual facility, not the ownership or control group.

Highlights from the 2015 TTB brewery count data include:

  1. The small brewer group (making less than 7,500 barrels) accounted for less than 2 percent of all domestic volumes yet accounted for 93 percent of all breweries. The smallest of this group has 566 breweries reporting less than one barrel of production each in 2015. These super small brewers can thank the contracting brewing industry for helping them sell almost 100,000 barrels – a figure well beyond their reported production capacity.
    The medium brewer group (making between 7,501 and 60,000 barrels) is a much smaller group consisting of 246 breweries, but these few breweries account for 1.6 times more volume than the 4,475 breweries in the small brewer group.
  2. The large brewer group consists of only 82 breweries making between 60,001 and 1.9 million barrels. This is a unique group within the industry as they pay the mixed rate federal excise tax of $7 for the first 60,000 barrels and $18 on each barrel over 60,001. While a much smaller group of only 82 breweries, they collectively produce more than four times the amount of beer as the medium brewer group. The large brewer group also has the largest range of production volumes and saw the fewest number of new entrants (17 breweries) into its ranks in 2015.
  3. Finally, we get the extra-large group. This is a group of only 21 breweries that produce more than 84 percent of all domestic beer – more than five times the amount made by all 4,803 combined. The closing of the MillerCoors brewery in Eden, North Carolina, will reduce this class of brewers by one in future reports and will take a significant-sized brewery offline for the first time in many years.
  4. The industry added around 1,500 new breweries in 2015 – that is equivalent to four new breweries a day entering the marketplace. As a highly capital-intensive business, starting small is the name of the game. Growing a beer brand takes a long time, and economies of scale are earned over decades. The largest U.S. breweries have been in operation for decades, and economies of scale should help maintain the beer volumes even in the face of declining per capita beer consumption.
  5. With more than 6,000 permitted breweries on record at the end of CY 2015, 2016 is set to be an even more competitive year for the brewing industry. Just as economies of scale drive the brewing side of the industry, logistical expertise and local market insights drive the efficiencies inherent in beer distributor networks. Working together and maximizing their comparative advantages, brewers, distributors and retailers will deliver unprecedented choice and value to American beer consumers in 2016.

Brewery counts by size 2015_Page_1

Brewery counts by size 2015_Page_2

ABI Buys Devils Backbone

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In what’s becoming almost routine news, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced this morning the acquisition of Devils Backbone Brewing of Roseland, Virginia.

Here’s the press release:

Today, Anheuser-Busch announced an agreement to acquire Devils Backbone Brewing Company, the leading and fastest-growing craft brewery in the state of Virginia. Devils Backbone will be the latest partner to join the diverse portfolio of craft breweries within The High End, the company’s business unit comprising unique craft and import brands.

“I am extremely pleased to announce the partnership of Devils Backbone Brewing Company with Anheuser-Busch. While we are joining a creative group of craft breweries in the division, Devils Backbone will retain a high level of autonomy and continue its own authentic DNA within The High End framework,” said Steve Crandall, co-founder and CEO of Devils Backbone Brewing Company. “The existing management team plans to stay on board for many years, while continuing to innovate and bring locally crafted Virginia beer to the nation.”

In 2008, founders Steve and Heidi Crandall opened the doors to Devils Backbone Brewing Company in the Virginia Heartland, after being inspired by a ski trip to northern Italy in 1991 where they had their first taste of Germanic style beer. After success with the first brewpub, Basecamp, the decision was made to break ground on the Outpost facility, in Lexington, Virginia. Originally projected to produce 10,000 barrels of beer in its first ten years, the Outpost produced almost 45,000 barrels in its first three. Steve credits much of this early success to the excellent network of distributors within his system, which is weighted heavily towards Anheuser-Busch.

“I congratulate Steve and Heidi Crandall and the entire Devils Backbone team as they partner with Anheuser-Busch,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Through the strength of Anheuser-Busch’s network of distributors, Devils Backbone’s award-winning craft beer will soon be available throughout the country and beyond. I want to thank Devils Backbone for their immense contribution to Virginia’s world-class craft beer industry, and I look forward to the additional exposure for Virginia as a leading state for craft beer lovers.”

Today, the Outpost Brewery & Taproom in Lexington serves as the primary production brewery while the Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows in Roseland, serves as a visitor destination. Devils Backbone takes full advantage of the scenic 100-acre Basecamp property surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering a variety of opportunities for guests to enjoy the outdoors. In 2015, the two locations hosted more than 500,000 guests.

“Devils Backbone has captivated beer drinkers in Virginia since opening its doors eight years ago,” said Felipe Szpigel, President, The High End. “From the beginning, they have shown creativity and talent with the great beers they brew, and they’ve been able to use the authentic offerings at Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows to cultivate a fun, outdoor lifestyle that resonates with everyone. Pair these qualities with dynamic leadership and a dream to do something bigger, and you have the recipe for an even more promising future.”

While best known for its flagship Vienna Lager, which accounted for nearly 60% of Devils Backbone volume in 2015, the portfolio also includes other award-winning year-round favorites like Eight Point IPA and Schwartz Bier. Developing beers with personality and individual integrity of flavor has helped enable Devils Backbone to win four National titles: 2014 Great American Beer Festival Mid-Size Brewery & Brew Team, 2013 Small Brewing Company & Small Brewing Company Brew Team, 2012 Small Brewpub & Small Brewpub Brewer, 2010 World Beer Cup Champion Brewery, and the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest Best of Show medals in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

First Beverage Group acted as financial advisor to Devils Backbone Brewing Company. Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Devils Backbone is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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