The Incredible Beerable Egg

egg
One of the highlights of this years Craft Brewers Conference in Portland was a potential innovation in brewing undertaken by Alan Sprints at Hair of the Dog Brewing. Alan posted a picture of his newest fermenter arriving to be displayed at the trade show, with Steve Rosenblatt from Sonoma Cast Stone, who manufactured the concrete fermenter.

egg-arrives

I was immediately intrigued and finding it in the trade show was one of my first missions of CBC. It turns out it was made in Petaluma, which is just down the road from where I live. The company has been making concrete fermenters for the wine industry, but this is the first one they’ve made for a commercial brewer. They have a separate website for this part of their business, Concrete Beer Tanks.

SAM_0428

There’s two sizes, the Amphora, which is 320 gallons and the one Hair of the Dog ordered, which is the Egg Shape, which is 476 gallons (or just over 15 barrels).

egg-wide

Their brochure lists the benefits of a concrete fermenter:

  • Concrete has natural temperature stability, and our tanks offer an optional, embedded glycol system for precise control.
  • Concrete allows the design of organic shapes, promoting convectional fermentation flow with no corners for fluid to pocket or stagnate.
  • The porosity of concrete allows for micro-oxygenation to aid in initiating the fermentation process.

egg-1

Apparently the wine industry has been using these increasingly in recent years, but they have been used for centuries prior to the advent of stainless steel. Just a quick search reveals quite a few articles about their growing use in winemaking. For example, in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wines and Vines, Seattle Magazine and the North Bay Business Journal. And there’s at least one other domestic manufacturer, Vino Vessel and a German company, Speidel, that makes a Gärei Fermentegg, or Fermentation Egg.

gaerei

Here’s how Speidel describes their fermentation egg:

The organic fermentation in the egg-form is based on the golden ratio without corners and edges. Wine, beer and cider could move fluently during the fermentation and storage. This gentle process guarantees on keeping the completely development of the product. The idea of fermentation or aging in the egg is just to come back to the ancient methods but with the new materials. Already in the ancient times beer has been placed for resting into the egg-formed amphoraes. Recently there were several successful tests for storage wine in the egg-formed fermentation vessels made of concrete. Shortly after Speidel has developed the fermentation egg made of food-safe polyethylene.

The fermentation egg is appropriate for the fermentation of wine, beer and cider. Fans and devotees of the fermentation egg confirm that the fermentation process runs spontaneous, therefore wine and beer taste more filigree and complex. Check it out and convince yourselves! Our food-safe polyethylenes have high permeability of oxygen. This ensures the evenly influence of oxygen and perfect conditions for the fermentation and maturation. It is very easy to clean the egg because of its smooth surface inside.

Here’s a drawing of the tank.
egg-tank-specs

Sonoma Cast Stone online has their reasons why brewers should consider concrete beer tanks:

Winemakers love concrete…

Winemakers all over the world are rediscovering the benefits of using concrete as a medium for fermentation, finding the virtues of both of oak and stainless steel with the drawbacks of neither. Now, most of the world’s highest-rated wines are made in concrete.

The craft beer industry is at least as creative and dynamic as the wine industry, and we at Sonoma Cast Stone are thrilled to offer you artisans of fermentation a new medium to create with. We predict a renaissance of innovation, producing an exciting, new generation of wild beers, sour beers, meads and porters.

Concrete is cool! No… really.

Concrete can take the heat, or the cold. It’s a natural insulator and will stabilize the temperature of whatever is inside of it. This stability makes for a smooth and gradual fermentation, because there are no temperature spikes to make the yeast become aggressive.

Sonoma Cast Stone also offers a unique temperature control system. Our system is hidden within the walls of the tank itself and does not make contact with that wine.

Just breathe!

Concrete is porous, albeit on a microscopic scale, and that’s where it beats stainless steel. The environment in stainless steel is too perfect to be ideal for fermentation. A gradual introduction of micro-oxygenation, the wine remains flat. It cannot breathe and evolve.

Wine fermented in concrete has the round mouthfeel of wine fermented in oak, but it has much greater purity of fruit flavor, even a greater intensity of fruit color. For fermentation, storage or aging, concrete is simply phenomenal.

Staying neutral…

Even neutral oak is not neutral. All oak will give a bit of itself to your beer, whether you like it or not. Concrete makes for a truly neutral vessel, imparting only a slight and desirable minerality.

What this means for a beer maker is control. Control over what your beer tastes like, and with the optional, embedded glycol tubing system, you also have precise control over the temperature you maintain throughout fermentation.

Hair of the Dog Brewing had their new concrete tank delivered yesterday and it should be installed and ready to go shortly. Alan told me that Adam will be the first beer he makes in concrete. It will be interesting to see how the new Adam tastes, especially in comparison to the old version.

egg-delivered

Bistro IPA Festival Winners 2015

bistro
After missing this festival for the past few years, I finally made it back to judge this year’s Bistro IPA Festival. This year’s big winner was Solana Beach IPA, from Pizza Port Solana Beach, which was chosen best in show, out of 70 IPA offerings, at the 18th annual IPA Festival today at the Bistro in Hayward, California. The full list of winners is below.

The California Drought: Almonds, Water (And Beer)

almonds
You probably noticed that California is living under severe drought conditions, especially since governor Jerry Brown recently imposed restrictions on our water use. One of the frequent industries to bear the brunt of blame is, of course, agriculture, which uses a lot of water to feed the country. But more specifically, a lot of blame has come down on almonds with stories in the Chronicle, the Guardian and even Slate declaring 10 Percent of California’s Water Goes to Almond Farming, among many others. I haven’t paid too much attention to that, mostly for the selfish reason that I’m not much of a fan of almonds, and couldn’t care less if they stopped growing them.

Gizmodo has an interesting article suggesting that all that stuff about almonds was hooey entitled Seriously, Stop Demonizing Almonds. In a persuasive piece, it’s revealed that “Almonds might take 10 percent of the state’s water, but as the same report notes, they’re generating about 15 percent of the state’s total farming value and almost 25 percent of the agricultural exports from the state.” Of course, I’m no expert on these things, but I encourage you to read it and decide for yourself.

But I actually bring this up for wholly non-almond related reasons. Something in the article caught my attention, which is the chart below. It’s an infographic which originally was published in the L.A. Times, which the Gizmodo author, Alissa Walker, characterizes as a “very misguided infographic of “water-hungry foods.” The title indicates it shows the relative amount of water used to make the finished product, “Gallons of water per ounce of food.”

gallons-water-per-oz-food

But look where beer is on the chart. Beverages are in blue. Soymilk looks like it uses the most, but apparently there was an error that’s now been corrected, and it’s actually pineapple juice that’s the biggest water hog, using 6.36 gallons per ounce of juice. Compared to all the drinks listed, beer looks to be the most efficient, and the interactive portions of the chart on the L.A. Times website indicates that beer uses 1.96 gallons to produce one ounce of beer. But even that seems high.

A bunch of years ago I wrote a feature article for All About Beer entitled It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green: The Greening of America’s Breweries, that examined the steps breweries were taking to lighten their burden on the planet, not just with water, but all sorts of things. One thing I learned was that brewing used roughly a 10-to-1 ratio of water, meaning they use 10 gallons for every gallon of beer. At that time, I also found. “Examining smart ways to conserve water, several breweries have reduced that ratio to four or five-to-one and Uinta Brewery from Utah has gotten it down to 3-to-1.” More recently, the Brewers Association’s Water and Wastewater: Treatment/Volume Reduction Manual claims that the average is now more like 7-to-1 gallons, with a few breweries actually below 3-to-1. Two years ago, Environmental Leader reported that MillerCoors managed to get their ratio of water use down to “3.82 barrels of water per barrel of beer.”

But even staying with a ratio of 10-to-1 for ease of math, this seems egregiously high. Converting the L.A. Times figure of 1.96 gallons to 1 ounce figure to ounces, it becomes 250.88 ounces of water per ounce of beer, or a 251-to-1 ratio, or 25 times reality, and undoubtedly more.

So where did this figure come from? All the Times reveals about its methodology is this. “Totals were converted to U.S. gallons per ounce (weight). Beverage values were additionally converted into fluid ounces using the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.” But that doesn’t really tell us where they got the numbers they’re basing this on. It doesn’t really tell us anything. But one thing seems clear, breweries are relatively efficient in their water use, much more so than is being reported during the California drought. And that brings us back to a statement U.S. Davis professor Charlie Bamforth recently made, which seems even more relevant in light of this. “When in drought, drink more beer.”

USDA Dietary Guidelines Under Fire Again From Prohibitionists

usda
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, updates its quinquennial Dietary Guidelines. They’re described as providing “authoritative advice for Americans ages 2 and older about consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.” Since the last guidelines were published in 2010, it’s time for the new ones, and they’ve been proposed and are are now open for comments before being finalized.

In the 2010 Guidelines, a change was made to the structure of the recommended amounts of alcohol people should consume, if they’re going to enjoy drinking alcohol and are, of course, of legal age. At the time, the government took the radical view, to prohibitionists, that:

The consumption of alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects, depending on the amount consumed, age, and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol. Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation. Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.

I may not agree with some of the characterizations in the last sentence, but it does serve to demonstrate how conservative the guidelines are, and that they’re not cavalierly telling people to start drinking. Plus, unlike some anti-alcohol groups, I’m not trying to willfully mislead people about what they say. They also have a handy chart of key definitions.

key-definitions-alcohol-2010

So what that second definition means is that if you’re a woman, you can enjoy 3 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as you don’t have more than 7 during the same week, and you’ll be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. A man, however, may enjoy 4 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as he doesn’t have more than 14 during the same week, and he’ll likewise be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. That, in effect, relaxed the “1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men” axiom that had been in place for a long while. When those changes made the rounds five years ago, the prohibitionists threw a temper tantrum and accused the government of all manner of bias and corruption, which is almost funny given how conservative they really are.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for 2015, are now going through the comment period, and once again the prohibitionists are apoplectic. Alcohol Justice, for example, whines that the government “proposes a risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking, and promotes drinking as a healthy dietary behavior. It suggests that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe, and that questionable claims of health benefits outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.”

So how honest is that statement? Let’s take a look. First, what is the “risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking” from 2010 to 2015? The “new” language is on Page 105 of 107, constituting the proposed guidelines for 2015.

2015 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption — Average daily consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, with no more than three drinks in any single day for women and no more than four drinks in any single day for men.

And here’s the old language below. Notice the difference? No? That’s because there really isn’t any. There are a few of the words that are different, numbers replaced by the word written out, some different punctuation, but that’s about it. The meaning is entirely the same.

2010 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Heavy or high-risk drinking is the consumption of more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 per week for women and more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 per week for men.

There is no shift. If anything, this version of the guidelines merely confirms changes made to the 2010 Guidelines. “Regarding alcohol, the Committee confirmed several conclusions of the 2010 DGAC, including that moderate alcohol intake can be a component of a healthy dietary pattern, and that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation and only by adults. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.”

AJ says the “Dietary Guidelines should recommend ways to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm, not increase it,” but of course that’s not at all what they say. That’s just more whining because they don’t like what the USDA is proposing. They didn’t like it five years ago, and they don’t like it now. They go on to claim that with “current and growing evidence regarding risk of disease and harm from drinking even low levels of alcohol, the Dietary Guidelines should include recommendations for Americans to drink less alcohol – not more.” Of course, that’s another misleading statement. They can, and often do, cite single studies that say what they want, but as detailed in Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much, most are not worth the paper they’re printed on, but they keep hammering on them because it makes for effective propaganda, especially in the school of “if you repeat a lie often enough ….”

AJ further believes that the proposed guidelines say “that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe.” But this mythical increase is just that, a fantasy. The 2010 guidelines said the same thing. There’s no proposed increase, just a confirmation of the last version. And guess what happened with the 2010 change? Nothing, that’s what. The country did not fall to ruin from people suddenly drinking too much because they believe the guidelines told people they should, or could.

Then they accuse the guidelines are based on “questionable claims of health benefits [which] outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.” What utter bullshit. Do you know what constitutes a “questionable claims of health benefits?” Anything that AJ doesn’t agree with. And how they define “known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption?” That’s easy, it’s one they like that agrees with their skewed world view. As shown, this is absolutely NOT “a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines,” but is virtually identical to the 2010 version. And their statement that there is not “sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift” is laughable because they’ll never except any scientific evidence that disagrees with or contradicts their dogma. Here’s how the USDA explains how they arrived at the alcohol guidelines.

As alcohol is a unique aspect of the diet, the DGAC considered evidence from several sources to inform recommendations. As noted above, moderate alcohol intake among adults was identified as a component of a healthy dietary pattern associated with some health outcomes, which reaffirms conclusions related to moderate alcohol consumption by the 2010 DGAC.

No matter how you slice it, there is nothing new regarding the alcohol guidelines in the proposed dietary guidelines for 2015. But to hear Alcohol Justice tell it, this is “a radical change,” despite being almost exactly the same as five years ago. This is their action plan for the faithful sheep that follow them, [with my rebuttal in brackets]:

THE PROPOSED CHANGE:

Without providing any explanation or evidence for a radical change [they do explain the reasons, citing that there’s evidence supporting their decision], the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee proposes to increase limits used to define “moderate” drinking. [No, they don’t. All they do is confirm the changes made five years ago.]

The current (2010) U.S. Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men (daily limits) [that’s not all they say, they also cite the weekly allowances]. In contrast, the proposed change would base these 1/2 limits on average rather than daily consumption and suggests it is safe for women to drink up to 3 drinks in a day and men up to 4 drinks in a day so long as the averages are not exceeded [exactly as they did in 2010]. This effectively triples (the daily limit for women and doubles (the daily limit for men). [Not this time, it doesn’t.]

Furthermore, the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle: “the U.S. population should be encouraged to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables …; moderate in low and non fat dairy and alcohol (adults).” [Oh, no! The horror. Frankly, what’s more surprising is that, given their findings that total mortality is improved with the moderate consumption of alcohol, they’re so conservative in their suggestions. But it makes sense in the context of anti-alcohol groups that throw tantrums any time their world view is challenged. But their statement that “the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle” is complete and utter nonsense, and could even be called grandstanding because the language of the proposed 2015 guidelines also includes this: “However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.” So it’s pretty crystal clear that the USDA is not recommending people start drinking “as part of a healthy lifestyle.” AJ just made that up.]

THE PROBLEM:

Since most adult drinkers in the U.S. don’t drink every day, the proposed change effectively encourages consumption right up to binge drinking levels, thus increasing health risk. [That identifies the problem with the definition of binge drinking, as I’ve written about numerous times. That’s the problem here, not encouraging people to drink moderately. After all, if they did, they might live longer. We wouldn’t want people to know that, would we?]

Binge drinking (4 or more drinks per occasion for women; 5 or more drinks per occasion for men) causes more than half of all alcohol related deaths each year in the U.S., and impairment and increased risk begin below those levels. The proposed changes are, therefore, dangerous for public health. [Again, that’s a problem with the definition of bingeing, which used to be more vague, making it hard to quantify. So it’s been narrowed over the years, and made easier to quantify, bringing more and more people into the specter of binge drinkers, artificially inflating statistics about its dangers.]

There are no randomized studies showing any health benefits from any level of alcohol consumption as well as no evidence that moderate drinking promotes a healthy lifestyle. [Poppycock. They’re hanging their hat here, one presumes, on “randomized” studies, but it’s unlikely even that’s true. The USDA itself in 2010, looked at meta-analysis of a wide range of studies, concluding just the opposite of AJ’s position. But AJ keeps ignoring that “evidence” because they don’t like it. It’s easier to just keep saying what they want to be true.]

It’s hard to know what to make of so dishonest a piece of propaganda as this is, raising unfounded fears, not to mention being littered with just out and out misinformation. It’s one thing to be in favor of promoting “evidence-based public health policies and organiz[ing] campaigns with diverse communities and youth against the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” but quite another to watch how that plays out in reality. “Evidence-based” seems to really mean anything they agree with and “the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” includes literally every single thing we do. I wish that was hyperbole, but I’ve never seen any action taken by an alcohol company that AJ didn’t find fault with, from donating cans of water to Haiti after the devastating earthquake there to their “‘charge-for-harm’ approach, which is based on the assumption that anyone who drinks deserves to be punished.” And another similar group stated at a 2013 conference that “they simply didn’t care about the public health impacts of taxes. They were in the game solely to get some of the tax revenue steered toward their organization.”

This is getting seriously out of hand. as anti-alcohol groups get bolder and more obviously prohibitionist, their divisiveness makes any meaningful discussion increasingly impossible. And unlike these prohibitionists, most people I know in the beer world, and the real world for that matter, recognize that while moderate drinking of alcohol is a good thing for a majority of adults, it’s not for everybody. Some people can’t handle it, and they often ruin it for the rest of us. Because those are the people that anti-alcohol folks always use to represent everyone who drinks, ignoring that they’re minority and that most of us can have a few drinks and not plunge the world into turmoil. But as long as they keep painting us as all the same, they’ll never be able to admit anything but an absolutist view of drinking, no matter how ridiculous that is, and no matter how ridiculous it makes them seem. When you start accusing the conservative USDA of ignoring science and encouraging people to start drinking, you’ve definitely jumped the shark.

The Top 50 Annotated 2014

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This is my eighth annual annotated list of the Top 50, skipping last year because the BA provided that information then, so here again you can see who moved up and down, who was new to the list and who dropped off. So here is this year’s list again annotated with how they changed compared to last year.

  1. Anheuser-Busch InBev; #1 nine years, no surprise
  2. MillerCoors; ditto for #2
  3. Pabst Brewing; ditto for #3
  4. D. G. Yuengling and Son; Same as last year
  5. Boston Beer Co.; Same as last year
  6. North American Breweries; 5th year on the list, same position as last year
  7. Sierra Nevada Brewing; Same as last year
  8. New Belgium Brewing; Same as last year
  9. Craft Brewers Alliance; Same as last year
  10. Gambrinus Company; Same as last year
  11. Lagunitas Brewing; Same as last year
  12. Bell’s Brewery; Up 1 from #13 last year
  13. Deschutes Brewery; Down 1 from #12 last year
  14. Stone Brewing; Up 3 from #17 last year
  15. Sleeman Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  16. Minhas Craft Brewery; Down 1 from #15 last year
  17. Brooklyn Brewery; Down 1 from #26 last year
  18. Duvel Moortgat USA (Boulevard Brewing/Ommegang); Down 4 from #14 last year
  19. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Up 1 from #20 last year
  20. Matt Brewing; Down 2 from #18 last year
  21. Harpoon Brewery; Down 2 from #19 last year
  22. Firestone Walker Brewing; Up 1 from #23 last year
  23. Founders Brewing; Jumped Up 12 from #35 last year
  24. SweetWater Brewing; Up 2 from #26 last year
  25. New Glarus Brewing; Same as last year
  26. Alaskan Brewing; Down 2 from #24 last year
  27. Abita Brewing; Down 5 from #22 last year
  28. Anchor Brewing; Up 1 from #29 last year
  29. Great Lakes Brewing; Down 2 from #27 last year
  30. Oskar Blues Brewing; Up 3 from #33
  31. Shipyard Brewing; Down 10 from #21 last year
  32. Stevens Point Brewery; Up 13 from #45 last year
  33. August Schell Brewing; Down 5 from #33 last year
  34. Summit Brewing; Down 2 from #32 last year
  35. Victory Brewing; Down 2 from #37 last year
  36. Long Trail Brewing; Down 5 from #31 last year
  37. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits; Up 1 from #38 last year
  38. Rogue Ales Brewery; Down 2 from #36 last year
  39. Full Sail Brewing; Down 5 from #34 last year
  40. Odell Brewing; Up 4 from #44 last year
  41. Southern Tier Brewing; Down 1 from #40 last year
  42. Ninkasi Brewing; Down 3 from #39 last year
  43. World Brew/Winery Exchange; Down 13 from #30 last year
  44. Flying Dog Brewery; Down 1 from #43 last year
  45. Pittsburgh Brewing (fka Iron City); Down 2 from #47 last year
  46. Uinta Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  47. Bear Republic Brewing; Down 1 from #46 last year
  48. Left Hand Brewing; Up 2 from #50 last year
  49. 21st Amendment Brewery; Not in Top 50 last year, though they were on the list in 2012
  50. Allagash Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year

Not too much movement this year, except for a few small shufflings. Only four new breweries made the list; Sleeman Brewing, Uinta Brewing, 21st Amendment Brewery and Allagash Brewing.

Off the list was Blue Point Brewing, Cold Spring Brewing, CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants (Gordon Biersch/Rock Bottom), Karl Strauss Breweries, Lost Coast Brewery, and Mendocino Brewing.

If you want to see the previous annotated lists for comparison, here is 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Save The Bees, Save The Beer

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Beer, of course, is an agricultural product, two of its main ingredients are very dependent on a good harvest. Both hops and barley (and other grains such as wheat and rye) grow best when they’re planted in the right place and the conditions are present to encourage their best selves. I received an e-mail a few days ago with the intriguing message. “Bees pollinate 1/3 of our food, including the hops used to make beer. Save the bees, save the beer.”

beer-and-bees

The e-mail was about an Indiegogo campaign to create a “community open to anyone who cares about bees, the environment and food,” called BeeWithMe, which will consist of “a dynamic new website that teaches people how easy and fun it is to raise a diverse range of gentle bees.” Unless you’ve been cryogenically frozen recently, you no doubt have heard that bees are disappearing from our environment, which could have devastating consequences for our food supply and our life cycle more generally. Find out how to participate at You Can Help Save the Bees, which begins:

Imagine a world without bees. There would be no blueberries, no cherries, no pumpkins – not even beer.

Here’s the problem: Most farmers depend on a single type of bee to pollinate our food and that bee, the honey bee, has been struggling.

You can be part of the solution and protect our food supply by raising gentle, native bees in your backyard or supporting someone else who does.

Keep your favorite foods on the table by contributing today and joining the BeeWithMe network that will collaborate to raise more native bees and grow more food.

Most of the pledge levels involve getting your own bees, some to simply release in your back yard, up to everything you need to raise your own bees. There are also teacher’s packages for classrooms and levels for entire garden clubs and communities. Please bee generous. And remember, save the bees, save the beer.

3bitesoffood

Oskar Blues Buys Perrin Brewing

oskar-blues-blue Perrin
Oskar Blues, makers of Dale’s Pale Ale and other canned beers, has announced acquisition of the Perrin Brewing Co. of Comstock Park, Michigan (near Grand Rapids). MLive is reporting the deal, and that as part of it, Keith Klopcic, who formerly worked with nearby West Side Beer Distributing, becomes the new president at Perrin Brewing Co., replacing founder and former brewery head Randy Perrin. According to the article, “financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.” I love this quote: “Other than that, it’s the same company,” said Klopcic. “Nothing changes.” Not to second guess the deal, especially since I don’t personally know the parties involved (apart from Dale Katechis from Oskar Blues), but saying nothing changes when a brewery head and (I presume) a founder leaves a company when it’s sold doesn’t strike me as a particularly honest assessment.

Dan Perrin and Jarred Sper will continue running the brewery alongside production manager and head brewer John Stewart and his team. Sper, who will be vice president of sales and marketing at Oskar Blues-owned Perrin, said the brewery is very excited by the acquisition deal.

According to MLive, here’s what Dale had to say:

In a statement, Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis called the deal “a radical thing.”

“We at Oskar Blues love the Michigan craft beer scene and what the guys at Perrin are doing,” Katechis said. “We feel that Perrin and Oskar Blues have the same mindset toward the craft industry and this partnership will allow us to share information and innovative ideas with one another.”

In December, the breweries teamed up on a lager called “Cornlaboration” that was sold only in Michigan, a state in which Oskar Blues began distributing in 2013.

Until Oskar Blues’ canned beer sales outstripped their original brewpub, they were considered one of the country’s largest brewpubs, so it’s interesting to see them reach a point where they’re acquiring additional brands and another brewery.

perrin-brewing

Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much

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If there’s one thing prohibitionists love to shout about, it’s a new study showing how terrible alcohol is, and how it supports what they’ve been proselytizing about all along. A growing trend has been anti-alcohol groups funding studies, having the “team” look for problems through phrasing the study’s goals and methodology with a particular outcome in mind, and then releasing the results as if it was impartial news. Sadly, with our media overworked and underpaid, many fall for it and report such a sham study’s results without ever critically examining it or even looking for a dissenting opinion to bring some fair and balanced perspective. Prohibitionists, knowing this, package their press releases into print-friendly versions so media outlets can simply cut and paste, passing it off as actual news. To be fair, it’s not just them. Almost everybody does it. It’s become a game, of sorts, one where most reasonable people’s wishes are ignored in favor of a more extreme agenda. Issues get polarized, and meaningful dialogue is becoming increasingly impossible with mud being slung in both directions, though I tend to think on the prohibitionist front that more mud comes our way, than vice versa.

But I’ve spent the last decade or so taking a fairly critical look at study after study, taking issue with almost all of them in one way or another. For every study that says one thing, you can find another that says the complete opposite, which you’d think wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, be possible. But a lot of it has to do with the way studies are conducted, how rigorous the science is, and whether or not they started with a specific agenda or not. I’ve certainly crowed about studies that show alcohol in a positive light, though I’ve never financed any. But despite all the tamper tantrums from the prohibitionists, they’re the ones spending all the money creating a false record of harm, not to mention taking advantage of any others they can, part of their post-prohibition strategy to bring down alcohol by less obvious means in a slower, more patient approach, chipping away at public policy and the law brick by brick, so to speak.

As a result of seeing so many of these so-called “studies,” I’ve noticed a lot of tricks that they use to make them seem like the findings actually mean something, but they rarely do, and usually even the study’s authors, who presumably want to keep their status as impartial scientists despite taking money for funding, almost always issue cautions and calls for further testing and for no one to make too much of what they found, words invariably ignored by the people using their findings to promote an agenda. It’s made me question the entire medical, and to some extent the scientific, community because it’s so obviously been corrupted by money — like every other aspect of our society, sad to say — with so many willing to take money to help a fanatical group promote its agenda. And it seems like the shear number of such studies has ballooned in recent years, too. Just how many scientific journals can there be, and how many are truly scientific, if any?

But an article on Vox a few days ago addressed this very issue, with This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study. As the author wonders “whether there is any value in reporting very early research,” I’ve seen how it’s more often misused than anything else. As she writes. “Journals now publish their findings, and the public seizes on them, but this wasn’t always the case: journals were meant for peer-to-peer discussion, not mass consumption.” Because of this, the amount of studies being conducted has skyrocketed since their use is often now well beyond the original purpose of real study and furthering the science surrounding an issue. The actual number of so-called journal studies have seen an astounding 300% increase over the last quarter-century.

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But as she points out, early reporting on these studies rarely leads to any meaningful breakthroughs, even though those initial findings become fixed in the public mind as fact. A recent example that springs to mind is about glutens. A study in Australia initially seemed to suggest that eating gluten-free could be healthier for even people who didn’t suffer from Celiac disease, but further work by the same scientist found that his initial results were incorrect, and that there were no appreciable health benefits to a gluten-free diet for most people. Despite this clear repudiation of the initial findings, gluten-free as a healthier lifestyle remains an idea many people not only still believe, but even follow, despite having been refuted years ago. This is not an isolated occurrence.

In 2003, researchers writing in the American Journal of Medicine discovered something that should change how you think about medical news. They looked at 101 studies published in top scientific journals between 1979 and 1983 that claimed a new therapy or medical technology was very promising. Only five, they found out, made it to market within a decade. Only one (ACE inhibitors, a pharmaceutical drug) was still extensively used at the time of their publication.

One.

So that means 100 others proved to not pan out, their promise as originally reported proving to not stand up to further research or lead to any meaningful breakthrough. But the news cycle has already moved on, and the damage has been done, with the study reported and its inaccurate findings fixed into people’s minds. And this is just one of the reasons why immediately promoting the results of a study to the public is a bad idea. As the Vox article makes clear. “This cycle recurs again and again. An initial study promises a miracle. News stories hype the miracle. Researchers eventually disprove the miracle.”

“There’s a big, big, difference between how the media think about news and how scientists think about news,” Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor of the history of science, recently told [Vox’s Julia Bellus] in an interview. “For you, what makes it news is that it’s new — and that creates a bias in the media to look for brand new results. My view would be that brand new results would be the most likely to be wrong.”

In some cases, results are published too soon precisely to get attention for the study or the research in order to get more funding to carry on the research, or simply because of the pressure to “publish or perish” in academia or a career. Or, of course, it’s published specifically to promote an agenda or ideology.

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More often than not, single studies contradict one another — such as the research on foods that cause or prevent cancer. The truth can be found somewhere in the totality of the research, but we report on every study in isolation underneath flip-flopping headlines. (Red wine will add years to your life one week, and kill you quicker the next.)

This is seen in beer, a lot, too. But as the graph below makes clear, it happens everywhere, all the time, with the main culprit being the media in general, and the prohibitionists more specifically, reporting on single studies that show one thing rather then treating the issue as a whole or continuum of understanding. In particular, Alcohol Justice frequently takes one study that shows something in line with their agenda and treats it as if it’s the final answer and no further study is necessary; they’re right, case closed. Which, as you can see, is never the case.

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A good example of this is a recent tweet from Alcohol Justice, questioning that “Alcohol good for your heart? Evidence is evaporating http://usat.ly/1JkkEny Don’t believe industry-sponsored science.”

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The link takes you to a USA Today story, entitled Alcohol good for your heart? Evidence is evaporating, which is where AJ got the witty language in the tweet. But the part about not believing “industry-sponsored science” is completely made up. The story never even addresses that as an issue. It’s pure propaganda. As you’ll see, the trail from the USA Today story leads not to “industry-sponsored science,” but to another anti-alcohol group.

The USA Today story itself is a hodgepodge of misinformation and innuendo, written in that most common style of the mainstream media that believes scaring people captures their attention and gets ratings, viewers or whatever metric they measure their success by. Early in the piece, the author sets out her premise.

But before you pour your next cocktail, beer or glass of wine, you should know this: the science suggesting a benefit has never been conclusive. And some experts believe the evidence is getting thinner all the time.

Almost no science is conclusive, or ever has been. That’s the point of continuously conducting research, to constantly learn more and to further our understanding of whatever’s being studied. But just as benefits may be inconclusive, the evils are similarly inconclusive. But she chose to frame the story in such a way as to emphasize the negative, despite the fact that the statement could be said almost any way and still be technically correct. And saying “some experts” reveals that not everyone agrees, even with so vague a premise. You can always find a person to disagree about anything, especially if they have some reason to do so.

To illustrate what I mean, take her reliance on an editorial written by “Mike Daube, professor of health policy at Curtin University in Australia.” He “writes that the once-touted benefits of moderate drinking ‘are now evaporating,'” providing the piece’s catch phrase and hook. But who is Mike Daube. Is he a doctor or scientist? Nope. Is he an impartial expert? Hardly, “Mike Daube, professor of health policy” is all that USA Today reports, and at the editorial she’s quoting from, the only author affiliation listed is “Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, WA 6845, Australia.”

But you don’t have to look too hard to find out that Mike is also co-chair of Australia’s National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, an organization who’s sole stated purpose is that is “has been formed with the goal of reducing alcohol-related harm.” So while he’s railing against “industry lobbying and promotion [being] rife and unchecked by governments, he’s pretending to be an impartial health professional, while also leading an organization who’s already convinced that alcohol has only a negative impact on society and is working to battle it, or get rid of it. That doesn’t seem particularly impartial to me. How utterly disingenuous and hypocritical. He’s using his background as a health policy professor to make it seem as if he has some expertise in medicine, but his area of study is public policy, with an emphasis on health, and you don’t need an advanced degree to understand those are two very different things.

And the editorial USA Today is relying on, Alcohol’s evaporating health benefits (they sure love a good turn of phrase, don’t they?), is published in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal). So essentially a policy expert — who in 2012 was “awarded [the] ‘Oscar’ of public health campaigning — is editorializing about science and medicine in a medical journal. It’s an editorial — an opinion. No matter how authoritative, he should carry about as much weight on scientific matters as I do. We have exactly the same number of doctoral degrees in medicine.

Even so, while lambasting alcohol over a new British study which forms the basis for his “evidence is evaporating” quip, he has to admit that the study did show a positive correlation for “women aged 65 or more” but dismisses that as “at best modest and likely to be explained by selection bias.” Which may true, but then again maybe not. Perhaps more study is necessary before making such sweeping pronouncements as the “evidence is evaporating.” Which is entirely the point. He’s looking at one study in a vacuum and choosing the outcome he favors, because of his own bias. So that’s not, or should not, be newsworthy. “Hey guess what? What I believed all along is what I still believe, and here’s this one study that partially agrees with me, so I must be right after all. Can I be in your scientific journal?” Is this really what passes for peer-reviewed science? What a load of bollocks.

The USA Today article is actually very short, but is padded out with a list of “what U.S. experts say you need to know for now.” Unfortunately, that list is entirely about the negative aspects of alcohol consumption and completely ignores any positive contributions to a person’s health, and it’s not like they’re hard to find.

But one study said something different, so I guess all those others are wrong, right? Yet this is the approach prohibitionist groups take time and time again. And as the Vox article makes clear, this approach can result in creating false hopes and leading researchers, scientists and even public policy-makers down the wrong path. As journalist Julia Belluz admits, it’s hard for the press to not jump at new study results, because their novelty is catnip to the management structure of both old and new media. But as the media blinders are understandable and even forgivable, at least to some extent, that’s not the case for the anti-alcohol groups who take that news and use it unscrupulously to advance their agenda. They’re the ones doing actual harm, because they’re creating a false narrative that is dishonest and knowingly wrong. I think they’ve forgotten that advancing a particular point of view doesn’t mean destroying the other side by any means possible, especially since they so often claim to own the moral high ground. But if their “ends justify the means” strategy reveals anything, it’s that they don’t own a mirror. They only judge our morals, attacking us frequently and accusing us of caring only about business, money and hurting children.

The Vox article concludes with some sage advice from “Harvard’s Oreskes, Stanford’s John Ioannidis, and many other respected researchers,” who insist “we need to look past the newest science to where knowledge has accumulated. There, we’ll find insights that will help us have healthier lives and societies.” Could somebody please tell the prohibitionists?

The Equinox: Day, Night & A Beer

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Today, of course, is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring for those of us on the northern side of the equator, and the beginning of Autumn for our southerly brethren. It’s also a day when we have roughly equal amounts of day and night.

People around the world have celebrated the equinox for millennia in an amazing array of ways. Back in the early days of Lagunitas Brewing, their celebration manifested itself, as you’d expect, in a beer they called Equinox. Launched originally in 1995, it quietly went away in the early 2000s, when they were working both day and night and it probably seemed like stopping to mark the middle of that made no sense. But this year, on the Equinox, they decided to bring back Lagunitas Equinox, though in a slightly altered package and recipe. It’s still a “pale oat ale,” but it’s a bit stronger now, at 8.4% abv (it was 6.4% before). It’s also again in 22 oz. bottles and kegs.

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Lagunitas describes the beer as “a creamy, pale oat ale hopped up with a huge charge of Equinox and Simcoe hops for a piney, eucalyptusy, cedary, sprucey, foresty blast.” And Tony’s label notes make for some challenging reading.

Qan you imagine a world without Beer? Everything ewe gnoe would be different. Phish might phly, aaugs might uze power touls. Pfriedae nights mite be spent building treez out of the day after tomorrow’s pstale sour greem and cheaze leavings. And then theirft bea the speling iszuues. Thingss wood bee just plane wierd, eye meene weird. Come two thing of Itt, Eye think aya cool stand begin a kid bit hapier write gnaw… (glug, glug, glug… gulp.) Mmm, aaht Once again all Is right with the world, the fish are in their ocean, the dog will not maim me, I’ll have a date for Friday night, and I know for sure that in fact God loves me. Beer. You only borrow it. Kawl us!

They also created a pretty trippy one-minute video showing a split-screen journey of the beer during both day and night simultaneously.