Patent No. 4720076A: For A Carbon Dioxide Gas Pressure Dispense System For Beer

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Today in 1988, US Patent 4720076 A was issued, an invention of Roger J. Hyde, for his “Carbon Dioxide Gas Pressure Dispense System for Beer.” Here’s the Abstract:

A dispense tape (10) to control the flow of carbonated beers is configured to minimize pressure drop and turbulence in beer flow to an outlet nozzle (14) when open, the tap having flow restrictor means (52) operatively connected as a downstream extension of the tap valve (30), located in the path of beer flowing from the valve, arranged only to affect beer flow when the tap is nearly closed and configured to substantially restrict beer flow to maximize pressure drop and turbulence; choice of nozzle length/bore ratio enabling either a creamy flow or a squib of beer to be dispensed.

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Alaska Barleywine Festival 2015 Winners

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Here are the winners from this weekend’s Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage, Alaska.

  1. St. Elias Brewing’s Moose Juice, Soldotna, Alaska
  2. Midnight Sun Brewing’s Termination Dust Belgian-Style Barley Wine, Anchorage, Alaska
  3. Lagunitas Brewing’s Olde Gnarlywine Barley Wine, Petaluma, California

And the Best Winter Beer:

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks again to Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News, for sending me the winners.

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Wine vs. Beer, Big vs. Small, More Trademark Woes

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Opened in 2012, the tiny Cambria Beer Co. is located in the equally small town of Cambria, described more as a “seaside village,” boasting about 6,000 residents. It’s located along Highway 1, in San Luis Obispo County, midway between San Francisco and L.A.

The brewery uses a small 3bbl brew sculpture system, and operates a small tap room on Cornwall Street. They offer a wide variety of beer styles, continually rotating. A recent list included five on, with two in the fermenters and three more scheduled right behind those. Beers sell out quickly, but they try to keep up. Owners Aaron and Jennifer Wharton decided that since they were the only brewery in town, that Cambria Beer Company was the right name for their decidedly local enterprise.

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Not everyone agreed. The Jackson Family Farms is best known for Kendall-Jackson wine, but that’s just one of the more than a dozen wineries that they own. Another one of their labels is Cambria Estate Winery. So you’re probably thinking that makes sense, probably located right down the street. Nope. To get to the Cambria Estate Winery from the brewery, you’ll need to head south on Highway 1, then pick up Interstate 101 at the junction in San Luis Obispo. Drive south to Santa Maria, turn left in downtown and drive west out of town to the winery. All told, it will take you about one hour and twenty minutes to get there, because it’s nearly 80 miles away outside the town of Santa Maria, which is even in a different county (Santa Barbara County), too.

I first saw this on Grub Street, but the local newspaper, The Cambrian, naturally has the most complete account in When is Cambria not in Cambria? Apparently, the Whartons have been trying to negotiate to keep their name since they received the C&D letter from KJ’s lawyers on New Year’s Eve.

Unfortunately, as I understand it, when it comes to trademark law, alcohol is alcohol; they’re in the same class of goods as far as trademark is concerned. This is hardly the first time this has happened. Another small brewery in the Bay Area had to add a letter to their name because a spirits company was using the original spelling. A San Francisco brewery not long ago had to change the name of one of its beers, because there was a rum of the same name.

So there is some precedent here, it’s not totally out of left field. The Cambrian author wonders if every business in Cambria using Cambria in their name should be worried, rightly concluding no. But the fact that the winery is so far from the town and they serve largely a different demographic makes it not so cut and dry. A commenter on Reddit who claimed to be close to the parties involved mentioned that the brewery’s attorneys believed they had a strong case, but the $50,000 (minimum) price tag to fight it was too much for them, as it would be for almost any small company. So the brewery did what most people would in this situation, and decided to change their name. Last week, they posted that decision on their Facebook page, asking fans and customers to help them come up with a new name by leaving a comment. They’ve had a lot of suggestions so far, including several funny ones.

I’m starting to think that trademark law may need some modification. Clearly, alcohol is not alcohol anymore. Maybe there was a time when that made sense, but I think most of us can agree that we can tell the difference between beer and wine. And it seems to me geographic truth should trump whatever reason this winery is using a name that has nothing to do with where it’s located. I seem to recall another trademark case where the Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) sued Boston Beer Works and lost, the court ruling that “Boston” was too generic a term, ditto “beer.” Komlossy Law has a nice overview of the case, if you’re interested in learning more. And those were both beer companies, so it does seem like Cambria Beer might have had a decent shot at keeping their name. Still, you have to understand not wanting to spend a fortune going to court on an uncertain result. As we learned in “War Games,” sometimes “the only winning move is not to play.” If nothing else, I hope we can all support whatever new name they decide on and stop by and spend our money there the next time we drive by on our way to or from Los Angeles or the Bay Area. Success is always the best revenge.

The Rise Of Cancer

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This has very little to do with beer, but it is related. In covering beer and health over the years, and especially the attacks by prohibitionists, I’ve read more studies, scientific journals and policy papers than you can shake a stick at. What causes different kinds of cancers is something that I’ve ended up following far more than I ever expected to focus on in any way. My mother died of breast cancer, and apparently it runs in my family, on my mother’s side, so perhaps I was predisposed to pay closer attention to cancer.

One thing I’ve noticed about all of the studies purporting to show what causes cancer, or what increases the risk of getting it, or similar conclusions, is that they’re rarely cut and dry. You hardly ever find that all studies agree or come to the same conclusion about anything. That’s one of the reasons that they have to be read so carefully, because their results are very much effected by the methodology, assumptions made, how whatever they examined or studied was collected, the biases and prejudices that were contained in either the questions asked or on the part of the people conducting it, and on and on. In short, the variables are nearly endless and frequently, if not always, have a lot to do with the results themselves. Even who funded a study can influence its results. Statistics and the studies that create them can be used to say just about anything and are used by organizations on every side of every issue to promote their view, both good and bad. This is detailed quite well in the classic book How to Lie with Statistics, but even more forcefully in the later expose Trust Us We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future.

You can read one hundred studies about a particular kind of cancer and find that they all conclude something different, and sometimes have even contradictory findings. It’s rare that they all agree because the way they’re conducted is so different, and the parameters, geography and demographics are different, too. Similar ones may start to more closely agree over time, and patterns may emerge, and that’s where the real progress happens. Meta-studies examine multiple studies to see how, and if, patterns can be gleaned.

Drinking beer obviously affects our health, and has both positive and negative risks and consequences depending on how one drinks, how often and how much. Meta-studies have shown that people who drink moderately tend to live longer than both total abstainers and people who drink too much, but surprisingly even those who abuse alcohol will probably live longer than teetotalers. But that’s overall. For different types of cancer, drinking may either increase or decrease the risk of various kinds, making figuring out what to do a tricky, difficult and ultimately personal decision.

Something that’s always bothered me as I’ve been reading the findings of so many studies over the years is that they’re confusing, contradictory and often make little sense. It should make sense, shouldn’t it? But it doesn’t. Two people can live in exactly the same way, eating and drinking the same things and one will live to be 100 and the other drops dead at 50. Why? Even with something as obvious as smoking, who gets lung cancer and at what age will vary widely. I’ve always felt like there must be something more to who’s susceptible to cancer than what we’ve thought.

The new issue of Time Magazine (the January 19, 2015 issue) has an article that may shed some light on this dilemma. In Most Cancers Aren’t Your Fault, a new study seems to suggest that “Random DNA changes are usually to blame,” as opposed to the usual causes, or possibly in combination with those typical risks. Here’s the big finding in nutshell.

Now, in an eye-opening study published in Science, researchers report that the majority of cancer types are the result of pure chance, the product of random genetic mutations that occur when stem cells–which keep the body chugging along, replacing older cells as they die off–make mistakes copying the cells’ DNA.

That seems huge, a sea change in our understanding of how cancer works. “About 65% of cancers are the result of these DNA mistakes made by stem cells.” While that seems crazy, it might make better sense in explaining why some people get certain cancers and why others do not. For all our dogmatic insistence about what’s healthy and what’s not, it may turn out that luck is the single biggest factor. In the Abstract of the study, as reported in Science, Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions

Some tissue types give rise to human cancers millions of times more often than other tissue types. Although this has been recognized for more than a century, it has never been explained. Here, we show that the lifetime risk of cancers of many different types is strongly correlated (0.81) with the total number of divisions of the normal self-renewing cells maintaining that tissue’s homeostasis. These results suggest that only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells. This is important not only for understanding the disease but also for designing strategies to limit the mortality it causes.

The Editor’s Summary makes it even clearer:

Why do some tissues give rise to cancer in humans a million times more frequently than others? Tomasetti and Vogelstein conclude that these differences can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions. By plotting the lifetime incidence of various cancers against the estimated number of normal stem cell divisions in the corresponding tissues over a lifetime, they found a strong correlation extending over five orders of magnitude. This suggests that random errors occurring during DNA replication in normal stem cells are a major contributing factor in cancer development. Remarkably, this “bad luck” component explains a far greater number of cancers than do hereditary and environmental factors.

As far as I can see, this goes a along way in explaining the seeming anomalies of why some smokers live to be 100 and others never make it past 50. The study, at least what limited amount of it I have access to, doesn’t go into which types are which, that is which types of cancers can be “attributable to environmental factors” or hereditary and which involve random chance.

But if fully two-thirds of all cancers are primarily subject to this roll of the dice, that seems to undermine a lot of walk-a-thons, colored ribbon awareness campaigns and careful abstaining as all for naught. Better to roll the dice and live your life to the fullest, enjoying all the pleasures you can.

Unsurprisingly, that’s not what the study’s authors are recommending. They’re quick to say that the “element of chance does not, however, mean you should stop wearing sunscreen or take up smoking.” One of the authors, Cristian Tomasetti points out that “while we may not be able to prevent all tumors, we can focus on early detection and taking advantage of lifesaving treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, among other things,” adding that “[w]e need to do everything we did before, but we want to do it even more than before.” I’m not entirely sure what he means by that, because it seems to contradict their own findings, but perhaps he’s just being cautious, or doesn’t want to take the blame if people go wild.

Medical studies like this one, and all scientific studies really, are supposed to be objective and free of bias, and indeed most are sold that way. Most people hear that a study found this or that and assume it was an impartial finding. But it’s been my experience that that’s rarely, if ever, the case. Bias seems to creep into every nook and cranny of science and medicine, just as it does in every other aspect of human existence. I want to believe that most scientists try to avoid such prejudices, but how many succeed is an open question in my mind. It’s not so much evil as being human. Isn’t the story of humanity simply the struggle between rationality and self-interest?

But speaking of evil, every time a new study (often funded by them) finds that drinking alcohol will turn you into a zombie, prohibitionists use it to push their agenda, and ignore every other study that says just the opposite, that moderate consumption will cure zombies, no need for decapitation. Their propaganda machine goes into full swing, insisting that one sip of beer and you’ll be undead. But this study (especially if follow-up studies confirm the findings), seems to support what I’ve frequently pointed out, that life is far more complicated than do this and that happens. Few things are all bad or all good. As cancer is apparently poised to become the number one cause of death in America (displacing heart disease at the top spot), it’s worth noting that we’ve come a long way since I lost my mother in 1982. If she was diagnosed today with breast cancer, the chances are much greater that she’d still be alive. But predicting whether or not she’d get cancer in the first place was more likely the result of bad luck than anything else. That’s what I’ve always believed and that won’t change no matter how many ribbons I wear. I often feel like the universe is laughing at us, so we might as well have a drink, or as the great Charles Bukowski once advised.

“We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

Roll the dice. Pass the bottle. Repeat.

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If you’re curious about all of the colored awareness ribbons, and what they mean, or what disease or condition they represent, here is the most comprehensive list I’ve ever seen. Scroll down about halfway through the post for the list.

North Coast Doubles Their Square Footage

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The local paper near Fort Bragg along the North Coast, the Ukiah Daily Journal is reporting that “North Coast Brewing Company expands,” adding a “[n]ew location will house brewery overflow.” North Coast Brewing apparently has leased a new warehouse, effectively doubling the size of their footprint, which “will increase North Coast Brewing’s storage by 10,000 feet, which is about equal to the brewery itself.” According to the Daily Journal:

18661 Old Coast Highway, in Fort Bragg, the former location of Mendocino Sports Club and Circus MECCA, will be a temporary storage facility for finished beer before being trucked to a their larger distribution point in Petaluma, according to Doug Moody, Senior Vice President at North Coast Brewing Company. The brewing company signed a 10-year lease for the property.

The move gives them greater flexibility in managing their product flow, much of which is immediately trucked to a storage facility in Petaluma because they’ve run out of room in Fort Bragg. The brewery, now in its 27th year — part of the class of ’88 — is, like many well-established breweries, growing by leaps and bounds and is hoping to remain in Fort Bragg. They’ve been trying to buy a part of an old mill site formerly owned by logging giant Georgia Pacific, but they haven’t yet been able to come to terms. If they do, you can plan on seeing a bigger single space that would “include a 200-seat performing arts center, restaurant and [North Coast] reestablishing brewery tours.” Even if it was approved tomorrow, it would likely take another three years to open the doors of a new brewery, but I for one would love to be there for the grand opening.

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The current brewery in Fort Bragg.

Help Rebuild Belgium’s Hof ten Dormaal

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Yesterday, January 6, was a dark day in Tildonk, Belgium, located in the Flemish Brabant, near the center of the northern part of the country. Tildonk is located in the municipality of Haacht, and that whole area has less than 14,000 people, so it’s a fairly small village. It was also home to a true farmhouse brewery, Hof ten Dormaal. The small brewery made a wide variety of beers, including a range of Belgians, sours, wild beers, a barrel-aged series and a number of experimental beers, too. I say “was,” because yesterday starting around 6:45 a.m. there was a fire at the brewery which completely destroyed the farm brewery, and the “bottling line, warm chamber and a big part of the stock (another account mentions thousands of bottles) are completely lost.” The brewery originally came from Montana, and was installed in 2009. The following year, they added a bottling line. Fortunately, the brewhouse and fermenters appear to have been spared, and, more importantly, no one in the family was injured.

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During last year’s Brussels Beer Challenge, I had the pleasure of visiting the brewery, meeting André Janssens and his family, and tasting many of their beers along with my fellow judges. It’s out in the open countryside, a beautiful rustic setting. We visited the brewery, the tasting room, but spent most of our time in the garden, opening and enjoying the beer made right there at the farm.

The farm grows cereal and keeps cattle, and is “99% self-sustainable.” The farm grows its own hops and malt, their water comes from a well on the property and they make their energy from rape seeds grown in their fields. Yeast is the only ingredient they buy for brewing. They feed the leftovers to their livestock. Perhaps you’ve had their beer, it is imported by Twelve Percent Imports and available in California, along with Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.

Here’s a short video showing part of the damage to the brewery and the farm buildings.

It didn’t always look like that, of course. Below are a few of my photos from my visit last November. Happily, there’s already an effort underway to return the once-picturesque brewery to former glory. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up and is soliciting donations. If you love good beer, please be generous.

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Outside the farmhouse brewery.

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I loved these tiny clay shields on the brick wall outside of the farmhouse.

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From the gate outside looking in to Hof ten Dormaal.

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Cafe seating on a patio outside the tasting room of the brewery.

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Inside the tasting room, local artwork hangs on the wall above wooden kegs aging beer.

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Owner and brewmaster André Janssens leads a tour of his brewery.

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Hof ten Dormaal’s brewhouse.

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The courtyard garden, surrounded by the family home, farm buildings, and the brewery.

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Some of the Brussels Beer Challenge judges posing in the courtyard.

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Again, if you love great beer and want to help support it, this is a great way to help out a family and their farmhouse brewery. Please donate to help rebuild the brewery through Go Fund Me and definitely go visit the brewery the next time you’re in Belgium.

UPDATE: Sam Vanderstraeten, the creator of the GoFundMe campaign posted some Day 2 photographs showing more of the destruction wrought by the fire.

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Winter Brews Festival In Concord January 24

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On Saturday, January 24, from Noon to 4 PM, the Brewing Network‘s 6th annual Winter Brews Festival will take place at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. The beer festival will feature over 50 breweries and proceeds will benefit the Coral Reef Alliance. Sandwiched in between the weekends of the final NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl — so you won’t miss a game — the annual event will showcase dozens of award-winning craft breweries, including local favorites, 21st Amendment, Drake’s, Heretic, and Lagunitas, as well as some great new breweries like Calicraft and The Rare Barrel.
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Live music from Ralph Woodson and Purple Haze will set the mood for an afternoon of great beer and a worthy cause. Sponsors of the event include The Hop Grenade Taproom & Bottle Shop, the 21st Amendment, Drake’s Brewing Company, Hop Tech Homebrew and White Labs, and proceeds will benefit the local environmental non-profit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tickets are now on sale and are $40 pre-sale or $50 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass. Designated Drivers pay only $5, however this is a 21 and over only event. The event, which will, for the first time, take over the entire Todos Santos Plaza, is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station, making it easy to get to and from the festival safely. For more information on the event, and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.BNbrewfest.com.

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Beer Giants Still Giant

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The Wall Street Journal had a piece on the beer business entitled Beer Giants Cultivate Their Crafty Side which I can’t read in its entirety because I don’t have a subscription, but it did include a chart showing the current state of affairs in the beer industry.

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Shifting Suds. “Independent brewers are selling more beer,” but given this comes from the Wall Street Journal (which is all about BIG business) they can’t help but add “but their shipments remain small compared with the big beer brands.”

What the Wall Street Journal forgets to mention is that Anheuser-Busch was founded in 1852 and didn’t hit 1 million annual barrels until 1901, when they were 49 years old. Sierra Nevada took only 35 years (or less) to reach 1 million, and Boston Beer needed even less time, reaching their first million barrels 1996, meaning it took Samuel Adams 12 years.

Big Brands Continue To Slide

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For the last several years, sales of some of the major beer brands have been slipping, and not just the sub-premiums or secondary packages but even once mighty flagships. 24/7 Wall Street has a new list of some of these brands, characterized as Beers Americans No Longer Drink. Using data from Beer Marketer’s Insights, here are seven brands that have lost significant sales, at least 20%, between 2013 and 2008. The negative number following the name is how much sales are down in that six-year period.

  • Miller High Life -21.2%
  • Budweiser -27.6%
  • Milwaukee’s Best Light -40.6%
  • Milwaukee’s Best -57.0%
  • Miller Genuine Draft -58.3%
  • Budweiser Select -61.1%

Some additional analysis and reasons for the decline, according to 24/7 Wall St:

Another key factor in the weakening sales has been price dynamics. “Beer prices were increased more aggressively over the last five years than wine and spirits,” Shepard said. Many people in the industry believe that, as a result, some customers replaced buying beer with the now relatively less expensive wines and spirits, he explained.

Several other products were also gaining at the expense of big brand-name beers, Shepard noted. While some customers have been moving to wine and spirits, others were switching to imported beer, particularly Mexican imports. Indeed, in the five years through 2013, shipments of Mexican brands Dos Equis and Modelo Especial more-than doubled. Similarly, he added, “Some [drinkers] are moving to craft [beer]. Clearly, there’s been a trade-up in the industry.”

Craft beers have largely bucked the overall downtrend in beer sales. From 2008 to 2013, shipments of craft beer rose by 80.1% to a total of more than 16 million barrels, or 7.6% of the U.S. beer market. While the craft beer category now outsells Budweiser, it remains a relatively niche market. For comparison, the nation’s top-selling brand, Bud Light, shipped 38 million barrels in 2013, accounting for 18% of all beer shipped.

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Craft: New Documentary About California Breweries

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This looks interesting. Jeff Smith and Fran Ellsworth are directing and producing a new documentary film about California breweries entitled “Craft: The California Beer Documentary.” They recently released their first trailer, which you can watch below. All I know at this point is from a short description of their project. “A road trip throughout California, learning from the master brewers of the state. It’ll also feature interviews with beer enthusiasts and home-brewers.”