Thursday’s ad is for Carling Black Label, from 1953. It’s from their “People Like It” series, and features a big hunk of cheese to pair with your beer. Even back then they knew that cheese and beer is a divine pairing, though I have to wonder if that’s the right beer for that cheese. Everything old is new again.
Earlier tonight, the 2013 Good Food Award winners were announced at a ceremony at the Grand Hall in the San Francisco Ferry Building. I had hoped to be there, but have been hunkering down trying to finish my book before SF Beer Week kicks off in a few weeks.
This is the third year for the Good Food Awards, where in addition to beer, they also judge Charcuterie, Cheese, Chocolate, Coffee, Pickles, Preserves and Spirits. The website also includes a ninth category, Confections, but for some reason they’re not listed among the winners. I judged the first year, and again this year. The awards are conducted by the Seedling Projects.
- Ballast Point Brewing Company, Winter San Salvador Black Lager, California
- Bear Republic Brewing Company, Tartare, California
- Deschutes Brewery, Obsidian Stout, Oregon
- Elm City Brewing Company, Monadnock Mountain Ale, New Hampshire
- Full Sail Brewing Co., Ltd6, Oregon
- Fullsteam Brewery, First Frost, North Carolina
- Hopworks Urban Brewery, HUB Organic Lager, Oregon
- Independence Brewing Co., Convict Hill Stout, Texas
- Jester King Craft Brewery, Boxer’s Revenge, Texas
- Lakefront Brewery, My Turn: Luther & Wisconsinite Summer Weiss, Wisconsin
- Mill Valley Beerworks, Four Brothers, California
- Pagosa Brewing Company, Chili Verde, Colorado
- Rolling Meadows Brewery, Abe’s Ale, Illinois
Congratulations to all the winners.
These are pretty funny. Terry Border runs a website called Bent Objects, where he creates funny dioramas using everyday objects and bent paperclips. In these two, apparently St. Pauli Girl isn’t the wholesome gal everybody thinks she is. Instead she’s terrorizing some colleagues for their nuts … beer nuts, that is.
The first is from 2008, and is titled Yeah, This is Where Those Come From.
The first one also includes these puns.
It’s also how light beers are made here in the U.S., but personally, I only like a full bodied beer.
She had often been described as a little bitter.
She was cold one, that’s for sure.
And this one’s from Valentine’s Day, 2011.
Tuesday’s ad is for Miller High Life, from the early 1960s, part of their “Go First Class” series. The ad seems to be saying that pizza and beer are the path to being high class. Now, I’m a great lover of pizza, and there are few pairings so obviously perfect together than beer and pizza. I could eat pizza almost every meal if you let me, and there are amazing gourmet pies all over the place these days. But in the 1960s? I certainly don’t remember pizza being thought of as “high class” until very recently. Also, I have to say. That is not the most appetizing pizza I’ve ever laid eyes on.
I try to stay away from politics for the most part, because beer lovers come from all walks of life and are from all sides of the political spectrum, too. Beer brings people together, and I find it’s usually best to keep it that way. Regular readers know that I do break that rule from time to time, more often than not when it has something to with beer. So this one’s more of a stretch, except that as I do feel that “beer is agriculture,” and because we all eat food, usually paired with our beer, it’s still within the scope of the Bulletin. If you don’t agree, feel free to just skip this particular rant. Actual beer news will follow.
Here in sunny California, there are a number of contentious propositions on the November election ballot this year, but none, it seems to me, is more combative than Prop. 37, which is about the labeling of GMOs. Although it appears to be an imperfect proposition — aren’t most of them? — the very fact that big agribusinesses and other large mega-corporations are pouring money into the state to defeat it makes me, no compels me, to be supportive of it. I am swayed by the fact that over sixty other nations require GMO labeling. I can see no harm in knowing what’s in my food. I am not persuaded that it will be as costly as the opposition claims. They said the same thing about nutritional labels on food packages, but they’re all still in business today, having endured that “hardship.” I am not persuaded by the number of newspapers against it, because most of the food producers lining up to defeat it also advertise in newspapers. Coincidence? Don’t be so naive. Of course, that could come down to simply lying. I saw yesterday that although television ads against the proposition list the San Francisco Examiner as one of the papers against 37, in fact they have endorsed it.
Even if it passes, it isn’t likely to change peoples’ eating habits any more than warning labels on cigarette cartons stopped smoking. And that’s another argument I can’t abide. Even if true — which it probably is — I tend to err on the side of having more information rather than less, and tend to be suspicious of businesses that actively try to suppress information. Corporations telling me “trust us” or “don’t worry, it’s safe, because we say so” do not exactly inspire the same confidence that transparency does. Especially when the history of corporate malfeasance is so rich with examples of companies placing profits way, way ahead of people.
I suspect it won’t pass. Money does really make a difference in how these propositions fare, and I think most people’s default position is to vote “no” on any of them that are confusing, unclear or contentious. Better to leave things the way they are than change things in an uncertain way. I have certainly felt that way on more than a few occasions. And I suspect that the doubt placed in many voter’s minds by the $34 million barrage of “No on 37” ads will lead many to do just that. I have, however, questioned much of what I’ve seen in the attack ads trying to defeat the proposition, even as for some of it I haven’t known quite what to think. Earlier today, the Yes on 37 campaign posted this video, answering atleast some of those concerns:
I confess my mind’s not made up about GMOs across the board. I certainly don’t think they’re all bad, and there have certainly been instances throughout history where tinkering with nature has been a good thing for us humans. I also know this issue came up a few years ago when Greenpeace attacked ABI for using rice in their beer that may have contained GMOs. While I don’t often side with them, I did think that Greenpeace was out of line there. I should also note that some of the No on 37 ads mention that beer is exempt under the proposition, but that has more to do with the fact that the proposition applied the same standard currently used for labeling all food products, and under current regulations, beer is exempt. So it appears the reason is not conspiratorial.
But can you decide how to vote based on who’s supporting which side of an issue? Maybe. I certainly think there’s a story in who’s on which side. The “Yes on 37 supporters” is a long list that includes (according to the website) 3,643 endorsements that is made up of consumer and public health organizations, food groups (safety, manufacturers, retail), dietary advocacy groups, farmers, farmers markets, co-ops, farming associations, individual farms, medical groups and associations, doctors, political parties, local governments, elected officials, political organizations, natural health businesses, progressive and social justice groups, GMO activists (as you’d expect), labor unions, environmental groups, academics, food writers, chefs and quite a few more.
On the other side of the aisle, No on 37 Donors number around 68 companies, all of which appear to be food or chemical companies. Of the nearly $35 million donated to defeat Prop 37, Monsanto is apparently the leader, with around $7.1 million given to kill it, with Dupont in second place. But the whole lists reads like a who’s who list of ginormous corporations, and includes such well-known players as Bumble Bee Foods, the Campbell Soup Company, Cargill, Clorox Company, Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods, Dole, Dow, General Mills, Heinz, Hershey, Hormel Foods Corporation, Kraft Food Group, Nestle, Ocean Spray Cranberries, PepsiCo, Sara Lee, Smithfield Foods, the Snack Food Association, Sunny Delight, J.M. Smucker and Unilever. At the bottom of the “No on 37″ website, they claim that their efforts are “sponsored by Farmers, Food Producers, and Grocers. Major funding by Monsanto Company, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Grocery Manufacturers Association” and others. But the only “farmers” there are the giant agribusiness type, while the Yes supporters include what appear to be actual farmers, or, at a minimum, dozens of places with farm-like names.
Is that dispositive? Perhaps not all by itself, but it does, I believe, lead to additional questions about why the majority of the opposition to labeling GMO foods almost entirely have something to do with their creation, manufacture or use. Is their self-interest on the other side? Undoubtedly there is, but for many, if not most, of the supporters, it appears more to be part and parcel with their core beliefs already, not manufactured arguments against transparency.
Whether true or not, it certainly feels somewhat Goliath vs. David-like. I really wish people outside California would leave us alone to vote how we will, instead of pouring money into the state to influence our politics. That always feels intrusive to me, like when the Mormons in Utah spent their millions to defeat the proposition for gay marriage a few years ago. I’ve never understood why foreign nations and their citizens are not allowed to attempt to influence our elections, but people (whether corporate “people” or the regular individual kind) from any state can spend money to influence politics in other states where they don’t live. What’s the difference? I’m certain Monsanto, for example, does business in our state, but they’re a Missouri corporation. Likewise, Dupont is a Delaware corporation. They should stay the fuck out of our politics. That, or move their companies here and start paying state taxes like the rest of us do.
A couple of days ago, someone sent me an article by Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé in the Huffington Post, entitled Seven Things to Tell Your Friends About GMOs. And while I’m no fan of HuffPo — Hey Arianna, how about paying your writers instead of pocketing the millions you make for yourself, you hypocrite — the piece is interesting and brings up a number of good points, at least for a newbie to the issue like myself. Which is, I suspect, the situation most California voters find themselves. We’ve all heard a lot about GMOs, but would be hard-pressed to call ourselves experts on the subject. Since they’re so new, I doubt many people could confidently claim to be experts, but lots of people have their cherished opinions. If you’re a California voter, I’d certainly recommend the Lappé’s 7 Things. At the bottom of the piece, there’s also a link to a video by Food MythBusters: the Real Story About What We Eat which, while not exactly on point for GMOs, is nonetheless interesting and talks more generally about the misinformation spread by the big agribusinesses that are currently spearheading efforts to quash Prop 37.
So hopefully everyone in California will get out and vote this election and will think carefully about this proposition, as well. The rest of the country, and especially the food industry, is closely watching which way this one goes. I personally would love to see it pass, but as I said, I suspect it won’t, and if that’s the case hopefully the architects of it will listen to both the opposition and the honest concerns that many people had with its implementation and fix those aspects of it before re-introducing it again. One final word about it, from a molecular biologist in the San Jose Mercury News, Belinda Martineau: A scientist says yes on Prop 37 to label genetically engineered food, who gives at least one scientist’s perspective on it. For additional reading, see the Ballotpedia entry, discussing both sides of Prop 37 and there’s also the California Voter Guide, which also strives to present both sides fairly.
UPDATE: A good friend of mine tells me that the Lappés’ piece contains numerous mis-statements, so perhaps it should be taken with a grain of salt after all. But here’s another worthy read. Vandana Shiva: Why Monsanto Is Fighting Tooth and Nail Against California’s Prop 37. And SF Weekly’s Anna Roth looked into both sides of the debate over Prop 37 in Three Things I Learned When I Forced Myself to Learn About Proposition 37.
Who knew that Betty Crocker even knew about beer? Today, I saw that they posted 35 Beer Terms Every Beer Lover Needs To Know, and it’s not a bad list. Of course, it helps that it was compiled by a Cicerone — Michael Agnew. But beyond that, there’s a whole section on Betty Crocker’s website dedicated to beer entitled Betty’s BrewHouse. Way to stay hip and with it, Betty. I guess she’s not just about cakes and brownies anymore.
So I’m walking through the grocery store the other day; and I’m hungry, which is never a good combination. I’m perusing the frozen food section, when something catches my eye. It’s Cheddar Bites, or more specifically “Crispy Beer Battered Aged White Cheddar” by Alexia. Now it’s not that they’re beer-battered — which I’m pleased about — but it’s nothing new. That’s not what caught my attention. On the box is a small tri-colored square, at an angle, to the right of the main label, declaring that these cheddar bites aren’t made with just any old beer, but are “Craft Beer Battered!” Woo Hoo! We’ve come a long way, baby, when that becomes a selling point. It made me laugh a bit, and naturally there’s no information about what craft beer was used for the batter. The company’s in Washington, so that’s a clue, I suppose.
Still, I find it interesting that a food company thought it was enough of a selling point to include it as a separate element on the packaging. That certainly suggests that they believed it would appeal to a certain type of consumer, and specifically one for whom the fact that the beer was “craft beer” had some meaning. That’s an interesting development. And it worked, I suppose, since I bought them. The family verdict was mixed. My wife thought they were just “meh,” whereas I liked them just fine; though in fairness my tastes run toward anything that’s not too good for me and can be considered comfort food.
Has anyone else seen similar labeling on packaged foods? It’s the first time I’ve noticed it, but I’m curious if this is happening enough to be considered the beginning of a trend.
I should confess right up front that I’ve never been a big fan of Martha Stewart. I’m not really sure why, but her advice and how she presents it has always bugged me for some reason. I guess for me, it always comes across as trying to be for everyone, the common people, but can really only be followed by people with a lot of free time and money. Even my wife disagrees with me on this one, so I have to conclude it’s just a weird personal prejudice I have about her.
So Stewart was on the Today show this morning in a segment entitled “Bottoms Up! Martha throws a beer party.” And yes, I know it’s great whenever craft beer gets attention from the mainstream media, but the curmudgeon in me just can’t let it pass uncritically. Here’s how it went down.
Matt Lauer begins the segment by saying that “forget the college keg, beer has grown up. Now it’s all about pairing some cold brew with great snacks.” So those are the two choices of what beer can be, “college keg” or “grown-up?” I know it was just an off-hand remark, but sheesh. And being “grown-up” means pairing it with snacks? It just seems like they could do so much better if they really cared about it.
So in comes Martha Stewart, beer savvy housekeeping diva, and declares “a beer tasting party is like the new thing.” That statement reminds me of the actor or musician who finally has a big hit after toiling in his or her craft for thirty years and is suddenly hailed as an overnight success. For millions of people, beer tasting has been a pretty big deal for quite some time now, but now that it’s reached Martha’s notice it’s “the new thing.”
But before she goes too crazy, Lauer reigns her in, suggesting that she “keep it casual, it doesn’t have to be fancy.” Naturally, you should keep it casual, because it would be absurd to suggest otherwise. Stewart, who usually seems at ease in front of the camera, looked unsure of herself talking about the beer, and even appeared to skirt any questions about it.
After showing off the chalkboard oilcloth table cloth where people can use chalk so they “can write their impressions of the beer” right on the table, Lauer asks her what beers are on the table, and guesses, “light, dark and amber.” Stewart replies “yes,” explaining that it’s because “each have a very specific kind of quality.”
When they moved over to the food, she perked up and appeared much more comfortable and at ease. Her demeanor seemed far more confident, since she was now in her element. But the weird thing is, the food seemed much more fancy, with onion jam made with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and cocktail meatballs with three kinds of meat. That’s not “keeping it casual” to me. So in keeping things “casual” because it’s beer, the food doesn’t stay casual? That seems weird to me. Beer can’t be fancy, but food almost has to be.
In the four and a half minute piece, no more than a minute was about the beer, and in the end, they never got any more specific about the beers than “light, dark and amber,” and that much only because Matt Lauer asked. No mention of what styles. No mention of what brands, though Greg Koch tweeted that he’d been told the dark beer was Stone Smoked Porter. Maybe they didn’t need to talk about specific brands, but to not even discuss what kinds of beers they were tasting seemed odd, especially since the whole point was supposedly to tell people how to throw “a beer party.” They never adressed how or why any of the food paired with the beer, apart from an offhand remark Martha made that the parsnip chips paired with the dark beer’s “smokey flavors.” In the end, it was really all about the food, and really very little, if anything, was communicated about the beer. Which, if you think about it, is pretty pathetic if, as they’re claiming, “a beer tasting party is like the new thing.” Like, for sure. And I guess it must be; after all I saw Martha Stewart say so on national TV.