Beer Birthday: John Holl

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Today is the 34th birthday of John Holl, who’s a journalist that recently came over to the dark side full time; dark beer, that is. Originally on the staff of the Gray Lady — the New York Times — he’s now writing almost exclusively about beer from his home in northern New Jersey, and he recently took over as editor of All About Beer magazine. Online, he’s at Beer Briefing and his latest book is the American Craft Beer Cookbook. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know John during some travel over the last few years, from Denver to Boston, and even in Chile. He’s a great addition to the fraternity of beer writers. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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After the first Beer Bloggers Conference, having lunch at Euclid Hall in Denver, before flying home.

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A few years ago in Chile, judging at the Copa Cervezas de America 2011 (John’s on the right in the back row).

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Visiting Maltexco, also in Chile (this time, John’s on the left).

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At a lunch at Euclid Hall in Denver; John, me, Greg Koch and Jacob McKean, Stone Brewing’s former blogger.

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With Stephen Beaumont and Stan Hieronymous, taking a pizza from Sandlot Brewing to Great Divide during GABF last year.

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A portrait of the beer writer as a young man.

Beer Birthday: Tony Forder

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Today is the 58th birthday of Tony Forder, publisher of Ale Street News. Tony’s been putting out Ale Street News for over 20 years now, and was kind enough to give me a column when I first came back to freelancing when my son Porter was doing well enough so that I could return to work. I still run into Tony at a variety of beer events throughout the year, and he’s a great person to share a pint with. Join me in wishing Tony a very happy birthday.

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After judging the finals for the 2009 Longshot Homebrew Competition in Boston. From left: Jason Alström, Tony, Bob Townsend, Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly, Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Jason’s brother Todd Alström.

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Tony leading a toast at the end of the evening at Schlenkerla in Bamberg, thanking our host, Matthias Trum, and our guide, Horst Dornbusch, for a wonderful second day in Bavaria.

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Tony, Bob Townsend (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and me at Longshot judging in 2009.

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During a trip to Bavaria in 2007, the gang of twelve plus three at the Faust Brauerei in Miltenberg, Germany. From left: Cornelius Faust, me, Lisa Morrison, Johannes Faust, Julie Bradford, Andy Crouch, Peter Reid, Horst Dornbusch, Jeannine Marois, Harry Schumacher, Tony Forder, Candice Alström, Don Russell, Jason and Todd Alström.

Class Action Suit Alleges ABI Watering Down Bud & Michelob

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Just when you think things can’t get any stranger, beer drinkers in three states — California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey — have filed a class action suit against Anheuser-Busch InBev. The L.A. Times is reporting in Beer drinkers accuse Anheuser-Busch of watering down brews, that the lawsuit alleges the following:

Ten Anheuser-Busch products were named in the lawsuits: Budweiser, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime.

Former employees at the company’s 13 breweries — including some in high-level positions — are cooperating with the plaintiffs, said San Rafael, Calif., lawyer Josh Boxer, the lead attorney in the case.

“Our information comes from former employees at Anheuser-Busch, who have informed us that as a matter of corporate practice, all of their products [mentioned in the lawsuit] are watered down,” Boxer said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a simple cost-saving measure, and it’s very significant.”

The excess water is added just before bottling and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3% to 8%, he said.

ABI, naturally, is calling the lawsuit “groundless,” but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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Cartoon by Tony Husband.

UPDATE: NBC News is also now reporting this story, in Budweiser waters down its beer, lawsuit alleges. Apparently, Bloomberg broke the story earlier today, and also the AP, the BBC and Business Day have all weighed in.

UPDATE 2: I’ve seen a lot of commentary on this story in the interwebs suggesting that since there appears to be no test results from the Plaintiffs in this case that perhaps they are simply confusing high-gravity brewing with actively lowering the final alcohol percentage, which is a reasonable assumption. But there may be another possibility. Thanks to Stan at Appellation Beer for pointing out a post from last October by Gary Spedding at his Alcohol Beverage Testing News. I’ve known Gary for a number of years. He runs a lab in Kentucky called Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services, LLC and also most years presents an orientation exercise for GABF judges the day before we start each year. It’s sort of a continuing education component of the judging experience. His presentations are always interesting and informative and, needless to say, Spedding’s expertise is unassailable.

Last October, he posted Gaining its airs and losing its graces — a Tale of Two Buds, which he wrote in response to a popular article last fall from Bloomberg Business Week entitled The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer. In addressing the suggestion in the article that Budweiser beer had changed after InBev took control of Anheuser-Busch, noted the following experiences he’d had with the beer in recent months.

Bud has been our control beer in our laboratory … for calibrating our alcohol instruments Bud goes in after calibration to see hopefully 5.00% abv. pretty much on the nose. Not so recently. Now as low as 4.94% after slipping from 4.98% earlier in the year. Losing it graces by higher airs it may be toppling from its top spot and is no longer our control beer of choice. But it is changing. A tale of two Buds (early and late) would reveal much more. Over the years the international bitterness content has declined from about 12 in the late 90′s to 7-8 today — another parameter to watch.

That original post also included a discussion of increasing oxygen levels, but Spedding had a lengthy discussion with Paul Cobet, who’s the Director of the Technical Center for ABI in St. Louis. The oxygen question is apparently now less of a concern and appears to be instrument-driven, and Gary updated that with a newer post, Regaining its Graces — Driving Oxygen Down — Good for Budweiser. So while the plaintiffs may not have tested the beer — still odd, admittedly — there is apparently some reason to think their case may hold water after all.

New Jersey Beer

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Today in 1787, New Jersey became the 3rd state.

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New Jersey Breweries

New Jersey Brewery Guides

Guild: Garden State Craft Brewers Guild

State Agency: New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control

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  • Capital: Trenton
  • Largest Cities: Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison Township
  • Population: 8,414,350; 9th
  • Area: 8722 sq.mi., 47th
  • Nickname: Garden State
  • Statehood: 3rd, December 18, 1787

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  • Alcohol Legalized: December 5, 1933
  • Number of Breweries: 20
  • Rank: 27th
  • Beer Production: 4,775,387
  • Production Rank: 11th
  • Beer Per Capita: 17 Gallons

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Package Mix:

  • Bottles: 48.1%
  • Cans: 39.4%
  • Kegs: 12.1%

Beer Taxes:

  • Per Gallon: $0.12
  • Per Case: $0.27
  • Tax Per Barrel (24/12 Case): $3.72
  • Draught Tax Per Barrel (in Kegs): $3.72

Economic Impact (2010):

  • From Brewing: $891,637,336
  • Direct Impact: $2,485,802,018
  • Supplier Impact: $1,719,620,711
  • Induced Economic Impact: $2,086,724,154
  • Total Impact: $6,292,146,882

Legal Restrictions:

  • Control State: No
  • Sale Hours: On Premises: Varies by municipality. Most municipalities have a last call of 2 a.m. Larger cities such as Newark, Hoboken, and Jersey City set their closing time at 3 a.m. Atlantic City and Brigantine serves 24 hours. Some dry towns in the southern part of the state, including Ocean City.
    Off Premises: 9 a.m.-10 p.m., unless bar/restaurant has license to permit Beer/Wine off-premises, then hours must be the same as on-premises hours
  • Grocery Store Sales: Rarely
  • Notes: Some dry communities in historically Methodist and Quaker communities in the southern part of the state.

    Though there is not a ban on selling alcoholic beverages at grocery stores, New Jersey limits each chain to two licenses, so except for a few exceptions, most supermarkets/convenience stores/gas stations/pharmacies do not sell alcoholic beverages. In addition, liquor sales are only permitted in a separate department or attached sister store. Bars are allowed to off-sale packaged goods.

    With the exception of Jersey City and Newark, all municipalities MUST allow off-sales of beer and wine at any time on-sales are permitted. However, since alcoholic beverages are generally only found in package stores, this right is rarely exercised. Alcoholic beverages by the drink as well as off-sales of beer and wine are permitted 24 hours a day in Atlantic City and Brigantine.

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Data complied, in part, from the Beer Institute’s Brewer’s Almanac 2010, Beer Serves America, the Brewers Association, Wikipedia and my World Factbook. If you see I’m missing a brewery link, please be so kind as to drop me a note or simply comment on this post. Thanks.

For the remaining states, see Brewing Links: United States.

Beer In Art #55: Gregg Hinlicky’s Brewer Portraits

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Today’s works of art are part of a larger project undertaken by New Jersey illustrator Gregg Hinlicky. A decade ago, he began an undertaking to paint portraits of his favorite brewers.

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Garret Oliver, from Brooklyn Brewery.

The original ten paintings were quite large, averaging seven-feet tall, whereas later portraits are three-feet by four, which has allowed him to speed up and increase output.

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John Maier, from Rogue.

The goal for Hinlicky it to paint at least thirty brewer portraits with an eye toward ultimately publishing a book of the portraits.

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Fritz Maytag, from Anchor Brewery.

Hinlicky attended the Newark School of Fine & Industrial Art and held several design and marketing positions before joining D&R Communications, which has been his day job for over seven years.

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I’m not sure what brewery this is, but the painting’s titled “Henry.”

I particularly like this peek inside an unnamed brewery.

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It looks like he’s also done the logo for Climax Brewing, shown here on the label for their 10th Anniversary Ale.

Hinlicky does sell his work and takes commissions, too. If interested, you can contact him through his website.

Paintings used with the permission of the artist. All works © Gregg Hinlicky.

Hindenbeer To Be Auctioned

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My son Porter, being a somewhat typical 8-year old, loves all things that have to do with destruction. But unlike most kids his age, he has a fascination with historical disasters, especially the Titanic and the Hindenburg. He has at least two dozen books about the Titanic and other sea disasters and three about Zeppelins and the Hindenburg, along with several more general aviation books that include airships. So it was with great joy that I told him today that a bottle of beer that was salvaged from the Hindenburg disaster was going to be auctioned this Saturday.

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Apparently, on the morning of May 6, 1937, firefighter Leroy Smith fortuitously came upon six bottles of Lowenbrau beer and a silver-plated pitcher. Thinking quickly, he buried them, returning later to dig up his booty. He gave five of the bottles to colleagues and kept one, along with the pitcher, for himself. Most of the rest have been lost, though one ended up in the Spaten museum in Munich (and I saw that one a few years ago when I visited Spaten). In 1966, Smith’s niece inherited the two Hindenburg souvenirs, and will now be auctioned by Henry Aldridge and Son of London. Coincidentally, they also specialize in items from the Titanic.

According to the BBC, the burnt Lowenbrau bottle is expected to fetch around £5,000 (or $8,337). The auction catalog for the bottle has the following information:

Hindenburg memorabilia: An extremely rare bottle of Lowenbrau Beer recovered from the wreck site of the Z129 Hindenburg, May 6th 1937 when it crashed at Lakehurst Naval Air Station. It was recovered by local Fire Chief Leroy Smith of the Matawan Fire Department New Jersey, along with 5 others which he handed out to each of his colleagues. The whereabouts of all of these bottles with the exception of one is unknown. He presented one to the Lowenbrau brewery in 1977 where it remains to the present day. The example being offered for auction is sealed, with some of its original label and shows evidence of heat damage. This lot is sold with a provenance package which include correspondence from the Lowenbrau brewery regarding the bottle of beer donated to their Museum, press cuttings and signed copy of a letter of provenance and an account of how Fire Chief Smith came to acquire the bottle.

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All of the accounts of this story, such as by the BBC, the New York Post and ABC News each claim this will be the highest price paid for a bottle of beer, but in August of 2007, a bottle Allsopp’s Arctic Ale that sold on eBay for $503,300.

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Here’s a better view of the Lowenbrau bottle.