Beer Birthday: Jennifer Talley

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Today is the 45th birthday of Jennifer Talley, former brewer at Squatter’s Pub & Brewery, an oasis of good beer in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jen left Utah two years ago to become the Brewing Operations Manager for RedHook in Woodinville, Washington, but more recently joined Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. Jennifer’s a terrific brewer and one of the coolest people in the industry. Join me in wishing Jennifer a very happy birthday.


In town to shoot a television pilot in 2007, Shaun O’Sullivan (21st Amendment), Dave McLean (Magnolia) and Jennifer outside Magnolia.


After a panel discussion at GABF on women in brewing. From left: Carol Stoudt (from Stoudts Brewing), Jennifer Talley (from Squatter’s Pub Brewery), Natalie Cilurzo (from Russian River) and Teri Fahrendorf.


At a beer dinner put on by The Lost Abbey near San Diego, Jennifer and Matt Brynildson stopped by our table for a visit with Adam Avery and Vinnie Cilurzo.


At CBC in San Diego, 2008. From left, Fal Allen (Asia Pacific Breweries), Jennifer and Geoff Larson (Alaskan Brewing).

Beer Birthday: John Hickenlooper

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Today is the 62nd birthday of Governor of Colorado — and former Denver mayor — John Hickenlooper. John was also the co-founder of Wynkoop Brewery in Denver’s LoDo District, and in fact is credited with helping to revitalize the whole area. After being a popular, and by all accounts very effective mayor, for several years, he was elected as the Governor of Colorado. John’s been great for Denver, Colorado and craft brewing. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

George Wendt, Nancy Johnson & Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper
George Wendt, Nancy Johnson & John at the Great American Beer Festival three years ago.

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With Ken Allen, from Anderson Valley Brewing, and Dave Buehler, from Elysian Brewing at GABF several years ago.

Alaska Barleywine Festival Winners

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

  1. Pelican Pub & Brewery Stormwatcher’s Winterfest
  2. Sleeping Lady Old Gander Barley Wine
  3. Deschutes Super Jubale

And here are a few photos from the event, courtesy of Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News.

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Dick Cantwell, brewer/co-owner of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, with an English volunteer, and Sam Calagione, from Dogfish Head Brewing in Delaware, enjoying themselves at the Elysian Booth during the festival.

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Adrienne McMullen, Nico Freccia, both from 21st Amendment Brewery, with presumably a volunteer, all sporting their watermelon wheat chapeaus.

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John Burket, head of craft brands for Odom Distributing, Sam Calagione, from Dogfish Head in Delaware, and Dick Cantwell, from Elysian Brewery in Seattle, Washington, checking out the selection offered in a staggering 42 cold box doors at a retail outlet in Anchorage, Alaska.

UPDATE: The Beer Geeks, Chris & Meridith, have a great write-up on their own trip to the Alaska festival, and they’ve also posted a blizzard of photos from the festival and its surroundings.

A Tip For Jesus

You just can’t make this stuff up. According to today’s Salt Lake Tribune, two men, apparently dying for a beer, walked into what I assume was a convenience or similar type store and asked to buy a six-pack. Unfortunately, this was after 1:00 a.m. — when in Utah it’s ridiculously not legal to buy alcohol — and were told “no” by the clerk manning the store on the late shift. Undaunted, the pair asked if they could steal it. The clerk replied. “Yes, but Jesus is watching.” So the two men produced a gun and took the beer, but left a $9 tip on the counter, enough money to cover the cost of the six-pack. But according to sheriff’s deputies, the men are still suspects in a robbery, since they took the beer from the store during the prohibited time frame. It seems that despite having paid for it, technically, they still stole the beer.

 

The Primo Return of Primo

This was first reported back in late November during what I’ll continue to call “The Great Ennui of Late ’07” when the Bulletin was looking pretty sparse. I’m returning to the new year reinvigorated, or at least willing myself to try, and so I’m trying to catch up on old news people have sent in, and this comes to me by way of my island connection, a regular Bulletin reader living in Hawaii. Thanks Doug. It seems the old iconic Primo Beer brand has returned as of December, so far in kegs only. Bottles will be back sometime in April.

First, a little history. Primo Beer was originally made by the Honolulu Brewing & Malting Co., which was founded in 1898. After Prohibition ended, it was renamed the Hawaii Brewing Co. and by the 1950s became the best-selling beer on the islands. In 1963, Schlitz Brewing bought the brand, building a new brewery in ‘Aiea, and they continued making Primo until closing it in 1979. At its height, the Hawaiian brewery produced over 400,00 barrels per year. A few years later, in 1982, Stroh Brewing bought the brand and changed the label as well as the formula, trying to sell the brand outside Hawaii in several states. With mixed success, sales grew and then fell again, and eventually Stroh stopped making Primo in either 1997 or 98 (accounts differ on this point). A year or two later, Pabst acquired the brand, along with several others brands from Stroh’s and they are the current owners of the brand.

So last year, Pabst made the decision to bring back the label. And that makes sense, Primo was one of those iconic brands that people couldn’t help but associate with Hawaii. Using a silhouetted image of King Kamehameha, who in 1810 united the Hawaii Islands under his leadership of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was a genius marking move and the bold Hawaiian shirts made in the 1960s-70s with the Primo label continue to be collector’s items right up to the present.

The new Primo is being launched by the Primo Brewing Co., a division of Pabst Brewing. A new recipe was created by brewmaster Phil Markowski, who justly won fame and fortune for his beers at the Southampton Publick House on Long Island, New York.

The beer itself is being brewed by a craft brewery on the island of Kauai, Keoki Brewing, who initially will brew around 200 kegs each month. Once bottled production starts up, that will be handled stateside by Pabst in Irwindale, California. But since Pabst doesn’t own any breweries, that means Miller Brewing — who does own a brewery in Irwindale — will be contract brewing the beer for Pabst. According to a press release, “the draft and bottled versions will be distributed by Paradise Beverage Co.”

It will be interesting to see if they can successfully revive the brand. I imagine it will be great as a tourist beer and for locals looking to support a well-known local brand, at least as far as the draft beer is concerned. The bottles stateside may prove trickier, especially after the initial novelty wears off, as it inevitably will.

 

Look Away From the Beer

This interesting tidbit comes by way of the Fermenting Barrel via Tomme Arthur (thanks, Tomme), who knew my little crusading heart would appreciate the inanity of it all. It seems a new ordinance in the southern Utah town of Springville “requires beer displays be erected no closer than 15 feet from a store’s public entrance.” The Utah County Health Department’s Division of Substance Abuse also wanted retailers to keep all “beer 10 feet back from a store’s front windows,” too, but the City Council decided instead to just keep it away from the front doors. According to a story in the Salt Lake Tribune, “Richard Nance, substance-abuse division director, said the goal is to try to ensure that children do not get mixed messages about where the community stands on alcohol use.” What exactly is that mixed message he’s so worried about? Seriously, what is it? Anybody know? I mean, despite a huge religious influence in Utah, beer is still legal there, right? So what message is being sent by its proximity to the front door, for chrissakes?

Retailers, however, don’t appear too concerned about the new law — not that there’s much they could probably do anyway. Apparently most stores already keep their beer stock in the back of the store, which is also where most keep the milk, isn’t it? One added benefit, I suppose, is that less beer may be exposed to the light streaming through the front door, which may reduce skunking (hey, I’m looking for the silver lining here).

The Fermenting Barrel‘s take:

Tell me this, are the kids absorbing the alcohol by being in the mere vicinity of a case of beer? Can’t the kids still walk to the back of the store and *gasp* be exposed to beer? Or are the children confined to the front of the store?

In my opinion there’s way worse things kids can be exposed to right at the counter, say…pornography, cigarettes, or even junk food, candy, and soda. Last I checked diabetes was one of the worst epidemics in the US. How does it usually develop? Through obesity caused from a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. How about going even a little further, what about all the easy access kids have to the crap on TV, the Internet, and movies.

OK, I’m done ranting. You get my point. There’s bigger fish to fry than fretting over kids walking past a case of beer when they walk in a store. Just leave it to Utah to come up with even more insane alcohol laws. As if their laws weren’t already weird enough.

Amen, brother.

 

Squatter’s Brews Utah’s 1st Organic Beer

Jennifer Talley, the head brewer at Squatter’s Pub Brewery, which is operated by Salt Lake Brewing, has brewed the state’s first certified organic beer, an amber ale. Squatter’s is already known for their ecological leanings, having been named a Utah recycler of the year in 2004. So creating an organic beer does seem like the next logical step for them to make. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Talley used “organic pale and caramel malted barley and aromatic hops,” using “barley is grown from organic seeds, using natural methods of pest control such as lady bugs and composting rather than chemical fertilizers.”

The taste, says brewmaster Jenny Talley, is a caramel-like maltiness with a hint of sweetness. Organic certification requires high levels of cleanliness and sanitation that already were in place, said Talley. But it also requires strict segregation of ingredients “from grain to glass.”

In addition to the Squatters Pub in downtown Salt Lake City, the new organic amber ale is also available at Park City and at the Salt Lake City International Airport. It will also begin appearing on grocery store shelves throughout Utah beginning this summer.

I’ve very much enjoyed Talley’s other beers and am glad to see yet another organic beer from a well-established brewery.

Jenny Talley, brewmaster at Squatters, shows off her Squatters Organic Amber Ale, the Utah’s only certified organic beer.
(Photo by Paul Fraughton, The Salt Lake Tribune)

NOTE: For some reason, the Squatters website requires a username and password, meaning no one can actually visit their website, or it give the following error message, “Insufficient system resources exist to complete the requested service,” with the same result. Hopefully, this is a temporary error and will be fixed shortly.

Coors’ Ice Cold Obsession

All of the big beer companies and many of the bigger imported ones have at one time or another emphasized “ice cold” as the ideal temperature to enjoy their products. It’s no secret that the closer to freezing you serve your beer, the less of it you can actually taste. So they’re quite right to market their products this way, as for me the less I can taste of them the more I enjoy them. All three of the big U.S. players have used this tactic at one time or another, and then there was the fad for “Ice Beer” a number of years ago. Some imports, like Guinness and Foster’s, have even gone so far as to re-brand line extensions like Guinness Extra Cold and Foster’s Extra Cold, as if changing the temperature makes it a different style. In London, I have seen both Guinness and the Extra Cold version side-by-side in the same pub. It may be a great way to monopolize two taps, but in every other was it’s a travesty.

Many servers still cock their head to one side in the manner of a dog just shown a card trick when I ask them to re-pour my beer into a beer glass that hasn’t been frosted in the freezer. I find this especially troubling when I didn’t ask for a frosted glass or wasn’t informed — or more properly warned — it came in one. A waitress once told me they didn’t have any non-frosted glasses in which to serve me my Chimay. I can only imagine she’d never heard of hot water to warm up the glass. But it’s very, very bad for the beer to be frozen in that manner so I’ve never really understood why so many clueless bars even do it. I’ve written about this before here, to wit:

Now generally when beer dips below freezing ingredients begin to break down, primarily the proteins which come out of solution. This causes them to separate and form small flakes that swim around in the beer and make it cloudy. Of course, because of the alcohol beer freezes at a point that’s already slightly below freezing, the exact point depending on the percentage of alcohol. Alcohol itself freezes at -173° F.

This is also the reason frosted, frozen glasses stored in the freezer are such a terrible idea. They also chemically alter the beer and change its taste. The reason you generally don’t notice it is simply because drinking any liquid at that temperature also numbs many of your taste buds. Several volatile components in the beer aren’t released in your mouth and disappear undetected down your throat. The beer’s flavor profile is considerably narrowed and some tastes disappear completely. Cold beer also effects the beer’s balance because hop character survives better than malt or fruity esters. This is the reason bland lagers, which are generally less well-hopped, do better at cold temperatures and explains why ales are generally served at warmer temperatures. A good rule of thumb is the colder the beer, the less of it you can actually taste.

So it’s a bit confusing why so many of the larger beer companies that make their products on such massive scales also tend to be the ones that promote the idea that colder is better, until you remember that they’re pretty savvy marketeers. And if you want the largest possible market share, it’s a lot easier to change peoples’ tastes than actually go to the trouble of educating them about why beer tastes the way it does and that the bitterness is actually a good thing. But if you take steps to insure your product is indistinguishable for your competitor, then you can simply market the brand instead of the beer. The science of advertising and marketing knows far more about branding and how to make people loyal to a particular brand than how to teach a wide range of people something as arcane as beer styles and why beers taste differently. Make them a commodity through marketing and you reduce a lot of your costs because you only have one or two products in many different packages.

But Coors approach to coldness is positively obsessive and for several years it seems all of their big marketing pushes have been geared toward ice cold beer. I believe they’re the only big brewer who ships their beer in refrigerated trucks to wholesalers and distributors, but that may only be anecdotal. Some of their current slogans even include “Taste the Cold” and “Rocky Mountain Cold Refreshment.” The fact that cold doesn’t actually have a particular taste is, apparently, irrelevant. I once had a journalism class in college where we had to read a essay on McDonald’s marketing practices, and there was a part of it that’s always stuck with me. The author visited the plant in New England where all of Mickey D’s Fillet-O-Fish patties are made. After seeing the whole operation from start to finish, he’s handed a cooked one to sample. As he bites into, his tour guide remarks. “Tastes crispy, doesn’t it?” The essayist then thinks to himself that he doesn’t know how to tell his host that “crispy” is not a flavor.

And the same is true for cold, especially in beer where if cold has any taste, it’s the absence of any flavor. But the images and messages we’re inundated with by marketeers are replete with such non-sequitors of logic, and most of us don’t even bat an eye or think about them very much. But it is as effective as it is insidious. The reason we take a shower, wash our hair and make the effort to insure our underarms are odor-free is entirely the work of marketing early in the last century in an effort to sell more soap, shampoo and deodorant. Prior to that time, Americans bathed far less often. Believe me, I’m not arguing we should return to a less hygienic time, my point is only that we take for granted now what once had to be suggested to us was a problem none of us knew we had through marketing and advertising. A particularly pervasive modern example is how big pharma creates a drug you didn’t need and then invents a disease you didn’t know you had that their new drug can magically treat. So instead of creating a drug to cure a disease that already exists, they create a disease and then sell you on the drug that treats it, rather than cures it. There’s far less money in cures than in lifelong treatments. Whoever heard of ADHD before there was Ritalin, or Erectile Dysfunction before Viagra.

Now recently Coors appears to turning all of its R&D money into finding high-tech solutions to keep their beer as cold as possible. The first of these was last year’s “Stay Cold Glassware,” which used a double-paned design to keep the beer away from your warm hands thus keeping beer colder longer. Here’s how Coors sold it to the public. “Beer pulled at 35 degrees and served in a room temperature glass will warm to 45 degrees when held for 20 minutes. The Stay Cold Glassware only allows a mere three degree increase in temperature in 20 minutes, thus keeping the beer colder and more refreshing longer.” Then there was this frightening sounding “ice-ready” package innovation, from a Coors press release:

Back by popular demand in retail stores nationwide is the Coors Light Plastic Bottle Cooler Box, the industry’s first ice-ready bottle package that can go just about anywhere. Introduced last summer, the innovative design was recognized by Convenience Store News Magazine as the Best New Packaging Innovation in 2005. Essentially a single use portable cooler, consumers need only add ice to the box to enjoy cold beer anytime. The Plastic Bottle Cooler Box includes 18 break-proof 16-ounce plastic bottles, allowing consumers to take beer where glass isn’t allowed.

In England, where Molson-Coors also owns Bass, to combat the Extra Cold versions of Guinness and others, they spent over $18 million dollars developing the technology for Coors Sub-Zero, a device that chills beer down below freezing, to -2.5° C (27.5° F). It seems little more than a gimmick on display at bars throughout England. When it first came out, my friend and fellow beer writer Stephen Beaumont tried it in Canada and came to the same conclusion in a feature he called “Hey Molson-Coors, What Do You Have Against Taste?

Then there was more money spent developing “Cold Wrap” labels that are designed to absorb the heat from your hand rather than warm the beer to a temperature where you might be able to actually taste it. These debuted on bottles last year. On cans, they spray painted the epoxy linings blue — over the gentle protests of the can manufacturers — and called it “frost brew lining.” Both schemes seem to me a perfect illustration that technology is not always a good thing.

Now AdAge is reporting the next step in Coors cold marketing is “Coors Light Super Cold Draft,” a new “glacier tap” mechanism (pictured above) that delivers beer at 6-10° colder than ordinary taps. In the article, a Coors PR flack is actually quoted as saying they own cold, whatever that means.

“We can own [cold] because of our heritage and our brewing process,” said Sara Mirelez, brand director for the Coors Light and Coors brands.

Hilarious. I think I’ll claim to own sarcasm because of my heritage of using it and my writing process. Okay, people, nobody else better use sarcasm without checking with me first, because I f$@&ing own sarcasm.

But really, there’s a low-tech solution I think Coors is overlooking. I could save them literally millions of dollars per annum if they’d just take my simple suggestion. Ready? Here goes nothing. Hey Coors, how about taking all that R&D money and use it to spend incrementally more on your ingredients to make an all-malt beer and maybe create a pilsner that still tastes good when it’s a little warmer? Then you wouldn’t need all the cold temperature gadgets, saving untold buckets full of money every year that would more than offset the margin loss from using more expensive ingredients. Now that will get me a chilly reception.
 

UPDATE 4.10: Coors has even set up a separate website for Super Cold Draft.

License Plates as Free Speech

When you read this is happening in Utah, perhaps you’ll be less surprised about it, but it’s my feeling that these sorts of attempts at censorship should be fought wherever they happen. Because however innocuous they appear, they always seem to lead to more serious attempts at curbing peoples’ rights of self-expression. Nip ‘em in the bud, I say. It seems the State of Utah will not allow a man to keep his vanity license plate that reads “MERLOT” because, according to a UPI story, it violates the state’s ban on vanity plates linked with intoxicants. A similar AP story on CBS News makes a similar claim.

But if you visit the Utah DMV website, this is all that they say on the subject:

Guidelines and Standards

What are the rules or guidelines regarding the combination and numbers of characters on a plate, or the content of the message on the plate?

In general, the statute forbids any combination of letters or numbers that “may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or that would be misleading.” In general, this law prohibits combinations that:

  • Are vulgar, derogatory, profane or obscene;
  • Make reference to drugs or drug paraphernalia;
  • Make reference to sexual acts, genitalia or bodily functions, or
  • Express contempt, ridicule or superiority of a race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage,
    gender or political affiliation.
  • Express or suggest endangerment to the public welfare.

Now, raise your hand. Who thinks the word merlot is “vulgar, derogatory, profane or obscene?” And it clearly doesn’t fit the third and fourth guidelines, either. So okay, let’s look at the second, that it makes “reference to drugs or drug paraphernalia.” Now I realize that alcohol is technically a drug, but I think it has one unique feature that makes it very different from what I assume the intent of that language was, which is that it’s legal.

Now I know there are some fine beers brewed in Utah, but by and large a healthy percentage of the state’s citizens have chosen to voluntarily abstain for religious reasons. That’s a lifestyle decision. I don’t happen to agree with it personally, but I respect it as a personal decision … except when you try to force that opinion on the rest of us. In this particular instance, the “MERLOT” plate has been on a 1996 merlot-red Mercedes for ten years. The owner was told he must remove it simply because one pinhead “anonymous caller told the state that merlot was also an alcoholic beverage.” It’s hard not to find it a little funny that they had to be told that. But it’s not at all funny that there is at least one person out there who had such a problem with a single word he saw on the back of a car. And not only that, but he felt compelled to do something about it. I can’t even imagine the thought process that led him to rat out a fellow human being for the word merlot. How on earth was this person damaged by the sight of it? How could seeing this one word be offensive? I just don’t get it. Did seeing the word tempt him so much that he was in danger of abandoning his commitment to abstinence? If so, it doesn’t seem too strong a commitment. Was he afraid of his children seeing it? If so, he’s not a very good parent if all it might take to corrupt his kids might be seeing the word “merlot.” Did his religious beliefs blind him to the fact that there are other equally legitimate ways in order to live one’s life? Maybe it’s the progressive in me, but I can’t for the life of me come up with a scenario in which this is in any way reasonable.

Believe it or not, there’s a website where a Salt Lake City man has collected vanity plates he’s seen driving around the Beehive state. Apparently the Utah DMV is also unaware that “CHIVAS” and “WHISKEY” are alcoholic, though they have thoughtfully put up a web page of links to other vanity plate websites.

Perhaps the real joke is that the man who owns the car chose the word “merlot” because that was the color of his automobile, not even because it’s also a varietal wine grape. Apparently, he’s go to fight the state on this one, and I, for one, am glad.