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Archive | April, 2007

New Beer Rule #3: 2 pints are better than one

NEW BEER RULE #3: You must drink at least two servings of a beer before you pass judgment on it.

Good tasting, huh?I starting writing the rule before this wandering conversation at Seen Through a Glass, but it makes a great point. In the middle there is a discussion about how, or if, drinkers come to appreciate a range of beer flavors.

My answer: Pay attention.

At first I was going to propose only a single serving (that size may vary according to style). However, George Reisch of Anheuser-Busch suggests a “three pint rule” when he speaks at beer dinners. Several years ago Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver put forward a “Four-Pint Principle” to other brewers.

Oliver explained he means “that I want the customer to WANT to have four pints of this beer.” Circumstances may dictate otherwise but he or she should want to continue drinking that beer. Oliver was speaking to brewers, telling them they needed to get out and drink their beer where other people drink.

“Just before the end of every pint, every customer makes a decision – ‘Will I have another one of these?'”

A commercial brewer got me thinking about the rule when he wrote this in an e-mail:

“My favorite rating of all time goes something like this. I went to X festival where I proceeded to drink 4 ounce samples of everything they had 55 beers in all over a 4-6 hour period. Right about the time I was set to go home, some guy broke out this beer that I (really wanted). I was so late to the bottle opening that I got only an ounce of dregs from the 4-year-old bottle of bottle conditioned and unfiltered beer. God, it was the best one-ounce tasting in my life. I can still remember seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after swallowing it…. Or it could have been that I drank so much before and I was seeing Jesus himself? Either way, I give it 19 out of 20 and it would have been a perfect score but I had trouble with its ‘clarity.'”

You can understand why he OK’d using this, but without his name. He likes the beer rating sites and appreciates they’ve been good for his business. But he knows that customers buy growlers where he works, go home to hand bottle the beer, then ship it all over the country. He knows enthusiasts will split beer into tiny portions to share with friends.

That’s not the way he intended his beer to be enjoyed. (OK, when a consumer buys the beer it becomes her property, but we’re getting the beer we do today because brewers put some of themselves into the product.)

Yes, I know that judges at the Great American Beer Festival or World Beer Cup only sample a few ounces in deciding which are the “best” beers.

No, this isn’t a screed against beer community sites – I’ve written before about how vital they are to the beer revolution. And I’d still tell you assigning a score to a beer for anything other than personal use is silly even if you guaranteed you’d drink 10 servings first.

This is a rule for your personal use.

Reserving judgment isn’t going to make a great beer taste mediocre, nor a boring one suddenly take on nuance. Reserving judgment means paying attention throughout – whether it is a beer high in alcohol, low in alcohol, high in hops, low in hops, malt forward, malt backward, yeast dominated, yeast sublimated. What’s the rest of the story?

You might be surprised what you learn. Besides you got nothin’ to lose. I’m giving you a reason to have another beer.

NEW BEER RULE #2: A beer consumer should not be allowed to drink a beer with IBU higher than her or his IQ.

NEW BEER RULE #1: When you open a beer for a vertical tasting and there is rust under the cap it’s time to seriously lower your expectations for what’s inside the bottle.

British beer drinkers young and hip

New research into Britain’s drinking habits finds “Beer is the drink of style and sophistication.”

We might as well get the grain-of-salt stuff out of the way first. This research was commissioned by the British Guild of Beer Writers, who have good reason to suggest that newspapers run more stories about beer. And Pete Brown, author of two popular books about beer, founded Storm Lantern, the consulting firm that did the research.

Stylish beer drinkerSo you are entitled to think this carries the same sort of authority as the recent report funded by MySpace that found MySpace is a great marketing platform. Personally, I favor giving credit to the guild for trying to change the image of beer (sound familiar?) and to think that similar research in the United States would show that there’s a good-sized market for stories of a beery nature.

Speaking for the report, Brown said: “This research proves emphatically that having an enthusiastic appreciation of beer is mainstream – most of the people drinking specialty beers and real ales do so not because they’re beer geeks, but because they are more discerning about all food and drink.”

The report found:

– There are over seven million “beer fans” in the UK – “people who drink beer, but also drink a wide variety of beer styles (i.e. not just lager), seek out new beers and are prepared to pay more for quality.”
– Beer enthusiasts are young, upmarket, affluent and well-educated (55% aged 18-44).
– They are mainly male (but still include half a million women).
– They are voracious readers of quality newspapers and magazines, very interested in news and current affairs, travel sections, anything to do with new cars and gadgets.
– They are bon viveurs, passionate about food and drink, frequently entertaining at home if they are not in a pub or restaurant. They are inquisitive about food, but uninterested in low fat, fads and health scares.

Tim Hampson, chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers, said: “The research buries the myth that only wine is the drink of sophistication.Beer is not only an equal to wine, it clearly deserves greater serious coverage by the media “especially among those papers trying to appeal to people in the 25-44 age group.”

In fact, there has been a lot of hand wringing among those who sell wine about how beer is doing a better job attracting the so-called Millennials (sometimes known as Gen Y). Beer, wine and Millennials is topic for another post.

Instead, let’s hope that if there’s a similar survey in the states that it finds that however the group of “beer fans” is defined it includes more than 1 out of 14 (a half million out of seven million) women. Otherwise doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

A good home? Where John Maier brews

Jeff Risley provided the link to this first video during a presentation titled “Electronic Marketing to Your Fan Base” at the Craft Brewers Conference. Then I came across the second – a closeup look at brewmaster John Maier – while viewing it again.

Thinking back to Alan’s Do We Love the Beer or Brewer? discussion, I don’t really care if these clips simply explain why I so like Rogue beers and admire the brewery or if I’m confessing to having fallen prey to marketing wizardy. I just like them, and may watch them again this evening with a Rogue beer in hand.

Rogue founder Jack Joyce was among those at the seminar. After the video finished and several people commented on how amusing the tour guide had been, Joyce simply said, “He’s no longer with us.” I think he was kidding.

Innovation, Czech style

Rambousek beerWe already know this, but brewing innovation doesn’t stop at the U.S. borders. It isn’t limited to Belgium, or even to such new-ish hotbeds as Denmark and Italy.

Evan Rail of the Prague Daily Monitor writes that 10 new Czech microbreweries are due to open this year. He describes some beers I think we want to try:

Partly inspired by the nascent homebrewing movement, many of these smaller makers have introduced highly innovative half-liters: Rambousek’s outstanding chestnut-honey lager, Primátor’s excellent English Pale Ale and Zamberk’s to-die-for Imperial Stout.

Bigger breweries, Budvar and Pilsner Urquell, are also experimenting with new beers. Rail doesn’t have much nice to say about Budvar’s effort, but Pilsner Urquell seems to be showing an unusual willingness to think small although its plant for producing Pilsner Urquell itself expanded.

As if to counterbalance, Pilsner Urquell’s two new beers imitate the limited production, historic origins and unusual styles of a great Czech micro. Called Master, the new line claims inspiration from a sixteenth-century text on brewing by the court physician to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II. (It’s worth noting that the new brews are only said to be “inspired” by the past: both are modern, bottom-fermenting lagers, produced in Pilsner Urquell’s state-of-the-art brewery in Plzen.)

For now the beers are available only on draft and only at home. Bottles will come next but not distribution aboard.

Bootie Beer: RIP?

The Milwaukee Journal reports:

Bootie Beer Corp., a Florida company that turned to a Wisconsin brewer to produce its suggestively named beverage, has been getting its posterior kicked.

City Brewing produced Bootie Beer under contract for a Florida company, but hasn’t for more than a year (and apparently nobody else has either). This isn’t about City Brewing, but about the non-brewing marketing company called Bootie. Although Bootie’s flashy website wouldn’t make you think so, the company lost $6.6 million in 2006.

In February, Bootie Beer Co. announced that it had entered into an investment banking agreement with Orlando-based KMA Capital Partners Inc. to raise up to $25 million for Bootie. But KMA spokesman Jack Craig told the Journal that KMA’s involvement with Bootie ended.

There’s a chance the Bootie may survive this. Investment firms holding notes that can be converted into Bootie stock have claimed that Bootie defaulted and hope to take over the company.

So I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what the future might bring. I’m taking the optimistic view and thinking, “Bootie Beer: RIP.”

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