In wine country, pot-infused wines are the open secrets that present themselves in unmarked bottles at the end of winemaker dinners and very VIP tours (it bears mentioning that most winemakers are cagey enough to keep the manufacture of such wines far from winery grounds). The wines range in style and intensity as broadly as “normal” wines and winemakers do. Some practitioners of the fruit-forward, higher-alcohol, New World style take a similarly aggressive approach to infusing wine. “I know a winemaker that takes a couple of barrels a year and puts a ton of weed in it and lets it steep, and that wine is just superpotent,” says a James Beard Award–winning chef, who also asked not to be named. Henry, though, makes more classically styled wines, and with that reserve comes a more subtle hand with the cannabis. Adjusted for volume, “special” wines can range from under a pound of marijuana per 59-gallon barrel to over 4 pounds per barrel. The result is a spectrum ranging from a gentle, almost absinthe-like effect to something verging on oenological anesthetic.
The latest Gallup Poll screams the news from the mountain tops. DRINKERS PREFERENCE FOR BEER FALLS 5%.
And, as in 2005, wine gains. So now 36% of drinkers prefer beer (that will be down to 1% in seven years if beer continues to lose 5% per year) and 35% favor wine. Lots of numbers that people who sell wine must love (look at the preferences of college graduates). Then, of course, there is the last paragraph.
While meaningful, this year’s shifts are not much different in magnitude from those seen in 2005 – changes that proved temporary. Whether beer continues to lose ground to other forms of liquor or rebounds may depend on the future direction of young adults’ drink preferences.
Maybe this will turn out to be a big deal and maybe it won’t. Certainly anybody running a brewery, particularly one with shrinking sales, should be bothered if it turns out that younger drinkers are abandoning beer for wine.
But what Gallup apparently missed when it formulated the questions at least the ones we’re seeing the answers for is that there’s beer and there’s beer.
If I’m going to finish a book or magazine article (or blog post, for that matter) I expect the author to tell me something new or provoke me to consider something I thought I knew about in a different way.
(Of course it should be well written and focus on a topic that interests me. I sense I’ve read as much about Lady Gaga as I ever will, although I’m sure there’s plenty more that will amuse somebody else.)
I was reminded of this well into Mike Veseth’s Wine Wars when he wrote:
“Well, in wine tasting you learn that sometimes it can be helpful to tilt your glass at an angle and look at the edge of the wine. Sometimes this ‘sideways’ view provides information about the past and clues to the future. It’s time to take a sideways look at the future of wine.”
I was that far into the book (page 195) because Veseth takes a sideways look when discussing “The Curse of the Blue Nun, The Miracle of Two Buck Chuck, and the Revenge of the Terroirists” (the sub-title of the book and the three sections in which is it divided). The first two parts help understand what’s different about shopping for wine at Trader Joe’s and Costco, and that was enough to keep my attention. Veseth is an economist and that’s one of the reasons I subscribe to his blog feed.
(And maybe the history of Blue Nun is special because way back when a friend who knew much more about wine than I did at the time actually sent back a bottle of Blue Nun. Who the hell knows when a bottle of Blue Nun is “off”?)
I wish there were more books like this focused on beer. If you look at Amazon’s list of best selling beer books the “how to” theme is pretty apparent. (The same is true of wine, but those aren’t the books I read.)
That’s why I plan to break away from drinking beer long enough at the Great American Beer Festival to listen to the discussion of “The Evolution of Beer Scholarship” in the Brewers Studio Pavilion (scroll down).
The writing and editorial team of the newly published The Oxford Companion to Beer, will discuss the developing resources in beer education. Compared to a well-defined wine academia, beer education has always been pretty thin, but that’s changing fast. Discussing resources from oral tradition to iPhone apps, Editor-in-Chief, Garrett Oliver, will lead this conversation on the current demand for genuine information and scholarship on beer, and what’s been happening to meet that demand and make brewing studies deeper and more interesting than ever before.
If I don’t make it and you do please tell them you’re pretty sure there is a demand for more information about hops.
Can you imagine two wine drinkers sitting in a cafe arguing about monoterpenes1 and asking the bartender to drag a copy of The Oxford Companion to Wine from the the bookshelf to settle a bet?
Me either. However, I can envision The Oxford Companion to Beer on top of a bar, it’s otherwise elegant cover a bit beer stained.
Amazon reports the book will be available Oct. 7, but editor Garrett Oliver will be signing copies the week before at the Great American Beer Festival.
Pre-publication promotion states “this book is the perfect shelf-mate to Oxford’s renowned Companion to Wine and an absolutely indispensable volume for everyone who loves beer as well as all beverage professionals, including home brewers, restaurateurs, journalists, cooking school instructors, beer importers, distributors, and retailers, and a host of others.” More details are at
I have not seen the list of more than 1,100 entries, but the preview includes topics such as Acetyl CoA and Breweriana; pretty diverse before we even leave the Bs.
Last May, I suggested that every blogger should own Brewery History, No. 139 because it is full of thought-provoking topics. It might take a while to digest Companion to Beer when it arrives the 960 pages weigh in at four pounds but it obviously will be packed with a heck of a lot more conversation starters . . . and let’s hope the definitive information to end the conversations that get a bit tedious.
1 I just flipped open a page and pointed my finger. Funny that we’d expect to see turpenes covered in this book as well.
This is a “map cartouche of one of the Western Hemisphere’s earliest recorded recipes (for a form of beer).” It was taken from from America, a map by Jodocus Hondius (Amsterdam, 1606). Seems like a poster that would sell well in homebrew shops.
You’ll find it here, along with dozens of other images from the Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and more about the growing American culinary history collection at the library.
* Trading up to beer (and then to wine). A working paper from the American Association of Wine Economists exams the evolution of beer consumption between countries and over time. Parts are easier to understand if you have an Economics to English dictionary at your side.
Although the focus is on economics, the authors look at all the factors that determine what makes a “beer drinking nation.” In doing so, they track how consumption in those nations has changed dramatically in the past 50 years and ask why. Their findings, in economic speak:
Our first important result is that we do indeed find an inverted-U shaped relation between income and per capita beer consumption in all pooled OLS ánd fixed effects specifications. From the pooled OLS regressions (Table 3), we find that countries with higher levels of income initially consume more beer. Yet, the second order coefficient on income is negative, indicating that from a certain income level onwards, higher incomes lead to lower per capita beer consumption. The first and second order effects for income are strongly significant and the coefficients are quite robust across the different specifications.
The fixed effects regression results confirm this (Table 4), so the non-linear relationship for income holds not only between countries, but also within individual countries over time. As a country becomes richer, beer consumption rises, but when incomes continue to grow, beer consumption starts to decline at some income level. We calculated the turning point, i.e. the point where beer consumption starts declining with growing incomes, to be approximately 22,000 US dollars per capita.
So you get a graph that looks like this, with beer sales soaring in emerging economies quite obviously China, but also Russia, Brazil and India.
What the wine economists want to know is “what’s next?” As consumers grow richer will they spend more money on wine (and less on beer)? The Chinese effect has already boosted prices of high-end French wines. Most predict something similar with wines across all prices categories, although that might be 20 years off.
What the study doesn’t consider at all is “beer different,” as in not a commodity, the beers drinkers are “trading up” to on a regular basis, in just about any country where they can find them.
* ‘Extreme’ boiling. Port Brewing/Lost Abbey has begun a “behind the scenes” video series, the first featuring how it makes Hot Rocks Lager. This is an Old World beer, certainly not “extreme.” But the process is a little out of the ordinary, and might just be what it looks like to make beer in Hell. Tomme Arthur calls it a “super boil,” and it is. Pay close attention beginning about 1:40 into the video.