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Monday morning musing: Genetics and auction madness

Not sure what your head is ready for this Monday morning, but we’ll start with the heavy lifting and then move on to good fodder for the around the water cooler. (Does anybody still hang out around water coolers or do they just use IM?)

– Don Russell writes about the developing battle over Frankenbeer in Germany; that is GMO beer. This battle packs a double whammy — GMOs (a bigger issue, so far, in Europe than America) and if this violates Germany’s beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot.

Today there’s a report in the New Scientist about using “supersonic steam” to speed the brewing process. “The steam rips the liquid apart completely to form tiny, atomized droplets,” says Jens Thorup, Pursuit Dynamics technical director. “The droplets create a massive surface area that speeds up brewing reactions.”

Change can be good. This new process would reduce the carbon footprint of brewing. That’s excellent, but better if it doesn’t muck with traditional flavor.

Increasing prices for beer remind us that we’re talking about something that is grown before it is brewed. There’s a lot to pay attention to along the way.

– This fact hidden in Pete Brown’s post about tapping his well-traveled IPA: “Sadly the brewer of our beer, Steve Wellington, couldn’t make it because sales of Worthington White Shield are up by an incredible 67% this year and he’s brewing round the clock.”

Do you think Coors (which runs the White Shield Brewery within its complex at Burton-on-Trent) has any other beers with sales up 67% for the year? Not even Blue Moon is doing that well. Doesn’t this say something about tradition and beer with flavor?

– Plenty of beer on eBay these days, so remember you are bidding on collectible bottles rather than the contents :>)

* As I type, Bottle No. 1 of the 2007 release of Samuel Adams Utopias is at $810. This one is for charity. There are dozens of other Utopias packages available as well.

* Surly Brewing in Minnesota is auctioning a few bottles of Surly Darkness to raise money for EnergyCents, a non-profit Minnesota organization that helps folks with their heating bills. Here’s one, with a current bid of $152.50. Just click on “View seller’s other items” for more.

Surly put 480 of the 22-ounce bottles on sale Saturday at the brewery, with a limit of two per customer ($33 for two bottles, including tax). WCCO reported that buyers traveled from from Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Michigan to buy the beer, and interviewed some who were in line all night. Darkness went on sale at 9 a.m. and sold out at 12:49 p.m.

* A threesome of Lost Abbey beers — Cuvee de Tomme (375ml), Angel’s Share (750ml), and 10 Commandments (750ml) — sold for $199.99 in an eBay auction that closed Sunday. There was no mention of charity by the seller in Chicago.

A similar auction — Cuvee de Tomme, Angel’s Share, and Lost And Found (750ml) — just closed at $141.01. But did not meet the reserve. Same seller, by the way.

5 Responses to Monday morning musing: Genetics and auction madness

  1. Stephen Beaumont December 17, 2007 at 8:35 am #

    More price stuff, Stan? Keep this up and I’m going to have to take away your Alan-poking stick…

  2. Alan December 17, 2007 at 2:25 pm #

    Jeese, Stephen. I was just thinking how much this reminded me of the days of $1,000 dollar hockey cards which can now be bought for a fraction of a fraction of that price – and, you know, I still have a pile of Eric Lindros rookie cards at a very reasonable price.

    I am just happy to see some of this bubble economics is going to charity.

  3. Bob Kunz December 17, 2007 at 2:29 pm #

    Isn’t this Ebay thing fascinating? I was just talking about this on my blog…it sure seems like great free press for these breweries, huh. It makes you think about the whole “paying $20-30 a bottle” thing doesn’t it. Buyers setting ridiculously high prices for themselves. It’s interesting.

  4. Mark Tichenor December 18, 2007 at 10:34 am #

    Whew. When you wrote “Frankenbeer,” I thought you meant the beer from Franconia (Franken). I agree that Tucher Weizen is crap, and should probably be banned, but their Bajuvator Doppelbock is fantastic!

    On topic: Without scientifically modifying ingredients, we wouldn’t have lagers as we know them today. Carlsberg isolated the lager yeast in a classic example of Man Meddling Where He Was Not Meant To Tread.

    On the flipside, and I know this sounds anti-progress), by modifying grain and hops to reduce the necessary volume and squeeze more Euros out of each crop, we create situations like the current hop shortage, where farms concentrate on smaller-scale production of high alpha hops. Gradually, fewer hops are grown per year, because the GMO stuff gives so much more profitable output per acre. Then, one bad harvest and BOOM! Suddenly the brewers are in turmoil and beer prices skyrocket.

    That’s my big worry, but I think it’s proving legitimate.

  5. Stan Hieronymus December 18, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    Good points, Mark.

    An ongoing challenge – not just for beer but all agricultural products – is how much science? Not easy to answer. But I think we’ve proved in Oregon that you can breed “good for us” changes in hops without turning to genetic modification.

    And then there is whole issue of turning cereal grains from annual plants to perennials. Again, advances being made in the west – in this case wheat, and through breeding rather than GMOs.

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