Top Menu

Monday musing: What’s the opposite of Zima?

Before we begin Phase III of our grand odyssey we’re holed up in snowy New Jersey through the holiday, leaving me a bit of time for Monday musing.

– I paid little attention in October to the final demise of Zima, and just caught up with the excellent piece at Slate about its long and torturous death. A fine lesson about marketing, and an interesting contrast to the rip-roaring success of small-batch beers focusing on flavor and making sure there is a there there.

– We like year-end lists in our house, and not just because I can make fun of the beer-related ones. Books, best recordings, best movies, that stuff. And when Sierra gets it organized we’ll post our Best of the Trip – Europe Edition at The Slow Travelers.

But I’ve given up trying to assemble a “best of beer” for the year, for the European leg, for Germany, for Liechenstein. I can’t even decide on my favorite beer from Cantillon.

Mahrs BrauInstead I’ll point you to a list done right. It makes me wish we had managed to collide with Boak and Bailey as all of us bounced around Germany and the Czech Republic. They were in Leipzig when we were in Prague. We were in Dresden when they got to Prague. They blogged about Christmas markets, we went to dozens (Berlin alone has 50).

It’s not that I agree on all their favorite beers (had six, but part of the point of these lists is to discover new things, right?). Daria and I really didn’t care for the sourness in U Flecku. However we loved the Mahrs Bräu Ungespundet-hefetrüb, and since we were staying one block from the Bamberg tavern and had no ticking agenda were happy to order more.

– Visit Alan and Jeff to see the winners of the 2008 Yule Beer Blog Photos contest. It seems I have a photo in there. Probably a sympathy selection after I whined about getting my butt kicked in previous years. I probably shouldn’t be so flip, because – amazing as it may be – run a contest, give away a lot of nice prizes and somebody is still going to give you grief.

– Interesting to see in “How many cult wines can dance on the head of a pin?” that the number of cult wines has exploded since the mid-1990s. Can you think of a parallel? Here’s a hint.

– And I’ll finish with a press release from home (yes, a bit sad I missed this):

“Blue Corn Brewery (Santa Fe) celebrates old traditions as well as new beginnings with the release of Aztlán Winter Ale on December 13, 2008. The first commercial beer to feature certified organic, native New Mexican hops, Aztlán Winter Ale also incorporates organic malts from the United States and Canada, and clean, pure Northern New Mexican water. This winter warmer has malt overtones of chocolate and plum with hints of orange and spice from the hops.

“Ralph Olson of U.S. hop supplier, HopUnion, reported to a source he knew of no other brewery having used these hops in the past. Blue Corn head brewer Brad Kraus, said, ‘In all my years of research about brewing in New Mexico, I have not found a single reference to the use of Humulus lupulus var. neomexicana, or New Mexican native hops, in the brewing of beer here. Since these were grown organically, I felt it fitting to use only organic ingredients.’

“Todd Bates and business partner Steve Johnson grew the hops just north of Embudo, New Mexico. They have been growing and breeding native New Mexican varieties for four years on their small organic farm.”

I visited Todd and Steve in August of 2007 (mentioned here) and Todd frequently comments here. Hi, Todd.


9 Responses to Monday musing: What’s the opposite of Zima?

  1. Bill December 22, 2008 at 1:36 pm #

    “…and an interesting contrast to the rip-roaring success of small-batch beers focusing on flavor and making sure there is a there there.”

    I dunno about that, given the differences in scale. I wouldn’t be surprised if, even at the end, Zima was outselling all but a handful of crafts. I’m sure Boston Beer easily sold more Samuel Adams Boston Lager than MillerCoors sold Zima in Zima’s final years of existence… but did any of Boston Beer’s other brews sell more? The rip-roaring success of craft brews is great in that each year, more is sold than the year before. But when a fad like malternatives arises and immediately sells an equal or greater amount of barrels to craft… I’m not sure that helps the argument of “making sure there’s a there there.”

    Welcome back!

  2. Bailey December 22, 2008 at 2:52 pm #

    Glad you liked the list. It’s the laziest, most egotistical type of article you can write, but it’s Christmas, so we treated ourselves…

    Hope our paths will cross at some point!

  3. Todd December 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm #

    Hi Stan,
    The organic Aztlan Winter Ale was a big hit at the Taos Ski Valley Brewmasters Festival. Brad did a bangup job- lot’s of flavor with a clean finish that left you wanting more. At the end of the evening, folks were mentioning to each other that –
    “the best beer of the night is upstairs on the right (Blue Corn, Brad) and the Aztlan Winter Ale is the best-go see what you think”.

    Big turnout, great beers. Mostly.

    It was most interesting that if any brewer had an option of an organic beer, it was the first beer chosen for a taster. Dang near always.
    The organic beers were great BTW. Deschutes did a great job using the Salmon-safe Sterling hops.

    Wish you were there!

  4. Todd December 23, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    Oh yeah, we’ve actually have been working with the native NM hops since 1993. When we found a few plants we wanted for breeding( drought had killed? the rest), we started crossing at high elevation in 1996-1999. We brought the seeds from some of the best down to low elevation in 1999. From 2000-2003, we were unhappy/unsuccessful with most of our breedings, but we had now learned quite a bit…and that the native hops liked coming down out of the high elevation. In 2004, we finally got better and got a few nice plants. We’ve grown and killed so many plants for so many years, we wondered if we’d ever get any winners. Here it is 2008 going on 2009 and we’re there. We’ve got some real nice plants..and they’re making great beers. And growing hops organically is, so far, not any problem at all.
    We have done what we were told could not be done….. with plants that we were all told only make nasty tasting beers.
    It’s a new day coming!

  5. Stan Hieronymus December 24, 2008 at 5:13 am #

    Bill, instead of rip-roaring success perhaps I should have written “happy survival.” My point would be that Zima spent $38 million in advertising the first year, but that there has to be steak to go with the sizzle.

    And that in the late 1990s I saw it written more than once that craft beer was a fad. Quite honestly, there was (and is) a fad aspect. Fortunately also brewers committed to quality and drinkers passionate about those beers.

    I might run in the wrong crowds, but I know people passionate about Budweiser and Corona, but I can’t remember anybody passionate about Zima.

  6. Alan December 24, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    I think I have a small bit of passion about Zima because I never had one, couldn’t buy one in Canada if I had wanted and because it represents all that can be in America, the artificial good that man’s will can stamp upon the world. Like cheese in a spray can. It represents the Monroe Doctrine in beverage form. It they could have, they would have taken it on the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explain the future that was coming just 180 odd years down the road. It should have had an eagle on the can.

  7. Stan Hieronymus December 24, 2008 at 12:28 pm #

    Alan, there’s the passion that was missing. They should have hired you at least 10 years ago.

    If it is any consolation, I never drank one either.

  8. Brad Kraus January 1, 2009 at 12:30 pm #


    If you are real nice, I might be convinced to save enough Aztlán for you to taste. When do you make your return, or are you ever coming back?

    el cervecero loco del vaquero

  9. Stan Hieronymus January 2, 2009 at 8:45 am #

    Hi Brad – We have to be back in time for Sierra to return to public school in August. I’m looking forward to judging in the State Fair Pro-Am.

    Will pass through before that but the date isn’t certain. Perhaps I should count on you doing a fresh batch next fall.

Powered by WordPress