Category Archives: beer industry

How to Write a Beer Story for a Fitness Site

Step 1: Collect a bunch of beers with “light” or “lite” in their names.

Step 2: Ignore fact that it’s the total number of calories ingested that count, rather than calories per bottle of beer, by oft-repeating phrases like “If you’re someone who likes to have more than a few in one night, this may be the way to go” and “it’s a significant savings — especially if you have more than one.”

Step 3: Regurgitate marketing pap from brewery websites, like “A brewing process that takes about twice as long as the average beer keeps calories and carbs down.”

Step 4: Pretend that the whole craft beer “thing” has never happened.

Step 5: Assume your audience is composed entirely of the feeble-minded.

That’s it. Follow the above and you, too, will be ready to start writing for!

15 Better-for-Your-Body Beers

15 Better-for-Your-Body Beers


Filed under beer & the web, beer industry, social commentary

On Cider (Briefly)

I notice that Carling (MolsonCoors) is poised to unveil a new cider in the UK. This, of course, follows that company’s lead in Canada and also Labatt (Anheuser-Busch InBev) with its Keith’s brand of cider.

All of which makes me wonder why some people, presumably perfectly reasonable folk, would draw the conclusion that the ability to make a mass-market lager qualifies a company to also make a cider. I’d understand it if the move went from beer to whisky, since the start of distillation is essentially brewing, but other than having yeast ferment sugars, there is very, very little to connect the brewing of a beer with the creation of a cider.

I have not tried the Molson Canadian Cider, and am in no great rush to do so. I have tried the Keith’s Cider and found it to be rather unfortunate, sad enough to place last in a blind tasting of a dozen of so major and minor label ciders, in fact. I see no reason to expect anything different from the Carling cider.

Brewing ain’t cider making, folks. Leave each to the experts and stop expecting sheep’s milk from a cow’s udder.


Filed under beer industry, cider

Oh No! A Future with Fewer Cheap MillerCoors Beers!

The US-based bastard stepchild of SABMiller and MolsonCoors, MillerCoors, has announced plans to streamline its portfolio by discontinuing some of its “economy” brand line-up. (Read: Ditching some of the cheap beers.) This led me to wonder just what they might be jettisoning, so over to the MillerCoors website I surfed.

The company says that the move will allow them to focus on core economy brands like Keystone Light and Milwaukee’s Best Light, and will also expand the Hamm’s brands, so it’s a cinch those are sticking around. So scrolling through the “Our Brands” section, I come to the following:

Ice beers: Remember the ice beers of the 1990s? I do, but I was being paid to pay attention to such things back then. Well, anyway, apparently MillerCoors still has four — count ’em, four! — of the things in their portfolio: Icehouse, Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Mickey’s Ice and Keystone Ice. I’m thinking at least two are set for the high jump. (As an aside, I always loved the terminology behind these beers, which suggests they are “brewed below freezing,” never mind the physical impossibility of such a feat.)

Red Dog: Holy crap, MillerCoors still makes Red Dog. Not for much longer, I’m guessing.

Mickey’s: Hard to believe that the venerable Mickey’s Wide-Mouth — forever etched in my memory as the skunkiest beer I have ever encountered — could be discontinued. But then again, MillerCoors has given it one of the most minimalist websites you’re ever likely to find from a big company, so maybe they’ve tired of the whole thing.

Magnum Malt Liquor: When you have Olde English 800, do you really need Magnum? Perhaps not…

Steel Reserve: I admit that I haven’t the faintest idea what this family of three brands is all about, except that apparently it’s been around in various forms since 1998. Maybe or maybe not.

So those are my guesses. Any alternate theories out there?




Filed under beer industry

A Word About Gluten

Some people, still a relatively small but by all accounts growing percentage of the population, have sensitivities to gluten. I know and have known several such people and have seen the effects on their health first hand. Of this there is no doubt.

Others have jumped on the “Wheat Belly” bandwagon and decided for reasons of their own to eliminate gluten-containing grains from their diets. Which is, of course, purely their personal choice and fine and dandy by me.

Although it is the first group that has much more to lose by ingesting gluten, it is the latter group that, to my experience, is more active in questioning issues of gluten in alcohol, and in some instances, perpetuating mythologies. So for the record, here are a few points about glutinous booze:

1) Beer contains gluten. Major brewery beers contain gluten and craft beers contain gluten. Wheat beers and rye beers and stouts and light beers and pretty much any other kind of beer you can name contains gluten. Period.

2) Gluten-free beers are, of course, the exceptions to the above rule. Unfortunately, very few of them taste much like actual beer. (Although not all, as per point 6 below.)

3) Distilled spirits, of whatever sort, do not contain gluten. This is because the process of distillation specifically involves the separation of alcohol from everything else, including the gluten in glutenous grains. But don’t believe me, believe!

4) Flavoured spirits may or may not be gluten-free, since said flavours are generally added post-distillation and few offer any details as to what is used in their flavouring. The same applies to liqueurs.

5) Wines are gluten-free, including Champagnes. Since they are made purely from grapes, I don’t understand why some people insist on challenging this fact.

6) Although I have not personally tasted all the gluten-free beers on the market today — as a class, it’s growing almost exponentially — the best I have sampled are those of Quebec’s Les Brasseurs Sans Gluten, marketed under the Glutenberg label. In particular, their seasonal Belge de Saison, a 7% alcohol ale brewed with Meyer lemon, is far and away the finest, more a “good beer than happens to not contain gluten” than any other I’ve yet tried. It deserves to be a widely-sold, year-round brand.


Filed under beer & health, beer & the web, beer industry, beer reviews

To Hell with Part-Time Beer Writers and Contract Brewers!

Provocative title, yes? Good, because that’s what it is meant to be, but imagine for a second if I really meant it.

Imagine if I wrote a column about how important it is that every person writing about beer should be doing it as their sole source of income, with no “day job” or sidelines to keep the rent/mortgage paid and the lights on. Now imagine further that I implied through said column that those who do not write full-time are somehow less worthy than are those few of us who do, and that the fruits of their labours, ie: the articles and reviews they pen, are therefore by definition second class.

You’d probably think at best that I was rather full of myself, and most likely also that I’m an ass. And so you should.

Now change the above scenario to brewing rather than writing, and brewers in brick-and-mortar breweries and contract or so-called “gypsy” brewers rather than full- and part-time writers. Only this time you needn’t imagine it because it’s happening now. Again.

I’ve been writing about beer for 23 years, so I’ve lived through all this a few times now, and I’m here to tell you that it’s an utterly undignified debate. It smacks in turn of protectionism and claims of superiority, or at least greater legitimacy, and it is utterly meaningless to the vast, overwhelming majority of those who drink craft beer.

Why? Because like me, most of them don’t care whether the beer was born in a wholly-owned or sometimes borrowed brewery. They care whether or not it is good. Period.

Is there reason for the craft brewing industry to be debating owned breweries versus contractors – what Tim Webb and I have dubbed ‘beer commissioners’ – and “gypsies”? Yes, there may be, but internally. It’s a brewer-to-brewer and owner-to-commissioner debate, folks, and something that only looks petty and mud-slinging to outside entities. And what’s more, it will have no positive effect on the audience for your beer, so there is zero benefit to making it public.

(To those that say this is a fight for legitimacy and that the public will turn against beer commissioners if they know the true nature of what they do, I have three words for you: Boston Beer Company.)

When the craft beer biz gets together, as it did last week in Washington for the 6,400 person strong Craft Beer Conference, there is a tendency to forget that much of the beer drinking world is still blissfully unaware that alternatives to Bud and Coors Light even exist But it remains the reality that only the very fringe of the beer cognoscenti, itself a tiny, tiny minority of beer drinkers, is interested in this sort of internal debate. For the rest of the world, all that matters is what is in the glass.

Or, to return to my imaginary example, what’s on the page. And so far as I’m concerned, that’s the way it should be.


Filed under beer & the web, beer industry, drinking quality

Sapporo May Shutter Nova Scotia Brewery

The drinks trade website is reporting today that Sapporo, the Japanese brewing company that owns Sleeman Breweries in Canada, is planning to close down their Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, brewery if a buyer is not found before July of this year.

According to the story, the former Maritime Beer Company, born in 1998 and acquired by Sleeman in 2000, employs 32 people and produces a modest 27,000 hectolitres per year, a mere 2% of Sleeman’s total output. Sleeman Breweries’ president & CEO, Shige Yokoi, is quoted in the story as saying that the move is “difficult” but necessary in order for the company to achieve the efficiencies necessary to remain competitive.

Sapporo says that talks are ongoing with potential buyers, but that no deal has as yet been achieved.

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Filed under beer industry

Shorts in Knots Over Glassware

If you’re read my previous post, the one about not stealing beer glasses, then likely you’ll also know that Sam Calagione and Ken Grossman and a few others have come up with a new glass designed, they say, for the drinking of IPA. And certain people, including my good friend Mr. Lew Bryson, have reacted rather badly to it.

“Jesus H. Christ,” Lew railed on his Facebook page, “More prescriptive bullshit about how we’re supposed to drink our beer.” That little post garnered, at last count, 76 “likes” and 83 comments in two days, the majority of which were in agreement. One commenter even went so far as to maintain that “(s)tuff like this is ruining the experience of enjoying the beer itself, I believe.”

Me, I’m of two minds. As anyone who regularly or even occasionally reads these missives will know, I’m a great proponent of glassware, but more on the side of aesthetics than function. I hate the “shaker” pint glass because I think it’s ugly and presents the beer poorly – any beer, from IPA to Trappist ale to mass-produced lager. I like the glasses I keep sequestered in a dedicated cabinet because they look good and thus enhance my beer-drinking – or cocktail sipping or wine supping or spirits enjoying – experience. In my occasional role as hospitality industry consultant, I advise against the shaker because I feel its use is a false economy and ultimately detrimental to beer sales.

Whether the shaker makes the beer inside taste inferior to, say, a chalice or a nonic pint or Lew’s favourite Willi Becher, I do not know. I should probably do some research into it, but how does one objectively analyze flavour out of glassware without at least laying one’s hand upon the glass and so influencing one’s perception in some small fashion?

(For the record, while I have not yet held the glass in question in my hand, my initial impression from the photos I have seen – like this one – is that it does not rate terribly high on the aesthetic scale. Better than the Boston Beer glass, for sure, but way below many other glasses, including pretty much every one currently residing in my cabinet.

However, the point is that its existence is harmless. No one is forcing anyone to drink out of it, and I seriously doubt that either Sam or Ken would refuse you a 60 Minute or Torpedo should you not have one handy. They are part of a trend I’ve been noting for some time, namely the fetishizing of beer drinking, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Does anyone need a fancy, flip-knife-style bottle opener when an ordinary church key or, in a pinch, a lighter or rolled up magazine will do the job? No. Do I need a cabinet filled with glassware, roughly two-thirds of which is devoted to beer? Definitely not. Should you feel bad because you want to serve IPA but only own pilsner and weissbier glasses? In heaven’s name, no!

Wine has been fetishized for years now – hands up everyone who owns a rabbit or rabbit-style corkscrew! – and the cocktail geeks are doing their best with that segment of drinks. And if you’re a whisky drinker, someone is trying to sell you rocks to put in your drink, for crying out loud!

Beer is no different, so enjoy it or not, as you wish. Buy the new IPA glass or ignore it, but don’t get bent so out of shape about it. It’s just a glass, not a massive conspiracy to take the joy out of beer drinking.


Filed under alcohol hysteria, beer & the web, beer glassware, beer industry