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— Todd, Founder of BeerAdvocate
Make booze, not bombs
In a war-torn nation full of conflicting values, one American civilian contractor found a way to make a little diplomacy—and he did it with homebrewing. “Steve” (not his real name) is currently working in Iraq, and wanted to offer something to the family of his highly trusted translator. Homemade beer can be a good way to make friends, but not in Iraq: It’s risky bringing alcohol into the country, and the translator’s family, due to their religious convictions, can’t partake in the products of fermented grape or grain.
So, Steve had an idea. He brewed up some apple-cranberry Mead—an elder cousin of beer, and technically within the family’s religious limits—and smuggled it into the country. It worked: Mead was new to them, they loved it, and they loved him for it. “Alcohol won’t change the endemic hatred between Sunni, Shia and Kurds,” Steve wrote by email, while still in Iraq. “It was a nice thing I tried with the family of my friend.”
Soldiers have even less leeway in using alcohol as a peacemaker, because they’re barred from drinking. That hasn’t always stopped them, though. “There is a whole genre of paintings from the 17th century of soldiers in a tavern with locals,” says Wayne E. Lee, a University of North Carolina history professor who is researching how soldiers’ desire for alcohol affects their actions. In Tennessee in 1983, he says, a National Guard unit even filled a water trailer with moonshine, and took it with them on maneuvers. No doubt, it was a popular unit.
A beer by any other name…
Beware, thirsty travelers: Budweiser isn’t Budweiser in Portugal, and Corona isn’t Corona in Spain. Or at least, they’re not the beers we’re used to. The Mexican-brewed Corona is called Coronita in Spain, and a European court recently gave Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar the rights to sell beer under the name “Budweiser” in Portugal.
Both are the result of trademark battles. When the Budweiser case came down in January, it got worldwide attention—in part because it’s so David vs. Goliath, but also because Anheuser-Busch’s battle against Budejovicky Budvar has been going on for decades. In fact, it still rages in other countries.
In North America, though, beer clashes have been less notable. Although small breweries dot the land, their beers typically stay local and nobody gets too flustered if names overlap. When the industry magazine Modern Brewery Age compiles its index of beer brands, it finds all sorts of similar names, according to editor and publisher Peter V. K. Reid.
But as craft breweries expand their reach, they may start dragging each other to court as well, Reid says. “There’s so many brands in the marketplace now, and there’s so much cross-pollination with the imports and exports, that it’s bound to happen,” he says.
Here’s one early riser: Moosehead Breweries has gone after everyone from local bars (Mangy Moose Saloon in Jackson, WY) to other breweries (Big Sky Brewing Co., maker of Moose Drool Brown Ale). The moose, they say, is theirs.
It’s good medicine, if you can find it
The Celiac Sprue Association maintains a long, detailed list of foods safe for people with celiac disease, a disorder that prevents them from eating gluten products like wheat and barley. But the most common request it receives isn’t for food. It’s for beer. (After that, according to executive director Mary Schluckebier, it’s for pizza.)
For decades, the association didn’t have much to tell people. There were a handful of craft breweries making gluten-free beer, but they were only available regionally. In December, though, Anheuser-Busch released Redbridge, a lager made with the grain sorghum. It’s safe for those suffering from celiac disease and wheat allergies, and is the first nationally distributed beer of its kind.
People were excited. It made headlines around the country. But now, people with celiac disease have a new problem: They can’t find it.
Redbridge is priced like an import and has a short shelf-life, and Schluckebier suspects retailers are reluctant to carry it. Or, she says, maybe Anheuser-Busch underestimated its popularity, and hasn’t made enough to meet the demand. She’s been telling people to request Redbridge at their local stores, because otherwise it might never show up.
“It just doesn’t seem to go together—beer and a health challenge,” says Alice Bast, executive director of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, who helped develop the beer. “So there’s all these people out there with a health challenge, celiac disease, and [Anheuser-Busch] didn’t anticipate it would be so huge.”
The brewery won’t talk about its sales or future plans for Redbridge, except to say that customer feedback has been “extremely positive.” For now, at least, retail locations are available online, at redbridgebeer.com. A review of Redbridge can also be found in the Beer Reviews section of this month’s BeerAdvocate.
Wanted: Bountiful beer bottlers
Breweries have two main ways to bottle and package their beers. They can order the glass, six-pack carriers and cartons separately and in bulk, or they can order everything pre-packed, with the glass bottles already in the carriers. For small breweries that don’t have large storage areas or the machinery to erect six-pack cartons, pre-packing is often the best way to go.
But for small brewers along the West Coast, that’s been a problem. There aren’t many companies pre-packing bottles in the area, so service can be unreliable. That’s led some breweries to miss shipments to distributors, meaning the beers never arrive on the shelves. “You have your staff ready to bottle Brand XYZ on Tuesday, and if the glass doesn’t arrive for it, you skip a beat and that costs you money,” says Tom McCormick, president of the California Small Brewers Association.
McCormick surveyed his members, and discovered the glass shortage is atop almost everyone’s list of problems. So he’s trying to fix it. He’s reaching out to pre-packing companies around the country and trying to lure them to California. And on March 1, the association is hosting a workshop for all breweries. Its aim is to connect breweries with other pre-packing companies, or instruct them in how to buy everything in bulk.
The workshop is at Lagunitas Brewing Co., in Petaluma, CA. It’s free to CSBA members, and others may attend though for a small fee.
Man legislature in recess
Here’s a “Man Law” Burt Reynolds and Triple H apparently forgot to make: “Drink more Miller.”
Miller Brewing Co.’s “Man Law” ad campaign, which began last year and featured prototypical celebrity men making proclamations on how to live and drink, has been dumped. It was cheeky and may have gone over well with the frat-boy crowd, but sales of Miller Lite dipped slightly in 2006. So, the brewery’s new ads will focus more on the beer, describing Miller Lite as “the light beer that invented light beer.”
Miller hasn’t said whether Man Laws are gone forever. Perhaps they’re being sent to the Supreme Man Court for review. ■