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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tuesday Tasting: Seven Meads

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we taste perhaps the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world.

Mead, or honey wine, is likely the very first alcoholic beverage to touch a human's lips. Theories suggest it was discovered by prehistoric man, a mixture in the wild of honey and water that came into contact with airborne yeast. Chinese researchers and archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania have uncovered evidence during digs in Henan province showing trace elements of fermented beverages made from honey, hawthorn fruit, rice and grapes in 13 pieces of pottery from 7000 B.C.. This find predates the previous earliest known example of alcohol playing a part in civilization in now what is part of Iraq by 1,500 years.

While you may have thought mead was last consumed by a royal court in the Middle Ages, the reality is that mead still plays a central role in some African and Eastern European cultures. Additionally, a growing mead making community in the U.S. is producing some interesting beverages.

According to Julia Herz, who heads up the International Mead Association (IMA) in Boulder and runs the website Honeywine.com, there are 100 commercial meaderies operating in the U.S. today, up from about 30 in 1998. About 50 of these are pure meaderies and the rest are wineries or breweries who make beverages using honey. According to the IMA, to be a mead, the product must be fermented from at least 51 percent honey. Meaderies can add fruits, herbs, spices and other flavor adjuncts either during fermentation or after.

The IMA plans to host the fifth annual Mead Festival on Feb. 9-10, 2007, in Denver. The IMA expects 100 commercial meads to be available for tasting and about 1,000 people to turn out for the fest. Lyke2Drink recently had the chance to sample seven meads:

Chaucer’s Raspberry Mead (California, 10.5%): Light red color. Sweet, but not cloying raspberry nose and flavor. Great summer time deck drink.

Desi’s Raspberry Lover’s Sparkling Honey Wine (North Carolina, 12%): A nice nose with hints of honey. The raspberry flavor is in the background and this mead is crisp.

Heidrun California Orange Blossom Natural Sparkling Mead (California, 12.5%): This one could fool many sparkling wine fines. Good depth to the flavor profile, just a slight bit of honey in the nose that tells you this might be a mead. Good balance throughout.

Long Island Meadery Apple Cyser (New York, 13%): This drinks a bit different. Not quite a cider, not quite a mead. Some wine qualities. The apple is present, but subdued. I actually liked this much better about half way through my glass and found myself wanting more.

Oliver Camelot Mead (Indiana, 11%): The influence of the sister winemaking operation is clear in this mead. Good balance, reminds me of a Seyval wine from the Finger Lakes. Pleasant with food.

Redstone Meadery Black Raspberry Nectar (Colorado, 8%): This is what happens when a new age fruit drink meets an ages old alcoholic beverage. Intense and sweet, refreshing under the right circumstances. Not balanced, but I don’t believe that was the intent.

Redstone Reserve 2002 (Colorado, 13%): Mixed with raspberry puree this mead is intense and drinks a bit like a brandy. An interesting display of flavors and very much worth a try.

McGill University Approves Student Homebrewing Society

In addition to classes, studying and exams, most people's college experience includes joining at least one club. In my case it was the Daily Orange student newspaper at Syracuse University. I'm wondering why some of us did not come up with the idea that an obviously brilliant group of students at Montreal's McGill University have turned into an officially sanctioned organization.

The McGill Student Homebrewing Society recently held its first meeting after receiving interim club status from the Students' Society of McGill University. It took eight months of negotiating with McGill University officials and SSMU over liability issues and concerns about formal recognition of a club focused on alcohol.

Like most schools, McGill has concerns about sanctioning alcohol related events on campus and wants to avoid negative media coverage that comes from under age and binge drinking. While college administrators try to distance their schools from alcohol (except, of course, when it comes to taking financial backing from beverage companies or profits from selling alcohol at sporting events), most students spend time trying to close the gap between their lips and a cold beverage.

McGill's Student Homebrewing Society achieved its goal by submitting a formal application to the SSMU that included information on Quebec's homebrewing laws and answers to objections being raised by campus bureaucrats. The fact of the matter is that a group of students learning about how to brew great beer in their own kitchens is likely less of a liability issue for McGill University than the school's hockey team presents.

The Student Homebrewing Society plans to teach students how to brew, hold homebrew tastings and discussions, tour local breweries and lend equipment to would-be brewers. According to the McGill student newspaper, 15 students turned out for the club's first meeting last week. To obtain full club status, the homebrewers must hold three events and attract at least 25 student members within three months. Based on my recollection of college life, this should not be an obstacle.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Thai Alcohol Concern Buys Scotch Maker

International Beverage Holdings (InterBev), the international division of Thai Beverages, has purchased Inver House Distillers.

Founded in 1964 as a company to market blended Scotch in the United States, Inver House produces Old Pulteney and Speyburn Scotch, Heather Cream liqueur and Coldstream London Gin. Its brands are sold in 80 countries around the globe.

Since 2001, Inver House has been part of Pacific Spirits UK, an operating division of Great Oriole Group, a Virgin Islands company.

Thai Beverages, based in Bangkok, makes Chang Beer and Mekhong Rum. The company is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.

A Few More Reasons to Go to the Polls on Nov. 7th

It's turning out to be a fairly busy election season for voters who think Prohibition is a proven bad concept and support the idea that responsible adults should be able to buy a drink in a tavern, restaurant or grocery store without breaking the law.

In earlier posts Lyke2Drink has chronicled the effort to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores in Massachusetts; alcohol to be sold in stores on election day in Oklahoma; and proposals to repeal dry county and other alcohol restrictions in Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Whether its a Blue Law that restricts Sunday sales making it impossible to grab a six pack for the game or a Dry County that makes it inconvenient to bring home a bottle of wine to have with dinner, it's Lyke2Drink's view that governments ought to put forward the least amount of regulation possible to insure responsible sales practices and safe products. A ban is nothing more than an attempt to impose some type of morale or religious guidelines and that just is not the government's job.

Since our last post on the topic, we've learned about these ballot initiatives taking place on Nov. 7th:

Alabama: Lee County voters will decide on whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales. The cities of Auburn and Opelika in Lee County already allow Sunday sales.

Illinois: Voters in Chenora will vote in a non-binding advisory regarding Sunday alcohol sales in the community.

Kansas: Voters in the towns of Kechi and Park City, both in Sedgwick County will be voting to allow Sunday liquor sales.

New York: Voters in the Town of Rose in Wayne County can vote to allow businesses to sell and serve alcohol. While you might think dry laws are a Bible Belt phenomenon, Rose is actually one of 12 towns in New York that prohibits alcohol sales.

Ohio: Voters in Precinct C in the Village of Bethel will vote on whether it is OK for businesses to sell alcohol.

Tennessee: Voters in Townsend will consider the option to allow restaurants to serve alcohol by the drink. Currently, diners must bring their own bottle when they go out to eat.

Texas: In Irving voters will decide if it is OK to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer and wine. Meanwhile, voters in Hutto will decide if restaurants can sell alcohol.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Clock is Ticking on Pittsburgh Brewing

The job of a Bankruptcy Court judge might not sound all that tough, until you consider the fine line they must walk. On one hand, they have to weigh the rights of creditors who are owed money by the company that has filed for bankruptcy protection. They need to decide if they have faith in the reorganization plan put forward by the owners or if all involved -- including hourly employees -- would be better off if the company was sold or dismantled. And they have to do all of this knowing that careers and reputations hang in the balance.

In the case of the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. it appears that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge M. Bruce McCullough may have made up his mind that it's last call for the 145-year-old brewery. This week, Judge McCullough gave the owners of the brewery that churns out Iron City beer until Nov. 7th to come up with the financing to save the company. He sounded pretty skeptical doing it.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes McCullough at a hearing regarding $814,000 the brewery owes in federal excise taxes as saying: "If they can't even pay this, why don't we just shut it down?" He also tossed in: "This thing has gone on long enough and it isn't happening. When it's dead, it's dead." Judge McCullough criticized the reorganization plan from Pittsburgh Brewing saying, "The plan you've got ain't gonna work."

The brewer filed for bankruptcy protection in December when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority threatened shut off water -- which is fairly important when you are making beer -- because the company owed more than $2 million in unpaid bills. The brewery has asked for concessions from unionized workers at the plant and claims it has active talks going with potential investors. A number of rumors have swirled around Pittsburgh in recent weeks, one that has Pittsburgh Brewing shuttering its plant and starting to produce Iron City in Latrobe, Pa., at a brewery now owned by City Brewing of Wisconsin. That brewery used to make the Rolling Rock brand, which Anheuser-Busch purchased earlier this year. Production of Rolling Rock now takes place in Newark, N.J.

Judge McCullough told Pittsburgh Brewing's lawyers that they must come back with a "credible" plan and financing on Nov. 7th. He criticized the owners for stretching out the process and getting it closer to the holidays when he said he did not want to put people out of work.

Hyatt International Riesling Challenge

Earlier this month judges in Australia gathered to select the world's best riesling. One of the favorite grapes around the Lyke2Drink headquarters, riesling produces white wines that can be dry, semi-dry or sweet. Winemakers can make a fruit forward wine and balance it with a natural level of acidity. A number of countries produce very good rieslings and every winemaker has an opinion on which style best suits this versatile grape.

The seventh annual Hyatt International Riesling Challenge in Camberra included a record 458 rieslings from around the world.

Tim Adams 2006 Riesling from Australia's Clare Valley was named the best riesling in the world. The wine also won the Australian Capital Tourism Award for Best Current Vintage.

The Wolf Blass Award, was presented to Australian winemaker, Ken Helm, for his contribution to the development and promotion of riesling.

Other trophy winners include:
Hyatt National Riesling Challenge Trophy for Best North American Riesling:– Atwater Estate 2005 Reserve Riesling , Finger Lakes, N.Y.
German Ambassador'’s Trophy for Best European Riesling:– Wineconsale GmbH Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 2005
Linnaeus Award for Best Riesling from New Zealand: Konrad Sigrun 2006 Noble Riesling
ActewAGL Award for Best Museum Class:– St. Helga 2002 Eden Valley Riesling
Audi Australia Award for Best Open Class:– St. Hallett 2005 Eden Valley Riesling
ACT Chief Minister'’s Award for Best Riesling for the Canberra District: Kardinia 2006 Riesling

Friday, October 27, 2006

Diageo Causing Guinness Fans to See Red

I remember a few years ago when the folks at St. James' Gate Brewery decide to launch Guinness Gold as a flanker to the Guinness Stout brand. I recall wondering "What are they thinking?" Guinness is a symbol of Ireland and is known by many as "The Black Stuff." Messing with Guinness reminded me quite a bit of the New Coke marketing fiasco. Now drinks giant Diageo is preparing to test a red version of Guinness in England.

The brew is said to use a lightly roasted barley, which gives the beer a red hue. British pub patrons will be the first to taste the beer, but the company says it has no plans yet to offer the brew in Ireland or in any of the other 150 countries where Guinness is sold. That's not to say that the brewers in Dublin are not busy tinkering. With Guinness sales off in the home market, the brewery is testing a variety of beers to try to lure drinkers back from wine and spirits.

Diageo launched the Guinness Brewhouse Series last year. Using different stout recipes dating back to the 1700s, the third edition in the series was released recently. Guinness North Star Brew is named for the Brewer’s Star, a six-pointed star symbolizing purity. The brewery sells this series in selected pubs around Dublin.

I'd love to try some of the resurrected stout recipes, but as for gold or red colored beers with the Guinness name I'll take a pass. Guinness is as much a dark brew as Pilsner Urquell is a golden lager. That's the way it was meant to be.

Grapes & Grains: It's Harvest Season

It can be easy to forget that alcohol is an agricultural product. Barley, grapes, wheat, apples, rye, pears, corn, rice, lemons, potatoes, plums, oranges, seeds, various spices -- you name it and it likely ends up being used in beer, wine or spirits.

Some historians suggest that prehistoric man first decided to stay put so they could plant and harvest crops – not only as a source of food, but also to obtain fermentable raw ingredients. A good growing season then was much the same as it is today. Crops need proper growing conditions. The right amount of rain, sunshine and warm temperatures must all come together before the brewer, distiller or winemaker can work their magic. We are heading towards the end of October, but some farmers are still harvesting the raw ingredients that go into the drinks we enjoy. Reports from around the world suggest beer prices might go up, while the wine glut may continue, further depressing prices.

Foster's Group Chairman Frank Swan at the company's annual meeting told shareholders that dry growing conditions in Australia would boost production costs. He said barley supplies this year in Australia are down about 40 percent. In Germany, reports are that a hot dry summer resulted in the barley crop being off by more than a third. Increases in malt prices also impact whiskey producers.

It’s not just barley price increases facing brewers. The cost of hops has increased and may surge. Part of the reason is that low hop prices for a number of years caused farmers to go out of business or switch to other crops. In the United States, the number of acres planted with hops dropped from 43,430 acres in 1995 to the 28,928 acres in 2006. Estimates are that 70 percent of the hops grown in the U.S. are shipped overseas. A fire at a major hop warehouse in Washington has further tightened supply.

The success of the grape harvest is a much more regional affair. In New York’s Finger Lakes vineyards are reporting a good year, which is welcome relief after two poor harvests. Harsh winters and bad summer growing seasons had cut the supply of grapes by as much as 40 percent and restricted the amount of Riesling and other wines that could be produced in 2004 and 2005.

In Maryland, the state is trying to encourage farmers to plant vineyards through the use of grants. Winemakers in the state currently buy nearly half their grapes from other states. While developing vineyards is expensive, the return on investment over other agricultural land uses is much greater. Maryland is spending $98,000 this year for research, marketing and. Another $150,000 will be available next year. According to the Maryland Wine and Grape Advisory Committee the number of wineries in the state has doubled to 22 since 2002.

In California, the grape harvest in some parts of the state is said to be running behind because of the weather by two to three weeks. Grape quality is said to be good.

European vineyards from Italy to Germany report good results and expect to produce superb wines.

Vineyards in France were starting to talk about another “Vintage of the Century” as the summer progressed, but rains right at harvest time had many vintners saying it would be a “good” year, but likely not great. The interesting thing about French winemakers and others for that matter is that “Vintage of the Century” claims tend to get tossed around fairly liberally. In fact, it makes me wonder if a “Century” in Bordeaux actually lasts only five or six years.

The proof takes a few years to show itself – and by then we may be able to celebrate another “Vintage of the Century.”

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Early and Often: Your Vote Counts

Any regular reader of Lyke2Drink knows that I'm not a fan of government regulation that restricts responsible consumption of alcohol. Neo-Prohibitionists would make me laugh if not for the fact that they have more political pull than most Americans realize. The reality is that forces are at work on a daily basis to take away our right to gather as adults to enjoy conversation, fellowship and a couple of drinks. The Constitution protects our right to gather in a peaceful manner, but many would like to dictate where, when and how we do it.

Having moved from New York to North Carolina last year I've been exposed to southern laws and regulations, ranging from strange blue laws and dry counties. In some areas you cannot buy a drink on a Sunday. In other locations you have to drive to the next county to buy beer no matter what day of the week it is. Imagine being in the restaurant business or owning a bowling alley in one of those communities. I will bet a significant amount of money that a National Football League expansion franchise will never be awarded to a dry county in a state with blue laws.

Residents in several dry counties around the country will be going to the polls on Nov. 7th with the chance to vote their way to doing what the rest of us take for granted -- buy a drink without having to leave town.

Arkansas: Citizens for a Dry Marion County are wearing t-shirts and posting signs to try to hold on to a 60-year ban of alcohol sales. In Arkansas, 42 of 75 counties are dry. The last to go wet was in 1978.

Texas: In Lumberton voters will decide if alcohol can be sold in a limited area of the city. Most of the community would still be dry. Angelina County, Lancaster and Cockrell Hill also go to the polls to see if alcohol will be decriminalized. Texas voters have considered 177 alcohol resolutions since 2003. More than 80 percent have been approved.

Tennessee: Soddy-Daisy and Collegedale each have ballot initiatives that would allow the sale of alcohol.

Oklahoma: McClain County voters will be voting to repeal a Prohibition on liquor by the drink sales. A similar measure was defeated in 1985. Statewide, 43 out of 77 counties have passed liquor-by-the-drink.

Mississippi: Opponents to ending the dry laws in Pearl River County have been holding demonstrations featuring skits portraying children injured by drunk drivers to try to convince voters to defeat a resolution on the ballot to allow alcohol sales in the county.

Illinois: Town of Cortland voters will be going to the polls in the Spring to vote on whether a nearly 70-year-old ban on liquor sales should stay in place. In 1997, a ballot question on the same issue failed by a narrow margin.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tuesday Tasting: A Visit to the Isle of Jura

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we head to the west coast of Scotland for a pair of exceptional malts.

The Isle of Jura Distillery website speaks of an island of 150 people, 5,000 red deer and one fine malt distillery. The history of distilling on the island is said to go back to the 1600s, when bootleggers ran a still in one of the caves. After about a Century of legal operation, distilling on Jura was halted in the early part of the last century. It was not until 1963 that whisky making returned and the drinks world is better for it.

Jura is famous as the location where George Orwell came to in 1946 to write the classic novel 1984. There is a writer in residency program on Jura that keeps the creative legacy alive. Visitors to the distillery today can stay at the Jura Lodge and enjoy lobster weekends. Then there is the Scotch.

Jura Superstition: This single malt takes its name from, among other things, the fact that the Jura distillers believe it is unlucky to cut peat during April. That means the rains have soaked the peat by the time it is harvested during May, lending a mellow tone to the whisky. Superstition is a mahogany colored Scotch that has sweet hints in the nose, finishing with peat, honey and a bit of spice. The oak casks linger in the aftertaste and invite another sip.

Jura 21 Year Old: Whiskies of this age are rare treats and this one certainly stands out. Amber in color, this whiskey has a touch of citrus in the nose, with bits of spice and baker's chocolate in an intriguing flavor profile. This whisky has the mellow influences that come with age, but also has fresh flavor notes. If you want to see how Scotch can stand out from Bourbon or Irish whiskey, while still being a mellow drink, call for a Jura 21.

Monday, October 23, 2006

To Your Health: Red Wine Fights Colon Cancer

Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have released findings of a study that indicates people who drink three or more glasses of red wine a week reduce the chances that they will develop colon cancer.

Researchers said that the higher concentration of resveratrol in red wine, a compound that also is believed to fight fungal infections in grapes, helps cut the chances of colon cancer. Resveratrol is found just under the skins of grapes, which remain on longer during the production of red wine than white wine. The researchers recommend moderate alcohol consumption of one serving per day for women and no more than two servings a day for men.

Results of the Stony Brook University study are being presented at the American College of Gastroenterology meeting this week in Las Vegas.

To Your Health: Two Beers a Day Reduces Heart Attack Risk

According to a study by researchers in the Czech Republic, two beers a day can keep the doctor away by improving circulation and reducing heart attack risks.

Researchers at the Institute of Clinical Biochemistry and Haematology in Plzen, Charles University and the Plzen Teaching Hospital found that moderate consumption of Czech beer suppresses vascular diseases caused by fat in veins and important organs, including the heart and brain.

In the study funded by Czech brewers, subjects had one small beer at lunchtime and a large beer in the evening. Volunteers drank two beers for 30 days and none during the 30 days before and after the testing period. The study showed beer helped digestion and blood circulation, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attack.

Beverage Bulletin: Notes from the Drinks World

A Dram of English?: Andrew Currie, founder of the Isle of Arran distillery in Scotland, plans to launch a distillery in Kendal, along the River Kent in England. Using Auld Enemy as one of the brands from the Lakeland Distillers, Currie plans to produce 25,000 liters of English single malt annually. Other brands planned are Barley Bridge English Single Malt and Bootlegger Blend, English whisky blended with Scotch.

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Bourbon Brands Acquired: Spirits marketer Castle Brands now owns the Jefferson's Reserve, Jefferson's and Sam Houston Bourbon brands. Castle purchased Kentucky-based McLain & Kyne and as part of the deal McLain & Kyne's former president, Trey Zoeller, joins Castle as vice president of its U.S. subsidiary.

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Granite City Hits Sweet 16: Granite City Food & Brewery Ltd. has opened its 16th location. The new location is in Omaha, Neb., at the Westroads Mall. Granite City opened its first location in St. Cloud, Minn., in 1999. The Company operates a centralized beer production facility to support to its restaurants and create operational efficiencies.

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Six Down, Five to Go: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, just opened their sixth brewpub in Phoenixville, Pa., and they have announced plans to open five more locations in the next three years. Fueled by a $7 million loan from Citibank, Iron Hill is looking at sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. In 2005, the five Iron Hill locations in Newark and Wilmington, Del., and Media, West Chester and North Wales, Pa., had sales of nearly $20 million. Iron Hill was founded in 1996.

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Honest Officer, It's My Cologne: Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc., has licensed the Courvoisier Cognac brand to Kraft International Marketing for production of a high-end fragrance. Courvoisier L'edition Imperiale had its debut at the Tax Free World Association Exhibition in France. The fragrance, targeted towards 25-35 year old males, will be available in early 2007. No Cognac is used in the fragrance, which will sell for around $100 per 75 ml bottle.

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At Least He'll be a Sober Despot: The United Nations is facing down the nuclear threat of North Korea by moving to cut off Kim Jong Il's supply of Cognac and French wines. The per capita income in North Korea is $914, but the dictator and his power circle have long been fans of Mercedes-Benz, Hennessy Cognac and top flight French wines and perfume. The UN Security Council has placed a ban on the sale of luxury goods to North Korea as the result of the country's recent nuclear bomb test. While many of his people starve, the U.N. reports Kim owns 200 Mercedes cars and has a personal net worth of $4 billion.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Day in Wine & Barbecue Country

Fall is the perfect time to get out for a drive and visit a winery. Grape and fruit wine is produced in all 50 states, so most of us can go right to the source to taste wines and take a tour. That's just what my wife, Sandy, and I did with friends Brian and Michelle McCarthy this weekend.

We drove about 90 minutes north of Charlotte to visit Shelton Vineyards, where we did a tour, tasting and stopped for lunch in the winery's Harvest Cafe. Founded in 1999, Shelton is the largest winery in North Carolina. The grounds are beautiful, the facilities impressive, the wines are good quality and the food in the cafe was excellent. The only thing each member of our group noticed that they need to work on is hospitality. A winery should be a happy place. We did not see a single member of the tasting room or restaurant staff crack a smile during the nearly two hours we were on the property. If you have the chance to try Shelton's wines, I highly recommend the riesling. Shelton's Madison Lee White, which is a blend of chardonnay, riesling and vigioner grapes is a refreshing white. In the reds, the estate cabernet sauvignon, with hints of black cherries, and a smooth pinot noir are worth a try.

Our next stop was in Mount Airy, which lays claim to the Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry RFD. Yup, we got our photos taken with the bronze sculpture of Sheriff Taylor and Opie. We stopped at the Old North State Winery and had the chance to meet Cellar Master Michael Thomas. He told us the winery is under new ownership and renovation is underway to launch a new restaurant in the building. There are also plans to open a brewery on the site in the coming year and perhaps start micro-distilling brandy.

We enjoyed several of the wines we tasted at Old North State. The 38 Vines Chardonnay is a good solid chardonnay. We also found the Autumn Leaf, Sandy Cross Muscadine, Spring House and Restless Soul -- a Halloween-themed blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and chambourcin -- worth taking home a bottle.

On the way home we made a stop in Lexington, where the annual Barbecue Festival had just ended. That did not deter us from making a visit to the world famous Lexington Barbecue, where we enjoyed a plate of course chopped brown. It was my third visit to what most consider to be one of barbecue's holiest of sites and the first for the rest of my group. Judging by the reaction, it won't be long before we are back in line waiting for a table at this spot.

World's Oldest Whisky on Auction Block

A bottle of Scotch from a distillery that closed in 1858 will be auctioned next month in London. The bottle of Glenavon Special Liqueur Whisky Bottled by the Distillers is more than 150 years old and is being sold by Bonhams Auctioneers for a woman from Northern Ireland who says the bottle has been handed down in her family for generations.

Bonhams has estimated the bottle of whisky will sell for around $19,000.

The Glenavon Distillery was operated by John G. Smith between 1852 and 1858, then consolidated with Smith's nearby Glenlivet Distillery. The olive-green glass bottle is full and is slightly smaller than today's standard 750 ml bottles.

Cardinals vs. Tigers: No Matter What, A-B Wins

The 2006 World Series features the St. Louis Cardinals facing the Detroit Tigers. It has been more than 20 years since either one of these clubs won the Major League Baseball championship, but no matter who wins on the field this year one company is already a winner because of the match up.

Anheuser-Busch, which has long had ties with the Cardinals, also happens to be the U.S. importer of Tiger Beer from Singapore. Fans in Detroit have adopted Tiger beer, which had previously been usually found in Asian restaurants and groceries.

A-B would be happy if the series went seven games.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Paris Auctions Wine Amassed by Beer Loving Chirac

While he was Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, French President Jacques Chirac built quite a wine cellar for a man known to prefer Corona beer over wine. Today and tomorrow Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe will auction off nearly 5,000 bottles of Lafite-Rothschild, Petrus, Margaux and other high priced wines stored at Paris City Hall.

The fine French wines are what is left over from parties honoring the likes of U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, Pope John Paul II and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The current regime in Paris has gone downscale, eliminating most of the dinner parties and fancy gifts for visiting big wigs.

Auction house SVV Giafferi is running the sale. Wines included in the sale are 1981 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, 1989 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, 1986 Romanee Conti, 1990 Chateau Petrus and 1976 Krug Champagne.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Voters in Oklahoma Could Eliminate Election Day Prohibition

Back in the old days before politicians were slickly packaged and spent millions of dollars on massive television advertising campaigns attacking their opponents they used to get out and mix with the people. One way they found to turn out the vote was to buy a few drinks. You can say what you want about this type of electioneering, but the truth is that some of my long dead relatives likely got more satisfaction out of their vote than I have seen for many of mine.

Reformists fought against this sort of vote buying and a variety of bills were passed to protect voters and the democratic process from becoming corrupt. I leave it to you to be the judge on how successful these efforts have been.

In Oklahoma and other localities the answer was simple: declare a one day Prohibition and shutter stores selling alcohol. I guess back in those days politicians did not have garages to store booze that they bought the day before. On Nov. 7th, voters in Oklahoma have the chance to change a law that time has long since bypassed. Approval of Question 733 will mean that citizens in the state will be able to walk into a retail store on future election days and purchase alcohol. In 1984, Oklahoma finally allowed liquor by the drink. About half the counties in the state now allow this novel idea. So, while you could not walk into a store and buy a bottle on Nov. 7th, you are able in many parts of the state to park yourself at a bar and wait to see if your Congressman, state Representative or county Legislator shows up looking to curry favor.

Passing this ballot question should be a no brainer. Let's see how the votes add up on election night.

EU Court: Bud is Not Bit

After years of fighting pitched battles over the Budweiser trademark with a Czech brewery, it looks like Anheuser-Busch will not have the same problem with a German company. A court in the European Union today tossed out a lawsuit by Bitburger Brauerei Th. Simon GmbH of Germany which had alleged the Bud trademark could be confused with the Bit brand.

Bitburger had petitioned the Court of First Instance to overturn a European trademark office ruling that the two brands were unique and not confusing. The court said the brand logos were different enough and the average German consumer could easily distinguish between the pronunciation of "Bit" and "Bud."

A-B has been in a legal tussle with Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar for years over the Budweiser brand name. The EU had ruled this summer that A-B could register the Bud trademark to use on its Budweiser beer sold in the 25-nation bloc. Budvar can use the Budweiser name. That ruling is likely to be appealed, but it set up Bitburger's complaint involving the Bud and Bit trademarks.

Art of the Drink

A couple of weeks back I had the chance to meet Anthony Caporale, the man behind the Art of the Drink podcast and blog, at the World Beer Festival in Durham, N.C.

Caporale's podcast is all about teaching each of us how to make great cocktails. Each episode runs about 5 minutes in length and features an Art of the Drink Girl as eye candy. You can check them out at www.artofthedrink.com, where you also will find a pitch for the "Bar Essentials" video that answers a range of frequently asked questions about cocktails, bar etiquette and bar set up. His blog (www.artofthedrink.blogspot.com) is one of the most visited beverage blogs on the Internet.

You can always grab a cocktail recipe book to learn the ingredients of a drink. What Caporale's podcast does is it shows you the proper techniques and flair that go into making great cocktails. Art of the Drink is worth checking out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Politics and Wine in Massachusetts

Eddie J. Jenkins is the Chairman of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (MABCC). Ted Mahony is the Chief Investigator for the MABCC. They both recently announced they strongly oppose ballot Question 1 in the upcoming November election which would allow supermarkets to sell wine if local municipalities grant them a license. Lame duck Gov. Mitt Romney should consider removing these two public servants from their jobs for taking sides with liquor stores on this question in the midst of the campaign, but since he has issues of his own and desires to potentially run for President, it's doubtful he will do the right thing.

"We have a well thought out, responsible system of alcohol sales in the Commonwealth and we are vigilant about enforcement despite limited resources. A dramatic expansion of alcohol sales as proposed in Question 1 would undermine the system as a whole and make meaningful enforcement nearly impossible," Jenkins said in a statement that was included in a press release issued by a group funded by liquor stores and distributors fighting the ballot initiative. "There is the potential for over 2,800 new alcohol outlets flooding our communities, with no additional funding for regulatory oversight."

For his part Mahony said, "Currently, there are 2,900 package store liquor licenses in Massachusetts. Question 1, if passed, would add an estimated 2,800 new licenses for supermarkets, convenience stores and small food stores, nearly doubling the number of licensed sellers of alcohol. This increase in liquor licenses would make alcohol more accessible to underage persons, which is why I stand in opposition to Question 1."

Excuse me, but there are several facts these two gentlemen have ignored and apparently want the voters to be confused about when they enter the polling booth.

First of all, the stores that would get licenses to sell wine would be subject to state laws and have to proof people who try to purchase wine. Are Jenkins and Mahony admitting that the MABCC does not properly monitor and regulate the sale of beer, wine and liquor in the state? If so, they should be fired for not performing their duties. Or are they trying to tell us that no package stores in the state ever sell to someone with a fake ID?

Secondly, the number of retailers who apply and are ultimately granted licenses to sell wine will likely be much lower than the 2,800 being tossed around by opponents. Not every retailer has the space, the skill or the desire to go into the wine business. Also, with local officials ultimately controlling who has the ability to sell wine, you can bet not every application will be approved. Some estimates put the number of new licenses at under 1,000, about a 10 percent increase for the state when you count bars and reastaurants.

Finally, the suggestion that grocery stores selling wine will somehow lead to every 16 year old in the state suddenly getting hooked on chardonnay just does not fly. I live in North Carolina, where grocery stores can and do sell wine, along side beer. It makes it convenient for consumers and these retailers are responsible, proofing customers and monitoring employees. Selling wine along side food is also a way to teach responsible consumption, by showing the product is part of healthy living and family meals.

I would bet that Jenkins and Mahony would be in favor of tighter state controls overall on the sale of alcohol. Perhaps they would like to be in charge of a state store system. Then again, they might like to see Prohibition-style restrictions come in to play. I'm not sure, but I'm certain of one thing: these guys stepped over the line in trying to influence the outcome of the vote by scaring people into thinking Massachusetts would sink into the abyss if Shaw's or Price Chopper started selling merlot.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tuesday Tasting: Six Styles of Brandy

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we taste six different brandies from around the world.

The word brandy comes from the Dutch "brandewijn," which means burnt wine. It is made just about anywhere that industrious people can find grapes or fruit and a still. Brandy can range from highbrow Cognac to more down to earth applejack. Grappa, Calvados and Armagnac are all types of brandy. Sometimes you can even find a brandy labeled as a brandy. Most of the good ones result from talented distillers and proper aging. I tasted a range of six different brandies and found an amazing array of styles. All of the brandies tasted were 80-proof.

Courvoisier XO Imperial Cognac: This is a French classic, amber color, with hints of vanilla in the nose, then nuts, orange peel and a long wood finish in the flavor profile. A great drink for the end of an evening.

Marnier-Lapostolle XO Armagnac: While this French region is not as well known as Cognac, this brandy does not take a back seat to many. A nice almond nose, the rich thick flavor profile has hints of mocha and nuts.

RMS Distillery Special Reserve: This 7-year-old alambic brandy is made in the Napa Valley. It has a rich amber color, with a touch of smoke and hints of wood throughout the flavor profile.

Azteca de Oro Solera Reservada: This Mexican brandy is aged for 12 years using the solera method. It is a deep mahogany color with a rich coffee and baker's chocolate flavor profile. It is popular to use this brandy in cocktails, but it stands on its own as a fine drink.

Busnels Fine Calvados: This distillery was founded in 1820 in the Pays d'Auge region of France. They use 16 pounds of apples to make each bottle. It has a copper color and toffee nose. There is a rich layered flavor profile and a slightly oaky finish.

Westford Hills Pear William Eau-de-vie: Made in Connecticut from Bartlett pears, this clear brandy has a pear skin and slightly agave nose, with a distinct crisp pear flavor. It finishes with a warm bite. It could be a nice touch to a vodka martini.

Monday, October 16, 2006

To Your Health: Red Wine Offers Stroke Protection

The evidence that a couple drinks a day can head off a number of health issues continues to mount. Scientists from Johns Hopkins University have released a study showing red wine appears to guard the brain from damage after a stroke and a couple of glasses a day might head off an issue before it starts.

The researchers fed mice a moderate amount of resveratrol, a compound found in red grape skins and seeds. Mice receiving the resveratol suffered about 40 percent less brain damage than mice who were not treated with the compound.

The results of the study were presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Atlanta. The researchers believe the substance helps build cell resistance against free radical damage. Resveratrol increases levels of heme oxygenase, an enzyme in the brain known to shield nerve cells from damage.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Writing and Drinking

It's interesting sometimes to stop and think about how we got to where we are.

I started drinking beer in the late 1970s in Upstate New York. There really was not much of a choice in what you were going to drink at the time. Oh, there were plenty of brands, but for the most part they were lagers or lightly hopped ales.

I did not know it at the time, but my friends and I were actually luckier than most. We at least had beers from the West End Brewing Co. (Matt’s Premium) and Genesee (Genesee 12 Horse Ale), along with the national brands. Some places even carried brands from far off regionals like Rolling Rock in Pennsylvania, Narragansett in Rhode Island and Schmidt’s in Philadelphia.

Upstate New York at the time happened to be one of the top import markets in the country. Because of its proximity to Canada, we had Molson Export, Old Vienna, O’Keefe’s, Labatt’s, Moosehead and a range of other beers from the Great White North to try. For this reason, we got a shot at having a range of European imports and occasionally products from Asia, South America and even Africa. Much of my early beer education came from the fact that we happened to have a retailer in Syracuse called The Party Source that had an unbelievable import selection. Even by today’s standards, the guys at The Party Source stocked a great range of brews.

There was also the lucky stroke I had at the tail end of my sophomore year at Syracuse University to decide to attend an informational session to learn about the school’s international program. The Fall of 1980 was a time of learning about the pub culture, bitter and how to win at darts in pubs around London, across the United Kingdom and in cities like Brussels, Amsterdam and Bremen. I think my parents were amazed when I came back from that pub crawl with three A’s and a B+! I think it’s proof that good beer can actually help focus the mind and aid in the retention of otherwise fairly obscure information.

When my wife and I were first married we had the good fortune to live on the edge of what has become one of America’s great wine regions. We spent a number of weekends touring small Finger Lakes Wineries. Some have faded into history, but many of the others have gone on to win national and international awards. The experience taught me that devoted craftsmen can defy popular wisdom when it comes to making great products.

A couple of years out of college, I was lucky enough to land a job with Eric Mower and Associates, a marketing communications firm where I’ve worked for the last 23 years. The job has allowed me to travel around the United States and I’ve used that opportunity to try local beers, wines and spirits. I was also able to work on marketing programs for a number of beverage brands and see things from the inside. We named and launched the Saranac brand. We helped Canandaigua Wine Co. (now Constellation Brands) develop an on-premise marketing strategy that propelled the company’s growth. Later we would help raise awareness for riesling and other varietals for the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. I got to work on programs to educate bar staff about Guinness Stout and other Diageo beers. I even had the chance to go to Seattle to attend Starbucks barista school.

My beverage writing career got its start while I was a junior at S.U.'s Newhouse School. I sold an article to the Syracuse New Times about the history of brewing in Syracuse. Armed with that clip I sold articles on beer, then wine and later spirits to a range of magazines, including All About Beer, Hotel & Motel Management, Beer the magazine, au Juice, Top Shelf, Restaurant Hospitality, Beverage World, Market Watch, Cigar Aficionado, Hemispheres and the Brewing News chain of brewspapers.

Beverage writing is not that lucrative of a business. For me it is more of a hobby. (This blog for instance, is more of an exercise in learning about this new wave in communications than a commercial venture. A few people have clicked on the Google ads and some others have purchase books and magazines through Amazon, but it will be a while before this site hits three figures in earnings!) Some others have managed to make a living writing full-time about beverages and I’ve had some good years financially thanks to my freelancing. The extra cash helped me do things with my wife and kids when they were growing up.

The real benefits from my beverage writing come in the form of access to people, places and products. There have been press junkets to places like Jamaica and Ireland. Free samples of Scotch, chardonnay and pale ale arrive on my doorstep occasionally. I’ve had the chance to interview the people who make the stuff I like to drink. Not a bad set of benefits.

It’s a great time period to be a drinks journalist. New products with an emphasis on quality are the rule, rather than the exception. God willing the next quarter of a century writing about beers, wines and spirits will be just as fun as the last.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Childress Winery Races Forward, Takes Top Prize at NC State Fair

On Saturday night at Lowes Motor Speedway driver Jeff Burton will try to hold on to the top spot in the chase for the Nextel Cup for NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, but Childress already has one championship trophy secured this week -- for his winery.

At the North Carolina State Fair the Childress Vineyards 2004 Syrah was named as the North Carolina Winegrowers Cup Winner and Best of Show. The wine beat out 244 wines from 37 wineries to take home the award. Childress Vineyards also won the most medals -- 19 -- in the competition.

Childress Vineyards opened in 2004. Richard Childress, who has won 9 championships in the NASCAR Cup, Busch and Craftsmen Truck series as a team owner, and partner Greg Johns made a multi-million investment in the winery, attracting vineyard manager Matt Chobanian and winemaker Mark Friszolowski to the operation. Like his racing efforts, Childress is not affraid to spend money to build a successful team. He also owns the Yadkin River Angus cattle ranch in North Carolina.

The N.C. Muscadine Cup for best muscadine wine went to Duplin Winery Magnolia, while Double Gold medals were awarded to:

Biltmore Estate Winery BE Chateau Reserve Cabernet Franc
Biltmore Estate Winery Biltmore Estate Syrah
Childress Vineyards Syrah
Dennis Vineyards 2005 Noble Sweet
Duplin Wine Cellars Beaufort Bay
Duplin Wine Cellars Hatteras Red
Duplin Wine Cellars Magnolia
Hinnant Vineyards Strawberry
Old Stone Vineyard Blackberry
Silver Coast Winery American Oak Chardonnay

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Augusta 2004 Vignoles Takes Missouri Governor's Cup

The 2006 Missouri Governor's Cup recognizing the best wine in the state has been awarded to Augusta Winery's 2004 Vignoles. It is the third time the winery has won the award, having posted previous victories in 2004 and 1995.

The Missouri Wine and Grape Board sponsored the event that was enetred by 23 wineries. A group of judges from across the U.S. tasted 207 wines and awarded 29 Gold, 64 Silver and 69 Bronze medals.

The Governor's Cup was announced at the opening of the exhibit "History Uncorked: Two Centuries of Missouri Wine" at the Mercantile Library in St. Louis, which remains open through June 2007.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

White Knight for Iron City?

Bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing Co., in need of a cash infusion, may get help from an Ohio businessman to keep brewery workers turning out the Iron City brand. According to media reports in Pittsburgh, Craig E. Newbold, who operated a computer consulting business in the Seattle area before returning to his native Ohio, has offered Pittsburgh Brewing a $500,000 line of credit.

Newbold runs a nonprofit group called the American Spirit Initiative, which promotes itself as working to revitalize the economy in Appalachia and having a positive impact on lives of people in the region.

Pittsburgh Brewing filed for bankruptcy in December. In court documents the company says it needs operating capital to emerge from bankruptcy and has asked that a contract with 160 brewery workers represented by the International Union of Electrical Workers-Communication Workers of America be terminated. Union members voted against accepting concessions put forward earlier by the company.

Pittsburgh Brewing has been producing suds since 1861. With the recent sale of the Rolling Rock brand to Anheuser-Busch -- it now makes that beer in New Jersey -- and the sale of the brewery in Latrobe to City Brewing, many in Pennsylvania fear a similar fate for Iron City. The brand is famous for featuring Pittsburgh's championship sports teams on commemorative cans.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tuesday Tasting: Six Pumpkin Beers

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we taste six different pumpkin beers.

The Fall is a busy time for seasonal brews. Oktoberfest and marzen beers have long been a part of the German brewing tradition. Harvest ales is another beer style that arrives with the changing leaves. Fresh hop or wet hop beers that result from brewing with the freshest hops from the harvest are starting to appear with some regularity from a number of craft brewers. If you are a hop head, these are likely to become your Fall classic. It is important to note that Fall seasonals are being squeezed a bit by early arriving winter warmers and holiday beers, but that just makes for more interesting drinking sessions. A review of Fall seasonals, however, is not complete without a discussion of pumpkin beers that hit just in time to be part of Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations.

Pumpkins were first cultivated in Central America. Spanish and Portuguese explorers carried pumpkin seeds back to Europe. In North America, Native Americans grew pumpkins for food long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Brewers in the colonies are said to have used pumpkins in some beer recipes.

The credit for the first modern commercial use of pumpkins in brewing goes to Bill Owens, who used to run Buffalo Bill's Brewpub in Hayward, Calif. That beer is brewed today at Portland Brewing and pretty widely distributed. Over the years I have tried a number of pumpkin brews, two of my favorites coming from Heartland Brewing in New York City and Post Road Brewing, which is now made at Brooklyn Brewing. The Smuttynose, Shipyard and Blue Moon brands also have quaffable pumpkin seasonals that I've tasted.

Pumpkin is a fairly mellow tasting fruit when it is cooked. Much of what we associate with the flavor of pumpkin pie comes from the wonderful spices that our favorite bakers (Grandmothers, Moms and Wives, for the most part) have used over the years. The range of flavors in the pumpkin beers on the market goes from light to heavily spiced, just like the pies we encounter each Fall.

This past weekend I had the chance to taste six different pumpkin beers. Here is a run down on some real treats for the season:

Saranac Pumpkin Ale: This brew from Utica, N.Y. uses pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and vanilla in a 5.4 percent alcohol by volume ale. Even with all of those ingredients, this is a fairly smooth and mellow beer as pumpkins go.

Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale: This North Carolina ale has plenty of spice throughout. The pumpkin is in the background on this very pleasant brew. Perfect for a crisp Fall evening tailgate party.

Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale: This 7 percent alcohol by volume ale from Delaware is richly flavored with pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and brown sugar. A lavish drink for the holiday table.

Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale: From Anheuser-Busch's seasonal line up, this brew has a hint of pumpkin and a touch of nutmeg in the flavor profile. Perhaps not the most flavorful pumpkin ale you will encounter, but highly drinkable.

Wild Goose Pumpkin Patch Ale: Brewed in Maryland, this is a mellow rendition of a pumpkin ale. You can taste the fruit, along with a hint of cinnamon.

Edenton Brewing Pumpkin Head: An amber brew from North Carolina that weighs in at 5.2 percent alcohol by volume, this is a fruit forward pumpkin beer that has light hints of spice and a creamy finish.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Beverage Bulletin: Notes from the Drinks World

Christmas Comes Early to UK: Carlsberg announced plans to be the first major brewer in the United Kingdom to launch a Christmas beer. Following the tradition of Danish Julebrygs, limited release holiday beers, Carlsberg Christmas Beer will be a dark Continental-style lager. The beer will be 5.6 percent alcohol by volume and sold in cans.

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Whyte & Mackay Entertaining Bidders: After denying reports for several weeks Scottish distiller Whyte & Mackay confirmed that Indian drinks conglomerate United Brewerieshas made a takeover bid. The company also said it has talked with at least one other potential suitor.

Whyte & Mackay's markets the Jura and Dalmore single malts, Vladivar Vodka and Glayva liqueur. India is the world's largest whisky market. United Breweries owns the Kingfisher beer brand, an airline and other businesses.

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More Imports Coming to U.S.: Several imported brands including Aguila from Columbia, Cristal and Cusquena from Peru, and Tyskie from Poland are being brought into the U.S. by SABMiller in an effort to boost sales among ethnic populations.

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Back After a 30 Year Break: Beer drinkers around Reading, Pa., will get the chance to find out what their parents were chugging. Reading Premium Beer, last brewed 30 years ago, will soon return to area watering holes. Legacy Brewing Co. purchased the trademarks of the defunct Reading Brewing Co., which went out of business in 1976. The first of the retro beer is expected to flow by Dec. 1.

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Massachusetts Voters to Decide on Wine in Groceries: Important mid-term Congressional races will be just one thing on the minds of Bay State voters when they go to the polls on Nov. 7th. A proposition on the ballot would repeal a 72-year-old law that forces Massachusetts consumers to trek to liquor stores when they want a bottle of wine. Question 1 would give local municipalities the power to allow grocery stores to hold licenses to sell wine.

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A Bad Day in Bordeaux: For the first time ever U.S. wine imports in Great Britain are greater than sales by the French. During the last year U.K. consumers bought 3.5 million cases of American wine, compared to 3.4 million cases of French wine. The value of French wine sales in the U.K. is still greater, since much of the American wine is value table wine brands, while British consumers stick with well-known French labels when buying higher priced wine.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weird Beers at the Festival

If you attend a beer festival and don't learn anything about beer, it's your own fault. That is especially true during the World Beer Festival , where you can sit and have great beers brought your way by volunteers while speakers give you information about each beer, brewery and style that you tasting. At the Durham Festival, author Maureen Ogle talked about her Book Ambitious Brew while beers from brewers covered in the history of American brewing were poured. Beer writer Gregg Glaser ran attendees through a tour of classic beer styles. All About Beer's Julie Bradford did two separate tastings, pairing beer with chocolate and then beer with cheese. I hosted an evening tasting under the title "Weird Beers at the Festival," tasting a series of six beers designed to shake people's taste buds out of the routine lager, IPA and stout doldrums.

Here's the beer line up attendees enjoyed during my session and some comments about each.

Fraoch Alba Scots Pine: This brown ale has a spruce aroma and hints of trees throughout. The flavor is not overpowering, thanks to a nice firm malt base. At 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, this is a hearty brew. The crowd at the tasting gave this beer a mostly thumbs up response.

Bison Organic Gingerbread Ale: With a porter as its base, this brew from California is made with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. It is 6.8 percent alcohol by volume. The spices combine nicely to build a smooth, mellow flavor. This brew had about 70 percent of the crowd giving it a thumbs up.

Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale: This North Carolina brew has plenty of spice characteristics, with the pumpkin in the background. It received a pretty solid thumbs up from the crowd.

Pyramid Apricot Weizen Ale: This unfiltered wheat ale has a full apricot aroma and flavor, and is smoother than most wheat beers you will try. It is 5.1 percent alcohol by volume. This beer received a high rate of approval from the crowd.

Thomas Creek Vanilla Cream Ale: Using an American cream ale base, the South Carolina brewers flavor the beer with vanilla extract creating a smooth and slightly sweet product. It is 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. The reaction to this beer was mostly a thumbs up.

King Mocha Java Stout: If you like coffee, the Michigan brewers behind this beer have created something you will love. Plenty of roasted coffee flavor and a smooth stout base. The reaction to this beer was split among the audience, but those whole liked it said it might have been their favorite of the group.

World Beer Festival Brings Great Beer to Durham

Yesterday thousands of beer fans in Durham, N.C., turned out for two sessions of the World Beer Festival (WBF). In its 11th year, this event is held in Durham each Fall and now has a Raleigh counterpart in the Spring.

Daniel and Julie Bradford, who are the couple behind All About Beer magazine, do a great job running the WBF with the help of fesitval coordinator Natalie Miller and a corps of volunteers. Beer fans in this part of North Carolina are lucky to have a festival of this quality in their backyard. More than 150 breweries, along with bands and great food all came together at the historic Durham Athletic Park, the old home of the Durham Bulls.

I was able to spend a good part of the first session roaming around with an old friend and neighbor from my days in Camillus, N.Y., Andy Kocon, and trying some of the great beers that had been gathered for the WBF. Being October, I tried a variety of pumpkin ales (check out this week's Tuesday Tasting), and several other interesting beers. Among the old favorites were Chimay, Mardesous 8 and Duvel from Belgium, Maudite from Quebec, Samichlaus (in a 3 liter bottle!) from Austria and Foothills Total Eclipse Stout, Allagash White and Avery The Reverend Belgian Quadruppel Ale from the good old U.S.A.

I had a taste of beers for the first time and was quite impressed. Azalea Coast's Navigator Larger German Doppelbach is a great brew with plenty of character, while Kuhnhenn Brewery's Penetration Porter is a great example of the brewer's art.

More from the festival later, including notes from my Weird Beers of the Festival presentation and the chance to be interviewed by Anthony Caporale of the ArtoftheDrink.com for a podcast from the fest.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Oh, You Wanted to Kiss that World Cup?

Anheuser-Busch officials are apologizing to Boston soccer fans who are as red faced as a Budweiser can over a visit to the city by soccer's holy grail, the FIFA World Cup. Fans in the North End -- including the Mayor of Boston who kissed the trophy --thought they were having their picture taken with the World Cup won this past summer in Germany by the beloved Italian team.

Fans lined up to pay $5 a piece for photographs. Having been in the North End after watching the Italy team beat Spain in the 1994 World Cup in a game played at Foxboro Stadium, I can tell you the fan base is as fervent as it is in Rome. One little problem: The Boston Herald reported A-B does not have the 2006 World Cup on tour. That one is still in Italy and likely not to go anywhere. The one A-B has on tour is the trophy that will be awarded in 2010 in South Africa.

"How could a national corporation like Budweiser be in a scam like this?" Mayor Thomas M. Menino is quoted as saying in the Herald. "I'm going to write them a nasty letter this afternoon. Why would they do this to the public?"

The folks at A-B say they apologize for "any misunderstanding" and pledged to donate proceeds from the photos to charity, to match those proceeds with a donation from the company, and to cover any city costs.

Friday, October 06, 2006

World Beer Festival: Durham, N.C.

The 11th annual World Beer Festival is set for Saturday in Durham, N.C. Sponsored by All About Beer magazine, where my Beyond Beer column appears, the event has been sold out for weeks. The World Beer Festival features beer from 150 breweries and is held across two sessions at the historic Durham Athletic Park, the location for much of the baseball scenes in the film Bull Durham.

If you have tickets, plan to stop by the All About Beer tent for tastings and seminars scheduled during both sessions. I'm scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. about "Weird Beers at the Festival" and will highlight six of the more odd offerings from the world of beer.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Donald Trump in, Genghis Khan Out

Donald Trump's name is being used for a new super premium vodka at the exact same time that the Mongolian government is considering moves that could ban the use of Genghis Khan's name and image on vodka and other products.

Trump Super Premium Vodka from Holland's Wanders Distillery and imported by Drinks Americas Holdings Ltd. is hitting the market. Drinks Americas is also behind the Willie Nelson's Old Whiskey River Bourbon brand. Trump Vodka will be priced along other super premiums in the $30-$40 bottle range. Drinks Americas claims to have orders for 45,000 to 50,000 cases of Trump Vodka.

Meanwhile in a move that I suspect might in some way be connected, the Mongolian Legislature is debating a law to regulate the use of Genghis Khan's name. Politicians in the Central Asian nation say the memory of the conqueror is being cheapened through commercial uses. Trump on the other hand has never encountered a commercial use for his name that he did not embrace.

The Khan name is on more than half a dozen brands of vodka and beer, along with a variety of other commercial products.
Mongolians are proud of Khan, who established an empire in the 13th Century across a large chunk of Asian and Europe.
Lawmakers say there needs to be more respect for Khan, who they view as having brought order and civilization to the world.

Oktoberfest Totals Staggering

The 173rd Oktoberfest wrapped up in Munich on Sunday and reports from organizers of totals from the 18-day party are amazing:

-- A total of 6.5 million people attended this year's celebration -- up 400,000 from last year.

-- Beer consumption was up 5 percent, reaching 6.1 million liters.

-- 102 oxen were consumed as part of the tons of food that were served.

-- Security guard seized 220,000 beer mugs from attendees trying to leave with souvenirs.

-- Police reported dangerous assaults were up by 25 percent to 137. A total of 61 people were hit by flying beer mugs, while 10 rapes were reported on or near the Oktoberfest grounds.

-- At the lost and found the items waiting to be claimed include a set of dentures, a pair of braces, a hearing aid, a Swiss mountain dog and a traditional dirndl dress.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beverage Bulletin: Notes from the Drinks World

Washington Fire Consumes Hops: A fire at a Yakima, Wash., warehouse on Monday destroyed an estimated 4 percent of the U.S. hop crop. S.S. Steiner Inc., one of the largest hop buyers in Washington, operated the warehouse. There were 10,000 200-pound bales of hops in the warehouse at the time of the fire. American growers produce 24 percent of the world's hops and nearly 75 percent of those come from the Yakima Valley.

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Expensive Sip: A case of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1985 was sold for a world-record $345,000 at a Christie's auction in Los Angeles recently.

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Canadian Whiskey Changes Hands: Sazerac Co. has purchased the Rich & Rare and Royal Canadian Canadian whiskey brands from France's Pernod Ricard.

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New Kentucky Whiskey: Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Ky., is releasing Rittenhouse Very Rare Straight Rye, a 21 year old whiskey. The brand will sell for $150 per bottle. There are 3,000 bottles available.

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George Would be Proud: The publisher of Wine Spectator, Marvin Shanken, apparently also enjoys good whiskey. At a fundraising auction attended by Britain's Prince Andrew, Shanken paid $100,000 for the first bottle of whiskey made from George Washington's recipe in 200 years.

Shanken immediately donated Bottle No. 1 to go on display in the George Washington Distillery Museum, set to open to the public in April, located near Mount Vernon. Washington ran a distillery on his estate at the time of his death in 1799.

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More for Moscow: Vodka maker Russian Standard Co., has a new $60 million distillery operating in St. Petersburg. The new facility will produce up to 4 million cases of vodka per year, doubling the company's capacity. Russian Standard controls two-thirds of Russia`s premium vodka market.

Monday, October 02, 2006

GABF After Thoughts

The 25th annual Great American Beer Festival is history and I've had a little time to consider the Lyke2Drink experience in Denver and have a few thoughts to share with the Brewers Association, brewers attending the event and beer fans thinking of going to next year's event. In no particular order....

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Mark Oct. 11-13, 2007, on your calendar for the 26th GABF.

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The Pro-Am Competition, which featured 36 winning recipes of homebrewers commercially produced by breweries around the country and then entered into a category for medal consideration was a stroke of genius. The gold medal beer, a Baltic Porter from American Homebrewers Association member Tom Nolan, was brewed by Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, N.C. There were a number of interesting styles from the homebrewers and it was the ultimate chance for the little guy to compete on the big stage.

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Something needs to be done by the Brewers Association to fix the Saturday night session. It's rowdy, with too many people who have obviously had a few too many before the gates even open. Many of the brewery stands completely run out of beer early in the session. Security has evaporated. Most of the media and many of the brewers in Denver do not go to the Saturday evening session. After several days of good beer, it's too easy to treat the session as a throw away, but there are people spending good money trying to taste good beer. If this is their only GABF experience, it is a bad one. The mood of the crowd was such on Saturday night that it could have turned ugly pretty fast. The GABF is a great event and it needs to respect itself from start to finish. If the Brewers Association is OK with Saturday attracting a crowd that is more interested in partying than in the beer, it should turn the awards area into a concert stage and bring in some bands, shut down most of the beer stands (many were closed by 8 p.m. anyway) and sell beer from a couple of large bars.

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If you live in California (39 medals), Colorado (28), Wisconsin (18), Oregon (14) or Illinois (12) you have a ton of great beer being made by local breweries. In all brewers from 35 different states took home a total of 203 medals handed out in 69 categories..

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The Brewers Association put on a great competition. In all, 104 judges from 9 countries tasted 2,402 different beers from 450 breweries. Only 8.45 percent of the beers entered ended up with a gold, silver or bronze, making it a tough award to earn.

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Brewers in Fort Collins and Boulder did sponsor media tours and tried to attract some of the tourists in Colorado for the GABF. This is a good idea. Access and promotion of these tours should be increased for day time activities on Thursday and Friday.

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As a drinks journalist, I'm lucky enough to get access to brewers and leading figures in the industry. I'm not sure that is the case for the average GABF attendee, unless they happen to be at the Boston Beer booth when Jim Koch shows up to pour some Samuel Adams. The GABF sessions sell out each evening closing out some beer fans and others in town for the event just don't want to walk the floor each night. The GABF could work in concert with the brewery restaurants in town -- Wynkoop, Breckenridge, Denver Chophouse, Rock Bottom, Flying Dog, SandLot, Bull & Bush and others -- and easily do a series of meet the brewer dinners. They could host a round on Wednesday night before the festival kicks off and perhaps one other night during the festival -- Saturday? -- so that the average beer fan could meet the people behind the beer and taste food and beer pairings. This dinner series might even attract locals who would never buy a GABF ticket. A portion of the proceeds could go to support a cause like the Denver Food Bank. I'm certain tickets would be in great demand.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Lyke2Drink's GABF All-Festival Selections

Try as we might, with more than 1,600 beers being poured at the public tasting sessions of the Great American Beer Festival, it was impossible for the Lyke2Drink team to sample each brew. We did get to every corner of the Colorado Convention Center in search of great beer, followed tips from other beer fans and chased more than a few hunches. Along the way we kept track of our favorites.

Here in alphabetic order are our top 24 beers, the 2006 Lyke2Drink GABF All-Festival Case:

Atlanta Brewing Red Brick Ale (Atlanta, Ga.)
Bison Brewing Organic Chocolate Stout (Berkley, Calif.)
Boundary Bay Imperial IPA (Bellingham, Wash.)
Breckenridge Brewing Vanilla Porter (Denver, Colo.)
Bristol Brewing Tripel Warlock Double Imperial Stout (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Browning's Brewery Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout (Louisville, Ky.)
Brugge Brasserie Diamond Kings of Heaven (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Cambridge Brewing The Wind Cried Mari (Cambridge, Mass.)
Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale (Milton, Del.)
Foothills Brewing Baltic Porter (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA (Denver, Colo.)
Great Lakes Rackhouse Ale (Cleveland, Ohio)
Lazy Magnolia Amberjacque Rye Ale (Kiln, Miss.)
Michelob Celebrate Oak Vanilla (St. Louis, Mo.)
New Glarus Raspberry Tart (New Glarus, Wisc.)
Oskar Blues Brewing Dale's Old Chub Scottish Ale (Lyons, Colo.)
Pizza Port Dawn Patrol Dark (San Clemente, Calif.)
Samuel Adams Utopias (Boston, Mass.)
Sierra Nevada Wood Aged Bigfoot Barleywine (Chico, Calif.)
Stewart's Brewing Oktoberfest (Bear, Del.)
Stone Brewing 10th Anniversary IPA (Escondido, Calif.)
Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter (Idaho Springs, Colo.)
Wiedenmayer Brewing Quad (Bedminster, N.J.)
Wolf Pack Storm Castle Irish Stout (West Yellowstone, Mont.)

Honorable Mention: Deschutes Brewery Obsidian Stout, Drakes Brewing Denogginizer, Firestone Walker IPA, Flossmoor Station Pullman Brown Ale, Great Basin Brewing Smoke Creek Rauchbier, Great Divide Hibernation Ale, Iron Hill Russian Imperial Stout, Ithaca Cascazilla, Lancaster Brewing Gold Star Pilsner, Magnolia Kalifornia Kolsch, Pumphouse Backdraft Imperial Stout, Prescott Brewing Pilsner 500, Russian River Brewing Piny the Elder, Southampton 10th Anniversary Old Ale, Victory Prima Pils, Wynkoop Brewing Patty's Chile Beer and Wynkoop Brewing Tripel Sixes.

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

Since man can not live by beer alone, Lyke2Drink took some time out on Saturday from drinking beer to visit Colorado's only whiskey distillery, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey in Denver. Head Distiller Jake Norris gave us a tour of the microdistillery and the racking room, including samples of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey and a yet to be bottled whiskey that is being conditioned in a barrel that had previously held Cabernet Franc from Colorado's Creekside Cellars winery.

Stranahan's made its first whiskey in 2004 and has just bottled its first product. The company has avoided the temptation to make other spirits that require less time to make and little or no aging. "We did not want to diffuse our focus. I don't want to make vodka, I want to make whiskey," Norris says. The company uses a unique column pot still built just for their distillery by Vendome Copper in Kentucky. Scotch distillers use pot stills, while many American whiskey makers use column stills.

Stranahan's majority owner is Jess Graber, while Norris and George Stranahan are minority owners in the project. Stranahan, who is the majority owner of the Flying Dog Brewpub next door, had his name used for the brand, Norris said, "because it sounded the best."

Stranahan's gets 3,000 gallons of wash weekly piped in directly from Flying Dog. The wash is distilled down to 450 gallons of new spirit, which is then run through a second column pot still to produce 250 gallons of 140 proof raw whiskey.

Stranahan's has a unique racking room that is humidified to protect the barrels from the dry conditions of the high plains desert. Norris said that without this step, the angel's share of whiskey lost to evaporation would be 10 percent annually versus the 4 percent most distillers experience in other climates. The constant heat and temperature in the rack room also influences the aging cycle of the whiskey. Norris estimates that two years under these conditions are equal to about four years at other distilleries. Stranahan's used heavily charred new American oak barrels to age its whiskey. The two year old Stranahan's that we tried did indeed drink like an older whiskey, with a sweet edge.

Jess Graber says the distillery has a patent pending on its whiskey making process. In addition to what the company does in the racking room, the mile high altitude and large swings in barometric pressure forces the whiskey in and out of the wood. He said many microdistillers have opted to make vodka, rum and brandy because it creates a quicker cash flow and easier to produce than whiskey. "We decided that Colorado needed a whiskey," Graber says.

Stranahan's sells for $54.95 per bottle. Right now the company is concentrating on building distribution in Colorado, but Graber said "it might make sense" when asked if his company might co-locate again with Flying Dog at the brewery they recently purchased in Maryland.

GABF: Flying Dog Winnebago A Big Hit

Flying Dog Brewery makes some pretty darn good beer. They also know how to make friends among leg weary Great American Beer Festival attendees. The brewery stationed the Flying Dog Winnebago just across the street from the Colorado Convention Center, offering to shuttle beer fans to the Blake Street Tavern and other nearby brewpubs. Not only could beer fans rest their feet, they could also pour themselves one of two Flying Dog draughts on board.

GABF: Boston Beer Co. Announces LongShot Winners

At a brunch hosted Saturday by the Boston Beer Co. at 1515 Restaurant in Denver brewery CEO Jim Koch announced the two homebrewers who will have their beers featured in the relaunch of the LongShot brand. Bruce Stott, who submitted a Dortmunder Export, and Donald Oliver, who made an Old Ale, will have their homebrew recipes produced commercially. They were selected from more than 1,500 homebrews submitted from around the U.S. and abroad, including other regional finalists Greg Geiger, barleywine; Rob Beck, maibock; and Alex Burcholtz, saison.

Stott and Oliver's beers will be joined in the LongShot six pack that will be released in February 2007 by the winner of the Boston Beer employee homebrew competition. About 300 employees entered beers in the event and the finalists are John Bowen, cherry stout; Tina Petteway, pale ale; and Ken Smith, wheat with "BOY-senberry."

Koch said the idea behind the LongShot brand is to recognize homebrewers and get employees involved is a way to turn "even accountants" at the company behind Samuel Adams Boston Lager into brewers.

"It's not that hard to make beer. If you can make bread, you can make beer. And, it's a damn lot more fun to make beer," Koch said.

During a lavish brunch that featured samples of the employee homebrews and other Samuel Adams beers, including Utopias, Koch also recognized Brewers Association head Charlie Papazian and All About Beer magazine Publisher Daniel Bradford for founding the Great American Beer Festival 25 years ago. Joking, Koch said it was originally a plot by the pair to get free beer. Koch pointed out this year's festival, which attracted 30,000 people, was originally a one day sideshow that was a tacked on to the American Homebrewers Association convention.