Beer, Wine and Spirits. Tastings and Travel. News and Events. Classic Flavors from Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across the Drinks World.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Two Buck Chuck Crushes California Chardonnays

Back in 1976, California rocked the wine world when its wines beat out French wines in a blind tasting at what has become known as the Judgment of Paris. Now it is the California wine world that is being rocked with the expected announcement that a $1.99 bottle of Charles Shaw Chardonnay has been named the best in the state at the the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

A record number of 3,029 wines from 660 California vintners were sampled earlier this month by 16 panels of 64 wine judges. Winning wineries are just now starting to receive word of the results, but news has leaked out that Charles Shaw is the top chardonnay for 2007.

Shaw is nicknamed Two Buck Chuck because in California it sells for $1.99 at the Trader Joe's grocery chain. Elsewhere around the country you will find it for $2.99 at Trader Joe's. Made by Franzia's Bronco Winery, the Shaw label has been viewed by many as a good -- not great -- wine with a very democratic price. Now with the California State Fair victory, you can expect the label to get some much deserved respect.

Two Buck Chuck is benefiting from a recent glut of quality grapes in California. The volume of Bronco's production helps keep costs down. I have tried several Shaw varietals and have a couple of bottles of the Chardonnay in my wine refrigerator at the moment thanks to a purchase my wife made at a Trader Joe's in the Raleigh area. It will be interesting to see if consumers make a run on the wine when they learn that you don't have to spend upwards of $50 to get the highest rated chardonnay in all of California.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Zymurgy Readers Select Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA as the Best Commercially Brewed Beer

Zymurgy is a magazine that is distributed to members of the American Homebrewers Association, so when the publication polls readers about their favorite commercially brewed beer it's worth listening to the results. The 2007 winner for the “Best Commercial Beer in America” is Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.

This is the fifth year of the Zymurgy survey, inviting readers to send in a list of their twenty favorite commercially available beers in the U.S. More than 1,100 votes for 618 beers from 293 brewers around the world were received.

In the poll, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Stone Arrogant Bastard tied for second. There was a six-way tie for fourth place between Alaskan Smoked Porter, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Guinness Draught, North Coast Old Rasputin, Schneider Aventinus and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

MTA Board Listens to Statistics, Decides to Keep Bar Carts Open

Commuters on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad will continue to be able to buy a drink on trains in the metropolitan New York area after a Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board vote this week.

The MTA Board voted against an attempt to ban alcohol from trains and platforms. An anti-alcohol Board member had made the proposal saying that the MTA should not be encouraging people to drink and drive. A committee appointed to study the issue found no correlation between the MTA's alcohol sales and drunken driving arrests at train stations.

Riders opposed the ban and MTA Police found only four DWI arrests on MTA property in the last five years.

The MTA sold $2.37 million on the Long Island Rail Road and $5.12 million on Metro-North last year.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Goals to Grapes: Gretzky Wine

Wayne Gretzky, recognized as the greatest hockey player of all-time, is joining the celebrity rush to crush grapes. The Wayne Gretzky Estates is set to open in Ontario's Niagara region in 2009.

Labels for the new wines feature his iconic number 99.

Creekside Estate Winery in Jordan Station is partnering with Gretzky on the project. Gretzky is releasing three wines, a 2005 Meritage, 2006 Chardonnay and a 2005 Vidal icewine, which are already on sale. Part of the proceeds from the wine go to support the Wayne Gretzky Foundation, which funds youth hockey for needy kids.

To Your Health: Wine Fights Tooth Decay and Respiratory Disease

An Italian study published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests wine may combat tooth decay and bacteria that causes upper respiratory tract disease.

In ancient times wine was used as an antibacterial agent to treat infected wounds. In the study scientists investigated whether wine could combat harmful oral bacteria.

The study found red and white wine were effective in controlling the growth of several strains of streptococci bacteria that are involved in tooth decay and a common cause of sore throats.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we try a barrel strength Bourbon.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.” I suspect he was talking about Bourbon and if he were around today he would agree that it is hard to get enough of George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Stagg is part of the Antique Collection from Buffalo Trace. It's named for a Bourbon pioneer from the 19th Century. The brand was first released back in 2002, but based on my bottle's 140.6 proof strength, this was part of a batch distilled in 1990 and released in 2006.

Stagg is a barrel strength whiskey with a praline nose, and a warm, earthy flavor that offers up notes of toffee and spicy edges. Cut with a touch of water it opens into a drink with a fine depth of smoke and grain.

This is a bottle that is for special times and very good friends.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Great Lakes Great Wines Competition Results

The Great Lakes Great Wine Competition was held recently for wineries in Ontario and the seven states bordering the Great Lakes.

One of the leading Finger Lakes wineries, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars landed the most golds with six, including a double gold for its Cabernet Sauvignon.

The double gold and gold winners included:

Double Gold:

Black Star Farms Arcturos Fortified Raspberry NV
Black Star Farms Leorie Vineyard Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2004
Chalet Debonne Vidal Ice Wine 2005
Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Ferrante Vidal Ice Wine 2005
Oliver Winery Creekbend Vineyard Late Harvest Vignoles 2005
Wagner Semi-Dry Riesling 2006


Pomona Winery Fortified Blueberry NV

Oliver Winery Creekbend Vineyards Vidal Ice Wine
Oliver Winery Creekbend Vineyards Traminette

Bel Lago Auxerrois 2006
Black Star Farms Arcturos Blanc de Blanc 2004
Black Star Farms Arcturos Cabernet Franc 2005
Black Star Farms Arcturos Pinot Gris 2005
Chateau Grand Traverse Semi-Dry Riesling 2006
Fenn Valley Vineyards Cherry Wine NV
Fenn Valley Vineyards Riesling 2005
Fenn Valley Vineyards Vignoles Reserve 2006
Lemon Creek Snow Moon Vidal Ice Wine 2004
Lemon Creek Sesquicentennial White 2005
Sandhill Crane Chancellor Noir 2003
St. Julian St. J. Chardonnay 2005
St. Julian Cherry Wine NV
St. Julian St. J. Pinot Gris 2005
St. Julian St. J. Riesling 2005
St. Julian Braganini Reserve Traminette 2006
Tabor Hill Cabernet Franc Rose 2005
Tabor Hill Cherry Wine NV
Tabor Hill Merlot 2005
Tabor Hill Classic Demi Sec White Proprietor's Blend NV

New York
Dr. Konstantin Frank Blanc de Blanc 2000
Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2006
Dr. Konstantin Frank Pinot Gris 2006
Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2006
Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc 2005
Fulkerson Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Hazlitt 1852 White Proprietor's Blend NV
Hosmer Winery Pinot Noir 2005
Hunt Country Semi-Dry Riesling 2006
Hunt Country Vignoles 2006
Keuka Springs Riesling 2005
Lamoreaux Landing Gewurztraminer 2006

Breitenbach Vidal Ice Wine NV
Chalet Debonne Chardonnay Reserve 2006
Ferrante Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Ferrante Chardonnay 2005
Slate Run Red Proprietor's Blend Premblage Reserve 1999

Colio Estate Vidal Ice Wine 2004
Mastronardi Vidal Ice Wine 2004

Conneaut Seyval & Vidal NV
Mount Nittany White Proprietor's Blend 2006
Naylor Peach Wine NV
Presque Isle Lemberger 2005

Cedar Creek Vidal Blanc 2006
Trout Springs Winery Sangiovese 2005
Wollersheim River gold 2006

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tennessee Law Requires ID Checks for Beer Purchases

On July 1 it won't matter if you are 19 or 89 in Tennessee and try to buy beer in a grocery or convenience store. No ID, no beer.

Tennessee is the first state in the nation to require clerks to ask for identification from all buyers of beer at off-premise locations. Called the Tennessee Responsible Vendor Act, the bill is designed to cut underage drinking. Amazingly, the legislation does not cover the sale of wine or liquor. Beer sales at restaurants and bars are also not covered.

Some stores have already adopted the universal carding program. Forty-something men and women needing an ego boost may flock to Tennessee to buy beer, but it is no laughing matter for store operators. Tennessee has instituted a training program for store managers and clerks. Beer sellers face fines of $1,000 for each underage sales. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $2,500 and have their alcohol sales license suspended.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Holland America Line Gets Purple Feet

Holland America Line will be pouring a cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay under its own label on its 13-ship fleet.

The wines, produced for Holland America by Wente Vineyards, come from California's Livermore Valley. The commemorative wine is part of the "Sommelier Package," a new
onboard offering that includes a standard wine tasting, a premium wine
tasting, dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, wine navigator's choice of five
bottles and a wine-related gift set.

Holland America offers nearly 500 cruises to more than 320 ports.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Visit to Washington's Still

On a business trip to the Washington, D.C., area this week I took an hour to go to Mount Vernon and visit the site of George Washington's Distillery. If you fly through Reagan National Airport, you can reach the location in about 20 minutes by heading down the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

The Father of Our Country was also the largest distiller in the nation at the time of his death in 1799. The distillery, located about three miles south of his Mount Vernon estate, was recently reconstructed thanks to drinks industry donations. Washington had five stills operating in the building, located on the grounds of his grist mill. Rye whiskey using Washington's original recipe has been produced on site.

It is a fun and informative trip back in history to get an idea of Washington the entrepreneur. During the visit you quickly get the idea that had he lived another five to 10 years he would have been the head of a significant whiskey operation.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Smuttynose Brewery Could Leave New Hampshire for Friendlier Maine

I have been following from a distance the attempts of New Hampshire's Smuttynose Brewery to expand in the Portsmouth area. They make enjoyable beers and I made a couple of stops over the years at their sister brewpub, Portsmouth Brewing, in the city's historic district.

Portsmouth is a great New England sea coast town and having a brewery like Smuttynose just adds to its character and attractiveness. Smuttynose has grown steadily over the years and graduated from microbrewery status in 2006, when for the first time it crested above the 15,000 barrel mark.

With the growth has come the need for more space. One would think that the city of Portsmouth and the state of New Hampshire would do everything possible to accommodate the growth of a great company producing a homegrown product. But that has not been the case.

Smuttynose President Peter Egelston wanted to build a new brewery on Portsmouth's Lafayette Road, but the City Council denied a zoning change. The location is zoned for offices and research facilities. The brewery is classified as light industrial.

Now Kittery, Maine, is in talks with Smuttynose to bring the new facility, along with a restaurant, to their community. Smuttynose says it has also heard from some other communities, including Dover, N.H.

My suggestion would be for the Portsmouth City Council to get together this weekend over a case of Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale and figure a way to keep the company in town.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

EU Compromises on Vodka and Whiskey Regulations

The European Union Parliament reached a compromise on Monday that may result in a truce in the vodka war, but few are happy about it.

The politicians from the so-called vodka belt of Poland, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia wanted to get legislation passed that would require vodka to be made only from grains and potatoes. Other products, amounting to about 30 percent of the vodka made in the EU, using everything from grapes to molasses in fermentation would be labeled as "white spirits." However, the traditionalists lost out and had to settle for a compromise that says vodka made from things other than grains and potatoes will now say "Vodka made from XXXXX" on the label.

The issue might not be totally closed. The United States has said it will take the issue to the World Trade Organization. Some vodkas made in this country use sugar came.

Meanwhile, Scotland's distillers appear happy with tighter rules on the production and labeling of whiskey. The regulations will now state that whiskey cannot be flavored or sweetened. Scotch will also get tighter protection from the WTO as a regional designation and not a style.

Show Up Drunk on The View, Get Your Own Booze Brand: DeVito's Limoncello

Danny DeVito showed up last November of The View still under the influence of multiple limoncellos enjoyed during a night out with fellow actor George Clooney. It made for a funny clip on a number of the entertainment television shows. Pushing any embarrassment aside, it apparently also spawned a desire by DeVito to get into the drinks business.

Danny DeVito's Premium Limoncello is being marketed by Harbrew Imports. The lemon liqueur is scheduled to be on store shelves by August.

The announcement of the new brand came as final preparation were being made for the opening of DeVito South Beach, a new Italian restaurant in Miami. DeVito is opening the place with restaurateur David Manero. Others could soon follow in New York, West Hollywood, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla.

Virginia: Frozen Beer Pops Break the Law

It gets hot in Alexandria, Va., this time of year. Restaurateur Frank Morales came up with a great idea for a new menu offering at his Rustico Restaurant: frozen beer pops.

There's just one problem: The Virginia Alcohol Bureau of Control says that beer pops are illegal.

Rustico has a menu shaped around fresh American ingredients and cooking styles that lean toward Italy. They also have 30 taps and an extensive bottle selection. Morales came up with the idea to make beer pops using raspberry and plum flavored Belgian lambics, plus a fudge-flavored offering with a stout base. Rustico sells a small for $4 and a large for $6. The new offering was unique enough that an Associated Press decided to do a story on Rustico's beer pops.

This is where the old saying that all publicity is good publicity goes wrong. The AP reporter called the Virginia ABC enforcement folks to see what regulations governed frozen beer. That set off government regulations just waiting to stifle fun and creativity.

Virginia ABC rules state that beer must be served in its original container or served to customers immediately after it is poured from its original container. This is likely a good rule to stop bars from passing off cheaper beer to customers. Obviously, this is not the intent at Rustico, but the Virginia ABC is dispatching an investigator to the restaurant.

Currently, Rustico's beer pops are 100 percent beer. Morales and his culinary team are looking at ways to add other ingredients to see if that can skirt the Virginia ABC's regulations. They point out that beer is used in several recipes at the restaurant and has never been challenged.

Let's hope cooler heads prevail at the Virginia ABC and culinary creativity can live on at Rustico.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Charles Krug

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we try a couple of wines from Napa's oldest winery.

The Charles Krug Winery was established in 1861 in California's Napa Valley. Today, it is owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Family. Since 1943, three generations of the Peter Mondavi family have been recognized as innovators in the wine industry.

Recently I had a chance to sample a red and a white from the winery.

Charles Krug 2004 Yountville-Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: The wine is made in the Bordeaux-style using 80 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes, 5 percent Syrah, 5 percent petit verdot, 4 percent merlot, 4 percent cabernet franc and 2 percent malbec, then aged for 19 months in primarily French oak barrels. I got a tad bit of alcohol in the initial aroma, but that subsided into a floral and berry mixture. The flavor was a nice rounded black cherry, with hints of oak. At $26 a bottle this is an average value for a red and a good price for a Napa wine.

Charles Krug 2006 Napa Valley Sauvignon: This white has a crisp nose and nice apple and melon flavor notes. It is a perfect wine for serving as a cocktail pour or at dinner with lighter white fish dishes. Priced at $18 a bottle.

Located near St. Helena, Charles Krug Winery is open for tours. You can check on hours of operation by calling the tasting room at 800-682-KRUG or 707-967-2229.

Korean Brewer: Drink Our Beer and Stay Regular

Drink beer? Having trouble staying regular? A Korean brewer might have just the ticket.

Hite Brewery says its new beer, named "S" -- you can figure out what that might stand for -- is fortified with dietary fiber. Hite says each 100 milliliters has 0.5 grams of fiber, so in a typical 330 milliliter bottle you would get the equivalent of two or three cucumbers or eight strawberries. There is no word on any plans to export the brew to the United States.

Each bottle of what Hite calls Stylish Beer with Fiber costs about 83-cents. But just remember the old saying: You don't buy beer, you really only rent it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Evening Standard: Guinness Might Shutter St James's Gate

According to a report from London in the Evening Standard, drinks giant Diageo is mulling over the idea of halting production at St James's Gate in Dublin, where they have been brewing beer for nearly 250 years.

The speculation is that Diageo might sell the brewery to property developers. The company would take the profits from the sale and move production outside of Dublin. While news of this move might at first sound unbelievable, the reality is that sales of Guinness in Ireland have dropped. During the first six months of 2007, overall European sales for Guinness are down 7 percent.

St James's Gate has been part of the Guinness marketing lore and the brewery is one of the top tourist attractions in all of Ireland. Guinness Stout sold in the U.S. is made at St James's Gate. Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on the 64-acre Dublin site in 1759. The first Guinness beer to use the word Stout on the label appeared around 1820.

The St James's Gate property is estimated to be worth as much as $4.1 billion.

Hyatt Launches Canvas House Wine Brand

The average wine consumer is at a severe disadvantage when they order off a wine list at many restaurants. Most people may know a few labels and purchase a couple for regular home consumption. With the number of vineyards growing almost daily, and with a number of vineyards marketing various levels of product under basically the same label -- with subtle changes usually through the name of an alternate vineyard -- crafty beverage managers can get almost any price they desire.

I have had several recent experiences that have caused head shaking and comments to guests at my table. A wine I know I can get at retail for under $20 just should not appear on a wine list for $75 or above. Proprietors will argue that they need the margins on wine to remain profitable. I'd argue that some of the pricing I've seen recently turns guests away from wines by the bottle to wines by the glass -- or to other beverages, including tap water. If your pricing on wine is gouging, can I trust the rest of the menu?

A good case in point is a recent experience I had at the Renaissance Hotel in Charlotte. Kim Crawford 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, which is available at a Costco location less than 5 miles away for $13 a bottle, is on the Renaissance list for $62 a bottle -- almost five times retail. This wine is a great value at $13 a bottle. It is a superb rip-off at $62.

One way around the issue of consumer awareness of wine value -- and a far more honest approach than a 5x mark up -- is to private label a wine. If you own the label, you ought to be able to set the price. The restaurateur will know what the pricing structure does to depletions.

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, working with Folio Fine Wine Partners, has gone the private label route with the release of Canvas. Folio Fine is based in Napa Valley and owned by the Michael Mondavi family.

Canvas is available at restaurants, bars and in-room dining at all Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Resorts in the United States. The Canvas line includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

EU Parliament Set to Order a "White Spirit and Tonic"

On one side of the aisle you have vodka makers from various countries arguing over exactly what is vodka. Mixed among them are people who believe Scotch does not necessarily have to come from Scotland. At the end of the day, you just might have a bunch of confused consumers. Welcome to the European Union Parliament.

With a vote this week, the EU Parliament could cause more than a third of vodka -- including some very popular brands in the United States -- to be recategorized as "white spirit" or "pure alcohol." Taking up a motion by a group of Nordic and Baltic countries, including Poland and Finland, a new proposed EU law says that vodka must be made from potatoes or grains.

A number of major brands, including Ciroc from France, use ingredients such as grapes, beets or citrus fruit. In the United Kingdom, significant amounts of vodka are distilled from molasses. If they lost the designation as vodka, these brands are also likely to drop in sales. Distillers in traditional vodka states think this would be just fine.

Currently, EU regulations define the distilling process for vodka, but not what raw ingredients must be fermented.

Scotch makers have been pulled into the fight through political maneuvering. They want protection against brands around the world using terms that suggest they are Scotch. The whiskey makers argue that like Cognac or Champagne, Scotch is as much about a place as it is ingredients or process. By tossing protection for Scotch distillers into the vodka proposal, the EU Parliament has clouded the potential outcome of the vote.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Heineken Buys Czech Brewer

While all eyes have been on the proposed sale of Budejovicky Budvar, Heineken NV has swooped in and grabbed up Krusovice Brewery in the Czech Republic.

Krusovice was owned by the Radeberger Gruppe KG. The company sold 70 million liters of beer last year, including an enjoyable dark lager. With the purchase Heineken says its share of the Czech market will grow to 8 percent. Regulators must approve the deal.

Oklahoma Group Pushes to Make 3.2 Beer Just a Memory

Come November voters in Oklahoma might get the chance to allow grocery stores to sell more than just 3.2 alcohol by weight (4.05 alcohol by volume) beer.

Oklahomans for Modern Laws has launched a petition drive to collect enough signatures to allow grocery stores to sell higher alcohol beer and wine. The group is targeting visitors to the Oklahoma State Fair in Oklahoma City, held from Sept. 13-23, to try to get the bulk of the signatures.

Under the current Oklahoma law, consumers have to go to a liquor store to buy full-strength beer and wine. The beer cannot be refrigerated.

Oklahomans for Modern Laws must collect 138,570 valid signatures within 90 days to get the initiative placed on the ballot. If the initiative makes it to a vote, you can expect grocery and convenience stores on one side supporting the measure and liquor stores and Baptist Church groups opposing the idea.

Oklahoma has been one of the hardest states in the nation to buy a drink over the years. The state did not repeal Prohibition until 1959 and you could not buy liquor by the drink in the state until 1984.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Saturday Night Live Legend Aykroyd to Build Ontario Winery

Last year comedic actor Dan Aykroyd announced his name would appear on some selected bottles of Ontario ice wine. Now the former Saturday Night Live and Blues Brother star is going beyond the label and into the winery business.

Aykroyd, 54, is a partner with Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits of Toronto in building the Dan Aykroyd Winery in Lincoln. The $11.2 million winery will include a 125-seat restaurant and a tasting room.

Aykroyd movie memorabilia will be displayed at the winery. Aykroyd invested $1 million in Diamond Estates in 2005, the company that is also turning out his wine line.

Diamond Estate estimates the winery could attract 40,000 visitors annually. The Grape Growers of Ontario said the news about Aykroyd's winery is already helping to get additional attention for Ontario wines. The winery is expected to open in 2008.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Belgian Beer Exports Surge 15 Percent

Belgian brewers are making up for a per capita drop in domestic sales by shipping more beer out of the country. A 15 percent surge in exports in 2006 kept Belgium's brewers toasting.

The world's thirst for Belgian beer caused overall production to increase by 6 percent -- even in the face of the domestic decline. Fifty-five percent of Belgian beer is now exported.

The decline in domestic beer sales are being attributed to consumers opting for other beverages and stricter drinking and driving laws. Belgium is also outlawing consumption by youth under 16. Currently, beer can per served to someone under 16 in a bar or restaurant as long as they are supervised by an adult.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Four Canadian Beer Trucks Go Missing: 12,000 Cases of Corona Grabbed by Crooks

Ontario police are looking for thieves who made off with four tractor trailer loads of beer from a Cobourg parking lot.

Police have located three of the four missing trucks, but none of the 12,000 cases of Corona and Corona Extra Light that were on board. The beer is worth about $470,000.

It is believed the beer bandits struck on Saturday between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Police say that some other trucks parked in the lot had been broken into. They are investigating why the beer laden trailers had been left together in the lot.

It is a little late for Cinco de Mayo, but somewhere someone is having a party.

Alabama Town Waits for Draught Taps to Flow

If you are lucky enough to live in a place with a great multi-tap bar, like the Flying Saucer, Mahar's, Falling Rock Tap House or the Blue Tusk (see "100 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die") it might be difficult to imagine, but beer drinkers in Florence, Ala., are crossing their fingers that Gov. Bob Riley signs a bill so they can get draught beer.

Even after the Governor signs bill 915, which was passed by the Alabama House and Senate, it still must go back to the Florence City Council for final approval. That's where the process of bringing draught beer to the Alabama Shoals began more than two years ago. It should sail through that group, because they unanimously approved the bill that went to the state for approval to start the entire process.

Once the bill finally becomes law it will still take some time before draught beer is flowing at every bar. Some bars have already installed lines and will be ready to roll in kegs. Others are reviewing the costs associated with refrigeration, storage space and running lines to tapes. Distributors must also train staff and add vehicles to handle kegs.

After hearing the plight of Florence beer lovers, I'm going to have a cold draught this evening and raise a toast to the thirsty in Alabama.

Jack Daniel's and Water: Drought Threatens Spring Used to Make Tennessee Whiskey

Some people like their whiskey with a splash of water. In Tennessee the question is whether a prolonged drought will cause the Jack Daniel's Distillery to curtail production.

The Lynchburg, Tenn., distiller gets its water from Cave Spring on its property. The water has a low iron content, which the distillery says is a key part of the Jack Daniel's process. The flow from Cave Spring is down by more than a third of its normal rate.

The distillery, other businesses, farmers and homeowners who like green lawns are hoping that rainfall in Tennessee and elsewhere in the southeast returns to normal.
Jack Daniel's has not cut back on production at this point, but is conserving water as part of its plans for dealing with the drought.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Higher Education II: California School Offers MBA in Wine Business

Sonoma State University is believed to be the first school in the nation to offer a Master's of Business Administration degree in Wine Business.

"Our partners in the wine industry have been very clear about the need to recruit and retain individuals with a strong knowledge of both professional management and unique wine industry practices," says Mack Schwing, the program's director. More than 250 wine companies have donated to the Wine Business Program Endowment Fund.

The first Wine Business M.B.A. classes will be offered in the Fall. Sonoma State has offered an undergraduate wine business degree for the last ten years.

Higher Education I: Dutch Students Develop Alcohol Powder

The Dutch are known as fairly liberal on many social issues. Students are seldom known to shy away from anything to do with drinking. Combine the two and a little entrepreneurial energy and you have Booz2Go.

Students at Helicon Vocational Institute have created a powder that they claim when mixed with water creates a bubbly, lime flavored green liquid that is 3 percent alcohol by volume. Here's the real kick: the product can legally be sold to minors in many places because it is not in liquid form, including in Holland where you have to be the ripe old age of 16 to buy a drink.

Booz2Go, sold in 20-gram packets, will retail at around $2. The students have been contacted by several companies who are interested in the product because it may avoid taxes that are piled on liquid alcohol beverages.

Anheuser-Busch Signs Deal to Distribute Vodka from Vermont

With the Swedish government pushing forward with plans to exit the alcohol business, one of the rumored suitors for the Absolut brand had been Anheuser-Busch, America's largest brewer. The sale of Absolut has not yet been concluded, but the folks in St. Louis did not wait around to nab a vodka label.

While it is not an equity purchase at the moment, Anheuser-Busch has cut a deal with Vermont Spirits for A-B to become the master U.S. distributor for the Vermont Gold, Vermont Gold Vintage and Vermont White super-premium vodkas.

Vermont Spirits is a regional distiller selling in Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and other select markets. The company's products are fairly unique. Vermont Gold is an unflavored vodka made by distilling maple sugar, while Vermont White is triple distilled from pure milk sugar and Vermont spring water.

Starting this month, A-B will begin distributing the brands, while Vermont Spirits will continue to market the vodkas. Under the deal, Anheuser-Busch could purchase a limited equity holding in Vermont Spirits in the future.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

New York State Museum Displays 18th Century Albany Rum Distilery

Drinks can be a tool to understanding history. Almost all cultures in man's recorded history used beer, wine or spirits as a part of religious or cultural ceremonies. Alcohol was also a part of the economic and social fabric for most communities.

A good example of this is an exhibit that opens on June 11 at the New York State Museum in Albany. Beneath the City: An Archaeological Perspective of Albany traces the development of one of North America's oldest cities. Among the featured elements of the exhibit: an 18th Century rum distillery that was discovered by workers in 2001 when they were building a parking garage.

The Dutch established Fort Orange in 1624. The English renamed the outpost Albany when they took control in 1664. The two seven-foot diameter fermentation vats that are part of the exhibit come from the era of British rule. A distillery was built in 1758-59 near the Hudson River and just outside the city limits so the operators to skirt laws that restricted the sale of alcoholic beverages to soldiers inside the city. It was a thriving business for its time and had an economic impact on Albany.

Friday, June 08, 2007

To Your Health: Hop to It to Cut Cholesterol

A Spanish study using nuns as subjects appears to indicate that hops can help reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides.

Fifty nuns were involved in the study, according to the Spanish Center for the Information on Beer and Health. First the nuns drank a pint of beer for 45 days, then stopped for six months. They then took 400 milligrams of hops for 40 days.

Total cholesterol levels among those with high ratings dropped by 6 percent. The researchers say the study indicates that even small amounts of beer, which is made with hops, can have beneficial health results.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

July 7th is Independence Day for Pittsburgh Brewing

Most of America celebrates Independence Day on July 4th. For fans of Iron City beer the real celebration will take place three days later.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge M. Bruce McCullough has approved Pittsburgh Brewing Co.'s reorganization plan. The company has been operating under bankruptcy protection since December 2005 when mounting debt and the threat by the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority to shutoff service forced the company to file.

Pittsburgh Brewing Acquisition LLC headed by John Milne managed to get creditors to accept $5.03 million to satisfy more than $26 million in debt. The company plans to invest more than $4 million in upgrading the facility and marketing brands from the 147-year-old brewery. The company expects to receive funding from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Brewing had a previous stint in bankruptcy in 1995.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Law Could Help Connecticut Brewpubs Bust Down the Doors

If you want to drink a beer from a Connecticut brewpub you had better be prepared to travel. Under Connecticut law, brewpubs cannot bottle product and they can only keg beer for sale at their location.

That could change under a bill that awaits the signature of Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Brewpubs in Connecticut have been allowed to sell growlers during the last couple of years, but have not been able to market product beyond their front doors.

Brewpubs face a difficult competitive environment. When you look at the failure rate among restaurants as a whole, brewpubs must overcome this situation, plus at the same time turning out quality beer people want to drink. Being able to serve an off-premise market by selling bottled and kegged beer to other restaurants and retail shops creates an extra cash flow that can support the business and fund growth. It also helps market the brewpub.

Connecticut would join a number of states that allow brewpubs to package product for sale elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Always Glad to See the FedEx Truck on My Block

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we sample a few beers that have arrived recently from craft brewers.

Beverage writers are a little bit like those kids you see in Sam's Club that get excited when they see the Sample Lady at the end of an aisle. Whether we admit it or not, drinks journalists get jacked up when they hear the rumble of a delivery truck pulling up to their location. We're happy to see the men and women in their FedEx, UPS, Airborne Express or DHL uniforms -- even the good old USPS mail carrier will occasionally drop off a sample. Our lives are wrapped around trying new products and telling the world about them. To be honest, most of us also like the idea of being able to one up our friends with tales about the just released beer that you cannot yet find at retail that we tasted or the out-of-our-price-range Scotch that just arrived.

Most of the samples that I receive are connected to columns I am writing for All About Beer, Draft or another publication. Sometimes products arrive that don't relate to anything that I happen to be writing about at the moment, like the recent samples of Tommy Bahama Rum and Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. That's OK, sometime soon they will end up in a Tuesday Tasting on Lyke2Drink.

Here's a quick trip through the mailbag with some tasting notes on recent arrivals.

Avery Anniversary Ale Fourteen: This dark ale has a rich creamy tan head and weighs in at 9.46 percent alcohol by volume. The label leaves it up to the drinker to pick the style and I'd have to say this reminds me of a classic Belgian dubbel. There are rich notes of chocolate, molasses and a intriguing fruity aroma. This beer is worth hunting down. One of the best beers to come out of Colorado in recent memory and that's saying something for a state loaded with great breweries. If you decide to share it with friends, you are a very generous person.

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale: Brothers-in-Law Adam Firestone and David Walker focus on British style ales using a process similar to the Burton Union method at their California brewery. It has paid off handsomely with multiple awards from various competitions. The Double Barrel Ale is a nice dark color and has a slightly sweet nose. Fine ale character, with sufficient hops to impart a nice fruity essence in the base of the beer.

Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter: A dark ale that comes in at 5.9 percent alcohol by volume with hints of coffee and chocolate. The beer leans a bit towards being more of a stout than a porter. The bottle conditioning adds a layer of flavor and complexity to the beer.

Orlio Organic Common Ale: A fairly uncommon style for an east coast brewer, Orlio's offering is an attractive golden color. It is smooth and creamy, with just the right level of hops to give it a spicy finish.

Orlio Organic Seasonal India Pale Ale: This beer is made by the organic sister company of Vermont's Magic Hat Brewing. The copper colored ale has a moderate hop flavor that is somewhat balanced by a combination of malts. This is a solid brew and weighs in at 5.4 percent alcohol by volume.

Wagner Valley Sled Dog Doppelbock: Brewmaster Dean Jones makes beer in the Finger Lakes wine country in Upstate New York. This dark malty brew is a very nice rendition of a classic doppelbock. Plenty of roasted malt with a firm level of sweetness, this beer is the color of a hand stained piece of cherry furniture.

Wagner Valley Sled Dog Trippelbock: This dark brew is slightly roasty with pronounced malty sweetness throughout. It is a warming brew with bits of toffee and brown sugar characteristics. This beer earns the trippel designation. Worth looking for if your travels bring you to the Ithaca region.

Michigan Moves to Halt Sales of Kegs to Scrap Dealers

Michigan is hiking the deposit consumers pay when buying kegs to try to head off a growing problem for brewers.

The current deposit on kegs is $10 in Michigan. Brewers say they are losing thousands of kegs each year to consumers who drink the contents, but instead of taking the empties back for a deposit refund bring them to scrap metal dealers. With stainless steel scrap prices at a record $1,75 a pound, the barrels fetch more as scrap than the deposit.

The new deposit in Michigan will be $30, which the state hopes is enough to keep kegs out of the scrap yard. It costs brewers $152 to replace a half-barrel keg.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ultimate Beer Drinkers Prize: Kegerator Up for Grabs

OK, so maybe the ultimate beer drinkers prize is a trip to Oktoberfest or a lifetime supply of Avery Hog Heaven. But a Kegerator has to be in the top five.

You can win this handy little Tap & Serve Kegerator by visiting www.kegerators.net between now and Aug. 1st and writing a paragraph on why you should get a free Kegerator. It is that easy.

You must be at least 21 years old to enter and you are limited to one entry, so make it count. Remember: Draught beer in the comfort of your own home is at stake.

InBev Heads to India in Search of Growth

Belgian beer behemoth InBev is the latest brewery to make a move into India.

InBev, which brews and markets Stella Artois, Becks and other brands, has cut a deal with RKJ Group in Delhi. RJK is India's leading Pepsi bottler and distributor.

RKJ will hold 51 percent of the stock in the new venture, but InBev retains to increase its stake at a later date. InBev products are expected to hit the Indian market in 2008.

Rumor Mill: Could SABMiller and Molson Coors Sip From the Same Mug?

Is there a chance that SABMiller and Molson Coors might come together under some type of alliance?

The idea was floated recently by SABMiller Americas President Norman Adami in a recent interview with Thomson Financial. He told the news service that if Molson Coors "should make themselves available" then SABMiller would look closely at a deal. While stopping short of commenting on a specific deal, Adami praised Molson Coors product portfolio and management.

It is not the first time that a marriage between Coors and Miller has been discussed as an option for doing battle with Anheuser-Busch. That speculation halted in recent years when Coors joined forces with Canada's Molson and Miller became part of the South African Breweries global push.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Cider Sales Soar in the U.K.

Thanks to ads promoting cider poured over ice as the drink to enjoy at home, cider sales in Great Britain are up 29 percent during the last year.

Magners, an Irish brand, started a heavy ad campaign for cider about a year ago and was soon joined by other brands, pushing sales for home consumption to $897.3 million. This total now surpasses bitter and ale sales, which came in at $885.4 million.

U.K. consumers drink more wine than anything else at home -- $10.5 billion worth, followed by lager beer, $5.55 billion, then whisky at $1.46 billion and vodka at $1.33 billion. Champagne, at 633.8 million, falls in behind cider and bitter/ale.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Session #4: Drinking Local Beer Puts a Smile on Your Face

Local beer is very important to me, because I know what it is like not to have it. I was born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1960, at the start of what would become a decades long local beer depression. It was not always that way and thankfully, it is no longer the case.

Syracuse was once one of America's great brewing cities. The first commercial brewery was established in the city in 1804 by physician and German immigrant Johann Mang. Because the Erie Canal made it easy to get raw ingredients in and finished beer out, Syracuse became a center for brewing from the 1860s through 1920. After Prohibition ended in 1933, just five breweries reopened: Zett's, Bartels, Greenway, Moore and Quinn, and Haberle, which was the last brewer in the city when it closed down in 1962.

During my youth, the "local beers" were Genesee from Rochester and Matt's from Utica. Happily, my Father was a Matt's drinker. In 1975, Miller Brewing opened a giant plant in Volney, N.Y., near Oswego. It would close that brewery in 1995. Schlitz Brewing opened a plant in Baldwinsville, N.Y., just outside of Syracuse, but shut the modern facility in 1980. Anheuser Busch would buy this brewery and reopen in in 1983. The modern craft beer era came to the Salt City in 1991, when the Syracuse Suds Factory brewpub opened in downtown. It was followed by another brewpub, Empire Brewing, in 1994 and then Middle Ages Brewing, a fine microbrewer, the next year.

Empire Brewing became a favorite for its beer and its food. It would open spots in Buffalo and Rochester, which ultimately created operational and financial strains causing the brewpub chain to fold in 2003. It appeared that Mighty Fine Barleywine, Black Magic Stout and Skinny Atlas Light (actually a pretty good Kolsch) were gone forever. However, one of the former owners, David Katleski, and a brewer from Middle Ages, Tim Butler, have teamed up and the Syracuse location will reopen on June 5th. Empire Brewing is back. I cannot wait until my next visit home.

I left Syracuse in 1996 and after a nine year stay in Saratoga County, N.Y., where I got to enjoy local beers made at Ten Springs Brewing (which later became Olde Saratoga Brewing under the Mendocino Brewing umbrella), C.H. Evans Brewing at the Albany Pump Station, Malt River Brewing, Troy Pub & Brewery, Van Dyck Brewing, Saratoga Brewpub, Cooper's Cave and Davidson Brothers Brewing, I moved to Charlotte, N.C., two years ago.

Which brings me to my assignment for The Session #4, which is being hosted at the Gastronomic Fight Club blog. The theme for this session is to review a beer or beers from a brewery within 150 miles of your home, preferably the closest brewery. The assignment should be fairly easy for beer bloggers, since the Brewers Association says most Americans now live within 10 miles of a brewery.

North Carolina has a number of great breweries. It happens the closest to my home is the Rock Bottom location at 401 N. Tryon St. in Uptown Charlotte. It's just 11.5 miles from my house.

Rock Bottom is a chain of brewpubs. I have been to several of their locations, including the spots in Denver and Chicago. Each location always has the standard brewpub offerings of an IPA, a stout and an amber. These are usually fresh and pretty good bets. The best beers at Rock Bottom locations are the local creations and seasonal offerings. That was the case at the Rock Bottom in Charlotte when I visited this week.

I had a chance to meet brewer Dave Gonzalez during the recent Charlotte Beer Week celebration. His creation for the blistering Charlotte summer is a refreshing Summer Wheat. Rock Bottom serves the beer in a traditional wheat beer glass. It is bright yellow, slightly cloudy and has a nice thick creamy head. The beer has the classic spice and fruit notes you want from a wheat beer. Gonzalez has certainly done his job with this beer.

Remember when you are out and about: Think Global, Drink Local. You never know what you might find.