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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Are You Ready for Super Bud Bowl XLII?

Sunday is one of the largest -- if still unofficial -- holidays in the United States. An estimated 90 million people will watch the New England Patriots take on the New York Giants on Fox in Super Bowl XLII, while a lucky few advertisers will risk $2.7 million per 30-second time slot to try to grab the attention of television viewers.

That's right, I did say lucky advertisers. These companies and their advertising agencies are indeed lucky. First of all, there is more demand for space in the game than there is space. Political candidates were turned away because Fox realized it could not meet the fairness doctrine by offering equal time to all presidential candidates. Certainly, not every company has the marketing budget to support spending that kind of money in half a minute. And, in a time when media fragmentation is making it harder to reach a mass audience using mass media, the Super Bowl is as close as a big time brand can get to the days when there were just three national television networks and prime time was really prime.

The biggest of the big advertisers on the Super Bowl this season is Anheuser-Busch. When Super Bowl XLII is over, Budweiser and Bud Light will have been featured in one 60 second and six 30 second spots. That's right, A-B is buying four minutes of real estate in the game, with a street value of $21.6 million. A-B pays slightly lower rates because of volume discounts, but it does pay a premium to be the exclusive beer advertiser in the game. There will also be a spot that cell phone users can watch at the end of the game that ties into a promotion being run by the brewery.

If this was a political primary, it would be said that A-B benefits from a big bounce delivered by the game. Last year the A-B Super Bowl spots were watched 30 million times after the game by web surfers. A-B is making sure that the spots are widely available this year on YouTube and other sites.

Is it worth it? A-B must think so, during the last 20 years they have outspent the next closest advertiser overall by two to one and A-B has locked up the game through 2012.

Miller Brewing has decided not to ignore the King of Beers ad gambit, instead launching a new ad in the Miller Lite Dalmatian series that attempts to hijack one of the menagerie of animals A-B has used in its ads over the years. Miller Lite will spend about as much as a single spot on the Super Bowl to air the spot about 300 times in the four days leading up to the game on a variety of networks. The company has reportedly dispatched a number of Dalmatians and pretty women handlers to attend various Super Bowl functions in Arizona.

If Miller is frustrated by A-B's strangle hold on the Super Bowl, the neo-Prohibitionists at the Marin Institute are down right furious. They have called on the National Football League, broadcast networks and A-B to halt all alcohol advertising in the game, claiming that so many underage consumers watch the event that the ads are actually targeting youth. The fact is that the game is one of the few times most American families are actually gathered around the same television set at the same time. If the Marin Institute was at all interested in encouraging responsible consumption and having parents discuss the healthy use of alcohol with their kids they might be better served seeing if the NFL or Fox would donate some time for a public service message on the topic. Scratch that, they'd rather throw bombs through the media.

It will be interesting following the game to not only hear the analysis of how the teams performed, but also to see which spots overall get the highest favorable ratings from consumers. Surely, whether or not he wants the Patriots or the Giants to win, Bob Lachky, executive vice president for global industry and creative development at A-B, will have more than a passing interest in that score.

To Your Health: Red Wine Grapes May Cut Tooth Decay

A study by Cornell University's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station and the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that red wine grapes may help prevent tooth decay.

The researchers found that red wine grapes from the Finger Lakes and pomace, the residue remaining after winemaking that can also be used to make grappa, contain substances that help prevent dental problems. Polyphenols in the grapes interfere with the ability of bacteria to to cause tooth decay. The researchers think this might help kill other harmful bacteria that causes more serious health problems.

The study appeared on the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry website.

Miss Manners and I Agree: Don't Drink Beer From a Bottle

Judith Martin's Miss Manners column in yesterday's Chicago Tribune was a thing of beauty. The headline was "Beer bottles don't belong at anyone's dinner table." When I saw that I got ready to fire off an angry letter to the Trib's editors, but upon further review I found myself in complete agreement with Ms. Martin.

A reader who lives in an upscale retirement facility had written to Miss Manners to complain that an "elderly lady" of 70-75 years old living at the location had the habit of bringing a bottle of beer from the home's weekly Thursday afternoon happy hour directly into the dining room and would consume the brew straight from the bottle during dinner. "I contend that those who bring the beer with them should have it poured into a glass -- particularly an elderly woman," the letter writer states.

Miss Manners agreed and suggested that the best solution was for the offended co-resident talk to the wait staff prior to dinner and ask them to please bring a glass each Thursday to the bottle guzzler and suggest they do her the service of pouring the beverage and removing the bottle.

I could not agree more, as long as a few simple rules are followed:

1. No frosted mugs. For some reason almost every bar in the Charlotte where I live wants to give me a frozen mug. Stop it. Serve my beer at the proper temperature and I promise to consume it before it warms up.

1a. The only thing worse than the frosted mug trick is the no mug trick. It is a growing and frustrating trend to order a beer and have it arrive sans the glass. Do these places not have dishwashers? Do they think beer drinkers just don't care? More than half the time when you ask for the glass the wait person will shrug. Why? The made the error, not me. Beer is meant to be poured from the bottle to release the flavors.

2. Make sure the glass is clean and the proper style. You would not serve a merlot in a Champagne flute. Don't try to give me a stout in a pilsner glass.

3. Teach your staff how to properly pour a beer. If I have one more server slowly pour my beer down the side of a glass tipped at nearly a 60 degree angle so that no head is visible I'm going to scream. The head on a beer is part of the visual and flavor experience. I'm for beer with a head.

4. Ask if you can remove the bottle. If it is my first time drinking the beer I may want to look at the information on the bottle, or I just might want the visual reminder of what I am drinking so I can recall the name for my blog. I am getting old. It will get worse by the time I'm in a retirement facility.

Now that Miss Manners and I are on the same page, I'd like to talk to her about the proper etiquette for tapping a keg.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Duluth Neighborhood Could Vote to Lift 1894 Drink Ban

It's been 114 years since the last legal drink was purchased in the Lakeside neighborhood of Duluth, Minn. Now the Duluth City Council has voted to allow residents to have a say in whether to let Prohibition stand in the community.

The city council voted 7-2 earlier this week to allow a referendum to be placed on the November ballot. Residents will vote on whether they would like to have alcohol available for sale in their community. A state law passed in 1894 bans the sale of alcohol in Lakewood.

The vote by citizens is non-binding. The city would still have to ask the Minnesota Legislature to repeal the law.

Drinks & Taxes 2008 v6: Wyoming

According to a poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research commissioned by the Casper Star-Tribune the vast majority of Wyoming residents are against a new gas tax, but favor a hike in the tax on beer.

A total of 58 percent of Wyoming voters polled said they would back a 4.5 cent per liter increase in the tax on beer. The tax revenue would be spent on substance abuse treatment and prevention.

While resident favor the hike in the beer tax, they are heavily against increasing the gas tax to raise $47 million, even though 52 percent of those dollars would come from non-residents refueling in the state.

The tax on beer would go from a half a cent per liter to 5 cents per liter under a bill being considered by the Wyoming Legislature. The bill would also mandate that $14.5 million a year raised from alcohol taxes in the state go to fund substance abuse programs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: Three Laphroaigs

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 Islay off the west coast of Scotland for some single malt.

Islay is where the pounding sea meets earthy peat to create the conditions that produce deep and relentless whiskies. Islay malts will change your perspective on whisky. Smoke, salt, peat and wood come together in Islay whisky and roll toward you like the waves of the Irish Sea.

Islay whisky is the part of a good many famous blended Scotches because it delivers a full body flavor, with notes of smoke and the sea. Surprisingly, Islay is just 25 miles long. That is not a very big place to be home for so many big whiskies. One of the best known whiskies on the island is Laphroaig, distilled along the southern shore since 1815. I recently sampled three of the whiskies from the distillery for a column I am writing for All About Beer magazine.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old: This Islay malt weighs in at 86 proof. An attractive golden color, there is plenty of peat upfront with a slight sweetness that lingers. The peat in this one leaves a drying sense on the tongue that has touches of heather.

Laphroaig Quartercask Malt: This has a vanilla and sweet grass nose. Complex flavor, with peppery spice, nice level of peat and a long layer of smoke to finish the drink. Smooth for a 96 proof whisky.

Laphroaig 15 Year Old: Brownish gold and weighing in at 86 proof, this is a round and rich malt. Caramel notes, clear Islay peat and salt. Extremely proud oak finish.

Comings and Goings in California Wine Country

A couple of announcements of acquisitions of California wineries crossed my desk in the last few days that are worth noting. For one, they involve hundreds of millions of dollars change hands. And, these moves indicate some major players are going to focus more attention on mid- and upper-range California brands.

On Monday, Diageo boosted its stake in the U.S. wine market with a $105 million acquisition of Rosenblum Cellars. Diageo is best know for brands like Guinness Stout and Johnnie Walker Scotch, but has significant holdings in California that including Sterling, Chalone and Beaulieu vineyards.

Rosenblum Cellars produces more than three dozen wines in Californian and is best know for its zinfandel and other red wines. Dr. Kent Rosenblum will stay on as a winemaker and adviser.

Last week, Constellation Brands, which is based in Upstate New York, announced it was selling off its Almaden and Inglenook brands to the Wine Group of San Francisco for $134 million. The Wine Group already moves 40 million cases annually of brands such as Franzia, Corbett Canyon, Mogen David, Glen Ellen and Concannon Vineyards.

Constellation sells more than 100 brands and late last year purchased Clos du Bois, Geyser Peak and other labels when it bought Fortune Brands wine business for $885 million.

The deals mean that Diageo and Constellation will be more focused on growing premium wine brands. The battle for retail shelf space and slots on wine lists will certainly heat up in 2008.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Carlsberg Releases a $400 Bottle of Suds

Would you pay $400 for a bottle of beer?

The folks at Carlsberg in Denmark think at least a few well-healed beer lovers will be willing to do so. The company is rolling out Carlsberg Vintage No. 1, which it says is the world’s most expensive bottle of beer.

Carlsberg says the beer is a chestnut brown color with a light head. The beer is said to have caramel, prune and vanilla flavor notes and was aged in French and Swedish oak barrels. It weighs in at 10.5 percent alcohol by volume.

Carlsberg has made just 600 bottles of Vintage No. 1, which is sold in 375 milliliter bottles. They will be offered at three Copenhagen restaurants and on the company's website.

Will the beer be a success? There are enough rich folks and beer geeks out there looking to say they had the world's most expensive beer to easily blow through 600 bottles. I expect some will be on eBay before long at a price much higher than the original $400.

The company already says it plans to release a beer in the series on an annual basis for at least the next two years.

How Low Can You Go?: Miller Rolls Out MGD Light 64

Just when you thought light beer could get no lighter comes word that Miller Brewing hopes to pump up the interest in its Miller Genuine Draft Light brand by cutting the calories from 110 to just 64.

Miller Genuine Draft Light 64 will be the lowest calorie light beer on the market from a major national or regional brewer. The move comes after Miller successfully tested the product in Madison, Wisc. It is expected the beer will first be available in the Midwest starting in March and also select western markets.

Miller is also testing craft style extensions of its flagship Miller Lite brand. The moves appear to show that Miller believes there are untapped segments in the light beer market. On one end MGD 64 will appeal to diet conscious drinkers who want to further reduce the calories they consume during a night out. The more flavorful Miller Lite extensions indicate that Miller is seeing some of its base stray towards craft and imported light beers.

It will be interesting to see if Anheuser-Busch or another brewer decides to chase Miller down the caloric scale. At a certain point you have to believe that the flavor of these beers ceases to be anywhere close to traditional beer. However, there are enough beer drinkers who have grown up on light lagers that reduced calories may be more of a selling proposition for them than the actual flavor of the beer. I'll admit I'm saying this having not tried the MGD 64, but I'm not sure I have to in order to imagine the amount of malt or hops that are likely present.

If MGD 64 becomes a success -- and the folks at Miller know a thing or two about success in the light beer category -- it will open a new marketing path for the majors and could bring on calorie cutting projects for other light brands. That just might syphon off some of the attention major brewers have been paying towards the craft segment.

Roll Tide, Roll: More Alabama Towns Want Draft Beer

On Sept. 1st restaurants and retail stores in Florence, Ala., started selling a revolutionary new product: draft beer.

It took an act of the Alabama Legislature, but Florence bars were able to install taps and start pouring drafts for thirsty customers. Outlets in Florence can also sell beer on Sundays. Now nearby towns are moving to join most of the rest of America in allowing consumers to get a crisp fresh glass of beer.

The Alabama Legislature will meet in February and consider a bill that would allow the sale of draft beer in Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Tusucmbia. Late last year Sheffield residents voted 768-475 to allow restaurants and motels to sell alcohol on Sundays.

It is hard to imagine, but odd laws governing alcohol sales, some left over from Prohibition, still linger in many places across the U.S. They prohibit the sale of some of the world's great beers because they are over 6 percent alcohol, they don't allow for the sale of liquor by the drink or they make it impossible to enjoy something as simple as draft beer.

If you think these are things of the past that will die out soon, just remember that you actually have a group of legislators in Utah that want to outlaw cold beer and a host of states and local municipalities trying to figure out new ways to increase the price we all pay for a drink with an avalanche of new taxes.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Utah Could Vote to Make Cold Beer Illegal

Salt Lake City television station ABC 4 is reporting that a group of Utah Republican state legislators is talking about proposing a bill that would make warm beer the law of the land.

The bill would make it illegal for grocery and convenience stores to sell cold beer. The lawmakers believe that selling beer warm would reduce consumption in the state and cut drinking and driving.

Lawmakers are apparently still studying the potential law. While they are at it, perhaps the Utah Legislature should outlaw the sale of frozen water. If people had to wait to make ice, chances are that there would be fewer coolers full of beer and a there might even be a reduction in the number of cocktails made in the state.

This proposal comes from the same state that confiscated a vanity license plate from one driver. The offending word on the plate? Merlot. Perhaps they can change the state moto on the plates to "Utah: The Warm Beer State."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Drinks & Taxes 2008 v5: New Hampshire

New Hampshire is considering a 1 cent tax on beverage containers that would hit beer, soda, juice and water containers made of glass, plastic and metal.

The bill excludes milk, wine and spirits. Groceries are fighting the bill because they say it will hurt sales from out of state customers. Some stores count on visitors for up to 40 percent of their business.

The tax would hit brewers operating in the state. Smuttynose Brewing Co. and Portsmouth Brewery say the 1 cent tax would cost them $17,000, while Anheuser-Busch, which operates a brewery in Merrimack, says the tax will result in a $8 million hit for the brewery.

Drinks & Taxes 2008 v4: New York II

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has put forward a proposal to increase the tax rate on malt liquor from 16 cents a gallon to $2.54 a gallon. The problem is the bill could unintentionally impact other high gravity beers.

The proposal is part of an attempt to close a budget gap in New York and it is estimated it will raise $15 million, while targeting 40-ounce sales of malt liquor that take place primarily in urban neighborhoods. The bill says it targets "flavored malt beverages" with an alcohol content of 0.5 to 24 percent. Products like Colt 45, Olde English 800 and King Cobra typical have alcohol contents in the high 5 to low 7 percent level. State officials say these brews deserve a special tax because they are hybrids of beer and spirits. The reality is that you can find much more powerful brews in bars and retail shops across New York. Somehow the Spitzer administration has convinced itself that because the word liquor is in the name malt liquor that it deserves to be taxed more like liquor, never mind that there is no distilling in the manufacturing process.

The bill excludes, beer, lager beer, ale, porter, stout and other malt based beverages, carving out flavored malt beverages for special attention. It is unclear how the state would enforce the tax and if brewers could avoid the tax by simply changing the name of their brands. Anyone up for a King Cobra Barleywine? How about a Colt 45 Imperial Pilsner?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thanks to Federal Grant U.K. Gets a Taste of Wines From Oregon and Washington

Restaurateurs, retailers and food and drink journalists in England got the chance to drink wine from about three dozen wineries from the Pacific Northwest earlier today and the tab was picked up by U.S. taxpayers.

Thanks to a federal grant of $200,000 made to the wine promotional agencies from Oregon and Washington, the vineyards set up a day of tastings and presentations in London. The goal was to open up new markets for pinot noirs from Oregon and rieslings from Washington.

The United Kingdom is a huge $20 billion wine market that few American vintners, mostly from California, have managed to crack. While most smaller domestic wineries sell much of their wine through tour centers and to retailers in limited geographies, a growing number of vineyards are looking to markets in both Europe and Asia as a way to build a strong demand for their brands. The quality of American wines, coupled with the weakness of the American dollar, makes many of these wines a bargain on the international market.

By joining forces and getting the government to underwrite the event, the Pacific Northwest wineries are better able to get the attention of the London wine community. It will be interesting to see if exports from the two states increase during the next few years.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Study: It Tastes Better if You Spend More

A study about how people view the taste of wine based on its price conducted by researchers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has been getting a ton of play in the media.

The basic finding is that people believe higher priced wines taste better. Even when the prices had been switched so the cheaper wines were represented to the study participants as the most expensive.

The study was conducted in California using 20 volunteers asked to taste wines with fake prices tags. The volunteers were given five different wines to try at 15 different sessions during the study. While tasting each wine they were told a price. The wines used in the study ranged from $5 to $90 a bottle. The study participants picked the cabernet sauvignons with the higher fake prices eight out of 10 times. The researchers hooked the consumers up to brain scan devices to watch activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex and found that they were happier when given the wines that they thought were higher priced.

The researchers later replicated the study at the Stanford University Wine Club and got the same results. Then, eight weeks after the original study, participants were given the five wines to try with no suggestion of price. The $5 wine was selected by most of the participants.

So what can we learn from the 20 consumers in this study? One thing is certain: the price of wine is one of the most important elements in a vineyard's marketing plan. Is a $180 bottle of Opus One really six times better than a cabernet blend sold at another nearby Napa winery? The answer in most cases is certainly not, unless you are hosting a business dinner with an important client who has always wanted to try Opus One.

The study clearly shows that price is a key factor in how consumers perceive the quality of a wine. In my experience this holds true for spirits and beer. When looking at a big restaurant wine list with a hundred bottles or more, often two thirds of them are virtually unknown to most people. They might focus on a style or region that they enjoy as a way of making the selection. The prices on wines they do know can give them a hint about the fairness of the restaurant's pricing. However, the study by the California Institute of Technology suggests that restaurants that inflate wine pricing may actually have happier customers at the end of the meal.

The study is a reminder to all of us who enjoy wine to trust our own palates more than price tags. It is easy to believe that something must be really good if a winery, distiller or brewer is bold enough to place a big ticket on the bottle. In many cases the price does reflect costlier ingredients, extra aging, special handling and the skill of the maker. In some cases, the marketing department has decided to charge a certain price for the simple reason that they can. Discerning the difference is each of our jobs as consumers.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lager Library: Classic Cocktails: A Modern Shake

The cocktails have found their way into art, literature and film. In Mark Kingwell’s new book Classic Cocktails: A Modern Shake the influence of the cocktail in today’s culture is clear.

In chapters named after drinks like the Gimlet, Kir Royale, Zombie and Gibson, Kingwell reminds us that fictional characters from detectives to advertising executives become a whole bunch more interesting as the cocktail count goes up. In some cases the cocktail is a metaphor and in others it is a device to bring two characters together. Seldom is a drink just a drink.

Classic Cocktails is well written and short, punchy chapters that go down as smoothly as a well made Martini. It is one of those books to keep on a table next to your favorite chair or in your game room for friends to pick up and enjoy.

Kingwell, a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, rolls through the tale of the mixed drink you as you enjoy the smart design and illustrations by Seth (Gregory Gallant). It is published by Thomas Dunne Books (Hard cover, $19.95, 240 pgs.).

If you think this work gives too much credit to the cocktail, Kingwell advises readers in his introduction: “This book is not for you if you think drinking in the afternoon is wrong, or if the thought of dealing with a hangover by mixing a stinger is repugnant.” Classic Cocktails message is clear: be proud and raise your glass.

Paris Hilton Nude Prosecco Ad Draws Ire of Winemaker

At 26 years old Paris Hilton has managed to make millions from endorsements, star in a cult television show, have four women's fragrances named after her, write two books about her life and release a record album that made it all the way to number six on the Billboard charts. People willingly pay her well into the six figures just for her to appear at parties. She has also managed to star in a sex tape released by an angry ex-boyfriend, spend a few weeks in the Los Angeles County Jail for various driving violations, including a DUI, and earn the title as the World's Most Overrated Celebrity in the 2007 edition of Guinness World Records.

Now Hilton is taking heat from Italian winemakers who don't think she is a worthy endorser of prosecco, the white sparkling wine made in the northern part of the country.

You may recall that Hilton appeared at the 2006 Oktoberfest in Munich to hawk Rich Prosecco. This violated the rules of the festival, which promptly banned Hilton from the event in the future. Now Hilton appears nude dipped in gold in an ad campaign Rich, which is drawing complaints from traditionalists in the vineyards.

It does not help that Rich is sold in cans and comes in original, passion fruit and strawberry flavors. The idea of an American hotel heiress pushing a canned prosecco is a little too much for some, especially winemakers who would rather have an image closer to Champagne.

Reuters quoted Fulvio Brunetta, president of the wine growers association of Treviso, as saying, "Hilton hotels are a sign of quality; Paris Hilton is not."

Miranda Lambert Launches Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Wine

Emerging country star Miranda Lambert is following in the footsteps of other celebrities with her own wine label.

Lambert's family has launched the Red 55 Winery in Lindale, Texas. The irony is that the east Texas town is dry, but a law passed in 2005 allows the sale of Texas made wines in otherwise dry towns.

The wines sell for $16 to $20 a bottle and include Electric Pink, named after Lambert's guitar; Red 55, named after her first truck; Gunpowder and Lead and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, both named for songs made famous by the singer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Drinks & Taxes 2008 v3: New York

Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz thinks New Yorkers should pay 25 cents more in taxes on every drink of beer, wine and spirits they enjoy. He says the new tax is needed to fight an epidemic of underage drinking.

Ortiz says the tax would fund alcohol and drug abuse treatment and prevention programs.

It is unclear how much support the proposed tax will generate. Gov. Eliot Spitzer has stated he is against any new taxes. Republicans in the state Senate say they would fight the measure.

Drinks & Taxes 2008 v2: California

Our neo-Prohibitionist friends at the Marin Institute are at it again. Now they are recommending that California slap an additional 25 cents per drink tax on all alcohol in the state to help close a $14 billion budget gap in the state.

In "recommending" the new tax to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Legislature the Marin Institute claims the "overdue" tax would generate almost $3 billion in revenue.

The group says increased taxes on alcohol is a way to force the drinks industry to pay its share of costs for California government programs.

Drinks & Taxes 2008 v1: South Dakota

The wholesale price of alcohol in South Dakota will jump under a proposal in the state Legislature. The bill would add $1.06 to the wholesale tax on a gallon of beer, $2.56 more per gallon to wine and $8.54 per gallon to liquor.

It all works out to 10 cents per drink advocates claim to cover programs ranging from police enforcement of drunk driving laws to grants for teen courts in South Dakota.

The push for the new tax is coming from counties around the state looking for new sources of funding without having to raise property or sale taxes. The bill needs a two-thirds majority in both the South Dakota House and Senate, which the tax promoters fear they will not get.

Now the counties plan to launch a petition drive to get the measure on a ballot for voters to decide. They say the $35 million is needed to fund programs. Those opposing the tax say the 387 percent increase in the state tax on beer is too much of a hike.

It will be interesting to see if voters in South Dakota decide to raise the price of a drink on themselves if the petition drive is successful. If South Dakota politicians won't raise the tax out of fear of facing voters in the next election, it's doubtful the same voters will go for a self-imposed tax.

To Your Health: Fourteen Drinks a Week Keeps the Doctor Away

People who consume an average of 14 drinks a week have a lower risk of premature death than those who avoid alcohol, according to a European study.

The study at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, Denmark, looked at moderate drinkers who consume 14 glasses of wine, beer or spirits a week. The study found this group is less likely than either people who don't drink or heavy drinkers to die of heart disease and other illnesses. The benefit increases with exercise. Drinkers who exercised were half as likely as nondrinkers to die of heart disease.

The study took place over a 20-year period among nearly 12,000 Danish men and women.

Corks Fly: Belgian Customs Destroy Bottles of Andre Over Champagne Labeling

Belgian Customs officials have seized and destroyed 3,200 bottles of Andre sparkling wine made by E&J Gallo of California because the labels for the wine had the word "Champagne" prominently announcing the style.

The shipment was seized at the port of Anvers, Belgium. The bottles had the words “California Champagne” and “André Champagne Cellars” which violates European Union laws. The word Champagne can only be used on wines produced in the Champagne region of France under the EU rules. U.S. law allows sparkling wine makers in the country to use the word Champagne as a style designation.

For its part Gallo says it recognizes the EU rules and did not ship the wine. It says the distributor who supplies wine Gallo products to cruise ships shipped the product, which was on its way to Nigeria.

The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, Belgian Customs and the World Customs Organization released a video documenting the destruction. You can check it out at: www.flow-films.com/materials/champagne.wmv

Champagne, along with 12 other wine regions from around the world, is an original signatory of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin. Seven U.S. regions - Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Oregon, Walla Walla, Willamette, and Washington State -- have signed the document advocating truth-in-labeling worldwide.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: Baltic Porters

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we take a look at a beer category that is among the best in standing up to harsh winter conditions.

Baltic porter is a beer style that is a bit of a mystery to many beer drinkers. Like a foggy and frigid cove along the Lithuanian coast, Baltic porter is beautiful and a bit dangerous. The name comes from the Baltic Sea, where the countries that have traditionally made this strong porter are located. Designed for the winter in places like Sweden and Russia, you quickly understand why these brews weigh in at 7 percent alcohol by volume and above. The style is quite different from a London-style porter and in my mind more closely resembles an export stout or Russian imperial stout. There is a mixture of heavily roasted barley and sweet malts that drives this style's flavor profile. You get your money's worth in flavor when you order a Baltic porter.

Baltic porters can be difficult to find. Brewers in Poland, Sweden and Russia are among those that export Baltic porter brands. A few American brewers have also picked up the style as a winter warmer. We located three for this tasting and wish we could have found more.

Baltika 6 Porter: From Russia's Baltika Breweries in St. Petersburg, this beer is black and allows almost no light to pass. The head on this beer was present throughout, but thin. Nice roasted malt characteristics with a good sweet note at the finish. It comes in at 7.0 percent alcohol by volume, which is mild for this tasting.

Sea Otter Baltic Porter: Part of Vermont brewer Otter Creek's World Tour Series, it pours a rich fluffy head and its dark color allows just a slight hint of light to pass around the edges. Wonderful roasted coffee notes. Brewed with a lager yeast, there is a bit less of a fruit tone in the flavor. The label for this beer did not list the alcohol content, nor does the Otter Creek website. Rest assured, it does pack a punch worthy of its classification as a Baltic porter.

The Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter: Some of the best dark beer made in the east comes from this North Carolina brewery. This beer is an annual treat. The head on the beer is a bit thin, but its black ink color blocks out even the brightest light source. Tons of roasted notes that are actually eclipsed by sweet raisin flavors. At 9.0 percent alcohol by volume, you can taste the alcohol, which builds nicely into the overall flavor profile of the beer.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chinese Researchers Create Health Wine With Concentrated Resveratrol

Researchers at Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University in Yangling, China, have developed genetically engineered grapes that they say delivers six times the amount of resveratrol found in regular grapes.

Resveratrol is a compound in red wine that researchers believe helps decrease heart disease rates and may have other health benefits. The problem is that standard grapes do not provide high enough levels of resveratrol.

The Chinese scientists were able to add an extra gene from a wild Chinese vine, which triggers increased resveratrol production and also helps grape vines fight common vineyard plant diseases.

It will likely be sometime before wine from vines created in the research hits the market. It is also likely that consumers may question drinking genetically modified wine, even if it offers increased health benefits.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Anheuser-Busch Sales Climb 2.1 Million Barrels in 2007

Thanks to a portfolio of products that expanded often in 2007, Anheuser-Busch Inc. reported U.S. shipments to wholesalers of 104.4 million barrels in 2007, up 2.1 million barrels over 2006.

A-B, the largest U.S.-based brewer, says the 2 percent increase was due to the success of its broader beer portfolio, including the addition of InBev European brands.

A press release from the company quotes A-B President and Chief Executive Officer August A. Busch IV as saying, "Our expanded beer portfolio along with our enhanced marketing and sales strategies to accelerate core beer sales position Anheuser-Busch for growth in volume and earnings in 2008."

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that with all of the moves made by A-B that its sales totals did not increase more. The deal with InBev to handle sales of Stella Artois, Beck's, Bass Ale, Hoegaarden and Leffe in the U.S. at the end of 2006 appears from the release to have supplied the lion's share of growth for A-B. It may be that the company has found the limit to what it can expect in beer sales from core brands like Budweiser. The growth in craft beer sales and the aging U.S. population is working against these mass market beers, another reason why A-B is buying shares and signing distribution rights with craft brewers like Goose Island Brewing.

The just released numbers show the bottom is not dropping out of A-B's business, but it is increasingly plugging the holes in its growler with new brands that appeal to niche consumers. You have to wonder if A-B did not have Wall Street analysts to deal with if they would bother with launching regional specialty beers or signing import agreements? However, because A-B must face those quarterly conference calls they have become increasingly supportive of the craft segment.

In an odd sort of way the need to get larger has forced A-B to think smaller.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Real Political Test: Who Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

Iowa Caucuses? Old news. New Hampshire and South Carolina Primaries? Do you really want people from those two states deciding the leader of the free world?

It's time for beer drinkers to voice an opinion in really the only true measure of what counts. Which of the presidential candidates would you rather have a beer with in 2008? The pint poll is the brainchild of the good folks at the National Beer Wholesalers Association. It is better than any motor voter law being administered by your state DMV.

Right now Barack Obama is leading all candidates with 27 percent of the votes cast. The next four highest vote totals go to Republicans: Ron Paul is second with 15 percent, followed by John McCain at 11 percent and a tie between Fred Thompson and Rudolph Giuliani at 8 percent. On the Democratic side, John Edwards has 7 percent and Hillary Clinton comes in at 6 percent.

Should we put our trust in America's beer drinkers to select our next president? Given the results from the last several ballots I say drink up!

Go to http://www.whodoyouwanttohaveabeerwith.com/ to cast your vote.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Session #11 Doppelbocks: Celebrator from Brauerei Aying

It's time for the monthly edition of The Session. The topic for Beer Blogging Friday this time around is doppelbock. You can check out Brewvana, the site hosting the event this month, later in the weekend to read the round up from beer bloggers about bock x 2.

I can remember a time -- not really that long ago -- when doppelbocks were quite mystical. They were among the heavyweights of the known beer world during my formative beer years, really only trumped by the rare barleywine and on occasion by an old ale. They were a stylish answer to all of my friends who thought Molson Brador was the heavyweight champ. In today's world of high gravity beers, doppelbocks almost feel mild when compared to Baltic porters, imperial IPAs and Belgian muscle beers. Rest assured, however, that the goats still pack a punch.

I picked up a four pack of Celebrator Doppelbock from Ayinger for The Session #11. I have enjoyed this brew previously and, with the limited number of doppelbocks available in North Carolina, I was glad to see it on the shelf at my local Total Wine outlet.

Popping the cap on this brew released an amazing bouquet. Fig and cocoa mixed with a decidedly alcoholic nose. The pour was a mahogany liquid with a very bubbly head with staying power. My first sip was a malt lover's delight. There is a good amount of dried fruit, wood and nut tones running through this brew. The German hop tang is way in the background, but clearly present. The beer actually hints at something more powerful than its 6.7 percent alcohol by volume content. Perfect for the chill of an early January evening.

I am not certain what foods would best match with Celebrator. I think it could be a very nice dessert beer. Celebrator and a warm fudge brownie is a natural. It might also do some interesting things if contrasted with a smoked beef brisket and caramelized onion sandwich. It has enough depth to stand up to plenty of different foods.

Brewed at Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer in Aying, Bavaria, the beer is imported to the U.S. by Merchant du Vin Corp. In Germany, the same beer is sold under the Fortunator label. The brewery also runs a restaurant and guesthouse in Aying, the Brauereigasthof Hotel Aying. That just could be the perfect location for an evening session of Celebrators.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Study Suggests Hops Can Help Battle Cancer

A study at Oregon State University has found a substance in hops can help fight several types of common cancers.

The researchers discovered that xanthohumol, which is found in the key beer ingredient hops, helps detoxify carcinogens and can kill breast, colon, prostate and ovarian cancers.

The problem is that an individual would have to consume 60 beers a day to get the maximum cancer fighting benefits of xanthohumol. A team involved in the brewing technology section of the Technical University of Munich in Germany is said to be working on ways of concentrating the amount of xanthohumol in beer.

Texas Mayor Against Beer at Theme Park

Arlington Mayor Bob Cluck should stop playing politics and do some research before opening his mouth. That might be hard for the average politician, but Mayor Cluck could establish a trend.

The Six Flags Amusement Park in Arlington, Texas, has filed public notice that it will seek a permit to sell beer at Six Flags and its sister water park, Hurricane Harbor. Six Flags says it will establish strict guidelines for beer sales and it must face a public hearing before the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission before it will receive a permit to sell beer.

Mayor Cluck wants to cut to the front of the line and apply some frontier justice by denying the permit to Six Flags. Reports say he is concerned about drunk patrons venturing on to rides at the park. Perhaps the Arlington City Council will be asked to pass RUI -- Riding Under the Influence -- laws and breathalyze would be Tilt-A-Whirl riders.

Six Flags wants to join a trend among theme parks nationally that offer responsible adults enjoying a day of fun the chance to sip a cold beer. Trust me, at theme park prices no one is going to be heading to Six Flags for happy hour. Over the holidays my family made a visit to Orlando and went to Disney World. Those Disney folks have long been known as a crazy, rowdy bunch. In Mayor Cluck's view, I'm sure they create an anti-family atmosphere that spawns all sorts of trouble. I know Mayor Cluck might not approved, but at both Epcot and the Disney Animal Kingdom parks our group enjoyed beer, wine, cider and cocktails. I skipped the urge to have sake at the Japanese pavilion. And we went on a few rides. Come to think of it, I do recall seeing a large mouse, a crazy looking duck and a dog dressed like Santa Claus. Perhaps Mayor Cluck is right.