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

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Anheuser Busch Backs Down on Caffeine: Company to Reformulate Tilt and Bud Extra

Anheuser-Busch has decided to reformulate its Tilt and Bud Extra brands, pulling the current products from the shelves, after coming under pressure from 11 states Attorneys General.

The states had claimed the caffeinated alcoholic beverages were being marketed towards underage drinkers and that the company was making misleading statements about the energizing effects of the brands.

While A-B does not have a statement about the matter on its website, the company is quoted in several news reports as saying the agreement with the states contains no claims the company engaged in "unlawful behavior or advertised to youth." A statement released by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said A-B would be paying a $200,000 fine to each state.

Samuel Adams Flowing from Pennsylvania Brewery

Boston Beer is celebrating the first batches of beer rolling out of its new production facility outside of Allentown, Pa.

Samuel Adams is being made at the Upper Macungie Township brewery, which Boston Beer acquired from Diageo for $55 million. The company put an additional $5 million in renovations into the plant, which had previously produced Smirnoff Ice. Before that the plant was used to make Schaefer, Stroh's and Pabst.

The facility gives Boston Beer 1.6 million barrels of annual capacity. The plant opened in 1972 as a showplace for the F&M Schaefer Brewing Co. Pabst made Samuel Adams at the facility under contract from 1995 to 2001.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: In the Mood for Gin

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 eight gins that are perfect for summer cocktails.

From across the room a glass of vodka and a glass of gin look the same. If you are allowed to sniff the glasses, little doubt remains over which is which. The first taste will confirm the selection. The vodka drinker longs for the absence of flavor; the drink cannot be crisp or clean enough. The gin drinker wants gusto; starting with a juniper base a cacophony of flavors is anticipated with each and every sip.

Gin's flavor comes from the distiller's use of botanicals. Botanicals are a combination of various pieces of plants that offer up a wide range of flavor elements that imbue gin with aroma and taste. The combination of botanicals can range from four into the dozens. A great gin all comes down to the right botanical mix.

Here are eight gins that I sampled recently that all have a slightly different take on the use of botanicals.

Anchor Junipero Gin: Made in a small distillery in Anchor Brewing’s San Francisco facility, this 98.6 proof gin is dry and crisp. Good level of juniper, balanced citrus and a hint of spice.

Bardenay London Style Dry Gin
: This 94.2 proof gin from Idaho has a slightly candied nose and a dry, long flavor profile with bits of licorice and floral notes.

Bulldog London Dry Gin: This 80 proof gin imported from England is smooth with a light juniper nose. Botanicals in the mix include poppy and dragon eye. Hint of orange and a touch of lemon essence.

New Amsterdam Straight Gin: E&J Gallo created this 80 proof gin as part of its efforts to expand beyond the wine business. Nice citrus notes, rush of juniper and spruce flavors.

Right Gin: Imported from Sweden, this 80 proof gin has a juniper nose, but more orange and citrus throughout.

Rogue Spirits Spruce Gin: This Oregon gin uses 11 botanicals, including ginger and cucumber. Intense botanical flavor in a warming 90-proof package. Solid juniper finish.

Stellar Gin: This 80 proof domestic gin uses 10 botanicals. Light juniper nose, with tart and sweet citrus flavors throughout.

Tanqueray Export Strength: This 96.4 proof British import has a smooth nose and a layered taste with citrus, nuts and juniper elements that take turns emerging.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Could Sweden and Scotland Be On to Something: Lower Pub Drinking Ages One Way to Manage Younger Drinkers

When you reach 18 years old in the U.S. there are a laundry list of rights and responsibilities that come along with the birthday cake that make adulthood official. There are only a couple of things held back: you cannot run for President for another 17 years and you have to wait until you are 21 before you can legally purchase alcohol.

I know of no one who has tried to break the first law. I know of no one who obeys the second. Fake IDs are as much a part of the required gear for college students as computers and dorm refrigerators. We have managed to create an entire generation that recognizes some laws are made to be broken.

In Scotland, where the drinking age is 18, they have a different problem. Binge drinking by under 21 year olds is being fueled by access to cheap beer and cider at grocery stores and shops. Some believe the behavior on Friday and Saturday nights has gotten way out of hand.

Is anyone pushing to raise the drinking age to 21 years old? While it has been discussed, most realize it will fail as it has in the U.S. Instead the move now being considered is aimed at controlling when and where young drinkers can consume alcohol.

Scotland's government will consider a plan this coming week that would push 18-20 year old drinkers into pubs and either ban or restrict when they can purchase booze in shops. Sweden has a similar law for those under 20 years old. Scotland may also set minimum prices for beer and cider at retail and eliminate two-for-one promotions used by grocery stores as loss leaders to drive traffic.

The town of Armadale, West Lothian, experimented with a plan that banned under 21 year olds from buying drinks off-premise on Fridays and Saturday after 5 p.m. Police reported a drop in alcohol related crimes among young people.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that I'm not usually in favor of bans on selling alcohol to adults. But I do think restrictions have a place in our society. Closing bars at 2 a.m. or halting alcohol sales at the start of the fourth quarter at NFL games does serve a real purpose, although those intent on getting plastered in either of those venues have usually achieved that goal well before last call.

When America finally comes to its senses and makes it legal again for 18-20 year olds to buy alcohol, it might be wise to look at what the Scots and the Swedes have done. Giving these new legal drinkers the right to drink in a supervised and controlled environment could be the safest and smartest way to handle the issue.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: A Walk on the Odd Side of Spirits

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 some liquor that you don't find in the average home bar.

The Drinking Buddies section that I wrote for the current issue of DRAFT magazine is titled "Free Spirits: Sipping on the Edge." As the title implies, the liquors covered in the piece were not your standard vodkas, whiskeys or rums.

The article asks a simple question: What was the strangest drink you have ever downed? Was it the tourist special mezcal in Tijuana complete with the worm? Did you encounter snake wine on a Far East trip and just could not resist the dare? Or did your adventurous side emerge on that Caribbean vacation at the exact moment that a bottle of overproof rum hit the table?

Here are six unique spirits that made the Drinking Buddies tasting notes:

Cynar Liqueur: Did someone say artichokes? That’s right, this 33 proof aperitif is distilled using artichoke leaves. It is a cola color, with a slightly sweet nose. There is a brightness to the flavor. Slightly bitter and tart, finishing with a yellow grapefruit tang. You can judge for yourself if this product has any of the rumored aphrodisiac qualities.

Etter Christmas Plum Liqueur: A real treat imported from Switzerland. Amber, pink color, you get a cinnamon and apple aroma, with hints of coriander backing up a direct plum flavor profile. The finish is sweet and tart at the same time. Quite unique.

La Mestiza Licor de Nance: Produced in the Yucatan region of Mexico from the nance fruit, this liqueur is 60 proof. A cloudy amber color, it has a sweet maple syrup nose, with berries, nuts, honey and fruit flavors throughout. Kind of a liquid baklava.

Senior Liqueur: A product of the Netherland Antilles, it is a combination of rumraisin and curacao liqueurs. Yellow and 50 proof, it has a Fruit Stripe gum aroma and a candy sweet coating flavor.

John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum: What do you say about a 22 proof liqueur from Barbados that consists of white rum cut with water, lime, sugar, almond and clove? For starters it is delicious and different. The color of straw, the aroma gives away the cloves and the flavor profile is sweet and coating. Could be the perfect secret ingredient for summer cocktails.

Tuaca Liqueur: From Tuscany, this 70 proof brandy-based liqueur is inviting and sweet. Amber color, there are hints of vanilla, cherry and almonds.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Huntsville Gets Its Beer Back: Olde Towne Brewing Gets Ready to Roll

Huntsville, Ala., has gone a year without its own beer after a fire destroyed Olde Towne Brewing. That's all about to change.

Owner Dr. Howard Miller and business partner and brewer Don Alan Hankins are about to start brewing again in a new facility. The initial production will be draught only, but Olde Towne expects to start bottling in August.

The microbrewery was the first in Alabama. The fire hit just as Olde Towne was about to sign distribution deals that would have seen its brands sold in Tennessee and Georgia.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Stolichnaya May Big Next Big Drinks Brand on the Block

SPI, the Russian company that owns the brand and export rights for Stolichnaya vodka, may put the brand up for sale according to media reports.

Lehman Brothers is said to be under contract with SPI to line up possible bidders for the brand. Estimates are Stoli could generate $3 billion or more.

In March, Pernod Ricard acquired the Absolut vodka brand when it bought Vin & Spirit AB from the government of Sweden for $8.34 billion. Up to that point Pernod Ricard had handled distribution for Stolichnaya outside of Russia.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Free Beer for Life Offer Rejected by Austrian Soccer Bosses

Ivica Vastic should be one of the happiest men on the planet today. He may still be, but just not quite as happy as he could be.

Vastic plays for Austria's national soccer team competing in the Euro 2008 Championships. Austria is not a huge soccer power, they're ranked 92nd in the world, but they are co-hosts for the tournament with Switzerland. This is the first time the country has played in the European championship finals. On Thursday, Vastic attained national hero status, scoring on a penalty kick during injury time and allowing Austria to draw 1-1 with Poland.

Ottakringer Brauerei of Vienna made a promise going into the tournament to provide a lifetime supply of free beer to any Austria player who scored a goal for the team in its first round matches against Coatia, Poland and Germany. Austria lost to Croatia 1-0 to open the tournament.

But before Vastic could have that first celebratory free beer, Austria's top soccer official has pulled the plug on the Ottakringer offer. "We don't need such type of motivation. We need three points against Poland, but we definitely need no beer belly," said Alfred Ludwig, secretary general of the Austrian Football Association, in several media reports.

It's not that Ludwig has anything against beer. Stiegl Brewery already supports Austrian soccer and the company also distributes Carlsberg, which is the official beer of Euro 2008. There's no word on whether Stiegl or Carlsberg plans to step forward and at least buy Vastic a round for his game saving goal.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: A Dozen Sauvignon Blancs Perfect For Summer

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 a dozen sauvignon blancs.

In the upcoming issue of All About Beer magazine my Beyond Beer column is focused on wines that are perfect for summer sipping. Sauvignon blanc surely fits that bill, with crisp citrus, melon and stone fruit notes. Here are 12 sauvignon blancs tasted for the article.

Brassfield 2006 High Valley Serenity White Table Wine: A blend of sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and gew├╝rztraminer, this California white has nice citrus and pineapple tones. Well balanced with a good level of acidity perfect for the summer heat.

Brancott 2005 Sauvignon Blanc: This New Zealand wine is influenced by French oak and has an interesting asparagus nose that leads off. This quickly releases nice citrus notes and a touch of lemongrass.

Ehlers Estate 2007 Sauvignon Blanc: This Napa Valley golden straw wine is crisp with intense mango and peach notes. Slight pineapple and mineral finish.

Fetzer 2006 Sauvignon Blanc: Clean and crisp California sauvignon blanc. Light citrus and pear flavors.

Floral Springs 2006 Soliloquy: Produced using 100 percent sauvignon blanc gapes in Napa and sur-lees aged for 7 months in 1800-gallon Slavic-German oak tanks. Hints of melon, raisins and ripe fruit in a lingering flavor profile.

Hall 2006 Sauvignon Blanc: This winery is located in St. Helena in the heart of Napa among some of the best known California vineyards. This sauvignon blanc is crisp with nice citrus and melon qualities. Perfect to go with the fresh catch of the day.

Charles Krug 2007 Sauvignon Blanc: This Napa white is clean and crisp. Solid grapefruit notes in a wine that is an affordable cocktail pour.

Langtry 2006 Lillie Sauvignon Blanc: A light and crisp wine from California with a slight grassy tone, nice grapefruit and citrus.

Mercer 2007 Sauvignon Blanc: From Washington’s Columbia Valley this is a well built white wine. Faint wildflower nose, touch of herbal character from oak aging with pair, melon and honey flavors.

Murrieta’s Well 2006 Meritage: This Livermore Valley sauvignon blanc (65 percent) and Semillon (35 percent) blend spends 16 months in oak and undergoing malolactic fermentation to develop a rich character. A lemongrass and slightly sweet nose, with vanilla and honey flavor notes.

Redwood Creek 2006 Sauvignon Blanc: From California, a creamy white with honey, melon and green apple flavor tones. A nice outdoor wine.

Signorello Seta 2006 Proprietary White: Made in Napa from a blend of Semillon (60 percent) and sauvignon blanc (40 percent) this wine has an attractive nose with hints of melons. Made in a French style, the wine has a nice mineral base, with vanilla from the oak and good fruit character.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Foothills Brewing to Expand Production

One of the best small breweries in America, Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, N.C., plans to double its production.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Foothills will spend $250,000 to increase production to 6,000 barrels later this year.

The company makes a number of great brews, including Seeing Double IPA and Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout.

Foothills had to cut back on shipments of beer in South Carolina to keep pace with demand from North Carolina accounts. With the expansion, Foothills will re-enter South Carolina, along with Tennessee and Virginia by next year.

Beer: It Not Only Tastes Good, It's Recession Proof

So let's say gas prices keep going up, the stock market slides further, inflation really kicks in and job cuts grow. What will you do to ride out the recession?

According to Nielson Co. most Americans will cut out tobacco, eggs, soda pop, food storage bags, and paper plates and cups. Among the items that will not come off the grocery list: beer.

Presenting to a crowd of 1,000 consumer packaged goods executives in Arizona at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 Conference, the company said consumers would cut other spending before they give up beer, seafood, candy, dry pasta and pasta sauce.

Nielson said it used sales results from previous recessions to predict what might happen this time around.

The fact of the matter is that beer is one of those little rewards that most working men and women hold near and dear. You can force them to conserve in many areas, but at the end of the day a cold beer is one of those things they feel they deserve for enduring all of the other garbage that is tossed their way.

Sure, they blanch at paying $4.00 a gallon for gasoline, but they will gladly pay $5.00 for a pint of IPA.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Laphroaig Tasting in Cyber Space

If you have a computer and some Laphroaig Scotch, you might want to join in a cyber tasting coming up June 18th.

Beam_Global Spirits & Wine says it plans to broadcast a Laphroaig tasting live from the company's Islay distillery off the coast of Scotland. The webcast is scheduled for 2000 GMT or 3 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S. Whisky expert and writer Martine Nouet will lead the tasting, and will be joined by Laphroaig master blender Robert Hicks and distillery manager John Campbell.

Whiskies to be covered in the tasting are Laphroaig Ten Year Old, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Triple Wood, Laphroaig Cairdeas and Laphroaig Cairdeas 30 Year Old Double Matured.

You can join the fun at www.laphroaig.com/live.

Greenville, Texas, to Vote on Ending Prohibition

People who want to buy beer or wine in a store in Greenville, Texas, may soon get to have their say in a special election.

Hunt County officials expect to receive petitions Monday that would call for a vote on off-premise alcohol sales in the community. Another measure would end the need for citizens to join private clubs so they could purchase alcoholic beverages at local restaurants.

Greenville Citizens for Economic Progress circulated the petitions. They needed to obtain 1,727 valid signatures from registered voters to place the item on the ballot.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

To Your Health: Low Doses of Resveratrol Show Wine Protects the Heart, Slows Aging

A study from the University Wisconsin-Madison indicates that even small amounts of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine and some other foods, may help people stay heart healthy and slow down other issues as we age.

Scientists have known about resveratrol for sometime. Most studies showed that large qualities of wine would be needed to get the proper dose of the substance. However, the new tests in mice revealed that low doses of resveratrol have the same impact as lower caloric diets. Some studies suggest cutting calories by 20 to 30 percent can extend a person's life span.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison study indicates resveratrol may reduce gene expression changes that take place as people age.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Session #16: Beer Festivals

Thomas over at Geistbear Brewing Blog is the host of this month's edition of Beer Blogging Friday. He's picked out a topic that is fun and should spark a few strolls down memory lane: Beer Festivals.

"As Summer approaches we are in full swing of beer festival season, so it seemed the perfect topic for the June Session. Do you have a favorite beer festival you like to attend or a particular memory of inspirational moment at a festival? Or perhaps talk about what you would like to see out of festivals or perhaps the future of them. All is fair game, I look forward to seeing where people take this topic."

During the nearly two years this blog has been active I've reported from a few beer festivals, but the memory that came rushing back to me was courtesy of a 15-year-old t-shirt from the 1993 Capital Region Microbrewers Festival. The event was held over two days in Saratoga Springs on Feb. 26 and Albany on Feb. 27. So while summer might be beer festival season, this festival was held in the dead of the Upstate New York winter in the Hudson Valley, surrounded to the north by the Adirondacks, South by the Catskills and east by the Green and Berkshire Mountains.

I recall a few things from that landmark festival. It was the first "big" tasting I had attended. I would travel to the Great American Beer Festival later that same year. Max Oswald, who now is director of sales with Wolaver's in Vermont, was an organizer of the event and asked me to speak on classic brewing styles. I can recall one of the beers we sampled as part of the presentation was McEwan's Scotch Ale because a couple of homebrewers turned the tasting into a debate about what malts were used in the brew and if the beer had a slight oxidation issue.

While the crowds packed both events and it was quite warm inside the halls, outdoors the temperature was well below zero. Just walking from the parking lot to the festival doors was hazardous duty. People standing in line waiting for the doors to open were true beer fans. I also recall that Mahar's in Albany hosted a brunch for brewers on the day between the two shows. While Mahar's is small, its beer selection is. I wondered why there was not a beer bar like this place in Syracuse, where I was living at the time. Thankfully, that situation changed.

The festival t-shirt is a real memory jogger. It is like a time capsule of early craft brewing in the U.S. The back listed the following breweries pouring at the event:

Buffalo Brewing
Arrowhead Brewing
Woodstock Brewing
Anchor Brewing
Dock Street Brewing
Catamount Brewing
Boston Beer
Mountain Brewers
Brooklyn Brewery
Old World Brewing
Otter Creek Brewing
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Wild Goose Brewing
Pete's Brewing
New Amsterdam Brewing
Queen City Brewing
Michael Shea's Brewery
Brown & Moran Brewing
Mountain Valley Brew Pub
Rochester Brew Pub
Pike Place Brewery
Stoudt's Brewery
Vermont Pub & Brewery
Rogue Brewery
Newman Brewing
Matt Brewing
Genesee Brewing
Hartford Brewing
Wild Boar
Woodchuck Cider

A good number are still around, but others have left the scene. How many brews from the defunct breweries can you recall?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Did the Red Wings Drink Bud Light Out of the Stanley Cup?

The Detroit Red Wings won their 11th Stanley Cup last night, beating the Pittsburgh Pengiuns 3-2. The game was played while the ink was still drying on an agreement between Anheuser-Busch in the U.S. and Labatt in Canada with the National Hockey League to keep Bud Light as the "official beer of the NHL" through the 2010-11 season.

Bud Light has been the official beer of the NHL since 1998. With the deal Bud Light also is the exclusive beer sponsor of the NHL All-Star Game and the NHL Winter Classic, a game played this season outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo in front of a record crowd of 71,217.

While I've not seen any photographs of Red Wing players drinking a Bud light out of the Stanley Cup, it's almost certain that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would approve. While no dollar amount for the deal was announced, some sports business experts say the agreement is likely worth $75 million.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tuesday Tasting: Ten Beers on My Mind

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 ten brews that have crossed my path during the last month.

Over the last few weeks I've had the chance to try a number of noteworthy brews. There is plenty of new product activity in the market right now and you should be on the lookout for these brews.

Otter Creek World Tour Otter San: This Japanese-style brew is the latest in the Vermont brewer's world beer tour. Made with koji and sake yeast, this beer is a pale gold color. There is a slight sweetness to this beer. This is a delicate beer that would be perfect for lighter summer meals.

Cinder Cone Red Seasonal Ale: From Oregon's Deschutes Brewery, this beer is a deep red color and offers up a thick off-white head of foam. Solid hoppiness, with a nice balancing malt character in a 5.4 percent alcohol by volume package. Rich and thick.

Hop Henge Imperial IPA: Another Deschutes gem, this Imperial IPA packs an 8.75 alcohol by volume punch with 95 IBUs. Part of the brewer's Bond Street Series, this beer has a firm floral hop nose and flavor base.

Green Lakes Organic Ale: This is the first organic brew from Deschutes. Nice level of hops makes this a refreshingly crisp beer for the end of a hot day.

Reunion '08 Organic Red Rye Ale: This beer honors Virginia MacLean, who lost her battle with Mutiple Myeloma on June 4, 2007. Brewed at Bison Brewing by Pete Slosberg and Alan Shapiro the beer raises funds for the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research. Amber color and a thin head, with a pleasant sharp edge to this brew from the combination of hops, rye and caraway seeds used in the brewing.

Beach Bum Blonde Ale: A summer seasonal from Anheuser-Busch, this beer has a touch of sweetness in a light bodied package.

Lakemaid Lager: August Schell Brewing combined with fishing lure maker Rapala to launch this brew that features "lakemaids" (half woman, half fish) on the label. This is a smoth lager, with a nice level of hops. Perfect for the end of a great day fishing.

Highland Shining Rock Lager: O.K. I was expecting a light golden lager. What I got was a very nice Vienna style lager. Copper color, sweet malt flavor. Very well built brew. A new favorite.

Flying Dog Kerberos: The Flying Dog website says this beer is named for the creature that guards the gates to hell. Why would they use that name for such a nice Belgian tripel? Dark brown color, thin head. Good fruitiness enhanced through bottle conditioning, with a 8.5 percent alcohol by volume kick.

Rogue Charlie 1981: This special ale from Rogue was brewed to honor Charlie Papazian of the Brewers Association. It weighs in at 9.1 percent alcohol by volume and is a dark, slightly reddish color. Nice malt and hop combination. There is a hint of fruit and toffee in the finish. A nice addition to the John's Locker series from Rogue Ales.

Matt Resumes Production After Massive Fire

The good news from Utica is that the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. is producing draught beer today, just days after a huge fire destroyed a good chunk of the brewery's packaging capabilities.

None of the brewing operations were involved in the fire, which lasted from Thursday into Friday. Matt officials said the canning line was destroyed. The company hopes to be able to begin bottling sometime in June. Kegs will still be rolling out of the 120-year-old brewery.

In the meantime, consumers have gobbled up much of the bottles and cans of Matt brands that were on store shelves. The company has had discussions with several breweries about trucking beer to their plants for packaging.