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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Drinks & Taxes 2009 v11: Florida

Lawmakers in Florida think they have come up with one solution to help balance a budget with a $6.4 billion deficit: tax beer drinkers.

The bill is still kicking around committee in Tallahassee and no one is brave enough to step forward as a sponsor yet, but those floating the idea have already pointed out the tax on beer in Florida has not been increased since 1993. As soon as someone suggests that it's been a long time since a tax was raised you can expect that is exactly what they have on their minds.

Florida is just one more state looking at beer and other beverages as cash cows. Since alcohol is already heavily taxed it would be more fair to look at other revenue opportunities, but lawmakers would not be able to hide behind the shield of a "sin" tax .

The problem is that most beer drinkers don't consider it a sin to crack open a cold beer after a hard day at work. These people, however, do tend to show up and vote.

World's Fastest Barstool?

There is an old polka tune about seatbelts on barstools, still I'm pretty sure that a barstool that can travel at 38 miles per hour is not the smartest invention submitted to the U.S. Patent Office so far this year. Kile Wygle, 28, of Newark, Ohio, has also discovered that allegedly riding around town on one after having 15 beers or so is not a brilliant idea.

I love the website The Smoking Gun. If you really need to see the mug shot of the ShamWow Guy or find out which pop star diva demands Flinstones chewable vitamins backstage on their concert tour riders, this website is a must read. The Smoking Gun is telling Wygle's story to the world, thanks to a copy of the report filed by the Newark Police Department.

Police have charged Wygle with driving under the influence after he crashed his motorized barstool near his home in early March and called the emergency squad looking for treatment for his injuries. The police report says Wygle admitted having about 15 beers before the accident and that he failed some sobriety tests.

The motorized barstool is powered by a lawn mower engine, but sadly is not equipped with a seatbelt.

Wygle was charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license.

Tuesday Tasting: Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Copper Altbier

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we visit a new microbrewery in Charlotte to taste their premier brew.

On Saturday, I had the chance to take a tour with the Charlotte Beer Club of the newest craft brewery in North Carolina. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is located in a rehabbed brick building on the city's southside. About 40 members of the CBC came to the new brewery for a tour and tasting. If the first beer brewed by the new company is any indication, the string of quality beermaking in the Carolinas has been extended.

The brewery is a partnership between Jon Hayward, Carey Savoy and John Marrino. Marrino, who toured us through the brewery, fell in love with German beer styles while living in that country and you can taste that connection in the brewery's first beer.

Since Olde Mecklenburg Brewing is just getting off the ground, I was expecting the first beer to be something fairly ordinary and straightforward. Instead, the beer they had on tap was a rather complex traditional German brew. OMB Copper Dusseldorf-style Altbier is a lagered ale that is made using a decoction brewing process, where the brew is split during mashing, boiled separately and then reconstituted. The results are quite pleasing. OMB Copper is a glowing amber color with a good fluffy head. The beer has a satisfying malty character with a clean, crisp edge. OMB Copper comes in at 4.8 percent alcohol by volume.

Olde Mecklenburg plans to offer OMB K├Âlsner, a Kolsch-Pilsner hybrid, in time for summer. The brewery's website suggests they may offer some seasonals, perhaps an Oktoberfest, but for right now hitting the marks with these first two beers are the priority. So far, so good.

Olde Mecklenburg is located at 215 Southside Dr. in Charlotte, not far off of I-77. Call ahead for hours of operation for the tasting room and tour times at 704-525-5644.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beer Wars: Get ready for April 16th Event

How do small craft brewers manage to compete with mega corporations in the multi-billion dollar beer industry? On April 16 a one night movie event called "Beer Wars" promises "an irreverent and comical journey through the underbelly of the American beer industry." Filmmaker Anat Baron interviewed some of the industry's biggest names, focusing on the stories of Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Rhonda Kallman of New Century Brewing Co.

The event is being offered in 430 theaters nationwide, with a live feed hosted by Ben Stein. The movie trailer includes plenty of scenes illustrating the David vs. Goliath story that is the American brewing industry.

This is surely something that craft beer fans should buy a ticket to see, but Beer Wars will also appeal to people interested in marketing and business ethics. After the film Stein will moderate a panel discussion among a number of well known brewers and beer experts.

Mutineer Magazine Shows Lyke2Drink Some Love

Mutineer Magazine is relatively new on the beverage scene -- just four issues so far -- but the publication is already displaying some good depth and style.

The current issue has a cover story about Jones Soda, along with features on Zane Lamprey, Sierra Nevada Brewing and a spirited barista competition. The photography in the magazine is a cut above the average and the attitude is overall young and hip.

Also in issue number four is a piece called "Beverage 2.0: Beer Blogs" and I'm happy to report Lyke2Drink is one of six blogs profiled. It's nice to be called a "very informative blog" -- especially compared to the other potential alternatives.

Here's hoping that Barnes & Noble and Borders make more room for beer and beverage magazines like Mutineer and stop hiding them on the bottom shelf of the home and gardening section. I truly believe more people drink beer than are into World War II history or professional wrestling, but if you judge it on a trip to one of these book stores you might think otherwise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday Tasting: Mexican 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 sample some spirits from south of the border.

The current issue of All About Beer magazine has a column I wrote about Mexican liquors. Tequila is a big part of the piece, but it does not stop there.

Mexico has a distilling heritage goes back hundreds of years, about 250 years before America’s native spirit – Bourbon – was born in Kentucky and not long after the earliest recorded Scotch was made. When Spanish Conquistadors arrived in what is now Mexico in the early 1500s they found the Aztecs gathering agave to make pulque, a fermented beverage used for ceremonies made from juice taken from the maguey agave shoots. Pulque – also called Octli – had been a part of the native culture for more than a thousand years. Before long the Spaniards starting distilling pulque and the early forms of Tequila emerged.

To qualify as Tequila the process must take place in the state of Jalisco around the town of Tequila, northwest of Guadalajara. Mezcal is also made from agave but does not have the same geographic restrictions. Sotol and Bacanora are close cousins of Tequila and mezcal. Sotol is made using the Dasylirion wild agave, while Bacanora, made in Sonora, uses the agave Yaquiana, also called the Pacifica agave.

Here are six of the spirits from Mexico that I tasted for the column:

Agavero Licor de Tequila: Amber color and slight herbal, medicinal nose. The flavor of this liqueur has agave notes and leans in the direction of a honey base. Coating mouth feel.

Chinaco Anejo Tequila: Light golden color with a superb earthy nose. Slightly sweet initial flavor, rounds out nicely with hints of grass and some berry notes at the finish.

Distinguido Anejo Tequila: Light amber color. Nice inviting aroma that combines earthy notes with toffee. This Tequila has been aged for three years, using some ex-Bourbon barrels in the process. The flavor is focused on peppery spice with hints of pralines around the edge.

Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Reposado: Slight earthy nose, light gold color. The flavor has hints of smoke, grass and green vegetable notes.

Maestro Dobel Diamond: A blend of reposado, anjeo and extra anejo Tequilas, this clear spirit has a slightly peppery nose. The flavor offers hints of oak, spice and plum skins.

Tanteo Tropical: Infused with pineapple, guanabana and mango, along with jalapeno, the aroma of the Tequila is dominated by the mango. The flavor is a mix of flavors, slightly floral with spice and heat at the finish.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Drinks & Taxes 2009 v10: North Carolina

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue's first budget calls for the cutting of 1,000 state jobs and new taxes to help close a $3.4 Billion budget gap.

Part of the tax proposal is a boost to alcohol duties in the Tar Heel state. Gov. Perdue wants to add a 5 percent tax surcharge on alcohol.

North Carolina is just the latest state to target beer, wine and spirits for higher taxes. The move comes at a time when many bars and restaurants are seeing declines in business because of the recession. Gov. Perdue came under fire earlier this year when she announced plans to divert North Carolina Lottery funds earmarked for education to other purposes.

Aykroyd on Tour Hunting for Crystal Head Vodka Fans

Actor Dan Aykroyd of Saturday Night Live fame already has a wine, now he has a vodka.

Quadruple filtered through Herkimer Diamonds, Crystal Head Vodka is made in New Foundland, Canada. Aykroyd claims the manufacturing location and process make it the purest vodka in the world. The vodka sells for $50 a bottle and Aykroyd is touring to sign bottles for fans as part of the brand roll out.

Aykroyd starred in a number of hit movies, including the Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters and Trading Places. His latest performance in a video on the Crystal Head website is worth checking out.

Gordon Biersch Backs Pints for Prostates

The Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Bolingbrook, Ill., will be hosting a fundraiser as part of the Pints for Prostates campaign on April 14th from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Brewmaster Kevin Blodger will tap a tasty seasonal Gordon Biersch Maibock, with the proceeds from two kegs going to the Pints for Prostates campaign. All funds raised by the effort support Us TOO International, a 501(c) charity that works with men with prostate cancer and their families.

The theme for the Maibock tapping is Cubs vs. Whitesox, so if you are in the Chicagoland region plan on breaking out your fan apparel and show which team you support. The Gordon Biersch in Bolingbrook is located at 639 E. Boughton Rd.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Are You Glad to See Me or Is That an 18-Pack of Beer In Your Pants?

This is an early leader for the dumbest crook of the year with beer in a supporting role. The story comes from Myrtle Beach, S.C., making it all the more fun.

Police allege Kevin J. Jackson, 31, tried to take an 18-pack of Budweiser from the Scotchman on Third Avenue in the ocean side community without paying on Saturday morning.

An employee of the store says he confronted Jackson after spotting a large bulge in the front of his pants. Jackson left the scene, but police soon caught up to him and took him to the Myrtle Beach Jail.

Jackson was arrested and charged with shoplifting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Tasting: Bending Some Beer Rules

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 some beers that break a few rules.

I'll admit that I've been tasting some different beers during the last few weeks and neglecting my responsibility to report the finds. Different? Yes, in more than a few ways. For the most part these are beers that make you stop and think. Maybe not beer the way your Dad would think of beer. Perhaps different in a good way, sometimes not. Different in a memorable way and I still have a few in my fridge waiting their turn.

Foothills Sexual Chocolate: A couple of weeks back at the Flying Saucer in Charlotte they tapped kegs of this North Carolina giant 9.75 alcohol by volume Imperial Stout from 2008 and 2009. This is an impressive beer. Rich, full bodied flavor really only starts to tell the story. In this case I was more than a bit surprised by the side by side vintages. The 2008 was rich and creamy, with a very nice cocoa bitterness. The 2009 was a solid beer, if just slightly thin when compared to the '08. It leaned a bit more towards coffee and toffee notes. I would gladly order either of these beers.

Hophound Amber Wheat: This beer under the Michelob brand is a seasonal that pours a slighly cloudy amber color. It has some standard wheat aromas, but is on the sweet side thanks to a malt kick and 5.3 percent alcohol by volume. I did not think it delivered on the promise of the "Hophound" name, but it is not a bad effort from the Anheuser-Busch InBev brewers.

Orlando Blackwater Porter: I made a stop at this organic brewery that oddly enough is located in a very industrial section of town near downtown Orlando. This was a dark brown brew with a small, sturdy head. Nice subtle roasted coffee notes and an overall smooth flavor. Not extremely complex, but does every beer have to be complex?

Southampton Publick House IPA: This Long Island beer is a bit of a throw back for me to the time when IPAs had some balance and were not so chock full of hops that one or two could destroy your taste buds. In fact, up against another IPA this one almost had a sweet edge, suggesting a nice malt balance.

Sierra Nevada 2009 ESB: Labeled as the brewery's "Early Spring Beer" seasonal, this brew is perfect for the first warm days of the year. Nice crisp hop flavor. Overall light and refreshing.

North Coast LeMerle Saison: This Belgian style farmhouse ale is one of the more interesting beers I've tasted so far in 2009. Nice straw gold color, with an inviting floral aroma. The taste lets you chase it around your mouth, never quite pausing in one place for very long. There is a good hop base to the beer, but the influence of the yeast shapes this beer into something special. The brew weighs in at 7.9 percent alcohol by volume.

Surly Bender & Surly Coffee Bender: In the space of just a few hours in Chicago I was introduced to Surly Bender, an oatmeal brown ale with nicely formed coffee and cocoa notes in a smooth package. Then I ran into the seasonal Surly Coffee Bender, which comes at you with a full bodied coffee flavor that delivers all of the java you really need. If you find yourself in the upper Midwest trading area for Surly, grab one of their beers.

Southern Tier Oak Aged Cuvee II American Oak Impressions: I did not realize what I was in for when I cracked open this brew. The first aroma is a nice vanilla note, but the flavor is a straight on taste bud crunching hit of raw oak. If you want to know what barrel age beers can be on an extreme level, this is a good place to start. At 11 percent alcohol by volume, these folks are not holding much back.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Back to The Roots of NASCAR: Former Driver Charged with Moonshining

NASCAR can trace its history directly to moonshiners who needed fast cars to evade police. In rural Wilkes County, N.C., not far from the disused North Wilkesboro Speedway a former champion proves the sport is still true to its roots.

Dean Combs, 57, was charged recently with making non-tax paid liquor, as well as possessing ingredients to manufacture and possessing equipment to manufacture non-tax paid liquor. Yup, Combs was making moonshine.

Combs was a five-time champion of NASCAR’s Goody's Dash Series, piling up 60 wins in the compact car series. In the early 1980s, he appeared in 24 races in the top level NASCAR series, now known as the Sprint Cup. Ironically, Combs had once served as a crew chief for car owner Junior Johnson, a NASCAR great who was once jailed for bootleg whiskey making and now has a legal moonshine on the market.

Based on some of the photos that have appeared in newspapers like the Winston-Salem Journal and reports from the North Carolina Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement and the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office, Combs was running a pretty elaborate still. The stainless steel equipment included a primary and secondary condenser and used 180 feet of copper tubing. Authorities claim the operation could make 300 gallons of corn whiskey per run. They found 200 gallons of moonshine, 3,000 pounds of sugar and about 1,150 gallons of corn mash be prepared and police believe another batch had recently been finished.

Law enforcement officers say Combs helped them destroy the still and Combs is quoted in local media as saying the agents complimented the product. "They even bragged on it, said they’d never seen spring water that clear,“ he said.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Effort to Permit Sunday Alcohol Sales in Georgia Dies Again

A bill that would have allowed local communities in Georgia decide on whether they would permit alcohol sales at retail stores on Sundays has been pulled on the eve of when it faced a key vote.

Sen. Seth Harp, the sponsor of the bill, said he did not have the votes to get the bill out of committee so it could be considered by the full Senate. The bill would give local communities the option on whether the sale of beer, wine and liquor should be allowed in grocery and packaged stores.

Alcohol sales in bars and restaurants is allowed in many parts of Georgia on Sundays.

The Sunday sales bill has been in the works in Georgia for several years, but has been bottled up by technical moves from opponents who want to keep it from coming to a vote of the full legislature. The Georgia Christian Coalition is one group that has lobbied lawmakers to resist the idea.

Utah Closer to Full Strength Draught Beer

The Utah House voted 58-2 earlier this week to scrap a law that mandates draught beer sold in bars and restaurants cannot be stronger than 4 percent alcohol by volume.

Bars can already serve full-strength beer, but they must buy it in bottles or cans from state-run liquor stores and pay the 86 percent markup that consumers pay.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Curtis Oda must now go to the Utah Senate.

Alabama a Step Closer to Popping the Cap

The Alabama House passed a bill earlier this week that could allow a greater variety of craft beer to be sold in the state.

By a 49-37 vote the bill sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson passed calling for beer with an alcohol content of up to 13.9 percent by volume to be sold in Alabama. Currently the law sets the top level at 6 percent.

The bill now goes to the Alabama Senate, where a similar bill has already been approved in a committee.

Opponents to the measure claim it would cause drinking and driving to increase in the state. Alabama is one of the few remaining states to have Prohibition ear limits on the books that block many classic styles of Belgian ales, barleywines and other gourmet products.

Drinks & Taxes 2009 v9: Clark County, Nevada Medical Society Wants to Hike Alcohol Tax

Nevada is the center of legalized gambling in the U.S. and prostitution is a legitimate way of making a living in some counties, but the Clark County Medical Society believes boosting alcohol taxes is one of the best ways to close a state budget gap.

The Clark County Medical Society is officially calling for a 50 percent increase in taxes on alcohol. It says boosting the "sin tax" can fund education, health care and police.

Estimates are the increase would generate $22 million for the state.

Monday, March 02, 2009

To Your Health: Wine May Block Esophageal Cancer

A Kaiser Permanente study suggests that drinking a glass of wine a day lowers the risk of a condition that increases the rate esophageal cancer by up to 4,000 percent.

The study of nearly 1,000 adults in California indicated that men and women who drank one or more glasses of wine a day were 56 percent less likely to develop Barrett's esophagus, which affects 5 percent of the population. Those who have Barrett's suffer from acid reflux that permanently damages the lining of the esophagus and can lead to esophageal cancer.

The rate of esophageal cancer is increasing rapidly and researchers are trying to find a solution to Barrett's. The study confirms the findings of independent research in Ireland and Australia.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

U.S. Wine Exports Top $1 Billion

According to the Wine Institute, wine exports from the U.S. topped $1 billion for the first time ever in 2008.

The trade group representing California wineries said export revenues were up 6 percent, hitting $1,008,259,000. The volume of wine shipped outside the country was up 8 percent to 55 million cases.

About 90 percent of U.S. wine exports come from California. The U.S. represents 6 percent of the global wine export market. About half of the wine exported by the U.S. ends up in the European Union. Canada and Japan are the next two largest markets for U.S. wine.

Drinks & Taxes 2009 v8: Maryland is Loaded with Alcohol Tax Proposals

Maryland state legislators have been busy coming up with various schemes to increase the amount of money they collect from citizens enjoying a drink. There are a number of tax proposals floating around the Maryland General Assembly targeting beer, wine and spirits.

Taxes on alcohol in Maryland were last raised about 30 years ago. Consumers pay about 2 cents per drink of wine or spirits and a penny per beer in state taxes. Proposals in Annapolis call for an increase in those taxes to 5 cents per drink.

Shop owners and tavern operators say increasing taxes may cause some customers to cross nearby state lines to make purchases.