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Thursday, October 29, 2009

CNN Vital Signs Features Pints for Prostates

During the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Sanjay Gupta to talk about Pints for Prostates and how we use the universal language of beer to reach men with an important health message. CNN also sent a crew to Colorado for the Denver Rare Beer Tasting and Great American Beer Festival.

The interview started airing internationally today. You can check it out here:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Tasting: Prager 2004 Royal Escort Port

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 Napa Valley to sip a great port.

A few months back a couple of bottles arrived at my door from Prager Winery & Port Works in California. I have to admit that I don't regularly drink port and, in the heat of the North Carolina summer, I decided to place the bottles in a wine rack and wait for cooler weather. The time has come to crack open one of the bottles.

Prager 2004 Royal Escort Port is a dark ruby red 19 percent alcohol by volume wine that is made from 100 percent petite sirah grapes grown in the Napa Valley. If you like port, you will love this wine. There is plenty of body to Royal Escort. Good dark cherry and plum notes open to a nice balancing acidity. Royal Escort is bright and approachable.

This port will clearly stand up well for a number of years of aging, but I really found the fruit-forward nature of the wine at this stage to be very attractive. You may want to buy too bottles, one to try now and one to lay down for a few years for a special occasion.

Beer Tap TV Covers Denver Rare Beer Tasting

Erik Boles and the fine people at Beer Tap TV have posted an interview they did at the inaugural Denver Rare Beer Tasting last month. Check out this video to see how they are helping the Pints for Prostates campaign reach men through the universal language of beer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is Cheap Whisky a Scottish Birthright?

Living in Scotland means that you can get a decent bottle of Scotch at your local supermarket for under $12. That may all change because of a Scottish government plans to combat binge drinking and it has distillers upset.

A plan would set minimum per drink charges for alcohol sold in supermarkets. That would mean that supermarket-brand Scotch would increase in price to $18 a bottle, effectively raising the price to what some branded Scotch labels sell for at retail.

Whyte and Mackay, a 160-year-old distiller, says the new minimum pricing plan would have a major impact on its volume. Distillers are upset because discussions about minimum pricing have focused on supermarket lost-leader sales of beer, cider and flavored malt beverages.

The Scottish government is expected to finalize a proposal during the next few weeks. Distillers are pointing out that Scotch amounts to around 20 percent of the country's exports and a proposal that damages the industry would harm the overall economy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rock Art Brewing Should Send Flowers to Monster's Lawyers

Be honest. How many of you had heard of Rock Art Brewery in tiny Morrisville, Vermont at this time last week?

This small brewery was plodding along like many of the craft brewers in this country. Making some pretty good beers, building a loyal following of beer geeks and fighting for shelf space against companies that can afford to run ads during weekend football games.

Then some lawyers from Hansen Beverage Co., which markets Monster Energy Drinks, decided to come to the rescue. You see Rock Art has been selling a brew called The Vermonster for the last couple of years. Hansen says that could confuse consumers and Hansen says it has plans to launch an alcoholic drink under the Monster label. They say they have to defend their trademark.

Jackpot. The good folks at Rock Art Brewery are suddenly real life Davids in a battle against a big time Goliath. In addition to Monster, Hansen also markets Hansen Natural Sodas, Energade sports drinks and Rumba juice drinks. In 2006, the company signed a deal for Anheuser-Busch distributors to handle its line up. Manufacturing is handled by a series of independent bottlers under license.

Twitter has been twittering. There is a Facebook boycott against Monster picking up steam. And just about every beer blog in North America is jumping on the story.

It just may be that Rock Art will have to knuckle under because the legal fight would drain resources they just don't have. Hansen literally has more lawyers than the Rock Art folks have employees. That's the way the legal system sometimes works in the U.S.

But the public relations system sometimes works in an opposite and remarkable fashion in this country. Rock Art Brewery has gained more in attention than they could have hoped for in the next 10 years if the Hansen lawyers had just left things alone.

I'm willing to bet that Vermont bars are ordering as much of Vermonster as Rock Art can ship. Can a bigger distribution deal be far behind? God bless the lawyers.

Another Reason to Hate Beer Pong

I've never been a big fan of drinking games. Even in my younger days I really just did not get the point. I've always considered drinking to be more of a social event than a competition.

I never did the beer funnel thing. I remember being pressured into participating in a couple of games of quarters, but I kept thinking about where that change had been. Pretty gross. And chugging just never did it for me. That's why the current fascination with beer pong just is lost on me.

Now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., has given me all the reason I ever need to just say no to beer pong. The school has announced that several students have contracted the H1N1 flu after a weekend beer pong competition.

Dr. Leslie Lawrence, medical director at RPI's health center, is asking students not to share drinking cups. That should pretty much end beer pong at RPI, unless the students come up with an endless supply of plastic cups so they can switch them out after each successful shot.

The kids at RPI are pretty smart. The question is are they smart enough to listen to Dr. Lawrence?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cask Ale Sales Rebound in Great Britain

It has been more than a quarter century since cask ales sales in Britain enjoyed a year over year increase, but that might change in 2009.

In the first half of 2009, British consumers downed 2.3 million more pints of cask beer than they enjoyed during the same time period in 2008. You have to go all the way back to 1982 to find the last annual rise in real-ale consumption.

The Cask Ale Report, commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)and some brewers, showed sales reached 825,000 barrels during the January to June 2009 period. The report said 660 breweries now make cask ale, the highest number in 60 years.

The improving picture is good news for the troubled British pub segment. Forty percent of real ale drinkers visit a pub at least once a week, compared with just 23 per cent of non-cask drinkers. The report also pointed out these customers tend to spend more during each pub visit.

Real ale requires careful handling by pub operators. The beer undergoes a second fermentation in the cask and is not injected with carbon dioxide. CAMRA was formed as a consumer movement in reaction to national brewers in England discontinuing traditional cask ale brands in favor of easier to distribute lagers.

Monday, October 05, 2009

GABF: Recap of a Great Fest

I intended to get to this a bit earlier, but it has been busy in the Lyke2Drink world for the last week or so...The Great American Beer Festival has come and gone for another year. It is sort of like Christmas. You start thinking about it months in advance, you make plans to visit old friends, you pack up and run the travel gauntlet, and then everything happens so quickly that when it is over you are left drained and wishing that you had an extra day or two before going back to work.

A few random thoughts on America's grandest beer bash:

Records Are Made to Be Broken: A ton of records fell at this year's GABF. The most impressive to me are the 3,362 beers entered in the medal competition. That's a 16 percent jump in just a year. A total of 51 breweries were first timers this year.

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More Categories = More Fun: The GABF competition featured 78 categories (+ the Pro Am category) in 2009, up three from the previous year.

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More Elbow Room: The GABF added 46 percent more space to accommodate more brewers and more attendees this year. It was hard to find the additional space of Friday or Saturday night. Still, a good idea.

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Farm to Table Pavilion: The Brewers Association hosted a food and beer matching event in a quiet corner of the Colorado Convention Center on Thursday and Friday evenings. It was a good chance to get away from the noise of the GABF and a reminder of the fact that beer can play an upscale game that trumps wine in many respects.

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What Happened to the Time?: This GABF was a bit more of a blur this year for me because of all of the activity that went into launching the Denver Rare Beer Tasting and having a stand alone Pints for Prostates booth at the event. The Brewers Association graciously donated the space and volunteers Mark Sohasky, Dan Rabin, Darrin Pikarsky, Chad Henderson and Charles Willet helped me staff the booth. We had the chance to talk with a bunch of men about the need to get regular prostate health screenings, while at the same time raising funds for the Us TOO International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network. The lucky winner of the kegerator drawing was Ben Carlisle of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, a new homebrewer attending his first GABF.

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Big Kick Off: Once again Great Divide Brewing was the place for brewers, media and beer hangers on Thursday afternoon. The traditional kickoff of the GABF marathon was a chance to see old friends and drink some excellent house brews. If you find yourself in Denver, the Great Divide taproom should be on your list. This brewery makes a very solid range of beers that are worth your time.

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American Craft Beer Week: Mark it down, May 17-23, 2010. Check out www.AmericanCraftBeerWeek.org.

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Michelob Tasting: The Anheuser-Busch InBev folks had a nice gathering for the media at Earl's Restaurant. The mix of beer included commercial offerings, some brewery only treats to show flexibility (a very good Doppelbock and a pear brew) and a beer designed by the media. Rye-ter's Block was a beer by committee -- beer writers -- that was very drinkable.