Mid Atlantic Brewing News February/March 2010 : Page 1
By Greg Kitsock By The Brews Brothers (Steve Frank & Arnold Meltzer) ll hail the humble beer can. It made its debut to thunderous applause 75 years ago, on Jan. 24, 1935, in Richmond, Va. This year, Americans will drain over 30 billion of them. The great majority contain mass-market lager, but smaller brewers are also discover- ing the joys of aluminum. Over 50 U.S. and 23 Canadian craft breweries now are can- ning beer, including such Mid-Atlantic oper- ations as Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox Brewery, Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Va. and 16 Mile Brewing Co. in Georgetown, Del. One of the biggest obstacles to craft beer in cans has been the container’s plebeian image. When the craft beer revolution threw open the pearly gates to beer nirvana, better beers came in bottles and kegs only. Cans, except for an occasional ale or bock, con- tained insipid, light lagers, suitable only for chugging. What associations did cans conjure up? Maybe Archie Bunker in his easy chair pop- ping open a cold one, or frat boys crushing the empties against their foreheads. But the range of styles in cans is expand- ing continually. Caldera Brewing Co. in Ashland, Ore. cans an aggressively hopped West Coast IPA. Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colo. markets an inky black, 9.5%-abv imperial stout called Ten Fidy. The 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco recently released Monk’s Blood in cans, a dark ale brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, oak chips and dried figs. See Cans p.4 he Food and Drug Administration claims that it isn’t targeting cof- fee-flavored drinks as part of its crackdown on caffeinated alcoholic beverages, launched last November. However, the agency’s harsh stance—it insists that there are no food additive regu- lations that permit the addition of caffeine at T any level in alcoholic beverages —has raised concern that craft brewers’ coffee beers might get caught in the dragnet. On Nov. 13, the FDA sent a letter to about 30 drinks companies, giving them a month to provide “supporting data and information” that their use of caffeine is safe or has received prior sanction. The let- See Caffeine p.6 IN THIS ISSUE Collecting Beer Cans for Fun and Fortune ...... 7 Book Review .................................................. 9 Are Cans a Health Hazard?.......................... ... 10 Homebrew ..................................................... 36 Calendar of Craft Beer Events ......................... 39 E.Pennsylvania ..... 12 C. Pennsylvania ....22 Philadelphia .......... 24 Virginia ................ 26 Maryland ............. 28 Baltimore .............. 30 West Virginia ....... 32 Delaware .............. 33 New Jersey........... 34 Washington, DC ... 38
Happy Can - Niversary!
Beer Can Finds New Respect At 75<br /> <br /> All hail the humble beer can. It made its debut to thunderous applause 75 years ago, on Jan. 24, 1935, in Richmond, Va.<br /> <br /> This year, Americans will drain over 30 billion of them. The great majority contain mass-market lager, but smaller brewers are also discovering the joys of aluminum. Over 50 U.S. and 23 Canadian craft breweries now are canning beer, including such Mid-Atlantic operations as Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox Brewery, Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Va. And 16 Mile Brewing Co. In Georgetown, Del.<br /> <br /> One of the biggest obstacles to craft beer in cans has been the container’s plebeian image. When the craft beer revolution threw open the pearly gates to beer nirvana, better beers came in bottles and kegs only. Cans, except for an occasional ale or bock, contained insipid, light lagers, suitable only for chugging.<br /> <br /> What associations did cans conjure up? Maybe Archie Bunker in his easy chair popping open a cold one, or frat boys crushing the empties against their foreheads.<br /> <br /> But the range of styles in cans is expanding continually. Caldera Brewing Co. In Ashland, Ore. Cans an aggressively hopped West Coast IPA. Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colo. Markets an inky black, 9.5%-abv imperial stout called Ten Fidy. The 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco recently released Monk’s Blood in cans, a dark ale brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, oak chips and dried figs.<br /> <br /> Although it flies in the face of beer snobbery, the can might be a better package than the glass bottle. Cans are impervious to light and oxygen, the two mortal enemies of beer. They’re lighter and more compact than bottles (a six-pack of empty cans weighs three ounces; a six-pack of empty bottles weighs two-and-a-half pounds). Cans chill down more quickly. They’re accepted at beaches, ballparks, golf courses and other venues where fear of broken glass makes bottles unwelcome. They’re easy to recycle.<br /> <br /> A technological marvel, the modern beer can represents decades of R&D.<br /> <br /> Birth of the Beer Can <br /> <br /> Two hurdles had to be overcome before beer could be canned. First, the container had to be able to withstand the 80-90 psi pressure of pasteurization, as opposed to 25-30 psi for most other forms of food processing. Secondly, the can had to be coated with an inert liner that would prevent the beer from reacting with the metal to form foul-tasting salts.<br /> <br /> American Can Company (ACC) perfected a model using a Union Carbide plastic liner trademarked as “Keglined.” These early flattop steel cans needed a heavy opener, nicknamed a “church key,” to perforate the top. ACC found a willing guinea pig in the Gottfried Krueger Brewery in Newark, NJ.<br /> <br /> To sweeten the deal, the contract stated that Krueger would only have to pay for the equipment if the experiment succeeded.<br /> <br /> Krueger had some jitters about the new container, test-marketing two brands- Krueger’s Finest Beer and Krueger’s Cream Ale-on the fringes of its distribution area in Richmond, Va. Within a month, however, 84% of Richmond retailers were selling cans of Krueger, and this little-known regional brewer was stealing large chunks of business from Anheuser-Busch, Schlitz and Pabst.<br /> <br /> In July 1935 Pabst began distributing its export beer nationally in flattops, and in September Schlitz introduced the “conetop”: a kind of metal bottle with a funnel-shaped top that was sealed with a traditional bottle cap. Within a year, 23 brewers were using cans and over 1.5 billion beer cans were sold in 1936.<br /> <br /> Ballantine is credited with introducing the six-pack in 1938, reckoning that larger packages would be too heavy for housewives to tote home from the grocery store.<br /> <br /> Aluminum Proves Its Mettle<br /> <br /> The postwar period brought major improvements. The first all-aluminum can was devised by Aluminum International in 1958 for Hawaii Brewing Co.’s Primo brand. The experiment was an unmitigated disaster, with a faulty lining resulting in 23,000 cases of spoiled beer. Coors had far more success with a 7-oz aluminum can introduced in October 1959.<br /> <br /> In 1962 a Dayton, Ohio inventor named Ermal “Ernie” Fraze developed a self-opening can after a frustrating experience at a picnic when, according to legend, he forgot his opener and had to pry open cans on a car bumper. Fraze sold the rights to Alcoa, which developed the first pop-top cans for Pittsburgh Brewing Co.’s Iron City Beer in March 1962.<br /> <br /> Pop-tops, however, proved to be an environmental hazard when discarded: animals swallowed them with dire consequences, and the sharp edges lacerated bare feet. In 1972, Daniel Cudzik, working for Reynolds Metals in Richmond, applied for a patent for a non-detachable ring pull can opener called the stay-tab. It was introduced to grateful beer drinkers by Falls City Brewing Co. Of Louisville, KY in 1975 (the same company would introduce Billy Beer to a less grateful nation a few years later).<br /> <br /> “Canned Beer Apocalypse” <br /> <br /> A Canadian company called Cask Brewing Systems might be termed the father of micro-canning, developing an inexpensive manual canning apparatus that could be transported on the flatbed of a pickup truck and tucked into a corner at the brewery. Cask also worked out an arrangement with the Ball Corporation, the country’s largest manufacturer of beverage cans, allowing its clients to buy cans in lots of about 200,000 instead of by the million.<br /> <br /> In 2002 an obscure Colorado roadhouse/ brewpub named Oskar Blues, then known for live music and Cajun cooking, became Cask’s first U.S. customer and started canning its Dale’s Pale Ale-at 65 IBUs, possibly the hoppiest beer canned up to that point. Owner Dale Katechis decided, “Let’s blow people’s minds about what a canned beer can be. Let’s create the canned beer apocalypse,” recalls former spokesman Marty Jones.<br /> <br /> Sales have jumped from 650 bbl in 2002 to a projected 31,000 bbl in 2009, making Oskar Blues one of the country’s fastestgrowing breweries.<br /> <br /> Holdouts Voice Their Concerns<br /> <br /> There are still some naysayers, including the top two craft brewers in the U.S. In 2005, Boston Beer Co.<br /> <br /> Founder Jim Koch published a Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights, which included the article, “Beer shall be offered in bottles, not cans, so that no brew is jeopardized with the taste of metal.” Defenders of the can argue that the latest epoxy coatings completely isolate the beer. Even after denting, the coating stays intact.<br /> <br /> Two of the larger craft breweries to can beer-New Belgium Brewing Co. In Fort Collins, Colo. And Anderson Valley Brewing Co. In Boonville, Calif.-have conducted blind tastings of the same beer in cans and bottles, and detected no difference in quality. (Anderson Valley’s tasters actually preferred Poleeko Gold pale ale from the can.)<br /> <br /> Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Ken Grossman says he’s considered canning his beers, but has rejected the idea primarily because of concerns over a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) in the linings.<br /> <br /> Nevertheless, one of the top five beer retailers recently predicted that “most craft beers will be available in cans within ten years.” Doppelbocks? Belgians? Even barleywines?<br /> <br /> Well, why not?<br /> <br />
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FDA Caffeine Crackdown
A Buzz Kill For Coffee Beer?<br /> <br /> The Food and Drug Administration claims that it isn’t targeting coffee- flavored drinks as part of its crackdown on caffeinated alcoholic beverages, launched last November.<br /> <br /> However, the agency’s harsh stance—it insists that there are no food additive regulations that permit the addition of caffeine at any level in alcoholic beverages —has raised concern that craft brewers’ coffee beers might get caught in the dragnet.<br /> <br /> On Nov. 13, the FDA sent a letter to about 30 drinks companies, giving them a month to provide “supporting data and information” that their use of caffeine is safe or has received prior sanction. The letter warns that if the FDA determines that a product’s use of caffeine is unsafe or illegal, the agency “will take appropriate action to ensure that this product is removed from the marketplace.” <br /> <br /> Most of the brands targeted are caffeinated spirits (XZO Vodka with Caffeine, Taurine and Guarana) or high-octane energy drinks (Four Loco, Joose). But the list also included craft brewer Ithaca Beer Co., which briefly marketed a coffee-infused imperial stout called Eleven to celebrate the company’s 11th anniversary.<br /> <br /> Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association, speculated that the inclusion of Ithaca Beer was inadvertent. “They seem to be going after products that have pure caffeine added.” But he cautioned that “brewers should be concerned. This could lead the FDA to question beverages that get their caffeine from natural products like coffee, chocolate or tea.<br /> <br /> Who’s to say where this will end?” Malts kilned at high temperatures mimic coffee in taste and color, and an increasing number of brewers are adding coffee to their porters and stouts to add an extra layer of espresso, mocha and roasty flavors. The Great American Beer Festival even has a category for Coffee Flavored Beer. The gold medalist in 2009 was Dude, Where’s My Vespa? From the Rock Bottom Brewery in Arlington, Va.<br /> <br /> The name, according to brewer Chris Rafferty, comes from the little red motor scooter on the bags of Starbucks Italian roast that he originally used. He’s since switched to a milder roast that he gets from Beanetics, a micro-roaster in Annandale, Va. Rafferty uses an oatmeal stout as a base, racking the finished beer over the coffee in a 24- hour cold steep.<br /> <br /> “They’re two separate animals,” commented Russ Klisch of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, comparing his Fuel Cafe (an Irish-style dry stout brewed with organic Guatemalan coffee) to artificially flavored energy drinks. “We’re in it for the flavor, not the buzz.” <br /> <br /> “I’m not sure they’re the subject of what we’re looking at,” commented Michael Herndon, a spokesman for the FDA, who seemed surprised that a coffee beer was on the FDA’s list of beverages being investigated. Herndon said the names of the letter recipients and their products were provided by the attorneys general of 18 states, who had earlier complained to the agency that caffeinated alcoholic beverages were a public threat.<br /> <br /> According to studies cited by the FDA, as many as 26% of all college students consume alcohol and caffeine in tandem. Health experts warn that caffeine can mask the effects of the Caffiene continued from p.1 alcohol, resulting in wideawake drunks emboldened to engage in risky behavior like driving under the influence.<br /> <br /> Mike McCarthy, director of brewing operations for the Capitol City brewpub chain in the Washington, DC area, isn’t unsympathetic to the FDA’s concerns.<br /> <br /> He cited two friends who drank 5-6 cups of Irish coffee over the course of an evening and wound up in the emergency room, their hearts racing from the combination of depressant and stimulant. “They thought they were having heart attacks.” Nevertheless, McCarthy believes his coffee-flavored imperial stout called Fuel presents no danger.<br /> <br /> He blends two kegs of a concentrated coffee solution with 26 kegs of stout, heavily diluting whatever stimulant exists in the coffee. He estimates there is less caffeine in a 10-oz glass of the stout (the standard pour) than in a cup of Starbucks coffee.<br /> <br /> Dave Engbers, cofounder of Founders Brewing Co. In Grand Rapids, MI, says his Breakfast Stout, made with Kona and Sumatra coffee and two kinds of chocolate, contains 15 mg of caffeine per 12-oz bottle. By contrast, a 12-oz can of Coca Cola Classic contains 35 mg of caffeine and 8 oz of generic coffee can contain anywhere from 95 to 200 mg, according to the website www,mayoclinic.com.<br /> <br /> Critics of the FDA’s crackdown argue that even if the agency pulls all alcoholic energy drinks from the shelves, young drinkers can still concoct their own punches of vodka and Red Bull. “What are they going to do-ban rum and Coke?” asked one bar patron at the Arlington Rock Bottom.<br /> <br /> The FDA’s website states, “Consumers may themselves choose to add cola to alcoholic beverages according to their preferences. The beverages that are the subject of FDA’s request for information are characterized by the intentional addition of caffeine to alcoholic beverages by the manufacturer.” <br /> <br /> The web site further states that determining the safety and legality of caffeine-and-alcohol combinations will be a “high priority for the agency,”but added that reaching a conclusion “could take some time.”<br /> <br /> Coffee, Weasels and Beer<br /> <br /> Some coffee beers are fairly well-balanced between malt and bean, like JavaHead Stout from Tröegs Brewing Co. In Harrisburg. Others hit you like a triple shot of espresso in the morning.<br /> <br /> Among the more full-flavored and exotic brews is Beer Geek Brunch, brewed at the Nogne O microbrewery in Grimstad, Norway for a Danish craft brewer called Mikkeller.<br /> <br /> This hefty imperial oatmeal stout (10.9% abv) incorporates kopi luwak coffee, processed from coffee berries that have passed through the digestive tract of a weasel-like animal called the Asian palm civet.<br /> <br /> The civet is said to be a picky eater, gobbling up only the ripest, sweetest red berries.<br /> <br /> Inside the animal’s gut enzymes break down the proteins that give coffee its bitterness, and eliminate some of the caffeine. After the civet excretes the berries, they’re collected, washed and given a mild roast. This southeast Asian specialty is reported to cost up to $30 a cup and $600 a pound.<br /> <br /> About 7,500 25-oz bottles of this limited-edition beer were shipped to the United States in late 2008, and a few were still lingering at select locations as of November 2009.<br /> <br /> The beer pours ebony with a chocolate-colored head, and has a thick, creamy mouthfeel, a little citric fruitiness, and an intense roasty flavor that avoids being acerbic.<br /> <br /> Is it really so special to be worth $14 a bottle and up? If the answer is no, Mikkeller produces a more conventional coffee stout called Beer Geek Breakfast.<br /> <br /> So far, neither Mikkeller brew has wound up on the FDA’s hit list.<br /> <br /> - Greg Kitsock
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