Story of beer the story of America?
By Paul F Vang
(Reprinted with permission, appeared in the Montana Tavern Times August 2017)
The story of beer is the story of America, according to Theresa McCulla, the first brewing historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American history, as reported by National Public Radio.
Waves of immigration, especially German immigration in the 19th Century, changed the kind of beer Americans drank, going from heavier English-style ales to cold lagers typical of today’s popular beers.
One of the more interesting aspects, according to McCulla, is how beer has come full circle from the days of homebrews to mass produced beer, through the crash of Prohibition, and back to a resurgence of microbreweries.
“We have reached over 5,000 breweries at this point,” she said, “so it’s truly the golden age to be a beer drinker.”
Not far from the Smithsonian, the cycle happened in one place, at the Portner Brew house in Alexandria, VA, which bears a sign, “Established 1869, Re-established 2012.” At one time Portner had over 600 employees, producing more than 6 million bottles of beer annually.
The brewery closed at the beginning of Prohibition, but nearly a century later two great-great granddaughters reopened the brewery just a few miles from its original site.
Besides producing beers similar to what the founders produced, the company has a “Craft Beer Test Kitchen” which offers home brewers professional experience and feedback on their recipes.
Young Busch in news
August Adolphus Busch IV, the great-great grandson of Adolphus Busch, the founder of Anheuser-Busch, producer of Budweiser and other beers, made the news again in July. He was stopped from taking off in a helicopter from a parking lot in Swansea, IL, a suburb 20 miles southeast of St. Louis.
According to a CNBC report, police were called when a helicopter landed in a business parking lot. The pilot was gone when police arrived.
Several hours later, a caller reported that someone had come back to the helicopter and appeared too inebriated to be taking off. The helicopter was preparing for takeoff when police arrived but powered down when the officer turned on emergency lights.
The investigating officer did a field sobriety test that didn’t indicate that Busch had alcohol inebriation, though the officer’s report said Busch was unable to follow directions and acted erratically. Busch’s wife, Dawna Wood, was with him and said that Busch recently went off anxiety medication because of fertility treatments. Busch was taken to a hospital for further testing.
The New York Post added that during the encounter Busch told the officer that he had a concealed carry permit and was carrying a handgun. A further search of the chopper revealed that there were three loaded handguns, a pepper spray gun, and four bottles of prescription drugs, as well as eight dogs.
After a few hours, Busch was released from custody, pending completion of an investigation. At press deadline, no charges had been filed.
For Busch, this is another in a long series of problems. In 1983, when he was a student at the University of Arizona, he was involved in a fatal car crash. In 2010, he was questioned when his 27 year old girlfriend was found dead in his home. This was ruled an accidental drug overdose.
Busch was the last of the Busch family to head the company, taking over as CEO in December 2006. In July 2008 he signed off on the sale of the company to InBev, which renamed itself Anheuser-Busch InBev.
In a move announced during the Fourth of July weekend, the Brewers Association, the trade group that represents small and independent craft brewers announced the launch of a new seal to designate beers that are produced by “independent” craft brewers.
According to a CNBC report, the seal depicts a beer bottle flipped upside down, with the words “certified independent craft,” designating it was made by a brewery that’s independently owned. The seal will be available free of charge to breweries that meet the Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewer,” including annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less, and less than 25 percent ownership by a non-craft entity.
The introduction of the certified independent craft is designed to differentiate the smaller, independent craft brewers from breweries that have been taken over by the major brewers. An example is Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has purchased 10 breweries since 2011.
AB InBev, incidentally, hit back at the Brewers’ Association, accusing the trade group of starting a “civil war” in the beer industry, according to Just-Drinks. AB InBev released video featuring brewers at craft breweries that had been purchased by AB InBev. The video features brewers proclaiming their dedication to the principles of making craft beer.
Stephen Beaumont, a beer commentator, suggested to Just-Drinks that perhaps it’s time for the craft beer trade organizations to change their emphasis to independent, rather than craft.
Gavin Hattersley, CEO of MillerCoors, addressed a meeting of the Beer Institute suggesting that beer makers should concentrate on unity.
“It’s a critical time for our industry,” he said, adding, we “must be pro-beer first.”
In the Beer Business Daily report, Beer Institute chief Jim McGreevy added that a new issue that could affect the entire beer industry was a proposal by President Trump to tax imported aluminum that could cost the beer industry about $770 million annually.
A snort of chocolate
I’ll preface this by confessing that I’m a chocoholic. I love chocolate chip cookies, chocolate candy bars, M&Ms, brownies, chocolate cake, hot chocolate (with a dollop of cre’me de cacao) on a winter night, and that’s just for a start.
Still, the thought of snorting chocolate has no appeal, after reading about it in a recent Washington Post story.
A few years back there was a big controversy regarding Four Loko, an alcoholic “energy” drink nicknamed, “blackout in a can.”
Now there’s Coco Loko a “snortable” chocolate powder being marketed as a drug-free way to get a buzz. An Orlando company, Legal Lean, produces it and it contains cacao powder, plus gingko biloba, taurine and guarana, substances often found in energy drinks.
A 29-year-old, Nick Anderson, is founder of Legal Lean. He heard about chocolate snorting in Europe and ordered a sample, tried it, and liked it. Anderson says the effects of snorting cacao powder last about half an hour and is “almost like an energy drink feeling, like you’re euphoric but also motivated to get things done.”
Doctors aren’t sure what to make of snorting chocolate powder, and the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve it, though a spokesman for FDA said the agency hasn’t decided whether it would or how the product could be regulated.
A week after the story broke, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged FDA to launch an investigation into chocolate powder, characterizing it as “cocaine on training wheels, according to a LAW360 report.
“The math is clear: the suspect product has no health value.” Schumer said in a statement. “It is falsely held to be chocolate when it is a powerful stimulant. And they market it like a drug – and they tell users to take it like a drug, by snorting it. It is crystal clear that the FDA needs to wake up and launch a formal investigation….before too many of our young people are damaged by it.”
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