The Fizz Weekly Update – I’m Moving This to Friday Edition (2020-01-24)

I suck at turning these out on Wednesdays, so I’ve decided to be kind to myself and just push on Friday. Who doesn’t like some good pre-weekend reading about beer? 

In a few weeks, David and I are off to Australia and New Zealand for a month — partly for work, and partly for fun. In addition to visiting Sydney for two weeks, we also plan to do a country-wide road trip of New Zealand in a converted van, because NZ is apparently the place to do #vanlife. I’ve been plotting my map of beery spots, and plan to write about my experiences with Sydney’s beer scene, and my growing appreciation for Nelson Sauvin. If any readers are in Australia and NZ and want to meet up, please ping me !   

In this issue of The Fizz, we talk about various movements from Big Beer, discuss Scotland’s love affair with haggis & Burns Night, I do a rant on stupid tax policies & high ABV beers in Ireland (with a little help from Twitter), and I discuss the death of privacy. Happy Friday, everybody!

Beer Buzz

Molson Coors Acquires Detroit-Based Atwater Brewery – Paste Magazine. I believe this marks the first biggish acquisition of a craft brewery by big beer in 2020, but I’ll profess I could be wrong. Anyway, Molson Coors, via its craft division Tenth and Blake Beer Co., acquired Atwater Brewery, the fourth (or fifth) largest brewery in Michigan. It’s Molson Coors’ first acquisition since 2016. Atwater has seen flagging sales, producing only 23,000 barrels in 2019, down from a high of 48,000 in 2015.  

Molson Coors’ Tenth and Blake also own AC Golden Brewing Co. (Colorado), Hop Valley Brewing (Oregon), Revolver Brewing (Texas) Saint Archer Brewing Co. (California) and Terrapin Brewing Co. (Georgia) 

In addition to some regional beers, Atwater also recently launched a seltzer line, which Paste speculates may have been of interest, though Brewbound disagrees. The details of the acquisition were not disclosed, though I’m sure @beervana or Brewbound or one of the heavy-hitters will have an inside scoop soon. The acquisition is expected to close in the next few months, according to Brewbound.

Anheuser-Busch Adds 4 Beers to Low-Alcohol Portfolio – Adweek. We talked about this in last week’s Fizz. No/Low Alcohol is here to stay. With growth expected at 32% over the next few years, we’re gonna see more of these headlines. Especially when you consider trends outside of America.

… AB InBev, has introduced four new no- and low-alcohol beers (NABLAB) to its portfolio. The new products, which are made by craft brewers owned by AB InBev, arrive as more consumers are ditching alcohol for new beverage options that fit into a sober-curious lifestyle.

Also, TIL that this phenomena has one of the dumbest acronyms imaginable. 

A fun Twitter scan for alcohol-free bar also led to a ton of discussions on various bars popping up all over the world catering exclusively to the “sober-curious”. Even Brewdog opened up an AF bar in London with 15 taps.  

Who actually makes Kirkland beer? – Mashed. So Costco’s aren’t really a thing in Europe Ireland and this makes me very sad.[1] I also miss Trader Joe’s, good cake donuts, same-day delivery, and diners. But I digress…

For those of you lucky bastards who still do have access to a Costco, you know that the main brand they sell for everything is Kirkland Signature. Kirkland Signature jeans. Kirkland-branded electronics. Kirkland chicken. Kirkland whiskey. And of course, Kirkland beer. But Kirkland/Costco doesn’t make their own products — rather, those are produced by big brand sellers like Duracell, Kimberly-Clark and Starbucks. 

The sleuths at Mashed discovered that Kirkland beer, at least on the West Coast (best coast) is produced by none other than Gordon Biersch. Biersch also produces white label beers for Trader Joe’s, if you’re even more fortunate and have one of those nearby. Their East Coast brews are produced by what appears to be a contract brewer known as Saranac Brewing out of Utica, NY. 

Kirkland Beer – Credit: BeerAdvocate

Super Bowl LIV Will Use Recyclable Aluminum Cups for the Big Game – Environmental Leader.

Centerplate, Ball Corporation and Bud Light today announced an agreement to bring Ball’s infinitely recyclable aluminum cups to guests at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens for Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020.

Centerplate, who is the catering company responsible for the Hard Rock Stadium, is adopting the cups as part of its own green initiative. AB-InBev also has their own sustainability goals that they hope to meet by 2025 around packaging, water use, and adopting sustainable energy in production. During the Superb Owl [2], 50,000 20-oz cups will be used, and will continue to be used for Miami Dolphins games and other events at the stadium.

Clinton Hill Man Registers Beer as Emotional Support Animal – Brooklyn Paper. I’m 80% convinced this is probably a hoax, but if it isn’t, I don’t know whether to be amused or saddened by this troll. I mean, on the one hand, lol, but on the other, this sort of exploitation of a system that has legitimate purpose kinda grinds my gears.

Drinks Buzz

How To Celebrate Burns Night, According to Scottish Whisky Pros – Vinepair. Burns Night is something I went my whole life not knowing about until I got to Ireland, where it’s kind of a big deal. I went to a Burns Night feast last year in Dublin, and had a great time, despite sitting next to an insufferable woman who also happened to be a vegetarian allergic to half the menu. I’m sad I’ll be missing it this year. 

For the uninitiated, Burns Night is a celebration of all things haggis, whisky, and Scotland, but mostly haggis. There’s even a poem, written by Burns, in Scots dialect, dedicated to haggis, which is read in sections by different members of the audience. He also wrote a poem about whisky.   

Scots around the world unite to “address” the haggis while honoring the immortal memory of their most celebrated poet, Robert “Rabbie” Burns. It’s an event so quintessentially Scottish, not even the most vivid, haggis-hunting imagination could have dreamed it up.

Some distilleries also release special or rarer bottles of whisky in honor of the celebration. 

In other news, 33% of Americans believe that haggis is an animal, with 23% thinking they could catch it, according to a 2003 poll of 1,000 visitors to Scotland. The lack of awareness is likely compounded by the relatively small Scots population in the States, and the fact that America inexplicably bans the consumption of sheep lung, a major component of haggis (along with sheep heart and liver, oatmeal, onion, suet, stock, and spices, all encased in the animal’s stomach).   

A Winemaker’s 50-Year Bet on Surviving Climate Change – Bloomberg. There are a few schools of thought on climate change. You can fight for change (see: Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion), you can pretend it doesn’t exist (see: Donald Trump, Scott Morrison), or, you can adapt. This piece by Bloomberg, is a story of adaptation. 

Miguel Torres’ family has been growing wine in Spain since the 19th century. His winery,  Bodegas Torres (Miguel Torres S.A.), still grows grapes throughout Spain. But the company has also shifted gears, planting vineyards in the Patagonian steppes, a region in Chile known mostly for wool, not wine. CEO Miguel Torres is taking a gamble — that grapes like chardonnay, riesling, and pinot noir, can thrive amidst a changing global climate. 

Torres is playing the long game. He recognizes that it could take up to 50 years for his investment to bear fruit. But he’s likely not going to be the only one, as other vintners and fruit producers are already moving southward as current regions increasingly face prolonged drought.

Beer Thoughts

The lads over at Brulosophy (@brulosopher) did the science and discovered that beers bottled with either crown or swing-top caps taste the same, and that most people can’t tell the difference. 

Hiding in the Middle: The Tradition of Foreign Export Stout – Craft Beer & Brewing. Drew Beechum (@dbeechum) explores what happened to the middle when it comes to stouts & porters.

First a little history on the porter/stout distinction, which I never knew: 

British brewers created a style of dark beer that became insanely popular—porter. Stout arose as a term to describe a strong porter—how strong depended upon the time and brewer. Over time, the porter got dropped, the term stout stayed, and—like the modern proliferation of soda flavors—stout sub-styles exploded and morphed over time.

One of these subclasses included Irish Dry Stouts, and their alcohol % drifted downwards, reflecting market forces & increased taxation on higher % beers (Irish & English brewers started to use unmalted barley to avoid paying malt taxes). Meanwhile, in the States, Russian Imperial and Baltic Porter stouts shot up to 11… But, as Drew asks, ‘What happened to the middle?’

The middle ABV range moved to the West Indies and Africa, following British troops. And while the British troops eventually left, their 5-8% stouts stuck around. And then there’s Belgium. I’ve been told (repeatedly) by extremely proud Belgians, that the reason Guinness created the John Martin Guinness Special Export was because the Belgians refused to drink anything lower than a 6% beer, as it wasn’t really beer in their eyes.    

Side Rant About Taxes: While I was aware of the basic idea that Ireland taxes higher ABV beers at higher rates, I didn’t exactly know how the tax was computed. The Irish Excise Duty website doesn’t make it obvious, either. Fortunately, Beer Twitter drops all the knowledge, and I received lots of great data from Padraig (@foxatronic82), Ron (@patto1ro), John (@beernut), Francesca (@fcslattery) and others on the specifics. Keep in mind – this doesn’t include VAT.

Francesca also shared this lovely graphic from Drinks Industry Ireland to remind us all why we pay so damn much for a pint in this country: 

I seems like it’s high time we start naming and shaming the politicians who are responsible for this nonsense. Ireland should be leading the EU in innovation, healthcare, affordable housing and quality of life — not taxation of liquor.

Other Thoughts

Are Human Body Temperatures Cooling Down? – Scientific American. 

It is one of those facts of life that we learn early and don’t forget: normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But a new study in eLife argues that that number is outdated.

German doctor Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich was the first to arrive at a standardized body temperature in 1851, after recording the average armpit temperature of over 25,000 patients. But 150 years later, our temperatures have fallen a full point, to 97.5 F. Researchers in the eLife study don’t exactly know why average temperatures have gone down, but they speculate that it may be from a constellation of causes, including a decline in infectious diseases like tuberculosis, syphilis and gum disease, warmer clothing, and a sedentary lifestyle. 

Of course, it could be as simple as other confounding variables in early measurement approaches. Things like time-of-day, reporting errors, and whether patients were ill at the time of measurement. If for nothing else, consider this a fun fact you can drop at parties to look cool.  

How Edible Arrangements Learned to Embrace a New Kind of ‘Edible’ – Entrepreneur. The law of unintended consequences strikes again, but this time with a happy ending. 

Edible Arrangements is advertised everywhere as that thing you get when you want to signal that you’re classier than strippergrams, but not quite classy enough for one of those huge gift baskets. 

Tariq Farid thought he had a lock on the word edible. For more than 20 years, his company, Edible Arrangements, was famous for its bouquets of fruit and platters of chocolate-dipped fruit, and customers had begun casually referring to the company as simply Edible. In 2013, Farid went all in — trademarking the name Edible by itself and dropping Arrangements.

Then California legalized weed in 2016, edible took on a whole new meaning. Farid, who wasn’t a fan of pot and didn’t appreciate the new associations with those other edible plant-based products, lobbied at first, trying to preserve his brand. But Farid was fighting an uphill battle. And rather than keep slogging — 

He decided to educate himself about cannabis. Farid subscribed to every industry magazine he could find, took meetings with experts, and traveled to Colorado to visit production facilities. He discovered a world of CBD and other wellness-oriented products — stuff that doesn’t get anyone high but still comes from cannabis and hemp.

The company planted 40 acres of hemp to develop CBD powder, and plans to expand to a full retail experience. It’s smart business, and a reminder that when things change, you’ve got to adapt. 

Now I kinda want to buy an Edible Arrangement for a friend in California. 

KFC Japan Holds An Annual Memorial Service For its Chickens – Time. Another one for the ‘Why Japan is Great’ file. Every year, since 1974, KFC Japan has held a chicken memorial. The president of KFC Japan, as well as other high-ranking executives and key figures in the supply chain, gather in a temple to honor the chickens that keep them in the black. The event is called Chicken Thanksgiving. 

The celebration started in the 70s, after an enterprising businessman convinced the Japanese market that KFC was the dinner of choice for Americans during the holiday season. 

The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It – NYT. So in my other life, I work on privacy things. This was a big enough story that it felt appropriate to span my interests. 

Kashmir Hill (@kashhill) of the NYT reports on a start-up that purports to help law enforcement identify people. Here’s how Clearview AI’s technology works: 

You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

While scraping photographs and content is generally forbidden in the TOS of most social media sites, scraping companies tend to not give a fuck, and will happily scrape away. According to The Times, federal and state law enforcement agencies — including the FBI, DHS and Indiana and Florida police departments, all avail themselves of Clearview’s reverse-image search database on the regular.

The system uses what the company’s CEO, Hon Ton-That described as a “state-of-the-art neural net” designed to turn images into mathematical formulas, or vectors. The system uses features As the NYT describes, the system uses various facial characteristics, like how far apart a person’s eyes are, to cluster like images with similar vectors together, into what the company calls “neighborhoods.” 

The company’s codebase also includes the ability to incorporate this dystopian nightmare into AR-capable glasses. Even more worrying, once the photos have been scraped, they aren’t purged from the company’s database. Meaning, that even if you decide to give up your social media diet, your face is probably still in their database. 

In Europe, this would be a gigantic violation of the GDPR, and these assholes would likely be sued by every member states’ data protection authority. But, alas, in America, there’s little in the way of privacy protections. However, Clearview AI, which is based out of New York, may run into some challenges with the recent implementation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which allows the State Attorney general to pursue civil penalties of $2,500 for each violation of the act, or up to $7,500 for each intentional violation after notice and a 30-day opportunity to cure have been provided.  

Books On Beer [Affiliate Links]

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Beer Events

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[1] Wikipedia informs me that there are quite a few of Costcos located around the world, including 29 in the United Kingdom, 26 in Japan, 16 in South Korea, 13 in Taiwan, 11 in Australia, two in Spain, one in Iceland, one in France, and one in China. 

[2] Yes, I know. 

Other beery insights you also should be following include the OCBG Podcast on Tuesdays, A Good Beer Blog’s Thursday News Updates, Shiny Biscuit’s The Gulp, also on Thursdays, and Boak & Bailey’s News, Nuggets & Longreads on Saturday,

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