The Fizz Weekly Update – The Better Late Than Never Edition (2020-01-17)

I am finishing this very delayed roundup in Seville, Spain. It’s week 2 of Dryanuary, and it’s going to be a serious struggle for me to go the whole weekend without tasting any of that sweet, sweet Andalucian Sherry. Thankfully, Seville has churros, amazing tapas, Jamón ibérico, and a number of kickass coffeeshops I plan to visit. Also we’re going to see a Cirque du Soleil show tomorrow, which should be fun. 

We’re staying in the positively beautiful Hotel Las Casas de La Judería in the Jewish Quarter. The hotel is a maze of a place, with winding, ancient passages, nearly 20 connecting courtyards and patios, and rooms that haven’t changed much since the hotel was renovated in the 16th century. Apparently, some of the ruins on the grounds date back to Roman times. I’ve never stayed anywhere like it. 

In other news, I managed to brew a third beer, an IPA, using the new Grainfather Connect & Conical Fermenter David got me for Christmas. I really cannot begin to explain how much easier the GF system is, compared to bucket methods. The whole thing went smoothly, save for the fact that I found it impossible not to spill water everywhere. The beer is happily fermenting now, and the yeasties are going like gangbusters. I have a good feeling about this beer.  

That’s enough personal blather — on to beer. 

There’s a lot of digital ink being spilled on articles around the alcohol-free movement, industry adaptation to this ‘new normal’, and the negative impact on alcohol and health. There’s also a spate of troubling statistics on alcohol’s effect on women in particular. Now, I’m still sorta new to the beer scene, and it’s possible that this is a cyclical thing, just like the glut of articles on exercise and healthy New Year’s resolutions. It’s tough for me to divine whether this is hype or a portend of the future. But it is worth discussing. 

In this issue of The Fizz, we’ve got a whole bunch from Vinepair (they had some great content this week), @beervana, an announcement of @beerwithnat ‘s new book, an Irish beer law history lesson from @beerfoodtravel, and scratch-and-sniff weed wallpaper. 

Beer Buzz

The No and Low down – OnTradeProgress. Pete Brown delves into whether no / low-ABV drinking is a fad, or here to stay.  

According to Brown: 

The sector has grown by over 150% over the last four years, and the sales line already looks very different from the previous small bumps in the graph you see if you trace it back over the last couple of decades.

Some of this is due to advances in technical brewing processes — we can now get alcohol-free without resorting to boiling off ethanol — but much of this is also a product of demand. But the demand isn’t coming from a new wave of teetotalers, Brown argues — rather it’s from us seasoned drinkers, who enjoy the social engagement of drinking, but want to avoid the follow-on effects of drunkenness. 

Heck, as @eoghanwalsh pointed out on Twitter, AF beer is now included in the Belgian consumer price index.

Personally, I’m a solid fan of choice, and think this is a great movement. And now, I want a drink

Also TIL that there are trace amounts of alcohol in many naturally fermented (or fermentable) products, including fruit juices, bread, yogurt, kefir juice, etc. Additionally, the idea that we actually cook off all the alcohol we put into a dish is a big ol’ lie. In fact, whether something is considered sans-alcohol is largely arbitrary, and it varies wildly by country. You can get away with selling things as alcohol-free up to 1.2% ABV in the EU, 0.5% in the US, and a staggering 2.8% in Finland.  

Alcohol-related deaths have doubled in the US and women are at an increased risk, study says – CNN. A sobering statistic, if ever there was one: 

The number of Americans who have died from alcohol-related problems annually more than doubled between 1999 and 2017, a new study found, and that’s likely an undercount, the researchers said. … 

[R]esearchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism determined that the number of alcohol-related deaths increased 50.9% from 16.9 to 25.5 per 100,000. Specifically, they counted 35,914 deaths in 1999 and 72,558 by 2017. That’s a loss of nearly 1 million Americans in that time period. In 2017 alone, 2.6% of about 2.8 million deaths in the US were alcohol related.

While men still outnumber women in terms of alcohol-related deaths, the largest annual increase in deaths came from non-Hispanic white women, especially those between the ages of 55-64. Over 70% of Americans admitted to drinking in 2017. Seeing as the study only went through to 2017, I’d be curious to see if there’s been any major change over the last 2 years. 

I HAVE A MINOR COMPLAINT: Bud Light Seltzer Makes No Sense – Beervana. Jeff (@beervana) rightly calls AB-InBev out for its completely boneheaded branding choice.

… Bud Light Seltzer? This makes no sense. Budweiser is a beer. Light is an adjective describing what kind of beer. Seltzer is … not beer. “Bud Light Seltzer” is like selling “Smoked Gouda Folding Chairs.” Please, stop the slaughter of our helpless words!

Bud Light Seltzer is ABI’s New Coke. Think about it. If I hate beer I’m not going to go for a brand I already associate with the thing I hate. I’ll choose White Claw, or a dedicated seltzer brand. Similarly, if I’m a Bud Light drinker, what the fuck would entice me to drink Bud LIght Seltzer? I presumably drink Bud Light because I like drinking beer. Even if I’m calorie-conscious, we’re talking about a 10 calorie difference between Bud Light and Bud Light Seltzer, with the same % of carbs. Maybe there’s some nominal non-beer-drinking market that will find this appealing, but I predict this will last about as long as smokeless cigarettes. 

Bud Light Dietary information

State Craft Brewery Growth Trends – Brewer’s Association. The guy with my dream job, Bart Watson (@brewersstats), has some new data for us on state craft brewery growth. A few highlights: 

  • Ten states accounted for around half the total brewery openings in the US. Unsurprisingly, this was driven by increased demand, with the states seeing growth in their population centers overall. California, Texas, Florida and New York accounted for the bulk of these openings, but other states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Ohio also saw an increase. 
  • Brewery-rich states are, unsurprisingly, getting more breweries. Again, demand + more liberal regulatory requirements is probably behind a lot of this. 
  • Not in the data, but worth watching: I predict that over the next 2-5 years, we’ll see a big shift in where breweries are opening, as state migration levels change. People are moving away from traditional brewery leaders like New York, Vermont and California, and into states like Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot about growing scenes in Nevada and Arizona, making those states attractive for a whole new set of reasons.   

We Asked 14 Beer Pros: What Will Be the Next Big Hop? – Vinepair. Lots of options here, but a few folks suggest that Strata, Galaxy, and a number of newly-developed strains will be featured in more beers over the next few years. I already saw quite a bit of Galaxy and Triumph in Virginia Beach when I was back for Christmas. No idea when these new hop varieties will make it over the pond…  

Drinks Buzz

The Argentine Winemakers Shaping the Future of Malbec in the Uco Valley – Vinepair. Tim McKirdy (@timmckirdy) discusses the growth of Argentina’s Uco Valley region for Malbec wines. 

A growing number of winemakers there, such as Sebastián Zuccardi and Edgardo del Popolo, among many others, are proving that world-class terroir … exists in the Uco Valley. They’re doing this by establishing new appellations known as Geographical Indications (GIs), which in turn serve as shorthand for consumers to easily identify some of the best- quality Argentine wines that might go otherwise unnoticed.

The Uco Valley extends across an area 45 miles long and 15 miles wide, with altitudes ranging from 850 m to 1,600 m above sea level. There are three distinct growing regions, Tupungato, Tunuyán, and San Carlos, all of which produce Malbec wines. 

The Secret Meaning Behind Maker’s Mark’s Iconic Label – Vinepair. Eric Trinidad (@theglobaltrip) shares just what makes the ‘mark’ in Maker’s Mark. 

To the naked, uninformed eye, the mark is the letters S, I, and V inside a circle overlaid by a star on the lower left. It was designed by Margie Samuels in 1953, when the Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey was first crafted by her husband, Bill Samuels Sr. …

As to the letters: Samuels Sr. was a fourth-generation distiller, so it’s a quiet nod to his family name and lineage. Keen observers may also notice a circle with tiny breaks on the lower right side. Those represent the “dark times in American distilling, or periods when the sale of alcohol was illegal, such as the Civil War, World War I, and Prohibition,” Margie Samuels explains. 

See that special mark there?

What Is the Aged Coffee Trend? – The Spruce Eats. What’s old is new again? 

There’s a long history of aging spirits, beer, and wine. So it seems like a natural evolution that some enterprising folks would extend this to coffee. 

Like wine and beer, not all coffee ages well. Good candidates include coffees low in acidity, like Sumatra and Sulawesi coffees, which can build complexity as they age. Similarly, bright/acidic wet-processed Latin American blends do well by mellowing with age. It also matters how you age. Roasters will often opt for dark roasted beans, putting them in wine, or especially whiskey barrels. “This imparts a whole new range of flavors and aromas on the beans. It also allows the roasters far greater control over the roasting process,” the author notes. 

As for the taste: 

Aged coffee has some oomph in its body without much acidity. It may or may not have some funk or “bagginess” (a burlap taste from storage). And it may be mellow and smoky, or (if it’s aged in a barrel) oaky, woodsy, winey, or many other “-y”s. Each aged coffee is different, and that’s part of what makes them so interesting to today’s coffee drinkers.

Like macerated coffee, this is now on my list of things to try.

Beer Thoughts

Did you know that there was an equivalent to the Reinheitsgebot in Ireland? Liam, over at @beerfoodtravel shared this little gem on Twitter a few days ago.

Twitter: beerfoodtravel

The full scope of the act covers brewing, distilling, wholesale and retail sale of beer, spirits, ‘strong waters’, and wine. And of course, how to tax the industry. It even recognizes geographically-specific wines in France, Italy and Spain! 

I found the bits on Dublin-specific rules and regulations to be particularly interesting. For example, Ch. 8, Section 36 covers the sale of Spirits and Strong Waters, and prohibits retailers in Dublin from selling “any quantity of Spirits less than a Pint,” unless otherwise exempted. Most likely, this was to establish a base size, but it strikes me as interesting that half- or other size offerings were explicitly forbidden.  

For the unfamiliar, Barm is the old name for yeast. So at least Ireland knew what yeast was by 1778. Reference for the curious is ‘Statues Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland’, Vol 6, 1796, Ch.8, Sec. VIII. ‘Strong Waters’ appears to simply be another way of saying distilled spirit, but I’m not 100% sure. Perhaps one of our more knowledgeable beer history geeks has some insight? 

Dear Craft Beer – There’s some heady stuff here. Author Mikaela Yeager shares how her struggles with an eating disorder, she cleverly named ‘Ed,’ and the conflict it created with her love of beer. The piece paints Ed as a jealous, controlling boyfriend, and her words speak of the kind of guilt and excuses you often hear from victims of abuse. Fortunately, for the author, she dumps Ed, reclaims her self worth, and realizes that beer is a legitimate “simple pleasure” she’s thankful to have in her life.  

One NPC In Red Dead Online Wants All The Booze – Kotaku. I don’t even know where to begin here. For awhile, I was a big Red Dead Redemption fan, and played the solo campaign for a few months before moving on to Borderlands 3 or somesuch. It was fun. I stole horses, smacked around white supremacists, and hog-tied an absurd number of hapless NPCs, dragging them by the feet for miles until their screams grew silent. It was great. But I never did join Red Dead Redemption Online, and this article has me wondering: should I sign up and play online so I can make virtual booze to sell to an in-game alcoholic?

The author both celebrates, and worries about the NPC, named Bert Higgins, but strangely, not his own welfare. He never asks himself ‘Is this a good use of my time?’ or ‘Should I be making real moonshine at home instead?’

Other Thoughts

40s and Salad Sandwiches — Food and Drinks Writer Besha Rodell – GoodBeerHunting. Luke Robertson tells the story of Behsa Rodell, an Australian food critic who lives in the shadows. Rodell has an interesting story, one where she plied her trade as a writer for Atlanta’s Creative Loafing, then became LA Weekly’s restaurant critic, finally parlaying that to return to her native Melbourne as a food critic for the New York Times. But unlike many of her peers, Rodell keeps her identity secret, never announcing her presence at a restaurant, always paying with credit cards that don’t bear her name, and avoiding the limelight entirely.  

Introducing Scratch-and-Sniff Weed Wallpaper – I remember a point in my life (I was probably 8 or 10 or something), where I really enjoyed scratch-and-sniff stickers. It was fun to peel off a sticker, apply it to my brown-paper-clad social studies textbook, and scratch away. For the first few days, a pleasant smell of pineapple, or pizza, or pickle or whatever would greet my olfactory bulb, and I’d think I was rad. Ah, the 80s. 

Yeah, you remember this. Credit: Etsy

For those of you who never grew out of that phase, and now want to have that kind of experience in your whole house, you can go out and buy yourself some scratch-and-sniff wallpaper. You can even get your whole house to smell like a dispensary by purchasing some weed-scented wallpaper, because of course you can. 

The company behind this innovation spent eight years looking for the perfect combination of oils and terpenes before they reached terminal dankness. The design of the sticker features a tasteful damask of blue-green shaded cannabis plants. It’s very pretty, and surprisingly subtle.

Books On Beer [Affiliate Links]

Natalya Watson (she of Beer with Nat Podcast fame) wrote a book! ‘Beer: Taste the Evolution in 50 Styles’, is a taster’s guide to the history of beer, and looks awesome. From the blurb:

Each chapter focuses on one of beer’s key ingredients – malt, water, hops and yeast – sharing how, as each ingredient modernized over time, new flavours and styles emerged. With each change, Natalya offers a modern beer to try that will bring the section’s story to life and help you truly taste the evolution of beer through the years.
 It will be out March 19 in the UK, and April 28 in the US. You can preorder it on her website.

Beer Events

Beer for Wine Lovers – a Belgian beer tasting – Eoghan Walsh (@eoghanwalsh) of Brussels Beer City is running a really neat ‘Beer for Wine Lovers’ event in Brussels on Feb. 6. Youll need to buy tickets ahead of time, and if I wasn’t flying out to Australia a day later, I’d be all over that.  

1 thought on “The Fizz Weekly Update – The Better Late Than Never Edition (2020-01-17)”

Leave a Reply