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EDITORIALS & LETTERS 2005 » BACK TO EDITORIALS & LETTERS INDEX
 
August/September 2005
Anti-Alcohol Conundrum

 
Four California State University at Chico fraternity members were charged with involuntary manslaughter in a hazing ritual that resulted in the tragic death of a 21-year-old pledge. Alcohol poisoning? Actually, the pledge was given a very large amount of water to drink. The unfortunate incident resulted in criminal charges for the perpetrators who showed such poor judgment. In other cases where alcohol was involved in hazing incidents, demands have been made to "ban alcohol" in addition to punishing the culprits who misused the substance. Curiously, there were no immediate demands to ban water on the Chico campus.

A Stanford University study showed that sleepy or drowsy drivers pose the same danger to others as drunk drivers. People afflicted with mild to moderate sleep apnea number over 12 million and may exceed 25 million when the undiagnosed are factored in. Note that sleepy or drowsy drivers who cause accidents rarely are jailed, have their cars confiscated or are confronted with humiliating and costly trials.

In an era of supposed enlightenment, we still are subjected to attitudes of antialcohol apoplexy in dealing with the consequences of poor choices. Often, it is the alcohol that is condemned rather than the poor choices of its users. Let's not forget the millions of our countrymen who savor the flavor of a good beer in a life-enhancing manner without posing a threat to their fellow man. It's the behavior that needs to be corrected, not the substance.

Also, our annual Beer and Travel issue should stoke your latent feeling of frothy wanderlust. A visit to Budejovicky Budvar in the Czech Republic surely hits a hoppy high note as Jack Curtin reports on his travels. Don Scheidt tells us why the Berlin Mile is vastly superior to the one-note Oktoberfest drink-a-thon in Munich. Your publisher just returned from malty Montreal, and John Rowling pub-hops around British Columbia while Abram Goldman-Armstrong visits the Okanagan Fest of Ale.

All around the country and, indeed, the world, there are great beers to be enjoyed in wonderful surroundings with stunning accommodations. Hopefully, this issue will inspire your travels in pursuit of a great beer experience.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Aug/Sep 2005)

Dear Editor:
As a parent of a young daughter, I've often wondered how, when the time came to have those "birds and bees" talks, how I would go about doing it. Well, thanks to the rather shameless and tasteless display of female nudity you provided in your recent issue of the Celebrator Beer News, I can scratch that off my list of concerns.

My 7-year-old picked up a Celebrator in one of our family's favorite pubs the other day and came toddling back to our table with the "spread" in her hands. (She, of course, was picking it up for Mommy and Daddy, because she knows how much we normally enjoy your informative publication.)

We certainly had a time trying to answer all of the questions her inquisitive little mind was spouting forth after seeing the soft porn you chose to exhibit in your usually humorous "swimsuit issue" spoof.

I always thought the Celebrator did a good job of keeping the all-too-prevalent and honestly quite tiring "frat-boy" mentality off its pages, and was welcoming to both women and families who want to make beer a part of their rich home lives.

Best regards,
Kris Thomas
Via email

Dear Kris:
Thank you for your well-written and comprehensive response chastising us for some pictures in our Swimsuit issue. What started as a send-up of the Sports Illustrated nonsense seems indeed to have gone over the top. As we looked at the submissions, we wondered about the suitability (or lack thereof) of some of the shots. We thought about our subscribers (who tend to be mostly male professionals over 35) and the pubs and breweries where it would be seen.

Our readership is notably devoid of 7-year-old girls, but the Celebrator's availability to all ages in public venues is certainly something we failed to consider. My sincere apologies to you and your daughter for this lapse in judgment. You are right — our message should be better than something below the level of even the Swedish bikini team. It really is about the beer.

My criterion for running the photos was “What would my 86-year-old mother think?” (She's on the comp list.) The photos did raise at least one eyebrow with Mom, who then laughed it off as she is wont to do in dealing with a changing world.

You may be assured that our brewers swimsuit photos in the future will focus more on brewers and swimsuits. That's a promise. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Since you published pictures of Jeanie Rivers in her birthday suit, please publish pictures of her in a two-piece bathing suit so we can see the concealed body areas. Great publication! Keep up the good work. Please add more East Coast coverage if possible.

Gene Rimmes
Mastic Beach, N.Y.

Dear Gene:
Sorry those pesky beer mugs got in the way. You'll just have to use your imagination. Please note the extended East Coast coverage in this issue. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
By the time this is printed, I will be deep in Denton, Texas. Tom, I want to thank you, the Celebrator staff, and the whole California beer scene (north AND south) for giving me a home and teaching me the ways of the brew. You have sculpted a rookie enthusiast into a beer missionary.

There are too many names to thank each individual person, but a few cannot be overlooked: Vic & Cyn and the Bistro staff and regulars, Shane (Lagunitas), Vinnie and Natalie and James (Russian River), Mike Long (Kelley Bros.), and especially Roger and Melissa (Drake’s), the Barclays staff, Kenny Gross, and you, Tom. I could go on, but you all know who you are. I will miss you all dearly and drink to you with love as I continue to educate my generation one pint at a time.

Graham Richards
Last Days in Oakland, Calif.

Dear Graham:
And we will miss your humor, charm and musical talent, which lit up the Bistro in Hayward and much of the East Bay! Y'all come back now, hear? — Ed.

Dear Editor:

I just wanted to compliment you on your publication. Last week, a friend and I went out to Lagunitas Brewing Company and then hopped up to Hopland, where we purloined one of your mags. What an eye-opener. I was not aware of all the variety in our own backyard. I'm using your brew map to map out future travels. Perhaps you can post this mapping on your Web site? I remember when there were fewer then half a dozen pubs in the greater Bay Area. Keep up the good work.

David G. Endom
Concord, Calif.

Dear David:
We'll try to get the Hop Spots on the website. Meanwhile, check out realbeer.com for pub and brewery locations. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Just wanted to compliment you on the recent revisions you made to the "Hop Spots" listings in the Celebrator. The addition of the "NEW" buttons and "(closed)" listings makes it easy for a brewery junkie like myself to scan what's changed on the brewing scene with just a brief glance. Now if you would just clean out a few more of the defunct breweries from the list (speaking as a Chicagoan, I can tell you that the "Midwest" section needs a little work).

Eric Sorensen
Chicago, Ill.

Dear Eric:
Thanks for the props. Jay Brooks did most of the work in getting the Hop Spots hopping. We invite you and other readers to send in openings, closings and corrections. Send to hopspots@celebrator.com. We appreciate your help! — Ed.

June/July 2005
Cask Beer Revival

 
"When the bottom is falling out of your world, drink real ale and the world will be falling out of your bottom." — Old Irish Saying

After a recent visit to Philadelphia, I was astounded at the frequency of "cask" beers served on hand-pump (or occasionally from a firkin keg via gravity). Cask beer, finishing fermentation in the keg and served on its own natural gas at cellar temperature, is not for everyone but is a joy to behold for those familiar with the flavorful genre. In England, Fuller's Brewery in Chiswick is the largest brewery still dedicated to cask beer production and distribution.

In the early ’70s, a nascent CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) was formed in England to preserve and protect this increasingly rare style of beer production. Indeed, cask beer owes its continued existence to both a consumer group that supports its production and a few brewers willing to spend the time and resources to produce this unique beer.

Some cellar-masters (those learned in the care and presentation of cask beer) have become well known, such as Mark Dorber at the White Horse Pub in London. Most, however, labor in obscurity, assessing and presenting casks of beer when they are at their prime and pulling those sadly past it — usually just a few days after tapping. Most cask beer offers a softer mouthfeel (noncarbonated), is not as cold on the palate (cellar temperature) and has a delicate head produced by a "sparkler" on the tip of the hand-pump.

Judy Ashworth, the prescient publican who founded Lyon's Brewery in Dublin, Calif., in the late ’80s, had a separate section in her keg room for cellar-temperature beers such as stouts, barley wines and cask/keg beer served on hand-pump. Obviously ahead of the curve.

In the early ’90s, a beer distributor/evangelist by the name of Ken Vermes insisted I follow him to a pub called Mad Dogs and Englishmen in the remote gold-mining town of Nevada City, Calif. The owner had put one of Ken's beers, Scottish & Newcastle Brown Ale, on a hand-pump, and Ken insisted that I try this new style of service. I had never had a Newkie that tasted that wonderful!

Today's active pub scene increasingly celebrates the wide diversity of beers and brewing styles with multi-taps featuring local and regional brands. Add to this the occasional cask beer or keg beer served at cellar temperature on hand-pump, and our choices increase delightfully. Often, however, publicans will list a beer on the chalkboard as "cask" when it is really keg beer on hand-pump. Hence the phrase "Ask if it's cask" from the CAMRA chaps. At a time when a "conscientious publican" usually refers to someone who cleans his beer lines occasionally, defining the nuances of cask and hand-pump beer is going to be a stretch.

Encourage your local to feature a session beer on cask or hand-pump and savor the flavor. That's what great beer enjoyment and selection are all about, right? And as to those sassy Irishmen who came up with the "real ale" quote at the start of this missive: What else can you expect from folks from a one-beer beer culture?

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Jun/Jul 2005)

Dear Editor:
We visited the San Andreas Brewing in Hollister [California] on Saturday. It's listed as "Closed" in your directory. It's not closed. We had excellent pub fare and brews there and really enjoyed hanging out with the owner and brewmaster, Bill Millar, who plied us with tastes and great stories after everyone else had left.

He's a real good guy and a fine chemist with a very subtle touch in brewing. He pulled us a beautiful lambic ale made with fresh apricots and another, my favorite, a delicate woodruff ale that's also made in Germany. Even brought out a perfect root beer made with pure sarsaparilla according to an old recipe.

Bill and SAB would be a good subject for a feature article in the Celebrator. You may already have done this, but I hope you'll let readers know that the brewpub is still open and doing just fine.

Thanks,
Ken Scudder
Via Email

Dear Ken:
Thanks for the update and your kind review of San Andreas Brewing. We fixed the error in the Hop Spots and are delighted that one of California's legendary brewpubs continues to flourish and that "rumors of its demise are exaggerated," to paraphrase Mark Twain. — Ed.

April/May 2005
America Celebrates Good Beer

 
The San Francisco Bay Area celebrates beer like no other region — with Beerapalooza! Now in its second year, this intensive beer appreciation orgy took place February 12–20 with a variety of events, tastings, dinners and festivals.
The beer story is getting out. During Beerapalooza, the San Francisco Chronicle put beer and cheese on the front page of its much-lauded Wine Page, suggesting to food and wine folks something that most of us have known for quite some time: Beer is better with cheese than wine is.

Also, the Association of Brewers in Boulder, Colo., released data from 2004 stating that America's craft brewers managed to sell 7 percent more beer in 2004, "making craft beer the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. beverage alcohol industry." That includes imports, big-guy beers (industrial light lagers), wine and spirits! People are catching on to "the affordable luxury" — craft beer. Locally or regionally made, with honest natural ingredients, richly flavored and offering a lot of pleasure in a single glass, craft beer is once again the darling of the adult beverage category.

As the industry gathers in April 2005 in Philadelphia, Pa., we are certain that spirits and expectations will be high for the continued growth and appreciation of craft beer.

As we enter our 18th year of publishing the Celebrator Beer News, we have seen timid initial experiment, grassroots expansion, rapid growth, mass-marketing weasels and an industry-wide "hitting of the wall," resulting in a few years of microscopic growth, grandiose failures and involuntary "consolidations." Ah, but as the old saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We definitely are stronger!

The gathering in Philadelphia will be a meeting of visionaries and survivors. Companies founded on good beer will reap the benefits of acceptance by the fickle American consumer. Hanging on to this acceptance will be the challenge of the next 10 years. And, if we are to expand the craft-beer segment — doubling and tripling what we now enjoy — it will be because the message of good beer has been brought to the masses with the same passionate zeal that brought most of us to this beverage of choice many years ago.

This issue of the Celebrator offers a comprehensive review of Beerapalooza 2005, a curious story of a brewers exchange between BJ's in Southern California and Fuller's Brewery in London, more evidence that beer and only beer should be consumed with great cheese, a tour of the most exclusive and reclusive Trappist brewery in Belgium — Westvleteren, an insider's look at the great beer bars of Philadelphia and much more.

You, as a Celebrator reader, benefit from this information first and must pass it along to your less-than-informed friends and colleagues to further the interest of good beer. You are empowered — spread the word.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Apr/May 2005)

Dear Editor:
We have a new puppy in our family, only nine weeks old. While I was working in my office, the puppy was with me sniffing around and chewing on things, as puppies will do. My office has a small area where there are numerous items and publications on the floor.

The puppy had its choice of notebooks, magazines and newspapers to chew on, investigate or, as I quickly learned, pee on. After shouting at the dog for her untimely accident, I looked to see what paper it was she had peed on. I then saw it was none other than Celebrator Beer News. Not only did she pee on your paper, but she peed directly on your face on the editorial page.

I was wondering if this merits further looking into? Golden retrievers are known to be very intelligent dogs, and she chose to pee on your paper. Can you explain this peculiar selection of a publication for a puppy to relieve itself on? I would also like to compliment you on being the most absorbent paper in the business. Absolutely true story!

Thanks,
Jack Babin
Co-Publisher, Ale Street News

Dear Jack:
What's blonde AND intelligent? A golden retriever! And yours has great taste in potty training material. Don't yell at her — praise her for her choice and her aim. I'd rather be pissed on than pissed off. — Ed

Dear Editor:

I just wanted to compliment you on your publication. Last week, a friend and I went out to Lagunitas Brewing Company and then hopped up to Hopland, where we purloined one of your mags. What an eye-opener. I was not aware of all the variety [of beer] in our own backyard.

I'm using your brew map to map out future travels. Perhaps you can post this map on your Web site? I remember when there were fewer than half a dozen pubs in the greater Bay Area. I work on-board the ferryboats on the San Francisco Bay. Perhaps someday I can help you arrange a Booze Cruise. Keep up the good work.

David G. Endom
Concord, Calif.

Dear David:
Booze Cruise? Hummmmm… we like it. And thanks for the kind words. When the Celebrator started in 1988, there were only 20 breweries in the whole state! Things have changed for the better, and you are helping to spread the word. — Ed.

February/March 2005
That Was The Beer Year That Was

 
The "good beer" movement is entering a new phase that we will have to, for lack of a better term, call maturity. Oh dear, not that. How will we ever get the newly minted twenty-somethings to take craft beer seriously? After all, they have never known a time when finding a great, characterful beer was a serious challenge and its own reward.

Today's beer drinkers have the luxury of choice. Possibly even too much choice, according to some. Confused and dismayed by such wonderful variety, many younger drinkers are falling back on convenient, accessible and oh-so-uncomplicated industrial beverages with a perceived urban angst edge. PBR, anyone?

The distant but not forgotten origins of the good-beer movement had their challenges too. Often, young (green), diacetyl-laden, slightly infected, skunky and/or oxidized micro or imported beers were embraced as "characterful," if slightly faulty beverages, but tolerated as objects of affection of beer lovers eager to find anything that aspired to the interesting or the unusual. Call this the brash adolescence of the beer renaissance.

The painful puberty of the early nineties saw a rapid proliferation of brewing around the country, with everyone and one's brother-in-law getting into the act (with their wives or girlfriends as marketing directors!). Gone are the Rhino Chaser, the Wanker and the Bad Frog of a beer lover's nightmare. And not a tear to be shed for them. The new century presents yet a new set of problems for those trying to bring good beer to good-beer drinkers.

Access to market and retail/distributor consolidation present formidable challenges for brewers today. Brewpubs have it a little easier, with customers at the bar giving instant feedback, pro and con. New breweries continue to open in the face of an uncertain marketplace but are having to attain the even higher standards set by veteran brewing operations.

The Celebrator Beer News has been around for most of this brewing revolution - evolution. As we enter our 17th year of publication, the delightful task of finding, visiting, tasting, enjoying and promoting the fruits of the ever-expanding brewing world continue to delight and amaze us. We are deeply indebted to our far-flung corps of peripatetic beer writers for their continually astounding ability to come up with a new angle on what is by now an old story.

Your job, as reader and beer lover, is to spread the word of good beer to young and old alike. Share your great beer finds with friends and family. Be the one at the gathering with the "good stuff." Help us promote the category and proselytize the passion for ales and lagers of distinction. You vote for and contribute to the continuance of the great brewing traditions now flourishing but for so long dormant in this country.

It's truly a good time to be a beer lover. Pass it on.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Feb/Mar 2005)

Dear Editor:
Here is an addition to your "Hop Spots" of the Pacific Northwest. Skye Book and Brew in Dayton, Wash., is a bookstore with a restaurant that has a limited menu. They brew four beers, all of which are available on draft only. Patrons sit at tables, as the only bar is a service bar. Keep up the great job that you are doing. I love your publication!

Sincerely,
Jim Starkman
Pittsford, NY

Dear Jim:
Thanks for the tip and the kind words. We depend on our readers to let us know of new places, changes or closings. Delighted to have a New Yorker telling us about Pacific Northwest brewing. We're sending you a Rolling Boil Blues Band CD for your contribution. Let that be a warning to others who send us useful information. — Ed.

 

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