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EDITORIALS & LETTERS 2007 » BACK TO EDITORIALS & LETTERS INDEX
 
December 2007/January 2008
How Much IS Your Beer Worth?

 
With water still readily, but not steadily, available and yeast posturing for the next pitch, barley malt and hops are becoming more endangered by the hour. Yes, two of the four ingredients in beer are very much in short supply. Given our government's “born again” awareness that energy sources are being depleted and its concomitant endorsement of "alternative" fuels, farmers are turning in droves from barley production to corn and other grains more suitable to the production of ethanol (a process requiring almost as much petroleum in its production as it supposedly replaces).

The cost to produce brewing barley has gone up as much as 38 percent, while in Europe the price of brewing barley is projected to be up as much as 50 percent. (Only about 10 percent of the barley grown in the world is of the quality required for brewing.) The price of hops, essential for craft beer and the increasingly hop-infused styles we love, are reported to be up by 30 percent due to heavy summer rains, decreased production and the desire on the part of the big brewers for high-alpha hops. Growers are turning away from the low-yield and more fragile noble hops that give craft beer its signature aromas and flavor.

A 25 percent fuel-related increase is expected for glass bottle prices. Combine these cost increases with a 12 percent hike in freight-related costs, and it adds up to major beer-price hikes for the remainder of 2007 and for early 2008. Obviously, prices are going up. What's a beer lover to do?

Consider just how inexpensive the best beers in the world are. Wine lovers pay extraordinary sums of money for what the "experts" tell them is the best (and usually the scarcest). Even a mediocre chardonnay goes for $10 or more, whereas some truly great beers can be had for less than that. In the face of scarce brewing resources and increasing prices, the good-beer enthusiast needs to prioritize expenditures and be prepared to allocate more money to the object of his/her passion.

Our brewers are fearful of an uncertain economic future and need to feel the love from supporters who understand the current situation and are willing to step up and pay for the quality and character they demand.

At a time when craft beer sales are surging and beer drinkers are enjoying ever-more-flavorful and assertive beers, there simply is no other option than to pay more for your beer. The survival of the industry may hang in the balance. This is still a great time to be a beer lover, but bargain pricing may be a fond memory for some time to come.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Dec 2007/Jan 2008)

Dear Editor:
Whilst enjoying a fresh local brew and perusing my latest edition of the Celebrator Beer News, I could not help but notice that, for the second time, you featured a smiling, old, large white guy named Dave in a black shirt on the cover. Both Daves run well-thought-of drinking establishments and are, I am sure, more than deserving of the front page tribute. I was wondering if you intended to go for the "full Dave" in the Celebrator's December edition and achieve a "hat trick" by featuring a third publican named Dave?

Ken Hickmott
Burlingame, California

Dear Ken:
All right, get back to work. You know very well what's on the cover. You just designed it. Very funny. Har har. I hope you were off the clock when you sent that e-mail. — Ed.

October/November 2007
Michael Jackson, 1942–2007

 
Michael Jackson, best known as the "Bard of Beer" and the world's leading authority on beer and whisky, died of a heart attack at his home in London in the early morning of August 30. His body was found by his housekeeper in his bathroom. Michael had been suffering from Parkinson's disease complicated by adult diabetes.

Michael was the first journalist to take the subject of beer to an art form. His early work rhapsodized the pub culture found in the great beer bars of England and heralded the existence of the classic beers of the world. These works and the many more that came during his prolific life left an extraordinary legacy. To know beer is to read Michael Jackson.

Michael's relationship with the Celebrator began when founding publishers Bret and Julie Nickels contacted him about the magazine's impending launch in January 1988. His first contribution to the Celebrator was an interview with Bret and his attendance at a beer dinner hosted by Klaus Lange of the Seacliff Café and Vest Pocket Brewery in San Francisco. His was the cover feature for the June/July 1988 issue.

Also in that issue is a picture of Michael attending a beer dinner, surrounded by early beer pioneers from the San Francisco Bay Area including Mark Carpenter, Anchor Brewing; Judy Ashworth, Lyon's Brewery of Dublin; Steve Norris, Home Brew Company; Brendan Moylan, then with an import company; Ken Vermes, Scottish & Newcastle; Ed Chainey, beer distributor; and Celebrator staffers, including Bret and Julie.

Michael's comments on the dinner give insight into his manner and passion for beer:

"It exceeded my expectations of a very special and spectacular meal. The idea of using beer as both an accompaniment and ingredient in food is something I've been trying to promote myself."

We at the Celebrator Beer News are saddened by the loss of such an influential and forceful presence in the good-beer movement. Michael brought a journalist's energy and ethic and a poet's heart to the subject of beer. The good beer story started with Michael Jackson, and his legacy will be inherent in all that is to come from those inspired by his great work. We at the Celebrator and all those who love great beer have lost a friend and champion.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Oct/Nov 2007)

Dear Editor:
It was great running into you at the Anchor booth at the Mammoth Lakes Bluesapalooza last weekend. Congratulations on your 19 years of publishing the best brewspaper in the country! Here's wishing you another 19!

Cheers,
Miles Jordan
Chico, California

Dear Miles:
Thanks for your support. Bluesapalooza was a hoot! Read our story in this issue. Don't forget Beerapalooza coming up February 9–17, 2008; the Double IPA Fest in Hayward; the Barleywine Fest at the Toronado; and the 20th anniversary of the Celebrator on Sunday, February 17. Mark your calendar and don't miss it! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
The amount of great content you guys stuff into that magazine is simply ridiculous. What I also enjoy is that it delves so deeply into the brewing culture and helps familiarize the reader with local brewers, their brews and the people who help make those brews possible. Most magazines just skim the top of the culture; your magazine, in simple terms, is the culture. I owe you some beers next time you get to stop in!

Cheers,
Dave Domrese
The Firkin
Libertyville, Illinois

Dear Dave:
High praise indeed. Our goal is to continue to live up to it… and collect on that pint! — Ed.

August/September 2007
The Peripatetic Beer Traveler

 
If there is a philosophy of beer traveling, it might involve more than study, preparation and packing. The discerning beer traveler is skilled at focusing his limited travel time and budget on the truly worthy and at absorbing as much of the spirit and intangibles of the destination as possible along with its beer. There are many guides to various beer regions, but few offer the insight, knowledge and experience that make them essential to the well-planned beer excursion. It is the instinct for appreciating quality, substance and culture that differentiates the true beer-ophile from the merely thirsty beer tourist.

Has anyone traveled more extensively or written more eloquently on the subject of beer than Michael Jackson? His astounding life work is a resource for any true beer traveler. To read Michael on a particular brewery or location is to be immersed in the history, culture and idiomatic peculiarities of the subject as well as the beer. He has the journalist's eye toward factual reporting, the anthropologist's ability to surmise antecedents, and the poet's ability to make words speak to each other to see what they have to say to one another.

No one man can cover the vast and constantly changing world beer beat, but Michael seems to have taken a pretty good shot at it. Others who have excelled at beer travelogue-ing in the King's English include Tim Webb (especially in the environs of Belgium and Holland), Roger Protz and our own Stephen Beaumont. From them you may expect more than where to stay and what to drink. You will derive pleasure and inspiration absorbing their considered evaluations, and you will have the benefit of their time spent in pursuit of beery perfection.

As this issue was going to press, we learned of the sad passing of a worthy beer traveler who dedicated much of his later life to the pursuit of great beer and beer culture. John White was a fit and energetic 62 when he died of heart failure. His travels are well documented on his website, whitebeertravels.co.uk. Raise your glass and give a smile to his memory.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Aug/Sep 2007)

Dear Editor:
Thank you for the favorable mention of our band in your coverage of the 11th annual Boonville Beer Festival. We love the tag line, "a callous disregard for disciplined performances." And in the swimsuit edition, no less! We added your quote to our Web site, and we'd be glad to open for your band anytime.

Thanks,
Janna Ostoya
Humboldt Firkin Tappers
Humboldt, California

Dear Janna:
You guys rocked the fest! Next time we want to get our Firkin Tapped, we're calling you! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
The Celebrator Beer News is the best brew newspaper in the U.S.A.! I have read every word of every issue since the CBN's birth some 19 years ago. I have watched it evolve into the large, colorful format that now sets the standard for beer publications. I read the entire issue the day I receive it and then spend a lot of time drinking great beer while waiting for the next issue. I am a lifetime subscriber and am happy to pay a little extra for the faster mail delivery. In the April/May 2007 issue, I particularly enjoyed the article titled “Limey's Lupulin Lament.” I also enjoyed immensely the article titled “Kaua'i Revisited.”

However, I am disappointed that you stopped publishing the results of the GABF. I have always counted on the Celebrator to be the place where I can find the GABF results list. Being among the 30 percent of Americans who are not online, I feel that I shouldn't need a computer to get this significant information. Please reconsider your position on the GABF results. Regardless of what you choose, thanks for the great job you and your top-notch staff do!

Catskill Bill
Hurleyville, New York

Dear Bill:
Wow! Thanks for the high praise. Glad you've been following the beer story through the pages of the Celebrator for the whole run. We're coming up on our 20th anniversary. Hope you can join us in the Bay Area for the celebrations. Sorry we had to drop the GABF list. Just write the Brewers Association, 736 Pearl St., Boulder, CO 80302, and they will send you the results. As our new Hurleyville marketing director, what size T-shirt would you like? — Ed.

June/July 2007
Unprecedented Sales Growth For Craft Beers

 
The major theme of this year's Craft Brewers Conference in Austin, Texas, celebrated unprecedented sales growth for craft beers in a stagnant beer market. And, that growth rate is stunning. Consider that overall beer sales are down a percentage point whereas craft beer sales were up some 16 per cent. The large domestic light lager producers (Anheuser Busch, SABMiller, MolsenCoors) have had to swallow declining sales for several years. For industry leader Anheuser Busch, the revenue data for 2005 and 2006 rose just 5% while profits fell some 12%. This does not play well with stockholders or Wall Street.

Scan data from Information Resources Inc., the company that tracks retail supermarket data, indicates craft beer sales are up by a stunning 17.8% for 2006, a better performance than any other alcohol beverage category. With over 1400 breweries producing richly flavored "craft" brewed beer around the country, it should be noted that over three quarters of those sales came from the top 50 craft brewing companies. There is a lifestyle change at work here and people really are choosing "better beer" for their social and recreational imbibing.

“Beer made by small, independent and traditional breweries is definitely an American success story,” states Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association. “People are trading up and that is what is creating such strong demand for craft beer."

The craft beer segment in total now amounts to 6.7 million barrels of wonderful, flavorful, life-enhancing beer per year. Total craft beer industry sales have grown 31.5% over the last 3 years and early 2007 indicators point toward accelerating sales growth.

There is no geographic lock on the production of craft beer but California is home to seven of the top craft breweries. Colorado has five and Oregon and Wisconsin each host four of the top producers. The rest are spread around the country. Good beer is seemingly everywhere.

And you, gentle reader, are the cause of it all. Your casual interest in unusual beers, your curiosity in brewing your own exotic brews, your insistence on quality and flavor, your dogged tenacity in seeking out new breweries, your proselytizing — letting others know of your beery preferences — all serve to raise the good beer bar and enhance the appreciation of the very best that today's brewers have to offer. We hope you are proud of yourself.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Jun/Jul 2007)

Dear Editor:
Congrats on the Celebrator's 19th anniversary. You are the best, and it's easy to see why you have stayed in business for so long. Many, many more prosperous years!

Be of good cheer,
Rich La Susa, brewery historian
Gold Canyon, Arizona

Dear Rich:
Many, many thanks for your support and tips on brewery openings and closings. A Celebrator tie-dyed T-shirt is in the mail to you. Tie-dye is great for not showing beer spills. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Here is the business card for Rabbit's Foot Meadery in Sunnyvale, which is also Red Branch Cider Company and a brewery (no name). The Belgian-style golden ale was 8% abv, with honey substituted for half the candi sugar. It was named the Gaelic word for Devil. The owner lived in Ireland for a few years.

Tim White
Hayward, California

Dear Tim:
Thanks for the tip. We'll make the changes in our Hop Spots. We have a T-shirt with your name on it. Actually, the Celebrator's name is on it, but you know what we mean. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Keep my Beer News magazine a’comin’. Next to Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition, yours is the best! I forgot — did you talk about beer that month? Hmm, maybe I need to get out more often. You guys are the best.

Thanks,
Perry Lang
Valley Village, California

Dear Perry:
No, YOU are the best. And we held your letter to put it in our annual Swimsuit Edition. Hope you enjoy. And be sure to look at the beer news too! — Ed.

April/May 2007
Are National Media Prejudiced Against Beer?

 
CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported recently on a new pill to treat alcoholism. Out of 20 clips of alcoholic beverages used to illustrate the piece, 15 were of beer and five pictured hard liquor. None showed wine being consumed. May we assume from this report that only beer and hard liquor — two-thirds to one-third — contribute to alcoholism, and wine not at all? Hardly. Wine, as the sacrosanct beverage of the privileged classes, seems to be above consideration or inclusion by mass media as contributing to our nation’s alcohol problems. It can’t be the advertising dollars, as beer ads outspend those of wine by a huge margin.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg uncorked a feud recently when he endorsed wine drinking while listening to music in the park yet banned beer consumption at a Brooklyn beach fundraiser for 9/11 victims. The city’s open-container law bans alcohol in parks and beaches — subject, of course, to the wine-loving mayor’s whims. The press had a field day with headlines like “Beer Bums vs. Wine Snobs” and “Class debate about beer-wine rules ferments.”

Recently, Oregon’s state liquor authority, the OLCC, ruled that the Oregon Brewers Festival, soon to celebrate its 20th anniversary as a family-friendly event, would no longer be allowed to have anyone under 21 on site during the event. Naturally, the OLCC still allows persons under 21 to accompany parents to the state’s many wine-tasting events.

This outrageous discrimination against beer drinkers needs to be addressed at every level! Start with your local media: Write letters to the editor or call radio and TV stations to object to such liquid abuse of the equal protections of the law guaranteed by our Constitution. Call or write your legislators and let them know what you think of the absurd dual-standard treatment beer enthusiasts are getting.

Beer has half the alcohol of wine and much less than spirits. It is, in moderation, known to provide many life- and health-enhancing contributions — perhaps more so than wine, according to recent medical research. “The wine people have made a very impressive marketing ploy. I think it’s a snow job,” says Dr. Norman Kaplan, a hypertension specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Most people are convinced if you are going to get any benefit, it’s going to be from red wine.”

Beer drinkers need to be as proactive and vigilant as wine drinkers in getting the “good beer” message to the media and before the public. Beer drinkers need not, and should not, settle for less.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Apr/May 2007)

Dear Editor:
We enjoy the Celebrator and are always looking forward to the next issue. We carry the "Hop Spots" guide religiously in our travels. Your contributing writers are entertaining and informative. We both love the inventive advertising. Hard work and creativity show in the published results.

Cheers,
Wendy and Charlie Tvrdik
Vacaville, California

Dear Wendy and Charlie:
OK, you got the job. You are our new PR directors. Congratulations! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Besides my toothbrush, I always have a copy of the latest issue of the Celebrator when I travel around the U.S. It is a great resource to find great beer in Any City, USA. Not every pub, brewpub, etc., is listed, but that is when you hoist a pint or two with the locals to see where other great beer can be found in the area. Case in point: Recently, my travels took me to Columbus, Ohio. There were no listings in my Celebrator. However, I did find two great brewpubs in Columbus: Columbus Brewing Company and the Elevator Brewing Company.

On a bummer note, I found this out a couple of weeks ago when I was in our nation's capital: the John Harvard's Brew House in Washington, D.C., is closed, with the brewing equipment making its way to Missouri. Keep up the great work, and I will keep looking for great beer!

Cheers,
Matt Simanski
Irvine, California

Dear Matt:
Thanks for the kind words. We can't possibly list every good beer location in the country, but we do try to list all breweries and brewpubs in the western U.S. and all good beer places that carry the Celebrator. Thanks for the new additions. We'll try to get them in our pages. — Ed.

February/March 2007
That Was The Beer Year That Was

 
Craft beer is the fastest-growing segment of the beverage alcohol industry in the U.S. According to the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo., whose job it is to track such things, the “good beer” segment of the alcoholic beverage pie grew by 11 percent in the first half of 2006, and all indications are that it will top that when the stats for the year are announced. Are we returning to the heady days of the early ’90s with 40–50 percent growth per year? Not likely. What is impressive is that the current growth is, ahem, sustainable, and it is equally unlikely that we will face another precipitous crash like we did in ’96–97, when profit-seekers abandoned the industry and ill-considered ventures foundered.

Craft-beer growth as a percentage has exceeded that of imports for two years straight. The large brewers are now quite active in the import and craft segments, looking for brands and properties that will contribute to their growth and stockholders’ equity. Anheuser-Busch has been the most active, as one would expect of the country’s largest brewing enterprise, with new “craft-style” beers and new extensions for its legacy brands. A-B’s extensive network of distributors, numbering some 600 around the country, were once limited to A-B’s in-house brands (if they wanted to maintain best relations with the brewing giant).

Now the brewer is providing a cornucopia of brands and imports, with new acquisitions and distribution deals being announced at a frightening rate. Toward the end of 2006, A-B announced a distribution deal with InBev that included brands such as Stella Artois, Bass, Hoegaarden, Beck’s, Leffe and many others. Just recently, the brewing giant shocked the beer world by seemingly putting its longtime trademark dispute on the back burner and agreeing to distribute Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar’s (Budweiser Budvar) Czechvar Premium Czech lager in the U.S.

As America’s beer tastes continue to change, as our awareness of health and sobriety issues mediate our beverage choices, craft beer’s allure as the better beer choice is manifested in our purchases. Continued long-term research suggests that moderate drinking can lower the risk of a fatal heart attack by 30 percent or more. Those of us already familiar with the flavor rewards of great beer are sharing this information with friends and family, contributing to an ever-expanding universe of good beer choices and good beer drinkers. Indeed, 2007 should be a great year for great beer.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Feb/Mar 2007)

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for all the good Celebrator issues you sent me. The magazine is great and a good help for my next vacation in the U.S.

All the best,
Horst Wasdenmeier
Remshalden, Germany

Dear Horst:
Thank you for your appreciation of great beer and your subscription support of the Celebrator. Perhaps we'll meet on the beer trail, hopefully in Germany! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I read a letter from Mr. Eric Wilderson in the December 2006 issue of the Celebrator. He mentioned Sequoia Brewing's new pub and his concern that he can't find the Celebrator there. In your response, you said Fresno is removed from the good beer scene. We take offense! Full Circle Brewing Co. has been giving complementary issues of the Celebrator away to our patrons for a few years now. We have had a great response to our brewing efforts.

Thanks and best wishes,
Don Anderson
Full Circle Brewing Company Ltd.

Dear Don:
No offense intended. Glad to hear you guys are doing the good work in the Fresno area. Wouldn't want to be a Full Circle jerk. Thanks for bringing our attention to the good beer happenings in the Central Valley. — Ed.

Dear Celebrator:
Keep my Beer News magazine a’comin’. Next to Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition, yours is the best. I forgot, did you talk about beer that month? Hmmm, maybe I need to get out more often. You guys are the best.

Thanks,
Perry Lang
Valley Village, California

Dear Perry:
Be sure to check out our next swimsuit feature in the June 2007 issue. And we promise to include some beer references, too! — Ed.

 

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