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EDITORIALS & LETTERS 2009 » BACK TO EDITORIALS & LETTERS INDEX
 
December 2009/January 2010
'Tis the Season!

 
Over 40 percent of all alcoholic beverage sales take place in the months of November and December. Colder, damper weather invites warming elixirs, and the holidays are a natural time for welcoming beverages of all sorts. This is a spectacular time for beer lovers as the brewers step up to provide highly flavored and curiously inventive winter beers of all descriptions.

American brewers have taken the great traditions of Europe’s finest breweries and, in their usual fashion, have done remarkable jazz riffs on styles, processes and ingredients. The results are often spectacular and every so often, well, challenging. But if the brewer likes something, there is a good chance that there will be a following for just about every new expression of the brewer’s art and ingenuity.

In this issue, don’t miss the results and write-ups of our annual Blind Panel Tasting of winter and holiday beers. Be sure to have a good selection on hand for guests and, just as important, your own enjoyment. Beer is still the affordable luxury, so indulge yourself and share the experience with friends. ’Tis the season, ya know.

Heavy Medal at GABF

The 2009 Great American Beer Festival was the biggest yet. The hall was expanded to present even more great beer from America’s brewing community. This issue features regional reports of industry recognition from some of the world’s top beer judges. Most interesting are the various reporters’ background essays on the beers and the brewers who made them. Congratulations to all those who won medals at America’s most prestigious beer competition.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (December 2009/January 2010)

Dear Editor:
I have been a loyal subscriber to the Celebrator for several years and just wanted to pass along a highly recommended beer app for the iPhone: Beer Master. It was previously a software tool for the Palm system; I have used it religiously to catalog and rate my tasting notes (currently a bit over 2,200) and have now updated it for the Apple products. (Full disclosure: I was a volunteer beta tester for the iPhone version but do not make a cent off of the sale of the product and do not even know the name of the designer.)

Anyway, feel free to check it out and, if you like it, pass along the news to your readers who might also appreciate such a product. Looking forward to many more years of enjoying your newspaper.

Bruce Wollman
Rockville, Md.

Dear Bruce:
Most beer geeks are gear-heads and will love the concept of this new app. Thanks for passing it along, and thanks for your support of good beer! — Ed.

October/November 2009
A Thousand Pints of Lite

 
Our young and assertively articulate President got himself into quite a brew-ha-ha when he jumped to the defense of his friend Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Harvard professor who was caught trying to break into his own house by Cambridge, Mass., Police Sgt. James Crowley. The professor was black and objected strongly to the police response; the police sergeant was white and arrested him for disorderly conduct. Our usually restrained and tactful President said the police “acted stupidly.” Oops. Given the slow news cycle at the time, the press had a field day with that comment. The result? President Obama offered to host the fractious parties at the White House over a beer. Sound simple enough so far? You don’t know Washington. Or the press corps on a slow news day.

The idea of having people over for a conciliatory beer is a great idea (opposed only by the temperance ladies, MADD and a few other antialcohol malcontents). In most similar situations, the host would provide the beer. How many times have you had friends over and done the same? In Rahm Emanuel’s White House, things got complicated. Staffers asked the participants what beer they would like. Things started to get ugly. Suddenly it was about how cool/appropriate/politically correct your choice in beer could be, rather than simply what you’d like to drink. It was a major chumming of the waters for a media feeding frenzy.

The professor first asked for a Red Stripe lager from Jamaica (ya, mon!). The sergeant requested Blue Moon (a white beer? Really?). Our President bowed to his populist roots by first requesting a Budweiser and then, no doubt after a focus group session, switched to a Bud Light. Then came the nationalistic outrage that all three beers were foreign-owned: British, South African/Canadian and Belgian/Brazilian, respectively. Some conciliatory beer, eh?

A Boston area congressman “convinced” the professor to switch to a more patriotic Samuel Adams Light (made by the Boston Beer Company). Vice President Joe Biden joined the fray (and mudded the mash) by requesting a Buckler nonalcoholic beer (from the Netherlands). Biden is off the sauce, so to speak. The press was having a great time with all of this.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza solicited suggestions for a name for the gathering, as “The Beer Summit” wasn’t really a summit. The results: “Yes, Three Cans,” “Ménage à Stella Artois,” “Beerastroika,” “A Thousand Points of Bud Light” and “The Audacity of Hops” floated to the top.

Helpful beer geeks stepped in with domestic craft beer suggestions such as San Quentin’s Breakout Stout from Marin Brewing, Instigator Doppelbock from Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox, Ale to the Chief from Colorado’s Avery Brewing, and the quintessential Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewing. Now we’re talking, er, drinking! Obama was hoping for a “teachable moment” on improving relations between police and minority communities. We could have had a teachable moment on craft beer creativity too.

It was over almost as quickly as it had started. Beer was in the Bud Lime-light for a short time. What we learned perhaps is that beer IS a social lubricant … but leave the choice to the host and focus on the conversation. As the great beery philosopher Don Younger once observed, “It’s not about the beer. It’s about the beer!”

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (October/November 2009)

Dear Editor:
Thanks so much for sending the current copy of the Celebrator to us! We used your listing of brewpubs extensively last month. We traveled from Tucson, Ariz., to Park City, Utah (we do it every year!), and we used your listings in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado as a guide.

We started at High Desert in Las Cruces and kept on going. We met the best people, ate the best food and, of course, enjoyed all the different brews. We imbibed in Albuquerque, Taos, Colorado Springs, Denver and Steamboat Springs. We will definitely use your guide again and are looking forward to trying several new brewpubs in Las Vegas. Thanks again!

Nancy Kelly
Tucson, Ariz.

Hey Now,
By now, everyone has heard about the “Beer Summit” hosted by President Obama in the White House Rose Garden. I expect that most Celebrator readers found the choice of brews to be somewhat disappointing.

With this in mind, I would like to suggest some great San Francisco Bay Area craft beers in the event they should choose to meet again. President Obama would do well to chose a beer that fits his stature; a Speakeasy Big Daddy seems appropriate. Police Officer Crowley should proudly raise a Russian River Blind Pig (no explanation necessary). Then there’s good ol’ Professor Gates. Seems obvious to me that a Stone Arrogant Bastard would fit the bill nicely.

Jim Safer
Hayward, Calif.

August/September 2009
Shed a Tear for the Three-Tier System?

 
The three-tier system (brewing’s distinction between production, distribution and retail) in America is both sacred and profane. A product of post-Prohibition government unease about breweries being able to produce and distribute their own products and sell them at retail, the three-tier system has been a fundamental guard against market monopoly and the excesses of organized crime rampant in early American alcohol production and not uncommon in some other Western countries as well. But, like post-Depression banking regulation, things change with time and circumstance. Wealthy brewers with well-funded lobbyists can and do change the way the laws governing how business is done are enforced — ultimately to their financial benefit.

Over the years, some brewers have bought distributors for better control of their products. Anheuser-Busch owns some 7 percent of its distributors, while MillerCoors also has ownership in some of its distribution system. Some retailers, most famously Costco in Washington state, have moved to buy directly from producers, skipping that pesky distributor slice of the pie in order to pocket a bigger chunk of profit on sale, and they have sued to make it happen. Some distributors have taken to contract-brewing their own products to get a bigger share of profits.

Craft brewers have major access to market issues that the Big Two don’t have. Brands are bought and sold, and in some cases dropped, when distributor consolidation results in little competition in a given market. They are not big enough to command the interest of huge distributors and lack the resources or legal ability (in some states) to self-distribute, and they are far too small to consider buying a distributor.

Recent news reports suggest that the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI), may seek to control as much as 50 percent of its distribution through increased ownership of U.S. wholesalers. This was based on a series of meetings between UBS analysts and ABI Chief Executive Carlos Brito, according to Modern Brewery Age. It will be interesting to see if the highly leveraged brewing entity will have the capital to take on such an expensive expansion and whether the current administration will have any desire to confront the world’s largest brewery with statutory and monopolistic antitrust issues. Meanwhile, shed a tear for the three-tier system as we know it. And support your local breweries. They will need it.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (August/September 2009)

Dear Editor:
A few years ago, I bumped into you at the Stumptown Cafe in downtown Portland. I was curious if you would be making it that way again in the near future. Secondly, I wanted to ask if you are interested in my continued onslaught into the foray of beer writing (aka blogging, scribing, etc.) with the reintroduction of my website, the Northwest Beer Guide. I have included a comprehensive calendar for Oregon Craft Beer Month.

Cheers,
Paul “Fruit Trees” Orchard
Northwest Beer Guide (aka The Pickled Liver)

Dear Paul:
Great to hear from you. Yes, you will be added to our growing list of beer bloggers at celebrator.com. Thanks for all you do to support the good-beer movement. I will miss OBF this year but hope to be back in Portland or Seattle soon. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Last year you ran a photo taken by Brook Ostrom at Sudwerk in Davis of Jay Prahl (Sudwerk), Roland Bittl (visiting brewmaster from Augustiner in Munich) and me. Is it possible to get a copy of the issue, or at least of the photo with the caption? Herr Bittl has requested a copy.

Thanks,
Scott Ungermann
Brewmaster, Fairfield Brewery
Anheuser-Busch

Dear Scott:
Yes indeed, we’ll send copies to Herr Bittl and to you straightaway. I pass the Fairfield Brewery about once a week on my way to Nevada City. Hope to visit soon. (Readers can get back issues of the Celebrator for $5 each. Just let us know what issues you need.) — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Thank you for putting your heart into a truly great publication. My wife and I appreciate the Celebrator being available in all of our favorite Bay Area beer digs! However, on a recent trip to our hometown of Columbus, Ohio, we realized your beer rag was not available at the Barley’s Smokehouse there. Does anyone cover Ohio for the Celebrator? Would you be interested in our taking samples of the Celebrator into some of the local brewpubs and homebrew supply stores that may not carry it?

Cheers!
Christopher Evans
Via e-mail

Dear Christopher:
Thanks for the kind words. Yes, we’d love to get the Celebrator around to more good-beer places. I’d be delighted to hook you (and other interested readers) up with copies to spread around in hopes of getting more coverage. We give establishments a free listing in our Hop Spots directory if they pay the shipping costs. — Ed.

June/July 2009
It's the Beer Economy, Stupid!

 
A recent economic impact study suggests that America’s beer industry (brewers, beer importers, beer distributors, brewer suppliers and retailers) directly and indirectly contribute more than $198 billion annually to the U.S. economy. With money like that, you could bail out a couple of banks! The study (commissioned by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association) also documents some 1.9 million jobs related to beer and brewing, generating nearly $62 billion in wages and benefits. The beer industry also paid some $41 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes in 2008. Good citizens, good business.

We see this significant monetary marker as testament to Americans’ appreciation of, and dedication to, beer and brewing. City, state and federal governments see it as fertile grounds for additional revenue to plug the ever-widening budget holes created by financial greed, bureaucratic ineptitude and lack of administrative foresight. They are, and will continue to be, plundering any potential new revenue sources to shore up the faltering tax base that is essentially of their making. This directly affects you, the good-beer consumer.

Although craft beer is a small sliver of the whole beer pie, our nearly 4 percent slice represents nearly $8 billion, according to the above-cited data. Craft brewers must be rich! Right? This seemingly large sum of money does, however, represent the sweat and blood, dreams and equity of nearly 1,500 small beer producers and related businesses in America. If even this relatively small amount were bloated excess profits (hello, Chevron; hello, Exxon), we might say “Pay up!” But it really represents a lot of small businesses struggling for survival in historically bad economic times. Our government’s insistence on squeezing every last “nickel a drink” from this industry is sure to kill it. And then what? No more good beer?

With summer upon us and good beer-drinking weather ahead, we hate to think about such unpleasantness. Meanwhile, your city, state and federal representatives are trying to wring every last penny from your pint. As politicians, they instinctively respond to pressure from interest groups. Good beer drinkers, unite! Let your local, state and federal reps hear YOUR voice about YOUR interests. The beer you save may be your own.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (June/July 2009)

Dear Editor:
I just read your review of Around Bruges in 80 Beers, and I’m interested in getting a copy. We’re planning a beer tour of Belgium for early next year, and this book sounds like a great way to plan for Bruges. Trouble is, I can’t find a copy available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble or even through the CAMRA website. Any tips on where I might pick up a copy?

Thanks,
Chris DeSoto
Martinez, Calif.

Dear Chris:
Glad you got your copy (as we suggested) through the publisher, Cogan & Mater (producers of fine-quality Belgian beer publishing). Others can check out the website at booksaboutbeer.com. And tell Tim Webb we said hey! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I like your April–May cover because it is not monopolized by old farts. Maybe I am getting a bit self-conscious about this (I turned 60 on March 16), but it seemed for a while there that the Celebrator’s nice color cover was reserved for men over 60. It is great that craft brewers seem to eschew Just for Men, but all that silver (I prefer silver to gray) sends the wrong message about the face of craft beer. I hope you will make an effort to more prominently showcase the younger generation that clearly is turned on to craft beer, as shown on page 3.

Cheers,
Steve Hindy
Brooklyn Brewery

Dear Steve:
Momentary lapse of young people. Yes, we did have a string of older (shall we say “properly aged”?) beer industry veterans. Please ask Donald Trump to send Miss California over for a cover shoot. That should correct the situation. We won’t ask her about same-sex brewers. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Are the Hop Spots directories somewhere on your website? I can't seem to find them. If not, I'd like to suggest that they be added. I like your magazine, but once I've read an issue I'd like to be able to toss it. I hoard too much as it is.

Thanks,
Francis Robert
Via e-mail

Dear Francis:
Google “beer maps” and see what you get. With the beermapping.com project and others out there, you have an awesome Web opportunity to find beer spots. Be sure to pass your old copies of the Celebrator along to deserving newbies. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I felt sorry for you guys during this recession, so I decided to get a two-year subscription. I paid via PayPal today. Do I get a signed copy? Just kidding. Can't wait for the first issue to arrive. See you at the next Bay Area beer dinner.

Regards,
Ron Corselli
Antioch, Calif.

Dear Ron:
Your signed copy is in the mail. And we at the Celebrator can now afford one more lunch. Thanks for thinking of us. What’s for dinner? — Ed.

April/May 2009
It's the Beer Economy, Stupid!

 
Wall Street is in shambles, banks are on life support, bankers have surpassed even lawyers and used-car salesmen as the most despised professionals in America. Credit is the new dust bowl, and the housing market is a disaster. Discretionary spending is indiscreet with China and Saudi Arabia holding our debt notes. What’s a beer lover to do?

Good beer (craft beer) sales continue to climb in the face of challenging economic times. Brewpubs report declining food tickets, but beer sales remain strong. Pubs and restaurants continue to see growth in craft beer sales. Some microbreweries struggle with difficult distribution issues, but many cite record sales. Is good beer really recession-proof? Is the mantra of beer as the “affordable luxury” really true? We think so.

Members of our “back to basics” society are increasingly reestablishing contact with each other in pubs and alehouses, brewpubs and restaurants, or at home over a good beer. A recent New York Times article focused on pubs that eschew TV screens in favor of convivial conversation and real social interaction. The “greening of America” is manifested in the trend toward organic foods and beverages and sustainable agricultural practices. There is every indication that the future will be toasted with quality craft beer. Buy a stranger a good beer and spread the love.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

This may be the last issue of the Celebrator Beer News published at our world headquarters in Hayward, Calif. The Sierra foothills historic mining town of Nevada City is the new location for the Celebrator. The transition should be painless, as your publisher is living in both places. Watch our masthead and website for address change announcements.

The Sierra foothills are chock-a-block with good-beer venues and knowledgeable beer fans as well. This year’s Anchor Brewing Company Homebrew Club of the Year hails from Placerville, in the heart of the historic mining region. Readers can always reach us on the Internet or via U.S. Mail at P.O. Box 844, Nevada City, CA 95959. Yes, the zip code is a palindrome. Things are looking up.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (April/May 2009)

Dear Editor:
Regarding Hop Spots, I have an addition: Mehana Brewing, a microbrewery in Hilo, Hawaii. With so many great breweries to keep track of, it's understandable that one might get overlooked. That's what we legions of beer fans are for, right? Thanks for your efforts publishing an informative and entertaining magazine…

Cheers,
Art Milburn
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Dear Art:
D’oh! How could we have missed that? We did a story on them years ago. We’ll get that fixed, and thanks for checking up on us. — Ed.

On the passing of beer columnist, Bill Brand

I was really sad to hear of William Brand’s death. Carol and I sat at the same table with him at last year’s beer and cheese tasting at Rogue Ales in San Francisco. He was a quiet, gentle man whose vast knowledge of beer was apparent.

John Rowling
Victoria, B.C.

I never met Bill, but I read many of his columns, and I exchanged e-mails about Belgian beer–related things with him as recently as a few weeks ago. He seemed like a very congenial guy and a real promoter of good beer.

Chuck Cook
Baltimore, Md.

Bill Brand was the kind of guy you never forgot. He reminded me of a character actor in a movie — an energetic, wiry man with a lean crop of gray hair and a mustache that sat like a brush across his upper lip. I imagined he was the original Inspector Clouseau, the bumbling investigator who always got it right despite the chaos that surrounded him. As a fellow beer journalist, I checked on him often, reading his perspective on the beer world in “What’s on Tap” and occasionally checking out his “Bottoms Up” beer blog. He would have been surprised to know of the mentoring role he played in my life.

Carolyn Smagalski
Philadelphia, Pa.

February/March 2009
Twenty-One Years and Counting...

 
With this issue, the Celebrator Beer News turns 21. We’re now old enough to drink the fine beverages we’ve been writing about all these years. And how odd it is that there is even a government-mandated legal drinking age of 21 throughout the country. Remember when states could determine the appropriate age for legally buying and consuming beer, our beverage of moderation? The federal government, using threats of withdrawing highway construction money, coerced noncompliant states to bring the legal drinking age up to 21. Change is in the air, and we may soon see a revision in this policy. Your now-21-year-old beer rag will continue to editorialize (see CBN, October/November 2008) and to push for open dialogue on this subject in the coming years.

With this issue we welcome our Toronto-based Associate Editor Stephen Beaumont to the Century Club — writers who have written over 100 columns for the Celebrator, like Associate Editor Don Erickson. Steve has carved out a niche in drinks writing, bringing his considerable knowledge and experience to the gustatory relationship of beer, wine and spirits to food and ambiance. Check out this issue’s installment of “Beaumont’s Journal” as Steve takes a look back and tries to give some perspective to his lengthy trek through the beer scene.

This issue also includes coverage of San Francisco Beer Week — a weeklong series of events, tastings, dinners and much more — celebrating craft beer in the San Francisco Bay Area. You will want to be involved! Be sure to check out SFBeerWeek.org frequently for the latest beery activities in America’s Original Craft Beer City.

There will be many changes ahead for the Celebrator in the coming years. Advertising, the lifeblood of publications such as ours, continues to be challenging. You may notice the absence of some longtime advertisers. Times are indeed tough, and budgets continue to be tightened. We are, of course, honored and delighted with the number of continuing advertisers supporting our editorial efforts. We sincerely hope that you, our knowledgeable and passionate craft beer drinker, will continue to support those who support us. Onward to a new era of great beer journalism and hopefully another 21 years of coverage of the craft beer scene.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (February/March 2009)

Dear Editor:
I have an addition to your Hop Spots: Mehana Brewing Company in Hilo, Hawaii. With so many great breweries to keep track of, it’s understandable that one might get overlooked. That’s what we legions of beer fans are for, right? I always grab some Mehana Mauna Kea Pale Ale when I’m in Hilo. Thanks for your efforts publishing an informative and entertaining magazine… and for your blazing-fast response!

Cheers,
Art Milburn
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Dear Art:
I’ve been to Mehana several times and didn’t know it was missing from the CBN Hop Spots. Thanks for setting us straight. I wrote the section on Hawaii for the CAMRA Good Beer Guide to West Coast U.S.A. and did manage to get Mehana included. Duh! — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I am a new reader (my son gave me a subscription AND a membership to AHA for our "virgin" trip to the GABF this year!), and I read the article by Tomm Carroll on the Verdugo bar in L.A. I would like to submit a request from my son, who lives in L.A. He frequents a place called "Good" in Silver Lake, just down the road from his apartment. Dozens of international, local and regional beers are available there with knowledgeable waitstaff. I don’t think Tomm will be disappointed.

Thomas Ryan
(Via e-mail)

Dear Thomas:
Thanks for the tip. We’ll have Tomm check it out. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
Thanks for the address change. Not too often do you get a reply from the publisher. I’ve been reading the Celebrator for a long time. I found it way back in 1993 when, as a college student at Southern Oregon State College in Ashland, I stumbled into the tiny original Rogue brewery. That brewery and your magazine changed my beer-drinking habits forever. Thanks for the excellent publication.

Adam Duerfeldt
Camas, Wash.

Dear Adam:
We are really small and family-run, so no worries. Hope you have discovered Rogue Ales Issaquah Brewhouse in your adopted state of Washington. — Ed.

Dear Editor:
My beer-drinking friends and I really miss the Openings and Closings section in the back of the Celebrator or, as we call it, the “Beer-a-lator.” This handy guide used to keep us up-to-date on the comings and goings of breweries.

Also, Wunder Brewing closed six months ago.

Cheers,
James Jarvis
San Francisco, Calif.

Dear James:
In the “golden era” of brewing, with new breweries opening literally every week, the Openings and Closings section was pretty handy. As things settled down in the new century, such information became less important to most readers.

Thanks for the correction! We depend on our readers for closings, as no one notifies you when they leave town. With literally thousands of entries in the Hop Spots, you can see how difficult it is to keep the list accurate. What size shirt do you wear? — Ed.

Dear Editor:
I can’t believe it’s time to renew my subscription again. I used to be upset paying for your fine magazine when I could pick it up for free at my local beer-pouring/spilling establishment. Then one day while paying my tab, I realized, “This cost more than a year’s subscription!” You guys are the best. Keep it coming and keep up the great work.

Sincerely,
Perry Lang
Valley Village, Calif.

 

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