5 surprisingly healthy beers

Stock your six-pack with these drinks for a side of health benefits with your buzz.

WHILE MANY WOULDN’T equate beer with a healthy diet, it’s been said that a few brews per serving/outing isn’t the worst thing for you—as long as they’re light beers, and hence, low in calories and carbs.

The problem, of course, is that most “light” beers tend to be “light” in flavor and therefore your enjoyment. Which begs the question: What’s the point of drinking two beers if they taste like watered-down crap? So here’s a list of beers—sans the “light label”—that are either surprisingly low in cals and carbs, or provide a nutritional/health kick that few know about. And as always, fellas, enjoy responsibly. Even a “healthy” beer has calories.

Beer Myths Debunked

Wade through the confusion and you’ll earn more enjoyment from each sip

MYTH #1: Beer is best served as cold as possible
FACT: Flavor emerges with a bit of warmth
 

We’ve been duped by the Big Beer’s ad campaigns. Consider the ice-frosted mugs, ubiquitous use of the phrase “ice cold,” or—perhaps most obnoxious—Coors Light’s “cold-activated” bottles and cans. (When the beer is cold enough, the mountains on the label “activate” by morphing from white to blue.) Fellas, this is ruining otherwise good beer.

“You lose aromatics when you serve beer too cold,” says Dave Engbers, co-owner of Founders Brewing Co., adding that beer is best consumed between 46 and 50°F.

“Typically beer is dispensed from the draft line between 38 and 42 degrees,” he says. “So just cup the glass for a couple minutes with your hands and you’ll warm it to the right temperature.”

Then you’ll actually taste beer—not the taste-bud numbing effect of near-frozen liquid.

MYTH #2: Bottled beer is better than canned beer
FACT: Nothing maintains freshness as well as a can

There are two primary concerns with storing beer in bottles: oxygen and light. “Bottles aren’t perfect,” says Charles Bamforth, Ph.D., author and professor of malting and brewing sciences at The University of California-Davis. “With time, oxygen coming in under the cap will make your beer taste like cardboard, and light coming in through the glass will turn it skunky.”

The worst bottles are those with clear glass (like Corona’s) and twist-off caps (like nearly every mass-market American lager). “Sealed aluminum is just better at keeping out oxygen and light,” he says.

Don’t like the feel of the can? Fine—just pour the brew into a glass. That’s the best way to consume good beer anyway.

MYTH #3: Draft beer is better than bottled beer
FACT: It depends on the bar

With properly maintained draft lines, beer from the tap is the freshest you can get. But not all bars keep their lined maintained, which can leave your pint polluted with unwelcome microbes.

“A draft system is not a sterile situation,” says Dave Glor, German-trained brewer and field-quality analyst for New Belgium. Bacteria like pediococcus and lactobacillus produce diecetyl, which makes it taste like somebody shot movie-theater popcorn butter into your beer. And you know that vinegar-like aroma you sometimes smell in dive bars? “That’s acetobacter,” says Glor. “You smell it because it grows on dirty bar mats, but it can grow in dirty tap faucets, too.” And when it does, it spills into your cup and makes your beer taste too acidic.

The lesson here: If you don’t trust the bar—or if you have reason to suspect that it doesn’t maintain its draft lines—order a bottle or can. That will keep you from drinking an orgy of beer-loving bacteria.

MYTH #4: Ales are darker than lagers
FACT: Ales can be pale, and lagers can be dark

 The big American lagers like Bud Light and its ilk tend to be pale and watery, but that’s not the case with all lagers, says Oliver. “Until recently, dark lagers accounted for the majority of beer sold in places like Bavaria.”

No, “dark lager” is not an oxymoron. The difference between lagers and ales is a difference of yeast. Lagers rely on bottom-fermenting yeast that thrive in cold temperatures, and they work slowly and produce clean, sharp beers. Ale yeast works in warmer temperatures from the top of the fermentation tank and produces esters responsible for robust, fruity, and complex flavors.

Color has nothing to do with yeast. it comes from the color of the malt. Dark malt makes dark beers and pale malt makes pale beers. So to make a dark lager, a brewer simply pairs dark malt with a lager yeast. It’s that simple. That’s precisely the process that German brewers use to produce dunkels, double bocks, and schwarzbiers. These brews are capable of delivering the deep coffee and chocolate notes of an Irish stout, but they come bound in the refreshing crispness of a lagered beer.

MYTH #5: Dark beers have more alcohol than light beers
FACT: Again—no correlation

What’s the darkest beer regularly sold in the US? Guinness Draught. And how much Alcohol does it have? Just 4.2 percent. “Even Budweiser is stronger than Guinness,” says Oliver. “But because Guinness is black, most people think that it’s a very strong beer.” The truth is color provides no clue about bitterness or alcohol content.

MYTH #6: Wine is the healthiest libation
FACT: Wine is likely no healthier than beer

When people talk about the healthy component of wine, they’re talking primarily about a polyphenol called resveretrol.

“Resveretrol is grossly overplayed as a health story,” says Bamforth, who wrote the book Beer: Health and Nutrition. “Compare wine and beer and you find that beer’s polyphenols are every bit as potent as wine’s.”

 To back this argument, Bamforth ran beer and wine through a battery of antioxidant tests, and beer displayed some surprising benefits. In the test that looked specifically at the antioxidants that stimulate fat oxidation, beer actually outperformed wine. Take that, wine snobs.

MYTH #7: Beer causes a beer belly
FACT: Moderate beer consumption poses no serious threat to your belly

It seems that whoever coined the phrase “beer belly” had a vendetta against beer. “Excess calories from beer are no more likely to contribute to weight gain than excess calories from anything else,” says Christian Finn, MS, CSCS.

In a 2011 review of 31 studies, researchers concluded that only binge drinking was associated with weight gain. Moderate alcohol use appeared benign, and some studies even found that moderate drinkers were thinner on average, regardless of preferred beverage.

Still worried about beer’s carbohydrates? Fine, but worry with perspective: A typical 12-ounce beer has a carb load similar to a glass of wine—roughly 10-to-20 grams—and according to a 2009 study, it also contains roughly 2.5 grams of barley-derived fiber. That puts beer on par with a slice of whole-wheat bread. In the world of vices, that’s pretty tame.

MYTH #8: If you buy beer warm, you should store it warm until you’re ready to drink it
FACT: The less time beer spends warm, the better

Oxidation, the slow reaction between oxygen and beer, is the biggest enemy of hop-fresh flavor, and the attack begins the moment the beer leaves the brewery. “As soon as its brewed, beer begins aging,” says Glor. “If you’re going to store it for any time, you want to keep it cold to slow oxidation.”

So why to retailers store beer warm? Probably because they don’t have the cooler space. Don’t repeat their transgression: The ideal temperature for storing beer, according to Glor, is in the high 30s to low 40s.

MYTH #9: The US is a second-class beer nation
FACT: That’s not what the pros say

Ask around and you’ll find that most beer experts now consider American beers to be among the best in the world. “Other countries are looking to us when it comes to innovation,” says Oliver. “Most Germans haven’t even heard of IPAs or stouts, so even though they have a great brewing culture, they’re somewhat constricted.”

Martin Biendl heads research and development for the German branch of the hop-distribution company Hopsteiner, and he agrees: “Everybody’s looking at the US. It’s very impressive. I expect that brewmasters here will soon be copying US recipes or developing German interpretations.”

Perhaps the reason is that American brewers are unmoored from the trappings of longtime brewing traditions, which means they’re free to innovate in ways that other counties can’t. That’s probably why, according to the Brewers Association, America now boasts 2,126 breweries, and 97 percent of those qualify as “craft.”

BUD LIGHT BRINGING DILLY DILLY CAMPAIGN TO LABELS?

Bud Light loves its new “Dilly Dilly” campaign so much it appears it’s expanding the catchphrase to labels.

In the same way Anheuser-Busch this summer branded its Budweiser cans and bottles with “America,”it appears to be plotting new Bud Light labels that carry the signature Bud Light blue background and block-white text. The only difference: they swap “Dilly Dilly” for “Bud Light,” according to an application it submitted to federal regulators.

It’s unclear when the brand intends to roll out the new packaging; Matt Kohan, an Anheuser-Busch spokesman, declined to comment, though he pointed to a recent story in the trade publication Beer Business Daily (subscription required) to offer “a sense of how it’s resonating with our fans.”

Bud Light can thank Ben Roethlisberger for helping take “Dilly Dilly” beyond its commercials. The Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback earlier this month used the phrase in an audible during a game, prompting a spike in “Dilly Dilly” mentions among sports fans on social media channels and in traditional media.

Bud Light’s creative chief Andy Goeler told Beer Business Daily the nonsensical phrase is a “good opportunity for Bud Light to have a nice rally cry” that’s based on a toast. “Dilly Dilly” and its associated messaging campaign, he said, has pleased distributors and appears to have accomplished what was intended: thrust Bud Light back into public conversation.

“People are talking about Bud Light again right now,” Goeler said, according to the report. Still, both Beer Business Daily and Beer Marketers Insights (subscription required) point out: Bud Light continues to flounder in what is on track to be its worst year ever, according to BMI.

Bud Light volume is down 5.4 percent year-to-date through Nov. 5, according to IRI data cited by BMI. It’s down 4.7 percent in the most-recent 12 weeks, the period roughly encompassing what BMI called “the ‘Dilly Dilly’ era.”

What’s more, Bud Light slipped even more in the last four weeks, according to Nielsen all-outlet data. Case volume and sales dollars were each off 8.6 percent in the four weeks ended Nov. 18. That compares with year-to-date figures where sales dollars are down 5.1 percent on a 5.9 percent decline in case volume.

Still, Goeler told Adweek he’s optimistic the brand is breaking through. He told the publication that “Dilly Dilly” accounted for some 100,000 Google searches and about 45,000 YouTube searches for the phrase per week. Those figures have been helped with media pick-up.  In addition to beer industry trade press, Bud’s “Dilly Dilly” campaign has earned mentions in male- and sports-centric websites, such as Brobible and Barstool Sports, as well as Adweek and a chain of daily newspapers. Other brands, such as Southwest Airlines, have jumped on the bandwagon as well, using the phrase on social media channels.

Bud Light is attempting to harness some of that momentum with sequel advertisements that make use of the catchphrase, a decision Adweek Creative Editor Tim Nudd called a “no-brainer” in a blog post.

Comparing “Dilly Dilly” to Budweiser’s “Whassup?” campaign used between 1999-2002, Goeler told Adweek, “As a marketer, you live for a moment like this.” He said “Dilly Dilly” “will be a permanent piece of what people talk about for the brand moving forward.”

But even the “Whassup?” campaign wasn’t able to reverse the fortunes of The King of Beers, which has been in decline since 1988, Beer Marketers Insights notes.

Bud’s decline moderated amid that campaign, the publication wrote, but the brand was still off another 5 million barrels by 2003. “Any moderation in Bud Light’s decline from “Dilly Dilly,” BMI wrote, “would be most welcome for AB.”

PETER FROST

CAN MILLERCOORS AND ANHEUSER-BUSCH GRAB A PIECE OF RED-HOT MEXICAN IMPORT MARKET?

The two largest U.S. brewers and longstanding competitors are each trying to crack the Mexican import market.

MillerCoors, which in October assumed control of U.S. sales and marketing for Sol under a 10-year licensing agreement with Heineken, plans to re-launch the brand in 2018 with a national advertising campaign. Anheuser-Busch is planning a push of its own behind Estrella Jalisco for 2018, including an expansion of distribution and tie-ins with the sports and entertainment industries.

It’s of little surprise that both companies are making a play in the Mexican import space, one of the beer industry’s few bright spots amid an overall market slogging through a downturn. While sales of American premium and economy lagers have tipped into the red, Mexican imports have booked double-digit growth.

With a category still on the rise, favorable demographic trends and a robust sales and distribution network, the top two U.S. brewers have a path to success with their entries, says Kevin Lane Keller, professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. But they’ve got to thread the needle on marketing and branding.

“There are opportunities for them, but they’re going to have to find a space, a reason for being, a reason for drinking,” Keller says. That means “executing well against that with total brand communications and packaging.”

Mexican imports with authenticity or a heritage story to tell can capitalize by reaching target consumers with something that appeals to them, he says. “The notion of trying to tap into heritage, roots and really, the authenticity, that’s the angle where I think there’s the biggest opportunity.”

From ‘the heart of Mexico’

That’s also the exact spot MillerCoors is aiming for with its Sol re-launch, says Matt Reischauer, director of brand marketing for the MillerCoors economy portfolio and Mexican imports.

“Sol is a beer with a very rich history and a compelling story that’s real and true,” he says. “It’s from the heart of Mexico and it’s steeped in the culture of the country. There’s no world in which I could envision Sol not having a right to play in this market.”

MillerCoors views Sol as a unique proposition that’s incremental to the Mexican import segment, meaning it will try to bring in new legal-age drinkers who may otherwise be drinking premium lights, wine and spirits and so on.

Reischauer’s team is particularly focused on connecting with bicultural Mexican-American drinkers between ages 21 and 29 with a message grounded in authenticity and optimism. These legal-age drinkers, who value their heritage and seek a connection with their home country (or their parents’ home country), “want a beer that connects with them and represents the values important to them,” Reischauer says.

“We’re brushing off a hidden gem,” he says. “It’s a marketer’s dream to be able to engage with a brand or discover a brand that’s been a little bit latent in America and give it its opportunity to shine.”

The Corona-Modelo juggernaut

There’s a clear role model for how to successfully build a Mexican brand over the long haul: Corona Extra.

Constellation Brands “really nailed it” with Corona’s “beach-in-a-bottle” premise and the ritual of forcing a lime wedge down a clear, long-necked bottle, Keller says. “The momentum they’ve had is incredible.”

The company has succeeded in part because of demographic tailwinds, says Benj Steinman, publisher of the industry publication Beer Marketers Insights. “But they’ve obviously gone way beyond that, especially with Corona, which has broad general-market appeal. They’ve also benefited from a very consistent marketing platform and they’ve applied consistent pressure on marketing with messages that have stayed consistent and resonated with consumers.”

It’s not just Corona. Modelo has been growing even faster and is on pace to overtake Corona if current trends hold. Modelo sales are up 20.7 percent on an 18.8 increase in volume year-to-date, according to Nielsen all-outlet data, including convenience, through Nov. 18. Corona, meanwhile is up 6.5 percent on a 4.7 percent rise in volume.

Replicating this kind of success is not going to be easy, he says.

A 2018 turnaround?

That’s something AB knows first-hand. The brewer made a push into the space in 2014 with Montejo, a brand that carried some authenticity and made an initial splash, but never established an enduring connection with consumers, Steinman says.

AB has since invested very little in the brand, appearing to shift its attention to Estrella Jalisco. Sales of Montejo are down 72.4 percent on a 72.6 percent drop in volume year-to-date through Nov. 18, per Nielsen. It is one of the smallest Mexican import brands sold in the U.S., per Nielsen.

Company spokespeople did not reply to a request for comment.

Estrella Jalisco, meanwhile, is down a more-modest 6.2 percent on a 7.7 decline in volume year-to-date. But AB has said it plans a major investment in the brand in 2018; it already got substantial media exposure during the 2017 World Series with a giant in-stadium sign at Dodger Stadium.

Sol also is down for the year; sales are off 17.3 percent on a 17.7 drop in volume, per Nielsen.

“You’re both going to have to come up with something exciting to make it a decent proposition” for retailers, wholesalers and, of course, consumers, Steinman says. But if any companies have the wherewithal and heft to pull it off, it’s MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch.

PETER FROST

 

Beers Americans No Longer Drink

American beer sales have been trending downwards in recent years. After peaking at nearly 219 million barrels in 2008, total U.S. shipments have declined since, reaching just 211.7 million barrels in 2013.

The recent drops in beer sales have been especially pronounced at many of the nation’s top brewers. Total shipments of both Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) and MillerCoors have slumped as several of their major brands have lost substantial market share. According to data provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights, American sales of seven major brands, including Budweiser, declined by more than 20% between 2008 and 2013.

According to Eric Shepard, executive editor at Beer Marketer’s Insights, major beer brands can still point to the last recession as a contributing factor to their current slump. “The people that got hit hardest in the economic recession were your mainstream beer drinkers — lower- to mid-income males, 25 to 34 [years old],” Shepard said.

Another key factor in the weakening sales has been price dynamics. “Beer prices were increased more aggressively over the last five years than wine and spirits,” Shepard said. Many people in the industry believe that, as a result, some customers replaced buying beer with the now relatively less expensive wines and spirits, he explained.

Several other products were also gaining at the expense of big brand-name beers, Shepard noted. While some customers have been moving to wine and spirits, others were switching to imported beer, particularly Mexican imports. Indeed, in the five years through 2013, shipments of Mexican brands Dos Equis and Modelo Especial more-than doubled. Similarly, he added, “Some [drinkers] are moving to craft [beer]. Clearly, there’s been a trade-up in the industry.”

Craft beers have largely bucked the overall downtrend in beer sales. From 2008 to 2013, shipments of craft beer rose by 80.1% to a total of more than 16 million barrels, or 7.6% of the U.S. beer market. While the craft beer category now outsells Budweiser, it remains a relatively niche market. For comparison, the nation’s top-selling brand, Bud Light, shipped 38 million barrels in 2013, accounting for 18% of all beer shipped.

While the last few years have been difficult for many large brewers, they, too, have been introducing new products that combine well-known brand names with new concepts that appeal to consumers. In recent years, Anheuser-Busch has introduced Bud Light Platinum, a higher alcohol content beer with a sweeter flavor; Bud Light Ritas, a margarita-inspired malt beverage; and Shock Top, its own take on craft beer. As of last year, these three brands had captured 2% of the overall beer market.

To identify the seven beers Americans no longer drink, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights for all brands with more than 1 million barrels shipped in 2008. All of these seven brands reported a 20% or more decline in shipments in the five years through 2013.

These are the beers Americans no longer drink.

5. Budweiser

> Sales loss (2008-2013): -27.6%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels shipped (2013): 16,000,000

Budweiser is one of the most famous brands in the world. Created in 1876, Budweiser quickly established itself as a national brand through, at the time, innovative production and distribution methods. These included introducing pasteurization to the beer industry as well as refrigerated rail cars. Today, Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, which was formed after Belgian brewer InBev acquired American beer titan Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion in 2008. The sale of an iconic American brand to a foreign company initially caused some outrage. However, Americans themselves are drinking far less Budweiser than in years past. Shipments of the brand fell nearly 28% between 2008 and 2013.

4. Milwaukee’s Best Light
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -40.6%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,010,000

Shipments of Milwaukee’s Best Light fell by more than 40% between 2008 and 2013. Previously quite small, Milwaukee’s Best Light held just a 0.5% U.S. market share last year. Whereas Budweiser and Miller Lite are considered premium brands, Milwaukee’s Best is part of the discount brand category. An improving American economy since 2008 may explain at least part of the drop in shipments. Americans’ buying habits shifted towards cheap beers during the recession. But now that the economy is stronger, the trend seems to be reversing again.

3. Milwaukee’s Best
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -57.0%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 580,000

MillerCoors describes Milwaukee’s Best as being “brewed for a man’s taste,” and as “Highly drinkable. Highly affordable.” The brand has also experienced a downturn in popularity over the last few years. From 2008 to 2013, brand shipments declined by 57%, or 770,000 barrels in total, and its market share slumped from 0.6% in 2008 to 0.3% last year. Like its light beer counterpart, Milwaukee’s Best is a discount brand, and some of its sales drop can likely be explained by customers switching to higher-priced brands as the economy has improved. Still, some discount brands have been able to retain, and even grow, market share in the improved economy. Shipments of Pabst Blue Ribbon rose 71.5% between 2008 and 2013.

2. Miller Genuine Draft
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -58.3%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,175,000

In its advertisements, Miller Genuine Draft claims it captures a “the fresh taste of draft beer in a bottle.” According to AdAge, when launching the brand, Miller successfully “used advertising from Backer & Spielvogel, New York, that touted the brand’s cold-filtering process, a technique long used by rival Coors but not mentioned in its advertising.” Draft taste or not, interest in the brand has plummeted in recent years, as sales dropped 58% from 2008 through 2013.

1. Budweiser Select
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -61.1%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels shipped (2013): 525,000

Anheuser-Busch introduced Budweiser Select in 2005 as a full-flavored light beer. Select is one of a number of initiatives that have been tried over the years to revive the Budweiser brand. Other attempts included Budweiser Black Crown, an amber lager, and Budweiser Chelada, a beer and clamato mix. Budweiser Select, however, does not appear to have been the answer for falling sales. Shipments of Budweiser Select declined 61% from 2008 through 2013, more than twice the decline for traditional Budweiser in that time.

Is Guinness really ‘good for you’?

Guinness, like other Irish stouts, enjoys a seasonal popularity every St. Patrick’s Day. It has also been touted as being “good for you,” at least by its own advertising posters decades ago.

But can this creamy, rich and filling beer really be added to a list of healthy beverages? Or is its reputation just good marketing? We researched the beer’s history and talked to brewing experts and break out the good, the not-so-great and the ingenuity of Guinness.

The good

The original Guinness is a type of ale known as stout. It’s made from a grist (grain) that includes a large amount of roasted barley, which gives it its intense burnt flavor and very dark color. And though you wouldn’t rank it as healthful as a vegetable, the stouts in general, as well as other beers, may be justified in at least some of their nutritional bragging rights.
According to Charlie Bamforth, a professor of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, most beers contain significant amounts of antioxidants, B vitamins, the mineral silicon (which may help protect against osteoporosis), soluble fiber and prebiotics, which promote the growth of “good” bacteria in your gut.
Most U.S. beers to get calorie and ingredient labels
And Guinness may have a slight edge compared with other brews, even over other stouts. “We showed that Guinness contained the most folate of the imported beers we analyzed,” Bamforth said. Folate is a B vitamin that our bodies need to make DNA and other genetic material; it’s also necessary for cells to divide.
According to his research, stouts on average contain 12.8 micrograms of folate, or 3.2% of the recommended daily allowance.
Because Guinness contains a lot of unmalted barley, which contains more fiber than malted grain, it is also one of the beers with the highest levels of fiber, according to Bamforth. (Note: Though the USDA lists beer as containing zero grams of fiber, Bamforth said his research shows otherwise.)
Bamforth researched and co-authored studies recently published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing and the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, The Science of Beer.
Here’s more potentially good news about Guinness: Despite its rich flavor and creamy consistency, it’s not the highest in calories compared with other beers. A 12-ounce serving of Guinness Draught has 125 calories. By comparison, the same size serving of Budweiser has 145 calories, a Heineken has 142 calories, and a Samuel Adams Cream Stout has 189 calories. In the United States, Guinness Extra Stout, by the way, has 149 calories.
This makes sense when you consider that alcohol is the main source of calories in beers. Guinness Draught has a lower alcohol content, at 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV), compared with 5% for Budweiser and Heineken, and 4.9% for the Samuel Adams Cream Stout.
In general, moderate alcohol consumption — defined by the USDA’s dietary guidelines for Americans as no more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women — may protect against heart disease. So you can check off another box.

The not-so-great

Guinness is still alcohol, and consuming too much can impair judgment and contribute to weight gain. Heavy drinking (considered more than 15 drinks a week for men or more than eight drinks a week for women) and binge drinking (five or more drinks for men, and four or more for women, in about a two-hour period) are also associated with many health problems, including liver disease, pancreatitis and high blood pressure.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.”
And while moderate consumption of alcohol may have heart benefits for some, consumption of alcohol can also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer for each drink consumed daily.
How to stick with your exercise resolution: Drink beer
Many decades ago, in Ireland, it would not have been uncommon for a doctor to advise pregnant and nursing women to drink Guinness. But today, experts (particularly in the United States) caution of the dangers associated with consuming any alcohol while pregnant.
“Alcohol is a teratogen, which is something that causes birth defects. It can cause damage to the fetal brain and other organ systems,” said Dr. Erin Tracy, an OB/GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive gynecology. “We don’t know of any safe dose of alcohol in pregnancy; hence we recommend abstaining entirely during this brief period of time in a woman’s life.”
Regarding the old wives’ tale about beer’s effects on breastfeeding, Marnell added, “It’s not something that Guinness has perpetuated … and if (people are still saying it), I’d like to say once and for all, it’s not something we support or recommend.”
By Lisa Drayer, CNN
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Recipe: Texas Breakfast Beer Bread

Ingredients:

  • 5 strips bacon
  • 2 to 3 jalapeños (depending on heat level — ours are pretty hot right now so I used 2)
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (preferably grade B)
  • 1 beer (I used Abita Amber which gave it a nice but not overpowering beer flavor)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Crisp the bacon in a skillet. When the bacon is cooked, drain it on paper towels and pour 3 tablespoons of bacon fat into a loaf pan (to be honest, I didn’t measure, I just dumped. Five strips center-cut bacon produced what looked like about 3 tablespoons of fat). This bread is not for the faint of heart: Did I mention that? Roughly chop the bacon.
  2. Remove the stems and seeds from the jalapeños and roughly chop them.
  3. Put the flour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the cheddar cheese.
  4. Now make a well in the middle and pour in the maple syrup and the beer.
  5. Mix together until everything is moistened and combined (a few lumps are okay).
  6. Break the cream cheese into small chunks (I just pulled it apart by hand, but you can also cut the block into smaller pieces) and drop them into the dough. Add the jalapeños and bacon and fold them in until everything is uniformly mixed.
  7. Now scoop the dough into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Pour the melted butter on top (yeah, I know) and put the pan on a baking sheet and into the oven. Set the time for 20 minutes.
  8. At 20 minutes, sprinkle the sugar on top of the loaf, then bake the bread for another 40 minutes, or until a toothpick test comes out clean.
  9. Allow the bread to cool for about 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

IS GENERIC CRAFT BEER ACTUALLY CRAFT BEER?

I’m a big, big fan of most generic items, whether it’s supermarket-brand pretzels or Target’s knock-off of my favorite cream. But I never gave generic alcohol a second thought until I read about Kirkland’s new generic “craft beer.” (To be fair, this reminded me that one of my college roommates bought oversized Costco-brand handles of tequila at the beginning of the semester, but I digress.)

My gut reaction to the budget line’s new brew: isn’t this the opposite of craft beer? To me, craft beer is all about independent microbreweries, though there’s now an overwhelming selection available nearly anywhere you go. Tom Ward points out that larger breweries were able to break into the craft brewing arena by creating a crafty beer under a separate label – he cites MillerCoors’ Blue Moon.

The real issue here is determining whether a craft beer is, in fact, “craft.” The Brewers Association in the United States, a group of independent brewers, has plans to issue an independent craft brewer seal for any brewery that is independently owned, and produces fewer than six million barrels a year.

Ward reports that he found a case of the Kirkland “Craft Brewed Ales” at his local Costco for $19.99. The case is a variety pack of an Indian pale ale, a session IPA, an American pale ale and a German-style Kolsch. These beers are made for the superstore by Bricks & Barley Brewing Co. in Wisconsin. Ward deems the beers as “worth a try,” especially considering the affordability. His review cites the session IPA as the best, and the IPA as the worst.

The generic beer train doesn’t stop there – The Washington Post reported on Walmart’s own “craft beer.” Thanks to consumer demand, the national discount store began producing beer under the name “Trouble Brewing.” The beers were released in six-packs and 12-can variety packs last year, and are found in 3,000 stores across 45 states. Offerings include Red Flag Amber Ale, Cat’s Away IPA, ‘Round Midnight Belgian White and After Party Pale Ale. Thanks to the cutesy names and hipster can designs, an innocent shopper would never know that these are Walmart brand beers.

Pretty misleading, huh? We’re not the only ones who think so – last February, someone filed a lawsuit against Walmart, alleging that by inventing a fictitious brewery, the store wanted to deceive drinkers into thinking they were buying a legitimate craft beer. Paste reports that the “Trouble Brewing” beers are not made by Trouble Brewing but are made by Genesee Brewing Co., a company that’s owned by North American Breweries. Either way, generic craft beer has piqued our interest.

BY ALLISON RUSSO

 

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Inside the world of beer league hockey

Where playing the game is as important as celebrating afterward … win or lose.

As a teenager, Joe Mohrfeld played hockey against Shattuck-St. Mary’s, the famed Minnesota boarding school that counts NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews as alumni.

“They destroyed us,” he tells me before jumping the boards. “Especially on their ice.”

On this night, 18 years later, and on this ice, tucked into the back end of an Austin, Texas, strip mall, the hockey is not quite as good. Author Don Gillmor’s observation that hockey’s beautiful geometry is never more obvious than when it doesn’t work is on display as passes miss their mark and shots fly wide.

The rink itself smells stale, like freezer burn.

A sallow patina has jaundiced patches of the walls like armpits on an old white T-shirt. Despite this, players come and go with an evident pride of place. It’s late on a weeknight, but the parking lot hosts a dozen players whose own games ended one, two, even three hours ago.

Inside, Mohrfeld, 32, tallies two goals for his team, dubbed the Junior Ehs, but his on-ice contributions are secondary: Tonight the acclaimed former head brewer at Odell Brewing Co. and current director of brewing at Pinthouse Pizza Brewpub has beer duty.

“We don’t draft Joe for the goals,” says Ehs co-captain Paul Eno, 46, whose team is so upbeat you’d never guess they lost. “We draft him for the growlers.”

This is beer league hockey, where it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you brought the beer. In the U.S., more than 174,000 adults pay good money to play hockey at odd hours, where the refs are blind, scorekeepers can’t stay awake, and success is defined by the ability to play alongside your friends for as long as possible. It’s organized hockey in its purest form, unencumbered by money, skill, ambition, fans or advancement.

Photo by Nick Cote

Photo by Nick Cote

“I can’t imagine life without it,” says Steve Albers, 28, who is launching Center Ice Brewing Co., a hockey-themed craft brewery in St. Louis. He echoes a once-provincial refrain that can nowadays be heard coast to coast. Hockey is growing in improbable locales like Arizona and Virginia, while California hosts the country’s largest beer league and is second only to Michigan in terms of adults registered with USA Hockey.

Nicole Warner is one of 17,000 adult women in U.S. beer leagues. “I saw an ad on TV featuring women’s hockey and I thought, I want to play! Or at least try.” At 30, she enrolled in a learn-to-play program, and three years later she is a veteran of nearly 250 league games.

“Hockey people are family to me.” The back nameplate on her jersey reads GOONIE. “And you can’t beat the camaraderie.”

In fact for many, beer league offers a brief respite from the burdens of reality. “When I hit the ice,” says Warner, “I can’t help but be in a great mood, no matter the kind of day I’ve had.”

Beer comes first in the name, but not as much in the game. Governing bodies across North America forbid drunk hockey, and most players will tell you it’s a bad idea. “Before a game, one beer is not enough and three is too many,” says Nick Dean, 33, in a fading Russian accent. “Two is good.”

Alcohol policies differ from rink to rink. The luckiest leagues play in rinks with bars on site, like the Ice Forum in Duluth, Georgia. “After each game, the Breakaway Grill sends a complimentary pitcher to both teams,” says goalie Kevin Mizera, 44. When I sound impressed, he hedges. “It’s probably worked into league fees somehow.”

For many players, the quality held in highest esteem isn’t directly related to hockey or beer. At 85, Ontario’s Jan Loos hits the ice three times a week and holds the Guinness World Record for Oldest Ice Hockey Player—a title he may soon lose to Minnesota’s Mark Sertich, 94.

“Those guys inspire all of us,” says Brian Hill, 63, of Boston. “The goal isn’t to play until you’re too old, it’s to have played on your last day.”

The night after seeing Mohrfeld play, I’m at a crowded Pinthouse Pizza enjoying a Man O’ War IPA when I wonder what drew him back into hockey. “One afternoon he told me he was thinking about playing again,” says Daniel Conley, 29, a brewer at Pinthouse and former youth hockey player himself. “I said, ‘If you do it, I’ll do it.’”

When I press Mohrfeld for specifics, he balks. So I ask why more than half the beers on his tap wall are made by competitors—Hops & Grain, Austin Beerworks, Odell, among others.

“I don’t see it like that,” he says. “I look up there, I see my friends’ beers. Craft brewing isn’t about fame or making tons of money, it’s about making great beer and being part of a community.”

I see an opening. “Kinda like beer league, right?” He and Conley exchange a look. “Not really.”

Oh well. It was worth a shot.

 

ROSS BONANDER

On women and beer

This month’s Session question (a regular query posed by a chosen member of the beer blogging world) comes from Nichole over at TastingNitch.com. Actually, it’s less of a question and more of topic examination. The topic? Women in craft beer culture. For this round, I deferred to DRAFT’s managing editor, Jessica Daynor, who stepped away from putting together our next issue to jot down a few thoughts. Here’s what she had to say:

I feel bad for Belgian brewers. Not all of them, really, just the ones at Cantillon and Lindeman’s and 3 Fonteinen and others, whose phenomenal fruited lambics—capable of being produced only by brewers with the perfect cocktail of tank mastery, patience and a knack for yeast—are reduced to “ladybeers.” “Drink them with your salad!” says the menu. “You’ll like this one because it tastes like berries; you don’t even taste the beer!” says a server. “Dude, that’s some chick beer,” says someone asking for the stinkeye. It’s as if the moment Eve bit the apple, fruit became womanfood.

Which is silly, of course, because men eat fruit, and women drink beer. Lots of beer. Since I left a non-beer magazine to join DRAFT in 2007, I’ve seen more women in beer bars, at beer festivals, and working the tanks (more on that later) every year. But you know what? I’ve seen a lot more guys in those spaces, too. The female beer audience has grown because the beer audience has grown and, you know, math. And as craft beer has swelled, so have the number of beers in “girly” styles; at this year’s GABF alone, the fruit beer and fruit wheat beer categories garnered 73 and 48 entries, respectively.

My point is that beer has no gender. It is a beverage. But in small ways, both sexes perpetuate gender beer stereotypes. I often travel to check out beer bars in consideration for our annual Best Beer Bars list; these visits aren’t prearranged and they never know I’m coming to ensure I get the same service any average Joe or Jane gets if they walk in and ask for a beer recommendation. The best bars ask me the same stuff they’d ask anyone: “What styles do you usually drink?” “Do you like really strong bitterness?” “Have you had anything from Brewery XYZ?” But some—including one well-known beer bar you won’t see on our list anymore—have treated me like a second-class beer citizen. If I ask for a recommendation, they’ll suggest a shandy without inquiring about my tastes. (Nothing against shandies…bring ‘em on!) Or, I’ll order a bourbon-barrel barleywine and they’ll sneer, “You know what that is,right?” My favorite is the macho bartender who tries to educate me with major misinformation: “So, this IPA is really dank, ‘cause it’s made with wheat.”

Women do it too. I’m all for a good costume, even a sexy one, but when a woman dons a dirndl and pulls her boobs halfway out, she perpetuates the female role in beer as a server rather than a drinker. (I’m not slut-shaming, I’m fashion shaming, people.) And when a woman denies her own palate to let a man order for her what he thinks she’ll like, women fall further down the ladder as taste-making, trend-pushing consumers. Women have incredible beer purchasing power—women are responsible for the most in-supermarket beer sales—but I wonder if we’re not advocating for our palates enough. Fact: If you tell your bartender or your grocer that you want them to carry a certain beer, they’ll usually try to get it.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we—men and women—treat each other as unequal partners in beer-drinking? Part of the answer may lie in a study in September’s Social Psychological and Personality Science, which suggests that a sense of entitlement disposes women to affirm patriarchal systems. In other words, women can and should benefit because we are “wonderful but weak;” as the fairer sex, we depend on a male counterpart, and we deserve more because we’re coming from a lower rung on the ladder. The study identifies a “benevolent sexism” in which participants of both genders hold beliefs such as “women should be cherished and protected by men” and “women, compared to men, tend to have a superior moral sensibility.” A Jezebel commentary on the report said, “When a woman feels that she deserves special treatment, it’s through the filter of her woman-ness. … This explains why the protection of masculinity is often a conduit to female power and entitlement—be it through acting like a man, feeling the overwhelming need to gain the respect of men in order to gain legitimacy, or proclaiming oneself unlike other women.”

Obviously, it’s tough to simply say, “Stop doing this, guys and gals! Lose these beliefs!” But I think the beer world—which is a social, fun and mostly kind world to be in—can start to right this ship. We start by treating beer drinkers not as men or women, but as beer drinkers—because, again, the liquid we love isn’t paid for or ingested any differently by men or women. We are all craft beer lovers. We are all consumers. We all drink our beer one pint at a time.

There are women doing incredible, laudable things in beer right now: Annie Johnson won the 2013 National Homebrewers Competition. Nicole Erny is one of only four Master Cicerones in existence. Rebecca Reid is doing crazy-secretive stuff as the head of Anheuser-Busch’s R&D brewery. Deschutes brewer Veronica Vega has a toddler and makes Chasin’ Freshies. Mary Nowak is brewmaster at the gigantic new Chicago location of Lagunitas. And I walked around last year’s GABF seven months pregnant. (OK, fine, I don’t hold a candle to these women.) We should treat these accomplishments (not mine) as the feats they are: These are triumphs in beer and brewing that have nothing to do with what restroom they use.

So, the best way to lower the divide in craft beer? Stop treating female drinkers like female drinkers. We don’t want to be marketed to as women; sell us on flavor, tell us how your canned IPA is a perfect cycling beer, show us how your chocolate stout makes a perfect mole sauce—just as you would a man. Bartenders, guide women to the best beers the industry has to offer in the same way you would a male drinker. And women, get to know what you like, and tell your bartender what that is.

And for crying out loud, stop saying framboise is “for girls.” A quote from a beer seller in a 2008 piece by Lew Brysonsays it best: “It’s popular with women, but it wouldn’t be [a] best seller if men weren’t buying it.”