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Flying Dog leaves Brewers Association over censorship accusations

unnamedIn April 2017, the Brewers Association (BA), a trade group that serves the craft beer industry, enacted a set of rules designed to stem the use of sexist and offensive brewery and beer names (see Brewers Association standing up to breweries, beers with offensive names, labels). But, Flying Dog Brewery sees the move by the BA as an overt attempt at censorship. And, to protest the move, Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso has severed ties with the industry group.

In a letter dated July 14, 2017 and addressed to BA CEO Bob Pease, Caruso says that the policy, “… is an attempt by the BA to censor beer names that offend the sensibilities of some at the BA, primarily by trying to intimidate breweries into censoring themselves.”

In the BA’s policy, a procedure is laid out on how brewers can police their peers — Caruso reads this as competitors — by lodging a formal complaint. Should the offending brewery cease advertising or using a name that is considered offensive by the reporting brewery within 30 days of the complaint, the matter is considered closed. But, if the name and/or advertising is not ceased, a sort of tribunal is convened. The final decision of the tribunal — in reality a group of three BA appointed representatives — is published on the BA’s website for all the world to read. In addition, names found to be offensive will be banned from being spoken at BA sanctioned events like the Great American Beer Festival, Savour and more. If a brewery or beer with a name deemed offensive happens to win a medal in a competition at one of these events, they will not be publicly identified. Winners are also banned from using Brewers Association intellectual property such as identifying a banned beer name as a medal winner in a BA sanctioned event.

Caruso sees all this as forms of censorship, thought policing and just plain creepy.

No stranger to the fight to end censorship, Caruso fought the the Michigan Liquor Control Commission in 2009 for similar reasons. In the landmark case, Caruso alleged that the commissioners could not legally reject a label just because they didn’t like it. It took six year of battle in federal courts, but ultimately Flying Dog won the suit and set a federal precedent that freedom of speech applies to beer, wine and spirits labels as well as individuals.

In the six-page letter to Pease, Caruso goes on to explain why he so strongly opposes the BA’s stance on so called offensive name sand labels. He brings to the forefront the specters of McCarthyism, communism, Leninism, Marxism, Stalinism and socialism. He holds the example of Lenny Bruce’s persecution that drove him to suicide for doing nothing more than telling jokes using vulgar language during midnight shows attended only by paying adults.

“The insurmountable problem with what the BA is attempting to do,” Caruso says. “Is that the term “offensive” is not definable in any objective way or with any precision. Offensive to whom? Everyone finds something offensive.”

Caruso goes on to point out that in numerous cases, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed that “offensive” is undefinable. Why then, he asks, does the BA think that it can be the champion of consumers by regulating via policy what some may deem offensive. Government regulation and approval, he argues, is sufficient.

“Consumers,” elaborates Caruso. “Vote with their hard-earned dollars billions of times every day. It’s called a free market. The BA believes consumers need a nanny.”

For its part, Pease simply says to Caruso, “Not all members agree with every policy” and that “we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

In addition, an article on beer news site Brewbound.com, Pease is quoted as saying he is “disappointed” in Flying Dog’s decision to withdraw from the organization. However, he defended the policy changes as “reasonable” and “responsible.”

“The BA and its members absolutely support the First Amendment,” he wrote in an email to BrewBound. “Invoking the First Amendment in this instance is misplaced and inaccurate. The Brewers Association has no intention nor ability to censor any market initiatives by any brewing industry member.”

“To us,” Caruso explains in his letter. “The BA’s anti-free expression stance is offensive, and we are exercising our freedom to choose by rejecting the BA.”

Consumers have the power to decide whether they side with the BA or with Flying Dog. Caruso is a proponent of this dynamic and prefers the power of the free market to what he sees as tyrannical suppression of expression and overly political correctness.

“Sometimes,” he concludes. “It is a matter of principle.

“This is one of those times.”

Read the entire letter to the BA from Jim Caruso here.

 

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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Funky Buddha announces barrel-aged Living Barrel series

FB_Barrel-AgedFunky Buddha, the evil geniuses behind popular brews like Last Snow and Last Buffalo in the Park, has announced a new series of barrel-aged beers. The Living Barrel Series will feature beers aged in bourbon, rum, tequila, Chardonnay and Cabernet barrels among others.

“Like the spiraling growth of a tree’s branches,” says an unnamed source in the Funky Buddha press release. “So too are these beers transformed over time thanks to the maturation exclusively in oak wine and spirits casks. Unlike the ageless timber, these bottles are only available for a limited time.”

Over the years, the brewery has amassed an impressive 500 casks that previously held spirits and wine of many types. Currently, there are hundreds of barrels holding everything from stouts to saisons quietly aging to perfection. Samples of the beers are regularly drawn and tested to assess its progress and maturity.

The Living Barrel series will be released in 22 ounce bottles through Funky Buddha’s tap room with some of the beers will gong to distribution throughout Florida. The first bottles will release the end of July and beginning of August. Included in these releases are a Rum Barrel-Aged Pina Colada beer consisting of an imperial cream ale made with real pineapple and coconut and aged in Jamaican rum casks for months; and Vanilla Bourbon Barrel-aged Nikolai Vorlauf, an Imperial Russian Stout aged for nearly two years in Bourbon barrels with whole vanilla beans added to the barrel. A third release, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dread Pirate Roberts (imperial stout with raspberries, chocolate, and coconut), will be released exclusively to Funky Buddha’s Imperial Club members in August If any bottles remain, a release to the public will be scheduled.

Future releases will include this year’s versions of Morning Wood and Last Buffalo in the Park along with others yet to be announced.

Funky Buddha plans to continue releasing special, barrel-aged brews into 2018 and beyond.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Beer, Beer Releases

 

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Bold City reopened: let them drink beer!

bcb7Almost as soon as I pressed the publish button on my last blog post about Bold City Brewing Company’s closure at the hands of the Jacksonville fire marshal, the Times-Union published an updated article stating that the brewery was granted permission to reopen.

The problem, according to the newspaper article, stemmed from the brewery’s Thursday night practice of hosting brewery yoga. Because of the number of people that activity could draw, the building is not properly equipped according to fire codes.

With the understanding that no more than 40 patrons are to be allowed in the facility at a time, the fire marshal has approved the reopening of the tap room.

Susan Miller, co-owner of the brewery with her son, Brian, said the doors would be open to beer lovers at 3:00 p.m. Friday as usual.

Read the entire Times-Union article at the link below:

http://jacksonville.com/news/food-and-dining/metro/2017-07-07/bold-city-gets-reprieve-brewery-tap-room-ok-d-reopen

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Fire marshal shutters Bold City’s Rosselle Street tap room

bold_city_rosselleAfter a meteoric rise, the days of visiting a brewery tap room in Riverside may be over. Thursday, July 6 a Jacksonville city fire marshal made a visit to the Rosselle Street home of Bold City Brewing Company and promptly shut down the brewery’s long-open tap room.

The news broke through an email sent by co-owner Brian Miller. In the email Miller told of how the brewery had been inspected for the past eight years without a glitch. This year the marshal found an issue.

“The fire marshal,” Miller explained in his email. “Has determined that our original certificate of use does not allow us to operate our tap room that has been operating as is with zoning approval for nine years.”

Over the years since Bold City opened the first craft beer brewery in Jacksonville, the little tap room of the brewery has become a popular gathering place on Thursday through Saturday evenings. The tap room was so popular in fact that patrons often spilled over to a larger area in the brewery and out into the parking lot.

An article in the Friday, July 7 Jacksonville Times-Union quotes a city spokeswoman, Marsha Oliver, as saying there are a variety of violations. Violations other than the occupancy issue were not listed.

In his email, Miller promises to reopen the Rosselle tap room as soon as possible. He also asks supporters to visit Bold City’s new downtown tap room located at 109 East Bay Street.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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German beer subject of world’s oldest consumer law

reinheitsgebot-300x251If you have ever had a mug of a German beer, you know that it can be a transcendent experience. Known for their exceptional lagers, Germans reign supreme as the world’s top beer brewers. But, the road to that supremacy began more than 500 years ago when the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm IV, issued the original decree that led to what is now known as the German Purity Law. The Reinheitsgebot (pronounced: rine-hites-geh-boat) reigns as one of the oldest consumer protection laws still enforced.

In 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV sought to protect his subjects from unscrupulous brewers and tavern owners by stipulating how much could be charged for beer and what it could contain. Geographic boundaries were set for pricing beer and the law provided for fluctuations in pricing if economic circumstances warranted. By restricting the price publicans could charge for beer, the Duke made it more accessible to his subjects and limited price gouging.

The good Duke was also concerned about the purity of the beer being produced for consumption by his subjects, so he included in the decree a restriction on the ingredients. Many beers of the time were routinely brewed by irresponsible brewers with ingredients like ash, sawdust and even roots – some of them poisonous – to bring down the cost of production and maximize profit. To combat this, the original decree stated, “…in all our towns, marketplaces and the whole of the countryside, beer shall have no other ingredients than barley, hops, and water.”

While the new law put an end to beer made with dangerous additives, it was also intended to help the bakery industry by limiting brewers to the use of barley. This increased the supply of wheat and rye for baked products and insured that both bread and beer would be plentiful. The law also made it illegal to use ingredients like gruit – a mixture of herbs like sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, horehound and heather – that religious conservatives believed were used in pagan rituals.

Through the years, the original Purity Law underwent several changes, but the spirit of the law remained. It formed the basis of beer laws that spread throughout Germany and contributed to the extinction of several Northern German beer styles such as spiced and cherry beers. As Germany entered the Industrial Age, Bavaria insisted upon the Purity Law be applied throughout Germany as a condition of unification. This met with heavy opposition from brewers in the north, but the law was eventually enacted with heavy taxes placed on outside ingredients rather than an outright ban.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the law was first referred to as Reinheitsgebot and was finally applied consistently throughout Germany as the law governing beer production. Curiously, as the tumultuous events of the 1900s ground on, brewers and even consumers began to embrace the law. The purity of German beer became of pride and an important marketing tool. It became so deeply rooted in tradition that no self-respecting German would think of drinking anything other than a Reinheitsgebot-compliant beer.

Now, 500 years later, the craft beer revolution is taking Europe by storm. As a younger generation of beer-drinkers seeks styles that do not comply with the Purity Law, the law is being called in to question. Whether the Reinheitsgebot can survive is yet to be seen. But, the superiority it brought to German beer can never be denied.

Here are some traditional, Reinheitsgebot compliant German beers you can try locally:

Spaten Dunkel

Founded more than 600 years ago, the Spaten brwery has adhered to the since its inception. The brewery’s Dunkel is a malty, dark departure from the typical German light lager. This brew is highly recommended as an accompaniment with rich meats and stews.

Weihenstephaner Pilsner

Crisp and highly-carbonated, this brew is a standard of the German Pilsner style. It is especially refreshing when served very cold and enjoyed with the afternoon sea breeze.

Gaffel Koelsch

While most German beers are lagers, Koesch is an ale. Brewed only in the German city of Cologne, this style is slightly fruity with a crisp, hoppy finish.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Beer, Beer history

 

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American Homebrewers Association names Best Beers in America 2017

best_beers_2017The American Homebrewers Association’s (AHA) member magazine, Zymurgy, has released it annual Zymurgy’s Best Beers in America list for 2017 and for the first time since 2008, Russian River’s Pliney the Elder is not at the top of the list. This year, the survey that polls readers of the magazine named Bell’s Two Hearted as the number one beer in the land. Pliney slides to second and Founders Breakfast Stout takes the third place position. Bell’s also took the top spot for best brewery.

“As homebrewers, Zymurgy readers have more refined palates than most for tasting beer,” said Gary Glass, director, American Homebrewers Association in a press release. “The Best Beers in America survey reveals which beers are leaving the biggest impression on the minds—and mouths—of these discerning beer drinkers.”

Bell’s Brewing Company began when Larry Bell brewed his first commercial batch of beer 32 years ago in Kalamazoo, Mich. Using a 15-gallon soup pot, Bell coaxed 135 barrels of beer from his makeshift system by 1986, just one year after beginning his new venture. Just three years later, the brewery was producing 500 barrels of beer per year. In the years since then Bell’s has grown to add additional breweries, a 200-barrel brewhouse, a cafe and an additional brewing company.

“This is an incredible honor for us. We got our start as homebrewers—that’s how my dad got going—so we really identify with the homebrewing community,” said Laura Bell, CEO, Bell’s Brewery, whose father, Larry, started the brewery in 1985 in Kalamazoo, Mich. “We take a lot of that spirit into what we do today.”

Each year, for the past 15 years, Zymurgy has asked its readers to provide a list of their top 20, commercially available beers. The magazine then uses that information to compile rankings for top beer, top brewery, top imports and brewery with best overall portfolio.

The survey results read like a dream shipping list of highly-coveted beers, heavy on IPAs, but with stouts and a few other styles sprinkled in. Notable among the non-IPA and non-stout entries are Boulevard’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale a fruity, complex saison with a peppery, dry finish and Odell’s 90 Shilling a lighter, smoother version of a traditional Scottish ale. California breweries dominate the top 10 breweries list taking seven spots with breweries like Sierra Nevada, Stone and Firestone Walker. Not surprisingly Belgian or Belgian-style beers controlled the top import list with Canadian brewery Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde. Top portfolio honors went to Stone Brewing Company with 31 highly-regarded brews.

To see all the winners go to the Best Beers in America page on the American Homebrewers Association website at: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/news/2017-best-beers-america-results/.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Saisons, summer’s great refresher

saisonWhen summer’s heat gets unbearable, reach for a refreshing saison to help cool you down. Before the time of refrigeration, some beers were brewed in the cooler months of the year and laid down for use in the warmer months of summer. This method required the beers to be hearty enough to survive for months in the cask, but not so strong that they could only be consumed moderately. After all, saisons – the word literally means in season in French – were meant as thirst-quenchers not barn-burning party brews.

As is the case with many beers, saisons were originally brewed to fill a specific need. In the early 1700s, Europe was in the midst of a water crisis – teeming with potentially lethal microbes, water was undrinkable. A solution had to be found or the population would dwindle in the grips of dysentery.  The answer came in the form of beer. Though water was decidedly not potable, beer made from that water was safe to drink and, well, tasty.

The need for some sort of liquid refreshment was particularly necessary for farmhands, called les saisonniers (do you see a connection to the name of the beer – I thought you would), who toiled in the fields during the hot summers of southern Belgium. Farmers, being the practical, work-oriented sort they have always been, realized that would need to come up with a refreshing lower alcohol beer that could be used to quench the thirst of field laborers and provide vitality without the counter-productive results of a pissed workforce. Thus, the birth of saisons, low-alcohol ales designed to quench thirst and keep farm-hands working the fields.

Because each farm had its own recipe for the ales using herbs and spices abundant to them locally, an exact description is hard to pinpoint. Saison was more of an idea of how a beer of its sort would taste than a complete thought even though it occurred very commonly across the countryside.  The most common characteristics of saisons are their spicy, herbal flavor and the use of wheat as a major ingredient. Because of the wheat, the brew is generally hazy in appearance and pours with a generous, billowing head of foam.

As the world industrialized, the need for field workers diminished and the demand for saison waned. By the mid-nineteenth century, the world had become enamored with the pale lagers of Bavaria further causing the decline of seasonal beer styles and saisons. Couple that decline with the onslaught of two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century and the fate of saison as a beer style was all but sealed.

But, even through those tumultuous times, several of the small farmhouse brewing operations survived and became full-fledged breweries producing other Belgian styles as well as their own distinctive saisons.

True to the Belgian brewer’s spirit, creative touches began to find their way into the brew. Additives like coriander and black pepper along with infusions of beet or Havana sugars began to appear raising alcohol content from around 3.5% to 7.5% or better. The color ranges from straw to that of dark honey. The aroma is often reminiscent of bananas or even bubble gum depending on what was used in the brewing process. Arguably the most complexly flavored style of beer, saisons may taste sweet, tart, crisp or herbal. Often this style is referred to as having Champagne-like qualities.

Whether you opt for a lighter, refreshing brew or a more hearty full-flavored variation, a cold saison is just the thing to quench your thirst on a hot summer afternoon.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in Beer