National Beer Day

Sorry for the delay in posting. The day for doing that is still a moving target.

Last Sunday was National Beer Day. It celebrates the day in 1933 when low alcohol beer and wine became legal after 13 years of Prohibition. This article discusses what are currently the bestselling beers. That honor goes to Modelo.

Here is a post written February 19, 2020, just before the pandemic, about Mexican beer. I have edited it slightly.

Mexican Beer

Before 1910 most beer in Mexico was brewed by small brewers. In the 1890s big modern breweries developed and by 1899 five firms controlled sixty three percent of the market. By 1910 the major brewers distributed nationally. The companies were vertically integrated, holding monopolies in everything from bottles to the railroads.

Corona Extra is the sixth largest beer brand in America and the top import. Constellation Brands owns Corona and Modelo. Modelo is the seventh largest beer brand. An industry analysis of Constellation stated “Constellation’s story includes … a powerful demographic tailwind. Its core consumer base skews towards Hispanics, a sizable demographic whose primacy will only increase over the coming years. We find it fairly intuitive that Hispanics place a premium on Mexican beer, as it speaks in part to a shared culture and heritage, and in our view, these dynamics are at the heart of Constellation’s superb operating profile…”  There are some stereotypical assumptions in this analysis. For the full analysis, click here.

In 2010 Heineken bought the Mexican brewer Femsa; its brands are Dos Equis and Tecate. The company had a 43 percent share of the Mexican beer market. Dos Equis is twentieth. A German brewer in Vera Cruz created it in the nineteenth century. Tecate is 29th; Since 2013 it has had a 35 percent decrease in shipments. For the  full list of the top 31 brands, go here.

Mexico has a small craft brewing segment. These brewers produce ale; the majority of Mexicans drink lager. Most Mexican craft beer is exported since there is not really a market for it within Mexico. Mexico is third in global exports of beer, most of which goes to Canada and the United States.

 

 

 

 

Beer Roundup

I haven’t written about beer or even the liquor industry in general in quite a while and today seemed like a good day to get back to what was the original theme of this blog. I’ve decided to highlight two articles I have recently received that touch on some of the themes that I have discussed in previous posts.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, June 2020, an African American brewer Marcus Baskerville, co-founder and head brewer of San Antonio’s Weathered Souls Brewery created the Black is Beautiful campaign ”to bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face daily”. Black is Beautiful is a collaborative effort among many brewers to raise funds to combat police violence against people of color. You can read my post about that here.

Recently, also in an attempt to increase diversity in the overwhelmingly white craft brewing industry, Haymarket Brewing in Chicago invited six black owned beer business to collaborate on a beer, Chicago Uncommon, which they will tap this Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday. You can read more about this here.

Not only is craft brewing a very white industry, 93 percent, but it is also mostly male, 75 percent. Julia Herz was, for many years, the craft beer program director at the Brewers Association, the trade association for craft and home brewers. Last year, because of budget cuts due to Covid, she lost her job.

Now she is returning to the association, and her goal is to expand the population that participates in craft beer and home brewing. “Beer has no gender and anyone who is a legal drinking adult who wants to brew is legally allowed to brew. I want to emphasize that the club of homebrewers is open to all walks of life.” You can read more about Julia Herz and her goals for increased diversity in brewing here.

Smoking


Any practicing nurse in Massachusetts has to renew his or her license every two years. As part of the license renewal process every nurse has to have done 15 hours of continuing education credits otherwise known as CEU’s. Before I retired it was very easy for me to acquire those 15 hours because of trainings and in service workshops that the agency I worked for provided.

This year the renewal process snuck up on me and I had to figure how to meet the CEUs requirement. There are places online that allow you to fulfill the requirements by reading scholarly articles on various topics and then filling out a questionnaire. One of the essays I chose was about tobacco and smoking cessation.

I found the article informative. Something that stood out is that young people are continuing to become smokers. This is concerning because once you have the habit it is very hard to break it. Reading the essay about tobacco reminded me that in 2009 I had written a blog post about the liquor industry facing new regulations that the Obama administration had passed. I am reposting it below.

The interesting thing about the original post was that I discussed how tobacco’s fortunes had fallen while brewers and distillers were enjoying a great deal of public support. Public health advocates were not gaining much traction in their attempts to convince the public to drink less.

Society approval of the liquor industry, particularly beer, has only continued to increase in the 13 years since I posted about those tobacco regulations. Not only did the liquor industry get a tax break from the Trump legislation but most municipalities are thrilled to have a craft brewery in their town or city.

Neither the article I read for my CEUs or the blog post from 2009 talk about marijuana, but marijuana has also gained in public approval as many states including Massachusetts where I live now have recreational sale of THC.

Tobacco Legislation

6/16/2009

Last week, Congress passed, and President Obama signed legislation that greatly enhances federal regulation of the tobacco industry. As a historian, I generally think change happens slowly but the rapidity with which American society has transformed from cultural acceptance, even approval of smoking, to a completely negative view is startling.

When I was growing up, my parents and almost all the adults I knew smoked. As a teenager and young adult smoking was both everywhere – bars, restaurants, public events, and arenas – and heavily advertised on television. In the forty-five years since the Surgeon General’s report on the harm smoking causes, there has been a warning label, a ban on television advertising, the creation of smoke-free indoor space and, recently, smoke-free outdoor spaces.

The newspaper stories discussing the pending legislation use the term “addiction” to describe the practice of smoking. This also represents significant change. For much of American history, society has characterized nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol as legal, primarily harmless habits. Alcohol was usually the most problematic of the three. Now, nicotine, although legal, falls under the broad category of psychoactive, addictive substances, similar in their effects on the body.

Moralists have always viewed smoking as undesirable behavior. This attitude kept women from smoking for many years. When smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke became a public health issue, the battle lines changed. If alcohol use and or abuse ever became predominantly a public health issue rather than one of individual choice or morality, brewers and distillers could face more of an uphill battle to maintain the legitimacy of their industry.

 

Happy International Beer Day

Today is International Beer Day. To celebrate, here is a roundup of articles about the holiday. The first describes the day and provides a brief history of beer. In 2018 there were 7,450 breweries in the United States. I wonder if that number has decreased due to the pandemic. If you know the answer, please let me know.

The second link profiles seven cities across the world, looking at their top beers, beer festivals and the best places to drink beer. If you are traveling to any of the cities mentioned and like beer, this is a handy list to have.

The third article looks at Singapore beer. The Asian beer imported to America is usually a pale, nondescript lager so I would be excited to try some of the beers mentioned. I would love to go to Singapore and other places in Asia but  it is a very long flight and the time difference is brutal.

Finally, here is a link to a post I wrote in 2016 when we were traveling in Paris and London. On that trip we drank a lot of Leffe blond beer. Once we were home it was hard to get. Apparently, a liquor store near me now sells it. I am going to get a six-pack and drink one tonight to celebrate International Beer Day.

Cheers!

Michigan Beer

I recently finished reading a book about sex discrimination at the University of Michigan in the 1970s. The same day, a news item about craft brewing in Michigan appeared in my Google alerts. You can read that here.

Stroh’s was Michigan’s largest brewer. Here are some excerpt’s from Brewing Battles about that brewery.

Detroit had thirty-three breweries in 1890. Stroh’s was the most famous and long lived; the owners were descendants of Germans who had been brewing since 1775. By selling ice cream as well as beer it existed as an independent brewery until 1999.[1]

One of the most significant transactions which indicated that brewing was moving firmly away from its nineteenth century heritage occurred on June 10 1982, when the Stroh Brewing Company of Detroit purchased Schlitz. Stroh’s, a long established regional brewery based in Detroit vaulted itself into the first tier of the industry by acquiring Schlitz, one of the country’s largest brewers. Donald Shea, a vice-president of the USBA at the time of this acquisition, assessed the deal and its implication for the industry as “constant concentration within the industry, and as that happened, more and more larger breweries were building up their own shops.”[2]

Competition in the industry continued unabated even while brewing organizations sought reductions in taxes and campaigned against various neo-temperance initiatives. In 1996, Stroh’s continued its ascent into the top tier by purchasing Heileman Brewing. Heileman had made a run at achieving top tier status in the 1980s, but the Justice Department had halted its program of aggressive acquisitions. Russell Cleary, the son-in-law of Ray Kumm and his successor, spearheaded the expansion of the company. Stalled, the company became vulnerable; 1987 Alan Bond, an Australian investor, purchased the nation’s fourth largest brewer. In 1992, Bond went to jail for fraud in connection with a deal to save an Australian bank.[3]

In the 1980s Heileman brewed many different brands of beer including Old Style, its original product, Lone Star, Schmidt, and Carling Black Label. The company was responsible for forty percent of all the new brands in the decade.[4]

In 1991, Heileman developed yet another new product, Power Master, which was a malt liquor with 5.9 percent alcohol; most malt liquors contained 5.5 percent, regular beer 3.5 percent. African-Americans and Hispanics were the core market for malt liquors. Heileman’s marketing featured a young black man. The tagline was “bold, not harsh.” African-American political and community leaders objected to the beer and its marketing. Eventually BATF intervened and prohibited the company from marketing Power Master. The agency felt the name was a subtle attempt to convey the strength of the beer to the public.[5] Heileman’s marketing struggles indicated how far the brewing industry had come from the self-regulation policies that they had pursued from the 1930s on.

The USBA had always stressed restraint in marketing. The Nebraska plan that brewers developed during Repeal was the cornerstone of their approach. Increased competition in the industry and the diminished influence of the USBA led individual brewers to be bolder in their advertising. The specter of Prohibition had diminished.

In 1996, Stroh’s, planning to buy Heileman, was the country’s fourth largest brewer. Coors, in third place, had 10.1 percent of the market. Stroh’s and Heileman’s combined market share would be a little over nine percent. Stroh Brewing Company had been in existence for 149 years; in 1999 the company sold its brands to Miller and Pabst. Pabst got Schlitz. This sale marked the completion of forty years of consolidation of the brewing industry. The dismantling of Stroh, which employed 2,800 people, gave Miller and Anheuser–Busch seventy per cent of the market.[6]

 

[1] William H. Mulligan, “Stroh Brewing Company,” in Blocker et al., Encyclopedia, 598-600; Downard, Dictionary, 56-57, 185-186.

[2] “Shakeout in the Brewing Industry”; Shea interview, 2005.

[3] “Heileman’s Aggressive Style,” New York Times, August 15, 1979, D1; “Alan Bond Gets Jail in Australia,” New York Times, May 30, 1992, 35; Bob Skilnick, “Heileman, G., Brewing Company,” in Blocker et. al, Encyclopedia, 292-293.

[4] Philip E. Ross, “Bid for Heileman Spurs Stock,” New York Times, September 5, 1987, 31.

[5] Anthony Ramirez, “U.S. Is Challenging New Heileman Label,” New York Times, June 21, 1991, D15; “The Threat of Power Master,” New York Times, July 1, 1991, A12; “Heileman Told It Can’t Use the Power Master Name,” New York Times, July 2, 1991, D6; Kurt Eichenwald, “U.S. Rescinds Approval of A Malt Liquor,” New York Times, July 4, 1991, D3.

[6] Robyn Meredith, “Stroh to Buy Heileman in Big Brewery Deal,” New York Times, Match 1, 1996, D2; “Last call: Detroit-based Stroh Brewery will sell beer brands to Pabst, Miller,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 9, 1999, 3D http://www.elibrary.com/education (accessed January 23, 2001).

© Copyright, Amy Mittelman 2021

 

Shelton Brothers

Earlier this month, the big news in craft brewing was the closing of beer importers, Shelton Bros. The company existed for twenty-four years and were early importers of craft beers. They introduced America to different beer styles, such as sour beer. The company’s bank pushed them into liquidation; a victim of COVID-19 and the recession. You can read more about the closing of Shelton Bros. here.

I found this news interesting  because of a personal  connection to the firm. One of the Shelton brothers is Will. He is the dad of Zach and Max who are among my son Alan’s best friends. I have  known Will for over twenty years.

For a while he owned a brewery in Western Massachusetts, High and Mighty, which made great beer. I gave a book talk about Brewing Battles at the Jones Library and we served Will’s beer.  The brewery only lasted a few years and then Will moved to California. There, for a while,  he worked with Pete Slosberg from Pete’s Wicked Ale.  He then started a new brewery, Concrete Jungle. Will is now back in Massachusetts.

The demise of Shelton Bros. reflect changes in the brewing industry. The country has over 7,000 breweries. Many of them are very local and supply farm to table restaurants. American brewers now make many of the unusual and exotic styles that Shelton Bros imported, making them less competitive. You can read more about Shelton Bros, in an article from 2017 by Andy Crouch.

 

Great American Beer Festival

Friday and Saturday evenings I attended, virtually, the Great American Beer Festival. The first event on Friday was the Awards Ceremony. This was the session that had the greatest attendance; over three hundred people watched. It was open to the public and available on YouTube. All of the other events required you to spend $20 and get a GABF Passport.

There seemed to be an endless number of awards with many specific categories. Obviously the fewer contestants in a category gave an individual brewer a greater chance of winning. The Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale category had the most entries; 377. Spellbinder, Wren House Brewing Co., Phoenix, Arizona won the gold medal.  You can read  more about this style of beer here. I don’t think I have ever had it.

The Brewers Association sponsors the GABF. Justin Crossley, from the Brewing Network, was the host for all the session except the Awards Ceremony. Most of the events had around 150 viewers. That doesn’t seem like a large audience. I don’t know how many people usually attend the GABF but I assume it is more than 150.

Attending the GABF virtually meant the presenters were on Zoom or a similar platform. That meant there were various technological problems which led to poor production quality in some of the sessions. There were several interesting panels which I will discuss in separate posts in the coming weeks.

September Beer Roundup

Here are some articles about beer that I thought were interesting.

“September 9 Day of Action Planned to Urge Passage of Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act.” The Brewers Association  and other allied trade associations such as American Mead Makers Association are spending today lobbying  for passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, S.362/H.R. 1175. The bill would make the temporary tax benefits that brewers, distillers, and other actors in the liquor industry received from Trump’s tax cuts of 2017 permanent Those tax cuts flowed mainly to very rich people and corporations while poor and working-class people received little benefit. Brewers did not complain since they were also beneficiaries of the law.

The liquor industry like other businesses has suffered during the pandemic. If the tax cuts go away, it could worsen their economic situation. This article reports that two breweries with beer gardens and beer-to-go in Everett Massachusetts have closed because a customer went bar hopping while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.

The Great American Beer Festival has been held for thirty-nine years. This year it will be virtual. I have always wanted to go but I haven’t made it out to Denver yet. The upside of everything being virtual during the pandemic is that you can attend events that in real life you might not have been able to go to. It runs October 16–17. On the 17th Marcus Baskerville, Weathered Souls Brewing Co. , will be speaking about the Black is Beautiful brewing project that I wrote about here.

Belgian Beer

A few years ago, we visited both Bruges and Brussels in Belgium. When I started seeing some articles about Belgian brewing and Covid-19 I was interested.

During this pandemic, things have changed quickly. A good example is the Belgian brewers. When Corona first hit and businesses closed, Belgian craft brewers were doing well. Later, the situation changed.

In April, about month into the pandemic, the New York Post had an article about Belgian brewers developing a delivery process because all the bars were closed. It highlighted one craft brewer whose business was expanding due to delivery sales. At this point the picture might have looked rosy.

By May, the situation ad changed. The Belgian Brewers Federation announced that production of beer had dropped 50 percent in April.  The drop in production affected small brewers the most and one third of brewers had ceased producing any beer.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Eoghan Walsh who has a blog, Brussels Beer City, stated a podcast, Cabin Fever. On the podcast where he and other people involved in aspects of the craft brewing industry talk about what they are doing during the pandemic and what they are drinking. I have enjoyed listening to it because it is an easy going way to learn about how the pandemic is affecting the beer industry.

Brussels, 2017

Stoudt’s Brewery Closing

There are not that many women in the brewing industry. Carol Stoudt was one of the pioneers, opening Stoudt’s in the 1980’s. This week she has announced that she is retiring and the brewery is closing. You can read more about this here and here. You can also hear an interview with her here.

In 2009, while spending a month in Manhattan, I went to a panel discussion on women in brewing. Carol Stoudt was one of the speakers. I wrote two post about the evening. You can read the  first here.  I am reposting the second one, from September 17, 2009, below.

Women in the Beer Industry: Part Two

The panel discussion on Tuesday was very engaging and went past two hours. Each of the speakers provided details about how they got into the industry. Carol Stoudt was an educator but got interested in beer through her husband who loved good beer. They travelled to Germany. On their return, Carol wondered why they could not have the same quality of beer at their restaurant in Adamstown, PA. She does not feel that being a woman hindered her career in brewing and credits two men, Karl Strauss and Greg Noonan, with helping her.

Carol, along with the other panelists, felt that it was mainly a myth that women do not like beer as much as men and that they liked to drink “fruity” beers more often. She blamed much of this perception on marketing and media. Carol also believes that women brewing beer has long historical roots and that there are now many places in the world where women are returning to this practice. In particular, she mentioned Ethiopia.

Jennifer Schwertman, the bartender, felt it was a matter of educating women about beer and having better bartenders to help with this process. She believes it is a partnership between brewers and the community palate. Jen loves the community around craft brewing as much as she loves the beer.

Sarah Beach is from Belgium and has worked for Duvel Moorgat/Ommegang for four years. She is in sales and said when she goes into a retail establishment for the first time they often asked her if she is old enough to drink beer. I thought it was interesting that she was included on the panel since Ommegang is a craft brewery that a larger company owns.

Susan Greene, from Global Brewers Guild, is involved in sales and marketing and has worked for the company for over six years. Prior to her working in the beer industry, she was involved with restaurants. Susan feels that although New York has numerous excellent restaurants, the establishments often have poor beer lists.  In this area, she feels other cities are better.

A common theme among many of the panelists was that the craft beer scene is more vibrant in other parts of the country, particularly the Pacific Northwest. All are committed to making craft beers a thriving presence in New York City.

Debbie Boening stated that her family company had been involved, along with the Van Munching’s in importing and distributing Heineken in America. When Heineken took back distribution, it left a big gap in  Boening’s portfolio. It was at this point that she started looking at craft beers. In the early 1980s, Jin Koch (Boston Beer) had to make several repeat visits before she would agree to sell Sam Adams.

One of her sales reps was in the audience and told of going to various stores and bars saying, “I have Stoudt’s for you.” The other person would reply, “We have Guinness.” Sales Rep:  “It’s Carol Stoudt.” “You want me to buy a woman’s beer?” However, the distinctiveness of a woman making Stoudt’s did provide entry. Debbie said that, despite having many excellent craft beers in her portfolio, Colt 45 was still her top seller.

None of the panelists really felt that being a woman in the beer industry had made their path more difficult. All felt that the craft beer industry is very welcoming and supportive. The audience was overwhelmingly female so there may be a completely new group of women anxious to enter the industry.