PDA

View Full Version : That Old Michi is Back



Gillman
02-16-2007, 15:14
Anheuser-Busch has reformulated and relaunched Michelob.

Since the late 1950's, even regular Michelob has been an adjunct beer, 80% malt 20% rice (per Michael Jackson writing about 20 years ago). It was introduced as a premium, draught-only beer in 1896. From then until about 1958 it was all-malt. Then came the change (about the time it was put into bottles).

A/B has returned to an all-malt formulation for the regular Michelob, and even Michelob Light. (I am not sure about the others in the line like Ultra).

Also, A/B is bringing back the shaped "space age" bottle although it is an updated, slimmer-looking design.

About 10 years ago I wrote A/B and suggested they return to all-malt. I received a nice reply, telling me the rice they used was expensive (not a cheap adjunct) and contribubted to the crisp taste of the beer and no change was planned.

10 years later, with stagnant or falling sales of the traditional mass-market U.S. brands, A/B is doing something to upgrade the beer and return it to tradition.

I'd be interested in taste notes from people especially the homebrewers.

I always found Michelob had a characteristic taste that was rich and "eggy-like" and all-malt it is probably very good: Lew Bryson says so and I respect Lew's opinion (see www.lewbryson.com).

Sure, it won't be (as Lew said) a substitute for a highly individualistic craft beer but it sounds like it is very good on its own terms. I like fine craft beer with the rest of them but there is a place for a quality mass-produced product and it sounds like Old Michi, restored, may fit the bill.

Now, if A/B can just stay independent (recent news stories has it talking possible merger with InBev)!

Gary

Joeluka
02-16-2007, 15:31
Gary go to BeerAdvocate.com and you will find out everything you need about AB and what "Beer Geeks" think of all their brews. That site has thousands of members and hundred's of reviews on most every beer. Their forum also has a wealth of info on all these AB topics.

Just know that AB products are to them, what JBW and JD is to us.

Gillman
02-16-2007, 15:36
Hi Joe, thanks. I count myself as one of the geeks, having studied beer for some 30 years and avidly followed and encouraged the microbrew and import revolutions. I will take a look and factor in their views, but I'd be interested too in the views of people here who know beer, like Jeff Yeast and Jeff Renner. I have always had an admiration for the best commercial beers. I've had too many bad micro beers to doubt the validity of mass-market brewing at its best! Sure, there are lots of lousy mass-market beers: most of them are, in fact. But they don't have to be. In your own market, I like e.g. Ballantine XXX. It is better than 90% of the craft beers I sample from month to month.

Gary

ratcheer
02-16-2007, 15:51
So, is the all-malt new (old) formula Michelob generally available, now? If I know what I am getting, I will definitely try it.

Tim

Gillman
02-16-2007, 16:10
Tim, it is shipped from February 26. You will know it by the new tear-shape bottle. (It seems taller and slimmer than the original tear-shape design, but I'll take it. :)).

It would be interesting to have a side-by-side with the current one in the stores.

Gary

Grain Brain
02-16-2007, 16:31
I'll give this a fair shake, even though I rarely revisit the macros.

OscarV
02-16-2007, 17:32
I remember Michelob back in the early 1970's. I always thought it tasted great, the aroma was a bit over-whelming, (in a good way) as I remember, but back then I was very price concious, so I stayed in the Budweiser price range. Back then they called them "super-premiums", and Michelob on drought was considered very special, with the taste to back it up.

Yeah, we are breaking next week with the new stuff.

smokinjoe
02-16-2007, 19:31
I remember the day when I wanted that "special" beer, I sprung for the Michelob. But, I haven't had it in years. I always liked the funky bottle back then. Being a big A/B fan, I look forward to trying the new Michelob again. Thanks for the update Gary.

Cheers,

JOE

RoyalWater
02-16-2007, 20:11
I like a dash of rice in my beer. I will be interested to see how discernible the new recipe is. I noticed a couple of days ago that the new advertising features the shaped bottles. Hopefully the Michelob comes out better than A/B Rolling Rock, which though supposedly Latrobe recipe is not good.

Gillman
02-16-2007, 20:20
Well, even the current Michelob is very good when very fresh. I brought some to the whiskey tasting at Bettye Jo's last year, packaged not more than 3 weeks before. They were gobbled up in short order. :)

Gary

cowdery
02-17-2007, 01:25
The term "adjunct beer" is one of those terms that seems innocent enough but is really value-loaded. When a Scot calls bourbon "adjunct whiskey," his attitude is not neutral. I suppose both are legitimate points-of-view, based on the traditional preeminence of malted barley, and sometimes said for a direct, protectionist purpose, but otherwise it is plainly retrograde, ultimately pointless, and often said for no reason other than sneering snobbery.

Gillman
02-17-2007, 04:36
Some classic Belgian beers use sugars (a form of adjunct) and other substitutes for malt; Guinness uses unmalted barley, and so forth. A beer can be made to a high standard and use adjunct, but in general, the finest results (and I can only speak for me) avoid its use or keep it to a minimal level. What A/B is doing for Michelob is similar to a decision Heineken made 10-15 years ago for its beer, and most people felt at the time (that I knew in beer circles) that all-malt Heineken was better than the adjunct version that came before. In fact, I believe Heineken's amazing endurance as one of the leading beers in the world is due to that decision; A/B should have done similar year ago but it didn't, in my view because it did not understand the implications of the craft beer movement. This is ironic since Michelob was originally an all-malt beer and probably was very good in 1896. I am not sure about Budweiser. America brewers turned to adjunct early because it helped avoid turbidity problems (due to high protein levels in American malting barleys), but I think its effect on palate, when used in more than minimal quantities, is undoubted.

I think the new Michelob will do well, but unfortunately A/B de-emphasised regular Michelob for years in favour of Michelob Light, so it may take some time for Michelob to grow in sales, but I think it will. Even a Light all-malt beer has tremendous potential, and the mass-market palate for Light Beer is probably here to stay.

Gary

Gillman
02-17-2007, 05:57
Lew Bryson's review of the new Michelob and Michelo Light is actually at www.lewbryson.blogspot.com. See his entries for February 8 and 10.

Gary

Jazzhead
02-17-2007, 06:30
I love American-style beer. I appreciate all the various styles that have been revived by the microbrewing revolution, but in the end I drink American-style "adjunct beer" most of the time. It's crisp and has that thirst-quenching "drinkability" just like AB says. My go-to brands are Yuenglings and Straubs.

Now, I haven't had AB products much in recent years, and like many I remember "Mick" as the beer of choice back in the day when the goal was to throw a "classy" party. So, yeah, I'll give it a try again. All-malt Mick? Cool.

TBoner
02-17-2007, 10:29
To me the problem with most adjunct beers isn't the adjuncts themselves. It's the fact that most brewers use adjuncts in ever-increasing quantities, thus depleting the level of actual malt flavor in their beers. It doesn't have to happen, but it does. Additionally, to balance the lack of malt flavor, these adjunct brewers generally reduce hop levels to the point where there is really a complete elimination of any flavor profile beyond a neutral lager yeast and a vaguely grainy, quenching wateriness.

Try a PBR next to a Bud or a MGD and you'll taste the difference. The MGD is a better comparison, as Bud uses rice and the other two use corn. Regardless, both Bud and MGD have less hop character and less maltiness than PBR. I rarely drink macros, but when I do, I always go w/PBR at $6.49/12pk.

Yes, there are world-class beers, including several Belgians and many British ales, that use adjuncts. But most of them aren't American. If you want to taste a very quenching, yet eminently flavorful, beer that uses adjuncts, check out a Belgian saison such as Saison Dupont or Foret. This style was created to be a quenching beverage for seasonal laborers, yet it is one of the most unique, delicious, and flavorful beer styles in the world.

All that said, I'll try the new Michelob. But if the hop profile isn't a bit improved over the current product, I may not buy a second sixer.

craigthom
02-18-2007, 10:42
It's interesting that you mention PBR. I haven't had any lately, but I hope it's the same old recipe.

I toured the brewery before it closed, back in 1990, and I was surprised at how much of a hop nose the beer had in the tasting room.

CrispyCritter
02-18-2007, 21:01
I think the new Michelob will do well, but unfortunately A/B de-emphasised regular Michelob for years in favour of Michelob Light, so it may take some time for Michelob to grow in sales, but I think it will.

I've always preferred Michelob to Budweiser [1], but Michelob Light seems to be a regional thing - I remember drinking it in Michigan, for instance, but when I wanted one in a hometown bar, the bartender looked at me like I was from Mars, even though standard Michelob was readily available.


[1] Budweiser always struck me as being too bitter - ironic, given my liking of bitters in cocktails.

ratcheer
02-19-2007, 05:36
Dang, most people in the US claim that beer is not bitter enough, which is what they are saying when they say they want more hops.

Tim

SBOmarc
02-19-2007, 09:37
Good friends of mine attended the Nissan LA open golf tourney this weekend and heavily sampled the new Mich on tap. AB took this opportunity to promo it to a large group and had all kinds of SWAG to give away.

Reports on the beer were mostly favorable, but these were loyal AB folks. I will taste it when I see it.

gr8erdane
02-20-2007, 10:43
I look forward to trying the new Michelob with fond memories. When all there was in it's category was the original Michelob, it was head and shoulders above anything else AB put out. Then in the late 70s came the Light version which was still better than most but didn't have the rich taste of the original. The problem I had was when they came out with Michelob Ultra which was pretty much the worst beer I've ever tasted from AB and that is saying something. When the Ultra took over as the big seller because of its caloric count, the original Michelob really lost its appeal to me. The taste wasn't there and I thought it was my changing physiology more than a change in the beer itself and I really longed to rekindle that old taste I remembered from back in the 70s. Now this, to me, is wonderful news. I live in an area with wonderful microbreweries, but there are times when I don't want a hopped up beer. Michelob as I nostalgize about it would be a welcome fit into that time.

cowdery
02-20-2007, 15:40
Okay, taste memory, what did Michelob taste like 35 years ago? ---- processing ---- I remember it being fuller and richer than Bud and other beers, and not as sharp. Malty. That's it. I remember it was malty.

gr8erdane
02-22-2007, 15:17
Actually my most lasting memory of Michelob would make me agree with malty. It was 1978 or 1979 and my Mizzou Tigers were playing LSU in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. After the game (which we won) my Dad, sister and I went downtown to my favorite Memphis restaurant, The Rendezvous, for ribs. Dry rubbed ribs, crocks of baked beans and short pitchers of Michelob on draught. Life was so much simpler back then. Of course the pitchers kept coming and Dad and I slept it off while my sister drove us home that night. Anyway, the Michelob of those days was a perfect companion to the best ribs I've ever had due to it's creamy malt flavor.

TnSquire
02-23-2007, 07:45
The Rendezvous, for ribs. Dry rubbed ribs, crocks of baked beans and short pitchers of Michelob on draught. .

Dane,

I could not think of a better way to try the new Michelob. I will be in Memphis in the next couple of weeks and hopefully they will have it!

ratcheer
02-24-2007, 17:45
I just picked up a six-pack and am on my second one, now. It is quite tasty, certainly much better than the last Michelob I remember having. It has a beautiful hop aroma and is fairly bitter, but the taste is still very clean and crisp. I like it!

The "born on" date on my samples is Jan 4, so it is still pretty fresh, but maybe a little less so than I would prefer. I was hoping for something closer to Feb 4. :rolleyes: But it is definitely the new stuff, with the neck ring proclaiming, "A Classic All-Malt Lager".

Tim

Gillman
02-24-2007, 20:36
Good report Tim, thanks!

Gary

JeffRenner
02-27-2007, 19:40
The "born on" date on my samples is Jan 4, so it is still pretty fresh, but maybe a little less so than I would prefer. I was hoping for something closer to Feb 4. :rolleyes: But it is definitely the new stuff, with the neck ring proclaiming, "A Classic All-Malt Lager".

I picked up two six-packs last evening - one of the old style bottle with a "born on" date of 09 Jan 07 (BF72) and an new style bottle dated 31 Jan 07 (CE04). I was looking forward to comparison tasting them.

But I think that they are identical beers! The exact same color (one would expect all-malt to be a shade darker, although that could easily be adjusted by using paler malt in the all-malt), and identical levels of bitterness and hop flavor and aroma.

In short, I strongly believe that the older bottle was made with the new recipe. It is easy to imagine that during the change over, they didn't try to exactly coordinate both changes. That could easily result in wasted bottles.

So, my impression? An excellent job! I am not, in general, a fan of standard American lagers. Too bland. (Although the new Budweiser is also showing actual hop aroma, flavor, and even some bitterness.)

The new Mick has real, if subtle, hop aroma with some supporting malt aroma as well. The palate follows through, with complex European noble hop flavor and malt sweetness. Less crisp/dry than I recall the old, which would not be surprising, but more hops dryness. Finish is again nicely balanced between a lingering malt sweetness and a beautifully clean, delicate bitter hop finish.

I would be very surprised if the old bottle was, in fact, the old recipe. It seems definitely more malty/less crisp than what I recall, although it's been years since I've had a Mick. I'd like to get a bottle of the old to compare, but, of course, they will be getting less fresh rapidly.

I've often said that no one make beer better than A/B (which is not at all to say that no one makes better beer than they). Now they have made a better beer as well. Still not as much hop character and bitterness as I like, but I say, "Well done, A/B!"

Here (http://www.anheuser-busch.com/image/press_articles/MICHELOB-TEARDROP.jpg) is an image of the progression of the shape of the Mick bottles, which always reminded me of a 60's Lava Lamp. As a matter of fact, I hadn't realized that they had changed to the standard long neck before going back to a version of the lava-lamp.

Jeff

Grain Brain
02-27-2007, 21:05
Am on my second one now, and I think it's quite good. While it's still a light lager, it has a pretty rich mouthfeel. The foretaste is semi-crisp on the sides of the tongue, midway is a substantial maltiness over the top of the tongue, and the aftertaste is slightly bitter. Hop aroma is certainly substantial, if not exactly aggressive.

I can only applaud A/Bs efforts here (grumble grumble ;) ), and have to say the results are positive.

Gillman
02-28-2007, 01:00
Thanks gents, excellent comments.

I prefer the earlier bottle shapes, especially the second one from the left. The new one seems reminiscent of what Kronenbourg 1664 looks like in our market.

But it is what is inside that counts.

By the way recently I had a Staropramen in the can, made within the last 2 months and found it superb: rich, balanced, appetizing yet satisfying. It is much better (IMO) than the one in the green bottle. I am convinced all green bottles let in some light which seems to alter the taste and somehow lighten the body. The can precludes this and modern canning techniques avoid any tinny taste.

Gary

TBoner
02-28-2007, 04:45
I am convinced all green bottles let in some light which seems to alter the taste and somehow lighten the body. The can precludes this and modern canning techniques avoid any tinny taste.



Right you are. Green and clear bottles allow in UV light, which plays havoc on hops once they've been boiled in the wort (unfermented beer). The chemical produced is actually identical to that which gives skunk spray its...er...bouquet. Some commercial beers intentionally expose their beer to UV light (e.g. Corona) because people expect it as part of the taste profile.
I only buy green bottles in 12-packs because they haven't been exposed to light. It drives me nuts that every beer case in the world is under fluorescent lights.

BTW, many microbrewers are considering or are already moving to cans. As you say, modern techniques have eliminated flavor problems, and cans are cheaper, lighter, and more portable. They also don't break. The chief problem is with the cost of replacing a bottling line and buying enough cans at once to make the labeling cost-effective.

Gillman
02-28-2007, 05:31
Thanks for that, I was struck by the difference between a fresh can of Pilsener Urquel and the same beer in a green bottle (in some markets Urquel comes in brown bottles but here we get it in green ones). Same for Staropramen (another fine Czech beer). German beers canned that are very fresh are generally very good, even mass market beers like Lowenbrau, or DAB. If beer is consumed very soon after production, the container may not matter a lot, but I find after a month or so, it does make a difference. The more time that goes by, the better the quality than comes from cans.

On the other hand, if the beer is indifferent to begin with, the can won't help it much...

Gary

craigthom
03-01-2007, 22:03
Green and clear bottles allow in UV light, which plays havoc on hops once they've been boiled in the wort (unfermented beer).

Miller has bred hops that don't get skunky so they can continue to use clear bottles. I was told this when I visited their lab.

They've got all sorts of test equipment, but they check for skunkiness, among other things, using humans. People with sensitive noses can detect the smell in quantities too small for the machines to detect.

The lab visit didn't make me want to start drinking their beer, but it did fill me with equipment envy. I saw a couple of test breweries in there. The first was large brewpub sized, about 50 barrels, I think, but the second was 40 liters, and I couldn't help but think how nice that would be to have at home.

JeffRenner
03-02-2007, 11:36
Miller has bred hops that don't get skunky so they can continue to use clear bottles. I was told this when I visited their lab.

I haven't heard that; my understanding is that they use an isomerized hop extract that has been modified to change the spot on the molecule that is sensitive to that particular wavelength of light. This keeps it from changing to the skunky form, but it retains its desirable character.

You can find out more than you probably want to know about skunking of beer in this academic article, Shining Light on the Photodecomposition of Beer (http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/photochem/research/summer2005spectrum.pdf) (scroll down to p. 18).

Jeff

OscarV
03-02-2007, 12:38
And Miller uses persavatives, Miller is not a natural beer.

bluesbassdad
03-03-2007, 00:50
I found it at Safeway in Chino Valley, AZ Friday evening. That means it's available just about everywhere, I would think. I haven't opened a bottle yet, but I will over the next couple days.

The new bottle, while reminiscent of the old-time Michelob, has a less chunky, more graceful shape than I remember.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
03-09-2007, 12:19
I finally tried one, packaged February 20.

I was little disappointed. It seemed somewhat citric-tasting, and I found that odd in an all-malt formulation. Also, I couldn't detect much of the trademark Michelob taste (which I find hard to describe but which is quite evident in the Ultra version, for example - a flowery, "eggy" taste).

I wonder if, instead of adding more of the same malt and hops that was in the beer before, the formulation has been changed in some other way.

Not bad, but I have to wonder if the original, 1896 Michelob (then a draft-only beer) was closer in body and hop flavor to, say, a Sam Adams Lager.

Gary

ratcheer
03-09-2007, 14:41
Gary, I used to prefer Michelob back in the late 60's and 70's. I can't remember well enough to say whether the new Michelob tastes like that did. However, I can unequivocally say that the new Mich is much better than the last Mich I had a very few years ago.

Tim

Gillman
03-09-2007, 19:30
Tim, I agree. The new one has more body and hops than the adjunct version it replaced. But the Michelob from the 60's and 70's, albeit an adjunct beer by then, seemed better to me than the new one. Oh well, it is a step in the right direction, but I am waiting for "Michelob 1896".

Gary

Joeluka
03-10-2007, 10:46
If your willing to try something else, Brooklyn Lager is an All-Malt Lager.

TNbourbon
03-17-2007, 21:02
Well, I'm not the seasoned beer drinker that many of you are, having only begun enjoying brewed beverages (and not all of them, frankly) a little more than a year ago. Nonetheless, Michelob Amber Bock lager has become as much my 'house' macro as there is. It's the only non-specialty beer I've ever bought more than a single 6-pack of, I think.
So, when this discussion began, I decided to hold on to the last bottle from my then-current 6-pack -- bottled Jan. 8, '07 -- for comparison to the new 'old-style' version when it showed up here. Actually, I began seeing the 'new' ones a couple of weeks ago, but didn't buy any till earlier today, bottled Feb. 21, '07.
I won't attempt to ascribe characteristics (malty or hoppy, for example) that I don't yet understand to them, but rather describe the tastes, which I did find different.
I poured each in identical glasses. Their appearances were not markedly different. The newest one may have been slightly lighter in color, but not much. However, I found the tastes immediately divergent. The just-passed January bottle, I thought, was noticeably sweeter and more palatable across the tongue, but the all-malt February bottling had a cleaner finish and aftertaste. Still, overall, I think I preferred the one that apparently is no more (so, I guess I might look for some recent pre-change bottles -- or find a new favorite). Since I still have five bottles of the newer version, though, I'll give it a fair shot to win me over.

Gillman
03-18-2007, 04:54
It is interesting what a formulation change can do. I am not sure that Amber Bock's changed (I know Michelob Ultra did become all-malt), i.e., it may have been all-malt before since it was a specialty product of Michelob to begin with. I'll check into this.

The fact that a beer is all-malt does not ensure a better result automatically although usually (to my taste) all-malt beer is better. E.g., a mass market Canadian brewer, Labatt/InBev, makes Labatt Classic, an all-malt beer. This has a mild palate and is not noticeably different from the mainline brands of that brewery. Heineken is all-malt. About 15 years ago it switched to all-malt from a malt and corn formulation. It is a decent product but does not bear any resemblance to a craft beer such as Sam Adams, say, and its taste did not greatly change after it became all-malt.

Beer also tends to vary from batch to batch. I will try Michelob again since it is possible the recipe is still being tweaked.

In general though the move to all-malt is good. It tends to accenuate quality, but that is not all there is to it. You need to use enough malt, of the right type, and enough hops, of the right type to get a good balance in the taste.

Beer's taste is a composite of sweetish barley malt (roasted to different temperatures, thus almost like the different tastes of toast); the bitter/flowery/citric/other taste of the resinous part of hops (a climbing vine); and the fruity, spicy, earthy or other flavors of yeast. Of course, secondary characteristics (various congeners) also impart their taste. This is exactly so with distiller's beer except it is designed to produce an optimum product when distilled and does not use hops. E.g., the yeasts in distiller's beer are intended to extract as much alcohol as possible from the mash. In beverage beer, while high alcohol versions have become popular in recent years, generally you want a medium "attenuation", to preserve the malty flavor that is the base of any good brew.

Hops originally were added to preserve beer, which otherwise went sour quickly. In time, people became accustomed to the taste hops imparted.

I once read a poll that most people (a majority anyway) do not like the taste of beer. They drink it to be sociable, but don't like it. This surprised me initially, but on reflection I could see how it could be so.

I liken this to an experience I had the other day. I had bought a chocolate bar without looking closely at the label. When I tasted it, again I did not read the label. It had a funny taste. I thought maybe it had gone off in some way. I tried it again later: same result. Then I looked at the label. It was flavored with hazelnuts. Only then did I realise it tasted very good, it was chocolate and hazelnuts in the taste: I know hazelnuts and I like them. But because I had no reference when I tried this initially, I found the taste weird and off. I think this is true with beer (or many other reasonably complex-tasting things); if you know what it is supposed to taste like, it makes the experience more interesting (even if you never acquire the taste). My understanding of beer was greatly assisted by reading the works of Michael Jackson. His books are still widely available and of the recent ones I'd recommend Beer Companion the most, and also his pocket guides.

Gary

TNbourbon
03-18-2007, 08:50
...I am not sure that Amber Bock's changed (I know Michelob Ultra did become all-malt), i.e., it may have been all-malt before since it was a specialty product of Michelob to begin with...

http://www.anheuser-busch.com/press_room/michelob_heritage_020807.html
Third paragraph.

Gillman
03-18-2007, 09:07
Thanks, Tim. I thought Michelob Ultra (which I like) was included in the all-malt upgrade, maybe not.

However, the point remains that while in theory all-malt should improve the beer, it may not. I found a citric-like "quenching" taste in the new Michelob (the regular one) that was similar to that taste in the earlier beer. Maybe a certain type of malting barley was included to ensure this effect (maybe some 6 row barley?), maybe there is another explanation.

All Michelob needed was more of the key-note taste that was already there: more eggy velvety malt, more body and sweetness, more flowery hop taste. I don't get that in the new product, it tastes similar to what came before or maybe not quite as good although the body seems heavier, yes.

It is interesting how far commercial beers have come from the original, crafted, rich, hop-flowery beers. I guess the divergence was so great over the years that this resurgence of tradition can only be partial. Note the press release speaks of the new beer being "in the tradition" of the 1896 beer, not a replication of its spec.

But again, and based on my experience with new beers or releases, it sometimes takes time to get it right.

I will keep buying the product.

Gary

bluesbassdad
03-18-2007, 11:56
I'm now about half-way through my 12-pack, and I still don't know what to say. The current formulation does remind me of the Michelob I knew from my earliest drinking days. However, it seems less robust than I remember.

I'm guessing any difference is more in my taste buds than in the product. Back in those days I didn't like plain yogurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut, hot peppers or bourbon. Now I do. With changes like that in my tasting apparatus, how can I possibly compare the nuances of two slightly different versions of the same beer recipe?

The bottom line is that this could become my go-to beer. However, it somehow lacks the full, rich flavor and the cachet that I attributed to the Michelob of the 1960's.

Now that I see mention of a reformulated AmberBock, as well, I'll be on the look out for it, too. The previous version was my favorite of the A-B line.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
03-18-2007, 12:09
Yes, I think AmberBock may end up being the best of the range ("pace" Tim), and who knows, maybe it is closer to 1896 Michelob than any other in the range.

I think Michelob in the late 60's and 70's really was better than even the reformulated Michelob beers of today, though.

Most people accept that (commercial) beer had more oomph then. In the 60's, there would have been people in the breweries trained in the 30's. And who would have trained them? Old hands from the pre-Pro days. Malting and hop rates have fallen steadily since the 1950's (professional brewers have told me this and studies have shown it), and this is why I think American mass-market beer entered its nadir: it became too bland. The corporate imperative to save costs combined with consumer indifference almost made for the destruction of traditional brewing in America.

One can tell that mass market beer was better in the real old days in many other ways. E.g., take a beer such as Pilsener Urquel, the original pils type still made in the Czech Republic and now exported widely around the world including to the U.S. It has a rich malty and hoppy taste. The best U.S. beers of circa-1914 and even 1950 had to be similar, maybe not (by then) the same in taste but they would have been similar in quality. There could not have been the divergence in quality we see now, immigrants (who made up a large part of the beer market in the late 1800's and early 1900's) would not have stood for it. They knew fine beer because they came from countries where it was a stand-by. Traditional English bitter too has a rich full taste and the old U.S. IPAs and other English-type beers would have been similar. Those died out in mass-market brewing, except for the odd "cream ale" here and there. (Ballantine XXX is still pretty good and a fine value - a price beer that tastes like a micro - you have to live in the North East to find it, though).

The micros have my business these days but I still like trying commecrial beers. I think A/B will ultimately return to its roots and possibly will reformulate Budweiser. True, rice adjunct has been used from early days in American brewing; still, the beers overall were heavier then. To redress the balance today, an all-malt spec is needed and good solid hopping.

In terms of craft lager beer, Sam Adams Lager takes a beating for quality: it is the best widely available beer in the U.S, IMO. But watch the best-by dates.

Gary

OscarV
03-18-2007, 12:14
I have never had the Michelob Amber Bock, but I also remember Michelob Dark. That to was only available on drought, until the early '80's then they put it in bottles, I remember the roll-out it was very successful. I had a couple of 6's of it, I liked it but I was very much into porters and stoughts then and it just was not what I was looking for.

And Dave, I agree that it used to taste more robust, I think it had a higher carbonation that prodused a more intoxicating aroma.

ratcheer
03-18-2007, 16:42
(Ballantine XXX is still pretty good and a fine value - a price beer that tastes like a micro - you have to live in the North East to find it, though).

Gary

Gary, that was the first beer I ever tasted as an underaged teen. It sure would be nice to have another one, if only for old times sake.

Tim

Gillman
03-18-2007, 17:01
Still widely available in New York State and adjoining parts. Oddly perhaps, it is now brewed in the South - in South Carolina I believe (in Eden). SAB Miller has a plant there and the brand ended up being made there under license for Pabst - that's the last I heard. So maybe it is available in the Carolinas or other parts of the south.

Gary

jesskidden
03-18-2007, 18:31
re: Ballantine Ale

The Pabst website has a pretty good link for what states their beers are distributed in- http://www.pabst.com/mainpage.html click on "our beers" click on the state in the map at the bottom. (Hint- turn off your speakers first- an annoying soundtrack and sound effects on that site).


Ballantine Ale, IIRC, is pretty much a New England- Northeast-Midwest brand these days (when Ballantine was still open and then for a time with Falstaff, it was a national brand)- they don't even sell it in it's former long time brewing site, Indiana. (Note Pabst can't even get straight whether they're making the ale or the beer on that website. For a time, their website even spelled "Schaefer" wrong.)


The labels on the XXX Ale only list a PO Box and Milwaukee (the Feds in the US no longer require actual brewing site on a label, just a "home office"), I've always assumed that the Miller plant in Ohio, being closest, was the source, but North Carolina seems just as likely, I suppose. (Don't know how to read the Miller codes, but I guess it's there.)

The new young turk that's running Pabst for the "charity" scam that owns it, is looking to possibly revive the brand (altho' he gets some facts wrong): http://tinyurl.com/26yl7j

I, for one, think the Miller brewed version is horrible compared to the old Falstaff (Cranston and Ft. Wayne) and even the Pabst/Heileman versions. I'd like to see them contract it out to some microbrewery- not unheard of- Miller's doing it with some of their Henry Weinhard label styles.

Gillman
03-18-2007, 19:43
Thanks for this, and the correction to North from South Carolina - I am quite sure Ballantine XXX is brewed there now. For a time it was made in Lehigh, PA.

I tend to agree it may not be quite as good as 30 years ago - Cascades are used now, and I seem to recall this was not so in the 70's (maybe Northern Brewer, I am not sure).

But it is still a good glass of beer, at a very fair price.

I buy "bombers" when in New York. I find it tastes best in glass but the beer needs to be very fresh to be at its best.

It is due for a revival, draught service and a national re-launch - unlike say the cool (again) PBR, it's got a good strong taste, I think it would do great as an icon from the past re-invented. (Art fans will recall Jasper John's fine rendering of Ballantine Ale cans in the 1960's).

I'm really holding out though for a return of Ballantine India Pale Ale, the legendary pre-micro-era English-style well-hopped pale ale.

I had a bottle in the fridge for years, well after the last brews were made. I figured it would last and I'd consume it with elan in, say, 2007. We had some work down in the house and it disappeared when some refreshment was taken along with the cokes and juice offered. I hope he was a beer geek. :)

Gary

jesskidden
03-19-2007, 04:13
Thanks for this, and the correction to North from South Carolina - I am quite sure Ballantine XXX is brewed there now. For a time it was made in Lehigh, PA.


Gary

Yes, seems I see Miller-NC as the site for Ballantine XXX Ale mentioned a lot- doesn't make sense, but, then nothing with that Pabst-Miller deal does. (ALtho' I pay so little attention to the big 3 in the US, I'm always a bit surprised when I'm reminded that Miller closed several breweries, like the one in NY state and maybe a PNW one (Olympia?) from Stroh/Heileman, even as they continue to be #2 as well as brew most of #4's beers, as well.)

Pabst, best as I can remember, only ran that former Schaefer/Stroh facility in PA for a few years so I don't know that I ever even HAD any of the Ballantine coming from there. (Hey, much as I'm nostalgic for the brand, but there WERE a lot of great beers around at the time and I do hate the philosophy behind the S&P Corp., so I often "boycott" it.) I DO remember saying "WOW, it's back" to the Milwaukee brewed stuff (which, internet rumor has it, MAY have been contracted out to Heileman). OTOH, the McSorley's coming from City (ex-Heileman) is even worse than the current Ballantine, when compared to the old (Rheingold, Ortlieb, Schmidts) versions.




I tend to agree it may not be quite as good as 30 years ago - Cascades are used now, and I seem to recall this was not so in the 70's (maybe Northern Brewer, I am not sure).

Gary

1960-era deposit bottles from P. Ballantine & Sons had a neck label that read:

"Brewed with Brewer's Gold® a strain of choice hops used specially by Ballantine in our own exclusive true ale recipe"

Falstaff era neck labels (eventually dropped, to save money no doubt, an S&P trait) only said "Brewed from Ballantine's own exclusive true ale recipe."

Falstaff, however, DID add several new ales to the Ballantine line-up for a time, one of which was called "Brewer's Gold Ale", higher in ABV and much hoppier than "regular" Ballantine XXX. There was once a regular poster on an internet beer group who claimed an ex-worker in Cranston told him that it was a blend of XXX and IPA, but the hop profile doesn't seem right for that combo (maybe an additional dry hopping- if the blending wasn't done at bottling?). There were also Ballantine Cream Ale and Ballantine Twisted Red Ale, neither of which I remember very well at all.



But it is still a good glass of beer, at a very fair price.

I buy "bombers" when in New York. I find it tastes best in glass but the beer needs to be very fresh to be at its best.



I don't know, I try it occassionally, maybe once every 6 months or so and I'm always disappointed. The glass bottles, of course, can suffer from skunking (gotta say, the "green" is getting lighter and lighter, too), so I usually find a store with cases on the floor and take a six out of one of them, rather than the cooler. I don't see the "bombers" often in NJ, only 12 oz. bottles, cans and 40's. Haven't seen draft (always rare in my era) since, oh, musta been before Cranston closed around 1980?

My favorite package was the deposit bottle- kept dark and didn't go through so much handing or maybe it was just beer psychological, but it just tasted better- hoppier, slightly sweet, no skunk. I swear I recognize some of these as having been in my cellar <g>- http://www.falstaffbrewing.com/_borders/ftw12.jpg



I'm really holding out though for a return of Ballantine India Pale Ale, the legendary pre-micro-era English-style well-hopped pale ale.

I had a bottle in the fridge for years, well after the last brews were made. I figured it would last and I'd consume it with elan in, say, 2007. We had some work down in the house and it disappeared when some refreshment was taken along with the cokes and juice offered. I hope he was a beer geek. :)

Gary

I have several old bottles of IPA (just tried a Newark-era one several months ago- not so good ) and I *thought* I'd kept one of that last batch (labeled "Ft. Wayne-Milwaukee") but I see it's just a "Ft. Wayne" on the label- even by then, it was so "weakened" over the years, I don't have any hope for it (tons of sediment, etc). I'm pretty sure the last attempt was from 1996- at least, according to the packaging I have.

Interestingly, Pabst supposedly came out with a re-born Old Tankard Ale around the same time, which they compared to BIPA (maybe it was the same stuff, trying to sell it under two labels in two markets to justify the batch size?): http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3469/is_n4_v43/ai_11870348
I never the saw this in my East Coast market, but, the "old" Old Tankard from the 70's was nothing like BIPA or even XXX Ale.

As I said in my first post, I'd hope that any revival of the Ballantine ales are done somewhere other than Miller and I've always thought that Anchor would be ideal since Maytag's mentioned them in several interviews over the years (I remember reading an interview when I lived in Calif. in the mid-70's when he noted how he could "smell the hops from across the room when someone opens a can of Ballantine Ale...") and beer urban legend says that his Old Foghorn is based on Ballantine Burton Ale, Liberty was influenced by BIPA, etc.

Unfortunately, the results of many "reborn" brands isn't too good...

Gillman
03-19-2007, 04:32
Great information, many thanks!

There are many fans here of good beer who will be intrigued by this information.

By the way when I referred to Northern Brewer as a possible hop for the old XXX, I meant, as you again corrected and thanks, Brewer's Gold which indeed is a classic ale hop in certain areas (many French bieres de garde use it).

Whiskey and beer unite again after a fashion in the fact that for many years, the Newark and possibly Cranston, RI facilities which made Ballantine (this was before the corporate and further locational changes noted by Jess) used a still to distill hop oils. This use of the still goes back really to pre-alcohol distillation days, when it was used to refine and purify substances such as perfumes and various essences.

I was glad to see what the current Pabst CEO said about Ballantine. He is right that there are connections past and present between Ballantine and the current micro beers. I hope he makes a revival happen. It won't matter who brews the beers, if they are brewed right. At least Pabst would have the archival and historical information to brew them correctly. The IPA was really a bridge to the micro movement and it is good to hear that Maytag was inspired by it or even XXX.

Gary

jesskidden
03-19-2007, 06:06
By the way when I referred to Northern Brewer as a possible hop for the old XXX, I meant, as you again corrected and thanks, Brewer's Gold which indeed is a classic ale hop in certain areas (many French bieres de garde use it).


Gary

Since I don't brew anymore, I don't keep up with hop varieties but seem to recall that Brewers Gold isn't commercially grown (maybe just not in the US?) anymore? Replaced by higher alpha or better storing hybrids?





Whiskey and beer unite again after a fashion in the fact that for many years, the Newark and possibly Cranston, RI facilities which made Ballantine (this was before the corporate and further locational changes noted by Jess) used a still to distill hop oils.

Gary

Hmmm...yeah, interesting observation. And, then there's the connection with another alcoholic beverage tradition. Michael Jackson claims that the famous Ballantine Burton Ale was aged in a solera system (with new ale repleshing a small percentage of the aged stuff draw out for bottling), which certainly explains why the "brewing dates" of all the known bottlings (at least the ones I've seen) thru the 40's>60's were either May 12, 1934 or May 12, 1946. They obviously used the oldest portion of the brew as the "brewed" date.

Just realized, too, that the 1934 date was only 3 months after the brewery started brewing again (they started up a bit later than many others, post-Prohibition, due to the purchase of the brewery by the Badenhauser brothers after Repeal).

Gillman
03-19-2007, 06:31
The solera concept: another whisky-related idea. Glenfiddich has a solera version of its whisky. The concept makes sense for many kinds of liquors, it would be a way to stretch the goodness of older production and for beer, a way too to retain the value of the oldest component which on its own might go sour after so long a time in storage. The old porter vatting in London in the 1700's and 1800's was a similar idea. In time of course people accustomed to the sour-sweet taste of such beers and appreciated the complexity the solera imparted to whisky or sherry. Glenfiddich did not introduce a gimmick, in the annals of scotch whisky there is evidence that people topped up casks in their basements with newer whisky and the vatting experiments of the 1800's (leading to Vat 69, still sold and the first vatted malt) was a similar idea.

Brewer's Gold is still grown in parts of Europe (was in the mid-90's when I visited a number of breweries in French Flanders), I am not sure about North America, indeed hop strains keep changing.

I am not a big fan of Cascades but find it goes well in this XXX since it is meant to be drunk cold and Cascades often complement a well-chilled beer.

Gary

ratcheer
03-19-2007, 19:08
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Information overload.

Tim

jesskidden
03-20-2007, 05:48
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Information overload.

Tim

Sorry if this is the wrong forum for such a discussion. I think as a kid I watched too many Dragnet re-runs (Joe Friday: "Just the facts, ma'am") so while I have a hard time with some of the mis-information and opinions disguised as fact on the internet, I DO have a tendency to give ALL the facts (complete with legit sources, on request, if needed <g>). I came across Gary's interesting posts on Ballantine and it's ales (a favorite research project of mine) on this and another site (Bar Towel) and found I had come across someone whose interest jibed with mine. If this is the wrong place to share the info or if "subject drift" isn't allowed here, again, I apologize.

That being said, I picked up a sixpack of the subject All Malt Michelob yesterday. Altho' only 40 miles from the A-B brewery in Newark, it took a while to hit the shelves in my beer buying area and is already over a month old. The only other A-B product I've bought in 30 years or so (I did buy a bottle of that "Brewmasters Reserve" when it first came out), I did once taste a pretty good Michelob on tap at the brewery in Ohio (the only one I ever found to have any hop presence) and always attributed the difference to freshness and lack of pasteurization.

I found this new/old version pretty lame, sadly- and don't think I could distinguish it from any other typical macro light lager, save for a slightly darker color and a bit richer mouth feel.

I'll save the other 5 for when non-beer geeks visit.

jesskidden
03-20-2007, 06:05
Thanks for this, and the correction to North from South Carolina - I am quite sure Ballantine XXX is brewed there now.

Gary

A quick follow up on this. I wrote Miller to get the number code for their breweries (it's part of their multi-digit date code stamped on the bottles and cans of Ballantine XXX Ale) but have gotten no reply.

I checked the corrugated cardboard cases of the Ale yesterday at a store and see that the mfg. of the cardboard is in Cincinnati, which is near Miller's Ohio brewery in Trenton. It's not foolproof by any means, but I find the technique useful for figuring out the origin of some multi-site breweries' beers, since manufacturers will almost exclusively use a nearby box manufacturer to save on shipping costs of such bulky, heavy material, esp. since most companies use a "Just in Time" inventory system these days.

I do remember that the NC plant was brewing Ballatine's old "sister" brew (via the old Falstaff/Narragansett Cranston RI brewery), Haffenreffer Private Stock Malt Liquor and thought, too, that Ballantine was coming from there, as well. Could the ale still be selling well enough for it to be a multi-site beer? If one brewery's version is better than another's within the SABMiller empire, I'm in trouble <g> "Got any North Carolina Ballantine Ale?".

Gillman
03-20-2007, 07:09
Thanks Jess for all this. There are many here interested in beer and this thread is on the topic of beer.

I got the information on current Ballantine production location from www.falstaffbrewing.com. This site (which I am sure you know) is chock full of information on Falstaff and its various units and the Ballantine (and other pages) are very interesting.

I trult hope Pabst will revive the IPA including as a draft beer - it could make significant gains in the market if well-brewed.

As you may know, for a time, a micro-brewer (referred to in these pages) who later took a position with Pabst in China made a product called Woodstock IPA for Portland Brewing (now McTarnahan Brewery and a division of Pyrmid Brewing). This was his tribute to Ballantine IPA and I had it a couple of times and it was excellent. This was circa-2000. I don't know if McTarnahan still makes it, its website does not refer to it at present.

Gary

Gillman
03-20-2007, 07:10
Thanks Jess for all this. There are many here interested in beer and this thread is on the topic of beer.

I got the information on current Ballantine production location from www.falstaffbrewing.com. This site (which I am sure you know) is chock full of information on Falstaff and its various units, and the Ballantine (and other pages) are very interesting.

I truly hope Pabst will revive the IPA including as a draft beer - it could make significant gains in the market if well-brewed.

As you may know, for a time, a micro-brewer (referred to in these pages) who later took a position with Pabst in China made a product called Woodstock IPA for Portland Brewing (now MacTarnahan Brewery and a division of Pyramid Brewing). This was his tribute to Ballantine IPA and I had it a couple of times and it was excellent. This was circa-2000. I don't know if MacTarnahan still makes it, its website does not refer to it at present.

Gary

jesskidden
03-20-2007, 08:32
I got the information on current Ballantine production location from www.falstaffbrewing.com (http://www.falstaffbrewing.com). This site (which I am sure you know) is chock full of information on Falstaff and its various units and the Ballantine (and other pages) are very interesting.


Yup, great site, I've contacted him several times and have a bunch of stuff I've been meaning to send him. He's very accurate, as well. (I can't believe how many times I've read incorrect explanations of the admittedly confusing deals between Pabst and Heileman in the early 80's on other sites or the later Pabst/Miller/Stroh(inc. Heileman) deal in '99 or how often beer sites state that "Pabst bought Falstaff" when, in actuality, Falstaff's parent company, S&P, bought Pabst.).

Altho', I see that he also give Miller's Ohio facility as the current brewery <g>.

"After the closure of Cranston, brewing of Ballantine moved to Ft Wayne and then 1990, to Pabst in Milwaukee... shut down by S&P in 1996. Production was then shifted to contract brewing at Miller in Eden, NC to the former Stroh plant in Lehigh Valley, PA and finally contract brewed at Miller in Trenton, OH."



As you may know, for a time, a micro-brewer (referred to in these pages) who later took a position with Pabst in China made a product called Woodstock IPA for Portland Brewing (now McTarnahan Brewery and a division of Pyramid Brewing). This was his tribute to Ballantine IPA and I had it a couple of times and it was excellent. This was circa-2000.
Gary

Yes, I had the Woodstock IPA but, at the time, I didn't know about it's relationship to BIPA and, frankly, can't remember it, unfortunately.

I see on the beer websites there's at least two other clone/wannabes of the Ballantine ales out there (seem to be brewpub only beers, tho'):

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/556/13471

http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/boscos-ballantine-xxx-pale-ale/48852/

Gillman
03-20-2007, 10:11
I missed that quote (still can't find it) but was going by the quotation from Robert Newman, a Pabst brewer, who states it is currently brewed in "Miller-Eden". But that quote may be years old now and your identification of the cartons suggests Ohio manufacture.

I looked at the website of pabst - www.pabst.com - which lists many beers I didn't realise were in its portfolio. It really is (when you look at the brands as a whole) a partial snapshot of beer as it was in the 70's and early 80's. Evidently there is still a large market (or large enough) for PBR, Heilman, Oly, Special Export, etc.

I do retain a fond spot for such pre-microbrewery beers. I started drinking beer before the onset of microbrews and the serious imports and never lost the taste for a good light North American lager or ale. First, at their best, they were very good (Ballantine as we discussed, Prior Double Dark, Andeker, Michelob in the day, Coors in the day, draft Genny Cream in the schooners, etc.).

Second and of interest to me as a whiskey drinker, they go uniquely well with a shot. PBR still does.

Gary

jesskidden
03-20-2007, 10:36
I looked at the website of pabst - www.pabst.com (http://www.pabst.com) - which lists many beers I didn't realise were in its portfolio. It really is (when you look at the brands as a whole) a partial snapshot of beer as it was in the 70's and early 80's. Evidently there is still a large market (or large enough) for PBR, Heilman, Oly, Special Export, etc.



There's an interveiw with the new head of Pabst, Kevin Kotecki (ex- Coors and Proctor & Gamble) in a recent issue of the industry mag, "Beverage World". (Unfortunately, not on line- only that sidebar Ballantine article linked a few posts above is.) Pabst owns 75 different brand names but "only" markets 37 of them. When asked about being a contract-brewer only, he says "I can't see any reason why I would want to own a brewery."

I was looking at some old stats the other day. Of the top 20 breweries of 1967, Pabst owns the labels of 15 of them (including 4 of the top 5).

Needless to say, the sales of those brands far outnumber the 14.4&#37; of the market A-B had at the time. Pabst today has under 4 percent of the market, and is still going down (9.5 million bbl in 2000 to 6.2 in 2005). All those Pabst brands just barely outsell the budget Busch Beer brand from A-B.

Gillman
03-20-2007, 11:03
Yes, and all commercial (mass market) beer brands are declining or flat, I understand.

This is why he should be looking at including a micro-style beer in his portfolio especially since he already has it in the archives: Ballantine IPA.

I suppose too these are, today, essentially niche markets and from an investor's standpoint, the ROE may be quite good. But the decline in bbl should be a concern.

As to owning a brewery, I am not sure about the economics of that in terms of the current Pabst business model. There clearly is enough capacity to keep the Pabst brands going.

Gary

cowdery
03-20-2007, 14:34
Kotecki also ran Brachs candies here in Chicago and was CEO when they closed the Chicago plant.

He moved the Pabst operation to a Chicago suburb last year.

It would be incorrect to call Pabst a contract brewer. Pabst is a marketing company, not a "brewer" in any sense of the word. Miller is the "contract brewer" for most or all of the brands Pabst markets.

Many people here in Chicago were very upset when Federated Stores finally dumped the Marshall Fields name. It's the same sort of thing. What's in a name? In other words, when did Marshall Fields really cease being Marshall Fields? I can still buy an Old Style at Wrigley Field, but the La Crosse, Wisconsin brewery that made it for so many years doesn't make it and hasn't since 1999.

jesskidden
03-20-2007, 17:05
It would be incorrect to call Pabst a contract brewer. Pabst is a marketing company, not a "brewer" in any sense of the word.



I agree that it's a confusing term - I'm just using it as is common within the industry. Maybe there should be a "ContractOR Brewery" and a "ContractEE Brewery". I, too, prefer "marketing company" or "virtual brewer".

Here's the Brewers Association's definition (which notes the problem):

Contract Brewing Company: A business that hires another brewery to produce its beer. It can also be a brewery that hires another brewery to produce additional beer. The contract brewing company handles marketing, sales, and distribution of its beer, while generally leaving the brewing and packaging to its producer-brewery (which, confusingly, is also sometimes referred to as a contract brewery).

http://www.beertown.org/craftbrewing/statistics.html

Near the bottom of the page.

cowdery
03-20-2007, 18:13
Well, I guess an industry can define its terms however it wants, but in distilling it's just the opposite. A contract distiller is a distiller who contracts with others to make spirit for them to their specifications.

"Contract brewing company" is a little better than "contract brewer" or "contract brewery" since the later terms suggest that the company is a brewer/brewery, which it is not. "Virtual brewer" seems to hit the nail on the head, but is maybe a little too cute. I don't like the fundamental idea of someone who has no brewing facilities and performs no actual brewing being called a "brewer" or "brewery." It seems deliberately misleading.

You made reference earlier to a "charity." What's that about? (Gary, if you don't want to see your Michi thread highjacked, say something and we can take this elsewhere.)

jesskidden
03-21-2007, 04:43
"Contract brewing company" is a little better than "contract brewer" or "contract brewery" since the later terms suggest that the company is a brewer/brewery, which it is not. "Virtual brewer" seems to hit the nail on the head, but is maybe a little too cute. I don't like the fundamental idea of someone who has no brewing facilities and performs no actual brewing being called a "brewer" or "brewery." It seems deliberately misleading.



Yeah, I don't like "brewery/brewer" in the name, either. Maybe "Contract Beer Company" works best. I can never decide if "Virtual Brewery" is cute or a put-down. I'd expect Pabst to consider it the latter.



You made reference earlier to a "charity." What's that about?

Pabst was bought in the mid-80's by the S&P Corporation, the parent company of, at the time, Falstaff-General-Pearl. It was run by Paul Kalmanovitz, who was notorious for buying breweries, cutting to bone and running the business into the ground and moving on, leaving a lot of unemployed workers and shipping the brewing equipment to China. I read of questionable tax manipulations done when, say, "Falstaff" would "sell" certain assets to "Pearl" at a loss, to make it look less profitable on the books, etc. (That Falstaff site Gary linked to above is a great overview).

Kalmanovitz died in the late 80's and his estate, including the brewery holdings was converted into the Kalmanovitz Charity Trust, which "owns" Pabst (all the other brewing companies having since been rolled into that company)- tho' the corporation continued to run in the same manner (Every few years an article will state that it's against IRS rules for such a Trust to "own" a corporation and Pabst will have to be sold but it never happens).

Folks in Milwaukee have a particular hatred of him, for manipulating some rules and screwing a lot of people out of a pension at Pabst (and, to some extent, Schlitz, too, since Pabst owns that label now). As I recall that story, pension contract rules stated that if a brewery closed, certain payments must be made, so Pabst kept one man working in Milwaukee and claimed the brewery was not closed by only "idled" (or something like that, not sure of the technical term, now) and the pension fund wasn't being funded properly. (Again, that's from memory...).

Here's some of the particulars of the "scam" aspect, about 1/4 of the way down, in an article titled "Who Really Owns Pabst". http://www.milwaukeeworld.com/blog/2006_07_01_michaelhorne_archive.html

As you note, the Pabst "headquarters" (which is probably mostly Kolecki's laptop) moved to Illinois last year and they were "rumored" to be considering Milwaukee, but I don't think they wanted them in the Beer City...



(Gary, if you don't want to see your Michi thread highjacked, say something and we can take this elsewhere.)

Yeah, sorry 'bout that, but it happens when one is drinking beer or whiskey, so I suppose it's bound to happen even if one's only discussing it.

Gillman
03-21-2007, 04:57
This thread is all about the large brewer styles vs. the more traditional (I had speculated that the new Michelob would return the brand to its presumed roots) and its various directions are not far off, or are alongside, the main route.

As to terminology, I have seen the term contract brewer used more in the sense Chuck has argued but I've been around long enough to know that terminology is variable and used by various parties differently, and all this is valid since language is a living thing and has no absolute value.

We have a beer in Toronto called Granite Best Bitter which is similar in some ways to the old Ballantine IPA. It isn't put in oak but otherwise the taste is similar (I don't think oak was used in the later brewings of BIPA). This is a typically English taste. There are hundreds of craft IPAs in the U.S. and many of those too would be as good or better than even the original BIPA.

I had a great beer in the well-hopped English style last night, Bishop's Finger, from Shepheard Neame in England. A fine big biscuity beer with an interesting hop flavor that wasn't quite Goldings or Fuggles as I recalled them but something a little different (as Jess says the varieties keep changing). This was like a Bass Ale on steroids and almost tasted unfiltered. This is a type of IPA (all Bass labels originally said "IPA" in small letters). There are many great American pale ales and IPAs being made today too.

Now when I come home, I usually have a beer and a whiskey. A couple of sips of whiskey, then some beer, then some whiskey. But care is advised in such bibulous peregrinations. :)

Gary

JeffRenner
03-21-2007, 07:40
Bishop's Finger, from Shepheard Neame in England. ... an interesting hop flavor that wasn't quite Goldings or Fuggles as I recalled them but something a little different (as Jess says the varieties keep changing).

According to Roger Protz's Real Ale Almanac (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Real-Ale-Almanac-Roger-Protz/dp/1897784678) (1998 5th edition, 6th edition soon to be released), Bishop's Finger is hopped with Kent Target (http://www.hops.co.uk/sectionfour/WyeTarget.htm) and Goldings (http://www.hops.co.uk/sectionfour/Goldings.htm) hop pellets (http://www.northernbrewer.com/hops.html) for 43 International Bitterness Units (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Bitterness_Units_scale) (IBU). It is dry hopped.

However, Shepherd Neame's (http://www.bishopsfinger.co.uk/made.htm) web site mentions only Goldings. Of course, that means only that it's the only hop they care to mention, probably because it is a premium hop. They also mention only malt in the mash, but the Real Ale Almanac says they use 10% cereal adjuncts. Probably corn (maize), I would guess.

My guess is that Target is used in the boil, not for dry hopping.

I like Target hops and just used some early in the boil for bittering (not for flavor or aroma), along with later additions of Goldings and Willamette, in a nice best bitter I brewed two weeks ago.

(How's this for even more TMI, Tim? :lol: )

Gillman
03-21-2007, 08:12
It is salutary to note that hops are used in the preparation of some jug yeasts used in American distilleries. What kind, and what specific impact on the yeast, have never been discussed here as far as I know. Probably the idea is to assist the stability of the yeast since hops have an amazing preservative quality.

I don't get in the Shep's the same kind of Goldings quality I get in some other English beers (that big soft lemony taste), but no doubt it is mixed into the Bishop's Finger somewhere. The Target is, I suspect, the dominant influence even if the beer is dry-hopped with Goldings. I have found it remarkable how dry hop character can lift off after a while.

Funny you say adjunct is used, Jeff: I thought I noticed it and assumed it was a wheat addition, which as you know is sometimes done in the U.K., partly for head retention. I prefer an all-malt spec almost always if the style is English ale. I don't mind in Belgian beers when there is so much (often) happening from their crazy yeasts or the spice additions they use. And I don't mind sugar for priming, that is part of ale tradition.

Quite amazingly, Ballantine XXX is dry hopped, with Cascades - this must be a first (or a last!) for an American mass market commercial beer.

Beer may sound arcane but I find many intersections with distilled spirits.

Gary

cowdery
03-21-2007, 13:22
Thanks, Jess. The more I read about this Pabst operation, the less I like it.

Gillman
03-21-2007, 15:32
The era in question brings to memory that of the "raider". Of course, for every buyer there is a seller. Also, many of these companies were bought by people who saw value not fully reflected in their share price.

Gary

JeffRenner
03-21-2007, 15:53
Funny you say adjunct is used, Jeff: I thought I noticed it and assumed it was a wheat addition, which as you know is sometimes done in the U.K., partly for head retention. I prefer an all-malt spec almost always if the style is English ale.

Wheat is used for head retention in some British beers, but usually only a few percent. Maize is generally the cheapest cereal and is the most common adjunct when used to reduce the malt content, both for flavor and also to reduce the protein level for clarity. This latter is hardly necessary in the low protein British malts.

Sugar, often invert and often caramelized, is also a common adjunct in many of the ales from old-line UK breweries. All-malt is pretty much the rule for the new ones.

Right now I am supping a pint of my latest bitter. It is the 1.045 OG best bitter (all-malt) mentioned earlier, dry hopped with Goldings, but then I diluted 4.25 gallons to five gallons @ 1.038 OG (~3.8% abv) for my St. Patrick's Day party last Saturday for reasons of sanity. I put it on hand pump and we drank most of it, but stayed reasonably sober.

That's the beauty a low gravity British-style ordinary or session bitter. You can pack it full of flavor with good malt and hops and a characterful yeast, and still have low alcohol. Of course, serving it at cellar temperature (~53F/12C) with low carbonation on the hand pump adds to the flavor.

Jeff

Gillman
03-21-2007, 15:55
Sounds great Jeff, thanks.

Gary

jesskidden
03-22-2007, 04:13
The era in question brings to memory that of the "raider". Of course, for every buyer there is a seller. Also, many of these companies were bought by people who saw value not fully reflected in their share price.

Gary

Well, Wall Street corporate finance sure isn't my field <g>, but I thought most of those sorts of deals, the so-called "hostile take-overs" by corporate raiders were done against the wishes of the "sellers" and, if they failed, they often weakened the company that was trying to fight off being bought to the point where they collapsed later anyway. A main factor in many "successful" corporate takeover was to sell off assets (thought worth more than the initial purchase price, etc). Irwin Jacobs, one of the notorious "raiders" of the era, began his "career" with the purchase and sale of the Grain Belt Brewery in MN, as well as being mixed up with Pabst in the 80's, IIRC. And, of course, the Australian raider Bond was responsible for the weakening and eventual collapse of Heileman.

I suppose the conversation turns too political (for me, as a newbie here, at least <g>) but, I guess, most people want to at least *think* that the company they're "supporting" by buying and drinking their beer (or, whatever beverage or other product) is, to put it perhaps too simply, in business to make good beer, not *just* money.

Kalmanovitz's history is similar to many of the raiders, tho' he tended to concentrate on the brewing industry. His policies were even made part of corporate law, when a lawsuit against him by shareholders of Ballantine came to define "Best Effort" in contracts. Indeed, a look at his corporate history implies that while he laid off workers, slashed office staff, fired advertising execs and marketing departments, closed breweries left and right, he must have had a lot of lawyers, cause he sure was in court a lot.

Many of these corporate raiders are also notorious for raiding pension funds (seen as one of the "assets" to be exploited) so that even workers who retire suffered, and I think that kind of financial trickery is especially distasteful to workers and the communities. The last owners of Ballantine in Newark, "Investors Funding" (great name- they apparently never came out with "Investors Funding Lager") became known for that locally.

gr8erdane
03-23-2007, 01:35
I finally was able to find a store here that had the new Michelob and I was surprised when I took my first drink. The first thing that came to mind was RICE CAKE. Not a bad beer for AB but still not the Michelob I remember from yore. This weekend I'll go back and try again but I do prefer Amber Bock to this one so far. I remember when they rolled out amber bock it was with several other nostalgic beers that I still see from time to time on the AB area of the cooler. Honey Lager is just a bit sweet, Black and Tan doesn't taste a thing like the real deal, and there were a couple more I don't remember the names of that came out at the same time. To me, the standard Buds and Millers started to go through the changes many have described here when America went "light beer" crazy. It seems to me that the current formulas would have been considered "light" compared to their same labels twenty five years ago. I always drank regular Bud over Bud Light even though everyone else in my group was gaga over BL. What really irks me is to go to Busch Stadium for a game and have to pay ridiculous prices for a beer and then five out of six vendors only carry BL. I usually have to buy two Buds at a time on those occasions or I go dry waiting for that one shining vendor....HEY BUDMAN!

Gillman
03-23-2007, 04:50
That's interesting Dane, since the old Michelob used about 20&#37; rice adjunct and the reformulated one uses 100% barley malt. I think what may have happened is, even with an all-barley malt specification, the taste was designed to be similar to what it was before. Maybe the idea was to make the body heavier and the mouth feel more round but keep the overall profile.

I agree with you that Budweiser and regular Michelob have seemingly gotten lighter in taste over the years. And, they are relatively hard to find as compared to Michelob Light and Bud Light. I guess A/B must have done studies and used focus groups to determine how its regular beers should taste today. Still, I tend to prefer a fuller taste than even reformulated Michelob has and hope one day they will bring back the "true" 1896 recipe. However Amber Bock may be better than ever and I look forward to trying it soon. (Maybe IT is the 1896 recipe? Who knows).

The experimental, micro-style A/B releases have mostly seemed a little bland to me although its Porter is pretty good.

A pilsener- or Munich-style beer is not easy to get right, even for the microbreweries. They do a great job in ale styles, but it is not easy to brew a lager beer well. It is a more complex product to make and it's harder than it may seem at first sight to brew a reliably fine-tasting lager beer. It really does take a lot of experience and tech support. There are good ones but you have to seek them out!

I like Lagunitas' Czech-style pils, which should be available in your market. There are many others, and I still feel Sam Adams Lager sets a standard.

Gary

gr8erdane
03-23-2007, 20:33
Here's one for you Gary, the other day when I picked up the Mich there was a couple perusing the microbrew section for most of the local microbreweries and we struck up a conversation. They pointed out a beer/ale I have since forgotten the name of but it says on the label it's made from SORGHUM. Having had homemade sorghum molasses, I would think that it was a bit too sweet for most but if you're interested in trying it I might be able to bring a couple with me to the Sampler. I know how you like to try new things....

bluesbassdad
03-23-2007, 22:38
Dane,

Could this (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16300459/)be it?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
03-24-2007, 03:43
Thanks for that. I'd like to try it but I know you have to carry a lot coming in, so if it's too much trouble, that's okay!

Sorghum beer is interesting, beer from sorghum is made extensively in Africa from wild yeasts and is actually one of the oldest beer types around, so again we find "everything old is new again".

I'll have a case of beers with me from Toronto since I am driving in. Actually, they will be a personal selection of imports and local micro beers.

I have a retro-look Labatt wooden case released here about 20 years ago to hold the beers, should look good on the bar.

Gary

ratcheer
03-24-2007, 06:47
Having had homemade sorghum molasses, I would think that it was a bit too sweet for most ....

Dane, all beer is made of sugar from some source. The yeast converts the sugar to alcohol. So, while there could still be some sweetness left in the sorghum beer (by the brewer's choice), it could also be as dry as the brewer wanted. It just depends on how far they let the fermentation go.

Tim

Joeluka
03-30-2007, 12:36
I completely forgot about a very good All-Malt lager from Big A-B. The Brew Masters Private Reserve. This is one beer from a big Marco company I do find quite enjoyable. I was wondering if you have tried it Gary???

The beer has a nice Golden tone with a thick head when poured. The nose smelled of MALT, which is great for an A-B product, and slight alcohol. In the taste you get Malt again, sweetness and a hint of hops. The alcohol is hidden nicely and for a 8.5% brew that can be dangerous. Overall I would say that this is what EVERY beer should taste like from the big macro breweries and at least once a year I can say I enjoy an BCM product.

Give me my Brooklyn lager every time I feel like a Sunday football brew otherwise I'm sticking with my Barley wines, RIS, and Strong Belgians.

I have been going out of my way to try every kind of Oak-Aged beer I can find. I can't explain just how incredible some of them really are. I'll post a picture of all the one's I've purchased and hopefully we can get into a discussion on them.

Gillman
03-30-2007, 16:19
Thanks Joe, I will seek it out.

Gary

gr8erdane
04-07-2007, 02:35
It's not the AB brand but it is listed in your link, the New Grist from GASP Milwaukee???? Not even local. I'll bring a couple but after tasting them I thought them a bit bland. Probably just the thing on a hot day when you don't want a heavy beer though.

Gillman
04-10-2007, 15:38
Since we talked so much about Ballantine, I thought I'd give a taste note on Ballantine XXX Ale, having got some recently in New York (16 oz. cans).

The can is marked with the name Falstaff and a P.O. box in Milwaukee, WI, so I can't tell where it is brewed.

It pours fresh and lively with good, natural beer smells. The main smell is of fresh, metallic-like hops. I can't tell which kind, I don't get Cascades or only that; maybe it is a blend of hops.

The taste is good: fresh again, zesty. An "oatmeal" maltiness underlies the taste. However, there is a bite of grain adjunct and this I don't like. I don't know what the percentage is, maybe 30&#37; corn grits.

It is a good beer, make no mistake, and much more characterful than most American mass lagers, but it would be so much better if 100% malt, IMO.

Gary

jesskidden
04-10-2007, 19:00
Since we talked so much about Ballantine, I thought I'd give a taste note on Ballantine XXX Ale, having got some recently in New York (16 oz. cans).

The can is marked with the name Falstaff and a P.O. box in Milwaukee, WI, so I can't tell where it is brewed.



Sure you can. Turn the can over and check the date code (for best results, do this before opening or after emptying- I screw that up occassionally).

Here's Miller's explanation on how to read it. (Note- they give their beers 17 weeks, so subtract that from the "Best By" date for actual bottling/canning date):

How to Read Code Dates: Our codes can be found on the bottom of cans, the shoulder of bottles, and the dome or sides of our kegs. Additionally, all of our secondary fiberboard cases and carriers have codes as well. The code consists of two parts, a top half and bottom half. The top half has the ""Best Sold By"" date on it and consist of the month, day, and year. For example, the code 12 19 7 means the beer should be sold by December 19, 2007. The second line of the code contains production related information such as the brewery were it was produced at along with the packaging line. Take, for example, a code of A 1 52 37. The A would signify the day of week the product was produced, the next code the brewery it was produced at, followed by a two digit code that identifies the line. The last two digits provide MBC with the time period during which the product was packaged. Our day codes are A - G for Monday - Sunday. Our current Plant Codes are 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and represent breweries in Milwaukee, WI, Hood River, OR, Ft. Worth, TX, Eden, NC, Irwindale, CA, Albany, GA, and Trenton, OH. Each Brewery has a numerical designation for every production line and these vary with each brewery. Time codes are set up to change every fifteen minutes and start at midnight of each day. So time code 01 would be from 12:00 - 12:15 AM and so on until the last time code of the day is reached, which would be 96 at 11:45 PM - 12:00 AM.

It would be nice if they SAID it was a "Best By" date- I bought my last bottle and looked at the code and thought "Oh, it's from last month..." and it was actually past it's prime. I don't see the 16 oz. cans in my area of NJ- it's a nice size for a nonic beer glass- and it prevents skunking.

Gillman
04-10-2007, 19:14
Thanks, using this information, my can should have been sold by February 5, 2007! Grrr, I am a stickler for best-by dates and never would have bought this had I known it was past its prime. I have incurred odd looks for years in beer stores when screwing my eyes to read the more obvious codes on bottles and cans - a practice well worth following, I might add. Still, I must confess, the Ballantine tasted very fresh: I put this down to the brewing and canning skills of our large brewers. (I hate the taste of oxidised beer, something that afflicts too many micros). The date code indicates the brewery is Trenton, Ohio, as you projected. But truth to tell, I was a little put off by the adjunct in this sample.

Gary

jesskidden
04-11-2007, 05:20
Thanks, using this information, my can should have been sold by February 5, 2007! Grrr, I am a stickler for best-by dates and never would have bought this had I known it was past its prime. I have incurred odd looks for years in beer stores when screwing my eyes to read the more obvious codes on bottles and cans - a practice well worth following, I might add.

Gary

Yeah, I've always been a date code reader (I used to carry a "cheat sheet" in my wallet to remind me of some of the more difficult ones like Anchor's). What's particularly annoying nowadays is the mix of "Best by" and "Brewed on" dates, so even when you figure out the "date" you have to ask yourself, yeah but date of "what"? Be glad you bought cans.

Sadly, even with the limited geographical area where Pabst still markets Ballantine Ale, it isn't a big seller and does seem to sit around, so knowing the code is a must. It's not only Ballantine, tho'- I see lot of "out of date" beers like the Sam Adams line and many Brooklyn beers, as well. I blame the minimum order and discounts for large quantities that some distributors offer. And the total lack of concern on the part of the distributors and the retailers.


But truth to tell, I was a little put off by the adjunct in this sample.

Gary

Well, the Ale's been adjunct brewed since the beginning in the 30's but it's possible than Miller uses corn syrup - the Beer Institute's Almanac (Excel file http://www.beerinstitute.org/statistics.asp?bid=200 [I love this thing] ) shows that corn usage in the US industry is down by close to 50&#37; since the mid-90's, and the use of "Sugar and Syrups" is up in the same proportion- who else would be using it in those 100's of millions of pounds quantity?) and it's always possible the malt/corn ratio has decreased. That combined with the decline of the hops (seemingly both the quantity and quality), certainly makes the beer taste much different to me than even the versions out of the Pabst, Stroh and Falstaff (maybe even Heileman?) breweries in the 90's.

Perhaps this thread should be retitled- "That old Mich is Back- Wish it was the old Bally Ale instead..." <g>

Gillman
04-11-2007, 05:52
The hop flavours seemed quite forward - I would not change them but I would change (increase) the malt spec. The flavour falls off with that thin, metallic feel of some kind of adjunct. I guess it was always there but it seemed more noticeable this time. Beer quality depends so much too on freshness.

The big challenge the micro industry has in my view is to get its product out in reliably good shape - I can't count the bad beers I've had which were simply soured or damp paper oxidised. In New York recently in one of the pubs, a beer advertised as just received, from a well-known micro, was half vinegar, and I am speaking of draft. This is where the big producers have the advantage due to pasteurisation and their sophisticated labs. Sure, there are a number of small producers who brew well and ensure their product is shipped fresh but it can be hit and miss and also, they simply lack control often once the beer is sent from the shipping dock.

Gary

jesskidden
04-11-2007, 07:23
The big challenge the micro industry has in my view is to get its product out in reliably good shape - I can't count the bad beers I've had which were simply soured or damp paper oxidised. In New York recently in one of the pubs, a beer advertised as just received, from a well-known micro, was half vinegar, and I am speaking of draft. This is where the big producers have the advantage due to pasteurisation and their sophisticated labs.
Gary

Yes, and the Big Brewers simply have a greater turnover and the distributors depend so much on them, that they seem to take better care of those "bread and butter" brands. (After all, in the US, how many times does one hear the local distributor, be it "Smith Brothers" or "Springfield Beverage" called "the Bud distributor" or "the Miller guy" even tho' they may represent 10-20 brands of beer?)

It just seems to me that popularity of the "multi-tap" (even those with a pretty bland, BMC + "likely suspect" Imports selection) only insures low turnover and stale beer for the less popular brands. I was in a typical "blue collar" sports oriented bar the other day and didn't expect much and was surprised to see a German dark hefeweizen on tap- of course, it was tap #14 out of 14, with all the rest BMC-Yuengling-Stella-Heineken-Guinness-Smithwicks, etc. I was probably the only one in the 100-patron place drinking that German beer- and the only one in days, I'd guess from the flat, off flavored beer I was served... I'd much rather see 3-5 beers on tap, well-maintained and one "good" choice, so that all us non-sheep <g> would be forced to drink the good stuff and turn it over quickly.

Gillman
04-11-2007, 07:53
I've run into that exact problem many times.

It needs for the micros to be addressed at different levels: better care taken with racking and bottling; more attention (where possible) to how the product is sold at distribution point; and less reliance by retailers on the multi-tap (or rein it in to 5 or 5 beers as you said).

All the consumer needs is one bad experience and he will never go back to that beer (or only reluctantly).

But brewing and fermentation also need to be studied and understood better by some micros. A cream ale recently tasted here was clearly off, tasting as if a cleaning agent of some kind was in the bottle! (Although personally I think it was a yeast management issue). The case was marked in a way to show it was fresh stock and maybe it was but it was half-spoiled and really undrinkable. A drain pour.

I would rather have an indifferent mass market lager which almost always will be in excellent condition than a poor-quality microbrew.

Gary

Joeluka
04-11-2007, 10:56
I've run into that exact problem many times.

It needs for the micros to be addressed at different levels: better care taken with racking and bottling; more attention (where possible) to how the product is sold at distribution point; and less reliance by retailers on the multi-tap (or rein it in to 5 or 5 beers as you said).

All the consumer needs is one bad experience and he will never go back to that beer (or only reluctantly).

But brewing and fermentation also need to be studied and understood better by some micros. A cream ale recently tasted here was clearly off, tasting as if a cleaning agent of some kind was in the bottle! (Although personally I think it was a yeast management issue). The case was marked in a way to show it was fresh stock and maybe it was but it was half-spoiled and really undrinkable. A drain pour.

I would rather have an indifferent mass market lager which almost always will be in excellent condition than a poor-quality micro brew.

Gary
I'm wondering what kind of micro brews you're getting in Canada. You seem to have had nothing but spoiled beers over and over.

Now when you say you would rather have a Big Beer lager instead of a micro, are you talking about micro-lagers or pretty much every single style of beer out there?? I have never had a Barley-wine or Russian Imperial Stout brewed by Big Beer, so I wouldn't know what to do in those case's? I'm wondering if you just don't bother with styles of micro that Big Beer doesn't bother brewing (Barley-wines, Dubbels, Triples, Double Imperial Pale Ales, Lambics, Gueuze, Eisbocks, Quads, Saisons, Biere de Garde, Strong Ales, Old Ales........)

I guess my question to all this is, What is your idea of what a "Beer" should be?? Not the ingredients but the style?? Do you consider cold Lager's as the standard beer for all?

Gillman
04-11-2007, 12:07
My comments, which reflect of course my own experience and opinions, extend equally to the U.S. where I've had as much experience sampling microbrews as in Canada - maybe more.

I did not say I get spoiled beers over and over. I do feel that too many beers coming from the craft brewers - as available in the normal retail channels - have faults which are not intended by the brewer and are restricting sales that would otherwise occur. This is especially so with bottled beers.

Part of the problem is I think that micros do not (most of them) pasteurise, which means the beers have limited stability. This and the low-tech bottling procedures used in some small operations often causes damp paper oxidation, or a wild yeast reaction in the bottle, within a relatively short time from shipment. The problem is exacerbated by a frequent inability to keep the product continuously cold until consumption.

The answer is to sell the stuff real fast, before it has a chance to go off. It was not for nothing though that Louis Pasteur did his great work on yeast fermentation and management with beer. He supplied the solution - heat treatment to kill residual yeast cells - and it is used widely in the alcoholic beverage businesses including for many wines and ciders, but the flip side was the deadening of taste that often comes with heat pasteurisation.

Personally I do not like pasteurisation (in beer - for milk it is great) but it is undeniable that it assists tremendously the stability of beer.

I believe a beer should be true to its type, that is, well-brewed for its style and free from the kind of faults mentioned (including the toffee-like taste that can come from excess or improper pasteurisation). I realise that only micros make, say Imperial Stout, a style I much enjoy. (I think A/B had a couple of versions out of a strong stout but they were in limited distribution and I believe are not continuously produced). Ditto for most of the interesting beer styles and new emerging ones out there. But no matter how well-brewed a beer is and how interesting the style, if it is afflicted by damp paper oxidation it makes the product into something different, not nearly as good of course and not intended by the brewer. I have friends and acquaintances who are brewers, both home and commercial, and I find they view things essentially as I do.

No question I have great experiences with fine microbrewed, and other fine, beers. I love good beer and have promoted it in many forums for many years.

I do not care for North American mass market lager (which is lager brewed by large companies since no micro lager is mass market except maybe for Sam Adams Lager, I beer I admire).

But if presented with a micro beer - any style - that is not in good condition (and I stress, not in the condition intended by the brewer for consumption, or optimum consumption) I will take the mass market lager over that because at least its taste is not adversely affected by evident faults.

As to how often this happens, not as much as it used to. Our craft brewers are more skilled than, say, 20 years ago. But in order for craft brewers to grow faster and find new markets, they need in my opinion ever to be mindful of the technical side and how distribution can affect the taste of what they produce. I'd say 1/3rd or more of the bottled craft beer I buy just isn't in optimum condition. If I am careful with best-by dates, that assists, but only to a limited extent.

Coors of Golden, Colorado has always had a high reputation for quality (less evident now than 30 years ago before the micro and import phenoms). This was founded on not using heat pasteurisation, ensuring its products were refrigerated from shipment through to retail sale and recalling overage product. Coors beer is perhaps not what it was (and has been eclipsed anyway by Coors Light) but the point remains valid: the company took rigorous steps to ensure its beers were fresh at point of sale. That helped its early growth a lot. Sure, as a big company they have the resources to do that and their distributors have the incentive to treat the product with kid gloves, but Coors wasn't always a big company! I think the small players can learn much from the way Coors handled the beer quality issue, e.g., using fine filtration instead of heat pasteurisation and ensuring fresh product at point of sale. Most big brewers, in fact all today, are very concerned with beer quality and I tip my hat to them. They may not make fancy styles but they understand what can harm good beer taste.

I know a microbrewer in Canada who will not sell his beer licensed establishments if he feels turnover isn't high enough or the product handling good enough to ensure top quality. It is this kind of attention to detail that results in great beer experiences and repeat orders, IMO.

Gary

JeffRenner
04-12-2007, 07:01
I know a microbrewer in Canada who will not sell his beer licensed establishments if he feels turnover isn't high enough or the product handling good enough to ensure top quality. It is this kind of attention to detail that results in great beer experiences and repeat orders, IMO.

Larry Bell, owner of the renamed Bell's Brewery (http://www.bellsbeer.com/) (Formerly Kalamazoo Brewing Co.) here in Michigan, a regional brewery of acclaimed ales, stouts and lagers, has pulled his entire line out of Chicago because the distribution was sold to another distributor that he didn't feel took proper care of the beer.

Considering that the Chicago market was largely responsible (along with the phenomenal sales (http://www.mlive.com/news/kzgazette/index.ssf?/base/news-22/11747965203960.xml&coll=7) of Oberon (http://www.mlive.com/news/kzgazette/index.ssf?/base/news-22/11747964223960.xml&coll=7), a summer wheat beer of near-cult status) for the brewery becoming a regional (http://www.bellsbeer.com/beerfinder.asp) rather than a one-state brewery, this was a remarkably ballsy move. Perhaps even more-so considering that Chicago alcohol distribution is allegedly very involved with organized crime.

Here's hoping that Larry doesn't end up sleeping with the fishes. :eek:

Jeff

TNbourbon
04-12-2007, 08:41
In my year-plus foray into beer, about the only thing I've discovered with any consistency is that I have a preference for amber lagers, and had been buying Michelob's Amber Bock with some regularity. But, I've now drunk through a 6-pack of the new-version, all-malt Amber Bock, and just don't care for it as much as the older variety. Of course, the older version is gone now, and would be tending toward too old if I could find some, since the new version has been here a couple of months now.
So, last night -- after checking A-B's website to make sure IT hadn't been changed, too (no mention found in the announcement:grin: ) -- I picked up the Michelob Ultra Amber, or Bock Light, instead. It's still in the standard bottle, and still tastes reminiscent of the old Amber Bock. So, I guess -- at least until they change this one, too -- this will become my 'house beer'.
If they ruin this one, too, I think maybe I'll just stick to bourbon.