Beer (& More) In Food

Beer: The Condiment With An Attitude!

Archive for February, 2008

The Current Scarcity of Hops and Malt (It’s Deja Vu All Over Again)

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 25, 2008

Awhile back, I pointed out that the current scarcity of hops was not an isolated event. It has happened before, but it should also be noted that the coinciding scarcity of barley (malt) has just as much to do, if not more, with the rise in the price of beer.

I mention this because of a few comments I made over at The Brew Site pertaining to the craft beer industry’s latest fascination with the canning of craft beer. In two of my books, Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago and Beer & Food: An American History, I’ve pointed out that in the brewing industry, the phrase “History repeats itself” is almost a mantra. Beer has been brewed in the old colonies and the eventual United States for centuries. And despite the surprise and subsequent gnashing of teeth when something goes wrong today, scarcity of brewing materials, for instance, or in the case of some enterprising craft breweries deciding to can their beer, these are not NEW occurrences. They’ve happened before, and a study of the failures and successes of the brewing industry of old might help today’s brewers from making mistakes that were made a century ago, or even just a few decades ago, or inspire them to capitalize on a long-forgotten or ignored, but successful practice, and resurrect it; the canning of beer, for instance.

But I digress. The following is a little tale of another period of grain scarcity and how the the brewing industry worked around this problem. You might not like the outcome, but the passage also heightens another observation that is often ignored by armchair beer historians. American beer has gone through many changes in its development, and according to your personal perspectives, these changes have been either good or bad.

When some beer writer who feels the need to critque a beer happens to mention National Prohibition, he usually opines with a profound statement that goes something like this; “Prohibition irrevocably changed the character of American beer.” Sure it makes good copy, but if you read Beer & Food: An American History, you’ll find that governmental restrictions on the use of grains in beer were in effect years before Prohibition. Hell, at one point, brewers were left with the mandate of producingbeer with an alcoholic strength of no more than 2.75% abv. But even before this period, beer had gone through a number of changes, most of them a result of government interference, wars, trade restrictions and such, and yet, more often than not, the American brewing industry found a way to work around these problems.

Even after the restrictions placed on the American brewing industry during World War II, more problems were encountered, and here again, the industry worked around the obstacles and survived.

On March 1, 1946, the federal government imposed a thirty-percent cut in the use of grains for brewing purposes. With the war over, grain exports to the European theater were desperately need until a stable agricultural industry could be restored to the war-torn area. The initial result of this grain curtailment when it was announced was a move by U.S. brewers to quickly use up existing stocks of fermentable grains before the March deadline. As a result, national beer production levels rose by an average of 18.5% over 1945’s levels though Illinois’ production numbers topped off at 23.5%. While giants like the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company tried to make do with the grain restrictions when they went into effect, the nation’ smallest breweries were granted an increase in their grain quotas, giving them a slight advantage in keeping their production levels up.

The move to restrict grain to the industry as a whole, however, was challenged by a number of wet politicians when evidence surfaced that exported barley was going to countries that not only were in full beer production, but also had enough excess beer on hand to send to the States. The exportation of Heineken beer to the U.S, a product of Holland, was soon banned by the Dutch government after it was revealed that over 8 million pounds of American grain had been shipped to Holland, some of it making its way to the Heineken brewery.

While politicians tried to placate the U.S. brewing industry but still keep grain restrictions in place, the industry turned to the idea of using other fermentables to keep up production. In a meeting of  the Master Brewers Association of America in Reading, Pennsylvania in June of 1946, Kurt Becker, a respected master brewer and member of Chicago’s J.E. Siebel Sons’ Company delivered a speech to the organization’s members advocating the widespread use of fermentables that were regarded by the brewing industry as less than regular brewing materials. Rather than watch as beer production levels fell from a lack of grain, Becker proposed the idea of using whey, sweet or white potatoes, and lower grades of brewer’s syrup, including molasses and blackstrap.

Though the government grain sanctions ended in 1947, a self-imposed brewers’ grain conservation program began on April 15, 1948 that promoted the idea of adding additional adjuncts to American beer. One of the more unusual starches that also gained some industry acceptance was manioca, sometimes known as cassava or arrowroot, derived from a Brazilian tropical plant. Once again, the rich-tasting brews of the turn-of-the-century faded from the legacy of early American beer as government and economic influences reshaped the taste and quality of it.

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer History | Leave a Comment »

Beer as a boost? More on beer as a post-workout source of hydration

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 20, 2008

beerdrinkingmonkey.jpgThe folks at have elaborated on a recent study that indicates that beer might be just the thing to quench your thirst and rehydrate your body after a workout, and since anything remotely connected to beer sounds good to me, here ya go!

After students performed strenuous exercise until exhaustion in 104 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, one group was given two pints of beer while the other group drank the same amount of water. Both groups were then allowed to drink as much water as they wanted and their hydration levels were tested soon after. The tests revealed a slightly better measurement in the beer drinkers than those who drank water.

Personally, I’ve never been able to slam a beer after a workout or simply an hour or two in the garden during a warm summer day. Water first (for me), then a beer. But as they say, your results may vary.

More on this study and its consclusions….

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer & Health | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lifting Beer Kegs-Dangers Cited By OSHA (Bureaucratic Tips From D.C. Desk Jockeys)

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 19, 2008

walking-beer-kegs.jpgI’m always amazed when I run across a government-funded study that cites the obvious (Eating Pistacchio Nuts Causes Red Fingers, Touching Frigid Flagpoles With Wet Penis Can Cause Sterility, etc.).  Where can I apply for a $150,000 grant to state the obvious?

With this in mind, I’m intrigued with a detailed ergonomic report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration on the proper handling of beer kegs (“Kids, don’t try this at home!”) That’s right, the feds have devoted an entire section of the OSHA website on lifting beer kegs, including additional tabs that will connect you to “Additional References” (Once again, how does a writer jump on a government gravy train like this?)

And more links to “Credits,” a “Disclaimer” that probably took a group of government lawyers a month to compose, and finally,  “Viewing/Printing Instructions,” tab, just in case you’re confronted with a beer keg out in a dorm hallway one day and you don’t know how to approach it (“Thank God that Beer (& More) In Food included a print link, just in case an errant beer keg ever crossed my path!”)

Did you know that a full keg of beer weighs approximately 162 pounds? Drop that little tidbit of info at your next college kegger and    beerkeg-pushing.jpgwatch as your fellow male beer drinkers defer to your superior intellect and women (especially the ones who are on their 10th plastic cup of beer) drop at your feet. If that line doesn’t work, try this one; “Generally the torso should not be bent forward more than 6 to 10 degrees from vertical and reaches should not exceed 16 to 17 inches [when lifting a keg].”

If you don’t get any action after imparting this important bit of keg calculus, ask your potential bedmate if she’d be interested in a demonstration back in your room of the “…basics of body biomechanics and the importance of performing lifting, pushing and pulling tasks at approximately mid chest level or lower,” another tip from those party animals at OSHA.    

Posted in Editorial | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Harry Caray/Holy Cow! 10 Years Later

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 18, 2008

harrycaraystatue.jpg  “Booze, broads, and bullshit. If you got all that, what else do you need?”
—Harry Caray

I just saw a piece on the Chicago CBS TV station noting that the 10th anniversary of sportscaster Harry Caray’s death is upon us. 10 years…Holy Cow! Despite some of the bum raps he received a few years before his death, (“Too old,” “He’s losing it,”), Harry’s comeback from his stroke in 1987 sort of took the wind out of his critics’ sails and managed to make him a legend to thousands of North Siders.

   I grew up with Harry Caray as the play-by-play man for the Chicago White Sox, a fact, I think, that some Wrigleyville folks have conveniently forgotten. Harry, at the time, was paired up with former Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, whose claim to fame was the fact that he cracked-up on his way into the 1952 baseball season.  

   “You’re crazy,”  Harry would say after Piersall would make some sort of off-the-wall comment during a Sox game. “No I’m not,” Jimmy would  retort, and then with a hesitation add, “…and I’ve got the papers to prove it!” But Harry was the quintessential showman. Piersall was only a prop, but I have to admit, a good one.

   During Harry’s time at old Comisky Park, once called the world’s largest outdoor saloon, the seats directly under his broadcast booth were priceless. Forget the upper deck seats over 1st base. Forget the first two or three rows by the Sox dugout on the 3rd base line. The seats in the upper deck, pulled as far back from home plate as could possibly be, were where we sat, the people who really loved Harry Caray.

   And Harry would reward us during the game. At the time, he was hawking Falstaff beer, and after more than a few cans, would often dance that silly dance that only a dozen Falstaffs could induce. When things looked bad for the Sox, he’d shake up a twelve-ounce can and open it, baptizing everyone within the immediate area of the broadcast booth with the foam from the can. We’d scream, raise our hands and testify, our souls were touched, bathed in the malty richness of Harry’s beer. To add to our adulation, Harry would then rip off the tab from the can and throw it into the crowd. If you were lucky, you could brag about the fact that you caught a foul-tip, hit off the bat of home run hitter Richie Allen, but you really had bragging rights if you caught the tossed beer can tab from Harry Caray.  

   Harry was a showman. My favorite Harry Caray story has nothing to do with the Sox or Cubs but rather when Harry was the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1968, he was hit by a car as he attempted to cross a street on the way to his hotel. His injuries were extensive, including broken legs and a broken shoulder. For months, Caray recuperated at the Florida villa of Gussie Busch, the Budweiser beer magnate.

   On opening day of the next season, Harry returned to work as the master of ceremonies for the event. With two canes to assist him as he walked out onto the field, he took a few wobbly steps, stopped, looked up at the crowd and tossed one of his canes away. The crowd went wild. After a few more steps, he threw the second cane away and 50,000 fans jumped to their feet to applaud their wounded hero.

   The Cardinal’s pitcher, Bob Gibson, later reminded Caray that he hadn’t been using the canes for weeks. Said Harry as he smiled, “Gibby, this isn’t just baseball, it’s show biz!”  

   Even with his death in 1998, Harry proved to be showman. Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day with his wife in a West Coast haunt before the start of the Cub’s 1998 season, Harry was recognized by someone on the night club staff. With strains of “Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town,” coming from a band, Harry was asked to take a bow. He did, then collapsed from a heart attack, dying four days later.  

   What a showman. Always leave ’em wanting more.

In the Chicagoland area, Channel 37 (as they say; check your lisitings) will be holding a sort of Harry Caray-a-thon today, February 18. Beginning at 11 A.M C.S.T., there’ll be an hour tribute to Harry, followed by two old Cubs games (September 24, 1984 vs. the Pirates and August 1, 1987 vs. the Phillies) with Harry in his prime (Hey, once again; we had him first at Comiskey Park with the White Sox, but since channel 37 is owned by Tribune Media—and they own the Cubs (not for long)—that connection will be ignored. Fracken’ North Siders…). At 5:30 P.M., there will be a live feed from Harry’s restaurant, probably stacked with drunken out-of-towners and suburbanites, a half-hour tribute to Harry again at 7:30 P.M., and finally, the last game Harry called, a September 21, 1997 Cubs vs. Phillies game.

Posted in Beer History | Leave a Comment »

Tickle Your Girl’s Fancy With A Slyder For Valentine’s Day, White Castle, That Is

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 14, 2008

white-castle-valentine-menu.jpgWhite Castle is going all out for Valentine’s Day. From 5 to 9 P.M., you can bring your date to one of the most romantic eating establishments that money can buy. Imagine bellying up to a table, decked out with a sexy red table cloth.

Call ahead for reservations:

Chicago—Call 708-458-4450 ext. 516 to make a reservation at your nearest Chicago White Castle.

Cincinnati—Call 513-559-0575 ext. 13 to make a reservation at your nearest Cincinnati White Castle.

New Jersey—Call 732-381-4343 to make a reservation at your nearest New Jersey White Castle.

New York—Call 718-899-8404 ext. 300 to make a reservation at your nearest New York White Castle.

More cities and contact numbers at their site.

Nothing says “Lovin'” like a sack of slyders! And remember this, if you don’t get any action after this, you’ll probably get more than you want the next morning. I’d suggest something in a 40-ounce bottle of something to along with your entrée, and to heighten the experience, leave the bottle in a paper bag. 


For those of you who are watching your waistline, here’s a list of White Castle products with nutritional values.

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Food That Demands To Be Paired With Beer, Just Good Food | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

If I Said “FREE,” Would You Listen? Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV Is Coming!!

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 9, 2008

I’m slowly but surely working on a media-rich website/blog that will be a one-stop and entertaining site of video food recipes makingdeals.gifusing beer, wine and spirits. It will be short on my opinions and beer industry news (like and long on taped recipes of me trying my hand at whipping up “spirited” foods. More importantly, I’m hoping to find brewers, pub owners, distillers, vintners, importers, distributors, blog owners and book authors who are willing to contribute short recipe videos using their products. There’s no fee, no sales pitch…nothing required except the submission of a filmed recipe contribution along with the recipe itself that I can post to my soon-to-be-unveiled site.

In other words, Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV will be a very interactive and media-rich way of entertaining and informing anybody at home who wants to cook along and add some “zip” to any food recipe. I’ll also be working on audio podcasts of interviews with business types as listed above.

With some well-placed news releases and as much promotion as people are willing bear, the site can be a growing and FREE avenue for the promotion of a restaurant or pub, a beer, wine or distilled product, a book…you get the idea. I want the site to be THE place to go if you want to follow along while making a beer bread, a wine glaze, or a rum cake or simply hear what an author has to say about their newest cookbook.

At the same time, I’d like business folks to know that this will be THE site where you can promote your product and know that people will actually be learning about your product in an entertaining manner.

I’ll be throwing time and money at this project; all you need for you to do is send me your promos, POP materials, raw (or completely edited and ready-to-roll) videos and a heaping spoonful of cooperation.

I’m willing to do some out-of-state traveling, when possible, to personally video events, but I’m also asking for folks like yourselves (the person at home who just likes to cook) to please, please consider send me a video (raw and unedited is fine since I’ll be tightening all the videos into 10-minute or less productions using Final Cut Studio 2)-or at least get the word out to your beer, booze wine acquaintances that I’m offering a FREE means of publicity in return for a raw video of a beer, wine, or booze event with a focus on food.

I want this project to be a place where anyone can promote a place or project while keeping it informative and entertaining. I’ll take the roughest video and try my best to edit in a way that everyone will look like a Spielberg and set up links if viewers want further info. I’m looking at this as a clearinghouse of information, even if it takes a bit of product self-promotion to make it happen.

I’ll also be doing phone interviews for audio podcast, once again, giving authors, bloggers, brewers, vintners, distillers, etc, the opportunity to talk about their products in a manner that’s more than a glorified infomercial. The key here is to make the site rich with informative and entertaining media.

I have TIVO, and while I usually fast-forward the commercials from the programs I record, I also welcome the opportunity that TIVO offers to let me actually go to their special channels and view commercials I actually want to see, and then press a button if I want the advertiser to send me even more info. This won’t be TIVO but it could be a nice avenue for viewers who want to know more about books, products, places and such, all wrapped around the enjoyment of food and drink.

I’ve dabbled with this approach on using a PC and some clunky video editing software and a way-too-slow processor, but I’m kicking it up a notch with a new MacPro and the best video editing software available. The result, I hope, will be a professional appearing website that will put everybody and everything, including products, establishments, or businesses, in the best possible light.

Expect me to be pestering others in the next few weeks, so please, think about what I’m offering. Let others know what I’m doing too and that I’m looking for contributions that will benefit everyone while being an informative and entertaining website/blog.

Thanks for your time,

Bob Skilnik

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Author Bob Skilnik At Park Ridge Library, Sunday, February 10th, 2 P.M.

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 7, 2008


Stop by and say “Hello!” Sunday, February 10th at 2 P.M.

20 South Prospect Avenue
Park Ridge, IL 60068-4188


Chicago Tribune
“Bob Skilnik thinks most historians have overlooked what a thirsty job it was being hog butcher to the world.”

Illinois Heritage Magazine
“Skilnik’s book, quite skillfully, brings focus to the history of Chicago’s beer production, distribution, retail sale, and consumption patterns.”

From the Author
Why breweries? Why bother writing about this long forgotten local industry?

As a kid growing up in the predominately Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport during the 1950s and early ’60s, there were two distinctive smells I’ll always remember, the putrid fumes of the nearby Chicago Stockyards and the balancing sweet malt aroma from our two neighborhood breweries. Living just blocks away from both industries, the aroma of the breweries was, understandably, more appealing.

In my youth, little did I know that one neighborhood brewery had once belonged to gangster Johnny Torrio, later passed on to the control of Al Capone and, eventually, Frank Nitti. During National Prohibition, the later renamed Canadian Ace Brewery was known as the Manhattan Brewing Company, supplying much of the thirsty South Side with illegal brew.

But now they’re gone. A few years ago, I tried to find some information about the old Chicago brewing industry, but most books of local history were useless. It was almost as though the industry had never existed. That is why this book was written.

About the Author
Bob Skilnik is an alumnus of Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology – the oldest school of brewing technology in the U.S. – where he earned a degree in brewing technology. He is the former associate editor for the American Breweriana Journal, a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Good Eating food section, trade journals, magazines and newspapers.

He has appeared on ABC’s “The View,” the Fox News Channel, ESPN2, and Chicago’s WTTW. BEER: A History of Brewing in Chicago is his fifth book.
A fascinating look at the rise and fall of Chicago’s brewing industry, by Midwest Book Review

Brewing technology expert and former associate editor for the “American Breweriana Journal” Bob Skilnik presents Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago, a fascinating look at the rise and fall of Chicago’s brewing industry across the decades.

From the illegal alcohol trafficking during the Prohibition era, to famous beer riots, the interplay of beer and politics, lists of every Chicago brewery since 1833 with addresses and dates of operation, a guided tour of the local breweries that remain, and much more, Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago covers everything a Chicago beer lover could hope for with extra surprises in store.

Written in a down-to-earth, friendly narrative tone, Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago blends spot-on accurate research with an inviting prose style.

Recommended both for casual readers curious about the history of beer in Chicago and scholars in need of research information on the topic.

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Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Out of Control

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 2, 2008

nanny-state-book-cover.jpgIf this scenario dosen’t stink of entrapment, nothing does. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Three undercover officers stepped into an American Fork restaurant one Friday evening, pushed aside the menus and ordered themselves a round of beer. 

Their waiter, Fidelis Osuchukwu, said he couldn’t serve drinks without a meal. But when the officers kept pressing him, Osuchukwu offered “to bring us some chips and salsa for free,” said the officers’ report. “We said OK.” 

The agents left a tip an hour and a half later, then cited Chili’s for serving alcohol without food, in violation of Utah’s liquor laws. 

“They kept saying they wouldn’t order anything but beer,” said Osuchukwu. “It didn’t seem like they were going to give in, so I brought the chips – and then I got fired.”

After reading this article and the one below about the legislative geniuses in Mississippi, you have to shake your head. If you really want to get pissed off, click on the Nanny State cover and take a look.

More Here

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Neo-Prohibition, WTF? | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Get Me A Beer—QUICK! Mississippi Bill Would Make It ILLEGAL To Serve The Obese

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 2, 2008

pumpkin-vomit.jpgWhen I came across this article, I was sure it was going to be out of California or some other Left Coast Nanny State. But Mississippi? What makes this lunacy even more ridiculous is that the move crosses the political aisle, 2 moron Republican representatives and 1 wing-nut Democrat, in a show of non-partisan unity, demonstrate that political idiocy is a sgared disease.

Mississippi legislators this week introduced a bill that would make it illegal for state-licensed restaurants to serve obese patrons.

I had to start a new category, “WFT?” to handle this entry.

Read More Here  including a copy of Mississippi Bill No. 282, An Act To Prohibit Certain Food Establishments From Serving Any Food To Any Person Who Is Obese….

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Editorial, WTF? | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Superbowl Savory Herb & Wheat Cheese Cake

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 1, 2008

savoryherbcheesecake.jpgFrom the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA)    Alexandra, Virginia

The N.B.W.A. was founded in 1938 as a trade association for the nation’s beer distributors. It also, however, has assumed an educational role with the public, bringing attention to the problems of alcohol abuse, drunk driving, and underage purchasing and consumption of beer. The site also provides plenty of food recipes using beer. Make sure to stop by their site for recipes, beer terms, and further information on promoting responsibility while enjoying a beer or two.

Savory Herb and Wheat Beer Cheesecake  30 servings 

1 ¼ cups flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons butter, very cold and cut into 6 pieces
3 tablespoons plus ¾ cup wheat beer
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 package (5 ounces) goat cheese, softened
½ teaspoon black pepper
5 large eggs½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons fresh dill
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice 

Spray an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a food processor, combine 1 cup flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons tarragon and lemon zest; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until butter is the size of small peas. In small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons wheat beer with yolk of one of the eggs; add to food processor. Pulse until mixture is crumbly.  Press mixture in the bottom and halfway up the sides of prepared pan.

Place pan in freezer. Preheat oven to 425º F. 

In large bowl with electric mixer, beat cream cheese, goat cheese, ¼ cup flour, 1½ teaspoons salt and black pepper until smooth. Beat in 4 remaining eggs, then Parmesan cheese, dill, pesto and chives. Stir in remaining ¾ cup Wheat beer and lemon juice. Remove pan from freezer; pour filling into crust.

Bake cheesecake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325º F.; bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes until top is lightly golden and filling is set. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool on wire rack.

Refrigerate cheesecake for several hours. Remove from pan; transfer to serving plate. Garnish top with dill sprigs. Cheesecake may be made up to one week ahead and refrigerated. Serve with favorite crackers, or as slices on plate.

Posted in Beer & Food Pairings, Beer In Food, Cooking With Beer | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »