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Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 30, 2009

After Year-long Global Search, Maxwell Begins Mission of Passion to Teach Bartenders the World Over the Art of the Perfect Pour
October 30, 2009 – Now in its 13th year, the annual Stella Artois® World Draught Master competition epitomizes Stella Artois®’ dedication to delivering superior beer experiences the world over.  On Thursday Oct. 29, this year’s competition saw contestants from 26 countries across the globe converge in New York to compete for the coveted title and complete the brand’s time-honored 9-step pouring ritual of perfection. 
After a tense semi-final round, which saw the contestants and three competition winner wildcard entries whittled down to a final 10, an enthusiastic audience of Stella Artois® connoisseurs joined the discerning Jury panel to select  only those who could demonstrate true passion and dedication to perfection in pouring in a dramatic “Passion test.”  A tense head-to-head pouring finale followed, before Avril Maxwell was announced the winner and returned to the stage to claim the coveted title.  Maxwell, hailing from New Zealand now begins a global journey to more than 20 different countries across the globe as an ambassador for Stella Artois® and her own quest to ensure every chalice of Stella Artois® is preciously poured and perfectly served the world over.
Maxwell was awarded a unique trophy created by New York fashion designer Tim Hamilton as part of a pioneering design collaboration with Stella Artois®, successfully bringing to life his signature style and dedication to quality and craftsmanship within an entirely new design medium.  Hamilton, who introduced his apparel line at the event, also created a limited-edition iconic Stella Artois® Chalice glass in celebration of World Draught Master 2009.
Alexander Lambrecht, Global Marketing manager for Stella Artois®, comments:  “The World Draught Master competition is integral to our ongoing quest to deliver superior beer experiences the world over, ensuring that Stella Artois® is served with the same care, consideration and craftsmanship as has gone into more than 600 years of brewing.  We are extremely proud to welcome not only finalists  from around the globe to compete in New York, but also Stella Artois® connoisseurs and pioneering partners, such as Tim Hamilton, who share our ongoing quest for perfection.”
Runners up in the competition were Joe Oppedisano of Canada (2nd) and Alexey Shtukarev of Russia (3rd). Remaining contestants came from: Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil,China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dubai, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Montenegro, Paraguay, Serbia, Singapore, UK, Ukraine and the United States.
In addition, the Stella Artois Online Fans’ Choice went to Oppedisano who was selected by consumers watching the competition streamed live to their computers. 
Lambrecht added, “We wanted to create a global conversation about the Stella Artois World Draught Master competition by inviting people into the event via live streaming and providing an opportunity for them to decide on what competitor embodied perfection. “

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

Beer Writer Bill Brand And Author Bob Skilnik Talk Pumpkin Brews

Posted by Bob Skilnik on November 8, 2007

pumpkin-vomit.jpgI recently received, but missed a call from William (Bill) Brand, a newspaper reporter who happens to also sideline as a beer writer for the Oakland Tribune/Bay Area News Group/Media News Group and the food & drink friendly Contra Costa Times. It’s not often you run across a true newspaper reporter who can switch gears from reporting on a blazing local fire to a light-hearted piece about a fire-brewed beer. Unlike a lot of beer writers, Bill has put his time in the trenches out in the field, but after speaking to him, you soon can tell that he uses this same kind of dedication that he exhibits when penning an article about his favorite adult beverage—beer—as he does when reporting on a blazing inferno or an unfortunate murder in the city.

I found that out when I returned his call for some requested comments about a story he was working on about Pumpkin Ale, a perennial harvest time beer that has gone on from a novelty brew to one that has become a true seasonal. “Bob, I’ve got to call you back while I knock out this article about a nearby fire,” he said, and quickly hung-up the phone.

About an hour later, with the fire struck and the news article about the blaze sent to his editor, we had a nice chat about Pumpkin Ale and its growing popularity, a drink that has limited time constraints in stores, usually wrapping up appearances in 50-case aisle displays in liquor stores about the same time that the last stale pieces of Halloween candy can still be found in the kid’s candy bowl (typically buried under crumbled wrappings). But unlike post-Halloween candy that’s already showing signs of age, a smart beer drinker can usually find a good and still-fresh supply of post-holiday Pumpkin beer products that have been discounted to clear them out, making them available for stockpiling, at least through Thanksgiving and even into Christmas—if you’re lucky. A good bottle of Pumpkin Ale to wash down a slice of still-warm pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, topped with a too genrous dollop of whipped cream, is a taste treat that can brighten up any holiday meal.

As Bill reports in his article, pumpkin beer has gotten so popular in the last few years that the Great American Beer Festival in Denver has even added a pumpkin beer subcategory for the first time. “There were 15 entries,” Brewers Association’s Julia Herz says. And Dick Cantwell’s Great Pumpkin won a second place silver medal, edged out only by a beer made with berries. It’s a brave new beery world these days.

Having discussed the problems that colonists had in securing brewing fermentables in my latest book, Beer & Food: An American History, Brand wanted my take on the origins of a gourd-ish beer and and any clues to the style’s history.

“The idea of pumpkin beer makes beer historian Bob Skilnik, author of ‘Beer & Food: An American History,’ snicker — well, almost. He admits he likes pumpkin beers; always buys them each fall. But pumpkin beer, while a true piece of Americana cuisine, was not exactly lofty stuff in colonial times.

Truth is, limited shipments of quality malted barley to make beer had to be imported from England to the colonies, Skilnik says. It was hard to obtain and expensive, so colonists made do with what they had — and that included indigenous pumpkins and corn. ‘The Indians taught the earliest colonists how to grow pumpkins along with corn. The vines grew up the corn stocks; it was an efficient use of space.’ ”

But as pointed out in the book, pumpkin was just one of the crazy ingredients that early brewers used to make suds. Artichoke beer anyone?

“So when it came time to brew beer, everything fermentable was tossed into the brew kettle: Both corn and pumpkins went in, along with persimmons and Jerusalem artichokes, Skilnik said. “When I see everyone replicating the beers of the past, I kind of laugh. What most people don’t know is there was some pretty foul stuff passing for beer in colonial America.”

You can read Bill’s complete article here  and his blog here and read more about Beer & Food: An American History here. And keep your eyes out for discounted 6-packs of pumpkin beer. I’m thinking pumpkin creme brulee with a well-spiced and cellar temperature pumpkin beer on the side.

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One For My Homeys

Posted by Bob Skilnik on May 7, 2007

stides.jpgIn June of 1991, while the reorganized G. Heileman Brewing Company was once again trying to get back on its financial feet after a series of business setbacks, the brewery announced the creation of a new malt liquor called PowerMaster. This new brew would be added to its collection of other high-octane brews, including its best seller, Colt 45. PowerMaster would have an alcoholic content of about 5.5 to 6 percent, depending on the legal restrictions on alcohol content in beer by some western states.

“Upper strength malt liquors, those with a higher alcohol content, are growing,” noted a brewery spokesman, ” in an industry trade journal. Some industry observers, however, weren’t too sure about bringing one more malt liquor into the beer market, especially with the growing wave of neo-prohibitionism and a trend towards moderation in the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

“It’s a gutsy move on Heileman’s part,” said an industry observer, “but I’m not sure they can pull it off.” But one could also see Heileman’s logic in introducing yet another malt liquor. The national malt liquor market had shown increases of 300,000 barrels in each of the last two years to 6.1 barrels in 1990. In an otherwise stagnant market and in a rebuilding phase, Heileman was willing to bring on PowerMaster and pit it against the Stroh brewery’s Schlitz Malt Liquor, Anheuser-Busch’s King Cobra and Miller’s Magnum.

About the same time that PowerMaster was making its debut in Chicagoland, Reverends George Clements and the bete noire of the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese, Father Michael Pfleger showed up at Heileman’s La Crosse, Wisconsin offices and demanded to speak with the brewery’s president, Thomas Rattigan. The priests contended that the new PowerMaster with its high alcohol kick was being targeted at black communities. When the duo was informed that Rattigan was out-of-town and that no other member of the brewery’s management team was willing to meet with them, they refused to leave the company offices. Company officials called the police who promptly arrested the Chicago clerics for trespassing. 

In the courtroom of La Crosse Municipal Court Judge Robert Joanis, the two priests were released on $85 signature bonds and admonished by the judge that any future protests could land them in jail. He also ordered that they return to La Crosse in late August to answer the trespassing charges. In typical defiant fashion, the priests vowed that they would return to the brewery and continue the fight against the marketing and selling of the new PowerMaster product.  

Clements and Pfleger, however, were just a small part of a nationwide campaign to usurp the placement of PowerMaster in the retail beer market. Various black leaders, Surgeon General Antonia Novello and representatives of anti-drinking groups had caught the attention of Washington, and in doing so, stirred the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) into action. In early July, BATF representatives descended on the La Crosse brewery, and in a two-hour meeting, informed Heileman that they were pulling approval of the PowerMaster label. Citing laws established by the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935, the BATF claimed that they were invoking a passage in the Act that forbade the labeling or advertising of beer as being “strong, full strength, extra strength or high test,” all words that could be construed as an indication of alcoholic strength.

After the United States brewing industry had lost its eight month exclusive right to manufacture 3.2 percent beer with the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, many breweries came out with a line of what were commonly referred to at the time as “headache beers,” malted beverages with a high alcohol content. These beers were brewed strong in an attempt to blunt a possible loss of market share to distilled spirits manufacturers. Claiming since the nineteenth century that beer was really a nourishing “drink of moderation,” the move by brewers to manufacture and advertise high alcohol products seemed a bit hypocritical and left the industry in a sensitive position. Still gun-shy that the federal government could giveth and taketh away the right to brew beer again, the United States brewing industry had grudgingly accepted the labeling restrictions.

Decades later, and following a very wide interpretation of these post-Prohibition guidelines, the BATF claimed that the word “Power” violated federal law. Heileman was allowed to sell its existing stock of PowerMaster for the next four months but would have to stop any further advertising of the product. In a statement by G. Heileman after the BATF’s decision, the brewery acknowledged the financial burden that continued litigation over the issue would entail. In the midst of reorganization, the brewery decided to take their medicine and move on. When pressed by reporters as to how the PowerMaster label could have been approved by the BATF and then suddenly pulled after lobbying by anti-drink proponents, Dan Black, deputy director of the bureau and associate director of compliance operations at the BATF explained away the action. “With upwards of 80,000 labels a year…sometimes these things happened.” 

St. Sabina pastor Pfleger, was overjoyed by the BATF ruling. “When we are spiritually strong, there’s no problem we cannot overcome. We have a serious alcohol problem in the [Chicagoland African-American] community, and this means that something worse won’t be added to it,” said Pfleger, then added “Big business better watch out if it’s doing wrong.” St. Ides malt liquor was gaining popularity in the black community, especially after rap and movie star Ice Cube was making commercials for the beer. After the beer was highlighted in the movie, Boyz n the Hood, sales took off. “Get your girl in the mood quicker,” sang Ice Cube in one of the commercials he did for the powerful malt liquor, “and get your jimmy thicker with St. Ides malt liquor.” Today, the Colt .45, St. Ides and St. Ides Special Brew labels are owned by the Pabst Brewing Company. For you readers who have never succumbed to the ass-kicking qualities of this powerhouse genre of beer, I present the following qualities with one caveat. Though I use the word “ounce” in this article to describe the fluid amount of malt liquor in any given container, it’s customary to instead described the liquid measurement as oz., as in “O-O-O-Z-E-E.” Dead giveaway you’re a writer from the suburbs if you use the full-written word;

*   Malt liquors range in alcohol content from 5.6 percent (Colt 45) to 8.0 percent (St. Ides) by volume. Regular beer averages 4.6 percent alcohol by volume.

*   Four, 12-ounce cans of malt liquor can have as much alcohol as five to eight cans of beer. Malt liquor is often promoted, however, in single 40-ounce bottles. 24-ounce cans are also available and known as “shorty forties.”

*   One 12-ounce can of regular beer has approximately the same alcohol as a standard shot of whiskey. All have an average of a half-ounce of alcohol. Drinking one 40-ounce bottle of St. Ides is equivalent to drinking a little more than five shots of whiskey.

*   Standard etiquette for drinking malt liquor in Chicago is to stand on a street corner with a menacing group of your friends and drink it from a new paper bag. No plastic bags, please! That would be gauche and so not “green.”

*   It gets your jimmy thicker.

Posted in Beer History, Beer Styles | 1 Comment »

Will Craft Brewers Finally Lighten Up?

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 10, 2007

beerdietpyramidgood.gifA few years ago, I wrote a book titled The Drink Beer, Get Thin Diet: A Low-Carbohydrate Approach. The premise was a simple one; design a low-carb diet around the moderate consumption of beer…even high carb brews. By knowing the carbohydrate content of your favorite brew, you (as the dieter) could determine how many carbs you took in daily.

The problem was getting brewers to cooperate in this little literary endeavor by giving me information that I could use to calculate carbohydrate counts for their beers. In the case of the bigger breweries, that wasn’t a problem. They had already done a nutritional analysis on their products and willingly gave out the information to inquiring minds.

In the case of craft brewers, however, it became a daliy battle. Some breweries, such as New Belgium or Bricktown Brewery (a brewpub) were extremely cooperative, others were downright combative. One brewer demonstrated that he understood the emerging market. “Health is about information, choices and moderation.”

Others, however, told me to do sexually impossible tasks, adding that “We don’t brew our beer for nutrition, we brew it for taste,” while their websites were filled with references to the vitamins in yeast and grain. When I would bring up the argument that what the customer wanted was probably more important than the opinions of the brewer (and maybe better for sales), well, let’s just say that it wasn’t pretty.

Slowly but surely, since 2003 or so, I’m finding more and more brewpubs experimenting with their own interpretations of “light” beer. Things are also changing with bottling craft breweries as Brew Blog has pointed out. Why the change in attitude? As BB notes “In short, they’re going after light for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: Because that’s where the money is.”

But there’ still a long battle to wage before every craft brewery has at least one “light” beer in its portfolio, and the nutritional analysis info to back it up.  West Coast beer writer and reviewer William Brand has a different opinion about craft-brewed light beer…”My opinion of light beer: Argggggg.  Personally, I’m going to crack open a bottle of Double IPA tonight.” And Bill’s not alone with this kind of opinion.

But when 50% of beer sales come from the light sector, what’s a brewer to do?

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There’s Chelada…And Then There’s Chelada — A-B vs Miller

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 10, 2007

CheladaAnheuser-Busch’s Clamato and Bud (or Bud Light) will meet some head-on competition in the marketplace this summer when Miller Chill is introduced. Described as a “Chelada-style” superpremium light beer, it will contain lime and salt, actually more in line with this beer-based drink of Mexican origin

You can actually make your own version and all its variations at home, including this recipe for CHELADA POPS

A refreshing beer concoction that is a Mexican favorite, originating in the 1950’s when Tecate introduced beer in a can and promoted the now ritualistic lime wedge and salt on the rim. The tradition evolved along the Mexican Rivera into the “chelada” – a slang variation of “helada” – which means “iced”. This evolved even further into Michelada, or “My iced beer.” The variations created are as numerous as the regions of Mexico, but the foundation is always the same…Mexican Lager served over ice with a slice of lime and a salted rim.

GATO:  fresh squeezed lime, ice and a salted rim

TRADITIONAL: Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and pepper

ROJO: Spicy tomato juice, Tabasco & Worcestershire sauce

Go can also go to Michemix at and make an instant version

Posted in Beer & Food In The News, Beer Styles | 3 Comments »

A-B and Clamato=”The Red One.”

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 20, 2007

Certificate of label approval applications filed with the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau indicate that Anheuser-Busch has picked-up on the idea of making your next hangover cure as easy as opening up a bottle of “The Red One,” reports BrewBlog. A-B’s Chelada will come pre-mixed with either Bud or Bud Light and Clamato Juice, lime and flavorings.


And even more!

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Don’t Smoke Herb; Drink It

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 15, 2007

Fal Allen, brewmaster of Singapore’s Archipelago Brewery has an enviable job. He’s tasked with identifying which Asian herbs and spices can be added to beer to help the beverage complement the region’s fiery cuisines. “Beer’s effervescence and carbonation cleanse palates better than wine,” Allen says. With the addition of new natural flavors, the theory goes, beer-and-food pairings will be even more pleasing.


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