American Brown Ale: the pre-prohibition years

I don’t normally get involved in exploring American beer history, not just because there are people far better qualified than me to do the job, but also because I know how easily I could make a fool of myself for lack of local knowledge: like the American who wrote a book about Guinness and said that the Park Royal brewery was “about 25 miles northwest of Central London”. That would put it out around St Albans, instead of the 10 miles or so from Charing Cross it really was.

However, I do like occasionally digging around in any evidence showing how much continuing British influence there was in the American brewing scene in the 19th and early 20th centuries: and while looking for stuff on the history of English brown ales I found – serendipity again – some fascinating stuff on American brown ales many decades before Pete’s Wicked.

I’ve seen almost no evidence of brown ale being brewed in the US before the 20th century: the ad up there for “pale, brown and amber ale and porter” from John McKnight’s brewery in Albany, New York, which appeared in a directory from 1853/54, is the only example I know. However, amber ale was certainly around, and Burton Ale looks to have been even more popular than I had previously supposed: Trow’s New York City Directory of 1862 has four brewers (out of 21 who had taken adverts in the directory) offering Burton Ale, alongside “pale, golden and amber ales, porter and brown stout” (and only one lager brewer in the lot).

Just over 100 years ago, though – and, probably coincidentally, about the same time brown ale made a reappearance in Britain – advertisements for “nut brown ale” start appearing in American newspapers. The ones I have found mostly appear in the “mid-Atlantic” states, specifically New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, although this may be an artefact caused by what newspapers have so far been digitised on the net. One of the earliest is actually from the Steubenville Herald-Star over in Ohio, on Tuesday, December 24 1907, which carried a small ad requesting readers to ” “Try our November Brew of the Standard Brewing Co. Nut Brown Ale on draught at the Antler Cafe”. Continue reading American Brown Ale: the pre-prohibition years

New white wine launched for men

A new white wine brand has been launched that is being specifically targeted at men.

The new wine, which is being sold under the name Beemer™, is meant to get away from what marketers say is the too “feminine” image of white wine, and widen the appeal of the drink so that men become white wine consumers too.

Finn Hogsdon, marketing manager for the company behind the new “masculine” white wine, told a press conference yesterday for the launch of Beemer™: “The problem with white wine is that its ‘girly’ image really puts men off drinking it. I mean, look at the name of the most popular white wine grape – Chardonnay. Sounds like a character out of some over-exaggerated soap opera.

“In addition, white wine is associated in men’s minds with girls’ nights out, or a group of women sitting around the kitchen table with a bottle of pinot grigio in front of them, slagging off their male partners and their inadequacies.

“Anyway, we believe wine makers are missing out on a massive potential market because, for too many reasons, men don’t drink white wine, and we are launching Beemer™ with a deliberately masculine spin, to bring in those missing male white wine drinkers and boost what is, currently, a declining category.

Continue reading New white wine launched for men

What it means now it’s Miller Time at Meantime

Alastair Hook, left, and Nick Miller

The news that Meantime Brewing Company has appointed Nick Miller, former managing director at SAB Miller UK’s operating company, Miller Brands, as its new chief executive is the most significant event in the UK brewing industry this year.

(Incidentally, I love the iconography of the photo of Nick and Alastair Hook, Meantime’s founder and brewmaster: “We’re not suits, but we’re still serious working dudes who love beer …”)

Don’t, please, lazily assume this means SAB Miller will be acquiring Meantime, the way Molson Coors bought Sharp’s back in February. Meantime is a company with ambitions: it has already announced that it wants to increase production fourfold at its new brewery in Greenwich, south-east London from 25,000 hectolitres a year to 100,000hl in the next five years – that’s a little over 60,000 barrels a year, UK, for the non-metric, about as much as a medium-sized family brewer such as Hall and Woodhouse produces.

If you brew it, they won’t necessarily come, though: hence the appointment of Mr Miller. He is, as far as I can find out, the first real sales and marketing heavyweight ever to join a UK craft brewer. He had 20 years of experience in sales, strategic projects and marketing with Coors UK (formerly Bass), where he was director of sales, before he joined Miller Brands as sales director in 2005. His new employer boasted then that Miller had “a history of consistently delivering improved customer relations, sales and profit”, and he rose to be MD at Miller Brands in 2008.

He certainly seems to know how to sell beer, even in a recession. For example, Miller Brands saw UK sales of Peroni rise 29 per cent in the 12 months to the end of April, 2010. And if you think: “Peroni – pfff”, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that UK sales of the Italian lager are equal to more than 300,000 barrels a year, about as much as Fuller, Smith & Turner’s entire output. It’s the number one “world beer” brand in the UK on-trade and number two in the off-trade.

Continue reading What it means now it’s Miller Time at Meantime

Stupid scaremongering at the Burton Mail

Really, the Burton Mail should be ashamed of itself. This is the local newspaper in what is, historically, at least, the beer capital of Britain, Burton upon Trent, still the home to two major brewing companies, Coors and Marstons, and it’s running factoid alcohol scare stories designed to pander to the latest moral panic, that we’re all going to hell in a booze-powered handcart.

“Hospital alcohol incidents soar” is the headline in the Burton Mail this week, and the intro declares: “Alcohol-related admissions at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital have rocketed by 808 per cent over the last five years, the Mail can reveal.”

Now, ignoring for a moment the distorting effect of giving us percentages, not actual numbers, we have an important lesson here: if some fact seems, on the face of it, unlikely, that’s probably because we’re not being given the whole picture. Hospital admissions put down to drink rising nine times in just five years? That scarcely seems credible.

Continue reading Stupid scaremongering at the Burton Mail