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Americans have a unique relationship with alcohol. For 13 years, from 1920 to 1933, we weren’t allowed to drink it. More than 1,000 American breweries folded as a result.
However, a handful of breweries found clever ways to stick it out, shifting gears (sometimes literally) to produce other products. From “near beer” to dairy to amphibious vehicles, here’s how eight American breweries survived Prohibition.
St. Louis, MO
At Anheuser-Busch, experimentation with boozeless beverages began as early as 1908. Its first foray into near-beer was a non-alcoholic, cereal-based beverage called Bevo that launched in 1916. Although initially successful, Bevo later “cratered with the rest of the near beer market,” History.com reports.
A-B then pivoted to dozens of other products, including Budweiser malt extract, a carbonated coffee and tea brand called Kaffo and Buschtee, and other food products, including frozen eggs, infant formula, and ice cream.
A-B didn’t give up on Bevo entirely, though. Its automotive branch launched the Bevo Victory Boat, an amphibious vehicle used by the Army and Navy during World War II. It also released a camper that fit atop a Ford chassis. And, in a traitorous move, it produced police vans used to pick up illegal booze producers and distributors.
During Prohibition, Miller made malted milk and malt syrup, a near-beer called Vivo, and soft drinks, including Miller Verifine Lemon Soda.
In 1925, Miller tried to sell its brewery and failed. It instead sold some of its pubs, allowing it to survive – but just barely.
Colorado beer sales were banned in 1916, so Coors Brewing, founded in 1873, had to get creative early. It sold malted milk to soda fountain and candy companies and advertised it as infant formula.
Thanks to a nearby natural resource, clay, Coors also dug into the ceramics business, producing tea sets, dinnerware, spark plugs, and lab equipment under The Coors Porcelain Company. Its labware was used by Thomas Edison. The company still exists today as CoorsTek.
Pabst Brewing Company, founded in 1844 by Jacob Best and later named after Frederick Pabst in 1889, spent its dry years making malt extract and Pabst-ett, a processed cheese spread. The cheese brand was sold to Kraft in 1933.
Pabst also acquired a soft drink company and leased space to another American classic: Harley-Davidson.
Stroh Brewery, founded in 1850 in Detroit and now a subsidiary of Pabst, produced ice cream. Stroh’s Ice Cream is still available today, although it’s owned and distributed by Dean Foods of Dallas.
D.G. Yuengling & Son, America’s oldest brewery, had the nearly-century-old wisdom to create a product loved by young and old alike: ice cream. The Yuengling Dairy Products Corporation was in operation across the street until 1985. In 2014, the Yuengling’s Ice Cream brand came back. It’s still available today.
F.X. Matt Brewing Company’s Saranac Brewery produced near-beer and tonics, including Utica Club Ginger Ale.
New Ulm, MN
Brewing beer since 1860, August Schell Brewing Company sustained itself on near-beer, soft drinks, and candy to keep the lights on during Prohibition. Schell also ran a secret brewery in the basement “for the workers to keep their sanity,” Schell’s brewery history says.
Minhas Brewing Company, founded in 1845 and currently the 13th-largest independent brewing company in the U.S., distributed case tractors, separators, silo fillers, and road machinery as the Blumer Products Company.
We all know Tony Hawk as the down-to-earth skateboarding legend that he is. Now, the cultural icon is venturing out into different territory.
Hawk’s company, Birdhouse Skateboards, recently collaborated with Black Plague Brewing in Oceanside, Calif. to brew the Tony Hawps Birdhouse IPA. While Hawk’s experience as a brewer is essentially non-existent, he does have something in common with Black Plague Brewing: it’s skater-owned.
“Never imagined I’d get to help ‘design’ a new beer, but my life keeps taking unexpected – and delightful – turns,” Hawk wrote in a recent Instagram post. Hawk also included some tasting notes from the brewmaster in the post, describing the brew as a “smooth, clear American IPA,” with “intense” citrus and floral aromas, low bitterness, and a “crisp, refreshing finish.”
A post shared by Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) on Jul 17, 2019 at 9:54am PDT
“We wanted to partner with [Hawk] to create something authentic to connect with skate fans and skateboarders,” Jordan Hoffart, pro skateboarder and president of Black Plague Brewing, said in a press release.
If you want a taste of the brew, Tony Hawps Birdhouse IPA will be available on July 20th in the Blague Black Brewing taproom and select Southern California restaurants.
There may be no such thing as bargain-priced Champagne, but non-vintage (NV) varieties do offer relative value. On digital retailer Wine.com, for example, the average price of a 750-milliliter bottle of vintage Champagne is $112, while non-vintage bottles average $58.
Non-vintage Champagnes are made by blending the current vintage with reserve wines from previous years, and they are “generally lighter in body with more fresh fruit flavors,” according to the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines textbook. Vintage Champagnes, on the other hand, are made only in the “best years,” according to WSET, are more concentrated, and contain more complex notes. Wine.com also describes vintage bubbles as the “topmost expression of a Champagne house.”
Yet, thinking of vintage Champagne as a superior product to NV is an oversimplification of the world’s preeminent sparkling wine. In fact, many in the industry argue that NV bottles not only offer a better representation of the heart and soul of Champagne; in reality, the practice of blending multiple vintages can create a superior product.
Champagne has always been a blended product, says Peter Liem, author of “Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region,” and publisher of the online reference ChampagneGuide.net. “The region has notoriously bad weather, so blending multiple vintages in an insurance policy,” he explains, “especially in the past when conditions were much cooler.” While the region now enjoys warmer conditions, the practice still allows for better consistency, Liem says, and successful blending can elevate a base wine into something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
“We don’t think of our [non-vintage] Brut Reserve as our ‘entry-level’ wine, we believe it is the flagship of the house,” says Remi Vervier, managing director and oenologist at Champagne Palmer & Co. The non-vintage blend is the first encounter most consumers will have with the brand, he says, “so it has to be made to a very high quality.”
Vervier describes the reserve wines added to non-vintage blends as “spices” that enable him to craft a blend that perfectly fits Champagne Palmer’s house style. So important are these reserve wines, in fact, that the house just finished construction of a special facility exclusively for the storage and management of reserve wines.
Unlike Port, where the local appellation determines the years in which vintage wines can be made, it’s up to Champagne houses to declare if they’re producing a vintage or not. But even when growing conditions are perfect, and despite the elevated sums vintage bottles can command, releasing a vintage wine may not always be the best option for a Champagne house.
Gary Westby, the Champagne buyer for K&L Wine Merchants, argues that a great vintage wine might instead be more useful as a reserve wine. ”If you talk to producers, they prefer 2009 over 2008 as a vintage release,” he says by way of example. “To most of us in the press or in the trade, this seems completely crazy.” The 2009 vintage produced “nice and round and ripe” wines, Westby says; whereas 2008 vintage Champagne was “an earth shatterer” and the “vintage of a generation.” But for winemakers, “it makes a lot more sense to save that 2008 vintage as reserve for their non-vintage program,” he says.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Kirby / Krug
Vintage Champagne production currently accounts for just 5 percent of the region’s output. Non-vintage wines, on the other hand, are Champagne houses’ “bread and butter,” Westby says. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that many houses place more importance on their NV blends, but Westby admits that many of his collector customers are shocked to hear it.
If you do want to spend a little bit extra on Champagne, Westby says non-vintage magnums offer much better value. They’re just as capable of aging, he says, they often contain really high-quality base wines, and you get much more bang for your buck.
Of course, not all NV wines carry entry-level price tags. Arguably the most prestigious NV Champagne is Krug’s Grande Cuvée, which retails between $170 and $250, depending on the “Edition.” (Krug numbers each non-vintage release, or “Edition,” to acknowledge that each is a unique blend, but always made with the same philosophy in mind.)
When Joseph Krug founded the house in 1843, he designed Krug Grande Cuvée to be “the fullest expression of Champagne, re-created every year, regardless of annual climate variations,” Olivier Krug, director of the Krug house, writes VinePair in an email.
Each bottle of Grande Cuvée contains a blend of over 120 different wines, spanning more than 10 different vintages. “Blending so many different wines from different years lends a fullness of flavors and aromas that would be impossible to express with the wines of a single year,” Krug adds.
Photo credit: Michel Jolyot
Champagne house Laurent-Perrier also makes its Prestige Cuvée using a multi-vintage blend. Called Grand Siècle, or “Great Century,” the cuvée takes its name from the period of French history during which Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” ruled. Westby describes Grand Siècle as the “top value” Prestige Cuvée offered by any of the grande marque Champagne houses.
Laurent-Perrier’s cellar master, Michel Fauconnet, assembles the Grand Siècle blend from three complementary wines, produced exclusively from grand cru vineyards in vintage-quality years.
During a recent tasting, deep in the house’s underground cellars, Fauconnet explained that the vintages should provide the perfect balance of “finesse, structure, and freshness.” But just like Champagne Palmer’s Vervier, Fauconnet believes that Laurent-Perrier’s “emblematic wine” is its La Cuvée brut non-vintage. (“Grand Siècle runs a close second, he says)
“If nature doesn’t give you the perfect vintage,” Fauconnet says, “you have to create it.”
In an era when ideals such as “minimal intervention” winemaking are of increasing importance, it’s useful to remember that, in its essence, Champagne is the product of maximum intervention. And that’s not a bad thing, at least not according to Peter Liem, who says, “Winemaking is not a dirty word.”
White Claw has quickly become the most talked about hard seltzer brand on the market. Launched in 2016, the 100-calorie, two-carbohydrate, 5-percent-ABV fizzy treat now accounts for about half of spiked seltzer sales in the U.S.
Wondering what the hype is about? Here are nine things you should know about White Claw.
White Claw is a flavored malt beverage (FMB). It’s made with “a blend of seltzer water, its gluten-free alcohol base, and a hint of fruit flavor,” a brand representative tells VinePair. “The alcohol in White Claw Hard Seltzer comes from fermented sugars derived from malted gluten-free grains.” While this doesn’t exactly clarify things, our best guess is that it’s made with cane sugar, which is listed as an ingredient in several variants.
White Claw is making waves.
America drank more White Claw in the last six months than we did in the entirety of 2018. “At $212.1 million in dollar sales through June 23, White Claw has already surpassed its *entire* IRI sales from 2018 ($196.7 million),” beer writer Bryan Roth tweeted on July 2, 2019. According to IRI, weekly sales of White Claw doubled between April and June 2019.
As of May 2019, dollar sales of White Claw’s mixed 12-packs saw a 320 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018, according to Nielsen. Its growth exceeded that of global beer brands like Guinness and Corona Light, and all craft beers except Blue Moon Belgian White, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Bars are running out of it.
Bartenders and alcohol distributors across the nation say they can barely keep White Claw on the shelves. It’s a common phenomenon: When a bar runs out of White Claw, patrons say it has been “declawed.”
There are laws when you’re drinking Claws.
In July 2019, inspired by the mantra, “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws,” (origin: unknown), comedian Trevor Wallace released a video satirizing the typical White Claw drinker. He also designed and sold more than 1,000 T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase.
Wallace was quickly hit with a cease and desist from the seltzer company, leading to rumblings that he just may switch sides to White Claw competitor Truly Hard Seltzer, produced by Boston Beer.
Like a wave, White Claw is hard to pin down.
White Claw is produced by Mark Anthony Brands, a division of the Mark Anthony Group of Companies that also includes Mark Anthony Brewery and Mark Anthony Wine and Spirits.
Although not the famed Latin singer, this Mark Anthony should still ring a bell: It’s the very same company that produces Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Of course, this information does not appear anywhere on White Claw’s website, packaging, or social media.
White Claw has different rules outside North America. Although the family-owned Mark Anthony Brands still owns and distributes it here, outside the U.S. and Canada it’s marketed and distributed by AB InBev.
Taste is subjective.
White Claw is currently available in six flavors: Black Cherry, Ruby Grapefruit, Natural Lime, Raspberry, Mango, and Pure, the latter made to mimic a vodka soda.
VinePair was partial to Pure. Blind tastings of other flavors have varied results. A Seattle Times panel called it “Windex-y” with a “strong alcohol taste,” while a Willamette Week review included the phrase “hand soap.”
Beer enthusiasts, on the other hand, beg to differ. Users of the popular beer check-in app Untappd give overwhelmingly positive reviews, with one user writing he “could drink 10,000 of these.”
You can be White Claw.
Come October, or whenever you get your next paycheck and are looking for a little extra attention, you can buy yourself a White Claw costume.
ICYMI, the promotion is in response to a Facebook event involving thousands of people planning to storm Area 51 that went viral. This being the Internet, it prompted an eternity of memes. The event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” has 1.6 million people who have RSVP’d yes to the event.
The Fourth of July is an occasion that almost always includes cracking open a cold one, whether it’s beer, wine, or cocktails. But this year, it seems many people were sipping on a White Claw.
Of all the beers sold over the holiday season, White Claw accounted for 3 percent of them, according to data sent to the Beer Business Daily from Mike’s Hard Lemonade, White Claw’s parent company. (Because it’s a flavored malt beverage, or FMB, White Claw is technically classified as beer.) To put this figure into perspective, seltzers accounted for 5.2 percent of beer sales from June 23 to July 7, up from 2.2 percent last year. White Claw sales, therefore, accounted for 56 percent of that total.
White Claw was also able to make the top ten list of beer brands in the U.S. for that same two-week period, coming in at number eight. Mike’s Hard Lemonade grew a whopping 77 percent during this period last year, and its total sales are up 60 percent.
Overall, FMB sales grew 37 percent during Fourth of July week. Seltzers accounted for the majority of that, growing 147 percent and accounting for 40 percent of the FMB sales, according to Nielsen data. White Claw also occupied three spots in the Top Ten Growth Brands list from that period: the White Claw variety pack at number one, the White Claw Black Cherry at number five, and the White Claw Mango at number seven.
People may be divided on how they feel about it, but White Claw is dominating.
Few things are more exciting than the anticipation before Shark Week. The annual Discovery Channel special starts airing on July 28, 2019.
Adding to the anticipation of this cultural phenomenon, Breckenridge Brewery of Littleton, CO is releasing a shark-inspired beer you can sip while watching your shark-related programming. Called “Cherry JAW-some,” the cherry lime-aid-flavored sour beer has an ominous red hue (from cherries, not blood) and a salty flavor that’ll remind you of the scariest moments in Jaws.
And buying this beer to gulp while you binge all things sharks won’t only get you in a sharky mood, you’ll be supporting marine life, too. One dollar from the sale of each Cherry JAW-some will be donated to Project AWARE, a nonprofit working to conserve marine life.
Today’s catch: The beer will only be available at the Breckenridge Brewpub in Breckenridge, CO and at the Farmhouse in Littleton, an Anheuser-Busch spokesperson tells VinePair.
“Good friends and good Micheladas are the keys to happiness,” says Fernando Lopez, co-owner of Guelaguetza Restaurant in Los Angeles and creator of the I Love Micheladas mix.
Finding either can be difficult, however, so VinePair asked bartenders to explain the best ways to make excellent Micheladas at home. (Developing healthy friendships is also important, though perhaps best suited to another column.)
All bar professionals agree that the caliber and temperature of the beer for your Michelada matter, as does how you envision the cocktail. Some Americans hear “Michelada” and picture a beer cocktail made with spiced tomato juice, whereas a classic version of the Mexican original consists of cold beer, ice, hot sauce, salt, and lime.
Whichever interpretation you prefer, remember that Micheladas are all about refreshment. A well-made version can’t guarantee eternal happiness, but it’s certainly not a bad place to start.
What to do when making Micheladas
Start with a light, easy-drinking beer.
“You want the beer to be light and ‘crushable,’” Claudette Zepeda, chef-owner, El Jardín, San Diego, says. “A Michelada is meant to be a daytime patio cocktail. IPAs are a big no-no — you want the spice, the ice, and everything nice.”
A Mexican lager like Corona, Pacifico, or Dos Equis is ideal, says Chris Mann, general manager, Distrito, Philadelphia. “Try to stay away from heavier and stronger-flavored beers,” he suggests.
Serve it as cold as possible.
Micheladas are meant to be refreshing, so you want your beer (and glass if you’re using one) to be well-chilled. “If your beer isn’t ice-cold, it is fine to add ice to your drink,” Mann says.
Tailor your flavors.
Lopez suggests over-seasoning a mostly full glass of beer with your preferred mix of hot sauce, spices, and citrus juice. If it winds up tasting unbalanced or overwhelms your palate, you can simply add more beer to mellow things out. “Don’t be scared to experiment! Sometimes you don’t know what you like until you try it,” he says.
Season your salt.
The same thing goes for the salted rim, which can be as straightforward or spiced as you want. “If you’d like an added kick you can mix in some chile powder with the salt,” suggests Mann, while Zepeda prefers a different blend. “A rim of Chamoy, salt, and Tajin always does the trick,” she says.
What not to do when making Micheladas
Don’t make a Bloody Mary.
“Many recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or maggi sauce,” Mann says. Although untraditional, these three ingredients can certainly create a tasty cocktail. “However, be very careful with the amount you use,” Mann says. “I’ve tasted numerous Micheladas that were just way overpowered by these ingredients.”
The same goes for tomato or Clamato juice, both of which pop up on restaurant Micheladas and in prepackaged mixes. “A lot of other companies will just rebrand their Bloody Mary mix and call it a Michelada mix,” Lopez warns. “That’s the best way to get bland Micheladas.”
Whether you love it, hate it, or are indifferent, tipping is inextricably a part of the American drinking experience. Despite its ubiquity, though, lots of confusion reigns around how much to tip, whether it’s O.K. to tip less if you feel like you’ve received poor service, or whether there’s an obligation to tip the same on drinks as you would on food.
This week’s VinePair podcast finds Adam and Zach rather worked up about the whole topic. They delve into why you shouldn’t be dining out if you can’t tip properly, how modern reservation technology allows restaurants to share information about bad guests and cheap diners, and they aim to resolve any unanswered questions you might have about this dated but still omnipresent American phenomenon.
Molson Coors has acquired London’s Hop Stuff Brewery in what the latter describes as an asset sale. That means Hop Stuff’s brewery, brand, taprooms, and staff will transfer to the Canadian conglomerate, but Hop Stuff investors will not receive any returns, Beverage Daily reports.
Hop Stuff announced the deal to the public via Twitter and in a blog post on July 12, 2019. Founder James Yeomans cites financial difficulties as the reason for the sale.
“In Molson Coors we’ve found a partner who believes wholeheartedly that craft beer should be accessible, inclusive and of exceptionally high and consistent quality,” Yeomans writes in the blog post. “With their support and guidance, we are going to be able to start brewing again and be able to supply our customers in London. Hop Stuff beers won’t disappear.”
The beer won’t disappear, but unfortunately for Hop Stuff investors, their money is gone. Hop Stuff had 1,300 investors, including 72 original investors when the brewery was founded in 2013, and many others who invested during three crowdfunding rounds, according to Brewbound.
Clearly, these and other former supporters are not happy. Some are taking to Twitter to air out their grievances, calling Yeomans a “crook” who has “screwed” his staff and fans.
Terrible mis management and sell out to one of the worst. Never received the investors beers promised when I invested. Embarrassing!
This is obviously unfortunate for Hop Stuff’s backers, but, then again, risk is the name of the game when it comes to investment. A silver lining for some is that Hop Stuff’s beers — sessionable, hop-forward ales and lagers — will be available in perpetuity. If that’s little consolation to those who have denounced the brand, then it’s time to move on to your next favorite brewery.
Karbach Brewing Fails Health Inspection
AB InBev’s Karbach Brewing, based in Houston, recently failed a health inspection due to “pink slime and black biofilm in the ice machine,” an investigative report reveals.
A Food Establishment Inspection Report from the Houston Department of Health and Human Services Environmental Health Division/Consumer Health Services, dated July 5, 2019, cites violations including improper temperature control of food storage areas and insufficient cleaning of equipment of non-food-storage areas.
This is gross and unacceptable, of course. It’s also probably not unique to Karbach. With more than 7,000 breweries in the U.S., I doubt each and every one is spick and span.
It’s not O.K., but it could be worse. The report covers five restaurants in total, with violations spanning live cockroaches to dead rats. At the very least, the report makes no mention of the brewery’s draft system, so at least we can assume the beer is clean.