Barley Independent: Beer is Certifiably Craft

Robert Glennon: “When the dust settled from various mergers, two conglomerates, Molson Coors and AB InBev, controlled 90% of U.S. beer production. They’ve been buying up craft breweries, including Blue Moon, Karbach, Wicked Weed and Goose Island. Last year Heineken acquired Lagunitas. Are the acquired brands still craft brewers?”

“Lurking beneath the legal technicalities lies a critical issue for craft brewers: access to shelf space and beer taps. It’s a big challenge given the structure of the beer industry. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Congress and most state legislatures implemented a three-tier system of producers, distributors and retailers. Most producers must retain the services of a distributor. For some craft brewers, that’s a major problem. Most distributors are aligned with one of the two conglomerates, which exert leverage on distributors to favor their brands.”

“At one level, the question is whether drinkers care whether their beer comes from a small, independent brewery … The answer may become clearer. In June 2017, the Brewers Association launched a seal to be put on bottles or cans, labeling the product as ‘Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft’. As of Feb. 26, 3,033 craft brewers out of 5,546 nationwide pledged to use the seals. Consumers may end up voting with their wallets in a referendum on the importance of sustaining small, independent craft brewers.”

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New Media: Think Different & Inky

The New York Times: “At a time when traditional food magazines are shrinking and cutting staff, Dill is part of an unexpected groundswell across the country: a wave of small, sophisticated print magazines, produced on a shoestring by young editors with strong points of view and a passion for their subjects … The last few years have brought new titles like Ambrosia, Compound Butter, Jarry, Kitchen Toke, Peddler and Kitchen Work. Kimberly Chou and Amanda Dell direct the Food Book Fair and Foodieodicals, an annual fair for independent magazines; Ms. Chou said the number of participating titles had increased to 30 last year, from about a dozen in 2012.”

“Despite some off-putting names — like Toothache or Mold — many of these publications are beautiful and inviting, with ink-saturated pages filled with original art, and nuanced, complex stories you want to spend time digesting. Their cover prices are fittingly high, with many around $20, and a few don’t even bother to post their content online, focusing entirely on print … Most of these magazines come together as a labor of love, in chunks of spare time carved out on nights and weekends … small teams with low overheads may be able to pay for the costs of printing and freelance contributors, usually with a mix of sales, brand partnerships and events.”

“Despite all the challenges, some titles persist and grow. Gather Journal, a recipe magazine with high-art styling and photography, has been in print since 2012. And the literary magazine Put a Egg on It, founded by Sarah Keough and Ralph McGinnis, has been printing essays, comics and poetry on its sage-green pages for a decade.”

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Terpenes Twist: Hope for Hop-less Ale

The New York Times: If Americans will eat a burger with no meat, will they drink a beer without hops? Charles Denby, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley, might have made it an option. Dr. Denby works in a lab that focuses on creating sustainable fuel out of plant molecules called terpenes … When he learned that some terpenes could, in small doses, impart the taste of hops — the small, green flowers that give beer its bitter, citrusy flavor — he decided to perform a side experiment.”

“Dr. Denby and his colleagues infused brewer’s yeast with DNA from basil and mint, two plants that naturally produce the hop-flavored terpenes. The scientists were aiming to recreate the flavor of Cascade hops, which are most popular among craft brewers. They used the engineered yeast to brew a hops-free ale … Once they perfected the formula, the tasting began … the researchers asked Lagunitas Brewing Company in California to help them convene a double-blind taste test involving 40 participants. When asked to compare the brew’s hoppiness relative to traditionally brewed beers, the participants placed it above most of the competition.”

“The findings, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, could contribute to a more sustainable future for beer production … Over the past two decades, as craft beer has boomed, Americans have developed a strong preference for hoppy brews like India pale ales, driving up demand for the crop. But farmers can’t keep up, and brewers are facing a hops shortage that some say is slowing the growth of the craft beer industry. Dr. Denby’s process, which he is hoping to commercialize, is a long way from putting hops farmers out of business. Still, he said, the technique could also help brewers produce a more consistent product.”

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Hershey Story: In Chocolate We Trust

The Wall Street Journal: “In the early 20th century, Milton Hershey transformed chocolate from a luxury good to a working-class staple. It made him a fortune, which he used to establish Hershey, Pa.—a model company town 100 miles west of Philadelphia and the self-proclaimed ‘sweetest place on earth.’ He also established an orphanage, the Milton Hershey School, to provide housing and education primarily for children from the area.”

“Hershey and his wife supported the school through a trust, which they established in 1905. By 1918, when he donated his full stake in his chocolate company to the trust, the trust was valued at $60 million. Today it is worth more than $14 billion—ranking it among the largest nonprofit endowments in the nation, on a par with MIT’s—and has maintained a profound commitment to its locale.”

“Peter Kurie’s ‘In Chocolate We Trust: The Hershey Company Town Unwrapped’ is a study of the town and of its residents’ shifting attitudes toward its institutional trinity of trust, company and school … He demonstrates how a philanthropic institution can continue to reflect a founder’s vision while shaping and being shaped by the community that grows up around it, one whose bonds can often be bittersweet.”

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Nestlé & The Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie

The New York Times: Ruth Wakefield’s “confection was known originally as the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie, after the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant that she ran with her husband in eastern Massachusetts … Her original plan was said to have involved melting squares of Baker’s chocolate (unsweetened, with no milk or flavoring) and adding it to the blond batter. But, supposedly, the only chocolate she had available was a Nestlé semisweet bar, and she was too rushed to melt it. Wielding an ice pick, she chopped the bar into pea-size bits and dribbled them into the brown sugar dough with nuts … Instead of melting into the dough to produce an all-chocolate cookie, the bits remained chunky as they baked.”

“In 1939, Wakefield sold Nestlé the rights to reproduce her recipe on its packages (supposedly for only $1) and was hired to consult on recipes for the company, which was said to have provided her free chocolate for life. Nestlé began pre-scoring its chocolate bars for easy baking, then introduced Nestlé Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels which became known as chocolate chips. (For the record, Allison Baker, a Nestlé spokeswoman, said that the morsels do, in fact, melt, but retain their shape because of the way the fat structure of the tempered chocolate is aligned.)”

“The cookies grew so popular — they became known beyond New England during World War II when soldiers from Massachusetts shared their care packages from home — that the name became legally generic. In 1983, a federal judge ruled that Nestlé, which now sells about 90 billion individual morsels annually, was no longer entitled to exclusive rights to the Toll House trademark. In 1967, the Wakefields sold the inn. (It burned in 1984.) The couple retired to Duxbury, Mass., where Ruth Wakefield died in 1977.”

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Bravo: Homestyle Grocer to Latino Mets

The New York Times: “Cooks scurried in and out of the kitchen carrying containers of pork ribs, stewed beef, and rice and beans. Behind a display case of Latin American pastries, a worker hurried through coffee orders. The rapid-fire banter of Caribbean Spanish filled the air. It was the lunchtime rush at the cafeteria of the Bravo Supermarket here, but one loyal customer in particular — the Mets infielder Jose Reyes — caught the eye of the head chef, who hugged him as he took his place in line yet again, like so many Mets from Latin America hungry for home cooking.”

“Opened in 2005, the supermarket has done more than provide a dose of home comfort for players, essential as they find that. It has, at times, also offered free food for strapped athletes, occasional employment or even a cheap place to stay through Luis Merejo, an owner of the supermarket and a former baseball player himself.” Mets shortstop Amed Rosario comments: “It’s home. Every Dominican likes to eat their food, and this is the closest to my mother’s cooking. It makes me feel better. Sometimes you just want to eat your rice and beans, and Dominican-style meat.”

“Bravo is a supermarket chain with at least 60 stores in Florida and the Northeast, including the Bronx and New Jersey, in areas with a high concentration of Latinos. The Port St. Lucie location has perhaps fed the most professional baseball players … A large plate of Dominican-style rice and pigeon peas and fried plantains costs $4. Add meat for only a few more dollars. It’s a steal for minor leaguers who earn paychecks that pale in comparison to those that major leaguers receive.”

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Holy Hops: Westvleteren Beer in Supermarket Sweep

The New York Times: “Smooth, complex, soft, salty and strong — yet delicate, luscious and elegant. Those are just a few of the adjectives used to describe Westvleteren beer, which is often hailed by aficionados as one of the best in the world … For more than 170 years, the beer has been produced and distributed solely by the Trappist monks of St. Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, a village in western Belgium. But that changed last week when a branch of Jan Linders, a Dutch supermarket chain, sold more than 7,000 bottles without the monks’ permission, and at 10 euros each, almost 10 times higher than the original price.”

“The supermarket sold 300 crates of 24 bottles … but did not make a significant profit despite the markup. The third-party sellers had all wanted to make a profit, too … and that was what had driven up the final sale price. The monks denounced the sale, saying the aim behind their endeavors was not to commercialize their product, but to finance themselves and support those in need. Jan Linders has since apologized for the one-off sale, but added in a statement on its website that it wanted to thank customers for introducing them to ‘this beautiful beer’.”

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Craft Brew Biz is Stout in Minneapolis

The New York Times: “Across the country, in once-bustling manufacturing centers, breweries are giving new fizz to sleepy commercial districts. If alcohol-based businesses were blamed for a breakdown of society in the Prohibition era and beyond, breweries are now being seen as a force for good. In 2016, there were 5,301 mom-and-pop beer makers, which are typically known as craft breweries. That figure rose from 4,548 in 2015, when the country surpassed its historic high-water mark of 4,131 breweries, set way back in 1873, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group.”

“Although they are small, those breweries pack an economic jolt. In 2016, they contributed about $68 billion to the national economy, the association said … In searching for places to make specialty beverages like sour beers and stouts, breweries seemed to adhere to a formula. They like early-20th-century buildings with up to 10,000 square feet and lofty ceilings, said Sandy A. Barin, a vice president with the commercial real estate firm CBRE based in Minneapolis who counts brewers among his clients.”

“Usually renters instead of owners, breweries in Minneapolis typically sign five-year leases and pay $4.50 a square foot annually … Breweries also seek up-and-coming locations that are within walking distance of houses and apartments … Over all, breweries, usually with tap rooms, occupy about 624,000 square feet in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro region, up from 507,000 square feet in 2016. And in 2017, 11 new breweries opened in that area, according to CBRE, with 11 more expected this year.”

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70% Organic: Close Enough for Goldfish?

The New York Times: “The organic movement started out in the last century as an alternative to industrial agriculture, a vision of family farms, green fields and co-ops, and has now led us to 70 percent organic Goldfish … While regulators give out a ‘U.S.D.A. Organic’ label, Goldfish don’t qualify. Still, you are allowed to say a product features an organic ingredient as long as it “contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water).”

“The Campbell Soup Company, which owns the Goldfish brand, started selling three kinds of Goldfish with organic ingredients in 2016 … The advent of 70 percent organic Goldfish almost certainly has something to do with the rise of Cheddar Bunnies, made by Annie’s Homegrown, which General Mills acquired in 2014. One blog for moms declared Cheddar Bunnies ‘the Goldfish of this generation’ in 2015, the kind of sentiment that probably didn’t sit well at Campbell.”

“While organic crops are not pesticide free, peer-reviewed studies have found they have fewer pesticide residues than conventional crops. Still, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that the pesticide residues found on almost all crops are within acceptable tolerances. But debate on the topic continues.”

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