From the HopPress: Four Loko – Truth or Dare?

From the HopPress: Four Loko - Truth or Dare?

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, November 27th.

One of the hot topics over the last several weeks has been the media storm surrounding Four Loko and other so-called alcoholic energy drinks; that is, drinks that contain both alcohol and caffeine as well as other substances intended to keep you awake/alert. In a potentially final blow to the sales of this class of beverage, the FDA has now weighed in and sent a letter to about 30 manufacturers of this type of beverage (the maker Four Loko was among those that received the letter) giving them 30 days to present evidence that their beverages are safe or face banishment. The Attorneys General of several states (Vermont among them) have gone well beyond that and issued a total ban on the sales of these types of beverages within their borders. Many colleges and universities have also either issued strong warnings or outright bans on these beverages on their campuses. Even the Brewers Association weighed in by asking the US Tax and Trade Bureau to open up public comment in advance of any rule-making that they might do.

With so much emotion from both sides of the debate swirling the factual information surrounding this issue, it is not easy for me to jump to a quick conclusion (as some obviously have) concerning the correct/proper course of action in this case.

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The Koenemann Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Turkey

Well… its all over but the leftovers and the heady aroma of the beginnings of turkey soup simmering away on the stove. After nearly a week of preparation, my wife Candy presented my kids and me with a truly magnificent dinner early this afternoon. In spite of her disappointment that it was just four of us this year (not that she really minded spending the day with her family, of course), she put together one of the best Thanksgiving meals in my recent memory. For me, everything was perfect… for Candy, she seemed happy with the meal… translated for all of the rest of you, that means that she thought that she had done a good job. Candy is a terrific cook (just looking at me you can tell), but she is hesitant to praise her own efforts without good cause… she is really a perfectionist when it comes to cooking for others.

Our children, Cindy and Jamie, have now headed back to their respective homes in the Burlington area… boxes and bags of Thanksgiving leftovers and other items retrieved from the “Koenemann Family Store” in hand. They both got a good natured, but stern warning from me to be careful of the weather if they ventured out into the early morning craziness of the “Black Friday” shopping phenomenon… not something that you would never catch me within 10 miles of. The weather here is supposed to turn quite nasty around midnight… sleet, snow and freezing rain… and that is to continue until around noon tomorrow. None of us have to work tomorrow, so there is not pressing need to be out and about in such crappy weather. I fully intend to enjoy a nice quiet day off tomorrow. I originally was supposed to have a nice 4-day weekend, but a very large, complicated and high risk system upgrade project got moved to this weekend and I expect to be up most of the night on Saturday working on that… not alone this time, fortunately. The “why” of how this project got scheduled for this weekend I’ll leave to another time… it is a sad tale!

I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Meal

From the HopPress: Growler Time in Vermont

From the HopPress: Growler Time in Vermont

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, November 20th.

I am sitting here enjoying some nice fresh beer in the comfort of my home (a Victory Prima Pils), which I poured from a growler. This simple and enjoyable act is thanks, in part, to a recent change in the beer laws here in Vermont. Growlers sales are on an upward trend nationwide and Vermont has joined a growing number of states that allow larger quantities of “fresh” beer to be sold in retail locations other than a brewery.

Growlers have, of course, been available in Vermont for a while, but a quirky twist to our laws here required that these growlers be filled “from the source”; that is they had to be filled by a brewer at the brewery where the beer was produced. They could then be sold in other places after that, but as all of you know, the shelf life of this type of beer is not conducive to wide distribution without significant loss of quality. The sale of growlers in Vermont outside of that relatively narrow definition were not legal… until recently. In an effort pioneered by two retailers (the Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier and the Bennington Beverage Outlet in Bennington, of course), supported heavily by many members of the Vermont Brewers Association as well as a large group of the State’s beverage retailers, the Vermont Department of Liquor Control (DLC) has begun to push forward a rule change that will eventually loosen, significantly, the rules governing the sale of growler-based beer in this state. Like many things in life, this pending rule change has a story behind it… and the story does not have and ending, yet.

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Hunger Mountain's Growler Night
Patrick Luce (left) at Hunger Mountain's Growler Night

From the HopPress: Boston’s Belgian Beer Fest

From the HopPress: Boston's Belgian Beer Fest

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, November 13th.

Last weekend my son, Jamie, and I traveled down to Boston for the annual Belgian Beer Fest. Held at the Cyclorama in the Back Bay region of Boston, this festival brings together Belgian and Belgian-style brewers as well as distributors of these beers for a celebration of a type of beer that I have come to love.

I was disappointed that I missed the opportunity to participate in the “Night of Funk” held on Friday night before the actual festival on Saturday. This one-session festival unto itself is THE place where the brewers haul out their very best for the crowd lucky enough to gain tickets to this exclusive session. We attended the afternoon session on Saturday and the brewers and distributor representatives in attendance were still talking about what a “Funky” time they had the night before. Next year I will try to get in line sooner for tickets, so that I too can experience the very best that this festival has to offer.

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From the HopPress: Made in Vermont – Burlington Region

From the HopPress: Made in Vermont - Burlington Region

My latest featured article for RateBeer’s The HopPress… posted on Saturday, November 6th.

As I have said before, Vermont is Beer Country! Back in 2009 the Brewers Association declared Vermont as having the highest per capita concentration of breweries of any state in the land (Breweries Per Capita). This awesome designation was awarded based on the 2008 Vermont census and the presence of, at the time, 19 craft beer breweries within the state’s borders. That’s 19 breweries for Vermont’s 621,270 citizens or about one brewery for every 32,698 Vermonters. Breweries have come and gone since that time and, as a result, Vermont has added a net of 2 new breweries, for a current total of 21. With approximately the same population as in 2008, this means that there is now about 1 brewery for every 29,584 Vermonters. I think that it is very unlikely that any state has surpassed this outstanding people/brewery ratio since these figures were last published.

Some of my fellow HopPress writers have presented a tour of the breweries in their own states, so I thought that it would be only right that I do the same for Vermont. With there being 21 of them, I will not spend the time in this article attempting to cover all of them; that would end up being quite long and pretty boring. Instead I will talk, first, about the 7 breweies located in only one region of the state… the greater northwestern portion of the state, which I will call the “Burlington” region, named after our largest city (pop. 38,647 in 2009).

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Courtesy of Vermont Brewers Association