E.P.A. Will Require Ethanol in Gas

The Environmental Protection Agency will continue to require that ethanol be used in gas, as the NY Times reports:

…the goal of reducing the nation’s reliance on oil trumps any effect on food prices from making fuel from corn.

Look, I’m not a fan of higher food and grain prices. I love beer, and boy oh boy, it’s getting pricier every month from this squeeze, as are my home brewing supplies.

Food prices aside, this seems to be a purely economic, and not terribly environmental decision. Are weproducing ethanol efficiently enough yet? Corn farming is devastating to the environment, and

Click to Embiggen
Click to Embiggen

processing it is very energy-intensive. I’m not certain that we are creating enough fuel to justify the energy input. On top of that, it’s cost-effective because we subsidize it!

This is frustrating.

Here’s a graph from Mother Jones detailing the price relationships. According to this source, it’s a 1:1.3 relationship of energy input:output. Not too great.On the other hand, the folks wishing to lift the ban run cattle feedlots that fatten beef on corn (something they’re not supposed to eat). Which side am I supposed to take? Am I making any faulty assumptions?

Anyone with more expertise in this matter, sound off!


Cat Urine or Black-Currant Buds?

Joshua M. Bernstein of Gourmet recently did a Q&A with Charles Bamforth, touching on something that I find to be among the “funny-because-it’s-true” characteristics of wine and beer.

JMB: How else do wine makers and brewers differ?

CB: Brewers tend to use unappealing terms like catty, grainy and burnt, while wine guys tend to use more charming terms, like fruity. If brewers can learn some of the lexicon, we can make some of the terms more appealing. For instance, I don’t think catty is very attractive. When beer ages, it can develop a tomcat-urine flavor. Instead of saying, “This beer tastes like tomcat urine,” perhaps we can substitute the more appealing and equally accurate, “This beer tastes like black-currant buds.”

The kitty pee.

I’ve alluded to it in other posts, but this is something that somehow keeps coming up. The San Francisco Gate’s lovely wine flavor wheel (below) places the stuff in the “It Depends” category.

Yes, I agree. I haven’t tasted it so much in sauvignon blanc, as I’m supposed to, but in a really crisp pilsener, like Victory’s, yeah. It’s there. And somehow, it’s part of a great package!

I also must admit that I am a die-hard fan of beer with a barnyard flair; i.e. sour lambics.

Anyway, read the full Gourmet Q&A session with Bamforth >>

Graph of Global Beer Sales

The new, fully archived blog is now: www.cambridgeblog.org

Yep. There it is. North American multinationals selling less and less beer, with Europe and the rest of the world stealing the share. This comes from Teresa da Silva Lopes’ Global Brands, a handy piece of business history on alcohol branding. With the InBev purchase, how far further will that North America bar shrink?

A Global Case of Beer

Or is it A Case of Global Beer?

So InBev, the giant Belgian brewing conglomerate, is buying Anheuser Busch. What does that mean for both companies? It can be hard to fathom for the average beer drinker, since many of the brews we enjoy come from companies larger than we ever imagined. Meanwhile, as Brookston Beer Bulletin points out, this makes Sam Adams the largest American-owned brewer! Teresa da Silva Lopes sounds off on what this means, why, historically, breweries have moved in this direction.

Like World Series baseball, for too long Budweiser thought being big in America made it a global brand. It now gets to compete in the ‘world cup’ of beers and not just the World Series.”

Teresa da Silva Lopes

THE recent acquisition of AB by Inbev is the most recent tsunami in the waves of global merger and acquisitions that have been shaping the brewing industry in the twenty first century. The internationalisation of leading brands such as Stella Artois, Brahma, Heineken, Carlsberg, Miller and Bass previously domestic or regional but not global, has transformed brewing into a highly competitive and concentrated industry, where to succeed you need to compete on a global stage. Budweiser, historically the world’s leading beer brand in value terms, has had its position threatened in recent years mainly because it remains so concentrated in the US market. Its internationalisation only started in the late 1990s, and despite being sold in a more than 60 markets, more than 80 percent of its sales are in the US market.

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Global Trade Governance Not So Global

This week’s lead story in The Economist addresses what folks have suspected for a while — a lot of the institutions that are supposed to promote all sorts of good things like trade, good economic policy, human rights, and stability are getting more than a little outdated.

CLUBS are all too often full of people prattling on about things they no longer know about. On July 7th the leaders of the group that allegedly runs the world—the G7 democracies plus Russia—gather in Japan to review the world economy. But what is the point of their discussing the oil price without Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest producer? Or waffling about the dollar without China, which holds so many American Treasury bills? Or slapping sanctions on Robert Mugabe, with no African present? Or talking about global warming, AIDS or inflation without anybody from the emerging world? Cigar smoke and ignorance are in the air. Read More >>

Mmmm... delicious hospitality...All that on top of the bad publicity that some leaders like Gordon Brown got for devouring an 8-course dinner after attending G8 meetings on food shortages. Now I have my two cents on this one: the Japanese are among the most gracious hosts in the world, as my wife’s treasure trove of teapots and beautiful stationary from her father’s Japanese colleagues can attest. Should a world leader refuse hospitality fit for a world leader?

Dennis Patterson and Ari Afilalo would have something to say about all this. The G8 and international institutions, not the big, delicious meals.

Turning a big, special meal down would probably be a bit impolite, but the renovations to facilities and infrastructure detailed on the same Independent article are pretty wild, because after all, Japan is in dire need of infrastructure improvement… right?

Oh well. Here I go, shamelessly posting the dinner menu in full, grabbed from The Independent. Whoa. They’re even drinking Latour. And as for the dessert: un-sexiest dessert name ever.

UPDATE: Some blogs have coined this whole affair G-Ate Gate.

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Mars, Venus, Wine & Beer

Sam Calagione founded one of my favorite breweries, and Elizabeth Downer’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette review of his new book, coauthored by wine guru Marnie Old glosses on a couple of important factoids before skipping to generalities, and recommending a bunch of wines.

Folks say that the book — He Said Beer, She Said Wine —  is a great tribute to the Bamforthian banter between beer and wine lovers, and Calagione is no stranger to Bamforth’s work. It’s essentially a pairing book, with selections from either camp for a variety of foods. So where are the 4th of July beer picks? Yes, I’d love some Penn Weizen with my goat cheese. I understand that this reviewer probably sides with Marnie Old, but please take some of Calagione’s advice rather than skipping over the other side of the fence, being intrigued in passing by what you’ve seen.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, the New York Times ran a lovely slide show of my home town in their travel section last weekend.

Charles Bamforth in the LA Times

Charles Perry of the Los Angeles Times, talks with Charles Bamforth, author of Grape Vs. Grain, about the role of a beer connoisseur at a university known for its winemaking. Now that’s the kind of stuff this beer-loving, NorCal-born blogger is happy to see:

Charles Bamforth stirs the pot as UC Davis’ professor of beer

By Charles Perry, Special to The Times
June 4, 2008

Dave Getzschman photographs students in the midst of making beer.

Dave Getzschman photographs students in the midst of making beer.

DAVIS, CALIF. — Meet the Anheuser-Busch Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC Davis.The what? There’s a professor of beer in that teeming nest of winemakers? Indeed there is. He’s Charles Bamforth, chairman of the department of food science and technology, a sturdy, jovial middle-aged Englishman with traces of a Liverpool/Manchester accent. On June 13 and 15, UC Davis will bestow diplomas on eight of his students — along with their 37 classmates majoring in viticulture and oenology.Bamforth clearly enjoys his role as the merry beer drinker at the wine tasting. “There are two kinds of students I set off,” he confides, as he heads off to teach his Malting and Brewing 102A class. “The chemical engineers, because I tell them they have no soul. And the oenologists, of course.”

Well, he doesn’t exactly set them off by accident — he teases them without end. To illustrate an issue in quality control, he pointedly tells an oenology major, “Now, let us say you’re throwing darts at a dartboard and you’re singularly incapable of hitting a bull’s-eye,” drawing out the word “singularly” to imply astonishing klutziness. (One of his recurrent themes is that beer requires more skill to make than wine does.) Everybody laughs, including the blushing oenologist.

At the end of the class, the last one of the quarter, another wine-making major presents Bamforth with a bottle of Champagne and a bottle of fine Belgian ale and slyly points out that the Champagne bottle is bigger. “Size matters, Charlie,” he says, showing that oenologists can tease back.

Bamforth, a onetime quality assurance officer at a Liverpool brewery, has a remarkable rapport with American college students. He is a prolific writer, author of such scholarly articles as “Food, Fermentation and Micro-organisms” and “The Foaming of Mixtures of Albumin and Hordein Protein Hydrolysates in Model Systems.”

His latest nonacademic book, “Grape vs. Grain,” is a concise discussion of the beers and wines of the world — including their history, technology and aesthetics — that treats beer throughout as wine’s equal in flavor and healthfulness. “I wanted to call it ‘Beer and Wine,’ ” he insists, “but Cambridge University Press preferred the note of confrontation.” In fact, he says, he likes both beverages, but he demands that beer get due respect, aesthetically and as a healthful drink.

Yes, healthfulness. When drunk in moderation, beer provides much the same health benefit as wine and is an excellent source of B vitamins and antioxidants, he tells his class. Did you know, for instance, that it’s an outstanding way to get your silicon, a trace nutrient important for bone and cartilage health, and that there are people in the U.K. who derive their entire recommended daily dose of silicon from beer? Or that the body absorbs the antioxidant ferulic acid — that’s (E)-3-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-phenyl)prop- 2-enoic acid to you and me — better from beer than it does from tomatoes?

Bamforth’s involvement in the beer world began when, as a postdoctoral biochemist, he was hired for his knowledge of enzymology by the Brewing Research Foundation, an institution funded by the British beer industry. A couple of years later, Bass Brewing Co. recruited him to be its research manager. Eventually, Bass sent him to its Liverpool brewery and charged him with making sure no flawed beer got into the market.

“They wanted me to have field experience,” he says. “They considered Liverpool a particularly tough brewery to work at.” No problem. Bamforth had street cred — he’s also been a sportswriter, specializing in soccer.

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