Friday, October 31, 2008

Pizza Port/Lost Abbaye Coming to Chicago

Windy City Distribution is very pleased to announce a new addition to our family of craft beers: The Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Company.

Pizza Port was founded by Vince and Gina Marsaglia in Solano Beach, CA as simply a great pizza joint. However, these home brewers decided to install a 7 barrel brewing system in 1992. They unleashed some handcrafted beers on their customers in 1993, and with little surprise their one location became three.

Tomme Arthur joined the Port brewing family in 1996, as Head Brewer of the original Pizza Port location in Solano Beach. The Solano Beach Pizza Port location was GABF Small Brewpub of the year in 2003 and 2004, and those same years Tomme Arthur was selected GABF Small Brewpub Brewer of the year.

Tomme Arthur’s unique approach and creativity, along with his enthusiasm, helped produce a thriving beer scene in San Diego. Tomme brought a love for Belgian beer to the Port family of brew pubs and created their first Belgian style ale, Overhead Abbey Dubbel in 1997. That one Belgian style brew has since become an entire family of beers called The Lost Abbey. Tomme Arthur is certainly one of the most cutting edge brewers in the United States, and he continues to play a major role in the growth, education, and creativity of the American Craft Brewing scene. Outside of his multiple medals at World Beer Cup, Chicago Real Ale Festival, and the Great American Beer Festival, Tomme has brought a new passion to the rustic, old world traditions of Belgian brewing by creating new beers with a fresh new vision of what beer can be. The canvas for his artwork is stretched with oak, fruit, spices, wild yeast strains, and time.

Tomme Arthur will be joining us in Chicago to help launch his beer, and I’m pleased to announce the following events:

When: Tuesday, November 11th, from 5:30 PM - 11:00 PM
Where: The Publican, 845 W. Fulton Market, Chicago
Renowned Chef Paul Kahan will design a Prix Fix/Tasting Menu, with cuisine created specifically to pair with the Port Brewing/Lost Abbey beers. In order to accommodate as many diners as possible, the tasting menu will be offered throughout dinner service, and Tomme Arthur will be in attendance to present his beers to the public.

When: Wednesday, November 12th at 7:00 PM
Where: The Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark Street, Chicago
“Meet the Brewer” launch event in the upstairs bar. An assortment of Hopleaf’s fine food will be offered buffet style, and the full line of Port and Lost Abbey beers will be served throughout the evening, providing an opportunity for beer enthusiasts to meet Tomme in person.

When: Thursday, November 13th, 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Where: Dobby’s Worldwide Liquors, 15 S. Brockway, Palatine
Tomme Arthur will be in attendance to taste a variety of Port and Lost Abbey selections.

When: Thursday, November 13th, 8:00 PM
Where: Bavarian Lodge, 1800 Ogden Ave., Lisle
Launch of the Lost Abbey/Port Brewing beers, with Tomme Arthur in attendance to meet, greet, and discuss his beers.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bacon Beer? What the Hell...Why Not!

I believe it is time for this guy to brew a bacon flavored beer. I keep stumbling across this website that has instructions on how to make a bacon infused vodka and everytime I read through it I think, "Well I could blend that vodka into a batch of Marzen or some sort of smoked lager". The time has come, I think within the next few months or so I am going to get myself a nice clean tasting vodka and then I'm going to violate with some swine. Depending on how long it takes to get a good bacon flavor in there, I'd like to have this beer ready for January or February. We'll see. I'll definitely report back on this one.

My Attempt at Wostynje

So I got up at 5:30 AM and put this together.

11.5 lbs Belg. Pilsner
.5 lb Caravienne
.5 lb melanoidin
1 lb cane sugar

60 min (1.5 oz EKG)
10 min (1 oz Willamette)
10 min (2 Tbsp Mustard Seed)
I just put them in the mortar & pestal and beat them up a bit.

I mashed at 149 for 90 min
mashed out at 168 10 min
batch sparged at 170F

I racked over a Belgian Golden Strong ale today and repitched the yeast (wlp570) into this beer. I'm a big fan of that strain.

I took a sample of my wort to get a gravity reading and the mustard seed wasn't detectable but I'm sure it won't be until things come into balance after fermentation. I'm anxious to get this one into bottles. I'll let you know how it turns out. I might even rebrew this beer again if I feel it needs tweaking.

A few hours later

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Get More Smarterness and You Can Brew the Beer More Good

Brew Strong Episode about Enzymes (Click Here)
In this episode of Brew Strong Jamil and John Palmer explain enzymes and their purpose and effects in brewing. Along with the Brew Strong crew is special guest host Colin Kaminski from Downtown Joe's in Napa, CA.

Brew Strong with Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer combines the two most prominent authors and figures in homebrewing today in a live beer radio format that allows listeners to pose beginning and advanced brewing questions to expert hosts and guests from the Craft Beer industry. Designed as an amateur brewing geek's must-listen show, Brew Strong is your source for cutting edge beer and brewing information, answers to technical questions, as well as a guide to greater appreciation of all things beer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Organzied groups abusing Michigan's bottle deposits

"It's like a rebate, $2.40 a case for pop and beer," said Jim Wanty, president of O & W Inc., a beer distributorship in four Michigan counties near the Ohio state line. O & W lost about $65,000 last year from picking up more returned containers from stores than it had delivered.

In some cases, smuggling rings have collected and crushed millions of cans in Ohio, selling them to several stores in southeast Michigan. When buyers don't return the bottles to get their deposits back, states or distributors get to keep the money, and store owners pocketed more than $1.5 million by redeeming cans for which no deposit had ever been paid. Law enforcement broke up the rings last year, and a trial for 12 defendants is scheduled to start Monday.

Wanty said fraud has increased since stores installed machines to handle bottle returns. Grocery workers used to accept cans in person, which he said made customers more reluctant to claim a deposit return on an out-of-state container.

"It was eyeball to eyeball, now it's eyeball to a machine," Wanty said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Great Interview With The Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton

I came across this great video with Zane Lamprey from "Three Sheets" which airs on the Mojo channel and it has an interview that DRAFT Magazine did with Sean Paxton and it is sure to get you fired up about pairing beer with food or cooking up something amazing.

Does Batch Size Make a Difference in Hop Utilization?

I got to wondering about this a few days ago when I was thinking about scaling down Edward Mathis' Old Ale recipe. I posted this question on Tech Talk today and then afterwards I found this information below. Thought I'd pass it along.

Ask the Troubleshooter
Dave Miller on...Hop Utilization
by Dave Miller
Republished from BrewingTechniques' January/February 1994.
Does hop utilization depend on batch size?

Hop Utilization

Q: Hops and IBUs: In figuring your IBUs, does batch size make a difference (say 10-gal versus 10-bbl)? The formula I use is from the Zymurgy hops special issue (1):

IBU= --------- x 1000

where U = utilization, A = a-acid content, Wgr = weight in grams, VL = volume in liters, and GA = gravity adjustment. The V above: is it the starting volume or the final volume?
DM: The short answer to your first question is, yes, batch size makes a difference. Small-scale brewers often find that moving to a different batch size alters their hop utilization. And to answer your second question: Utilization usually is calculated based on the volume of wort in the kettle at the end of the boil. This practice makes it easier to compare figures from different breweries because losses at later stages in the process can vary tremendously.
I sense another question lurking behind your first, though: "If batch size makes a difference, how does one compensate for it? Is there another term that can be inserted into the formula?" The answer to that, alas, is no.
Strictly speaking, an IBU is one part per million of isohumulone. It is a quantity that must be measured directly in the finished beer. All of the formulas published in the home brewing literature - and you have no doubt noticed that there are several, and that they give varied results - at best will allow you to make a rough estimate of a beer's IBUs.
Remember that all of these formulas include a term for utilization percentage. In some formulas, a fixed percentage is built in; in others, you must supply it. Either way, it's there. The only way to plug an accurate number into that slot is to measure the actual IBUs in a laboratory. If you can do that with several test brews, you can then predict the IBUs of future batches - assuming of course that you do not change your brewing techniques or equipment.
The problem is that batch size is far from the only variable that can affect utilization. Some other variables include the following:

Form of hops. Pellets give better utilization than whole cones. Sometimes a factor is included to account for this in the formulas.
Time of hop boil. All formulas include a factor to compensate for this.
Gravity of the wort. Some formulas include a factor for this.
Agitation in the boil. Kettle configuration and material, placement of the heat source, and numerous other factors influence how much rolling action you get during the boil. There is no way to figure in a factor for this because it is unknown to the formula writer and is difficult to measure in any case.
Time of hot stand after boil and before cooling. This again is unknown to the formula writer.
Agitation after the boil. If the wort is whirlpooled with the hops, even the finish hops will yield a respectable percentage of their bitterness. Again, there is no way to figure in this factor.
Losses during fermentation. Yeast cells adsorb hop bitterness, as a simple taste test proves. The degree of adsorption depends on a multitude of factors, not the least of which is the amount of cell growth.
To give some idea of how important these unknown and unaccountable factors can be, let me cite two beers we brew at The Saint Louis Brewery: our wheat ale and oatmeal stout. Both were analyzed by friends with access to a large and well-equipped brewing laboratory. Both beers are brewed using pelletized hops, and both are fermented using the same yeast strain, pitching rate, and method. For the oatmeal stout, we add all the hops 45 min before the end of the boil. Wort gravity is 1.056. Our hop utilization is 31.5%. For the wheat ale, we add 50% of the hops (by a-acid) 30 min before the end of the boil and the remainder at the finish. Wort gravity is 1.037. Our hop utilization is 26.8%.
You may ask, what in the world is going on here? Other things being equal, you would expect a little better utilization in the wheat ale because of the lower gravity, but in no way could that make up for the difference in boil times. Remember, by the article you are following, we should be getting only about 5% utilization from our finish hops.
The answer (in part) is that our kettle also is a whirlpool, and we whirlpool the wort for 20 min and then let it settle for another 10-15 min before knocking out. Obviously, 30 min of agitation at near-boiling is almost as effective as boiling for a similar period.
OK, this is a gross example, and you might argue that you could still use the formula if you simply include the 30-min whirlpool period in the total boil time. But that still will not get you anywhere near an accurate estimate. Figuring the finish hops as a 30-min boil and the first addition as 1 h, we should (again by the article you are following) get an average utilization of 30 + 15.3/2 = 22.7% - significantly below the actual figure.
Every published formula I have seen for estimating IBUs has more than an outside chance of giving you a grossly inaccurate estimate of the bitterness in your finished beer. The brewing process simply contains too many variables, and some of them are nearly impossible to quantify. Whenever a brewer tells me, "This beer has so many IBUs," I have to ask in turn, "What lab did the measurement?" There is a real need for a good, reasonably priced lab service that would measure bitterness for small-scale brewers.
In any case, I see no advantage in publishing recipes that require working backwards from an IBU figure through a complex formula to derive a hop rate. The simple old AAU (a-acid unit) or HBU (homebrew bitterness unit) system is just as likely to get you in the ballpark. Furthermore, brewing encompasses art as well as science, and setting bitterness falls on the art side of the process. You have to go by taste. All the calculations are only a means to let you use your knowledge and experience to get a beer that tastes right - the right amount of bitterness, in this case - in as few trials as possible, and then to repeat or fine-tune the flavor of that beer.
I hope it doesn't sound like old technical Dave is getting arty and muddle-headed. Flavor is the reason we brew and drink beer. Even the biggest and most technically proficient brewers in the world rely on taste panels as the ultimate analytical instrument. Numbers do not tell the whole story; they are only a means to an end. So if we cannot fix a recipe entirely by formulas, it's not the end of the world. We can still brew great beer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Labels for my IPA & Belgian Golden Ale

Here are the labels I made up for my IPA and my Belgian Golden Ale.

Bay de Noc Brewers at UPtoberfest

See All Pics Here

The UPtoberfest in Escanaba, MI was this weekend and our homebrew club, the Bay de Noc Brewers set up a table outside of the main beer tent so people could stop by and talk to us and watch, first hand, how to brew a batch of beer thanks to Mike Miller. He was brewing a Biere de Garde recipe. This weekend has been a blast. Saturday I started out at Hereford & Hops and had a few beers with Ben & Mike from BDNBrewers, then we headed over to the Beer Festival for a few hours, then I headed up to Marquette to go to Los Tres Amigos for dinner with a few friends. Also made a few new friends there. Then over to Latitude for some Short's Huma Lupa Licious and then over to the Bob & Tom comedey tour (Ralph Harris is one funny dude-I was crying from laughing). Sunday Morning we took the kids to the Hayes Corn Maze in Cornell. There was a ton of people there. I probably saw about 10 people I had gone to school with there. I recommend going there, it's a lot of fun. I highly recommend the pumpkin launcher.

Monday, October 20, 2008

There’s more than flavor in a flavor wheel

Lauren SalazarBefore we get to the Slate three-part series on sensory perception and wine a few words of wit and wisdom on that topic from Lauren Salazar of New Belgium Brewing, who spoke Friday in Denver at the National Homebrewers Conference. (That’s her on the right, during a mock judging last year in Seattle, staged for the shooting of American Brew.)

Things I learned I would have added to the earlier discussion here about the mysteries of how (and how we might measure what) we smell and taste:

- To those scientific types who argue that senses of sight, touch and hearing are concrete and smelling and tasting are not her answer is simple. “Yes they are,” she said. “Seeing is not believing. Smelling and tasting is where it’s at.”

- There a second “flavor” wheel (I put the quotation marks around flavor because we’re really talking flavor and aroma), this one just for byproducts of oxidation. If you’re sitting on a tasting panel at New Belgium and call out a beer for being oxidized you can’t stop there - you have to be more specific. This goes to quality control, and more about that in a few paragraphs.

- She presented four samples of Fat Tire dosed with chemicals that reproduce flavors such as acetaldehyde (green apples) and diacetyl (butterscotch; buttered popcorn at higher levels). Although we often cite these as off flavors when judging beer (there are even boxes to check on a BJCP scoresheet) they aren’t inappropriate in every beer.

A bit of green apple in Budweiser is part of its flavor profile. Hints, heck more than hints, of butterscotch make British ales taste like British ales.

“Diacetyl is one of the first words you learn (in judging beer),” Salazar said. “We are American brewers. We are paid to hate diacetyl. You know how much British brewers hate us for that?”

When I posted the flavor wheel last week, Jonathan wrote that the majority of the descriptors on the wheel don’t describe particularly pleasant flavors. Yep. And I think figuring out how to keep the good ones in and the bad ones out - sometimes in beer that is going to be shipped across the country and maybe mishandled along the way - is a craft.

During the lengthy discussions of “what is craft beer?” (start here) I’ve seen it suggested that Sierra Nevada Brewing and Stone Brewing were craft but no longer are because they grew into production breweries.

That’s poppycock. Both Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have new state-of-the-art bottling lines that will take your breath away, but we’re back to the early question: Is the Big Foot (or Mothership Wit) in the glass any different because it passed through a technically superior bottling line?

Salazar and her husband, Eric, oversee the New Belgium barrel program. La Foile is essentially hand bottled. That beer is something we expect from a great brewery.

Salazar also administers a quite sophisticated quality analysis program at New Belgium, with 24 tasters sitting on her in-house panels. A couple of months ago at the Craft (my italics) Brewers Conference Matt Gilliland of New Belgium talked about “Total Oxidation: Exposure and Increased Flavor Stability.â€� One measure of success is that after beer changes hands several times over the course a few weeks in the distribution system it is still “true to brand” in the glass.

That’s something else we expect from a great brewery.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"12" GABF Pictures

Not much to say here, just wanted to post a couple of the pics that I just got from the GABF of my beer, the Pro Am beer list, and the Flossmoor brewers with Charlie Papazian after winning a Silver for their Baltic Porter--Killer Kowalski

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's Brewing for the Weekend

Bay de Noc Brewers Homebrew Club Meeting
Saturday Oct. 18, 7:00 PM
Hereford & Hops in Escanaba
If you're looking to learn how to homebrew or already know how and just want to participate in our club please feel free to come and join us. There is always great homebrew along with the many great beers that Hereford & Hops has to offer.

Fresh Hop Tastival at Hopworks - Saturday Oct 18th
Hopworks will be hosting the second of three fresh hop tastivals on Sat. October 18th, from noon - 9pm. It’s your once-a-year chance to taste what Oregon’s finest brewmasters can do with just-picked Willamette Valley hops. Sample more than 20 fresh hop beers from Oregon’s top craft brewers, large and small. Admission is free; glasses are $5, tasting tokens $1. Our tastival will include our own New York-style, thin-crust pizza, burgers, authentic German fare, dj stylings and 3 of our own fresh hop brews chock full of green, lush and earthy fresh hop flavor. The third and final event will be held at Ninkasi Brewing Co. in Eugene on the 25th. Come and indulge in the glory of the harvest like a true hop fanatic!

2008 People's Real Ale Fest
The 2008 People's Real Ale Fest will take place at Clark's Ale House, 122 West Jefferson Street, Syracuse, NY.
Expect 12 casks to be pouring over the weekend, including rare offerings not normally seen in the area. This event is hosted by Clark's in conjunction with Alex Hall (BA: Imbiber) and Great Lakes Brewing News.
There's no entry fee and you pay by the glass.
Opening hours: Noon to midnight daily.

Festival website:

2nd Annual Fresh Hop Celebration
2nd Annual Fresh Hop Celebration held at Falling Rock, Saturday, Oct. 18 from Noon - 5 pm.
Come celebrate the fresh Hop harvest with Deschutes Brewery, SKA brewing, Full Sail, Sierra Nevada,Oskar Blues and Great Divide Brewing. Grand Junction's Williams Brothers will be playing this hoppy event featuring this seasons finest Fresh Hop Ales.

Fresh Hop Beer Tasting & Dinner at Deschutes Brewery Mountain Room

Deschutes Brewery will celebrate the hop harvest and bounty of fresh hops available in the Northwest by hosting a special fresh hop beer tasting and dinner at the Deschutes Brewery Mountain Room in Bend, OR. The brewery will be serving seven fresh hop beers: three produced at the Bend public house, another three from the Portland Public House as well as Bond Street Series favorite, Hop Trip.

Each of the beers focuses on bringing out the unique flavor of the hop variety used during brewing. One of the evening's highlights will be a fresh hopped version of the brewery's flagship Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

6:30 p.m. Sat. October 18th, Mountain Room, Deschutes Brewery, 901 S.W. Simpson Ave., Bend; $35 includes dinner,
all beers and gratuity. For reservations or more information or call (541) 385-8606.

The dinner menu for the tasting includes:
Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Ham (vegetarian friendly version available)
Roasted Fall Vegetables with Fresh Herbs
Braised Beef Short Ribs on Pumpkin Puree
Assorted Breads, Spreads & Crudites
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Wheat Malt Crust drizzled with Fresh Wort Caramel

Kuhnhenn Oktoberfest
Oct. 18 2:00PM - 11:00PM
Our own Oktoberfest party.
Releases of seasonal beers.
Food. Smoked pork shank (Eisbein), Bratwurst,Weisswurst, Knockwurst Beef Brisket, Potato Salad, Red Cabbage, Sauerkraut, Apple dumplings.

Belgian Golden Ale...Adulterated

I'm trying my first sample of the Golden Ale that I brewed on Sunday and I am very excited for this one to be done. I really like the way my recipe and mash process looks like on paper and this sample, even though it is still not 100% attenuated, tastes amazing. I am so glad that I talked myself into the late hop addition. I added 1oz. of Ahtanum hops right at knock out and they came through very nicely. All I wanted was some nice sort of citrus (but not a ton of grapefruit)to go along with my coriander and grains of paradise that I added at 2min left in the boil. I'll post my recipe below.

Sexy Time Blonde Ale
Grain Bill:
11.75 lbs Belgian Pilsner (Castle)
.31 lbs Melanoidin
1.00 lbs Sugar -- (half lb of turbinado and a half lb or cane)
.30 lbs Vanilla Sugar (I keep about a pint sized jar full of cane sugar and a few used vanilla bean pods to make vanilla flavored sugar)

1 oz Sterling @ 60 min (21.7 IBUs)
.5 oz E. Kent Golding @ 60 min (9.8 IBUs)
1 oz Ahtanum @ 0 min (0 IBUs)

I also added .5 tsp of Grains of Paradise @ 2 min
and 1 tsp. Coriander @ 2 min.

Note:When I added my sugar I added the 1 lb of Turbinado/Cane sugar at 15 left and I added the .30 lbs of vanilla sugar with like 2 min left so I wouldn't boil off any of the subtle vanilla notes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Francoise de Harenne at the Hop Leaf & Map Room

Francoise de Harenne from Orval will be at the Hop Leaf on Monday Oct 20th
from 7-9 and The Map Room Tuesday the 21st from 5-7. Francoise is the business administrator at the abbey. This would be a great experience for anyone who is into great Belgian beer such as Orval and the like.

Orval was formulated in 1931 with the help of a German brewer, but it’s a golden colored ale with a lively, rising head of white foam, 6.2 percent alcohol by volume and a unique aroma of ripe pears and spicy hops.

What’s unusual is the way it’s bottled. A bit of priming sugar and two yeasts are added to each bottle. One is a special ale yeast, the other is a strain of wild yeast.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Test Run....Going LIVE with a Belgian Golden Ale

Check it out at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2008 GABF Winners Announced

Well the GABF has come and gone and the results are in. My Belgian Golden Strong Ale that was entered in the Pro/Am category didn't win but Flossmoor Stations Baltic Porter, "Killer Kowalski" took a Silver. Congrats to the guys at Flossmoor. I thought it was great that you could watch the awards ceremony live via the Brewing Network's live stream on Those guys did a great job bringing the GABF to those like myself who could not attend. Thanks guys.


Friday, October 10, 2008

De Struise Brewing With Allagash

What started out as a crazy idea of brewing with Allagash during the week of the Belgian Beer Festival at the Ebenezer's became a first: the collaboration for Allagash and De Struise breweries to brew together. Urbain, Carlo, Phil, Peter and I got up way too early to make it down to Portland to brew with Jason Perkins, Allagash's Brewmaster. Upon arriving at 8:00 am, we got a brief tour of the brewing system, were Jason and Urbain started to strategize the brewing of Fedeltá. This brew is a recipe that has been brewed at the Struise’s farm. With help from Jason, they were able to scale the brew for Allagash’s 30 barrel system. Since it was a quiet Friday morning on Labor Day weekend, we had most of the brewhouse to ourselves.

To read more and to see the rest of the amazing pictures from this brew day go to Sean Paxton's website:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Slimey and Yucky....just the way I like my pellicle

Here's those pellicle pics I promised you. How could something that looks so gross aid in the production of something that tastes so good you ask...well that gross yucky stuff actually protects the beer from O2 during the aging process. I've become kind of fascinated with watching the production of these pellicles. They seem to start to form in a fractal-like manner before they grow into a chaotic, protective mess that looks very unappealing unless you know how it is helping the beer along. I love my pellicles like Cher loved Eric Stoltz in the 1985 movie Mask.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Features and Look

Well I'm sure you noticed the site looks a little different. I've added a few features. You're probably listening to one of the many beer related tunes I've put into the playlist on your right. If you know of a song you think should be added, leave me a comment. I'm going to have different playlists that I'll rotate in and out. I've also added a "All Things Homebrewing" window way at the bottom of the page that you can click on and watch LIVE video of whatever I decide to put on there whether it be a brewing demonstration of some sort or just a beer review from time to time. I'm open to ideas there. I just have it there primarily as an option for the time being. I will be trying to come up with something to air live there on hopefully a regular basis. You will also be able to air old clips there too, not just when I'm going to be "live".
These are just a few pics of the beers I have going right now. I'll post some cool pellicle pics soon if you are into gross slimy things like I am.

(Counter Clockwise starting with the skull t-shirt)
Sour peach beer, Cherry Flanders Red, La Folie Clone, Standard Cider

Maple Cream Stout

Raspberry Ryeson (Rye Saison)

Sour Peach Beer on the fruit

Friday, October 3, 2008

Judge rules against Michigan over wine shipments

LANSING — Barring a successful state appeal, Michigan wine lovers will be able to avoid the middle men and buy straight from out-of-state retailers now that a federal judge has struck down alcohol regulations as unconstitutional.

The decision released Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Denise Hood in Detroit is a blow to wholesalers that benefit from Michigan’s historic three-tier distribution system.
A similar ruling was issued in Texas earlier this year, and other states are watching to see how the issue is handled by federal appeals courts.“It’s extremely significant for Michigan consumers because now they have access to the full measure of wines available in the United States,” Tom Wark, executive director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, said today. “Michigan is notorious for not having a very good selection of wines.”State law prohibits out-of-state wine retailers from shipping direct to in-state consumers — unless the retailers have a location in Michigan and are part of the three-tier structure that includes beverage manufacturers and wholesale distributors.Hood said requiring a business to open a bricks-and-mortar location in Michigan violates the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states from discriminating against interstate trade.The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association called the court decision “disturbing.”“Michigan’s licensed alcohol distribution system ensures accountability, transparency, efficient tax collection and safety — and unfortunately, this ruling puts all these safeguards at risk,” said Mike Lashbrook, the group’s president.Michigan wineries also questioned the ruling, as did school principals who cited concerns about underage drinking. The decision is a win for those who sued the state — Florida-based online retailer Siesta Village Market and two Michigan residents who claimed they could not buy particular wines from in-state retailers.If the ruling stands, Michigan residents could buy from out-of-state online Web sites, wine auction houses and others.The state attorney general’s office, which defended existing alcohol laws, is reviewing the ruling. It expects a stay to be issued so the decision does not take effect while Attorney General Cox considers an appeal, spokesman John Sellek said.In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws in Michigan and New York that allowed wineries to ship directly to in-state consumers but prohibited out-of-state businesses from doing the same thing. The latest ruling affects retailers, not wineries.It may not have as widespread an impact as the 2005 case because that affected the entire country and out-of-state retailers get far fewer licenses than out-of-state wineries, Wark said.Still, another state has lost the argument that the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition, gives it wide powers to regulate the sale and distribution of alcoholic drinks. Wark said New York and Illinois are among states that could be affected by the issue.Michigan had argued that hundreds of out-of-state retailers complied with its licensing requirements and opened a location in the state in order to ship directly. State attorneys also had said requiring wine sales to go through the funnel of wholesalers helps prevent tax evasion.The judge faulted the state for not discussing why alternative methods would be unworkable.

Ancestral Ale: Brewing In Colonial America
Here is an interesting video on making beer like they did in colonial times.