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the 2008 beer in review
a look at the year in suds
by erik lars myers (@TopFermented)
12.22.08
pop culture

What a year for beer. Both the business and the beverage have seen spectacular things happen in 2008, from the birth of the world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, to the death of Zima and one of craft beer's evangelists. Beer has watched the economy tank around it and proved itself to be recession-proof. Finally, with the holidays only days away, beer has shown that it really is for every time of year.

Big Brew

Stop me if you've heard this one:

Q: Why is American beer like making love in a canoe?

A: Because it's fucking close to water.

[rimshot]

You're laughing because it's true, but back in July when Belgian brewing giant InBev bought St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch for an astounding $52 billion one of the selling points of this deal, noted InBev CEO Carlos Brito, was that it would allow Budweiser more worldwide exposure. One look at the joke listed up there, and I think we can both surmise that Budweiser has plenty of exposure. A quick reminder that Budweiser is, through 2014, the sponsor of the FIFA World Cup, and listed as "the world's top selling beer," will close the argument. In reality, though it's not as flashy, the real reason for the deal was cost-cutting. When the primary cost of your beverage product is packaging and shipment, you need to be able to cut corners without making your beer any fucking closer to water.

If only they had known what we know now. In July, when this deal went through, the dollar was facing all-time lows internationally and oil was facing all-time highs. Budweiser, who primarily packages in cans and kegs, was definitely feeling the steel shortage as well as (what also worried many craft brewers) the hop shortage and the rising price of grain. If only they could have held on for a few short months when the world's economy tumbled down the crapper. Now, instead of laying off 2,000 people around the U.S., they could be approaching Congress with a bailout plan of their own. $52 bil for the whole business seems cheap in comparison to $14 bil for a short lease of a car company. We were a few months away from having our own socialized beer. Worth pondering.

Obituary

Now, a moment of silence please, for Zima. Okay, that's enough. The Crystal Pepsi of beers is no longer with us. It took long enough. Zima has been in spiraling death throes since its introduction in 1993. While it has a small amount of cultural cachet for being one of the first alcopops, and probably the only thing that thousands of college-aged girls drank in the late 1990s that wasn't a wine cooler, there doesn't seem to be anybody who's really sad to see it go. Of course, there are plenty of other things to take its place.

Jolly Holidays

The craft brew market is growing at record rates as people around the country are finally realizing that well-made, full-flavored beer is awesome. This time of year is one of the best times to make that leap yourself. A quick look at SeasonalBeerandFood.org will give you a rundown on the seasonal releases near you, as well as what food pairs best with them.

And while we're on the subject ...

Fact: There's no such thing as a Christmas-style beer. They're all Christmas beers. Don't think that every holiday-labeled beer you pick up will be packed with gingerbread spices - each one is going to be significantly different, from Winter White Ales, to Extra Special Bitters for the holidays. However, one of the hallmarks of a beer for this time of year that will be fairly consistent is that they're generally a little higher in alcohol. That's why they call them winter warmers.

Finally, here's a recipe for a cold holiday night:

Ingredients:

1 bottle of Lindeman's Kriek Lambic
1 4-pack of Young's Double Chocolate Stout

Pour a glass: 1 part Kriek to 4 parts Chocolate Stout, adjust to taste, enjoy.


ABOUT ERIK LARS MYERS

Writer, beer drinker, brewer. Not necessarily in the order. For more, check Top Fermented and Mystery Brewing Company.

more about erik lars myers

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COMMENTS

sandra thompson
12.22.08 @ 2:36p

Beer is wonderful. I wish my fat liver would let me drink some. Sigh!



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