Food Babe learns the controversial ingredient in Budweiser’s beer

Vani Hari, the Food Babe, demands answers readily available

English: American und Tchech Budweiser in Tray

Budweiser lists ingredients right on the bottle folks: “Hops, Rice, and Best Barley Malt”! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vani Hari, the self-proclaimed Food Babe has a petition asking demanding that “Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors, America’s largest beer brands to disclose their full set of ingredients online for all consumers to see.” Apparently, listing the ingredients on the beer’s label where everyone can see it is not enough, it should be online. Go ahead; look at the label. It says: “Hops, Rice, and Best Barley Malt“! Aha! They didn’t list water! I knew they were hiding something! Coors, on the other hand, only lists “100% Rocky Mountain Water” on the can.

Online, Anheuser-Busch goes on to list the water and yeast (apparently, Hari’s investigation did not include actual research or fact checking or she could not get by the age-gates for the breweries’ websites). While the yeasts, hops, barley, rice, and water are all proprietary for these breweries (yes, even water tastes different due to different chemicals/minerals in it–water in different areas is different) the basics are the same. Crushed grain (usually just barley but sometimes, wheat, rice, or corn may be added) is soaked in hot water (between 140F and 158F) for a period of time (about 20 to 60 minutes) and then the liquid is run off to be boiled. After the liquid (called wort) has boiled it is cooled and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) are “pitched” into the wort. The yeast eat the sugars and excrete alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) until they run out of sugars to eat. That’s it.

English: A Clydesdale horse owned and maintain...

English: A Clydesdale horse owned and maintained by Anheuser-Busch at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With their ingredients listed on their websites and for Budweiser on its cans, Hari’s demands were first answered by silence. As Hank Campbell, founder of Science 2.0 points out:

[Hari] uses the science illiteracy of the nutritionist segment to full effect and conspiratorially declares that [her targets] must be hiding something if they refuse to answer her uninformed questions about ingredients.

You will notice she has gone after BMC (Budweiser Miller Coors) because, of course, they are corporations and only corporations have something to hide. It is common knowledge, after all, that smaller brewers use only the finest, purest, highest quality ingredients for their artisanal malt beverages. That logic is, of course, the pure, high quality horse manure.

Because as Maureen Ogle notes this sort of tactic has been used before:

Well over a century ago…supporters of “temperance” and alcohol prohibition launched a campaign to eliminate “adulterated” beer from the marketplace…[one particular group] demanded that the nation’s brewers reveal the use of all their ingredients and sent brewers a questionnaire aimed at rooting out the truth. On the list of alleged ingredients were corn, rice, glucose, ‘grape sugar,’ molasses, and potato and corn starch. Other groups claimed brewers used acids in their beer…Eventually, of course, the prohibitionists, who never met a fear they weren’t willing to exploit, managed to make prohibition the law of the land — with, shall we say, disastrous results.

The Brewers Association, which represents the smaller craft brewers in the United States has been silent on this issue. Whether they think that they are exempt from the Food Babes of the world or they think “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” or something else entirely, I do not know. Either way, it is a dangerously naive strategy.

Smart Takes

The New Yellow Journalism By Jay Brooks
Beware the Dangers of [Profit-Driven] Dumbassery by Maureen Ogle
Beer McCarthyism – The Food Babe Goes After Breweries Again by Hank Campbell
What’s In YOUR Beer? Or, The Dangers of Dumbassery by Maureen Ogle
Beer Wars: The Calumny of The Food Babe by Tom Cizauskas (anyone who use “calumny” in a title has to be giving a smart take)

 

Brewers Association loathes FDA’s proposal‏

Aside

…with good reason.

Mashing grains within a mesh grain bag

Under a proposed FDA rule, any brewery‘s spent grain could not be used as animal feed unless it were “treated.”

As I noted last Friday under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA has proposed onerous regulations to severely limit  use of spent grain for animal feed. Because grain used in the brewing process is frequently donated or sold at low cost to farmers for animal feed, the FDA proposal would affect hundreds of brewers across the country. The Brewers Association issued the following statement on the FDA animal feed proposal:

The current rule proposal represents an unwarranted burden for all brewers. Many of the more than 2,700 small and independent craft breweries that operate throughout the United States provide spent grain to local farms for use as animal feed. The proposed FDA rules on animal feed could lead to significantly increased costs and disruption in the handling of spent grain. Brewers of all sizes must either adhere to new processes, testing requirements, recordkeeping and other regulatory requirements or send their spent grain to landfills, wasting a reliable food source for farm animals and triggering a significant economic and environmental cost.

Absent evidence that breweries’ spent grains as currently handled cause any hazards to animals or humans, the proposed rules create new and onerous burdens for brewers and for farmers who may no longer receive spent grain and will have to purchase additional feed. Farmers also appreciate the ‘wet’ grains from breweries because it helps provide hydration for the animals.

Brewers’ grains have been used as cattle feed for centuries, and the practice is generally considered safe. We ask the FDA to conduct a risk assessment of the use of spent brewers’ grain by farmers prior to imposing expensive new regulations and controls.

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FDA’s Rx for Brewers: Head>Desk>Hit>Repeat.

Your federal tax dollars at work.

Slide1
Protecting innocent farmers and their livestock from the dangers lurking in…wait for it…spent grains.

 

“Breweries would be required to dry and package spent grain before it could be given or sold to farmers to use as feed.” -According to at Reason.com.”

 

All made possible due to:

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, [which] was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. – FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) website

Well obviously some busybody at FDA got a wild hair and came up with the, “FSMA Proposed Rule to Establish Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.” yes as unbelievable as it sounds the FDA has decided that a practice that has been going on for three or four decades could be dangerous, mon dieu! Heaven forbid! Furthermore, I don’t feel that if this went through I would be any safer. In fact, after seeing this proposed regulation I’m in danger of losing my lunch.

I could be wrong, after all I have been wrong before, but this strikes me as first rate bureaucrat-shit-crazy.  It’s a big fucking deal, to paraphrase VP Joe Biden.

Consider, Shipyard, Maine’s largest brewer. It produces 400-600 tons of spent grain per week during times of peak production.

This may be worth writing to your Congresscritter and expressing your disappointment in how your tax dollars or being spent.

Further reading:

FDA moves to stop sharing between beer makers and farmers
http://reason.com/blog/2014/03/28/fda-new-rules-on-spent-grains-for-farms

A rule change proposed by the FDA could jeopardize a relationship between farmers and brewers.
http://portland.wcsh6.com/news/news/1165073-rule-change-proposed-fda-could-jeopardize-relationship-between-farmers-and-brewers

FDA rules make it nearly impossible for beer makers to give their grain to farmers for feed
http://boingboing.net/2014/03/28/fda-rules-make-it-nearly-impos.html

Sustainable Uses of Spent Grain
http://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/sustainable-uses-of-spent-grain

FSMA Proposed Rule to Establish Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals
http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm366510.htmwho

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This Week in BrewZasters: MyBrewCo and the Accidental IPA (on purpose)

This past week I have had some good exchanges with Michael, the designer of the MyBrewCo.com website. Being a typical male, after reading in Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine that MyBrewCo existed, I jumped in and set up my own “Batch-22 Brewery (tagline: There’s Always a Batch). After I set up the Batch-22 Brewery, I posted my observations on this site (here) and Michael had responded to those (see the comments).

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

Thinking there was no time like the present to start tracking my brewing online, I tried uploading an XML file for the Accidental IPA that was exported from my BeerSmith program. This led to an error message that the recipe didn’t meet the database’s needs.  Databases are notoriously literal and don’t handle human inconsistencies well. (Michael says the standard procedure for standards is to deviate slightly from the standard.) In the end, I created the recipe on the website by picking ingredients from its drop-down menus. (Note: now when you upload a recipe the site tells you that your “File has been uploaded. We’ll process the file and let you know if the recipes need repairing. You can navigate away from this page.”)

Brewing the Accidental IPA on purpose

As you may recall, the first version Accidental IPA was supposed to be an an American pale ale from the book, “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. However the original gravity was higher than normal due to some alignment of things* that weren’t there before in my brewing that affected the efficiency of the brew session (apologies for the awkwardness of the sentence).  More sugars in the wort means more food for the yeast which gives the beer more alcohol in the end.

Yesterday, the plan was to brew the Accidental IPA on purpose. As always, I got out the trusty Brewer’s Logbook from BasicBrewing.com for my notes–paper and pencil really help capture stuff as it’s happening. I hit the numbers that the beer needed: 12.5 gallons of 1.057 wort pre-boil and 9.5 (I wanted 10) gallons of 1.072 wort into the fermenters.

One reason for notes is that I follow Tasty McDole’s method of mashing, in that I don’t sweat trying to calculate the exact strike water amount (at 1.25 quart/1 pound of grain), but simply put in 10 gallons and then fly sparge (rinse) the grains. Keeping track of the strike water temps for different size grain bills for 10 gallons of water becomes important to put in your notes, if you want to replicate the results.

I also went to MyBrewCo.com and set up a “Brew Job.” (You may set up a Brew Job only if you are registered as a “Brewery.”) I picked my recipe, named it On Purpose IPA, picked the mash schedule from the Mash Template (Infusion, Mash Out, Fly Spare, Medium [body])**, the Brewing Method (all-grain), and a few other details and told the program to “Create” the Brew Job. The program then gives you an overview of the job, including the beer’s profile (tachometer-style dials indicate the IBUs, the predicted original gravity, final gravity, ABV, and color***).  Above the dials are tabs relating to the batch: Job, Brew Day, Mashing*, Schedule, equipment, Fermentable, Hop, Miscellaneous, Yeast, Actuals (actual volumes of wort produced), Readings, Notes, Carbonation, and Batch Split.

After the instructions, the “Readings” tab is probably the most beneficial/important. It is here you add a “Reading Type” (Gravity or Temperature). Within the drop-down menu of the Temperature choice you will find: “Ambient, Grain, Mash-In, Rest, Mash-Out, Boil, Into Fermenter, Pitch, Primary, Secondary, Container, Serving.” What was missing, for me, was Strike Water temperature****.  I track the strike water temperature so that I can duplicate (or, more often, tweak it up or down because the mash temp was off) the result next time. I would like to see the strike water temperature in there (maybe it is and I missed it). I would also like to see the mash temperature listed in the recipe–mash temp controls the body of the beer. (for more on mash temperature and the body of the beer, see Brad Smith’s write-up here.)

Brewing is a craft–a mixture of art and science. You may think of brewing as I do, a simple process of making a porridge, saving the liquid and tossing out the grainy bits, boiling, cooling, and fermenting. But as you get better and acquire more knowledge, you consider more and more steps/requirements–and there are lots of those. MyBrewCo tries to help you track and manage the stuff involved in making consistently good beer, while trying to be different/better than other online brewing sites such as BrewToad.com. I wish Michael luck in this and will continue to help in dialing in the process.

About MyBrewCo.com

The MyBrewCo website says it is designed to, “Manage your brewing online.” You can:

  • “Create and upload Recipes”.
  • “Convert Recipes between brewing methods, unit of measures and automatically scale to equipment”.
  • “Let the system manage your efficiency and automatically scale recipes”.
  • “Manage recipe versions, copy and modify any recipe in the database”.
  • Create “An online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when a job is created”.
  • “Use our calendar or plug your brewing schedule into your favorite application using the internet calendar”.
  • “Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when” you are ready to do so.
  • “Manage Brew Jobs, view recipe and instructions”.
  • “Record brew day statistics for analysis.”
  • “Track efficiencies between equipment profiles”.
  • “Record gravity readings and track your beer’s fermentation”.

*Perhaps my grain grinder has the perfect alignment of its teeth so it gives the perfect crush or switching from brewing in a bag (BiAB) to fly sparging or something else made the mash efficiency go up.

**The choice of the Mash Template is quite important. On my first attempt I wasn’t paying close attention and missed this selection and the first choice in the queue was chosen by default. This would normally not be a big deal, you would go to where you could edit the mash schedule and change it. The only change allowed after the program creates the Brew Job is to change the name of the mash; the temperatures, times, and steps cannot be altered. You will need to delete the Brew Job and reenter the data.

***The color that the program gives is a 10 SRM and the beer is probably a 4.0-5.5 SRM.

****The rule of thumb is to heat the strike water 10F more than the mash temperature desired due to the cooling provided by the grain (at 1.25 quarts of water per 1 pound of grain).

Online Brewing Software – MyBrewCo.com

Over time, I will be copying recipes over to https://mybrewco.com/. MyBrewCo is, according to the site, a “free online brewing system to manage your brewing, share recipes and connect with friends.”

It looks to have promise, but I found some drawbacks as well. I have entered the Accidental IPA recipe onto the site (see that here). I could not enter my outputs from that recent brewing session. Apparently, only “Brew Jobs” can be entered and those occur on a date in the future (or that day). Also, the notes features and mashing information–for all-grain batches–is limited or missing. The xml file upload did not not work for the BeerSmith generated xml (which according to the beer xml site is xml compatible); I had to pick out the ingredients off the site’s system.

MyBrewCo.com is working on more features (see here). I am not seeing the brewing management tools such as the ability to take notes during brewing sessions that every brewer needs and there is no forum, which would seem to be necessary to “connect with friends.”

Despite these drawbacks, MyBrewCo.com does have some good features. The ingredients lists were extensive when I was posting the recipe.

Let the Best Beer Win

English: Anheuser-Busch plant, St. Louis, MO USA

Anheuser-Busch plant, St. Louis, MO USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over at the ever-relevant Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog (and my go-to blog for all things beer-taste related), Jim Galligan has posted, “Brewers Association Calls Out Counterfeit Craft Beers.” He said he asked Julia Herz of the Brewers Association (BA) why they’re speaking out now, since in the past they had “tiptoed around the topic….She simply said that talk about Big Beer offering up imposter brews has been growing increasingly louder in the craft beer community, and the BA felt it was time to state their point of view on the topic.”

I’ll have some more to say further down, but first, here is the BA media announcement in its entirety:

Boulder, CO • December 13, 2012—The Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers, issued the following statement regarding the increase in production and promotion of craft-like beers by large, non-craft breweries:

An American craft brewer is defined as small and independent. Their annual production is 6 million barrels of beer or less and no more than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.

The community of small and independent craft brewers has grown as beer enthusiasts embrace new, diverse beers brewed by their neighbors and friends who are invested in their local communities. Beer drinkers are voting with their palates and dollars to support these entrepreneurs and their small and independent businesses.

In 2011, small and independent craft brewers saw their industry grow 13 percent by volume; in the first half of 2012, volume grew by an additional 12 percent. Meanwhile, the overall beer industry was down 1.3 percent by volume and domestic non-craft was down 5 million barrels in 2011.

Witnessing both the tremendous success and growth of craft brewers and the fact that many beer lovers are turning away from mass-produced light lagers, the large brewers have been seeking entry into the craft beer marketplace. Many started producing their own craft-imitating beers, while some purchased (or are attempting to purchase) large or full stakes in small and independent breweries.

While this is certainly a nod to the innovation and ingenuity of today’s small and independent brewers, it’s important to remember that if a large brewer has a controlling share of a smaller producing brewery, the brewer is, by definition, not craft.

However, many non-standard, non-light “crafty” beers found in the marketplace today are not labeled as products of large breweries. So when someone is drinking a Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Beer, they often believe that it’s from a craft brewer, since there is no clear indication that it’s made by SABMiller. The same goes for Shock Top, a brand that is 100 percent owned by Anheuser-Bush InBev, and several others that are owned by a multinational brewing and beverage company.

The large, multinational brewers appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers. We call for transparency in brand ownership and for information to be clearly presented in a way that allows beer drinkers to make an informed choice about who brewed the beer they are drinking. [emphasis added]

And for those passionate beer lovers out there, we ask that you take the time to familiarize yourself with who is brewing the beer you are drinking. Is it a product of a small and independent brewer? Or is it from a crafty large brewer, seeking to capitalize on the mounting success of small and independent craft brewers?

A full list of U.S. breweries is available on BrewersAssociation.org. The Brewers Association list of domestic non-craft breweries is available for download.

The BA has a point. BMC (Bud-Miller-Coors) market-test their beers to make them appeal to the widest audience possible (or the lowest common denominator, depending on your point of view and how charitable you feel). And, like other large-scale retailers, they will copy hipper and trendier styles and market those products minus their Big Box brand’s label.

Now I drink “craft beer” and I make “craft beer,” but for me, it is an artificial distinction. Each beer must stand or fall on its merits (and, frankly, whether I like the style). The “big corporations are evil” story is getting stale. This is beyond beer-nerdery (if that can be a word) and into beer snobbery.

The big brewers make good and consistent beers. These brews may not be what you or I want to drink but that distinction says we have different tastes from the mainstream. That Anheuser-Busch can brew a beer in twelve regional facilities and produce a beer that tastes the same is a testament to their abilities.

Smaller and nimbler breweries make an asset of their attributes. They can produce new beers when the whim strikes them (without test marketing reactions); and, they have been known to distribute one-off mistakes, such as Lagunitas Brewing‘s Brown Shugga, meant originally to be a batch of their Olde GnarlyWine Ale.

BMC can do good and bad things. Anheuser-Busch endowed the beer program at University of California at Davis. This has benefited craft brewing immensely. A number of the brewers that today make craft beer went to UC Davis and studied under Dr Bamforth.  But, because they are big, BMC can really throw their weight around and play to win. As Jim Galligan wrote for the Today blog, The Big Beer companies have “done their best to push craft beers off the shelf, confuse consumers by creating their own craft beer lookalike brands, and they’ve purchased beloved craft breweries like Goose Island outright, replacing the folks who built the place with their own mass-market veterans.”

But hold on, the BA’s pronouncement has incensed other brewers, who have been excluded from the BA by its definitions of what constitutes “Craft Beer.” According to BeerPulse.com, August Schell of Schell’s Brewing, announced:

We put the same amount of pride and effort into producing our American Lagers as we do our line up of all-malt “specialty” beers, since we can’t dare call them “craft.” I know for a fact the same holds true for our friends at the Yuengling and Straub breweries. For you to say that the three oldest, family-owned breweries in America are “not traditional” is downright disrespectful, rude and quite frankly, embarrassing. – August Schell

Drink the beer because you like who made it. Drink the beer because it tastes good. Drink the beer because your server is cute. It’s beer, and while it may be art, it ain’t the Mona Lisa.

As Lagunitas says, Beer speaks, people mumble. Or as Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewing says, “Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder.”

Related articles

Does AB InBev want all “beer” to taste alike?

Haake-Beck bottles

Why does this taste like Antarctica beer?

It takes some real work to make me feel sorry for Budweiser, but it seems that I am a little nostalgic for the days when it was run by the Busch family.

I am not against large corporations, per se, but an article in articleBusinessWeek.com, “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer,” paints a picture of a corporate leader, Carlos Brito, the CEO of AB InBev, as someone who knows nothing about beer and everything about corporate takeovers. AbInBev has seemingly taken over every name brand beer on the planet: Beck’s, Stella Artois, Budweiser, Corona, Spaten, and many others.

Here’s an excerpt:

“[Ab InBev is] hurting these brands,” says Gerard Rijk, a beverage analyst at ING (ING).

Rijk gives Beck’s as an example:

“The authenticity of Beck’s is that it is a German brand with German water, with German malt, with German hops. This isn’t about brand building. It’s about costs. Full stop. Heineken (HEIA) would never do such a thing.”

I am reminded of the takeover of Pacific Lumber by Texas financier Charles Hurwitz. And with good reason…

[Brito’s] been running AB InBev’s business in the U.S. like a private equity investor. He has increased revenue and profit, but he has done so almost entirely by raising prices and cutting the cost of making the product….

What will Mr. Brito do when he runs out of companies to acquire and actually has to brew decent beer? Something he apparently doesn’t have a clue how to do.

The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer” is well worth a look.