Strange Brews: Wine Bumper Crop, Beer Week, Non-Alcoholic Non-Sequiturs

BOOM! Reports are trickling down that this year’s wine harvest in multiple growing regions, including Oregon (where as recently as last month there was speculation that an early frost could destroy the late grapes) and France, are bumper crops. This good news comes just in time for the holidays (although the savvy amongst you will likely not be imbibing too much of this year’s vintage just yet), and the New York Times has a round-up of great wine strategies for Thanksgiving. When you pair this with Slate’s recommendation to drink the fruit of the vine on the cheap, you should have a fool-proof recipe for fine wine, food, and fun.

Two other major news events in the wine world this week include the first ever conference on wine tourism to be held in Napa Valley and the first ever agreement on standards for evaluating carbon dioxide emissions in the wine-making process, which will likely pave the way for the wine industry to begin offsetting their impact on the environment.

It also happens to be beer week across the nation, which makes the fact that I found bottles of Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust (among the most perfectly hopped ales this drinker has ever set to his lips) at the corner store an even bigger success. It also means that across the country, from Portland, Maine, to Houston, Texas, to San Diego, California, you can get your fill of the stuff. Even Rhode Island is getting in on the fun, with the state’s eleven breweries producing a collaboration beer. Just watch out for the police in Seattle, where an ongoing investigation is uncovering the use of public funds to pay pub tabs for the city’s finest.

Don’t lose faith, though, my beer-drinking friends, for the brewery industry is still contributing in positive ways to the community, including New Belgium’s film and beer series (which raised almost $59,000 across the nation for local, sustainable non-profits), SABMiller (who released a line of locally grown and processed cassava-based beer in South Africa), and a collaboration between DC Brau and Epic Brewing Company called Fermentation without Representation, an imperial pumpkin stout brewed with the under-represented voices in American politics in mind (don’t worry, it’s not 99% alcohol).

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried Duke’s Soda. Yeah, me either. But there have been rumors circulating about the legendary raspberry soda amongst my travel-weary peers for years. The line has been out of production for seven years, but now PepsiCo, who have owned the rights since 1995 (and who recently sold their bottling rights in China to a third party) will be producing and distributing the soda again in Mumbai, India, soon, reviving fizzy flavors such as Ice Cream, Gingerade, and the delectable and exotic-sounding Masala. While we’re on the subject, it should be mentioned that a study released this week indicated that banning sugary drinks in schools has had no effect on reducing the youngsters’ intake of the stuff.

There’s a far better chance you’re familiar with Monster Energy Drinks, and for good reason. The company now claims in excess of 30% of the convenience and gas station market for energy beverages. And they’re set for a new release: a malt beverage that isn’t alcoholic.

As long as we’re talking non-alcoholic non-sequiturs, I should mention the hullabaloo raised in Scotland when ArKay Beverages tried to release a non-alcoholic whiskey. The distillation of Scotch is a time-honored tradition in the land of kilts and Celts, so it’s no surprise that the Scottish people are up at arms about this affront to a national pass-time. They’ll probably also bend out of shape at the inclusion of this sentence in a paragraph dedicated to Scotch Whiskey, but the un-offended reader shouldn’t be afraid to take a gander at a nice little piece in Slate dedicated to the history and consumption of a great American whiskey drink, the Old Fashioned.

If you’re in the mood for more beverage news, my colleagues have some good round-ups from the week as well.  Alexander Moysaenko, our news editor, has written some lovely reporting on raw milk revolutions, whiskey lasers, and correlations between anti-sectarian violence and non-diet soda consumption, while Zoe Ching has a great calendar of events for the month of November, including many highly anticipated occasions to imbibe.

Just to keep you in the know: this column will be replaced next week with an on-location report from the Three Floyds’ Fifteenth Anniversary Party, which I will be rocking (and hopefully staying sober enough) to give you all the details on the world-renowned beers produced by this extraordinary little brewery in Munster, Indiana – including a mind-boggling, tongue-twisting, face-melting concoction of the coveted Dark Lord Russian-Style Imperial Stout, Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Classic Espresso, and steamed Kilgus Farms milk! In the mean time… live well, and drink better. Cheers.

Photo by: Jakob Montrasio