Watch this space for information on how to enter this year's Global Packaging Design Awards. We received some great entries in last year's awards, so now is the time to start thinking about which packaging you'd like to enter. Entries can include any new package introduced over the past year. More details to follow shortly.
About six months ago, in one of my blog posts at beverageworld.com, I wrote about the bizarre experience of having an English brewery tour guide tell me that the U.K. craft beer scene is still about 15 years behind that of the U.S. Most of my visits there had been driven by the romance of immersing myself in British beer and pub culture and tradition—one that, on many levels, had influenced the craft movement in the United States.
I returned to London last month and figured I’d adhere to my usual itinerary—typically, it’s all about the pub crawl for me, having a pint or two of real ale from some traditional breweries at a variety of neighborhood locals that tend to be light on the tourist element (the way I like it). I had planned to do the same, but a friend had recommended that I integrate into my circuit one of the newer breweries that have been popping up in the city over the past few years.
I’ve been aware of the small boom in craft beer startups in the U.K., in large part influenced by what craft’s accomplished in the states. But I’ll admit I didn’t have a firm grasp on just how explosive it’s been in the past few years just in the capital city alone. So I decided to hit the Camden Town Brewery, a great little spot not too far from the Kentish Town tube stop. With brews like Gentleman’s Wit and Hells Lager, a wheat and a pale, it hits on most of the popular styles of European origin that inspired U.S. crafts. But Camden wears its U.S. influence most on its sleeve with USA Hells, a twist on its Hells Lager with American hops. While there, I ran into Mark Dredge, author of the just-released “Craft Beer World,” who noted that during each of the past handful of years, the number of craft breweries opening in London has been in the double digits and that I can’t leave town without stopping by at least a few of them. So, next I headed over to the Swansea district to Sambrook’s Brewery, one of the veterans of the new class—having opened “way back” in 2008. Sambrook’s kind of bridges the gap between the old and the new. Sambrook’s brews mostly cask real ales in keeping with the British tradition, but with an appeal to the younger generation of craft enthusiasts.
Next stop was a couple of brewers only open to the public on Saturday. Luckily, they were within a half mile of each other in the Bermondsey district. First was the Kernel, whose brews use a lot of the hops popularized in American crafts A real standout is Kernel’s Export India Porter, which successfully merges roasty with hoppy. The Kernel experience had a sort of Brooklyn Brewery vibe, circa a decade ago. The final stop was Partizan, one of the newest breweries in London, having just opened about six months ago. It’s London’s answer to nanobrewing, located in a garage-size space down what locals once considered a sketchy little alley. It, too, plays up hop varietals popularized by U.S. West Coast craft brewers and sports some of the most artfully rendered label designs on either side of the Atlantic.
So, before I knew it, my expected pub crawl had morphed into a brewery crawl as a whole new London—bathed in craft beer—has awakened.
Last month, I discussed in this space my prediction that “energy drinks will find a way.” What I meant is that consumers have taken to this relatively new beverage category so quickly, and with such passion, that more regulation or not, it will find a way. This could mean new formulations or maybe a break-away segment of more natural energy drinks (actually, we are already seeing the latter coming on strong with several natural or organic brands now on the market).
What I didn’t take into account in that column, however, is how the success of the energy drink market is now beginning to make an impact on other non-’energy’ beverage categories. Last month’s column borrowed a phrase from the film “Jurassic Park,” so here’s another sci-fi reference: The energy drink category has become so successful in such a short time that it is like one of those black holes out there in space, everything near it is slowly being sucked right in!
Case in point is coffee. It’s obvious the reverberations of the energy drink category are spreading outwards at incredible force when a brand that can trace its roots back to 1932 suddenly slaps the word “Energy” on its label. The brand I’m referring to (as you can see in the photo) is that favorite coffee of New York City grandparents everywhere, Chock full o’ Nuts. (I can hear that heavenly jingle now: ‘A better coffee a millionaire’s money can’t buy!’) It seems a little sad in a nostalgic kind of way to see this venerable brand suddenly try to appear all young and hip. Especially since it wasn’t all that long ago, that it debuted a reduced caffeine version But hey, things were kinder and gentler back then. In this hyper-charged new millennium society, the more supercharged with caffeine the better.
Just consider these stats from the latest survey of U.S. coffee consumption habits by the National Coffee Association: 83 percent of Americans now say they drink coffee, up by 5 percent from just a year ago. Daily consumption, according to the NCA, remained “strong and steady” at 63 percent, while the figure for those who drank it at least once a week was up slightly to 75 percent.
All of this comes at a time when a cloud of potential regulation of caffeinated energy drinks—perhaps caffeine in general?—continues to hang over the industry. Last December, in response to the controversy stemming from a lawsuit against Monster energy drink, the FDA said it would possibly convene a panel of experts to investigate further the effects of various stimulants, especially on “vulnerable segments” of the population. But as of the time I am writing this in mid-April, the FDA tells me that has yet to happen.
In the April issue of Beverage World you might recall a story on emerging wine markets that I wrote. Among the markets mentioned was Portugal, a country that is becoming more widely recognized for its variety of wines that are specifically crafted with food in mind.
Last month, I attended a Wines of Portugal event at the Paramount—one of London’s premier spots to enjoy a cocktail wile also getting to enjoy a 360-degree view of the city.
The afternoon was an opportunity to sample a selection of the “50 Greatest Portuguese Wines” chosen by Olly Smith, a British television presenter, wine expert and foodie and writer who appears regularly on BBC1’s “Saturday Kitchen.”
The theme of this year’s event was “Great Value.”
Smith writes: “Portuguese wines are a treasure trove of undiscovered gems. ‘Great Value’ is my theme for this year’s ‘50 Great’ and there’s never been a better time to explore the excitement of Portugal’s outstanding flavors across their vineyards.”
There are 250 grape varietals in Portugal that are grown in diverse microclimates resulting in a wide range of wines. Because the wines are so food-friendly, Smith also grouped his selections by cuisine—sushi and sashimi, seafood, roast lamb, barbecue and dark chocolate.
There wasn’t enough time to sample all 50, but the ones that I did get to sip really showed the wide range of wines available from the country—all priced reasonably, between £7 to £30, demonstrating great value for the quality.
FP, 2012 produced by winemaker Filipa Pato from the Bairrada region was among my favorites. It was light, fresh and flavorful without being too powerful. Another fwas Beyra Quartz, 2011 by Rui Roboredo Madeira, which reminded me of summer in a glass and dining al fresco.
Winemaker Francisco Figueiredo was present and sampling his Arenae, 2010 from the Lisboa region, one of the smallest D.O.Cs in Portugal right by the ocean. Producing only 12,000 to 15,000 liters of this wine a year, the winery uses a smaller bottle (half-liter) to have more to sell, Figueiredo told me. Retailing for £9 this wine was quite different from the rest, getting its salty flavor from the ocean. The perfect food pairing for this wine, according to the winemaker—oysters.
One of the bolder labels of the 50 was a wine from Fita Preta Vinhos—a red wine with a bright pink, almost metallic label called Sexy. Offensive? Maybe, but Nuno Maçanita, who was there representing the wine, said it’s the best-selling wine in the winery’s portfolio. Now being imported to the U.S., Sexy retails for £13 (about $20) and is described by Smith as “fruit-driven” and a “wine that’s made ready to drink.” If it brings attention to Portuguese wines or the region, Alentejo, then who can argue?
Though Portugal is known for blending its wines, there were some single varietals among the 50. Two I sampled were Casa Cadaval Trincadeira Vinhas Velhas, 2009 from the Tejo region made with 100 percent Trincadeira grapes and Julia Kemper Touriga Nacional, 2009 from the Dão region made from Touriga Nacional grapes. Both wineries have very small production runs making them that much more special.
But no matter what your personal preference, there was great wine for a good value in a great location—There’s not much sexier than that.
There’s quite a bit to talk about this month, so I figured it was as good a time as any for another edition of my semi-regular thumbs-up, thumbs-down feature, Toasts & Spills.
Let’s start off on a positive note and propose a Toast to Justice Milton A. Tingling of New York, who last month invalidated NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on sugar-sweetened beverages in sizes larger than 16 ounces—a day before it was to take effect. Calling the restrictions “arbitrary and capricious” and acknowledging the ban was fraught with loopholes, Tingling, at least for now, killed a misguided law that would do little to combat the obesity epidemic and a great deal to punish the beverage market and undermine consumer choice.
And while we’re at it, how about a Spill for the mayor of the great city of New York for vowing to appeal Tingling’s decision. Bloomie should just leave well enough alone and move on. I’m actually a fan of his calorie-posting initiative at foodservice establishments in the city, his efforts to get rid of trans fats and, my personal favorite, his indoor smoking ban. These, in my opinion, were smart public health actions. The big soda ban, not so much. Just let it go, Mr. Mayor.
And since we’re talking about the courts and misguided maneuvers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t assign a great big Spill to the truly ridiculous $5 million class action lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch asserting that the mega-brewer is watering down its beer. It’s silliness like this that pushes our legal system toward dysfunction and paralysis, as it’s nothing more than a colossal waste of time that does nothing but clog the pipes of jurisprudence. And if Budweiser is watered down? So what! If the beer’s not flavorful enough for some consumers, then they can go drink something else. Hasn’t anyone noticed that, when it comes to beer, there’s more choice than ever before?
And that leads us to our next Toast: to U.S. craft brewers. The Brewers Association last month released 2012 craft beer volume and revenue figures and they’re even better than they were in 2011. The segment saw a 15 percent rise in volume and a 17 percent increase in dollars, earning total retail dollars of $10.2 billion. Craft share of overall U.S. beer volume reached 6.5 percent, up from 5.7 percent in 2011, while dollar share cracked the 10 percent mark.
Among the many beneficiaries of such robust craft beer business has been the publishing industry, as craft-themed books have become a genre unto themselves. Our final Toast goes out to author and frequent Beverage World contributor and BevOps craft tasting host John Holl, as his latest tome, “The American Craft Beer Cookbook,” is about to hit stores. The book features a collection of 175 recipes contributed by craft brewers, brew pubs and others in the craft scene throughout the U.S. My wife and I were lucky enough to be guinea pigs when John was testing out a couple of recipes and I can confirm that the book will be worth every penny of the $12.36 pre-order price at Amazon.
And that is where I must end things for this edition, as I am now too hungry to continue writing.