This Week in Beer News

The golden age of beer, in America and abroad.
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Catching up from some time on the road.

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1) Beer labels in motion. Thanks to all who sent links to this delightful Tumblr site, which includes animations of a number of favorite beer labels, like the one above for the also-delightful Little Sumpin' from Lagunitas. Inexplicably, I once saw a lone bottle of Little Sumpin' on sale in Beijing. I could not imagine that it had had a wholesome journey there, so I passed it by.


2) India 'Session' Ales. This is a brewing style I hadn't known about, and that sounds promising. Today's hop-conscious craft brewing world is overall a big step forward in realizing the full potential of human excellence. But often extra hops, which up to a point I am looking for, come in combination with extra-high alcohol levels, which I can do without. CraftBeer.com reports on ISAs that supposedly convey the taste of our beloved hop-blessed IPA family without all the extra ABV percentage. I look forward to checking them out.

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3) Think before you drink. A sad story from Spain, where a speed-drinking contest among beer enthusiasts crowns a winner only to see him keel over and die. Who could have imagined that drinking the equivalent of 18 bottles of beer within 20 minutes might be risky in any way? Still, condolences.

4) Baltika Brew. Now I know that Baltika is a big European brewing combine, founded in St. Petersburg and since 2008 mainly owned by Carlsberg of Denmark.

But I didn't know that yesterday, when I was trudging along Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg and, just in time, caught a glimpse down a side street of this welcome sign. For the next hour, my wife and I imagined that we had stumbled across the local equivalent of Great Leap brewery in Beijing, or the Boxing Cat brewpub in Shanghai, or Hangar 24 in Redlands: that is, a great new independent craft brewery that burnishes an already appealing town. The dusky ambience, the prominently displayed brewing kegs, and above all the (good) beers tapped straight from the kegs nursed us along in this quaint brew-pub fantasy.

And even now that I know that Baltika is part of a giant operation, I don't care. Check it out when you're in the vicinity.

5) Why we love financiers, chapter 4,275. An interesting though heart-rending report from MSN Money explains why big banks' stockpiling of aluminum supplies, in hopes of creating artificial shortages and ramping up the price, has caused major problems for brewers around the world. Read and weep -- including the detail that packaging accounts for nearly a quarter of the cost of a normal six-pack. 

6) Why we love America, chapter four million. Certifying the current era's role as the Golden Age of Beer, a reader shows the beers he tried on a recent visit to Montana. Perhaps with dangers like those in item #3 in mind, he clarifies, "not all at the same time."

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7) Sharknado-themed. Because I can't resist:

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From afar, and in specific from inside the half-lit beerhall beneath that Baltika sign off Nevsky Prospekt, cheers! Amid our other woes give thanks for a still-improving, increasingly worldwide, golden age of beer.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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