Friday, February 25, 2011

We are a nation of drinkers

Hey all you Neo-Prohibitionists out there... can you answer the following multiple choice question?

"The Star-Spangled Banner" is:
  • A poem
  • America's National Anthem
  • A drinking song
  • A banner with a lot of stars on it
  • What's a spangle?
  • All of the above
  • None of the above

In case you didn't pay attention in history class... the lyrics of TSSB were taken from the 1814 poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry," written by lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key. He witnessed the British Royal Navy blast the bejesus out of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore (War of 1812) - while being detained on a British ship! After the smoke cleared our flag was still standing and - BAM! - his famous tale was penned and immortalized.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" was first recognized by the Navy in 1889. In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson ordered that it become the national anthem, but his decree didn't take hold like he wanted.  It wasn't until President Herbert Hoover signed a Congressional resolution in March of 1931 that it was galvanized as the National Anthem that we know today.

Now, here's the big reveal...

"The Star Spangled Banner," the national anthem of these United States of America - the very song that more than just the velvet-voiced Christina Aguilera has botched up on - was set to the tune of a drinking song.

Oh yes it was.

In the mid-1760's teenager John Stafford Smith wrote a little diddy called "The Anacreontic Song" for one of London's many men's social clubs - The Anacreontic Society.  The four stanza song was first published in The Vocal Magazine in 1778. Interestingly, the fourth stanza includes the line "And this be our motto: In God is our Trust," which we Yanks ultimately adopted as our national motto, "In God We Trust."

Back in the day this song was frequently used as a sobriety "test" because of its difficult melody. If a person could sing just one stanza - and stay on key - they were deemed sober enough to continue drinking. Due to the song's raunchy lyrics it quickly gained popularity and spread beyond the walls of The Anacreontic Society. It was so popular that it eventually hopped the pond and by the time Key wrote his famous poem the song was well known in America.

As the legend goes... as soon as Key's brother-in-law heard the poem he realized it fit the tune of "The Anacreontic Song." They set Key's poem to the music, renamed it "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the very first American Idol was born.

We are a nation of drinkers... and karaoke singers.  Get over it.

Class dismissed!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Start the buzz about American Craft Beer Week now

"The Mother of All Beer Weeks" may still be a few months off (it runs May 16 - 22), but it's never too early to start thinking about what you're going to do - or down - during this purely American celebration of all things BEER.

Thankfully, the Brewers Association has come up with just the thing - in this case, a great video - to help you get in the mood.  As if you needed any more incentive to drink great craft beer, right?

Ya... that's what I thought. 

"American Craft Beer Week is an annual celebration of these historic beer times and the amazing community citizenship of craft brewers," said Brewers Association spokesperson Julia Herz. "With an emphasis to savor the flavor responsibly and the resurgence of a rich brewing culture here in the U.S., the week is a chance to highlight and recognize the incredible contributions of America's craft brewers."

ACBW was established in 2006. In 2010, it logged 341 participating breweries that hosted 621 events in 45 states. U.S. Congress even passed House Resolution 1297 supporting the goals and ideals of ACBW and recognizes the contributions of craft brewers to the economy. It's estimated that small and independent craft brewers have created over 100,000 jobs and account for $3 billon annually in wages and benefits.

At the 1:31 mark of the video, Bryan Simpson from New Belgium Brewing Company here in Colorado,  says: "Craft brew industry is really the idea of having a vision, taking a risk, building something from the round up...  It's a great reflection of the grit and integrity it took to build this country from the ground up." There's more to that then just some nice words.  Beer not only built this country, but sculpted our world. If you haven't seen "How Beer Saved the World" on Discovery Channel, do so. (You can actually watch it online now).

And for an ever-expanding list of events near you for the 2011 ACBW... visit


Friday, February 4, 2011

Rocherfort's Burning: The Devil is in the Details

From the Beer Tap TV "circular file"...

In late December the Belgian abbey at St. Remy-Rochefort, known for its famous Trappist beer, was severally damaged by fire. After perusing a myriad of news reports we came across one that was glaringly inaccurate. BBC News Europe reported that Rochefort was "one of only five breweries making Trappist beer."

BZZZZZ!  Wrong, but thanks for playing.

There are in fact seven makers of Trappist beer. Six are located in Belgium (Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, and Westmalle), while the other is in the Netherlands (La Trappe; aka Koningshoeven).

How a widely recognized news agency like the BBC can get a simple fact like that wrong is mind boggling. Frankly, we're more shocked then Peter Gabriel's monkey.

But back to the fire.

If you speak French you'll love this YouTube video...

If you don't speak French the gist of the report states that all (but one) of the monks managed to escape. Apparently the monks were dining (in silence) when the fire broke out, so the building was quickly evacuated.  Far more importantly however is the fact that all the vats of delicious Trappist beer survived intact!

It took 70 firefighters to put out the blaze. Based on the video they didn't do a very good job.

Released reports suggest the fire began near a temporary generator that was being used due to problems with the building's main power supply. Hey, they're monks not electricians. However, after the BBC Europe botch job we weren't entirely satisfied with the reported cause of the fire... so we conducted our own investigation. What we found was far more sinister than a Honda generator.

After just a few minutes of Googling, followed by some hurried IMs with a guy calling himself "Brother SelloutImust," we discovered the real cause of the fire: one monk (we’ll call him “Wholier Then Thou”) reneged on a deal he signed with the Devil back in July of 1987 for... yup, you guessed it - his soul. Details of their back room deal are sketchy, but Brother SelloutImust swears (profusely) that it involved pole dancers, fruit roll ups, and a clown suit.

Oddly, officials found no bodies amidst the the burnt ruins, which begs the question:  Where in the hell is "Wholier Then Thou?" 


* The website for St. Remy-Rochefort includes gorgeous pictures of the grounds, but it's all in French.