As you huddle over the grill, quaffing your obligatory Labor Day brew, here are some tales to regale your friends with from the world of beer:
It’s been an interesting summer in Japan, where giant brewers Asahi and Kirin have come up with some strange innovations. Kirin has brought out something called Ichiban Shibori Two-Tone Drafts, which is essentially beer mixed with juices (pineapple, grapefruit or tomato) as well as lemon liqueur or cassis. Even stranger is the fact that these concoctions are put through the equivalent of a Slurpee machine to create a beer with the texture of soft-serve ice cream. Asahi is blending their beer with Calpis, a fermented-milk potion that hails from Inner Mongolia.
It sounds like I’m making this up, but the theory is simple. These drinks are targeted toward consumers who like beer but find the taste too bitter---mostly women and younger people. This tactic probably wouldn’t fly in the U.S. for a few reasons. Pandering to women would be perceived as politically incorrect (even though most alcohol producers do it), and targeting younger drinkers would be a serious affront to many citizens. However, the end product does sound appealing on a hot day. If you’re a beer purist you’ve already run screaming from the room, but the combination of alcohol and fruit juice isn’t exactly new or radical. Punch has been around for centuries, after all.
Back in the U.S., the concept of dehydrated beer is about to enter the mainstream. An Alaskan company called Pat’s Backcountry Beverages has come up with a beer concentrate. This is presumably geared toward outdoor types who don’t want to strap a case of suds to their backpacks and head out over the frozen tundra carrying an extra 50 pounds. The company claims to have come up with a revolutionary technique that involves brewing the beer with a minimum of water, rather than making it normally and then removing the moisture.
The only catch is that you have to carbonate the water before you add it back in, but don’t worry: The company will sell you a carbonator for $39.95, and there are video instructions on the website. They claim the end result is something that has “the same great taste you’re used to in a premium microbrew.” Best of all, if you’re a hiker or camper, you can travel light.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); more more information, go to amazon.com