Liabilities Drown ‘86 Colorado Beer Festival

Times Staff Writer

Things have gone decidedly flat for the Great American Beer Festival, which was originally scheduled for June 20 and 21 in Denver. The sponsor, American Homebrewers Assn., announced recently that the two-day affair is being postponed indefinitely because of the group’s failure to obtain liquor liability insurance.

The refusal of Colorado-based companies to write policies for the now-derailed domestic beer celebration stems from the debate under way in the Colorado legislature regarding the liability question. A bill is being discussed that would limit the monetary amounts victims could seek in lawsuits stemming from accidents where liquor consumption played a factor. At present, there is no ceiling on damage levels.

Until Colorado’s representatives settle the insurance dilemma, policies for liquor liability are generally not being written. Consequently, one of the nation’s largest beer festivals remains untapped. In fact, there is a strong likelihood that the event may have seen its last foaming stein. Last year, more than 4,000 paid $10 to sample 94 different beers from 50 U.S. breweries.


The festival was originally designed to eradicate two popular misconceptions about American beers, according to Daniel Bradford, the festival’s director.

“We have tried to dispel . . . the myth that all domestic beers taste the same and are inferior to foreign beers. And the second myth (being addressed) is that beer is a beverage that should be (consumed) in quantity,” he said.

Apparently, Bradford was much more successful in debunking the former problem than he was with the latter question. One reason the festival might have become an unwanted insurance risk is that Bradford estimates this year’s event would have attracted more than 5,000 people to spend as much as four hours sampling more than 100 beers.

Hops at Home--Although beer convention goers have suffered a setback with the festival’s cancellation, some consolation can be found with the premiere of a reformulated magazine devoted to home brewing.

The debut issue of Amateur Brewer, which arrived recently, is a 40-page quarterly devoted to the nuances of making, enjoying or collecting ales, porters and stouts.

The publisher, Bill Owens of Hayward, Calif., also owns one of this state’s few brew pubs--a specially licensed firm which can operate a small brewery, but must restrict sales only to on-premise transactions.

The topics covered in the spring issue include the effect of carbonation on beer flavor, deciding whether to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and how to order videotapes on beer making.

Possibly as a nod toward the liability question, Amateur Brewer’s table of contents offers a disclaimer in fine print: “The magazine takes a responsible position when discussing the drinking of alcoholic beverages.”

However, one of the spring issue’s feature stories discusses, in detail, the author enjoying several bottles of beer while behind the wheel of a “white Dodge” in search of an obscure Texas brewery.

Keeping Nuts Sober--Little known to the general public is that growers and processors have a difficult time keeping peanuts from spoiling. The damage occurs when the nuts are exposed for any length of time to either severe cold or heat before being roasted.

The temperature fluctuations initiate a form of fermentation that creates unacceptable alcohol levels and produces what the industry calls, a “drunk peanut.”

The problem can become significant. For instance, as much as 6% of this year’s crop in North Carolina, one of the nation’s four largest peanut growing states, had an unacceptable alcohol content.

In a move that it hopes will improve the quality of the nation’s nuts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it has developed a testing procedure which will quickly signal when peanut’s alcohol levels become unacceptable--an invention the agency’s announcement refers to as the legumes’ equivalent of the breath tests given to suspected drunk drivers.

Before the latest innovation, taste tests were the only way of detecting drunk peanuts, which are distinctly bitter in flavor. Until the USDA procedure becomes common throughout the industry, those peanuts found to have the undesirable taste will be diverted into peanut oil production.

Pricey Thirst Quenchers--Southern California consumers can expect soft drink prices to rise steadily between now and the summer months with the average price per 12-ounce, six-pack reaching as high as $2.29, according to an industry newsletter.

The prediction is based on the absence of new price wars between the major soft drink competitors, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, during the next several weeks, Beverage Hotline, a Los Angeles-based publication, states in a recent issue.

A seven-month comparison of soft drink prices at several large area supermarket chains was used to prepare the forecast.

“There is a move afoot to let prices rise quietly in the food store segment of the soda pop market,” Beverage Hotline reports.

A Classic Appearance--Beverage Hotline also reports that McDonald’s Restaurants are switching from “new” Coke to Coke Classic at its more than 7,000 outlets. The switch is of such importance in terms of sales that it could ultimately mean the discontinuation of the slightly sweeter version of the nation’s leading soft drink, the newsletter states.

“McDonald’s switch to Coke Classic could have put the final nail in the coffin of new Coke . . . We believe that Coke Classic is outselling new Coke 12 to 1 in Southern California,” the report states.

Hold the McAnchovies--Changes in the McDonald’s format are not restricted to the soda dispenser.

McDonald’s executives are well aware that eating habits are changing, particularly regarding the continuing decline in beef consumption. And what does the leading fast food outlet do when consumers become disenchanted with what’s in the patties? Add more items to the menu that are inoffensive to those who shun meat.

According to a restaurant trade journal, McDonald’s is doing just that as it continues to test market its latest offering entitled, “McPizza.”