Posts Tagged ‘serving alcohol’

China Is Building a Disney World for Wine

Changyu, China’s winemaking powerhouse, is building French-style chateaus and Italianate castles around the country—and an entire “Wine City”—to encourage the country’s passion for the grape.

At Chateau Changyu Reina, honey-colored brick towers enclose wide cobbled courtyards, and vast, wood-beamed halls look as if they are prepared to host an imminent medieval banquet. At first glance, the Italianate castle and winery could have been built hundreds of years ago, in Italy’s Tuscan hills.

Spoiler: It wasn’t.

The chateau is but one part of an ambitious 600 million yuan ($86.9 million) complex completed four years ago just outside the city of Xi’an, in Shaanxi province in central China. It is a prodigious winemaking operation powered by more than 2,000 acres of vines. Currently, it’s annually churning out 5,000 bottles, mostly merlot—and the goal is to drastically scale up. The cellars at Chateau Changyu Reina have room for as many as 150,000 oak barrels.

An interactive exhibit at Chateau Reina, which teaches visitors about the global history of wine.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

The faux-historic halls of the castle are also home to an interactive exhibition that walks visitors through the history and making of wine. Mirrors encourage visitors to stick out their tongues to examine their taste buds; there’s a statue of Bacchus, plus a wall that showcases the various strata of soil, or terroir. Inexplicably, a giant, smiling face resembling a cartoon grape beams out from one corner. An oversized globe spotlights the world’s other wine regions, while a table covered in Perspex tubes and buttons asks users to see if they can match a region to a scent. There’s even a room dedicated to former Chinese leaders (none of whom seem to be enjoying a glass of wine).

A Country Enchanted by Wine

This mock castle isn’t unique. It’s one of a network of so-called chateaux built across the country, from Ningxia province to Beijing, by China’s oldest winemaker, Changyu.  These grand castles, each inspired by a different European winemaking country, are a concrete sign of the company’s ambitious plans for Middle Kingdom wine.  According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, China is the second-largest wine grower by vineyard area, behind only France, with land under vine roughly the size of Puerto Rico.

Chateau Baron Balboa, a winery owned by Changyu near Shihezi City in China’s Xinjiang Province.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

The challenge Chinese winemakers face, though, isn’t quantity. It’s improving the quality of whatever juice those lands can produce, and that’s where Changyu has tapped an experienced, new partner for help. 77-year old Augusto Reina isn’t just the namesake of that Shaanxi chateau; he’s also the head of Illva Saronno Holding Spa, the Italian winemaker best-known worldwide as the producer of Disaronno liqueur. Reina has imported his know-how to help China’s nascent industry produce vintages that even the sniffiest wine snob might deign to sample. In return, Changyu named a castle after him and even crafted a life-size bronze of the Italian sitting on a bench in the vineyard—raising a glass. 

Is the Quality There?

Augusto Reina.
Illva Saronno

Sitting in a hotel near that castle (and sculpture), Reina anticipates what you’re thinking. “When we came to China seven or eight years ago, I had a stomach ache, I must confess it, from the quality of the wine. It was not so good,” he explains, via a translator. Yet the entrepreneur saw potential in both the product and the market; by 2013, China had become the world’s biggest consumer of red wine and has continued to grow. For more than two and a half years, Reina negotiated with Changyu. “They were very demanding, challenging negotiations. I don’t think this kind of thing would be possible for an American or a French company, because they have such a different business culture,” he continues, diplomatically.

Eventually, Reina brokered a deal that included Illva taking a significant equity stake in Changyu. The pact also initiated an in-depth cultural exchange, sending Illva’s winemakers to various Changyu sites to help school their new colleagues, as well as bringing Chinese staffers to Italy on a tasting tour. The Italians helped Changyu select the grapes to grow and offered advice on how to tend to its existing vines. They pitched in with expertise in selecting machinery for production, too, such as bottling lines.

Chateau Reina, in Xi’an.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

One conundrum that even the Italians can’t crack, though, is the dominance of red wine. Redolent of such renowned regions as Burgundy and Bordeaux, red wine shares a color with both the Communist Party and good luck. Unfortunately for lovers of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, white is the color of mourning and is mostly worn at funerals, which stigmatizes blanc plonk long before it’s opened.

Chateau Changyu-Castel in Yantai.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

Coastal Wines

Nowhere is that partnership more evident than at a second Changyu site, in the resort city of Yantai on China’s northeastern coast, just across the Yellow Sea from North Korea. This is the location of the company’s most aggressive and surreal project so far: Wine City. Set on more than 1,000 acres and costing an estimated 6 billion yuan ($870 million), it is aptly named, a sprawling hybrid of production facility, tourist attraction, and trippy fantasia. The inevitable rows and rows of vines pale next to the manmade structures that dot the landscape. There’s already one chateau, a white neo-Gothic structure that looks like the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and two others are nearing completion. Another Gothic-inspired pile, complete with an artificial moat, will be dedicated to championing and producing red wine, while the squat and sturdy Romanesque chateau next door—imagine the home of any Disney princess—is a temple to brandy making, a first for the company.

Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Ningxia, China.

Courtesy Illva Saronno

A swirling skyscraper is under construction on a nearby hill, too: Six abstracted champagne flutes decorate the façade of this Wine Research Institute. (Bordeaux’s new Cité du Vin seems a flimsy rival in comparison.) It will house scientists working on perfecting those vintages, as well as tasting rooms and bars offering views of the countryside, at least on days when pollution from Beijing doesn’t descend in a thick, white smog. Such fumes don’t have much immediate effect on vines, compared with toxins in water or soil, so China’s notoriously noxious air have not yet impacted its wine output.

State-of-the-Art Technology

Most impressive of all are the winemaking facilities themselves, less caves than a series of cathedrals, or gleaming airplane hangars, jigsawed together with articulated roofs that look like giant caterpillars. A shy guide leading a tour round the humming, spotless facilities says this is the world’s largest wine production site. It’s a plausible claim. With 95 tanks here already for a storage capacity exceeding 40,000 tons, more are planned; when Wine City hits peak production capacity, it will churn out 450,000 tons of wine and brandy per year, she said. (Compare that with Château Petrus, which might produce around 30,000 bottles, or just under 200 tons, over the same period)

 

The glass clinks noisily as it trundles around 10 snaking automatic bottling lines, and the cleaning system automatically sterilizes 120 cold stabilization tanks, which help forestall the broken glass-like crystals that form in chilled, bottled wine if it’s not properly handled. While the Changyu brand is emblazoned on almost everything, occasionally other names peek through—Italy’s Tecninox and ERsistemi, for example, collaborated on that cold stabilization room; almost every piece of major tech in the plant is Italian-designed, thanks to Reina’s investment and influence. “All the technologies here are exactly like the ones we have, but since our plant was built two years before them, this is even more modern,” he says, proudly.

Tourism, Too?

Can Changyu’s deep-pocketed attempts under Reina’s tutelage really create a new winemaking hotspot? “It’s definitely one of the recognizable big brands, along with Great Wall and Dynasty. Thus, it has instant brand recognition for many Chinese consumers, ”explains Edward Ragg, of (Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting) in Beijing by email. He is cautious about the Italians’ impact on what goes into the bottle. Euromonitor International Ltd. analyst Spiros Malandrakis is more bullish, drawing parallels with the surging British sparkling wine industry, which has been buoyed by climate change and a few canny blind tastings in which it beat Champagne. “Considering the amount of money being in, and the people involved, we will soon be seeing not just award-winning sparkling wine from England, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see super-premium red wines from China, too,” he tells Bloomberg.


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Budweiser brewer will put kick into root beer

Best Damn Root Beer, hitting stores and taps Monday nationwide, is the first beer from the mega-brewer’s new unit, Best Damn Brewing Co. The new beverage, a sweet ale aged on vanilla beans will weigh in at 5.5% alcohol by volume — that compares to 5% for traditional Budweiser. It’s being positioned as a premium-priced product available in bottles, cans and on tap.

“We like to say this is an easy-drinking hard root beer,” said Kathy Sattler, brand director for Best Damn Brewing Co. and a 20-year veteran who has served as marketing director on global Budweiser and Corona brands. “It smells, it looks and it tastes like the root beer flavor you know and love, but in an adult version.”

As part of the launch, Anheuser-Busch will have Best Damn Root Beer available in bottle, cans and on draft nationwide. Some restaurants and bars will also offer root beer floats with the new beer served in special 20-oz mugs.

Anheuser-Busch’s Best Damn Brewing division has been working on the recipe since 2014. “We are seeing more and more consumers gravitate to different styles and different palates wanting things that are not just the traditional beer taste,” said Rashmi Patel, an Anheuser-Busch vice president within the brewers’ new “Share of Throat” team aimed at creating new alcoholic drinks beyond traditional beers.

Boozy root beers have been a hit this year, with Not Your Father’s Root Beer from Small Town Brewery of Wauconda, Ill., and Coney Island Hard Root Beer out of Brooklyn’s Coney Island Brewing, both infiltrating shelves across the nation.

Not Your Father’s Root Beer (5.9% ABV), which is distributed by Pabst Brewing, was launched nationally this summer;  Pabst CEO Eugene Kashper is also part of a group that owns an interest in the brands.  So far this year, consumers have spent about $111 million on hard root beers at retail outlets and convenience stores, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm that tracks sales at supermarkets and other retail outlets.

Small Town’s Not Your Father’s Root Beer commands 80% of sales — and is the No. 3 ranked craft beer brand, according to IRI — while Coney Island Hard Root Beer has 18%, IRI says. “Alcoholic root beers quickly emerged to have a significant impact on beer category sales this year,” said IRI’s Dan Wandel. “Based upon the success this year of Not Your Father’s Root Beer and Coney Island Hard Root Beer and the significant number of additional hard soda brands expected in 2016, I would expect to see sales for hard sodas more than double in 2016.”

Also hitting during the summer was Coney Island Hard Root Beer (5.8% ABV), available nationally from Coney Island Brewing, which is part of Samuel Adams’ parent company Boston Beer. Just this month, Coney Island Brewing added two new soda-inspired beers, Hard Ginger Ale and Hard Orange Cream Ale to roster.

“We launched our Hard Root Beer this summer, and the response was unprecedented,” said Coney Island Brewing’s operations manager Chris Adams. “We knew we would appeal to the tastes of craft beer drinkers if, like with Hard Root Beer, we created hard craft sodas that are both delicious and nostalgic.”

Small Town also has a Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale scheduled to hit 40 states in February.

“I just see this as another product that companies are offering in an attempt to quench the thirst of consumers who are trying new products and trying different styles in a lot of different areas,” said Chris Furnari, business writer for  Brewbound.com. “Some folks want a more hoppy bitter offering, some want a sugary sweet offering.”

For now, Anheuser-Busch is brewing the Best Damn Root Beer at its Los Angeles and Cartersville, Ga., breweries. It is likely expand its lineup, too. “We want to make sure that consumers who are experimenting, when they don’t want to have one of our core beers that they were coming to our portfolio,” Patel said.

SABMiller, which is the process of trying to merge with A-B InBev, also has hard soda drinks in the works, Furnari said. So the category could be developing into another arena in which Big Beer brands are competing with craft breweries. Craft beer’s share of the $32.6-billion beer industry  is expected to increase from 7.5% in 2010 to 15% this year, according to research firm IBISWorld.

“The other thing we’re curious to see is whether there going to be a craft version of this, something really high-end (or) organic,” Furnari said. “It’s certainly an evolving category. We don’t know where it’s going or how long it’s going to last.”

, USA TODAY12:25 p.m. EST December 16, 2015

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Bartenders debate level of responsible service

The best bartenders get a kick out of knowing they’re helping people have a good time – but what if it goes too far? Should bartenders be to blame if someone drinks themselves into injury or illness?

Bartending is a profession dedicated to the art of hospitality, but working with alcohol is not a position of power that should ever be taken lightly.

While the cocktail sector is exploding with boundary-pushing innovation, it is imperative the industry does not become detached from the dangers associated with what is, after all, an intoxicating drug. In numerous countries including the UK, the US and Australia, legislation has been put in place making it illegal to sell alcohol to a person who is obviously drunk, and similarly, to buy an alcoholic drink for someone you know to be drunk.

However, despite the foundation of such laws, questions abound over who is responsible for ensuring the industry is not plagued with a problem of over-consumption. During recent months the media has been awash with a string of high profile tragedies involving the apparent “over-serving” of alcohol, a handful of which have had calamitous consequences.

In April, Martell’s Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant Beach, Jersey Shore, US, was fined US$500,000 and had its licence revoked for a month after allegedly over-serving alcohol to a woman who later died in a car crash.

 

Tragic incident

The incident unfolded in 2013 after Ashley Chieco, 26, left Martell’s in another person’s car, which collided into an on-coming vehicle killing herself and injuring the other driver, Dana Corrar. The survivor suffered two broken legs, broken ribs and will “never work again, never walk again normally and never be pain free,” according to her lawyer, Paul Edelstein, a personal injury specialist. Martell’s pleaded “no contest” to the charge of serving alcohol to an intoxicated person in exchange for the fine.

“Businesses that profit from the sale of alcohol are well aware of its dangers, particularly when combined with people who then get into vehicles,” Edelstein says. “It is akin to a shop selling bullets and then allowing its customers access to a gun when they leave. Hopefully the attention alone will make a bartender think twice before continuing to serve someone and inquire as to how they are leaving a location that does not provide access to mass transit.”

So when it comes to alcohol consumption where does the responsibility of the bartender start and that of the consumer end? For some, all persons involved – the consumer, bartender and management – have a collective duty for the well-being of both patrons and staff.

 

Know your limits

“It’s everyone’s job to make sure the guests are happy and safe at the same time,” comments Kate Gerwin, general manager of HSL Hospitality and winner of the Bols Around the World Bartending Championships 2014. “First and foremost obviously the customer should know their own limits, however we all know that is not always the case. Bartenders should make safe service of alcohol a huge priority in day-to-day business and the owner of the bar should take a vested interest in the education of the staff about over-serving and the dangers and consequences.”

But for others, the responsibility rests with those in a managerial position who need to step up to their line of duties. “Inevitably, the responsibility lies with the management chain – they are the licensees,” says British bartender and entrepreneur JJ Goodman, co-founder of the London Cocktail Club. “In the UK we have an inherent history of binge drinking, so customers aren’t very perceptive to being told they’re not allowed another drink. When that sort of situation occurs, someone more senior and experienced needs to come in to handle it and command control as quickly as possible.”

 

Diffusing the situation

Similar snippets of advice surrounding this irrefutably sensitive subject are echoed throughout the industry. Accusing guests of being drunk is deemed as the biggest faux pas, and a sure fire way to escalate an already testing episode. Avoiding embarrassment, ascertaining a first name basis and gaining the aid and trust of any peers who may be present are all recommended methods when it comes to diffusing any drama involved with this task.

Various initiatives have been instigated to curtail irresponsible service and consumption. At the end of 2014, the British Beer and Pub Association launched a poster campaign in the UK to drive awareness among consumers and on-trade establishments of the law surrounding serving people who are obviously drunk.

“It’s not about getting more prosecutions; it’s about raising awareness,” advises Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association. “It’s important we don’t turn pubs and bars into fortresses – we want to encourage people to go to these socially responsible places. But we need to find a balance between staff responsibility and personal responsibility.”

 

Source: The Spirits Business
by Melita Kiely
5th February, 2016

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Are there prescription drugs that reduce the drive to drink?

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Scientists have shown that a drug that normalizes dopamine levels in the brain can reduce alcohol cravings in people dependent on drink.

The finding was based on two studies, one conducted on people and one on rats. In the human trial, patients who took the experimental drug showed a marked reduction in alcohol craving. A separate animal study suggested that the drug works by acting on dopamine levels.

“It is proof of concept” that alcohol dependency can be treated by targeting the dopamine system, said Pia Steensland, neuroscientist at Karolinska Institute in Sweden and co-author of both studies. “We need to do larger trials” to validate the results.

Current drugs for alcohol dependency aren’t especially effective. The population of patients is genetically diverse, so only certain subgroups benefit. Prescription rates are low. As a result, the need for better medicines is huge.

Alcohol makes the brain’s reward system release more dopamine than normal, triggering a feeling of well-being. But as more alcohol is drunk, the more the reward system is desensitized and the less dopamine is released. Eventually, a person drinks more alcohol not just to feel euphoric, but to attain a state of physical and emotional normality. Thus, addiction sets in.

More than 16 million adults in the U.S. have an alcohol-use disorder and nearly 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, according to the National Institutes of Health. In 2006, alcohol misuse cost the U.S. economy $223.5 billion, the NIH said.

For the human study, published Wednesday in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, scientists recruited 56 Swedish alcohol dependent men and women, who typically would drink the equivalent of a bottle of wine a day.

The participants abstained from drink for at least four days. Half were then given a placebo and half got OSU6162, a drug believed to stabilize dopamine levels. The patients were randomized and neither they nor the researchers knew who was getting the experimental drug and who was getting the placebo.

For two weeks, the participants could drink as much as they liked. On day 15, each person was offered a glass of their favorite drink. According to the study, the OSU group reported not enjoying their first sip as much as the placebo group. After the drink was finished, the OSU group reported a lower craving for alcohol compared to the placebo group.

In addition, those with the poorest impulse control-and thus at greater risk of relapse after a period of abstinence-responded best to the experimental drug.

Both the OSU and placebo groups reported only mild side effects. This is significant because other dopamine-based medicines, such as those used to treat schizophrenia, completely block dopamine and can lead to nasty side-effects, such as nausea.

The rights to OSU6162 are owned by Arvid Carlsson, professor emeritus at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden and co-author of the human study. Dr. Carlsson, 92 years old, shared in the 2000 Nobel Prize for medicine for discovering that dopamine is a transmitter in the brain. His team also developed OSU6162.

To better understand how OSU6162 might work, Dr. Steensland and other researchers did a separate study on rats, also published Wednesday in the journal Addiction Biology. Rats that voluntarily drank alcohol over the course of almost a year had lower dopamine levels than animals that drank no alcohol. When OSU6162 was given to the “alcohol rats,” their dopamine levels returned to normal.

The human trial wasn’t designed to comprehensively evaluate whether the experimental drug could help people drink less. But because of the promising early-stage results, Dr. Steensland and her colleagues now hope to do a longer-term trial involving many more patients.

More than 16 million adults in the U.S. have an alcohol-use disorder

Source: WSJ By Gautam Naik Oct. 14, 2015

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Will self-serve beer render bartenders obsolete?

Your next draft may be pulled not by a bartender — but by you.

A small but growing number of gastropubs and fast-casual restaurants are going self-serve, installing systems that enable drinkers to draw their own taps, similar to the soda fountain at McDonald’s but far more sophisticated.

Establishments in the notoriously low-margin restaurant industry say the technology not only cuts labor costs but also boosts revenue by encouraging customers to sample what can be a bewildering array of Belgian quads, India pale ales or oatmeal stouts on a menu.

The technology has another attraction: It can measure and charge literally by the sip — something not lost on Barrel Republic, a craft beer bar in Oceanside and San Diego’s Pacific Beach where there are dozens of craft beers on tap and no bartender.

Sean Hale, general manager of the recently opened Oceanside pub, said customers pay for what would be free samples at traditional pubs while making it simpler to try exotic brews.

“They love it,” he said. “It’s about tasting all these different beers and the fun of exploring.”

Fast-casual sausage joint Dog Haus is on board too. The chain has a four-tap self-serve system at its Santa Ana store, and a six-tap one is coming soon to a location near Cal State Fullerton.

Quasim Riaz, the chain’s co-founder, said that with customers charged by the 10th of an ounce, there is less waste. Customers tend to be more careful than a bartender who might be prone to spill, over-pour or give away a beer “on the house,” he said.

“In theory you get a 100% yield on a keg,” he said.

Both establishments installed systems from iPourIt, a Santa Ana company that is one of the leading providers of the technology.

“Our goal is to really redefine the concept of craft beer dispense,” said company co-founder Joseph McCarthy.

Its system, like others, requires drinkers to provide an ID to receive a wireless bracelet or card that enables them to operate the tap. Providers sell table- and wall-mounted systems, along with mobile units for fairs and sporting events.

But some labor is required to ensure that establishments are not selling beer to inebriated customers, which can pose a legal liability. After a customer drinks a certain amount — usually two full beers — an employee has to determine whether they are sober enough for more.

The technology runs about $25,000 for a wall-mounted, 20-tap system, plus a monthly maintenance fee. But if they prove profitable, the systems could become ubiquitous across an industry in which online ordering and reservations already are popular, said Brandon Gerson of restaurant data firm CHD Expert.

“A system like this didn’t even exist 10 years ago,” he said. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t have the potential to become just as standard as a booth.”

It’s unclear how many self-serve beer locations there are nationwide, but McCarthy said iPourIt is in 42 locations in 23 states and two Canadian provinces. Fourteen of those are exclusively self-serve with no bartender.

Josh Goodman of rival PourMyBeer in Wheeling, Ill., which previously sold and installed iPourIt taps, said his company has sold its own self-pour systems to about 80 locations since 2013.

“In a location with 50 taps, you typically have to have around 20 to 30 employees,” Goodman said. “With us, you can easily have 10 and not really be stretched.”

But the traditional bartender isn’t about to go the way of the elevator operator, not just yet anyway.

Tom’s Urban, a gastropub in downtown Los Angeles, offers self-pour, but those taps are at only two tables out of roughly 250 at the L.A. Live location.

Aaron Garisek, the pub’s director of operations, said its PourMyBeer taps are great for sports fans who don’t want to miss a play by ordering from a server or going to the bar. But he doesn’t foresee going completely self-serve because personal connections with bartenders and servers simply are too popular.

“I think it’s really important to have that smile,” he said.

Indeed, self-pour could prove to have limited appeal.

Nick Petrillo, a research analyst at IBISWorld, said the concept may seem cool, but in practice might complicate the experience for some customers. For example, drinkers may make bad pours, or spill more often than a trained bartender, leaving the tap areas sticky and unsanitary.

“This technology seems like a total buzz kill,” Petrillo said.

Chris Bright, president of Zpizza International, said that has not been his experience.

The franchise pizza chain recently opened a “Tap Room” location with iPourIt technology near Los Angeles International Airport and wants to sign leases for 20 new self-pour beer locations in Southern California by early next year.

Bright said the chain is eating the cost of bad pours, but the systems are still moneymakers because Zpizza can serve a lengthy beer menu, while not hiring an army of servers. And customers, he said, are more likely to order another beer if they don’t have to stand in line again and pay at the register.

Customers like Chris Scales, who on a recent afternoon sipped a pale ale he poured at the location near airport, seem to bear that out.

“I don’t like interacting with bartenders,” he said. “They are always too busy.”

One table over, Shawn Herbst was enjoying a round with two colleagues. In town for a conference near LAX, the 44-year-old Floridian said he liked the self-pour concept, in part because it seems easier to try a bunch of new beers by tasting only a little.

But to test that theory he first needs to break his habit: a full pint of King Harbor California Saison rested on the table in front of him.

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

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