MONEY Food & Drink

Self-Serve Craft Beer Is Coming, and It Might Even Save You Money

DraftServ beer machine, Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rob Carr—Getty Images DraftServ beer machine, Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A beer-pouring innovation is spreading to bars, restaurants, and sports venues, allowing beer drinkers to handle the taps themselves, and to pour—and pay for—exactly the amount of brew they want.

Beer drinkers, rejoice. The tyranny of being restricted to ordering brews in 12 oz., pint, or perhaps yard sizes is coming to an end. So is the necessity of actually having to speak to a bartender and ask him to do you the favor of filling your glass.

A “craft casual hot dog concept” chain based in California called Dog Haus will soon have self-service beer stations available to customers in two locations. Pour-your-own, pay-by-the-ounce beer using a technology called iPourIt is expected to be an option in the Santa Ana restaurant by the end of the month, with the Dog Haus in Fullerton coming on board by early summer.

The station will feature interactive touch screens where customers will be able to choose among what’s on tap from small SoCal brewers such as Cismontane, Noble Ale Works, and The Bruery. The way it works with the iPourIt system is that—after showing ID to prove they’re at least 21, of course—customers preload money on a card used to purchase beer they pour themselves. Prices are listed by the ounce rather than the glass, so patrons only pay for exactly the amount they want. “This system gives customers the opportunity to customize their drinking experience whether that means pouring a number of 1oz samplers or filling a 16oz pint to wash down their dog,” a Dog Haus press release stated.

“Now we’re able to take the beer and put it in the outside dining room, much like people have been doing for years with sodas,” Dog Haus cofounder Quasim Riaz explained to QSRMagazine.com. There are restrictions on how quickly you can pour and throw back your brew, however. “We’re not going to let someone walk up and just order $100 of beer,” Riaz said. “That’s not at all how the system works.”

Exact pricing and beer-pouring limits for Dog Haus aren’t released yet. A similar concept of self-serve beer stations made its debut at Target Field in Minnesota around the time the stadium hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game last July. Those machines, from a company called DraftServ, featured Budweiser and Bud Light for 38¢ per ounce and fancier Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned brews from the likes of Goose Island for 40¢ per ounce. (Respectively, that adds up to $6.08 and $6.40 for a 16oz self-poured pint, which actually seems reasonable for the ballpark.) Customers load money onto cards in advance to pay for their brew, and they’re limited to pouring no more than 48 ounces every 15 minutes.

Lambeau Field and Miller Park, both in Wisconsin, introduced self-serve beer stations with Miller brews on tap last fall as well.

Meanwhile, iPourIt seems to be the self-service system of choice for bars, restaurants, and festivals featuring independent craft brews. The traveling Beer Haven mini-festival is making the rounds at larger events, such as the ongoing Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, and it includes an iPourIt station where drinkers load money in $20 increments onto wristbands used to pay for beer by the ounce. “When you’re done, you’ll get a printout of every beer you drank, perfect to save as a tasting-notes cheat sheet,” the Miami New Times reported. A new bar opening this summer in Denver called First Draft will also feature craft beers via the iPourIt system, making it the city’s first eatery with self-serve beer.

Attendees of the 2013 Los Angeles County Fair got an especially early look at iPourIt. At the time, prices were set around 62¢ for 20 different craft brews on tap, for a pricey $10 or so per pint. But as an iPourIt rep explains in the video below, paying by the ounce can be cheaper: “You can go and taste a little bit and not get charged for a whole beer.”

As for why restaurants, bars, and ballparks are intrigued with self-serve beer, one NBC Sports reporter succinctly summed up two of the biggest reasons while testing out the technology at Target Field last summer:

I figure the twin-draw of this technology for the ballparks is that (a) in the long run they will save money on having to pay people to draw beer for customers; and (b) they figure people will buy more beer thanks to the novelty of it.

As if people need an excuse to drink more beer at the ball game.

TIME Food & Drink

Calorie Count Coming Soon to a Can of Guinness Near You

Pints of Guinness at Gravity Bar at Guinness Storehouse.
Richard I'Anson—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images Pints of Guinness at Gravity Bar at Guinness Storehouse.

Diageo is adding the information to many of its products

The largest alcohol company in the world is preparing to add calorie counts to many of its best-selling brands.

Diageo announced Thursday that the nutritional information would begin to appear on bottles, the Wall Street Journal reports, and the first brand to get labeled will probably be Smirnoff. The new policy will take hold in the next few months, and will likely affect lines like Johnnie Walker and Guinness as well.

Whether the new labels will stop anyone from ordering another vodka soda remains to be seen. A 2013 study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that displaying calorie counts and recommendations in restaurants did not have an impact on consumer choice.

[WSJ]

MONEY Food & Drink

Our Love for Craft Beer Hits New Heights

Samuel Adams at Oktoberfest during the New York City Wine & Food Festival
Cindy Ord—Getty Images for NYCWFF Samuel Adams at Oktoberfest during the New York City Wine & Food Festival

Craft beer production was up an impressive 42% last year, and for the first time ever, craft brews account for more than 10% of all beer sales in the U.S.

A new report from the American Brewers Association shows that craft beer sales rose 18% by volume and 22% in dollars in 2014, while overall U.S. beer sales inched up just 0.5%. What’s more, craft beer has hit double digits in terms of market share for the first time, reaching 11% of all beer sales by volume.

For a little perspective about how quickly craft beer is being embraced by the masses, note that the category accounted for only 5% of all American beer sales in 2010. The number of U.S. breweries has skyrocketed over the years as well, from about 1,500 in 2008, to around 2,000 breweries in 2011, on upwards to nearly 3,500 today, including more than 600 new ones opened just last year.

The Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as one that is small, independent, and traditional. The guidelines mean that Samuel Adams is indeed a craft brew—the company produces fewer than 6 million barrels annually, which is the cutoff for being considered “small”—while beer labels such as Blue Moon and Shock Top are not because they are owned, respectively, by beer giants MolsonCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Such seemingly craft brews are often categorized, derisively, as “crafty” beer brands because the labels underplay or completely hide the fact that they’re owned and produced by the world’s biggest beer companies.

The Big Beer vs. Craft Beer battle has periodically grown testy over the years. Most recently, a Budweiser ad mocking craft beer aired during the Super Bowl in an attempt to revamp its stale image and boost flagging sales. The strategy seemed puzzling to many because Bud’s corporate parent has been buying craft beer brands left and right, while also pushing Budweiser offshoot brands that are supposedly more sophisticated and should therefore appeal to craft beer fans.

In any event, when you look at shrinking sales for macrobrew standards like Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life, and Budweiser on the one hand, and soaring sales for the craft beer segment on the other, it’s pretty clear which side is winning the battle for drinkers’ dollars.

MORE: Monks, the Original Hipster Entrepreneurs, Make Some of the World’s Best Craft Beer

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Weird Ways to Consume Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day

The Guinness Float
Martin Burns—Flickr Creative Commons The Guinness Float

To haul in the green on March 17, restaurants, bakeries, and bars roll out all sorts of strange Guinness-infused foods.

The best way to enjoy a Guinness Stout is the traditional one: Just drink it by the pint, after it’s been poured perfectly from the tap, of course.

For some people, however, being limited to merely drinking Guinness doesn’t cut it. That goes doubly around St. Patrick’s Day, when revelers—not to mention chefs, restaurant owners, and marketers—go looking for creative new methods for consuming Ireland’s favorite alcoholic beverage. The Internet is loaded with recipes incorporating Guinness far beyond a basic lamb stew that you can try out in your own kitchen. You can also check out some of the unusual Guinness-flavored creations that appear on restaurant menus right about now, such as these:

Guinness Pizza: $13
Frasca’s Pizzera & Wine Bar in Chicago offers a Guinness pizza on the menu exactly once a year—St. Patrick’s Day. The crust, which incorporates Guinness for flavor, is thin, and the pizza comes with bacon, roasted onions, potatoes, and a sunny-side up egg on top. Interestingly, there’s also a restaurant franchise called Guinness Pizza, based in Brazil.

Guinness Cupcake: $3.25
There are hundreds of options on the menu of the Yummy Cupcakes franchise, including one with Guinness used in the batter, glaze, and whipped cream, with green sprinkled sugar to top it off. Fresh Cupcakes in South Carolina, meanwhile, serves its limited-time-only Guinness cupcake with Bailey’s cream cheese icing.

Guinness Burger: $11
The faux Irish restaurant-pub chain Bennigan’s puts a Guinness glaze on a burger served with fried onions, cheddar cheese, and Applewood smoked bacon.

Guinness Donut: $3 and Up
Donut makers have created seemingly every random flavor under the sun, and yes, that includes adding Guinness Stout to the mix. Dynamo Donut & Coffee in San Francisco has a seasonal Molasses Guinness donut, which includes Guinness-poached pears and a Guinness glaze. The Frozen Kuhsterd food truck in California has come up with a Guinness Pear Dynamo Donut Sandwich. BLD Restaurant in Los Angeles has been known to make Guinness Caramel donuts, though lately the Irish donut of choice is the Jameson Chocolate; the dessert menu features Guinness ice cream pie ($8) and Guinness milk shakes ($10) as well.

Guinness Ice Cream Float: $10
Among other places to find a hint (or more) of Guinness incorporated into ice cream, the Lobby Lounge inside the JW Marriott in Chicago is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by offering a vanilla bean and Guinness ice cream float with an Irish soda bread cookie on the side.

MONEY Food & Drink

You’ll Be Able to Get Drunk on Powdered Alcohol Soon

150311_EM_PowderedAlcohol
Getty Images

The maker of Palcohol—alcohol in powder form, so basically Kool-Aid that will get you drunk —says that it has gotten federal approval and will go on sale to the public as soon as this summer.

A controversial powdered alcohol called Palcohol made a splash in the news last spring, when word spread—prematurely, as it now turns out—that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) had approved the product for sale. The TTB quickly stated that it issued approval in error, and that Palcohol was not approved.

This week, though, Lipsmark, the company that owns Palcohol, said that it has officially gotten the OK. Palcohol “is now legal to be sold in the United States. We will be working on getting the production facility up and running. It will take a while but hopefully it will be available this summer,” a company announcement stated.

According to the Associated Press, the four Palcohol products that have been approved for sale by federal agencies are powdered, just-add-water versions of a cosmopolitan and a margarita (dubbed the “Powderita”), as well as plain old vodka and rum. A Lemon Drop powder is supposed to be approved soon as well.

Palcohol’s FAQ page explains that the powder, “when used as directed, by adding six ounces of liquid to it, is equal to a standard mixed drink.” The page also points out that Palcohol is gluten free, and that each bag of powder is about 80 calories.

The plan is to market Palcohol to travelers and outdoors enthusiasts, among other groups who might like the idea of having some on-the-go booze without dealing with heavy and bulky bottles full of liquid. Palcohol might also be added to foods in order to make “adult” versions of, say, ice cream. But the secret ingredient doesn’t change the taste. “When you add Palcohol to food, you’re not really adding flavor to the dish, just alcohol,” the Palcohol site states.

That special quality, however, has prompted some into thinking powdered alcohol should be banned outright. Just this week, on the same day Palcohol announced that it had gotten federal approval, a state senator in Pennsylvania pushed to make powdered alcohol illegal in the state, partially due to fears that it’s easy to hide and consume and could be sprinkled onto food, increasing the odds that it would be abused by kids. Colorado, New York, and Ohio are among the other states that have taken steps to ban Palcohol before it is even approved for sale.

Palcohol claims that states are taking preemptive strikes against it “because the liquor industry is against it and they want to squash competition and protect their market share. The liquor companies have lots of money to lobby for what they want and we are no match for their deep pockets.”

The makers of Palcohol say that banning it will create a black market, perhaps making it even easier for underage kids to buy some. They also point out that there are many misconceptions about the product. For instance, tempting as it might seem, snorting powdered alcohol is not worth the trouble: “It’s painful to snort due to the alcohol,” the FAQ explains. “Second, it’s impractical. It takes approximately 60 minutes to snort the equivalent of one shot of vodka. Why would anyone do that when they can do a shot of liquid vodka in two seconds?”

Why indeed.

TIME Dating

This Is Exactly How Much You Need to Drink to Seem More Attractive, Backed by Science

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, red wine, alcohol
Photograph by Danny Kim for TIME; Gif by Mia Tramz for TIME

No more, no less

Want to seem more attractive to the opposite sex? Drink one — exactly one — very large glass of wine.

That’s what a recent study by a group of researchers at the University of Bristol’s School of Psychology, published in Science Daily, suggests.

The researchers asked 40 heterosexual men and women, divided equally between both genders, to complete an attractiveness-rating exercise. The volunteers were then shown two images of a person, one taken while the subject was sober, one after the subject had consumed 250 ml of wine (equivalent to a very large glass), and one after 500 ml of wine (two-thirds of a bottle) had been consumed.

The photos of those who drank 250 ml wine were rated as more attractive, followed by images of sober subjects. The photos of those who had drank 500 ml were considered least attractive.

The researchers attributed this to the increased facial flushing that comes with consuming low amounts of alcohol, along with additional muscle relaxation and subtle smiles that portray a heightened positive mood.

One more good reason to drink in moderation.

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

Are YouTube Videos With Alcohol Dangerous?

98324578
Getty Images

A new study shows popular YouTube videos make light of alcohol

Prior research has suggested that teen media exposure to alcohol, whether through TV shows or movies, could influence their drinking behaviors. Now, a new study suggests that online videos may also be a site for negative exposure.

In the new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, a team of researchers watched 70 of the most popular videos on YouTube related to intoxication in order to see what kinds of messages they were sending.

To do that, the researchers searched for the terms “drunk,” “buzzed,” “hammered,” “tipsy,” and “trashed” and chose the most popular and relevant videos in those categories. In order to characterize the videos, they coded each one for a variety of factors, like how much alcohol was depicted, who the characters were and whether the video showed consequences of binge drinking. Overall, the videos contained more men than women, and usually depicted a specific brand. Rarely did the videos show poor side effects like withdrawal.

The videos with the most “likes” tended to be funny, and the overall vibe of the video was upbeat and positive when a specific brand was mentioned. Hard alcohol was the most common beverage featured, even though beer is the most common alcoholic beverage consumed in the United States, the authors note.

In the study, the researchers didn’t make any connections between watching the videos and drinking more or drinking more dangerously. But their findings shed light on what alcohol-related content is available online. The findings are still preliminary, but online videos may be another way to target young people who might be susceptible to messaging.

Conversely, the researchers also view YouTube as a potential venue to reach young people with positive messages about drinking as well. Videos could educate teenagers about the potential consequences of behaviors like binge drinking. Either way, YouTube may be worth further consideration by public health experts, they note.

MONEY deals

$2 Margaritas on the Menu This Weekend for National Margarita Day

Margarita with lime garnish
Bob Muschitz—Getty Images

This weekend, you can happily waste away in margaritaville without wasting a ton of money.

Plenty of fake holidays concocted by marketers come and go without much fanfare. February 20, for instance, is supposedly “celebrated” as National Cherry Pie Day and National Love Your Pet Day. But something tells us that people who ate cherry pie on Thursday weren’t doing so because of some random made-up holiday. And presumably, pet owners loved their pets just as much on days other than Love Your Pet Day.

At least National Margarita Day, celebrated February 22, comes with great deals on margaritas, bringing some excitement and savings to what would otherwise probably be another uneventful winter weekend. Individual bars and restaurants in cities such as Chicago, Dallas, and Phoenix are hosting specials like two-for-one margaritas and all-you-can-eat tacos in honor of National Margarita Day, so look for deal listings in your neck of the woods.

Three national restaurant chains have also posted Margarita Day specials, and in two of the cases, you don’t have to wait until National Margarita Day on Sunday to take advantage.

On the Border: 12 oz. margaritas that normally run $4.50 apiece are on the menu for $2 all day on Saturday and Sunday this weekend at the Mexican restaurant chain.

Cheeseburger in Paradise: All day on Sunday, February 22, classic margaritas are priced at $2.22 each at the restaurant chain named for a Jimmy Buffett song other than “Margaritaville.”

Tony Roma’s: Through Saturday, February 21, this rib-and-steak specialty chain is selling classic Romaritas (house margaritas) for $4, before dropping the price down to $2.22 to celebrate National Margarita Day on Sunday.

TIME

Here’s How Many Brits Don’t Drink Alcohol

London 2012 - Restaurants And Bars
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images Beer pumps in a pub on March 11, 2011 in London, England.

A new survey finds a surge of teetotallers, particularly among young adults

One in five British adults don’t fancy a pint, or even a drop, according to a national survey released Friday that finds drinking rates in decline across the nation and plummeting among certain age groups.

Young adults accounted for most of the change, according to survey results gathered by the Office for National Statistics. The proportion of teetotallers in this age group surged by 40% since 2005, news which health officials greeted with relief. The study notes that excessive drinking posed a chronic public health risk, causing as many as 7,000 alcohol-related deaths in 2013.

But health experts interviewed by the Guardian dismissed the celebrations as premature. They pointed to demographic shifts, such as a growing number of elderly and Muslim citizens, who tend to drink less than the wider population or abstain from drinking on religious grounds.

MONEY Leisure

The Fifty Shades of Grey Stimulus

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/courtesy Everett Fifty Shades of Grey

The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon will surely heat up movie theater box offices this weekend. Movie tickets are hardly the only things fans are being cajoled, teased, tempted, and otherwise seduced into buying.

The marketing campaigns and product tie-ins related to Fifty Shades of Grey range from the wholly expected (condoms, “toys” you’d never see in toy stores) to the puzzling (craft beer and marijuana-themed hotel packages), sometimes venturing down the path of just plain icky (S&M Teddy Bear). Among the categories banking on the arrival of Fifty Shades in theaters delivering a big sales stimulus:

Online Movie Tickets
Fifty Shades of Grey was considered a hit at the box office a full month before being released in theaters. It achieved status as the fastest-selling R-rated movie in the history of online sales four weeks ago at Fandango, and Fifty Shades alone constituted 60% of advance sales at the site on Tuesday, February 3. Advance sales have been particularly hot in Bible Belt states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Alabama.

This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fifty Shades has become Fandango’s fourth best seller for online tickets prior to opening weekend—behind only films from storied franchises “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” and “Twilight”—and that the phenomenon could even help get filmgoers more into the habit of buying movie tickets before showing up at the theater.

BoxOffice.com is predicting that that the movie’s four-day gross at theaters will be a whopping $95 million, offering this insight as to why Fifty Shades is bound to draw such in epic crowds: “To be blunt, curiosity and sex sell—even, and perhaps especially, to those who are reluctant but simply want to know what the fuss is all about.”

Movie Theater Advertising
According to AdAge, the arrival of Fifty Shades of Grey at theaters has prompted several brands that have never advertised during movie previews to jump into the game. Calvin Klein Jeans and the apparel retailer Vibez are showing their first-ever commercials before the film in the U.K., while brands like Revlon and Renault are also advertising at movie houses before customers start watching Fifty Shades.

Alcohol
Fifty Shades of Grey wine hit the market two years ago, and it’s “hardly been a best-seller,” liquor store owners recently told Marketplace. Still, the arrival of the film should certainly help boost sales of Fifty Shades-branded White Silk and Red Silk wine, if only for the sake of kitsch.

Meanwhile, plenty of bars and restaurants have concocted special Fifty Shades of Grey cocktails that’ll surely be best sellers in certain circles. The luxury movie theater chain iPic, which features oversized leather recliners and, in the premium section, pillows, blankets, and iPads for ordering food and drink, has created a cocktail especially for the film called the “Red Room of Pain.” The drink is made with hibiscus, ginger rum, and rose petals. “It’s a decadent, slightly naughty cocktail while you’re watching the movie,” an iPic mixologist said to the Miami Herald. “I think we’ll sell a gazillion of them.”

There’s even a new limited-edition Fifty Shades of Grey craft beer that incorporates 50 different hops and other ingredients that supposedly have aphrodisiac qualities. It’s selling for $46 a bottle.

Adult Toys, Hardware Supplies
The New York Times recently reported that the success of the Fifty Shades books resulted in a sizeable increase in sales of once-obscure sex-themed products, and that the film’s release is expected to bring about a second wave of “adult toy” sales. Perhaps what’s most surprising of all is that some of these Fifty Shades-themed products are being sold by mainstream retailers like Target and (in England) Tesco. Another British retailer, hardware store B&Q, has alerted staffers to become familiar with Fifty Shades, be sensitive about inquiries into seemingly odd product inquiries, and to “monitor stock levels of rope, cable ties, masking tape and [duct] tape to ensure that supplies do not run low.”

In related news, authorities in London have expressed concern that the release of the film is likely to lead to a spike in emergency calls from couples trying to imitate what they see on the screen. “The Fifty Shades effect seems to spike handcuff incidents so we hope film-goers will use common sense and avoid leaving themselves red-faced,” a London Fire Brigade official said.

Condoms
Naturally, condom manufacturers have had some fun with Fifty Shades. Trojan released this hilarious ad online showing a couple’s slapstick attempts to channel their inner Christian Grey and Steele, and the commercial is also being shown in theaters before the film:

Hotel Packages
Hotels in Portland, Ore., (where Fifty Shades is set) and South Florida, among other spots, are offering Fifty Shades-themed guest packages with amenities like a gray silk tie, Champagne, chocolates, and “a sensual love kit.”

Meanwhile, in Denver, the Curtis Hotel has a deal that would only make sense in Colorado, or perhaps Washington—the two states where recreational marijuana is legal. The “totally dope package” that goes by then name “Fifty Shades of Green” costs $420—a number that means something to cannabis enthusiasts—and includes two movie passes, roses, and in-room munchies like brownies and Cheetos. Curiously, like most hotels, the Curtis is a completely nonsmoking property.

Teddy Bears
Perhaps the strangest and creepiest tie-in of all is the Fifty Shades of Grey Bear being sold by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. The bear “features smoldering eyes, a suit and satin tie, mask – even mini handcuffs,” along with the understated warning: “Contains small parts. Not suitable for children.”

The Actual Book
Many of the reviews of Fifty Shades the movie say that it’s better than Fifty Shades the book—which isn’t saying much, considering what awful things people said of the writing.

Nonetheless, as with most film releases, the arrival of Fifty Shades in theaters looks like it is helping renew interest in the book. Fifty Shades of Grey has been in the top five of the New York Times Best Sellers for the past two weeks. Prior to that, it hadn’t been in the top five in terms of overall print and e-book fiction for quite some time.

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