Image Source: Joe Buglewicz
Nearly a dozen new spirits companies are speeding up or bypassing the traditional process of aging whiskey in wood barrels. Bespoken Spirits uses heat and pressure to force alcohol in and out of small pieces of wood, giving the spirit its characteristic flavor and color in days instead of years. Endless West reverse-engineers whiskey by analyzing its molecular components then infusing those components into an alcohol base. The company has received nearly $13 million in funding to perfect its process. While these upstart whiskeys lack the complexity of traditionally matured spirits, industry analysts believe they will find a market among lower-shelf spirits and ready to drink canned cocktails.
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Alcohol consumption has risen during the pandemic but so have sales of nonalcoholic beverages. According to market research company IRI, nonalcoholic beer sales in the US were up 38% in 2020 with $188 million in sales. While that's less than 1% of total beer sales, it marks a significant shift and non-drinkers are welcoming a broader range of choices beyond O'Douls. Companies ranging from craft brewers like Big Drop and Athletic Brewing to heavy hitters like Heineken are finally putting out decent-tasting booze-free IPAs, coffee stouts, Oktoberfests, and more.
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Master Sommelier is the most esteemed credential in the wine world, and to be certified, one must take a series of grueling exams administered by an elite organization known as the Court of Master Sommeliers. In a recent high-profile scandal, several members of the organization were accused of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, leading its entire board of directors to resign. Attempting to diversify its leadership, the organization elected eleven new directors this month, including four women, two who identify as gay, two Asian Americans, and seven white men. The Court has yet to elect four external (non-Master Sommelier) board members and to hire a full-time CEO, all of whom must now rebuild the organization’s reputation and regain the trust of the wine community at large.
Image Source: Guinness
The original Guinness stout has only 4.2% alcohol by volume, but if you drank like a river as a lad, the company has released a no-alcohol version to help mend your ailing liver. Alas, something gummed up the brew works. Within two weeks, the company recalled cans of its new "Guinness 0.0" due to potential microbiological contamination. Hmm...maybe a little alcohol in the cans would have kept the microbes at bay.