Best Beers in America for 2011

Zymurgy magazine, the official publication of the American Homebrewers Association, has released its ninth-annual list of the 50 best beers in America. To assemble the list, its editors ask readers to submit lists of their top 20 favorite beers.

Russian River’s famous Pliny the Elder beer won the top slot for the third year in a row. Russian River is fairly widely distributed in California, but the only state in the East Coast where you can get Pliny the Elder is Pennsylvania, and it’s scarce even there. At least many of the others on the list,like Sierra Nevada, have strong national distribution.

The top-ranked brewery, as measured by total votes for its beers, was Delaware’s Dogfish Head. The brewery’s highest-ranking entrant was the hop-heavy Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, which tied for third.

Here’s this year’s full list:

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3 (tie). Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
3 (tie). Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
5. Bell’s Hopslam
6. Stone Arrogant Bastard
7. Sierra Nevada Celebration
8 (tie). Sierra Nevada Torpedo
8 (tie). Stone Ruination
10. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
11. Stone Sublimely Self Righteous
12. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
13. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
14 (tie). Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
14 (tie). Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
16 (tie). Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
16 (tie). New Glarus Belgian Red
18. North Coast Old Rasputin
19. Bell’s Expedition Stout
20 (tie). Deschutes The Abyss
20 (tie). Left Hand Milk Stout
20 (tie). Odell IPA
20 (tie). Samuel Adams Noble Pils
20 (tie). Surly Furious
20 (tie). Troegs Nugget Nectar
26 (tie). Rogue Dead Guy Ale
26 (tie). Samuel Adams Boston Lager
28. Anchor Steam
29 (tie). Bear Republic Racer 5
29 (tie). Ommegang Three Philosophers
29 (tie). Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
29 (tie). Three Floyds Alpha King
29 (tie). Three Floyds Dark Lord
34 (tie). Avery Maharaja
34 (tie). Dogfish Head Indian Brown
34 (tie). Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
34 (tie). Three Floyds Gumballhead
38 (tie). Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
38 (tie). Lost Abbey Angel’s Share
38 (tie). New Belgium La Folie
38 (tie). New Belgium Ranger
38 (tie). Oskar Blues Old Chub
43 (tie). Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
43 (tie). Great Divide Yeti
43 (tie). New Belgium 1554
43 (tie). Russian River Blind Pig
43 (tie). Ska Modus Hoperandi
48 (tie). Alesmith Speedway Stout
48 (tie). Dark Horse Crooked Tree
48 (tie). Green Flash West Coast IPA
48 (tie). Summit EPA
48 (tie). Victory Prima Pils

Wyoming Corporate Services – Report from Reuters

There’s a house in Cheyenne, Wyoming that is the sole address for more than 2,000 registered corporations. It is the headquarters for Wyoming Corporate Services, whose only apparent function is to establish firms which can be used as ‘shell’ companies, paper entities able to hide assets,” for other companies.

It is alarming, to say the least, mostly because the dealings at this particular house are not really illegal.

Thanks to light regulatory laws in Delaware, Nevada and Wyoming, the growing industry of paper businesses in order to hide illegal activities have begun to thrive.

A growing niche in the shell business is shelf corporations. Like paper-only shells, which enable the secrecy-minded to hide real ownership of assets, shelf companies are set up by firms like Wyoming Corporate Services, then left “on the shelf” to season for years. They’re then sold later to owners looking for a quick way to secure bank loans, bid on contracts, and project financial stability. To speed up business activity, shelf corporations can often be purchased with established bank accounts, credit histories and tax returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

“They just slot in your names, and you walk away with the company. Presto!” says Daniel E. Karson, executive managing director at investigative firm Kroll Inc. “The purpose is to conceal ownership.”

On its website, Wyoming Corporate Services currently lists more than 700 shelf companies for sale in 37 states. The older they are, the more expensive, like Scotch whisky. Brookside Management Inc., formed in December 2004, sells for $5,995, while Knotty Management LLC, formed in May, costs just $645. In Delaware, incorporator Harvard Business Services markets First Family LLC, created in May 1997, for $10,000.

“If they’re signing a large contract, they may not want it to look like they’ve just formed a company,” said Brett Melson, director of U.S. sales at Harvard Business Services. But he added: “Unsavory characters can do a lot of bad things with the companies.”

They provide a quick and cheap way for entrepreneurs to jump into business and create jobs. Businesses can use them to protect trade secrets. Politicians or other public figures may use a shell company to hold their home so that people with ill intent have a harder time locating them.

The state of Wyoming says it cracked down on incorporation services in 2009 after discovering that nearly 5,700 companies were registered to post-office boxes. New laws require companies to have a physical presence in the state through an owner or a registered agent, and make it a felony to submit false filings.

“What we want to have is good, quality legitimate businesses,” said Patricia O’Brien, Wyoming’s Deputy Secretary of State. “We don’t regulate what the business itself does, but we are not recruiting businesses here that are questionable or illegal.”

Still, if you want an interesting look into the practices and lengths that individuals and corporations will go through to create a labyrinthine structure to prevent liability in the case of wrong-doing, well, starting with that Reuters investigation is as good as any.

Eric Cantor Betting Against U.S. Financial Solvency

Eric Cantor was the GOP’s chief debt ceiling negotiator before he walked off the job last week in a fit of pique. He’s also invested in a fund that will skyrocket if there’s a default of the U.S. debt which would be set off by not raising the debt limit before Aug. 2.

When Eric Cantor shut down debt ceiling negotiations last week, it did more than just rekindle fears that the U.S. government might soon default on its debt obligations — it also brought him closer to reaping a financial windfall from his investment in a mutual fund whose performance is directly affected by debt ceiling brinkmanship.

Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, had invested in ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury EFT. The fund aggressively “shorts” long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, meaning that it performs well when U.S. debt is undesirable. A short is when the trader hopes to profit from the decline in the value of an asset.

According to his latest financial disclosure statement, Cantor still is heavily invested in the same fund. Unless an agreement can be reached, the U.S. could begin defaulting on its debt payments on Aug. 2. If that happens and Cantor is still invested in the fund, the value of his holdings would skyrocket.

“If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, investors would start fleeing U.S. Treasuries,” said Matt Koppenheffer, who writes for the investment website the Motley Fool. “Yields would rise, prices would fall, and the Proshares ETF should do very well. It would spike.”

The fund hasn’t significantly spiked yet because many investors believe Congress will eventually raise the debt ceiling. However, since Cantor abruptly called off debt ceiling negotiations last Thursday, the fund is up 3.3 percent. Even if an agreement is ultimately reached before Aug. 2, the fund could continue to benefit between now and then from the uncertainty. One tactic some speculators are using is to “trade the debt ceiling debate” — that is, to place short-term bets on prices as they fluctuate with the news out of Washington.

Salon’s Andrew Leonard calls the debt ceiling negotiations “Washington’s titanic game of chicken,” and the longer the game goes on, the more skittish the bond markets will become.

“Cantor’s involvement in the fund and negotiations is not ideal,” Koppenheffer said. “I don’t think someone negotiating the debt ceiling should be invested in this kind of an ultra-short. It looks pretty bad.”

Indiana Toll Road in Trouble

In a report from this past weekend, Keith Benman, writing for the Northwest Indiana Times, comes the report that, despite doubling tolls, the operator of the privatized Indiana Toll Road is running out of money.

The private operator of the Indiana Toll Road could be in danger of defaulting on its huge debt by early next year, according to a report on the news wire service Debtwire.

The May report in Debtwire, a Financial Times Group publication, stated Toll Road operator ITR Concession Co. is rapidly burning through an interest reserve account, which must be maintained to keep $4.1 billion in loans in good standing.

The lease has some protections for Indiana, but at the end of the day, a financially unstable operator can’t be good for the efficient operation and maintenance of one of Indiana’s most important roads. I distinctly remember many of us in the state foreseeing exactly such a scenario when this whole sellout of the Toll Road was being debated.

Was Michele Bachmann Confused, or Was It a Freudian Slip?

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was surely confused Monday when she suggested she had the “spirit” of a serial killer.

“Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too,” she told Fox News prior to the official announcement of her candidacy in Waterloo.

Conservative newspaper The Washington Times was first to point out that the presidential hopeful had picked the wrong John Wayne.

“Waterloo’s John Wayne was not the beloved movie star, but rather John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer,” Stephen Dinan wrote.

John Wayne, the movie star, was born in Winterset, Iowa, which is several hundred miles from Waterloo.

Joke of the Day

It seems that the state of Ohio decided that too many unskilled labourers from the neighbouring Commonwealth of Kentucky were taking too many jobs away from native Ohioans. To stem this tide, authorities set up a checkpoint on the Cincinnati side of the Ohio River and dispatched state troopers to patrol the Roebling Bridge that connected the two states along Interstate 75.

The troopers at the checkpoint station began to stop cars at random and inquire into motorists’ motives in driving into the Buckeye State. The first car stopped belonged to a medical school graduate who, on request, presented his credentials, and explained that he was driving to an awaiting internship at a large Cleveland Hospital. Deciding medicine was a respectable field, the cops waved the young doctor through. In similar fashion, the troopers stopped a second motorist. Upon learning that the driver was an accomplished architect, the troopers, likewise, waved him through, determining that architecture was also a worthy profession. A third motorist explained he was driving into Ohio to seek employment and that he was a pilot. Figuring there was always a need for pilots, the state police waved him through.

The troopers stop the very next car. “License and registration, please,” instructed the senior trooper, “And state your business in seeking entry into Ohio.”

“I’m looking for work,” responded the hapless Kentuckian.

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I cut kindling.

“Oh, no!” the state trooper remonstrated, “No more hillbillies coming in here and taking all the jobs!”

“What do you mean by ‘hillbillies’?” the motorist protested, “You just done let my brother in the car ahead of me come through!”

“–Because your brother said he was a pilot!”

“That’s right…and he can’t ‘pile-it’ less’n I cut it!”