October’s Best Reads on Drinks and Drinking

Welcome to The PUNCHbowl, a monthly installment where we share our favorite long reads on all things drinks and nightlife. This month: molecularly cloned wine, baijiu's "tequila moment," New Albion Brewing's enduring impact on craft beer and more.

The millennia-old Chinese liquor, baijiu, is undergoing a particular transformation as some producers attempt to appeal to a Western audience, in the hopes of engineering a “tequila moment” for the spirit. From experimenting with different flavor infusions to lowering the alcohol content, Bloomberg covers the trend. [Bloomberg]

In 1976, Jack McAuliffe founded New Albion Brewing Co., which would, in its short, six-year lifetime, come to embody the craft ethos and authentic approach to beer that inspired the next generation of craft brewers—including then-nascent Sierra Nevada. Food Republic looks at how, decades after its closure, New Albion continues to impact the state of craft beer today. [Food Republic]

Inspired by tasting the 1973 Chateau Montelena chardonnay that famously disrupted the 1976 Judgement of Paris, Alec Lee set his sights on creating his own disruption—of the wine industry itself. Lee’s Ava Winery is now creating “molecular clones” of priceless vintages, challenging the meaning of wine and its attendant notions of tradition, mythology and authenticity. [Munchies]

As the number of craft brewers continues to rise in the U.S., so does the number of independent brewers selling out to Big Beer. Thrillist delves into the phenomenon of craft-gone-corporate—and the limits of the term “craft”—from the perspectives of brewers, buyers and drinkers. [Thrillist]

From the freely drinking founding father of Pakistan to the teetotaler prime minister who, in the ’70s, made the consumption of alcohol punishable by 80 lashes, majority-Muslim Pakistan has had a tumultuous alcoholic history. At the center of it all is Murree Brewery, the largest producer of alcohol in the country, and its only legal one. In Roads & Kingdoms, Haseeb Asif explores the role Murree plays in Pakistan’s complicated relationship with booze. [Roads & Kingdoms]

For some producers, the term “biodynamic winemaking” goes beyond the traditional definition to include a quasi-ritualistic compliance with the phases of the moon and the celestial calendar. One New York Times reporter immerses herself in the Tuscan wine country that’s home to a number of biodynamic vineyards, chronicling the winemaking approach behind some of the region’s most noteworthy wines. [New York Times]

Several groups of ampelographers—those devoted to the study, identification and classification of grapevines—have added to their mission the preservation of rare varieties. Afar tags along as these groups seek out uncommon indigenous grapes throughout Europe, many of which pose potential solutions to the impending threat of climate change on grape harvesting—and, if nothing else, provide a historical record of human taste. [Afar]