Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Wine discussions

Wine discussions

Cedric Vallors (r) – the U.S. Portfolio Manager for Domaines Barons de Rothschild– sits in animated discussions, during an evening of six wines from Chateau Lafite Rothschild, with each wine matched to a dinner course.

The Palm Restaurant
Tysons Corner, Virginia.
24 February 2015.

The Lafite estate has produced wines since the 1670s. It was designated as a ranked Premier Cru Classé in 1855. Baron James de Rothschild purchased Lafite in 1868.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 6/7, 2015.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 6/7, 2015
1 February, 2015 - 14 February, 2015

  • 14 February 2015
    One of history's most iconic photos has turned 25 years old. On Feb. 14, 1990, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft took a family portrait of the solar system, capturing Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and Earth — which showed up as a "pale blue dot" — in a single view.

  • 12 February 2015
    "From beautiful, downtown Burbank." Gary Owens, radio and 'Laugh-In' announcer, dies at 80.
    —Via LA Times.

  • One of these things is not like the others.
  • 9 February 2015
    Austrian beverage behemoth files a trademark complaint with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office against a small start-up Ashburn, Virginia, 'craft' brewery, Old Ox Brewery, for perceived consumer confusion over the name and logo of its energy drink versus the brewery's logo.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 9 February 2015
    Alabama Chief Justice defies Federal court order; urges state's probate judges to refuse to license same-sex marriages.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 9 February 2015
    Fair BEER Act excise tax relief legislation introduced in the House of Representatives. Brewers Association opposes the bill.
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 8 February 2015
    Former North Carolina college coaching great Dean Smith dies at 83.
    —Via CBS News.

  • 8 February 2015
    Anheuser-Busch interested in buying Tampa, Florida's Cigar City Brewing.
    —Via Tampa Tribune.

  • 8 February 2015
    "The current exuberance surrounding craft beer is creating a bubble of expansion that will pop and leave behind losers to be picked up on the cheap," according to Rich Doyle, co-founder of Harpoon Brewery, no longer an owner. Others disagree.
    —Via New York Times.

  • Texting while wine-ing
  • 4 February 2015
    “The Internet must be fast, fair and open. That is the principle that has enabled the Internet to become an unprecedented platform for innovation and human expression." FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Chairman Tom Wheeler writes opinion piece supporting so-called net neutrality, urges fellow commissioners to vote in favor.
    —Via Wired.

  • 4 February 2015
    A short history of the 12-Pack.
    —Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • 3 February 2015
    Too much rain in autumn 2014 caused millions of dollars in damage to barley crops in Idaho and Montana. This and a poor harvest in Canada is creating a shortage in the supply of brewing barley.
    —Via USA Today.

  • "Great Beer = Good Jobs"
  • 5 February 2015
    "Great beer equals good jobs." U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) ans Susan Collins (R-Maine) made the case, on the Senate floor, for S. 375, the Small BREW Act (Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act). The bill would reduce the excise tax on breweries producing fewer than six million barrels. Twenty-five Senators sign on in support.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 4 February 2015
    Where are hops are grown in the United States; where they are beginning to be grown; the 'greenness' of hops relative to other crops.
    —Via Mother Jones.

  • 3 February 2015
    The Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County (a far-western suburb of Washington, D.C.) votes to come into compliance with state law and allow the existence of 'farm-breweries.' Six breweries apply for licenses.
    —Via Loudoun Times.

  • Spirit Still
  • 3 February 2015
    Sales of distilled spirits in the United States by industry suppliers rose 4 percent to $23.1 billion in 2014, driven by strong growth in whiskey and bourbon. Show a slight increase in market share versus beer for the fifth straight year.
    —Via Reuters.

  • 1 February 2015
    Anheuser-Busch commercial mocking 'craft' beer airs during Super Bowl. Praises "Macro beer brewed the hard way."
    —Video via YouTube.
    —Negative reaction from Dick Cantwell, co-founder of Elysian Brewing, recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch. Via Salina Journal.
    —Negative reaction from past advertising executive. Via Hey, Beer Dan.

  • 1 February 2015
    Leesburg, Virginia brewpub, The Beer Joint, files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Closes.
    —Via Washington Business Journal.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Abita frost-brew

Abita frost brew (01)

"Frost-brewed Coors" ain't got nothing on snow-capped kegs from Abita Brewery (of Louisiana).

It may have been 20 °F outside, but festive Mardi Gras good times 'rolled' inside a heated tent.

Abita frost brew (02)

The camera shivered, but the beer flowed. As seen outside Bayou Bakery, in Arlington (Court House), Virginia.
17 February 2015.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ads on YFGF

Since this blog was first published in September 2002, readers have seen few overt advertisements. Until now.

At long last, I've succumbed to commercialism. Each post will now have an ad, placed by Google, at its bottom. I apologize ... but not enough not to do it, at least for awhile, while I ponder if the few pennies are worth it.

As always, if there's a conflict-of-interest in a blog post —such as a review of a beer (or wine) that I professionally represent or a damnation of one that's in competition— I clearly identify that conflict —Caveat lector—after the 'jump.'

Carry on.

Perspectively pinched

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy Independence Day, Lithuania!

Today, 16 February, the Republic of Lithuania —Lietuva, the country of my ancestors— officially commemorates its independence day.

Where in the world is Lithuania?

Lietuvos Valstybės Atkūrimo Diena

During World War I, Germany wrested control of Lithuania from Czarist Russia, which itself had illegally occupied the Baltic nation for nearly two hundred years. By 1918, Germany began to suffer losses, and the Council of Lithuania seized the opportunity. On 16 February, 1918, it declared Lithuania to be free and independent.

That event is what the nation celebrates today, ninety-seven years later: "Lietuvos Valstybės Atkūrimo Diena" or "The Day of Restoration of the State of Lithuania."

This is an image of the front cover of Lietuvos aidas, a Lithuanian newspaper, announcing independence in 1918. (No originals of the actual document of independence exist. The Soviets are believed to have destroyed them after occupying Lithuania in 1940.)

The Council initially believed that a monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, would help to legitimize, and thus protect the nation's independence. On 4 June, 1918, it offered the Lithuanian throne to a German noble, Wilhelm, the 2nd Duke of Urach. On 11 July 1918, he accepted, taking the name Mindaugas II. But, a mere four months later in November, as Germany was about to lose the war, the Council revoked the invitation. The nation survived as a republic.

The coat of arms of Lithuania
The coat of arms of Lithuania

Fifty years of Soviet Annexation

In 1940, during the lead-up to World War II, the U.S.S.R. occupied and annexed Lithuania, an act never recognized by the United States. The last President of the country, Antanas Smetona, escaped, and would settle in Cleveland, Ohio, where he died in a suspicious house-fire a few years later.

Fifty years later, on 11 March, 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, reasserting its right of sovereignty. Like 16 February, this date is also celebrated as a national holiday: "Lietuvos Nepriklausomybės Atkūrimo Diena," or "The Day of Restoration of the Independence of Lithuania."


On the Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, expressing the will of the nation, decrees and solemnly proclaims that the execution of the sovereign powers of the State of Lithuania abolished by foreign forces in 1940, is re-established, and henceforth Lithuania is again an independent state.

The Act of Independence of February 16, 1918 of the Council of Lithuania and the Constituent Assembly decree of May 15, 1920 on the re-established democratic State of Lithuania never lost their legal effect and comprise the constitutional foundation of the State of Lithuania.

The territory of Lithuania is whole and indivisible, and the constitution of no other State is valid on it.

The State of Lithuania stresses its adherence to universally recognized principles of international law, recognizes the principle of inviolability of borders as formulated in the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in Helsinki in 1975, and guarantees human, civil, and ethnic community rights.

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, expressing sovereign power, by this Act begins to realize the complete sovereignty of the state.

But there is yet a third day on which Lithuanians celebrate their nation's independence, or, more precisely, statehood.

A Kingdom is born.

When the German Duke Wilhelm accepted the invitation to become Lithuania's king in 1918, he took the name, Mindaugus II. That presupposes a first. And, there was indeed a King Mindaugus I (if actually named just King Mindaugus, with no numeral) ... seven hundred years earlier.

Mindaugas, born in 1203, was known by that one name only, like a latter-day pop star. By 1236, he had become recognized as the Grand Duke of Lithuania, uniting most of the lands controlled by Lithuanian noblemen into one territory. He further extended the domain into adjoining regions southeast of Lithuania proper.

But Mindaugus had a problem. He was a pagan, as were most Lithuanians. Thus, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, although not in thrall to any kingdom, was not recognized as a 'country' by otherwise Christian Europe.

In 1251, Mindaugus would be baptised as a Roman Catholic. Shortly thereafter, in 1253, he would be crowned as King of Lithuania. In fact, he would be its only crowned king. The modern assumption is that the exact date was 6 July, 1253. And, that date is now another official Lithuanian holiday, known as "Lietuvos Valstybės Diena," or "Lithuanian Statehood Day."

King Mindaugus, by Dail. J. Malinauskaite.

After Mindaugus' death in 1263, the nation would return to its designation as a Duchy. Why? It's complicated.

One reason was internecine warfare. Another was doubt over Mindaugus' conversion from paganism. My parents told us that, as late as the early 20th century, for their parents, one of the worst things a person could be called was rupūžė, a tree frog, a pagan curse. And this in overwhelmingly Catholic Lithuania.

By 1410, when a combined Polish and Lithuanian force decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights —who had been a dangerous antagonist for two hundred years— at the battle of Žalgiris (Grunwald), one of the largest battles of Medieval Europe, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had expanded to subsume most of present-day Belarus, Latvia, and Ukraine, and parts of modern-day Estonia, Moldova, Poland, and even Russia. It was, for a time, the largest state in Europe.

In 1569, Lithuania and Poland would formally unite into a single state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, with the Grand Duke of Lithuania becoming the King of Poland.

Again for various reasons, geography being one, squeezed between empires, the Commonwealth declined in power. Another was the liberum veto. In the Sejm, the legislature, one member could prevent legislation or even dissolve an entire session with a single dissent. A paralyzing ultimate democracy. The Commonwealth survived until 1795 when it was partitioned among Czarist Russia and other nations.

Which brings us back to where we began.

Lithuanian Independence Day

Today, 16 February, in memory of those Jankus, Akalietis, Ambraziejus, and Cizauskas family members (and many other branches of the genealogical tree) who emigrated from Lithuania to the United States in the early 20th century, Yours For Good Fermentables wishes Happy Independence Day to the 2,970,000 citizens living today in a free and independent Lithuania.


As YFGF is a blog about beer (and wine and spirits), next up is a post on Lithuanian beer. Stay tuned.