Saturday, February 25, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Snow Moon eclipse

Early in the evening of 10 February 2017, the moon was full. The Farmers Almanac calls this full moon, the Snow Moon.

Not only that —as observed over Atlanta, Georgia— there was a partial lunar eclipse that night, a celestial occurrence you could look at it without burning your retinas.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra (shadow). This can occur only when the sun, Earth, and moon are aligned (in "syzygy") exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can occur only the night of a full moon.

And so it was, and so I snapped this photo. Without a telescope. You can see the eclipse-darkening at the 10 o'clock position of the moon's disc.

Snow Moon eclipse (@ 8:30 pm ET)
  • Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL1
  • Lens: Lumix G Vario 45-200mm telephoto zoom
  • ISO: 500
  • Shutter speed: 1/2000
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Focal length: Micro 4/3 200mm
    (equivalent to DSLR range of 400mm)
In no way was this a great lunar portrait. (I'm no photographer; I don't even play one on this blog.) But in my portfolio, it was a personal best. Heck, I even framed the Micro 4/3 shot with the rule of thirds. Compare that to this one, below, a photo that I took the same evening, but —without forethought of shutter, aperture, and ISO— a luminous blob:

Snow Moon rising (02)

Later in the night, the comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusáková flew within 7,732,000 miles of the Earth. Unfortunately, it was visible only with a telescope.

Maybe next time, five years from now.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

More 'craft' barley, please!

The 'craft' beer world buzzes about hops. On the other hand, it often seems to relegate barley malt —just the essential principal source of beer's starch and thus its fermentation— to the level of inconvenience. In 2013, I attended a short presentation at the Craft Brewers Conference at which the lecturers almost begged 'craft' brewers to tell them what characteristics they wanted in their barley malt.

In their choice of barley, craft brewers share, with the macro-brewers, a need for lower free amino nitrogen, lower total protein levels, and a lower Kolbach Index (ratio of soluble protein to total protein). The macros, however, use a high amount of adjuncts in their grists, usually corn and/or rice. A higher diastatic power is needed in their preferred barley to convert the starches of the adjuncts to fermentable sugar. 'Craft' brewers generally rely on all-malt grists; thus, diastatic power is not as important a parameter for them. Macro brewers want neutrally flavored barley. 'Craft' brewers prefer the opposite. They want the barley malt to contribute unique and discernible flavors.

Up to this point, barley has been developed and grown almost exclusively for the macros; where it has been grown in North America, it has been geographically limited. To be clear, there are numerous malting companies and there are some specifically targeted at 'craft' breweries. But, as to the barley varieties themselves, except for some imports, 'craft' brewers have not had much of a say.

Recommended Malting Barley for 2016

According to the [U.S.] Brewers Association (BA) —the association for American 'craft' brewers, i.e., small American-owned breweries— when 'craft' beer reaches a twenty percent volume share in a few years (possibly as soon as 2020), 'craft' brewers will be snapping up fifty-one percent of all malt used by U.S. brewers. To satisfy that demand, malting capacity in North America will have to increase by twenty-eight percent —even as total barley acreage decreases.

Things are beginning to change.

A few years ago, the Craft Malsters Guild was created. Last year, the BA joined the Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute (BMBRI) as a corporate associate member. The BMBRI works to identify and evaluate barley varieties that are suitable for the production of high-quality malt and beer.

And yesterday, the BA announced that is granting nearly a half-million dollars —$440,000 to be precise— to nineteen unique research projects. Thirteen of those are devoted to research on growing barley specifically for 'craft' brewing.

As North Dakota State University (et al.) stated about its funded project, identifying (and commercializing) malting barley varieties better suited to all-malt brewing for cultivation in the U.S.:
Craft brewers represent a 36% customer for U.S. malt consumption as of 2016. And yet, there are currently no malting barley varieties specifically bred for all-malt brewing in production in the U.S. Craft brewers currently use malt made from barley varieties bred for adjunct brewing, with negative stability outcomes in packaged beer.


The other twelve BA 'craft' barley grants

  • Understanding the Genetics of Barley Contributions to Beer FlavorOregon State University
    Mapping the genetic determinants of barley contributions to beer flavor using two very different types of germplasm and mapping strategies.

  • Metabolite Profiling of Heirloom Barley to Breed for Flavor and Sustainability
    Colorado State University
    This research will perform metabolite profiling of heirloom barley breeding lines developed at Montana State University (MSU) to facilitate breeding for flavor. Investigating the relationship between barley chemical composition and beer flavor is an important area of research. Some craft brewers have preference for malts from older, ‘heirloom’ varieties, although the chemical basis for this preference is unclear. Further, heirloom varieties are not adapted to many U.S. growing regions, and barley growers would be hesitant to adopt them for their poor agronomic performance, yield and malting quality.

  • Stable and Sustainable Dryland Production of High Quality Malt Barley
    Montana State University
    Barley is well adapted to dryland farming, however historic production of malting barley has been in higher moisture to ensure malt quality. In dryland conditions, current barley varieties have an increased risk of rejection due to poor malt quality, resulting in a significant economic loss to farmers. This research will facilitate regional production of malt for brewing in the Rocky Mountain region.

  • Sustainable Grower Production Practices: 2-Row Barley and Nitrogen Usage
    University of Idaho
    Identification of two-row-barley cultivars with the best fit for all-malt brewing, and development of best practices for sustainable cultivation of those varieties.

  • Eastern United States Spring Barley Nursery (ESBN)
    North Dakota State University
    The 2017 ESBN [Eastern States Spring Barley Nursery organized by the Craft Maltsters Guild] includes 25 barley varieties from ten different breeding programs being grown in Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Trial data will be available for use by local university/extension personnel to educate growers and other stakeholders on varieties that perform best in their region.

  • Building a Multi-state Dataset to Support Coordinated Breeding of Local Malting Barley
    University of Minnesota
    The University of Minnesota will organize a coordinated project with 14 breeders/researchers across 12 states/provinces to evaluate two-row spring malting barley lines in the upstream stages of breeding.

  • Barley Breeding For All-Malt Brewing
    United States Department of Agiculture (USDA)-Agricultural Research Service, Aberdeen, Idaho
    Selecting low protein 2-row barley lines from all over the world will greatly enrich the genetic diversity of barley breeding and germplasm resources; and help ensure a supply of barley varieties suitable for all-malt brewing. To improve the genetic background of North American barley lines, genetic sources for stress tolerance, better malting and brewing quality traits, and disease resistance will be introduced to create genetic diversity and improve on current barley qualities for use in all-malt beer production.

  • Enhancement of Winter Hardiness in Two-Rowed Barley Varieties for the Craft Brewing Industry
    University of Minnesota
    The overall goal of this research is the establishment of a sustainable Midwest winter barley industry for U.S. craft brewers. This requires the development of cultivars with acceptable malt quality profiles and adaptation to the climate. This project will exploit Russian barley accessions to develop winter two-rowed barley cultivars suitable for growing malt-quality barley in the Midwest; which will provide the Midwest craft brewing industry with more locally grown ingredients.

  • Mapping Malt Quality Traits to Facilitate Marker Assisted Breeding and Development of Winter Malt Barley
    Virginia Tech
    [DNA] markers will be identified to facilitate and expedite the process of developing high quality, high yielding malt barley varieties for the Mid-Atlantic and eastern regions of the U.S.

  • Building a Winter Malting Barley Market for the Great Plains
    University of Nebraska
    The ultimate outcome and impact will be new cultivars and an expanding barley market for malting barley (as well as feed and forage) in the Great Plains, a region with generally few diseases (very little Fusarium head blight), but known for abiotic stresses (harsh winters and heat/drought) and aphid pressure.

  • Breeding for Winter 2-row Malting Barley Cultivars for the Eastern U.S.
    USDA Agricultural Research Service, Raleigh, North Carolina
    Our goal is to develop superior malting quality barleys having high grain yield, desirable agronomic qualities, and the disease and insect resistance needed for production in the high-humidity environments of the eastern U.S.[...] from Georgia to New York.

  • Ensuring Malt Quality from the Field to the Malthouse
    North American Craft Maltsters Guild
    The Craft Maltsters Guild would like to develop a guide for barley producers outlining storage and handling [specifically for the craft brewing industry].

The Craft Malsters Guild will be meeting and exhibiting at April's Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C. But the conference itself —the annual, premier conference of/for American 'craft' brewers— has scheduled only one seminar on the subject of barley.

More, please. More 'craft' barley, please.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pass the beer; hold the flag. American Craft Beer Week: 15-21 May 2017.

American Craft Beer Week 2017

From the [U.S.] Brewers Association:

Raise a Pint to Freedom

For the twelfth consecutive year, the Brewers Association has declared American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), a nationwide celebration of the small and independent craft brewers that make America’s beer culture so exceptional. The weeklong celebration provides a platform for craft brewers and beer lovers to celebrate craft beer.

From Monday, May 15 – Sunday, May 21, 2017, brewers across all 50 states will hold events including exclusive brewery tours, special craft beer releases, food and beer pairings, tap takeovers, and more. [...]

ACBW provides hundreds of thousands of beer lovers the opportunity to visit and support their local brewery and beer businesses. It’s the perfect time to recognize the ingenuity of the small and independent craft breweries that have made America’s beer culture the richest in the world. [...]

Visit the official American Craft Beer Week event calendar on for a full – and growing – list of local celebrations in all 50 states.

A decade ago or so, at a beer-tasting in Washington, D.C., the late Michael Jackson —not the singer but the British-born, then world-adopted beer writer— told the story of a young German brewer who had recently visited the States. The German was astonished to discover the beers of the upstart small American breweries. "They are making beers with flavor," he said, "good flavor." But, he admonished, they were not on the par with German beers. "Why is that?" Jackson pressed him. "Because," the German brewer replied, "our beer is German beer."

We Americans beer drinkers and brewers can often do the same blinders-on and pat-ourselves-on-our-own-backs thing, but toward American 'craft' exceptionalism. In this age of Trump, we sometimes feel the need to denigrate others when we promote ourselves. Could not the press release have been written more modestly without losing the gist: "It’s the perfect time to recognize the ingenuity of the small and independent craft breweries that have made America’s beer culture ONE [emphasis mine] of the richest in the world."?

And "Raise a pint to freedom"? Really? Whose or what freedom? How does this week promote freedom? This is beer, not political liberation.

Some may recall that American Craft Beer Week originally began as an unwieldy "American Beer Month." It became unwieldy not simply because of its 31-day duration, but because it produced an insalubrious side-effect: it also honored American ILLs, the industrial light lagers of the nation's brewing behemoths.

Today, not one of those mega-breweries remains independently American-owned. Today, it is only the smaller breweries that truly make 'American' beer, and there are over 5,100 of them. That's something to celebrate.

If we're honest, we'll admit that there are bad American 'craft' beers; but, at the same time, we can point out that there are many well-made American 'craft' beers; and, in some cases, there are even exceptional American 'craft' beers. During seven days in May, I and many others will be celebrating (read: drinking) that. And we do that every week of the year.

Be proud of American beer —enjoy what we make to drink— but don't wrap commerce in a flag. Skip the faux patriotism.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 5/6, 2017.

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

Weeks 5/6
29 January - 11 February 2017

    Liquor at 36% alcohol market share; beer, 47%.
  • 7 February 2017
    No, Bloomberg. Americans did NOT ditch beer for cocktails in 2016.

    Yes, it's true that the percentage of Americans, in 2016, choosing beer over liquor fell by ONE percent while the reverse —Americans choosing liquor over beer— rose by ONE percent. But no, Americans did NOT switch “pints for shots.” If anything, in 2016, beer remained the preferred alcoholic beverage for most Americans, at 44%, while those who preferred spirits sat lower, at 36%. That's hardly a ditching of beer. It IS an obfuscating framing of insights and analysis by the Distilled Spirts Council, a trade organization for —surprise, surprise— liquor. To be honest, its graph does show a troubling trend —a seven-year downward percentage trend for beer — but nowhere near a rejection of beer as Americans' primary alcoholic beverage choice.

    Gallup, by the way, with less of a dog in the fight, had different data for 2016: 43% of Americans preferred beer, 32% said wine, while only 20% said liquor. And its data showed a rising percentage for beer preference over recent years.

    Data are in the eyes graphs of the manipulators.
    • —Commentary by YFGF.
    • —Original story via Bloomberg.

  • 6 February 2017
    Small U.S. cheese producers are developing their own microbiological starters, in order to end dependence on agra-conglomerates DuPont and Cargill.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 6 February 2017
    The world's foremost authority (full stop) has died. Professor Irwin Corey was 102.
    Why do I wear tennis shoes? That's two questions. Do I wear tennis shoes? The answer to that question is, 'Yes.' 'Why?' That's a question philosophers have been pondering for centuries.
    However ...
    —Via National Public Radio .

  • 6 February 2017
    RateBeer's best of 2016 "emphasizes growing disconnect between beer lovers who use RateBeer and everyone else."
    —Via Bryan D. Roth, at This Is Why I'm Drunk.

  • 6 February 2017
    Good Beer Hunting —an influential 'craft' beer website/blog— creates a new beer website venture in partnership with ZX Ventures —an investment company owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. In its annnouncement of the new project, Good Beer Hunting calls itself the "Grantland" of beer websites, and the new venture —to be called "October— the "ESPN" of beer websites.
    —Via Appellation Beer.

  • Naked Mountain(s) in the afternoon
  • 5 February 2017
    American wine is growing, but not only in California and Oregon/Washington.

    Virginia’s wine industry now contributes more than $1.37 billion annually to the state’s economy, an increase of 82 percent from 2010. Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2016 with more than 556,700 cases, or more than 6.6 million bottles sold. This volume marks a sales increase of more than 6 percent over the previous fiscal year. [Virginia's fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.]

    Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Virginia wineries increased 35 percent, from 193 to 261. The number of full-time equivalent jobs at wineries and vineyards saw a 73 percent increase, from 4,753 to 8,218. Wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 87 percent during the same time period as well, from $156 million to $291 million. [But, how many temporary workers and temporary immigrant workers were employed?] The number of people visiting Virginia wineries grew by 39 percent, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015. At the same time, wine-related tourism expenditures grew from $131 million to $188 million, a 43 percent increase.
    —Via Rappahannock News.

  • 4 February 2017
    In praise of "session beers with ABVs under 5%":
    I’d rather drink beer longer, not get drunk faster.
    —Via Fritz Hahn, at Washington Post.

  • 3 February 2017
    Anheuser-Busch InBev creates an ad for the Super Bowl: “This is the story of our founder’s ambitious journey to America in pursuit of his dream: to brew the King of Beers.
    • Historian Maureen Ogle reacts:
      Yes, Busch was an immigrant, but the rest — Eberhard meets Adolphus, traveling steerage and on foot, staggering, finally, into St. Louis, etc.? Fiction. [...] Even farting Clydesdales would have been an improvement. At least we could have laughed as one.
    • Steve Body at The Pour Fool reacts:
      The entire story of how AB started was nothing like this and it’s not a secret how it did come about. [...] This ad is pure, unadulterated bullshit. And if you fall for it, you are a Tool.

  • 2 February 2017
    Beer might be delicious, but "sorry, it isn't health food." Health claims debunked.
    —Via Outside.

  • 30 January 2017
    The brewing science and taxonomy of "the British fungus," aka Brettanomyces yeast.
    —Via Ed Wray, at Ed's Beer Site.

  • 31 January 2017
    International drinks conglomerate Diageo to build a Guinness brewery in Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. Will not brew Guinness Stout there, however.
    —Via My Beer Buzz.

  • 31 January 2017
    Don't order [beer] tasters. Your initial sip of almost any beer is a very, very poor predictor of what you'll ultimately think of that beer.
    [Me: I am a miserable beer judge. I need at least a pint to come to a conclusion.]
    —Via Beer Simple.

  • 31 January 2017
    • “Brewers and beer lovers are getting drunk for the ACLU.”
      —Via DRAFT Magazine.
    • “Dump Trump. #DrinkForGood.”
      —Via YFGF

  • 30 January 2017
    “55% of craft drinkers say not enough variety in container types.”
    [Me: Really? Not the liquid inside? Maybe Mickey's Wide Mouth IPA?]
    —Via Bart Watson, chief economist for [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 30 January 2017
    Using 2016 data as guides, viewers of the 2017 Super Bowl will purchase $1.2 billion worth of beer, $594 million of wine, and $503 million of spirits.
    —Via Nielsen.

  • Theresa McCulla: first Smithsonian Brewing History Initiative  historian
  • 30 January 2017
    With grant from the [U.S.] Brewers Association, the Smithsonian Institution selects Harvard scholar Theresa McCulla to be its first Brewing History Initiative historian at the National Museum of Natural History.
    —Via Smithsonian Magazine.

  • 29 January 2017
    Since Trump's inauguration, reports on climate change have disappeared from the State Department's website.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 29 January 2017
    “The 10 Best Places in Europe to Drink a Beer,” per beer writers, Bob and Ellie Tupper. #1 in the world? Augustiner BräuKloster Mülln in Salzburg, Austria.
    —Via Culture CheatSheet.

  • 29 January 2017
    In a report issued on the last full day of President Obama's term of office, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a 25-fold increase in the frequency of damaging floods to many coastal American cities.
    —Via Washington Post.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Three for cask.

After three hundred and eighty-eight or so Pic(k) of the Weeks, it's a first. A selfie.

Three for cask

That's I, there, in the middle.

The occasion was the 13th annual Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting, on 21 January 2017, at 5 Seasons Brewing and Taco Mac Pub, in Sandy Springs, Georgia. These three (left to right) were discussing matters cask ale —in the United States and Britain: Georgia beer impressario Owen Ogletree (not pictured) had invited Hamburg and de Moor to help him judge fifty-one cask ales. Of those,
  • 32 (62%) were flavored in some way;
  • Of the 19 (38%) that were not filled with extraneous flavorings:
    • 8 were unflavored IPAs;
    • 7 were sours (8 if you include one British beer that had gone off);
    • 3 (only!!?!) were bitters (or Scottish export style);
    • 1 was an unflavored stout;
    • 0 were milds
Hamburg and de Moor had strong opinions on all that. I recorded those (with permission). There will be a transcript. Stay tuned.