Sunday, August 02, 2015

Two days before DC Beer Week, it's Cask Night!

The 7th annual DC Beer Week officially begins next Sunday, 9 August ...

...but just before that, on Friday and Saturday, 7/8 August, Barrett Lauer, brewer at the District Chophouse in downtown Washington, D.C., hosts an unofficial kickoff: Cask Night & Cask Day, a two-day festival of locally-produced 'cask-conditioned' ales.

Cask Night and Day_2015

What is 'cask-conditioned' ale —often referred to as 'real ale'? CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale in the U.K.) has this handy definition:
a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide.

In the U.S., American 'craft' brewers often infuse their cask ales with non-traditional ingredients and flavorings, such as fruits, vegetables, or spices.

Several breweries in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have already pledged to send a cask ale apiece to Cask Night & Day. The line-up, so far, will be twenty-four beers: nine each from breweries in the District and Maryland; and six from Virginia. Each cask ale will be served Friday evening for Cask Night, and, again, Saturday afternoon for Cask Day. Plans may change and different casks appear, and ten of the beers remain yet to be announced. I'll update this post as new details arrive.

  • WASHINGTON, D.C. (9)
    • 3 Stars Brewing (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Mike McGarvey
      • ---> Peppercorn Saison
      • Style: Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale, brewed with peppercorns; aged on cherries.
      • Specs: 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv); cask infused with cherries.
    • Atlas Brew Works (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Will Durgin
      • ---> TBA
    • Bluejacket (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Josh Chapman
      • ---> TBA
    • DC Brau (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Jeff Hancock
      • ---> TBA
    • District ChopHouse (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Barrett Lauer
      • ---> Cheque Please
      • Style: Czech Style Pilsner
      • Specs: 5.7% abv; 70 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Hallertau Blanc; infused with hull melon.
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Washington, D.C., downtown)
      Brewer: Scott Lasater
      • ---> TBA
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Washington, D.C., Navy Yard)
      Brewer: Travis Tedrow
      • ---> Cream Stout
      • Style: Milk Stout with lactose
      • Specs: 5.6% abv; 23 IBUs.
    • Hellbender Brewing Company (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Ben Evans
      • ---> Saison
      • Style: Hopped Saison
      • Specs: 5.9% abv; 25 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Galaxy.
    • Right Proper Brewery (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Nathan Zeender
      • ---> TBA

  • MARYLAND (9)
    • The Brewers Art (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Steve Frazier
      • ---> Birdhouse
      • Style: American Style Pale Ale
      • Specs: 5% abv; 32 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Simcoe hops.
    • Franklin's Restaurant and Brewery (Hyattsville, Maryland)
      Brewer: Mike Roy
      • ---> Sourgarden
      • Style: Kettle Sour ale with garden herbs.
      • Specs: 5% abv; 9 IBUs.
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Rockville, Maryland)
      Brewer: Christian Layke
      • ---> ESB
      • Style: Extra Special Bitter
      • Specs: TBA
    • Heavy Seas Beer (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Chris Leonard
      • ---> Cross Bones
      • Style: Session IPA
      • Specs: 4.5% abv; 35 IBUs; cask infused with dried grapefruit.
    • Key Brewing Company (Dundalk, Maryland)
      Brewer: Mike McDonald
      • ---> TBA
    • Oliver Brewing Company (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Steve Jones
      • ---> One Last Laugh in a Place of Dying
      • Style: Southern Hemisphere IPA
      • Specs: 7.5% abv; 80 IBUs.
    • Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant (Bethesda, Maryland)
      Brewer: Geoff Lively
      • ---> Scottish Export
      • Style: Scottish Export
      • Specs: 5.5% abv; 19 IBUs.
    • Union Craft Brewing Company (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Kevin Blodger
      • ---> TBA

  • VIRGINIA (6)
    • Capitol City Brewing Company (Arlington, Virginia)
      Brewer: Kristi Mathews-Griner
      • ---> Biere De Garde
      • Style: Biere De Garde with fresh ginger, and black peppercorns
      • Specs: 7.4% abv; 31 IBUs.
    • Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, Virginia)
      Brewer: Jason Oliver
      • ---> TBA
    • Fairwinds Brewing Company (Lorton, Virginia)
      Brewer: Charlie Buettner
      • ---> Howling Gale
      • Style: American Style IPA
      • Specs: 7.2% abv; 82 IBUs; cask dryhopped with Citra and Amarillo.
    • Lost Rhino Brewing Company (Ashburn, Virginia)
      Brewer: Favio Garcia
      • ---> 2200 lbs of Sin
      • Style: Barrel-aged barleywine
      • Specs: 10.5% abv; 96 IBUs; cask infused with Virginia honey, and lemon, orange, and grapefruit peels.
    • Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, Virginia)
      Brewer: Bill Madden
      • ---> TBA
    • Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant (Ballston, Virginia)
      Brewer: David Peeler
      • ---> TBA

Mr. Lauer at the tap
Cask Night host brewer Barrett Lauer is going a different route. His cask 'ale' will be a hoppy lager: Cheque Please, a 5.7% (abv) kellerbier with a bracing 70 IBUs imparted by Czech hops.

The District Chophouse & Brewery is located in Washington, D.C.'s Penn Quarter (which old-timers used to call Chinatown) at 509 7th Street NW, between E and F streets, just 1 1/2 blocks south of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop on the Red, Green, and Yellow lines.

Admission to Cask Night (or Cask Day) is $50 for unlimited tasting (within reason!), a food buffet, and a complimentary tasting glass (NOT plastic). For more information, and to purchase a ticket, call the Chophouse on (202) 347-1922 or email:


Saturday, August 01, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Disrepair at historic warehouse of A. Smith Bowman Distillery.

Disrepair at historic A. Smith Bowman Distillery (01)

Dilapidated and overrun with weeds. The original warehouse of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery stands abandoned today in Reston, Virginia.

In February 1988, the A. Smith Bowman Distillery moved its operations from here, where it had operated since 1934, to Spotsylvania County, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, into a large, former cellophane plant, where operations continue today.

A decade later, in 1999, the National Park Service listed the warehouse on the National Register of Historic Places.
The original building, in what is now Reston, Virginia, was constructed circa 1892 under the guidance of Dr. C.A. Max Wiehle, a physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who tried to establish a town and farming community known as Wiehle on 3,228 acres of land he purchased in 1882. The first floor served as the Wiehle town hall, and the second floor housed the Wiehle Methodist Episcopal church.

Abram Smith Bowman bought the building in 1927 as part of a 4,000-acre parcel called Sunset Hills. Bowman opened his eponymous distillery in 1934 on the day after Prohibition was repealed, and the building originally served as the warehouse of the distillery. The first bourbon produced by the distillery was shipped from the warehouse in 1937. Between 1934 and some point in the 1950s, Bowman's was the only legal whiskey distillery in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The primary brands were Virginia Gentleman and Fairfax County bourbon whiskeys.
Wikipedia (accessed 26 July 2015).

Photo taken 12 April 2015.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Wine zen (and beer lessons?)

Bill St. John has written his final column on wine for the Chicago Tribune. And, it's a doozy. In a valediction, he distills (wrong verb?) his experiences and what he's gained from them. Beer-makers and beer-drinkers and beer 'experts' and, ahem, beer-writers might see their reflections.

Pouring Stoller Pinot Noir

The most important thing that I learned is that wine is no big deal, that it's a part of the everyday life of millions of people — a condiment on their table, equal to salt or salsa.

By and large, we take wine and especially winemaking way too seriously. We've made of winemakers what we've made of chefs — superstars and entertainers. As Julia Child once told me, "We've let cooking get in the way of our food." We've let winemaking and so much folderol about wine — buying, storing, collecting and bloviating — get in the way of our wine.

I've learned that too many winemakers — American, French, Italian, it doesn't matter — can't keep their egos out of the bottle. They tinker with it, putting their stamp on it — too much wood, say, or a lot of phenolic extraction — because they want to make a statement with their wine about their prowess, such as it is.

Contrariwise, I've also learned that the best wines, the great wines of the world, speak of their place of origin. They have what wine writer Matt Kramer calls "somewhereness."

I've learned that, all over the globe (and in many new wild and woolly winemaking places), grape growers and winemakers have learned, to great effect, new ways of growing in the vineyard and working in the cellar. More good wine flows today than has ever before in our history as drinkers of it.

I've learned that wine is less an alcoholic beverage and more a food, and that its proper, perhaps indispensable, place is at the table with other foods. Even a little bit of it enhances a meal in a manner disproportionate to its volume.
Chicago Tribune
21 July 2015.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Is it good news or bad news for U.S. hops?

Three Five reports on hops; five conclusions.

It was all coming up roses, or hops, on 9 July, when Craft Beer Business reported that the 2015 hops harvest in the U.S. would be

the third highest total harvested acreage on record. Washington, with 32,205 acres for harvest, accounts for 73 percent of the United States total acreage. Oregon hop growers plan to string 6,807 acres, or 16 percent of the United States total, with Idaho hop growers accounting for the remaining 11 percent, or 4,975 acres strung for harvest. Acreage increased in all three States from 2014 and, if realized, both Washington and Idaho acres will be at record high levels.

But then NBC News filed a much less rosy report on 25 July:
The U.S. Drought Monitor showed 98.6 percent of Washington state in a "severe drought." The state has experienced hot and dry conditions and one of its worst mountain snowpacks on record. The lack of snowpack means there's not enough water to replenish reservoirs.

Washington state accounts for about 73 percent of the nation's hops acreage — and virtually all of the production takes place in the fertile Yakima Basin, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We will have some fields that will probably see a little lower yield this year because of the combination of water stress and heat," said Ann George, executive director of the Washington Hop Commission. "We really won't know until harvest."

Most of the current crop is already locked up by contracts, but analysts say the drought will boost prices for anything on the spot market.

Michael Butler, chairman and CEO of Seattle-based Cascadia Capital, predicted that there could be a hops shortage starting in 2016. "Next year you won't have more land for hops," he said. "You have a shortage of water. You're going to have more demand from the craft breweries, and so you kind of pass the inflection point where the demand is greater for hops than the supply."

On the other hand, the Barth-Haas Group was more sanguine in its Hops Report, the July 2015 version of its annual, international analysis of the hops industry.
The winter of 2014/2015 proved to be one of the warmest and driest in the Pacific Northwest in some time. There was very little snowfall in the Cascade Mountain Range over the course of the winter, resulting in restricted water availability to some growers in the Yakima Valley for the 2015 crop growing season. Curtailment of supply during the cooler spring months will allow them access to water during the warmer late summer months. Hop growers do not anticipate that the hop crop will suffer from lack of water. Growers in Oregon and Idaho will likely get through the summer with little or no impact from restricted water supply.

Bart Watson of the (U.S.) Brewers Association was warily optimistic in a report released on 16 June.
The topline news is very good, showing a strong increase (16%) in acreage [in the Pacific Northwest] between the 2014 harvest and 2015 plantings, and a further shift toward the most in demand aroma varieties.

Finally, a few words about drought and climate change are in order. Although I would summarize the acreage numbers as exactly what brewers (collectively) wanted to see (though individual brewers may be various levels of pleased), the yield question is huge. A low yielding crop could easily swing a five million pound projected increase (over 2014) to a five million or – in worst case scenarios – ten million pound decrease. You don’t have to be an economist to guess what spot prices and future contracts would look like given that scenario. In addition, long term water issues could have devastating effects on the ability of new plantings to mature.

And, at Appellation Beer, Stan Hieronymus reported this today:
Earlier this week, Otmar Weingarten of the German Hop Growers Association told the those attending International Hop Growers Congress in Bavaria that production in Germany’s main hop growing regions would likely fall 12 to 22 percent short of earlier predictions. And Ann George, executive director of the Hop Growers of America, said that US alpha varieties yield would be down up to 5 percent and aroma varieties off 10 to 15 percent.

What about all the local, small-farm, non-Pacific Northwest hops we're hearing about? Again, Bart Watson:
Some of these pressures may be mitigated down the line by hop growing regions outside the Pacific NW. Michigan has ~400 acres now and another ~400 being planted and strung. Other regions like the Northeast are also being expanded. Nevertheless, in the grand scheme, a few thousand acres here and there do very little in a hop market if the ~44,000 acres in WA, OR, and ID see serious shocks.

Wait and see, but the bottom-dollar line is that breweries should have secured their hops contracts by now. Or, as Mr. Watson suggests: "If you want to throw in a little rain dance, that would be fine too."


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 28/29, 2015.

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

Weeks 26/27
5 July - 18 July 2015

  • 18 July 2015
    "Hops have worked their way to the gustatory core of most craft beer recipes." That, and the results of an annual look at the world hops business from the Barth-Haas Group.
    —Via Stan Hieronymus, at Appellation Beer.

  • 17 July 2015
    Belgian brewery, Duvel Moortgat, buys its third American 'craft' brewery: Firestone-Walker, in Paso Robles, California.
    —Via USA Today.

  • 15 July 2015
    Since 1996, Pabst has been a contract brewery; its beers brewed for it by others. Now, Pabst is to brew beer again, on the grounds of its former headquarters, in Milwaukee. But not its flagship Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR); and the facility will be a small brewpub.
    —Via USA Today.

  • 13 July 2015
    More than 150 beer writers from across the U.S. participated in the 2015 iteration of the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference, in Asheville, North Carolina. The conference included “a lot of beer,” but it’s not just an excuse to drink, said conference organizer, Allan Wright of Zephyr Adventures and Taste Vacations. “This is a a professional conference, not a drinker’s conference. “Everyone who comes is fairly committed” to writing about beer, he said.
    —Via Asheville Citizen-Times.

  • 10 July 2015
    The (U.S.) Brewers Association published the results of its annual “Brewery Operations Benchmarking Survey.” This year’s review, based on 2014 operations, featured responses from three hundred ten unique breweries in forty-six states, all of which responded to questions in the areas of human resources, sales and marketing, and brewing and financial operations.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 14 July 2015
    After a nine and one-half year voyage of three billion miles, NASA's New Horizons probe passed within seven thousand eight hundred miles of the dwarf planet Pluto's surface.
    —Via Sydney Morning Herald.

  • 13 July 2015
    European leaders agree to economic 'rescue' plan for Greek government and banks, averting default.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 12 July 2015
    An asset management company, using the price of beer sold at Oktoberfest in Munich over fifty years as a benchmark, creates a gold-to-beer price index, and finds that beer in 2015 is relatively inexpensive.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 10 July 2015
    Doh! Cartoon character Homer Simpson's beer of choice, Duff Beer, to be brewed in reality, and sold, licensed by Fox TV, in Chile.
    —Via Wall Street Journal.

    Hops in Annandale (03)
  • 9 July 2015
    The 2015 hop harvest in the U.S. "will be the third highest total harvested acreage on record. Washington, with 32,205 acres for harvest, accounts for 73 percent of the United States total acreage. Oregon hop growers plan to string 6,807 acres, or 16 percent of the United States total, with Idaho hop growers accounting for the remaining 11 percent, or 4,975 acres strung for harvest. Acreage increased in all three States from 2014 and, if realized, both Washington and Idaho acres will be at record high levels."
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 5 July 2015
    The science of beer and food pairing: finding the affinity between flavor compounds in beer and those in food.
    —Via Matt Humbard, at A Ph.D. in Beer.

  • 5 July 2015
    "Don't waste your piss." A Danish music festival recycles urine to fertilize barley used to brew beer.
    —ViaDaily Mail.

  • 5 July 2015
    How many calories are in your beer? Use this formula: "cal per 12 oz beer = [(6.9 × ABW) + 4.0 × (RE - 0.1)] × FG × 3.55." Or, to approximate: multiply the beer's alcohol content percentage (ABV) by 2.5, and that by the number of ounces of beer.
    —Via Beer of Tomorrow.

  • 5 July 2015
    In May, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) released its 2015 Beer Guidelines. The first major revision since 2008, the guidelines list thirty-four categories of beer 'styles,' and one hundred-nineteen sub-categories. The BJCP was founded in 1985 to "develop standardized tools, methods, and processes for the structured evaluation, ranking and feedback of beer, mead, and cider," and to "certify and rank beer judges through an examination and monitoring process, sanction competitions, and provide educational resources."
    —Via BJCP.

  • 5 July 2015
    "Like grammar, beer styles have a functional use. They help us communicate. They are provisional agreements." Beer writer Jeff Alworth examines the utility and limitations of beer 'styles.'
    —Via All About Beer.