Saturday, December 09, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Sartorial Charlie

YFGF's Pic(k) of the Week has gone to the dogs.

Sartorial Charlie

Cancer survivor Charlie, a French bulldog resplendent in his snappy Christmas bow-tie, was expectantly watching the Reindog Parade and Contest, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, in Atlanta, Georgia, on 2 December 2017.

The competition, in its tenth annual observance, showcases canines in their winter fashions (and their companion humans). Categories include Best Puppy, Best Adult, Best Botanical, Best Dog-Owner Dress-alike, Best Dog Pack, and, ultimately, Best in Show.


Saturday, December 02, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Canopy Walk, by night.

Canopy Walk, by night (01)

This photo was taken in December 2011, but Garden Lights, Holiday Nights is an annual December tradition of the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta, Georgia. Over one million energy-efficient LED lights bedeck the 30-acre garden and facilities.

Pictured is a night view from the 45-foot high Canopy Walk, a reverse-suspension bridge, the only tree-canopy-level walkway of its kind in the United States.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Is your AMERICAN pub a Cask-Ale hero?

Cask Marque: The Sign Of A Great Pint (02)
Since 1997, Cask Marque has been ensuring that the cask ale you drink in pubs in the U.K. has been in perfect condition. Qualified assessors make over 20,000 visits to pubs each year in England, Scotland, Wales, and Europe to check the temperature, appearance, aroma, and taste of Britain’s favourite drink.
Cask Marque.

Does your American pub (or brewery taproom or brewpub) serve a "great pint" of cask-ale? If so, you should know that Cask Marque accreditation IS available now for pubs in the United States.

In fact, Cask Marque has been assessing American pubs for several years, initially led by Paul Pendyck, a purveyor of cask-ale equipment in the U.S. and assisted by Alex Hall, a cask-ale partisan in New York. Both, by the way, are British expats.

Now, Steve Hamburg, one of the premier cellarmen in the U.S., has taken the reins as Cask Marque's USA Director and Chief Assessor.

What does it take for a pub (or brewery taproom or brewpub) to gain accreditation in the U.S.?

First and foremost, as self-evident as this may sound, your pub must serve cask-ale every day, or close to it. Simply tossing a cask up on the bar once a week for Firkin Friday doesn't cut it.

After that, it's the big five criteria: temperature, aroma, taste, appearance, and cleanliness.
  • Temperature of beer.
    Real ale 1 should be served, in the customer's glass, at between 11 and 13 °C. That's 51-55 °F. (And here in the U.S., we could lower that to 10 °C / 50 °F.) That's not warm, it's cellar cool: neither too cold to mask a beer's flavor nor too warm to rob a beer of refreshment. (Unfiltered beer that is served too cold can could also develop a 'chill haze' as proteins come out of solution, which speaks to 'clarity,' discussed below.)
  • Aroma of beer.
    No evidence of staling, contamination, or otherwise off-aromas that don't belong in the beer as brewed.
  • Clarity of beer.
    This one gets tricky. As classically presented in the U.K., cask-ales should be bright as a filtered beer without filtration. But American brewers often eschew clarity (and some UK brewers do as well). So, as with aroma, the clarity should be as the beer was brewed. No extraneous yeast or proteinaceous sludge.
  • Flavor (& conditioning) of beer.
    Not gassy or foamy; not flat. No evidence of staling or age. The flavor should be representative of the beer as brewed; conditioning (carbonation) should be as the brewery intended.
  • Cleanliness.
    A clean beer-cellar, clean beer-lines, clean beer-engine and/or tap, and beer-clean glassware. Of course.
And a sixth criterion. NO gas pressure used to dispense the beer, whether CO2, nitrogen, or whatever. That being stipulated, a cask breather 2 is not a demerit; only badly served cask-ale is.

When your pub passes its inspection, it receives a Cask Marque metal plaque. The expiration date basically works like that on a car license plate. A pub must renew each year (and pass its subsequent assessments) to get a new valid sticker.

Most pub owners are very money conscious, as, of course, they should be. And, yes, there is a nominal annual fee for Cask Marque accreditation, which helps defray the cost of the U.S. licensing fee and materials. But pub owners should view Cask Marque as an economical value-added business-augmenter. It's an advertisement of achievement, just as a victory at the Great American Beer Festival would show brewing skill or a Cicerone accreditation highlight serving acumen. It's a public acknowledgment of a pub's (or brewery's or brewpub's) cask excellence and, thus, the value to a customer therein.

For further details, and to arrange an assessment, contact Mr. Hamburg directly, via email:

Serving a great pint of cask-ale is not rocket science. But it does require care and attention to detail. So, do it. Be that cask-ale hero. Get your pub its Cask Marque accreditation. And, besides, that Cask Marque plaque is a damned nice thing to display.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 45/46, 2017.

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

Weeks 47/48
5 November - 18 November 2017

  • 15 November 2017
    New England IPA is a beer style that can be really tasty when it is well made, but it can't even sit on a shelf for two weeks. It has no shelf life to it at all. It is the first beer style based around Instagram culture. [...] It is based on the idea that you wait online or at a brewery to get some of this limited thing.
    —Via Garrett Oliver (at Morning Advertiser), via YFGF.

  • 14 November 2017
    "Quad is NOT a style!" said Stephen Beaumont, as he and Tim Webb presented their new book, "Best Beers: the Indispensable Guide to the World’s Beers," at the Brick Store Pub, in Decatur, Georgia.
    —Via YFGF.

  • Sparkler 02
  • 12 November 2017
    The sparkler —for use on cask-ale 'beer-engines'— was invented in 1885...for better or worse.
    —Via Gary Gillman, at Beer et seq.

  • 11 November 2017
    Richard Overton, at 111, is the oldest living veteran of WW II — and the oldest man in America. In 2013, at age 107, he was asked the secret of his longevity. He replied: Whiskey in his morning coffee.
    I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it. Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.
    —Via TIME.

  • Dr. Morten Christian Meilgaard (1928 - 2009)
  • 11 November 2017
    Birthday in Beer...
    Born on 11 November 1928, Dr. Morten Meilgaard would become a pioneer of the science of beer flavor identification and nomenclature. In 1979, he created the Beer Flavor Wheel, a landmark organoleptic tool that the European Brewery Convention, the American Society of Brewing Chemists, and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas soon designated as an accepted standard. His book, Sensory Evaluation Techniques, became a textbook for sensory science. [...] Dr. Meilgaard died on 11 April 2009, at age 80.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 10 November 2017
    "A link between alcohol and cancer? It’s not nearly as scary as it seems."
    In the United States, [a new study from the American Society of Clinical Oncology] notes, 3.5 percent of cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol. Of course, this means that 96.5 percent of cancer deaths are not attributable to alcohol. If we eliminate heavy drinking, which no one endorses as healthy and where the association is surest, that number climbs. If we also eliminate those who smoke — smoking is believed to intensify the relationship between alcohol and cancer — the number of cancer deaths not attributable to alcohol approaches 100 percent.
    —Via New York Times.
    [N.B. See link to report of study attributing cancer to even light drinking, below, at New York Times, 7 November.]

  • 9 November 2017
    It's 28% alcohol; it's more than $200 per bottle; it's also illegal in 12 states. It's Utopias —a 'beer' from Samuel Adams.
    —Via Sacramento Bee (at Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

  • 8 November 2017
    Brewmaster, a new documentary, to be released in January 2018.
    follows one man as he studies to acquire his Master Cicerone certification, the beer equivalent of becoming a sommelier. Another thread in the movie follows a young man who quit his job as a lawyer to brew his own beer and pursue his dream of opening a brewery of his own.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 8 November 2017
    A British beer blogger expounds upon criteria for cask-ale quality in pubs: brewing, temperature, conditioning, dispense freshness, and sales. Applicable in the U.S. (or anywhere) as in the U.K.
    —Via The Pub Curmudgeon.

  • 7 November 2017
    There are 1.1 millon homebrewers in the U.S. Their average age is 42 years old; 85% are married or in a domestic partnership; 68% have a college degree or some form of higher education; 68% have household incomes of $75,000 or more. By the end of 2017, homebrewers will have produced more than 1.4 million barrels of beer, representing 1% of the total U.S. production.
    —Via American Homebrewers Association.

  • 7 November 2017
    New study from American Society of Clinical Oncology finds drinking any amount of alcohol causes cancer, even the equivalent of one drink per day.
    —Via New York Times.
    [N.B. See rebuttal, at New York Times, 10 November, above.]

  • 5 November 2017
    Ray Johnson —the four-decades organizer of the Blue Gray Show, a premier breweriana exhbition for the U.S. East Coast and the indefatigable "I want a keg of your beer" man of Virginia beer— has died.
    —Via YFGF.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Beagle & the carrot

Beagle & the carrot

"That's one big carrot," thought Ethel Mae, before prepping for Thanksgiving dinner, 22 November 2017.

(She posed with the carrot for the scale of the latter ... not vice versa!)