Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reflecting on beer and life, and Michael Jackson.

The great beer writer Michael Jackson died today in 2007, at the age of 65. During his career, Jackson, a journalist by trade, 'beer-hunted' the world, bringing world attention to Belgian beer, telling the birthing stories of America's beer renaissance, writing on malt whisky, and single-handedly promulgating the concept of 'beer styles' when there had been no such thing.

In the September 2013 issue of All About Beer Magazine, past editor Julie Johnson selected her ten favorite columns written by Jackson for that magazine.

  • Calagione”: September 1999, Vol. 20, No. 4.
    Long before Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and founder Sam Calagione gained national fame, Jackson spent a day with Sam in Delaware, talking literature and tasting what he called “extraordinarily adventurous beers.”

  • Finally, the Kiss of Magic Malt”: January 2000, Vol. 21, No. 1.
    This tour of Moravia is a perfect example of Jackson on the road—part history, part travelogue, with brewery visits and brief but tempting tasting notes.

  • Tasting Beer Under the Sea”: November 2000, Vol. 21, No. 6.
    In a PR exercise to promote his Great Beer Guide to a group of booksellers, Jackson hosts an all-day beer tasting on a train as it travels from London, under the Channel and on to Belgium.

  • Just Words”: January 2001, Vol. 22, No. 1.
    A playful exploration of the origins of words used in brewing, with the help of a friendly priest.

  • Blue Collar Brews”: May 2001, Vol. 22, No. 3.
    Jackson recalls his immigrant background and working-class roots, and the English beer styles formulated to slake the thirst of laboring men.

  • Celebrating a Great 21st … But This is not Kansas City”: September 2002, Vol. 23, No. 5.
    At the 21st Great American Beer Festival in Denver, he recalls the visit of its founder, Charlie Papazian, to the Great British Beer Festival years earlier and the role of that meeting in launching the GABF.

  • Farewell, Father … It’s Beer War”: November 2002, Vol. 23, No. 6.
    Readers love lists, but woe betide the writer who omits a favorite beer from one titled The Ten Best Belgians.

  • My Tribute to The Coach” July 2005, Vol. 26, No. 4.
    A touching remembrance of a favorite publican in a portrait of the pub he tended and the community that gathered there.

  • The Silence of the Ram”: September 2006, Vol. 27, No. 5.
    A rare flash of anger over the closing of a venerable brewery.

  • Did I Cheat Mort Subite?”: September 2007, Vol. 28, No. 5.
    Jackson’s final essay for All About Beer, published after his death.
In that same 2013 issue, Stan Hieronymous —a writer on beer, excellent in his own right— wrote about the Michael Jackson Collection at the Oxford Brookes University library: an archive of 1,800 books, the contents of 29 filing cabinets, and countless handwritten notes.

Michael Jackson, 28 March 1995.

Jackson's spoken voice was a firm Yorkshire tang delivered sotto voce, and often punctuated by an oft-repeated "but I digress," as many would sit, entranced by yet another wonderful story.

What did Jackson's written voice sound like?

Here he is, from "A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Dish by Dish," a 1983 Washington Post byline (his first for that paper) on choosing beer, not wine, for the American tradition of the Thanksgiving meal.
The most dismal Thanksgiving I can imagine is the one detailed by Dale Brown in his definitive work "American Cooking": "A glass of spring water stood at each place. No wine here, not ever - except perhaps when the men drank it in the barn." So what should it be next week: A little Seawright Spring Water, from the Blue Ridge Mountains? Or, to be moderately more chic, a glass of Perrier - while the men drink Zinfandel in the garage?

Water taken in moderation cannot hurt anybody, as Mark Twain observed. Those watery celebrants, however, were guilty of what Twain termed "intemperate temperance." There is an idea, whose time has surely gone, that, because they were Puritans, the Pilgrims did not drink alcohol. I have heard of poor souls in New England who, in glorification of this myth, affect to enjoy glasses of cranberry juice with their Thanksgiving meal.

To give thanks is a matter of joy; should that be confined by excessive sobriety? Better still, Thanksgiving is an annual opportunity to refresh old friendships and make new ones, in which matter both the ritual and effect of a shared glass is the best tie.

Wine should be more than acceptable at this feast, for even the most ordinary meal without the grape is, proverbially, like a day denied sunshine. Unless, of course, you prefer beer.

Eight years ago, Michael Jackson died of complications related to Parkinson's Disease. Today, consider contributing to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, in Jackson's name. Or, at no cost, link your PC or Mac into Folding@Home, a distributed computing campaign run by Stanford University: a network of thousands of home computers working to find a cure to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and many cancers.

Tonight, to the man who described himself as "sometimes the quiet, courteous, friendly Lithuanian Jewish Yorkshire Englishman," I say, in fractured Lithuanian: "Labanaktis, Ponas Jackson. (Good night, Mr. Jackson.)


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: With a beer, he waits.

With a beer, he waits (02)

A man waits at The Ornery Beer Company.

But not for his beer. The Virginia brewpub began serving its own beers (and food) on 17 August 2015.

A few days later, this gentleman was the first customer for the day in the brewpub's biergarten, a large space with long communal-seating tables, whose garage-style doors can be opened to the outside on a pleasant day ... which they were, on that day, Friday, 28 August 2015.

Notice his glass of beer. The stem allows him to hold the beer without warming it. The slight tulip bulb concentrates aromas. The glass has capacity for a foam-head and for 16-ounces of beer. There are no standard 'mixing' pint glasses at the pub.

Located in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County, Virginia, Ornery Beer is, in fact, the first brewpub in that county.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 32/33, 2015.

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

Weeks 32/233
2 August - 15 August 2015

  • 15 August 2015
    Seventy years ago, 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender to the Allies in WWII. The formal signing would be on 2 September.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • 14 August 2015
    Nine 'craft' breweries make Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States, ranked according to percentage revenue growth over a four-year period.Revenue in the initial qualifying year must have been at least $200,000 and revenue in the most recent year must have been $2 million. At #1 among the 'craft' breweries is Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company (at various locations in southern California) at position #519 out of 5,000, with 893% growth ($6.1 million in revenues).
    —Synopsis via YFGF.
    —Full story via Brewbound.

  • 14 August 2015
    The United States Social Security Act became law 80 years ago, on 14 August 1935, creating unemployment insurance and government-backed pension plans.
    —Via United States History.

  • 12 August 2015
    In a story on the recent rapid growth of the 'craft' beer industry in Washington, D.C., the Washington Post compares the aroma of boiling wort to that of light-stuck 'skunky' beers, and manages to get parts of American beer history wrong.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 12 August 2015
    • Welsh brewery, Tiny Rebel, won the 2015 Great British Beer Festival, marking the first time in the festival's history that a Welsh brewery has won best beer of Britain
      —Via Roger Protz.
    • Stone Brewing (of Escondido, California) won the Michael Jackson Award —for the best cask-conditioned ale made in America, at the festival— for its cask of Ruination Imperial IPA (8.2% abv).
      —Via YFGF.

  • 12 August 2015
    "There isn’t going to be another success story like IPA in near future." Bart Watson, economist for the (U.S.) Brewers Association charts the recent great growth of IPA in the United States. IPAs can finish 2015 with a 27.5%+ craft share, thus having grown more than ten times their 2008 share, or more than 6 million barrels in absolute growth.
    —Via Brewers Association.

  • Fred Eckhardt 1926-2015.
  • 12 August 2015
    Fred Eckhardt —homebrewing and beer author, and a pioneer of the craft beer industry since before its legalization in 1979 until the present day— has died.
    —Appreciation via John Foyston, at Oregon Live.

  • 12 August 2015
    "The Beer Bible," by beer writer/blogger Jeff Alworth has been published.
    —Via Jeff Alworth.

  • 9 August 2015
    The 7th annual DC Beer Week, now celebrated throughout the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area: 9 -16 August 2015.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 9 August 2015
    Ten years after Sean Lilly Wilson (now owner of Full Steam Brewery in Durham, North Carolina) shepherded passage of "Pop the Cap" in 2005 — which permitted beers of greater than 6% alcohol-by-volume to be sold and produced in North Carolina— the state is experiencing great growth in its 'craft' beer industry. As of August 2015, there were 132 'craft' breweries in the state.
    —Via News-Observer.

  • 8 August 2015
    "On beer cicerones, wine sommeliers, and the cult of the 'expert'."
    —Via The Pour Fool.

  • 6 August 2015
    The United States deployed the first-ever atomic bomb seventy years ago, 6 August 1945 during WWII, devastating the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
    —Stories of the survivors, via Washington Post.

  • 5 August 2015
    "Why I Wanted to Talk About Race." The 'whiteness' of craft beer.
    —Via Bryan D. Roth, at This is Why I'm Drunk.

  • 3 August 2015
    Taxes paid on beer during the first six months of 2015 are down 1.7% from the same period in 2014 (and thus, sales/production can be considered down).
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 3 August 2015
    Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon, may be planning to join the movement of western U.S. breweries eastward. There are indications that it may be planning to open its second production brewery, in Greenville, South Carolina.
    —Via Greenville Onine.

  • 3 August 2015
    What 'craft' beer bubble? "Production/capacity ratios are reasonably healthy," says Bart Watson, economist for the Brewers Association. Micro-breweries (producing fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer per year) continue to show no signs of slowing, and grew significantly faster than the rest of the 'craft' brewery category. For regional breweries (producing anywhere from 15,000 to 6,000,000 barrels per year) growth is shifting to off-premises. Data from the BA's bench-marking survey for 2014 showed the average regional moving from 62.4% packaged production in 2011, to 65.6% packaged in 2014. 87% of the breweries responding to the BA's survey reported growth compared to the same period a year ago, versus 13% that reported being flat or down.
    —Via YFGF (Synopsis of data released by U.S. Brewers Association.)

  • 2 August 2015
    • "If the current craft beer 'revolution' has a defined starting point, you might say August 2, 1965, was that moment. On that date, Fritz Maytag, heir to the Maytag washing machine company, bought a stake in Anchor Brewing Company."
      —Via CNBC.
    • It's been 50 years since the birth of U.S. craft beer. Why no celebration?
      —Via Tom Acitelli, at All About Beer.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pic(k) of the week: Sunflower and bees

Sunflower and bees

Bumblebees foraging for pollen on a sunflower, in late summer, in Arlington, Virginia.

21 August 2015.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Today is the last day to enter the 2015 Beer Writing Awards of the North American Guild of Beer Writers.

Do you write about beer? Do you believe know you write well?

Well, then, read this, and act ... today!

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) aims to broaden the conversation about beer and brewing, raise the standards of (beer) writing, provide leadership and continuing education for practitioners of the profession, and encourage and support more participation throughout all media channels. In North America.


Toward that end, the NAGBW has announced its 3rd annual Beer Writing Awards for writers, bloggers, broadcasters, and authors to honor the best beer and brewing industry coverage. This year, there are nine categories, organized by content.
  • Best Beer and Food Writing:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that places beer in the context of food, including but not limited to recipes and pairings (e.g., cookbooks).

  • Best Beer and Travel Writing:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that transports the reader to a place and provides guidance or insight on the location’s unique features and beer landscape (e.g., travel books).

  • Best Beer Writing, Short Form:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that contains fewer than 600 words.

  • Best Beer Writing, Editorial/ Humor:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that provides the author’s position or opinion on a topic related to the beer industry with or without comedic emphasis (e.g., columns).

  • Best Beer Writing, History/ Technical:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that chronicles beer historically and/ or technically, offering industry guidance (and introductory beer books).

  • Best Beer Writing, Local/ Regional:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, intended for a local, statewide or regional audience (alt weeklies, brewspapers, local newspapers submit here).

  • Best Beer Writing, National/ International:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, intended for a national or international audience (e.g., magazines, online magazines and newspapers with national/ international circulation or readership).

  • Best Podcast/ Broadcast:
    A serial podcast or broadcast that focuses on beer/ the brewing industry. Please submit three examples of your online series that best represent your beer industry coverage.

  • Best Blog:
    A blog series dedicated to beer/ the brewing industry. Please submit three posts that best represent your beer industry coverage.
The deadline to apply is today, Monday, 17 August, 2015. (The contest was opened 3 August.) To be eligible, entries must have been published between 1 July, 2014 and 30 June, 2015. And you the writer, must officially reside in North America.

Acceptable formats include: .pdf, .doc, .docx. The submitting site accepts large files. One article/ item per entry, except where indicated for Blog and Podcast/ Broadcast. If you have a book that is not available in .pdf form or would prefer to submit a hard copy, email NAGBW Director Erika Bolden at for mailing instructions.

There is a fee of $30 per each entry. Proceeds go toward winner prizes and modest judge stipends. Members of the NAGBW pay only $15. If you're a beer writer, why not join us? (Yes, YFGF is a member.) The Guild has members from USA, Canada, United Kingdom, and Costa Rica. Membership is open to all writers and content producers who cover beer and brewing, although industry and associate memberships are both non-voting categories.

For more information and/or to submit an entry, go: here. But do so quickly!