Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Baltimore good beer man has died.

John Bates (of Baltimore Draft House)

To my Baltimore and Maryland readers: a good beer man has died. I'm saddened to report that the family of John Bates released this statement in the afternoon of 22 July 2017:
John passed peacefully today surrounded by family and loved ones listening to his favorite NOLA music. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. In John's honor, have a Sierra and listen to some Blues.

John Bates (on the left in the photo above) was the longtime publican of the Baltimore Taphouse. And many also remember his years, from the latter 1980s through the early aughts, behind the bar at Racers' Cafe, then one of the few places to find 'craft' beer in Baltimore County. As a longtime supporter and advocate for good beer —and local good beer— Mr. Bates introduced its pleasures to many. An all-around good guy, he was a real fan of the blues: he and his wife Kristen shared a passion for the music and city of New Orleans.

In 2004, I reviewed Baltimore Taphouse on the former online beer review site Pubcrawler, a few weeks after the pub (then called Growlers) had opened:
If you've been to Baltimore's Racer's Cafe within the last 15½ years, you may have noticed one constant —bartender John Bates. John began at this northern Baltimore beer destination (and it's still there, thriving) back in the heady days of the late '80s. Difficult to overlook behind the bar, he was the gentle giant, always informative about the goings-on of the nascent and burgeoning local beer scene, and always a calming presence in the 'kettle'.

But past tense is inappropriate. Pushing the geographical boundaries of good beer in Bawlmer, a new beer friendly bar - Growlers Pub - has staked a claim to blue collar northern Canton. John Bates and his charming fiance, Kristen, have recently set up shop in a place of their own. They rehabbed an old neighborhood Patterson Park bar, rechristened it as Growlers Pub, and began serving at the end of February. There were two taps that day- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and DeGroens Pils.

Since then, they've installed a sparkling new 10-tap system. Now there's Guinness, Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, Anchor Liberty, Olivers Irish Red, Clipper City Small Craft Warning, Sierra Nevada Pale, Victory Hop Devil, Brewer's Art Resurrection, and Dogfish Head Indian Brown. Many of the selections change weekly.

On the 10th tap is a, well, N.A.I.L., North American Industrial Lager. John hopes to wean the long-time locals off of it. Bottles include Belgians and, of course, Natty Boh, hon.

John Bates

A friend on Facebook thanked John for “all the happiness he has brought into others lives.” Which should be, after all, the real point of 'craft' beer.

For John and wife Kristen, in thanks, I shall indeed enjoy a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale AND listen to the Blues.

-----more-----

Pic(k) of the week: Sign of the times?

Keep Hate Out of ATL

"Keep hate out of ATL."

As seen in the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta (ATL), Georgia, on 17 July 2017.

-----more-----

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Drinking Budweiser & Heineken?

Drinking Budweiser & Heineken?

Requiem for two heavyweights?

Two non-'craft' beers from two breweries who until recently had been considered 'craft,' but now not. Left to right:
  • Fille de Ferme
    Brewed by Wicked Weed Brewing of Asheville, North Carolina.
    (Purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev in May 2017.)
    • 4.2% alcohol-by-volume (abv)
    • "Foeder-rested, brettanomyces farmhouse ale. Fermented with honeysuckle and fresh orange zest."
  • IPA
    Brewed by Lagunitas of Petaluma, California.
    (Purchased by Heineken in May 2017.)
    • 6.5% abv.
    • 51.5 International Bittering Units (IBUs).

*****************

What is 'craft' beer? Formalistically speaking.

The [U.S.] Brewers Association —the trade association which bills itself as "the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers"— has 'kicked out' several member breweries when they no longer comported with the association's (changing) definition of what a craft brewery was.

Currently, the BA holds that ...
an American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional.
  • Small:
    Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
  • Independent:
    Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  • Traditional:
    A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients [emphasis mine] and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

It's that definition of 'independent' that, in May, the BA employed to knock-out Lagunitas and Wicked Weed. Notwithstanding —at Thinking Man Tavern, in Decatur, Georgia, on 13 July 2017— both beers, née 'craft,' still went down damn tasty.

-----more-----

Monday, July 10, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 25/26, 2017.

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

Weeks 25/26
18 June- 1 July 2017


At the halfway point of year 2017...
  • 30 June 2017
    After eight years atop the Zymurgy poll, Russian River Brewing lost its position as brewing America's best beer (Pliny the Elder) to Bell's Brewing (Two-Hearted) ... and you won't believe what they did next! [Headline ha-ha!]
    —Via CraftBeer.com.

  • 27 June 2017
    Canada celebrates its sesquicentennial.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • 27 June 2017
    One of America's great pianists, Geri Allen —who "reconciled far-flung elements of the jazz tradition"— has died at 60.
    —Via New York Times.

  • Certified Independent Craft Beer Seal
  • 27 June 2017
    [U.S.] Brewers Association launches new seal to designate independent beers.
    In an effort to educate beer lovers about which beers are independently produced, the Brewers Association—the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers—launched a new seal touting independent craft brewers. ¶ Featuring an iconic beer bottle shape flipped upside down, the seal captures the spirit with which craft brewers have upended beer, while informing beer lovers they are choosing a beer from a brewery that is independently owned. These breweries run their businesses free of influence from other alcohol beverage companies which are not themselves craft brewers.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 26 June 2017
    The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily reinstated segments of Donald Trump's Muslim-travel-to-America ban; will hear arguments on the consitutionality of the executive order in October.
    In practical terms, this means that [the executive order] may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 22 June 2017
    The unbearable freshness of beer-ing. Why 'craft' breweries make it so difficult to determine if their beers are fresh or not.
    —Via Fritz Hahn, at Washington Post.

  • 21 June 2017
    "Craft has become [a] commodity and it’s going to be OK."
    It’s a commodity in the standardization of international styles such as IPA and murk as well as in single brands like Goose Island. You can find pretty much the same beer everywhere. And if you can’t you are still seeing the internationalization of the fib of “craft” pretty much everywhere. We cling on to outdated ideas about craft and the value of any beer at our peril. We miss the actual in favour of the hype. We chase the marketed (whether from the PR consultants or the semi-pro enthusiasts) in favour of the quieter, local and lovely. The experience? Yes, it is still about the experience but that includes learning from our experience.
    —Via Alan McLeod, at A Better Beer Blog.

  • 21 June 2017
    The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the 3-tier beer distribution system in California, in part to protect small breweries (and small beer wholesalers). In a 10-1 decision, the court upheld California’s Tied-House law which prohibits beverage alcohol manufacturers and wholesalers from providing anything of value, directly or indirectly, to retailers in exchange for advertising their alcoholic beverages.
    This case had enormous implications for our members as well as for craft brewers across the country. If the courts had ruled in favor of the plaintiff, it would have struck down, as unconstitutional, code section 25503(f)-(h), which prohibits alcohol beverage suppliers from giving anything of value to retailers in exchange for advertising their products. Striking down this tied-house provision would have allowed retailers to charge suppliers for such things as a sign and other POS placement, in-store displays, listing of a brand on beer menus, tap handle placement and other forms of advertising. It is clear who would win in that scenario — big alcohol companies who have tremendous resources and who could easily out-spend small craft brewers, giving big alcohol further dominance in the craft beer space.
    —Tom McCormick, California Craft Brewers Association Director.
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 20 June 2017
    The new irrelevance of pleasure. Neilsen/Harris/Brewbound poll finds 'Independent/Independently Owned' most important consideration for 'craft' beer drinkers. ("Enjoyable," "refreshing," "delicious," or, even, "local" not considered.)
    A total of 2,000 people (adults 21+), including 773 self-identified regular craft beer drinkers, were surveyed on 29 buzzwords. [...] The most intriguing news to share is that when asked, 'How familiar are you with each of the following terms as they relate to beer,' 81% of craft beer appreciators indicated 'independent' and 'independently owned' as the most recognized. The second-most recognized buzzword was 'traditional.'
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 18 June 2017
    Americans use and dispose of half a billion straws every day, contributing to five trillion pieces of plastic waste, including over 250,000 tons afloat at sea, estimated to currently be on the planet. Advocacy group The Last Plastic Straw has been founded to fight this waste.
    —Via Saveur.

  • 16 June 2017
    At "Industry Leaders Discuss State of Craft" discussion hosted by website Brewbound, Hugh Sisson, founder of Heavy Seas Beer (in Baltimore, Maryland), noted that the 'craft' beer segment has matured and evolved from being a group of companies ...
    that defined themselves as the polar opposite of big beer to one that includes thousands of players competing within the confines of the beer industry. [...] We’re having growing pains. Typically when you’re having growing pains, shit happens. And we’re in that shit happens moment now. I’m still pretty bullish, but now it’s time to up your game. [...] My customer base has a loyalty to me of one six-pack. And the day that I forget that, I’m toast.
    —Via Brewbound.

-----more-----

Saturday, July 08, 2017