Monday, October 05, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 38/39, 2015.

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

Weeks 38/39
13 September - 26 September 2015

  • 26 September 2015
    By the numbers: the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, 24-26 September, in Denver, Colorado.
    "Winners were chosen from 6,647 competition entries (20 percent more than in 2014) from 1,552 breweries hailing from 50 states plus Washington, D.C. This year’s GABF competition saw its biggest panel of judges ever, with 242 beer experts from 15 countries."
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 26 September 2015
    Mid-Atlantic winners at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.
    —Via YFGF.

  • Four thousand breweries in the United States.
  • 26 September 2015
    Major American beer milestone announced at the Great American Beer Festival. There are 4,000 breweries in the U.S.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 23 September 2015
    He came to the big fork in the road, and he took it. Hall of Fame New York Yankees baseball catcher —and wordsmith— Yogi Berra dies at age 90.
    —Via Yahoo Sports.

  • 19 September 2015
    "We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners." Roman Catholic Pope Francis I, a native of Argentina, visits the United States for the first time as pope.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • Prost! (01)

  • 19 September 2015
    Oktoberfest, the world's largest party began today, in Munich, Germany. To continue for 16 days until 4 October.
    —Via Oktoberfest.

  • 18 September 2015
    How hops prevent infection in beer: they cause bacteria to 'starve.'
    —Via LarsBlog.

  • 16 September 2015
    What would be the impact be on U.S. 'craft' brewers if Anheuser-Busch InBev would purchase SABMiller?
    —Not so much in the immediate future, via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 16 September 2015
    Today would have been the 90th birthday for blues guitarist, singer, and composer, B.B. King, who died 14 May.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • 14 September 2015
    The "invisible" men and women of good beer: importers.
    —Via Jeff Alworth, at Beervana.

  • 15 September 2015
    MillerCoors to close its Eden, North Carolina, brewery, which began operations in 1978.
    —Via Jay Brooks, at Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • 14 September 2015
    National grocer Kroger to pour draft beer AND wine at several of its stores in Ohio, Georgia, and Virginia, and offer growlers (take-home resealable containers).
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 13 September 2015
    Nine reasons why there might be an upcoming 'craft' beer bubble-burst.
    —Via Mitch Stone, at The Hop Tripper.

  • 13 September 2015
    On wine reviewing, and the effects of social media on it, sanguine and not so.
    "I have read arts critics fulminating against the proliferation of “amateur” reviews and arguing that these cannot possibly carry the weight of those freighted by decades of experience and deeply relevant education. But it’s not an argument I can use when I have spent my entire working life trying to arm consumers with as much information as possible so that they can make up their own minds about individual wines."
    —Via Jancis Robinson, at Financial Times.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

He's visited every brewery in Virginia; and shows you how to.

I caught up with the peripatetic Rayner (Ray) Johnson, Friday afternoon, at Port City Brewing, a production-brewery located in a light-industry-zoned area in a neighborhood at the southwestern corner of the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

We were both there, along with many others, to congratulate owner Bill Butcher, head brewer Jonathan Reeves, and the entire brewery staff of Port City. The brewery had just won Small Brewery of the Year, the previous Saturday, at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), in Denver, Colorado.*

Three medals for Port City (2015 GABF)

Bill Butcher sat down with us for a few minutes. He was soaking in the good feelings. He told his brewery staff to do the same, even though they, of course, needed no prompting. "But temper this," he said he had admonished them, "with the memory of the feelings we had last year when we won nothing" (after having won four medals in 2013, and one in 2012, the year the brewery opened).

The [U.S.] Brewers Association has determined that there are now four thousand breweries in the U.S., with nearly two opening every day. The competition will only become fiercer, Butcher added, making national victories —especially for smaller breweries like his — much more difficult to attain in the future.

As the Port City taproom began to fill with well-wishers, Ray Johnson was up and schmoozing, busy passing out complimentary copies of the November/December issue of Virginia Craft Beer magazine, for which he is the Distribution Manager for Northern Virginia. I know this because he gave me his business card.

Beer and magazine

In 2014, Johnson visited every brewery in Virginia, and had a beer at each. There were eighty-two breweries in the Commonwealth last year, give or take. This year, there are one-hundred twenty-five.

Johnson —who is better known as the long-time organizer of the annual Blue & Gray Breweriana Show, in Fredericksburg, Virginia— maintains a database of each brewery visit, and a spreadsheet of those he has yet to visit. He has a watch-list of one-hundred fifty breweries currently in planning, and, of those, forty that are scheduled to open by early 2016. It's as up-to-date as he can keep it, he told me. The rapid growth of brewery openings makes the task, well, a labor of love.

Virginia breweries spreadsheet

Writing in the current issue of Virginia Craft Beer Magazine (October/November 2015), Johnson put some order into it all, creating six 'brewery trails': highway-arranged brewery-jaunts in the state.
  • I-95 Trail (Alexandria to Petersburg)
  • I-64 East Trail (Toano to Smithfield)
  • I-64 West Trail (Richmond to Danville)
  • I-66 Trail (Arlington to Sperryville)
  • Route 7 Trail (Capital Beltway to Bluemont)
  • I-81 Trail (Winchester to Bristol: the longest of the 'trails', running over 314 miles, north to south.)
In his article, Johnson listed the breweries and brewpubs of his I-95 and Route 7 trails. He'll do the same for the remaining four in upcoming issues.

Ray Johnson of Virginia Craft Beer Magazine

There are four, more formal, brewery trails in Virginia, independent of Johnson's research, each with its own website: -----more-----

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Socks of a brewer

Socks of a brewer (02)

The 'hose' couture of Matt Ryan, lead brewer for Mad Fox Brewing Company, in Falls Church, Virginia. This is just one of many colorful pairs in his closet.

As seen at the brewpub's 4th annual Hoppy Oktoberfest, an outdoor festival to which several mid-Atlantic-area breweries brought their Oktoberfest-style lagers, autumnal beers, and IPAs.

19 September 2015.


Friday, October 02, 2015

Beer blogging: beating that drum to the emptiness of the universe.

Session 104: Quick! Write... And Make It Good!! The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, begun in March of 2007 by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

On the first Friday of every month, a pre-determined beer blogger hosts The Session: Beer Blogging Friday. He or she chooses a specific, beer-related topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and posts a roundup of all the responses received. For more information, view the archive page.

When no potential host stepped forward to host October's edition, the 104th, The Session's co-creator, Jay Brooks, seemed to suffer an existential pang of doubt:

Way back in early 2007, Stan Hieronymus had an idea, one he’d borrowed from the wine bloggers, who at the time were further along in both numbers and longevity. That idea was Beer Blogging Friday, the monthly Session that takes place on the first Friday of each month. The plan was simple. Beer bloggers from around the world would get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic each month, on the first Friday.

Lately, however, it’s been hard finding hosts and fewer and fewer people have been stepping up. For the last year or so, we’ve limped along, and we’ve been able to keep going only by the skin of our teeth. There have been more than a few months when someone stepped up just in the nick of time and offered to host. Should we keep the monthly Session going, or put it out to pasture, and declare it past its prime and no longer of any enduring interest? Certainly beer blogging has changed in the eight years since we started the Session. When I asked Stan [Hieronymous, beer blogger, writer, and co-founder of The Session] yesterday — since it’s really his baby — he wondered if we should “take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course,” noting that “it lasted longer than the similar wine project” that inspired it.

To the rescue came Alan McLeod —beer writer and author of blog A Good Beer Blog.
I was going to tell you to write anything you feel like whether it makes any sense or not... but then I realized that's what you do anyway. Especially you. Yes, you!! So you are going to write about this: if we just "take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course” aren't we really admitting that beer blogging is a massive failure? I say no. I say this is a fabulous way to cover up problem drinking with anti-social internet addictions. Maybe you know of another reason we should keep writing and try to make some sense of the beer and brewing world. Well, goodie for you. Write about it. Explain yourself. Because if you can't you are really admitting (i) you've wasted the best part of the last decade or (ii) you live in a fantasy world where think you are a beer writer and not a beer blogger and that's soooooo much more important.

Alan, you've asked:
If we just "take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course” aren't we really admitting that beer blogging is a massive failure?

Well, in three words: I think not. In more words: you're foisting a false dilemma upon us. Or a claim to beer-blogging exceptionalism.

As I write this, Hurricane Joachin is bearing down on me —or maybe it isn't.
The weather Sunday and Monday remains highly uncertain with heavy rain…strong gusty winds…tidal flooding and erosion remaining a concern…though it could just turn out to be a partly sunny and breezy day.
—The National Weather Service

That's a C.Y.A. hoot.

To be well-prepared —for either contingency: emergency or autumn life as normal— I stocked the larder with an ample supply of batteries, pet food, toilet paper, and bottled aqueous extract of hordeum vulgare —that last item fortified psychotropicly by my friendly neighborhood brewer— minus extranea.

Before doing that, I posted a not-in-any-way-storm-related Facebook rant against corn syrup, modified corn starch, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, artificial flavor, and artificial color (aka marshmallows) as having any place in 'kraft' beer. Smores extranea. As a reward, I was quite wonderfully 'trolled':
No one cares. But keep beating that drum to the emptiness of the universe.

And that's a hoot I'll accept the challenge. Why not?

I'll continue banging that good-beer drum into the void, confident that, somewhere, good-beer SETI will hear me. But better with the companionship of The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

  • The troller equated actual significance with virtual Facebook 'likes.' That's an unsettling view of validation, a commentary for another day.

  • For more from YFGF:

(Some of) the best beer writing of 2015: The NAGBW Awards.

North American Guild of Beer Writers

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) announced the winners of it 3rd annual NAGBW Awards for writers, bloggers, broadcasters and authors, at the recent Great American Beer Festival, in Denver, Colorado.
The NAGBW Awards honor the best beer and brewing industry coverage in nine categories, restructured this year to organize material by content rather than format.

The NAGBW has members from USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Costa Rica. Guild membership is open to all writers and content producers who cover beer and brewing, although industry and associate memberships are both non-voting categories.

With the formation of the NAGBW and an annual writing competition, the Guild aims to broaden the conversation about beer and brewing, raise the standards of writing and provide leadership and continuing education for practitioners of our profession, while also encouraging and supporting more participation throughout all media channels.

Here is the list of the 2015 winners, with links to their winning submissions. To be eligible, entries must have been published from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. They were then judged on these criteria:
  • Readability 25%
  • Voice and style 25%
  • Knowledge of subject/accuracy/factual content 20%
  • Creativity/originality 15%
  • Interest/newsworthiness 15%
Here's what beer writer Alan McLeod, on the judging panel, had to say about judging the contest.
This was my third year judging in the NAGBW... Or is it NABWG? I don't know if that counts as big enough a sample size but a few observations from what I've seen.

Entries numbers generally were up as far as I saw as was the average quality. There were about 25% of entries which should not have been passed on to the judges, 50% were work-person-like pieces and 25% showed actual independent creative thinking. Not bad. Not like year one.

Like last year, I got to judge writings I would not be bothered to hunt out myself and half the time I felt rewarded. Not bad. It's good that folk want to write. There's little chance of making money out of beer writing, so it's likely out of honest interest. Which is good. It's quite sad that breweries don't support good beer writing, but that doesn't change how I feel about good writing.

Congratulations to all the winners. I recommend folk read what they wrote. Click on the links; they're free. Buy the books; they're enjoyable and educational, and they further a good cause. Beer.