Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Dirndl und bier

Dirndl und bier

Autumn begins Monday evening, but today could be considered the unofficial beginning of the fall season.

At noon, today ―Munich, Germany time― the lord mayor of München tapped the first keg of the Oktoberfest. Standing in the Spaten (Schottenhamel) tent, he proclaimed, "O'zapft is!" ("the barrel has been tapped"), and the world's largest party commenced, for the 181st time.

For the next sixteen days, today until 5 October, over 6.5 million people will attend Oktoberfest in Munich. They'll drink more than 5.8 million Maßkrug of Oktoberfest beer, mugs holding a liter each. (To put it in U.S. terms, that'll be 10.6 million pints.) They'll eat more than 589,000 rotisserie chickens, 320,00 sausages, 200,000 fish, 60 deer (in smaller portions), and meat butchered from 84 cows. And, they'll make use of 1,800 toilets.

The fraulein (young lady) above is wearing a 'glamed' up variant of a dirndl: "a type of traditional dress worn in Germany – especially Bavaria – based on the historical costume of Alpine peasants.

Note, however, the non-traditional can of Red Bull at her feet. She was not in Munich, but in Arlington, Virginia, in 2011, for the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, organized by the Capitol City Brewing Company, in the neighborhood outside its brewpub. If not quite 6.5 million, 8,000 people attended that year.

Sixty-five breweries will be participating this year, on Saturday, 4 October, from 12 noon until 7 pm, for the 15th annual running of this one-afternoon event.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What are the odds?

What were the odds that these two Major League Baseball teams, separated by only thirty-five miles of Baltimore-Washington Parkway traffic, would both be playing in the 2014 baseball playoffs?

The Baltimore Orioles, at home last evening, defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2, to clinch the American League East title, and guarantee a playoff berth. The Washington Nationals, playing in Atlanta, defeated the Braves, their nemesis for much of the season, 3-0, securing the National League East title and a playoff spot.

What are the odds that —these American League Baltimore Orioles, in that Maryland city since 1954, and these National League Washington Nationals, who in 2005, brought baseball back to the Nation's Capital after a thirty-three year drought— that these two neighboring teams might play each other in the World Series, the Orioles not being there since 1983, the Nationals never? *

Whisper it; don't jinx it. The Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, and Pirates, and the Tigers, Royals, Angels, and A's, all are yet barring the way. But dare to dream it.

In the National's locker room celebration last night, amidst the spraying of the Dom Perignon and the foaming of the Miller Lites, outfielder Jayson Werth drank a Bard's Beer, gluten-free. Two weeks from now, it's baseball in October: that magical, wonderful time. Anything could happen, and the beer —sorghum or barley-malt— will be cold.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Here they are -- the 'Best' Beer Bars in America for 2014 -- as you voted for them.

"I don't mean to interrupt," one says, just before one does just that.

The Brewers Association is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers, and the community of brewing enthusiasts. For the past few years, the BA has organized a nation-wide vote for the 'best' beer bars, by region, and overall. and the results for 2014 are in.

I don't really go for these popularity-contest shenanigans, but, today, I will.

Congratulations to the twenty-five bars who won, but in particular to those three in the home territory of this blog: Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The first two of those jurisdictions didn't place, but the last one certainly did. Virginia had three winners: Blue 5 Restaurant, in Roanoke, The Birch Bar, in Norfolk, and Mekong, in Richmond. In fact, Mekong, now a three-time winner, could be considered one of the five best beer bars ... in the nation, for 2014. It's a question of organizing your base; as in politics, of getting out the voters. And these folk did.

And, of the three Virginia bars, I've been to Mekong several times, which is located just outside the city limits of Richmond. So, I'll concur with, and applaud, the vote. An Bui, a Vietnamese restaurateur, several years ago recognized the compatibility of good beer with his native food, and its value for his bottom line. He tells visitors that "beer is the answer." And apparently, it has been. He's just opened a brewpub, called The Answer, next door to Mekong. Opened, but not yet brewing.

The Battle of the Bars’s 2014 Great American Beer Bars 

Boulder, CO • September 15, 2014—Now more than ever, bars across the U.S. showcase the wide array of offerings from the more than 3,000 breweries in operation throughout the country today. To help navigate the nation for some of the best places to imbibe, —the Brewers Association (BA) website for beer lovers— surveyed its audience for its annual Great American Beer Bars competition.

More than 19,000 craft beer fans cast over 3,400 nominations for better beer bars this year. Once nominations were collected, the field was then narrowed to the 10 most-nominated bars in each of the five regions of the country. The top five craft beer establishments from each region, as well as the overall winners from each, have been recognized.

Methodology: asked readers to help choose the winners for the annual Great American Beer Bars competition. Readers were asked to nominate their favorite craft beer bars in the country; one bar from each of the five designated regions. Craft beer fans cast more than 3,400 nominations, which were narrowed down to the 10 most-nominated bars in each of these five regions. Over 19,000 votes were cast in total. Voting was conducted from August 15 to September 5.

Regional Winners (listed in alphabetical order)

Mountain West

·         Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe*, Denver, CO
·         Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO
·         Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids, Longmont, CO
·         The Attic*, Phoenix, AZ
·         The Mayor of Old Town, Fort Collins, CO

·         Bulls Head Public House*, Lititz, PA
·         Cloverleaf Tavern, Caldwell, NJ
·         Growler & Gill Craft Beer Shoppe*,  Nanuet, NY
·         The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Burlington, VT
·         The Ruck, Troy, NY

North Central
·         Ashley's, Ann Arbor, MI
·         HopCat, Grand Rapids, MI
·         Lizardville Beer Store & Whiskey Bar*, Bedford Heights, OH
·         The Bavarian Lodge, Lisle, IL
·         The Cellar Peanut Pub*, Oskaloosa, IA

·         38 Degrees Ale House & Bar*, Alhambra, CA
·         APEX Bar, Portland, OR
·         Beer Stein Bottle Shop & Pub, Eugene, OR
·         Prospectors Pizzeria & Alehouse, Denali National Park, AK
·         The Pine Box, Seattle, WA

·         Blue 5 Restaurant*, Roanoke, VA
·         Mekong Restaurant, Richmond, VA
·         The Birch Bar, Norfolk, VA
·         The Porter Beer Bar*, Atlanta, GA
·         The Thirsty Monk, Asheville, NC

*Represents newcomer to Great American Beer Bars competition finals

2014 Great American Beer Bars (Overall)
(receiving the most votes out of each respective region and listed in alphabetical order)

·         Beer Stein Bottle Shop & Pub, Eugene, OR
·         Cloverleaf Tavern, Caldwell, NJ
·         Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO
·         HopCat, Grand Rapids, MI
·         Mekong Restaurant, Richmond, VA


Two casks in August

Bad pull.

"What's this," I asked the bartender, looking at a murky glass of sour beer dregs he had set in front of me. "Why, that's the best part of the cask," replied the bartender. "I tilted it so I could pour the beer for you." "I thought you said this was a cask-conditioned pale ale," I said, accenting the word "pale.' "It is," he replied, missing any irony. I asked for something else. He continued to pour the cask for others.

Good call.

"What's that?" asked the brewer, as he walked past me, seeing a murky pint in front of me. "That's your cask-conditioned pale ale," I replied. "No," replied the brewer, "I apologize. You should never be served a pint that looks like that." After turning to talk (quietly) to the bartender, he removed the nearly empty cask from service. The bartender returned to offer me a different (bright) pint, on the house. He did the same for several other customers.

Cask ale is not to be cloudy, flat, sour, or warm. If yours is, send it back. Tell them I —and many others— say so.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week. Ducks on a rock.

Two ducks enjoy an end-of-summer afternoon reverie, a few warm weeks before they may decide to fly south for the winter ... or not.

Ducks on a rock

On the banks of the Potomac River, near

Belle Haven Marina
Fairfax, Virginia.
10 September 2014.