Monday, July 28, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 28/29, 2014

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

Weeks 28/29
7 July - 20 July 2014

  • 20 July 2014
    Forty-five years ago, the first humans walked on the Moon. Apollo 11 landed there, 20 July 1969.

  • 20 July 2014
    California's Stone Brewing Company to build a new brewery ... in Berlin, Germany. The large 'craft' brewery is using IndieGo Go to crowd-source one-million out of the twenty-five millions dollars expected as necessary.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 20 July 2014
    As just one example of the rapidly increasing number of 'craft' breweries in the United States: Bristol, Virginia's first brewery - Holston Brewing - opened in May. Three more breweries have announced plans to follow, just in the town of Bristol.

  • 20 July 2014
    "This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I'll get back to you." Actor James Garner —star of movies, but most well know for TV shows, "Rockford Files and "Maverick"— has died.
    —Via NBC News.

  • 20 July 2014
    A life well-played. New Orleans jazz trumpeter Lionel Ferbos dies at 103. Was still gigging at age 102.
    —Via WWLTV.

  • 20 July 2014
    A tourism official for Loudoun County, Virginia, touts the recent growth of 'craft' breweries by finding brewery visitors to be "male versions of female wine connoisseurs at a lot of our wineries."
    —Via WWLTV.

  • 18 July 2014
    Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in eastern Ukraine, killing 298. U.S. intelligence blames missile, fired from rebel-held region of Ukraine.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 17 July 2014
    Elaine Stritch was one of Broadway's 'Grande Dames.' She has died at age 89.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 16 July 2014
    In 2013, hops were planted in 39,000 acres in Pacific Northwest, and in 880 acres elsewhere in the U.S. The 2013-2014 Barth Report (a major hop merchant )shows that "crop year 2012 finally marked the end of the structural supply surplus of hops and alpha acid in the hop market; in other words, supply and demand are becoming increasingly evenly balanced, although demand for certain varieties may exceed supply. Planting of aroma/flavor varieties is on the increase worldwide, more than compensating for the clearance of bitter/high alpha varieties."
    —Via Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer.

  • 15 July 2014
    "One half of the book is disposable; the other is indispensable." Jeff Alworth, of Beervana, reviews "The Craft Beer Revolution", a business memoir and history of American 'craft' beer, by Steve Hindy, co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery.
    —Via Beervana.

  • 14 July 2014
    The Washington, D.C. City Council passes a law allowing production breweries to sell pints at tasting rooms. [Similar to the Maryland 2013 bill and Virginia bill in 2012.]
    —Via Washington Business Journal.

  • 14 July 2014
    Brewers Association asks 'craft' brewers for their "10 Bucket List Beer Bars." [Clarendon, Virginia's Galaxy Hut selected as one.]
    —Via Craft Beer.

  • 14 July 2014
    A “spoke of the tropospheric circumpolar vortex” cools the U.S. midwest and east coast. Used to be called a "Canadian air mass," or, simply "cooler weather."
    —Via Capital Weather Gang.

  • 14 July 2014
    Cave-aged? No! Belgian lambic brewery Cantillon is maturing some its barrels in a World War II bomb shelter in Brussels.
    —Via Chuck Cook "Belgian Beer Specialist" (in USA Today).

  • 14 July 2014
    A date which lives in foolishness. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by the Unites States Congress, 30 years ago, 14 July 1984.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • 14 July 2014
    Is a merger of liquor-and-beer importer and manfacturer Diageo ($80.4 billion) with brewing conglomerate SABMiller ($52.6 billion) in the works?
    —Via The Street.

  • 13 July 2014
    Pioneering jazz bassist and bandleader Charlie Haden has died at age 77. "I want to sound like a rain forest."
    —Via Daily Kos and Billboard.

  • 11 July 2014
    Not an ESOP fable. Harpoon Brewery to become employee-owned, as co-founder Rich Doyle steps down as CEO, and 48% of stock sold to employees.
    —Via Harpoon Brewery.

  • 11 July 2014
    "Via a thin needle inserted through the foil capsule and the cork, Coravin extracts wine from the bottle, replacing it with inert argon gas to protect the remaining wine. Theoretically, a bottle could last indefinitely." Some wine bottles have exploded upon use of Coravin, which has determined that the bottles either were defective or had been damaged previously. Company has shipped Neoprene sleeves to protect bottles while wine is being extracted. Winesearcher said of remedy: “A giant bottle ‘condom’ is all Coravin needs to be safe.”
    —Via Dave McIntyre (Washington Post).

  • 09 July 2014
    A 6-reason listical on why to ignore wine ratings.
    • Points Don't Describe Wine
    • Points Make You Miss Great Bottles
    • Points Are Routinely Misused
    • Points Aren't Forever
    • Critics Retract Points
    • A Knowledgeable Merchant Is Always A Better Substitute For Points
    —Via wine writer Rolfe Hanson (at Huffington Post).

  • 08 July 2014
    Why do 'craft' breweries charge so much for their limited runs? Because, like boutique wineries, they can.
    —Via Boak and Bailey.

  • 08 July 2014
    Louis Zamperini, Olympic long-distance runner, who, during WWII, survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after being shot down, and, after being rescued, two years as a Japanese POW during WWII, has died at age 97.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 07 July 2014
    Compuserve was shut down five years ago, ending a a 35-year span as the first major online service.
    —Via Boing Boing.

  • 07 July 2014
    Anheuser-Busch InBev buys brewery Pivovar Samson in the Czech Republic town of Ceske Budejovice (Budweis, in German). Was the purchase a bid for the EU rights to the appellation of 'Budweis'-er?
    —Via Bloomberg.

  • 07 July 2014
    After its sale to Constellation Brands, is Corona running out of glass bottles for its beer? Owner Constellation says no, but analysts wonder.
    —Via Just Drinks.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: "Hello, hello .... hello?"

It wasn't a call to the bullpen. Was it a call to the beer truck? "Send ... more ... beer!"

"Hello, hello .... hello?"

As seen at the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, at Morven Park, in Leesburg, Virginia, on 22 June 2014.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

The NeverEnding CaskAle Lesson

Cask-conditioned ale is a process that starts at the brewery and continues at the pub. Bad practices at either end yield poor cask ales. For example:

How NOT to cellar and tap cask ale:

Were the casks improperly conditioned (or grossly over-conditioned at the brewery)? Sure looks like it. You have to feel sorry for the guy, but, still, hilarious.

In contrast,

How TO tap cask ale:

Paul Pendyck —star of the second video— is the owner of UK Brewing Supplies. Based in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., he sell casks, cask equipment, and traditional British pub supplies. He dispenses (pun intended) excellent advice on cask ale, and has a few more cask how-to videos online.

Fobbing at the Tut: a series on cellarmanship.
Fobbing at the Tut:
A series of occasional posts on good cask cellarmanship.


Monday, July 21, 2014

What TIME got wrong about "5 beer trends you'll be seeing this summer."

When a mainstream publication takes note of a trend, it's a good bet that that trend has long gone to a 'been there, done that' stage ... or that the observations aren't quite correct. As is the case in TIME's online listicle, recently posted by its Money subdivision: 5 Beer Trends You’ll Be Seeing This Summer.

  • 1) The Craft Beer Motel

    Dogfish Head Brewing has opened a 16-room Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware. The actual production brewery isn't exactly across the street: it's located six miles away, in the town of Milton, and the original brewpub is eleven miles away, in Rehoboth Beach.

    This is a fun thing, but it's one such thing, hardly a trendy trend. And, it's been done before. For example, the now-sold, legendary Brickskeller in Washington, D.C was a good-beer bar, restaurant, and an inn; or this Pensylvania cask-ale pub with an inn next door. Not to mention such establishments in Europe.

    UPDATE: Maybe I'm wrong! Bon Appetit has posted a slideshow listing "10 Great Beer Lover's Hotels Across America, from Vermont to California." Just one problem: I can click through the pretty pictures, but not the sidebar descriptions. I don't know where and what these beer-lover hotels are. Maybe that's incompatibility with the Chrome browser. And, then there's the the irritating nature of slideshows, but's that's a gripe for another day.

  • 2) Beer Camp

    Sierra Nevada has hosted brewers, beer writers, and other industry folks to Northern California for an intensive two-day retreat known as Beer Camp.

    Yes, Beer Camp might be a cool thing, but it's not a new thing: the first Beer Camp was held in 2008. As with the first 'trend', it's one event, not a zeitgeist tendency.

    Brad Tuttle, the author of this TIME Money piece, observes that Sierra Nevada is currently shipping 12-packs of beers called Beer Camp, beers that it has brewed 'collaboratively' with other 12 breweries, nationwide. Such collaboration beers have been with us, in a frenzy, for a decade or so. That would have been a better choice for a trend, even if a dated one, not new for the summer of '14.

  • 3) We’ve Got Monks Who Brew, Too

    Mr. Tuttle states that there are eleven extant Trappist monastery-breweries. He's incorrect. According to the very authority that licenses these things —the International Trappist Association— the number is ten.
    Ten trappist beers carry the ATP-label : the beers of Achel (BEL), Chimay (BEL), La Trappe (nl), Orval (BEL), Rochefort (BEL), Westvleteren (BEL), Westmalle(BEL), and the beers of Stift Engelszell (GER), Zundert (NL), and Spencer (USA).

    A “Trappist” has to satisfy a number of strict criteria proper to this logo before it may bear this name:

    The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.

    The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

    Mr. Tuttle may have been confused by the inclusion of Mont de Cats Trappist beer. If he had investigated just a wee bit further, he would have found that the beer is NOT produced at the Mont de Cats monastery. According to the 2014 edition of the Good Beer To Belgium, Monts de Cats beer is brewed for the monastery under contract by the monks at Chimay, which itself is a brewing Trappist monastery.

    So, to repeat, there are only ten Trappist brewing-monasteries, worldwide, and one of those —as Mr. Tuttle notes correctly, and with pride— is indeed found here in the U.S.: St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. The monks have been officially designated since 2013.

    Tuttle then compounds his error with a sin of omission: he overlooks the other American monastery-brewery. While not of the Trappist order (yet related), the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert have been brewing in New Mexico since 2006.

    Our products are brewed on the grounds of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico and also under special agreement in Moriarty, New Mexico [at Sierra Blanca Brewing]. At both breweries, Abbey Brewing Company [controlled by the monastery] directly controls all aspects of the brewing process including the formulations and brewing process details. Abbey Brewing Company is directly responsible for sourcing all ingredients and packaging materials at both breweries. The brewing equipment on the grounds of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert is entirely owned by Abbey Brewing Company. At the brewery in Moriarty, some of the major brewing equipment, such as the fermenting vessels, bright tanks, kegs, and hop storage freezers, as examples, are owned by Abbey Brewing Company.

    Brothers, forgive him!

  • 4) Sour Beers

    Although sour beers have been with us since beer was first brewed millennia ago, modern production has long relegated them to a specialist niche. And, although, Belgium and Germany (and Africa and Central and South America) have been producing sour beers in more modern history, it is only recently that U.S. 'craft' brewers and drinkers have given 'sours' widespread attention.

    I'll 'give' Mr. Tuttle this one, with a proviso. He quotes one sour beer description as "horse butt dabbed with vinegar and blue cheese." Sour beers are, to be expected, tart; but they are not all funky (although they might be). Reading one of the sources he links to —the Brewers Publications' American Sour Beers— might have been helpful.

  • 5) The Sad (But Righteous) Decline of Light Beer

    I'll give him this one, too.
    Any beer nerd worth his salt wouldn’t bother talking about a pathetic pale American "beer" like Coors Light or Bud Light Platinum. [...] Light beer sales have been declining for years, as has the market share for big beer brands in general, but lately the drop must put the world’s biggest brewers in an especially bitter mood. Businessweek recently cited data indicating that light beer sales fell 3.5% last year, including a 19% dip for Bud Light Platinum, and that domestic light brew sales will hit a 10-year low in 2015. And in beer-crazed places such as Oregon, more than half of the draft beer served is now craft product that’s brewed in the state.

    But, please, TIME. Ditch the misuse of quotation marks as "emphasis" 'emphasis.' And, please check your facts. That's your paid job; I do this gratis.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Perusing a Belgian beer list (at a Belgian beer book signing).

CAMRA Books —the publishing arm of the Campaign for Real Ale— has just published the 7th edition of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium, written by Tim Webb and Joe Stange. It's available for sale in the U.K., but not yet in the U.S. ... except at book signings arranged over here by co-author Stange.

He, and his wife Kelly, were recently in Washington, D.C. to do just that, at Churchkey, one of that city's new wave of good-beer bars.

Perusing the Belgian beer list

In the photo, Mr. Stange and a good-Belgian-beer fan stand just to the right of a stack of his books, perusing a Belgian beer draft list. Mrs. Stange, to the left, had already made up her mind.

Kelly is an officer with the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Joe has served in U.S. embassies. (Tim Webb is British.) Thus, Stange's 'research' travels to Belgium, and, thus, the name of his blog, The Thirsty Pilgrim, at which he writes on beers, not limited to Belgium. And, at which, he's never at a loss for pithily-worded opinions.

The list of beers on draft that day —thirty-five of them— was itself a special thing, as collated and presented by Greg Engert, Churchkey's Beer Director. Engert oversees not only that bar & restaurant, but sixteen other restaurants and emporia in Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia, including a brewpub in the city. Engert contributed a short essay for the book, on "What do I eat with that?"

And, oh, yes. I did buy my own copy of Good Beer Guide to Belgium there and then.

Good Beer Guide to Belgium (front cover)

Stange autographed and inscribed it, finding little common cause between poorly adulterated cask-conditioned ale, as found here, stateside (a point of mutual indignation), and properly adulterated good beer from Belgium (an obvious point of mutual admiration).
Please enjoy, from possibly the original home of beer with cocoa puffs and dingleberries... (with coriander).
Indeed! I can recommend Good Beer Guide to Belgium, with or without immediate travel plans.