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.


Monday, September 08, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 34/35, 2014.

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

Weeks 34/35
17 August - 30 August 2014

  • 2014.08.30
    The top U.S. city, in terms of drinks consumed per capita, is Boston, Massachusetts, at 15.6 per month. Norfolk, Virginia, is second at 15.1 drinks per person per month.
    —Via Daily Beast (using data from Experian Marketing Services).

  • 2014.08.26
    A strip club in Dayton, Ohio, had trouble getting a liquor license. So, the owners got a brewery license instead.
    —Via Dayton City Paper.

  • 2014.08.25
    The ancient origins of beer (and drinking straws): 10,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years.
    —Via Jay Brooks (in the San Jose Mercury News).

  • 2014.08.25
    Most wineries in Napa Valley are located north of where a magnitude-6.0 earthquake was centered on 24 August 2014, and were spared damage. "At some wineries, bottles and barrels rolled off shelves and burst, fermentation tanks ruptured, and fine wine was running in rivulets through the streets. Elsewhere, however, the wine appeared largely secure."
    —Via Washington Post, quoting the (California) Wine Institute.

  • 2014.08.24
    On this day, two hundred years ago during the War of 1812 (on 24 August 1814), Washington, D.C. was captured and burned by the British.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.08.24
    The online magazine, Thrillist, ranks each U.S. state by beer. Oregon finishes #1, Mississippi lat at 50th. Washington, D.C. was ignored. The criteria: "Quantity and quality are both important, but quality's a bit MORE important. If you're a small state turning out a disproportionate amount of great beer, it did not go unrecognized. We also gave a boost to states who played a historical role in American beer as we know it today."
    —Via Thrillist.

  • 2014.08.23
    The best beers in Virginia, brewed by Virginia 'craft' breweries: the winners of the 2014 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup are announced.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2014.08.22
    "Of Pints and Prices." Reasons why a pint of 'craft' beer costs $7 or more in the U.S.
    —Via Literature & Libations.

  • 2014.08.19
    Don Pardo, legendary announcer for "Saturday Night Live" and many television game shows, dead at 96.
    —Via Baltimore Sun.

  • 2014.08.17
    "From Grain to Growler" is a documentary on the history and recent growth of 'craft' beer and breweries in Virginia. The film was publicly screened for the first time, on 9 August 2014, at the Capital Ale House, in downtown Richmond, Virginia.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2014.08.17
    "BREWLAND™ is a feature-length documentary exploring the craft beer industry and culture in the United States. It’s a “coming of age” tale about an industry struggling to define its identity in an ever-changing environment while growing at an unsustainable pace. We will reveal how it has evolved through American history, the challenges of being a craft brewer, and what the future may hold for the craft brewing world." The producers are crowd-sourcing funds at IndieGoGo.
    —Via Brewland.

    Tuppers (03)

  • 2014.08.17
    Bob and Ellie Tupper —long-time advocates of good beer in Washington, D.C.— have tasted in excess of twenty-five thousand beer, and kept notes on them. The husband-and-wife-duo are writing a memoir and guide to European beers.
    —Via Tammy Tuck (at Washington City Paper).

  • 2014.08.17
    Go EAST, young man. How some western U.S. craft beer breweries are dealing with the historic drought, by opening facilities in the eastern U.S.
    —Via The Beermonger.

  • 2014.08.17
    The top 10 beer brands in the world. At No. 1 is Snow, brewed in China by CR Snow, a joint venture between SABMiller and China Resources Enterprises, only first released in 2004. Bud Light is third. Via @teamdb:
    —Via The Drinks Business.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Satisfied with his Draft Punk.

Satisified with his Draft Punk

A customer seems quite taken with his pint of cask-conditioned Draft Punk IPA, brewed and 'casked' by the Oliver Brewing Company, of Baltimore, Maryland. This, he told the photographer, was his first ever cask-conditioned 'real ale.'

Real Ale

Beer brewed from traditional ingredients. Matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed. Served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide. Presented unfiltered, yet 'bright' not cloudy. Served at cool 'cellar' temperature, approximately 50 - 56 °F, at which point the subtleties of flavor become prominent. The beauty of beer at its freshest.
Cask Ale USA

Draft Punk

This IPA is about as American as we get. Generously bittered with Chinook and Cascade hops, finished with whole leaf Cascade hops, and then dry-hopped with more whole-leaf Cascade hops. 7% alcohol-by-volume.
Oliver Brewing Company, Baltimore, Maryland.

Served at...

... William Jeffrey's Tavern, in Arlington, Virginia, on 4 September 2014.

Not only was Draft Punk the first cask ale the customer had ever experienced, it was indeed the first cask-conditioned 'real ale' that the pub itself had ever served. Kismet.