Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pic(k) of the Week: Close encounter of the leonine kind.

Close encounter of the leonine kind

An intimate view of the incisors of a young (sub-Saharan) male African lion. Despite appearances, the big cat was merely yawning. Any closer approach was impeded by reinforced acrylic.

At Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta (Grant Park), Georgia, on 13 April 2018.


Endangered species protection endangered

In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the African lion (Panthera leo) under the protection of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The nearly extinct lions of western and central Africa—a subspecies now called P. l. leo—will be listed as endangered. Only about 1,400 of these lions remain scattered across more than a dozen countries, including the critically endangered Asiatic lions of India (the cats on the two continents were not previously considered the same subspecies). Another lion subspecies—P. p. melanochaita of east and southern Africa—will be listed as threatened. There are about 17,000 to 19,000 lions left in this subspecies, most of which live in protected but restricted habitats.
Scientific American.

That turns out ohave been fortuitous timing for African lions. Earlier this month, Donald Trump's Department of the Interior indicated its intention to eliminate all future protections for threatened species, effectively gutting the 1973 Endangered Species Act.
Under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act, the FWS created regulations in 1978 which granted threatened species, or those approaching endangerment, the same blanket protections granted to endangered species. Broadly, these regulations prevent “take” of protected species—death, harm, or harassment from human activity, such as hunting, capturing, and, in some cases, destroying their habitat through development, logging, or other means. “If you’re a threatened species and you don’t have ‘take’ protections, you don’t really have any protections at all,” Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, tells Mother Jones. The change could be disastrous for species like the North American wolverine, the gopher tortoise, and the Sierra Nevada red fox, which are proposed for listing, or are being considered for, threatened status in the future.
Mother Jones.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Pic(k) of the Week: Spooky levitation

Spooky levitation

Not quite black and white, but a hallway silhouette. 31 March 2018.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

De gustibus non est disputandum.

A few days ago, Jaime Jurado —who, among many beer business accomplishments, was the recent Head of Brewing Operations at Abita Brewing Company, in Louisiana— posted, to his personal Facebook page, a link to an article written by Bryce Eddings 1, at a site called The Spruce, entitled, "A Working Definition of Craft Beer. The attempt to define 'craft' beer is not as easy as you think."

As you might think, there was a large thread of responses. Mine covered one aspect of the question: the elusive definition of 'craft.' Given that this is my blog, I've expanded upon my response and unraveled it here.

The [U.S.] Brewers Association 2 does NOT define what a 'craft' beer is. And, fortunately, it does not define 'craftsmanship,' either. It does, however, define what so-called 'craft' breweries are: its dues-paying members. It's a distinction often disregarded. The BA promulgated its newest 'definition' in 2014: "An American craft brewer[y] 3 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[y] that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
Compare that to the BA's older, pre-2014, definition in which corn and rice had been deemed 'evil':
Traditional: A brewer[y] who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

Four years before that, in 2010, the BA also changed its definition of a small brewery, making it a lot less small. It tripled the size limit for breweries from annual production of two million barrels or less ... to six million barrels. In other words, as the BA put it, it stopped penalizing member success. Or, in other words, it ended its worry about losing the advocacy and financial support of its largest member, the Boston Beer Company, who, at that point, was right at the two-million-barrel threshold. of course, now both Yuengling (allowed in, in 2014) and Boston Beer are closing in on the newer limit. Will what 'craft' is change again?


New definitions

A 'craft' brewer(y) is a brewer(y) that pays dues to the [U.S.] Brewers Association. And a 'craft' beer? That's:
1) a beer that tastes good, and/or
2) a beer made with craftmanship, and/or
3) a beer made with chemical-laden breakfast cereals, and/or
4) De gustibus non est disputandum 4.
Or, in other words, cocoa-puffs, chemicals, and artificial ingredients in your beer are okay and big non-beer venture capitalists owning your brewery are also okay. Just not big breweries.


Monday, April 09, 2018

Drinking in the Culture: A checklist for Beer Gardens in Europe. (Beer Blogging Friday)

The Session: Beer Blogging Friday 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, choosing a specific, beer-related topic, inviting all bloggers to write on it, and posting a roundup of all the responses received.

For The Session #134, Friday, 6 April 2018, I was that pre-determined host and my topic was ... Beer Gardens.

Beer writers/raconteurs/travellers/tickers Bob and Ellie Tupper sent in a checklist for European beer gardens — a checklist that could be referenced universally (or, for now, globally). I've posted it here, today —Monday, 9 April— because, in the beer world and especially in a beer garden, it's always Friday in spirit. Allons-y, Alonzo!


Drinking in the Culture

The calendar, if not the thermometer, says it’s springtime, so it’s time to leave the romantic tasting rooms with crackling fires and start searching for places to drink beer in the great outdoors. The explosion of farm breweries may soon make beer gardens more numerous and exciting in the U.S. than in the Old Country, but, for now, we still look forward to returning to our favorites in Germany and Austria.

When we wrote Drinking In the Culture: Tuppers’ Guide to Exploring Great Beers in Europe [in 2015], we tried to identify the six best places in each of the twenty-four featured cities to experience the local beer culture. We succeeded in over twenty cities, but failed miserably in Munich: there were just too many. We finally compromised on the six best establishments in each of four different categories, only one of which was "beer garden." It came down to six criteria that lifted those six winners to the top of a crowded Munich field.

Here are those criteria, with a favorite or two in Germany and Austria for each of them.
  • Accessibility
    We only included places accessible by public transportation. German DUI laws are even stricter than in the U.S. We found a lovely, historic beer garden near Freising last year, but the round-trip cab ride came to over $70. The Augustiner Keller in Munich is two blocks from a tram stop and the S Bahn subway.

  • Prices
    The price of a German Mass (short-filled liter) can vary from 6 to 9 Euros. In general, the closer to the center of the city, the more you’ll pay. The price of a liter at the Kloster Mülln garden in Salzburg is still just above the 6 Euro level.

  • Size
    Intimate gardens can be attractive, but we love a really enormous one. The clanking of steins and rumble of 200-liter barrels, overlaid with hundreds of conversations, could be cacophonic, but to us, it’s a symphony. On a beautiful weekend night, the Munich Hirschgarten comes close to filling their 8,000 seats, and the hum is like a contented beehive you can hear for blocks.

  • Setting
    Traditional German beer gardens evolved in the 19th century as brewers discovered that if you spread white gravel on the hilltop above the underground cellars where you kept the beer, then further shaded the white stone with leafy chestnut trees, it kept the cellars cooler. An unintended benefit was that this shady hilltop was a perfect place to drink that lovely beer. Some gardens have particularly good vistas: you can spot an Alp from Kloster Mülln, gaze at the massive Dom across the Danube from the Spital Brauerei garden in Regensburg, or feed the deer that mooch along the fence next to your table at the Hirschgarten.

  • Food
    Almost every garden will have roast chicken and bratwurst, but the biggest and best of them go much farther. Fresh fish roasted over live coals, spare ribs, enormous spiral-sliced white radishes, massive roasted pork knuckles, and a wide array of salads and sweets almost always taste as good as they look. Food vendors indoors and out in the garden at Kloster Mülln offer a variety that gives this one an edge over the others. Or copy the locals and bring in your own picnic; almost all gardens allow it as long as you’re drinking their beer.

  • Beer
    As important as this criterion would seem, it probably influences us the least. Almost every brewery with a good garden brews a fine helles lager. But, as Orwell noted, some are more equal than others. Munich’s Augustiner is sweet, but achingly clean, and somehow leaves you with no ache at all the next morning. Salzburg’s Augustiner brewery looms above the Kloster Mülln garden; being able to sit within meters of where the beer is born seems to make it taste even better.

  • Gemütlichkeit
    Gemütlichkeit, or friendliness, is hard to judge on a limited number of visits. You’ll almost always sit at communal tables, so conversation is optional but usually available. On almost every one of our dozen visits to Kloster Mülln, spanning decades, we’ve made new best friends, only some of whom could speak more than a few words of English.

— "We're Bob and Ellie Tupper, “DC’s original beer geeks” (Washington City Paper). We spent 35 years seeking beers all over Europe, amassing a database with over 32,000 entries, before writing Drinking In the Culture. In it, we describe the best places in Europe to visit in order to “drink in” the rich connections between beers and the societies that brew them.

We're currently working on
Brews & Snooze, a guide to breweries and B&Bs of the Mid-Atlantic region, featuring places where you can visit a brewery and walk, not drive, back to where you're spending the night. In some cases, the journey back to your room involves only walking up a couple of flights of stairs. We hope to have the book in print by the end of the year."

The Tuppers maintain their own website and blog, called, punningly enough, CultureAle. The essay above —but illustrated with photographs— they'll be posting there soon. Until then, of course, you could read their book.

Bob & Ellie Tupper: "Drinking in the Culture" (01)


Sunday, April 08, 2018

Beer and the Great Outdoors. A Match Made in Heaven. (Beer Blogging Friday)

The Session: Beer Blogging Friday 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, choosing a specific, beer-related topic, inviting all bloggers to write on it, and posting a roundup of all the responses received.

For The Session #134, Friday, 6 April 2018, I was that pre-determined host and my topic was ... Beer Gardens.

Dave Gott —Vice President of Legend Brewing Company, in Richmond, Virginia— kindly sent in an essay on beer gardens in general and his beer garden in particular. He stated that he is "not a writer." I disagree.


Beer and the Great Outdoors. A Match Made in Heaven.

I guess I don’t have to start this saying “I like beer”. The mere fact that I am taking the time to write about it is proof enough. I am a beer drinker, not a writer. However when asked to write about my two favorite pastimes; drinking good beer and being outside, I put my two index fingers to work and in the old cop at the typewriter style and started banging away.

I have been in the beer business for 27 years and the question I get the most is “what is the best beer”? My pat answer has always been “a free one” but I have begun to reconsider that answer and hone in on to a little more detail. A free one consumed on a nice sunny day when a warm breeze is blowing and you see the world as the glorious wonder that it is. Especially when there is no yard work to do.

Whether it is a deck, a porch, a true beer garden or just sitting in the grass, there is something special about that first beer outside in the spring. Hell, the Norwegians even have a special word for it. Utepils meaning outdoor lager.

The current craze of outdoor seating in our breweries and restaurants today is an expression of a much older tradition. In the German Biergarten, dating from the 19th century, beer, food, and music were enjoyed in an atmosphere the Germans called Gemütlichkeit. A word used to convey a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Drink a few steins and say that five times really fast.

Downtown Richmond, across the James

At our Pub in Richmond, Virginia —Legend Brewing Company— we have a deck that seats 200 and has a spectacular view of the James River and the city skyline. We also have a beer garden that seats 80 at the front of our Pub. Let’s face it, you can’t have too much of a good thing. Our Portsmouth location has a beer garden overlooking the Elizabeth River with a view of the big navy vessels in dry dock. These are places where people sit, talk, trade ideas and get to know each other all under the big blue sky with a nice cold one in hand. The troubles of life fade away on that aforementioned warm breeze and all the world is at peace.

Hop bines at sunset (04)

So what makes a good beer garden? My friends, the answer is simple. You do. It is neither the wood deck, slate patio, or spectacular view. It is the coming together —the community, and camaraderie— we share over our favorite beverage. Gemütlichkeit.

So, I bid you cheers and goodwill. The warm weather is coming and outside we will go! With beer in hand, of course.

— Dave added that he has been in the beer business since 1991 and with Legend since 1996. He attended Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia, where he received a degree in Earth Science and Philosophy, and drank a lot of beer. After college, he worked and traveled extensively overseas and drank a lot of beer. The rest is history.

I would add that Legend is celebrating its 24th anniversary. Opened in 1994, it is, by far, Virginia's oldest operating 'craft' brewery. (The only Virginia brewery older is Anheuser-Busch's Williamsburg plant, which began operations in 1972.)