Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To give thanks is a matter of joy. Should that be confined by excessive sobriety?

To give thanks is a matter of joy. Should that be confined by excessive sobriety?

That was Michael Jackson, the ungloved one, the 20th century beer writer —the Beer Hunter— who set a very high bar for modern beer writing. That I feel it necessary to identify which Jackson I mean pushes me into 'kids-these-days' territory.

The quote is from A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Dish by Dish, Jackson's 1983 Washington Post byline on choosing beer, not wine, for the Thanksgiving meal.

As quotidien as the idea of good-beer-with-good-food may appear today, three decades ago, it was an epicurean epiphany, a "twist" against the style-makers. It was a companionship of taste that Jackson didn't personally conjoin but did certainly nurture.

Tomorrow, I will open a bottle of cider, gueuze, or Trappist ale; maybe a barleywine with pie. I will attempt to avoid excessive sobriety.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's a 'craft' beer world, baby!

The beginning of the end? Xerxes defeated at Salamis and Plataea?

Word came out in the last few days that the combined might of the tiny 'craft' beer industry had outsold Budweiser in 2013, 16.1 million barrels to 16 million barrels. Not all of Anheuser-Busch InBev, mind you, just one of its beers.

But not just any beer: it was AB-InBev's mighty icon, Budweiser, "the Great American Lager." According to the Wall Street Journal:

"Budweiser volumes have declined in the U.S. for 25 years, from its nearly 50-million-barrel peak in 1988 to 16 million barrels last year."

This regicide took not one, or two, or even several 'craft' breweries to accomplish. It took the entire total sales of every single one of all 'craft' breweries in America, all 2,768 combined, to dethrone this already ailing one beer, Budweiser.

To look forward, look back in history.

Did the Greeks, disparate tribes, rejoice less, in 480 B.C. because they had defeated the mightiest army and navy ever seen to that point in human history, but only as a combined effort? Uh-uh.

Mark the day. It's a 'craft' beer world, baby!


Monday, November 24, 2014

The best beer photo of 2014 might be yours.

Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog has announced the Xmas Beer Photo Contest for 2014. At least that's what he's calling it now. In years past, he has elongated the name as the deadline approached: Yuletide Christmas Hanukah Hogmanay Kwanza and Festivus Beery Photo Contest.

Christmas tree 2012

Send Mr. McLeod five of your best photos of beer(s) by Friday, December 12, before 4 pm eastern time zone North America.

Email to

If Mr. McLeod judges your images worthy (should we call them photographs anymore?), you'll win his published acclaim, and some beery prizes. He'll reveal what those goodies are as breweries and beery folk actually donate them. Attention: breweries and beery folk!

In years past, there have been grand prize winners, runner-ups, and honorable mentions. This was 2013's winning entry:

You could do that, couldn't you?

Hint: Do NOT enter photos of beer-with-food. McLeod doesn't much care for them; he really doesn't.
Your food is still no better looking than your dog. Sorry to break the news. And beer and food pairing has failed. It's so past it that it's still done in Toronto...still! Unless the photo is really good.

FYI: McLeod has recently published three books, each and all available, ahem, for purchase.
Have fun. Good luck. Snap!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

(Some of) the best beer writing of 2014: The NAGBW Awards.

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) was active from the 1980s on, but would disband in the early aughts. In 2013, beer writers Jay Brooks, Lucy Saunders, Don Russell, and others resuscitated the organization, and brought back the annual competition for beer writers, bloggers, broadcasters, and authors.

Today's post is an overdue one: honors for 2014's best beer writing were announced in ... October! Congratulations to all.

NAGBWOctober 7, 2014 - The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2nd annual competition for writers, bloggers, broadcasters and authors. Results of the NAGBW Awards were announced on Friday, October 3, 2014, during the Great American Beer Festival at the McNichols Civic Center Building in Denver, CO.
This year, over 140 entries, published between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, were submitted to the contest in eight categories. Winners represented 13 states across the U.S. and three countries. Congratulations to all of the winners.

Best Beer and Food Writing
1. John Holl, “Roast Masters: Exploring the Art of Brewing Beer with Coffee.” All About Beer Magazine.
2. Evan Rail, “Where What Is Brewing Is a Recipe.” The New York Times.
3. Mark Dredge, Beer and Food. Dog 'n' Bone Books.
Best Blog
1. Oliver Gray, “Literature and Libation.”
2. Bryan Roth, “This is Why I’m Drunk.” 
 3. Jessica Miller, “Hey Brewtiful.” 

Good Beer Guides (to Belgium) on sale in Washington, D.C.

Best Book
1. Patrick Dawson, Vintage Beer. Storey Publishing.
2. Tim Webb/ Joe Stange, The Good Beer Guide to Belgium. Campaign for Real Ale Ltd.
3. Evan Rail, Beer Trails: The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest. Self-published.
Best Brewspaper/ Free Zine Writing
1. Ken Weaver, “Getting Hopped Up -- Again.” Bohemian.
3. Randy Clemens, “Mark Jilg: The Craftsman.” West Coaster.
Best Magazine Writing
1. Evan Rail, “Born Again in Berlin.” All About Beer Magazine.
2. Joshua Bernstein, “Of a Certain Age.” Imbibe Magazine.
3. Aleszu Bajak, “Of a Certain Age.” Beer Advocate Magazine.
Best Newspaper Writing (Paid Circulation)
1. Ronnie Crocker, “Crafting a Houston Icon.” Houston Chronicle.
2. William Bostwick, “Build a Beer Collection.” The Wall Street Journal.
3. Tom Acitelli, “Rising Hop Prices Make Craft Brewers Jumpy.” The Wall Street Journal.
Best Online Magazine Writing
1. Gerard Walen, “The Death of Hunahpu’s Day.” All About Beer Magazine.
3. Christian DeBenedetti, “A Brief History of Sour Beer.” The New Yorker.
Best Podcast
Thanks to new and returning judges representing 11 states in the U.S., two provinces in Canada and Europe. The judges for the 2014 NAGBW Awards included:
Tom Acitelli, Michael Agnew, Jeff Alworth, Ray Bailey, Steve Beaumont, Jessica Boak, Erika Bolden, Jay Brooks, Astrid Cook, Ray Daniels, Christian DeBenedetti, Pat Fahey, Oliver Gray, Steve Hamburg, Stan Hieronymus, Edward Lordan, Alan McLeod, Randy Mosher, Ryan Newhouse, Josh Noel, Evan Rail, Don Russell, Zak Stambor, Heather Vandenengel, Joe Wiebe.
ABOUT THE NORTH AMERICAN GUILD OF BEER WRITERS – The Guild has members from USA, Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe. 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. For more information, visit or follow on Twitter @nagbw.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Bedell & Cizauskas

This blog is about good fermentables and the folk who make them. It's a matter of internet record. It's not about me, or shouldn't be. I tell their stories. I take photos of them and their good fermentables. No selfies.

Today's an exception.

Tom Bedell is a long-time chronicler and reporter of good beer, winning two first place Quill and Tankard awards for his writing from the North American Guild of Beer Writers*, and was a contributing editor to The Encyclopedia of Beer. He writes a blog about golf and beer. To the best of his knowledge, he is the only writer who is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the NAGBW.

He lives in Vermont; I, in the mid-Atlantic. We had never met, except through the scary wonder of the interwebs. That is, until recently.

Bedell & Cizauskas

In late October 2014, Bedell travelled to my part of the world to tour a new golf course. He contacted me (via Twitter, of course), and we would finally meet, not golfing, but beer-drinking, at Rustico Restaurant, in Alexandria, Virginia. That's Tom Bedell on the right; me, on the left.

To top it off, another fellow at the table that evening was Don Was. (I'm amused at being able to phrase it that way.) Mr. Was, née Weiss, is a music producer, who, in the 1980s/90s, was one-half of the 'art' dance music band, Was (Not Was), parentheses included.

We talked about golf that evening (me, not so much), music (more so), and, well, yes, beers (several of them).

The photo was taken by Doug Honker, a good beer fan, and, not coincidentally, Bedell's nephew. I've posted it here with his permission.