Thursday, July 24, 2014

The NeverEnding Cask Ale 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 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.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thank you, Mr.!

Many unpaid enthusiasts encourage and nurture 'craft' beer in Virginia, but maybe not to the extent of Edmond Medina.

For five years, at his website —— Mr. Medina has collated, comprehensive calendars and announcemetns of Virginia 'craft' beer events statewide, and blogged on Virginia breweries and their emergence. It's been Mr. Medina's labor of beer love; his Twitter handle might reveal the reason —@VA_beergeek. Sadly for us in Virgina, he's moving on from that endeavor (figuratively and literally: to North Carolina), and has turned over his website's domain to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.

Good on you, Edmond. Your efforts are now part of the ongoing legacy of good beer in Virginia. Thank you.

My first post was July 22, 2009. I started this site to help promote Virginia Craft Beer. Living on the East Coast, I was tired of hearing how good the beer on West Coast and felt we had some thing to offer as well. Back then the Richmond beer scene consisted of two Capital Ale House locations, Legend Brewing, Richbrau, Hops and Extra Billy’s BBQ. Mekong was here but wasn’t the power house it is today. As for Virginia breweries Starr Hill, Devils Backbone and Blue Mountain were either just starting off or slowing building their fan base. Old Dominion Brewing was just sold and moved out of state and public worried about would happen to the Tuppers brand.

I would publish articles, reviews and eventually events to help get the word out. I met many of you at events, bars, breweries and even at my local gym. I am proud of the work I did and to see the scene grow. I’ll cherish the memories of stepping into a brewery having the owner or brewer recognize me and offer a private tour or special taste of some thing. I never accepted cash or sponsors even though I poured many hours a week into the site. So to say good bye is going to be difficult. Even today I contemplated delaying my hand over of the domain to the Guild. Don’t worry Cassidy, it’ll go as I planned!

I have seen the craft beer market grow leaps and bounds and I know that the folks who are as passionate as I am (and even more so) will keep pushing the scene to grow. Breweries like Starr Hill, Devils Backbone, Blue Mountain, Port City, Alewerks Brewing, Hardywood Brewing and Lickinghole Creek keep winning awards. And others like Strangeways, Lost Rhino, Mad Fox and Adroit Theory keep pushing the envelope on innovative techniques and brewing ingredients. Virginia can stand tall with states like California, Colorado and Oregon as providing some world class beer.

I am not sure where the future will lead me but I’ll always a special place for Virginia. I’ll return from time to time. I got to get my Hardywood Gingerbread and Rum Pumkin and Alewerks Bitter Valentine, Cafe’ Royale and Bourbon Barrel Porter. Oh yeah, there’s the one off releases from Strangeways and Lickinghole Creek that’ll keep me coming back too.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 26/27, 2014.

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

Weeks 26/27
22 June - 5 July 2014

  • 2014.07.05
    Legal specificity! It's now legal to have a glass of beer or wine ... at hair salons in Montgomery County, Maryland.
    —Via NBC4 TV

  • 2014.07.04
    Independence Day and Labor Day are the two top days for beer sales in the U.S.
    —Via Nielsen (at YFGF).

  • 2014.07.02
    Forty Virginia breweries are expected to participate in the 3rd annual Virginia Craft Beer Festival, 23 August 2014, on the grounds of the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, in Roseland, Virginia.
    —Via Virginia Beer Trail.

  • 2014.07.02
    If growth in the U.S. craft brewing industry continues between 10 – 15 % per year in 2013, and if hop varieties in demand do not change to include those from other countries or those harvested earlier or later, fierce competition for limited production and higher prices of hops are inevitable. This does not take into consideration the return of the multinational mega - brewers en masse into the alpha market.
    2014 State of the U.S. Hop Industry (pdf), via Hops 47.

  • 2014.07.02
    Pumpkins will not be harvested until late September at the earliest, and, yet, Southern Tier Brewing (of New York) has trumped all other 'craft' breweries, shipping its pumpkin beers ... on 1 July.
    Instagram of case stack at a Pennsylvania beer store.

  • 2014.07.02
    Maryland's 4th 'farm brewery' to open in Howard County, that jurisdiction's first: Manor Hill Brewing.

  • 2014.07.02
    Two anniversaries on 2 July.
    • 2 July 1776: Second Continental Congress votes to approve independence from Britain. Via Washington Post.
    • 2 July 1964: The signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Via Wikipedia.

  • 2014.07.02
    Brown-Forman —American liquor producer conglomerate— has fears that the legalization of marijuana poses a threat to its business, as drinkers may switch from booze to pot.
    —Via Yahoo News.

  • 2014.07.01
    What is the number 1 selling beer brand in the world? Which country spends the most per capita on beer? Which nation is tops in terms of total beer consumption per year? Which nation's citizens drink the most beer per person per year?
    —Global beer statistics, via YFGF.

  • 2014.06.30
    The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Federal government cannot require closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage for their employees.
    —Via Huffington Post.

  • 2014.06.29
    After suffering on-line registration problems in 2013 that prevented many breweries from registering for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) that had wanted to, festival organizer Brewers Association instituted new procedures this year to facilitate registration for any brewery that wished it. 1,360 breweries responded, 81% more than in 2013, and a record number for participation. The GABF is the considered by many as the premier national U.S. beer festival and brewery competition.
    —Via Denver Westworld.

  • 2014.06.27
    Bobby Womack, "poet of soul music," has died at age 70.
    —Via Chicago Tribune.

  • 2014.06.27
    Peter Swinburn, the current CEO of Molson/Coors, thinks that 'craft' breweries are over-valued. "While demand for small-batch beers is growing in the U.S. and Canada, the companies that make them are typically too expensive to justify an acquisition," he said. He just doesn't get it ... thank goodness.
    —Via Bloomberg News.

  • 2014.06.26
    Oregon has the largest number of breweries per capita in the U.S. and the highest percentage of dollars spent on craft beer in the U.S.; Portland, Oregon has more breweries than any other city in the world; and, as of 2013, Oregon had the highest percentage of locally-produced, locally consumed beer in the nation: 18%.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 2014.06.24
    A brief history of the hops industry in New York State: its perigee in the early 20th century; how downey mildew, aphids, and Prohibition engendered its demise; and, how, now, it is undergoing a small comeback due to New York State's farm-brewery law, government largesse, and growing population of small brewers and hop farmers.
    —Via Poughkeepsie Journal.

  • 2014.06.25
    "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk." Eli Wallach, a prominent and prolific character actor for more than 60 years, died at age 98.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 2014.06.23
    A history of glass and its discovery; the science of glass, and why glass is transparent; and how glass radically changed how beer is drunk.
    —Via Brain Pickings.

  • 2014.06.22
    Rumors reappear about a brewery mega-merger: $60B AB-InBev takeover of SAB/Miller.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 2014.06.22
    Expanding resource. List of mobile beer canning companies in U.S.
    —Via Craft Beer.

    Respect your (Pliny the) Elder
  • 2014.06.22
    The top 10 U.S. beers, and the top 5 U.S. breweries ... according to U.S. homebrewers. Number 1? Russian River Pliny the Elder, for 6th year in a row.
    —Via American Homebrewers Association.

  • 2014.06.22
    German breweries in Lower Saxony appear to be winning their battle against Exxon-Mobil to forestall fracking throughout Germany.
    —Via The Guardian.