Monday, February 20, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 5/6, 2017.

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

Weeks 5/6
29 January - 11 February 2017

    Liquor at 36% alcohol market share; beer, 47%.
  • 7 February 2017
    No, Bloomberg. Americans did NOT ditch beer for cocktails in 2016.

    Yes, it's true that the percentage of Americans, in 2016, choosing beer over liquor fell by ONE percent while the reverse —Americans choosing liquor over beer— rose by ONE percent. But no, Americans did NOT switch “pints for shots.” If anything, in 2016, beer remained the preferred alcoholic beverage for most Americans, at 44%, while those who preferred spirits sat lower, at 36%. That's hardly a ditching of beer. It IS an obfuscating framing of insights and analysis by the Distilled Spirts Council, a trade organization for —surprise, surprise— liquor. To be honest, its graph does show a troubling trend —a seven-year downward percentage trend for beer — but nowhere near a rejection of beer as Americans' primary alcoholic beverage choice.

    Gallup, by the way, with less of a dog in the fight, had different data for 2016: 43% of Americans preferred beer, 32% said wine, while only 20% said liquor. And its data showed a rising percentage for beer preference over recent years.

    Data are in the eyes graphs of the manipulators.
    • —Commentary by YFGF.
    • —Original story via Bloomberg.

  • 6 February 2017
    Small U.S. cheese producers are developing their own microbiological starters, in order to end dependence on agra-conglomerates DuPont and Cargill.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 6 February 2017
    The world's foremost authority (full stop) has died. Professor Irwin Corey was 102.
    Why do I wear tennis shoes? That's two questions. Do I wear tennis shoes? The answer to that question is, 'Yes.' 'Why?' That's a question philosophers have been pondering for centuries.
    However ...
    —Via National Public Radio .

  • 6 February 2017
    RateBeer's best of 2016 "emphasizes growing disconnect between beer lovers who use RateBeer and everyone else."
    —Via Bryan D. Roth, at This Is Why I'm Drunk.

  • 6 February 2017
    Good Beer Hunting —an influential 'craft' beer website/blog— creates a new beer website venture in partnership with ZX Ventures —an investment company owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. In its annnouncement of the new project, Good Beer Hunting calls itself the "Grantland" of beer websites, and the new venture —to be called "October— the "ESPN" of beer websites.
    —Via Appellation Beer.

  • Naked Mountain(s) in the afternoon
  • 5 February 2017
    American wine is growing, but not only in California and Oregon/Washington.

    Virginia’s wine industry now contributes more than $1.37 billion annually to the state’s economy, an increase of 82 percent from 2010. Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2016 with more than 556,700 cases, or more than 6.6 million bottles sold. This volume marks a sales increase of more than 6 percent over the previous fiscal year. [Virginia's fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.]

    Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Virginia wineries increased 35 percent, from 193 to 261. The number of full-time equivalent jobs at wineries and vineyards saw a 73 percent increase, from 4,753 to 8,218. Wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 87 percent during the same time period as well, from $156 million to $291 million. [But, how many temporary workers and temporary immigrant workers were employed?] The number of people visiting Virginia wineries grew by 39 percent, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015. At the same time, wine-related tourism expenditures grew from $131 million to $188 million, a 43 percent increase.
    —Via Rappahannock News.

  • 4 February 2017
    In praise of "session beers with ABVs under 5%":
    I’d rather drink beer longer, not get drunk faster.
    —Via Fritz Hahn, at Washington Post.

  • 3 February 2017
    Anheuser-Busch InBev creates an ad for the Super Bowl: “This is the story of our founder’s ambitious journey to America in pursuit of his dream: to brew the King of Beers.
    • Historian Maureen Ogle reacts:
      Yes, Busch was an immigrant, but the rest — Eberhard meets Adolphus, traveling steerage and on foot, staggering, finally, into St. Louis, etc.? Fiction. [...] Even farting Clydesdales would have been an improvement. At least we could have laughed as one.
    • Steve Body at The Pour Fool reacts:
      The entire story of how AB started was nothing like this and it’s not a secret how it did come about. [...] This ad is pure, unadulterated bullshit. And if you fall for it, you are a Tool.

  • 2 February 2017
    Beer might be delicious, but "sorry, it isn't health food." Health claims debunked.
    —Via Outside.

  • 30 January 2017
    The brewing science and taxonomy of "the British fungus," aka Brettanomyces yeast.
    —Via Ed Wray, at Ed's Beer Site.

  • 31 January 2017
    International drinks conglomerate Diageo to build a Guinness brewery in Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. Will not brew Guinness Stout there, however.
    —Via My Beer Buzz.

  • 31 January 2017
    Don't order [beer] tasters. Your initial sip of almost any beer is a very, very poor predictor of what you'll ultimately think of that beer.
    [Me: I am a miserable beer judge. I need at least a pint to come to a conclusion.]
    —Via Beer Simple.

  • 31 January 2017
    • “Brewers and beer lovers are getting drunk for the ACLU.”
      —Via DRAFT Magazine.
    • “Dump Trump. #DrinkForGood.”
      —Via YFGF

  • 30 January 2017
    “55% of #craft drinkers say not enough variety in container types.” [Me: Maybe Mickey's Wide Mouth IPA?]
    —Via Bart Watson, chief economist for [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 30 January 2017
    Using 2016 data as guides, viewers of the 2017 Super Bowl will purchase $1.2 billion worth of beer, $594 million of wine, and $503 million of spirits.
    —Via Nielsen.

  • 30 January 2017
    With grant from the [U.S.] Brewers Association, the Smithsonian Institution selects Harvard scholar Theresa McCulla to be its first Brewing History Initiative historian at the National Museum of Natural History.
    —Via Smithsonian Magazine.

  • 29 January 2017
    Since Trump's inauguration, reports on climate change have disappeared from the State Department's website.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 29 January 2017
    “The 10 Best Places in Europe to Drink a Beer,” per beer writers, Bob and Ellie Tupper. #1 in the world? Augustiner BräuKloster Mülln in Salzburg, Austria.
    —Via Culture CheatSheet.

  • 29 January 2017
    In a report issued on the last full day of President Obama's term of office, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a 25-fold increase in the frequency of damaging floods to many coastal American cities.
    —Via Washington Post.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Three for cask.

After three hundred and eighty-eight or so Pic(k) of the Weeks, it's a first. A selfie.

Three for cask

That's I, there, in the middle.

The occasion was the 13th annual Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting, on 21 January 2017, at 5 Seasons Brewing and Taco Mac Pub, in Sandy Springs, Georgia. These three (left to right) were discussing matters cask ale —in the United States and Britain: Georgia beer impressario Owen Ogletree (not pictured) had invited Hamburg and de Moor to help him judge fifty-one cask ales. Of those,
  • 32 (62%) were flavored in some way;
  • of the 38% that were not filled with extraneous flavorings:
    • 8 were unflavored IPAs;
    • 7 were sours (8 if you include one British beer that had gone off);
    • 3 (only!!?!) were bitters (or Scottish export style);
    • 1 was an unflavored stout;
    • 0 were milds
Hamburg and de Moor had strong opinions on all that. I recorded them (with permission). There will be a transcript. Stay tuned.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Scott Pruitt is hazardous to your beer.

The United States Senate shamefully has approved a serial climate-change-denier to head the EPA. The 52-46 vote was almost along party lines. All Republican senators except Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted for Pruitt, while all Democrats except Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) voted against him. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did not vote due to a military conference he is attending in Germany. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) also did not vote.

Brewers For Clean Water

Beer is 95 percent (or more) water. So, without question, safe, clean water is vital to craft brewing's viability (and, of course, to the health and vitality of all Americans). Several American 'craft' breweries have publicly agreed, becoming signatories to the Clean Water Pledge of the National Resource Defense Council.

And, now, because of their intrinsic, operational need for clean, safe water, thirty-two American breweries are openly opposing the nomination of Oklahoma's Attorney Generall Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is both a wise and a courageous business move.

Here is their letter to the United States Senate.
Dear Senators:

Please vote against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Pruitt’s record of attacking clean water protections shows that he is the wrong choice to lead the agency.

Our breweries cannot operate without reliable, clean water supplies. Together, our businesses employ hundreds of people, and our beers are shipped across the country. We need an EPA administrator who will adopt and enforce policies that protect the water sources we use to make our great-tasting beer. Mr. Pruitt’s actions as Oklahoma Attorney General, however, demonstrate a history of attacking and undermining the protections on which we depend.

Mr. Pruitt has challenged virtually every important EPA safeguard in recent years, often falsely accusing the agency of overstepping its authority. We need an EPA administrator who will enforce our laws to protect our resources and our communities, not someone who tries to weaken safeguards on behalf of polluters.

Beer is about 90 percent water, making local water supply quality and its characteristics, such as pH and mineral content, critical to beer brewing and the flavor of many classic brews. Changes to our water supply – whether we draw directly from a water source or from a municipal supply – threaten our ability to consistently produce our great-tasting beer, and thus, our bottom line.

Protecting clean water is central to our business and our long-term success. Not only does the great-tasting beer we brew depend on it, but so do the communities in which we operate. Mr. Pruitt cannot be trusted to protect America’s water resources. We hope that we can count on you to oppose his confirmation to head EPA.

  • Rob Todd: Allagash Brewing Company (Maine)
  • Brandon Wright: Andersonville Brewing Co. (Illinois)
  • Sandy & Jay Boss Febbo: Bang Brewing (Minnesota)
  • Peggy Zwerver: Bar Hygge/Brewery Techne (Pennsylvania)
  • Taylor Smack: Blue Mountain Brewery/Blue Mountain Barrel House (Virginia)
  • Kris Spaulding: Brewery Vivant (Michigan)
  • Steve Hindy: Brooklyn Brewery (New York)
  • Chris Ray: Center of the Universe Brewing Company (Virginia)
  • Peggy Zwerver: Earth Bread + Brewery (Pennsylvania)
  • Brent Schwoerer: Engrained Brewing Company (Illinois)
  • Frank Moeller: Flying Mouse Brewery (Virginia)
  • Ryan Mitchell & Michael Brandt: Garden Grove Brewing Company (Virginia)
  • Ian Hughes: Goose Island Beer Co. (Illinois)
  • Helen & Michael Cameron: Greenstar Organic Brewery (Illinois)
  • Matt Gallagher: Half Acre Beer Company (Illinois)
  • Josh Hare: Hops & Grain Brewing (Texas)
  • Carol & Tim Cochran: Horse & Dragon Brewing Company (Colorado)
  • Kelly Taylor: KelSo Beer Company (New York)
  • Russell J. Klisch: Lakefront Brewery (Wisconsin)
  • Daniel Kleban: Maine Beer Company (Maine)
  • Jenn Vervier: New Belgium Brewing Company (Colorado)
  • Brandon Wright: Oak Park Brewing Company (Colorado)
  • Corey Odell: Odell Brewing Company (Colorado)
  • Russell Springsteen: Right Brain Brewery (Michigan)
  • Heather Sanborn: Rising Tide Brewing Company (Maine)
  • Tim Patton: Saint Benjamin Brewing Company (Pennsylvania)
  • Peter Egleston: Smuttynose Brewing Company (New Hampshire)
  • Taylor Smack: South Street Brewery (Virginia)
  • Allie Hochman: Starr Hill Brewery (Virginia)
  • Josh Gilbert: Temperance Beer Co. (Illinois)
  • James Ebel: Two Brothers Brewing Company (Illinois)
  • Mary Wolf: Wild Wolf Brewing Company (Virginia)

Scott Pruitt's history of opposition to maintaining, preserving, and promoting clean water, let alone our nation's other precious natural resources, disqualifies him for the position, prima facie.

One wonders, then, why (so few) more breweries have not signed on. Or why the [U.S.] Brewers Association hasn't taken a stand. After all, eleven percent of its members' dues go to government lobbying. As beer writer Alan McLeod observed about beer and politics, at A Good Beer Blog:
But would it kill you to write or call those who represent you in the political realm? Would it hurt too much to maybe pass on that next bit of indulgent “beer travel” and the tripping haze of new fun bar after new fun bar and, instead, travel to sit in a committee room where a policy you hate and want stopped is being discussed, waiting your turn soberly to put your ideas on the record for the five minutes they give you at the microphone?

Getting political is about waking up, being adult. Doesn’t really matter where your interests or political preferences lay. You think the big craft carpetbagger brewery that received the regional branch plant tax break wasn’t engaged in politics behind the backs of the local brewers? I bet the local craft community wishes it had laid the earlier groundwork that might have seen them receive the funding for expansion instead. Which would have required them being actively political.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The perfect pub?

When is a pub a 'good' pub? Is there a perfect pub? Is this sentimental nonsense, a pub simply a business like another? Or can a pub indeed be a 'third place' of social significance?

1984's author, George Orwell, published his answer to the "perfect" question —Moon Under Water— in the Evening Standard (now London Evening Standard) seventy-one years ago, on 9 February 1946.

My favourite public-house, the Moon Under Water, is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights.

Its clientele, though fairly large, consists mostly of ‘regulars’ who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much as for the beer.

If you are asked why you favour a particular public-house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about the Moon Under Water is what people call its ‘atmosphere’.

To begin with, its whole architecture and fittings are uncompromisingly Victorian. It has no glass-topped tables or other modern miseries, and, on the other hand, no sham roof-beams, ingle-nooks or plastic panels masquerading as oak. The grained woodwork, the ornamental mirrors behind the bar, the cast-iron fireplaces, the florid ceiling stained dark yellow by tobacco-smoke, the stuffed bull’s head over the mantelpiece — everything has the solid, comfortable ugliness of the nineteenth century.

In winter there is generally a good fire burning in at least two of the bars, and the Victorian lay-out of the place gives one plenty of elbow-room. There are a public bar, a saloon bar, a ladies’ bar, a bottle-and-jug for those who are too bashful to buy their supper beer publicly, and, upstairs, a dining-room.

Games are only played in the public, so that in the other bars you can walk about without constantly ducking to avoid flying darts.

In the Moon Under Water it is always quiet enough to talk. The house possesses neither a radio nor a piano, and even on Christmas Eve and such occasions the singing that happens is of a decorous kind.

The barmaids know most of their customers by name, and take a personal interest in everyone. They are all middle-aged women—two of them have their hair dyed in quite surprising shades—and they call everyone ‘dear,’ irrespective of age or sex. (‘Dear,’ not ‘Ducky’: pubs where the barmaid calls you ‘ducky’ always have a disagreeable raffish atmosphere.)

Unlike most pubs, the Moon Under Water sells tobacco as well as cigarettes, and it also sells aspirins and stamps, and is obliging about letting you use the telephone.

You cannot get dinner at the Moon Under Water, but there is always the snack counter where you can get liver-sausage sandwiches, mussels (a speciality of the house), cheese, pickles and those large biscuits with caraway seeds in them which only seem to exist in public-houses.

Upstairs, six days a week, you can get a good, solid lunch—for example, a cut off the joint, two vegetables and boiled jam roll—for about three shillings.

The special pleasure of this lunch is that you can have draught stout with it. I doubt whether as many as 10 per cent of London pubs serve draught stout, but the Moon Under Water is one of them. It is a soft, creamy sort of stout, and it goes better in a pewter pot.

They are particular about their drinking vessels at the Moon Under Water, and never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass. Apart from glass and pewter mugs, they have some of those pleasant strawberry-pink china ones which are now seldom seen in London. China mugs went out about 30 years ago, because most people like their drink to be transparent, but in my opinion beer tastes better out of china.

The great surprise of the Moon Under Water is its garden. You go through a narrow passage leading out of the saloon, and find yourself in a fairly large garden with plane trees, under which there are little green tables with iron chairs round them. Up at one end of the garden there are swings and a chute for the children.

On summer evenings there are family parties, and you sit under the plane trees having beer or draught cider to the tune of delighted squeals from children going down the chute. The prams with the younger children are parked near the gate.

Many as are the virtues of the Moon Under Water, I think that the garden is its best feature, because it allows whole families to go there instead of Mum having to stay at home and mind the baby while Dad goes out alone.

And though, strictly speaking, they are only allowed in the garden, the children tend to seep into the pub and even to fetch drinks for their parents. This, I believe, is against the law, but it is a law that deserves to be broken, for it is the puritanical nonsense of excluding children—and therefore, to some extent, women—from pubs that has turned these places into mere boozing-shops instead of the family gathering-places that they ought to be.

The Moon Under Water is my ideal of what a pub should be—at any rate, in the London area. (The qualities one expects of a country pub are slightly different.)

But now is the time to reveal something which the discerning and disillusioned reader will probably have guessed already. There is no such place as the Moon Under Water.

That is to say, there may well be a pub of that name, but I don’t know of it, nor do I know any pub with just that combination of qualities.

I know pubs where the beer is good but you can’t get meals, others where you can get meals but which are noisy and crowded, and others which are quiet but where the beer is generally sour. As for gardens, offhand I can only think of three London pubs that possess them.

But, to be fair, I do know of a few pubs that almost come up to the Moon Under Water. I have mentioned above ten qualities that the perfect pub should have and I know one pub that has eight of them. Even there, however, there is no draught stout, and no china mugs.

And if anyone knows of a pub that has draught stout, open fires, cheap meals, a garden, motherly barmaids and no radio, I should be glad to hear of it, even though its name were something as prosaic as the Red Lion or the Railway Arms.

Seventy-one years ago, Mr. Orwell 'found' his perfection. I'm still looking.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 3/4, 2017.

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

Weeks 3/4
15 - 28 January 2017

  • 28 January 2017
    • Brooklyn, New York District Federal Judge Ann Donnelly blocks part of President Trump's immigration order, staying deportations.
    • Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issues a temporary restraining order instructing authorities to "permit lawyers access to all legal permanent residents being detained" at Dulles Airport [in Virginia] and forbidding the deportation of detained permanent residents for seven days.
    —Via National Public Radio.

  • 27 January 2017
    Arthur Rosenfeld, an experimental physicist who set aside his decades-long study of subatomic particles to help design energy-efficiency standards and technologies, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and saving everyday Americans billions of dollars each year, died 27 January 2017 at his home in Berkeley, California. He was 90.
    —Via Washington Post.
  • 27 January 2017
    President Trump signs executive order banning almost all permanent immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Syria and Iraq, for 90 days, asserting the power to extend the ban indefinitely. More than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed such discrimination against immigrants based on national origin.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 25 January 2017
    Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors slash U.S. barley purchases, by as much as 60% in Montana.
    —Via Great Falls Tribune (USA Today).

  • 25 January 2017
    The Georgia Senate passes bill to allow state breweries to sell up to 3,000 barrels of beer on-the-premises, the equivalent of 744,000 pints per year. Georgia and Mississippi are the only two states in the nation that still forbid on-the-premises sales at (production) breweries.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 25 January 2017
    Better than click-bait. Food and Wine Magazine's listicle, "The 25 Most Important American Craft Beers Ever Brewed," actually puts an emphasis on historical importance over current favorites. Number one on list is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
    —Via Food and Wine.

  • 25 January 2017
    The world just became less witty.
    Mary Tyler Moore, whose witty and graceful performances on two top-rated television shows in the 1960s and ’70s helped define a new vision of American womanhood, died on Wednesday in Greenwich, Conn. She was 80.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 22 January 2017
    Sierra Nevada Brewing, the nation's second largest 'craft' brewery, recalls several brands of its beer —but only those bottled at its North Carolina plant— due to the possibility of glass shards in the beer.
    —Via USA Today.

  • "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
  • 20 January 2017
    Donald John Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 18 January 2017
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's annual State of the Climate report finds 2016 to be the hottest year since scientists started tracking global temperatures in 1880 (topping 2015, itself a record). The global average temperature in 2016 was 1.7°F above the 20th century global average.
    —Via NPR.

  • 17 January 2017
    Ordinary bitter, as a category, is perhaps the single greatest achievement of British brewing, managing to combine a huge amount of character, flavour and variety into something that, by international standards, is untypically low in strength.
    —Via Paul Bailey at The Pub Curmudgeon.

  • 16 January 2017
    “Why it's time to say no to cask ale.”
    We're always saying cask ale is special, unique, a cut above other beer, that it requires more care and attention. If you're not prepared to treat it like that, you're not supporting cask ale - you're wrecking it. [...] Do yourself, your customers, and cask ale brewers a favour and stop selling it.
    [The Morning Advertiser had originally published the headline of the piece as "Just say no to cask ale," a photo of which is cached from the interwebs above. They have since altered the headline to read, "Just say no to bad cask ale," which was, of course, Mr. Brown's point in the first place.]
    —Via Pete Brown, at Morning Advertiser.

  • 16 January 2017
    [U.S.] Brewers Association creates the position of Quality Instructor —to work with the Association’s Quality Subcommittee to develop content for and deliver presentations that address brewing quality practices, systems and parameters. Appoints Mary Pellettieri, past quality manager for Miller Coors, as first Quality Instructor.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan and the U.S. flag on the lunar surface.
  • 16 January 2017
    Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, died 16 January 2017. On Apollo 17, in December 1972, Cernan became the eleventh person to walk on the Moon. As he left the lunar surface, Cernan said,
    America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. As we leave the moon and Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.
    —Via NASA.

  • 15 January 2017
    The oft absurdity of beer style management. That time that judges at the World Beer Cup deemed Fullers ESB —the originator!— out-of-style for an ESB, that is, Extra Special Bitter.
    —Via The Malting Floor.

  • 15 January 2017
    Just over a year after they were discovered in China, bacteria that can fend off colistin —the antibiotic of last resort— are being found all across the world.
    —Via The Atlantic.

  • 15 January 2017
    The Craft Business Daily posts behind a paywall, but short tidbits can be gleaned. Such as these, interesting and troubling.
    Earlier this week, Barron's picked up on some Boston Beer c-stores numbers buried in a recent Wells Fargo report. It only covered the four weeks to 12/31, but it was ugly: for the period, Boston beer was down 23.4% in dollars, far worse than their 12-week trend of -17.6%, and almost twice the declines of the next most challenged beer supplier for the period, Pabst (down 14.4%), per Wells Fargo report.[...]The final stretch of 2016 was a struggle for some of the nation's top craft brewers, but not for Dogfish Head. Chief Sam Calagione tells CBD that their 'growth rates really accelerated over the last few months' and set them up for a strong finish to the year.
    —Craft Business Daily, via YFGF at Facebook.