Monday, November 28, 2005

Nut Browned Ale for Christmas 2005 - a review

Peter Scholey, ex lead brewer of Brakspear and soon-to-be brewer for the resuscitated same, has a line of Christmas beers he contract brews under the name Ridgeway. I believe he uses the Brakspear yeast strain which he rescued from oblivian. Anyway, the line includes Bad Elf, Very Bad Elf, Lump of Coal, and more. My favorite of the bunch is new this year - Warm Welcome Nut Browned Ale.

The label has a picture of Santa descending down the chimney, his lower extremeties about to be scorched on a roaring fire - hence the name of the beer. What a wonderful brown ale - nutty, light caramel, hints of low-toned fruit. Except for its higher alcohol - 6% - I could believe this to be what Newcastle Brown may have once been.

Banned in Connecticut due to the drawing of Santa Claus on the label!

From the importer's website:

It’s a sad tale, the closing of the venerable Brakspear brewery in Henley-on-Thames, where the most famous and surely the best Bitter in England has been made for centuries. The brewery, in operation since 1779, was sold off in 2002 in parts to make room for an upscale hotel, and everyone who worked there was let go, without so much as a by-your-leave. But for beer lovers, the closing was not a complete disaster. Thankfully, the master brewer at Brakspear, Peter Scholey, determined to strike out on his own. Peter has set up shop as Ridgeway Brewing, not so far from Henley, and already he’s putting out beers so good they could almost make you forget Brakspear altogether.

The Ridgeway Brewery is named for the ancient road – passable now only on foot – that meanders along a low escarpment across the high, rolling pastoral plain that is the southwest of England. The now patchy stone surface of the Ridgeway was laid by Britain’s oldest inhabitants – Druids and the like – thousands of years before the Romans turned up to build their own roadways. It is the oldest road in the British Isles and Europe, running nearly 100 miles, past that other ancient landmark, Stonehenge, as well as Peter Scholey’s relatively modern home, along the way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tomato Harvest & Beer

The beer dinner at Washington D.C.'s Cafe Saint-Ex on Monday 27 September 2005 was a celebration of the harvest season and of the initial release of Clipper City Brewing's newest Heavy Seas beer - Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.

Chef Barton Seaver created a 5 course menu, each meal using organic heirloom tomatoes, each paired with a different Clipper City beer.



Cafe Saint-Ex and Clipper City Brewery
present
A Tomato Harvest Beer Dinner

Five beers, including two casks, from Clipper City's Heavy Seas line
paired with
Five Tomato based dishes created by Executive Chef Barton Seaver
(All the tomatoes used are local organic)

Balto Marzhon
Puree of tomato soup garnished with woodgrilled onions

Small Craft Warning Uber Pils
Sliced tomatoes and portabellos drizzled with minted herb oil

Red Sky at Night Saison
Grilled fresh shrimp with endive and tomato compote

Peg Leg Imperial Stout (served from a firkin)
Grilled lamb finished with tomato leaf & hazelnut pesto;
served on a bed of carmelized tomato risotto

Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale (served from a firkin)
House-made Tomato Basil Ice Cream

Cizauskas at Cafe St-Ex Beer Dinner
For the lamb dish, Chef Seaver emphasized the minty/herbal aroma of the stems of a tomato plant.

Seaver was intrigued by the herbal character of the Loose Cannon, and proposed pairing a fresh cask of it with a tomato-based dessert. He reduced the fresh tomatoes for an extended period over low heat, resulting in a delicious demi-sweet flavor. (Despite what the US Supreme Court may say, tomatoes are a fruit after all.) When I appeared momentarily skeptical, he laughed. "That's why I'm the chef and you're the beer guy."

And, indeed, infused with basil and drizzled with tomato syrup, his ice cream was an inspired pairing for the herbal/fruity character of the cask-conditioned Loose Cannon, and a delicious conclusion to what one beer-dinner veteran told me was the best he had ever attended.

More photos here.

In defense of the quality of the photos, they were taken using a disposable camera. In a nine month period before the dinner, I had misplaced one digital camera, and I had driven out from under another (after placing it on the roof of my car). For discipline, I had placed myself on a 'digital' diet.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Change brewing in VA?

I have heard this rumor from several sources. I've called certain people in the industry who would be in the position to know something about it. So, I am 75% certain that:

A major regional mid-Atlantic brewery will be sold within the next couple of weeks. The buyer will be a major national brewery. An in-house duopoly at the local brewery is attempting to put together a counter offer.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

Just think: where would you go, what would you do, how would you live, how would you provide for yourself and your children ... if your entire city was obliterated? Contribute to the Red Cross or do whatever you can do to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

What has happened to our brethren at Abita Brewery?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Odds and ends

Brooklyn Summer Scorcher, beer breakfast, homebrewers' conference in Baltimore, Old Dominion Beer Festival. I'm on the way out to Ashburn, Vriginia this morning to set up for the last session of the Fest.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In the men's room

I saw this announcement posted in the bathroom of a DC beer bar:

Cast ale this week.

Must have cost them an arm and a leg.

"Cask ale", of course, was meant.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Baseball returns and my Philly regrets

I grew up in DC, back when the Redskins were terrible and the Senators, our baseball team, moreso ... but at least we had baseball.

Today, after 34 years, prodigal baseball has returned, and things don't seem as gray.

Also this week in nearby Philadelphia, professional brewers, brewery owners, brewing scientists, equipment fabricators, and assorted poobahs and grunts of the craft beer world have convened and consumed. It's the annual Craft Brewers Conference. And its a grand occasion.

It was 1997 in Seattle that I was to it last. And this year, it pains me to miss it, so palpably close. I couldn't justify the trip: selling beer, Clipper City Brewing Company beer of Baltimore, is my job now, and I could do that more effectively here.

Maybe next year!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Storm King sails the Atlantic

I subscribe to the Oxford Bottled Beer Database. It's an on-line beer review site. I enjoy reading it for several reasons. Unlike beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com (both of which I peruse as well), this site favors well-made beers rather than solely those big, bigger, biggest. Plus, as the site hails from the UK, its reviews are a fascininating glimpse into local beers and preferences.

Today, a review of Victory Brewing's Storm King came over. That's unusual in that Victory is, of course, from Pennsylvania, USA.

Storm King is one of my favorite impy stouts. Here is the review.

Victory Brewing Co. Storm King Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.8%; Country: USA

Many thanks to Dominic Pinto for kindly bringing us this beer from the states. This is an extremely strong imperial stout from this Pennsylvanian microbrewery. It is rich dark brown/black in colour with a thick, creamy but ephemeral head. Nose is surprisingly light and herbal, consisting of floral hops and lemon with a touch of malt. On the palate it is heavy and richly hoppy but with balancing malt, though much smoother and with less burnt character than other beers of the style. It is quite sour and acidic, though - the hops impart a citrusy quality with strong vinous, resinous overtones, consistent with extremely heavy dry-hopping. Dark chocolate notes are present, with a wine-like alcohol kick, but overall the beer is far lighter and smoother than its strength would suggest. Aftertaste is long and bitter, with a touch of wine and some treacley sweetness. A fabulous strong stout, pleasantly complex and perilously drinkable.

Sail on, Victory!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Clipper Serendipity

I was hosting an in-store tasting at Cleveland Park Liquors in Washington, D.C. last night: pouring various Clipper City beers and flogging a few cases in the process!

One younger gentleman hovered about for a few minutes, listening to my spiel.

After a few minutes, he asked: "Are you with the distributor or with the brewery?". "With the brewery", I replied.

Well, my name is Brett ****. In late 1995, I was one of the first employees at Clipper City. I worked on the bottling line with lead brewers Tom Flores and Jerry Rush. Things were frenzied then, but a lot of fun, as in any start-up operation.

During the bottling runs, I would hope for a few cases, say 3 or so, of under-fills. We were allowed to take them home. But if there were too many, owner Hugh Sisson would have us empty the bottles, clean and sanitize them, and refill them. Money was tight: the bottles were worth more than the beer!

'Craft' beer history from someone who might not have been been mentioned in the chronicles ... but is now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Return of DC-Beer

DC Beer, a web bulletin board that is populated by beer enthusiasts in DC, Baltimore, Annapolis, and the exurbs of those areas, has returned. (In proper e-parlance, a web bulletin board is a listserve.)

DC Beer is currently maintained by beer enthusiast, Dan Brown, on his own time and with his own nickels. On 20 January, the server he was using went kaput. Dan has since replaced the server, but for 6 weeks DC's virtual beer community had been undernourished.

Go to: http://brauhaus.org/dc

While DC Beer was under repair, I began a web discussion group for beer enthusiasts in the DC area as a complement to DC Beer, or stop-gap, if you will. Only a few joined; but, nonetheless, I will keep the DC-Baltimore Good Beer Appreciation Society going.

Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/goodbeersociety

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas
thomas@cizauskas.net

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Guinness and my father

On April 3, 2002, my father died from complications connected with Parkinson's Disease.

Two evenings before he died, Dad was not able to drink but only to slurp water from a sponge. My wife was sitting at the bedside, rehydrating the sponge.

Sipping a Guinness Stout, she did a triple take: the glass of water, the pint of beer, the water. She re-hydrated the sponge in the Guinness and gave it to Dad. He sucked the sponge dry, several times.

That was to be my father's last earthly pleasure. A beer. A stout. Guinness Stout.

The next day, he could no longer swallow.

Albert Charles Cizauskas was born on 1 March 1920. Today, my mother and I toasted his memory with a Guinness.

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Happy Birthday, Dad.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

SING FOR THE ANGELS, PAM

I've just received the sad news that jazz singer and composer Pam Bricker has died.

Pam Bricker was one of the great vocal stylists of the DC club scene. She sang mostly in the jazz idiom, but she was quite versatile. I knew her only from her club performances, but she always was quite gracious to me. She exuded an inner (and outer!) beauty.

Beer enthusiasts may remember her Brickskeller performance for Michael Jackson’s - the beer writer - 60th birthday party.

Among two other albums of hers, I have an album from her time in the early 1990s with Rick Harris (of Mad Romance) at DC's Henley Park Hotel. On the album, the duo perform one of the more astonishing versions of All the Things You Are that I've ever heard. I have been fortunate enough to hear her perform it live.

I recently heard her perform at her regular Sunday evening gig at Club Utopia.

From her website, I've learned that Pam was a dedicated supporter of Heifer International, an organization whose mission is to "promote a world of communities equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet."

Perhaps an appropriate manner by which to honor her considerable contributions to the Washington music scene would be to make a donation to this cause which she supported.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Last last call at DeGroen's

Baltimore Brewing Company (or Degroen's, its trade name) has been a brewpub fixture of the Baltimore beer scene since its inception in 1989. DeGroen's was the area's second brewpub, preceded by only a few months by the area's first - Sisson's.

Sad for its fans and for good beer enthusiasts, BBC is closing.

A friend reported that as of Wednesday, 23 March 2005, a mere 11 kegs of beer remained. He said, "The chalkboard behind the bar explicitly says '"DO NOT PLAN A RETURN VISIT!!'"

Baltimore Brewing Company was founded by a Continental - Theo De Groen - a courageous adventurer brewing lagers in a microbrew world awash with ales.

His brewpub was quite Teutonic in other ways: sausage and starch menu, a gorgeous copper brewhouse, a cavernous, high-ceilinged taproom.

DeGroen offered his beers in take-home refillable growlers. One of his innovations was "DeGroen's filling stations": one could return an empty growler to a participating wine and beer shop and receive a new, freshly filled growler. DeGroen was the initial importer of these distinctive bottles: metal cradles, smoked brown glass, and ceramic resealable swing tops, similar to those found on Grolsch bottles. (Not coincidentally, the DeGroen family has ownership stake in Grolsch.)

Other brewpubs throughout the US soon began to buy these same growlers. To help his brewpub grow and survive, DeGroen eventually installed a bottling line.

I prefer recalling the good memories rather than observing the death gurgle.

  • My many visits to the BBC in the early 1990s, when I was amazed by the sharp complexity of the DeGroens Pils.
  • Working on my purchase of Sisson's in the spring and fall of 2000, my weekly visits to BBC for the Pils and malty Bock.
  • A Weizen brewed with Weinheinstephan yeast, a Dunkles, an Altfest, and a Marzen rounding out the traditional roster of beers.
  • As recently as late spring 2004, I enjoyed a wonderful DeGroens rauch bock on tap.
  • The brewery was rewarded with medals from GABF.

    BBC was a training ground for brewers. Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, owners and brewers at Victory Brewing, worked for DeGroen.
  • Washington, D.C.-area beer maven Bob Tupper speaks of DeGroen's Pils as the inspiration for his gold-medal winning Tupper's Hop Pocket Pils.
  • My two DeGroens growlers, long emptied, remain as special mementos.
The morbid roster grows: Oxford Brewing Company, Potomac Brewing Company, Blue and Gold Brewpub, Sisson's Restaurant and Brewery, Globe Brewing Company, Brimstone Brewing Company, Wild Goose Brewing Company, and yes, even National Brewing Company.

Continued success and good fortune to the survivors!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

72 Hours of Belgium Beer Festival

So many beers, so little time.

The 72 Hours of Belgium Beer Festival took place this past weekend in Baltimore at Max's Taphouse. On tap, Beer Manager Casey Hard had in excess of 25 beers - in bottle, in excess of 100 different brands. Suffice it to say, the selection, bottle and draft, was extensive and stunning.

A lot of beer glitterati were in attendace Saturday evening when I was there. To name a few, in no particualr order: Ed Janiak, past brewer at Oxford Brewing; Joe Gold, Baltimore's long-time beer guru; Chuck Cook, peripatetic beer traveler and writer; Rick Kennedy, past brewer for Brimstone Brewing; Ed James, treasurer, Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood; Volker Stewart, Tom Creegan, Chris Cashell, Steve Frasier, owners and brewers of Brewers Art; John Pollack, past beer buyer for the Old Vine; Ron Fischer, cellarmaster for importer B United, International, and others whose names I have forgotten or whose conversations have become, I must apologize, lost in a mist of Belgian euphoria.

In the for what its worth department, here are some notes I took on my handy dandy (geeky) Palm Tungsten T3.

Beers I tried (some sipped, some drunk):

Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux
draft
Disappointed. The 'Uber' Saison character of the bottles I have tasted was missing here, replaced by a deep amber color and matching maltiness, and a somewhat flabby character.

Le Canard
draft
Complimented Chris from Brewers Art on this. A Kwak-inspired brew (hence the punny name), cask-conditioned, and poured from handpump. Amazingly bright! Crisp firm biscuity malt, appropriate fruit and spice.

Deus
bottle
My surprise favorite of the evening. Deep golden, very 'sparkling'. Botanicals nose and flavor. Eminently drinkable. Now, if it weren't for the high price of the bottle ...!

Cantillon Lambic Aged 2 years
draft
Nectar!! I was surprised by the mellowness of the beer. Lactic creaminess outweighed acetic character. Poured from draft there was som sparkle. In a bottle would assume this would be nearly still.

Cantillon St. Lamvinus
bottle
Stunning. Not worth the price but so deliciously complex. An example of wine in a beer without the usual oxidative wininess. Instead, hints of vanillin and Bordeaux character. If it weren't so expensive, this would be my #2 'go-to' gueuze after Hanssens.

Fantome BBBalliard
bottle
didn't like. seemed unfermented/worty. Maybe a bad bottle.

De Dolle Special Brousel 2000
bottle
A 'special' treat from Casey to us. Still good; malty, complex, but in a 'tween' stage where the aging is more of an oxidative/winy note than the the mellow sherry/port stage.

De Dolle Dulle Teve
draft
as tasty as ever, if a tad sweeter on draft than in bottle. Slight haze, good bead, spicy/zesty

La Rulles Tripel
draft
Wonderful, creamy, spicy, nicely done sweet mouthfeel.

De Dolle Special Export Stout
draft
This seemed a bit harsh/acrid roast. I'll have to revisit it when I haven't had lambics in my mouth.

Val Dieu Winter
draft
stopped taking notes by this one, but dark, plummy, cinnamony. Would be good after-dinner, slightly sweet, winter brew.

I didn't get to the food. (If I used emoticons, there would be a smiley face here.)

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

Friday, February 11, 2005

Happy Birthday Lilian!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Monks Cafe Flemish Red

An out-of-town experience

Casey Hard, young beer manager at Max's TapHouse (in Baltimore, MD), always seems to bring in unique beers that other beer emporia don't.


Max's beer manager Casey Hard, not with Flemish Red, but with gravity keg of Uerige Sticke.

And so it was today... Monk's Cafe Flemish Red, the house sour red of Monk's Cafe in Philly, right here in Baltimore. I stumbled upon it, figuratively: Casey had only just placed it on tap.

Steenbrugge brews it in Belgium for Monk's. Wetten Importers brings it into the US. Alone among all draft houses in Maryland, Max's is pouring it. Again, props to Mr. Hard.

Inviting lactic/fruity nose.. that signature mixture of cherry fruit, minerality, and cream cheese. Good sharp cherry acidity in the mouth. I prefer Duchesse de Bourgogne's more ample mouthfeel and complexity but this is a wonderfully drinkable Flemish Red. Wonderful by itself, I would pair it with game ... or for us vegetarians, triple creme cheeses.

The world seems a richer place.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Spirit of Belgium

Here's a hearty thank you (how does one say that in Flemish?) to Becky and Dave Pyle, Tom and Colleen Cannon, Andy Anderson, Christine Johnbrier, Rick Garvin, and ALL at BURP who produced that tremendous event last weekend - the Spirit of Belgium.

As an invited judge for the homebrew competition, I tasted some stunningly well-made fruited lambics. One fellow judge commented, "I would buy this if it were were commercially made." A case for me too!

I wasn't able to attend the other events, including a delicious-sounding banquet (with meals prepared by the chef of the Belgian Embassy), but I've heard rhapsodic comments from others who did.

Here's a wish for many more SOBs.

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Bilbo Baggins Beer Dinner

in case your invitation to the Presidential Inaugural Ball was lost in the mail


Bilbo Baggins Beer Dinner

Alexandria, Va.

6 beer selections paired with a Five-Course Dinner.


When: Thursday, January 20, 7pm.

Cost: $46 + gratuity.

Sponsored by: Clipper City Brewing Company & UnWined Gourmet

Host: Thomas Cizauskas from Clipper City


MENU:

Reception-

Oxford Raspberry Ale


Soup-Lobster & Shrimp Bisque

Paired with McHenry Old Baltimore-style Lager


Mussels Mariniere

Paired with Clipper City Gold Ale


Smoked Duck Salad

Paired with Clipper City Pale Ale


Main Course- (your choice)

Andouille Chicken Breast

- or -

Wild Mushroom Beef Medallions

Paired with Heavy Seas Winter Storm


Dessert

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Paired with Peg Leg Imperial Stout


Sunday, January 16, 2005

First-ever beer dinner at The Royal Mile Pub

If you weren't beer-ed out by this past weekend's fabulous Spirit of Belgium, consider this beer event:

The Royal Mile Pub
of Wheaton, Maryland


presents its first ever beer dinner

featuring the beers of Clipper City Brewing Company and others.

Monday, January 17th, 2005 at 7pm
$48, tax & tip included
(Reservations only)

Dinner created & hosted by: Executive Chef Ian Morrison
Commentary by: Thomas Cizauskas of Clipper City Brewing Company

Welcome Beer
Oxford Raspberry (Clipper City, Baltimore, Md.)

Heather & Thyme Duck Consomme
Fraoch Heather Ale (Scotland)

Diver Scallop in House Salmon & Bok Choy
Clipper City Gold Ale (Clipper City, Baltimore, Md.)

Duck Breast Braised in Apple Cider
Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (Scotland)

Carbonnade of Beef
braised in Dark Lager with Apple-Wood Bacon, Gratinee, Mesclun Greens
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauch Urbock (Germany)

Cheese Tray
Stilton Blue, Irish Cheddar, Sage Derby,
Gooseberry Wine Cheese, & St. Andre
fresh firkin cask of Winter Storm Imperial ESB (Clipper City, Baltimore, Md.)

The following week, The Royal Mile Pub will celebrate Burns Night with, among other things, house-made haggis. You'll be spared that for this beer dinner!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

New advocacy group for small brewers

The craft brewery movement has long been absent a crucial peg necessary for sustained growth: that is, dedicated attention to the ways of government and regulation - and action about them. As of 1 January, seeds towards this end may have been sown.

The merger of the Association of Brewers (Charlie Papazian, et al) with the Brewers' Association of America portends practical efforts towards protecting the interests of craft brewers' as a group of businesses with like concerns.

Here are excerpts from a press release. More at:
http://www.beertown.org.

Formed January 1, 2005, through a merger of the Association of Brewers and the Brewers’ Association of America, the reorganized Brewers Association is a not-for-profit trade association representing the interests of craft brewers.

With a combined history of almost 90 years, the BA aims to promote and defend the interest of craft brewers and provide education and marketing support. The organization includes activities and services representing various facets of the brewing business including a professional craft brewers, homebrewers (American Homebrewers Association®), Brewers Publications, and events such as the Great American Beer Festival®, the World Beer Cup®, Craft Brewers Conference, BrewExpo America®, National Homebrewers Conference and the National Homebrew Competition.
<...>
“We believe that a combined organization will result in a stronger voice for small brewers in the media, in the nation’s capital and in state legislatures,” said Gary Fish, Chairman of the BAA and President of Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR. “We are part of a government-regulated industry, and we need to marshal all the support we can to represent the interests of small brewers. The goals of both organizations are to promote and protect the industry. Together, we will do a much better job.”

“There now are more than 1500 breweries in the United States, more than any other country in the world, and a united voice will enable us to tell our story to the world more effectively,” said Charlie Papazian, founder and president of the Association of Brewers, formed in 1979 to promote the then fledgling small brewing industry.

In 1975, there were fewer than 40 brewing companies in the United States, down from more than 2500 before Prohibition devastated the industry in the 1920s. The giant brewing companies that resulted from consolidation of the industry were all brewing light lager beers.

The Boulder-based Association of Brewers was formed to showcase the brewing renaissance than blossomed in America beginning in the late 70’s. Yearning for more flavor than was available from the mass market beers, thousands of Americans began homebrewing after President Carter legalized the practice in 1978.
<...>
The BAA [Brewers Association of America], the nation’s oldest association of brewers, [was] formed during World War II to insure that small brewers got their share of war-rationed materials like tin and barley.
<...>
In the past decade the BAA, which represented America’s dwindling regional brewing industry, enlisted many of the new brewing companies that sprang up across the country in the last two and a half decades. The new breweries brought new life to the BAA. As the new industry developed, the two organizations began searching for ways to better represent the interests of small brewers.

“This merger represents the best of the new and the best of the heritage of small brewing in America,” said Papazian. “A merger will greatly strengthen our marketing and our political initiatives.”

BAA President Daniel Bradford has been offered the position of Legislative Director.


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