Sunday, December 31, 2006

meeting the Messiah

before the concert began
My mother and I saw the Messiah at the Kennedy Center on Christmas Eve. Well, we didn't quite see HIM, but we did hear the oratorio G.F. Handel composed in his honor.

Neither Mom nor I had ever seen Messiah performed before. A smaller group of National Symphony performers (utilizing both modern and period instruments), conducted by Kenneth Slowack, and the (National)Cathedral Choral Society created a concert of intimate proportions (as if that were possible in the Kennedy Center). Glorious! Glorious!

"Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low: the crooked straight, and the rough places plain."

May love and health find you - and remain with you - in 2007. Laimingu Nauju Metu. (That's "Happy New Year" in Lithuanian.)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cask ale, and why we love it


I attended a cask ale seminar in the mid 90s where that 'other beer guy', Roger Protz, gave a talk on cask ale. He began, "Cask ale is not a matter of life and death. It's of much more significance!"

From The OED: "Cask ale is beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide."

More on cask ale
[ update: 2007 Protz lecture ]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hard Times in Winter


Several of the Hard Times Cafes (chili restaurants and cue clubs) in our area hold annual Winter Beer Tastings. This year, in my territory, these were in Bethesda Maryland and Woodbridge Virginia. The format is unique. The representatives for the breweries, or from distributors of the beers, describe the beers to the participants. Only then are all the beers (usually 10) brought out in 4 ounce glasses, at which point the participants attempt to correctly identify each beer. Merry mayhem ensues .. and it's the reps who usually fare the poorest!

Thanks to Greg at the Bethesda Hard Times Cafe and to Randy at the Woodbridge location for the support they have shown me and Clipper City Brewing Company. Pictured with me in the photo are the reps for Sierra Nevada Brewing (l) Company and Old Dominion Brewery.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beer, where wine lives


I normally don't mention my in-store demonstrations, if only because they, while crucial to my business, are an EVERY weekend and often, mid-week thing. Simply put, I pour small samples of Clipper City beers for customers.

But quotidian they may be in their regularity, they are a crucial part of marketing our brand name. Craft breweries such as Clipper City have nowhere even remotely near the marketing and advertising budgets of the international, national, and regional brands.

I'll mention today's tasting at Balducci's in McLean Virginia if only because I was the sole beer vendor among many wine vendors recommending pairings for the Christmas table. Thank you to manager Genevelyn Steele and to her predecessor Paul Everitt who had originally planned the event. (Other stores throughout my territory have had me in under similar circumstances ... and I thank them as well!)

It's odd how many wine connoisseurs are ignorant of the simple elegance that beer can bring to the food table in addition to its more heralded insouciance. But today, some oenophiles were converted into beer appreciators!

And I saw several friends-in-beer, as if one beverage necessarily excluded the other (which of course, it should not). If only one, I'll mention Fred, who is not only a wine buff, but an enthusiast for good beer and a partisan for Clipper City.

Atlanta Beer and Cheese

It was three evenings of Beer and Cheese Tastings organized and conducted by Andy Klubock, a demiurge of the Atlanta Georgia beer scene, at his Summits Wayside Taverns. 14 winter beers and 14 cheeses. More photos.

Klubock was here!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Whisky and Barleywine

The Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton Maryland celebrated its 25th anniversary with a scotch whisky dinner, Tuesday 28 November.

The scotch whiskies - were presented by Kristina Sutter, a Diageo Master of Whiskey. The Pub host for the dinner was Kristin Orr, general manager. For the finale, I presented the cask - a pin (5.4 US gallons) - of Clipper City Brewing's 2006 vintage Below Decks Barleywine.

A barleywine is a light to amber-hued ale of greater than 9.5 % alcohol. Barleywines - the exception to the rule of the fresher the beer the better - can be cellared. They maderize, that is gain sherry and port wine notes, as they age. Clipper City vintage dates its bottles of Below Decks.

Chef/owner Morrison prepared the evening's menu, or as Ms. Orr termed it, Scottish World Fusion!

  • Passed Hors D'ouevers with Johnnie Walker Green Cocktail - mini sweet onion tarts, empanadas, crab stuffed mushrooms, tapanade crostini, stuffed grape leaves
  • Sushi rolls with salmon three ways (whisky brined and smoked, cured gravlax style and sashimi) - Talisker 25
  • Chicken skewers seasoned with garam masala - Oban/ Glenkinchie
  • Venison Sausage over spaetzle with fig puree - Cragganmore
  • Vanilla Panna Cotta - Chilled Dalwhinnie
  • Stilton Blue Baked in Pastry - Lagavulin/ Caol Isla
  • Cask of Below Decks Barleywine with Baggy of Chocolates and Mints
When the refreshing beverage - after 6 whiskies - is a 10% alcohol by volume beer, some over-indulging might occur!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Birrificio 'terrifico'

One of the last functions I arranged when I worked for distributor Legends, Ltd., was a 'trade show' of Italian beers and wines at Baltimore taphouse Max's, in the summer of 2004. Even then, 'good' Italian beer still seemed an oxymoron.

Thus it was a distinct pleasure-- 2 years later -- to meet Lorenzo Dabove, Wednesday, 8 November 2006, at Baltimore's jewel of a brewpub, Brewer's Art.

Quite the character, Lorenzo Dabove is the self-appointed, to some extent, ambassador of a new generation of Italian microbreweries. Dabove, who goes by the nickname of Kuaska has been instrumental in helping US importer B. United 'discover' some of the more interesting Italian brewpubs/craft-breweries, most of which brew in an Italianate Belgian-style , and produce only in small amounts.

Megan Ryan was in attendance, a representative of Baltimore's Slow Food, the putative co-sponsor of the event. (Lorenzo is active in the Slow Food movement in Italy, which is in fact where, a few years back, Slow Food was founded.) Representing Baltimore's Society for the Preservation of Beer From the Wood was Ed James.

It was disconcerting to see only a few or so attendees there, but that's a minor complaint. To have these beers in the US and here in DC/Baltimore was very special indeed.

The beers ranged from good to 'terrifico', the presentation by Lorenzo was entertaining (in his excellent, if heavily accented English). He was quite honest in his assessment of Italian craft beer - not as accepted as is craft beer in the US - but he was sanguine in his prediction for its future - adventuresome brewers are becoming better businessmen!

In the center of the elegant wood-paneled back room, Chef Tip Carter arrayed a sumptuous spread of appetizers. Around the perimeter, Brewer's Art's brewers, and co-proprietors Tom Creegan and Volker Stewart, arranged tables at which they poured different beers from each of the featured Italian breweries. These were:


from Birrificio Italiano: La Fleurette & Cassissona
from Birrificio Le Baladin: Le Baladin Noel & Nora
from Birrificio Troll: Shangrila
from Birrificio Montegioco: Demon Hunter, Draco, Quarta Runa

Cellarmaster Ron Fischer from importer B. United had been placed in charge of driving Lorenzo for his East Coast tour. Showing true dedication (and grit), Ron arrived with Lorenzo despite having suffered a car accident on the drive down from New Jersey. The car was severely damaged, but Ron and Lorenzo, fortunately, were fine.

The beers will be added to Brewer's Art's beer list hence forward, pending availability ... minus Lorenzo!

I've always liked the Nora, a fascinating concoction, distantly akin to a Belgian wit beer but spiced with myrrh. The Shrangila was, well, interesting, with its infusion of a curry-blend of spices. I went back for seconds of the Draco, an 11% abv beer brewed with blueberries. I couldn't necessarily pick out the fruit, but I thought of the beer as, let's say, an Imperial Berry Dark Wit: lemon zest, coriander, low-toned fruit, with a soft underlay of caramel. Big but not cloying.

More photos.

[update: comments from Volker, including a recount of a humorous comment from Lorenzo.]

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vintage 50 Brewpub opens in Leesburg

Bill with long-time fan of his beers
Congratulations are in order for Bill Madden and crew, who had a 'soft' opening of their new Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge yesterday.

50 Catoctin Circle NE, Leesburg, VA
703-554-1207

It's the old Thoroughbreds Grille and brewpub (itself barely a year old when it ceased operations) so the decor, although adjusted to reflect the new name, is still quite classy with lots of dark wood and a beautiful tap system.

The beers are Kevin Kozaks' final brews from Thoroughbreds and are still in good shape: helles, pale ale, dark mild, cherry stout, IPA and imperial IPA. Licensing for brewing operations has been granted. Bill has wasted no time in beginning to fill his tanks; look for his brews soon. I tried a couple of appetizers which were quite tasty.

Bill was, for nearly a decade, the 'corporate brewmaster' for the Capitol City Brewery chain (2 in DC, 1 in Shirlington, VA, 1 in Baltimore; and other non-brewpub restaurants in the area). There, he won several medals for his beers at the Great American Beer Festival. Subsequently, for a brief time (2004-2005), he was a part-owner and brewmaster for Founders in Alexandria. That location ceased operations but Bill unable to improve systemic problems had left the management well before the pub's demise. (Sadly enough, 2 brewpubs have now failed in the same spot: the Virginia Beverage Comapny and then Founders.)

Favorites of fans of his oeuvre (such as Madonna, pictured with Bill at the soft opening on Monday evening; and there are many others in the DC area) are his Kolsch and his American Imperial IPA. Both, Bill says, will make their return at Vintage 50.

From Chuck Triplett who posts to www.realbeer.com and other beer sites:

Across town, Anthony Cavallo and Bill Madden are putting the final touches on Vintage 50 a restaurant/brewery the two men are preparing to open Nov. 6 in 50 Catoctin Circle. The brewery and restaurant will fill the restaurant space Thoroughbreds Grill previously occupied. Dinner will be served nightly starting at 4 p.m.

The restaurant will seat 100, which Cavallo said is "very small" in terms of restaurants but provides him and his staff the opportunity to be very customer oriented.

"We want people to come in and have a dialogue with us," he said. Dinner shouldn't be rushed, but should provide diners a chance to try different wines and beers with one of the 10 standard menu items or the special of the night.

The smaller menu, "allows us to do our menu items really well," Cavallo said, and, coupled with the restaurant size, enables the chef and sous chef to be the true cooks in the kitchen, rather than having line cooks make the meals, he added.

In addition to the nightly meals, Vintage 50 plans to hold wine dinners and beer dinners, special events that will allow diners to pare different drinks with foods to see which ones match.

"It's a good way for people to learn about wines," said Angie Bishop about the wine dinners.

The beer dinners will highlight the work of beer master Bill Madden who spent 10 years brewing for Capitol City Brewery in Washington, DC.

In addition to four core beers that will always be on tap, Madden said he plans to offer seasonal beers and other recipes he has found to be popular with customers.

"We want to get Leesburg involved with brewing some of these beers," he said, and wants to incorporate preferences into what he brews. Each batch he brews is the equivalent of 20 kegs of beer, he said.

Guests can sample a tapas-style menu in the bar area, American fare cuisine in the main dining room and specialty drinks and wine in addition to its brews throughout.

"Leesburg does not have that late-night feeling yet," Cavallo said. "My bar will not close until 1 a.m.," offering guests a smoke-free lounge that will serve a limited menu once dinner ends at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The entire restaurant is non-smoking; smoking will be permitted on the outdoor patio.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sputnik Halloween

On 31 October 2006, Bill and Maria Buszinski invited me back to the Sputnik Cafe to host another costume Halloween Beer Dinner. Here was their menu:

Beer 1: Etienne Dupont Cidre (of course, not really a beer)

Beer 2: Black Cat Mild, paired with Mushroom Paté and spiced blackberry sauce.
 


Beer 3: Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, paired with Asian-Spiced Pork Tenderloin and spiced apples. 


Beer 4: Clipper City's Balto MärzHon, paired with Oyster Stew. 


Beer 5: Clipper City's Winter Storm Imperial ESB, paired with Savory Oxtails and preserved lemon polenta. 


Beer 6: Clipper City's Peg Leg Imperial Stout, paired with Fig Cake.

That's me, dressed as a crazy brewing scientist? Here's another, earlier, Sputnik beer dinner.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

C.C. in N.C.

At the World Beer Festival, sampling the Creme Brulee Java Stout with Erin, representative for the Kuhnhenn Brewery of Warren, MII represented the Clipper City Brewing Company at the World Beer Festival in Durham, NC. It rained all weekend and there was a chemical plant fire 30 miles away, but things were fun. In the old Bull Durham Ballpark: several thousand attendees, 2 sessions, lots of good beer!

Friday evening was the get-together for the brewers and staff. The day before it had been 80°F. That night it was in the upper 30s and windy! I met up with several friends in the industry, including, true beer pioneers, Carol and Ed Stoudt, who didn't remember me, but who I've met several times over the years.

At our booth, on draft, we were serving our Small Craft Warning Uber Pils and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.

I was very thrilled with the response to our cask ale. Many who tasted our Loose Cannon from a firkin in the cask ale tent (Pop the Cap), deliberately made their way to the other end of the festival area to find our booth and congratulate us ... and have another Loose Cannon on draft!

The festival was the official kick-off of the Clipper City brand in North Carolina.

More photos here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Imperial this, Imperial that!!??

Brewmasters, l to r: Ernesto Igot of Clipper City, Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery

Brewmasters: Ernesto Igot (l) of Clipper City, Garrett Oliver (r) of Brooklyn Brewery

In 1776, nascent Americans rejected Empire and its Imperial trappings. So why are American brewers so enthusiastically re-embracing that concept when naming their quintessentially American beers (excluding the historically correct acknowledgment of Catherine the Great's penchant for extracurricular activities and London stout)?

At the Great American Beer Festival, there were many good beers and much good cheer. It was well worth the visit. Many DC/Balto folk stopped by our booth to say hello. We thank them!


With so many choices, how could one pick a favorite? But I'll pick two: the vertical tasting of Alaskan Smoked Porter (from 1994 onward .. so actually expanding my list) and the Triple Exultation from Eel River. By the way, the latter beer won 2 medals, hmmm - in its pristine form and in its aged iteration.

Here's a rant (and it truly is such, as its author does ramble) but it does speak to the issues of styles, style nabobs, and style creep.

At Falling Rock (Denver's version of Baltimore's Max's TapHouse) with 100+ taps, I enjoyed a wacky 10% abv Manhattan Project from Full Sail: inoculated with brettanomyces, extra-fermented with cherries, and aged in Pinot Noir casks.

I had time to attend only one other-than-beer session. It was Garrett Oliver doing a fantastic cooking demonstration. In the space of an hour, he whipped up omelets (paired with hefeweizen) and crab cakes (paired with his hoppy East India Pale Ale). He insisted upon Japanese bread crumbs for the crab cakes. Who knew?

It's the World Beer Festival in Durham on Saturday; hope to see you there. And the Cap City Oktoberfest in Shirlington is also on Saturday. One of our brewers will be at our booth there.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Light [lite] concerns

I had one of those puzzling and infuriating discussions about light beer yesterday while enjoying a pint of Clipper City's Red Sky at Night Saison at RFD, a restaurant and good beer emporium in downtown Washington DC.

"I'm of the age that I need to drink light beer", my elbow neighbor at the bar told me. "Why don't microbreweries recognize my demographic and brew light beers?"

I replied, "I'm older than you and I don't find any need to drink light beer. If weight control is a concern, drink less! And eat thoughtfully. The 140-180 calories from ONE glass of beer won't fatten you, but the pizza will! "

He still demurred, not convinced, "But why won't you make a light beer? Samuel Adams does."

"The market for light beer is mostly about calories and price and not about flavor. Without the economies of scale that the large breweries enjoy, we would be forced to charge significantly more for our light beer than the big boys do. We would quickly and dramatically lose sales and be in danger of going out of business."

"And anyway," I laughed, "We don't like the way light beer tastes. Would you drink light wine, would you eat steak devoid of flavor?"

He wasn't convinced. And that's one reason why the big boys have been so successful. The idea that a beer can be a diet aid is, in and of itself, absurd, and yet the large breweries have insidiously and successfully inculcated that canard into our collective psyche.

Balto/Wash breweries do well at GABF

Here's a list of local breweries (Baltimore/Washington) which received medals at this year's Great American Beer Festival.

**Category: 6 Coffee-Flavored Beer - 28 Entries
Gold: Fuel, Capitol City Brewing Company, Arlington, VA
[Brewer Mike McCarthy]

**Category: 14 Cellar or Unfiltered Beer - 18 Entries
Bronze: Wild West Fest, Great American Restaurants, Centreville, VA

[This is Nick Funnell and Sweetwater Tavern. Due to trademark issues with Sweetwater Brewer of Atlanta, the restaurant cannot use its name for its beers!]

**Category: 23 Vienna-Style Lager - 20 Entries
Silver: Balto Marz Hon, Clipper City Brewing Company, Baltimore, MD

**Category: 24 German-Style Marzen/Oktoberfest - 45 Entries
Bronze: Dominion Octoberfest, Old Dominion Brewing Company, Ashburn, VA

[Congratulations to the Favio, Chris, and the entire brewing staff at Old Dominion. I'm certain that it's difficult for them to remain sanguine in the face of all the uncertainties inherent in the protracted sale of their brewery. See my recent posts on that topic, and add to those the latest, unsubstantiated, rumor that Anheuser-Busch has returned to the table with a new offer.]

**Category: 28 European-Style Dark/Munchner Dunkel - 21 Entries
Bronze: Iron Horse Lager, Great American Restaurants, Centreville, VA
[Nick and staff, #2!]

**Category: 41 American-Style Amber/Red Ale - 62 Entries
Silver: Amber Waves Ale, Capitol City Brewing Company, Arlington, VA
[Brewer Mike McCarthy, #2!]

**Category: 43 Bitter - 33 Entries
Gold: Raccoon Red, Rock Bottom Brewery - Bethesda, Bethesda, MD
[Brewer Geoff Lively, an unsung - maybe no more - brewer of good beers in our area.]

**Category: 49 German-Style Brown Ale/Dusseldorf-Style Alt Bier - 26 Entries
Gold: Terrapin Alt, Rock Bottom Brewery - Bethesda, Bethesda, MD
[Geoff #2!]

**Category: 52 Belgian-Style White (or Wit)/Belgian-Style Wheat - 36 Entries
Silver: Wits End, Great American Restaurants, Centreville, VA
[Nick and staff, #3 of 3!]

**Category: 53 French- Belgian-Style Saison - 44 Entries
Silver: Saison, Capitol City Brewing Company, Arlington, VA
[Brewer Mike McCarthy, #3 of 3!]

The entire list of 2006 GABF winners is available at www.beertown.org/events/gabf/06winners.htm

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Clipper City awarded silver

It's 2:18 PM Denver time, and here at the Great American Beer Festival, Clipper City Brewing has just been awarded silver medal for Balto MarzHon in the Vienna Lager category. As no gold was awarded (to boos from the crowd), maybe we should claim the virtual gold.

Of all the photos I snapped during the GABF, only the one of Ernie receiving the silver medal was taken with an unsteady hand, and thus too blurry for use. So the photo here is of Ernie getting back to his seat and being congratulated by Clipper City's general partner and founder Hugh Sisson.

Here with Clipper City, my involvement is not with production but with sales. Even so, when the reality hit me that I had finally become involved with a brewery that could boast the best beer in America, I did have to take a few deep breaths. (My quest began in 1992.)

I offer not only congratulations to Hugh Sisson, Ernesto Igot, Matt Saindon, Bruce Dombeck, and the entire brewing staff, but thanks!

UPDATE (other GABF-related postings):

Thursday, September 28, 2006

At Wynkoop Brewpub I enjoyed

Ernie, Hugh, and I had lunch at Wynkoop Brewpub. I believe it's the original brewpub in Denver; quite refreshingly (!), it is owned by the mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper.


I enjoyed a malty St. Charles ESB, pulled by beer engine from a cask. The stout was tasty with a touch of not unpleasant diacetyl. An interesting if sweet bretanomyces-yeast beer was on tap. It was very complex and alcoholic (10%+) but I found it to have an essence of turpentine that was quite off-putting. I didn't like this strongly wooded 10% abv belgian golden but others might.

I would recommend this brewpub if you visit Denver, not only for its history in the craft beer movement, but because it is a pleasant place with above average pub fare. For lunch, I had green chile; Ernie had a gumbo that he thoroughly enjoyed.

We're setting up our booth now at the Convention Center.

Great American Beer Festival 2006


I just arrived here at Denver @ noon. Clipper City's Brewmaster Ernesto Igot, owner Hugh Sisson, and I checked in to the Hyatt across the street from the Convention Center. Very convenient!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Old Brogue Beer Dinner

THE OLD BROGUE CELEBRATES THE HARVEST SEASON WITH A SAMPLING OF THE BEERS OF CLIPPER CITY BREWING COMPANY OF BALTIMORE .


CLIPPER CITY GOLDEN ALE

OXFORD HEFE WEIZEN

BALTO MARZHON

AYINGER OKTOBERFEST

LOOSE CANNON HOP3 ALE

BELOW DECKS BARLEY WINE (2005 VINTAGE)


plus.... WINTER STORM CATEGORY 5 ALE

POURED FROM A FRESHLY TAPPED FIRKIN CASK (THE FIRST TASTING OF 2006)


GUEST SPEAKER

HUGH SISSON, OWNER

CLIPPER CITY BREWING COMPANY

BALTIMORE , MARYLAND


DINNER BUFFET SERVED AT INTERMISSION

$35 PER PERSON

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26th

7:30 pm IN THE SNUGGERY


more photos

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Brewer's Art 10th Anniversary - review

Brewer/owner Steve Frazier addressing participants at Brewer's Art 10th anniversary dinner

Brewer's Art brewer and co-owner Steve Frazier addressing diners at the brewpub's 10th Anniversary celebratory beer dinner.

Steve welcomed us and the promptly gave a lot of credit to fellow owner (not present) Trom Creegan for coming up with the idea for the dinner, and working with Chef Tim Carter to pair the food and beers. Brewer's Art achieved a milestone this year, producing 1600 bbls of beer - more than its theoretical maximum capacity!

I took incomplete notes: I became more of a happy diner than a reliable correspondent!

The Brewer's Ale Soup was a rich veal-based creamy soup, paired with BA's Proletary Ale. (since I am a vegetarian, I relied on the comments of my fellow diners as to the foods and the pairings. In this case I was given a quite delicious Potato Corn Chowder.) The soup was mated with BA's Saison de Pécore (4.5% abv), brewed with Keffir lime leaves (citrusy), Grains of Paradise (peppery), heather blooms, and Sasison Pipaix yeast (complex). I found it a touch sulfury, but still very tasty.


Tom Baker brewed every style but with his own stamp.
Biere d'Art - Biere de Gard (9 month old) tasted a bit old. Murky brown. But I was a minority of one! Others really liked this.

With somewhat of controversial statement, Steve said that while Dogfish Head Brewery is good for the industry it doesn't make palatable beer. He stated that its sense of adventure helps to create momentum and interest, but that its final product is often of lower quality than the idea behind it.

Coriander Poached Pear
Shropshire quenelles
Heavyweight Saison
with Westmalle and Chouffe yeast
good pairing - fruity and citrusy.

Brewers' Art's 10th Anniversary Ale was brewed with cardamom, cinammon, and saffron (10 grams.per 280 gallons). The brewpub itself opened 13 Friday (!) 1996. The spices were used as an homage to French soccer star Zidane (before the head-butt!). I had squash and Tempura Asparagus, whereas all others were served Escolar, described as Oilfish. The diners found it delicious and not at all oily. The beer was wonderful.

The main course was the Venison Chop. Ron Fischer, Cellarmaster for importer B. United, declared it the most tender veal chop he had ever had. It was served with Unibroue's Cranberry Ephemere. I was served a Vegetable Cassoulet. The tartness paired well.

Happy Anniversary, Brewer's Art ... and many more!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Brewer's Art 10th Anniversary

With a beer dinner this evening, Brewer's Art begins a one week celebration of the 10th anniversary of its founding. I'm attending the dinner with Ron Fischer, cask manager for importer B United, and 2 beer buyers, from DC and northern Virginia, for the Whole Foods grocery chain.

Brewer's Art is one of 3 brewpubs operating in Baltimore. It features home-brewed Belgian beers, and is a highly regarded restaurant in its own right, with a well-executed wine list and an extensive bottled beer list.

brewpub website here.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Beer and Jazz at Shockoe Bottom



For several years, the River City Real Beer & Seafood Festival in Richmond, Virginia, celebrated regional seafood and craft beer. Recently hijacked by large concerns, it became a festival bereft of 'real' beer and, wierdly, also of much seafood!

So, the Richbrau Brewing Company in Richmond took the initiative last year and organized the Shockoe Craft Beer Festival. Shockoe Bottom is an area near the James River fronted by a series of rebuilt canals and walks. A low area, it was submerged by Hurricane Gastone a couple of years back.

Clipper City Brewing Company participated in the inaugural event last year, and again this year. There appeared to be about 15 breweries; the food selection wasn't much, but the music seemed to be a draw, with several bands both days. It ran Friday and Saturday, 25/26 August.

It was a warm weekend, but we found no hesitation among Richmond beer enthusiasts to enjoy our Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale and our dark, rich, full-bodied Imperial stout - Peg Leg. In fact, it was the women who asked for the stout more than the men.

Among the many enthusastic beer fans, I met Michael Gourrier. He is a Katrina survivor. In addition to the loss of his livelihood and his house, he lost his entire collection of 8,000+ jazz records, 45s, and 78s - a priceless, unrecoverable loss. He had been a jazz DJ on New Orleans radio for years; he and his wife have relocated to Richmond where he hosts a Sunday morning jazz show - Bebop and Beyond with Mr. Jazz on WRIR, a Richmond public radio station.

We talked at length. His enthusiasm was infectious; his sang-froid, inspirational. I laughed in agreement when he adjoined his two passions: "Jazz is like beer. There's more than one kind. But the average person will say, I only know this kind."

WRIR streams its music live via the internet. I listened last week and am listening today. (His substitue host this morning, Giz Bowe, is staying true to Mike's choices of bobp and neo-bop.)

Mike this week is in Chicago for the Chicago Jazz Festival. A theme of this year's Festival is the connection between Chicago and New Orleans; several performers from New Orleans are participating. I believe Mike will be emceeing some of the shows.

I would be remiss if I didn't thank our Richmond distributor, Legendary Distributors, and especially its chief, Rick Uhler. Noticing that we would run out of beer on Saturday - we poured 8 full kegs of Peg Leg Imperial Stout and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale! - Rick ran back over the bridge, a good 2 miles, to his warehouse, loaded up his truck with more beer, and drove back.

And thanks to Richbrau lead brewer Mike Banks and his crew who organized the Shockoe Craft Beer Festival, the marketing company they hired, and all the volunteers who helped to pour beer at the booths.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Blackbeard's Kiss at the Zoo

The Friends of the National Zoo, known as FONZ, threw a party Thursday evening, to benefit the Zoo. It featured beers mostly from local breweries and food exclusively from local restaurants.

I was there as a representative for Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland. Clipper City was the only brewery to bring a cask —a firkin of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. And, on draft, I was pouring Peg Leg Imperial Stout and Oxford Raspberry Wheat, which, in addition to pouring separately, I mixed together as a Blackbeard's Kiss.

Beer guys
Pictured, left to right:
  • David Battey, beer buyer for Whole Foods Market, Georgetown;
  • Thomas Cizauskas, Territory Manager for Clipper City Brewing;
  • Thor Cheston, manager of Birreria Paradiso.


  • More photos from the Brew at the Zoo here.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    4th of July

    Reflecting on these words today:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
    And thinking that these powerful words should be accompanied by appropriate music and beer, I'll skip - today, only today - blues and jazz, which would be the ultimate choices, and instead suggest these three little-heard pieces of AMERICAN orchestral music:

    With a barleywine -
    Roy Harris: Symphony #3

    With a double IPA (I will NOT refer to these as Imperial IPAs on our Independence Day. We discarded royalty and empire in 1776.) -
    Howard Hanson: Symphony #2

    With a smoked Porter -
    Charles Ives: Symphony #4

    Well ok, jazz with a Steam beer -
    Ellington/Gonsalves: Diminuendo In Blues And Crescendo In Blue

    Thank you to the troops in Iraq. May you all come home soon - and safely - from your ill-begotten danger but valiant service.

    Wednesday, June 28, 2006

    Like a pig in slop

    Ten years ago, I was the brewer for the Manayunk Brewing Company, a brewpub in Philadelphia, PA.

    Harry, the owner, would vacation in the islands.

    During one of his trips, he was drinking at a bar that had penned a pig on its premises. The employees would feed the pig unopened cans of beer. The pig would break open the cans and slop up the beer.

    Returning to Manayunk, Harry announced that Philly itself should experience the joy of such a thing.

    We protested, pointing out that there might be legal and community hurdles to mount.

    Harry paused ... but only for a moment. "I can take care of the politicians," he said. "And if any of those animal-loving PETA do-gooders protest, we'll just slaughter the pig and have a barbecue!"

    We prevailed, and Harry moved onto other things.

    Thoughts on strong beer

    Beer of greater than 9 or 10% seems to lose some of its essential beeriness. What it gains isn't a bad thing, and often is quite delicious.

    But these strong beers should serve as accents and exclamation points to our standard beer menus, not as replacements.

    Some beer-drinking sessions begin with a strong beer and then return to more alcoholicly pedestrian if not flavor-deprived fare for the remainder. The reverse is also practised, that is, sipping a strong beer afterwards, as a postprandial.

    I would rather, as an example, finish the evening with ONE Aventinus Eisbock and wake the next day happy and clear-headed, than fill the evening with several Aventin(ae) and wake with a fuzzy head.

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    Old Dominion Beer Festival wrap-up



    Clipper City owner Hugh Sisson
    talking with Whole Foods (Arlington, VA) asst beer buyer.
    Old Dominion Beer Festival, Friday, 23 June 2006.


    See a few more festival pix

    Sunday, June 25, 2006

    Old Dominion Festival update

    r to l: Tom Cizauskas, Territory Manager, Clipper City Brewing; Hugh Sisson, General Partner and founder, Clipper City Brewing
    With the (yet) pending sale of Old Dominion Brewing, there have been a lot of rumors concerning the brewery, one of which has been about the future viability of its Festival. Here's a comment on that gossip, which I've re-posted from DC-Beer.

    Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2006 09:13:45 -0500
    From: "Gregg Wiggins"
    Subject: [DC-Beer] RE: Future of OD Fest

    Since this latest version of the rumor that there won't be another Old Dominion Beer Festival is getting very broad distribution I thought I should jump in and bring my notes from a conversation I had earlier this week with Terry Fife. I'm planning to mention this in my next MABN column, but because by the time that hits the bar counters this will be a month-old story I doubt I'll go into the subject as extensively as I will here.

    After we both had a laugh that Jerry Bailey used to have to knock down this rumor every couple of years and now it was his turn, Terry told me the land on which the festival is being held this year has been sold as part of a larger plan. "They’re going to start development on it, probably, in August. But, nobody really knows when that particular field, they’re going to start on that," he told me. "It could be this year, it could be years from now". Terry doubts this will be the last
    year at the current site because there are other parts of the land in question that would be more logical to build on first.

    And, saying "but we'll always have one," the inevitable development will mean the festival would move, not end, according to Terry Fife. (ooh, good sentence, I think I'll have to use that one in the column) "There is a possibility this is the last year we’ll be able to have it there. It may not be right out in our backyard. But it’ll always be somewhere."

    I'm not doing this to trash our friendly brewspaper competition, and I don't remember having seen the column or article that contained the statement about future festivals. But, frankly, if they wrote "will" instead of "might" on this, ASN got it wrong.

    Old Dominion Beer Festival



    The Old Dominon Beer Festival this year has been a soggy one.

    Friday night, we were fortunate ... a storm threatened to occur but only brought cooling breezes and some drizzle later in the evening.

    Saturday was a different story, as you tell from this happy reveller, enjoying the mud after a few good pours. But the two huge downpours, one in the afternoon and another early evening didn't seem to put too much of a damp-er (couldn't resist that pun) on attendees. We may have set a record at the Clipper City tent during the first cloudburst, when our firkin of Loose Cannon Hop^3 Ale was tapped and drained in 45 minutes!

    Clipper City owner Hugh Sisson was with me Friday; head brewer Matt Saindon Saturday; today, Sales Manager Pat Helsel will be there.

    It's raining heavily now (Sunday morning 8am) as I'm loading up the car to drive out to Ashburn. The forecast is 90% chance of rain through 1pm when it decreases to 40% with the possibility of thunderstorms. Ah, the wet life of beer!

    I'll post more pictures tomorrow (even though my recent track record of blogging has been less than stalwart.)

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Beer and Coffee (for men)

    Yesterday results of a study were released which touted some healthy benefits - especially for men - of hops.

    PORTLAND, Ore. - For many men, a finding by Oregon researchers sounds too good to be true: an ingredient in beer seems to help prevent prostate cancer, at least in lab experiments.

    The trouble is you'd theoretically have to drink about 17 beers a day for any potential benefit. And no one's advising that.

    Researchers at Oregon State University say that the compound xanthohumol, found in hops, inhibits a protein in the cells along the surface of the prostate gland. The protein acts like a switch that turns on a variety cancers, including prostate cancer.

    Since industrial lagers contain a very small quantity of hops, maybe craft beers with their much greater hop content (sometimes on a magnitude of 10) do not have to be consumed in such huge quantities for the benefits described in the study.

    In a truth-can-be-stranger-than-fiction coincidence, the following report was released at the same time:

    Drinking coffee may shield the liver from the ravages of alcohol, according to a long-term study.

    A study of more than 125,000 people found that the risk of developing alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver dropped with each cup of coffee they drank per day.

    "Consuming coffee seems to have some protective benefits against alcoholic cirrhosis, and the more coffee a person consumes the less risk they seem to have of being hospitalized or dying of alcoholic cirrhosis," said Doctor Arthur Klatsky, an investigator with Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research and the lead author of the study.

    Researchers found that people drinking one cup of coffee a day were, on average, 20 percent less likely to have alcoholic cirrhosis. For people drinking two or three cups the reduction was 40 percent, and for those drinking four or more cups of coffee a day the reduction in risk was 80 percent.

    More on beer and health ... in moderation!

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Great Beers of Belgium

    Recently, at the Washington, D.C. pub - R.F.D. - I was fortunate to participate at a beer tasting and signing for Michael Jackson's new edition of Great Beers of Belgium.

    Host Bob Tupper began with a gracious introduction of Michael Jackson that reaffirmed, in my mind, why Mr. Jackson has been so important to the 'cause' of good beer, if you will.

    Jason Oliver of Gordon-Biersch brought his Keller Pils, an excellent example of such - slightly sweet with a bracing finish, golden with a slight veil owing to its unfiltered nature.

    Oliver noted that casked beer - ale or lager - is simply beer that is put in a cask. It's how a brewer prepares the beer that makes it keller bier - or its ale cousin, real ale.

    Jackson noted that the kellerbier style is found in Germany only rarely, and then only in the four northern Bavarian counties called Franconia (a name derived from the name of its ancient conquerors, the Franks). By his reckoning, Franconian brewers are more experimentally adventurous than those in the rest of Germany.

    Jackson was getting thirsty by this point, and noticing that the rest of us had received their samples, he bent close to the microphone and asked, "Am I going to get a beer?"

    Sublimation Ale
    Abbey Blonde
    Brewers' Art
    Steve Frazier, Volker Stewart
    "exercise in restraint" filtered
    deep golden, Pale malt, Perle, EK Goldings. Frazier noted that he prefers hops with savory and floral aspects rather than the US grapefruity. Soft with hint of spice.

    Capital City
    Mike McCarthy now Director of Operations for chain
    Best bitter
    Uses Simpsons pale ale malt and their "Naked Oats" malt.
    Orange hue, hazy
    First Gold hops - dwarf hop (tangeriney)
    strong phenolics (anise)

    Gentry Hamp, a brewster and co-owner of a 3 month old brewery in Georgia - the Savannah Brewery. She "loves the aroma of yeast" and worked at Mordue near Newcastle. Jackson mentioned the unique Geordie accent of area. She uses Brewlab yeast, as I had in Cleveland at Local Brewery and was to use at the now-closed Sisson's in Baltimore (although I'm certain that it was not the same strain.)

    She brought a cask-conditioned version of her Best bitter brewed from Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter (premium malt imported from Great Brtiain) and torrified wheat. Unfortunately, the cask did not show well as she had wanted.

    Old Dominion
    Imperial Pils Spring Brew
    Chris Frasier

    Rock Bottom
    Colin and Dean Lake
    Belgian Brown with ginger.

    Markowski not here (referred to as "the ghost")
    Charley - asst brewer
    Southhampton House
    Abbey Double
    good full flavor but not overweaning body.

    Burton Baton
    Andy Tveekrem
    Lots of cinnamon, graphite, and 'biting into a branch'oak
    Hommage to Ballantine's special employee-only beer - brewed big and aged in wood.
    Very alcoholic. Uses a derivative of Ringwood yeast.

    Barret Lauer of the District Chophouse brought his Bourbon Oatmeal Stout aged in Virginia Gentleman casks. He ages it 4-6 weeks in wood. The grist comprised oats and a small measure of peated malt.

    Naked Fish
    DuClaw
    Bo Klemp
    Chocolate Raspberry Stout.
    When hearing of the ingredients - some sort of hazelnut praline chocolate coffee or something decadent to that effect - Jackson bleated: "I love it when you talk dirty."

    More photos here.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Old Dominion Brewing Company NOT sold

    Update: In June 2006, this purchase offer was rejected. No comment or explanation was offered by the principals. An earlier offer by Anheuser-Busch has apparently been reinstated, and, as before, seems to be on track.

    **************************************

    It's been several months since my September 2005 posting about a pending sale of a "major regional mid-Atlantic brewery." At that time it would have been improper for me, working for a competitor, to have posted the name of that brewery.

    Several reputable sources had told me that Anheuser-Busch had tendered an offer to the Old Dominion Brewing Company in Ashburn, Virginia. President Jerry Bailey rejected the offer, hoping for a buy-out rather than the minority interest that A-B had offered.

    And counter offer was indeed tendered and accepted on Tuesday, 28 February.

    Here is what has been posted to DC-Beer and to RealBeer.com. Old Dominion's website, as of this morning, had not posted any official comments.

    Old Dominion Brewing Company has Sale on Tap
    7 March 2006. Ashburn, VA

    Old Dominion Brewing Co., the Washington D.C. area's first microbrewery, announced today that the company will be sold. Old Dominion President Jerry Bailey reports that the company's Board of Directors has agreed to terms with Old Dominion Director of Marketing Terry Fife and business partner Kip Olson. Upon completion of the sale, Olson and Fife will assume management duties of Old Dominion. Bailey will remain with the company in a part-time capacity.

    Kip Olson has been a Managing Partner at the Capital Grill in Tysons Corner, VA since 2000. Prior to that, Olson was with the Clydes Restaurant Group for 12 years.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    more on Heurich's demise

    Marc Fisher writes a blog for the on-line edition of the Washington Post. On 3 March 2006, he posted an entry about the demise of the Olde Heurich Brewing Company. There were several posted comments in response - some trenchant, some not, and some snide.

    Below, I've copied the ultimate paragraph of one such post followed by my reply to it.

    I think if Mr. Heurich had been a little less of an "eleemosynary" guy and more of a "beer-makin'" guy, maybe he'd have gotten somewhere. Meanwhile, I'm gonna drink my crappy beer and watch some baseball from the cheap seats.

    Posted by: Kevin R | March 3, 2006 10:48 PM
    The snide reference to Gary Heurich's vocabulary (the use of the word "eleemosynary" - meaning charitable with familial connotations), and, by intimation, to Mr. Heurich's philanthropy, speaks to the commenter rather than to the object of his disdain. And it is not germane to the topic.

    In the mid 1980s, the 'hometown DC' region was relatively devoid of good beer - as were significant swaths of the US. The microbrewery movement was still nascent. Gary Heurich was taking a large personal financial risk when he began 'contract-brewing' his beer at that time.

    Yes, the issues of local support, quality control, and marketing, mentioned - in Mr. Fisher's blog and posted comments - are significant. Yes, bitterness is a quality prized in a brewer's product, if not his personality.

    But if Mr. Heurich let some bitterness slip, maybe he can be excused. His family's industrial, cultural, and, yes, eleemosynary roles in DC's heritage have been gravely wounded.

    Maybe Mr. Heurich could have devoted more time to marketing and promotion. But in the early days, I remember seeing him here, there, and seemingly everywhere, indefatigably flogging his beer, distinctive behind his handlebar moustache. (Maybe his shearing of that trademark was an augur.)

    And maybe Mr. Heurich could have 'home-towned' the liquid by shifting production from Utica, NY to local breweries in Frederick, or Ashburn, or Baltimore. Beer is so much more delicate than wine; its freshness is a quid pro quo guarantee of its quality (that is, if the beer is sapid to begin with!).

    But maybe pigs should have wings, and maybe rain should be beer.

    The fickleness of earlier beer-drinking generations twice hastened the demise of local breweries across the nation. The capriciousness of today's beer-geek generation may again do the same.

    So long, Gary Heurich, and thanks for all the beers!
    [ Text of Heurich's farewell ]

    POSTSCRIPT (16 April 2006):

    A few weeks later, I met up with Gary Heurich at the Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda, Maryland.

    Proprietor Greg Hourigan was throwing his annual Spring Beer Tasting and had invited Gary to pour us his last brews and talk on the his last 20 years of beer in DC. (Hourigan had been one of the first to offer Heurich on draft in the area.)

    Gary's presentation was short, and pithy, and funny, and sad. We stood up at the conclusion and applauded. And it was fitting that Bob Tupper was there as well that evening - a final meeting between two godfathers of good beer in our area.

    More Photos.

    But there was even more history and convergence that evening.

    Old Dominion Brewing Company's Montgomery County territory manager, Paul Askea, was there to present that brewery's spring offering.

    Paul was full of spring in his step. Dominion was about to be purchased by two in-house employees from long-time owner Jerry Bailey, averting a sale to Anheuser-Busch. And Paul was to gladly return to the company he loved. As we now know, that was not to be.

    'Hoppy' Jeff Wells was there, and he too was saying goodbye. For 5 years, Jeff has been an uber-saleman of good beer in our area, specifically promoting the beers of the Global Brewers Guild. Jeff will be opening his own beer bar in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, New York City in 2007.


    In foreground: Gary Heurich looking at bottle
    of his Dad's beer in pristine condition.
    Jeff Wells looks on.

    More on Heurich's demise.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Olde Heurich ceases operations

    Olde Heurich


    It is sad news to report. Olde Heurich , Washington, D.C.'s home-town beer, will no longer be brewed.

    Good beer in the DC area was rare when Gary Heurich resurrected his family's brands in the mid 1980s, employing the F.X. Matt Brewing Company of Utica, New York to brew the beers under contract.

    The original brewery, Christian Heurich Brewing, had survived Prohibition only to close in 1956, standing where the Kennedy Center now sits. The Arena Stage used the closed brewery's hospitality room as a performance space from '57 until 1962, calling the room the Old Vat. (It would be 36 years before another brewery was to open in Washington, D.C. - the Capitol City Brewing Company, a brewpub, in 1992.)

    Thank you Gary Heurich for your efforts. Old Heurich: 1986-2006.

    The morbid roster of shuttered local breweries grows: Founders, Virginia Beverage Company, John Harvard's, Degroens/Baltimore Brewing Company, Sisson's Restaurant and Brewery (first brewpub in Maryland), Brimstone Brewing Company, Bardo Rodeo, Dock Street, Wild Goose Brewing Company, British Brewing Company (first micro in Maryland), Globe Brewing Company, Potomac Brewing Company, Blue and Gold Brewpub, and yes, even National Brewing Company (not to mention Gunther and other casualties of the big boy beer wars).

    SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BREWERY!

    Below is the letter from Gary Heurich in late February 2006.
    It is with immeasurable sadness and disappointment that I inform you that, after 20 unprofitable years, The Olde Heurich Brewing Company has discontinued brewing operations, and will cease sales of its beers to its distributors, effective with the last of our shipments to our distributors in February.

    These shipments will provide our distributors with up to one month's final inventory that will allow each of them and our retail customers time to plan transitions and arrange final purchases of what will now likely become an eBay item. Accordingly, I expect that Foggy will disappear from the market by the beginning of April.

    It was with pride and a great sense of history that I chose to resurrect my family's grand local brewing tradition in the national capital area in 1986. My hope and inspiration was that it would be supported accordingly so that we would be able to build a brewery in Washington.

    Though with a handful of wonderful exceptions for which I am very grateful, sadly and unlike many other craft beer markets, the Washington area's heritage beer seems to have been viewed more as a commodity, and we never came anywhere near the sales needed to build a brewery.

    As our predecessor, the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co., learned by the time it had to close in 1956 for similar reasons, the Washington area is unique among major urban centers in its relative lack of a hometown spirit, and as a native Washingtonian this is something that is deeply and personally disappointing.

    Certainly I could have chosen to do things differently and embraced more forceful marketing methods, but given many other craft beers' success without this, and though perhaps naively, it was important to me that my beers be embraced and appreciated because of their consistent high quality and intrinsic cultural and historical importance, and not simply because of consumers' vulnerability to mass marketing.

    Another disappointment and mea culpa is that I was rarely able to focus exclusively on growing the beer business because over the years other obligations and choices, similarly to my grandfather, led me to pursue eleemosynary activities. But I cannot say that I regret this, as they served a greater good, and are things of which I am proud.

    While Olde Heurich, Foggy Bottom, our other brands, and our beers will live on in a brewpub as part of an inn I am developing on the shores of Lake Champlain, for the second and final time the Washington metropolitan area will lose its heritage beer.

    I want to thank you and all of our customers over the past 20 years who did embrace and support Washington's heritage beer, for which I am personally grateful. I will always take heart and reassurance from this that I did accomplish more than simply spending a helluva lot of money to make sure I had great beers to drink!

    Gary F. Heurich, President
    The Olde Heurich Brewing Company
    Washington, DC

    Recently, some area'craft beer' drinkers have complained that Foggy Bottom wasn't the 'biggest' beer around, and have abandoned the brand for other choices, but the beers were solid, and came with with a noble heritage. Many here will miss them. More here.

    Monday, February 27, 2006

    72 Hours of Belgium 2006

    Max's continues to impress with their events. It's a taphouse located in the Fells Point district of Baltimore, Maryland.

    This past weekend, GM Casey Hard, owners Gail and Ron Furman (and Jaimie, Jason, and the entire cast of ridiculously good bartenders) hosted their second annual 72 Hours of Belgium.

    Accompanying the over 100 different bottled Belgian beers, there were more than 40 Belgian draughts scheduled Friday afternoon. By Sunday afternoon, there were significantly fewer still flowing - forlorn plastic hats noting the voracity of past madding crowds. But even so, Sunday's smaller array of Belgian tap handles would be a phenomenal draught display at many bars. I was told that on Friday and Saturday the bar had been breathing room only.

    We didn't make it to the cask ale handles, where the crew was pulling from firkins of Brewers Art's Petroleuse and Ozzie but my companions and I did try these:

    Our bottle of Fantome seemed a bit off, with a somewhat harsh and meaty yeast bite.

    The draught Brouwerij de Regenboog's Wostyntje was delightful: just a hint of mustard bitterness that I might be hard pressed to identify as such if i didn't know it were there. Like a spritzy Belgian golden with good malt and spice presence in a surprisingly low alcohol package - 5% or so. Showed better than any bottle of this I've tried.

    Urthel Vlamese Bock
    Philadlephia's Monk's Cafe website states that it is the only bar outside of Belgium to have this Urthel on "draft". Well, no ... Vlamese Bock is here in Bawlmer!

    The Valmese is alarmingly smooth for a beer of 9% abv. At this point, I couldn't quite tell if this were a bock or a Dutch bok or a Belgian derivation thereof ... but complex nonetheless with a bittersweet chocolate-like finish.

    Troubadour Obscura
    Muskatiers began as a contract brewery; I'm not certain of its current status. The Obscura is listed as a Mild Stout. Nothing mild about and not a British or American stout .. but nothing wrong with that. Dark, with a strong alcohol bite (I believe 9% or so), and flavors of burnt malt, low-toned fruit, and sweet cooking spices.

    Next, I showed the flag and passed about a bottle of Heavy Seas Below Decks Barleywine from Clipper City. It was downright lovely and smooth after the Troubadour, especially considering Below Decks' 11% abv!

    Two of us being rabid fans of the lambic, we had to try the Cantillon Gueuze on draught. That's an interesting conundrum: how does a beer which derives some of its blended complexity aging in a bottle do so in a keg? The answer was: not as well. Tasty and thirst-quenching, draught Cantillon might serve as gateway for those afraid of the intense sourness of lambics and gueuze-lambics. But I would have been hard-pressed to identify this as Cantillon without seeing Casey pour it for us.

    We finished with a charming draught tripel: Genste. This was new one to me. Deep golden, refreshing, crisp, aromatic, and well-attenuated for a tripel. I might compare it to an Unibroue Fin du Monde.

    Last year, when Max's closed its ballpark location, they brought their chef, Christine, over to Fells Point. And it showed.

    We were served a cheese plate with an array of Belgian cheeses. We tried the salmon over leeks and carrots, and even that vegetable bed was tasty, not an afterthought. The frites were double-fried and finished with spicy aioli; the asparagus grilled and accompanied with smoked salmon. Considering the choices, the prices were reasonable.

    Wow!

    On our escape out, we stopped in to pay a quick visit to Wayne at his eponymous bar/restaurant - Mahaffeys. It's good news for good beer lovers. After 3 years, he's doubling his space to include an upstairs with its own bar. Mahaffey's has had cask ale on a daily basis for over 2 years now. Go to mahaffeyspub.com for more information.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    Brave the Storm Upon the Heavy Seas

    Clipper City's Hugh Sisson (l), Larry Robinson (c),
    beer manager of Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits of Washington, D.C.,
    and I (r), enjoying pints from the firkin.
    It was a cask ale dinner, last Tuesday evening, with Clipper City Brewing Company at the Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, Maryland! All the beers were Heavy Seas beers from Clipper City, paired with food by Ian Morrison, the restaurant's chef/owner. This was indeed the first ever dinner/tasting of the entire Heavy Seas line!

    Co-hosts were brewery owner Hugh Sisson and Kristin Orr, the Pub's General Manager, who had outfitted her staff in marine clothes and added lots of clever nautical touches.

    I was there to provide commentary about the firkin of Loose Cannon ... and to tap it (and to drink some pints from it)! Also in attendance were some local members of the Washington DC area's largest homebrew club - B.U.R.P. - as well 2 members of the beer press - Martin Morse Wooster and Steve Frank (half of the Brews Brothers) from the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.

    Royal Mile Pub &
    Clipper City Brewing

    'Brave The Storm on the Heavy Seas'

    BEER DINNER

    Light Air

    Shrimp Salad Crostini, Grilled Fruit Shots, Herb Foccacia with Beer Butter
    Small Craft Warning Uber Pils

    Light Breeze

    Boar Sausage
    House made boar sausage over wild rice with cherry Gastric
    Winter Storm Category 5 Ale

    Gentle Breeze

    Mole Chicken Salad
    Chicken breast simmered in red mole over
    mesclun greens, cactus petals and toasted pepita seeds
    Peg Leg Stout

    Fresh Breeze

    Lobster Poached in Butter
    over lobster mashed potatoes with vanilla bean butter sauce
    Red Sky at Night Saison Ale

    Near Gale

    Mango topped with marscapone cheese and wrapped in prosciutto
    Below Decks Barley Wine

    Violent Storm

    Thai Basil Lemon Sorbet
    Loose Cannon Hop3 Cask Conditioned IPA

    Calm

    Caramel Popcorn
    Coffee, Water and Aspirin



    More photos here.