Sunday, September 30, 2007

Marietta MacCracken

Johnnie MacCracken's is a Celtic pub. Not Irish, not Scottish, but Celtic. Owner Gary Leech is adamant about that.

His whimsically decorated pub is housed in an 1880s era firehouse, possibly the oldest extant firehouse in Georgia. It has been other things before Gary purchased the building 10 years ago, including a bank. The old safe is now the refrigerated keg and kitchen walk-in.

The pub offers good Irish - er, Celtic food - and a 25+ tap selection: several interesting choices.

I had a pint of Atlanta brewery Sweetwater 420 (as in 'it's 4:20PM' - a reference to, well, if you don't know, you don't know). I noticed a tap handle for Hobgoblin from Wychwood ("what's the matter, Lagerboy? Afraid of a little flavor?"). Wychwood, by the way, is the new brewer of one of my favorite UK beers - Brakspear.

Clipper City's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale was on tap as well.

Gary is quite the raconteur and local historian. The lovely Patti 'mans' the taps. She seems to have a hug for each loyal customer.

I was there Wednesday to tap a cask of Clipper City's Winter Storm Imperial ESB - Gary's first ever cask at the pub - and I did. A crowd of enthusiastic local craft beer fans and curious 'regular American beer' fans gathered around to watch and taste.

This was my first Winter Storm of this season ... and it tasted wonderful. Caramel malt, chewy bitterness, woodsy/spicy/citrusy aromas. Fairly bright with a deep amber color and frothy head.

Even the mainstream drinkers stepped up and downed a pint (or two). I had several frank discussions about mainstream American beer, and its past and future. More pix here.


The very next night, I took a cask to Highlands Grill in Kennesaw, Georgia. And that firkin of Winter Storm was its first ever cask as well.

4 nights in Georgia; 4 casks. Beer may be my profession, but cask ale is my mission.

Wooden view

During one of my cask tappings last week in Georgia, a drinker mentioned he was disappointed that Clipper City hadn't used a wooden cask.

I mentioned the paucity of wooden beer casks available today - the dwindling reservoir of able coopers. I pointed out that as with today's stainless steel casks, wooden barrels, pre-20th century, were the vessels not the ingredients.

Some home brewers and professional brewers add oak chips to their beer during fermentation or aging. The practice stems from the belief that the oak casks used to ship IPAs to India imparted some flavors to the beer during the long voyage. My research indicates that the oak used for cask production in 19th century Britain was harder and contained fewer tannins than the oak we use in this country. I find no evidence that oak casks used in shipping contributed to the beer's flavor profile. If anything, the strict standards for entry into India suggest that had the oak changed the flavor, the brewers would have changed cask material.

India Pale Ale, Part II: The Sun Never Sets--
Thom Tomlinson
Brewing Techniques


In the recent past, many winemakers, especially Californian, were emphasizing bourbon-like oakiness almost over the grape itself. There has been a reaction against this, and the flavor of the wine itself is regaining favor among vintners, as of course it should.

At Clipper City Brewing, I and past head brewer Scott Dietrich encouraged the development of a cask ale program. Owner Hugh Sisson provided the imprimatur and funds. But it has been our cellarman, Stephen Marsh, who has developed and fine-tuned the production procedures. Regular cask ale production might be common for many breweries in the U.K., but not so much here in the States, where bottles and kegs predominate. Props to Stephen!

To finish, read this concluding passage from the above article. How times have changed since its publication in the early 1990s.
There are brewers who tell me that they will not brew a hoppy India Pale Ale, one that is strong in the tradition of the style. Again they cite customer concerns. My suggestion is always the same: Do not underestimate the tastes of your customers. Sure, the strong bitterness and high alcohol content are not for everyone, and some customers will definitely not like the beer. But, remember that as the brewing revolution continues, the sophistication of the consumer grows. With the continued expansion of the pub and microbrew market, more room will open up for challenging styles like India Pale Ale.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cask walk

In Athens, Georgia, this was not a perp walk!

But traffic did stop as Matt and I walked a cask of Winter Storm from the cold box at Five Points Bottle Shop across the street to Aromas Wine Bar. That would be one of the more unusual cellaring techniques I've ever practiced.

I tapped it at Aromas later that evening. Thank you to my hosts Sachin and Heather.

Since my visit in February, Aromas has developed a regular program of cask tapping. Offering guidance has been beer writer and Athens beer demiurge Owen Ogletree. Friday evening he was there (in foreground) for the Winter Storm Imperial ESB.

Sunday, Owen returns to Aromas to host a tribute to Michael Jackson. In a nice touch, he'll be screening Jackson's Beer Hunter video series.

More photos.

The Best [Darn] Beer & Food Cookbook [Ever]?

the Best of American Beer & Food

A gorgeous early autumn day made for the enjoyable part of today's long drive back from Georgia to northern Virginia.

... and the new cookbook from Lucy Saunders, waiting for me in the mail: The Best of American Beer & Food, from Brewers Publications.

A cursory look inside ...

Its first section reminds me of Real Beer And Good Eats by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. Lucy has arranged into "Food and Beer Across North America" (really, mostly the US), interviewing chefs and restaurant/pub owners.

The second section features the recipes, reminding me of Cooking & Eating with Beer by Peter LaFrance.

Lucy gives props to DC/Baltimore area locals: Brewers Art, Brasserie Beck, Restaurant Nora, Birreria Paradiso, Rustico, R.F.D./Brickskeller, Tuscarora Mill, and Royal Mile Pub.

She includes recipes from those last three as well.

Two are from Diane Alexander of R.F.D./Brickskeller, including Chicken and Artichoke Hearts in Anchor Steam Beer. Tuskies has its Asiago Soup with Smoked Ham. Royal Mile Pub's Ian Morrison provided his recipe for Lemon Thai Basil Sorbet; at a Clipper City beer dinner, he had paired that with Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale .

Saunders also offers a recipe from Chef Barton Seaver, past of Cafe Saint-Ex, now owner/chef at sustainable seafood restaurant Hook. It's his Grilled Lamb Top Round Steaks with Caramelized Tomato Risotto, which he prepared for a Clipper City Beer Dinner at Cafe Saint-Ex.

Lucy puts in an extended essay on beer and cheese early in the book. I'll be reading that carefully (and the one on beer and chocolate).

Here's just one snippet from the book:
Please don't dismiss Pilseners as being unworthy of being served at the table with lighter or simpler fare, as many craft-brewers are restoring the brightness and luster to a style that suffered commercial debasement in the last century. A bready yet crisp Pilsener tastes outstanding with a freshly grilled burger - it's simple and very good.

That said, some of the recipes included in this book are far from simple and could only be termed ambitious. These time-consuming recipes show that craft beer can pair with complex foods just as well as with burgers, sausages, and pizza.

Lucy Saunders indeed knows food ... and beer.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dogfish Head in Virginia

Dogfish Head may be a competitor brewery, but it's bringing good beer to my neighborhood. From the Going Out Gurus of the Washington Post:

Northern Virginia beer lovers, here's the news you've been waiting for: The Dogfish Head Alehouse is opening at 5 p.m. in the Seven Corners Center in Falls Church.

"We don't have our signs up yet, and we don't have our landscaping done, so it looks like the building isn't open, but the inside is finished," says Joe Hospital, the managing partner for both this Dogfish Head restaurant and the Gaithersburg location.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Taco Mac and cask

I thought I had left the summer and its humidity behind ...

I'm in Georgia this week, working with my wholesaler for most of the week. Predictions are for 90*F temperatures and high humidity.

[UPDATED: 2007.09.25]

Tuesday evening I co-hosted a beer dinner for 35 diners at the Taco Mac a t the Lindbergh Centerin downtown Atlanta. Taco Macs can be found throughout Georgia (and in Tennessee). Each features in excess of 100 beers on tap.

The dinner featured a cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. I got to do one of my favorite things: talk about cask beer ... in front of a captive audience! Sitting at my table were Adam Tolsma of Greens, a large independent beer/wine/spirits shop in Atlanta, and Bob Townsend, beer columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One of Adam's stores features a climate-controlled room for Belgian and vintage beer. Bob and I had a wide-ranging non-beer conversation about music: Terry Riley to the Mekons to Edgar Varese ... to hot sauce. Bob also writes about film and music, and is the editor of the Southern Brew News.

Beautiful table settings, and each television in the room was showing a slide show of all the beer labels. Co-hosts were Taco Mac General Manager Fred Crudder and Executive Chef Matthew Deckard. Both received sustained applause at the evening's conclusion.

Reception
Artichoke Tapanade with endive and capers
Small Craft Warning Uber Pils

First Course
Beer-battered Lobster Salad with pea shoots, honeyed lime jus
cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale

Second Course
Smothered Yard Bird with red cabbage, fresh cheese, peppercorn and barleywine sauce
Below Decks Barleywine-style Ale

Third Course
Stout Beef with onion and brew stew
Peg Leg Imperial Stout

Sweets
Spice Cake with brown butter cream
Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock


I personally found the dessert pairing to be an inspired choice. The big banana/clove flavors of the Hang Ten mated deliciously with the cake's caramel/sweet spice.
  • Pictured in the photo c-a-r-e-fully portaging the Loose Cannon firkin up the stairs before the dinner are Fred (foreground) and Matt.
  • More photos here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The barrel has been tapped!

Oktoberfest began yesterday in Munich. It runs 16 days through 7 October. When the mayor of Munich taps the first keg, he announces: "O'zapft is!" - It's tapped!

The big party's official website, however, lists both the 7th and the 10th as the end date. Too many Maßkrüge, perhaps?

The Maryland Brewer's Oktoberfest occurs nearly 2 weeks later and 4200 miles or so from Munich: Saturday 20 October at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

Despite the misspelling, the festival features not just one but most of Maryland's breweries and brewpubs!

Iron City buffs the rust?

Pittsburgh Brewing Company, maker of Iron City, has been sold, and renamed ... Iron City Brewing Company. The deal was completed on 18 September.

According to Jack Curtin:

Pittsburgh Brewing was forced into bankruptcy in December 2005 when the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority threatened to terminate service because of more than $2 million in unpaid bills. It had posted operating losses of $1.2 million over the three years prior to bankruptcy, losses continued during its bankruptcy, with the brewery losing $3 million last year on sales of $24.5 million.

The defunct Frederick Brewing Company in Maryland suffered a similar fate, at one point owing over a million dollars on its water bill. Considering that 95% of beer is water, that's an ingredient a brewery needs to pay for! It's still open, but is now owned and operated as the Wild Goose Brewery by Flying Dog Brewing Company of Colorado.

More on Iron City, from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
Iron City's new owner faces old challenges

Saturday, September 22, 2007

a toothy smile for Prez!

Gene Cizauskas - that's my mother - just asked me to tell the internet that she likes

Barack Obama's smile. It's a whole-hearted, toothy smile ... not that smirk we have to endure from the White House these days.


So there!

And that—among other things—should make for an interesting primary season.

Mom's for Obama; one of my brothers supports Edwards; my sister is for Richardson;Yours for Good Fermentables announced for Clinton last year.

An idealist; a populist; an internationalist; a pragmatist.

To the right of the Obama bumper sticker, the "LT" decal is my mother's proud affirmation of her Lithuanian-American heritage.

a Royal toast to Jackson

The Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, Maryland is the most recent pub to be added to the list of local establishments celebrating the National Toast to Michael Jackson on 30 September at 9pm. It joins the Brewers Art of Baltimore and the Dogfish Head Alehouse of Gaithersburg [and now Falls Church ... updated 2007.09.26].

I've also just been told that D.C.'s R.F.D. and the venerable Brickskeller will have ceremonies as well ... as one would expect!

For some reason, none of these are listed on the Beer Hunter website. And I would suspect that there might be many other pubs toasting Michael that evening which are not listed.

Contact your local pub and/or suggest that it honor the recently deceased beer and whisky writer, and contribute to the fight against Parkinson's Disease.

Jump here for my previous posts on Michael Jackson.

golf and beer and food

I'm so familiar with the concept of a beer dinner, that I'm bemused when others often are not.

Simply put, it's a dinner served with beer - something many of us do.

But there's much more involved (and more fun) when it's a planned dinner in which each course is paired with a specific beer.

There are generally two different ways to go.

First, a restaurant might plan a special meal for each beer of the dinner. This will allow the restaurant's chef to showcase his/her skills. The dinner becomes a reward for loyal customers.

But the restaurant might also feature its 'standard' fare, re-plating into smaller portions. This is a viable option as well. Customers - new and repeat - experience a greater range of the kitchen's fare. It creates repeat business.

This was the path chosen by the PGA Tour Grill in Rockville, Maryland for its first ever beer dinner last Tuesday. Chef Goodman featured 5 of Clipper City 's beers and 4 regular menu items, served as small plates. It was an intimate dinner served in the wine-room off of the main bar area. The Blackened Yellowfin Tuna (with soy sauce, ginger,and wasabi) was the evening's hit, paired with Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.

Reception
Oxford Raspbery Wheat Ale
the East Coast's original non-sweet raspberry wheat


First Course
Goat Cheese Salad with Champagne vinaigrette
Oxford Hefeweizen
Second Course
Beef Spare Ribs with house barbeque sauce
Balto MarzHon
the nation's best Vienna Lager/Oktoberfest

Third Course
Blackened Yellowfin Tuna with soy sauce, ginger,and wasabi
Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale
Maryland Governor's Cup winner

Dessert
Chocolate Brownie Sundae ... 75% cocoa
Peg Leg Imperial Stout

Fried pickles are a guilty pleasure of mine. They weren't served for the beer dinner, but they are available everyday at the bar.

a brewery in action

lauter tun at Clipper City Brewing CompanyI've posted some pictures on Flickr of a brewing day at the Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland. Jump here.

To the right is the lauter tun, where the rakes help separate the sweet wort from the mash. Wort is the word brewers use for sugar water extracted from the soaked malted barley. That liquid will be boiled and cooled, whereupon yeast will be added and fermentation begun.

[UPDATE: more pictures added from time to time]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sam Adams Imperial Pilsner - review

"Mild but hoppy bitter."

That's an actual review of Boston Beer Company's 2007 Imperial Pilsner from an on-line beer review site. I have no idea what was meant.

So I'll offer my own impressions.

This is a lager with a wallop. Over 8% abv. The literature claims in excess of 100-ish bitterness units. I think the numbers become somewhat meaningless as a beer approaches 100 IBUs. It's bitter, get it?

The hops being Hallertau Mittelfrueh, a noble low-alpha variety, the character is not so much the grapefruit of US hops, but spicy, floral, woodsy. Once you reach this level of hopping - and Jim Koch says over 12 pounds per barrel (!) - there's an overweening element of tannic soapiness in the beer.

So ... it's bitter and spicy with some malt sweetness caught in there somewhere, and it delivers an alcoholic wallop. The head retention is phenomenal. Light orange-hue. There's a bit of a haze but why filter out all that flavor? I like the classic look of the label and packaging.

Let no hop head now say Boston Beer Company can't brew a beer with a lot of hops.

Blind judgment: beer (and wine)

Over at the New York Times, Eric Asimov will provoke thought with his recent post on blind tastings. His comments refer to wine, but I think many of the same points can be made of beer. (And Asimov is a friend of beer, often writing about it.)

Basically, his premise is: should the only judgment of beer be a blind tasting or should some other criteria come into play?

It seems to me that when you remove a wine from its context you are eliminating the conditions for understanding it properly. And if you insist that this context is irrelevant you almost insure that you will never understand the wine. It’s almost an anti-intellectual position. Obviously what’s in the glass matters. But I think the more knowledge you can bring to a wine, the better your understanding of that wine will be.

Here’s another way to think of it. Trying to eliminate all external factors beyond what’s in the glass contributes to the sense of omniscience that we too often confer to wine critics. Most people involved with wine concede that two bottles may taste very different. All sorts of conditions affect how we experience wines. So in a sense boiling a wine down to a number, a score, a snapshot evaluation, rarely does justice to the wonderful mutability of wines.

While I have been critical of blind tastings, it may well be that they remain the best way to taste large numbers of wines. The absolute best way to evaluate wine, over time with a meal, is not always practical.

I love his last point. Beer tastes best enjoyed in fellowship, and when enjoyed with others over a meal. That's the point of it! A blind judging, though done with others, is really a solitary endeavor.

[UPDATE: 2007.09.23] But leave it to Frederic Koeppel, wine blogger, to place this in marvelous perspective: "I think that first we have to separate drinking from tasting."

I would agree with Asimov that context is important - but as a guideline not as picayune stricture. I'm specifically referring to US beer competitions.

The Great British Beer Festival may not be a perfect antipode, but it does promote keen interest, without resorting to the 70 or so categories and subdivisions with which we pollute our beer competitions in the US.


Breasts and beer? Cicerone

Cicciolina is the former porn starlet, who was elected to the Italian parliament and served for a short time. Among other things, she's infamous for exposing her breasts during press conferences.

Not that Ray Daniels is connected to her in any way ... !

Daniels is the director of the Craft Beer Institute, past organizer of the US Real Ale Festival, and current Brewer's Publications Director at the Brewers Association.

And at present, he's begun to create a valuable concept that he has named the Cicerone Certification Program.

The Cicerone Certification Program seeks to ensure that consumers receive the best possible beer and enjoy its flavors to the greatest extent possible. To facilitate this, those who sell and serve beer need to acquire knowledge in five areas:

Beer Storage, Sales and Service
Beer Styles and Culture
Beer Tasting and Flavors
Brewing Ingredients and Processes
Pairing Beer with Food

To encourage participation by those with various interests and ambitions, the program offers three levels of certification beginning with the simplest and building to the most complex and demanding:

1. Certified Beer Server
2. Certified Cicerone
3. Master Cicerone

I would suggest naming the program the Master's of Beer Education - M.B.E. - and awarding the title of Beer Sommelier. It's simpler, straightforward, and instantly recognizable.

But just as the substitution of 'braumeister' rankles when 'brewer' or 'brewmaster' would be appropriate (at least it does me), so the choice of sommelier might be perceived as high-highfalutin'. Other options might be beer steward or cellarmaster (even though this might have cask ale connotations).

There's a lot of beer serving ignorance out there so Daniels' program is an interesting and worthwhile idea. Such a certification might become a sought-after marker of excellence for restaurants and pubs.

Or, the restaurant could simply have their beer sommelier elevated to the knighthood!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Heavy Heart: Zawinul dies

Fusion jazz composer, innovator, and keyboardist/pianist Joe Zawinul passed away last week of a rare form of cancer. Austrian born, he was funkier and more soulful than quite a few American-born jazzmen. His final album - Brown Street - was recorded in 2005 and released last year.

Jazz legend Joe Zawinul dies at 75

Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, and Cannonball Adderly were just some of whom he played with and wrote for.

Weather Report, though, was his baby: a fusion/electric/acoustic jazz project with saxophone player/composer Wayne Shorter. From their album Heavy Weather, the tune Birdland was a major crossover hit ... you can still hear it on mainstream music stations.

With Miles Davis he collaborated on In a Silent Way: one of the most beautiful trace-like creations in the jazz canon. And then there's the coruscating Bitches Brew!

His music got me through my college nights ... and introduced me to a life-long love of jazz.

Thank you, Joe.

Barley bad too, in Europe

The Brewers Association Forum Vol. 13-0918 (Tuesday's on-line edition) references a report from Gate2Biotech (as does Mr. Hieronymous again).

Growing quality malting barley is becoming increasingly difficult due to the current sudden weather changes, maltsters are on the lookout for new crop-plants

In the European brewing superpowers that produce the best beers in the world, barley malt is used exclusively and practically nothing else. Though the situation wasn’t always like this. Until the 18th century, in Bohemia beer was brewed mainly from wheat, a little from barley and in the bad years even from oats.

Then however a period of reform came, especially thanks to the legendary maltster František Ondřej Poupě (1753 - 1805). It was he who pronounced the legendary sentence „barley for beer, wheat for cakes and oats for horses“, thus giving European brewing and malting a new direction. This may however be changed as a result of the climatic changes at the beginning of the 21st century.

Starting with the year 2000, barley producers are encountering problems with an increasing frequency. Already the first season’s harvest was characterized as the worst one in the past thirty years. The major problems were moulds and high protein content. Huge problems with both the quality and quantity of barley continued in the following years, weather in 2006 was then the "crown" of all this mishap.

A long and frosty winter with a continuous snow cover held off sowing, the spring was very wet, cold and short, followed by an extremely hot and dry July. Barley fields went dry, thus lowering the quality and yields of the first harvests. The long-term downpours in August led to the germination of the grain, new green leaf growth and such grown barley is difficult to process in the malt house.

"Barley is not built to withstand such changes. It requires early spring, lots of rain during its growth period and in July stable warm weather, enabling it to become ripe, " claims Josef Prokeš, the head of the experimental analytical laboratory of the Brewing and Malting Research Institute - The Malting Institute Brno. He adds that a bad harvest does not mean just low yields. In the case of excessive wettening of barley, higher risks of moulds exist and beer made from such biologically invaded barley has a tendency to over-foam. Upon opening it behaves like champagne, which is an absolutely unacceptable trait in beer.

New breeds and imports


Czech breeds of malting barley were always well known for their quality. With no exaggeration they may be considered the co-creators of the known quality of Czech beer, because the spirit of every beer lies in its malt. Barley is grown especially in the areas Polabí, Haná, Vyškov, Litovel, the majority of the 38 regional malt houses operate in these regions. If the local farmers are unable to fulfill the capacity of the national malt houses, part of the barley must be imported.

Last year bad weather affected the entire continent of Europe, so barley cannot be imported from Germany or other neighboring countries. Farmers in England and France had better luck, but importing products from greater distances of course increases the costs. Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe on the other hand do not dispose of quality malting breeds and there are problems with the quality of their processing.

This situation does not only have an economic impact on the malt houses. „They process what is at hand and lower quality barley forces them to improvise in the technology. Since processing malts from last season’s harvest in the fall of 2006, breweries have been having problems with the depth of fermentation and the sensoric stability of the beer fluctuates. The common consumer may not tell the difference, but sensoric tests confirm problems here, but also for example in Germany, “ Prokeš stated.

One of the possible solutions at hand is the orientation toward breeds of perennial barley that are widespread for example in France. Due to this their farmers were able to harvest the majority of last year’s crop before the intense August rain. The Czech Republic lacks quality frost-resistant perennial breeds of barley. Winter crops are risky for the producers, because after a harsh winter with a long-term snow cover, there will not be much left on their fields. Though here there always exists a second chance and the farmers may sow their fields with spring barley.

The second option lies in crossing breeds in order to increase the resistance of the barley to the anomalies of the current weather, specifically providing increased resistance to dryness and overgrowths. This path is however always accompanied by a more or less severe degradation of quality.

The report then moves onto a more fanciful exposition: malted chickpeas as a starch source for beer. Beer is brewed from barley for a reason: barley's flavor (and its strong enzymatic content, and its husk). Witness sorgum (non-gluten) beer, or lite(sic) beer (corn, rice).

Gate2Biotech states that its article was written based upon information from the Maltster Institution in Brno in the Czech Republic. I don't know anything about that organization.

See previous post on poor hop crop.

Hop Crop Drops A Lot

Hop Supply and Early 2007 Crop Update

Here are some comments from Ralph Olson's talk two weeks ago during Hopunion's annual Hops & Brew School seminars in Yakima (also used as the basis for a Hop Update presentation I gave last Saturday to the MBAA District New England in Portland, ME). Ralph is very busy at the moment between receiving hops, buying hops and quoting different brewers for contracts, so he asked me to send this post.

"The hop world is upside down. In the future we see the possibility of brewers shutting down for lack of hops."

For US hops 2007 is looking like an average crop, but not a bumper crop.

Slovenia (grower of Styrians) lost at least 1/3 and possibly as much as 1/2 of their crop to a hailstorm.

The Czech crop is down 25% this year. Estimated alphas on Czech Saaz from the 2007 crop are 2.7 2.9.

The German crop is average at best with earlier aroma hops coming in below normal (such as Hallertau Mittelfruh).

New Zealand and Australia crops this year (which arrived in the US in June and July) were normal.

England is almost out of the hop business. Their acreage of 2,400 in 2006 (down from 17,000 in 1976) represents 2 percent of the worldwide acreage.

World acreage:
1986: 215,600
1992: 236,000
2006: 123,000

Ralph's best guess is that in 1992 the acreage should have been between 160,000 - 170,000 if it was to match world demand/usage at that time. The 1990s' excess hop crop ended up being processed into pellets and extracts, building up substantial excess inventory. Excess production that was 2, 3 and 5 years old was selling on the open market and as a result brought prices down. Hop prices had dropped so low in recent years that in many cases they were lower than what it costs to grow them. For example: prices got as low as $1.70/lb. for pellets of Cascade. That is way below what it takes for a hop grower to cover his costs.

High-alpha hops and some aroma hops are going overseas - the high rate of the Euro is a factor. In the spot market for high-alpha hops, growers are not putting a price on them yet. They're waiting to see how high the prices may go.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the prices were depressed and growers were starting to throw in the towel, to either switch to other crops, or sell out to real estate developers. The ones who stayed in it and managed to survive without going under are pleased to be in this situation now, which is 180 degrees opposite from where it was about 10 years ago.

The demand for Cascades is up 30% this year alone. We are 300-400 acres short on Cascade compared to where we need to be. Cascade acreage was 1,003 in 2001, jumped up to 2,120 in 2003 (because one major brewer announced plans to use it, but then reversed course) and total Cascade acreage is now back near the same 2001-year-level, at 1,116 in 2006.

Prices are the highest they've ever been - and it's beyond comprehension. Cascades were priced at $7/lb. three weeks ago and are currently being quoted at or near $10.00/lb. Willamettes went from $5.50 to $7.00/lb. and may also get to $10/lb.

It takes three years to get to full production on a new hop field, however, we don't have the number of growers needed to put new acres in (the total of US growers is about 45, down from more than 2000 in 1978. About new 2,000 acres are going in this year almost all of those are high alpha. The Cascade increase in acreage is 0.

"We are, in my opinion, in trouble."

What's the bottom line? Certain varieties are getting a lot more expensive. A few varieties will run out faster than ever. Brewers have to be willing to try other varieties. Brewmasters, brewery owners, and marketing and sales managers must prepare for the potential need to substitute different hops, to replace varieties that currently give your beers their "signature" flavor. That's what we'll have to get used to, the fact that there may be slight flavor variations over the next several years, as the hop industry works to correct this situation. It's not going to get better soon, but will be likely just as bad, or worse, for the crops from 2008 and 2009, in other words, for beers brewed from now through 2010.

Wish we had better news to report!

David Edgar
Mountain West Brewery Supply, Inc.

The note-taker, David Edgar, is the past director of the Association of Brewers, itself the predecessor to the Brewers Association. Edgar shepherded that organization from an ad-hoc-ish group to its position now as more of a professionally run advocate for small and craft breweries.

HopUnion is a major US hop grower, importer, and supplier.

Contrary to Ralph Olsen's statement, I'm not worried that breweries will be shutting down en masse.

The cost of hops may not be not trivial, but it is not the primary cost of producing a beer. Larger craft breweries (and of course the mainstream breweries) sign yearly contracts for hop varietals based upon estimated usage. But if a particular brand takes off - or a new beer- a brewery could find itself short of a certain varietal.

I first noticed this story on Stan Hieronymus' blog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

AOL moves; Dominion boo-hoos

AOL is moving its headquarters from Loudoun County in northern Virginia to its Time-Warner digs in New York City. Some local observers feel this bodes poorly for the tech corridor in the Dulles Airport area. Tangential businesses might be affected:

One Loudoun business that caters to AOL employees said it had reason to worry. "That's going to kill the area," said Doug Hisel, manager of Old Dominion Brew Pub in Ashburn, a hangout for techies and government contractors.

Insiders Debate Effect of AOL Headquarters Move
Washington Post, 18 September 2007, p.D4

It's the AOL gray suits who are leaving, not the 4,000 lower-level but well-remunerated employees, many of whom drink beer.

And injury to the brewpub itself?

Do you think maybe a decrease in business might have something to do with Anheuser-Busch purchasing 49% of Dominion Brewing (now renamed Coastal)?

Do you think it might have anything to do with the customer relations snafus and snarliness that marred the first months of the pub's new ownership?

Do you think it might have anything to do with the elimination of cask ale and bourbon stout at the pub, accompanied by the introduction of Bud and Bud Light, etc. products ... into a brewpub for gawds sake?

No, no ... it couldn't be that. Could it?

Some industry observers believe that Coastal/Anheuser-Busch's plan is to shut down the Ashburn, Virginia facility and move all operations to the Delaware plant or elsewhere. Today's news gives the brewery yet another pretext for doing so.

  • With a posting like this, it's good to reiterate that I am employed by Clipper City Brewing Company, a competitor to Coastal Brewing. My opinions are my own, and not the postions of the management of Clipper City.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wine for beer

A cross-liquid tribute to beer writer Michael Jackson has been posted by wine writer Maggie Dutton of the Seattle Weekly:

There are three people I look to as role models for writing non-fiction and criticism, all for different reasons. The eternally clever gentleman and essayist Tom Wolfe (and in particular his book The Painted Word), the hilarious, biting, and spot on Nikki Finke, and Michael Jackson, the man who loved, wrote about, and saved beer.

The way I write about wine has everything to do with an old, water-logged copy of The World Guide to Beer I found in a biker bar. I worked the flat grill; the book held up the prep table.

As craft beer pioneer Fritz Maytag said in Jackson's Discovery Channel video series - The Beer Hunter: "We are all friends in fermentation."

Thanks to Stan Hieronymus, who mentioned Ms. Dutton's appreciation (and his own recollection of Michael Jackson' s stamina and good cheer) on his blog - Appellation Beer.

Spiritus Einstein: local music guru remembered

Spiritus Cheese was the on-air handle of a group of local alternative rock fans in Washington, D.C., who in 1969 began broadcasting (then) counter-culture music and commentary on radio station WHFS.

A few years earlier, Jake Einstein, long-time radio businessman, had become the general manager at struggling WHFS, the D.C. area's first FM radio station.

Einstein recognize this as a viable niche and allowed it to blossom. Spiritus Cheese was disbanded, but the music format continued and thrived. The rest is good music broadcast history. The station became recognized and heralded nationwide, accumulating many behind-the-scenes stories along the way.

Einstein went on to purchase the station, and eventually to sell it. [Jump here for an interesting history of WHFS, initially posted in 2000.]

Two weeks ago, I had noted the return of famed WHFS radio deejays to the local airwaves. On Wednesday, Jake Einstein died.

Einstein's theory (proven!) plays on.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Balto MärzHon & Victory Festbier - reviewed

Clipper City Brewing Company's Balto MarzHon is the nation's best Vienna Lager, as selected by the professional judging panel of the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. Think of a Vienna Lager as the drier version of an Oktoberfestbier.

From the Baltimore Sun, 4 October 2006:
A crop of suds that go down well
by Rob Kasper

The 15 bottles of American-made Oktoberfest beers were covered in brown bags and known to us only as D1 through D15. The American-made favorite was D-9. When the bag came off the bottle, D-9 turned out to be Clipper City's Balto MarzHon. It had a balance of a juicy malt body, a touch of toffee, and a solid, bitter finish. It was a lager that made you happy that the autumn leaves were turning, even if you might have to rake them. [In September 2006] this beer won a silver medal for Vienna-style lager at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. [No gold medal was awarded in the category.]
[UPDATE: Balto MärzHon selected as best, for second year in a row, at 2007 Great American Beer Festival.]

Another among my favorite domestically produced Oktoberfests is Victory Brewing Company's Festbier.

Deep amber/copper color, it pours with along-lived, slightly off-white head of foam.The aroma is fresh dough, caramel, and with a touch of fruit (do I imagine watermelon?) and a malt sweetness that I can only describe as toasted marshmallow.

The taste follows through with all this wrapped in the firm crisp structure of a lager. Toss in spicy German hops, and just a finishing hint of dark toast.

I think I may be sounding like Paul Giamatti's character in Sideways.
But like that film's Sandra Oh, Victory's Festbier is simply gorgeous!
[UPDATE: Victory's Festbier wins the gold medal at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival.]

Note that the Balto MärzHon is 5.8% alcohol by volume, while the Victory Festbier is 5.6%. The MärzHon is drier.

In the US, I generally prefer well-made US Oktoberfests to the imports - even the classics from Munich. Over there, the German Fests are fresh and wonderful. But to get here from there takes several weeks of shipping and warehousing, and sometimes even a couple of months. Imports are, thus by definition, not fresh.

I'm often told: the beer in Europe is not what is shipped here. I respond, no, it is the same beer. It's just that it is fresh over there.

Think globally, drink locally. Now, if I could only convince DC bar owners of that!

Beer etchings: ultimate beer glass?

The ubiquitous straight-sided pint glass is probably one of the worst glasses from which to taste a beer.

You can't get your nose into it to smell anything, that is unless you want a foamy beer mustache. Aroma rapidly dissipates out of the glass. The design is quotidian.

The opposite tack is taken by many breweries, especially Belgian. Glasses of a myriad of shapes and sizes are said to be uniquely designed to enhance the flavor of a beer of a specific brewery. (The crystal glass manufacturer Riedel takes this to even more ludicrous, and correspondingly expensive, extremes for wine.)

Much of this is scientific hooh-hah, but marketing delight. The esthetics of a glass can indeed enhance the visual appeal of its contents.

But I prefer a snifter as my all-purpose tasting glass. The stem keeps my grubby hands from warming the beer ... unless I wish to. The large bowl allows the aromas to escape and mingle; the narrower neck focuses and traps those aromas, if at least momentarily. And don't fill to the brim. Allow top space: no splashing when the beer is swirled to release the aromatics, and room for a nose to inhale.

At my beer sampling demonstrations in beer shops, I bring my own glassware: 3.5 ounce liqueur glasses. Like snifters, they similarly concentrate the aromas, while allowing nose space. The small half-ounce sampling pours don't appear so minuscule in them.

Don't serve beer in a plastic cup. Plastic retards head retention, and deleteriously influences flavor.

Brews Brothers Steve Frank and Arnie Meltzer once wrote an entire article for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News in which they compared many types of, and brewery-specific, beer glasses.

English beer blogger Zythophile has this interesting post on English beer glasses: A short history of beer glasses.

the “Nonik” has to be the ugliest, least attractive container to drink beer from ever forced upon a sullen public – it does nothing at all for the aesthetic qualities of the liquid it contains.


Boston Beer Company (makers of Samuel Adams) released its ultimate beer glass a few months ago, to great buzz in the beer geek world. You should have seen the comments fly on DC-Beer, a listserve of beer enthusiasts in the DC-Baltimore-Richmond area!

The Sam Adams glass was designed with a twisting bulbous shape to ensnare aromas. And slight imperfections were etched near the inside bottom. The fancy phrase for these is 'nucleation points'.

In a draft beer line, rough spots in a beer line cause turbulence. The CO2 breaks out in the line, and the result is foam spitting out of the tap. Not good.

In a glass, a small scratch (the nucleation point) provides the break-out point for a steady stream of bubbles. That's good.

Carbonation is its own flavor element. In water (or beer), carbon dioxide partially breaks down into carbonic acid, adding acidic interest/bite to a beer. Carbonation provides a tactile bite. We sense this as a crispness, and complain that this bite is missing when a beer is flat.

But most germane, carbonation is a flavor enhancer. Aromatic compounds are physically lifted upon a stream of bubbles from the glass to our noses. That's another reason a flat beer can taste insipid. It has no aroma.

So how special - really - is this über-glass?

I haven't tried one yet. But, Speaking of Beer blogger Charlie the Beer Guy did, and created a real-time podcast on the experience.

Plot spoiler: he liked it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

September summer

That's a photo of 2nd dog Ethel Mae, hunting a wild stick.

It's a beautiful, sunny, crisp, almost-autumn day, currently 19°, and expected to top off at 21°.

That's Celsius. In Fahrenheit, it would be 66° now and 70° later. I'm comfortable using Celsius because brewing calculations are much easier in metric than in English.

A few months ago, little Ethel was baying at two wild foxes she had cornered in the back yard at 5am. She probably awakened several disgruntled neighbors, in the 10 minutes it took for me to stumble out of bed and corral her.

To the left is a photo, taken in May, of Emma Dog and Ethel Mae treeing a frightened possum. I lured away the two dogs with promises of dog treats, and the possum slowly climbed down and ambled away.

This is a very suburban area. But wildlife seems to be moving back in, as exurbia sprawls further into its habitat.

Yesterday morning as I was driving to work, I barely avoided striking a pair of deer less than a mile from my house.

A-B to buy Budvar

The PacMan-esque brewery gobble continues.

InBev buys 'em up and dumbs 'em down (or simply closes them). A-B purchases a virtually controlling 49% stake in northern Virgina's Dominion (just one example of similar acquisitions). South African Breweries purchases the venerable Pilsner Urquel (the original Pilsner, from the 1800s), changes brewing procedures, and moves a lot of its production from Pilsen to Poland.

Now, as reported by Brew Blog, it appears that Anheuser-Busch will purchase Budvar Budweis, known as Czechvar in the U.S. This was probably a foregone conclusion, when, in January of this year, A-B acquired the US distribution rights.

[UPDATE: Correction - there's no purchase ... yet.]

A-B has a had a long trademark fight with the brewery. From Budvar's website:

The dispute between the Budějovice brewery and Anheuser-Busch concerning the trademark ‘Budweiser’ has been going on for almost 100 years.
<....>

In 1938, Anheuser-Busch began anew to exert pressure and place demands under which the Budějovice brewery was expected to give up globally the right to describe its product with any terms containing the words “Bud”, “Budweiser”, and “Budweis”, save for Europe. The brewery described the demands as outright insulting and refused to consider them at all.

It was not before 1939 that the above mentioned agreement, unreservedly disadvantageous for the Budějovice brewery, was executed. It was signed a mere one week before Germany annexed the Czechoslovak borderlands, and Europe found itself on the brink of the Second World War.


I might expect that some of this passage would be expunged if the sale were to be completed!

Brookston Beer Bulletin has more:
Buying the Czech brewery would make good sense from a business point of view, because the still numerous pending trademark disputes would simply vanish, saving untold millions in legal fees.
<...>

Of course, the Czech government is apparently not one to let an opportunity pass it by and is exploiting the situation. They’re asking $1.5 billion, even though that’s twelve times its annual sales of just over $125 million. Most valuations use a formula of around 2.5 times annual sales, making a pricetag of $300 million or so a bit more reasonable

The brewery was awarded appellation protection of a sort in 2005 by the EU: Protected Geographical Indication. I'm not certain what commercial rights this designation provides. Could it be used to successfully protect the Budweis name, as Champagne can to some extent for its sparkling wine? And where? In Europe alone? Globally?

And then, what does that mean to a beer name, Budweiser, which translated means 'from Budweis'? Wait and watch.

[UPDATE: sale not happening ... yet]

Craft Beer will fade ...

Or so prognosticates Graham Mackay, CEO of SABMiller, as interviewed in June by Fortune Magazine:

Save for imports and craft beers, the U.S. beer market continues to stagnate, and your profits there declined for the second straight year. What's the problem?

Two years ago we did not declare victory when things were going swimmingly for us in the U.S. so we are not declaring defeat now. The issue right now is cost pressures, in aluminum specifically. We spent about $100 million dollars more on aluminum this past fiscal year than the year prior.

What do you make of the craft beer resurgence in America?

I think it's going to fade. It's inevitable.

Tell us about Miller Chill, which you just launched.

We launched Chill in a few test markets and it was so well received that we are taking it nationwide by the Fourth of July. It's an American take on a Mexican classic - a light beer with lime and salt. That doesn't sound very prepossessing but it drinks extremely well. It is flying off the shelves now.

( I was alerted to this piece by the blog, Beer Philosopher.)

Mr. Mackay's wording is cleverly ambiguous. Does he intend to convey that the dramatic rate of growth (the re-surge-ence, as it were) will fade, or that the entire craft beer industry will fade away?

If he is implying the former, he's probably correct. Current double-digit growth will subside at some point. That's demographics and market shakeouts.

In the 1990s, the Wall Street Journal published an infamous article on craft beer. "Craft beer is dead", it shouted, "doomed by poor business practices, poor quality control, and overextension."

Back then, there was a lot of prima facie evidence to support the article's premise: stale beer on store shelves, brewery closures, bankruptcies, etc. Quite a few brewpubs had been opened by investors trying to cash in on a fad, but who had no experience in operating restaurants. These are long gone. In the mid-Atlantic region, the Frederick Brewing Company was a poster child for all this.

But the report of craft beer's demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated. The industry continued to grow, albeit at a much slower rate than that of those cowboy days.

And in the past few years, that rate has returned to double digits. Growth this year - volume of craft beers sold - is up 11% over last year at the same time.

The difference - now from then - is that a greater proportion of today's craft breweries are better operated. They employ better business practices; they are supported by sufficient capitalization. They consider quality control and assurance as integral to production and necessary for shelf-life.

This potential for a sustained capture of beer market share is something that SABMiller - and all the majors and their distribution networks- are quite concerned with. Witness MacKay's grasping at straws - er, salt: Miller Chill.

In a daft irony, SABMiller's own Brew Blog, in a 28 August posting, contradicted its leader's very observation.

Stronger craft industry means repeat of 90s shakeout unlikely.

The fast growth of craft beer calls to mind the segment’s rapid rise in the early 1990s.

Which begs the question: Could craft’s growth flatline the way it did in the mid-90s?

Most industry observers say no. While craft’s rate of growth likely will cool off in the years ahead -- a function of a bigger base, if nothing else -- history is unlikely to repeat itself for a variety of reasons. The players are different. The consumer is different.

The latest issue of Brew Magazine, which focuses on craft beer, examines this topic.

<...>

1. Craft beers are generally of higher consistency and quality than they were in the 1990s.

2. The trading-up and customization trends are more broad-based now than it was then.

3. The operators are better. During the last runup, a lot of amateurs and speculators got into the business in hopes of making a quick fortune. That’s not the case this time – at least for now. They’ve also learned from the lessons of the 1990s.

Friday, September 14, 2007

ScrApple

Apple continues to reveal its Microsoft emulation: do it our way or else (but with a soupçon of Mac mystique). But restraint of trade remains restraint of trade, however you might 'jobs' it up.

"So, it's finally happened. Unhappy with other media players being better than iTunes, Apple have [sic] apparently decided to stop them from working with the new range of iPods."
This is bad news for Winamp, Songbird, ephpod and/or Linux users in general. This was already basically made a moot point by the iPhone since it uses iTunes to sync your contacts and calendar - but now the entire new line of iPods is literally and physically locked to iTunes too.

Reposted from blog muSick in the Head.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

National Parkinson Foundation: any interest?

I sent this email today to contact@parkinson.org -

To whom it may concern:

With all the empathy and interest that has surrounded the death of beer writer Michael Jackson who was suffering from Parkinson's upon his death on 30 August 2007, I am surprised and not pleased that your organization has neglected to place upon its website any mention WHATSOEVER (and please correct me if I'm incorrect) of the unique 30 September fundraiser that will occur simultaneously across the nation (and adjusting for time zones, internationally) in his honor and to raise funds for your organization.

Thomas Cizauskas

In the email, I included the link to the BeerHunter site. The page describing the National Toast has a contact name listed at the National Parkinson Foundation itself. It's unfortunate that the organization appears to be aware, but just not very interested.

More on 30 September's National Toast here.

Re-cant: down with jargon

Every profession has its own jargon, a lingual-code too commonly used like a secret handshake or regal plumage. Preening and obfuscating to outsiders, jargon usually is verbally ungainly.

I find myself easily lapsing into beer-argot. For example I might say abv, when "alcohol", as in "it's 8% alcohol", would be more useful.

And, please, no comments about 'alcohol by volume' versus 'alcohol by weight'. Other than the US big brewers, most of us craft brewers and most of the rest of the world's brewers use the former.

The mainstream beer industry seems to disdain the word "beer", as if it were unclean tref. Its poohbahs superciliously substitute with talk of their "liquid" or their "boxes".

The craft beer world has its own examples of this verbal diarrhea.

Why simply say "beer", when one can proclaim "product"? Why say "flavor", when one can grandiloquently talk of "flavor profile"? And why talk of "flavor" or "structure" or "balance" when one can prattle on about "IBUs"?

In today's Washington Post, Rob Pegoraro looks at the internet's "URL", in similar fashion. He suggests, instead, "web address". (Or why not just have fun and pronounce it, "earl"?)

One reader's comment on this spoke to the use of a particularly obnoxious idiom in the general, non-beer, vernacular:

At the end of the day, nerds need this - URIs and URLs I mean - not the phrase "At the end of the day" - nobody, but nobody needs that.
A good friend of mine recently returned from Asheville, North Carolina. She brought back a gift from Bruisin' Ales, that city's first and only specialty store devoted exclusively to fine beers.

It's a decal printed with the store's 'mission statement'. (Uugh, another often meaningless biz-cant, which Bruisin' Ales, to its credit, did not use.)

beerlanthropy
noun def: concern for the welfare and advancement of beer.

Now, that is a super neologism. I have proudly affixed it to my binder.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9/11 remembered

Poignant recollection from a dear friend:

This is written in memory and honor of the 3000 plus victims of the disaster on 9/11/01.

I worked for an insurance company back in those days.

Every day I'd drive up the Jersey turnpike and see those twin towers and recall, how I met my (soon to be ex) spouse in that building. The New York skyline was within spitting distance. One of my insurance accounts was in the twin towers.

On that fine fall day, everything seemed to be holding its breath, waiting, waiting for something to happen. The sunlight had that unique golden hue that seems peculiar to the east coast.

The twin towers were something else, I used to court clients in windows of the world, the restaurant at the top of the tower. We could see the curvature of the earth from the comfort of the towers, drink fine wine, and feel the winds blowing against its side of the building as it gently moved like a leviathan.

When I went fishing off the north Jersey coast, the towers were a landmark, and a beacon we could always draw a line of sight on those proud monuments for navigation.

I went to work on the 11th of September just like always. A run up the turnpike, listen to NPR, and cuss the drivers who couldn't do 70 mph. I thought about my business pending for that day, and my fun weekend I just had fishing-- the ocean seemed to sparkle and the bluefish seemed to bite on anything thrown at them.

A stop at the bagel shop for coffee and a bagel with lox. Then the office, a ride up the elevator, warm up my computer and check my phone mail.

It was around 8:40 in the morning. I was on the phone with Keiko. She worked for a Japanese trading company, my client in the WTC. I heard some chatter in an adjacent cubical about some planes getting hijacked, but ignored it.

"Hi Keiko. How are doing this fine fall morning? Are you ready to review the August loss runs?" She replied that she was fighting a cold. tThen she said, "Hang on, something's happening. Wait."

Next thing, I heard some screams in the background. I hear Keiko say, "OH SHIT!", and the line went dead.

I tried to call back, but the phone was busy, I tried for a few minutes till I realized that my co-workers were all around a TV set that was saying something about a plane hitting the WTC.

OH MY GOD! Keiko was on the 98th floor.

We watch in mute horror as the second plane hits the second tower. WHAT IS GOING ON? CLEARLY SOMEONE HAS DECLARED WAR AGAINST US.

I left work early that day, and drove home in tears. My spouse was out of contact from me for the next 5 days.

Driving to and from work for the next week or so, what was left of the WTC was a smoking funeral pyre, sending a plainly visible plume of smoke into the fall skies of New York.

While we count the dead as victims, we often fail to think of those who survived the tragic events and horror of those days in September of 2001. They too are victims, and are deserving of our daily thoughts and prayers.

Fight Parkinson's; Toast Michael

Toast Michael Jackson and fight against Parkinson'sThis is from the 11 September post on the BeerHunter blog:

Plans for A National Toast to the memory of Michael Jackson have been finalized.

At 9:00 pm EST on Sunday, September 30, beer drinkers across the continent will raise a glass to the memory of the man who did more than anyone to further the cause of good beer, the one and only Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson. And your establishment can play a part!

Participation is simple. Just download a copy of the official poster (a 2.5 MB pdf, be patient) and print out as many as you want, adding in the details of your particular event. It could be a single toast, an all-night celebration or a more organized remembrance. Then decide how you'd like to contribute to the National Parkinson Foundation, whether “passing the hat” for donations, contributing all or a portion of the night’s revenue or selling a single keg for the charity.

When your donation is ready, send your check to the National Parkinson Foundation or to the National Parkinson Foundation Attn: Kay Houghton.

As long as they say "Tribute to Michael Jackson" in the memo line, they will all be attributed to this event. The address is 1501 N.W. 9th Avenue / Bob Hope Road, Miami, Florida 33136-1494.

A ceremonial contribution on behalf of all the participating bars, restaurants and brewpubs will be made at the Great American Beer Festival on Saturday, October 13. See www.beertown.com for GABF information and tickets."

If you are a consumer let your local know about this event and to stock some extra large hats for Sept. 30.

As of this morning, the National Parkinson Foundation has made no mention of this event on its calendar of September events. [UPDATE: go here.]

I am involved in a gala Beer, Cheese, and Chocolate Tasting schduled for the Old Brogue in Great Falls, Virginia on Tuesday, 9 October. It is a fundraiser for NARSAD, a mental health organization, that funds, among other nuero-diseases, Parkinson's. Please consider attending.
More on Mr. Jackson here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Flammable beer

It was late 1995. Clipper City Brewing Company was set to open.

The local fire marshall paid the obligatory visit and said this: the fermentation tanks in the brewery needed to be fireproofed, or he would not allow the brewery to open.

His reason?

Beer was a flammable substance. Beer?

Beer does indeed contain solids, but the amount is minuscule. Most beers are comprised of 95% water. Thus, it might be conceivable for beer to ignite ... but at a temperature greater than the melting point of steel (i.e., greater than 1000 *F).

If entire Clipper City Brewery were engulfed in flames, God forbid, ignited from some terrible catastrophe, only then, when the very stainless steel tanks which held the beer began to melt, only then, might the beer actually combust.

Well, that was a deal stopper, a bureaucratic atomic bomb.

Clipper's Hugh Sisson, thinking quickly (and I would assume, frantically) placed a call to the G. Heilemann brewery down the street (formerly National Brewing Company). If fermentation and maturation tanks needed to be fireproofed, then G. Heilemann, a major local economic contributor, would also have to cease its operations.

The head brewer there took Hugh's call. He hung up the phone and placed a call.

The next day, Clipper City was cleared to begin brewing operations. Fire Marshall 'Bill' had changed his verdict.

And, then today, I read this story in the science news: Radio Frequencies Help Burn Salt Water.

A researcher has discovered that salt water burns ... easily.

The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Football's back!

Several years ago when I sold beer and wine for a Maryland distributor, I was told by the buyer for a beer/wine shop that she wouldn't be purchasing much beer for September ... because summer was over and it was no longer beer season.

Hmmm.

Just don't let the NFL know that with all those game-time TV beer commercials.

Just don't let craft beer enthusiasts know that, salivating as they are at the thought of all those soon-to-come Oktoberfests, stouts, winter warmers, barleywines.

So, today, for me, it's time for a Winter Storm Imperial ESB or an Otter Creek Cuckoo Bock (if I can find one) or a Legends Imperial Brown or a Victory Festbier or a .... you get the picture.

Hail to the Redskins! Hail, I'm ready for some football!

UPDATE: The Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins in overtime, 16-13.

Wine Envy: wet hops

Wet Hop ales are the beer world's equivalent to wine's beaujolais nouveau. Fresh choice unprocessed and barely handled hop cones are plucked from the vine and transported and added to a brew as soon as possible resulting in a level of hop flavor tastes you just don't find in any other style.

No, no, no! This oft-repeated comparison between beers of complex flavors and wines of insipid character is a fallacious and, to me, aggravating analogy. Stop it, already.

Beaujolais Nouveau wines might be amusing wines, but they are not great wines. They are immature, often sweet or acidic, wines of no real distinction, except maybe as a winemaker/marketer's brilliant idea to bring attention to the Gamay grape* (or possibly to vinify a deficient crop).

Wet-hop ales, however, are very complex and flavor-rich. They incorporate hops that have been only recently harvested ... and lots of them. Often it's mere hours from the fields to the brewkettles.

To compare the two shows a wine envy and a wine ignorance that beer adherents should not, and need not, express. Beer is beer; it is not wine. Take pride in that and stop these silly comparisons!


My good friends at Whole Foods treat me and Clipper City Brewing Company very well. This is a photo from a recent in-store demonstration. The beer manager had asked me to hawk my beers and to discourse on beer itself.

So, if only for a minute as Professor Thomas Cizauskas, let me continue about wet-hopping.

First, it's a silly term, just as dry-hopping is. All beer is wet.

Second, I believe (as do others in the hop industry) that hops gain character from a bit of curing. I like the taste of raw food, but I prefer the taste that food gains when cooked.

A friend in the beer retail business (not Whole Foods) recently showed me a bottle of a new West Coast highly hopped beer. He said, "It's out-of-balance. You won't like it." He missed the point.

I may feel that many of these hop bombs do indeed lack subtlety and beauty. But they are fun. They are a counterpoint; they are a spice. They bring contrast.

And I'll enjoy one.

But then, just as meat-eaters enjoy a steak with enough salt added to bring out the flavor of the beef, I'll return to a beer brewed with enough hops to bring out the incredible flavor of fermented malt. Hops are a spice, an herb, a flavor enhancer, not the flavor itself.

After you muck about in your mash of wet hops, come, my lad, and have a beer.


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

(By the way, Cru Beaujolais is a very different wine from Beaujolais Nouveau. Relative to Bordeaux, or the rest of Burgundy, it's quite the price bargain. With its bright cherry-fruit flavors and wonderful food-mating acidity, it's a tasty mate for turkey. Or simply for sipping!