Monday, December 31, 2007

For a New Year

-- Don Marquis
(Pity the Poor Spiders)

i will admit that some
of the insects do not lead
noble lives but is every
man s hand to be against them
yours for less justice
and more charity

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

Yours for less strife,
but indeed a more blithe ...

Yours for a less frantic,
but more so corybantic ...

New Year.

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

Laimingų Naujų Metų


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mac 'n' Cheese

Mac 'n' CheeseThe best macaroni and cheese I've ever tasted was at the SoBo Café, a Federal Hill restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, back in the early aughts.

The top layer would be wonderfully crunchy, and the underneath neither too gooey nor too grainy. My stepdaughter loved it too.

But I've never been able to bake something similar — until now.

The keys were a Béchamel sauce and Pankow bread crumbs, both suggestions from the wine blog Bigger than Your Head.

For cheese, I used a half-cup each, shredded, of Fresco Asiago, Neal's Yard Cheshire, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. All were suggestions of Andrew, my Whole Foods Market frommagier.

So, here's what to do.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil. Add 2 cups macaroni. Cook 6-7 minutes. Pour the macaroni and water into a strainer placed over the sink. Run cold water over the macaroni.

Now make the Béchamel sauce.

12 fl oz of evaporated milk
1 small onion, quartered
2 baby carrots chopped
Piece of celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns

Bring it all to a boil. Then, remove from the heat, and set aside for 10 minutes. The evaporated milk really does make for a more creamy texture.

During that time, make the roux.

Heat a heavy skillet and add 4 TBSP butter over medium heat (I used Earth Balance — at least a touch healthy!). Once it melts, slowly blend in 4 TBSP flour (I used potato flour — why not?), whisking constantly until they're thoroughly mixed. Continue to cook, whisking, until the flour and margarine achieve a copper color. Add more flour or more Earth Balance, as desired, to adjust the consistency.

Now, strain out the solid ingredients from the cooling milk. Return the strained milk to the stove and gently reheat.

Then, slowly add the milk to the roux, constantly stirring, until it's Christmas Eve dinnerall blended. (As an option, you can add to it: 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tsp mustard powder. This adds a little zing. It tastes fine without it as well.)

That's the Béchamel sauce.

Now, in an oiled casserole dish, add the macaroni, the Béchamel, and the shredded cheeses (reserving about 1/4 cup) and mix everything together very well.

Toss on some quartered cherry tomatoes (again from Bigger than your Head). Then combine the remainder of the shredded cheese with 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs and cover the top of the mixture.

Bake the casserole for 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees.

I enjoyed this on Christmas Eve with a bottle of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

By the way, Bigger than Your Head is currently running a 12 Days of Christmas series which includes some wonderful suggestions for non-beer bubbly beverage choices for a New Years Eve celebration - you know, sparkling wine.

Myself, I'll be popping a Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus gueuze.

Beer and Spirits Taxes

From today's Baltimore Sun:

If all the tax increases the [Maryland] General Assembly passed last month have you down, there might be at least one bright side: Drowning your sorrows is still cheaper in Maryland than just about anywhere else. <...>

Maryland's taxes on alcohol - which haven't increased since 1955 for liquor and 1972 for beer and wine - completely escaped the attention of the state's leaders last month, leaving the rates among the lowest in the nation and far less than the effective levies in neighboring states. <...>

In Maryland and D.C., the tax on spirits is $1.50 a gallon, the lowest rate in the country. West Virginia charges $1.70 and Delaware, $3.75. Pennsylvania and Virginia sell liquor directly through state-run stores, but the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States estimates they have effective tax rates of $6.54 a gallon in Pennsylvania and $14.54 a gallon in Virginia. Maryland's taxes on beer and wine are 10th- and 13th-lowest in the nation, respectively.

The rest of the article — Maryland drink stays cheap — addresses the topics of lobbying, campaign contributions, and the slippery-slope argument of individual responsibility.

Remember that beer, wine, and spirits are taxed first by federal excise tax, then by state excise tax, and finally, in most states, by sales tax. Some states further allow local jurisdictions to tack on additional excise or sales taxes.

The federal government offers small breweries a reduced excise tax differential — a rate of $7 on the first 60,000 barrels for any brewery that produces less than 2 million barrels. The 'big-boy' rate is otherwise $18 per barrel. There has been strong political pressure applied recently to increase the overall rate, and to remove the differential.

Selective comparison of State Beer Excise Tax Rates per gallon
Maryland $0.09
District of Columbia $0.09
Virginia $0.26
Georgia $0.48
North Carolina $0.53
South Carolina $0.77

Saturday, December 29, 2007

No more Blob's of gemütlichkeit

Max Blob's Bavarian Biergarten
[UPDATE 2008.10: Max Blob's great nephew has plans to reopen the dancehall, and is currently renovating it. Information at the new website at blobspark.net.]

Blob's Park has long been a Maryland oasis of German gemütlichkeit — and Eastern European celebration — located in Jessup, between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

But, like the now few-years gone Haussner's Restaurant of Baltimore, Blob's Park is closing. In fact, New Year's Eve will be its final celebration of polkas and oompah and good lager.

A few hours after 2007 ends, a final accordion note will fade away, hundreds of dancing shoes will shuffle to a halt and Blob's Park, a gathering place for European immigrants and other lovers of old-world ways for four generations, will close for good.

Dance Hall Patrons Lament Last Call for 'Polka Time!'
Washington Post, 29 December 2007.

I've been to Blob's a few times — as a beer salesman and as a customer. 'One-and-two-and': with the surname of Cizauskas, I do polka!

Acių, Blob's.


South Carolina Cask Ale Blitz

Clipper City poured at Grapevine in Fort Mill, South CarolinaClipper City Brewing's distributor in South Carolina is really putting me to work in January. He's arranged a Cask Ale Blitz: 4 firkins - for 3 restaurants - in 3 days!

  • Tuesday, January 29th, it's a cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale (a triple-hopped I.P.A.) at Grapevine in Fort Mill (in the Baxter Center.)

  • Wednesday, January 30th, it's 2 casks (!) at the Flying Saucer in Columbia: Loose Cannon and Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale. (This will be the 2008 release of Clipper City's spring seasonal, Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale — a dubbel-style ale, but at 9% alcohol by volume.) Click here for a notice on BeerAdvocate.com.

  • And, Thursday, January 31st, it's a cask of Small Craft Warning Uber Pils (a very hoppy maibock — cask lager is properly referred to as kellerbier) at Barleys in Greenville. This will be a return to where Clipper City Brewing had its very first South Carolina cask event last year. BeerAdvocate.com post here.

Hot Sex Beer Chocolate

Red Wine and Chocolate: arranged marriage. Beer and Chocolate: hot sex.
Alright!

That's Maggie Dutton, writing in her Wine Offensive blog about her recent Seattle Weekly article:
Red Wine Doesn't Go With Chocolate
Try beer instead.
December 12, 2007

Red wine with chocolate is like an arranged marriage. The only thing they have in common is fruit: Red wine tastes like it, and chocolate sometimes tastes good with it. However, red wine's overbearing tannin, oak, and acid affront a fine chocolate's complex creaminess, and neither lets the other finish a sentence. They don't belong together.

<...> With beer and chocolate, it's not a matter of getting it wrong. It's more likely to be just right.

Friday, December 28, 2007

a philosopher walk into a bar ...

author Steven Hales (l) and fellow philosophersA philosopher walks into a bar ...

In fact, last evening, there were quite a few philosophers who had walked into one particular bar in Baltimore, Maryland.

In town for a convention of the American Philosophical Association, these thinkers were at the Wharf Rat Brewpub for a book signing for the 'practical philosophy' series from publisher John Wiley & Sons.

There to wax philosophical, drink good beer, and sign — and sell— their books were Fritz Allhoff, editor of Food & Philosophy and Wine & Philosophy, and Steven Hales, editor of Beer & Philosophy.

At one point, Hales — Bloomsburg University Professor of epistemology and metaphysics — was asked to name his five favorite beers.

Without hesitation, he identified his 'logical' choice for the first: from Brewery Ommegang, Three Philosophers, of course!

But then, holding true to the subtitle of his book — "the unexamined beer isn't worth drinking" — Hales ruminated for quite awhile on his other four, offering numerous arguments pro and con several possible candidates.

Fritz Allhoff is an assistant professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University. He signed my copy of his book with "Eat good food, and think about it."

But just what is "good food"? You'll have to read his Food & Philosophy to find out. For example, Allhoff has included a wonderful essay by a food critic who agonizes over just that, in terms of his seeming irrelevance.

More photos here. An earlier review of Beer & Philosophy here.

Craft Beer growth up for 2007

For 2007, craft beer volume has grown by 13% over 2006, while dollar sales have grown by 17%.

The volume of domestic premium beer brands sold has fallen 0.4%; dollar sales have increased by 1.2%.

Domestic premium beers comprise 44% of the beer sold in the US, by volume. Craft beers comprise 4%.

[From Information Resources, Inc. To be precise, these results are for the 52 week period which concluded 4 November. December results, of course, are not yet in.]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cool! A lambic grows in Portland.

"I'll have a gueuze, " I said. The waiter had no idea what I was saying. "A what?"

"A grr-zuh," I repeated, much slower this time. A blank stare.

I tried once more."Do you have this goose in stock?" I asked, pointing to Lindemans Cuvee René gueuze on the list. "Oh ya. Be right back."

Gueuze-lambic: spontaneously fermented beer only commercially produced in the Payottenland near Brussels. But ...

It appears that the Portland, Maine brewery Allagash Brewing Company has installed a coolship specifically for what may be the first-ever commercially produced spontaneously fermented lambic in the US. And, Allagash is fermenting that lambic right now.

A coolship is a large, shallow, open fermenter, in which wort is inoculated by organisms that happen to be floating by in the air. After the initial fermentation — which occurred at Allagash in November — the wort is usually racked into wooden barrels. This is a long process and, obviously, fraught with the danger of uncontrolled spoilage.

So, more power to owner Rob Todd and his brewer Jason Perkins. I can't wait — but will have to! Lambic can take two to three years.

I learned of this on Stan Hieronymous' blog, where he embedded this YouTube video of the event. Look closely: I think that's Tom Peters of Monks Café watching and snapping photos.

A gueuze, by the way, is a blend of older and newer lambics — the younger, lively, beer giving the older, still, beer a good sparkle in the bottle.

Oscar Peterson, and learning to love jazz

It was an early spring Saturday afternoon in 1979, and I was hung-over and hungry. I walked into a self-styled 'New York' sandwich shop on The Corner in Charlottesville — literally, a corner, across from the University of Virginia.

Inside, near the front window, a man was playing piano.

I didn't pay much attention; I had hunger to attend to. But after a few bites of the large gooey reuben sandwich, I started to listen.

He was playing that saccharine-sweet song Somewhere Over the Rainbow, but somehow the way he was playing it seemed to deliver it from sentimentality.

His name was Ralph Davis. He and I talked that day, and often after that, and he would introduce me to the world of recorded jazz. There were only two people in jazz that Ralph didn't care for: Nina Simone and Oscar Peterson.

Being younger and contentious, I listened to their recordings, and disagreed.

Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson died over the weekend at age 82.

Like Ralph Davis, some jazz critics found reason to disparage Mr. Peterson: over-recorded, a technical show-off, and other things. Being older and wiser now, I still disagree.

They completely missed the point.

I played (at) piano through my teenage years: listening then to Mr. Peterson's recordings would have been a textbook in jazz piano technique and styling ... and jazz feeling.

Mr. Peterson may have been the pianist heir to Art Tatum. But the man surely did swing! Listen to any from his large catalogue of recordings. (I particularly enjoy those of his drumless trio with bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Barney Kessel. )

Richard Harrington of the Washington Post wrote a wonderful appreciation: The Touch of a Master. And, the Post's Adam Bernstein, in his Page 1 (!) story, finished this way:

Peterson was a towering figure in the literal sense, standing over six feet tall and weighing more than 250 pounds. Ray Brown once spoke of Peterson's "drill sergeant" tendencies, but audience members found him, by and large, a serene and engaging performer -- except when interrupted by loud talk or clinking glasses.

He was known to have barked at one offender, "Would you act this way at a classical concert?"


And Ralph Davis? I haven't seen him — or heard him play — in over 25 years. I long ago forgave him for his Peterson misstep, but I never did thank him for opening my ears to the beauty and power of jazz.

Plenty of life left for drinking beer: Larry Bell

There has been much recent on-line chatter about the stand that Larry Bell, owner of Bells Brewing, has been taking against a certain distributor, and about its implications for the three-tier system of distribution itself.

  • Here, from the Chicago Reader (15 December 2006).
  • A follow-up, from the Wall Street Journal (10 December 2007).
All very interesting and important. But it's the last paragraph of that recent Wall Street Journal article which caught my attention.
Back in Michigan, Mr. Bell is bracing for a lawsuit and didn't do much celebrating of his beer's return to the Windy City. He has been taking it easy because he had surgery last month to remove his prostate after being diagnosed with cancer. "It's major surgery, so I'm watching my energy level," he says. "There's plenty of life left for drinking beer."

Best wishes, Larry, for you and your family. Be well.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Winter Beer Extravaganza, part 2

Host Bob Tupper and all the brewers
Here's more from the Winter Holidaze Extravaganza held Wednesday, 19 December, at the Brickskeller, Washington, D.C.

[Part 1 of my review is here.]

According to host Bob Tupper the crowd that night may have been the largest in recent memory. This, while I'm having a sip of Boston Beer's Utopias, generously offered to me by Greg Kitsock, the editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. Definitely spirituous, and tasty, not beer-like at all.

Capitol City Shirlington
Michael Jackson had once told Bob Tupper to always begin and/or end a beer tasting with a fruit beer.

So ... Brewer Mike McCarthy, 5 years with this DC area brewery chain, courageously brought his tart cherry ale. I say courageously, because every beer after his was higher — sometimes much higher — in alcohol.

At 5.2% alcohol by volume, this had been brewed with acidulated malt— adding a slight tanginess — and 8 lbs of aseptic fruit puree added post-fermentation for slight sweetness. Nice yin-yang and very pleasant.

Dogfish Head
And now for something completely different: Worldwide Stout, at 18% alcohol by volume, presented by brewery president, Sam Calagione.

Bob Tupper introduced Calagione as being "absolutely fearless," willing to try and fail and try again until successful. He produces "an amazing range of high quality beers."

The keg of Worldwide Stout that Sam had brought had been filled in 2004. Sam said he was surprised that he had found this: apparently the brewery had attempted to sell every drop of beer that year in order to break even.

Cellaring had smoothed the beer, Sam noted, the roastiness lessened, but with new hints of pit-fruit, maderia, and molasses.

Sam invited everyone to the pub: an experimental beer is currently being served there, a spiced porter called "Spruce Willis". He recalled that the brewery had begun at its small Rehobeth pub in 1995. He recounted reading one particular customer comment, soon afterward, at the first release of ImmortAle: "It tastes like wood, but it got me fu**ed up!" It's going to be a long road, Sam thought.

Recently, a fan of the brewery — a wood-flooring salesman — alerted Sam to an exotic, hard wood from Paraguay. Sam said it's so hard that it can withstand a bullet fired at it at close range. The brewery is using it for a new wood-aged beer called Palo Santo Marron.

The Dogfish distillery is developing a distilled mead called BE, aged in wood, with maple sugar and honey.

Sweetwater Tavern Merrifield
Brewer Andrew Cummings reminded me that he had met me and Ernesto Igot, Clipper City's brewmaster, two years ago, when he was brewing at Great Divide Brewery in Denver and we were there for the 2006 Great American Beer Festival.

He brought his spiced winter ale called Happy Trails, brewed with ginger, black cardamom, Curacąo orange peel, and cinnamon. Andrew mentioned that a little bit of cinnamon goes a long way. He carefully used only 500 grams in a 15-barrel batch. A fascinating beer with almost a curry-like flavor.

Bob Tupper asked Andrew if he, Dean Lake at Sterling, and executive brewer Nick Funnell confer much. "Yes, we talk to each other often" replied Andrew, "but we don't always listen!"

Rock Bottom, Bethesda
Bob Tupper mentioned that this national chain gives enough latitude to the individual brewers that each location seems to brew beers with a unique sense of place.

Brewer Geoff Lively brought the 11th Anniversary Ale. Brewed in previous years, but spiced and known as "Trouble", Brewer Geoff left it unspiced this year: a 8.2% alcohol by volume Belgian tripel/golden ale — crisp with a hint of nectarines and cloves.

Lively invited all to stop by at noon the next day when he would be tapping a keg of his cellared 2006 Atom Smasher Barleywine (named for the pub's building which had formerly housed offices of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). "Come in for lunch, and have a couple — 11% abv pints!" he said to general merriment.

Rock Bottom, Arlington
Brewer Chris Rafferty had made the same style of beer as Brewer Lively of Bethesda, and with the same yeast, but to slightly different flavor-effect.

Whereas Lively brewed his to 8.2% alcohol by volume (abv) and 24 International Bittering Units (IBUs), Brewer Chris brewed his to 8.5% abv and 40 IBUs. it was fascinating to notice the flavor differences that these made along with 75 lbs of candi sugar. There was a hint of mace, maybe, in the drier finish. Czech hops for bittering.

Talking at the brewers' table, Rafferty mentioned that he remembered me from my days brewing in Philadelphia at Manayunk Brewing — over 10 years ago — when he had been brewing at a nearby John Harvard's.

Capitol City, Capitol Hill
Brewer Brian brought his Southern Brown Ale.

A decade ago, a beer at this strength — 6.3% — might have been considered extreme. How times have changed!

Hopped with UK Fuggles and Styrian Goldings from Slovenia, it was dark brown, creamy, and with a hint of brown sugar. Quite nice.

Brian explained that Southern Browns — referring to southern England versus northern England — tend to be maltier than their northern brethren.
Favio Garcia of Dominion
Coastal/Dominion Winter Brew
It was a good to see Favio Garcia still at Dominion; many of the long-timers have departed since the sale of the brewery.

Brewer Favio presented the brewery's very tasty "English-style I.P.A." They had "emptied their larder," using every variety of hops that they had in the brewery.

Clipper City Winter Storm Imperial E.S.B.
I presented our Winter Storm — a 7.5% abv winter warmer brewed with a cépage of English and US malts and hops.

It was pulled fresh from a cask, so I had the opportunity to speak on the freshness of cask ales. "Imagine a cask as a small fermenter," I said. "I've brought the brewery to you." (Friends at my table said they had been taking bets on how many times, in my enthusiasm, I would say the word, "Fuggles". Only twice.)

I read from the editorial — Drink More Beer — written by a BBC announcer — that I've quoted on this blog.

Finally, I presented Bob Tupper with a 6-pack of cellared barleywines from my personal stash for the evening's Childrens Hospital auction: from a 2006 Clipper City Below Decks, to a 1999 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, to a 1992 Thomas Hardy Ale, brewed at the now-closed Eldridge Pope Brewery, and others. The winning bid was over $300.

There were several more beers — Jewbelation 11, Starr Hill, DuClaw — but at this point, this blogger put down his pen, and simply enjoyed the evening.

May you enjoy your evening tonight ... and your day tomorrow.

Linksmų Kaledų!

More photos here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Clipper's 2007 World Beer Championship Medals

Ernesto Igot (l) and Ralph Woodall of Hop Union
The World Beer Championships are conducted every year, throughout the year, by the Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago, Illinois. It's not a festival but a judging done under controlled conditions.

The 2007 results have been announced, and Clipper City's Brewmaster Ernesto Igot has asked me to post them here — those that pertain to Clipper City Brewing Company, that is! Clipper City entered beers in 3 lager categories.

  • Balto MärzHon received a Silver Medal in the Vienna Märzen category, with an 86 score.
  • Small Craft Warning Über Pils received a Silver Medal in the Pilsner category, scoring an 88.
  • McHenry Lager, entered in the Pale Lager category, received a a Gold Medal with a score of 91. (Evincing a bit of gentle schadenfreude, Ernesto pointed out that San Miguel Beer received only a bronze medal. Igot had been brewmaster there, in Manila, for 21 years, before emigrating to the United States.)

I am a Territory Manager for the Clipper City Brewing Company.

Remember - to drink more beer

Moderate beer intake may cut Alzheimer's risk

December 17, 2007 - The silicon content of beer may protect against the deleterious effects of aluminum on brain health, suggests a new study with mice from Spain.

The research taps into beer's silicon content, and reports that moderate consumption cut the uptake in the digestive tract of aluminum, a neurotoxin and recently linked as a possible causal factor for Alzheimer's.

The study, published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, reports that "moderate beer consumption… could perhaps be taken into account as a component of the dietary habits of the population."

The researchers from the University of Alcala in Madrid state however that "alcoholic beverage consumption needs to be kept within certain limits depending both on gender and on age and should never be promoted as a means of increasing certain nutrients, which can be obtained from other foodstuffs in the diet."

<...>

Previously, the potential health benefits of beer have focused on the flavonoid xanthohumol found in hops. Research has suggested that the compound could help prevent prostate cancer, but the scientists suggest supplements rather than beer for exploiting the potential benefits.

NutraIngredients.com


A reader of the piece, Thomas Fungwe, Ph.D. — a Nutrition Policy Analyst at the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion — had this to say in response:

Alzheimer disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized clinically by progressive cognitive impairment. Pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease in the brain include intracellular neurofibrillary tangles and deposits of aggregated amyloid-Beta protein (A-Beta) in neuritic plaques and cerebral vessels. The authors in this study did not measure any of the biological markers that one can truly show that Alzheimer disease is influenced by aluminum.

While we agree that the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to the development of Alzheimer, however, are not fully understood, it is for this reason that the Beverage industry should not seek to bring about publicity to studies that do not substantially tell us anything novel or compelling.

The question as to how much beer to consume in order to get the desired amount of silicon comparable to the amount fed to mice, weight for weight remains in the back of our minds.

Not understanding these issues — other than that of caregiver — I can't speak to Dr. Fungwe's assertions, except to agree that concentrating on only one pathway or marker may indeed be insufficient.

As well, it's always good to take such studies with a degree of skepticism; and it appears that this one may have been sponsored in some part by the alcoholic beverage industry. However that supposition does not, ipso facto, negate any or all of the study's conclusions.

The reticence (sometimes hostile) of a non-trivial portion of the medical and scientific establishments to accept the inescapable conclusion, taken from a preponderance of evidence over many studies, that alcoholic consumption in moderation can be part of a health-promoting diet, is a likewise fallacious stance.

On my website, I have collected a (very) limited amount of articles dealing with those healthful aspects, particularly as they relate to beer. Link here.

In October, I co-hosted a fundraiser for NARSAD, an organization that exists as a clearinghouse for mental health research. Jump to its website here.

Or, consider linking your computer in a Stanford University distributed computing effort, called Folding at Home, that hopes to understand the "mis-folding" of proteins, which is considered to be a cause of many neurodegenerative diseases.

In the meantime, remember ... to drink more beer ... in moderation!

Frank Morgan's alto legacy

alto saxophonist Frank Morgan"Kiss the kids and wake the neighbors."

In a lyrically deep voice, that's how alto saxophonist Frank Morgan concludes one of his albums.

Frank Morgan, born in 1933, lay down his alto sax for the last time on 14 December 2007.

I heard Mr. Morgan play in person, once, at the One Step Down jazz club (now closed) in Washington, D.C., in the winter of 1988.

At the time I was the manager of a restaurant on the other eOne Step Down Jazz Clubnd of town. Dinner service concluded, I closed up, and hopped a taxi. I arrived at One Step Down with minutes to spare before the 1 am start of the last set.

Mr. Morgan, in a clear tone that had strong echoes of Charlie Parker, played only one tune for that set — Duke Ellington's A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.

But he played that one tune for over an hour, never repeating, finding new ins and outs, and over and over building long periods of beautiful tension and then finding release in the 8 note phrase which corresponds to the syllables of the song's title.

I'm a lover of jazz — and I went on to work for awhile at One Step Down — but I had never before heard anything at that level, and never have since.

Here's how the New York Times, in a 1987 piece, described his art:

Frank Morgan's alto saxophone improvisations proceed with the relaxed pacing and solicitous empathy of a conversation between old friends. Just as a complex phrase is winding down, he thinks of something else, another angle, and so he adds an aside. Sometimes the asides take such an unexpected turn that the fabric of the conversation threatens to unravel. That's when Mr. Morgan pauses, smiles and gives the music the chance to reorient itself. Like all good conversationalists, Mr. Morgan is listening even when he's talking.

But the ease and fluidity of Mr. Morgan's playing do not entirely conceal its turbulent depth. There's a lifetime of hard work and hard knocks behind every spiraling phrase.


Mr. Morgan fought heroin addiction for a long stretch of his life, finally going straight in the 1980s. That victory speaks to redemption and resolve. I believe I can hear those qualities — tempered by sharp beauty — resonate throughout Mr. Morgan's music.

So, "kiss the kids and wake the neighbors." Life is too tenuous not to.

Merry Solstice!


The Hibernal Solstice occurred yesterday — Saturday, 22 December — at 1:08 in the morning Eastern Standard Time (EST).

So between the time the sun rises today — 7:24 AM — and when it sets — 4:51 PM — we can again enjoy a day with just a bit more daylight than the day before. And, from now until June, day by day, those daylight hours will continue to extend.

That's a reason to celebrate. Have a merry Solstice!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

3 lite oxymorons

Is this a compliment to — or a dig at — the fine people of Baltimore?

SAB/Miller has just announced that starting in February 2008 it will test market the Miller Lite Brewers Collection, a trio of low-cal, low-carb craft-style beers in four markets including Baltimore, Maryland.

The three beers are a Blonde Ale, an Amber something, and a Wheat.

At tastings, I'm sometimes asked if the Clipper City Brewing Company (of Baltimore, Maryland) brews a light — or (sic) lite — beer. I resist the strong temptation to both roll my eyes and say as my stepdaughter would have: "whatever".

Instead, I reply that the brewery does indeed produce a beer with half the carbohydrates and half the calories — but with all the flavor.

Put out two beer glasses. Only fill one!

The other three test markets are Minneapolis, Charlotte, and San Diego.

Demise of Goudenband?

Word on the Burgundian Bible Belt discussion site is that Belgian brewer Liefmans/Riva is bankrupt.

Its brown-hued Goudenband — in a beautiful tissue-wrapped, champagne-corked bottle — has long been the sine qua non of the oud bruin (or Flemish Brown) style.

Here's how beer writer Michael Jackson described the beer — and the style — in a 1998 issue of All About Beer:
At their best, ales in the Oudenaarde style have a teasingly smooth, almost feathery, fluffy, body (from water low in calcium, high in sodium bicarbonate); a dry, complex, caramelish maltiness; a winey, nutty sherry, Montilla note [Oloroso sherry] (from long periods of maturation at ambient cellar temperatures); a light but distinct interplay of sweetness and sourness; and a spritzy finish. <...> [A] beer of around four months old is blended with stock two or three times that age. The blend is centrifuged, primed with invert sugar, given a dosage of the original yeast, and bottle conditioned in the brewery's cellars. Its characteristic sour wineyness, iron, saltiness and toastiness ... will develop with a few months, or even years, of cellaring.

The blogger Stonch provided a link to a Netherlands webpage, that does seem to confirm this sad news. My Dutch is nearly non-existent, so I utilized an on-line translator. As best as I could determine:

Brouwerij Liefmans failliet (21-12-2007)

Liefmans, with breweries in Oudenaarde and Dentergem, has applied for bankruptcy in court in Kortrijks, West Flanders, Belgium. The company had requested relief - some sort of Dutch equivalent of Chapter 11 (that is to continue operations while some of its debts were forgiven and others were negotiated) - but this was rejected by the court. With 50 full-time employees, Liefmans/Riva produces the Dentergems Witbier, Jan van Gent, Liefmans Frambozen, Liefmans Goudenband, Liefmans Kriek, Lucifer, Straffe Hendrik, and Vondel brands.

I first read of Goudenband and its indefatigable owner, Madame Rose Blanquaert-Merckx, in Michael Jackson's New World Guide Beer. But even so, I was unprepared for my first taste of a Goudenband:  Cherry-skin tart, with hints of caramel. It truly was my first Belgian-beer WOW experience.

When I opened a brewpub in the early 20-aughts, I was supplied with several cases of vintage 1989 Goudenband by a local distributor. There were a few corkers in the lot, and all had  impressive depositS of sediment. But most had survived well: brick/russet in hue, bright when decanted off the deposit, carbonation intact, and with a vigor and delightful complexity.

As of this morning, there's nothing about this posted on Liefmans' website: www.liefmans.be. It would be tremendous loss if this amazing beer were to disappear.

[UPDATE 2008.02.11: White Knight for Liefmans?]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winter Beer Extravaganza, pt.1

The Brickskeller is truly the 'venerable' Bricks this year. At age 50, its walls may have begun to echo almost as much American beer history as Bede's tome contains English history.

Last evening was the Brickskeller's annual Winter Holidaze Beer Extravaganza.

In recent years this showcase of local brewers has been held at its newer, larger sister, R.F.D. in Penns Quarter. This year it was held instead in the more intimate Brickskeller, off of Dupont Circle. It was indeed overflowing with joyous Winter beer revelers.

More here.

UPDATE
The companion Strong Beer Tasting (although indeed most beers last evening were of elevated alcohol levels) occurs next month at the Brickskeller location. It's a 2-evening affair, and Clipper City Brewing will participate on the second night, Wednesday 23 January, with a dry-hopped cask of its 2007 vintage Below Decks Barleywine.

January 22 and 23: The Brickskeller hosts our 15th annual multiple guest brewmasters Strong Ale Tasting Extravaganzee! Two nights of too many brewmasters presenting too much beer. This is by far the best and easiest way to sample the incredible selection of seasonal and/or huge offerings from the regions brewers!

Tickets will be available ON LINE ONLY and will go on sale the first week of the new year ... if you aren't on our mailing list, Email Dave at Brickskeller@aol.com.

VA craft brewery Starr Hill signs on with A-B

Well before Old Dominion Brewery's recent 49% buyout by Anheuser-Busch, Dominion had signed a long-time distributor agreement with the A-B network. In fact, many believe that that relationship, begun in the early 1990s, is what had placed Dominion on the map.

The press release below announces a new distributor arrangement between A-B and Starr Hill Brewery near Charlottesville, Virginia. It mentions only a distribution agreement, and nothing about ownership.


Starr Hill Enters Distribution Agreement with Anheuser-Busch
Dec. 18, 2007

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Dec. 18, 2007) – Starr Hill Brewery announced today that Anheuser-Busch will become the master distributor for Starr Hill, giving it the benefit of Anheuser-Busch’s logistical expertise in managing distribution, as well as access to more independent and chain retail accounts.

“We’re proud that our products have been added to Anheuser-Busch’s select list of craft beers offered through its world-class distribution network,” said Mark Thompson, founder and president of Starr Hill Brewery.

http://www.anheuser-busch.com/Press/Starr_Hill_121707.html


UPDATE:
From Musings Over a Pint, I have been alerted to a confirmation of Anheuser-Busch minority ownership. In an on-line article dated 18 December, posted by the C-ville Charlottesville Newsweekly:

The deal's financial details aren't yet available, but C-VILLE's Restaurantarama spoke with Starr Hill Brewmaster Mark Thompson soon after it was announced. Thompson told Restaurantarama that Anheuser-Busch acquired a minority stake in Starr Hill as part of the deal, though Starr Hill will maintain control. All operations, Thompson said, will remain in Crozet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sip with care: Imperial stout

In his review of Imperial Stouts in the Food Section of the Washington Post this morning, Greg Kitsock writes:

Imperial stouts pair well with Stilton cheese, walnuts, fruitcake soaked in rum, high end chocolates, and any super-rich dessert.

Several years ago, I challenged the chef at the Sputnik Café (near to Annapolis, Maryland) to create a dish which combined three of the above five pairings.

He acquiesced.
imported by B. United International
At a beer dinner, he served his patrons a cheesecake of Stilton and pastry, topped with figs and toasted walnuts, and drizzled with honey. What an amazing treat Chef David Brown had created, although some diners were at first surprised. He had but slightly sweetened the Stilton cheese.

I paired his cheesecake with the adjectivally rich Albert Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Imperial Stout.

The A. Le Coq company was founded in London in the early 1800s by Albert Le Coq, a Belgian merchant. He brewed and exported a strong stout exclusively for the Russian market.

In the early 20th century, the company opened a brewery in Estonia — cheaper transportation costs, after all. But soon the "untidiness" (to borrow from our previous Defense Secretary) of the Russian Revolution intervened. The brewery continued on; the beer did not.

The English brewery Harvey's brews it now — allegedly with the original recipe — with permission from the Le Coq family's estate.

Tasting Albert Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Imperial Stout exposes the shallowness of some good-beer drinkers when they reduce a beer to its recipe parts: how many bittering units (IBUs), what's the original gravity (OG), etc.

This beer contains 'only' 50 IBUs of hop bitterness, 'only' 9% alcohol by volume (abv) — but my, oh my!

The intense roasted bitterness, tar notes, licorice notes, sherry notes, deep dark unctiousness, all are blended together in a profound way. This is indeed an after-dinner drink, a 'warmer' for a blustery winter's night.

Sip with care — with some Stilton on the side.

The Albert Le Coq is not mentioned in the above Washington Post piece. Instead the emphasis is on fine American examples, such as these two personal favorites: Legends Imperial Stout from Richmond, Virginia, and Storm King from Victory of Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Musings over a cask pint

Randy taps the firkinHard Times Cafe proprietor Randy Barnette taps a cask of Clipper City's Winter Storm Imperial ESB just before the Winter Beer Tasting at his Woodbridge, Virginia restaurant.

At least one other Hard Times follows an identical format: 10 or so beers, poured in 3 ounce samples, initially described by the respective brewery or wholesaler representatives, and then guessed at by the attendees.

Connectivity

The internet — as connective as it can be — can also be an impersonal medium. Thus it was a treat last evening to meet in person with a fellow beer blogger: "Virginia David" of the blog - Musings Over a Pint.

Dave recently received thanks from Lucy Saunders, author of the new cookbook: The Best of American Beer & Food. Why? Because he had actually taken the time to test a recipe before posting his — favorable — review.

[UPDATE 2007.12.19: His review of the Hard Times tasting here.]

More in the what they'll do for beer department

One of the beers to be tasted — Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale — was unavailable from the local distributor. The beer had been on tap just the previous day. But ever popular, it had sold out.

Sierra's local representative spent a large portion of his day driving to stores throughout northern Virginia until he was eventually able to locate several cases of the beer. He arrived at the tasting just in time. We appreciated the effort ... and the beer.

Cask notes

Before a cask can be tapped, it needs to be broached through the tut in the top bung.

Think of it as the finger on the straw phenomenon. Hold the straw and the juice stays put. Release your finger and the juice flows out.

a 'working' soft spileSimilarly with a cask ... but it's beer.

Hours before a cask is to be served — and ideally 24-48 hours beforehand, depending on the beer — the seal is broached on the top side of the cask.

The center of the bung has a slightly perforated inset, called a tut. That is pierced through, and the pressure is released. Riding on that pressure is often a geyser of beer, or, simply, an audible puff of carbon dioxode (CO2).

Either way, a porous plug called a spile — usually made of bamboo — is placed into the tut. Excess carbonation (and foamy beer) continues to evolve out of the cask, while the spile prevents any environmental 'things' from falling into the cask.

The cask is said to be 'working' at this point.

When equilibrium is reached (that is, not much foam oozing out through the spile), the cask is ready to be tapped. A more technical definition would be that at this point the carbon dioxide in solution in the ale is at the same partial pressure as the surrounding atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Time between spiling and serving allows turbulence to diminish, and yeast and proteins to settle out of the beer, where both would add haze and a rough bitterness. But when both have settled down to the space beneath the tap, the beer is said to be 'in condition' and is ready to be served.

A volume of carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in a beer is the volume that that carbon dioxide would occupy — if it could be removed from the beer at atmospheric pressure and 32 °F — as compared to the original volume of the beer.

English brewers shoot for 1.0 to 1.5 volumes of carbon dioxide as the level of carbonation in their cask ales. It yields a softer, less gassy pint.

American brewers go for more robust conditioning, usually 1.6 to 2.0 volumes of CO2. That yields a more active beer, and often a bit of spouting drama when the cask is spiled. Most US bottled beers contain 2.45 to 2.85 volumes of CO2.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dog Flying to Maryland

When Wolaver’s Certified Organic Ales began selling its beer back in the early 1990s, its business plan was to spread production between existing breweries throughout the US.

That may have been a plan born of necessity (fewer capital expenditures), but it was a plan easily also used as a marketing tool. If the beer need not be shipped far afield, it would be, ipso facto, a fresher product.

The plan bred success, and now Wolaver's produces all of its beer at the brewery it purchased as the result of its success - Otter Creek. But I don't think that freshness — from one brewery plant now — is any less a selling point.

Now, consider Flying Dog Brewery of Denver, Colorado, which last year purchased the bankrupt Frederick Brewing Company, and split Flying Dog production between that plant and its existing Flying Dog brewery in Denver, Colorado.

From the brewery's website, earlier this week:

Flying Dog Brewery recently announced that we are embarking on the next step in our illustrious, 17 year history of crafting remarkable beer by concentrating all of our brewing and production to the brewery in Frederick, MD, where 70% of Flying Dog Beer is already being brewed. This move will take place in January and we are working to ensure that our entire production team will be able to make this move over to Maryland. Accounting, sales, marketing and other administrative functions will remain largely unaffected by this change and our HQ will remain in Denver.

Efficiencies and potential markets are probably what drove this decision. The 'freshness' aspect - west of the Mississippi gets Denver product, east gets Frederick product - was probably never more than a marketing and freight cost measure. And that's fine and normal — if you don't claim otherwise.

But owner/brewmaster Eric Warner seems to imply that the newest move is, in and of itself, a 'green' thing because it will result in efficiencies.

Although the Maryland brewery wasn’t “Green Built” part of the reasons for the move is it is a newer, more efficient facility. As alternative energy sources become more accessible and cost effective we will look to tap into those as well. Like most other craft breweries, right now we are most focused on the staggering disruption in the malt and hop markets so our biggest challenge is getting the highest yields out of those products without compromising product quality. As breweries achieve this it is in itself more eco-friendly saving on energy use in transportation and production.

Using that logic, should Coors' Golden, Colorado plant be considered a grail for ecologically-friendly breweries?

Chris O'Brien is the Beer Activist blogger and author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World. He takes the brewery to task — with some vitriol — here.

Caveat: I work for Clipper City Brewing Company, a Maryland craft brewery competitor of Flying Dog. My opinions are not necessarily those of Clipper City.

That being said, I often have given Eric Warner his due as a brewer and craft-beer evangelizer. Read, for example, my recounting of a Maryland pub's beer breakfast.

14 beers, 14 cheeses

tour guide at Pirates' HouseHere's a 'pyrate' tour guide, dressed appropriately, even off-duty, at The Pirates' House Restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. And wearing a Clipper City Heavy Seas eyepatch.

It was 82°F and gloriously sunny with a cool river breeze that Wednesday in Savannah - the 12th of December!

The evening before, 210 miles to the northeast, I had participated at the annual Beer and Cheese Dinner of Summit Wayside Tavern in Snellville, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.

It was quite an evening: host and owner Andy Klubock paired 14 beers with 14 cheeses!

Clipper City Brewing brought its 2007 vintage Below Decks Barleywine which Andy paired with Clemson Blue Cheese and its 2007 Winter Storm Imperial ESB, paired with Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar.

The caramelly malt base of the 10% alcohol by volume (abv) Below Decks married well with - and softened- the blue's gently moldy funk and saltiness. I often match strong stouts with blues, but the more salty blues pair better with barleywines.

It's fascinating that Clemson University produces its own commercial cheese; follow the link above for the history of the cheese.

Based in Vermont, Cabot Creamery is a dairy cooperative - the farmers own the company. Seriously Sharp Cheddar is my favorite in Cabot's line - an aged cheddar with a good sharp, slightly nutty character, but without the earthy tang of some English aged cheddars. Clipper City and Cabot have partnered together in the past.

The so-called ploughman's lunch in the U.K.Summit Wayside 2007 Beer and Cheese Dinner consists of a slice of hearty bread, some cheddar cheese, and a pint of bitter (that's cask pale ale). Thus this second beer/cheese pairing was a logical one: Clipper City's 7.5% abv Winter Storm is a New World interpretation of a strong bitter.

The other pairings

  • Sweetwater Festive Ale
    Laura Chenel Goat's Milk Tomme

  • Michelob Celebrate Cherry
  • Grafton Classic Reserve Cheddar
  • Michelob Celebrate Chocolate
    Meadowcreek Appalachian

  • Redhook Winterhook
    Haystack Mountain Queso de Mano

  • Hitachino Celebration Ale
    ?

  • Olfabrikken Porter
    Rogue Smokey Blue

  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga
    Monterey Jack

  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
    Cypress Grove Goat Cheddar

  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2007
    Maytag Blue

  • Highland Cold Mountain
    Nettle Meadow Kunik

  • Terrapin Wake 'n Bake Stout
    Rogue River Blue

  • Samichlaus
    Nancy Camembert
Of note
host Andy Klubock
The A-B rep was insistent that both the cherry and the chocolate beers were to be served at room temperature. Fortunately, Andy served them at cellar temperature. The chocolate was fun; the cherry tasted artificial.

The entrant from Japanese micro Hitachino was listed in the program as being the Celebration Ale, a spiced ale. Served instead was the Classic Ale , an I.P.A. aged in cedar. I had not had this before and found it intriguing. The use of cedar added a spice to the beer which complemented the English hop varietals. Its use was gentle, as opposed to the over-the-top bourbon character of many American wood-aged beers. I don't remember with which cheese it was paired.

Rogue's hazelnut-smoked blue cheese was mated with Olfabrikken Porter. This Danish porter (that is, a lagered porter) was full-bodied, chocolatey, and unctious. The cheese/beer combination -- a contrast, if you will -- was not immediately intuitive, but indeed delicious. (See my comments above about stouts and blues.)

Terrapin of Athens, Georgia has been having difficulties in getting its state brewing license. Spike Buckowski and his (male) staff have been sprouting mustaches as silent protests against the bureaucratic delay. But Spike was optimistic. "Any day now," he told me, crossing his fingers.

Steve of Sweetwater indicated that the brewery is tearing down a section of its roof in order to make room for a couple of new 400 barrel fermenters. To put that into perspective, each of those fermenters will hold the equivalent of 5,480 cases of beer.

Andy has a second Summit Wayside Tavern in Cumming, GA. That location celebrated its beers-and-cheeses the evening before.

What I'll do for beer

There I was, last Monday evening, speaking on Clipper City's Winter Storm Imperial ESB, describing its flavors to the 125 people assembled at the Winter Beer Tasting at Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda, Maryland.

I like to use props — at the half-century mark, I'm not much of eye-candy myself — so I grabbed hold of a Heavy Seas metal sign, and held it aloft.

In full throttle, preaching on the beer, I was interrupted by an insistent young lady a few feet in front of me. "Do you know you're bleeding?", she asked. I had apparently sliced my finger on the sharp edge of the sign; there was a bright crimson stain quickly spreading on my white turtleneck sweater.

I clasped my hands tightly together to stanch the flow, and continued on. Darned if I wasn't going to give the folks their moneys' worth. The show must go on.

All is well now.

The Hard Times Cafe in Woodbridge Virginia hosts its Winter Beer Tasting on Monday, 17 December. I'll be there, bandaged, with a fresh cask of Winter Storm Imperial ESB.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ike Turner, stockings and wine (1931-2007)

Ike Turner died this week.

A misanthrope at his worst and a giant of music at his best, Turner won a Grammy just this year for Risin' With The Blues as Best Traditional Blues Album. It's an apt yet ironic award considering that Turner was an innovater in his day and that his hit Rocket 88 is considered by some to be the seminal Rock 'n Roll record.

Eric Asimov, wine editor for the New York Times, has published an appreciation of Turner, but as a metaphor for wine (!): smooth versus gritty.

Mostly [Turner] will be remembered as the violent, abusive husband of Tina Turner. But it should not be forgotten that he was an idiosyncratic, influential musician [who made] fundamental contributions to rock-and-roll <...>

Remember Ike and Tina’s routine with “Proud Mary,’’ , about, “Every now and then we do things nice and easy, and sometimes we like to do things … rough.’’ I feel the same way about wine. There is certainly a place for nice, easy wines that slip softly down your throat. <...>

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. I am saying that, like Ike and Tina, I prefer things a little rough. I love wine with a rasp of tannin and acidity. It’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s to be embraced, especially with food.


I could say the same thing about beer. I champion good cask mild or pale ale, but I also relish the intensely acidic bite of a gueuze-lambic.

Asimov makes mention of a YouTube music video of Turner's 1951 hit Rocket 88. The video includes montages of vintage Oldsmobile 88s and of the ravishing 1950s pin-up Bettie Paige. I've embedded the video below.

SAVOR: American Craft Beer and Food

www.savorcraftbeer.orgThe SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience site doesn't have details posted on its site yet. So, here are some, taken from the Brewers Association's website and emails.

UPDATE 2007.12.20.
The site has been expanded. Go to: www.savorcraftbeer.org.

The Brewers Association, producers of the Great American Beer FestivalSM, is bringing the quintessential craft beer and food event to Washington D.C. in celebration of American Craft Beer Week.

A must attend for craft beer aficionados and foodies alike, SAVOR will offer a memorable craft beer and food experience to a limited number of attendees in the columned archways of the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.


When and Where

The inaugural event is taking place at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. There will be three sessions for the event.
Friday, May 16, 2008 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Saturday, May 17, 2008 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Saturday, May 17, 2008 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Events

Plan to delight your senses with the diversity of flavors featuring some of America's finest ales and culinary combinations at this grand tasting experience. Visit with owners and brewers representing small breweries from across the country including 48 breweries from 8 regions. Meet who's making the great craft beers the national media is raving about. Participate in directed tasting seminars featuring an A-list of rising stars of the craft beer and food scene (limited seating available).


Tickets

Tickets for each of the three sessions are limited to the first 700 ticket purchasers. The $85 ticket includes a commemorative tasting glass, souvenir program and Craft Beer Taster's Commemorative Journal, fabulous food and craft beer pairings, seminars, and 2- ounce samples of specially selected craft beer.

Contact the Brewers Association for details: info@brewersassociation.org


Beer and Food Pairings

Breweries will be allowed to showcase one or two (one complimenting and/or one contrasting) beer at the event.

Breweries will choose a food dish from our pairing menu once they have been selected for the event. Food pairing samples will be served at a food station by the brewery's table.


Participating Breweries

The event will consist of 48 breweries from 8 regions of the country pairing 1 to 2 of their beers with a pre-selected menu of food. There will be 5 breweries randomly chosen from each of 8 regions. There will also be an additional 8 spots available for participating brewery sponsors.

  • 21st Amendment
  • Abita Brewing Company
  • Allagash Brewing
  • Avery Brewing Company
  • Blackfoot River Brewing Co., LLC
  • Boscos Brewing Company
  • Boston Beer Company
  • Brooklyn Brewery
  • Clipper City Brewing Co
  • Deschutes Brewery
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • Florida Beer Company
  • Flying Dog Ales
  • Foothills Brewing
  • Four Peaks Brewing Co.
  • Free State Brewing Co
  • Full Sail Brewing Co.
  • FX Matt Brewery
  • Great Divide Brewing Co.
  • Great Lakes Brewing Company
  • Harpoon Brewery
  • Heiner Brau Microbrewery
  • Hoppy Brewing Company
  • Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
  • Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
  • Legacy Brewing Co
  • Montana Brewing Company
  • Natty Greene's Brewing Company
  • New Albanian Brewing Company
  • New Belgium Brewing Co.
  • New Holland Brewing Company
  • Otter Creek Brewing
  • Pelican Pub & Brewery
  • Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey
  • Rock Art Brewery
  • Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery - Des Moines, IA
  • Rogue Ales
  • Russian River Brewing Company
  • San Diego Brewing Company
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Smuttynose Brewing Co.
  • Southampton Bottling, llc
  • Sprecher Brewing Company
  • Stoudts Brewing Company
  • The Saint Louis Brewery, Inc
  • Troegs Brewing Company
  • Two Brothers Brewing Company
  • Williamsburg Alewerks

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A paen to a winter's pint

A pint o' Stout has been a raucous shout
Cheering my heart with friends about.

A pint o' Stout has been a quiet pint
Balming my soul in dark of night.

So when final rest at last beckons,
As is all mortals' fate,

Me, they'll not find at heaven's,
But, knock, knock, knockin' -- at St. James' Gate.

$54K for whisky

Prohibition may have been repealed 74 years ago, but the state of New York has prohibited auctions of liquor until only this year.

Yesterday, Christie's autioned off a 1926 vintage Macallan scotch whisky ... for $54,000. Distilled in 1926, it had been bottled in 1986 and rebottled in 2002.

So we do look for a bottle of 2007 Sam Adams Utopias, already $180, to be auctioned off in 2088 for $??,???

Ommegeddon - a review

Ommegeddon from Brewery OmmegangThis beer has received mixed reviews, so I thought I would weigh in with my opinion.

I toured the Brewery Ommegang back in the summer during the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown Festival.

I loved the fact that its beers were fermented in open vessels. That's a brewing process I strongly believe in — open vessels allow off-aromas to vent during fermentation, thereby creating a softer, cleaner beer.

And that does not mean a less flavorful beer. Indeed, it takes nerves of steel to introduce no public entry! open fermenterthe brettanomyces yeast strain into your brewery, and even more so to allow that wild yeast to ferment out in the open.

Brettanomyces or brett is technically a wild yeast, that is, it produces flavors not recognized as 'standard'. Think: wet goat, horse blanket, barnyard, and even baby diaper!

Brewmaster Randy Thiel must have nerves of steel. He indeed ferments in an open fermenter with this bastard yeast. I wouldn't want to be there on cleaning day, when all vestiges of those brett beasties must be thoroughly removed.

Ommegeddon has that typical (that is, good) restrained Belgian golden ale spiciness (think coriander, fresh nutmeg, cardamom). The spices are not added to the beer, but a fermentation result of the non-Brett Belgian strain used. And there's some typical apricot fruitiness, and that typical touch of grandma's attic.

But then there's that funky brett-derived barnyard aroma ... but, again, in well-brewed moderation.

Like some other Belgian and Belgian-style beers, the bottles seem to have greater complexity than the draft. With the Hennepin Saison, these are my favorites from Brewery Ommegang. Recommended.

I had a bottle last night with dinner, hence the review now.

I noticed on the brewery's website the visit of of Saint Nicholas to the brewery yesterday, Saturday.

When I was a child, my family lived in Bonn, Germany. We would celebrate Saint Nicholas Day every 5 December by leaving Dutch wooden shoes outside of our bedroom doors. The next morning, they would be filled with chocolates.

My sister still honors the day; I'm sure she enjoyed a chocolate or two on Wednesday. I did myself, but two days later, on Friday ... and with beer.

The cream (ale) of the crop, NOT at sold Lion

Word in October from brew-blogger Jack Curtin was that The Lion Brewery of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania had been sold.

The Lion is an old mainline brewery. It opened in the early 20th century and survived the deprivations of Prohibition and the carnivorousness of the big nationals. In 1974 it purchased its cross-town (and cross-state) rival, the larger but struggling Stegmaier Brewery. That led it to brewing several of Stegmaier's brands, including the lovely Liebotschaner Cream Ale.

In November 1995, I delivered a lecture at the Smithsonian Institution on American Beer styles.

This was a few years before newer American beer styles had become sanctioned contests as to how many pounds of hops brewers could toss in their kettles and fermenters. So, one of my examples that evening was a quintessential style - cream ale - a style born of the cash-deprived necessity of ale brewers in the 19th and early 20th century to compete with lager breweries.

In the mid-1990s, Lion's Brewmaster Leo Orlandini had garnered several gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival for his Libotschaner Cream Ale. So I felt it a worthy example for the Smithsonian program.

But two days before the event, the Washington, D.C. distributor called with bad news: they were out of stock. After a phone call to Wiles-Barre, Orlandini overnighted several cases. The wholesaler's rep actually hand-carried them in mere minutes before the lecture. Talk about brewery-fresh!

And it was indeed a lovely beer: gently fruity with a kiss of hops, and the taste of malt expertly allied with an appropriate amount of corn. (I'm amused by craft brewers who disingenuously "scorn the corn" while using wheat for their 'lighter' beers.)

Sad to say, the beer has been discontinued for several years. Not that I'm particularly sanguine about the prospect, but maybe the new owners may re-introduce it.

More properly know as American Sparkling Ale, true cream ale is not as common these days, eschewed by both the large breweries and many craft breweries. Think of it as an American Koelsch. A fine, award-winning, local example is brewer Bill Madden's Kolsch at Vintage 50 Restaurant in Leesburg, Virginia.

I myself brewed an American Sparkling Ale several years ago at the Manayunk Brewery, a brewpub in Philadelphia.