Monday, December 29, 2008

Mid-Atlantic brewers feted

In addition to local brewpubs celebrating their own winter beers at their own establishments, Mid-Atlantic brewers and their winter beers were celebrated at least four events this December in the greater D.C.-Baltimore-Richmond area.

  • The Brickskeller in Washington, D.C.
  • Hard Times Cafe in Fairfax, Virginia
  • Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda, Maryland
  • The Brewers Art in Baltimore, Maryland.
At The Brewer's Art Holiday celebration, Saturday 6 December in Baltimore, Md., I had the opportunity to talk with owner Volker Stewart at his Belgian-bistro themed brewpub and restaurant (and in a follow-up email).

YFGF: I like the format of the event. Closed house, tables set up throughout the upper floor of the restaurant and bar, patrons can meet and greet with the brewers at their tables, and ask them questions as they sample their winter fare. When did you hold your first event?
VS: I want to say 2001, but I am not 100% sure. It used to be almost all owners/brewers, of course this has changed since then (although the owner/brewer turnout for this year was good, and Bill Covaleski said he would have come had he not had a prior commitment). I remember Sam Calagione being there at the first one with his new, then, World Wide Stout.

YFGF: Whom did you invite to this year's party?
VS: Wharf Rat, Clipper City Brewing, Brewer's Alley, Red Brick Station, DuClaw, Dog Brewery, Lancaster Brewing, Victory Brewing, Troegs, Southern Tier, Dogfish Head Brewing Company, Weyerbacher, The Brewer's Art.

YFGF: If a person's friends are a measure of a his worth, Volker Stewart is a wealthy man indeed. Since he opened the pub in 1996, five co-workers have gone on to open their own beer-friendly establishments. I asked him for the list.
  • Annabel Lee, Kurt Bragunier, past GM (Baltimore Md.'s Canton neighborhood)
  • Chameleon Cafe, Jeff Smith, past line cook (Harford Road, just north of Baltimore, Md.)
  • Clementine, Cristin Dadant, past bartender (Harford Road, just north of Baltimore, Md.)
  • Hamilton Tavern, Tom Creegan, current partner (Harford Road, just north of Baltimore, Md.)
  • Parkside, Chris Cashell, past brewer (Harford Road, just north of Baltimore, Md.)

Brewer's Art's taps
Thanking him (and he was busy), I went on to taste the beers, and the generous food spread.

Steve Jones, brewer for Wharf Rat was there, pouring his Little William's Winter Warmer, 7.5% alcohol by volume (abv), gently spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

I said hello to my former employer, Hugh Sisson of Clipper City Brewing. He had brought his World Beer Cup gold-medal winning Winter Storm Category 5 Ale (an un-spiced, strong amber ale, sometimes referred to as an Imperial ESB).

Mike McDonald of Red Brick Station had his Winter Solstice, which he had brewed with two pounds per barrel of cocoa nibs and some Tahitian bourbon vanilla.

Tom Flores is the executive brewer for Brewer's Alley in Frederick, Md. He and his pub's new brewer, Maggie Lenz brought their 6.2% abv Oatmeal Stout, unctuous and tasty. Holding a degree in Food Science, Maggie told me that she was pleased to be applying her expertise to brewing beer.

Jim Wagner --brewmaster for the DuClaw chain of Maryland brewery and restaurants-- was pouring his Devil's Milk Barleywine. Standing next to him was George Humbert of Dog Brewing, pouring a 5.2% abv Juggernaut Porter, a beer whose recipe had been an award-winning homebrew at the Maryland Microbrew Festival.

Tim Wadkins, Victory Brewing's Quality Assurance Director, was pouring the brewery's Old Horizontal. By this point, I took only a sip of this 11.5% abv barleywine.

I noticed snow flurries outside: it was time to end the afternoon. So I finished with a taste of 2008 Festivus, spiced with fresh ginger and orange peel, and a sip of 2003 Festivus, spiced identically. The aging had softened the spices to almost a orange-ade citrus.

And then it was out into the cold ... but I was feeling warmed.

Flurried at the Brewers Art
  • More photos here.
  • Brewer's Art Resurrection Ale is now in bottles, available in limited amounts in Maryland and Washington, D.C.
  • (Surprising to me, the other home-grown chain in the area, the Capital Ale House, now with four locations in Richmond and Fredericksburg, Va., held no formal celebration of local winter beers, even though the pubs did pour some local seasonal beers.)

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