Sunday, September 28, 2008

If rainwater was beer

The Northern Virginia Fall BrewFest was held this past Saturday and Sunday at Bull Run Park in Centreville, Va.

Meteorologists on all the local networks had predicted a washout for the weekend. But the rain held off (except for a short time on Sunday) ... and a beer festival broke out.

Sunset at a beer festival


A few things of note:
  • One of the principals of the Mad Fox Brewpub, Rick Garvin, indicated that 2009 looked good for the pub to open in Northern Virginia. Mum's the word --understandably-- as to the exact location until a letter of intent is signed.[UPDATE 2009.02.26. Done ... in Falls Church, Va.]
  • Bill Madden keeps a stealth beer on tap at Vintage 50 (and probably will at the soon-to-be Mad Fox): one has to ask "stealth beer, please" to get one! David Turley —of Fredericksburg's Musings Over a Pint —remembered to ask at the festival (and reminded me). Saturday's was a Saison; Sunday's was an Alt.
  • Hear Bill Madden's interview on WJFK-FM's Big O and Dukes show.
  • Jerry Bailey, founder and past president of Dominion Brewing was pouring at the Stella Artois/Becks booth. Jerry gamely helped out, when other volunteers chose other breweries.
The weather —or, more appropriately, the weather forecasters— may have frightened off some potential beer lovers, as things never became hectic. That relaxed atmosphere created more opportunity to talk with festival goers about the beers themselves.

It was busy enough, however, especially on Saturday, that Bill Madden and other festival organizers seemed confident of the gate receipts. A worthy festival, worthy of attending next year.

And the roster of beers? The festival listed the following breweries, winery, and cidery as in attendance. (As a representative for wholesaler Select Wines, Ltd., I brought selections from 7 breweries, marked below with an asterisk.)

Abita (Restoration Ale, Purple Haze)*, Allagash (White, Triple)*, Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Beck’s, Bells, Birra Peroni, Bitburger, Blue Grass, Boston Brewing Company, Boulder, Brooklyn (Oktoberfest, IPA, Post Road Pumpkin)*, Budweiser, Capitol City, Clipper City (Hang Ten Dopple Weizenbock, Balto MarzHon)*, Dogfish, Flying Dog (Gonzo Imperial Porter Old Scratch Amber Lager)*, Fordham, Franziskaner, Het Anker, Hofbrau Munchen, Hook & Ladder, Huyghe/Delirium Tremes, Kona, Kostrizer, Lagunitas, Lancaster Brewing Co. (Milk Stout, Oktoberfest)*, Leinenkugel, Mad Fox, Magic Hat, New Holland, Northcoast, Old Dominion, Oskar Blues, Otter Creek/ Wolavers (Otter Creek Oktoberfest, Wolavers Pale/Brown)*, Peak Organic, Pilsner Urquell, RedHook, Sierra Nevada, Spaten, St George, Starr Hill, Tarara Winery, Van Housebrouck, Victory, Vintage 50, Weihenstephaner, Widmer, Wild Goose, Woodchuck.

No brewery brought a cask.

And, as to Sunday's 15 minutes of rain ... In A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt, Thomas More declares:
I wish we could all have good luck, all the time. I wish we had wings.

I wish rainwater was beer.
But it isn't.

And what with not having wings but walking-on two flat feet; and good luck and bad luck being just exactly even stevens; and rain being water—don't you complicate the job by putting things in me for me to miss.

More photos here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gold can't buy you beer in Baltimore

From Friday's Baltimore Sun:

With Michael Phelps' face plastered on the cover of Sports Illustrated and boxes of Frosted Flakes, you've got to wonder: Did he lose the chance to live a normal life when he won all that Olympic glory?

The bouncer at a Fells Point bar provided a reassuring answer to that question the other night, when he turned away the swimming sensation because he didn't have his ID.

Phelps is no underage Chinese gymnast. He's 23.

But all the bouncer at Max's Taphouse knew was that some tall, young-looking guy with a group of friends had come to the door. Some of the friends didn't have IDs either, said owner Ron Furman.

"Hey, guys, no IDs here, I can't do anything about it," Furman said the bouncer told the group.

Considering that an alcohol license is a basic necessity for operating an alcohol establishment and considering that Liquor Control boards around the nation routinely send out underage agents to entrap otherwise law-abiding businesses, this was a prudent and correct action by the doorman at Max's.
Furman said he'd love to have the Olympian, who just moved into a waterfront condo in the neighborhood, stop by again. <..>

"I respect the hell out of what he has done. His mother - it's a family to be proud of," Furman said. "And if Michael shows up with his ID, I'll be happy to buy him a beer."

Come back, kid, when you can show ID
by Laura Vozzella
Baltimore Sun
September 26, 2008

After all, what's 14 Olympic gold medals between friends?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

a Tuppers' Christmas gift?

At the Brickskeller in Washington, D.C. last evening, it was a celebration of 25 years in the USA of Chimay —the iconic Belgian Trappist monks' beer. Guest speaker was Bobo Van Mechelen, regional Sales Manager for Manneken-Brussel, importer of Chimay.

When the floor was opened for questions, there were many about Chimay. But one question was directed at host Bob Tupper.

"Wait until December," Bob answered, reassuringly sanguine for the rebirth of Tuppers Beers.

Tupper, Van Mechelen, Wells
L-R: Bob Tupper, host; Regional Sales Manager for Manneken-Brussel Imports, Inc. - importer of Chimay: Luc "Bobo' Van Mechelen; representative for DOPS, Chimay's wholesaler in Washington, DC: Jeff Wells.

Photos here. More about the tasting, later.
It is our calling to take the gifts of God and make them useful for man.
— the Trappists' motto

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Art of Homebrewing

Brewers United For Real Potables is a homebrewers' club in the Washington, D.C. area ... with the impish acronym of B.U.R.P.

Bud Hensgen is a longtime member in good standing, and a repeat winner of awards for his beers.

Not only a homebrewer, Hensgen, in the 1990s, had been a driving force behind coalescing the commercial small breweries and brewpubs in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia into an advocacy group —the Mid-Atlantic Association of Craft Brewers. He was its first executive director.

The Guild later became a victim of conflicting regional goals and dissolved itself. Maryland, alone among the three jurisdictions, created its own, still active, guild: the Maryland Brewers Guild.

Hensgen still has the organizing bug. This Friday, he is bringing together some of his homebrewing confreres for a unique exhibit at Studio Gallery, a Washington, D.C. art gallery.

ten local home brewers from the nationally recognized homebrew club B.U.R.P (Brewers United for Real Potables) demonstrate the art of homebrewing and present you with a tasting of their beers <...> [at the] Studio Gallery, the longest running artist-owned gallery in the area.

More information here.

I was alerted to this unique exhibit by DC-Beer.

[UPDATE 2008.10.09: Washington Post coverage.]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stand by your ingredients

"Stand by your ingredients," said Chef Will Artley. Not quite a country and western lyric, it's his philosophy of cooking.

Chef Will Artley

Artley was addressing diners on 5 September at Planet Wine Shop which adjoins the Evening Star Restaurant, in the Del Ray neighborhood of north Alexandria. The occasion was a five-course dinner pairing Artley's food to the wines of Martin Mittelbach, the 9th generation winemaker of Weingut Tegernseerhof in Austria. The setting was the Farm Table, a private table for fourteen in the wine shop.

His preparation, Artley said, reflects "the purity, provenance, and absolute quality of ingredients, rather than on fanciful technique." And, he buys local.

Wild Mushroom Succotash
Wild mushroom succotash with Amish goat cheese,
basil gnocchi, and truffle froth.

Paired with Tegernseerhof Bergdistel Grüner Veltliner 2006.

Located in the Austrian wine district of Wachau, northwest of Vienna, the Tegernseerhof estate slopes sharply down to the banks of the River Danube. The majority of its wine is Grüner Veltliner (also the grape varietal), a spicy, peppery, white wine with nuances of fruits such as honeydew melon and peach. Mittelbach also produces Riesling and a small volume of Chardonnay, and two red varieties: Blauer Zweigelt and Blauburgur.

The estate's main stone house was built in 1166. But in the 1960s, Martin's father, alone among area winemakers at the time, switched to all stainless steel fermentation. This more modern technique ironically allowed the traditional character of the grapes to show their varietal character, unencumbered by oaky flavors.

Spring Rolls


The Menu
  • Black Diamond Cheddar & Fried Dragon Creek Oyster Biscuit
    Wild Mushroom & Braised Spinach Spring Rolls
    served with
    Tegernseerhof Zweigelt Rosé 2007
    Tegernseerhof Riesling 2006

  • Heirloom Tomato Carpaccio
    Smoked Shallot and Arugula Salad
    Shaved Pecorino and Vibrant Summer Vinaigrette
    served with
    Tegernseerhof T26 Grüner Veltliner 2007

  • Amish Goat Cheese and Basil Gnocchi
    Wild Mushroom Succotash & Truffle Froth
    served with
    Tegernseerhof Bergdistel Grüner Veltliner 2006

  • Seared Day Boat Scallops
    Virginia Sweet Corn Risotto & Pea Shot Salad
    served with
    Tegernseerhof Hohereck Grüner Veltliner 2006

  • Indian Summer Fruit Pie
    Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
    served with
    Tegernseerhof Creation Grüner Veltliner 2003

Winemaker Martin and friends
Winemaker Martin Mittelbach and friends


*************
Lessons for 'craft' brewers?

These days, many craft beer makers are experimenting with oak and other extraneous ingredients. Could Mittelbach's reliance on the grape itself, the prime ingredient of his wine, be an object lesson of sorts for these craft brewers? Likewise, Artley's reliance on fresh ingredients rather than process?

For centuries, barley malt, hops, pure water, and yeast —that sublime quadrumvirate— served, unencumbered, as the recipe for fine beer. Indeed, there is recent beer scholarship asserting that brewers historically took great lengths to forestall wood flavor in their beers. Not so much today for many U.S. craft brewers who are tossing all sorts of things in their kettles and tanks, and emphasizing oaky flavors.

Are extraneous ingredients fun? Yes. Are they interesting? Yes. Can they be flavorful? yes. But, as Mittelbach does with winemaking and Artley does with cooking, maybe make them the exception not the rule.

Stand by your (prime) ingredients.

-----more-----

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ray Daniels and open heart surgery

This will be good news.

It was 1997. I was a judge at the wonderful, erstwhile US Real Ale Festival. Ray Daniels was giving us our pre-festival instructions. He passed out pencils with which to take notes. On each were the words "Ray Daniels for ..." some sort of political office.

In 2006: Ray Daniels (l) with Vinnie CilurzoRay would leave the politics to John Hickenlooper (brewpub owner, now mayor of Denver) and others. Instead, he would concentrate on fomenting (and fermenting) good beer. It was a decision that would be fortuitous for the rest of us.

Among his many accomplishments, Ray Daniels is the author of Designing Great Beers, the past director of the Brewers Association Craft Beer Marketing Program, and the creator and director of the beer sommelier school- Cicerone Certification Program.

In August, Ray underwent open-heart surgery.

He is recovering well and reports that his doctors have okayed him to drink beer, although at present his limit is one per day.

"Funny how good they taste," he says.

More at A Healing Heart
Photo courtesy of Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Einstein's Oktoberfest

Today at noon ―Munich Germany time― the lord mayor of München tapped the first keg of the Oktoberfest. Standing in the Spaten (Schottenhamel) tent, he proclaimed "O'zapft is!" ("the barrel has been tapped").

Oktoberfest continues through 5 October.

A quick look now at the history of the beer known as Oktoberfest.

The genetic identity of lager yeast has only just recently been mapped. Two distinct strains have been identified, each containing genetic material and consequent traits ―including tolerance for cold― from other yeast strains. [Read more about Saccharomyces pastorianus at The Zythophile.]

In 1841, brewers Anton Dreher in Vienna and ―friend and rival― Gabriel Sedlmayer in Munich began brewing with at least one of these lager yeast strains.

A year later, lager yeast was introduced into breweries in Pilsen. The low pH and low mineral content of that city's water allowed the brewing of hoppy, crisp, and lighter-hued lagers ―known as Pilsners, literally, "from Pilsen."

[Historian and brewer Rich Wagner believes that the first lager brewery in the US opened in 1840 in Philadelphia, thus trumping Vienna, Munich, and Pilsen.]

Attempts in Munich and Vienna to brew similar Pilsen-style lagers were unsuccessful.

In Munich, Sedlmayer soon empirically grasped that it was his city's highly alkaline water that was producing harshness when mashed with lighter malts. He switched to darker malts ―of higher acidity― and had much more palatable results.

Vienna's water was also alkaline, but less so than that of Munich. Thus, Dreher was able to successfully brew his lagers with less-kilned amber malts. His Vienna lagers were darker than Pilsen's but lighter than Munich's.

Both brewers continued to upgrade their breweries and processes, especially in areas of barley agriculture and malting technology. In lieu of refrigeration, they collaborated in pioneering the commercial application of beer storage in cold caves and cold cellars. This became known as the märzen process ―literally "from March"― because the beers would be made in the cooler months, and then cold stored during the summer.

In 1860, both Dreher and Sedlmayer installed a new technology called ... refrigeration.

The beer poured during the first years of Oktoberfest was the dark Munich style. It wasn't until 1872, with better understanding of water chemistry, that the brewmaster of the Spaten brewery ―Josef Sedylmayr (younger brother of Gabriel)― was able to introduce the brewery's amber-hued Märzen as the Oktoberfest bier. Based on brewing records, it would have have been medium-bodied, tasting of softly toasted malt, and with possibly just a nuance of yeasty tooty-fruity. The other Munich breweries would soon follow suit.

These amber lagers produced in both Vienna and Munich and associated breweries rivaled the popularity of the lighter-shaded Pilsner lagers.

The beer served at modern Oktoberfests is not this rich amber lager. It is a much less robust beer: lighter in color, body, and flavor. Fortunately, there are indeed many other breweries that still produce '1872-style' Oktoberfests ―but just not in Munich. [Read here and here about two of my personal favorites.]

For the first 74 years of Oktoberfest, it was ice or simple cellar storage that would keep the beer cool. And it was gas or candle power that would illuminate the festival wiesen (meadow).

Then, in 1885, electrical power finally came to Munich's Oktoberfest, wired and generated by ... the Einstein Bros. Company.

Yes, that Einstein!

Albert Einstein was only 6 at the time, but in the following 9 years, he would work at his uncle and father's electrical engineering firm. In his teens, he helped to design several mechanical innovations.

In 1894, Munich removed the contract from the company and awarded it to Siemens. Yes, that Siemens. Einstein Bros. was bankrupted.

Albert Einstein would move on to more theoretical pursuits. But it was Einstein's father Hermann, and his uncle Jakob, who first gave the world a cold beer at Oktoberfest. And that's a noble achievement.

Toast them over the next 3 weeks with a Vienna-style lager, or a Märzen, or an Oktoberfest ―all variations on the same delicious theme.

Prosit!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A-B deal off; no, wait, it's back on

The St. Louis Business Journal, quoting a business analyst, warned yesterday that the Wall Street turmoil threatens InBev’s takeover of Anheuser-Busch.

The turmoil on Wall Street has some analysts wondering whether InBev can finance its $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch. Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo lowered his rating of A-B from “Hold” to “Sell,” and told investors “we are concerned about InBev’s financing package for the BUD merger,” according to a Sept. 16 research note.

In the next sentence Mr. Russo hedges his bets.

“While we still see it as probable that the deal closes as planned at $70 in an all-cash offer, fragile credit markets increase the risk that financing falls through, gets delayed or gets restructured.”


St. Louis Business Journal
Thursday, September 18, 2008

In other words, he first said no, then he said yes, and then he said maybe. (Does that have a familiar ring from the past year?)

I'll offer my market analysis (and without getting paid the big bucks): wait and see.

How do you get to the GABF?

"Practice, practice, practice." That was the punchline to the old joke: "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

But how does a brewer get his/her beers to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) - the premier judged competition for all US beers?

Bill Madden, brewer at Vintage 50 in Leesburg, Va., has put up a post about just that at his Madd Brewer's blog.

I have five beers from V-50 going to GABF this year. Selecting the beers is a pleasure - what are the best beers we have going right now? Kolsch and Wee Heavy have been the work horses over the years, each winning multiple medals in the past for me.

The categories that the beers are entered into play a big factor with regard to how much of a chance they have for a medal. Entering in the west coast dominated categories like APA, American IPA or Imperial IPA is asking for disappointment - most of the judges are west coasties and they are looking for a palate punishing hop-spike experience that has nothing to do with my beer balance philosophy.

So, I picked the styles that emphasize balance over single dimension extremes - Catoctin Kolsch, V-50 Saison, V-50 Porter (Robust Porter), Wee Heavy, and Old Abominable Old Ale.


The less than fun part is kegging and bottling.

Bottling is a real pain for a brewpub. I have a Melvico manual counter-pressure bottle filler that does great fills - one bottle at a time. But, the fills are clean with low dissolved oxygen that handle the shipping and handling in the September heat for the competition.

Bottling done, I need to keg the entries for shipping to GABF. The kegs are provided by Microstar, a company that manages a large shared pool of kegs. These kegs arrive clean, in theory. I take them over to Coastal Brewing (former Old Dominion) for a run through their keg cleaner to de-funkify before filling with my beer. It takes as much work to fill one 15.5 gallon keg as a single 12 oz. bottle.


Mike McCarthy of Capitol City Brewing Company is letting us piggyback our kegs with his delivery to the regional GABF dropoff site at Starr Hill where Mark Thompson is pulling all of the region’s kegs together. These kegs get shipped through the Anheuser-Busch distribution network to Denver for the festival.

the rest of the post: Preparing for GABF

Note the high level of cooperation between the area's breweries. Competitors yes, but all friends in fermentation.
  • The 27th Great American Beer Festival is in Denver, Colorado, on October 9, 10, 11. Go to www.beertown.org for more information.
  • I was alerted to Bill Madden's blog post at DC-Beer.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you put beer on a pig ...

With all the recent silliness about porcine cosmetics in the presidential campaign, I thought it might be timely to republish a post of mine from 2006, which itself was a reminiscence of an occasion in 1996.

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

Harry, the owner, would often vacation in the islands.


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

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

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

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

We prevailed, and Harry moved onto other things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cask ale defense

Comments to blog posts, by their very nature —they are comments, after all— do not have the same intrinsic impression that the original posts do. And that's not fair, because many are cogent replies.

Take for example, this one by Eric Denman, who was responding to my post— Cask ale: it's the freshness, baby.

When I had asked, "Why must so many descriptions of cask ale be couched in negative —if gentle— terms?", he replied:

All good points. I tend to use the slightly disparaging terms to challenge people: the overlap between DCist's audience and people who would normally attend the real ale fest is insignificant. If I can make our readers think about beer as something other than liters to be chugged, then that's my goal. As someone who sells cask ale day-in, day-out, I know that couching it in terms that the average drinker can understand is like walking a tightrope.

Cask ale: it's the freshness, baby.

Here's a recent post from Stonch, a beer blogger and pub operator, in London, UK. He's writing about the marvelous freshness of a beer poured from a cask, rather than that from a keg or bottle.

Last week I mentioned The Museum Tavern, the pub by the British Museum that serves Theakston's Old Peculier all year round. Today I wandered over there in the afternoon with Lincoln, a member of my bar staff who's just finished touring with his band. He's a beer lover in the making, always keen to try something new.

We ordered two pints of the Old P and sat outside. It looked great in the glass: very dark brown with a red hue, wearing a mess of fatboy bubbles as a crown. Our first sips confirmed this was very fresh, yet still the sour and funky character came to the fore. Raisins and plums, doused in all manner of alcoholic goodness.

For those of you who've only tried the pasteurised, bottled version of this beer: you need to have it from the cask. It's an entirely different proposition. Characterful, punchy, delicious. [emphasis mine]

Contrast that description of FRESH beer —which is the point of cask ale: fresher than any draft or bottle— with this description of the casks to be served at Chesapeake Real Ale Fest:
"Real ale" is the term used to describe the traditional English method of lightly carbonating beer in smaller casks, and subsequently pulling the beer straight from the cask: no CO2 added. The resulting beverage is less carbonated and served warmer than the average pint, but some folks really seem to prefer that. This will be one for the beer geeks

Why must so many descriptions of cask ale be couched in negative —if gentle— terms?

Rather than the slightly disparaging "less carbonated" comment that's commonly appended to real ale descriptions, why not say "properly carbonated"? Should every description of a bottled or draft beer be modified with "over-carbonated"?

serving the firkin at Olney

Forget the carbonation (pleasant, not bloatingly gassy), forget the serving temperature (refreshingly cool, not warm). Here's what the fuss about cask ale is about. Beer from a cask, properly made and properly served, is the freshest a beer can be. Cask ale: it's the freshness, baby, THE FRESHNESS.

The rest of the article Beer Fest Fever: Oktoberfestivals Roundup can be read at the DCist. To the writer's defense, he does indeed offer props to the Fest:
This isn't really an Oktoberfest event at all, but it's a beer event and worth mentioning.

The roundup omits the Northern Virginia BrewFest, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, 27/28 September.
A listing of local brewpub Oktoberfest tappings here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Germany via Baltimore

From Sunday, 14 September:

Here are my Twitter posts [What's Twitter, you ask? Go here.] while in Baltimore at Max's TapHouse for the pub's 1st annual German Beer Fest. Over 50 German drafts —at least when the festival began on Friday— and over 100 different German bottled beers. (Full list here.)

1:30pm
Redskins, Nationals, or 1st annual German Beerfest at Maxs in Baltimore. I choose the last one. Walking in.

Started with 'traditional' international Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest. Had to pay tribute to the conglomerates.

2:15pm
For its German sausage platter, Max's arranged to freight in sausages from Stiegelmeier in Illinois. A local source, Baltimore's famous sausage-maker —Binkert's— has been temporarily closed since suffering a fire.

Reisdorf KoelschI didn't order the sausages, but did see many platters being served. Instead, much to the bemusement of bar manager Bob Simko, I ordered a bowl of sauerkraut. And with it, I drank ...

... Reissdorf Koelsch. From a side-tapped keg. Just a hint of fruitiness. A delicious lagered ale. Served like this, the beer shows more of its character than from the bottle.


3:00pm

Aecht Schenkerla Rauch Helles. Draft. Gentle sweet malt with a small amount of smoke aroma and banana ester.

4:00pm

Lisa and DominicKlosterbrauerei Ettal Dunkel. Draft. Brownish-red. Firm body and aroma of toasted bread.

About this time I met up with Dominic Catalupo and Lisa Lawson, both of the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood.

The Redskins won; the Nationals lost; the beerlist was stellar.

More photos here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New taphouse in northern Virginia: Tap & Vine

I stopped in recently at Grape Juice, a wine and beer shop in Arlington, Va.

The owners were busy working on the build-out at nearby Tap & Vine, their proposed good-beer-centric (and wine) restaurant and pub. They plan to be finished soon, opening with 10 beer taps, and 6 additional soon thereafter.

[UPDATE: Open as of Thursday 2 October 2008. Photos here.]

Tap & Vine: coming soon

Yeast, the Universe, and Everything

About 13.73 billion years ago, there was a Big Bang. Then

Around 80 million years ago, when Triceratops still browsed the plains of what wasn’t yet North America, some flowering plant species developed a new strategy to spread their seeds, encasing them in a cover – fruit – that became sweet and tasty as everbarmy overflowything ripened. The fruit was then eaten by animals, which would subsequently deposit the seeds far away from the mother plant, and with the addition of some useful fertiliser as well.

It did not take long, however, for enterprising funguses to start exploiting the sugar in the ripe fruits for their own growth and development, using oxygen to break the sugar down into carbon dioxide and water, releasing energy at the same time. If there was no oxygen about they would turn the sugar, via acetaldehyde, into alcohol, and make energy that way, although they very much preferred not to: alcohol was poisonous.

This "A Short History of Yeast" —brewers' yeast— continues at The Zythophile.

And, from the 'department of timeliness': the Brookston Beer Bulletin notes that National Public Radio's (NPR) Science Friday program today will, in part, discuss lager yeast evolution.
researchers found two different family groupings in the lager yeasts they studied, with one lineage associated primarily with Carlsberg breweries in Denmark and breweries in what is now Czechoslovakia, and the other family grouping connected mainly to breweries in the Netherlands, including Heineken.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering

remembering

Anyone who attributes that quote to Franklin is full of hops.

Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.

That quote —attributed to Ben Franklin— can be seen on the bathroom wall at a well-known Washington D.C. beer bar, and on many other bathroom walls, tee-shirts, websites, and in articles referencing beer. The problem is ... Benjamin Franklin never wrote that.

What he did write, in a rambling letter, was this:

Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.


What Ben Franklin Didn't Say About Beer
Bob Skilnik
[retrieved from the web]

Franklin was, in fact, talking about ... wine.

The four sleuths who should receive acclaim for researching this are
  • The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, which, in 2006, mentioned that it had found no corroboration of the beer-related quote.
  • Historian Bob Skilnik, who researched and posted about the situation at length on his website.
  • Mid-Atlantic Brewing News writers Alexander D. Mitchell IV and Phil Sides, who, also in 2006, wrote an article debunking the quotation.
In 2008,  the owner of the Elevator Draught Haus in Columbus, Ohio, attended a lecture by Bob Skilnik, and heard the truth. Without hesitation, the brewpub owner issued a recall and refund of all the tee-shirts, imprinted with that erroneous attribution, that he had sold at his brewpub.

Now, you too, Mr. Bar Owner: whitewash that bathroom wall!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bock bunk

In the department of 'a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing', here's what beer writer Lew Bryson overheard at a beer wholesaler event:

I still heard things like "not bitter, like other bocks." You can't just give salespeople words when you expect them to make sales to people who actually know what the hell beers are, you have to make them understand what those words mean, and in what context they are meaningful. Otherwise, they clang like a broken bell.

And then there's this canard, occasionally overheard: "Bocks are brewed from the dregs of a vat."

Not! Bocks are malty and often sweet.

The dregs in a kettle are indeed dregs, a proteinaceous sludge. Good for recycling, though.

The dregs in a fermenter are also sludgy, but some of that thick yeast cake can be reused as yeast for another fermentation.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Perspicacity check

Following up on my recent post that beer sales are up nationally, I went back and checked some earlier posts here at YFGF.us.

It seems that my analyses had been —to be gentle— pessimistic.

I don't mind being proven wrong ... especially when its good for my livelihood!

Monday, September 08, 2008

There's a Bud in my blog.

Budweiser? Here? At Yours For Good Fermentables?

Cooking liquid

Why yes! It's a wonderful liquid with which to cook rice.

Beer Rice

Recipe here.

Cask ale in Baltimore, Md.

2008 Chesapeake Real Ale FestivalIt's the welcome return of the Chesapeake Real Ale Fest, next month, 18 October, in Baltimore, Md. Tickets are on sale now online at www.spbw.org —as well as more information.

The venue, as it has been, will be the Wharf Rat Brewpub, located across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Different this year is the increased exhibition area. In addition to to the side room and covered outside patio, the festival site will extend across the pub's entire front courtyard.

The current schedule calls for cask-conditioned beers from 19 25 breweries, with more possibly to be added.

From Maryland:

  • Baltimore-Washington Beer Works
  • Barley & Hops
  • Brewer's Alley
  • Claypipe
  • Clipper City
  • DuClaw
  • Flying Dog
  • Franklins
  • Growlers
  • Olivers/Wharf Rat
  • Red Brick Station
  • Rock Bottom
  • The Brewer's Art
  • Wild Goose
From Pennsylvania:
  • Lancaster
  • Stoudts
  • Tröegs
  • Victory (I hope they bring their kellerbier!)
  • Wyerbacher
  • Yards
From Virginia, Old Dominion. From Delaware, Dogfish Head.

And, from further afield: Otter Creek in Vermont, Smuttynose in New Hampshire, Lakefront in Wisconsin, and Cape Ann Brewing in Massachusetts..

UPDATE 2008.10.14: Confirmed lineup of 29 casks
  • Barley & Hops Big Ben Nut Brown, Annapolis Rock Pale Ale
  • Brewers Alley Oatmeal Stout
  • Brewers Art Beacon Ale, Seven Beauties Rye
  • Baltimore-Washington Beer Works The Raven
  • Cape Ann Brewing Pumpkin Stout
  • Clipper City Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, Winter Storm Imperial ESB
  • Dogfish Palo Santo Marron
  • DuClaw Alchemy
  • Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
  • Franklins Sierra Madre (American Pale), ESB
  • Growlers Hoppopotamus Imperial I.P.A.
  • Lancaster Celtic Rose
  • Old Dominion Unfiltered Dry Hopped Pale
  • Otter Creek World Tour "Otter Mon" Jamaican Stout
  • Red Brick Station Twice Daily Crisis IPA, Sticke Alt
  • Reid's Orchard Hard Cider
  • Rock Bottom Bethesda ESB (Extra Scary Beer)
  • Smuttynose Old Brown Dog
  • Troegs HopBack Amber
  • Victory Brewing ESB
  • Weyerbacher Old Heathen
  • Wharf Rat Dark Mild, Harvest Ale, 3 Lions
  • Wild Goose IPA
  • Yards General Washington Tavern Porter, Brawler (ruby mild)
[UPDATE: 2008.10.18: Photos here. Blog report here.]

Go here for a recap of 2007 fest.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

As economy dips, beer lifts

The Washington Post ran this Business section story yesterday:

Life's guilty pleasures usually thrive during tough economic times. <...> Now it seems the only acceptable — and affordable — sin left is alcohol, namely beer. <...>

More than 16 million barrels of domestic beer were sold in the United States in July, and annual sales that month are up 1.4 percent, the largest increase since 1990, when the economy was heading towards a recession, according to the Beer Institute.

Cold Comfort In Hard Times
By Ylan Q. Mui
September 6, 2008

All domestic beers of the US —craft and big boy— were mashed together in this report.

But US craft sales growth —although far less in total volume than the large concerns— has outpaced the big boys' sales so far this year (as it did last year, and the year before that, etc.).

Jim Dorsch, editor of American Brewer magazine, put it this way:
The categories are getting rather confusing these days. Folks like Nielsen and IRI count Blue Moon, Leinie's, etc, in the craft beer numbers, for example, while the Brewers Association does not.

Somehow Leinie's repositioned themselves as craft beers, with prices right up there with the top crafts. [Leinies, that is Leinengugel, is wholly owned by MillerCoors.]

A Twitter tweet from me about this article e-wended its way to Canada, and, once there, to Alan McCleod at A Good Beer Blog.

Alan reinforced the Post article's main argument:
Beer is the affordable sin not just as a budget recourse to easy mindless comfort but because it still can provide great value for extraordinary products in tight times.
Then, he added this admonition:
... craft brewers need to focus on the low-price end of the their brands.

The high end of beer pricing is moving in the wrong direction, however. When I was beer shopping down south [Canada to the US, that is] this year, I saw beer in the $20 and even over $30 range for the first time. I declined ...

High priced beer bottles might be perceived of as prestigious or exclusive, much as certain wines might.

But please! Maintain beer's standing as the accessible beverage of value (cost plus quality). Keep those costly bottles as fun, non-elitist, companion pieces to the greater majority of quality beer, comfortably priced.

I've clipped two quotable quotes from the Post article. The first is from author and historian Maureen Ogle:
Beer will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no beer.

The second is from a consumer who keeps a keg at home in an "old fridge" converted into a "kegerator":
I'd certainly choose food over beer. But I hope that never happens.

Amen, brother!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Kellerbier kraziness - Session #19

Today, being the first Friday of the month, is the day for 'The Session'.


The SessionThe Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session,
choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.

September's theme —as selected by blogger Lootcorp 3.0— is German beer.

I'm going to blog about kellerbier. But first, read this 2006 thread at BeerAdvocate.com about a tapping of a cask of Clipper City Brewing's Small Craft Warning Über Pils at the Brick Store in Decatur, GA:
  • Pils on cask???? A bit odd isn't it?
  • Mmm, I don't think that a Pils on cask is anything that I would be remotely interested in. It's just ALL wrong!
  • How did they serve Pilsener in Bohemia before modern kegs became all the rage?
  • Dunno, but what's your point? A cask and a pils ain't a good combo in 2006, even if it was served that way in the past. Those light pils lagers are the BEST beers for the modern keg.
Let's ignore for a moment that the brewery gave the beer its double-adjective appellation —Über Pils— because in 2004 the Great American Beer Festival had no category for a strongly hopped pale bock. By the way, the beer won a bronze medal. [Caveat: At the time, I was Territory Manager for Clipper City.]

Let's ignore for a moment that the Über Pils is 7% alcohol by volume (abv) and 55 bittering units (IBUs), whereas pilsners fall much lower in both measurements.

And, let's ignore for a moment that true pilsners, even at 4.8% abv, are wonderfully hopped, firm malt beers.

Let's examine, rather, the writer's claim that cask lager, as a rule, is "ALL wrong."

From Wikipedia:a zwickel
Kellerbier or Zwickelbier is an unfiltered beer, often a lager which is not clarified or pasteurised, probably originated from Germany. In comparison with most of the today's beer sorts, this kind of beer contains more of its original yeast and more of the valuable nutritional substances. It is often served directly from the barrel (for example, in a beer garden) or bottled. In Germany this beer is described by manufacturers as naturtrüb (naturally cloudy). <...> The name Kellerbier is German and literally means Cellar beer.

And here from Bob Tupper, the creator of Tuppers Hop Pocket Pils:
Tuppers' Hop Pocket Pils is brewed in the keller style of beer which emerged years ago when German breweries aged their beers in kellers or cellars that were usually caves dug into the side of a hill. On special days, the brewery would set up a few tables outside the cave and roll out a barrel from the keller to accommodate the thirst of local customers.
[Available in the mid-Atlantic region beginning in the mid 1990s, the Tuppers beers have temporarily lost their brewery home. Fans await their return. Read more here. ]

Sometimes beer fans can cross the line from advocacy to foolishness. This writer had not tasted the cask lager, but that omission was no hindrance to him passing judgment.

Fast forward to 2008.

A columnist at a Washington D.C. area blog —DC Foodies — reviewed a new restaurant called the CommonWealth Gastro Pub. Among other things, he said:
I had a Victory Prima Pilsner on [cask]. The beer lacks the bubbly texture of a typical keg beer, but was all flavor. The cask beer is served a little warmer too which allowed the flavor of the beer to come to the surface.
Prima Pils, from Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania, is a masterful beer, and, on cask, sublime. [Non-caveat: I do not sell this beer.]

But that didn't prevent a reader, who had not tasted the beer, from posting this comment:
CW [CommonWealth] recently had a Pilsner "on cask"---what a joke.

Nein, mein herr. Even if it is a lager, kellerbier is indeed a cask-conditioned beer, and noble in heritage. [It is produced either by bunging the vessel during final fermentation, thus trapping carbonation, or as with most cask ales, by inducing a tertiary fermentation within the cask.]

And ... kellerbier is delicious.

Taste first; offer (gentle) criticism later. Danke Shoen!

Happy Labor Day!

From www.answers.com:

On September 5, 1882, the Knights of Labor organized the first parade honoring New York's workers. Two years later, they voted to make it an annual event. Over the next ten years some thirty states across the US followed New York's lead and declared a day to honor laborers with parades, fairs, barbecues, and picnics. In 1894, an act of Congress finally declared the first Monday of September to be a federal holiday — Labor Day — dedicated to America's work force.

Today, on this commemoration of the original Labor Day, let us observe the actions of one August A. Busch IV.

Busch stood watch as the Anheuser-Busch Co. —which had been controlled by his family for over one hundred years— was sold to further the fiduciary interests of the company's stockholders.

As his reward, Busch will receive:

$17 million in compensation over the next five years to advise InBev president Carlos Brito <...> He’ll also get “an office in St. Louis, administrative support, a personal security detail, complimentary tickets to A-B-sponsored events and insured medical, dental, vision and prescription drug benefits.” <...> That’s over and above what he’ll make from the stock he owns. His father, August A. Busch III, stands to make $103.6 million.

from Brookston Beer Bulletin

Does Busch have a duty to protect his workers' interests?

On this day, the original Labor Day, let us observe that such a human interest is often not a business' interest.
it’s all too common when this type of merger, takeover, or whatever you want to call it takes place ... The executives at the top, even if they horribly mismanaged the company and/or even caused the takeover, never suffer and in fact are almost uniformly rewarded with cash sums the average employee can only dream of. So as employees throughout Anheuser-Busch continue to lose sleep over their future, the Busch family and the rest of the top level executives are no doubt sleeping like babies, without a care in the world. It’s no longer up to them whether the people that made them rich have a future or if InBev will ultimately keep the promises that helped seal their fate.
from Brookston Beer Bulletin

If InBev's past practice is any portend, InBev Anheuser-Busch will not keep its promises. After all, it's only business.

Happy Labor Day!

In related news, InBev shareholders will vote on 29 September to approve (most probably) the purchase of Anheuser-Busch. The latter's board of directors accepted the sale in July.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Food flummery

Barry Foy's "The Devil's Food Dictionary: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies" was reviewed yesterday in the Washington Post:

[Foy] hilariously skewers food writers, cuisines and sacred culinary traditions. The book's motto: "The most unreliable food book ever!"

Richmond, Va. wine blogger Genevelyn Steele had this observation:
I hate the word "foodie". I have a physical reaction each time I see the word on my computer screen, which is every day. [Foy's] definition of the word succinctly says it all.
"Foodie: A category of generally affluent hypergourmet that developed as a reaction to progress. This is primarily a North American designation; a foodie from Italy, by comparison, is known simply as an Italian."

To this list, I would add the word "acetaldehyde", when "green apple" would do just as well. Or "diacetyl", when "buttery" would actually describe the flavor in question. Or the neologism some beverage reviewers use: "mid-palate", which might indeed be an anatomical discovery. In this small world of food and beverage, there is no dearth of flummery.

Another 'definition' from Foy's book:
"Kitchen: Known for most of its history as the room devoted to food preparation, the kitchen has undergone several improvements and is now chiefly a display platform for color-coordinated appliances."

The lexicographer Dr. Johnson once wrote: "come, my lad, and drink some beer." Sage advice, and come to think of it ...

Change the World

Washingtonian.com recently interviewed Chris O'Brien: beer blogger and author, and environmental activist.

Chris traveled all over the world researching local brewing traditions, even working for a time as a brewer at the Zululand Brewing Company in Eshowe, South Africa. His conclusion: You can change the world by having a (locally brewed, organic) beer.
Have your beer, and drink it too!

Chris gave a shout-out to this blog, Yours For Good Fermentables.com. Many thanks!
Favorite local food or drink blog besides your own:

Tom Cizauskas, formerly the southern-region salesman for Clipper City and now representing Select Wines in the Northern Virginia area writes an entertaining blog called Yours for Good Fermentables.

Visit Chris O'Brien's blog: Beer Activist.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Strange brews photo news

A companion site to Yours For Good Fermentables.com is Cizauskas on Flickr. Many of the beer events that I cover here, I photo-document there.

When Yahoo Photos shut down in May 2007, I ported most of my photos to Flickr. By default, they were listed as private. I've been re-releasing them, several at a time, as public photos on Flickr.

Some I've edited: things such as removing red eye or brightening the exposure on dark indoor shots. Those edits show up as new photos.

Baltimore meets Asheville... Such as this one from the East Coast Beer Dinner in February of 2007 at Summits Wayside Tavern, located just outside of Atlanta, in Cumming, Ga.

Left to right, that's Sandi of Highland Brewing of Asheville, NC; I, then Territory Manager for Clipper City Brewing of Baltimore, Md.; Oscar Wong, owner of Highland Brewing.

Monday, September 01, 2008

What would Jesus have drunk?

As parents send their kids off to college, Townhall.com conservative columnist Doug Giles has some thoughts on Christianity and alcohol.

As some of you know by now, I’m a Christian. As a believer I have no problem whatsoever with either you or me having a mug of beer, a glass of wine, or a snifter of brandy, enjoying in moderation what the good Lord has blessed us with. <...>

Both the Old and the New Testament are rife with celebration (feasts) in which alcohol was involved. Alcohol was a part of the God-ordained festivities. And it wasn’t for medicinal purposes, or because the water was rancid and they didn’t have any Evian, and it wasn’t a non-alcoholic grape drink like Welch’s or Juicy Juice; it was a buzz-generating knock back just like the stuff we drink today. Period. End of discussion. Deal with it.

Y’know, I hate to bring the Bible into this, but one of the first snapshots we have of Christ in John’s gospel is Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana turning water into wine. <...>

So, what’s my point? My point is this: If the Son of God drank wine and God “gave wine to make the heart merry,” and if your kids are going to be offered it sooner or later, then you’d better get busy teaching them how to get pleasure from it without going Lindsay, if and when they decide to drink.

Jesus, Beer and Your College Kids
by Doug Giles
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Or, as I might have put it: moderation in the pursuit of happiness is no sin.

When traditional isn't traditional enough

From this morning's Washington Post:

Raul Cano, 63 , now the director of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo ... [fermented] a yeast strain Cano found in a piece of Burmese amber dating from about 25 million to 45 million years ago.

[Fossil Fuels Brewing Co.] -- in which Cano is a partner, along with another scientist and a lawyer -- introduced its pale ale and German wheat beer with a party last month at one of the two Bay Area pubs where Fossil Fuels is made and served.


The Beer That Takes You Back . . . Millions of Years
Enterprising Scientist Finds New Use for Ancient Yeast
By Gabe Oppenheim


The article quotes William Brand, the Oakland Tribune's beer critic, as offering this opinion:
the ancient yeast provides the wheat beer with a distinctively "clove-y" taste and a "weird spiciness at the finish."
So, I checked Mr. Brand's blog. There, he had written this, more positive, review:
[I] haven’t tasted the pale ale, but the wheat is one sweetie with a wild, interesting, enticing spicy finish.

Judges at the World Beer Cup in San Diego this year, however, were not enticed. They found this 45 million year-old Saccharomyces cerevisiae —brewer’s yeast— to be not traditional enough.
"we had one judge give us the highest marks, one just below and one who didn't like it," says Chip Lambert, 63, the company's other second microbiologist. "We learned that the issue was that in these competitions, you brew to match the traditional concept of the style, which these yeast just don't do."

I may have stretched this conceit a bit —maybe 45 million years— but nonetheless there are indeed many beer stylistas who will deem a beer unworthy, based not on the beer's intrinsic merits, but on whether or not the beer meets their perceived criteria for tradition.

At this same World Beer Cup, a Gold Medal was awarded for International-style Pale Ale. The beer was tasty, but I ask: exactly what would that style be traditionally???