Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkin GHOULash

Why not cook the pumpkin you carved for a jack o'lantern?

cubed pumpkinCube the pumpkin and steam it in a light beer for 20 minutes. Purée the pumpkin and place aside.

Sauté a few tablespoons of tomato paste in olive oil over medium heat until they become fragrant. Lower heat slightly and add diced onions, diced green peppers, and chopped garlic. Spice with cumin, paprika, s/p, to taste. Add small amount of beer if needed to prevent scorching. Cook until onions are translucent.

Add the pumpkin to the sauté, along with some cooked canned red beans. Reduce heat to low and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle with some paprika when plated.

Pumpkin GHOULash: start to finish 20-25 minutes, and served with a Brooklyn Oktoberfest.

Pumpkin GHOULash

  • The Brooklyn Oktoberfest was NOT the light beer used for steaming! Use a North American or other international light lager.
  • More photos.
  • Submitted as part of Vegan MoFo.

Tranquility disrupted by 4 OUNCES of beer

Musings Over A Pint reports that southwestern Virginia neo-prohibitionists are claiming that the consumption of 4 ounces of beer per person per day at the proposed Shooting Star Brewery will

disrupt the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood.

Four ounces of beer ... four ounces?

Would these intolerant folk be the 'real' Virginians? This is an ongoing story in Floyd County, Va.

Scary jack (and winter warmers)

Happy All Hallows' EveGood riddance to pumpkin spice beers. Bring on the winter warmers!

Anchor Brewing's original winter release in 1975 —Our Special Ale— was renamed and reissued as Liberty Ale.

It was, and is, spiced with ... hops.

Winter warmers: big, malty, could be hoppy, could be spiced. Maybe not. In other words, they are celebrations of the season.

So, to those inevitable "not to style" comments from beer-style pooh-bahs: Bah, humbug!

[UPDATE 2008.11.02: a blog about winter beers at RealBeer.com.]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

InBev speculation

Jack Curtin writes of an interesting take on the current state of the InBev buyout of Anheuser-Busch. There is an outside chance that the purchase could turn the other way around.

Harry Schuhmacher writes in this morning’s Beer Business Daily that InBev will have to pay Anheuser-Busch stockholders the promised $70 a share even if its financing falls apart per an analysis of an A-B proxy statement.

There is no contingency “out” for the Belgian brewer. A-B would have a multi-billion dollar claim which would be roughly equal to current InBev value.

In this strangest of financial environment, in other words, should the InBev banks bail out, the result would likely be A-B buying InBev rather than the reverse.

And from the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch:
Several analysts say the gargantuan buyout has become a heavier burden for InBev. The company's stock has been hit by slumping stock indices, a stronger dollar and the prospects of a big stock offering that would dilute shareholders' ownership.

InBev shares have dropped by more than a third since the A-B deal was announced in mid-July. A-B is now worth twice as much as InBev by market value — the stock price multiplied by the number of shares.

The Belgian company looks like "a minnow swallowing a whale," Gimme Credit bond analyst Craig Hutson wrote last week. InBev's shrinking value meant it would have had to flood the market with shares to reach $9.8 billion. Its main shareholders in Belgium and Brazil would have lost control of the brewer. The plan was shelved two weeks ago.

InBev, A-B deal still on track despite credit market woes
By Jeremiah McWilliams
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
10/29/2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A marathon ten years of good beer

Monday evening was the 10th anniversary for the Hard Times Cafe in Bethesda, Maryland.

Owner Greg Hourigan —whose voice resonates with the silky tones of the radio announcer that he once was— told a packed house, to great applause, that he had opened his outpost of good beer (and chili) in 1998.

Greg Hourigan in 2007

Monday evening was also Greg's annual Autumn beer tasting.

One hundred thirty or so good beer fans listened as representatives of various breweries described the flavors and appearance of their respective beers —mostly Oktoberfest or pumpkin beers. Afterward, when servers brought out the dozen beers one by one, attendees attempted to guess which beer was which.

Of course, success was directly proportional to the skill of the reps in describing the beers!

Hard Times Cafe 2008 Autumn beer tasting

There was at least one good beer fan present who put the lie to the myth of the beer belly.

Two days earlier, he had successfully completed the Marine Corps Marathon. Last evening, he was enjoying his post-race carbo-loading.

The beer menu here.
More photos here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Malt-Worms and a beer book

Amber, Gold, and BlackMartyn Cornell is a blogger on beer in the UK. He nom de blog is Zythophile.

One of his stocks in trade is identifying (and correcting) beery canards. Another is researching British beer styles (and correcting errors of record there).

Cornell blends both pursuits in his newly published ebook— Amber, Gold & Black: The Story of Britain's Great Beers.

I'm having great fun reading it; I've already been disabused of several personally held beer-myths.

I'll post a review soon. In the meantime, here are two amusing quotations:

There enter in, for Drink well brew'd and clear.
For Ales well-colour'd, and stout humming Beer"
A Vade Mecum for Malt-Worms, circa 1718
[A vademecum is a pocket handbook. And Malt-Worms! That's a long-lost euphemism for beer geeks.]
And
If smirking wine be wanted here
There's that which drowns all care, stout beer.
poet Robert Herrick, on a Harvest Home supper, circa 1630

YFGF blogs with DC Blogs

Here at Yours for Good Fermentables.com, I attempt to cover the issues of beer —good, bad, and delicious— wherever I may find them.

But since I reside in the greater Washington, D.C. area, many of my posts may evince a Capital bias.

And so, I've signed up as a member of DC Blogs, a website where my posts —and those of fellow D.C.-area bloggers— are listed and updated in real time.

Networking helps.



See also Washington D.C. Bloggers Meetup.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The pewter pot

Beer sales may have increased since the banking meltdown, but the winter holiday season will be the tale of the tape for beer and wine sales and, of course, for all of retail.

Anecdotally, hiring is less than it was last year. And, as commercial credit remains tight (just where did that $700 billion go), many stores may not be able to afford to fully stock their floorspace.

Maybe A.E. Houseman was on to something.

Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.

A Shropshire Lad
A.E. Houseman

[UPDATE 2008.10.30: See Bob Skilnik's recap of a study of Aussie beer during bad times: "While people may think twice about large purchases like cars and white goods, affordable luxuries like premium beer tend to remain popular."]

What should a brewer do?

In going through old papers, I found a résumé of mine from the mid 1990s. The cover letter expressed my conception of a brewpub brewer's job description.

I insist upon a savage dedication to the quality of, and the culture surrounding, the beer I produce.

Beer in a brewpub must be more than just a product and more than simply a means to an end. This is what I refer to as the beer culture. I have a great respect for beer and wish to work in an environment which engenders such an attitude.

The food in a brewpub should be more than the standard 'burgers, fries, and pizza'. It should be designed to mate with the beers produced. (Some of the menu items could even be prepared with beer.)

The head brewer should be involved with these preparations so that the beers produced will be appropriate. However, the slate of beers should not be the now too-common, "gold, amber, lager." Such a catalog indicates a deficit of imagination, skill, and commitment. [Not the best choice of phrase for a cover letter!]

If a brewpub insists upon simple gateway/training-wheel beers, it has lost the battle to a non-brewpub which serves Budweiser or Coors Lite. Those large breweries produce these bland styles for low cost and with amazing consistency: qualities most small breweries cannot match.

The head brewer should be intimately involved with the design, purchase, and installation of equipment.

I have been in brewpubs where the staff, including the bartenders and the management, knew very little about the beer they attempted to sell. How can one expect to market anything, let alone beer, if one does not know what that product is?

The head brewer, therefore, should be the bar manager. He should create and implement a beer training seminar for ALL the staff, with ongoing sessions for the servers and bartenders.

The head brewer should have the ability to consistently produce distinctive and well-made beers. He should understand how to faithfully reproduce the standard styles. A brewer needs to know, and know well, the basics before he experiments with different directions.

The brewer must understand the effect of his ingredients on the finished beer. He must understand the effect of procedures, equipment, yeast, and spoiling microbiology.

The brewer must implement rigorous quality control protocols, including micro-biological.

The brewer must have a good palate and be able to discern and understand the source of appropriate and undesirable flavors.

The brewer must understand the practical side, the business side of beer: sales, production planning, purchase, maintenance, and retrofitting of equipment, quality control, management of personnel, inventory control.

Whew! Strong words, but a clear statement of philosophy. Overall, I still agree, nearly 15 years later.

Only now, I would state it in a more polite manner.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Trails of bourbon, wine, and beer

On my recent birthday weekend, I toured Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve, two distilleries in Kentucky. They lie along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a collaborative effort between the state of Kentucky and the distilleries and their association. A successful tourism program and business-builder, the 'trail' is a matrix of road signs, glossy brochures, and maps.

Buffalo Trace rickhouse

Here in Virginia, the distillery industry is a nascent one. But there is a Virginia Wine Trail and an active wine makers association.

Sadly for Virginia beer, there is no association (even though there had been one in the 1990s). There is news, however, of a possible beer trail, at least for the central and southwestern regions of the state: Beer Trail hopes to emulate Virginia wine industry.

My colleague at Musings Over a Pint writes quite often on the Virginia beer scene. I'm certain he'll be posting if the beer trail approaches completion.

More about my short tour of the Bourbon Trail tour here. Photos here.

FULL STEAM dot AG in NC: demystifying beer

Sean WilsonSean Wilson —past coordinator of a successful effort to unlimit the allowable alcohol levels for beer in North Carolina, Pop the Cap— has plans to open his own brewpub in Durham, North Carolina.

Although Full Steam isn't yet brick and mortar (and stainless steel), Sean and his team have already done several things right, and are doing others in fascinating fashion. Such as their internet address— fullsteam.ag:

We’re going with the fullsteam dot ag to help spread this message of beer-as-agriculture, particularly as we will rely heavily on local farms for flavoring components. Plus, the .ag is a little “out there” and unexpected.

As part of his mission at Full Steam, Sean wishes to help correct a beer/agricultural disconnection, an 'unknowing' many have with beer and indeed with much of the food chain. Here's how Sean puts it:

Beyond Sweet Tea: Full SteamTo many people, beer is some kind of mystery beverage produced in industrial vats. In fact, we’d argue that beer’s recent (past forty years) image problem is, in part, because people don’t understand how it’s made. Wine? That’s crushing grapes. Even neutral spirits like vodka…well, that’s potatoes (sometimes, not always…but that’s what people think).

Try this sometime. Pick someone randomly and ask them what beer is made from. Well, not too random…avoid asking anyone wearing a “support your local brewery” t-shirt, bearded men, microbiologists, and people who regularly swim in rivers.


Chances are that half of them won’t know the four primary ingredients in beer. Heck, some of you might not know. And that’s okay…as long as you leave with that information (barley, hops, yeast, water). <..>

The brewery industry continues to struggle to get the word out that beer is an agricultural product, made from grains, a vine (technically bine) that produces flowers, water, and live yeast.

Read more.

Maybe Full Steam will be one brewer's analogue to The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'll be waiting for it — intrigued and thirsty.

[UPDATE 2008.10.29: Read what happened when Full Steam of Durham visited Bruisin' Ales of Asheville.]

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beerspeak

New York Times technology writer David Pogue recently posted a gentle diatribe against the use of jargon in technology writing.

Here's an extract, which I've redacted edited* to apply to beer writing.

I think a lot about the technical level of the column. Over the years, I’ve adopted a number of tricks that are designed to communicate technical beer points without losing the novices–and one of them is avoiding jargon.

Why tech beer writers use so much jargon, I don’t know. Maybe it’s self-aggrandizement; they want to lord their knowledge over everybody else. Maybe it’s laziness; they can’t be bothered to fish for a plain-English word. Maybe it’s just habit; they spend all day talking shop with other nerds, so they slip into technospeak beerspeak when they write for larger audiences.

Tech Terms to Avoid
New York Times.com
David Pogue
October 16, 2008

There's a lot of jargon in the beer world. For example, "ABV" instead of "alcohol" or "It tastes like diacetyl" instead of "It tastes like butter." The list goes on and on.

One silly phrase Pogue lists for the tech community is one that is also overused in articles about the business of beer.
Price point. What are you, paid by the word?
“Price” alone does the job.

And what of the annoying use of the word "product"? As in the tautology, "My company produces a product."

Well, what is your product?

"Beer"

You couldn't have said that in the first place? Flummery!

* This blog is not immune from occasional slips into jargon. YFGF is striving to amend its ways.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Austrian wine and the cost of beer

Lately returned from a trip to Austria, Klaus Wittauer, an importer of Austrian wine, told me that he is encouraged by a trend in the exchange rate.

As recently as 1 October, one Euro was worth $1.40. Yesterday, the Euro was valued at $1.28.

A silver lining amid the current economic crises, a strengthening dollar helps Wittauer to hold the line on pricing for the new vintage, or at least to slow its increase.

Investor flight from emerging markets over the past few weeks has accelerated this week, pushing the U.S. dollar to new heights, among other things as money is both repatriated from overseas and seeks relative safety in U.S. fixed income.

The dollar hit a two-year high against a basket of currencies with the dollar index up 0.2 percent to 85.6 after hitting a two-year peak above 86.

Investors flee emerging markets, boosting dollar
Yahoo! Finance
Jeremy Gaunt
23 October 2008

Might this augur well for beer?

Combine the decline of exchange rates and the decrease in the price of oil with improved hop harvests worldwide, increased hop acreage, and good barley harvests. Together they might slow the rapid rise in the cost of brewing, and, as well, the cost of beer to the consumer.

Don't be prematurely sanguine, however.

Patrick Casey, owner of Legends, Ltd., imports Scottish and English beers. He told me:
We have tried to hold the price on all UK products, but the cost of glass in Europe has gone up dramatically, resulting in higher prices to me for 2009. However the British pound is going down so I will hold the price.

Hugh Sisson, owner of Clipper City Brewing, noted that hop prices will continue to increase for another year or so. There's a lag time between the planting of new hop bines and the harvesting of usable yield.

[UPDATE. So much for prognostications: "The U.S. dollar, meanwhile, plunged below 93 yen, a 13-year low, as traders reacted to dismal U.S. jobs data." Friday 24 October 2008. Associated Press.]
  • The Washington Post reviewed Austrian reds here
  • and Wittauer's imports here.
  • Genevelyn Steele reviewed Wittauer's wines here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wharf Rat - an old friend in Baltimore - has been sold

Philosophers drink beer

Rob Kasper of the Baltimore Sun has confirmed what had only been rumored: the Wharf Rat, the longest-running brewpub in Baltimore has been sold. The good news is that brewing will continue, and that Steve Jones will remain as the brewer.

Host brewer Steve Jones

Wharf Rat Brewer Steve Jones (l); Paul Pendyck of UK Brewing Supplies (r)

The Wharf Rat, the restaurant and brewery at 206 W. Pratt St. that has served as a fountainhead of English ales in Baltimore, has new owners. Donald Kelly, who has operated bars in Connecticut and Justin Dvorkin, a brewer at Fordham Brewing, bought the business from Bill Oliver on Tuesday. The price was not disclosed.

In a brief telephone interview Wednesday, Kelly said he and his partner do not anticipate making substantial changes to the restaurant and brewing operation. "We like the concept; we bought it for the brewery," said Kelly. <...>

Steve Jones, the current Wharf Rat brewer, will continue making the establishment's beers, called Oliver Ales, Kelly said. <...>

Oliver will retain ownership of the Fells Point pub also named the Wharf Rat.

Oliver and his wife Carole took over the iron-front building on Pratt Street, then called P.J. Cricketts restaurant, in 1992.

One of the first things they did was increase the number of beers on tap. "It just had Coors, Sam Adams and Miller Lite," Oliver recalled in an interview. In January 1993, they added a brewery and began brewing ales.

Wharf Rat on Pratt Street has new owners
Kasper on Tap
Rob Kasper
BaltimoreSun.com
October 21, 2008

2 Justins
Justin Dvorkin (l), new co-owner of Wharf Rat Brewpub; general manager Justin Damadio (r)


UPDATE 2009.01.26: The Baltimore Sun reports:
The Wharf Rat (206 W. Pratt St.) will close this Thursday for renovations, according to new owner Justin Dvorkin.

Dvorkin and general manager Justin Damadio took over the downtown brewpub last fall. They plan to reopen the place with a new name and slightly different look March 10.



The Wharf Rat Brewpub

The existential cask

Toasting the fest

In the early 1990s, Ed Janiak was a part-timer at the Oxford Brewing Company in Linthicum, Maryland. I met up with Ed this past weekend in Baltimore, Md. at the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival.

He reminded me of how I had trained him to coax good beer from Oxford's creaky old brewhouse.

Oxford had no augur to bring the grain to the mash tun, nor an automated mixer. So, as hot water was sprayed in, brewers would hoist eighteen or so 55 pound bags of crushed barley up onto the platform, and would empty each bag, one by one, into the hopper suspended above the tun. As with any mashing regimen, if there was too much grain the mash would be too thick, forming doughballs, and if too little, the mash would be diluted.

I might tweak the flow a couple of times and occasionally I might climb back up the platform and encourage a good mix with a slow stroke of the long wooden boat oar that doubled as the mash fork.

But then —and this is what Ed reminded me of at the Fest this past weekend— I would climb down the platform, pop a cassette tape (yes, cassette) into the boom box, and begin to groove to acid jazz tunes.

The point I made to Ed was to let the mash be, to allow the mash just to happen, to allow it to be ... an existential mash.

In a way, it's the same with cask ale.

Cask ale (and kellerbier, that is, cask lager) is beer that has not been fussed with. There's no extraneous handling, no filtering. At a brewery, it's put in a cask while still fermenting, straight from the fermenter. And it's served soon thereafter —unlike wine— young and fresh.

Ed and I reminisced over cask ales on a clear crisp October day at the 5th annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, at the Wharf Rat Brewpub in downtown Baltimore, Md.

Beer goddess

All the casks were served by simple gravity tap. Those indoors were cooled with ice blankets. Those outdoors, the majority, had been cooled while sitting outside overnight, covered with tarps. There was some worry that the afternoon sun might overheat the casks, but by mid-afternoon long shadows had prevented that.

Which among the 30 or so casks was my favorite?

That's hard to say. There were indeed some I returned to more than others, but most had those bright flavors that identify cask ales as the fresh foodstuffs that they indeed are. [Go here for a listing of the casks.]

At a recent beer dinner, a table mate asked me, out of all beers I may have ever drunk, what was my favorite beer.

I replied, fresh beer, adding that I'm constantly being thrilled by new discoveries and delighted by beers' fresh flavors. But she seemed displeased that I had not limited myself to only one.

If I ever do find the perfect beer —my 'favorite' beer— it will be in good fellowship, amid good conversation ... and odds are that it will be fresh cask ale.

And, it will be existentially good.

DC/Baltimore: an opening and a closing

A juxtaposition.

Blob's Park, the long-time German dance hall and beer bar is reopening in Jessup, Maryland.

Ten months after the Eggrel family decided to close Blob's Park's Bavarian Biergarten, [Max Eggrel, the great-nephew of founder Max Blob] is pouring money into a massive renovation that will end with a reopening at the end of the year. <...>"It's in my blood," he said. "The place has so much history and such a following and I just felt I had to do it."

Oompah! Blob's is back
Famed beer garden to reopen in Jessup
By Marc Shapiro
HometownAnnapolis.com
20 October 2008
[UPDATE: Blob's announces its re-opening for 31 December 2008!]

Old Dominion Brewing, the long-time craft brewery of northern Virginia is closing in Ashburn, Virginia.
Coastal Brewing Company announced today that it will consolidate its operations by moving all brewing to the company's state-of-the-art facility in Dover, Del. The decision means that the company's brewery in Ashburn, Va., will be closed in 2009. <..>

"Our number one focus is clear: to continue making the high-quality craft beers that beer lovers have come to expect from the Fordham and Old Dominion names," said Garry Williams, CEO of Coastal Brewing Co. "But to deliver on that promise, we have to make sure we are running an effective business, particularly in light of the current economic situation. Operating two breweries in such close proximity is not cost-efficient, nor is it environmentally responsible, so it's just good business sense to combine operations into our most modern facility."

as quoted by Gregg Wiggins
reporter for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News
on DC-Beer, 21 October 2008

Alerted to Blob's Park renovations by Beer in Baltimore blog and to the Dominion closing by Musings Over a Pint.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Beer Musings

As a fellow reader noted, David Turley has gone legit.

David is the author of an informative beer blog called Musings Over A Pint. Based in Fredericksburg, Va., David covers the Virginia beer scene, and 'muses' on the world of good beer in general.

Just over a year old, his blog now has a web address identical to its name: www.MusingsOverAPint.com.

Go have a look ... and bookmark it.

Johnson and Turley
Ray Johnson (l), organizer of annual Blue/Gray Breweriana Show
David Turley (r) , writer of Musings Over a Pint blog.
Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, 22 June 2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A tangled web: Mexico says not so fast

Earlier this year, when American brewery Anheuser-Busch was vigorously opposed to a takeover by brewing conglomerate InBev, Auggie Busch IV would bluster —figuratively, if not literally— "No way, no how, no InBev."

We know now that his threats were mere bluster. Inbev purchased the company without any real resistance.

At the time, one of Anheuser-Busch's (A-B) proposed strategies was to double its shares of Mexico's Grupo Modelo from 50% to the entire thing. (Among other beers, Modelo produces Corona.) A 'poison pill', this purchase would have loaded A-B with more debt than InBev might have wanted to swallow.

So, Inbev threatened to sue, and A-B backed off.

Now that the sale of A-B to Inbev is all but done, Grupo Modelo is itself threatening to sue. It is asserting both that Mexican law prohibits the complete transfer of what can be perceived of as national assets and that its own stockholders have the right of first refusal.

On Thursday, the company, known for brands like Corona and Negra Modelo, said <...> the agreement [with Anheuser-Busch] means its own shareholders should first have the opportunity to buy the shares in Modelo and its subsidiary, Diblo, which would be transferred by Anheuser-Busch to InBev. Anheuser-Busch's roughly 50 percent stake in the company is non-controlling.


Grupo Modelo seeks to block Anheuser-Busch, InBev
By Emily Fredrix
AP Business
Oct 16, 2008


Disputing the merits of both claims, Anheuser-Busch replied that
it would "vigorously contest such claims," though it did not say how.

Of course, this may depend upon how vigorous A-B's definition of vigorous is.

Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
-- Marmion
Sir Walter Scott

Friday, October 17, 2008

SAVOR to return to DC in 2009

The return of SAVOR in 2009 —a 2 day celebration of beer and food— was announced at the Great American Beer Festival.

The inaugural SAVOR was held May, 2008 in Washington, D.C. at the Mellon Auditorium. (Go here for a video of the event.)

Bradley Latham of the Brewers Association has told me that the 2009 iteration will indeed return to Washington, D.C., but this time for one night only —May 30, 2009— and at the National Building Museum. Brewery registration will open in early December 2008.

SAVOR 2009
Photo courtesy of Chuck Cook.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sustainable irony

At Busboys and Poets yesterday evening, the guest speaker was running late.

Organic Beer Tasting

Chris O'Brien —the author of Fermenting Revolution. How To Drink Beer and Save the World— was scheduled to speak on organic, local, and sustainable beer at the Arlington, Va. bar/coffeeshop/bookstore.

But patrons were happy to wait, sipping on organic beers from Clipper City/Oxford and Otter Creek/Wolavers. Representatives from both breweries were there to discuss their beers.

Chris did soon arrive (only a few minutes off schedule), and a small but appreciative group listened.

He was late because of that bane of modern urban life: traffic. In a way ironic, that was indeed one point of his talk (and book) that evening.

Chris O'Brien

List-o-mania and beer shops

Those Top Ten lists.

Late night talk show host David Letterman's lists occasionally are humorous. Other such lists can be ponderous or inane.

Is #10 really better than all those #11s left off the list? What are the criteria? Were all choices researched? What are the qualifications or expertise of those judging?

But in that spirit,Imbibe Magazine, in its September/October issue, listed its top 10 choices for beer shops in the US.

The best ones are not just stores selling beer, they're destinations offering a carefully conceived selection, where beers are handled and stored properly, employees can recite the virtues of every ale on offer [what, no bock beer or other lagers?], and customers can go not only for their favorite suds [overused phrase alert] but for a sense of community and culture [amen].

From this area, two shops made the editors' cuts: Charlottesville, Virginia's Beer Run, and Washington, D.C.'s Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits.

Of relatively new Beer Run, they wrote:
In a college town where kegs of macrobrews may be the typical order of the day, Beer Run sells customers on an amazing lineup of bottled craft beers and serves some great draught ones on the shop's bar side. ...
Of the venerable Chevy Chase:
It stands to reason that a city full of diplomats would have a strong demand for international beers, and Chevy Chase meets that need with 1,200 options from around the world. ...

Larry Robinson of Chevy ChaseAs the editors implied, a crucial aspect in all this isn't mere size of inventory but rather a sense of welcome and discovery.

At Beer Run, that's supplied by brothers Josh and John Hunt and their mother Marianne. At Chevy Chase, it's father and son duo Buddy and Ian Weitzman, and Larry Robinson. Larry may remember more about beers past than most of us may ever learn about today's double Imperial bourbon-aged IPAs.

The full descriptions and the rest of the article are available in Imbibe's print edition only. I was alerted to this story by Julie Atallah, co-proprietor of Bruisin' Ales of Asheville, North Carolina, itself a wonderful store and on the list. Congratulations to all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nor'easter Beer Dinner

I'll be tapping a fresh cask of Clipper City Brewing's Winter Storm as part of a Nor'easter Beer Dinner at Chadwicks Restaurant, Old Town, Alexandria, Va. Tuesday evening, 14 October.

Shive punch

Here's the menu:

6 Seasonal Tastings from 6 Northeastern US Breweries

To Start
a variety of hors d'oeuvres
Roasted Figs with Vermont Pepper Chevre
Maryland Rockfish and Ponzu Bibb Lettuce Wraps
New York Crispin Apple and Cheddar Tartlets
Fontina polenta with Maine Autumn Squash Ratatouille
Cape May, New Jersey Salts with Cranberry Mignonette
Paired with
Otter Creek Oktoberest (Vermont)
&

Post Road Pumpkin Ale (Brooklyn, New York)

Appetizer
Bison, Diver Scallop, and Golden Beef Carpaccio
Paired with River Horse Winter Freeze (New Jersey)

Fish Course
Seared Sturgeon with Lobster Mushrooms and Butter Beans
Paired with Allagash Grand Cru (Maine)

Meat Course
Braised Short Ribs, Yam Gaufrette, and Asiago Risotto
Paired with a fresh cask of
Clipper City Brewing Winter Storm Category 5 Ale (Baltimore, Maryland)

Dessert
A Very Stout Cupcake
Paired with Brooklyn Brewing Black Chocolate Stout (Brooklyn, New York)



Chef Peter Durkin
Chef Peter Durkin

[UPDATE: Photos from the dinner.]

Friday, October 10, 2008

YFGF gets press'd

Yours For Good Fermentables.com received press attention in the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, October/November 2008 (Vol. 10 No.5). Baltimore correspondent Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:

Tom Cizauskas, long-time sales rep for Clipper City, tapped his final keg for the Baltimore brewery in July. As of Aug. 1, he's working for Select Wines, the northern Virginia wholesaler that carries Clipper City beers among many other brands.

The beer paparazzi caught up with my mother.

In the magazine's same issue, the Brews Brothers —Steve Frank and Arnie Meltzer— reported on the Royal Mile Pub's 2nd annual Beer Breakfast:
[At breakfast's conclusion] A very satisfied Gene Cizauskas asked the waiter, "Does anyone walk out of here?"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Support local beer

From What's Brewing, the newspaper of the Campaign for Real Ale, October 2008 issue:

Pub closures across Britain have accelerated to five a day during the first half of this year, according to new figures.

Pubs are now closing at the rate of 36 a week. <..> The current closure rate is 33 per cent up on 2007. <..> A total of 1,409 pubs closed for the last time during 2007.

From the same issue:
While we should be pleased that real ale is declining slower than the rest of the beer sector as a whole, it is still in decline — which is something which should still concern us.

Across the pond, here in the US, we have an abundance of beers available to us: American and international. Enjoy this bounty of good beer.

But ultimately: support your local brewery. Local beer —all things being done well— will be the freshest beer one can obtain. Drink local, drink fresh.

And, if the beer isn't as good as it should be, stop in the brewery and tell them so.

That's something you can't do with the corporate behemoths.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Beer and a car-free diet

car-free dietThere was a a "car-free diet" booth Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest.

Set up by the County of Arlington, the program has a companion website at www.CommuterPage.com. Subtitled "Transportation options for the Washington, DC area", it's a trove of public transportation schedules, maps, links, 'how-to advice', and other resources.

I'm a beer and wine salesman. I transport beer and wine and kegs. Thus, I may not be able to go 100% car-free at work. But a side-consequence of my recent job change should be the reduction of my annual car mileage by 2/3. At the least, that's a start.

There's another way to be kind to Mother Earth.

Drink beer, be it local, sustainable, or organic!

Fermenting RevolutionAward-winning author and local businessman Chris O'Brien has written the book on that topic —literally. On Wednesday, 15 October (5-7 pm), Chris will be at Busboys and Poets @Shirlington in Arlington, Va. to present a short lecture on organic beer and to sign copies of his book — Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World.

Representatives from Clipper City Brewing of Baltimore, Md. and Wolaver's of Middlebury, Vt. will be on hand as well to discuss their respective breweries' organic beers. The beers will be priced 'Happy Hour'.

There's more information at Beer Activist.

[UPDATE 2008.10.15: Photos here.]

In the spirit of Vegan Mofo —Vegan Month of Food— I'll add that beer is a wonderful foodstuff. And, except for some cask-conditioned ales, it's vegan.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Brickskeller (not) for sale

A bizarre thread has surfaced on a Washington, D.C. area blog. It concerns the venerable Brickskeller, run by Dave and Diane Alexander, and, before that, by Diane's family.

On 25 September, Capital Spice posted this:

Though you won’t see a “For Sale” sign out front or a listing for an open house this Sunday, the Brickskeller is officially on the market. Randall Hagner Ltd. Showcase lists 1523 22nd Street - the “Brickskeller Dining House and Inn” - as being available immediately for the low, low price of only $12.5 million (down from $15 million a week ago). The best way to find it from the home page is to do a search for properties in ZIP Code 20037. The entire five-floor building is for sale, including 40-plus guest rooms on four floors and the two-floor restaurant/bar. The alcohol license will convey to the new owners, but you won’t be able to keep the memorabilia or even the Brickskeller name - the current owners will be holding onto those.

Dave Alexander responded two days later:
Who came up with this? I would like to know since my wife and I OWN the Brickskeller and are NOT SELLING IT.

This post must be removed immediately. The Brickskeller is NOT for sale this is not true. We OWN the restaurant and we also own the word Brickskeller if these lies are not removed immediately you can expect legal action. The Brickskeller Dining House and Down Home Saloon is NOT for sale.

Capital Spice responded an hour later:
Dave,

Thanks for responding. If the Brickskeller is not, in fact, for sale, I would encourage you to talk with John Nemeyer, Austin Bordley and/or Ana Carolina Rubio at Randall Hagner. They are all listed as sale contacts on the listing for 1523 22nd Street, NW - found here: http://showcase.costar.com/AppRoot.aspx?lt=1&lid=81910BF6C78E39A4D7704E39C3E05692#4906d479-07be-439e-a8c7-e21312f58dd7

I personally spoke with Mr. Nemeyer before I posted this, asking him if the entire building was included in the sale and further asking about what furnishings and materials would convey with the property. He was direct and clear in his answers: the whole building is for sale, including the restaurant/bar on the lower two floors, and although the furnishings and memorabilia will not convey, the liquor license will.

If this information is incorrect, I would encourage you to discuss all of this with Mr. Nemeyer directly.


Realtor John Nemyaer was not happy and responded in turn:
CapitalSpice:

Thanks very much for identifying yourself as a writer on the telephone. That’s weak.

As the listing was just withdrawn from the market by ownership; I would suggest that you retract the September 25th article.

Lastly, you will be hearing from Hagner counsel.
Thanks again for your wonderful work.

The beat goes on.

The Brickskeller has been the home for too many good beer epiphanies to see things spiral into vituperation or worse. Its very success as an advocate for good beer —since 1957 (!) when good beer was an endangered species in America —has been a major spur and nurture to the wonderful world of craft and imported beer now open to all of us.

Vegan MoFo

Mushroom fanAt a recent Allagash Beer Dinner, Patrick Dinh —chef at Tuscarora Mill— created delicious vegetarian subsitutions for me and another non-meat eater. More and more, I find that area chefs are being very creative in this regard.

If it's not on the menu, just ask.

This past weekend, with all the wursts at the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, I had assumed that —other than pretzels and sauerkraut— I might have been out of luck. Not so! An Indian restaurant had a booth: unorthodox for Oktoberfest, but with vegetarian options.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is an author of several books on vegan cooking. I don't know if she's a good beer drinker, but she does maintain an entertaining and informative vegan cooking blog at The Post Punk Kitchen.

As an example, she has declared October to be VeganMoFo — Vegan Month of Food:

The idea is to write as much as you can for the month of October about vegan food. The blog entries can be about anything food related - your love of tongs, your top secret tofu pressing techniques, the first time your mom cooked vegan for you, vegan options in Timbuktu - you get the idea.

Post Punk Kitchen

Joining the fun, I'll begin with this post and an earlier one entitled, "I am a vegetarian".

Saturday, October 04, 2008

ABC threatens Oktoberfest in Virginia

Waiting until the last moment, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control changed the rules for today's Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest at Shirlington, Va. The agency told

... brewer Mike McCarthy that Cap City would not receive the licenses it needed to hold the festival if it allowed attendees to taste as many beers as they wanted. <...>

"at the 11th hour," he was told that each person who pays the $25 admission can have no more than 10 tastes of beer all day. <...>

Patrons of last weekend's Northern Virginia Brewfest got unlimited tastings for one price, as did patrons of the Vintage Crystal wine festival in Crystal City the weekend before.

Breaking News: Oktoberfest Crackdown
October 3, 2008
Washington Post.com
Going Out Gurus
Fritz Hahn

A slight correction concerning last week's Northern Virginia Brewfest: attendees could indeed have unlimited tastings, but needed to purchase additional drink tickets for any additional tastings after ten apiece.

But for today's festival, the rules have been changed in a seemingly capricious manner. It's 10 tastings -- 4 ounces each -- total. No more may be purchased.

If this ABC agent had stated his objections months ago when the license had been applied for, any concerns and issues might have been resolved. His ruling seems legally inconsistent and random. Other festivals have not been held to this revised standard.

Awarding a license to the festival and then changing the details of that license ex post facto at the last moment with no time for appeal is patently unfair and wrong. It puts the organizers at financial risk. Bills have been paid; arrangements have been made; tickets have been sold.

And even more to the point: In the 9 years that the Shirlington Oktoberfest has been held, there have been no real problems. In fact, just the opposite seems apparent. This is a festival that has the support of the community, the police, the businesses. Families with children attend.

The Man with the Golden BootsScheduled to have beers/cider at the Festival:
Abita, Allagash, Anderson Valley, Avery, Bells, Bear Republic, Boston Beer, Brooklyn, Chimay, Clipper City, District Chop House, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, Fordham, Fullers, Gordon-Biersch, Hook & Ladder, Lagunitas, Lancaster, New Holland, North Coast, Old Dominion, Ommegang, Oscar Blues, Otter Creek, Paulaner, Raven, Rock Bottom, Rogue, Shenandoah Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Smuttynose, Spaten, Starr Hill, Southern Tier, Stone, Sweetwater, Tröegs, Victory, Vintage 50, Weihenstephaner, Williamsburg, Wolavers, Woodchuck.

[UPDATE 2008.10.04: Photos from the festival.]

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dinner, Oktoberfests, opening

Catching up on some odds and ends this morning.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Beer wholesalers in turmoil

The annual National Beer Wholesalers Association (NABW) convention was held recently in San Francisco. According to this Food Industry column from BNet.com, it was quite the spirited affair.

Crown Imports president Bill Hacker and Heineken USA president Don Blaustein urged distributors to fight back against Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors.

Many wholesalers are feeling caught in the middle as mega-breweries consolidate their distribution network to cut costs and larger wholesalers are buying smaller businesses. In addition, although specifics aren’t clear to me, A-B and MillerCoors appear to be working with retailers directly on the placement of their beers, eliminating wholesalers from the discussion.

<..>
After MillerCoors recently ended partnerships with at least 10 Ohio wholesalers, two filed lawsuits for illegal termination of their franchise agreements. According to Beer Business Daily, Anheuser-Busch has said it will uphold its distribution contracts once the InBev deal is finalized, but many wholesalers are leery of InBev’s reputation for implementing drastic cost-cutting measures.

Complicating matters further, A-B has been doling out exclusivity bonuses and incentives to distributors — as much as two cents per case of beer sold.

William Brand at What's on Tap quoted Jack Joyce —founder of Rogue Brewing of Oregon— as saying:
It’s a mess out there. The Anheuser-Busch, Coors/Miller alliances? Let’s just say this has been a well-attended session.

It's the law of unintended consequences as mergers and buyouts —such as InBev with Anheuser-Busch, SABMiller with Coors, or Pyramid with Magic Hat, Widmer with Redhook— conflict with existing networks and agreements.

But it's not only the breweries dancing the merger mambo. The distributors themselves have been accelerating their acquisitions in the last few years.

One such is Reyes Holdings. From Forbes.com:
Reyes Holdings distributes food and beverage products throughout North, Central and South America. The company's beer operations in California, Illinois, Virginia, and Washington D.C. comprise the largest beer distribution system in the United States [as of 2007].

Nationwide, Reyes sold the equivalent of 45.4 million cases of beer. Its boxes —its preferred term for beer brands— include SABMiller-Coors, Corona, Boston Beer, and Sierra Nevada. At 36.7 million cases, the next largest beer wholesaler is Ben E. Smith of Dallas, Texas, principally an Anheuser-Busch wholesaler. [Figures from BeverageWorld.com.]

In Maryland, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia, Reyes' wholly-owned distributorship is Premium Distributing.

Wholesalers —and many breweries— determine their sales based on case equivalents, known as CEs. Thus their sales figures include keg sales but as converted to CEs. A standard keg of 15.5 gallons yields approximately 6.85 CEs. (A barrel of beer —31 gallons— yields 13.7 CEs.)

I was alerted to the NABW convention posts by a Twitter post at beernews.org.
Caveat: I work for Select Wines, a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia.