Tuesday, March 31, 2009

5 1/2 beer blogs in Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland is blessed with five 1/2 full-time beer blogs. There may be others, but these half dozen cover the good beer scene in Maryland. They are 'what's on tap', rather than 'what's brewing'.

The first, the granddaddy of them all, is Kasper on Tap, written by Rob Kasper. Rob has been writing about beer and other things Bawlmer for the Baltimore Sun since before there was a world wide web (or a great variety of good beer, for that matter).

Next would be the granddaddy of Maryland beer, Hugh Sisson. In 1989, Sisson opened Maryland's first post-Prohibition brewpub, named, naturally, Sisson's. It was, in fact, the first brewpub in all of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia. It's now closed.

Hugh has been writing a blog for a couple of years now ... except for the fact that he hasn't posted anything in over 4 months. So, for the time being, we'll count Diary of a Brewer as 'half' a blog.

The second full-time blog would be Beer in Baltimore, hosted by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: historian, author, columnist for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and ... curmudgeon. It's beer with a bite. Mitchell is also the events coordinator for the first ever Baltimore Beer Week, 8-18 October.

Blog #3 is the Baltimore Beer Guy. Since there is no Beer Trail in Maryland, Brian's blog provides that service with a very useful useful set of guides and maps to find Maryland's beer bars, beer shops, and breweries. Kasper on Tap commends Baltimore Beer Guy for this. (Brewer's Association of Maryland: why is there no Maryland Beer Trail?)

Blog #4 belongs to Chuck Cook, a long-time contributor to Celebrator, All About Beer, Ale Street News, and other beer periodicals. By Chuck's count, he has toured Belgium 18 times. Thus his blog —Belgian Beer and Travel— is mostly about Belgium and Belgian beers. But Chuck lives in Baltimore, and, so, he qualifies.

And ... finally blogger #5, the new kid on the block, just up and running last week: Beer in Baltimore.com.

Dealing, per se, with beer in Baltimore County, this blog may soon be offering real-time posts and Twitter announcements about Baltimore-area beers on tap and for sale ... similar to what the Washington City Paper has done with Beerspotter Twitter. One quibble: this blog has unfortunately chosen a name quite similar to that of Beer in Baltimore. [UPDATE: see the comments section.]

Baltimore ... the city that drinks beer ... and proud of it, Hon!

Read more about the Chesapeake Region Alliance of Beer Bloggers (C.R.A.B.B.).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Beer lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. beer people. Look up from your morning lattes. Take out your iPod earbuds.

Some of the beer glitterati are here in town. They might be standing right there on the Metro, or sitting on the next barstool at Brasserie Beck.

They're here for the 19th Annual National Beer Wholesalers Association/Brewers Joint Legislative Conference.

NBWA/Brewers Joint Legislative ConferenceIt's four days of meetings, discussions, and lobbying ... yes, lobbying: talking with legislators about matters that adversely affect the selling of beer, including craft beer. See, lobbying isn't evil when the issues are good. Well, wait, that's what everyone says.

The following issues are on the agenda for the 2009 Legislative Conference:

  • Strengthening the State-Based Regulation of Alcohol
    Recently, special interest groups have attempted to use federal litigation [to bypass or reinterpret] the 21st Amendment.

  • Supporting Quality Jobs, Solid Wages and Good Benefits in a Free Environment
    Opposed to proposed “card check” legislation [YFGF.us disagrees and is in favor of amending antiquated labor laws.]

  • Promoting Responsibility and Sustainability
    America’s beer distributors are deeply rooted in their local communities. They work hard to fight underage drinking and drunk driving. [Everybody's jumping on the green bandwagon.] Beer distributors know the importance of using resources wisely, and energy alternatives where necessary, to leave a better community for the next generation.

  • A Tax on Working Men and Women
    In this difficult economy, the American beer consumer pays more than 40 percent of the total tax burden on beer. Nearly 50 percent of all beer in the U.S. is purchased by consumers with household incomes less than $50,000. [An inverse relationship between income and good taste?]

Budweiser loses partial rights to its name

BRUSSELS – 29 March 2009
Anheuser-Busch InBev lost a battle for the “Budweiser” name after an EU court rejected its claim to register the word as an exclusive Europe-wide trademark

Read that sentence carefully. I didn't do so upon first glance.

It does not say that Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABIB) has lost the rights to the Budweiser name and logo in Europe.In fact, where ABIB has established trademark protection already, country-by-European country, it retains those rights. Where it hasn't, however, it cannot claim the right.

What ABIB was attempting to do was to establish an exclusive right throughout the European union regardless of individual national judicial decisions. That effort was rejected by the European Court of First Instance, when it upheld a 2007 decision by the EU’s trademark agency.
U.S.-based Anheuser-Busch – now renamed Anheuser-Busch-InBev after a $52 billion takeover by Belgium’s InBev – and smaller Czech rival Budejovicky Budvar NP haggled for years over the name, once also the name of a Czech town famous for its fine beers. <...>

Budvar registered the name as a trademark in 1991 with the EU trademark agency, five years before Anheuser-Busch.

A spokesperson for ABIB stated:
the ruling did not pose problems to the company’s operations in Europe. <...> the company “owns the right” to the Budweiser and Bud trademarks in 23 of 27 EU countries and added the court ruling would not cancel the trademarks in Germany or Austria.

Much smaller Budvar retains the exclusive right to use the brand name Budweiser in France, Austria, and the Czech Republic (and a co-right with ABIB in the UK).

The patina of invincibility has been rubbed off in spots from the former mighty Anheuser-Busch.

Full story:
This Bud’s for Czech brewer
Europe denies Anheuser claim to beer name
Associated Press
March 29, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Open: Pratt Street Ale House

I ran into Bill Oliver yesterday in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, at the Pratt Street Ale House.

Bill is one of the pioneers of the Maryland craft beer movement. In 1993, he opened the Wharf Rat brewpub in downtown Baltimore —Maryland's third brewpub since Prohibition. Bill got out of the game in October 2008 selling the Wharf Rat brewpub, but retaining the original non-brewing pub in Fells Point.

The new owners closed the Wharf Rat brewpub early in 2009 for renovations. After six weeks, they've reopened it as ... the Pratt Street Ale House.

Pratt Street Ale House

It's not dramatically different, but the ol' gal does look gussied up, airier, with new paint and gloss. (The bathrooms are clean!)

There are a total of 42 taps, most downstairs in the main pub, and the remainder upstairs. About 8 of the taps seem reserved for non-house beers. Located as it is across the street from the Convention Center, the pub probably needs to offer a few industrial lagers. I did see another Maryland brewery on tap —Frederick, Maryland's Flying Dog— but nothing from Baltimore neighbor Clipper City.

I had a draft Mad Monk, a dark 4%-ish mild ale, one of my favorites from Wharf Rat days. It tasted as good as it had ... as it should have. The brewing kit from the Wharf Rat remains in operation. And handling the brewing chores is Brewer Steve Jones, retained from the Wharf Rat.

One of the new owners, Justin Dvorkin, stopped by my barstool to say hello.

He was quick to reassure me —and by extension all Baltimore real ale fans— that the missing gorgeous beer engines were to be reinstalled next week. That's good news. Cask ale was one of the hallmarks of the brewery from its inception. [UPDATE Installed! 2009.04.07]

The pub is girding itself for baseball Opening Day, Monday 13 April. The Orioles' Camden Yards is just across the street. A grand re-opening with a full menu is a few weeks away.

Clamps and Gaskets: week 12

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly wrap-upClamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of many stories and other observations which I have not posted here at Yours For Good Fermentables.com, but that, nevertheless, I find interesting or germane.

Most are concerned with beer, or wine, or whisk(e)y. Some are not. But all are brief. And most are re-posts from my Twitter account. References preceded by "@" or "via" or "#" are the names of Twitter account holders or discussion threads.

This is Week 12:
21- 28 March 2009


  • 2009.03.28
    Beer in the dark (Brooklyn Local One) was fun for Earth Hour. Glow from Palm (no need for Kindle) to read ebook helped: Cryptonomicon. Lights out/computer silence for #earthhour 2009 in northern #Virginia, USA. See you in 60. http://tinyurl.com/apsxqr

  • 2009.03.28
    Palin reveals faithless reason McCain lost the election. With friends like this ...! http://tinyurl.com/cabulq

  • 2009.03.28
    At Washingtonian.com, it's the D.C. area Burger Brackets Championship between Tallulah/Eat Bar and BLT Steakhouse. http://bit.ly/4junm

  • 2009.03.27
    How Chicago gangster Al Capone -even in death- hastened the precipitous decline of G. Heileman brewery http://tinyurl.com/d5w7f6

  • 2009.03.27
    Stephen Beaumont has a new blog to augment his World of Beers site. Strong opions, well-written. http://tinyurl.com/dl5rnl

  • 2009.03.26
    Honored to be followed by @KevinZraly. Beer folk: read his Windows on the World Wine Course. http://tinyurl.com/cquvg3

  • 2009.03.26
    A new look at Baltimore area beer. Promising a Twitter beer search function soon.http://BeerInBaltimore.com

  • 2009.03.26
    Marylanders For Better Beer & Wine Laws at Beer Bourbon & BBQ Fest April 4th at Timomium (with @WhatsToEatBmore). http://tinyurl.com/crys6c

  • 2009.03.26
    Change of address form. The Brewer's Association of Maryland is now at http://marylandbeer.org

  • 2009.03.26
    Scottish Parliament debates minimum alcohol pricing. Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)says vital to the survival of pubs.http://tinyurl.com/dxfrdz

  • 2009.03.25
    As of 12 May 2009, Utah homebrewers will no longer be criminals. via @CharliePapazian

  • 2009.03.25
    Baltimore, Md. to get 'Dyanamo Hummer' from Vilnius, Lithuania. A statue of Frank Zappa for Fell's Point.http://tinyurl.com/cwkvsr

  • 2009.03.25
    Obama gets snippy with CNN reporter, says he, Obama "likes to know what he's talking about" before he speaks. http://tinyurl.com/dckq3c

  • 2009.03.25
    Washington Post Beer Madness championship final pairing announced. DC local beers lose. http://tinyurl.com/d2bfsh

  • 2009.03.25
    Nominees for the DC Rammy awards -Best Restaurants. http://tinyurl.com/cozjnm

  • 2009.03.25
    Homeland Security demands barrier against potential terrorists at brewpub. http://tinyurl.com/c5k3ug

  • 2009.03.24
    Twitter "is fast becoming an essential component of any marketing campaign"; wine latches on.http://tinyurl.com/cs4eq2

  • 2009.03.24
    Overall radio listenership down but NOT for National Public Radio: up 9%. Revenue, however, $8 million in the hole.http://tinyurl.com/d79qzd

  • 2009.03.24
    Found: strong link between red meat and a substantial risk of early mortality. Fish, poultry, vegetarian not so. http://tinyurl.com/c7gowb

  • 2009.03.24
    DC blogger Mike Licht gets NY Times mention for his Notions Capital mention of Food Blogs. http://tinyurl.com/cgx7nc

  • 2009.03.23
    Readability' app makes web articles, well, readable and uncluttered. Try it! Tip via @maureenogle. http://tinyurl.com/dffdjn

  • 2009.03.23
    Moderate beer/wine drinking promotes bone density; still thought a cancer risk. http://tinyurl.com/c24z6g
The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Care and feeding of wooden barrels

Reading beer history, one notes that in the days before stainless steel brewers would assiduously avoid the leaching of wood flavor into their beers. They would line their barrels with various substances, pitch being one. Wood was the vessel, not the flavoring. (Many exceptions, of course, such as sour beers, staled beers, etc.)

But it's the opposite now.

Brewers today — especially smaller scale, so-called 'craft brewers— will often court and deliberately encourage the flavor of oak. Since no US breweries have paid coopers on staff, they purchase used their barrels from bourbon or other whisk(e)y distillers. Beers aged in these oak barrels (53 US gallons) will gain a spirits flavor (and possibly even some alcohol).

Then, there's the issue of spoilage. Bacteria and yeast are lurking everywhere; they adore the crevices of wooden barrels and any sugars they might find within.

bourbon_brettanonyces_beer barrel

I asked the past production manager of a large mid-Atlantic brewery (now closed) what he and his brewers had done to care for and 'feed' their wooden barrels.
At *******, we always used fresh barrels, so there was no need for much care or sanitizing.

In a 'fresh' bourbon barrel (just recently emptied) the staves would be moist and the bung still in place holding some residual pressure.

If a barrel had dried out, we would rehydrate it with water. It might take a few days for the staves to swell up, so we would just kept topping off until the barrel sealed.

On the occasion when we did reuse barrels, we would rinse and fill with hot water for cleaning and sanitizing.

We tried to keep things simple at *******.

And final use?

Pushing up pansies.

Happy pansies?

Friday, March 27, 2009

How an apple made me an Anorak.

It's been 6 years —that is, since October 2003— that real English cider has been available in cask in the US.

We are are talking Real Cider, folks, not carbonated flavored alcohol with apple juice added, as can be the case with many commercial so-called ciders. Real Cider, instead, is wine, fermented 100% from apples. From the Real Cider website, Real Cider is:

  • Cider is made by fermenting the juice of apples.
  • 100% fermented apple juice, with nothing added and nothing taken away.
  • Any bottled or draught cider that contains live yeast.
  • Cider that has not been pasteurised, carbonated, or concentrated.
  • Locally sourced apples, pressed and fermented using traditonal cider production methods.
  • Cider varies in alcohol content from less than 3% ABV in French cidre, up to 8.5% ABV in traditional English ciders.
  • All real cider is suitable for a vegan and wheat free diet.
  • Most cider is produced from a ‘blend’ of different apples; you can also get ‘single’ variety ciders.
Here's what the organization has to say about mass-produced apple-flavored beverages:
Instead of being made from all juice as a true cider would be, they’re made with a little bit of apple juice and a bunch of sugar-water. Mass produced cider sold in the UK is mostly made from imported apple concentrate,artificial colourings, sweeteners, and preservatives are added to make up for the apple character that isn’t there. The liquid is then filtered, pasteurised to kill the yeast, and kept and served under carbon dioxide pressure.
Gwatkin Yarlington Cask Cider
I visited Rustico Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, to try Gwatkin Yarlington cider. As it turns out, the only two outlets in the mid-Atlantic region to have this are Rustico and Max's TapHouse in Baltimore, Md. Not much was exported; so visit soon. (Rustico's is on cask now; Max's not yet, but soon.)

Yarlington is the apple varietal; Gwatkin is the winery, err, cidery. After apple harvest and pressing, the cider is fermented with the yeasts resident on the skins and is aged in oak barrels that had previously been used by Scotch whisky distillers for their liquid.

In appearance, the cider is cloudy and red/orange. Think of an aroma like Red Delicious apples, but with the flavor showing the full promise of that aroma. Toss in phenolic overtones —band-aids, in a good way. Then a burst of barnyard earthiness, oak, and what could best be described as liquid apple skins. The finish is a puckering combination of acidity and tannins, like chewing on an apple stem. It packs a sneaky kick: 7.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv).

The cider is only available in cask, not in bottles. In this case, the cask is merely a vessel: the cider is not cask-conditioned. It is racked still —that is non-carbonated— from an oaken whisky barrel into a stainless steel cask. (Serving it in a keg would add artificial carbonation, detracting from the flavor.)

By the way, an anorak is a hooded windbreaker popular in the UK. The word is also used as a reference to bird watchers, trainspotters, and beer tickers, many of whom wear anoraks. In another word: a geek. Today, I am indeed a Cider Anorak, blogging this post.

Blogging about cider ***************

  • More information is available at the importer's (B. United) website.
  • Mor information on real Cider at the Real Cider website, based in the UK.
  • Here's how a brewpub in Savannah, Georgia makes its cider (and addresses the topic of the taxation of cider vs. beer.)


The poetry of Michael Jackson: book review

In the summer of 2007, British pub rock crooner Nick Lowe appeared on The David Letterman Show promoting his delightfully sardonic coming-of-AARP-age album At My Age.

Letterman introduced him not by holding up to the camera Lowe's compact disc but the cover of his LP record. Letterman quipped, "You'll need a really, really big CD player to hear this disc."

There may have been some watching who 'got' the gag. But there were in fact many of a certain age who would not have known what an LP record even was.

Little more than a month after the release of that album, Michael Jackson, the beer and whisky writer, and Lowe's fellow citizen of the United Kingdom, died.

Since that time —a short year and a half later— many drinkers haveonly just discovered the beauties of good beer. But, as with the non-relationship of those music fans with vinyl records, many of these new good beer discoverers may never have heard of Mr. Jackson (except if confusing him with the pop singer); and many of these may never have read his books.

Their numbers will only swell as the years move on.

Why should they get to know Michael Jackson?

A fellow wine and beer salesman recently said to me: "I don't know. It's only beer." Almost as if anticipating the comment, the Beer Hunter, as Michael Jackson was known, wrote this reply thirty plus years earlier:

A man who doesn’t care about the beer he drinks may as well not care about the bread he eats. Beer may have been man’s staple diet before bread was invented, and these two staffs of life are as comparable as they are closely related.

Today, 27 March would have been Michael Jackson's 67th birthday. In his honor, there are international toasts planned in Chicago with Lucy Saunders (The BeerCook) and Julie Johnson (All About Beer), at International Whisky Week in the Netherlands with Carol Smagalski (The Beer Fox), and in London with Ian Buxton (Classic Expressions). Two more are scheduled afterward: in Vienna with Conrad Seidl at WhiskyWeisse on 3/29 and with John Hansell (Malt Advocate) at WhiskyFest on 4/1 in Chicago.

Tonight's Chicago event is also the release party for a new book written in Jackson's honor. As reported by Lucy Saunders at The Best of American Beer and Food:
fans of legendary beer writer Michael Jackson will gather in Chicago to toast the anniversary of his birth, on March 27, and celebrate the launch of a new book of essays entitled Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser. The party begins at Delilah’s, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, at 4 PM, and the toast to Michael Jackson will be at 7 PM CST.

Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser


The book is the brainchild of Ian Buxton, past Group Marketing Director of The Glenmorangie Distillery Co, and creator of the Whiskipedia. He asked for and received contributions from a dozen writers: Stephen Beaumont, Julie Bradford, Dave Broom, John Hansell, Charles MacLean, Hans Offringa, F. Paul Pacult, Roger Protz, Lucy Saunders, Conrad Seidl, Gavin D. Smith, and Carolyn Smagalski.

Except for one piece, all the contributions are of beer and whisky rather than about Michael Jackson specifically. And this may be as Jackson would have wanted such a project: not sycophantic or morbid, but of good writing about the drink he loved and respected. As Ian Buxton wrote in his introduction to Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser (a pun Jackson might have appreciated):
Michael was was not the first writer on either beer or whisky; arguably, he was not the finest, but he was indisputably the most influential.

Lucy Saunders contributed a piece about the evolution of cooking with beer. Dutch author Hans Offringa composed an original short story for the book. And Carolyn Smagalski has written the exception in the book: a gorgeous and personal recollection of Michael, her personal Michael.
All too soon, the White Rose of Yorkshire segued into his next rite of passage.
Our lips lay parched, and we thirst for more.

Yesterday, a bartender asked me what he should read to learn more about beer.

"Anything by Michael Jackson," I answered without hesitation. "Others write words; Michael Jackson wrote poetry."
"Do you ever drink wine?" people ask me, as though beer were a poison rather than a playground. A day may pass when I do not drink wine, but never a week. Whatever is argued about other pleasures, it is not necessary to be monogamous in the choice of drink. Beer is by far the more extensively consumed, but less adequately honored. In a small way, I want to help put right that injustice."
—Michael Jackson
27 March 1942 - 30 August 2007

Jackson was suffering from Parkinson's Disease at his death. The Parkinson's Disease Society in the UK is a beneficiary of the proceeds from the sale of the book.

UPDATES:
1) Lucy Saunders reports from the Chicago observance that "we had an excellent time - lots of toasting - and the folks at
beerables.net sold books which Julie Johnson and I signed - fun and a good benefit for Parkinson's. The London launch party has a video posted at singlemalt.tv".

2) The book's editor Ian Buxton comments, below.

3) Carolyn Smagalski's (aka The Beer Fox) review: here

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bawlmer Beer Week's brand

Baltimore Beer Week has unveiled its brand spanking new logo.

Baltimore Beer WeekThe brainchild of longtime Baltimore beer maven Joe Gold (who is the event's chair), Baltimore Beer Week is itself brand spanking new, having just caught the national wave of 'beer weeks' begun last year in Philadelphia, Pa.

Baltimore Beer Week will actually be 11 days (no Bawlmer math jokes, please), beginning the 8th of October with a ceremonial keg tapping (to be announced) and concluding on the 18th. Sandwiched between are the already scheduled Brewer's Association of Maryland (BAM) Oktoberfest and the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival of the Society for the Preservation of Beer From the Wood (SPBW).

Baltimore Beer Week will sing the praises of the region’s strong brewing culture, said Joe Gold, one of the organizers of the event. "We’ve got a rich history of brewing, a strong crop of brewers, and legions of knowledgeable beer drinkers here," Gold said. "When it comes to love of beer, Baltimore takes a back seat to no one," added Dominic Cantalupo, a Baltimore Beer Week organizer who as a boy carried a bucket of beer from a neighborhood tavern to his grandmother’s row home.

Baltimore Beer Week takes shape
Rob Kasper
BaltimoreSun.com
25 March 2009

Is Baltimore such a beer town? I believe it is, and wrote so in 2003 for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. The Washington, DC area: not so much.

But Baltimore will have big shoes (or would that be growlers) to fill: Philadelphia's.

Philly Beer Week 2009 has come and gone. It was, by all accounts, an even 'rousing-er' success than its inaugural year in 2008.
Philly Beer Week 2009I appreciate the iconic simplicity of its logo (despite the boastful caption). The website was very informative and kept up-to-date, and included Web 2.0 links to Twitter and Facebook.

I'm no graphic artist and don't even play one on-line. So, now that Baltimore Beer Week has content at its website (www.BaltimoreBeerWeek.com) and its new logo, I'm happy to retire my graphic that I've been displaying here at Yours For Good Fermentables.com.
NOT the logo for Baltimore Beer Week
BALTIMORE BEER WEEK
October 8-18, 2009
  • Initial announcement post for Baltimore Beer Week here.
  • Editor's nitpick: Despite the solitary implication of its name, the Brewer's Association of Mayland is comprised of many active breweries and brewpubs in the state. Properly placing the apostrophe would yield: Brewers' Association.
Beer Haiku Daily has posted an apt verse with which to close:
Baltimore Beer Week?
Isn’t that every week?
OK. Bring it on!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Terrorists target beer?

Years ago, at a brewpub under construction, I discovered that workers had been helping themselves to freshly fermenting beer from the tanks.

A local bartender informed me that some of the sub-contractors had been telling folks that the brewpub was in grave danger from "exploding yeasts". It may have been the intestinal difficulties they were suffering from all that yeast in the fermenting beer.

I immediately put locks on the sample valves.

Zwickel condensation


Yesterday, the Brookston Beer Bulletin published this —it would be hilarious if it weren't true— story.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has required start-up brewpub Creekside Brewing in San Luis Obispo, California to build an anti-terrorist barrier around its tanks. Talk about exploding beer!

Over a decade ago, a different governmental agency deemed beer a flammable substance. Read here how the Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland managed to avoid the prohibitive cost of retrofitting all of its tanks with asbestos.

Buy a bureaucrat a beer. Take his mind of these inflammatory problems.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beer boosts bones

This just in from the it's bad for you, it's good for you department: a study indicates that the moderate intake of beer (and to a lesser extent, wine) improves bone density.

The bad news comes from another recent study which reports that even moderate consumption may increase the risk of breast cancer in women.

The effect of alcohol on bone mineral density (BMD) that [Dr. Katherine Tucker of Boston's Tufts University] and her colleagues saw was "larger that what we see for any single nutrient, even for calcium. It's not ambiguous. It's very clear."

Dr. Tucker continues:
"It is very confusing for because alcohol has such diverse effects on different things." For example, while drinking may prevent heart disease, it increases breast cancer risk.

Moderate drinking may help build bone density

Ann Harding
Reuters
Mar 20, 2009

The researchers believe a causative factor to be the high silicon content of beer, more so in beer than in wine. Necessary for good bone health, silicon has become less prevalent in modern diets than it once was.

Distilled spirits were found to provide the least gain.

More on beer and health here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mild! but vigorous research: book review

I've seen the beer press describe Lagunitas Brewing's tasty Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale as an

oxymoronic 'Imperial Mild'

Hmm. Why? What is a Mild ale?

The US Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) defines Mild as:
Appearance: Copper to dark brown or mahogany color. <...>

Flavor: Generally a malty beer, although may have a very wide range of malt- and yeast-based flavors (e.g., malty, sweet, caramel, toffee, toast, nutty, chocolate, coffee, roast, vinous, fruit, licorice, molasses, plum, raisin). Can finish sweet or dry. <...>

Comments: Most are low-gravity session beers in the range 3.1-3.8% <...>

History: May have evolved as one of the elements of early porters.

British beer blogger and author Ron Pattinson disagrees ... sort of.

As discussed before on this blog and others, beer styles are funny things. A discussion of what Mild Ale is might be be more useful if the discussion included when.

Thus, if historical accuracy is to be our guide, in his new book simply entitled Mild!, Pattinson has contradicted the current BJCP description:
[In the 18th century] A further method of classifying malt liquors was their age. Ones sold young were described as Mild. Ones that had been aged were called Keeping or Stale.

<...>None of the beers described as Mild Ale at this time has any but the slightest similarity with modern Mild.

Mild!
That is, the term Mild has historically been a description of the level of conditioning. It was a procedure, not a style, and it was defiantly not a low alcohol beer.

For most of its history Mild wasn't a weak beer. In Victorian times, X Ales [the brewery codes for Mild] were brewed to a wide range of strengths. Even the weak, plain old X, was 1055° [degrees Plato, a measure of brewing sugar present before fermentation] or more. The strongest, XXX or XXXX, had OGs [original gravities, that is, the pre-fermentation sugar levels] as high as 1105°.

Futhermore:
Some writers [e.g., the BJCP, the American Homebrew Association, and Dave Satula in his Brewers Association book Mild Ale] maintain that, rather than disappearing, Porter was transformed into Dark Mild. <...> The theory is bullocks. <...> Dark Mild and Porter existed alongside each other for decades and were brewed from very different grists. I think this torpedoes the Porter becomes Dark Mild theory

Mild Ales became generally darker as the 19th century ended. And their strengths began to gradually decline. Mild's final, unkind, switch to very low alcohol dark beers (with some exceptions) occurred due to the deprivations (including taxes) of World War I and the Great Depression.
Gravity cuts and cost increases. War, as they say, is hell.

Myths about beer abound, achieving imprimatur through repetition and publication. In his Mild! —rather than being complicit— Ron Pattinson has researched the original brewing records of the breweries that were actually brewing Mild Ales. Assembled from posts that originally appeared at his blog —Shut Up About Barclay Perkins— this slim book packs a historical wallop.

I don't believe that Pattinson had heard of Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale (or its description) when he wrote this:
How would I describe one of these strong Milds? Obvious if you think about it: Imperial Mild. I'm sure that will go down well in the US.

Me, I'm holding out for an Imperial Session beer: a very strong, —yet only 3.8% alcohol by volume— freshly casked mild. That would be droll.

Mild!
by Ron Pattinson, 2009
68 pages
available as ebook or bound copy via links at Ron Pattinson's blog
Shut Up About Barclay Perkins

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pop goes the patella

Early Friday evening, I had just finished sharing a delicious bowl of roasted garlic cloves and olives, washing it down with Troegs Nugget Nectar (think cantaloupe melon and lots of grapefruity hops), when ...

Hops and garlic

... when a random act of real life interfered with the routine of a beerman.

I stood up and I took a couple of steps. Out went the kneecap. And down went I.

Ouch!

Many, many, many thanks to the wonderful staff (and customers) of Fireworks Pizza in Leesburg, Virginia, who gave me much needed assistance.

Dashed as my dreams of gridiron glory now may be, when it comes to pontificating on beer, I still retain one good leg upon which to stand.

So, do not try this at home —popping the patella, that is. The beer with the garlic and olives —on the other hand— do try.

[UPDATE 2009.04.02: I returned, uneventfully, to Fireworks for a tapping of a cask of Flying Dog Brewing's Snake Dog IPA.]

Clamps and Gaskets: week 11

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly wrap-upClamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of many stories and other observations which I did not post here at Yours For Good Fermentables.com, but that I find interesting or germane.

Most are concerned with beer, or wine, or whisk(e)y. Some are not. But all are brief. And most are re-posts from my Twitter account.

This is Week 11:
14-21 March 2009


  • 2009.03.21
    19th Century euphemism for pilfering beer: sucking the monkey. http://tinyurl.com/cld732

  • 2009.03.20
    Jenna Bush's Secret Service limo was towed from outside her Federal Hill home: http://is.gd/oeHD via @baltimoresun

  • 2009.03.20
    Happy Spring 2009! Today's Vernal Equinox sunrise at Flying Dog Brewing in Frederick, MD. via @jcperro: http://twitpic.com/29v7i

  • 2009.03.19
    Great to see another DC area brewery on Twitter. The guys at Capitol City have just tapped their Imperial Stout. via @CapCityBrewers

  • 2009.03.19
    BEER HUNTER, WHISKY CHASER: to be released 27 March -Michael Jackson's birthday- to fund Parkinsons research. http://tinyurl.com/cbzxuj

  • 2009.03.18
    Freshness counts. 4 finalists in Washington Post Beer Madness: all East Coast. http://tinyurl.com/c7su4p

  • 2009.03.18
    While contemplating your hangover this morning, ponder who was St. Patrick? http://tinyurl.com/cvlxbf

  • 2009.03.18
    The 12 'official' American beer styles ... from 1987. http://tinyurl.com/cm9smt

  • 2009.03.17
    The FIVE British beer styles. http://tinyurl.com/cw3wn4

  • 2009.03.16
    Baltimore's historic SENATOR FORCED TO CLOSE - http://tinyurl.com/ceek68 [end to 1st run films]

  • 2009.03.16
    1st Annual Clipper City Brewing Beer, Cheese, and Chili Festival - Mar 28 at the brewery just south of Baltimore, Md. http://www.ccbeer.com

  • 2009.03.15
    Bavarian inflation: "Koeniglichbayerischeroberbiersteuerhaupteinkassierer": past title of Bavarian beer-tax collector. Happyhourguys.com

  • 2009.03.15
    British brewery Marston's calls real ale fans: "beardie weirdies, sandal-clad, whisker-stroking stormtroopers." http://tinyurl.com/b5trp9

  • 2009.03.15
    The difference between Porter and Stout (from 1900). http://tinyurl.com/bv9qfe

  • 2009.03.14
    National Cask Week in the UK (6-13 April) is pushing a younger demographic than cask ale in general. Any US pubs in? http://bit.ly/kT6C9

  • 2009.03.14
    The Utah Senate has killed a measure to allow sales of draft beer stronger than 4% alcohol/volume (3.2% /weight). http://tinyurl.com/ckuo7d

  • 2009.03.14
    First Book World; now Business Section cut in Washington Post, absorbed into A section. Stocks to 1/2 page. http://tinyurl.com/ak8b5s

  • 2009.03.14
    Interesting post about beer and elitism: 'intellectualizing' beer. Is craft beer 'working-class' anymore? http://tinyurl.com/c52w8f
References preceded by "@" or "via" or "#" are the names of Twitter account holders. The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A vernal cause for celebration

Like a panoramic vadic painting, this early evening cloud formation of 19 March seemed to promise change.

Big cloud formation

Reveling in the anticipation last evening, I drank a pint of draft Aecht Schenkerla Rauchbier Fastenbier.

Brewed by Brauerei Heller-Trum of Bavaria —and only for the Lenten season— Fastenbier is deep reddish brown, sweetly malty, and redolent of smoked bacon. The term Rauchbier is German for smoked beer: beers brewed with malted barley that has been cured with indirect smoke.

Truth in blogging: I had 2 pints.

At 7:44 this morning (US Eastern Daylight Savings Time), the sun lay directly above the equator, marking the Vernal Equinox, and the beginning of calendar (if not meteorological) Spring. The duration of daylight today will be approximately equal to that of darkness.

Spring has jumped up, and that is indeed cause for celebration ... and a beer.

2009 Vernal Equinox sunrise at Flying Dog Brewery
2009 Vernal Equinox sunrise at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Md.

Caveat lector: I sell Flying Dog beers as an employee of northern Virginia wholesaler Select Wines.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Something new in beer spoilage genomics

The headline reads:


But the story is short on particulars, possibly because of future patents.
Haakensen has helped discover three new methods of detecting beer-spoiling bacteria, including a DNA-based technique, that has big breweries around the globe hoisting pints in celebration.<...>

"What we've done here is, by using DNA methods, we can actually figure out in a matter of one to two days if that beer will spoil," Haakensen says.

And it's not necessarily accurate:
Breweries usually have to keep batches of beer for two to three months to make sure they haven't spoiled before cases are shipped out on trucks to liquor stores, says Haakensen.

Well, not quite.

During and after production, brewery quality control technicians at better funded breweries will examine beer for microbial contaminants, utilizing microscopes, petri dishes, and the like.

A small amount of bottled and/or kegged beer may also be kept on-premise and tested for stability and flavor over a period of days, weeks, months, maybe even years.

But most of the beer will be shipped as soon as it's ready. Freshness counts. Money speaks.

I was alerted to this story by Bryce Eddings at About.com

Communism, the Civil War, and St. Louis beer

Although it's written in an overwrought style, this is an interesting look at the beginnings of St. Louis as a brewing center of the US. Here are some excerpts:


Budweiser’s maker, Anheuser-Busch had roots in St. Louis that went back before the Civil War. <...>


St. Louis in the 1850s was a raw river town situated where the Missouri River and the broad Mississippi met. It was a frontier town in many ways and the jumping off point. It was the “end of the line” for civilization. But it was also one of the first American industrial cities, with one of the heaviest concentration of of factory workers in the country. And these workers were not native-born Americans.

A great many of them came straight from Germany. <...> And, at the same time, surrounding this heavily left wing, working class, German-speaking city was a countryside filled with some of the most ugly, racist, pro-slavery forces in the U.S. <..>

the German workers arrived as beer drinkers and quite a few of them were first class brewers. There were some Irish among the workers, and they too were fans of the Germans’ sudsy “liquid bread.”

Before long St. Louis was peppered with huge German beer halls, where the often lonely immigrants found community and a feeling of home. For reasons I haven’t yet uncovered, the reactionary political forces of Missouri territory were anti-beer. <...>

St. Louis has a major strategic importance for the [Civil] war: It was the major anti-slavery center on the Mississippi. <..>as war broke out, all sides prepared to seize St. Louis by force. And if it had fallen <...> it would have been quite hard for the Union’s armies to gain a foothold on the Mississippi <...>

On the surface, the politics of St. Louis did not look promising. After 1860, the new governor Claiborne Fox Jackson was clearly a pro-slavery diehard <...>

the German workers started to prepare for battle. Led by veterans of the 1848 Revolutions, they started to secretly train themselves in discipline and military tactics. Their plan: to rise up against the state government in armed insurrection, to seize the armory, and defeat the governor’s army.

Where did they do their drills? In the cavernous beer halls of St. Louis. <...>

Led by heroic army officer Nathaniel Lyons the anti-slavery forces struck and struck hard. They seized St. Louis and the armory. <...> They routed the Governor’s troops in the early battles.
Go to the entire piece here.

WARNING
: The link leads to you to a story which is posted on the Kasama website, a self-acknowledged Communist project. In Tagalog, a language of the Phillipines, "kasama" means comrade your companion traveling the long road with you. In the 20th century, Communist Party sympathizers were known as "fellow travelers."

I feel abashed in feeling that I must state this, but: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party, nor an adherent to its principles. This story was sent to me as a look at early US beer history, especially in light of the 2008 sale of American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch to an international conglomerate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

May your beer be cold,
May your love be hot,
May your day be temperate.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Miller Lite, Sam Adams, and Happy Hops

We triple hops brew Miller Lite.

Triple hops Miller Lite?
This is SABMiller's new promotion for Miller Lite. But why?

Hops, in case you've wondered, are herbs, flavoring agents like basil, parsley, or oregano. Hops are not found much in food, but are a common aromatic ingredient in beer.

Additionally, just as the acidity of lemons 'balance' the residual sweetness in lemonade, so do the alpha acids in hops add 'balancing structure' to the residual sweetness in beer, which in light beer is almost nil. A surfeit of hops yields a bitter finish; a deficit of hops, an insipid or sweet finish; just right, a balance and 'dryness'.

That being said, Miller Lite doesn't show much of an herbal character or finishing bitterness. It is, in fact, touted as being 'smooth', that is, not bitter.

There may indeed be three hops added into the kettle and fermenter; or the process may occur three times, or whatever. But the amount of hops is not triple some prodigious quantity. Rather, an inverse ratio might be the reality.

SABMiller runs the risk of fooling buyers into believing that it has changed the recipe for Lite (as Anheuser-Busch InBev has indeed done with its beers). And if drinkers do think that Lite tastes different, the sales consequences could be disastrous.

Contrast that advertisement with this one from Boston Beer Company, maker of the Samuel Adams line of beers.

Its motif —the employees' jobs are constant happy lifestyles rather than factory drudgery— might stretch credulity .... but one wants to believe.

After all, they are making beer.



P.S. Comparing the flavor of Miller Lite to that of a Pilsner is like comparing a veggie patty to a prime rib.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Clamps and Gaskets: week 10

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly wrap-up

Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of many worthwhile stories and other observations which I have not posted here at Yours For Good Fermentables.com.

Most of the items are concerned with beer, or wine, or whisky. Some are not. But all are brief. And most are re-posts from my Twitter account.

Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories and other observations which I have not posted here at YFGF.

Most concern beer, or wine. Some do not. All are brief. And, most are re-posts from my Twitter account.

This is the inaugural wrap-up: Week 10.

  • 2009.03.14
    2003 US organic beer sales totaled $9 million. In 2006 to $25 million. In 2008 ?
    http://bit.ly/fk3t

  • 2009.03.13
    Jack Curtin: Lunch with Fritz Maytag [guru of Anchor Brewing who has things to say about 'beer styles'] http://jackcurtin.com/ldo/?p=771

  • 2009.03.12
    Cicerone.org: Research finds taste bud proteins sensitive to metal. Good beer from a can still tastes fine! http://tinyurl.com/c5gxxh

  • 2009.03.11
    Just overheard at a bar.... Give me a beer. I've given up rum for Lent.

  • 2009.03.11
    Washington Post Beer Madness winnows field to 8 beers, including Bud American Ale. http://tinyurl.com/bgalss

  • 2009.03.10
    It's the r word: IMF chief warns world entering 'Great Recession'. Time for a beer. http://tinyurl.com/aojj37

  • 2009.03.10
    More cooking with beer: ale-braised red cabbage. Had some yummy seitan patties too. Will blog about the beer soon.http://eatair.blogspot.com/2009/03/cooking-with-beer.html

  • 2009.03.10
    listening to Rob Pegoraro: the future of the book and ebook on Kojo Nnamdi's show noon to 1 p.m. http://wamu.org

  • 2009.03.10
    Barnes & Noble has purchased Fictionwise: ebooks that predate Amazon's Kindle and don't require $$ hardware. http://tinyurl.com/b6treb

  • 2009.03.10
    There's a report out that Anheuser-Busch InBev has indeed begun to alter Bud's recipes. http://bit.ly/jlLKX

  • 2009.03.09
    US bottled water company Aquamantra introduces 100% biodegradable plastic bottle. http://tinyurl.com/d95pka

  • 2009.03.09
    wusa9: Gov Kaine to sign Virginia restaurant smoking ban bill today. Does not take effect until December. http://tinyurl.com/a2znk9

  • 2009.03.09
    Oregon proposes a 1900% tax increase on beer.... that's 38 TIMES more than it is now. http://tinyurl.com/9bnla8

  • 2009.03.09
    Having trouble paying bills? Scoff at them ... just like Anheuser-Busch InBev. http://tinyurl.com/csthgc

  • 2009.03.08
    "Giving up drinking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times." -- Mark Twain [HappyHourGuys.com]

  • 2009.03.08
    When a little is more than enough. Session Beer Project. http://tinyurl.com/dbc7yo

  • 2009.03.08
    Flying Dog ranked top alcohol beverage brand on Twitter. http://tinyurl.com/dkx4ef

  • 2009.03.08
    Customer service might have helped. All Circuit Citys will close for good at end of business today. http://tinyurl.com/ag6f4v

  • 2009.03.08
    Reason #93 for Twittering. If Daniel Schorr can do it, so can I!

  • 2009.03.08
    Asheville, North Carolina breweries form a guild. http://tinyurl.com/apb39o
Any references preceded by "@" or "via" or "#" are the names of Twitter account holders. The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Brewers Ball 2009

Rock Bottom BrewingThe 4th annual Brewers Ball was held in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, 7 March 2009, to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Some 16 breweries, and many of their brewers, participated.

The event raised $222,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to fund research, care, and education programs.

Ever the beer paparazzo, I snapped a few photographs. That's Chris Rafferty, head brewer of Rock Bottom Brewery, Ballston, Virginia.

The full list:

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev
  • Capitol City Brewing Company
  • Clipper City Brewing Company
  • District Chophouse & Brewery
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • Dominion/Fordham (Coastal Brewing)
  • Flying Dog Brewery
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
  • Hook & Ladder Brewing Company
  • Hops Grill & Brewery
  • Rock Bottom Brewery
  • Starr Hill Brewery
  • Sweetwater Tavern
  • Tuppers Hop Pocket Brewing Company
  • Williamsburg AleWerks
  • Woodchuck Cider

Friday, March 13, 2009

How to use Twitter to spot DC beers

Warning #1: tech geek alert.
Warning #2: Washington, D.C. area beer geek alert.

Say you're sitting in Mahaffeys Pub (Baltimore, Md.), or Olney Ale House (Montgomery County, Md.), or RFD (Washington, D.C.), or the Fredericksburg Pub (Fredericksburg, Va.), or any good beer bar in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore/northern Virginia area. You see Bells Hop Slam on draft, or Terrapin Rye Squared in Annapolis, or a firkin of Flying Dog Snake Dog just tapped, or something else unique or delicious.

So you Tweet —that is post to the Twitter website— your beer discovery. Maybe one person (or persons) notices it and reTweets your message, and then someone else reTweets that, and so on. The network could easily balloon, alerting many DC/Baltimore/northern Virginia area good beer lovers to your discovery.

Facebook vs. Twitter

Where Facebook is exclusionary —you must invite or allow people to see your page— Twitter is inclusionary —anyone can see your posts, unless you exclude them. A Tweet, therefore, is the equivalent of one text message sent to many people.

So, step one on your road to beer/tech geekdom would be to open a Twitter account. It's free.

Lambic and Twitter

Then, go one step further.

UPDATE 2013: Things change; tech things change quickly. Mr Shtuhl no longer is an active reporter of the DC beer scene. Better to search Twitter using the hash tags #DCbrews and #DCbeer; and for Maryland, #MDbeer; for Virginia, #VAbeer.

Orr Shtuhl, a beer writer for the Washington City Paper, has created a Twitter account called beerspotter.

When you Tweet your beer discovery, begin it with "@beerspotter" without the quotation marks (or at any point in your 140 character Tweet). Orr then re-posts all those Tweets in real time, in one place, at twitter.com/beerspotter.

To read all the beerspottings, use Twitter search for "@beerspotter" or "beerspotter" or follow@beerspotter through Twitter. (See how in the next paragraph.)


If you're still with me ...

At your Twitter account, search for "beerspotter" (without the quotation marks). Once you find it, look for the box entitled "Follow" (that is, receive all his Tweets) and click it. You can even choose to follow beerspotter on your cell phone. (That's a bit more involved. Look for "Settings", then "Devices", and follow the instructions.)

Now, the magic begins.

Whenever a fellow DC good beer fan Tweets about his/her find at a local bar or store, you'll be notified at your Twitter web page, and as a text message on your cell phone. All of this is easier than it sounds.

Even without a Twitter account

You can see all the postings of beer discoveries simplyby going to beerspotter's Twitter page: twitter.com/beerspotter. All the postings also appear on the City Paper website at washingtoncitypaper.com/food .
Beerspotter could be a model for any other city or region.


A few recent beerspotter Tweets:
  • flyingdog: RT @beerspotter: via @Cizauskas: Flying Dog Garde Dog just put on tap at Evening Star Cafe in Alexandria, VA.
  • beerspotter: via @angryJohnny: Southern Tier Oaked Unearthly Imperial IPA & Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout on tap at Galaxy Hut, 2711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
  • beerspotter: via @beerandpork: Bell's Porter and Gouden Carolus D'Or at Nanny O'Briens
Warning #3: even geekier alert.

Orr Shtuhl is using GroupTweet. So when you post a beer spotting, you should Tweet it to Beerspotter only as a Direct Message and without hashmarks such as @beerspotter or
#beerspotter.  Read more at: Join the Beerspotter Twitter Feed Army.


Read more about Twitter:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sex change for beer?

Similar to other revolutions, the craft beer movement has espoused creative change, but has limited inclusion. Leaving aside the overwhelming Caucasian nature of the industry, gender-wise, at least, things may be changing. Slowly, yet gaining momentum.

At his Beer Examiner blog, homebrew guru Charlie Papazian has given a shout out to The Pink Boots Society.
Pink Boots Society

It’s a dynamic organization that was “Formed to inspire, encourage and empower women to become professionals in the Beer Industry.” Based out of Portland, Oregon the organization will be over 200 members and celebrating their first anniversary this April.

Inspired by brewer Teri Fahrendorf's 2007 cross-country trip of thanks and discovery, the Pink Boots Society is open to all women connected to the craft, art, and business of good beer. Not only brewers.
WHO IS THE PINK BOOTS SOCIETY?

We are the female movers and shakers in the beer industry. We get the beer brewed and fermented with the highest possible quality. We also own breweries, package the beer, design beers, serve beers, write about beer, and cover just about any aspect of beer, and we are all women.

The Society will be meeting at the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston in April. In addition, several members will be delivering presentations to the conference.
  • Jamie Martin - "Things Every Brewer or Future Brewery Owner Should Know But Doesn't."
  • Ginger Johnson - "Where's the Other 50%?: Developing and Serving the Female Craft Beer Enthusiast Market."
  • Julia Herz - "What's Up in the Craft Beer Segment."
  • Sebbie Buhler, moderator - "Beer According to Women: How Women Brew, Present, Pair, and Sell Beer (Yes, Gender Matters). Candice Alstrom, Teri Fahrendorf, and Jodi Andrews Stoudt
In a manner, the efforts of The Pink Boots Society could be considered a return to the way things were in the past.
In the Middle Ages, beer and brewing settles into the familiar premodern pattern. Much brewing is performed on a domestic scale by women called alewives [at least in the British Isles], and it is a reliable source of income

Tasting Beer
Randy Mosher
Storey Publishing, 2009

... And then men went and industrialized beer! Go here for more details on The Pink Boots Society.

Some beer blogs not from the male point of view (and another post from me):

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

6 casks, 3 hours, all gone

6:15 pm
To Rustico Restaurant in Alexandria, Va. for March Madness: 6 casks in 3 hours. Parking lot full. Found spot 5 blocks away.

Crowded for Casks

6:25 pm
Bells Hopslam cask gone already in 22 minutes.

6:30 pm
So, to cask Stone Ruination before it goes. Sent text message to find friend in crowd.

6:45 pm
Now, Nugget Nectar firkin gone in 45 minutes. Found friend.

6:50 pm
Explaining that cask-conditioned means fresh beer, with active yeast in cask. Watched as one customer defiantly was drinking bottle of Michelob Ultra.

Imperial Stout pour

7:00 pm
Casks of Wyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout, Stone Ruination IPA, Allagash Black, and Allagash Four remain ... Barely.

7:30 pm
All casks gone. Capacity crowd (200?) remains.

Emptying the firkin

8:00 pm
Cask man is all smiles.
  • All the photos here.
  • Some of the time-stamps recreated from my Twitter posts.
  • Caveat: I work for a northern Virginia wholesaler that distributes Allagash beers.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Beer Madness like real-world judging?

It's Beer Madness time again at the Washington Post. (In case, you're not a US sports fan, the name is a play on March Madness, the collegiate basketball championship tournament which occurs every March.)

Eight panelists are selected, based upon their one-sentence emailed applications. 630 applied, including me. ("I sell beer, and I wear a tie, " I wrote this year, as I did last year, again failing to secure a spot. Maybe I should re-write.)

They vote their preferences (in blind fashion) on thirty-two beers —-as selected by Washington Post beer writer Greg Kitsock— pairing two at a time. The winning beers advance through 4 rounds until one remains. This year's roster includes some local brewpub draft beers as well as national and local bottled beers.


Greg Kitsock with Roger Protz
Washington Post's Greg Kitsock (l) with British beer writer Roger Protz (r).

Last year, the results and process seemed to distress a few 'serious' beer gurus who decried the judges' lack of training and the somewhat arbitrary match up of beers.

But it's that very approach that mirrors the real-world of commercial beer. Beer is bought and enjoyed in a non-rigorous manner. (To be fair, there was also some confusion last year about the sometimes differing results of on-line voting and the judges' decisions.)

The judges' emailed applications were reprinted; some were quite clever, and one was socially pointed.
For example, this, which was written as a beer 'personal':
amber-skinned, full-bodied, porter-haired SAF who's occasionally hop-headed, tart,and malty.

And this Rabbinical doggerel:
Where lager or stout the decision/A mere blogger would lack the precision:/That beer must be picked/Only under most strict/Rabbinical [hic!] supervision.

And this one, which in only a few words, addressed a major failing of marketing and inclusion in the craft beer world:
I'm a black woman who thoroughly enjoys beer, which is a rarity in itself.

Round One has occurred. Round Two's results, winnowing the field to eight beers, will be announced this Wednesday. Read more.

[UPDATE: 1 April 2009. And the winner of the 2009 March Beer Madness is ... Troegs HopBack Amber. Congratulations.

Read about the 2008 Beer Madness here.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Wine award, beer quote, and more

Some bits and pieces this weekend.
American Wine Blog Awards 2009
One of my daily blog reads is a wine blog: Bigger Than Your Head.

Are you a beer drinker who is willing to learn more about wine? Then read this blog. Not willing? Read it anyway. You may expand your beverage palate. Fredrik Koeppel has just won Best Wine Reviews from the American Wine Blog Awards 2009.

Our beer blogger abroad, Evan Rail, recently watched as a lot of his blog writing disappeared into an e-wormhole. Fortunate for him and us, he's found a trans-warp drive to retrieve much of it, such as this interview with Jean-Pierre Van Roy of Brasserie Cantillon. It's worth reading if only for this bon mot:

Beer is not made for judging nor for looking at. It’s made for drinking.

Yes, yes, and if you've missed my point, YES!

BeerNews.org reports that Philly Beer Week is in high gear. Other cities, such as Asheville, North Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland may soon follow.

The BeerActivist reports that US acreage of organic hops is increasing. Colorado is at the forefront.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Session No. 25: Love Lager

Yesterday, being the first Friday of the month, it was the day for The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

And again, I'm late by a day.

The Session no. 25: Love Lager

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was begun 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.


This month's topic was hosted by The Beer Nut from Dublin (the one in Ireland):
For millions of people the word "beer" denotes a cold, fizzy, yellow drink -- one which is rarely spoken of among those for whom beer is a hobby or, indeed, a way of life.

So for this Session, let's get back to basics. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose early drinking career featured pale lager in abundance, so consider this a return to our roots as beer drinkers. Don't even think about cheating the system: leave your doppelbocks and schwarzbiers out of this one: I want pilsners, light lagers, helleses [an almost Gollum-like sibilance!] and those ones that just say "beer" because, well, what else would it be?

Earlier in the week, the entire U.S. East Coast had been scraping off and shoveling out from under a snowstorm. Overnight temperatures were in the single digits (that would be the negative teens for you Celsius followers).

But yesterday afternoon, it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 °C), and the scent of Spring was palpable.

I stopped in at my local in Alexandria, Virginia, a beer bar and restaurant called Rustico, where, adding a techno-geek slant to the day, I posted this Tweet (as the 140-character scribbles to the Twitter site are called):
On a spring-like winter's afternoon, a hoppy Pils is so appropriate. Draft Stoudts at Rustico in Alexandria VA. #beerspotter #thesession

And indeed it was. Crisp and bright, with an herbal/grassy nose, a firm sweet malt middle, and a bracing finish. Goldilocksian: just right.

By the way, those mysterious hashmark phrases were searchable terms for fellow Twitterers. "#thesession" put my post alongside anyone else who was posting about The Session on Twitter. "#beerspotter" alerted DC-area beer drinkers looking for good draft beer.

Reading some of the full blog posts (that is, many more words than a mere 140 characters) linked to The Beer Nut, I noticed a 'Letters to the Editors of Playboy Magazine" quality (not that I've ever, ahem, read the column). As in: "Since my college days, I haven't enjoyed lagers, until today, when quite unexpectedly ... ."

Assaulted as we are by over-hopped ales, it can be a 'Saul on the road to Damascus' experience to rediscover the subtle qualities of elegance and FLAVOR actually found in well-made light-hued lagers. And, of course, just because a beer is a light-hued lager, doesn't mean its brewer can't similarly over-hop it (using that term not in a pejorative sense).

A couple of Stoudt Pils into the evening, I ordered a margherita pizza. I was a couple of Pils into things, so I was, naturally, engaged in good bar conversation.

Chef Morales, seeing my pizza under the heatlamp, came out to the bar. "Tom," he asked, " if I placed one of your Brunellos under a heat lamp, would you be pleased with the result? Your pizza is ready ... now!"

Chastened, I returned to my seat, and ate my pizza. And ordered another Stoudts Pils.

Caveat: I am employed by a northern Virginia wholesaler that distributes Stoudts beers (and Brunellos).