Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: A Clear, Cool, & Bubbly Cask Ale

The next time that your server or bartender tells you your pint of cask-conditioned beer should be warm, flat, and cloudy, take your leave politely but quickly. This well-meaning poltroon has no idea what she or he is talking about; you certainly wouldn't want to taste anything he or she might be flogging. Gag!

Cask-conditioned ale is NEVER cloudy (or chunky, as it was described to me recently), it is NOT room temperature or warmer, and it is NEVER un-carbonated. It is ...

Beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed (usually a cask), and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.


A clear, bubbly cask on a hot day (01)

Cask-conditioning is a dynamic, on-going process, that begins at the brewery but continues through to the pub or festival. The publican is as vital to a good cask as the brewer.

Even on a summer day, a glass of cask-conditioned beer should be cool and bright and bubbly. Anything less, and it would NOT be cask-conditioned.

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  • The photo was taken at the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, where temperatures were in the low 90s. The ale —Loose Cannon Hop3 American IPA, from Heavy Seas Brewing, of Baltimore, Maryland— hand-pulled via a beer engine from a cask, was served at 52 °F.
  • More on serving cask ale on hot summer days: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas Brewing.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: The View from the Seats

The view from the seats

At Nationals Park, the home-team Washington Nationals would lose to those damn Yankees, but the day was glorious. Baseball enemies, fast friends.

The Southeast Washington, D.C. neighborhood surrounding the ballpark is bustling with new-building construction. Even so, there remain a few sight-lines in the the ballpark where one can still catch a partial glimpse of the U.S. Capitol building, 15 city blocks north.

16 June 2012.

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Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baltimore's Heavy Seas hires new Director of Brewing Operations

The prodigal son returns!

Heavy Seas Brewing, of Baltimore, Maryland, has hired Joseph Marunowski to be its new Director of Brewing Operations.

Heavy Seas hires new Brewing Operations Director

Marunowski began his brewing career in 1991, in Maryland, at the Wild Goose Brewing Company, then located on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Since then, Mr. Marunowski has opened a brewpub chain in Ohio (Wallaby's), designed and managed a production brewery (Local Brewing Company), in Westlake, Ohio, and has worked at Boston Beer Company, in Cincinnati, Ohio (Sam Adams), among other breweries. His return to Maryland marks him the senior brewer in the state.

Marunowksi holds an MBA from The Cleveland State University and two Master's Degrees, and received technical training in Malting Science from Pauls' Malts in the UK.

At Sam Adams as assistant brewing manager from 2007 to 2009, Marunowski programmed new tracking tools for brewhouse efficiency, reduced packaging line downtime, conducted research and development projects for new beers, and operated the patented Continuous Ion Separation technology in the manufacture of clear malt base. Outside of the brewing industry, Marunowski has worked as a production manager at several food and beverage manufacturers, including Great Lakes Cheese, Pierre's Ice Cream, and Nestle.

In 1994, I was the Brewery Manager for the Oxford Brewing Company in Linthicum, Maryland. There, I had the good fortune to hire Mr. Marunowski as a brewer and cellarman. Oxford —Maryland's first craft production brewery— was well-regarded for its open-fermented English-style ales, its very non-English-like Oxford Raspberry Wheat, and for its cask ales, the first ever in the tri-state area.

In a small-world irony, Marunowski, in his new position at Heavy Seas, will be based less than a mile from the former Oxford plant. Not only is Heavy Seas currently the largest cask ale producer in the United States, it owns the Oxford brand (currently inactive).

Mash man

Heavy Seas was founded in 1995, by Maryland craft beer pioneer Hugh Sisson, as Clipper City Brewing Company. His intent was for the brewery to become Baltimore's hometown brewery. Seventeen years later, Heavy Seas' beers are indeed served throughout the city, but, as well, in all of Maryland and seventeen other states and the District of Columbia. The brewery's 'India Pale Ale' —Loose Cannon Hop3 American IPA— has achieved a 98 point score (out of 100) for more than two years running at ratebeer.com. Sisson's own brewing career began in 1989, when he oversaw his family pub's conversion to Maryland's first-ever brewpub, Sisson's.

Sisson said of Marunowski:
Heavy Seas is experiencing rapid growth. We hired Joe because we wanted someone who could bring the business and technical acumen we need to sustain and accelerate that success.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

VeggieDag Thursday: Artichokes, and other Quick Links

VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag is an occasional Thursday post on an animal-free diet and its issues.


Quick links:
  • How to cook (and eat) an artichoke. Via YFGF, courtesy Summer Tomato.

  • NPR's Fresh Air interviews Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation. "The flavorful space between fresh and rotten."

  • With just weeks until California enacts a foie gras ban (1 July 2012), some restaurants and diners begin a "feeding frenzy." Via Huffington Post.

  • Backyard foraging: stinging nettle pesto. Via NPR.

  • Cooking fresh peas via YFGF. And four more ways, Via 100 CookBooks

  • Who says vegans can't enjoy BBQ?! Recipe for seitan in Pineapple Jack BBQ Sauce. Via One Green Planet.

  • Healthy salads for hedonists. Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore says “Eating salad shouldn’t feel like a punishment." Salads should be crunchy, crispy, chewy, & tender. Via Food and Wine Magazine.

  • 'Creamy' Vegan Chocolate 'Sorbet.' Recipe via Food 52

  • Mom's Cold Beet Soup recipe. Via YFGF.

  • Grilling vegetables (marinated in beer): so simple, so tasty. Via YFGF.

  • How to make a Spring Vegetable Wrap with Sesame Sauce. Via DCist.

  • Recipe for Spicy Braised Eggplant with... Prunes. Via Washington Post Food.

  • The Guardian on how to make perfect potato salad. Of course, I would use vegan mayo.

  • "Grilled, strawberries (!) become pockets of warm jam, bursting in your mouth." Via Forks in the Road.

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  • VeggieDag is an occasional Thursday post on vegetarian issues. Why the name? Here.
  • Prior VeggieDag Thursday posts: here. Follow on Twitter: #VeggieDag.
  • Suggestions and submissions from chefs and homecooks: welcomed!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hey, Hey! The Blues was Alright ... but not the wine.

Hey, hey, the blues was alright at the Tinner Hill Blues Festival last Saturday, in the City of Falls Church, Virginia.

Catch the Blues (poster)

The festival was the centerpiece of a week-long town-wide celebration of the blues, organized by the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, which was founded in 1997 to preserve the early civil rights history of Falls Church and vicinity, home of the first established rural branch of the NAACP.

Cathy Ponton King —a well-established blues singer/composer/guitarist— was one of the headliners. She and her band didn't disappoint, rocking the normally staid little city.

Cathy Ponton King @Tinner Hill

Throughout the week, the Foundation made a point of involving local businesses. In fact, the beer served at the concert was uber-local. Mad Fox Brewing Company —nationally regarded and award-winning— is located only a block and half from the Cherry Hill grounds.

Blues, through a Mad Fox

The annual festival again fell short on its support of local wine.

How difficult would it have been for Tinner Hill to reach out to Virginia wineries? Not very. There are several wineries within 25 miles of the festival. These would not have been able to directly donate wine (per state alcohol laws) but could have written (tax-deductible) donation checks to the festival for the amount of the wine.

Tinner Hill did not do that. Rather, it purchased, not local wine, but nondescript plonk, and, adding insult to injury, ignored locally-owned business by purchasing the wine at a chain store. Contrast that with this blues festival, a weekend later, in Arlington, Virginia.


The organizer is the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization
a coalition of businesses, civic associations, property owners, and the Arlington County Government. CPRO’s mission is to inspire, support and provide direction for a wide variety of initiatives that aim to improve and revitalize Columbia Pike and its adjacent neighborhoods.


Columbia Pike Blues Festival enlisted the help of a local wine shop/bistro to select and pour good wines: Steininger Young and El Cortijillo Tempranillo. These are not local: far from it! The former is a blend of Gruner Veltliner, Sauvingon Blanc, and Muskateller, from Austria; the latter is from La Mancha in Spain. But, the wines were unique, well-thought-out choices, and the provider, Twisted Vines Bottleshop & Bistro, is an independent, locally-owned business.

Hey, hey, the blues is alright ... and the wine could be too. **************
  • Grammarians: I deliberately used B.B. King's "alright" spelling. Who am I to disagree with Mr. King?
  • I'm not sure of local beer choices at the Columbia Blues Fest, so a point, for this, might have reverted to Tinner Hill.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the wines of Weingut Steininger.

Pic(k) of the Week: Morning Joe

Morning Hawk (01)

What was all that early morning commotion in the backyard, I wondered. Birds seemed to be squawking everywhere, swooping in and out of a maple tree.

Then, I looked up.

A Red-Tailed Hawk(?) had taken a perch in the tree. A swarm of smaller birds were buzzing him, none too pleased by his morning visit. The cacophony seemed to soon become too much for him. He let out his own (very) loud screech, and took off.

All was quiet again, and I poured a cup of morning joe.

northern Virginia
15 June 2012

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Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"That's a clown (shoes) question, bro!"

If you're a baseball fan, you already know about the on-the-field exploits of Bryce Harper, the 19 year-old phenom for the Washington Nationals. If you're a beer fan, you might enjoy his zinger of a response to a Canadian reporter's tomfool question.

The reporter was querying Harper about his 450-foot blast of a home run in a win, Tuesday, against the Toronto Blue Jays ... in Toronto.

Bryce, you, of course, in Canada are of legal drinking age, so a celebratory Canadian beer would seem to make sense after a hit like that. You got a favorite beer?

A Nationals 'handler' interrupted:
That's not a question. It's illegal to drink beer in the States at 19. Why don't you ask something else?

The reporter, clueless, persisted, setting himself up for what was to come:
Not in Canada.

Harper, shook his head, almost rolling his eyes:
I'm not answering that. That's a clown question, bro.

A brilliant riposte for the Millennial Age.

Bryce Harper: That's A Clown Question Bro

To Mr. Harper:
You're wise beyond your 19 years. In 2014, when you've turned 21 and you win Game 7 of the World Series with a walk-off homer against the Boston Red Sox, I'll gladly buy you a Clown Shoes Brewing's Angry Beast Imperial Stout.

Nats by water
Nationals Park, where Harper is old enough to buy a beer.

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  • See the post-game interview video: here. Harper's response quickly went 'viral' on social media. On Twitter: #ThatsAClownQuestionBro.
  • In other baseball news:
    • Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hits his 23rd grand slam home run, tying the all-time record, set by Lou Gehrig, himself a Yankee great of the last century. Via Sports Illustrated.
    • Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitches a perfect game, his only, the 22nd ever pitched, and the first ever for the Giants franchise, which began its existence in 1883 as the Gothams in New York City. Via LA Times.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Peabody Heights hires a brewmaster.

Peabody Heights Brewery has news.

Stephen Demczuk —one of the principals for the Baltimore, Maryland, brewery slated to open later this year— has brought Ernesto (Ernie) Igot on board as brewmaster. Until recently, Igot had been brewer and then brewmaster for fellow Maryland brewery, Heavy Seas. For 25 years prior to that, the same at San Miguel Brewery, in Manila, Phillipines.



Among several beers Peabody will be brewing, one is Raven Lager, Demczuk's longtime contract-brew with Baltimore-Washington Beerworks. It's a small, small, brewing world. Heavy Seas (formerly know as Clipper City) has been his contract brewer since the mid-1990s. Igot is on familiar terms with The Raven.



Demczuk also revealed that he has purchased the brewing equipment of the closed Surgenor Brewery of Vancouver Island, Canada. The first pieces of the brewhouse and tanks, fabricated by Newlands Systems, arrive this week after a cross-continental trip. The rest of the kit will follow soon. "Making some progress," Demczuk wrote, obviously pleased and relieved.

Peabody Heights Brewery: Day 1 (04)


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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Baltimore, old & new

Baltimore: old & new

A juxtaposition of the old and the new Baltimore, Maryland.

Looking south along Central Avenue at the east side corner intersection with Bank Street. The intersection straddles the neighborhoods of Little Italy and Canton. Fells Point is several blocks further south.

"Charm City" is a nickname for Bawlmur, hon!

Photo taken 2 June 2012.

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Birthday in Beer: Ray Daniels, beer educator

It was 1997. I was a judge at the U.S. Real Ale Festival, in Chicago, Illinois. Festival organizer Ray Daniels was giving us our pre-event instructions. He passed out pencils with which to take notes. On each were the words "Ray Daniels for ...[political office]". He had all those pencils left over to give us because he hadn't won. His loss was fortuitous for good beer in the United States. Daniels would go on to devote his full-time to beer advocacy and education.



Among his many accomplishments, Daniels is the author of Designing Great Beers (and other beer-related books), a past director of the Brewers Association Craft Beer Marketing Program, a past publisher of Brewers Publications, a senior faculty member at the Siebel Institute of Technology,and an advocate for real ale in America.


But Daniels is best well-known today as the creator and director of a beer 'sommelier' training certification, the Cicerone Certification Program. This campaign to to educate bartenders, waiters, and pub owners about the beers they serve (and not least, to rid beer bars of dirty lines), has been a powerful tool for the rapid growth of 'craft' beer in the United States. Quite the C.V.

Have a happy birthday, today, Ray Daniels, beer teacher.

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  • Follow Ray Daniels on Twitter: @Cicerone_org.
  • See more Birthdays in Beer at Yours For Good Fermentables: here.
  • View a more extensive beer birthday list at Jay Brooks' Brookston Beer Bulletin, with entries almost every day.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

spacebar lands in Falls Church, Virginia.

The City of Falls Church, Virginia, subsumes 2.2 square miles; within its boundaries live approximately 10,000 inhabitants, give or take. The town has given itself the title of "The Little City," but with this weekend's news, one might call it the Little Beer City, and that's not in reference to small beer.


Falls Church Beer Tour

On the southeast edge of town — in Seven Corners— there is the Dogfish Head Alehouse, which opened in 2007; catty-corner across Route 7 is Public House No. 7, which opened last year. It sports a solid, if small, draft selection, with English food and the occasional cask tapping.

In the heart of town, at the intersection of Broad Street (Rt. 7) and Washington Street (Lee Highway), there is the 3-year old Red, White, & Bleu, a small but 1,500-brand beer shop (and wine and cheese). Its sister establishment, Argia's —long-established on Washington Street— has a small but solid draft selection and an award-winning Italian-American menu.

Two blocks further northwest along Broad Street is Dogwood Tavern, which opened in 2008, with American-fare, a Virginia theme, and an American-micro draft menu.

Just up the road, at 444 W. Broad, is Mad Fox Brewing Company, a nearly 10,000 square-foot restaurant and brewery, not quite 2 years old. Owner/brewer Bill Madden is the doyen of area brewers; he began his Washington, D.C., career in 1996 at Capitol City Brewing. He features at least 3 cask ales at any one time, in addition to a dozen or so house-made drafts.

Past the town's boundaries lies an outlet of the grocery chain, Whole Foods. Its beer department has been manned for 7 years by Jeff Forrest, who, at his counter, makes grocery-store shopping more enjoyable by pouring a rotating draft selection of four craft or imported beers (and he fills growlers-to-go).

Stretching the bounds further west of the city, there's the brewpub/restaurant Sweetwater Tavern, in Merrifield. Its the area's beery granddaddy, having opened in 1997. Since then, executive Brewmaster Nick Funnell has garnered several awards for his beers at the Great American Beer Festival.

As of Friday evening, the first of June, 2012, a new kid had arrived in town.

spacebar logo



spacebar Lands in Falls Church!

spacebar (indeed written in lower case) opened its doors at 709 W. Broad Street, in Falls Church, Friday evening, during the height of the dramatic storms moving through the area. Local craft beer fans weren't deterred.

The brainchild of owners —and husband and wife— Lary and Erica Hoffman, spacebar is the new 'sister' restaurant to its 22-year old sibling Galaxy Hut (in Clarendon, Virginia). Like it, the focus will be on 'craft' beer —twenty-four 'craft' beer draught lines— in a whimsical, inviting, cozy environment.

spacebar Hoffmans

Due to limited space and storage, Lary designed what he calls "megerators": re-purposed keg coolers built from tall 3-door beverage coolers. Each holds up to 4 full-size kegs (13.2 or 15.5 gallons) and 8 sixtels (5.16 gallons). Mason jars under each drip pan catch any foam and overflow. Since the kegs are located directly behind the taps, waste should be minimal. The beer register lists the draught beers under 6 categories: IPAs, Belgian-style, Dark & Rich, Lighter, Session Ales, and Fruit/Wheat. (See the opening line-up: here.) There is a small selection of bottled beers and wine, but no liquor. At this point, there are no plans for a dedicated cask line, but Lary promises the occasional 'Firkin Friday' cask tapping.

spacebar draft system (01)


The quirky fun continues through to the menu. The kitchen —really a grill at the end of the bar— offers 19 (!) grilled cheese sandwiches, soup, and salad. There are a lot of add-on options, or what the menu calls "stuff." Things like meatloaf, bacon, smoked salmon, turkey, hot dogs, etc. One could even order a grilled cheese sandwich with only the 'stuff,' hold the cheese. There are plenty of vegan/vegetarian options: veggie burgers and hot dogs, vegetables, vegan 'cheese,' vegan faux meats, etc. And, as at Galaxy Hut, tater tots are on the menu.

spacebar menu (02)


Physically, spacebar is cozy, long, and narrow. As you enter the front door, the 28-foot bar is to the right, sitting in front of the 24-taps and the kitchen grill. Old-style radiators serves as supports for the bar-top. Booths line the left side of the pub. The total seating is for around 50 people.

spacebar booth


Interspersed throughout will be tabletop video games, "quirky, hand crafted decor," and local art. The sound system plays current and classic indie rock and post-punk (read: Lary's iPod). There are future plans for live music, what Lary impishly calls "indie-chamber:" low-key, experimental, small scale groups.

spacebar rocketship


Both Hoffmans anticipate a demand for takeout: after a long day at work, who wouldn't want a grilled cheese sandwich and a beer? Both feel that the traditional take-home growler, at 2 liters, would be a bit too much beer, so they've applied to the Virginia ABC to permit ... take-out 16-ounce pints in sealed Mason jars. Clever, and it makes sense.

spacebar grilled cheese


Befitting the duo's creative thinking, here's another possibility. The pub's building was originally designed to have a second story, one that was never constructed. Thus, the building is structurally sound to support a 1,200 square foot beer patio and greenhouse vegetable garden ... open on the rooftop, a first for Falls Church. "Not until 2013, at the earliest," they are quick to add. "spacebar needs to be open for a year."

spacebar Lary (01)


Lary Hoffman began his restaurant career, as do many musicians, working in coffee shops. Then, in 1998, he signed on at Galaxy Hut as a manager and bartender. His other 'real' job was with Fairfax County government, working in after-school programs. In 2005, he purchased Galaxy Hut from original owner, Alice Despard.

Erica Hoffman, a Florida native, received a Master's Degree at George Mason University (in Fairfax, Virginia) in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. "That comes in handy running a bar," she laughed.

DETAILS
  • 709 West Broad Street
    Falls Church, Virginia.
    703-992-0777

  • Website: spcbr.com
  • Facebook: spacebar.va
  • Hours: 5pm till close, 7 nights a week.
  • Admittance: 21 and over only.
  • Parking: Small lot for 18 cars. Parking available on neighborhood streets after 5pm.


spacebar Mayor
Nader Baroukh(r) —Falls Church mayor—
visited spacebar on its second day of business.


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  • More photos: here.
  • In the early 1990s, Alice Despard and her then husband, Bill Stewart, were instrumental in bringing good beer to northern Virginia, when and where there had been little. Stewart would go on to open Bardo Rodeo, Arlington's first brewpub (now closed). Read more.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Beer Van Man

When you absolutely, positively, have to have it the next day ...

Beer Van Man

... Heavy Seas Brewing territory manager, Jonathan McIntire, plays the part of truck driver, driving kegs from the brewery in Halethorpe, Maryland, to northern Virginia.

somewhere along I-95.
30 May 2012.

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  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas Brewing.
  • Photo courtesy of Mr. McIntire.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.