A person in the wine industry asked me, "Why do you like beer?" He added, "It's boring."
There, then, I groaned silently. Here, now, I respond.
No sir, beer is not boring.
Boring is a mindset, a giving up. We all have been there, from time to time. But what is not boring are those crystalline moments when one grasps past the quotidian, or is pulled from it.
Which is why a bite into a freshly baked loaf of bread is not boring (even if that loaf has been baked with a grain that was not a recently rediscovered ancient heirloom), or why the first sip of a good beer is anything but boring (even if that beer has no 'extreme' character other than the brewer's joyful care), or why a glance into your lover’s eyes —a really deep look— is anything but boring.
No, sir, pleasure and discovery are not boring. Complacency and ignorance are.
So, for that 'gentleman' of the first sentence, I paraphrase the great American composer, Charles Ives: Stand up, sir, and use your taste buds like a man.
After reading Facebook comments about this post, I felt I should append a postscript. I originally wrote this essay in November 2011, but have waited to post it until now, in part, to protect the guilty person, and, in part, myself. This wine industry person is indeed real, but his opinions could be also viewed as a composite of others' in the industry. But not all, it's important to emphasize. Wine and beer, two very different alcoholic beverages, have many advocates who find value and pleasure in both.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
A person in the wine industry asked me, "Why do you like beer?" He added, "It's boring."
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Evan Rail lives in Prague, Czech Republic. Earlier this year, he published (if that's the word) an ebook —an ontological essay, if you will— on "why beer matters," which is, it so happens, the exact name of his book.
Available only for Kindle, Why Beer Matters sits at position #11 on my Cool Yule 2012! list only because of its brevity. That economy, however, is a plus. In the time it might take you to drink a pint (or two?) of your favorite beer, Mr. Rail will have succinctly limned his arguments for beer's place in life.
To summarize his thesis:
On the metaphysical and geo-physical differences between wine and beer.
In talking about vintage, he finds each year's harvest of wine to be "much like the aurochs or the passenger pigeon, something that is doomed to extinction." Wine is a creature of the weather, climate, and soil —the terroir. Beer is much less so; it is repeatable. Those are not bad or good things. They just are.
On beer's inherent nature.
when beer leaves the brewery, its clock is ticking like a time bomb. This immediate nature means, in part, that there are many beers that are truly seasonal, that are firmly tied to a specific date on the calendar.
On an egalitarian —"demotic"— aspect of beer, his central point.
This is partly why beer — good beer, great beer, especially what we might call “craft” beer — has touched so many people in the past few years: not its affordability (though the lower price per unit of joy certainly does have some appeal), but rather its accessibility, the fact that the beer world is one where everyone’s opinion is equally valid, where there is no equivalent to Robert Parker or The Wine Spectator’s James Suckling: not Garrett Oliver, not Stephen Beaumont, and not Roger Protz. ... The concept of applying this to beer dies even before the key hits the ignition: it is not possible to name a beer journalist, writer or critic who holds anything like that kind of influence.) Instead, consumers’ relationship to beer is decidedly more flat and fair than the old-fashioned, top-down approach.
Rail's Why Beer Matters is a thoughtful paean to the simple joy that beer rewards: at the end of the day —literally— it's the anticipation and the thing itself. Read the essay as the best conversation about beer with the person on the next bar-stool over ... that you've never had.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
There's a scene in Steven Spielberg's new film, Lincoln, that, among many, caught my attention.
The year is 1865; Abraham Lincoln has been re-elected President, and the Civil War is nearing conclusion. James Spader —in a hilarious turn as a sleazy political operative — is hatching tactics with his fellows over beers in a Washington, D.C. tavern. (The more things change ...!) His character
although fictional as portrayed is historically believable.
The beers they are drinking are served in glass. They are golden; they look like lagers. I'd like to believe that they had been brewed by the Robert Portner Brewing Company, located just over the Potomac River, in Alexandria, Virginia. Unfortunately, that's not so. Portner —which would eventually grow to become the preeminent brewery of the U.S. southeast (at least until the ignoble experiment of Prohibition)— would not be founded by its namesake until 1869.
The great-great grand-daughters of Robert Portner —Catherine & Margaret Portner— have set out to re-launch the brewery as Portner Brewhouse, a combination brewpub, breweriana museum, and craft beer test kitchen, and in Alexandria. They are seeking 'crowd funding' of $30,000 via IndieGoGo.
This crowd funding campaign is a piece of a larger funding puzzle. The total amount required to truly launch this concept will be $1.3 million – daunting but very possible. The remaining funds will be supplied by personal savings, outside investors, and commercial debt. Some 75% of the total raised will be used for developing the property and purchasing all of the equipment for the brewery restaurant. The remaining funds will be put to use securing staff, implementing technology, marketing, and, artifact preservation.
The film Lincoln is based, in part, on a book by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Adapting it to the screen, Spielberg has done his expected mixing of bathos and pathos, of hagiography and foibled humanity. Rather than trying to be inclusively unwieldy, Spielberg tells the story of the fight to ratify the 13th Amendment, which codified the end to slavery.
Writer Tony Kushner deserves an award for the script. He seems to be channeling Lincoln through Lewis. Watching, you can believe that the words are indeed Lincoln's own: from him telling a scatological story about a portrait of George Washington in a British loo, to the President looming, in terrifying fashion, over his Cabinet comprised of politically powerful men who seem to be cowering from his countenance: "I am the President of the United States of America, clothed in awesome powers."
Spoiler alert: Lincoln is assassinated at the end of the movie, his work unfinished. Spielberg depicts the tragedy compassionately, non-literally. At movie's end, I heard a lot of sniffles in the theater, including those from my seat.
Monday, November 26, 2012
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.
11 November - 24 November 2012
President Obama visits bookstore in Arlington, Virginia, promotes "Small Business Saturday" Via Reuters.
Maryland brewery Peabody Heights learns first-hand that federal beer labeling restrictions can sometimes be absurd. Via Baltimore Business Journal.
Burgundy's 2012 harvest very low; a big increase in prices expected. Via WAMU.
Twinkie-maker, Hostess, to go out of business. Blames union. Via Dallas Morning News.
The history of the Thanksgiving meal begins in... 1841. Mythbusting via FastCompany.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation receives $4 billion for conservation purpose from BP's Hurricane Katrina-related oil spill settlement. Via Washington Post.
Black IPAs: the gateway to dark beers for hopheads? Via The Guardian.
Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper voted National League Rookie of Year. At 19, youngest non-pitcher player ever. Via WAMU.
A WWII vet, the symphony he wrote, and the standing ovation he received 70 years later. Via NPR.
The Governor of Virginia declares the week of 11-17 November 2012 as Virginia Cider Week: http://www.ciderweekva.com.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
President Obama visited my neck of the woods on Saturday.
Promoting Small Business Saturday (and buying Christmas gifts with his two daughters), he stopped in One More Page Bookshop, a small book store in the 'Little City' of Falls Church, Virginia. Well, okay, it's actually just over the border in Arlington County.
A couple of days ago, I riffed on this idea of a one-day only promotion of small businesses.
Why not, tomorrow, make it SMALL BREWERY SATURDAY, be that at the brewery (if it has an open house) or at a brewpub, or at an independently-owned beer shop, or at a locally-owned restaurant or pub that supports local beers. And, for that matter, why not repeat often?
... which begs the question, or, should I say, begs an answer. If beer itself is mostly a built product, produced by a brewer from ingredients shipped in from elsewhere, what's local about it? If a local beer is an 'inferior' beer, why should one buy it?
My small contribution to Small Business Saturday was to visit Corcoran Vineyards/Brewing in Loudoun County, Virginia, and purchase a growler of beer.
Roger Baylor —an owner of the New Albanian Brewing Company, in New Albany, Indiana— gave his answers to those questions in a piece in Food And Dining. They bear repeating.
- 1. the positive local business economic impact
- 2. the likelihood that local most small breweries will be producing beer of good flavor
- 3. beer is a local food
- (a) the single largest component is taken from the local water table
- (b) the finished value derives form local sources [emphasis mine]
- (c) the resulting product is the freshest it can possibly be.
As to corporate breweries, and their 'faux craft' beers (even if of good quality), Baylor describes the end result of Anheuser-Busch InBev's purchase of Goose Island Brewery (figuratively completed with the recent retirement of John Hall, the founder of that brewpub and later large midwest brewery) as the
GOOSE ISLAND ZOMBIE CRAFT BEER UNIT that means absolutely nothing to A-B InBev save for its unquestioned utility as a tactical chess piece to keep genuine craft beers off store shelves and draft lines.
Good, sharp, witty stuff. Go to it: here and here.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Mike Killelea is the brewer for Center of the Universe Brewing, in Ashland, Virginia. He also might be a fashion-setter. As pictured above during the brewery's grand opening on Friday evening, 17 November 2012, he was sartorially golden.
COTUB (its less time-consuming acronym) is a production brewery, which means that it is a factory that produces beer, and not a restaurant that also makes beer (i.e.,a brewpub). A Virginia law was changed recently to allow production breweries to sell their beer on-site (as wineries had already been permitted). That's what COTUB is doing.
When I arrived at 5 pm, the facility was already packed with well-wishers, the curious, and the thirsty. Several food trucks were parked on the grounds, offering an array of foods, from barbecue to kimchi tacos. The beer lines were long (but fast-moving). On tap were
- Kölsch (4.6% alcohol-by-volume; bright, clean, a hint of yeasty fruitiness without any of the eggy character of some iterations)
- Ray Ray's Pale Ale (5% abv; well-structured, grapefruit character of Cascade hops not overdone)
- Main Street Alt (5.5% abv; dark toasted bread topped with a dollop of dark-fruit jam)
- The Richard IPA.(8.3% abv; wowsers: biscuity malt character preceded and chased by slugs of citrusy and turpentiney —in a good way— hops).
The Richard was supposed to be our IPA. Back in October, we had been waiting patiently for our ABC license. We finally got it at 5 pm on a Wednesday. So we wound up brewing through the night. Finished up at 8 am the next morning. It was the first time using our brewhouse, and the boil was a bit, shall we say, vigorous. We got a crazy evaporation rate. What was intended as a 6.8% IPA, ended as a 8.5% borderline double IPA. Not what we intended. Still, it tasted pretty damn good.
We have since dialed in the steam to our brewhouse, and things are working smoothly. However, we didn’t want to release this as our IPA. So we’re calling it The Richard, after Chris and Phil’s grandfather. Those who liked it, don’t worry. Our IPA will have the same hops, malt and yeast. It just won’t be as strong. Or expensive…
The name for Center of the Universe Brewing comes from a nickname used by residents of central Virginia for the area. The brewery is owned by Phil and Chris Ray, the latter a professional baseball pitcher, who for a time was the starting closer (that's a wonderful phrase) for the Baltimore Orioles. Now, he's a brewer, and he's pitching yeast.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Small Business Saturday is a day for everyone — from the business owners who create jobs to the customers who buy locally — to support small businesses that invigorate the economy and keep communities thriving. It began in 2010 when American Express founded Small Business Saturday to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. Last year, over 100 million people came out to shop at independently-owned small businesses on the day.
I wondered if anyone noticed the irony of not-so-small American Express sponsoring a small business promotion. Bungalow Bill's blog did.
It's very expensive for small business owners to accept American Express, and many small business owners already hurting to make a profit simply cannot afford to take American Express.
You see, when you shop at a small business and use a credit card, not only are you paying an interest fee or annual fee to use that card, the merchant as well must also pay the fee. For the small business owner, this hurts the already tight bottom line. American Express charges higher fees than other credit cards, which of course takes away from important profits small businesses need to survive in these tough times.
If you are going to visit a small business today, don't pull out your American Express. Pay with dollars. You will be helping the small business owner out.
As I wrote last year on Small Business Saturday, if one 'buys' the set of statistics that —
for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures, whereas if spent in a national chain, as so many are doing today on so-called Black Friday, only $43 remains locally, and if on-line, probably nothing
—supporting your neighbors would seem to be a mutually beneficial cause.
According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses of less than 500 employees account for around half the U.S. GDP (gross domestic product) and more than half of the employment in the U.S. More than 75% percent of those small businesses have fewer than 10 employees.
But why stop there?
Why not, tomorrow, make it SMALL BREWERY SATURDAY, be that at the brewery (if it has an open house) or at a brewpub, or at an independently-owned beer shop, or at a locally-owned restaurant or pub that supports local beers.
According to the Brewers Association, 97% of the more than 2,000 breweries in the U.S. are small and independent. It defines small as producing fewer than 6 million barrels per year. In 2011, these small breweries, combined, were responsible for 103,585 jobs and produced a total retail dollar value of $8.7 billion.
Tomorrow, while you're at it, why not support your local farm, winery, and cidery? And, for that matter, why not repeat often?
at 10:16 PM
Thursday, November 22, 2012
For your Thanksgiving postprandium: Beer Mythbusting: The Truth About Pilgrims, Adjuncts, and Prohibition.
Beer blogger and writer Lisa Grimm has written a piece for the website Serious Eats on why the Pilgrims, in 1620, would make landfall at Plymouth Rock and not at their original destination, further south, along the Hudson River. Spoiler alert: The reason had to do with beer.
And so in the morning, after calling upon God for direction, we came to this conclusion: to go presently ashore again. For we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer.
—William Bradford, 1620, writing aboard the Mayflower.
In a nice twist, Ms. Grimm has connected that forced landing with a historical analysis of why American brewers' have brewed with a proportion of grains other than barley, principally corn. In modern usage, those non-barley grains are called "adjuncts." It's a term that carries a pejorative patina, at least to 'craft brewers' and 'craft beer' drinkers. Ms. Grimm disagrees with them. She writes that it's a matter of history, intent, and method, not the corn itself.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The 12 Books of Cool Yule!. It's not a comprehensive compendium of the best-of-the-best books about beer published in 2012, but, rather, my proffered selection of twelve recommendations — some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit, some not published this year but worthy chestnuts, and some, while not on the topic of beer, yet apropos.
Last year, in 2011, I counted down from #12 to #5, but fell off the tracks at that midway stop. So, this year, I'll try again, stoke the coals, and begin 2012 with all of last year's choices as a multiple choice for this year's position #12.
- At position #5 in 2011, a tie between two local-area beer histories.
- Position #6 in 2011.
Under the Influence:
The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty
(Peter Hernon and Terry Ganey)
- Position #7 in 2011.
Designing Great Beers (Ray Daniels)
- Position #8 in 2011.
The Best of American Beer & Food
Pairing and Cooking with Craft Beer
- Position #9 in 2011.
Beer & Philosophy:
The Unexamined Beer Isn't Worth Drinking
(various; Stephen Hale, editor)
- Position #10 in 2011.
Evaluating Beer (various; Brewers Publications, editor)
- Position #11 in 2011.
Windows on the World.
Complete Wine Course: 25th Anniversary Edition
- Position #12 in 2011.
The Story of Brewing in Burton on Trent (Roger Protz)
Ah! It's that time of year again. The 12 Books of Christmas, or One Dozen Winter Writings, or a Slew of Solstice Suggestions, or
... Cool Yule 2012!
not a comprehensive compendium of the best-of-the-best books about beer published this year, but, rather, my proffered selection of twelve recommendations — some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit, some not published this year but worthy chestnuts, and some, while not on the topic of beer, yet apropos.
Cool Yule 2012!
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Why use the proper word when a fancy word will do?
I recently 'Tweeted' a link to a story on Virginia cider and the apple varietals commonly grown and pressed for cider. Wrong, I was!
Merriam-Webster defines "varietal" as an adjective —" of, relating to, or characterizing a variety"— although it offers a secondary definition, first used in 1950, of a noun meaning " a wine bearing the name of the principal grape from which it is made." I had used the word "varietals," when what I should have written was "apple varieties."
A Twitter account that trolls Twitter searching for any incorrect usage of "varietal" discovered my error.
@cizauskas "varietal" is a fine adjective. "Variety" and "cultivar" are nice nouns.— Cultivar Awareness (@cultivar_bot) November 17, 2012
I searched back through my blog and found that I had egregiously committed this error on 18 other occasions. Consider this my mea culpa. When I have the time, I'll
I'm literally red in the face. Well, figuratively.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Six years ago, in 2007, the Evening Star Cafe, in Del Ray (Alexandria, Virginia), had never served cask-conditioned ale. That would change on the evening before Thanksgiving. The pub tapped a firkin (10.8 gallon cask) of Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA from Clipper City Brewing Company (of Baltimore, Maryland).
A tradition had begun. It's been a cask of Loose Cannon for Thanksgiving Eve every year since.
It continues this Wednesday. We tap the firkin at 6 pm.
Thanksgiving Tradition = The Annual Hand Turkeys with Jimmy Party at the Evening Star. This Wednesday night beginning at 8 & featuring the Joe Chiocca Band, a cask of Loose Cannon, a ton of good friends. No cover and everyone's invited!
Facebook page for Evening Star Cafe.
- 2011: Thanksgiving Eve Tradition Continues (with an assist). Evening Star was closed for renovations in November of 2011, so the tapping was moved 2 blocks up to Del Ray Pizzeria.
- 2010: Thanksgiving beer from the wood.
- 2009: Evening Star's Pre-Thanksgiving Cask Bash.
- 2008: Take a firkin break from cooking the turkey.
- 2007: Cask ale and giving thanks.
- What's so special about cask-conditioned ale. Read more at CaskAle USA.
- Clipper City Brewing is now known as Heavy Seas. Same brewery, location, and ownership: just a new name.
- Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas.
at 11:16 PM
Sunday, November 18, 2012
I should entitle this post: Now that I've been to the Dorset scrumpy cask, how am I going to get back? Or ... oh , how I want to like American, made-from-locally-grown apples, cider.
WHEREAS, cider was a colonial beverage enjoyed by not only our forefathers such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington but the common farmer, lawyer, butcher, and soldier;
and WHEREAS, orchards were planted by early settlers and colonials to provide apples to ferment for the production of cider;
and WHEREAS, Virginia is currently the 6th largest apple producing state by acreage in the United States and cider is a value-added product of apples, supporting an existing industry in the state;
and WHEREAS, agriculture in the Commonwealth is the state’s largest industry, with an economic impact of $55 billion annually;
and WHEREAS, agritourism is a growing component of Virginia’s tourism industry;
and WHEREAS, the cider industry in Virginia has experienced significant growth, with six cideries started since 2006 and three prospective cideries currently being planned;
and WHEREAS, the sales of cider nationwide have increased over 20% in the last year;
and WHEREAS, the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate passed House Joint Resolution 105 in 2012 to designate the full week before Thanksgiving as Virginia Cider Week in Virginia;
and NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby [declare] November 11-17,2012 as VIRGINIA CIDER WEEK in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.
Events for Virginia Cider Week were organized by Diane Flynt, proprietor of Foggy Ridge Cider. Her cidery is in southwest Virginia, but the celebration (extended to include nine days: 10-18 November) was state-wide: special tastings at shops and restaurants, as well as at cideries, of which there are eight in Virginia, or at least eight which participated in the event.
- Albemarle Ciderworks (North Garden)
- Blue Bee Cider (Richmond)
- Bold Rock Cider (Nellysford)
- Castle Hill Cider (Keswick)
- Foggy Ridge Cider (Dugspur)
- Old Hill Cider (Timberville)
- Potter’s Craft Cider (Union)
- Winchester Ciderworks (Middletown)
To join in the fun, I went to a northern Virginia pub and ordered a pint of draft Bold Rock Cider (from Nelson County, Virginia, itself, home to several breweries). It was okay. Interesting. Sweet-tart. But I just didn't get complexity. As I drank it, I was looking with increasing envy at the draft Bells Best Brown that the gentleman next to me was drinking. That could have been just me. He was eyeing the Bold Rock, and, in fact, ordered that next.
On rare occasions in the past, I've been fortunate enough to drink U.K. cask scrumpy here in the States: cloudy, un-carbonated, yeasty cider imported from the West Country area. Strong in alcohol (often in excess of 6.5%), dark orange or russet in color, and rich, chewy, tart, phenolic, and full-bodied. You don't know what cider can be (at least, I didn't) until you try this. Since it's present-use and perishable, it's usually not bottled. That's why we rarely get it here. Calling such a complex beverage scrumpy? Leave it to the British!
This week, there wasn't any scrumpy to be found. This was Virginia Cider Week, after all. So, to finish off the week, I opened a bottle of Jupiter's Legacy, from Albemarle CiderWorks. The back story, on the back label:
Two boys were born at Shadwell in 1743. Thomas Jefferson and Jupiter Evans, a slave and Jefferson's most trusted servant for years. When Jupiter died in 1800, Jefferson wrote "... he leaves a void in my domestic arrangements which cannot be filled." Among Jupiter's duties was the exacting task of bottling Monicello's cider. "Malt liqors and cyder are my table drink," Jefferson noted.
According to an article in Serious Eats:
The unifying thread of Virginia cider lies in [these] two native apples. The Virginia Winesap apple is crucial for adding body, complexity, and tannins to Virginia ciders while the Albemarle Pippin is the key to the structure, tartness, and distinct green apple skin flavor found in most Virginia ciders. Both apples also make for good eats on their own and, combined, a damn fine apple pie.
The author of the piece, Chris Lehaut, goes on to describe Jupiter's Legacy as pressed principally from Winesap and Albemarle Pippin apples but mixed with
a variety of over 30 heirloom apple varietals. The end product is layered with flavors of citrus peel, apple skin, and a bit of barnyard. It is a distinctly American cider and, perhaps, the quintessential Virginia cider.
Well, that seemed like a challenge that I had to accept.
Jupiter's Legacy is no scrumpy, but, boy, oh boy, is it a tasty cider. My notes. Strong: alcohol-by-volume of 9.3%. Light to medium bodied. Pale straw in color with nice carbonation, but scant champagne-like mousse, even when poured aggressively into a flute. Aromas of green apples, wet clay, and background suggestions of oranges and ripe bananas. The tastes follow through identical to the aromas, but with a hint of circus peanut candies: banana-flavored marshmallows.
Be forewarned: this is a very dry cider. I doubt that there is any residual sugar left in it after fermentation. Even tannic Cabernet Sauvingon red wines have some R.S., as un-fermented sugars are referred to in the wine-making trade. What's not in the finish of Jupiter's Legacy is a puckering, chewing-on-an-aspirin tannic bite. In fact, for such a dry cider, it's surprisingly smooth at and after the last sip.
This would be a wonderful food wine. That's right, wine, which is, after all, fermented fruit juice. Jupiter's Legacy at the Thanksgiving table anyone?
Is Virginia cider available in cask-conditioned form? Is there Virginia scrumpy? Will I become an acolyte of American apple cider? I don't know yet. I'll keep tasting.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Vamping for the camera, accessorized in style, this lady was an attendee of the Fiery Foods & Firkins Fest: an afternoon of cask ales, chili, cheese, and "a little heat," at Heavy Seas Brewing Company, one of several festivals the brewery throws during the year at its facility in Halethorpe, Maryland, just south of the City of Baltimore.
Heavy Seas spells "pirate" with a "y" in its promotional literature. Its eye-patches prove to be quite popular at beer festivals.
10 November 2012.
- Fiery is pronounced FIRE-ree.
- More photos from the fest: here.
- Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission,as per Creative Commons.
- Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas.
Friday, November 16, 2012
Christmas music has begun bleating. Faux fir trees are sprouting. Fragrance floggers are spritzing. Shoppers are early Christmas beserking. Yes, it's time, again, for ...
the Cheery Xmas Photo (of beer) Contest: The VII Edition.
This annual contest is organized —with seasonal curmudgeonliness (a word?)— by beer blogger Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog. He has only 4 real rules.
- 1. Submit photos (or would that be digital images) only of beer.
- 2. Up to (only) nine photos may be submitted per entrant. (Be very afraid of what he might do the tenth.)
- 3. Only one photo of beer with food will be allowed per submitter.
- 4. Submissions will be accepted Friday, 16 November, at noon Eastern Standard Time (that's now) until Friday December 7 at noon, eastern standard time.
To reward the worthy, Mr. McLeod will be badgering and shaming beer writers, brewers, and other reticent beery folk into giving up booty, err, prizes for the best photos. (For example, one prize last year was the Oxford Companion to Beer.) He awards several prizes, including honorable mentions. McLeod does the judging. This is his contest, after all. And, although, in the spirit of the season, he wants submissions "to give joy to all," he does award "a prize for the crappiest photo. It is a crappy prize."
Last year's grand prize-winning (non-crappy) photo was from beer blogger Jeff Alworth (Beervana), of steam rising from a koelschip, at the Cantillon Brewery, in Brussels, Belgium.
So, drink some beer and snap some pics. Send them to beerblog at gmail dot com. Good luck, and — risking early season opprobrium— Linksmu Kaledu!
- Here's the list of prizes from last year, and all the grand prize photos from contests past.
- To be fair, Mr. McLeod hasn't disliked all of my photos! Writing, "For capturing ye olde pub in a modern setting," he awarded my 2011 submission, Afternoon Tipplers, second place: one of 22 placing second, out of 291 photos entered.
at 11:59 AM
Thursday, November 15, 2012
VeggieDag is an occasional Thursday post on an animal-free diet and its issues.
It's a pre-Thanksgiving VeggieDag Thursday, with links to recipes and other news.
- At Thanksgiving, you don't have to choose between beer and wine. Via Serious Eats.
- For Thanksgiving, no turkey, but one big stuffed squash (hold the chicken stock). Via Washington Post.
- (Almost) the best Brussels sprouts recipe ever. (Substitute olive oil, smoked paprika for bacon fat.) Via Washington Post.
Vegetarian Pot Pie, from Rustico Restaurant, in Alexandria, Virginia.
- Savory bread puddings, such as Mushroom, Leek and Parmesan Bread Pudding. Recipes include eggs and dairy. Via Food & Wine.
- For Thanksgiving: Voluptuous Pumpkin Pie. Vegan recipe via Post Punk Kitchen.
- Linguine With Cauliflower Pesto. Recipe via Smitten Kitchen.
- Butternut Squash Kashmiri Chili. Recipe via Washington Post.
- Junk food makeover: Tater Tots recipe, via Bon Appétit.
- The single-fry method for 'double-frying' French fries. Via Yahoo Shine.
- The 24 best French fries in the U.S. Via Travel and Leisure.
- Farmland preservation efforts in Maryland face pressures and defections from population density increases. Via B'more Green.
- Raising infants and kids on a vegan diet. Via The Vegan R.D.
- Bhut Jolokia peppers: one million Scoville units, and counting. Via Washington Post.
- American Cheese Society 2012 Winners include Mary;and's Firefly, Virginia's Everona. Via Cheese and Champagne.
- Galaxy Hut —a good beer pub in Arlington, Virginia— goes with a 100% vegetarian / vegan food menu.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Mix in equal parts love of cooking, dissatisfaction with a PhD program, a chance encounter with Roxanne Quimby of Burt's Bees, curricula at the Culinary Institute of America, wanderlust, love of beer, chutzpah, preparing a private dinner for Allagash Brewery owner Rob Todd and brewer Jason Perkins, and the attention of an independent publisher/photographer.
That's the recipe for the genesis of chef James Simpkins' new cookbook, Allagash: The Cookbook, published by "boutique" publishing house Blue Tree.
Simpkins —and Brian Smestad, photographer and publisher— were in Washington, D.C. tonight, signing copies of the The Cookbook for the public and media at beer bistro Churchkey.
l-r: Brian Smestad (publisher/photographer;
Suzanne Woods (mid-Atlantic representative for Allagash);
James Simpkins (author/chef).
Over a two year period, Simpkins has created a book of recipes inspired by the Belgian-styled beers of Allagash Brewing, of Portland, Maine. Not so much cooking with beer as an ingredient, but cooking a meal to be served with beer. As brewery owner Rob Todd says in a foreward:
Great food had been a part of our lives at Allagash for well over a decade, and this book seemed like a perfect natural progression.
Chef Simpkins divides the cookbook into ten principal chapters, in which several different recipes are paired with each of ten different beers from Allagash: White, Dubbel, Tripel, Four, Curieux (pictured below), Interlude, Black, Victoria, Hugh Malone, Coolship (spontaneously fermented beers).
In well-written comments, Simpkins explains and describes the flavor hooks for each association. He offers not only an index of the recipes, but a pre-index, if you will, by culinary region: New England (e.g., Maine Scallops with Caramelized Onions and Bourbon Butter), Mid-Atlantic (Sweet Potato Bisque with Sourdough Croutons), South (Chicken Plantain Roulades), Heartland (Double Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich), West (Stuffed Poblano Peppers).
The book itself is a gorgeous creation: glossy card-stock, well-bound pages, and beautiful photographs, all done under the care of publisher Smestad. There's one final, nice touch: a built-in old-fashioned, ribbon bookmark. Mine opens to page 37: the poblanos stuffed with quinoa.
If you weren't at Churchkey tonight, look for Allagash: The Cookbook at independent bookshops, wine/beer shops and restaurants, and on-line: here. Amazon? Nope! You can't buy it there.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
This is how not to write an opinion piece.
In the Wall Street Journal.
Sometimes a man has to admit something about himself that he really does not want to admit. That's the way I feel about craft beers. When the topic gets around to craft beers— which it inevitably does—I am left completely out in the cold. I have no idea what Tröeg's Mad Elf Ale tastes like. I couldn't tell Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA from Ommegang Rare Vos if my life depended on it. Is Golden Walrus Imperial Pilsner brewed in Delaware, Prague or Loch Ness? You got me.
That's 'humorist' Joe Queenan in a 9 November 2012 piece entitled Foaming at The Mouth About Craft Beer.
Queenan calls this craft beer palaver "kraftbierkulturkampf." That's clever. That's fair enough. I've had 'barristas' at coffee shops stare at me with blank faces when I've merely ordered a cup of coffee, without employing patois modifiers. But, then, Queenan writes this:
It doesn't help that I don't drink.
I switch now to addressing you directly, Mr. Queenan. Correct, it doesn't help that you don't drink. In fact, that's a whopping non-sequitur. You're using a (formerly?) internationally respected journal to rant without informed basis.
Here's how Alexander D. Mitchell IV —blogger at Beer In Baltimore— expressed his disdain:
I shall take this guy about as seriously as you should take a vegan's criticism of steakhouses, a non-smoker's critique about cigar smoking, a non-sports-follower's pronouncements about the Orioles/Redskins/Ravens/etc., or an illiterate person's dissertations on literature, all for the same reason.
(quoted, with permission, from Mr. Mitchell's Facebook page)
For your edification, Mr. Queenan, the difference between a beer snob and a beer lover, shall I say (or a coffee snob or foodie, for that matter), is that the first is a boor, while the latter is an appreciator of the beer and a student of the topic.
For your edification, Mr. Queenan, the business of craft beer is booming. Percentage-wise, it's far outpacing the growth of 'corporate' beer, and, in fact, is at a much healthier pace than that of the rest of the economy. Might that be a reason for the increase of 'craft-beer' talk, which vexes you so?
Write about what you know, sir; don't insult that which you don't investigate, or seemingly don't care to. If the guy on the stool next over is prating on about a beer, switch the subject. And, for heaven's sake, please spare us your sneering, misplaced reverse-snobbery.
I think craft-beer mania has replaced golf as something that conniving executives dreamed up.
Well, Mr. Queenan, craft beer is a poor choice of vocation for avarice. There are few wealthy craft brewers; I write of what I know. A better choice for "conniving executive" might be Mr. Carlos Brito, the man who runs AB-InBev, the maker of Budweiser —a beer he has cheapened— which is the very beer that you offer as anodyne.
at 11:21 PM
Monday, November 12, 2012
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.
28 October - 10 November 2012
The Brewers Association announced that SAVOR —its annual food-with-beer exposition— will move from Washington, D.C. to New York City in 2013. To return in 2014.
Bordeaux winemakers express cautious optimism for its low yielding 2012 vintage. Via The Drinks Business.
Great-great granddaughters of 19th century Virginia brewer Robert Portner plan to re-open Portner Brewery as brewpub in Alexandria, Virginia. Via YFGF.
Like wine stored in caves, Belgian brewery Cantillon is aging its lambic beer in World War II bunkers. Via Belgian Beer and Travel.
Many political pundits' forecasts were wrong, but not those of 'geek' Nate Silver. Via Tech Crunch.
Barack Obama winner of 2012 Presidential election; to serve second term. The last time America has had three consecutive two-term Presidents was 1801-1825: Jefferson, Madison, Monroe. Via Huffington Post.
The average price for beer at the 32 NFL stadiums is not cheap. Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.
The National Christmas Tree, a 73-foot Engelmann Spruce, was harvested near Meeker, Colorado. Now, on its way to U.S. Capitol. Via NPR News.
For its 30th anniversary, Sierra Nevada Brewing to release a whiskey-barrel-aged iteration of Bigfoot Barleywine. Via My Beer Buzz.
Litchi, mango, orange: the flavors & scarcity of Citra hops. Via Washington Post.
"The Plot to Destroy America's Beer." How Anheuser Busch-InBev is changing the company, and, maybe, the beers. Via Bloomberg.
A master of the history of ideas, historian Jaques Barzun dies at 104. Via Washington Post.
Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, as well as the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane in history, only surpassed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Via Wikipedia.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
President Abraham Lincoln
On Veterans Day, thank ALL U.S. veterans, including those currently serving, and those who have completed their military service, and those who have been wounded, sometimes seriously. Consider contributing to the Wounded Warrior Project.
at 6:11 AM
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Enjoying a warming beer, outside, on a cold but sunny autumn afternoon.
The sidewalk patio at ...
Baltimore, Maryland (Fell's Point).
7 November 2009.
Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission,as per Creative Commons.
Friday, November 09, 2012
One city's loss is another city's gain. It's sad news, at least for one year, for fans of good beer in the Washington, D.C. area. It's good news for New York City, and something for fans of good beer in that city to to look forward to, as the city continues to deal with the cold and wet aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Here are the details about SAVOR's 2013 250-mile north: a press release from the Brewers Association, an advocacy group for U.S. breweries producing fewer than six million barrels of beer per year.
SAVOR℠ HOPS TO NEW YORK CITY IN 2013
Big Apple Hosts Premier Craft Beer and Food Pairing Experience
Boulder, CO • November 8, 2012 – After five consecutive years of hosting SAVOR℠: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience in Washington, D.C., the Brewers Association is bringing the event to New York City. In 2013, SAVOR will be held on June 14 and 15 at the Metropolitan Pavilion and adjoining Altman Building in Manhattan. The two-night event will return to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. the year after on May 9 and 10, 2014.
As the benchmark beer and food pairing event, SAVOR’s format will remain the same—an intimate and engaging reception, with a menu carefully designed by Brewers Association culinary consultant Adam Dulye, chef/owner of The Monk’s Kettle and The Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco. As in years past, small and independent breweries representing all geographic regions of the country will be selected to participate by a lottery drawing. Guests will be served by the notable personalities behind the craft beer brands and have an opportunity to interact with them during private tastings throughout the two nights.
“Part of our mission as a national, industry association is to promote small and independent craft brewers and their craft brewed beers to audiences around the country,” said Sam Calagione, chair of the Brewers Association’s board of directors. “Moving SAVOR to New York City, the culinary capital of the world, in 2013 is an incredible opportunity to showcase craft beer from a diverse sampling of small U.S. producers who have helped shift the perception of beer from something predictable and homogenized into the dynamic, flavorful, food-friendly beverage it is recognized as today. Craft brewers, beer lovers and foodies who attend SAVOR contribute to a historic localization of beer and a shift in the culinary arts world.”
The nation’s capital will play host to other Brewers Association events in 2013. The industry-only Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® will be held from March 26-29 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The craft brewing industry’s largest annual event gathers thousands of small and independent American brewers and their trade partners for workshops, collaboration, education and discussion on important matters facing the community.
“With D.C. hosting the Craft Brewers Conference in 2013, this was the right time for the Brewers Association to bring SAVOR to a new market and expand the audience,” added Calagione. “We’re excited to see what New York has in store for SAVOR, and look forward to returning SAVOR to the National Building Museum in 2014.”
Tickets go on sale to the public April 17, 2013. A ticket pre-sale exclusively for members of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association will take place April 16. For more information about SAVOR, visit SavorCraftBeer.com
I attended the first SAVOR in 2008. I've avoided each subsequent confab. The raison d'etre of SAVOR is the pairing of beer with food, and the delicious combinations that can result. The beer at SAVOR has been stellar; the event seems to have morphed into a Great American Beer Festival 'lite.' That's not a bad thing. But, each year, reports have been that the food remains unmemorable, and, in fact, sometimes downright poor. If I had taken a doubter of the delights of beer-with-food to SAVORs past, she would not have been converted.
New York City is, among many things, a foodie-haven. So, maybe, just maybe, SAVOR's one-year jaunt may change the event. Maybe, just maybe, the food will also be to savor.
UPDATE: I should add that in talking to attendees of 2012 SAVOR, and in reading on-line reports, I did notice more mixed reviews rather than pans for the food this year. For example, here were two Tweeted responses to this blog post:
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Pairing vegetables with beer is not always an easy matter.
Mad Fox Brewing Company, a brewpub in Falls Church, Virginia, hosted a vegetarian beer dinner in August. All of the five dishes, prepared by the chef Andrew Dixon were good, some superb, as were the five beers, served with the dishes (well 4 out of the 5), brewed by brewmaster and owner Bill Madden. But, while the dinner on the whole was enjoyable, not all of the combinations were ultimately successful.
A brioche roll pounded flat and steamed, then topped with hoisin-glazed portabello mushrooms, crispy fired shitake mushrooms, and cucumbers, and finished with house-made ginger-mayonnaise. On the side, hot chili sauce. You ate it it like a taco: delicious and fun.
Kölsch is a delicate ale, gently fruity, softly hopped, with just-so malt. Mad Fox Kölsch —although a fine, if somewhat sulfury beer (appropriate to the style)— seemed not bad, but not inspired. The mushrooms needed something more earthy as a foil. (The unfiltered, straight from the fermenter version of the beer —Kellerbier Kölsch— received a gold medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.)
Pairing score: B-
A confit of summer vegetables, wrapped within a thin ribbon of grilled zucchini, finished with a tapenade vinaigrette and toasted pinenuts, and topped with a parmesan tuile.
This multi-layered vegetable dish —and I mean that both in terms of cantilever and flavor— was enhanced by the malty yet 'bitey' ale: a cask-conditioned St. Swithin's E.S.B. Caramel flavor preceeded by an earthy/sweet aroma and succeeded by a dry lingering finish.
Pairing score: A
Goat cheese-filled tamales, with red quinoa salad, guajillo chili salsa, and avocado purée. A diner was over overheard telling Chef Dixon: "I'm a meat-eater, but these tamales are off-the-chart!"
Served with Mad Fox's Witte Vos Wittebier. Brewer Bill Madden told the crowd that the beer was a Belgian-style 'white' beer made with imported German pilsner malt, raw winter red wheat, and flaked oats, and spiced with lemon and orange peels, and toasted coriander.
The wit beer was one of the better I've tasted recently, and it's not a style of beer I'm crazy for. But, flavor-wise, the wit and the tamale had little to do with each other.
Pairing score: C
Battered tofu with braised artichokes, risotto, ricotta, pepperanata, and toasted walnut pesto. The risotto was prepared with a vegetable stock emulsion that was deeply savory: umami-full.
Served with Mad Fox's Orange Whip, Mad Fox's 'India Pale Ale.' Brewed with hard-to-find Citra hops, the beer smells and tastes like orange and grapefruit pith, and finishes with a bracing bite. It's only occasionally brewed, and has reached a cult status in the DC beer scene.
Everything was good with this combo. The beer, the entree, the flavor-pairing between the two. The sauce was stunningly flavorful; the beer proved a worthy companion.
Pairing score: A+
The dessert course for the evening was a Peach Tart Tatin: an upside-down puff pastry with with local Virginia peaches, pistachio cream, wildflower honey ice cream, and oat crumble. Chef Dixon suggested waiting for the ice cream to begin melting to meld all the flavors. Tried it: he was right.
The pastry was served with Mad Fox Krieken Blonde, which, brewer Bill Madden told us, was a Blonde Ale, brewed with Belgian yeast, to which Oregon cherry purée had been added post-fermentaion. but, to me, something was was off-kilter about this beer. Rather than a cherry flavor, I tasted something akin to green-olive.
For a pairing, I think the wit beer would have better here, or, for contrast, a chocolaty dark beer, or even the Orange Whip, with its strong citrusy-orange flavor.
Pairing score: C-
Madden was a gracious, informative host. Chef Dixon would follow his beer presentations with concise descriptions of ingredients, techniques, and flavors. The evening was, in fact, the second vegetarian food/beer dinner that the pub has presented.
Pairing the flavors of food and beer —whether through contrast, like-flavors, flavor hooks, or texture cut— can be evanescently difficult. But, oh, when it all falls into place!
- More photos from the dinner: here.
- VeggieDag is an occasional Thursday post on vegetarian issues. Why the name? Here. Prior VeggieDag Thursday posts: here. Follow on Twitter: #VeggieDag. Logo by Tom Lee, beer columnist for Baltimore Examiner. Suggestions and submissions from chefs and homecooks: welcomed!
- Caveat lector: As a blogger, I was given a reduced price for admission.
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
I make it a rule not to post an advertisement, unless it's selling something in which I'm somehow involved or connected. I'll clearly identify my bias. But, seeing as how the Redskins Rule was overturned on Tuesday evening, I'll break my no-ad rule tonight.
The Bulls Head Public House, in Lititz, Pennsylvania, throws its Fall Cask Ale Festival, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 16th, 17th, and 18th.
Here's a brief description from the pub's Facebook page.
Bulls Head Fall Cask Ale Festival
Close to 20 Delicious Cask AlesDEFINITION OF CASK CONDITIONED BEER
Unfiltered, unpasteurized beer brewed from only traditional ingredients, matured and naturally carbonated by a secondary fermentation in the container from which it is manually dispensed - i.e. served without the use of nitrogen or extraneous carbon dioxide. It is ideally served at cellar temperature,which is about 55 °F - so cool but not chilled.
a partial list of casks, so far, with more to be announced.
- Brooklyn Brewing Bitter
- Brooklyn Brewing Brown Ale
- Coniston Brewery Bluebird Bitter
- Flying Dog Brewery Nocturnal Nut Brown
- Flying Dog Brewery Single Hop Nelson Sauvin
- Lancaster Brewery Hop Hog Habenero
- St. Boniface ESB
- St. Boniface Hegemony Stout
- Stone Brewing Smoked Porter
- Stone Brewing Ruination IPA
Beers are available while stocks last; empty casks won't be replaced. Strictly over 21 years of age only; please bring ID to avoid disappointment. Admission is subject to capacity limits, so you're advised to come early as this event will be popular.
- Friday November 16th, 4 pm to 10 pm
- Saturday November 17th, 11:00 am to 10 pm
8 am - 11 am: Traditional English Breakfast will be served in the pub.
- Sunday November 18th, 2 pm to 4 pm
Half price growler fills on Sunday - bring your own growler.
- Bulls Head Public House
14 E. Main Street, Lititz, Pennsylvania 17543
- Directions at Bing Maps: here.
Pay as you go - no entrance fee. This gives you the opportunity to come back several times in order to sample the variety of brews. You never have to feel that to get your money's worth you'd better get drinking!
Make a Day of It!
Why am I posting this? Why should you go?
First off, it's cask-conditioned ale. Second, its from Paul Pendyck.
For fifteen years, Mr. Pendyck has been purveying hard-to-come by cask ale equipment through his company UK Brewing Supplies. For even longer than that, Mr. Pendyck, a British ex-pat, has been proselytizing and educating Americans on proper cask-conditioned ale. If you attended the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, a few weeks ago, you would have been fortunate enough to hear him speak on proper cask cellaring.
Bulls Head Public House is Pendyck's own pub, opened only two years ago. That's reason enough to be confident of experiencing cask ale done well. That's reason enough to break my rule.