Thursday, January 30, 2014

VeggieDag Thursday: super food; super beer; Super Bowl.

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

Denver Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning was jonesing to “get a Bud Light in [his] mouth,” after his victory in the AFC championship game. We can forgive him his poor beer trespass but relate to his sentiment.

Americans drank 50 million cases of beer during the 2008 Super Bowl. That's the equivalent of 1.2 billion 12-ounce bottles (or cans). The actual total volume was even greater than that, because the Neilsen Company reported only on beer purchased at stores, not ordered at bars and restaurants (or the stadium!).

Surprisingly, then, the Super Bowl, is only the eighth busiest beer-purchasing day. The top eight are:
  • 1. Independence Day
  • 2. Labor Day
  • 3. Memorial Day
  • 4. Fathers Day
  • 5. Christmas/New Year's
  • 6. Thanksgiving
  • 7. Easter (Think college spring break.)
  • 8. Super Bowl

Here's what Americans ate during the 2013 Super Bowl(compiled by The Street). Thanksgiving is the only U.S. holiday on which Americans eat more.
  • 1.23 billion chicken wings
  • 79 million pounds of avocados
  • 11.2 million pounds of potato chips
  • 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips
  • 4.3 million pounds of pretzels
  • 3.8 million pounds of popcorn
  • 2.5 million pounds of nuts

Here are are a few recipes for non-carnivore snacks to nibble on during Sunday's game.
Happy eating; happy drinking. And, no matter who wins the game —the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos— here's hoping for a good Super Bowl XLVIII.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SAVOR returns to Washington, D.C.

After a one-year sabbatical in New York City, SAVOR, the two-day beer festival touted as "the benchmark event in craft beer and food pairing", returns to its Washington, D.C. home, at the National Building Museum, on May 9 and 10, 2014.

SAVOR 2014

The festival's organizer, the Brewers Association (BA) —an advocacy and lobbying group for breweries producing fewer than 6 million barrels of beer per year— conducts a lottery to determine which member breweries are invited to serve their beers. I'm not privy to how it's conducted, but I can only assume that it's done non-nefariously, double-blind. According to the BA, one-third (76) of the 224 that applied this year received slots, representing 29 states. Some breweries are present every year: the BA also gives automatic slots to breweries that drop a significant "supporting sponsor" or partnership fee.

Ten breweries from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (home-base for YFGF) are participating. Tickets go on sale 26 March (25 March for members of the BA). They aren't cheap. $135 for the "Grand Tasting", and $155 for an even 'grander' session that includes speakers and demonstrations, which the BA, highfalutin, calls "salons". Nevertheless, the tickets sell out quickly. Disposable income and enthusiasm for 'craft' beer run rampant in the Washington, D.C. area.

SAVOR is 7 years old this year, but, despite its aspirations to be a beer and 'foodie' event, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who has gone for the food. They go for the beer. It's the Great American Beer Festival 'lite.'


Monday, January 27, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 2/3, 2014.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 2/3
5 January 2014 - 18 January 2014

  • 2014.01.18
    A summary of beer laws and beer-related legal activity in the U.S. during 2013, including some of the internecine battles between 'craft' breweries. Via Komlossy Law.

  • 2014.01.16
    The U.S. is home to 2,722 breweries, and that number is expected to grow during 2014. Via Brewers Association.

  • 2014.01.13
    Japan's Suntory to buy Jim Beam's parent U.S. company for $16 billion dollars, making Suntory the world's 3rd largest distillery company. Via CNBC.

  • 2014.01.16
    Beer retailer writes that so-called 'craft-beer bubble' won't be bursting anytime soon. Via The BeerMonger.

  • McLeod/Bahnson: The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer
  • 2014.01.10
    Recently e-published: "The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer." E-book by Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog and Max Bahnson of Pivní Filosof. A critique of some of the solipsistic silliness of 'craft' beer.

  • 2014.01.10
    Icelandic brewery brews beer made from whale bones to pair with "soured whale fat, burned sheep heads, soured sheep testicles, salted fish, shark, etc." Via Foreign Policy.

  • 2014.01.10
    At its current rate of planting, Washington state acreage for aroma hops is expected to outpace alpha hops for first time ever, in 2015. Via USDA (Tri-City Herald).

  • 2014.01.09
    Draft Magazine publishes its list of the 100 best beer bars for 2014.

  • 2014.01.09
    The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control reverses course; to allow bars and restaurants to publicly advertise 'Happy Hours' of discounted drink pricing. Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.01.09
    Peter Austin dies at age 92: one of the more important brewers of our time, especially for the British and American 'craft' beer renaissance. Via Roger Protz (The Guardian).

  • 2014.01.08
    Draught-beer-to-go containers, called growlers, now legally sized, in Virginia, from one pint to 2 quarts. Via YFGF.

  • 2014.01.06
    British wine writer says "Wine is becoming expensive and quite boring." Predicts major growth for beer in 2014, as a consequence. Via Jamie Goode.

  • 2014.01.05
    Brain Pickings website selects the best biographies and memoirs of 2013, including Twain, Sontag, Ellington, and Nabokov.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pic(k) of the week: Joggy Foggy

Joggy foggy

A few days after the cold of the so-called polar vortex of early January 2014, temperatures had begun to rise. Here, a red-jacketed runner jogs into the fog, rising along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Arlington, Virginia. (across the Potomac River, from Washington, D.C.)
11 January 2014.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

VeggieDag Thursday: Hello, again (and Quick Links for January 2014).

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

When asked if I'm a 'vegetarian' or 'vegan,' I don't reply with an answer sure to be laden with labels and agendas. So, I'll say: "No, but I don't eat animals." It's never meat, fish, fowl, or eggs for me, but it's always vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and fruits, and, occasionally, artisinal cheeses, although no other dairy.

Re-introducing VeggieDag Thursday for 2014, this is an occasional Thursday post, at which I write 'meatless' on matters of an animal-free diet and issues of the ecology. I might even inveigle beer (or wine or spirits) into the posts. Beer is, after all, in most cases, a fine vegetarian foodstuff. It's liquid bread, made from barley malt, hops (an herb), yeast, and water.

I call this column VeggieDag Thursday in solidarity with the city of Ghent, in Belgium, which first declared a weekly, city-wide "VeggieDag Donderdag" on Thursday, 14 May 2009. More: here.

Quick links for January 2014:
  • Industrial agriculture could be hitting fundamental limits in its capacity to produce sufficient crops to feed an expanding global population according to new research by scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Via The Guardian.

  • Researchers at U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have discovered a way to turn a small mixture of algae and water into a kind of crude oil in less than an hour, with net-positive energy gain, and potentially cost-competitively. Via Smithsonian Magazine.

  • The Daily Beast examines top 10 diets of 2013. Finds them all "useless."

  • The "101 Organizations to Watch in 2014" which play "a vital part in creating a better food system." Via Food Tank. [List includes Arcadia: "a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, D.C. area."]

  • "Ingesting a warm chocolate-chip cookie offered the eaters a brief respite from their quotidian woe." A history of the chocolate=chip cookie. Via New Yorker.

  • FDA launching pilot testing program for raw-milk cheese. Via Gourmet Retailer.

  • Cheesemonger at Arlington, Virginia, wine shop Arrowine wins title of title of America’s Best Cheesemonger at U.S. Cheesemonger Invitational. Via Cheese & Champagne.

  • Domino's Pizza retailer offering a vegan pizza .... but only in Israel. Via NPR.

  • Go vegan! The price of choice-grade U.S. beef at wholesale set a new record, due to short supply. (Via Yahoo Finance.) The great goat's cheese shortage of 2014 in Europe and the U.K. (Via The Guardian.) Velveeta shortage seen in U.S. (Via USA Today.)

    Players on the championship NBA team, the Miami Heat, visit the White House and promote eating well. Host Michelle Obama dunks (sort of)!


Birthday in Beer: Charlie Papazian turns 65.

Charlie Papazian celebrates his 65th birthday today. It's a milestone for Mr. Papazian, and, by extension, for the entire modern 'good beer' revival movement in the United States —homebrewing and 'craft' brewing alike.

Educated as a nuclear engineer, Mr. Papazian, a homebrewer by hobby, founded the American Homebrewers Association in 1978, when homebrewing in the U.S. was technically illegal. Today, the hobby is legal in all 50 states. Papazian's efforts were a crucial part of that evolution.

In 1979, Mr. Papazian founded the Association of Brewers, now the Brewers Association (of which he is president) —the primary advocacy group for small and independent breweries in the U.S.

In 1982, he organized the first ever Great American Beer Festival —since held annually, and considered the premier annual national competition for American breweries. In 1996, he organized the bi-annual World Beer Cup.

In 1984, Mr. Papazian published his seminal how-to, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. This book would inspire and educate successive generations of homebrewers, some of whom would later convert their avocations into professions (including the author of this blog). The book is still in print, now on its 3rd edition.

Mr. Papazian's iconic admonition has long been: "Relax; don't worry; have a homebrew." Inscribed with that, here's my dog-eared ('photo-shopped') 1991 autographed edition of his book.

The late, great beer writer Michael Jackson wrote the book's forward. This is the final paragraph:
Wherever my travels take me in the United States, and whichever commercial beers I am asked to taste, whether by a magazine, a scientific institute, or a brewer, I always seem to finish up in someone's garden at the weekend, enjoying their own home-produced vintage. My hosts almost always turn out to be members of the American Homebrewers' Association. It happened again the other day, in Washington, D.C. My hosts were a physicist and his schoolteacher wife. They had friends present, an executive in a government agency and a couple of journalists from a famous newspaper. We enjoyed that same pleasure usually experienced in cooking together, except that we were brewing. While we went about it, we sampled the recently matured product of their last brew. "Let's drink a toast," suggested our hosts. "Lets drink to Charlie Papazian." We did, and so will you.

Have a happy birthday, today, Charlie!


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Fermenting, things go better with Coke.

Fermenting, things go better with Coke.

Resourceful re-purposing, as seen in the small fermentation room at BadWolf Brewing, the first-ever 'craft' brewery in Manassas, Virginia.

As beer ferments in these sealed 55-gallon plastic drums, carbon dioxide, produced by the yeast, must be allowed to escape, so that the drum won't rupture. The stream of CO2 runs, via a tube, into a Coca-Cola bottle, filled with a solution of sanitizer, that precludes airborne microbes from travelling back into the beer, mucking up the fermentation.

The brewery opened to the public in late June 2013. This photo was taken during a visit on 12 January 2014. After which one might have said: "Things go better with ... beer."


Thursday, January 16, 2014

2,722 breweries on the U.S. map

The golden apogee of USA brewing occurred in 1870. That year, there were 3,286 breweries in the U.S., the most ever. By 1979, the gold had been burgled. Barely 44 breweries remained. 1

Then —as the Coasters didn't sing— "Along came Craft."

Brewers Association At the close of last year (December 2013), the U.S. was home to two-thousand seven-hundred and twenty-two breweries (with an additional one-thousand seven-hundred and forty-four breweries in planning, almost half-again as many!). Looking at this in another way, in 2012, there were 2,403 breweries; thus, in one year, there was a 13.275 % increase in the number of U.S. breweries.

Here is the breakdown of these statistics, as just released by the Brewers Association (BA) —an advocacy group for U.S. breweries which produce fewer than 6-million barrels of beer per year. 2

  • Brewpubs: 1202
    A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site.
  • Microbreweries: 1376
    A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels per year with 75% or more sold off-site.
  • Regional breweries: 120
    A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels. [That's a big spread!]
  • Large breweries: 24
    Breweries producing more than six million barrels of beer per year.
These are preliminary figures. The BA will release its final data and analysis in April, concurrent with its annual confab, the Craft Brewers Conference.

Other than those for brewpubs, all the definitions are the BA's alone, not legal or governmental distinctions. The BA further restricts it membership, based on independence (less than 25% owned by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not itself a craft brewery) and tradition (a brewery whose flagship beer is all-malt or whose production consists, 50% or more, of all malt beers). Using those criteria, 98% of the breweries operating in 2013 were, indeed, 'craft' breweries. 3

One of those 2,722 breweries was the Heritage Brewing Company. And, this Manassas, Virginia, brewery might have just been the 2,722nd, precisely. Heritage opened its doors to the public, for the first time ever, on New Year's Eve.

That's an auspicious start.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fobbing at the Tut: Cask Ale 101 with Alex Hall

Alex Hall is an advocate for cask ale in the U.S., based in New York City. Here, he is interviewed by Barry Wasser, of the Brewed Palate, on cask ale fundamentals.

There's a lot more to serving cask-conditioned beer properly than many publicans in the U.S. may realize. This is an excellent primer.

  • 00:00
    Vent the beer well before serving it: one to two days or more. Tap and sample; wait for beer to condition and clear before serving.

  • 2:00
    Who is Alex Hall?

  • 4:38
    "It's always hands-on. You must never neglect a cask. Watch for clarity; don't put it on too early!" Possibly add finings. Constantly monitor the progress before and after serving.

  • 6:20
    Pulling the beer up to the bar. "It's all manual." No extraneous gas.

  • 7:35
    Cask breathers are controversial in the U.K. But, "The cask breather is seriously, seriously helping to spread cask in the U.S." But it's much better to have beer that's not going to stale in 3 or 4 days. "If you don't like it, don't drink the beer!" [I would add that even though the cask breather receives pressure set at 4psi, it sends CO2 to the cask at ZERO pressure.]

  • 10:05
    What's a beer engine?

  • 12:10 Temperature, clarity, flavor. Casque Marque is a cask ale quality accreditation program in the U.K., which has now come to New York City and eastern Pennsylvania, thanks to Paul Pendyck of UK Brewing Supplies (located in Pennsylvania).

  • 14:00
    Keep casks cool with wet towels, placed all around the cask, not just on the top, "like some sort of hat." Keep them wet!

  • 16:55
    How a brewery fills a cask.

  • 17:40
    Less than a quarter of U.S. breweries use finings to clarify the beer. A good pub cellarperson knows how and when to add finings.

  • 21:40
    Low gravity beers can be surprisingly complex. British cask beers tend to be low-gravity. American cask beers are often much stronger, and often flavored within the cask.

Fobbing at the Tut: a series on cellarmanship.
Fobbing at the Tut:
A series of occasional posts on good cask cellarmanship.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Week 52, 2013 & Week 1, 2014.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 50/51
22 December 2013 - 4 January 2014

  • 2014.01.04
    The three-thousand year old tomb of the head of beer production for Pharaoh Amenhotep III is unearthed in Luxor, Egypt. Via BBC.

  • 2014.01.04
    The future of American wine: "Wine of place, proud of where it comes from, proud of its diversity." Via Dave McIntyre (of the Washington Post).

  • Peter Austin, courtesy Pugsley Brewing

  • 2014.01.01
    British microbrew pioneer Peter Austin has died at 92. Important influence on early U.S. 'craft' breweries. Via Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog.

  • 2014.01.01
    British beer historian Ron Pattinson authors book on re-creating beers originally brewed during the years 1800 to 1965. Ingredients, brewing techniques, and descriptions of the history and development of each style. Via Shut Up About Barclay Perkins (Pattinson's blog).

  • 2013 Yuletide Photo Contest Winner
  • 2014.01.01
    The 2013 winners of the annual Yuletide Beer Photo Contest announced. Via Alan McLeod (A Good Beer Blog).

  • 2014.01.01
    The current science on why excessive alcohol consumption causes veisalgia —i.e., hangover— and suggested palliatives. Via Smithsonian Magazine.

  • 2013.12.31
    British ex-pat, Nick Funnell —the longest-tenured brewer in the Washington D.C. area— hangs up his boots. Via YFGF.

  • 2014.12.30
    Sierra Nevada Brewing releases the first beer to be brewed at both its Chico, California, location, and at its new second location, in Mills River, North Carolina: Nooner 'Session IPA'. Via My Beer Buzz.

  • 2014.12.30
    Julia Herz —Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association— assesses 'craft' beer's development in 2013. "Craft beer is finally and fully being recognized in every subset of the beverage and culinary worlds."

  • 2014.12.27
    Richmond, Virginia-area had a big year for new 'craft' beer in 2013. Via

  • 2014.12.24
    Reports of the demise of Belgium's Orval Trappist Brewery were greatly exaggerated. "Fermentation continues in tranquility and peace" at Trappist Orval. Via Belgian Beer Specialist.

  • 2014.12.24
    Why it's okay to indulge in some alcoholic excess over the Christmas holidays. An essay by British beer author Pete Brown.

  • 2014.12.23
    EU brewers claim trade discrimination. Demand same excise tax breaks as small U.S. breweries. Via EurActiv.

  • 2014.12.23
    Yusef Lateef has died, age 93. Multi-instrumentalist, world musician, jazz master. Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.12.22
    "Ancient man developed agriculture to brew alcohol [i.e., beer], NOT to bake bread." Via Daily Mail.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: This machine kills fascists.

This machine kills fascists

Music with a message: a wedding DJ's turntable.

The phrase is attributed to the late folk/protest singer Woody Guthrie, who would affix it to his guitar. As seen in ...

Reno, Nevada.
12 October 2013.


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Grilled cheese AND a pint, to go!

This just in! Now, you can have your grilled cheese and your pint of beer ... and take 'em both home.

Pubs and restaurants in Virginia have been allowed, for a few years now, to sell draft beer-to-go in 'growlers,' one or two-quart re-sealable glass containers. Just recently, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (VABC) stated that these establishments could also sell draft beer-to-go in 16-ounce vessels, which are commonly known as ... pints!

The first pub to take advantage of this interpretation was Falls Church, Virginia's Spacebar, which began filling mason jars with pints of draft beer-to-go, yesterday evening (7 January 2014).

As is the case in such matters, the lack of a prohibition does not, ipso facto, imply permission. So, under an abundance of caution, Spacebar's owners, Lary and Erica Hoffman, had first asked VABC officials if a close-able one-pinter could be specifically considered an acceptable "alternate" vessel, under the agency's definition of "growler." The answer came back, they're "not prohibited." AS in: yes!

Spacebar offers 24 different draft beers and just about the same number of grilled-cheese sandwiches. The pub opens at 5 pm. Early in the evening, many neighborhood folk, returning home from work, purchase these cheese sammies as take-out. The traditional two-quart sized growler might be too much libation for the nosh; but a pint, just right.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: So long, Nick Funnell!

Sweetwater's Brewers Three

After 17 1/2 years as executive brewer for the three Sweetwater Tavern brewpubs in northern Virginia, British-trained Nick Funnell (pronounced fun NELL) has hung up his boots. Funnell's final day on the job will be 31 December 2013. Here he is (on the left), with fellow brewers Joe Schineller (c) and Jake Sullivan (r), at the Sweetwater Tavern, in Centreville, Virginia.

"I'm too old for this," he half-joked. That's hard to imagine for this brewer, a respected doyen among Washington-D.C.-area brewers (in fact the region's longest tenured brewer) and an educator of good brewers nationwide, as an instructor at the American Brewers Guild.

Born in Yorkshire, U.K., Funnell worked for several breweries in Great Britain, including Ushers, a now-closed brewery, near the Dorset area. He moved to the U.S. in the mid 1990s, hired to open a Washington, D.C., brewpub for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Dock Street Brewing. When that venture failed (through no fault of his!), he was hired to open and run brewing operations at Sweetwater Tavern, in Merrifield, Virginia. Part of the Great American Restaurants chain of restaurants in northern Virginia, Sweetwater Tavern now has three locations, all of which Funnell oversees as brewmaster.

How does a young scientist from York, England become head brewer for Sweetwater Taverns in Northern Virginia? Chemistry. That’s right. Nick’s chemistry degree from the University of Leeds in the U.K. ignited a passion that led him to brew some of the finest beers in the world. After refining his beer-making skills in the U.K., Nick moved to the States and was hired as Great American Restaurants’ first brewer in 1996. Nick now leads a skilled and dedicated brew crew <...> “People are so enthusiastic and interested when I say I’m a brewer,” says Nick. “I definitely made the right career choice. After all, I’m paid to do something a lot of people do as a hobby; there must be something good in that.”

The afternoon I stopped by to say goodbye, Funnell didn't have much time to chat. His car was due at the auto-shop, where it was to be prepped for an upcoming twenty-four hundred mile trip to Portland, Oregon. Funnell has accepted a position there with Brewers Supply Group, otherwise known as BSG Craftbrewing. In that city, a hotbed of U.S. 'craft' beer, he'll be using his expertise to assist brewers to find equipment, materials, ingredients, services, and supplies.

Funnell has the bling to back that up. During his tenure at Sweetwater Taverns, he's scored several medals at the Great American Beer Festival, the premier competition and showcase for 'craft' breweries in the U.S. For example:
  • Great American Restaurants Octoberfest (Silver: 2013)
  • Great American Restaurants Pale Ale (Gold: 2010)
  • Crazy Jackass Ale, German-style amber rye beer (Gold: 2009)
  • Wit's End Ale, Belgian-style white ale (Silver: 2006)
  • Wild West Fest Lager, Oktoberfest (Bronze: 2006)
  • High Desert Imperial Stout (Silver: 2001)
"I would have liked more," Funnell chuckled. "But I'm happy with what I've done."

I sipped on his malt-forward yet dry-finishing Sidewinder Holiday Bock. "It's 8.2% alcohol," he warned me. Suddenly, I felt wistful. Maybe it was the alcohol. Or maybe it was because I realized that this was the last Funnell-brewed beer I might ever drink. But, then, I reflected on how fortunate all of us in northern Virginia have been to have had such good beers for nearly two decades.

So long, Nick. Good luck, and thanks for all the beer!

Washington D.C.-area brewers, industry professionals, and good-beer fans gathered at Mad Fox Brewing, in Falls Church, Virginia, to 'roast' Funnell, on 30 January. The event was emceed by long-time DC beer personality Bob Tupper. Photos from the evening's festivities: here.