Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: When the dew point tops 24 °C.

Draft Pilsner in Sam Adams glass

When the dew point tops 24 °C...

A beer not murky; not ugly; not fowled with chicken parts.


A draught of pilsner-style lager.


Dewdrops condensed. Such a lovely thing.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"And beer is all there is."

I don't know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things 
to get better
I dont know how much wine and whisky
and beer
mostly beer
I have consumed after 
splits with women-
waiting for the phone to ring
waiting for the sound of footsteps,
and the phone to ring
waiting for the sounds of footsteps,
and the phone never rings
until much later
and the footsteps never arrive
until much later
when my stomach is coming up
out of my mouth
they arrive as fresh as spring flowers:
"what the hell have you done to yourself?
it will be 3 days before you can fuck me!"

the female is durable
she lives seven and one half years longer
than the male, and she drinks very little beer
because she knows its bad for the figure.

while we are going mad
they are out
dancing and laughing
with horney cowboys.

well, there's beer
sacks and sacks of empty beer bottles
and when you pick one up
the bottle fall through the wet bottom
of the paper sack 
spilling gray wet ash
and stale beer,
or the sacks fall over at 4 a.m.
in the morning
making the only sound in your life.

rivers and seas of beer
the radio singing love songs
as the phone remains silent
and the walls stand
straight up and down
and beer is all there is.

Love is A Dog From Hell (published, 1977)

Charles Bukowski (16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
German-American poet and novelist

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Street scene al fresco

Street scene al fresco

A 'street photography' shot of the patio of a restaurant and the street beyond. No humans, but a high-contrast early-evening sky, bright primary colors, and phone-camera faux high-dynamic-range imaging.

And redundantly entitled.

In the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, on 4 August 2017.


Friday, August 11, 2017

In the real ale world, regular order is restored.

GBBF 2017

The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) is Britain’s largest beer festival, with over 50,000 attendees. On the festival tasting floor, there are over 900 (cask-conditioned) real ales ranging from
microbreweries to the most well known British brands, and hundreds of bottled and foreign beers, and a selection of real ciders and perries.

It's also a competition among British brewers for national bragging-rights. Last year, Binghams Brewery's Vanilla Stout won the judging with a cask-ale pickled American-style with vanilla beans, cocoa, chocolate 'essence,' and 'natural' plum flavoring.

Upon hearing that, I bemoaned, "Oh the humanity." The beer reporter for the Washington Post took me to task for that, accusing me of demeaning the skills of the brewers and judges.

Stuff and nonsense, as if holding an opinion would be prima facie wrong, and expressing one, insulting. I don't much like extraneous nonsense tossed in a beer I drink. I do much enjoy the uber-freshness of an unadulterated cask ale. And I freely stipulate to that.

This year —despite the eschatological presence of "fine English wines," for the first time in the London beer festival's forty years— regular order has been restored. A 3.8% (!) alcohol-by-volume bitter (cask-conditioned, of course) has been crowned Champion Beer of Britain.
A bitter beer first brewed as a one-off for a pub in Lincolnshire has walked away with the prestigious Champion Beer of Britain award at the Great British Beer Festival at London Olympia. Goats Milk was produced by the Church End Brewery in Warwickshire for the Goat Pub in Market Deeping in Lincolnshire but proved so popular that it’s become a regular beer in the brewery’s range.

Head brewer Carl Graves says the 3.8% beer has a simple recipe of Maris Otter pale malt with a touch of crystal malt and malted wheat and is hopped with American Cascade and Chinook hops.

The judges on the final panel said the beer was the stand-out one among the six finalists and praised its fine balance of malt and hops and refreshing palate.

This year, like last, I was not fortunate to be there to taste the winner. But (risking re-opprobrium from the 'mainstream media') I'll still exult that an unpolluted bitter —a moreish session beer— has bested stronger zymur-sisters and brothers, resting victorious atop its stillage.

All is right with the world, at least for a moment.

Queue for American casks at Great BRITISH Beer Festival
Even so, a long line stood for a stand of
AMERICAN cask ales (exhibited but not judged).


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Beer Institute, the FDA, and transparency in beer labeling

The Beer Institute (BI) has come out in favor of the proposed U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rules on "Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments." Its argument is that

consumers should be provided with the highest standard of information for alcohol beverages on menus for chain restaurants and other similar dining establishments.

Keep in mind that the Beer Institute, while representing all U.S. breweries (as well as beer importers and beer industry suppliers) comprises—
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev
    (including 10 Barrel, Blue Point, Breckinridge, Devils Backbone, Elysian, Four Peaks, Golden Road, Goose Island, Karbach, and Wicked Weed)
  • Constellation Brands
    (including Ballast Point)
  • Craft Brew Alliance
    (including Kona, Redhook, and Widmer)
  • Heineken USA
    (including Lagunitas)
  • MillerCoors
    (including Saint Archer and Terrapin)
  • North American Breweries
    (including Genesee, Pyramid, and Magic Hat)
These company-members produce more than 81% of the volume of beer sold in the United States. Thus, buried deep within its letter to the FDA, the Beer Institute, by inference, makes common cause with its member Goliaths versus 'craft' brewery Davids.
Only very rarely, the BI supports disclosure of a single calorie reference for a category or group of beverages alcohol products, provided all products have the exact same nutritional values for each serving size provided to the consumer. This would only be acceptable in instances when this disclosure provides the consumer with the maximum amount of information. But we wish to reiterate our opposition to the use of a single, limited disclosure based on averages for all beer, wine, or drinks made with distilled spirits.

The large brewing companies and conglomerates which comprise the BI have the financial wherewithal to pay for lab analyses and label changes. Requiring smaller breweries to provide this information could be onerous: the cost of analysis for each and every beer could be beyond their means.

The FDA, showing small-business beneficence, however, will offer relief. If a specific type of wine, beer or distilled spirit offered for sale in a restaurant matches the description of the type of beer (wine or spirit) in the USDA database, that generic nutritional information can be used.

And the effect upon Mom & Pop, single-site, and small-chain restaurants? The mandate would apply only to restaurant chains with more than 20 locations. Appleby's has the cash. Businesses have until July 2018 (or July 2019 for businesses of less than $10 million in annual sales) to bring their Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels into compliance.

In light of the FDA regulations, it's interesting to recall that a quarter-of-a-century ago, in 1992, 'craft' beer pioneer Bert Grant voluntarily (others would say provocatively) put nutritional information on the label of his Grant's Scottish Ale. But, back then, the U.S. government told him to immediately cease and desist.

Going further, the Beer Institute, in 2016, created, what it called, the Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative.

Brewers' Voluntary Disclosure Iniative

Participating breweries will voluntarily disclose
calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, freshness dating; and alcohol by volume (ABV) on all labels in the form of a serving facts statement, and disclose ingredients in products on either the label or secondary packaging via a list of ingredients, a reference to a website or a QR code.

Again, easy for the big boys; difficult for the little guys. But you know what? As a beer consumer, I'd welcome transparency and honesty from the 'craft' breweries about their beers. Especially concerning the freshness of their beer or lack thereof. And make this declaration easy to see; easy to decipher. And I'd like to see that on both the can or bottle and on the carton.

I'd like to see that before I spend my $15 for a six-pack. (Kegs, too.)


Monday, August 07, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 29/30, 2017.

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

Weeks 29/30
16 July - 29 July 2017

  • 28 July 2017
    Millennials consume 42% of the wine sold in the U.S. What that might mean for 'craft' beer?
    According to Wine Spectator, the U.S. wine market is expected to expand 1.1 percent and spirits are set to rise 2.5, while beer is estimated to decline by 0.7 percent. Volumes for these three options are wildly different to be sure – beer is cheaper and more readily available in simple terms of ounces – but in broad thematic terms, sets up a worthy discussion.
    —Via Bryan D. Roth, at This Is Why I'm Drunk.

  • 27 July 2017
    Sam Shepard, the experimentalist cowboy-style poet who became one of the most significant American playwrights of the 20th century, honored with the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for drama for his play “Buried Child” and with an Oscar nomination for his acting role as aviator Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film “The Right Stuff,” died July 27 at his farm in Kentucky, from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 73.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 26 July 2017
    Another craft brewery sale. Short's Brewing Co., which until last year used the slogan "Michigan only, Michigan forever," announced Wednesday that it plans to sell a 19.99% stake to California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company. But as Lagunitas was recently bought out by Heineken, that chunk of the celebrated Michigan brewery will actually be in the hands of big beer. Still 'craft'?
    —Via Detroit Free Press.

  • John & Kristen Bates
  • 22 July 2017
    A Baltimore, Maryland, good beer man has died: John Bates (1960-2017).
    In lieu of flowers or donations, John would most appreciate random acts of kindness.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 19 July 2017
    The [U.S.] Brewers Association rolled out its Certified Independent Craft Beer (upside-down-beer-bottle) seal on 27 June 2017 Since then, the association reports, more than 1,250 U.S. breweries (out of more than 5,400) have either adopted it or committed to.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 18 July 2017
    Miller Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley refers to 'craft' brewers as "internal assassins" for their criticisms of the mainstream beer business. Blames them and other factors for Miller Lite's declining sales. But not his beer.
    —Via Hey, Beer Dan.

  • 18 July 2017
    Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.” Free speech, decency, Flying Dog Brewery, & the [U.S.] Brewers Association.
    —Via DC Beer.

  • 17 July 2017
    New Belgium for sale? To Anheuser-Busch InBev?
    —Via Forbes.

  • 16 July 2017
    “They're coming for you, Barbara.” Film director George A. Romero created the modern zombie genre with his 1968 cult film, “Night of the Living Dead,” which influenced generations of horror enthusiasts. Romero died 16 July 2017 in Toronto at age 77.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 16 July 2017
    I drink what I want, when I want [—but—] while the beer is likely to be good from both independent and Big Beer-affiliated breweries, that’s not the issue. Transparency also matters. Honesty matters.
    —Via Andy Crouch, at Beer Advocate.

  • 16 July 2017
    From Coors to Ball Corporation to Flying Dog Brewery to Lost Abbey to the American Brewers Guild and Brewers Association, to craft distiller Cutwater Spirits in San Diego, California, scientist Gwen Conley has made a career of identifying flavors (good and off) in food, beer, and spirits.
    —Via SevenFifty Daily.


Saturday, August 05, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Earth Goddess in summer

Earth Goddess in summer (04)

The Earth Goddess 'living' sculpture, as seen in the Cascades Garden, of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, in, naturally, Atlanta, Georgia, on 30 July 2017.
The immense Earth Goddess has become a signature exhibit at the Garden. The living sculpture, installed in 2013, was originally designed and fabricated by artisans from Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal. Mosaiculture is the centuries-old horticultural art of covering fabricated steel forms with a planting material and "plugging," or planting, it with tens of thousands of tiny plants.

At 30 feet wide by 25 feet tall, the sculpture weighs nearly 29 tons and holds more than 18,000 individual plants, which are trimmed weekly to maintain the flowing lines. Some of the plants used for a palette of color and texture include Pilea glauca, Lantan camara (Florida Red Mound), Alternanthera (Petites Feuilles Verts), Ipomoea batatas (Sweetheart Purple), Durante erecta (Lemon Lime), and Hypoestes sanguinolenta (Splash Select Pink).


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Drinking, again! Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest: July (!) 2017.

In Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest will run for eighteen days this year, from 16 September through 3 October. In North Carolina, Sierra Nevada Brewing packaged its Oktoberfest-style lager for this year... ... on 7 July 2017. Calendar creep.

When I was flogging beer in northern Virginia, the beer-buyer in one particular shop would admonish me, "No mention of Oktoberfest (or pumpkin beer) before 1 August." Sierra Nevada (and others) yearly jump this red line. Way too soon, but way so delicious.

Limpid, light-amber color. Nose of toasted marshmallow and herbs. Sweet, baked-shortbread middle. Drying slug of finishing hops. At 6.1% alcohol-by-volume, on the higher end: festive, indeed. Worth the early taste.

The brewery's website displays a bottle with the name of Germany’s "Brauhaus Miltenberger" emblazoned below the word "Oktoberfest." The beer can does not (with, instead, the word, "Festbier").
This year, we’re collaborating with Germany’s Brauhaus Miltenberger, whose approach to the classic style we’ve long admired. The result is a festival beer true to their style—deep golden in color with deceptively rich malt flavor and balanced by traditional German-grown whole-cone hops.
  • 6.1% alcohol-by-volume (abv)
  • 30 IBUs (international bittering units)
  • Bittering hops: German Magnum
  • Finishing hops: German Select, Tettnanger, Spalter
  • Malts: Two-row Pale, Steffi, Pilsner, Munich
Despite a resurgence of lagers among small American 'craft' breweries, it seems difficult for many of them —if for technical and brewing-philosophical reasons— to elegantly produce lagers such as festbiers. In 2016, I purchased a locally-brewed Oktoberfest-style lager, a mere three days after the brewery had canned it. It tasted like a Belgian sour beer gone bad. One datum, yes, but twelve-dollars wasted. Rarely is that a problem with Sierra Nevada.

Even with modern refrigeration and technology, there is a beer style that remains naturally dependent on the calendar. I wait for autumn-harvest beers brewed with freshly picked, uncured, hops. I anticipate September and October.

A series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits).
No scores; only descriptions.