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Friday, December 06, 2002

Christmas Ales

My favorites at Max's on Broadway's Christmas Tasting Tuesday evening:

  • Cask Dominion Winter (sort of a strong Belgian amber with notes of a dubbel)
  • Cask Gales Christmas (at 8.5%, unusually strong for a British beer, thick and sweet with lots of apple-rum-raisin flavors like a liquid fruitcake; out-of-balance really, but it just seemed so right for the season)
  • Draft Winter Reserve from Clipper City (a flavor-BALANCED American IPA at 8%)
  • Anchor Our Special Ale ( Cottonwood tree on the label, indiginous to California and Arizona. The flavor reminded me of the German Christmas cookie -Pfeffernüsse).

Thursday, December 05, 2002

RCH's Ale Mary - a review


RCH is a fascinating little brewery in Cheddar country north of Dorset, England. (The initials stand for the name of the hotel - Royal Claridge Hotel - in whose back room the proprietors began the brewery before outgrowing the digs.) Its cask ales are consistently well-made and stellar even on this side of the pond.

Ale Mary's fun begins with the label, where this impudent inscription wraps above the portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots: "a well-executed bottle-conditioned ale".

Pour the beer into a LARGE glass and allow a minute or so of anticipation for the great mass of goo-goo eyed bubbles to escape and form a spumous head. Then...what an aroma! It's like the smell of a fresh-from-the-oven fruitcake wafting in from the NEXT room with a vase of long-stem roses nearby. That is, it's there but not cloying. The label claims the beer was infused infusion with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and pimento(!). [The exclamation point for that last ingredient is mine.]

The flavor and finish with the verities of English-style bitters: a biscuity maltiness and a bracing dryness. But, at 6% alcohol by volume, Ale Mary is stronger than the average UK bitter. And, for all the spices used, the beer is quaffable and well-balanced.

In 2001, Ale-Mary was awarded Bottle-Conditioned Beer of the year at the Great British Beer Festival.

tasted at the Brickskeller, Washington, DC, 15 Nov 2002
500-ml crown sealed bottle

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Thanksgiving

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, explaining why the Pilgrims were putting ashore at Plymouth Rock instead of at their planned landing further south.

May Thanksgiving find us all able to give thanks for those things and those people who have given us life, love, joy, protection, advocacy, and inspiration.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Oakham JHB - a review

I'll start this by saying that the usual caveats apply, that is, by working for Legends, Ltd., I sell Oakham JHB.

That being said, I sampled a pint from a CASK of freshly tapped Jeffery Hudson Bitter (JHB) from Oakham Brewery of Peterborough, UK, Thursday evening at Sean Bolan's in Baltimore.

Oh my, what a REAL ALE!

At only 3.8%, this straw-colored bitter packed a wallop with tropical fruit overtones, a hint of sweet malt, American-ish hop character, and a long-lived hoppy and drying finish. It was
zymurgical alchemy that such a small beer could be so complex and satisfying.

Maybe the only demerit would be for a faint veil of haze. But who's picking nits? This beer travelled from the UK, where it placed tied for third in the bitter category in the GBBF, and
arrived at Sean Bolan's Thursday evening with most of its delightful caskability intact. In 2001, JHB was selected as the Supreme Champion beer of Great Britain.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Autumn Saké Ball

Autumn Saké Ball
at The Yin Yankee Café
in Annapolis, Maryland

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Welcome -
Peruvian purple potato mash with plantain chips and Flying Fish Roe, served with Czechvar Lager from the Budvar Budweis Brewery in Czech Republic

and then:

Thursday, November 07, 2002

A young man and his young beer

I hadn't been by Ellicott Mills for awhile so I stopped by a few Wednesdays ago to taste whatever was on cask. (Wednesday is cask night at the pub.)

Brewer Jim Stevens' house-brewed cask that evening was an IPA. After one sip, I knew it was special: a delicious young cask ale using British and NZ hops. There were no Cascades or other C-hops in this IPA (not that there's anything wrong with that). I believe that Jim, instead, had hopped the beer with Target and Northdown (and NZ Hallertau?).

Many more sips ensued.

The cask was gravity dispensed, resting on the bar, open to atmosphere, and at cellar temperature. Jim was there and, much the trooper, answered all my beer geek questions.

Wednesdays are definitely worth the visit.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Hard Times for Christmas Chili

Hard Times College Park, Maryland continues to impress as a humble yet fulfilling stop for the thirsty beer sojourner. Residing therein is good inexpensive food (chili, hot or not), good beer with the occasional megabrand lurking in the shadows, and friendly, attentive service. Just remember to ask for an unchilled glass!

Monday, 4 November 2002 the Cafe hosted another of its occasional beer tastings, this one devoted to autumn and winter beers. The wonderful lineup included Victory's Festbier and V10, Wyerbacher's Autumn Fest, Black Radish from the Weeping Radish, Octoberfest from the Old Dominion Brewing Company, Heavyweight's Perkuno's Hammer, 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish head, Ale Mary from RCH Brewery (Dorset, England), Redhook's ESB, Negro Medelo, and Scots Pine Ale from the Heather Ale Brewery (Glasgow, Scotland).

Owner Bill Swint and GM Becky Duney's twist on the expected tasting agenda is to have each beer described by its representative before ANY of the beers are served. Then all the beers are served one at a time and the patrons are asked to identify the beers according to the earlier oral descriptions. Prizes and applause-heavy recognition are awarded to those who correctly do so.

It was a lot of fun. But not for the table of us beer 'experts' who downed pints of Perkuno's Hammer and Something Red (White Marsh Brewing) and became befuddled. Perkuno's Hammer was such a delicious and potent brew from Heavyweight that we gladly suffered the wrath of the Baltic God of Thunder!

Representatives of B.U.R.P. [Washington D.C. metro area homebrew club, Brewer United for Real potables], on the other hand, showed again why that homebrew club is one of the premier such clubs in the nation, by correctly identifying all of the beers.

My personal surprise was the quality of the Redhook ESB. Tasting it blind removed many of my prejudices against it. I bought a 6-pack the next day.

Hard Times College Park
4738 Cherry Hill Rd
College Park, MD 20740
301-474-8880

(next to Shoppers, near Home Depot & Starbucks, just south of I-495, off of Rt. 1S to College Park).

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Good beer at restaurants?

One of my goals as a beer salesman (with Legends, Ltd.) has been to urge better beer lists into non-beer oriented restaurants.

The Sputnik Cafe in Crownsville, Maryland might be regarded a success in that regard. Sputnik really isn't a beer place, per se, but it stocks a good beer larder, and from time to time, it hosts beer-centric dinners.

For example, regard this dinner I co-hosted with owners Bill and Maria Buszinski and David Brown, Wednesday 30 October. The admission price, at $35, was a ridiculously wonderful bargain. Similar dinners -- beer or wine -- are often priced at twice that.

STARTER:
Moorhouse's Brewery Black Cat
A dark brown/black mild with a clean roasted malt aroma, a firm coffee/nutty presence, gentle body and a long, drying, wine-like finish.
Bronze Award in the mild category at The Great British Beer Festival in London 2002
Trophy Winner of all dark beer at the Brewing Industry International Awards 1998

COURSE 1:
Fraoch Heather Ale with Hamburger Fischsalat - Hamburg-style Fish Salad
A classic Scottish style of beer, long forgotten which was revived in 1986 by Bruce Williams using a centuries- old recipe. Shows a flowery-fruity bouquet, firmness of body with spice and apple notes in a dry wine-like finish.
Bronze Award for Specialty Beers at The Great British Beer Festival in London
Best Drink Award & Supreme Award at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, 1997
Gold Medal 1997 & 1996 at the World Beer Championship in Chicago
Only Beer served at the 1996 Academy Awards and Governers Ball (to honor the movie Braveheart)

COURSE 2:
Tripel Karmeliet with Weisse Bohnensuppe (White Bean Soup)
Brewed by the Bosteels family in Buggenhout, Belgium using a three-grain recipe with oats, wheat and barley. Delicately hopped and drinkably balanced with a subtle spicy nite.
Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup
Rated Exceptional at the World Beer Championship

COURSE3:
Kostritzer Schwarzbier with Spaetzle & shredded duck served in a spicy coconut milk sauce
A dark blacklager with a a taste of pumpernickel toast, and a tangy and gently roasty finish. This is brewed in the small town of Bad Kostritz, a spa in the district of Thuringia, formerly part of communist East Germany, which has had breweries since at least the early 1500s. Its dark lagers are believed to have been the inspiration for the black beers of Japanese breweries, Kirin and Sapporo. Kostritzer Brewery was in danger of being closed until it was purchased and modernized by Bitburger in the early 1990s.

COURSE 4:
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauch Weizen with Sausage served with Asian Style Sauerkraut
Weizen brewed with wheat and smoke-cured barley malt. Delivers a complex and shocking panoply of flavors. There is a forward smokiness n aroma and flavor and in the background, a unique German yeast provides aromas of clove, banana and vanilla.
Michael Jackson **** World Classic

DESSERT:
Albert LeCoq Imperial Extra Double Stout with Stilton Cheesecake
A style that originated in Britain for shipment to Catherine the Great of Russia. Its high alcohol (10%) and roasted grains helped preserve it for the voyage. Those same qualities created a brew which helped fend off the bitter weather of the Baltic Winter. Michael Jackson compares its complexity to the "tarry sweetness of a Pedro Ximenez sherry".

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Brewed in Space

Kirsten Sterrett, a University of Colorado graduate student, first became interested in if and how beer could be brewed in space while working at the Coors Brewing Company. Having studied aerospace engineering as an undergraduate, she began to wonder: How would yeasts that perform fermentation under the tug of Earth's gravity fare in orbital free fall?

Excerpt:

The behaviour of the yeast was somewhat puzzling, though. The total cell count in space-borne samples was lower that of "control" samples brewed on the ground, and the percentage of live cells was also lower. One of the yeast's proteins also existed in greater amounts in the space-brew.

Sterrett's experiment couldn't suggest reasons for these changes, but the overly abundant protein bears some resemblance to a general stress protein.

The low cell count was particularly surprising, says Sterrett. In space, yeast cells remain evenly dispersed within the "wort" - a brewers' term for the pre-fermentation mixture of water, barley, hops, and yeast. Ideally, this would give the yeast cells better access to nutrients in the wort compared to similar mixtures on Earth, where the weight of the cells causes them to pile at the bottom one on top of the other.

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