Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ron Kodlick: an appreciation

In 2003, I asked Baltimore native Ron Kodlick, if Baltimore were a "beer town."

He was then the president of the Chesapeake branch of the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood (S.P.B.W.).

That branch, based in Baltimore, Maryland, is, in fact, the only U.S. chapter of the British advocacy group for traditional ale.

Ron replied with evident pride, "I don't need to go anywhere else for beer."

I'm sad to report that, on 5 November 2004, Baltimore lost this stalwart advocate.

In the same tenacious manner with which he promoted good beer, Ron Kodlick had valiantly waged a one-year battle against a pernicious disease. Throughout, he maintained an active interest in the organization he had shepherded as president and member.

Also a long-time homebrewer (a member of the Cross Street Irregulars, a Baltimore homebrew club), Ron was most enthusiastic and loquacious when discussing traditional real ale, the freshest manner of serving ale - and the least common, at least, in the US.

His passion bore grain: beer lovers, who may never have known him personally, now can enjoy real ale in Baltimore, in no small measure, due to his efforts. During Ron's presidency of the S.P.B.W., cask ale, which had been found regularly at but one or two Baltimore pubs, gained three new homes. Working with others, Ron was instrumental in organizing an annual real ale festival in Baltimore.

Ron would enjoy an occasional "super hoppy" beer so favored by today's microbreweries, but he was never reticent in 'grabbing an elbow' and promoting the tasteful beauty of session-strength cask ale Bitters.

Frank Sinatra sang that he had once seen "a man dance with his wife." Any who saw Ron and his wife Gladys together were witnesses to a long-time love affair. Even Ron's email handle was "Mr. Gladys".

It's been said, "In heaven there is no beer. That's why we drink it here." Knowing Ron and knowing his vocal fervor, I'm certain he's already fermenting change in heaven.

This cask's for you, Ron.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Promise Lost

Maladventures in Sissonsland

It was four years ago today, on 2 November, 2000, in tandem with three other principal investors, I purchased the historic Sissons Restaurant and Brewery in Baltimore, Maryland. After a 5 month delay for renovations, Sisson's Restaurant and Brewery re-opened on 28 March 2001.

l to r: Jack Callanan (seller), Tofer Sisson (seller), me (buyer), Annie Sisson (seller), Craig Stuart-Paul (buyer), Al Sisson (seller), Paul Morrissey (buyer), Tracy Stuart-Paul (seller; not pictured)

But by the latter portion of July 2001, the other partners had made it abundantly clear that they wished to take the brewpub in what I considered a misguided direction. I resigned my position as General Manager and Brewmaster and dissolved my holding in the partnership.

The brewpub has since been sold and is now known as Ryleigh Arden's. Read more.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Evening Of Good Beer And Artisinal Cheese

Cafe Saint-Ex presents an Evening of Good Beer and Artisinal Cheese
Tuesday, 26 October, 7pm-9:30pm

With commentary on the beers and beer-food pairingfrom Thomas Cizauskas of Clipper City Brewing Company, and commentary on the cheeses from Michelle Sasscer of Whole Foods Markets.

Cheese 1
Nancy Camembert
paired with Oxford Raspberry.

Cheese 2
Humboldt Fog
paired with Clipper City Balto MarzHon.

Cheese 3
Everona Dairy Rapidan sheep's milk cheese
paired with Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night Saison.

Cheese 4
Canadian Oka
paired with Unibroue Terrible.

Cheese 5
McLeod Creamery's Middleburg cheddar
paired with Heavy Seas Winter Storm IPA, served fresh from cask.

Dessert Tray
Crater Lake Blue, plated with Moroccan Majul figs and chestnuts
paired with Heavy Seas Peg Leg Imperial Stout

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Slow Food Beer Dinner in Baltimore

Thursday evening, September 19th, Sean Bolan's Pub is hosting Slow Food Baltimore. Sean Bolan's is located in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Md. And, in case In case you're not familiar with the international Slow Food movement, here's a quote from its manifesto:

We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: FAST LIFE, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes, and forces us to eat FAST FOODS. <...> A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of FAST LIFE. May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.

Whew! and right-on.

The evening will feature a three course beer dinner: 3 courses, prepared with beer, and served with beer.

  • Chicken Satay cooked with hefe-weizen, paired with Buergerbrau Nikolaus dunkel (1st time on draft in US!)
  • Pork, pan seared with framboise, paired with Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse
  • Guinness ice cream float paired with Guinness.
  • Dessert: an open cask, tbd.
Ken of Sean Bolan's will discuss the food and offer pointers on cooking with beer. Yours truly and Dave Pollack of B United will discuss the beers.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Beer and Saké Dinner

Matsuri in BaltimoreOne of the last functions I organized as an employee of Maryland distributor Legends, Ltd. was a beer and saké dinner at Matsuri in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, in May of 2004.

Matsuri proprietor Bill Tien (r) and I co-hosted the sold-out event in the cozy restaurant's upstairs room. Bill paired the sakés and beers of Japanese brewer Kiuchi with sushi and Japanese fare. (Kiuchi beers are sold under the name Hitachino.)

I served one non-Kiuchi beer that evening: Kelpie, a Scottish beer brewed with seaweed.

Despite, or maybe, because of that unusual ingredient, Kelpie is quite tasty, and was indeed appropriate for the evening's dinner. (Here's a review of Kelpie, written by Phil Sides, who took the two photos in this post.)

The dinner finished with 'Pink Sushi' for dessert: sticky rice soaked in berries and finished with a fruit glaze.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Assessing the gravity

Assessing the gravity of the situation, at Manayunk Brewing Company, October 1996.

Gravity refers to the amount of fermentable sugars present in the wort (the solution extracted from the malted barley) before yeast is added - and during and after fermentation. In this case, with all that foam present, it appears that I'm assessing the gravity during fermentation.

The photograph was taken when I was the original brewer for the Manayunk Brewing Company, a Philadelphia brewpub. I assisted with brewhouse design and construction (April - September 1996), and, once we opened (October 1996), I was responsible for recipes, brewing procedures, staff training and ... brewing.

I worked with the Chef Bill McConnell to create beer and food pairings printed in the menu. A local beer writer told us that ours were the first he had ever seen.

After Bill moved on, new head chef Ed Fialkowski expanded our beer cuisine program. He added spent grains from the mash to the pizza dough for tang and texture. The Schuylkill Punch, our Raspberry Wheat Ale, he used as the base for the house vinaigrette. He reduced wort (unfermented beer) for his demi-glace.

Farewell Legends; ahoy, Clipper City!

a job change

On August 1, 2004 I leave the employ of Legends, Limited.

Owners Patrick and Sherri Casey have assembled a broad (and growing) catalog of beer (and wine and spirits). In the last 10 years, the duo has done much to promote a 'good beer' culture in Maryland and nationwide. Since August 2001, I have been honored to have had a role in that campaign. I remain a loyal admirer.

I have accepted an opportunity to work with Hugh Sisson, a pioneer of Maryland craft beer, as a representative of his Clipper City Brewing Company .

I have great respect for what Sisson, lead brewer Scott Dietrich, and the entire team of the Clipper City Brewing Company have accomplished.
Specifically ...
1. There's the quality control evident throughout the portfolio.
2. There's the design of the brand extensions -- Clipper City, McHenry, Oxford Raspberry.
3. Finally, there's the introduction of the flavor-driven Heavy Seas line.

Together, these things became a coalescence irresistible to me.

As Territory Manager for Clipper City Brewing Company, my job will be to continue to expand the reach of its brands throughout the District, Montgomery County, and Northern Virginia.

Caveat blogger:
My previous blogs in praise of Clipper City's Heavy Seas beers predate my employment with the company. I must state, to be candid, that it was while under the influence of the Red Sky at Night that I made initial contact.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Red Sky at Night

Tuesday when I was out and about flogging Nora (the beer) at Baltimore's Max's Taphouse, I ran into Clipper City Brewing's head hawker Hugh Sisson. He was running the rounds in Bawlamer, proferring pre-release samples of his newest elixer, Red Sky at Night.

Wow, man! Think of a cross between a saison (the style designation with which Red Sky at Night is tagged) and a spicy strong Belgian golden/amber. It's hot 'n spicy, citrusy, yeastly appropriate, aromatic, and drier than you'd might expect from a big beer.

I believe it's 8.25% abv, hopped with Magnum and Styrian Goldings, and bottle-conditioned. The grist is Pilsner malt, Cara-pils, wheat (malt?), and candi sucre.

It's the third in the Heavy Seas line, joining Winter Storm "Category 5" Ale IPA2 and spring's Small Craft Warning Über Pils. As are its mates, Red Sky at Night is wrapped in a great graphics package - think Ralph Steadman without the fear and loathing.

Congratulations are in order for Hugh, Scott, and the whole gang out in Lansdowne. As Balto-beer scribe Sandy Mitchell would say, "Run, don't walk!" to your local beer emporium for RSaN. It should have begun to arrive in better beer stores Friday.

Hugh promises draft soon.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Cream Ale???

Those who know of my appreciation for British bitter might be puzzled by my high regard for cream ale. But I find sparkling ale (as it should properly be known) to be an historically American beer style, refreshing and character-ful in its own right.

The Association of Brewers publishes an on-line discussion forum for brewers and other professionals in the brewing business. A recent poster to the Forum asked about cream ale:

Monday, March 22, 2004 7:15 PM
Subject: Cream Ale

I am doing research on Cream Ale. Does anyone have a resource for history of the style, origin, brewing techniques etc? The web does not have much info. Any good books or magazines out there that do?

Here was my response to him.
From p. 56, The Essentials of Beer Styles, 1989, Fred Eckhardt:

"Sparkling ale originated in the late 19th century as a lagered, and bottled, ale version of the very pale Bohemian lager beer. Today the beverage which was originally called "sparkling ale" is not found as such, but is labeled as, and called, either American ale or cream ale, i.e., very pale, warm fermented (bottom or top) beer, which is cold lagered as lager beer. The term "cream ale" is often used instead of 'sparkling ale' as a name for this category. This is an incorrect use of that name because, originally 'cream ale' was the beer we (here) call blonde or golden draft ale. These are now brewed by the new micros, and served direct or bottled, filtered but without aging, in a manner very close to the classic 'cream ale' tradition of the late nineteenth century.

Alcohol content of American sparkling lager-ale is medium (4.5 - 5.6% abv)... This style when brewed with bottom yeast (common), is called "bastard ale" in old brewing literature, an apt title. Nevertheless, there are a few fairly good examples of this type with modest hop levels, and certainly with more taste than the American standard." [end of quote]

[now me]
The use of the word "common" intrigued me; I talked with Fred about it when I happened to meet him at a Craft Brewers conference in Austin in the mid-1990s.

Was that an adjective or a reference to the steam-beer style?

Both, he told me. He believed that cream ale was born as the paler version of steam beer, that is, cask-conditioned pale ale made with lager yeast. Whereas sparkling ale began as what we think of nowadays as "cream ale".

Follow Kolsch recipes - German malts, German hops, low to mid 60s F for fermentation, lagering in the low 30s - and you should make a damn tasty yet drinkable beer. The hopheads won't like it... but others will. Avoid American malts; you want that clean continental maltiness.

Or brew an ale version of pre-prohibition lager - use American 6-row but temper that with up to 20% cornflakes. Don't worry: the 6-row's maltiness will come through without a taste of corn. Frankly, I think that American malts give you more 'corniness' than a small measure of corn itself.

In my area,
Capitol City Brewing (Virginia) and Brewers Alley (Maryland) have both won medals for their Kolsches. Clipper City (Baltimore) makes a fine Gold, which won a medal in the gold ale category at the Great American Beer Festival.

In the mid-90s while I was a brewer in Philly, I brewed what I called Blue Mountain Sparkling Ale.

70% German lager malt, 11% Belgian Munich malt, 2% Belgian Carapils, 17%(!) cornflakes. 25 BUs: Galena for bitterness, Mt. Hood for flavor, Spalter Spalt for aroma. American Ale yeast. 3 weeks lagering at 31*F.I mashed at 159*F for extra body to account for the easy fermentables of the corn. Interesting combination. It made for a malt-flavored yet lighter bodied ale with a hint of fruitiness and a present but not overdone spicy hop character.

[not in my reply to him]
During my recent maladventures in Sissonsland (2000-2001), one of my partners haughtily dismissed any talk of sparkling ale as "gay beer." Repugnant at face value, his statement was a nonsensical disregard of a substantial market.

Friday, April 16, 2004

I-95 Real Ale Boogie

I admit it. I did it. Yesterday, I did the I-95 Real Ale Boogie.

@Sean Bolans, in Federal Hill, Baltimore, Maryland.
RCH Old Slug Porter
a cask, served by gravity tap
Bartender Ken

Still a wee yeasty, but with wonderful dark chocolate, licorice and blackberry notes. In good condition with a foam collar that persisted to the end of the glass. Overheard at the bar: "One of the best cask ales I've had here."

@The Reef, in Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.
RCH Pitchfork Bitter
a cask, served by gravity tap
Bartender Marcus

Bright deep golden, good condition. Malt color and character comes from only pale malt. Good orange-rind nose, some "distant wood" (I've appropriated that descriptor, if for another beer, from the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News), hints of grassiness and fruit candy. Hop character lingers.


Saturday, April 03, 2004

My Father

On the 3rd of April 2002, my father, Albert C. Cizauskas, diplomat, economist, scholar, author, died after a courageous ten-year struggle with Parkinson's Disease. His powerful grace and courage under pressure while dealing with his ever increasing physical and mental disabilities humbled me. I miss him every day.

In these days of cynically motivated patriotism, I can proudly say that he served his country, his God, and his family. He and my mother had an abundant life together. Please read more.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Uber Pils

Sometime in late March 2004, after I had purchased a six-pack of Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning (brewed by Baltimore's Clipper City), I heard through the hop vine that the very same was on tap at Mahaffey's Pub in Baltimore Maryland's Canton neighborhood.

Small Craft Warning is a big lager, in the 7% abv range. Clipper City brewery owner Hugh Sisson amusingly calls it his Uber Pils. The nose is lots of sweet malt with spicy, resiny overtones. Deep golden color, lacy off-white head. In flavor, there are competing slugs of rock candy-like Euro-maltiness and piquant Euro-spiciness. A twitch of Ameri-whiff could be from the physical surfeit of European hops needed for balance; or, more than likely, it could be from a patriotic charge of US Amarillo hops. SCW finishes softly sweet with a loitering spicy hop character.

Small Craft Warning is a mighty tasty beer, and, I might add, a more drinkable (if dangerously so) rendering than the Imperial Pils from Dogfish Head.

While I sat there, pint pondering, in walked Philly Gil, supplies in tow.

Gill is a Baltimore contractor who on Thursdays and Fridays rids his tool kit of bull floats and nail guns and fills it instead with bread, meat, and Provolone cheese. These he purchases in Philadelphia and personally drives them down to Mahaffey's Baltimore pub.

Why the trek? Because, with these ingredients, Gil mans the Mahaffeys grill to bring gastronomical culture to Bawlamer - 'true' Philly cheesesteaks.

McGerks' in Baltimore's Federal Hill also lays claim to authentic, 'imported ingredient' Philly cheesesteaks. Maybe there's a cross-Harbor rivalry fomenting. But when it comes to the beer, Mahaffey's has the contest won.

An Impy Pils and Philly Gil's cheesesteaks - they might be perfect together.

Proprietor Wayne Mahaffey told me that his young beer bar recently had crossed a beery Rubicon. Hometown boy Brewer's Art Resurrection Ale had dethroned Miller Lite as the bar's number one tap. Mahaffey plans to celebrate by relegating the mega-swill to bottle-only status.

On handpull was a delicious IPA from Brewers Alley in Frederick, MD.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Wine and Beer ... together. Oh my!

Open since mid-December of 2003, Grand Cru is a wine - and beer - bar in an upscale food market near to Baltimore's historic Senator theater.

Grand Cru pours a fascinating and changing daily lineup of wines - 30 by the glass - and a small but healthy selection of good beer, bottled and draft. There are occasional evening wine and occasional beer tastings, often with the producers themselves.

Recent draft selections were Bitburger, Red Tail Ale, Dogfish Head Brown, Lancaster Milk Stout, Degroen's Rauchbock, and Chimay ... and an artisinal British scrumpy - farmhouse strong cider - Yarlington Mill Cider (7% abv) from a polypin.

Grand Cru doubles as a take-home retail wine, beer, and liquor store with a well-thought-out selection including the beer.

For light fare, the shop prepares small platters of artisinal cheeses, smoked foods, and the like. One can also bring in food from the market's fish monger, sushi counter, delis, Italian market, baker, and gourmet food shops.

The bar seats 15 with much additional seating at small high-top tables placed throughout the store and al fresco.

On one visit, manager Otto served me a small wedge of Oka - a Canadian 'Trappist' style cheese - with a glass of Yarlington Mill scrumpy. Delightful!

On another, I had DeGroen's Rauchbock [2005 update on brewery] paired with some smoked tofu from Neopol in the market. Firm malt, freshly smoked wood bouquet. Scantest of a veil. Good head retention. Nice sweet malt backbone and an insistent yet restrained Canadian bacon flavor. What a wonderful afternoon repast.

Owner Nelson Carey recommended pairing this with smoked mussels or a hangar steak panino from next door upscale Italian market Ceriello.

And as to wines: any bar that pours French Roses (several), Italian Prosecco, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and Beaujolais Moulin-a-Vent, all by the glass - affordably - is a special place for me.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Brewer without portfolio

The Association of Brewers publishes an on-line discussion forum for brewers and other professionals in the brewing business. A recent post was from a brewer who was no longer brewing professionally. He was looking for another brewing position, or if forced to, any employment.

Here was my response to him.

You don't know me, but I had to comment about your post to the AOB Forum. I've been out of brewing for a few years. These days, I'm selling beer for a living.

But I've found that the yearning to brew remains an intimate part of my system. Thus I don't refer to myself as an 'ex-brewer', or as you put it, seemingly wistfully, 'brewmaster-no-longer'. Rather, I regard myself as 'brewer without portfolio'. It keeps the dream alive!

Good fortune with your job search.

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

His reply:

Thanks for the note, and for the positive outlook! I'm actually not even job-hunting right now, taking some time off for the first time in over twenty years, and it feels great. You're right, I should refer to myself differently than anything-" longer." Fact is, I'm still a chef, brewer, promoter; just between gigs. When I go back to job-hunting, it'll actually be "career-hunting", and if I happen upon a good brewing job, I'll be an even happier guy than if it's truck driving or used car sales....

Saturday, February 21, 2004


I learned that my divorce was final on 13 January 2004.

It's time for a beer.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


With the help of the distributor for which I work - Legends, Ltd. - I conducted a lambic tasting (and judging) yesterday at Grand Cru in Baltimore, MD.

I brought in 12 judges, split into 2 groups of 6. To expand the experience beyond only beer geekiness, I invited participants from the 3 ambits of beer, food, and wine.

  • Lew Bryson, Ale Street News: writer, beer
  • Dave Butcher, Country Vintner: distributor, wine
  • Thomas Cizauskas, Legends, Ltd.: distributor, beer
  • Steven Frank, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News: writer, beer
  • Henry Gregory, Washington Metro Wine & Food Network: writer, wine, food
  • Casey Hard, Max's on Broadway: pub, beer
  • Rob Kasper, Baltimore Sun: columnist, beer
  • Jerry Pellegrino, Corks Restaurant: chef, food
  • Monyka Marbach, Slow Food: food, wine
  • John Pollack, Old Vine Spirit Shoppe: beer
  • Hugh Sisson, Clipper City Brewing Company: beer,wine
  • Paula Welsey, International Gourmet Foods: food

Read Lew Bryson's notes on the proceedings.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I was divorced yesterday. It is a horrible thing.