Sunday, February 27, 2005


I've just received the sad news that jazz singer and composer Pam Bricker has died.

Pam Bricker was one of the great vocal stylists of the DC club scene. She sang mostly in the jazz idiom, but she was quite versatile. I knew her only from her club performances, but she always was quite gracious to me. She exuded an inner (and outer!) beauty.

Beer enthusiasts may remember her Brickskeller performance for Michael Jackson’s - the beer writer - 60th birthday party.

Among two other albums of hers, I have an album from her time in the early 1990s with Rick Harris (of Mad Romance) at DC's Henley Park Hotel. On the album, the duo perform one of the more astonishing versions of All the Things You Are that I've ever heard. I have been fortunate enough to hear her perform it live.

I recently heard her perform at her regular Sunday evening gig at Club Utopia.

From her website, I've learned that Pam was a dedicated supporter of Heifer International, an organization whose mission is to "promote a world of communities equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet."

Perhaps an appropriate manner by which to honor her considerable contributions to the Washington music scene would be to make a donation to this cause which she supported.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Last last call at DeGroen's

Baltimore Brewing Company (or Degroen's, its trade name) has been a brewpub fixture of the Baltimore beer scene since its inception in 1989. DeGroen's was the area's second brewpub, preceded by only a few months by the area's first - Sisson's.

Sad for its fans and for good beer enthusiasts, BBC is closing.

A friend reported that as of Wednesday, 23 March 2005, a mere 11 kegs of beer remained. He said, "The chalkboard behind the bar explicitly says '"DO NOT PLAN A RETURN VISIT!!'"

Baltimore Brewing Company was founded by a Continental - Theo De Groen - a courageous adventurer brewing lagers in a microbrew world awash with ales.

His brewpub was quite Teutonic in other ways: sausage and starch menu, a gorgeous copper brewhouse, a cavernous, high-ceilinged taproom.

DeGroen offered his beers in take-home refillable growlers. One of his innovations was "DeGroen's filling stations": one could return an empty growler to a participating wine and beer shop and receive a new, freshly filled growler. DeGroen was the initial importer of these distinctive bottles: metal cradles, smoked brown glass, and ceramic resealable swing tops, similar to those found on Grolsch bottles. (Not coincidentally, the DeGroen family has ownership stake in Grolsch.)

Other brewpubs throughout the US soon began to buy these same growlers. To help his brewpub grow and survive, DeGroen eventually installed a bottling line.

I prefer recalling the good memories rather than observing the death gurgle.

  • My many visits to the BBC in the early 1990s, when I was amazed by the sharp complexity of the DeGroens Pils.
  • Working on my purchase of Sisson's in the spring and fall of 2000, my weekly visits to BBC for the Pils and malty Bock.
  • A Weizen brewed with Weinheinstephan yeast, a Dunkles, an Altfest, and a Marzen rounding out the traditional roster of beers.
  • As recently as late spring 2004, I enjoyed a wonderful DeGroens rauch bock on tap.
  • The brewery was rewarded with several medals from the GABF.
  • BBC was a training ground for brewers. Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, owners and brewers at Victory Brewing, worked for DeGroen.
  • Washington, D.C.-area beer maven Bob Tupper speaks of DeGroen's Pils as the inspiration for his gold-medal winning Tupper's Hop Pocket Pils.
  • My two DeGroens growlers, long emptied, remain as special mementos.
The morbid roster grows: Oxford Brewing Company, Potomac Brewing Company, Blue and Gold Brewpub, Sisson's Restaurant and Brewery, Globe Brewing Company, Brimstone Brewing Company, Wild Goose Brewing Company, and yes, even National Brewing Company.

Continued success and good fortune to the survivors!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

72 Hours of Belgium Beer Festival

So many beers, so little time.

The 72 Hours of Belgium Beer Festival took place this past weekend in Baltimore at Max's Taphouse. On tap, Beer Manager Casey Hard had in excess of 25 beers - in bottle, in excess of 100 different brands. Suffice it to say, the selection, bottle and draft, was extensive and stunning.

A lot of beer glitterati were in attendace Saturday evening when I was there. To name a few, in no particualr order: Ed Janiak, past brewer at Oxford Brewing; Joe Gold, Baltimore's long-time beer guru; Chuck Cook, peripatetic beer traveler and writer; Rick Kennedy, past brewer for Brimstone Brewing; Ed James, treasurer, Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood; Volker Stewart, Tom Creegan, Chris Cashell, Steve Frasier, owners and brewers of Brewers Art; John Pollack, past beer buyer for the Old Vine; Ron Fischer, cellarmaster for importer B United, International, and others whose names I have forgotten or whose conversations have become, I must apologize, lost in a mist of Belgian euphoria.

In the for what its worth department, here are some notes I took on my handy dandy (geeky) Palm Tungsten T3.

Beers I tried (some sipped, some drunk):

Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux
Disappointed. The 'Uber' Saison character of the bottles I have tasted was missing here, replaced by a deep amber color and matching maltiness, and a somewhat flabby character.

Le Canard
Complimented Chris from Brewers Art on this. A Kwak-inspired brew (hence the punny name), cask-conditioned, and poured from handpump. Amazingly bright! Crisp firm biscuity malt, appropriate fruit and spice.

My surprise favorite of the evening. Deep golden, very 'sparkling'. Botanicals nose and flavor. Eminently drinkable. Now, if it weren't for the high price of the bottle ...!

Cantillon Lambic Aged 2 years
Nectar!! I was surprised by the mellowness of the beer. Lactic creaminess outweighed acetic character. Poured from draft there was som sparkle. In a bottle would assume this would be nearly still.

Cantillon St. Lamvinus
Stunning. Not worth the price but so deliciously complex. An example of wine in a beer without the usual oxidative wininess. Instead, hints of vanillin and Bordeaux character. If it weren't so expensive, this would be my #2 'go-to' gueuze after Hanssens.

Fantome BBBalliard
didn't like. seemed unfermented/worty. Maybe a bad bottle.

De Dolle Special Brousel 2000
A 'special' treat from Casey to us. Still good; malty, complex, but in a 'tween' stage where the aging is more of an oxidative/winy note than the the mellow sherry/port stage.

De Dolle Dulle Teve
as tasty as ever, if a tad sweeter on draft than in bottle. Slight haze, good bead, spicy/zesty

La Rulles Tripel
Wonderful, creamy, spicy, nicely done sweet mouthfeel.

De Dolle Special Export Stout
This seemed a bit harsh/acrid roast. I'll have to revisit it when I haven't had lambics in my mouth.

Val Dieu Winter
stopped taking notes by this one, but dark, plummy, cinnamony. Would be good after-dinner, slightly sweet, winter brew.

I didn't get to the food. (If I used emoticons, there would be a smiley face here.)

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

Friday, February 11, 2005

Happy Birthday Lilian!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Monks Cafe Flemish Red

An out-of-town experience

Casey Hard, young beer manager at Max's TapHouse (in Baltimore, MD), always seems to bring in unique beers that other beer emporia don't.

Max's beer manager Casey Hard, not with Flemish Red, but with gravity keg of Uerige Sticke.

And so it was today... Monk's Cafe Flemish Red, the house sour red of Monk's Cafe in Philly, right here in Baltimore. I stumbled upon it, figuratively: Casey had only just placed it on tap.

Steenbrugge brews it in Belgium for Monk's. Wetten Importers brings it into the US. Alone among all draft houses in Maryland, Max's is pouring it. Again, props to Mr. Hard.

Inviting lactic/fruity nose.. that signature mixture of cherry fruit, minerality, and cream cheese. Good sharp cherry acidity in the mouth. I prefer Duchesse de Bourgogne's more ample mouthfeel and complexity but this is a wonderfully drinkable Flemish Red. Wonderful by itself, I would pair it with game ... or for us vegetarians, triple creme cheeses.

The world seems a richer place.