Thursday, November 30, 2006

Whisky and Barleywine

The Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton Maryland celebrated its 25th anniversary with a scotch whisky dinner, Tuesday 28 November.

The scotch whiskies - were presented by Kristina Sutter, a Diageo Master of Whiskey. The Pub host for the dinner was Kristin Orr, general manager. For the finale, I presented the cask - a pin (5.4 US gallons) - of Clipper City Brewing's 2006 vintage Below Decks Barleywine.

A barleywine is a light to amber-hued ale of greater than 9.5 % alcohol. Barleywines - the exception to the rule of the fresher the beer the better - can be cellared. They maderize, that is gain sherry and port wine notes, as they age. Clipper City vintage dates its bottles of Below Decks.

Chef/owner Morrison prepared the evening's menu, or as Ms. Orr termed it, Scottish World Fusion!

  • Passed Hors D'ouevers with Johnnie Walker Green Cocktail - mini sweet onion tarts, empanadas, crab stuffed mushrooms, tapanade crostini, stuffed grape leaves
  • Sushi rolls with salmon three ways (whisky brined and smoked, cured gravlax style and sashimi) - Talisker 25
  • Chicken skewers seasoned with garam masala - Oban/ Glenkinchie
  • Venison Sausage over spaetzle with fig puree - Cragganmore
  • Vanilla Panna Cotta - Chilled Dalwhinnie
  • Stilton Blue Baked in Pastry - Lagavulin/ Caol Isla
  • Cask of Below Decks Barleywine with Baggy of Chocolates and Mints
When the refreshing beverage - after 6 whiskies - is a 10% alcohol by volume beer, some over-indulging might occur!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Birrificio 'terrifico'

One of the last functions I arranged when I worked for distributor Legends, Ltd., was a 'trade show' of Italian beers and wines at Baltimore taphouse Max's, in the summer of 2004. Even then, 'good' Italian beer still seemed an oxymoron.

Thus it was a distinct pleasure-- 2 years later -- to meet Lorenzo Dabove, Wednesday, 8 November 2006, at Baltimore's jewel of a brewpub, Brewer's Art.

Quite the character, Lorenzo Dabove is the self-appointed, to some extent, ambassador of a new generation of Italian microbreweries. Dabove, who goes by the nickname of Kuaska has been instrumental in helping US importer B. United 'discover' some of the more interesting Italian brewpubs/craft-breweries, most of which brew in an Italianate Belgian-style , and produce only in small amounts.

Megan Ryan was in attendance, a representative of Baltimore's Slow Food, the putative co-sponsor of the event. (Lorenzo is active in the Slow Food movement in Italy, which is in fact where, a few years back, Slow Food was founded.) Representing Baltimore's Society for the Preservation of Beer From the Wood was Ed James.

It was disconcerting to see only a few or so attendees there, but that's a minor complaint. To have these beers in the US and here in DC/Baltimore was very special indeed.

The beers ranged from good to 'terrifico', the presentation by Lorenzo was entertaining (in his excellent, if heavily accented English). He was quite honest in his assessment of Italian craft beer - not as accepted as is craft beer in the US - but he was sanguine in his prediction for its future - adventuresome brewers are becoming better businessmen!

In the center of the elegant wood-paneled back room, Chef Tip Carter arrayed a sumptuous spread of appetizers. Around the perimeter, Brewer's Art's brewers, and co-proprietors Tom Creegan and Volker Stewart, arranged tables at which they poured different beers from each of the featured Italian breweries. These were:

from Birrificio Italiano: La Fleurette & Cassissona
from Birrificio Le Baladin: Le Baladin Noel & Nora
from Birrificio Troll: Shangrila
from Birrificio Montegioco: Demon Hunter, Draco, Quarta Runa

Cellarmaster Ron Fischer from importer B. United had been placed in charge of driving Lorenzo for his East Coast tour. Showing true dedication (and grit), Ron arrived with Lorenzo despite having suffered a car accident on the drive down from New Jersey. The car was severely damaged, but Ron and Lorenzo, fortunately, were fine.

The beers will be added to Brewer's Art's beer list hence forward, pending availability ... minus Lorenzo!

I've always liked the Nora, a fascinating concoction, distantly akin to a Belgian wit beer but spiced with myrrh. The Shrangila was, well, interesting, with its infusion of a curry-blend of spices. I went back for seconds of the Draco, an 11% abv beer brewed with blueberries. I couldn't necessarily pick out the fruit, but I thought of the beer as, let's say, an Imperial Berry Dark Wit: lemon zest, coriander, low-toned fruit, with a soft underlay of caramel. Big but not cloying.

More photos.

[update: comments from Volker, including a recount of a humorous comment from Lorenzo.]

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vintage 50 Brewpub opens in Leesburg

Bill with long-time fan of his beers
Congratulations are in order for Bill Madden and crew, who had a 'soft' opening of their new Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge yesterday.

50 Catoctin Circle NE, Leesburg, VA

It's the old Thoroughbreds Grille and brewpub (itself barely a year old when it ceased operations) so the decor, although adjusted to reflect the new name, is still quite classy with lots of dark wood and a beautiful tap system.

The beers are Kevin Kozaks' final brews from Thoroughbreds and are still in good shape: helles, pale ale, dark mild, cherry stout, IPA and imperial IPA. Licensing for brewing operations has been granted. Bill has wasted no time in beginning to fill his tanks; look for his brews soon. I tried a couple of appetizers which were quite tasty.

Bill was, for nearly a decade, the 'corporate brewmaster' for the Capitol City Brewery chain (2 in DC, 1 in Shirlington, VA, 1 in Baltimore; and other non-brewpub restaurants in the area). There, he won several medals for his beers at the Great American Beer Festival. Subsequently, for a brief time (2004-2005), he was a part-owner and brewmaster for Founders in Alexandria. That location ceased operations but Bill unable to improve systemic problems had left the management well before the pub's demise. (Sadly enough, 2 brewpubs have now failed in the same spot: the Virginia Beverage Comapny and then Founders.)

Favorites of fans of his oeuvre (such as Madonna, pictured with Bill at the soft opening on Monday evening; and there are many others in the DC area) are his Kolsch and his American Imperial IPA. Both, Bill says, will make their return at Vintage 50.

From Chuck Triplett who posts to and other beer sites:

Across town, Anthony Cavallo and Bill Madden are putting the final touches on Vintage 50 a restaurant/brewery the two men are preparing to open Nov. 6 in 50 Catoctin Circle. The brewery and restaurant will fill the restaurant space Thoroughbreds Grill previously occupied. Dinner will be served nightly starting at 4 p.m.

The restaurant will seat 100, which Cavallo said is "very small" in terms of restaurants but provides him and his staff the opportunity to be very customer oriented.

"We want people to come in and have a dialogue with us," he said. Dinner shouldn't be rushed, but should provide diners a chance to try different wines and beers with one of the 10 standard menu items or the special of the night.

The smaller menu, "allows us to do our menu items really well," Cavallo said, and, coupled with the restaurant size, enables the chef and sous chef to be the true cooks in the kitchen, rather than having line cooks make the meals, he added.

In addition to the nightly meals, Vintage 50 plans to hold wine dinners and beer dinners, special events that will allow diners to pare different drinks with foods to see which ones match.

"It's a good way for people to learn about wines," said Angie Bishop about the wine dinners.

The beer dinners will highlight the work of beer master Bill Madden who spent 10 years brewing for Capitol City Brewery in Washington, DC.

In addition to four core beers that will always be on tap, Madden said he plans to offer seasonal beers and other recipes he has found to be popular with customers.

"We want to get Leesburg involved with brewing some of these beers," he said, and wants to incorporate preferences into what he brews. Each batch he brews is the equivalent of 20 kegs of beer, he said.

Guests can sample a tapas-style menu in the bar area, American fare cuisine in the main dining room and specialty drinks and wine in addition to its brews throughout.

"Leesburg does not have that late-night feeling yet," Cavallo said. "My bar will not close until 1 a.m.," offering guests a smoke-free lounge that will serve a limited menu once dinner ends at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The entire restaurant is non-smoking; smoking will be permitted on the outdoor patio.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sputnik Halloween

On 31 October 2006, Bill and Maria Buszinski invited me back to their Sputnik Cafe, in Crownsville, Maryland, to host another costume Halloween Beer Dinner.

Here was their menu:

Beer 1: Etienne Dupont Cidre (of course, not really a beer)

Beer 2: Black Cat Mild, paired with Mushroom Paté and spiced blackberry sauce.

Beer 3: Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, paired with Asian-Spiced Pork Tenderloin and spiced apples. 

Beer 4: Clipper City's Balto MärzHon, paired with Oyster Stew. 

Beer 5: Clipper City's Winter Storm Imperial ESB, paired with Savory Oxtails and preserved lemon polenta. 

Beer 6: Clipper City's Peg Leg Imperial Stout, paired with Fig Cake.

Here's another, earlier, Sputnik beer dinner.