Sunday, February 25, 2007

Productizing beer and music

While at college, I was the classical music director for the school's non-profit radio station. I became intrigued about the commercial radio realm, and so I hired on as the overnight DJ at an AM Top 40 station.

To hone the staff's skills, management brought down a consultant to speak on motivation and skill-improvement for a week. One of his first announcements was that the word news was pronounced nyews not nooze.

Then he said this:

Music - or news - is not our product; rather, our product is our audience. The spending habits of our listeners is what we are actually selling to our advertisers.
Simple enough, but, at that time in my innocent enthusiasm, revolutionary for me. And to this day, I still look on such things as music and beer - and the list is, of course, much larger - as containing substance in and of themselves.

They are more than mere products. And so, the question,"Well, what is your product?", invariably follows such demeaning imprecision.

At that radio station long ago, my family name - Cizauskas - was deemed too complex for its listeners. So I was given a nom de l'air.

I became Tom Chandler.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Another view on Dominion's purges

I mentioned in an earlier post that there were other facets to the story of the sale of Old Dominion Brewing. Here's one such alternate view (taken from a post to DC-Beer, a web group of good beer lovers in the Washington DC/Baltimore MD area.)

Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2007 07:07:00 -0500
From: "Dean T. Lake"
Subject: RE: [DC-Beer] Big Changes at Old Dominion

I have heard from many of you directly about this recent turn of events, but have decided to respond first in this public forum.

It is completely within the rights of anyone to choose their products based on what they deem a moral position. It is certainly a right to choose products based on personal loyalty. To that end, I would like to make a few points which may be relevant to this discussion. While it is no doubt a personal tragedy to lose one's job in any scenario, it is important to consider the remaining 90 plus percent of employees.

Taking the information in the original post, we can tell by subtraction most Dominion employees remain. The company that is apparently buying the assets of the rapidly declining Old Dominion Brewing Company seems to have hired the vast majority of active brewers. There remain nothing but hard-working and experienced brewers with a tremendous love for, and appreciation of, great brewing and great brews. In my experience there is not a brewer there who hasn't personally developed a brew of distinction.

Further, it may be of interest to many to know just who precisely this new VP of Brewing Operations is: Scott Zetterstrom. Scott had a long and successful time with Old Dominion from about 1992 to about 2002. He started at the bottom and worked his way up to Brewmaster. All the while, along side other early notable brewers like John Mallet (currently running Bell's in Kalamazoo) and Ron Barchet (of Victory fame) improved the operations, equipment, and procedures at Old Dominion to brew first class, award wining brews. Those were the days when Millennium, Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale and Pils, and many other timeless brews were developed.
When Scott left Old Dominion, it was, in my opinion, a significant loss.

Every last one of the brewers in Ashburn right now is dedicated to brewing great beer. You should expect great beer from them. While I have no idea what business decisions the future will bring, I can tell you that if any brewers anywhere deserve loyalty and respect, these guys do.

Dean Lake
(ODBC 1995-2003)
I know and respect Dean Lake. He is currently the head brewer for the Sterling, Virginia location of Sweetwater Tavern, a brewpub. Prior to that he was the brewmaster for and an investor in Thoroughbreds, a brewpub in Leesburg (which has since been sold and is now called Vintage 50). And, of course, before that, he was employed at Old Dominion, where among other things, he was in charge of Quality Control. I would concur with Dean's opinion on Scott Zetterstrom.

Considering that Terry Fife had been part of an earlier group bidding to purchase the brewery, it was logical to expect that the new owners might assume divided loyalties upon his part. That being said, I still believe that the harsh manner in which the firings were handled was unnecessary.

Double-Digit Growth for Craft Brewers in 2006

From the Brewers Association website:

11.7% — Double-Digit Growth for Craft Brewers in 2006

Boulder, CO – February 20, 2007 –
The continuing growth of craft beer entered double-digit territory in 2006, with sales by craft brewers up 11.7% by volume for the year. This comes on top of strong growth in each of the prior three years and illustrates the ongoing surge of consumer interest in craft beers.

This translates to over 6.6 million barrels.

Growth of the craft brewery industry was 9% in 2005, 7% in 2004, 3% in 2003. As comparison, total US-produced beer sales were up by only 0.4% in 2006, while imports increased by 14.6%. (These last two figures are from the Beer Institute.)

East Coast Beer Dinner

Summits Wayside Tavern hosted a East Coast Beer Dinner at their Cumming, GA location (about 15 miles north of Atlanta), Monday evening, 19 February 2007. Over 110 beer lovers filled the restaurant.

The participating breweries were:

In his introductory remarks, owner Andy Klubock brought the house down when he remarked that he was thinking about the past West Coast Beer Dinners while - "on the treadmill this morning." He noted that while he has hosted only West Coast Beer Dinners in the past, the beer scene on the East Coast has grown dramatically from even a few years ago. East Coast breweries now offer a profusion of extreme beers able to match those from the West Coast, but often with the balance of flavors sometimes not found in those from the West Coast.

In fact so new was this trend for Atlanta - only 2 years ago were the laws changed to allow higher alcohol beers to be served or sold in Georgia - that the advertising posters had the word "West" taped over with the word "East".

Andy was quite gracious in his introduction of me as representative for the Clipper City Brewing Company. Andy mentioned our commitment to cask ale, and that I had driven down for the event with a firkin of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale in my car. The photo at the top of the post is of the cask being tapped. Throughout the evening, I received many compliments on the beer. On tap from us were Below Decks Barleywine, Peg Leg Imperial Stout, and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.

The format of this dinner was different than that of others I've attended. Participants could order any beer from the taps from the participating breweries; there was no formal pairing of beer and food. But what an extraordinary menu! In past years Andy had hired 'outside' chefs but this year he himself had devised the menu and supervised its preparation.

Before the diners were seated, waiters moved about offering starters:
  • Chimay Trappist Ostrich Sliders (like mini-hamburgers, but made with Chimay-marinated ostrich)
  • Kobe Beef "Pigs in a Blanket" (Japanese beef sausages)
  • Mussels Delaware (Mussels steamed with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA)
  • Roast duck and Laura Chenel goat cheese Quesadillas.
  • Plate of artisinal cheeses.
Once seated, diners were offered their choice between:
  • Mixed Grill of Shrimp & Crawfish cakes, served with a wasabi remoulade
  • New Zealand Venison Chop served with Bordeaux truffle sauce and peach-infused caramelized onions
  • Each was served with wild game stock fried rice, fresh vegetables, and braised bok choy.

During it all, each brewery representative gave a short presentation. A crackling, feedback-whining microphone only added to the fun. I went first and then the other breweries followed in alphabetical order.

Boston Beer (Samuel Adams)
  • Boston Ale
  • Boston Lager
  • White Ale
  • Cherry Wheat
  • Imperial Pilsner
  • Hardore Cider
Not only was the local representative present, but a brewer - Seth Wolfman - had flown down from Boston for the evening. He gave the most impassioned talk of all of us. He exhorted the brewers present to "forget the numbers, and just brew good beer". He sat down to hearty applause ... as all were enjoying his Imperial Pilsner.

Dogfish Head
  • 60 Minute IPA
  • 90 Minute IPA
  • Indian Brown Ale
  • Midas Touch Golden Elixir
  • Raison d'Etre
  • Burton Baton
That evening - at Summits - was the first official serving of draft Dogfish Head beer in Georgia. The beer had only recently been approved for sale in the state, and because of ice storms in Delaware, the beer was delivered to the distributor - Savannah Distributing Company - late the night before. (Savannah Distributing also wholesales Clipper City's beers in Georgia.) National Sales Manager Claus Hagelman thanked Andy and remarked on the amazing response to his beers in just one day in the market. Even with the change in alcohol laws, importation of beers of over 15% remains proscribed. Thus Dogfish cannot bring in all of its beers into Georgia. (Dogfish Head will be a strong competitor against the gains that Clipper City has made in the Georgia market. But if at least for the evening, we were all friends in fermentation.)

Highland Brewing
  • Gaelic Ale
  • Tasgall Ale
  • Cold Mountain Winter Ale
  • Black Mocha Stout
  • Kashmir India Pale Ale
  • Oatmeal Porter
  • Imperial Gaelic Ale
Sandi Hammontree, Highland rep (l); Oscar Wong (r)
Oscar Wong, president of the Highland Brewing Company of Asheville, North Carolina talked about the his 10 year-old brewery. In December, the brewery was moved from cramped facilities in the basement of a building into a large warehouse on the grou nds of a movie production facility. Among his beers being served, there were samples from bottles of Imperial Gaelic Ale - a well-balanced, and dangerously smooth Wee Heavy of 8.5% abv, and not regularly available. Had several - wee - pours myself!

Sweetwater Brewing Company
  • 420 Extra Pale Ale
  • India Pale Ale
  • Hummer
  • Blue
  • Georgia Brown
  • Happy Ending Imperial Stout
  • Aged Dubbel
Brewmaster Kevin McNerney thanked the crowd - and Andy - for the support through the 12 years of the brewery's existence. He discussed the growth of the brewery but its commitment to being Atlanta's home-grown brewery.

Terrapin Brewing Company
  • Rye Pale Ale
  • Golden Ale
  • Wake -n- Bake Oatmeal Imperial Stout
  • 2005 Vintage Big Hoppy Monster
Charismatic owner and brewmaster Spike Bukowski announced that his brewery was "finally" closing on a deal to build its brewery in Athens. At present, he brews the draft in Atlanta and contracts with Flying Dog/Wild Goose of Frederick Maryland to brew the bottled beers. He was serenaded by the crowd with a beery "Happy Birthday".

Among those seated at my table were:
Bob Townshend, Atlanta Journal-Constitution beer/music columnist, and editor of Southern Brewing News (r)
Claus Hagelman, national sales manager for Dogfish Brewing Company (l)
Lisa Hanson, publisher of Southern Brewing News
Owen Ogletree, long-time Atlanta advocate of cask ale, columnist for Southern Brewing News, and promoter of the Classic City Brewfest in Athens, GA

and some very enthusiastic beer lovers!

To bid us adieu, Andy served a "decadent vatted beer ice cream sundae". In glasses from each brewery, he layered vanilla bean and chocolate ice creams, topped them with graham crust, and finished them with chocolate mouse, which he made with Valrhona chocolate and infusions of beer from each brewery there that evening.

Summits Wayside has two Atlanta-area locations, each serving over 100 beers apiece on tap, along with a large assortment of bottled beers.

More photos.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Georgia in February

I'm back from my Clipper City biz-trip to Georgia (and personal time in the New York City area).

The photo is from Aromas Wine Bar (Athens, GA), where I tapped a firkin of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale on Fat Tuesday. (Manager Christy on the left; I on the right.) More photos.

The day before (posting is sometimes not chronological!) I represented Clipper City at an East Coast Beer Dinner, at Summits Wayside Tavern, just outside of Atlanta.

My Uncle Al

I've just returned from a funeral in New York for my uncle, Albert Kwetz. He was the last of his generation on my mother's side of my family - and my last surviving aunt or uncle on either side. It gave me pause: time to reflect on the important things in life.

My uncle was a World War II veteran of North Africa and Sicily. He established and was Commander of his local VFW Post.

He helped establish and then provided continuous support for the Victoria Schuck Endowment Fund. This fund provides government internships and government studies scholarships for students who can't necessarily afford such. Donations can be made in his name to Mount Holyoke College, c/o Victoria Schuck Endowment Fund, 50 College St., So. Hadley, MA 01075-1423.

In this time of scandals concerning interns - and of a pervasive distrust of government - I would consider his views not old-fashioned but refreshing and necessary.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sad, sad day at Dominion

From DC-Beer today.

From: Terence Fife
Subject: [DC-Beer] Big Changes at Old Dominion
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 01:01:25 -0500

It has been a pleasure for me over the past year or so to be a member of the DC Beer List. Though I have not been among the most active participants, I have monitored the conversation daily.

There has been a great deal of conjecture and speculation regarding the fate of Old Dominion lately, and I have made a concerted effort to avoid these conversations.

I believe that it is no secret that the company is being sold to Coastal Beverage, a joint venture between Anheuser-Busch and Fordham Brewing (49/51). The deal is expected to close at the end of February.

The Dominion staff was introduced to the VP of Brewing Ops and VP of Sales for the first time this afternoon.

Within moments of their arrival, I was informed that I would not be retained after the changeover and, for that matter, I may as well pack up immediately. Shortly afterward, our head brewer Dave Hennessey was fired, along with brewer Greg Spradlin. Between the three of us, we had 42 years of service with Old Dominion and a collective record of loyalty, sacrifice, and hard work.

I can sleep well knowing that I have always been a dutiful ambassador of the company.

As a final insult, we were given no compensation package or severance of any kind. It has always been the policy of Old Dominion to pay fired employees two weeks of severance for each year with the company, almost regardless of the reason for their termination. It was explained to me that we were not actually being fired by Old Dominion. Rather, we simply weren't being rehired by the new company and therefore were not entitled to a severance.

Thus begins a new era for Old Dominion.

It has been a pleasure getting to know some of you on this list, and I never failed to learn from and be entertained by many of you. Thanks for your support over the years and I hope to cross paths with all of you at some point.

All the best,
Terry Fife
Old Dominion Brewing Co.
It's a sad, sad, day.

There are always many facets to such a thing. But having known Terry Fife in his capacity as Marketing Manager at Old Dominion Brewing Company, I can avow that he did not deserve such treatment - nor did brewer Dave Hennessy. Business decisions are not made in moral vacuums - or at least should not be.

At the RFD Strong Beer Tasting last evening, Dominion brewer Favio Garcia stated that a public announcement about the sale would be made within 2 weeks. Obviously, an abbreviated schedule was followed.

Here's more on how the story developed.

Strong Beer Tasting at RFD

Host Bob Tupper (l); Cap City's Kevin Blodger (r)
I attended RFD's Strong Beer Tasting last evening with Clipper City Brewing owner Hugh Sisson. Our entry was Below Decks Barleywine, dry-hopped, and served cask-conditioned from a firkin.

The best line of the evening belonged to audience member (and Mid-Atlantic Brewing news columnist) Martin Morse Wooster. After tasting the unfiltered Imperial Kölsch (7.5% abv) from Kevin Blodger of Baltimore's Capitol City Brewing Company brewpub [UPDATE: 2007.09.01], he was inspired to ask:
What are you calling this? Kölsch 45?
Funny quip ... interesting style designation ... very tasty beer.

The lineup:
  • Imperial Koelsch (7.5%) from Capitol City Baltimore
  • St. Victorious Doppelbock from Victory
  • Heavy Seas Below Decks Barleywine (10%, firkin) from Clipper City
  • Belgian Sour Cherry Ale - made with brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus - from Capital City (Arlington/Downtown)
  • Bill Madden's Cask Wee Heavy (8%) from Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge
  • Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A (a 10% Rye Double IPA) from Hebrew
  • Double D 8% Double Red Ale from Capital City Shirlington
  • Double IPA (8 to 9%) from Capitol City Capitol Hill
  • Oak Aged Millennium (11.5%) from Old Dominion Brewing Company
  • Oak Aged High Desert Imperial Stout from Sweetwater Tavern
More Photos

Lithuanian Independence Day

Today, 16 February, is the anniversary of Lithuanian Independence Day - the date of Lithuaia's independence from German, Austrian, Prussian, and Czarist Russian occupation, in 1918.

Lithuanian Independence Day, 16 February 1918

With my family name of Cizauskas, I fly the flag this day every year, to honor my grandparents' families, both sides of which emigrated from Lithuania in the early 20th century.

For many years, on 16 February, my father would lay a wreath at the statue of Thaddeus Kosciusko in Lafayette Park across from the White House. He began this tradition a few years after our family's return in the mid 1960s from overseas US Foreign Service duty. He only stopped when illness prevented him.

11 March 1990 is the date of independence from the Soviet Union.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Baseball soon, but no good beer

I'm a baseball nut!

With football season concluded, I'm seeing more and more articles on the Washington Nationals baseball team in the sports pages. And with all the snow on the ground, it's warming to note that spring training will soon begin.

But I'm also - obviously - a beer nut.

So why is it that the Nationals won't consider putting craft beer and local beer into RFK, the team's home stadium?

As a Territory Manager for Clipper City Brewing Company, I, of course, have a vested interest in this. But as a baseball and good beer fan, I have an enjoyment interest.

More bizarre is that at both RFK and at Camden Yards, perhaps 40 miles away from RFK - but in really the same beer buying market - the concessionaire is the same company - Aramark.

And at Camden Yards, Aramark has had, since almost that ballpark's beginnings, several stands offering local beers. These stands, last season, poured in excess of 200 kegs per month. I would think that that would be a powerful FINANCIAL demonstration to Aramark and the Lerners - the owners of the Nationals - of the large subset of good-beer-fans found among baseball fans.

If it were only Clipper City and I being frozen out, that would be one thing. But Old Dominion, for goodness sake, a northern Virginia brewery (and the closest thing to a DC brewery we have now that contract-brewed Heurich is no more) is also sold at Camden Yards (along with Clipper City, Wild Goose, and others).

Washington Post beer columnist Greg Kitsock wrote about this lack-of-good-beer issue last year.

None of us local breweries can ante up the big bucks that the big brewers do for promotional stuff and signage. But the Lerners have emphasized the FAN EXPERIENCE from their very first press conference.

Well here we are!

I have been rebuffed in my attempts to interest the food and beverage concessionaire - Aramark - to reconsider. If you're reading this and you think you can help, please

More on DRM

I understand the absolute need for recording artists to receive royalties for their music. Great R&B singer Ruth Brown is one who fought for this for most of her life, and who ultimately won that battle. In fact, the ability for Congress to protect copyright is written into the original US Constitution.

It's the pernicious abuse of that artists' right by music companies (via DRM) with which I find fault. Here's more today from Washington Post columnist Rob Pegoraro:

... the debate over whether technology can curb illegal file sharing has come back to life. That's good. But in the process, a lot of old myths are resurfacing - and believing them will stop you from understanding the deeper problems with the digital-media market.
all of the article: Time to Face The Music on File Sharing

The return of Chesbay

Washington D.C.'s RFD beer bar hosted a 'strong' beer tasting last evening and will do so again tonight. Different local breweries and their brewers and their strong beers.

Strong beers were long considered to be those above 5% alcohol by volume. But more recently, with the explosion of extreme beer styles in the 'craft' beer world, beers over 7% or even 9% - and even into the 20% abv range - are now those called "strong".

I missed last evening's event, when maybe the star of the show was Allen Young and his re-brew of Chesbay Dark Horse. The Chesapeake Bay Brewing Company (aka Chesbay) dates back to 1984 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, when it was the very first microbrewery in the entire Washington, D.C./Virginia/Maryland area. Allen Young was on board, as an assistant brewer. Chesbay operated until 1988, which is when the area's second microbrewery, the British Brewing Company (later renamed Oxford), would open, in Maryland.

Here's an excerpt of an article written by Gregg Wiggins about Chesbay, taken from the current issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News (Vol. 9, #1, p. 31).

Blow the dust off 20-year-old record books and you’ll see that Chesbay Double Bock won the gold medal for bocks/dopplebocks in 1987 at the first Great American Beer Festival to award gold, silver and bronze medals for excellence in various beer styles. Some older – um, more experienced – members of Virginia’s craft beer community still speak fondly of the pioneering Virginia Beach brewery, even though it had been nearly twenty years since the last Chesapeake Bay Brewing Co. beers were brewed.

Until recently.

Because former Chesbay brewer Allen Young is back in Virginia Beach, consulting with his former Chesbay colleagues, renaming and reviving that old recipe at that city’s Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.

Urgesteiner Dunkel will be available for a short time from late February as a “gap beer” between Gordon Biersch’s Winter Bock and spring Maibock. “Urgesteiner,” translates Young, “is German
for ‘Native’.” As in, Virginia Native Dark, another name the beer went by. “1986 to 1989 was when we produced that for Chesbay,” says Young, who turned to former Chesbay brewer Wolfgang Roth and other Chesbay veterans for help recreating the beer.

“It’s not quite (Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s) Sam Calagione digging up 7,000 year old Babylonian tablets,” Young laughs, “but it’s close.” The malts and hops replicate those used at Chesbay as closely as possible, Young says, emphasizing, “Hell, I’m even using the same water!” “It was a very peculiar beer,” says Young now, “It’s 35 bitterness units, which is unheard of in Germany but we were, in those days, trying to be different.”

The new version will be served unfiltered, a rarity in the Chesbay days. “We did a filtered version of it which was pretty popular,” remembers Young, “but the unfiltered kellerbier version was solely at Union Street Public House” in Alexandria.

Tonight, I will be at R.F.D. with Clipper City Brewing owner Hugh Sisson; we're bringing a cask-conditioned firkin of Below Decks Barleywine-style ale.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Virginia micro-distillery

There is a story in today's Food Section of the Washington Post concerning micro-distilleries in Virginia.

According to the article, there are three micro-distilleries in Virginia. One, the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, malts its own Virginia-sourced barley, drying it over apple and cherry wood smoke. (Owner Rick Wasmund says that his is the only distillery in the US, large or small, to malt its own barley.)

After he distills the whisky, Wasmund ages it with wood chips. He has named this process chipping, and claims it shortens the traditionally longer periods of aging in wooden barrels. Thus he can release his "Single Malt Whisky" for sale after only a few years of aging at the distillery.

I haven't yet tasted the whisky.

More on bourbon/whiskey/whisky definitions.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Max's 72 Hours - update

I neglected to post that the 72 Hours of Belgium at Max's begins with a Belgian beer breakfast, Friday morning at 11. Call Max's Taphouse to reserve a seat: 410-675-MAXS (6297).

And this may be of greater importance: I've just learned that Beer Manager Casey Hard has planned "staged availability" so that much of "the good stuff" may still be on tap on Sunday!


Flavor weight

Garrett Oliver's 1997 book - The Good Beer Book (with Timothy Harper) - might be overshadowed next to its big sibling - The Brewmaster's Table - but it is worth reading in its own right. Sprinkled throughout, Oliver offers written snapshots of people who have contributed to the good beer revival but may not have the notoriety of the big names like Maytag, Caglione, Sisson, or Oliver himself.
assistant manager Derejie (l); David Battey (r)

Here's one in our area: David Battey.

David has been the beer buyer for several DC-area shops. He is an unabashed hophead and an authority on alternative music and cinema. Just ask!

He is now running the beer department at Rodman's in DC.

I mention this because he has done something with his beer cooler there that I've seen only done before with wine.

If arranged in any real order at all, beers are often placed together by style or by brewery, or alphabetically by name. Battey (pronounced BAY tee) has done something different. He arranges his large selection of beers by flavor weight. The Pale Ales for example:
  • Session Ales
  • Pale Ales
  • Full-flavored Pale Ales
  • IPAs
  • Full-flavored IPAs
  • For Hop Heads Only
He says it's a work-in-progress; at this point, these are the only categories David has arranged. But it's a fabulous idea and I'll be returning to see how it develops.

Weather bug

In January, the 75ºF temperatures spoiled us all - including our plants. Here's a bud appearing on a forsythia bush in front of my house in mid January!

And now it's frigid, with plenty of snow and ice, although not anywhere near the 2+ feet in upstate New York.
Be careful what you wish for!

Monday, February 12, 2007

72 Hours of Belgium -2007

Now, this is a festival - the third year for Max's 72 Hours of Belgium! There are no special presentations or break-out sessions, but just an amazing array of Belgian beers on draft (67) and in bottle (140). Friday might be the best day to attend. Saturday will be wall-to-wall; Sunday is less frenetic, but in the past, several of the rarer beers were already off-line.

I'll not be attending this year - work beckons.

General Manager Bob Simko(l); Beer Manager & Cellarmaster Casey Hard (r)

Bob Simko(l)- Bar manager; Casey Hard(r) - Cellarmaster


Fri-Sun, Feb 16, 17, 18
11am- 2am each day.

NO Entrance Fee
Full and sample sizes available. Full Belgian food menu,
140 Authentic Belgian bottled beers
67 Authentic Belgian drafts

Achouffe Gnomette Series 11, Achouffe Houblon Triple IPA, Achouffe La Chouffe, Achouffe N'Ice Chouffe 2004, Affligem Blonde, Bavik Petrus Winter, Brooklyn Cuvee De Achouffe, Cantillon Cuvee Des Champions, Cantillon Iris 2004, Cantillon Kriek 2003, Cantillon St Lamvinus, Cantillon Vigneronne, Chimay Cinq Cents, De Dolle Arabier, De Dolle Stille Nacht, De Dolle Extra Export Stout, De Dolle Oerbier, De Koninck Ale, De Koninck Winter, Urthel Hop It, De Ranke Pere Noel, De Regenboog Guido, De Regenboog Speciale, De Regenboog T'Smisje Kerst, De Regenboog T'Smisje Blonde, De Regenboog T'Smisje Dubbel, De Regenboog T'Smisje Slee Doorn, De Regenboog Vuuve, De Regenboog Wostijnte, Scaldis, Scaldis Noel, Dupont Saison, Geants Goliath, Geants Saison Voisin, Grimbergen Double, Halve Maan Brugse Zot Blonde, Gouden Carlous Ambrio, Hoegaarden, Delirium Tremens, La Rulles Cuvee Des Voeux, Lefebvre Blanche De Bruxelles, Leffe Blonde, Ommegang Sour Flanders Amber, Ommegang Hennepin, Ommegang Ommegeddon, Ommegang Rare Vos, Ommengang Three Philophers, Ommegang Witte, Oud Beersel Oud Lambic, Radermacher Rader Ambree, Radermacher Rader Blonde, Rodenach Red, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Roman Ename, Witkap Pater Single, Witkap Pater triple, Stella Artois, Strubbe Doebel, Strubbe Super Pils, Strubbe Vlaskop, Van Den Bossche Buffalo Stout, Van Honsebrouck Brigand, Van Steenberge Bornem Triple, Van Steenberge Gulden Draak, Van Steenberge Piraat
Casks: Brewers Art La Petroleuse & Special Resurrection

The 1st two 72
72 Hours of Belgium 2006
72 Hours of Belgium 2005

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Barack Obama

Senator Barack Obama announced for the Presidency yesterday.

To ignore the race or gender issues inherent in Clinton, Richardson, or Obama's campaigns would be disingenuous. Maybe, just maybe, our national psyche needs a woman, or an Hispanic-American, or an African-American to run and win so that the nation might move past prejudices - if only to a small extent.

But will the majority of Americans then move further and ask these candidates how they would address our serious problems - and what they would have us do?

  • the threat of religious extremism to our national security
  • the threat to our lives, economy, and planet from global warming
  • our increasingly dangerous dependence on foreign energy sources
  • the threat to the viability of the middle class in the United States, due in part to the transfer of wealth to the top tier
  • the decreasing economic vitality of the United States internationally
  • the civil war in Iraq that we hastened- if not caused - and the concomitant enervation of our military
  • the threats against our basic freedoms from international business and our own government
  • affordable health care
How soon before we hear smarmy talk-show references - intimating what exactly?- to Barack HUSSEIN Obama?

And, as to the experience canard: is John Edwards really any more experienced than Obama? Was candidate George W. Bush any more experienced?

She's 10 years old

Today is a day that makes it all worthwhile. My most special someone is 10 years old.

Happy, happy birthday!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I don't steal music.

So now Apple's Steve Jobs says there should be no built-in prohibition to listening to downloaded music on any music player. It's the record labels - with their DRM - which prevent that, he says. The record labels counter: Why doesn't Mr. Jobs share the Apple/iTunes source code (which Apple misleadingly calls FairPlay) so that downloads can be played on different players?

They are both playing a game at my expense. The Washington Post's Technology writer, Rob Pegoraro, blogged about this recently.

I don't steal music. I pay for it - whether I download it, rip it from a CD I own, or transfer it from one of the records in my collection. (Back in the day, I had the disease. I own in excess of 5,000 LP records - and some 45s and 78s.)

So why am I being penalized as if I might steal?

DRM - Digital Rights Management - is sort of an anti-theft or anti-piracy software encoded into music tracks you download from iTunes or RealMusic or their ilk. Think of it like this. You purchase a book but are only allowed to read that book in one room in your house. After four or five reads, the book will self-destruct. And if you move to a new house? The book is worthless.

Here's more about DRM from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

eMusic is the service through which I legally purchase most of my downloaded music. Even though it is no longer independently owned, it is a growing resource for non-DRM music. Most of the major labels don't license their music here. So the choices are independent classical and rock, and a good array of jazz. As the Wikipedia entry on eMusic states:

The record labels working with eMusic don't worry about file sharing of their music because eMusic users tend to be older, sophisticated music fans, less likely to engage in file sharing.[3][4] College students either couldn't or wouldn't pay for music online, so eMusic is more targeted at avid music fans.[4] Gene Rumsey, general manager of Concord Music Group, says eMusic fans are not the typical college-age file sharers. They are more rabid fans who he believes are less likely to engage in online song swapping.[3] Serious music fans would also appreciate that musicians are actually paid for every download.
There is a way - a legal method - to convert iTunes downloads (or RealMusic downloads or other DRM downloads) to the mp3 format. It's involved and inane, but it removes all Digital Rights restrictions. Click here or here. Basically, you record your mp3s onto a CD and then back onto your hard drive as mp3s.

Many of us, with lack of precision, use the term mp3 as a generic marker for all digital audio formats, much as Kleenex has come to mean tissue, or Xerox, to make a copy. And, just as those two are trademark protected, the mp3 format itself is patent protected.

Beer and chocolate

Chocolate Truffles with StoutThis is getting to be fun: puncturing people's perceptions about beer and food. Yesterday evening, I hosted an in-store demonstration at Olney Beer and Fine Wine, where I paired Clipper City Brewing's Peg Leg Imperial Stout with oh-so-delicious chocolates from local Maryland chocolatier - Chocolates by Cacao. (All are good but I'm partial to their Light Rum Chocolates.)

If eyebrows are arched when I talk about beer and cheese, the reaction is even smirkier when I link beer and chocolate. But think about it: with a stout, you're mating the complimentary character of roasted barley malt with that of the roasted cocoa beans of chocolate!

Chef Stephanie Zonis describes the synergy effect of beer (or wine) with food, if they pair well, thus:

It takes unique pairings to find ones that I call the “one plus one equals three” effect. That is, a great chocolate and a great wine combine to create a third flavor that is better than the sum of the parts. These pairings create the WOW effect.
(Garrett Oliver refers to this harmonious accommodation between beer and food as the flavor hook.)

In her on-line article, Chef Zonis pairs different beer and chocolates. She begins with stout and dark chocolate. But soon she becomes even more adventurous than I was last evening: she pairs a hoppy IPA with a malted-milk chocolate.
This time, the two were contrasts in flavor. The malty flavors paired well together and although the bitterness of the beer and sweetness of the malt crunchies were opposites, they ended up working together.
To borrow the catch phrase used by the cartoon pitchmen for that dark beer from Ireland: Brilliant! Chef Zonis says that, in her experience, only 10% of chocolate and wine pairings are successful. She finds a much higher percentage of success when it comes to beer.

At Olney Beer last evening, many visitors did decide to purchase both the Peg Leg Imperial Stout AND the Cacao chocolates. (Truth be told: there was one customer who did not appreciate the pairing; but she did enjoy the stout.)

  • Beer cookbook author Lucy Saunders has several stout and chocolate food recipes on her website:
  • Peter LaFrance's now hard-to-find book - Cooking and Eating With Beer - has a fantastic recipe for Chocolate Imperial Stout Mousse. The beer called for is Brooklyn Brewing's Black Chocolate Stout, but, having made the recipe, I can say that Clipper City's Peg Leg Stout is a delicious substitution.
  • How to pair beer and chocolate: Brewers Association.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sale of Old Dominion - update

Terry Fife, Marketing Director, Old Dominion

The sale of Old Dominion Brewery to Anheuser-Busch and Fordham Brewing may be final - if not yet publicly announced.(After so many false starts, may is an essential modifier.)

In an earlier post - Say It Ain't So, Jerry! - I came out somewhat strongly against the sale. But let's examine this a bit further. As a direct competitor (I'm Virginia Territory Manager for Clipper City Brewing Company), I should be both wary and optimistic about the sale.

Anheuser-Busch has deep pockets, with which, after purchasing Old Dominion, they would be able to infuse a lot of money into the brewery - on advertising, on incentives, on capital improvements, on quality control and assurance. A-B can spend so much more than Clipper City can for itself, or Old Dominion could without the sale, or any craft brewery could.

But I can also be cautiously sanguine about the sale. The fact that Old Dominion would now, de facto if not de jure (since Fordham would actually be the 51% owner), be an Anheuser-Busch property might create consumer backlash. Would local beer lovers really wish to drink a beer from the behemoth they love to disparage?

But, then again, as a beer lover (and removing my Clipper City cap), shouldn't I desire the sale? If it does occur, Old Dominion might regain the wherewithal - financially and strategically - and the enthusiasm to be a leader in the craft beer movement, as it once was.

A wild card in all this is Fordham Brewing. As beer writer Lew Bryson has remarked, and as have had others who are associated with the local beer business, why Fordham? Other than its three pubs, the company has not been much of a player - to date. We shall see.

Earlier posts:
Say it Ain't So, Jerry!
Old Dominion Festival update
Old Dominion Brewing Company sold [not! 2006.03.08]
My first rumor mongering (2005.09)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stilton and stout - non conundrum

Duo of Stilton-Style Cheeses

One New World, One Old World; with Mâche Salad & Blueberry Syrup

Paired with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

That was one of the pairings at what appears to have been a fabulous dinner Tuesday night at Tallulah's, hosted by Garrett Oliver. The mating of a strong stout - with its big malt backbone and smoky/roastiness - with a blue cheese, especially Stilton, is one of the great beer and cheese pairings.

That is why I disagree with a passage in an otherwise informative piece by the Brews Brothers in the current issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News (Vol. 9, #1, p.9, The Cheese Conundrum).

[Victory Brewing's] HopDevil, despite its name, has too much of a malt backbone and needs more strident hoppiness to overcome fats in the blue cheese [Point Reyes].
No! The problem with pairing the HopDevil with Point Reyes was not the beer's malt; it was its tannic hoppiness. HopDevil would have mated very well with other types of cheeses (such as cheddars or washed-rind cheeses).

The authors note how they were surprised at the difficulty of predicting the pairings. I find that it's often the taste combination of beer and cheese together that changes the character of both.

With blue and strong stout, it's just such a synergistic dance, as the stout's roast pulls the funk from the blue cheese while the mold softens the bitter roast of the stout.

Of course, de gustibus non disputandam, or to put it another way: "The first rule of beer-and-cheese pairing is that there are no rules, 'only enthusiastic suggestions.' "

More from Crafty Combo (Baltimore Sun, 2005):

"Wine struggles with cheese," says Tom Cizauskas, a sales representative for Clipper City Brewing Co. and a veteran of many cheese and beer tastings. The butterfat in cheese "often overwhelms the flavor of wine. And the acidity of wine seems to create an off-putting metallic character in the presence of cheese," he says. Beer and cheese "don't joust with each other in the mouth; they complement each other," Cizauskas says. "The natural sweet graininess of beer brings forward the aromas and flavors of cheese, just as a good hunk of bread accompanies cheese."

Cheese and beer are natural companions, he adds. "The fermented flavors of cheese - cream, nut, slight fruit, funk - all are present to various degrees in beer." Beer, as well, "has its own built-in palate cleanser," Cizauskas says, "the bubbles, or carbonation."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Brewmaster's Table

Andrew Stewart, owner Dr. Dremo's (l); Garrett Oliver (r)
Andrew Stewart, owner of Dr. Dremo's (l), Garrett Oliver, brewmaster Brooklyn Brewery (r)
I ran into the ever sartorially resplendent Garrett Oliver yesterday in Arlington, VA's Dr. Dremo's Taphouse. He was in town for business and to host a couple of beer dinners.

In his lovely book - The Brewmaster's Table - Garrett proselytizes for beer - and for beer with food - while avoiding the patrician haughtiness often affixed to wine writing.

Beer has always been present at the dinner table; we have simply, from time to time, taken it for granted. Some of beer's beauty lies in its comman-man sheen, the unadorned pleasure implied in that end-of-the-day invitation: "Let's go have a beer!"

On the topic of beer and food, I had an interesting encounter with Bill Owens - Buffalo Bill Owens - one of our craft beer pioneers - in the early 1990s at a craft beer conference.

I began a conversation with him -- or I tried to, at least -- about beer and food combinations (which at that time were just beginning to garner gravitas from beer writers).

Owens interrupted me, almost growling: "Food is for eating. Beer is for drinking." He turned away, shaking his head.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Alcohol % on beer labels

Forget free speech. Forget public health. Until 1995, it was a crime in the United States for a brewery to inform a consumer as to how much alcohol was in her beer.

It was not until Rubin v. Coors, a Supreme Court decision in 1995, that breweries were legally permitted to list alcohol levels on their bottles, six-packs, cases, etc. The court decided it as a 1st Amendment free speech issue.

Up to that time, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) had forbidden such information. The Rubin of the case was Robert Rubin, (Bill) Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury; Coors was, naturally, Coors Brewing. (There is some apocryphal evidence that the Big Brewers may have encouraged the formation of the no-alcohol rules as protection against foreign competition and as cover against neo-Prohibitionism.)

Concurrent with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the BATF was cleft in two:
* remaining with the Department of the Treasury was the TTB - Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which collects excise taxes and regulates labeling
* moving to the Department of Justice was the BATFE (gaining an E) - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, a law enforcement and anti-terrorism agency.

Related to the Rubin v. Coors decision are 21st Amendment issues.

That amendment repealed Prohibition - the 18th Amendment. But it also gave to the states the right to control the importation of alcohol within each state's own borders. (North Carolina, for example requires that any beer in excess of 5.9 % abv must have the alcohol percentage listed on the bottle.) This is sometimes read as a partial trumping of the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) of the 'un-amended' Constitution, which had given to Congress the ultimate right to regulate commerce.

Recent rulings of the Supreme Court, and a case still in the federal system, have challenged this interpretation to some extent, especially in regard to three-tier distribution issues.

Of tangential significance, there are two bills currently up for consideration in the Virginia legislature - HB2450 and SB1062 - which would allow for limited self-distribution by Virginia wineries.

Saving Private Wines

Bill Richardson

As opposed to my East Coast position on Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, here's a West Coast point-of-view from a different Cizauskas.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Beer II

The writers at Celebrator Magazine have anointed Clipper City's Below Decks Barleywine - tied with six others - as their choice as best barleywine for 2006/7 out of 15 tasted. Their tasting notes were:

Nice light malty nose, amber color and a tan head. Delicious balance of sweet malt up front giving way to sharp hop character midway through. Rich notes of apples and licorice add to the overall complexity of this fine beer.
On the Blind Tasting Panel were: Jay R. Brooks - tasting panel director of Celebrator, Tom Dalldorf - editor/publisher of Celebrator, Vic Kralj - owner of The Bistro in Hayward CA, and Pete Slosberg, founder of Pete's Brewing Company. The results were published in Celebrator's February/March 2007 issue, page 29.

And who were the six others that, along with Below Decks, were designated as "Exceptionally great; something special"?
Barstow-Lundy Barleywine (Iron Springs Brewing, CA), Doggie Claws Barley Wine Style Ale (Hair of the Dog Brewing, OR), Lost Abbey Angel's Share (Port Brewing, CA), Old Dipsea Barleywine Style Ale (Marin Brewing, CA), Schooner's Old Diablo 2004 Barleywine Style Ale (Schooner's Grille & Brewery, CA), and Talon (Mendocino Brewing, CA).
What is a barleywine?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Beer

Watching the Super Bowl this evening, I'll be eating some (or a lot) of my Stout Beer Veggie ChiliStout Chili Sin Carne. It's a vegetarian chili cooked with Clipper City's Peg Leg Stout. The dark malts of the stout add a molé flavor layer to the chili.

Stretching the boundaries of local, I'll be drinking Victory Brewing's Storm King with the chili.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Enlightened big business

Individual effort yields dividends but it does so in a networked milieu. That is: no man, no property owner, no business owner, no government, is an island. Thus, it's reassuring to notice a very successful businessman remember to remember where he came from and how he was assisted in becoming successful ... and to act on that, recognizing, that in the long run, it's good business.

Maverick Costco CEO Joins Push to Raise Minimum Wage

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Two Hearted Ale - a review

Bell's Brewery (formerly Kalamazoo Brewery) of Kalamazoo, MI, has recently established a salient for its beers here in the DC/VA area. (An earlier post of mine concerned Larry Bell and his encounter with a large midwestern distributor.)

Of Bells' roster of beers, I have particularly enjoyed the Two Hearted Ale. It's a strong American Pale Ale at 7% abv (although, lists it as 6%).

Two Hearted Ale has an orangey hue, and pours with a big white mousse. There's a lovely yet restrained nose of pear, apricot, ripe pineapple, and - de rigeuer for American pale ales - citrus.

The flavor follows suit. The malt is there, but as a slight sweetness.

Many big pale ales only highlight the bittering tannins of hops rather than their herbal quality. But Two Hearted Ale also emphasizes the hops' herbal aromatics. In that manner, it shares a brewer's emphasis similar to that of Clipper City's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.

Two Hearted Ale also brings to mind Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale from Old Dominion Brewing in Virginia - but with a softer finish and more of a fruity nose. That's not a value judgment; the two beers show different - and valid - brewers' interpretations of the American Pale Ale style.

There may be a less-than-six-degrees-of-separation connection here: the production manager for Bells is John Mallett. More than a decade ago, he was one of the original brewers for Old Dominion. He remains today one of the truly talented brewing technicians of the US craft beer world. (Rob Mullins was the brewer who actually formulated Tuppers at Dominion for Bob and Ellie Tupper. But Rob had worked under John Mallet.)

Don't get me started about whether Two Hearted Ale is a Pale Ale, IPA, double IPA, or a ... WHATEVER. That's the boring domain of obsessive nit-picking beer-style hop-lites.

Instead, simply relax and enjoy this delicious beer!

My samples were purchased at my local Whole Foods grocer; they had the code 7781 printed on their back labels.