Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Devin Arloski from Dogfish Head Brewery (center) is assisting Birreria Paradiso's bar manager Greg Jasgur (right).

They're pouring 60 Minute IPA through a Randall - a cannister packed with whole hops (in this case US Amarillo). The beer is forced under pressure up through the tube and out the side. It gains some hop oils and loses excess carbonation, softening the beer's presence.

And it's a great show.

You can't see me; I'm behind the camera. And you also can't see my snifter of cask-conditioned Peg Leg Imperial Stout that had just been hand-pulled via a beer engine from a cask behind the bar. Fresh from a cask, this sometimes maligned beer (see the reviews on the link above) was sublime: layers and layers of bakers' chocolate, low-toned fruit, and interlacing hops.

This uber-freshness is what cask-conditioned real ale is all about.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dissin' Pils

If a bottle has the word Pils upon it, well, it just won't be any good ... at least according to the nouveau beer taster. To him or her, the beer must be the most extreme, bitter, sweet, fruity, or alcoholic potion possible. Or at least not a beer with the words Pils or Pilsner upon it!

Bob Tupper has told me that this reverse snobbery is often directed against his wonderful Tupper Pils.

This past Friday night at an in-store tasting in Washington D.C., a customer tasted Clipper City's Small Craft Warning Uber Pils, flashed me a superior look, and said, "That's dirty Budweiser."

Now, I would like to taste the Budweiser he's referencing! Because I've never tasted a Bud rife with peppery/floral aroma, with a full shortbread-cookie maltiness, a firm drying structure, bottle conditioned with yeast in the bottle, and 7% alcohol by volume.

If you find one, please send it over!

Read this account of a hapless New York Magazine tasting from last year. The beers reflected a wide range of flavors, deliberately and carefully selected by David Pollack. David is a friend of mine and a sublimely competent beer advocate. The assembled tasters, were not. They were simply overwhelmed by the range of good beer flavors.

And - they dissed pilsners.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Richmond homebrew

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the right to brew beer at home. In 1981, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company began its operations - founded by two homebrewers - and the craft beer revival had begun in the United States.

Homebrewers and craft brewers have maintained their relationship since; in fact there are some homebrewers who brew beers of superior quality to those of some of our (less than?) craft brethren.

Saturday, Richmond beer and wine shop Once Upon a Vine invited me to judge some local homebrewers' efforts. Fellow judges were Legend brewer Mike Killelea, Lyle Brown, an accredited national beer judge, and Andy Rathman, brewmaster for St. George Brewing Company. (Acting the accommodating steward was store manager Emily Casey.)

We selected a hazelnut brown ale as best and a delicious Imperial Stout as second - although by my adjective you may see where my allegiance lay. I also very much liked an ESB as almost being a British beer clone. The other judges marked it down for being a bit too dark and a bit too high in alcohol for the style.

And that's an issue for another day: the formalistic world of beer styles. As the old brewmaster once said; "That's all very interesting. But how does the beer taste?"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tidewater tale

The Legendary crew at Hampton, Va pub Marker 20
I've been working the Tidewater, Virginia market these last few days in my position as Territory Manager South for the Clipper City Brewing Company. My guides have been the fine folk at my distributor here - Legendary Distributing.

The region - Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Chesapeake, etc. - seems to be about to burgeon into a craft beer friendly area ... which, I've been told, it has not been. I'm scheduled to return in mid-May for a beer festival in Norfolk called the Town Point Park Beer Festival.

During an in-store tasting of Clipper City beers at Norfolk beer and wine shop Grape & Gourmet, I met up - quite by accident- with Christopher Jones. Chris is a freelance beer writer in the Tidewater area. He also happens to be the brother of Marty Jones, the co-owner of Oskar Blues Brewery out of Colorado.

It must run in the family - both are nice guys.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Beer Tutoring

tutored beer tasting for Lowell School, Washington, DCIt wasn't cheesy; in fact, it raised money for a good cause.

About 15 folk gathered in a private home last night in Washington, D.C. to participate in a tutored beer and cheese tasting. It had been bid on and won as one item in a charity auction to benefit the Lowell School, a private school in Washington, D.C.

Clipper City Brewing Company donated the beer, and I led the tasting.

  • Oxford Raspberry Wheat ... with Saint André triple-creme
  • Small Craft Warning Uber Pils ... with Manchego
  • Peg Leg Imperial Stout ... with Bassett-Colton Stilton
  • Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale ... with aged Gouda
  • Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale ... with Grayson from Meadow Creek
  • Below Decks Barleywine ... with chocolate.
I had originally planned to mate the Small Craft Warning with Everona from Rapidan, Virginia. It's a marvelous sheep's milk cheese with a firm paté and grassy/floral finish. The dairy is aging its 2007 cheese, so none was available. We substituted with Spanish Manchego.

I believe strong stout and Stilton to be one of the great beer and cheese pairings. (The combination does not succeed with Guinness. There's not enough there, there.) To put it inelegantly, the mold of the cheese softens the roast of the stout, and the roasted bite of the beer does the same for the funk of the cheese. There were converts last evening.

Grayson is a washed-rind Tellegio-like cheese from the Meadow Creek dairy of Galax, Virginia, close to the North Carolina line. It has a strong pungent aroma (read: stinky!) and a soft paté. It mates well with the herbally aromatic Loose Cannon.

For the Below Decks, a barleywine with a nutty/caramelly taste, I had planned to bring along vanilla caramel white chocolates from Chocolates by Cacao of Olney, Maryland. But they didn't make it out of my home refrigerator. So I substituted with dark chocolates from a local supermarket.

Eyebrows are often arched in surprise when I mention beer and cheese together. My flippant retort is that "you may be the only American who has never ordered pizza," pointing out that beer so often accompanies a pie.

But I truly believe that wine fights cheese (and I don't dislike a good bottle of wine). The tannins of a Bordeaux are unpleasant in combination with cheese. The Wine Spectator of September 2005 said as much. And here is a study which purports to show the same.

More photos here.

Fried Green not Tomatoes

Kegs and eggs seem to sprout up every year around Saint Patrick's Day.

A pub or restaurant will open in the morning, and serve breakfast items and, of course, beer. (Compare with the more formal presentation as at Royal Mile Pub's recent beer breakfast.)

PGA Tour Grill in Rockville, Maryland did something similar yesterday. A very good restaurant, its fare is on a much higher plane than standard pub grub. It carries Clipper City beer on tap and stocks several in bottle.

Bar Manager Rob Benning of PGA Tour GrillThe Grill's bar manager Rob Benning had previously been a bartender at Sean Bolan's Pub in Baltimore. He was tending bar there on the night it closed.

Rob and I chatted about those good ol' days and the beer breakfasts there ... the latter being why he had invited me to attend this breakfast at the Grill.

But what caught my attention were the Flash Fried Memphis-Style Dill Pickles on the menu.

The last time I had enjoyed those guilty pleasures was a few years back at Sean Bolan's Pub. There, it had been wonderfully wacky bartender Warren Gofstein who had convinced owner Ken Krucenski to put this southern American fare on the menu. It quickly became a popular choice. Here at the Grill, Rob successfully suggested it to the chef; it's cornmeal dusted and served with a pesto-ranch dipping sauce.

Click for a Fried Pickles recipe from a blog on vegan cooking. The recipe calls for quartered dill pickles. PGA Tour Grill instead cuts its dills into small coin-like rounds and applies a tempura-thin batter. I prefer those.

I ordered a plate. And when it arrived, and when I nibbled on those Fried Pickles, I was suddenly hit with a surprising, almost somatic, wash of memories of those happy days when I lived in Federal Hill only a few blocks from Sean Bolan's. It's remarkable how smells and sounds and tastes can trigger intense memories.

Fried dill pickles ... who knew?

Drinking Liberally

I've just noticed this website for Drinking Liberally.

An informal, inclusive progressive social group. Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don't need to be a policy expert and this isn't a book club - just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it's not taboo to talk politics.

Bars are democratic spaces - you talk to strangers, you share booths, you feel the bond of common ground. Bring democratic discourse to your local democratic space - build democracy one drink at a time.

While I'm not necessarily advocating or commending this group, it looks interesting. The local chapter meets at the Rock Bottom Brewpub in Arlington, VA.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saving Private Wine

It's a fascinating solution to the small wineries vs. the distributors conflict (and toss in a Supreme Court decision about direct sales).
The Virginia General Assembly has passed a bill in the current session (which now awaits the governor's signature) which creates a quasi-governmental non-profit corporation to serve as the wholesale distributor for small wineries.

Virginia had previously allowed in-state wineries and retailers to sell and ship wine directly to Virginia consumers, while prohibiting out-of-state wineries and shops from doing the same. This was struck down in federal court. Also made illegal, forced by federal court decision, was self-distribution of wine by the Virginia wineries themselves.

The state Department of Agriculture will create this corporation which will process paperwork, pay taxes, and collect payments for participating Virginia wineries. It will work with a lower markup than private-sector distributors. The wineries themselves will deliver the wine. Once a winery exceeds the 3,000 case per threshold established in the legislation, it must rely on a wholesaler for distribution. That size will be attractive to most distributors. Smaller than that is not.

There's a similar situation but slightly different solution in Maryland. A bill, passed in April 2006, allows wineries that produce less than 27,500 gallons a year to avoid having to sell to a wholesaler.

Related to this, the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court has recently reinstated the ability of Virginia ABC stores to only sell Virginia wines (in addition to booze, of course) in its outlets. More.

Virginia Wine.org

The Supreme Court decision referenced above does not concern itself with direct beer shipments, a seeming illogical omission. Thus, direct shipments of beer are allowed in some states, forbidden in others (e.g., Virginia, Maryland). I believe that the Supreme Court will revisit that. Previous story

15,000 beers

This email was forwarded on to me.

Hello Brewers

As some of you know, Ellie and I are nearing the tasting of our 15,000th beer. This is an invitation to bring a beer and join us for a tasting at the Brickskeller on April 4th where we will write notes on #15,000.

When we turned 10,000 (we sometimes feel that old) we auctioned off a small event at the Brickskeller and raised some money for Children's Hospital. We want to do things a bit differently for this occasion for several reasons.

Our 10,000th beer was from the Pelican Brewery in Oregon . It had won a medal at GABF so we were pretty confident it would be a good beer for the occasion. It was.

But this time, we want the beer to come from one of you, our friends in the mid-Atlantic who have given so much to those of us who live here and appreciate good fresh beer. And we can't imagine anyone that we'd rather share the occasion with than the those who attend tastings at the Brickskeller and RFD and --especially-- you brewers who have joined us there so often. I've had more fun with you guys on the stage of the Bricks and RFD than I can describe. Ellie and I have visited most of your breweries and we feel truly fortunate to live in this area because you are a part of it.

We also want to use the occasion to raise some serious money for Children's Hospital. Last time we raised several hundred dollars. This time we hope we can raise several thousand. Dave Alexander has offered to send 100% of the admission price for this event to Children's Hospital. To maximize the amount we can send to the kids, we're asking everyone to pay the $50 admission to the event -- Ellie, me, and you included. We didn't come to the decision to pass a universal hat lightly-- we know all of you give generously in many ways throughout the year-- but it became clear in talking with several of you that many of you were actually enthusiastic about using this as a way of adding perhaps as much as an extra thousand dollars to the pot.

The 15,000th will work this way. We assume at least some brewers will bring a beer we have not tasted. We'll put the names of those we have not tasted in a hat and draw to determine which beer will become our 15,000th. I'm hoping that will generate some nice publicity for you (the 10,000th got some pretty nice write-ups).

If you don't have a new beer for us, we'd still love to have you bring a beer and celebrate the event with us.

I honestly don't know whether this event will draw interest from 3 or 4 brewers or most of the 30-something of you. I know the notice is short, even for me, for an event you weren't anticipating. We already know some of you can't make it on that date-- and we're most definitely not going to be insulted if you're not there. We chose the 4th because it's the best open date at the Brick anytime near the time we expect to hit 15,000.

I suppose this whole thing is subject to postponement if either Ellie or I come down with some sort of sudden and severe liver disease, but I'm trying not to think about things like that.

Hope we'll be seeing you on the 4th.
Bob & Ellie Tupper

Yes, Bob. I will be there at the Brickskeller, on 4 April, representing Hugh Sisson and the brewers of Clipper City Brewing Company. And to celebrate with you, I'll be bringing a keg of our new Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale.

[update: the event itself]

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Casking at Olney and Old Bay

It was a unique occasion, one autumn evening in 1993 at the Old Bay Restaurant in Brunswick, New Jersey. I watched as Sir Anthony Fuller pulled the first pint of cask Fuller's ESB ever served in the US.

And it was fresh ... very fresh! The peer and his cask had flown from England only the day before on the Concorde.

The Fullers ESB would initially puzzle my nose. It had the unmistakable character of sulfur, almost a spent match aroma like that of well-drawn water. English brewers call that the "Burton snatch", naming it for the olfactory effect of high gypsum content in the waters of Burton, England. Burton was the home of the world's first great pale ales.

It may have taken a few whiffs, but soon my nose was unpuzzled, and maybe a few gulps, but soon I myself was enlightened. Beer may have been my vocation, but cask ale that evening became a calling.

For example ...

Last week, I tapped a cask of Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale, Clipper City's new spring seasonal - a 9% abv russet brown ale inspired by abbey dubbels - at a marvelous beer dinner in Leesburg, Virginia at Tuscarora Mill. That was the first cask, anywhere, of this beer.

And, yesterday, Clipper City was invited to the Olney Ale House to likewise tap a fresh cask of Holy Sheet, the first in Maryland. Brewmaster Ernesto (Ernie) Igot came for the occasion, bringing two of our brewers with him: Chris Mallon and John Eugeni. (Our cellarmaster, Steven 'Spike' Marsh, had a prior commitment.)

As I prepared to drive in the tap, the patrons at the Ale house gave me a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown, ending with enthusiastic - if very carefully enunciated - cries of HOLY SHEET!

A Belgian-style beer is not the natural choice for cask ale (British styles would be), but this method of serving would surely bring forward this strong ale's full fresh flavors. And there was no Burton Snatch in the pint that poured but rather big flavored allusions to yeasty bread, apple-brown-betty, sweet rum, and cloves.

The Belgian yeast strain was a voracious fermenter; the cask remained active, spewing and sputtering. The pints poured cloudy - maybe not visually appealing to my cask purist's eyes - but gaining additional yeasty flavors. The many attendees seemed not to mind!

Friends and supporters of Clipper City Brewing stopped by. There was Jason Williams, wine manager for the nearby Olney Beer and Fine Wine, Mike Horkan of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, Alan Hew, an award-winning homebrewer and recognized cellarman, and many others filling the front barroom.

Olney Ale House (pronounced like the 'ol' in holly, by the way) is one of those rare restaurants that is both a fine beer emporium and a comfortable, welcoming pub. Proprietor John Roach and his bartenders and staff engage you in conversation, a practice often lacking at too many other bars and restaurants. Beer, after all, tastes best in the good company of others.

The bar holds some 20 taps, most of which are local and craft brews accompanied by a few import taps and a large selection of bottles. And the Ale House actually is in an old house sitting in sedate, if no longer rural, Olney, Maryland.

I finish this post back at the Old Bay Restaurant. It is still pouring good beer. Its renowned bar manager from 1993 - Chris Demitri - has passed away. But his legacy of good beer promotion lives on. One of his former staff members, Ron Fischer, is a nationally recognized expert on cask ale. He works for cask and beer importer B. United.

More photos.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lithuanian funnies

I missed the better day - 11 March - to have posted these amusing snippets concerning Lithuania and the Iraq War (sent to me by my sister).

That was the day in 1990 when Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union. At the time, Gorbachev reacted with some ominous comments. But the imminent collapse of the communist regime ended any real threat to the resurrected Baltic nation. (Both sides of my family emigrated to the US from Lithuania in the early 20th century.)

Conan O'Brien/February 22d:
Denmark and Lithuania have announced that they're going to pull their troops out of Iraq. Apparently, Denmark and Lithuania are going to pull out on the same day so all four guys can carpool.

Conan O'Brien/February 21: Denmark and Lithuania have also announced that they're pulling their troops from Iraq. Actually, it's just one guy who's half Danish and half Lithuanian.

Bill Maher: Everybody but George Bush seems to understand that this war is over. The British are pulling out now. ... They're all going. Lithuania said this week they are 'seriously considering reducing their force of 53 troops.' It's a small force, but very effective. So far, they've killed a dozen insurgents and three vampires.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sex and wine

Malcolm McLaren - he of the Sex Pistols - has written a very funny account of his short career as a wine salesman when a very young man. Wine was to be described in terms of gender and sexual peccadilos.

Never Mind the Bordeaux

Brewer's Ball

It's the Brewers' Ball co-chair Scott Langerman (r), and I.
Despite the name, more than one brewer(y) was present! It was the 2007 Brewers' Ball to benefit the fight against Cystic Fibrosis presented last evening, for the third year in a row, at the Galleria in the Lafayette Center of downtown D.C.

Clipper City donated beer as did several other local breweries and brewpubs; and we staffed our booths to pour the beers. (Interestingly, the new Dominion/Fordham/Anheuser-Busch brewery sent beer but no volunteers; similarly so, Wild Goose/Flying Dog.)

At times, it was a strange disconnected feeling, realizing that all of the frivolity - beer, music, dancing - was about those afflicted with CF.

It especially hit home for me when the parents of the child who was the face on the beer coasters that evening - suffering with Cystic Fibrosis - stopped by my table to personally thank me. You don't feel very worthy at a moment like that.
rep from Hook and Ladder
I contributed a silent auction item. The winners will have me at their houses hosting a tutored beer tasting, food catered by Chicken Out.

Pictured to the right is the rep for Hook and Ladder Brewing Company, a brewery lately in the news. Their booth was adjacent to Clipper City's.

More photos.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

We drink more beer by 10:00 AM ...

Brews Brother Steve Frank models the commemorative tee-shirt[updated post-event]

"We drink more beer by 10 am ... than most people drink all day!", said Kristin Orr, General Manager of the Royal Mile Pub, about her plans for the pub's first ever beer breakfast.

A few years back, Steve Frank - one half of the Brews Brothers, writers on beer for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and the Montgomery Gazette - attended a beer breakfast hosted by the redoubtable Don Younger at his Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Oregon.

Breakfast fare was prepared with beer and presented with beer - only too well, said Steve. He returned here - sated and happy - and shopped the novel idea around.

Receptive was Ken Krucenski, owner/publican of Sean Bolan's Pub in Baltimore, Maryland. From 2000 through its closing in 2006, Sean Bolan's was one of our area's premier beer bars ... and for a short time, my local, when I lived only a few blocks from it. Ken produced several beer breakfasts at Sean Bolan's.

But this morning, it's my friends at Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, Maryland -- Chef/owner Ian Morrison and General Manager Kristin Orr -- who are cooking up their own Beer Breakfast.

  • Quelque Chose (Canada) mimosa served with a melon salad
  • Guinness (Ireland) served with Oysters on a Half Shell and Golden Raisin Chutney.
  • Bitburger Pils (Germany) served with Smoked Salmon and Traditional Garnishes
  • Tucher Hefe Weizen (Bavaria, Germany) served with Banana Almond Bread French Toast
  • Duvel (Belgium) served with Boudin Blanc and potato apple hash
  • O'Hara's Irish Stout (Ireland) served with Baked Beans over pumpernickel with grilled tomatoes
  • Clipper City's Oxford Hefeweizen (Baltimore, Maryland) served with Caviar Blinis
  • Tucher Doppelbock (Bavaria, Germany) served with Hops Benedict
  • Okocim Porter (Poland) served with housemade Chocolate Cookie Brownie

Kristin asked me to provide commentary.

So I began with the Steve Frank/Sean Bolan's connection and the uniqueness of what the Royal Mile was doing that morning - only the third beer breakfast ever in our area. I followed with an anecdote from Eric Warner's book: German Wheat Beer.

Eric Warner is the brewmaster and a principal of Flying Dog/Wild Goose. The story I read regarded his first (and last) attempt to order coffee for Brotzeit - a morning meal of bread or pretzel - while working at a small brewery outside of Munich. It seems one doesn't drink Kaffee for a 'coffee' break; one drinks weissbier!

Quelque Chose - meaning "something else" in Quebecois French - is a strong, uncarbonated ale which is aged over sour cherries for 8 months. The result is tart, spicy, and very refreshing. Some unusual manners in which to serve it include warmed and mulled, over ice with a dash of bitters like Compari, or, as today, blended 1/3 orange juice, 2/3 Quelque Chose, as a beer mimosa. Unibroue Brewery's Northeast manager, Rick Suarez, suggested this last blend to me.

The shoots of young hops are a delicacy in the spring in Belgium, somewhat akin to asparagus season in Germany. This morning, Chef Morrison served them as 'Hops' Benedict.

Morrison prepared the Caviar Blinis with Clipper City's Oxford Hefeweizen. The yeast in the beer acted to leaven the pancakes.

These HefeWeizen blinis apparently so inspired Martin Morse Wooster (also a writer for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News) that he regaled the audience of about 45 or so with his rendition of the jingle for the extinct National Brewing Company of Baltimore. (The old site of National can be found less than a half mile from Clipper City Brewing Company.)

Also prepared with beer were the Baked Beans with O'Hara's Irish Stout. This might be apostasy, but for the style - gentle roastiness, jet-black color, dry, medium-light bodied - I preferred the O'Hara's over the Guinness. And with none of those silly artificial nitro-bubbles found in the latter. The brewery is Carlow Brewing Company, from Carlow, Ireland, not far from Dublin.

Whereas Anglo/American porters are ales, porters of the Baltic nations (e.g., Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Russia) are dark lagers.The result is similar to an Anglo-porter but with less pronounced fruitiness. Okocim Porter is such, brewed in Poland. It was paired with the last course, a house-made chocolate brownie.

It was a lot of food (and beer), but at $45, a bargain. Chef Morrison and GM Orr received loud applause at the breakfast's conclusion.

More photos.

  • As a special touch, GM Kristin Orr gave all attendees a memento tee-shirt. (See Steve Frank modeling it above.)
  • Advance word about the breakfast even played well in Philly.
  • A short review of Sean Bolan's first beer breakfast. (Scroll down after clicking on the link.)
  • Sean Bolan's Pub has a sister location in Belair, Maryland, which is open and thriving.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wee Heavy in Leesburg

Before the beer dinner at Tuscarora Mill yesterday, I stopped in at Vintage 50, also in Leesburg. Bill Madden wasn't in but his Wee Heavy was (and cask-conditioned on handpull).

What a delicious beer! In excess of 8% alcohol by volume, it's a dark brown confection with flavors of plum, grape, and toffee, and with suggestions of anise and smoke.

Bill does not use smoked malt in his recipe. He relies upon his yeast strain and skillful use of pale malt and black malt (with just a touch of crystal) to provide the flavor.

When he was executive brewer for the Capitol City brewpub chain, Bill's Wee Heavy garnered a medal at the 2002 GABF.

The "Beer King"

He was quite a character and I met him once, although I forget where or when. Beer writer and beer promoter Alan Eames passed away recently. His book The Secret Life of Beer reads like a wacky beery evening spent swapping stories at your local pub.

Here is a wonderful remembrance of Eames written by his friend, beer writer Tom Bedell, for The Commons News of Vermont.

And, from the AP obit:

Once, during a trip to South Africa, he taste-tested a rare dark beer in a small village and liked it so much he asked to see the brewer, who was said to be a village grandfather. The women who served him began laughing, he said.

"My translator informed me that the beer wasn't made by grandfather, it was made with grandfather," Eames told the Rutland Herald in an October 2006 interview. "They put his cremated bone fragments in with the rest of the ingredients."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Holy Sheet 1st at Tuskies

A little bit o' business now.

As of this morning, this was not up on Clipper City's website as of this morning, so I'll put it here. Today the brewery is shipping out the first cases and kegs of its new Heavy Seas spring seasonal: Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale.

Sailing out of the centuries-old brewing tradition of Belgium’s Abbey monks, arrives our Heavy Seas Spring seasonal – Holy Sheet Über Abbey Ale. Aromatic, full-bodied, and pouring a deep burgundy color, it’s an Abbey-style double, but at 9% abv, it's even more robust. For you landlubbers, a sheet is a rope that controls a ship's sails. So, we say, “Grab a line – Holy Sheet – or you’ll be swept overboard!” Limited availability - March through May.

To that 'official' description, I might add it shows the character of low-toned fruit, fresh nutmeg, 'grandma's attic', dark rum, and an alcoholic snap at the end.

This Wednesday, Clipper City's owner, Hugh Sisson, and I are the guests of Shawn Malone at Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg, VA for a dinner featuring 6 of our beers, each paired with a different course prepared by Chef Patrick Dinh.

And ... that evening will be the first time cask Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale will be available anywhere. Please join us!

Small Craft Warning Uber Pils and Cheese Fondue

Hawaiian Blue Prawns, Barbecue Style
Winter Storm Imperial ESB

Braised Angus Beef Short Ribs
with Jalapeno Corn Bread
Peg Leg Imperial Stout

Braised Moroccan Lamb with Spinach, Currants
and Almonds in Phyllo
Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale

Peanut Butter Cake
with House-Made Cinnamon Peanut Brittle
Below Decks Barleywine-style Ale

Fine American Artisan Cheeses
Holy Sheet Uber-Abbey Ale (cask)

Post gustibus: Chef Patrick was quite gracious. He substituted vegetarian plates for me.

More photos.

New [brew?] pub to open in Silver Spring

It's always good to hear of the expansion of local beer. But I'm not certain whether the story below is indicating that the Grubers will be brewing their beer on-site or will be continuing to have it contract-brewed by Fordham Brewing Company.

If they were to brew on-site and continue to have their beer contract-brewed elsewhere, that would raise interesting alcohol-law legalities. Such are why we have no Anheuser-Busch owned pubs in the US, for example.

The tap handles for Hook and Ladder's beers are cute and distinctive: small red ceramic fire hydrants.

Finding a Hook in Silver Spring
Brothers to Open Restaurant and Pub in Old Firehouse

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 5, 2007; Page D01

Where coils of fire hoses once rested, pints of ale will soon be poured.

The historic Fire Station No. 1 on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, which has been eyed by more than a dozen developers and hundreds of potential buyers since it went up for sale in July, will become a restaurant and brew pub with a firehouse theme. A firefighter and part owner of Hook & Ladder Brewing has a deal pending to purchase the property from the Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Department.

The deal, expected to close in May, will end months of speculation about what would become of the building, which was built in 1914 and doubled as a National Guard armory until 1927.

The property's soon-to-be owner Jeremy Gruber, a beer enthusiast and retiring captain with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, said he plans to preserve the red brick, two-story building. Gruber is an investor in Hook & Ladder, which was founded in 1999 by Bethesda natives Rich and Matt Fleischer, who were also attracted to the station's place in Silver Spring's past.

"It's not every day that a fire station becomes available for sale in the town where your brewing company is based," said Matt Fleischer, 31, president and chief operating officer.

Rich Fleischer, 35, started Hook & Ladder while living in California, blending his love of beer and his years as a volunteer firefighter with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad. Matt soon signed on to help run the business. Even though their home-brewed ale was a hit at parties, it never earned a profit.

So the brothers moved back to Maryland. Rich worked to recoup costs and Matt went to business school. They relaunched the company in June 2005 in Silver Spring.

They plan on partnering with a restaurant operator who will sell their beer, keeping the station's original decor and adding memorabilia such as old helmets and coats.
Click for the full story.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Resveratrol - not so much

The 'either this or that' confrontations between winos and beer geeks -- or more politely, betweeen wine advocates and beer advocates -- can be silly and often fallacious. "We are all friends in fermentation," says Fritz Maytag, owner of Anchor Brewing, in the Beer Hunter videos from Discovery.

That being said, there has been news recently about the health benefits of red wine over and above that of beer, because of resveratrol - a compound found in red wine but not beer. However, a recent study conducted to determine the amount actually found in modern wine discovered: Not so much!

So we can return to promulgating the health benefits provided by moderate drinking - derived from the alcohol itself and from various polyphenols found in both wine and beer- and the health benefits from moderate calorie consumption.

Although French cuisine is world renowned for its rich sauces, gourmet cheeses, and fine wines, the French enjoy a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease.12,13 This apparent anomaly has led scientists to wonder what dietary or lifestyle factors might account for the so-called “French paradox.” Studies suggest that resveratrol, a constituent of red wine, may help protect the French from the adverse health effects of their traditionally rich diet, while also protecting the liver against the toxic effects of alcohol.

Technically, resveratrol is a chemical known as trans-3,5,4’-trihydroxystilbene. Produced by grapes, berries, peanuts, and certain other plants in response to stressful conditions, resveratrol and related biochemicals known as phytoalexins function as natural antibiotics, protecting plants against attack by pathogens.

Life Extension recently discussed the French paradox with Milos Sovak, MD, founder of Biophysica, Inc., a California-based biomedical and pharmaceutical research company. According to Dr. Sovak, the hearty wines of southern France, produced from the Vitis vinifera vine, used to produce up to 30 mg of resveratrol per liter. This is no longer the case.

“The French who consumed up to 1 liter/day of wines originating in the South have had convincingly fewer cardiovascular afflictions than their brethren to the North,” says Dr. Sovak. “That situation is rapidly changing. With the advent of pesticides, plants are now producing almost no phytoalexins and it is rare today to find more than 2-3 mg of resveratrol per liter. That alone should be sufficient reason for supplementation with this compound regardless of the many studies—some reliable, some not—that show various advantages to red wine.”
Does Resveratrol Explain the 'French Paradox'?
Life Extension Foundation Magazine
March 2007, p.60

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Dirty(?) Deed is Done

Md. Firm, Anheuser-Busch Buy
Old Dominion Brewing

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Page D01 (Business section)

Old Dominion Brewing, whose pub is a favorite of the high-tech crowd near Dulles International Airport and whose microbrews are sold throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, will soon
have new owners from the Free State.

The company has been sold to a joint venture of Maryland-based Fordham Brewing and Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, the new owners announced yesterday.

The new company, to be called Coastal Brewing, will sell and market Old Dominion and Fordham brands, including Dominion Ale, Dominion Lager, Oak Barrel Stout, Fordham Copperhead, Fordham Lager, Oyster Stout and others.

Coastal also will assume ownership of the Old Dominion Brewery and Old Dominion Brewpub, both in Ashburn.

Entire article here.

Domion Brewing was founded in 1990 Jerry Bailey, a former U.S. government official. His skill lay in recognizing and hiring talented staff. Names like Mallett, Barchet, Allen, Mullins, Zetterstrom, Frasier, Garcia, Lake, and more come to mind.

Early on, Bailey recognized the value of a strategic alliance with a large brewer like Anheuser-Busch. His tapping into A-B's distributor network in northern Virginia was a vital linchpin to Old Dominion's sales success - and did not sap the craft spirit or flavor of the beers.

Fritz Hahn of the Washington Post summed up the feelings of many area good beer fans

Craft beer lovers in the Washington area owe a debt to Jerry Bailey and the Old Dominion Brewing Co. Bailey, who recently announced he's selling his shares in the company, opened his microbrewery in Ashburn in 1990, making him one of the pioneers of the movement. The Old Dominion Beer Festival draws dozens of breweries from across the country and across the Atlantic every summer for three days of tastings and live music.

Bailey has been a father figure to many of the brewers and brew pubs that have sprung up in recent years, offering advice on equipment and grains, helping spread the gospel of good beer.
Along the way, Old Dominion has racked up plaudits, being named one of the top 20 breweries in the country by Gourmet magazine and picking up 13 medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. In 2006, Old Dominion sold the equivalent of 27,000 barrels of beer.

But the end has come. So long, Jerry, and thanks for all of the great beers!

The recorded message, this morning on the telephone at the brewery's attached brewpub, states that the pub will be closed for renovations until 19 March. New owner Bill Muehlhauser owns and operates the Rams Head Taverns; his successes there may bode well for the Old Dominion brewpub. Maybe a music venue?

Also at issue is the future of the Old Dominion Beer Festival, for 10 years a major East Coast summer event. [UPDATE: Coastal has announced that they have no current plans to sponsor or conduct a festival.]

Muehlhauser has in the past, however, stated his preference for light beer over fuller-flavored craft beer. Knowing this, one hopes that time will also treat kindly the brewery at Old Dominion.

Good luck and good brewing.

Earlier posts on the sale.

Beer Mick and Jim Mc

I ran into my old buddy Mick Kipp yesterday.

Back in the early 1990s, Mick was the bar manager of the Wild Mushroom, a funky restaurant in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore - and that's before Canton was hip. Wild Mushroom had surprisingly good food - not bar fare - much of it fungi-based and very creative.

But it was the beer which brought me there, and often. Mick had made it a Belgian beer lover's heaven, before that was common in our area.

Back then, Mick had a crazy enthusiasm. He retains it today, with several ongoing ventures. He hosts beer tastings; he bartends at a local pub; he owns and operates the The Whiskey Island Pirate Shop. As his card states:

Makers and Purveyors of handmade, smallbatch
Hot sauces, Dry Spice Mixes, Salsa,
Specialty Condiments and Assorted Potables!
"Eat My Stuff"

The last time I was at the Wild Mushroom was in early 1999, shortly after returning to the area from my aborted brewing venture in Cleveland, Ohio. Mick was no longer bar manager and the beer selection was not as top-notch as it had once been. But the occasion that night was a pint night (buy the beer, keep the glass) for Victory's Storm King, a strong stout which has to be one of my favorite US beers.

It was on that evening that I first met Baltimore beer demiurge Jim McGinty.

Jim began his beer career managing a Hard Times Cafe in northern Virginia. Later, when Old Dominion Brewing Company created a distribution arm in Maryland, Jim moved his family to the Baltimore area to operate it. The wholesaler carried several craft beers from the East Coast in addition to Dominion's beers. Jim became known as the go-to guy for good local beer,and always good for a pint and conversation.

Of course, with the sale of Dominion, its distribution company has been shut down.

Word has it that Jim has been shopping around to either open a Baltimore area beer bar with Ken Krucenski (past proprietor of Sean Bolan's in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore, Maryland) or to run the statewide beer operations for a Maryland distributor.

Either way, it's good news for Jim and good news for us in the beer world.

The Wild Mushroom is no more; a different restaurant is now in its old place on S. Montford Avenue.

[update 2007.05]

Jim McGinty has accepted the position of Maryland Beer Manager at the National Distributing Company.

The decline and fall of the Palm empire

I confess. I am somewhat of a tech gadget geek.

But one gadget which I find invaluable - as someone who is often on the road for business - is my handheld computer Palm TX. I treat it as a portable laptop, address book, and calendar (and use it to take notes, to track mileage, gas, and expenses, to create virtual sticky note reminders, to read ebooks, to listen to music, to write beer reviews, and ...!)

And that's its advantage for me.

A Palm is small enough to fit in my pocket. But it's large enough that I can create spreadsheets on it, something I wouldn't begin to attempt to do on a smartphone, whose screen is just too small.

I tell people I have a perfect memory. It's my e-memory - looking it up in my Palm.

Fascinatingly, the Palm TX is - after but a bit more than 2 years since its initial release - a relic. It's my phonograph player, as it were, of the e-age.

The parent company, Palm, seems to be on its way out of business. But I'm keeping my Palm TX with the hope that eBay will have working models for sale in years to come. Here's an interesting piece on Palm's rise and fall.

And yes, I do own a phonograph player ... and more than 5,000 records!

Palm 100 (2001) > Palm 505 > Palm T3 > Palm TX

Friday, March 02, 2007

InBev now world's largest brewer (over A-B)

Rapacious brewery buyer (and closer) Inbev surpassed Anheuser-Busch in 2006 as the world's largest brewer - in terms of sales income. But if one looks in terms of barrels sold of core brands, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser, etc.) still could be considered the largest brewery in the world.

InBev's true nature - don't give a whit about beer as beer but merely as a tool to get richer - was revealed when it purchased the DeWulf-Cosyns maltings in the late 1990s.

DWC's malts - especially unique Special B - were used by many independent breweries in Belgium, and by US craft breweries emulating Belgian-style beers. At the time of the purchase, InBev (then called InterBrew), stated that it wished to improve the quality of the maltings.

So what it do a few months later? It closed the malting house. Without explicitly stating so, InBev's actions showed its true colors - remove competition by denying a reliable source of quality ingredients to competitors, even if those competitors' sales were miniscule in comparison to InBev.

And when, for just two other examples, InBev purchased Hoegarden and Leffe, it lessened those beers. Ah well ... business is business, isn't it?

In Bev once billed itself as something to the effect of the World's Largest Local Brewery and as a Belgian brewery even though its headquarters are in London.

I believe that InBev is positioning itself for an acquisition by Anheuser-Busch, itself which just on 1 February 2007 became the US distributor of most of InBev's brands.

From today's Washington Post:

InBev's Sales Top Anheuser-Busch

InBev surpassed Anheuser-Busch as the world's largest brewer on sales of Beck's in Eastern Europe and Brahma in Latin America. Annual sales were $16.7 billion, compared with $15.7 billion at Anheuser-Busch, the U.S. producer of Budweiser.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms

Contrary to Boston Beer's (Sam Adams) Jim Koch's assertion that "Hops are to beer what grapes are to wine", it's barley that fills that role in brewing. It provides flavor and fermentable sugar. (Hops are spices, like basil, oregano, etc. They add aroma and tannins.)

But barley, being a grain, has a place in the kitchen - albeit not as versatile a one as rice or wheat.

A week ago on Wednesday, the Food Section of the Washington Post ran several articles on using a pressure cooker ... along with with recipes. One recipe was for Barley Risotto with Mushrooms.

A few days later, I was pouring samples of Clipper City beers at a Whole Foods Market in Alexandria, VA. After finishing the demonstration, I hunted for the recipe's ingredients.

When I couldn't find any pearl barley, I was told that there had been an anomalous run on it in the three days following the publication of that recipe. The store was out-of-stock. Ah, the power of the press!

The recipe - adapted from "Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way" by Lorna Sass (Clarkson Potter, November 2006) - calls for 1/3 cup dry sherry or red wine and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds. I substituted for the sherry with 1/3 cup McHenry Lager. Delicious! ... an earthy and sweet character from the combination of the beer, mushrooms, and fennel seeds.

To closer match the sherry, I'd be interested in using a Belgian Red such as Brasserie Verhaeghe Vichte's Duchesse de Bourgogne.

More recipes cooking with beer.

Living Legacy

He would have been 87 today: my father, Albert Cizauskas, United States diplomat and World Bank economist.

Parkinson's Disease and epilepsy claimed his life. To see this brilliant man suffer, mentally and physically, from their debilitating effects was devastating. Yet it was his incredible grace in the face of those overwhelming odds which continues to be a living legacy for me.

Consider linking your personal computer into a worldwide distributed computing effort to find the causes of protein mis-folding, a presumed engine of neuro-degenerative diseases.

And, in his honor, consider contributing to a library of your choice. My father was a life-long lover of good books: glorious ideas and the binders that enclose them.