Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Extra Day of Work!

29 February 2008.
Or as a friend suggested:

Let's just look at it as an extra Friday evening for a beer. :-)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Full steam ahead: Craft Beer in 2008?

Craft Beer Rocks Again in '07.

So trumpeted the headline, yesterday, over at The figures are indeed impressive:

Information Resources said craft beer sales rose 16.7 percent from $493 million in 2006 to $575 million in 2007, marking the second straight year of double-digit increases. IRI tracks sales only in the off-premise trade.

Stan Heironymous talked about this last week with his post: Hey, people are still spending money for beer. And he looked at other figures which indicated that the trend was continuing into 2008.

From Miller Brewing's Brew Blog:

For the four weeks ended February, the national average weighted case price for craft beers increased by 4.9 percent [in supermarkets], according to beer sales statistics from Nielsen. That’s more than the major brewers or the import category.

Regardless, craft beer gained 0.8 points of case share – and 1.3 points of dollar share – during the period, according to Nielsen.

Indeed, Beer Marketer’s Insights Express earlier this week quoted executives of Coors Brewing Company and Miller Brewing Company as saying they hadn’t seen signs of trading down.

But you'd have to scroll all the way down to the end of the ProBrewer post to see this ominous augur:
Price increases that many brewers have implemented due to increased hop and barley costs were introduced last month or the first of this month, and shelf prices are just now beginning to reflect those higher prices. February, and particularly March will be important indicators of how the higher prices of craft beer will be affecting sales at retail.

At the end of 2007, many wholesalers and retailer purchased large inventories to take advantage of not-yet-raised pricing. Thus these retailers may have only just raised their prices to consumers.

From Beer Marketers' Insight:

At same time, there are clouds on horizon for craft brewer financials, especially sharp rise in raw materials such as barley and hops (well-documented in numerous media articles). Cost pressures so bad that there’s even talk that a fair number of smaller brewers may be unable to make it thru [sic] 08. Others are planning huge price increases, 10%+. One of top 20 told INSIGHTS such a big increase won’t affect its growth rate. We wouldn’t want to bet on that.

Tuffening [sic] economic conditions could make higher craft beer prices less palatable for some consumers, especially as craft brews face increased competition from Big 3. Blue Moon up 50-60% in 07, total Leinenkugel volume also growing almost 30% in latest SABMiller fiscal yr, and now Michelob takin’ [sic] direct aim at craft. These competitors usually sell at lower prices, without as much cost pressure. [I've referred to these as the dangerous Trojan Horses of craft beer.]

Despite continued stellar sales growth, Boston Beer stock kept falling after its last quarterly report primarily because of cost pressures. Down fully 40% from peak, losing $200 mil in market cap. Some recent craft moves about consolidating/ cutting costs, reflecting new realities. Recently realized Widmer/Redhook Craft Alliance detailed as effort to be more efficient #3 craft player. Flying Dog announced it would close its Denver brewery and make all its beer in East in bid to reduce costs. [Earlier announcement of that move.]

Some anecdotal evidence ...

Retailers in the greater Washington D.C. area are telling me that their beer and wine sales in premium categories are down in February. At bars, I've been told that January were up over those in January 2007, but that in February there has been a possible bleed of wine sales into beer and liquor as less expensive alternatives.

1st quarter for craft beer will be up slightly over 2007. And income at retail will be up slightly. But that increase may reflect higher prices, not necessarily higher profits.

The real test will be in the second quarter: April through June.

Costs for a wide variety of the finished and raw materials—paper, glass, ingredients and all the multiplier effects up and down the chain—will still be increasing, while at the same time national economic growth will be decreasing.

With less personal worth and higher prices, consumers will have less disposable income and greater reluctance to buy (gulp) non-essential things like ... beer.

Craft beer may have an ace-in-the-hole, however.

The price for imported beer will increase at a greater pace than that of domestic beers.

Yesterday, the euro finished above $1.50—its highest level ever—and the dollar fell to record lows versus several other currencies. Before that watershed, signals were mixed on imports: US sales were down 6.4% in November, but for InBev, for example, the 4th quarter of 2007 produced record worldwide sales.

So, maybe, just maybe, the prodigal beer guys—those who will only drink beers if they are from somewhere, anywhere, other than close to home—may return to a great value: fresh local beer, well-made, delicious, and cheaper.

Hang on!

See related posts:
Thanks to a friend in the beer biz in Washington, D.C. for alerting me to the posting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pigs fly! Beer taxes revoked!

Hong Kong announced a record fiscal surplus in its annual budget on Wednesday, enabling Financial Secretary John Tsang to offer tax concessions and handouts <...> The Financial Secretary also abolished duty on wine and beer, aiming to make Hong Kong a wine hub.

But the pigs may be grounded again the following year ... and import beer duties reinstated:
... [Financial Secretary John Tsang] forecast a HK$7.5 billion fiscal deficit for 2008/09 as slower economic growth will curb tax income and land sales revenue

Hong Kong Posts Record Surplus, Unveils Budget
27 February 2008

I was alerted to this story on the Brewers Forum, a service of the Brewers Association.

What is a 'Beer Dinner'? is a website devoted, naturally, to beer dinners.

Welcome to This website is designed to be your online resource for where to find and how to host a Beer Dinner. <...>

A Beer Dinner is typically a four to eight course meal where a different style of beer is served with each course. Each beer is specifically paired with that course by the chef because the taste and flavors of the food and beer compliment each other. recently gave YFGF a thumbnail review—and favorable:

I read a lot of beer blogs, everything from blogs that are basically tasting notes to blogs that are basically self-published magazines. One of the blogs I’ve been enjoying recently is Tom Cizauskas’ Yours For Good Fermentables. Tom works for Clipper City Brewing and writes about craft beer from a unique perspective. He’s a brewer and a beer salesman. One of the things he writes about is beer and food, and today he posted the full recipe for Captain Thom’s Peg Leg Beer Cheese Soup, which uses Clipper City’s Peg Leg Imperial Stout. Beer cheese soup is one of the classic foods prepared with beer, and is a great winter meal.

The site's designer, Josh Mishell, also designs beer labels—in addition to enjoying beer with food.

Hot fuzz beer

I saw this over at Jeff Alworth's Beer Nirvana. He quotes from the 2007 flick Hot Fuzz:

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg): Mr. Porter, what's your wine selection?
Publican Roy Porter (Peter Wight): Oh, we've got red... and, er... white?
I'll have a pint of lager, please.

I've put the film into my queue at Netflix. Thanks, Jeff!

Two movie references in one day. YFGF returns now to beer.

English lager: that's not exactly a flavorsome choice.

No coffee for you

Like a scene out of the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the older gentlemen was 'Howard', amused by the younger, crazed 'Dobbs'.

'Howard' was sitting outside of a local Starbucks, early last evening, sipping his coffee. His was the last café latte served at this local store, before the overnight stand-down at all Starbucks nationwide.

Sort of an employee java re-gestalt-ing in the face of soggy sales, the brown-out was also a brilliant publicity ploy, gaining mention for the chain throughout the national and local media.

But this 20-something-ish 'Dobbs' was nonplussed by the very idea.

He said to 'Howard': "What?! Starbucks is closed?" He pulled a couple of times at the locked door. He glared inside. "No way! Really? Not opening until tomorrow?"

Muttering into his cellphone, 'Dobbs' walked away. 'Howard' and I shared a surreptitious chuckle.

"Coffee? We ain't got no coffee. We don't need no coffee!
We don't have to brew you any stinkin' coffee!"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Maryland may license the teaching of homebrewing

Maryland General Assembly House Bill 674 and Senate Bill 716, as they now stand, contain these provisions for:

Establishing a home brewing instructor's permit; providing a permit fee of $250; authorizing the Office of the Comptroller to issue a permit to specified individuals; authorizing a permit holder to teach a client methods of brewing beer under specified circumstances; restricting the use of beer produced for specified purposes; prohibiting a permit holder from holding a specified license or other permit; and authorizing the Office of the Comptroller to adopt specified regulations.

The proposed bills further state:
All beer produced may be used only for instructional purposes, home consumption, and the personal use of the client. The Office of the Comptroller may adopt regulations regarding limits on the quantities of beer produced, requirements for record keeping, and any other activities that relate to the use of a home brewing instructor's permit.

Look out!

Even though this is probably targeted towards businesses, such as brew-on-premises and homebrew shops, the bill's language is quite vague. It might easily transmogrify into regulatory control over homebrewing. If a buddy comes over and watches you homebrew, did you just teach him? If you give a bottle to a friend, did you just violate the unspecified "specified" circumstance?

Contact your local Maryland legislator—soon—if you qualms about any of this.

House sponsors:

Senate sponsors:

I was alerted to this by a post on DC-Beer.

[UPDATE 2008.03.07: Homebrewing license fee nixed for now]

A morning cup of ... beer

My day as a brewer always began early—say 4 or 5 in the morning. I could accomplish the bulk of the brewing before the heat of the day—and before meetings would begin.

Quality control at a brewery should include organoleptic (tasting analysis): sampling from the various tanks with their contents in various stages of fermentation or maturation.

The sense of taste is at its most acute in the morning. So, after a few sips and spits—that morning jolt of cold beer is quite refreshing—and recording of my impressions, only then would I begin the day's dulling process with a cup of coffee.

Here's what Sheraton's new Chief of Beer Operations (!!) has to say about that.

"Something just seems a little bit wrong about drinking beer at 8 in the morning, every morning, for me, so I often will wait until about 10 on the mornings that I'm tasting. Not to say that there's anything wrong with having a beer for breakfast. I do that sometimes, too," Kerkmans says.

In the morning, your taste buds are evidently most alive.

Chief of Beer Operations?
Scott Kerkmans recently bested nearly 8,000 applicants hoping to be chief beer officer for a national hotel chain.

You read that right. It's an actual job. The Four Points by Sheraton hotels chain created the position because it wants to market so-called craft beers as one of its specialties.

Chief Beer Officer Does Best Work Before Lunch
National Public Radio (NPR)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quick and easy: Tacos Veg-Luxe

crumbled 'beefy' tofuAs my step-daughter used to say, "Can we have 'toad-food' tonight?"

So, the day before, press a block of tofu until all the water is expelled. A couple of soup cans on a plate works well.


Early the next day, thaw.

Crumble. (The texture will be 'ground-beefy'. This is a trick I learned, I think, from Moosewood.)

Toss with cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, and a few ounces of strong stout. (I used, of course, Peg Leg Stout from Clipper City Brewing.)

Taco Vege-LuxeSauté in olive oil.

Everything else is: chop, chop, place in bowls, top with organic salsa, and go to it.

I used raw spinach instead of lettuce.

Thank you to my buddy Tony (at Cleveland Park Wine & Spirits) for the wine: a silly cheap—but still tasty—bottle of 2000 Bordeaux ... the first 'vintage of the century' of the 21st century (with plenty of sediment).

Then, watch a good great old movie, like Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Baseball, veggies, & beer

Groundhog Day as a harbinger of spring?

Other than being a funny flick, the Pennsylvania ceremony makes little sense to me. (And yes, I realize the whole thing is tongue-in cheek.) When the groundhog saw his shadow, shouldn't that imply the presence of sunlight, and thus a promise of more to come —rather than continued winter's gloom, as the Punxsutawney critter's handlers proclaimed?

But when baseball begins its spring training: ah, that's a visceral indication that, yes, indeed, the hours of daylight are increasing.

Anyway ...

Last year, Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers was the youngest player — at 23 years old — ever to have hit 50 home runs in a season. He is 6 feet tall, and weighs over 260 pounds.

And, he has announced —wait for it, wait for it, WAIT FOR IT— that he is a vegetarian. At least he has been since February 3rd, of this year. (Maybe Fielder should have a talk with Roger Clemens, who doesn't know what that is, nor other things, it turns out. But that's another story.)

Here's more:

Diet fit for a Prince
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
20 February 2008

And speaking of baseball, how about some good beer—good, local, fresh beer—at the new Washington Nationals Ballpark?

It has been a drought during the team's past two years at RFK Stadium. The concessionaire there —Aramarkdid not offer local, fresh beer anywhere in the stadium. Ironically, this very same concessionaire has been pouring local beer at the Orioles' Camden Yards, barely 40 miles north in Baltimore.

For 2008, the Nationals have hired a different group to handle the food and drink at their sparkling new ballpark: Centerplate of Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Before I go further, I should point out, in the interest of transparency, that I have a potential pint to pour, so to speak, in this discussion.

If local beer were to be offered at Nationals Park—and specifically that of my employer, Clipper City Brewing Company—my sales commission might cover the cost of a nice new fedora or a Kent Wang pocket square. But this post today reflects my personal opinion, and not that of the Clipper City Brewing Company.

I have spoken with a Centerplate representative. And I believe that there may indeed be national (I know, bad pun) choices at the new ballpark other than Bud, Miller, Coors, and their international doppelgängers.

But will Centerplate bring in fresh, local beer? I don't know.

If you're a D.C.-area baseball fan and a fan of fresh local beer, why not call or write Centerplate? It can't hurt. Indeed, the company's website states: "Centerplate is in the business of creating something special for major and minor league sports facilities."

201 East Broad Street
Spartanburg, SC 29306
The Washington National's Opening Day —at 8:15 at night— is Sunday, 30 March, against the Atlanta Braves. Opening day tickets—and all single home game tickets—go on sale 4 March.

Call me?

Blogger has added a new function that allows readers to place their comments via voice mail, and allows for me to post those audio bits to the blog, or to block them.

It's geeky, and it's asking for trouble. But let's give it a test run.

Click on the icon. Several boxes appear. Put in a name, your phone number, and then click your choice of keeping your number public or private. Click call. Your phone will ring: the number you see is NOT my actual number but a virtual number assigned to this service. When you answer, you'll hear a brief message from me. Then leave your comment.

Keep in mind that any message you leave may be re-published on this blog.

Gotham City Cask Ale Festival

Cask Head Festival at The Brazen HeadNow, this is a cask ale festival!

It's the Cask Head -- Cask Ale Festival #14 -- at The Brazen Head, in Brooklyn, NYC, organized by Alex Hall. There are nearly 40 casks, with 11 on at any time.

It's taking place yesterday, 22 February, through Sunday, 24 February 2008, so I won't be making it there.

Have a pint (or two, or ...!) for Y.F.G.F.

  • Allagash ‘Black’ (7.5%) Style: Belgian Stout.
  • Allagash ‘Curieux’ (11.0%) Style: Tripel/Wood-Aged Beer.
  • Arcadia ‘India Pale Ale’ (5.9%) Style: American IPA.
  • Brooklyn ‘Brown Ale’ (5.5%) Style: American Brown Ale.
  • Brooklyn ‘Winter Ale’ (6.0%) Style: Scottish Export 80/-.
  • Cape Ann ‘Fisherman's Navigator’ (7.5%) Style: Doppelbock.
  • Captain Lawrence ‘Liquid Gold’ (6.0%) Style: Belgian Pale Ale.
  • Captain Lawrence ‘Smoke From The Oak’ (6.4%) Style: Robust Porter/Wood-Aged.
  • Chelsea ‘Nut Brown Ale’ (4.1%) Style: American Brown Ale.
  • Chelsea ‘Blizzard IPA’ (6.2%) Style: American IPA.
  • Chelsea ‘Frosty's Winter Wheat Wine’ (9.3%) Style: Wheat Wine.
  • Chelsea ‘The Tzar's Revenge’ (9.8%) Style: Imperial Stout.
  • Defiant ‘Abbey Single’ (5.0%) Style: Belgian Pale Ale.
  • Defiant ‘Muddy Creek Lager’ (5.5%) Style: Amber/Red Lager.
  • Geary's ‘Pale Ale’ (4.5%) Style: English Pale Ale.
  • Geary's ‘Winter Ale’ (6.0%) Style: English IPA.
  • Green Flash ‘West Coast IPA’ (7.0%) Style: American IPA.
  • Heartland ‘Not Tonight Honey Porter’ (6.5%) Style: Robust Porter.
  • Heartland ‘Belgian Golden Ale’ (7.5%) Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale.
  • Heartland ‘Old Red Nose Special Reserve’ (8.0%) Style: American Strong Ale.
  • High Point ‘Ramstein Classic Wheat Beer’ (5.4%)Style: Dunkelweizen
  • High Point ‘Ramstein Pale Ale’ (6.0%) Style: American Pale Ale.
  • Kelso ‘Pilsner’ (5.7%) Style: Bohemian Pilsner.
  • Mercury ‘Stone Cat ESB’ (5.6%) Style: English Extra Special Bitter.
  • Mercury ‘Stone Cat IPA’ (5.7%) Style: American IPA.
  • Middle Ages ‘Kilt Tilter’ (8.5%) Style: Scottish ‘Wee Heavy’.
  • Middle Ages ‘Druid Fluid’ (9.5%) Style: American Barleywine.
  • Otter Creek ‘Sea Otter’ (7.2%) Style: Baltic Porter (lager yeast).
  • Sixpoint ‘Brownstone Ale’ (5.7%) Style: American Brown Ale.
  • Sixpoint ‘Righteous Ale’ (7.2%) Style: American Rye Beer.
  • Sixpoint ‘Diesel’ (6.6%) Style: American Stout.
  • Sly Fox ‘Seamus’ Red Ale’ (4.9%) Style: Irish Red Ale.
  • Sly Fox ‘Gang Aft Agley’ (7.5%) Style: Scottish ‘Wee Heavy’.
  • Sly Fox ‘Ichor’ (10.0%) Style: Belgian Barleywine.
  • Southern Tier ‘IPA’ (6.5%) Style: American IPA.
  • Stoudt's ‘Scarlet Lady’ (4.8%) Style: English Extra Special Bitter.
  • Thomas Hooker ‘Blonde Ale’ (5.1%) Style: Cream Ale.

Upcoming New York City area cask festivals:
  • 28th-30th March 2008 at Chelsea Brewing Company, Chelsea Piers, Manhattan.
  • 9th-11th May 2008 – ‘Cask Head’ #15, The Brazen Head, Brooklyn.
More information at Alex Hall's The Gotham Imbiber.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Washington, DC TV-star?

Lucy Saunders will be demonstrating a recipe from her book—The Best of American Beer & Food—during a live segment on WUSA , Channel 9, the Washington, D.C. area CBS television affiliate, on Tuesday 4 March, during the station's 9-10 am morning-news segment.

9News Now anchors Andrea Roane and Mike Walter will interview Lucy Saunders and Hugh Sisson—owner of Clipper City Brewing—about food, beer, and food-with-beer.

If you look closely, you might see me skulking in the background. I'm the designated chauffeur that morning.

Prior post.

B, double E, double R, U-N

Beer Run ...

"All we need is a 10 and a 5-er, a car and a key, and a sober driver."

George Jones, Garth Books, Todd Snider, Robert Earl Keene all sing the ditty:

Beer Run is also a fine new beer shop in Charlottesville, Va. Photos here.

The (Maryland) Governor's Cup iceth over

Heard on WAMU (Washington DC area National Public Radio station) this afternoon:

Governor Martin O'Malley was forced, today, to postpone his awarding of the Maryland Governor's Cup for Maryland's best beer of 2007. Too much ice on the roads, it seems!

The winner? Something Red from Red Brick Station in White Marsh, Maryland.

Brewers Ball for Cystic Fibrosis

The Brewer's Ball is a benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, featuring beers from 15 area breweries (and the brewers). I'll be there for Clipper City Brewing Company, with Chris Mallon, one of our brewers ... and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale and Oxford Raspberry Wheat Ale.

It is a ball, but the dress code is not formal.

This will be the first year sincethe ball began four years ago that Bob Tupper will not be there. He, indeed, would always be attired in a snazzy tuxedo. Bob [Tupper] has yet to find a host brewery to produce his Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale, and Pils, since leaving Dominion Brewing after its sale.

The Brewers Ball takes place 7pm-midnight, Saturday 1 March at:

The Galleria at Lafayette Centre
1155 21st Street N.W.
Washington DC 20016
Here is the final list of the participating breweries (and one cider):
  • Capitol City Brewery
  • Clipper City Brewing Company
  • The District Chophouse & Brewery
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • Flying Dog Brewery
  • Fordham Brewing Company
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
  • Woodchuck Cider
  • Growlers of Gaithersburg
  • Hook & Ladder Brewing Company
  • Hops Grill & Brewery
  • Old Dominion Brewing Company
  • Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant
  • Shenandoah Brewing Company
  • Sweetwater Tavern
  • Vintage 50
To purchase tickets ($95, tax deductible) go to

There's more information at that site, or through direct human contact at:
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Metropolitan Washington, DC Chapter
6917 Arlington Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20814

[UPDATE 2008.03.02: recap]

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Better Beerfood

I met up recently, over beers, with William Flanagan and Paul Rinehart to discuss their new website: Better Beerfood.

Better BeerFood is not simply about cooking with beer as an ingredient, they told me. Rather, each episode lists specific recipes that pair well with beer and, likewise, suggests beers that pair with those dishes.

Each of the duo are 'beer-guys'. Paul is the culinary-schooled chef; William is the film-schooled videographer/webmaster. Paul prepares the food in short videos, filmed by William in a breezy manner over indie-rock soundtracks.

Coming soon, they told me, will be a segment on Clipper City Brewing's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. What recipe Paul and William cook up for this India Pale Ale (I.P.A.) will depend—they said, grinning—upon their upcoming 'taste-testing'.

Beer author Bob Skilnik recently announced similar plans—casting a wider net—at Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV.

Caffeine, cigarettes, and beer

During my college days, a 'one-eyed' cheeseburger was my 3-in-the-morning antidote for too much partying. That's an egg on a burger, if you didn't know.

These days, an alternate method might be caffeinated alcohol and energy drinks.

Attorneys general from several states have issued demands for documents from Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Miller Brewing Co. as part of investigations into their marketing of caffeinated alcoholic drinks, the companies said. <...>

Drinks that combine alcohol with caffeine have become increasingly popular with young drinkers, including those under the legal drinking age. State attorneys general claim that beverage makers are irresponsibly taking advantage of this popularity by selling the drinks with misleading claims that they help users stay up late for partying. <...>

"It is important to realize that the attorneys general are investigating products whose formulation and labeling already have been approved by the federal authorities, as well as by those states" requiring state approvals, Francine Katz, Anheuser's vice president for communications and consumer affairs, said in a statement. "Caffeinated alcohol beverages are nothing new," she added, noting that adults long have combined drinks such as rum and Coca-Cola.

In August, attorneys general from roughly 30 states sent a letter to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, asking officials to examine what they claimed to be misleading marketing of the drinks. The Tax and Trade Bureau took no action after the request by the attorneys general and told them it had reviewed and approved the labeling of the drinks.

More from the Wall Street Journal, 21 February 2008: Anheuser, Miller Face Marketing Probes

Yesterday evening, outside a 'non-smoking' beer pub in Charlottesville, Virginia, I chatted briefly in the bitter cold with a a gentleman who was puffing on his cigarette. I asked him what his opinion was on potential government-mandated smoking bans, especially there in tobacco-friendly Virginia. He replied, "I hope it happens here. It might help me kick the habit."

I hadn't heard that argument before.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Captain Thom's Peg Leg Beer Cheese Soup

Captain Thom's Chili Pepper CompanyAt an Atlanta-area beer dinner I co-hosted in January, a cask of Clipper City Brewing's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale remained not (gasp) completely drained at the conclusion of the evening. So, Muss & Turner's chef, creative and frugal, utilized the remainder at lunch the following day to prepare some Beer & Cheese Soup.

Here's a recipe for a spicy version that's posted on Clipper City Brewing's website. Captain Thom's is a Baltimore-area hot sauce producer.



1 1/2 cups minced Carrot
1 1/2 cups minced Onion
1 1/2 cups minced Celery
2 minced Garlic Cloves
1 Tbsp Captain Thom's White Zombie Sauce
1/8 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Clipper City Peg Leg Imperial Stout
4 cups Milk
6 cups shredded, sharp Cheese
[I'd suggest Black Wax or Huntsman Cheddar from
Cabot Cheese]
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tsp. dry Mustard

1/2 cup Flour
1/3 cup Butter

1 slice French Bread (per bowl)
1 Tbsp. Butter


In a pot over medium heat, stir carrots, onion, celery and garlic together. Pour in the Peg Leg Stout, chicken broth, cayenne pepper, black pepper and White Zombie Sauce. Simmer vegetable mix for about 12 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat.

In another pot, melt butter over medium-high heat, stirring not to burn. Gradually whisk in the flour and cook until a light brown color appears. Stir in milk and continue stirring until roux starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheese slowly until all of the cheese is blended.

Add vegetable soup mix and roux/cheese mix together, stirring in Dijon Mustard, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, in a frying pan over medium heat, add the slices of French Bread (which have been buttered on both sides) turning to toast golden brown on each side. Put the toasted bread in a bowl, add the hot, Peg Leg Beer Cheese Soup and serve.

A roux is an essential part of the soup. It prevents the melted cheese from becoming stringy.

Other recipes for Beer & Cheese Soups often call for lighter flavored and colored beers. Peg Leg Imperial Stout is thus an interesting choice; it will impart an additional layer of flavor complexity.

And, I would substitute Vegetable Stock for Chicken Broth ... but that's just me!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Plan to be early for Max's Belgian fest ... in 2009!

Not being able to attend Max's 72 Hours of Belgium beer festival this past weekend, I followed it in progress over at Beer in Baltimore. Today—the festival finished—blogger Alexander D. Mitchell IV has reported that there is yet some residual draft, and without the crowds.

A friend—who attended on Friday, the fest's first day—told me:

Max's was fabulous as always. Way, way more crowded at the start than the past few years. We usually get there Friday about 11:30 and have our choice of seats in the empty pub. This time the downstairs was jammed. There was a long line when they opened. Max's is a victim of its own success.

Recaps of prior fests here.
Celebrator Magazine's Chuck Cook reviews the fest (favorably) here.

Clipper City goes to Philadelphia

Clipper City Brewing of Baltimore will be driving up I-95 to Philadelphia on Sunday 16 March to join in the fun of Philly Beer Week:

Real Ale Festival
Triumph Brewing
117 Chestnut St.

1-4 p.m.
Co–hosted by Yards Brewing and Triumph, this fest will feature traditional cask-conditioned ales and participation by over brewenty local breweries. Participants include Yards, Flying Fish, Dock Street, Troegs, Sly Fox, Iron Hill, Stewarts, Nodding Head, Manayunk, General Lafayette, Rock Bottom, Victory, Stoudts, Clipper City, Legacy, Southhampton, Lancaster, Cricket Hill, and more. A few surprises and special guests are also in the works. Tix and info at 215-625-0855 or sales@triumph

Philly Beer WeekPhilly Beer Week is actually two weeks of festivities-- Saturday 1 March through Sunday 16 March -- with a truly amazing array of events city-wide.

Go here for a calendar and more information.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Meat Independence Day

It was 17 years ago today (17 February 1991) that I consumed my last hunk of animal flesh.

A moral marker? Nope! But my final New York Strip, with lotsa butter — at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Washington D.C.— preceded by a Caesar Salad made table-side with pulverized anchovies and whipped raw egg yolks — that indeed was the last carnivorous nourishment I've since (knowingly) partaken of.

Do I miss animal flesh? No.

But, please: to each, her or his own.

I do NOT define myself as "Thomas, the vegetarian" or "Thomas, the fedora-wearing beer salesman". Simply put, vegetarianism is my dietary choice.

Now, beer. Ahh! That IS a wonderful vegetarian foodstuff!

Tuscarora cooks the book: "The Best of American Beer & Food"

Join Lucy Saunders — author of The Best of American Beer & Food — Wednesday 5 March, at a beer dinner and book signing at Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg, VA, with hosts Shawn Malone and Chef Patrick Dinh of Tuskies, and guests Hugh Sisson (and me) of Clipper City Brewing.

Chef Dinh is preparing a 6 course menu from recipes in Ms. Saunders' book (with his own special touches), paired with 6 beers from Clipper City.

Dinner begins at 7 pm. But at 6:30 pm, Lucy Saunders will be signing copies of two of her books — The Best of American Beer & Food and Grilling with Beer.

The cost of the dinner is $65 per person, inclusive. Reservations are required: call Tuscarora Mill at (703) 771-9300 and ask for Shawn or John.


1) Lager Steamed Mushroom Dumplings with MärzHon Sweet and Sour Sauce served with Gold Medal winning Balto MärzHon.
[p.82 of The Best of American Beer & Food]

2) Angry Shrimp Szechuan Style served with a fresh cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.
[p.121 of
The Best of American Beer & Food]

3) Fennel Crusted Rack of Lamb, with Barley Risotto and Peg Leg Stout Sauce, served with a 2nd fresh cask, but of Peg Leg Imperial Stout.
[p.135 of
The Best of American Beer & Food]

4) Holy Sheet Glazed Skirt Steak with Raclette Potatoes, served with Holy Sheet Über Abbey Ale.
[p.140 of The Best of American Beer & Food ..Short Ribs in the book]

5) Cheese course: “Big Wood’s Blue” with Nut Bread and Pear Coulis, served with Below Decks Barleywine (2007 vintage).
[pp. 5-18 of The Best of American Beer & Food]

6) Coconut Cream Pie Dessert with housemade Marshmallows, served with perhaps the last commercially-available bottles of 2007 vintage 10% abv Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock.
[p.189 of The Best of American Beer & Food]

Wednesday, March 5, 6:30pm
Tuscarora Mill
203 Harrison St SE
Leesburg, VA 20175
(703) 771-9300


Maryland's Royal Mile Beer & Food Dinner with Lucy Saunders

Join beer cookbook author Lucy Saunders and Chef Ian Morrison at The Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, Maryland, with guests Hugh Sisson (and me) of Clipper City Brewing, Tuesday, March 4, as they host a book signing and dinner to celebrate Ms. Saunders' new cookbook — The Best of American Beer and Food.

Chef Ian Morrison will create a six course menu, pairing Clipper City’s beers with recipes from the cookbook.


1) Passed Hors d’oeuvres —Stuffed Mushrooms, Smoked Salmon Crostini, and more — paired with Oxford Raspberry Wheat.

2) "Surf N’ Turf" Tasting — Mini Burgers and Cheese Stuffed Shrimp w/ Bacon — paired with gold-medal winning Balto MärzHon.
[pp. 77-78 of
Best of American Beer & Food]

3) Asiago Cheese Soup — paired with Holy Sheet Über Abbey Ale.
[p. 101 of Best of American Beer & Food]

4) Butter Poached Lobster Tail with Vanilla Beurre Blanc over Lobster Claw Mashed Potatoes — paired with Small Craft Warning Über Pils.
[a Royal Mile Pub specialty]

5) Braised Beef Short Ribs with pomegranates, glazed parsnips, and carrots — paired with Peg Leg Imperial Stout.
[p. 140 of Best of American Beer & Food]

6) Lemon Thai Basil Sorbet — paired with a fresh cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.
[p. 80 of Best of American Beer & Food ... contributed to the book by The Royal Mile Pub]


Dinner begins at 7 pm, but Lucy Saunders will be autographing copies of her books — The Best of American Beer & Food and Grilling with Beer — beginning at 6:30 PM.

The cost of the dinner is $55 per person, including tax and gratuity. Reservations are required. Call The Royal Mile Pub at (301) 946-4511 and ask for Chef Ian or Amanda.

Tuesday, March 4
The Royal Mile Pub
2407 Price Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Animated against animus against Koch

Comments to blog posts, by their very appended nature and often brief content, are easily overlooked. Here is one, written in response to my post ...

Now what are you going to say about Sam Adams?

... which by its length and (strong!) opinion, gets its own post here. The writer is Bob Skilnik, author of Beer & Food: An American History. Here:

I've always been fascinated with the early animus towards Jim Koch.! He didn't brew his own beer; he contracted another brewer to make it and used his money to nuture the other important components of good beer...distribution and marketing.

This smudge campaign went on for years until he startd to win a couple of awards at the GABF. Of course that wasn't good enough and the rumors started circulating that he had bribed or stacked his way to the winner's circle.

Now I have my theories where all this purism began, who subtley insinuated that Koch's way was the wrong way, but I do know this...when he started advertising in all the Papazian/BA/Zymurgy/New Brewer rags, suddenly he wasn't a bad guy. Hell, he was even being quoted in these mags.

He started the LongShot event for homebrewers and yet still, go over to one of the beer rating sites and there continues to be a lingering animosity towards Koch, the latest being that it's somehow it's his fault that homebrewer Mike McDole’s LongShot winning double IPA couldn't (wouldn't) be made. Forget the fact that the brew uses something like 11 varieties of the more esoteric and unavailable hops; somehow it was Koch's fault. In actuality, McDole agreed with Koch to wait until next year when the hops might be available for the brewing of the IPA.

So yeah, now how will the geek squad react because Koch's releasing a boatload of hops to brewers? Should be interesting.

On a sidenote; When I was writing Beer & Food: An American History, I contacted Boston Beer Company to see if I could use a few of their beer/food recipes in my book. Koch's people liked the book's theme and the next thing you know, Jim Koch's writing the foreword for the book.

What makes this interesting, and to me, shows how open and approachable Koch is, I had the hardest time trying to work with another brewer icon (HINT: West Coast, trolleys)) who was more interested in preserving his place in American brewing history than helping out a broken-down beer writer. Honestly, I never got to talk to him since his staff seemed more interested in me devoting page after page about "him" rather than the theme of the book.

Koch, on the other hand, embraced the larger scope of the book, beer and food and its place in American brewing and culinary history and didn't try to have me instead write a chapter devoted just to him.

Beer-forward and wine-friendly

The folks that brought you beer-centric Rustico in Alexandria, Virginia, are doing it again.

But now it's a restaurant in Washington, D.C., with 2 floors, 50 taps, and 500 bottled beers. Slated to open at 14th and N Streets, NW — name to be determined Birch and Barley (and ChurchKey) — it's being described as "beer-forward and wine-friendly": a dining room on the ground floor and a spacious bar upstairs.

From the Washington Posts' Tom Sietsema, here's a more detailed description:

Each level will have its own menu designed by Frank Morales [Kyle Bailey], the executive chef at Rustico, who intends also to fill that role in Washington. For the dining room, he's thinking pizza from a wood-burning oven, leg of lamb with turnip butter, and roasted lobster in Sauternes, dishes destined to serve two in the vessels they're cooked in. For the bar, the chef has developed numerous themed trios of small plates that will be served together on a wooden board. Tuna, for instance, will be offered grilled, with tomato oil; as tartare, with a poblano pesto; and in the form of carpaccio, with roasted lemon jam.

Meanwhile, co-owner Michael Babin is aiming for "the finest beer destination on the East Coast." To that end, Rustico's beer director, Greg Engert, plans to stock the future endeavor with 500 labels, 100 styles and 50 draft beers.
Greg Engert has told me that he's planning for 5 (!) casks on service at all times.

That might be a worry for the freshness of the casks.

But, as he has done at Rustico, Greg will serve each cask from a cooler set at 52 °F, each cask protected by a non-pressurized blanket of carbon dioxide. As to worries about supply, he has purchased several '11s' — 50 liter casks — that he'll send to breweries for filling.

The published date for the opening is 15 April. That may be optimistic ... but good luck!

[UPDATE 2008.08.20: November 2008 opening projected.]
[UPDATE 2008.04.12: August opening predicted.]
[UPDATE Early summer opening 2009.]
[UPDATE: Late 2009 is most current opening projection.]

Pictured above are Greg Engert and Lucy Saunders, author of Best of American Beer & Food, sitting in the lounge at Rustico.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Now what are you going to say about Sam Adams?

I was at the Brickskeller Strong Beer tasting in January when a brewer for Coastal/Dominion, in fact only four months with them, got up to speak. An audience member seemed almost gleeful to interrogate and castigate him about the Anheuser-Busch connection.

And this of someone who had nothing to do with the sale and who was just happy to be making good beer.

The audience hissed the interrogator down.

But now, think of the messianic animus tossed Jim Koch's way. He's the owner of the 'sell-out' Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams. And then, read this, posted on the brewery's website:

For a couple of months now, we’ve all been facing the unprecedented hops shortage and it’s affected all craft brewers in various ways. The impact is even worse on the small craft brewers--openings delayed, recipes changed, astronomical hops prices being paid and brewers who couldn’t make beer.

So we looked at our own hops supplies at Boston Beer and decided we could share some of our hops with other craft brewers who are struggling to get hops this year. We’re offering 20,000 pounds at our cost to brewers who need them.

Specifically, we are able to spare 10,000 pounds of East Kent Goldings from Tony Redsell, a top English grower featured by Michael Jackson in Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion (page 75 has a picture) and 10,000 pounds of the German Noble hop Tettnang Tettnanger from small farms in the Tettnang region in Germany. These are both type 90 pellets from the 2007 crop and are the exact same hops we brew our own beers with.

We’re not looking to make money on this so we’re selling them at our cost of $5.72 a pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Goldings and $5.42 per pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Tetts. They’re packed in 22# foil bags, boxed four bags to a box in 88 lb. boxes and will be shipped from cold storage.

The purpose of doing this is to get some hops to the brewers who really need them. <...>

We hope this makes brewing a little easier for those hardest hit by the hop shortage.

Samuel Adams® Hop Sharing Program

blogging live from 72 Hours of Belgium

Alexander D. Mitchell IV, beer bloggerWriter-on-beer Alexander D. Mitchell IV has begun his own beer blog: Beer in Baltimore.

And, in the bibulous spirit of a good ticker, he'll be blogging live from Max's 72 Hours of Belgium in Baltimore over the course of this weekend. He has this offer:

If you read the draft list at Max's, and you see a beer for which you would like my opinion/tasting notes, comment with a request, and I'll add it to my list and post notes as I go.

Tell me what to drink.

Good luck to his Dell! Watch the event live via webcam.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chocolate IN beer

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow; today it's Chocolate in Beer in the Washington Post. Described are beers like Youngs Double Chocolate Stout and Rogue Chocolate Stout, both of which contain chocolate.

Columnist Greg Kitsock mentions some marvelous pairings with these beers, but none of them are with chocolate itself. Doing so might be overkill, he states.

  • Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence with a cherry cobbler or raspberry tart
  • Rogue Chocolate Stout with big, stinky cheeses.
  • Mix Rogue Chocolate Stout with Rogue Chipotle Ale
For advice on pairing beers with chocolate, try these links:
In its Halloween 2007 issue, The New Yorker had a piece on the wacky founder of Dogoba Organic Chocolates, worth reading.

And here's an article on a discovery of the origins of chocolate in Meso-America: Ancient American chocolate beer

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

For efficiency's sake: New Belgium

A test brew of 100 barrels -- when most of us think in terms of 1 barrel.

Brewhouse efficiency -- but in terms of energy efficiency rather than in terms of brewhouse yield.

Happy, happy ... talking happy brewing talk:

This place is currently run off of renewable resources with 90% of its power being wind and 10% being methane conversion. They utilize natural light in their bottling facility and their spent grain is given to a local farmer who uses it to feed his cattle (lucky cows). They focus on creating a good environment for their employees and for the rest of the world.

Ahh! But here in the Washington/Baltimore area, you can't get that beer. It's New Belgium Brewing from Colorado.

More from A Good Beer Blog.

Beer and Nosovicky zeli: it's the law


One might think that one jar of pickled cabbage tastes much like another. Not in the Czech Republic, where it was often the only vegetable available during four decades of Communist rule, creating a nation of connoisseurs. This distinction has now been rightly recognised by the European Commission.

Nosovicky zeli, or sauerkraut, from the region that first produced it in the country, has been granted a wine-style appellation d’origine. The system, created to protect the likes of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, now covers hundreds of lesser-known products.

The sauerkraut must be prepared in the Moravian town of Nosovice “using recognised know-how”. Observer’s man with the dumplings conducted a poll of a Prague office and found no one who had heard of it. Now, we are sure, they will accept nothing less.

-- Financial Times, 6 February 2008

From reading the post, I would assume that the EU is applying Champagne-like appellation protection to the designation Nosovicky zeli, not to the word sauerkraut itself.

In the meantime: "Would you like Nosovicky zeli with your frankfurter?" (hmm, appellation protection for that?)

Craft Beer slowdown in 2008?

Hop shortages and malt price hikes.

In recent months, we have seen those developments trumpeted in the beer press — and their effects indeed felt by breweries.

What we haven't seen written much of, is the real possibility of slow growth, or worse yet, of no growth, for the craft beer industry in 2008. (Stan Hieronymus did in fact briefly address this scenario in a recent post: We’re screwed - The jinx is in.)

I haven't yet noticed much anecdotal evidence from consumers or retailers to suggest a sales downturn in craft beers.

But, folks, this is a real possibility, and that is really alarming.

In the 1990s, the Wall Street Journal published a famous piece in which it poorly prognosticated: "Craft beer is dead, doomed by poor business practices, poor quality control, and overextension." We know how that turned out!

In 2008, poor business practices are, for the most part, not the case. But there are several worrisome developments:
  • a sluggish economy (whether one calls it recession or not)
  • expectations for this slowdown to continue into 2009
  • continued increases in cost of raw goods — and glass and packaging — to breweries
  • higher prices of craft beer to consumers
  • reduction in consumers' disposable incomes
  • faux craft beers offered by the big boys at lower prices than smaller breweries
Don't forget to support your local breweries. Local sales are what every smaller brewery needs to count upon when expansion is threatened.

Stay tuned ...

[Caveat emptor: I have a stake in all this as I work for the Clipper City Brewing Company. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the stance of the brewery.]

Monday, February 11, 2008

White knight for Liefmans?

Chuck Cook has posted this (maybe) good news about the bankrupt Belgian brewery Liefmans:

Duvel-Moortgat has made a bid to buy some of the assets of Liefmans-assumedly including the historic Oudenaarde brewery.

YFGF earlier post: Demise of Goudenband?

[UPDATE 2008.07.03 at]
Duvel Moortgat Brewery has reached an agreement to buy Liefmans Brewery. <...> Liefmans has been in existence since Jacob Liefmans established his brewery in Oudenaarde in 1770, but the brewery declared bankruptcy and stopped production in late 2007.

Duvel acquired a large portion of the assets of Liefmans, including all the machinery, all brands and recipes. According to a company press release, Duvel will concentrate on Liefmans brown ales and fruit beers brewed in Oudenaarde. Several of the beers have gone back in production and will return to distribution in the near future. <...> The price of the transaction, including real estate, is 4.5 million euros, or $7.1 million.

Savory Beer Crêpes


  • 1 1/2 cups flour (unbleached, if you're a good person)
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Dortmunder-style Lager (Victory Lager, McHenry Lager, Dominion Lager)


Virginia whisky

From Rick Lyke's blog, Like To Drink:

Malt Distillery Planned for Virginia

The Virginia Distillery Co. expects to be selling a Scotch-style malt whiskey not far from the Blue Ridge Mountains within five years.

Partners Chris Allwood, Joe Hungate and Brian Gray plan to invest $5 million to build the distillery in Lovingston, Va., by the end of the year. In addition to the distillery, the property will have a visitor's center, warehouse, nature trails and a barley farm. In the meantime the trio is importing Eades Whisky from Scotland.

Located in Nelson County, the distillery will be near several Virginia wineries and breweries.

The trio has plans to grow barley. Will they malt their own barley as does the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia? Will they age their whisky in oak barrels or in stainless steel ― tossing in wood chips ― as does Copper Fox?

UPDATE 2008.02.12:
I can confirm that we will (eventually) malt our own barley. We will also age in ex-Bourbon first-refill and new American white oak barrels for at least 5 years in a dunnage warehouse.
-- Chris Allwood, COO, Eades Distillery

This news calls for a field trip, and a report. Here's more from the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Web-beer 2.0, and food videos

My Web 2.0 skills are as deficient — if not more so — as those of many other Baby Boomers. Heck, I think Thelonius Monk the distillate of cool.

But that being said, I do have a FaceBook page (currently devoid of much content), a LinkedIn profile, a music page (better), and a Flickr page (better yet).

I recently joined Democracy's Drink, a newly minted social network "devoted to beer and the people who enjoy it". You can be a pioneer here; there are currently 184 members. (The badge below will show the updated figure.) The home page, however, has that spurious quote from Benjamin Franklin about God and beer. We'll have to get author/historian Bob Skilnik on board to debunk that.

Visit Democracy's Drink

And speaking of Mr. Skilnik, I've just finished reading an autographed copy of his Beer and Food: An American History. I'll post a review soon. Hint: good.

Bob also sent this request, and I'm passing it along here.

I’m slowly but surely working on a media-rich website/blog that will be a one-stop and entertaining site of video food recipes makingdeals.gifusing beer, wine and spirits. It will be short on my opinions and beer industry news (like and long on taped recipes of me trying my hand at whipping up “spirited” foods. More importantly, I’m hoping to find brewers, pub owners, distillers, vintners, importers, distributors, blog owners and book authors who are willing to contribute short recipe videos using their products. There’s no fee, no sales pitch…nothing required except the submission of a filmed recipe contribution along with the recipe itself that I can post to my soon-to-be-unveiled site.

In other words, Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV will be a very interactive and media-rich way of entertaining and informing anybody at home who wants to cook along and add some “zip” to any food recipe. I’ll also be working on audio podcasts of interviews with business types as listed above.

My video skills aren't even hand-held-shaky good. But Bob's project is eminently viable. More on Drinkz-N-Eatz-TV.

I am also a member of the two big sites for reviewing beer — RateBeer and BeerAdvocate — both of which have aspects of Web 2.0.

I don't contribute much to those two because of a conflict of interest: I work for a brewery now and in the past I worked for a beer wholesaler.

But the greater reason I don't rate beers is because the very act of reducing a beer to a number demeans that beer.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

DC beer guy makes national news

Greg Engert, beer manager at Rustico Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia received mention in yesterday's USA Today.

"First we needed a good product," says Greg Engert of Rustico, a beer-centric restaurant in Alexandria, Va. "Then enough people started banging the drum that there is good beer out there."

That drumbeat is being fueled in part by the millennial generation, that wave of consumers in their 20s and early 30s whose wide-open curiosity toward the culinary world already is fueling record wine sales and the cocktail renaissance.<...>

To court these consumers, a new generation of chefs is demonstrating that beer is not just for drinking.

Rustico chef Frank Morales uses beer as a foam, bouillon or jelly in more than half his dishes. And for all of Morales' dishes, Engert offers pairings from a list of nearly 300 bottled and 50 draught selections.

Also quoted is Lucy Saunders, with whom I and Clipper City Brewing are cooperating on two beer dinners in early March:
"Younger chefs are more open to consider beer as worthy of respect in the kitchen," says Lucy Saunders, who has written The Best of American Beer and Food: Pairing & Cooking With Craft Beer and runs the website

----> details on the Tuscarora Mill dinner here
----> details on The Royal Mile Pub dinner here

Jim Koch, of Boston Beer Company, sums it up in good fashion:

Koch, however, isn't arguing that beer should replace wine -- only that it should not be overlooked.

"The idea that wine is the exclusive beverage to be served with good food is very outdated," he says. "If you limit yourself to the wine list, you'll miss out on a lot."

A new Belgian blog; the 4th year for Max's Belgian fest

Chuck Cook (l); Harry Wannemacher (r) of Sierra Nevada Brewing
My good friend — and frequent Belgian travelist and beer writer — Chuck Cook has just started a blog to report on his beer travels and to offer links to his numerous beer articles and photos. He calls it:

If you're a good beer fan and you don't know Chuck, you should ... and you will now!
Since 1994, I have visited Belgium 16 times, and toured 60 Belgian breweries. I have written for such publications as Ale Street News, All About Beer magazine, Beers of the World Magazine, BeerAdvocate magazine, CAMRA What's Brewing, Celebrator Beer News, Delta Sky, The Gotham Imbiber, and Great Lakes Brewing

Appropriately enough, his first posting is on the draft (77+) and bottle (130+) lineup for Max's Belgian Beer Fest in Baltimore, Maryland, where he (and I, and many others) will be next weekend, 15-17 February. As Chuck puts it:
On this side of the Atlantic, it doesn't get much better than this!!

He has created a companion photo site at Flickr: Belgian Beer Specialist. Blog on, brother!

Burgundy, and a beer dinner

Clipper City Brewing beer dinner at Chadwicks"Why do you like beer," asked the woman at my table.

She was sipping a Kir Royale at a beer dinner I co-hosted recently at Chadwicks Restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. Her husband was drinking beer.

"Because I can't afford Burgundy," I replied, half in jest.

... Burgundy, a small, hallowed region whose tiny, segmented vineyards yield minuscule amounts of some of the world’s greatest and most expensive wines made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. The names of those vineyards, particularly the prestigious Grand Crus, are spoken with respect and reverence, and the wines that issue from them are not for the likes of ordinary pocketbooks like mine and (I guess) yours.

There are good values in Burgundy — flavorsome married with reasonable cost — but low-cost Burgundies can often be low-rent, so to speak.

I rely on my local wine store gurus for guidance or on sites such as Bigger Than Your Head, from which the passage above was quoted. Writer Fredric Koeppel lists 20 Burgundy Best Buys — red and white — that run from $16 through $35.

The Burgundies of Belgium was a sobriquet the late great Michael Jackson applied to Flemish Sour Red beers. Maybe that's the connection for me.

Next to lambics — and probably more so of a daily go-to choice — Flemish Sour Reds are my preferred choice for Belgian beers. Indeed, they share the same hue of red with Burgundies — and identical brick tones with age — but with a tartness of flavor mixed with a hint of sour cherries.

For the above Clipper City Brewing beer dinner, Chadwicks' Executive Chef Peter Durkin worked with a theme of Local Beer & Local Food. (Jump here for the entire menu.)

His dessert — a Banana Cream Puff Pastry — may have varied from that theme, but in its pairing with the beer, it was an inspired, delicious creation.

The beer was Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock, a 10% alcohol by volume (abv) wheat beer that Clipper City had brewed for the summer months. Munich and crystal malt in the grist— à la Schneider's Aventinus from Kelheim, Germany — had produced a darker, maltier, stronger weizen than the usual.

Banana Cream Puff with snifter of Hang Ten Weizen DopplebockBut these bottles that had been cellared for 7 months. And the hiatus had added to them a delightful undertone of sour cherries and earthiness: the Belgian-esque character of Flemish Sour reds folded into the banana esters of weizens.

It was with this dessert that my inquisitor finally put aside some of her skepticism.

She took a forkful of the Banana Cream Puff, sipped from her snifter of Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock ... and smiled.

The entire menu here.

And, oh yes: I tapped a fresh pin of Winter Storm Imperial ESB for the dinner. A pin contains 5.4 US gallons: that's half the size of a traditional firkin cask. This serving was the last of the season for the Winter Storm — unless you've stashed away a few bottles!

It was the first cask ale ever served at Chadwicks.

Jump here for more photos from this dinner.