Saturday, May 31, 2008

First rosé of the season

For straight talk on wine, among other sources, I go to Fredric Koeppel at Bigger than My Head. He recently blogged about his first -- and second-- rosé of the season.

For us as well, the season for rosés begins about Memorial Day. And we did just have our first rosé this year -- purchased at a DC wine shop and we have a second waiting in reserve -- suggested by a northern Virginia wine shop.

  • DC suggestion, enjoyed: Crios Rosé Malbec (Argentina). Slightly sweet, definitely spicy, and got the job done at 13.8% abv.
  • NoVa suggestion, still to be enjoyed: Hendry Ranch Napa Valley Rosé, 13.9% abv. [Wonderful dry rosé with less of the 'strawberryness' of other rosés. See Fredric Koeppel's comment below.]

By the way, rosés -- interesting ones -- are NOT sweet.

Brewpubs: a victim of their own success?

The current issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News (June/July 2008) quotes me in an article about the future of brewpubs within city centers.

Urban Deserts

One would think that our inner cities would be ideal locations for brewpubs, with high population density and abundant public transportation. But the opposite is true: brewpubs are becoming scarcer in urban areas. <...>

Tom Cizauskas, sales rep for Baltimore's Clipper City Brewing Co. and a veteran brewer of several craft breweries, suggests that urban brewpubs "are victims of their own success." Many of the earlier brewpubs were looked on as urban pioneers [many examples, but to name two: Sisson's of Baltimore, Maryland; Wynkoop of Denver, Colorado: Goose Island, Chicago, Illinois], revitalizing rundown sections of the city, he reflects. But as the neighborhoods gentrified, property values —and rents— rose astronomically. In the DC area, Founders' Brewpub in Alexandria, Va. was forced out by rising rents, and Dr. Dremo's (the former Bardo Rodeo brewpub) has been shuttered to make way for mixed-use development. In Chicago, the original Goose Island brewpub on Clybourne Ave., has announced it will close by the end of 2008 because of a steep rent increase.

For the situation to change, "developers have to understand that a brewpub is value-added for the community," says Cizauskas, and they have to be willing to give these business a break so that they can charge reasonable prices. "If you're asking for $8-9-10 for a hamburger, that's a disconnect," he adds.

How about $15 for a burger?

Solidarity with Saranac

To Nick Matt:

Your brothers and sisters in beer are keeping you and your brewery —now 120 years in the Matt family— in our thoughts and hopes. May you survive and thrive.

Brewery inferno's toll: $10M
Posted May 31, 2008

Recovering from what city officials believe to be the most expensive fire loss in Utica history won’t be easy for F.X. Matt Brewing Co.

Yet nearly everywhere the brewery’s officials turned Friday, they found a community offering its support to a beloved local business.

“It’s been really terrific, and I want to thank everybody for that,” a clearly moved brewery President Nicholas Matt said at a midday news conference outside the Brewery Shop.

Matt pointed out that the 120-year-old West Utica’s company ability to brew beer was not in any way affected by Thursday night’s blaze, which may be tied to a welding project in a processing building.

But the company’s canning operation is lost for an unknown period of time, and the status of the bottling operation remains uncertain, Matt said. That could mean filling cans with Saranac and Utica Club brews at other breweries until the processing building can be rebuilt.

“We’ll get it packaged one way or another,” Matt said. “I can assure you.”

Utica remained abuzz Friday over the previous day’s fire, which city officials estimated caused at least $10 million in damage. <...>

The brewery has been family owned for four generations since 1888.

Among the points Matt made:

Beer supply: The brewery does not expect any shortage in its beer supply because no beer was lost in the fire and kegging operations have not been affected. <..>

Saranac Thursday: The weekly festival, which draws thousands each week to the brewery and to nearby Varick Street bars, will continue as scheduled.

“I hope I’ll see all of you here next Thursday,” Nicholas Matt said.

Canning capability: Recovery will not be easy and outside help will be needed.

“Our company has obviously faced a setback,” Matt said. “We have had major damage to our packaging operations. Our canning capability, we think has probably been lost for the short term, at least parts of it.”

Bottling operation: “It looks like the bottling operations are OK and are salvageable,” Matt said. “But we’re not sure of that. We have to get in the building to be able to find out, but we expect we’ll be able to package.”

It could be several weeks before full packaging capabilities are restored, he said. In the meantime, other breweries Matt did not name have called offering help.

“It may be that, on an interim basis, that we are going to be tankering beer to another brewery, Matt said.

Meeting with employees: Company leadership met at 9 a.m. with many of the brewery’s employees. Officials couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be any worker dislocations among the 80 people who work in the affected operations, but “we’re sensitive to that, sensitive to trying to work on that and do the best we can,” Matt said. <...>

Impact on prices: “I don’t know,” Matt said. “We’ll just have to see.” <...>


Thursday's fire.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fire at Saranac

Breaking news, potentially terrible, from Utica, New York:

A massive fire is still blazing at the F.X. Matt Brewery after forcing the cancellation of the first Saranac Thursday. The fire began in the canning/bottling area on the third floor. There are major cracks in the walls of the burning building visible. There are new reports that there is black smoke coming from the second floor on the Schuyler Street side. Flames are still visible on the third floor. It seems they are having difficulty battling these flames due to homes on the Court Street side.

Virginia Brewing Company, May 2008

After several starts and stops by the Virginia Brewing Company, things may be moving forward, as just posted at Musings Over a Pint:

the Virginia Brewing Company [has] finally received their brewery license from Virginia ABC.

Earlier this month, the company announced that John Hovermale, Jr., previously of Harpoon Brewery in Vermont, had returned to his native Winchester to brew at Virginia Brewing.

As pointed out to me by another Virginia beer scene observer, the Virginia Brewing Company website has the phrase "a division of ZeroPak" prominently displayed on its homepage. Even though ZeroPak is the Winchester, Virginia development site of the brewery, the wording seems to imply that the brewery itself is not an independent entity.

Loudoun County, Virginia: at Bluemont, looking east
Ironically, I was in the Winchester area today while doing a 250 mile sales sojourn through various stops in Montgomery County, Maryland, then the District of Columbia, and finally the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, before returning home.

Vegetarian Beer Dinner (the meal is veggie, that is!)

I've been in the beer biz since 1991. I've been a vegetarian since 1991. It's a coincidence (even though beer is indeed a fine vegetarian food stuff).

But since that date, there have been no beer dinners in which I've participated (either professionally or for fun) at which I could partake of most of the meal.

That is, until now!

Chef Klein (r)

[Pictured are l-r: Samantha Withall, beer and wine buyer for Roots Markets; Vali Klein, chef at Great Sage.]

Thursday 26 June, Great Sage Restaurant in Clarksville, Maryland is hosting a Vegetarian Dinner featuring the beers of the Clipper City Brewing Company.It's the Maryland kickoff for the brewery's new line of beers - Oxford Organic Ales.

Special guest speaker will be Chris O’Brien, award-winning author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World. And I'll be giving a short presentation on what cask ale is, and then tapping the cask (Oxford Organics Amber Ale).

Here's is Chef Vali Klein's menu:

  • Welcome
    Clipper City MärzHon (draught)
    the nation's best Vienna Lager, two years running.
  • 1st course
    Roasted Shitakes, over Spinach with a Tomato Fennel Vinaigrette.
    Paired with fresh cask of Oxford Organics Amber Ale.
  • 2nd course
    Asparagus and Roasted Red Pepper Filo Purse with a Creamy Goat Cheese Sauce (or without, for vegans)
    Paired with Small Craft Warning Über Pils (bottle).
  • Intermezzo
    Raspberry Sorbet with Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat (draught).
  • 3rd course
    Thai Yellow Curry with Vegan 'Beef 'Tips and Mangos
    Paired with Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale (bottle).
  • 4th Course
    Aztec Chocolate Mousse (dairy-less chocolate mousse with a hint of chili peppers!)
    Paired with Peg Leg Imperial Stout (bottle).

Thai-style yellow curry

I'm particularly intrigued by the pairing of curry with Loose Cannon.

Clipper City's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale is a somewhat different interpretation of the India Pale Ale style (IPA) than that of some other American IPAs. Rather than solely emphasizing the structure of hops (that's the word winemakers use to indicate bitterness), the beer plays up the other nature of hops: its herbal character. Hops are herbs, after all. Thus pairing this herbal beer with the Thai-inspired yellow curry should be a delicious combination.

[UPDATE: go here for photos from dinner.]

The Washington Post recently published a review (favorable) of Great Sage.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hints of things to come

Hints of things to come at

Monday, May 26, 2008

Quelque Chose

Quelque Chose: beer over ice!
A Memorial Day dinner: corn on the cob, roasted green beans, peaches for dessert, and Unibroue's Quelque Chose served with a splash of bitters over shaved ice.

An unusual beer, Quelque Chose (French for "something else") is uncarbonated, 8% alcohol by volume, and aged over tart cherries. Beer's answer to Compari?

(Delicious for brunch as a Beer Mimosa; in the winter, mulled and warmed.)

More photos.

Watership Down: an old friend for a lazy re-read on a warm, sunny day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rolling Thunder

It's Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

As I write this, I can hear, out my back window, the Harley-Davidsons of Rolling Thunder, motoring in cacophonous caravans east on I-66 (today, let's say Route 66) into Washington, D.C. It's an almost musical harbinger of summer.

But more to their purpose, the motorcycles of Rolling Thunder form a moving reminder of past and continuing wrongs:

To educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war-missing in action.

Rolling Thunder is but one loud part of this three-day weekend —Memorial Day— which commemorates those U.S. military men and women who have died while defending our nation.

For one year, beginning last Memorial Day and ending today, the brewery I work for —Clipper City Brewing Company— has donated a portion of the sale of every six-pack and four-pack to the Veterans Maryland Health Care System.

A charity-supported adjunct to the Veterans Administration, the VA Maryland Health Care System —and others like it in other States— helps pay for ancillary programs not provided by the US government. Things such as child care while an injured veteran attends rehabilitation, or transportation to those services, or simple things like televisions and DVDs for wounded soldiers, and comfort, such as hospice.
The VA Maryland Health Care System offers many supplemental services and activities to veterans throughout Maryland thanks to generous contributions and donations from caring community members, veterans service organizations, and local businesses. We are grateful to be the recipient of monetary and in-kind donations and bequests from individuals throughout Maryland who are interested in supporting the needs of our hospitalized veterans.

The give-back program may have ceased at the brewery, but not with this employee. I continue, not because of personal rectitude, but because I think it the right thing to do. A close relative of one of my fellow employees lies terribly injured in a veterans hospital in North Carolina.

Veterans CommonsWhile I and many Americans enjoy this three-day weekend with our mall shopping, mini-vacations, and backyard barbecues (with, I hope, local beer), American troops are still ordered into the middle of a civil war in Iraq.

Support and honor them: they fight for us, despite the fecklessness of our leaders. Support and honor them: bring them home to safety. Support and honor them: give them the benefits that their sacrifice and courage deserve, which some in government wish to deny them.

[UPDATE 2008.05.26: Another reason to celebrate the day.]

Bud to be sold? part 3

Not that had any insider information, but we did post here earlier on rumors that the faceless brewing conglomerate InBev was planning a takeover bid of Anheuser-Busch, brewer of the newly-branded Great American Lager, Budweiser.

[UPDATE 2008.05,27: Shares in Belgian brewer InBev (INTB.BR), the world's second-biggest by volume, lost over three percent on Tuesday after a newspaper reported it could start takeover talks with rival Anheuser Busch (BUD.N) on Tuesday. Reuters story]

My point then, and now, is that A-B is the stronger brewery and corporation, and thus it could be the leader in any merger. But I'm no mergers and acquisitions expert.

Amid renewed speculation (Friday, A-B's stock jumped to $56.61, its highest point ever) the Wall Street Journal has pointed out that

now may be the time to strike given how the depreciating dollar makes U.S. corporate assets cheaper for foreign buyers

The rich are indeed different than many of us (or at least me). They can silently re-order our lives and culture in big ways.
activist shareholders [have been] buying up Anheuser-Busch shares in recent days, according to people familiar with the matter. It's unclear who these holders are or the size of their stakes. But they could be critical to any takeover drama, as the investors may use their voting blocs to push for a company sale.

A-B has real problems, some of which are delineated by Lew Bryson at CondeNast
Its iconic core brand, Budweiser, continues a slow 20-year slide that has left it at roughly half of its peak sales of 50.5 million barrels in 1988. Bud is still huge (at 24.6 million barrels in 2007) and still the second-biggest brand in the market after stablemate Bud Light <...>

Budweiser and Bud Light make up over two-thirds of the company's sales; Bud is still dropping, and Bud Light has hit a wall. The company has not had a solid hit since Michelob Ultra in 2002 <...> a real innovation, the first low-carb beer, and it has crushed imitators.

A-B could adopt a poison pill strategy, the Wall Street Journal mused.

Some industry analysts say one way Anheuser might try to fend off InBev would be to acquire the 50% of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo SA that it doesn't already own.<...>Anheuser would likely have to pay in the range of $10 billion for Modelo. Such a deal might make Anheuser too expensive for InBev to afford.

After Mom, Chevrolet, and apple pie, Budweiser is a quintessential 150 year+ American icon. Regardless of how we craft beer geeks may feel about the flavors of Anheuser-Busch's products and about its corporate culture, losing the brewery to foreign vultures would be a painful symbol of America's diminishing economic hegemony.
Anheuser Chief Executive August A. Busch IV, 43 years old, has reacted coolly to the approach, telling beer distributors in April that the company started by his great-great grandfather, Adolphus Busch, wouldn't be taken over "on my watch," according to people familiar with the matter.<...>

It's unclear just what kind of defense the Busch family could erect. The family owns less than 4% of Anheuser shares

If the sale happens, there will be no more surviving large American-owned breweries. (Sorry Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada, Yeungling, F.X. Matt). No more independent Miller, no Coors, no Pabst, no Schlitz, no National (as in Baltimore's Natty Boh, hon.)

Will American consumers care, or will they be quiescent, as they were as A-B and its brethren came to this logical endgame, buying and closing our local breweries?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Simplicity of cask ale

UK blogger Stonch is practicing what he preaches, managing a pub. On cask ale, he offered this observation:

ale extractor in cellar at Max's TaphouseA lot of fuss is made about the handling of cask ale. People talk about beer being "well kept" in reverential tones, as if the publican were entrusted with a task of baffling complexity. In reality, if the beer arrives in good nick, only three things matter: the temperature of your cellar, how quickly you sell ale and your willingness to follow basic instructions.

I would add "keep the pipes clean." Dirty lines and dirty storage yield dirty beer.

And, of the "willingness to follow basictwo casks at Magnolias for Clipper City Beer Dinner instructions": that can often seem the most difficult task for which a brewery asks.

Yesterday, I spiled two casks for tonight's organic beer dinner at Magnolias Mill in Purcellville, Virginia. I did attempt to follow my own instructions! How to serve cask ale: a photo primer.

Come taste.

(Caveat: I sell the beer being poured at the dinner.)

Why do I blog?

From Boak and Bailey comes an analysis of what a beer blog should be, and specifically what a brewery's blog should be (in the context of Becks).

At least making it a full time job means that they might be making more of a go of it - i.e. presumably this blogger will be going around the blogosphere, doing the rounds, taking part in debates, perhaps even linking to others. It sounds like Becks “get” blogging a bit more than the Stella people do and realise that it’s not just a case of posting corporate pearls of wisdom and expecting a buzz to create itself. [emphasis mine]

Even so, it’s difficult to see what they’re trying to achieve from this. Firstly, it ain’t gonna work - the beer blogging community isn’t going to suddenly start plugging Stella or Becks just because someone writes a blog. We’re a bit too savvy for that, surely? Secondly, even if it did work, who cares? Much as I love the beer blogging world, I’ve enough humility to know that we’re not movers and shakers in the mass market. The average Bud drinker is not going to switch to Becks because a beer blogger writes about it. [emphasis mine]

We’ve come to the conclusion that it’s being done because it’s the latest “cool” thing in marketing, even if there’s no evidence that it actually works. The marketing team / agency can explain to the board that their exciting campaign features Web 2.0 technology and get to look creative and cutting-edge.

The other potential achievement from this is to increase search-engine rankings, and perhaps hope to pick up a lazy journalist (of which there are many) who will reproduce stories and press releases.

Here at Yours for Good, I attempt to be more than merely a flack for my employer Clipper City Brewing Company. But when I do write specifically about the brewery, I add a 'caveat emptor' to the post. My affiliation is always indicated along the right hand panel, and there is a disclaimer along the bottom of the blog. Here's a link to an earlier post on ethics in beer journalism.

As an example of a brewery blog (of which there are many), Hugh Sisson, the owner of Clipper City, has a blog to which he posts infrequently, but when he does, it's to (caveat emptor) thoughtful effect. His most recent essay was a defense of the US three-tiers of alcohol distribution.

A barrel of crude oil topped $135 today for the first time ever; regular octane gas has reached $4 per gallon at the pump in the DC area. I drive thirty-five thousand miles per year promoting the beers of Clipper City along the US southeast.

Blogging the praises of Clipper City beers is certainly cheaper.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A beer/whiskey synergy

Oskar Blues will provide about 100 barrels of wash (3100 gallons) each week [to] Stranahan's [Colorado Whiskey], which has been in business since 2003, [which] will distill that liquid down to about 300 gallons of spirit that will then be aged.

Stranahan's has been steadily increasing distribution and is now available in about 20 states.

Part of the benefit for Oskar Blues, besides a steady income for contract brewing the wash, is that the brewery will have access to used Stranahan's barrels that it will use for specialty beer production.

From Lyke to Drink
From The Scotchblog

The wash had been provided by Flying Dog until the brewery moved its brewing operations from Colorado to Maryland. (The wash is the fermented beer, usually with no hops, from which the whiskey is distilled.)

From co-owner Jess Graber comes this description:
Bourbon drinkers will find that oak they like at the beginning; Scotch drinkers will like the finish and Canadian whiskey drinkers will get some spice in the middle.

More, including the distribution area, at The Scotch Blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Robert Mondavi's huge legacy

So much wine envy in the American craft beer world, yet, in that small world, so little mention of Robert Mondavi's recent passing.

There was a time, and not that long ago, when American wine, mostly dreary stuff, had to fight to prove itself. And Robert Mondavi did that: not by saying that American wine was "as good'" as old world wine, but by making it so.

Mondavi did it first, and he did it for wine in America. A lesson for us in the American beer business.

I recently overhead a respected person in that business remarking that a local brewer in his early 40s was too old to consider opening a brewpub. Robert Mondavi was 52 when he was forced out of his family winery and began to build Mondavi. The brewer? He's doing just fine.

Robert Mondavi, 94, who built what is arguably America's most influential winery by improving the once-dismal quality of California wines, died May 16 at his home in Yountville, Calif. He had been in failing health for the past few years and had both pneumonia and shingles earlier this year.

Mr. Mondavi brought European winemaking techniques to the vineyards of the Napa Valley, introducing French oak aging barrels and cold fermentation. He also installed stainless-steel tanks, an innovation he borrowed from the dairy industry.

<...> "Fifteen years ago, California didn't belong [in] the company of the fine wines of the world," Mr. Mondavi told The Washington Post magazine in 1981. "Now, we in Napa can produce outstanding wines, which will give better value than the Europeans, who are limited by classification systems and government restrictions."

More from the Washington Post.

Well before Mr. Mondavi's death, Hugh Sisson of Clipper City Brewing blogged an essay about the similarities of the American craft beer world, as it stands now, to the American wine scene as it was several decades ago -- when Mondavi and others transformed it. Timely reading.

Tony Quinn manages a DC wine shop. Read here his heartfelt, almost stream-of-consciousness reflections on Mondavi.
[Once at a wine dinner, Mondavi] spoke beautifully and with warmth and sincerity as he shared many observations and anecdotes with us. My favorite was when he said : " please always remember - common sense - it really is not common."

From Eric Asimov, a friend of wine and beer at the New York Times:
[Mondavi's] vision of the good life — of wonderful food, loving family and great music, always accompanied by wine — became synonymous with the image of Napa Valley, never to be undone by the irony of his own family battles.

This Fumé Blanc is for you, Mr. Mondavi.

DC drives you crazy

early -very- at the brewers tentFriday at SAVOR, check-in time was 4pm for the brewers. I was there at 3:15.

"Why so early?" asked Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director.

Driving to 13th and Constitution Avenue in the heart of Washington D.C.'s downtown, "If I didn't arrive early," I responded plaintively, "I'd arrive late."

According to, the Washington, DC area has the dubious honor of combining the 2nd longest commuting time with the 3rd most expensive daily commute of all US cities.

For anyone who has ever been trapped in gridlock on the Beltway or headed between the Maryland suburbs and D.C., Washington's rank near the top of this list comes as no surprise. Even though D.C. has an efficient train system, many drivers are making long trips in from the Maryland and Virginia exurbs, which, when combined with delays and gas prices of $3.72, make for an expensive drive to and from work.

Monday, May 19, 2008

SAVOR taster

more photos from SAVORIt was SAVOR, a national food-and-beer exposition, Friday and Saturday at the beautiful neo-classical Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC.

The event was sold out for all three sessions. The sponsoring group was the Brewers Association, the national advocacy group for small breweries. Well done!

In the photo, it's Clipper City Brewing's Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale (an IPA or India Pale Ale), hoppy and herbal, paired with washed rind cheeses (to the rear, Italian Tallegio, and, in front, Grayson from Meadow Creek of Virginia), citrus-infused chocolates (from artisan chocolatier Christopher Elbow) and beef-stuffed empanadas with mango salsa.

Clipper City was the only brewery to pair one beer three ways. With the empanadas, the spicy and fruity character of the mango salsa paired with that same character of the melange of American hops in Loose Cannon.

The cheeses? What a delight! I had recommended Grayson to the Brewers Association and was pleased to see it included. Local food, local beer, after all. Pungent IPAs mate almost perfectly with the aromatic (okay, stinky) character of washed-rind cheeses.

And then to mate the beer with chocolate after the first two choices was a delight. Citrus-infused with the citrusy tasting Pacific Northwest hops. Again, a flavor hook.

I stayed behind the table talking the tasters through the pairings throughout most of the evening. This is something I delight in; and the pairings, while delicious, were quite illustrative of the theme of the event: beer with food.
more photos from SAVOR
I worked the Friday session only, with owner Hugh Sisson and other members of Clipper City's staff covering the Saturday sessions.

More from SAVOR:

(I missed the Saturday sessions, because I was pouring Clipper City beers in Norfolk for the 6th annual Virginia Beer Festival. After many days of soaking rains, Saturday was clear, bright, and dry with temperatures in the mid 70s.)

[Edited and re-posted.]

We've lost that loving feeling, but ...

Ken Hadley and David Little @Maxs_2008.05.19Before SAVOR on Friday, I sat down with Ken Hadley of Otter Creek Brewing and had a state-of-the-biz discussion.

The craft beer industry was born in the early 1980s, burgeoned in the early 90s, crashed in the late 90s, and seems --seems-- to have become firmly (permanently?) entrenched in the 20-aughts.

Back in the, now, early days, each new face, each new brewery, each new brewpub was a special, unique thing. We who experienced those births had grown up without good beer. In our small ambit, good beer was something to be protected and adulated.

Nearly 30 years later, a new generation is drinking the results, a generation that was not even alive back then. For it, there is no longer a sense of wonder at new beer and breweries. That's not because of callousness, but because craft beer is now a given, an expected thing.

The craft beer industry has become a victim of its own success. To an an order of magnitude, there's much more good beer sold now than ever was then. Quotidian success has replaced exalted exclusivity.

[Photo taken a couple of days after SAVOR: Ken Hadley (l) of Otter Creek Brewing and David Little of Savannah Distributing (r) at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore.]

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Michael Jackson Beer Journalism Awards 2008

Recently renamed in honor of Michael Jackson, the Brewers Association Beer Journalism Awards "recognize outstanding media coverage that increases beer drinkers' understanding of the diversity and flavor of American craft beer."

There are three awards: one for consumer print media, one for consumer electronic media, and one for trade and specialized beer and brewing media. The presentations will be held at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October.

Nominate your favorite beer writer for any article written or broadcast between 1 July, 2007 and 30 June, 2008.

Nominations (and applications) will be accepted by the Brewers Association from 1 June 2008 through 30 July 2008 at:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mild in May, in the UK

Mild in May in the UKIt's Mild in May in the UK. That is, Mild Ale.

But exactly what is Mild Ale -- and what is "traditional" mild ale-- may depend upon which year one chooses for the basis of the "tradition".

First, a definition of modern Mild Ale, and of the May campaign:

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, and a number of pubs and breweries, will be celebrating the beer style Mild in May with a variety of different events to raise the awareness of this endangered beer style.

Mild is one of the most traditional beer styles, and whilst it is enjoying a small revival in today's real ale market, it still only accounts for an estimated 3-5% of all real ale sales. Mild has perhaps been overshadowed in recent years by more fashionable beers such as golden ales and premium bitters.

Mild beers tend not to be very strong and have an ABV in the 3% to 3.5 % range. They are usually dark in colour, due to the use of well-roasted malts or barley, and are often less hopped than bitters, having a chocolatey character with nutty burnt flavours.

In the US, the Beer Judge Certification Program defines Mild as:

Appearance: Copper to dark brown or mahogany color. A few paler examples (medium amber to light brown) exist. Generally clear, although is traditionally unfiltered. Low to moderate off-white to tan head. Retention may be poor due to low carbonation, adjunct use and low gravity.

Flavor: Generally a malty beer, although may have a very wide range of malt- and yeast-based flavors (e.g., malty, sweet, caramel, toffee, toast, nutty, chocolate, coffee, roast, vinous, fruit, licorice, molasses, plum, raisin). Can finish sweet or dry. Versions with darker malts may have a dry, roasted finish. Low to moderate bitterness, enough to provide some balance but not enough to overpower the malt. Fruity esters moderate to none. Diacetyl and hop flavor low to none.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body. Generally low to medium-low carbonation. Roast-based versions may have a light astringency. Sweeter versions may seem to have a rather full mouthfeel for the gravity.

Overall Impression: A light-flavored, malt-accented beer that is readily suited to drinking in quantity. Refreshing, yet flavorful. Some versions may seem like lower gravity brown porters.

Comments: Most are low-gravity session beers in the range 3.1-3.8%, although some versions may be made in the stronger (4%+) range for export, festivals, seasonal and/or special occasions. Generally served on cask; session-strength bottled versions don’t often travel well.
But now read this from UK blogger Ron Pattinson:

Both Beer and Ale were brewed to a variety of strengths from a variety of base malts. So you had Pale Ale, Amber Ale and Brown Ale; Pale Beer, Amber Beer and Brown Beer. These could be made to many strengths, Common being standard strength, Stout the strongest. Only Beer was usually made at the weakest strengths: Table Beer or Small Beer.

A further method of classifying malt liquors was their age. Ones sold young were described as Mild. Ones that had been aged were called Keeping or Stale. Most (but not all Ales) were sold "mild", but some beers were, too. Porter is a good example of a Brown Beer that was often sold "mild" from the 1700's right up until its demise in the 1940's. The big London brewers all made Mild Porter and Keeping Porter, which were often mixed before sale.

You can see that in the 1700's Mild Ale was a very vague term. It covered Ales of all colours and all strengths. It wasn't as much as style as a description of the level of conditioning. [emphasis mine] None of the beers described as Mild Ale at this time has any but the slightest similarity with modern Mild. Even the weakest would have had an OG of at least 1050º. Mild Brown Ale, brewed from 100% brown malt must have had the roasty flavour of London Porter, just with a much lower level of hopping.

Ron has interesting things to say about stouts as well, backed up by his research. It's good reading.

With all the bigger, hoppier beers here in the US these days, it's difficult to find a well-made Mild, of whatever year's tradition.

The BJCP's comment on the modern version— "generally served on cask; session-strength bottled versions don’t often travel well." — is well taken. Witness mild's victory at the 2007 Great British Beer Festival over many stronger beers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to serve cask ale: a photo primer

The handling and service of a cask:
a photo primer with commentary.


Birth of a cask at brewery: here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Almost Oz, definitely Chico, and seen in Alexandria: all wet

The 2008 Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Ale is a "wet-hopped" ale.

An American craft beer neologism, the term refers to a beer made with hops that are used in the brew kettle on the same day -- or close enough -- that they have been harvested. Commercial hops normally undergo a curing period, but not so-called wet hops. Beers made with them are intensely grassy and herbal, tasting as if biting into a fresh sprig of mint covered by a bale of newly mowed grass.

[Some beer lovers, in a love-hate relationship with wine, often unintentionally demean wet-hopped beers by falsely comparing them to the Beaujolais Nouveau wines of France, which are generally poor, insignificant, wines. Sierra Nevada's Harvest Ale and others of its ilk are emphatically not insignificant beers. Go here for an earlier rant on that.]

Sierra Nevada can claim most of the credit for creating the first commercial fresh harvest beers. Beginning in 1996, the brewery arranged for shipment of hops from Pacific Northwest fields on the day they were harvested. The harvest is in Autumn. The 'wet-hopped' beers are released soon after.

But this year, Sierra Nevada has traveled to the seasonal and geographic antipode, New Zealand, for the uncured 'wet' hops for its 2008 Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Ale. And the brewery flew them in. this is the first time any American brewer has done such.

Hops from New Zealand have historically been pesticide-free, as has been most of its produce. Over a decade ago, I was using NZ Hallertau and Pacific Gem as aroma and character hops in beers at two different breweries. Lacking the typical catty, grapefruit aromas of US varietals, these hops may not appeal to many American craft beer lovers, but I was then (and am still) a fan of their distinctive piney/berry/citrus/medicinal herbal character.

So how is 2008 Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Ale? Delicious! A firm sweet malt character in balance with the basil/minty dark berry citrus character of the hops.

2008 Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop Ale is allocated, in short supply. But, several stores in the DC-Baltimore-Richmond area do have this wonderful beer to sell ... at least at present. So don't wait too long.

I was alerted to the coming of this delicious thing by Nick Anderson, the "beermonger" at beer/wine store Rick's in Alexandria, Virginia.

Nick has recently begun writing both a blog at, and a weekly on-line column at The latter's inaugural piece featured a nice write-up on Clipper City Brewing, for which I'm a Territory Manager. Thank you, Nick.

[Baltimore Sun reviews Sierra's Southern Hemisphere.]

Clipper City and American Craft Beer Week

It's American Craft Beer Week, and the flu knocked me from my first event on Monday: the Spring Beer Tasting at the Hard Rock Café in Bethesda, Maryland.

As part of our celebrations, Clipper City Brewing will also be at SAVOR -- the first ever national exposition of beer and food -- both Friday and Saturday, and then at the Virginia Beer Festival in Norfolk on Saturday.

Hugh Sisson, the owner of the brewery, will be conducting a demonstration of mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake fare for the Saturday afternoon session, with the executive chef of Phillips Seafood Restaurant.

This was originally intended to feature recipes for duck, rockfish, crabs, and oysters. But, as the Mellon Auditorium --the venue for this expo on beer and food-- does not allow cooking on premises, the choices and demonstration have been limited. No cooking for a food exposition? Go figure!

Prior to the SAVOR, several DC-area beer bars and restaurants have pulled out the stops, offering special events and beer dinners. Since Clipper City Brewing is from Baltimore, I'll just mention one, home boy Max's TapHouse, which has scheduled a very large assortment of American craft beers on draft, some local, some rare:

  • Allagash Curieux
  • Allagash Four
  • Avery Collaboration Not Litagation
  • Avery Czar
  • Brewers Art Green Peppercorn triple
  • Brewers Art Seven Bueties
  • Brewers Art Sour Cherry
  • Brewery Art Tiny Tim
  • Cape Ann Greenhorn Double IPA
  • Cape Ann Tea Party
  • Cape Ann Kolsch
  • Dogfish Head 120 Minute
  • Dogfish Head Aprihop
  • Dogfish Head Fort
  • Dogfish Head Golden Era
  • Dogfish Head Palo Santo
  • Dogfish Head Red & White
  • Dogfish Head World Wide Stout
  • Dominion Millenium
  • Eugene City 3 Bills Golden
  • Eugene City Track Town 100 Meter IPA
  • Great Divide Espresso Yeti
  • Issaquah Rye In The Eye
  • Lagunitas Gnarleywine
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
  • Lancaster Maibock
  • Lancaster Milk Stout/Hop Hog Blend
  • Lancaster Fruit Hefeweizen
  • Magic Hat Chaotic Chemisrty
  • Magic Hat Midland Mild
  • North Coast #38 Stout
  • North Coast Brother Thelonious
  • North Coast Le Merle
  • North Coast Old Stock Ale
  • North Coast Pranqster
  • Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence
  • Ommegang Ommegeddon
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers
  • Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
  • Rogue Brewer
  • Rogue Double Dead Guy
  • Rogue XS Imperial Porter
  • Sierra Nervada Southern Hemipshere
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo
  • Southampton Biere De Mars
  • Southampton Imperial Porter
  • Southampton Cuvee De Fluer
  • Southampton Maibock
  • Southern Tier Back Burner
  • Southern Tier Gemeni
  • Southern Tier Chocolat
  • Stone Anniversary
  • Stone Old Guardian 2007
  • Stone Old Guardian 2008
  • Stone Vertical Epic 2008
  • Thirty Dog Cerberus
  • Thirty Dog Ortheus
  • Troegs Nugget Nectar
  • Troegs Special Release
  • Troegs Special Release
  • Victory Abbey Six
  • Victory Braumeister Pils
  • Vixctory Old Horizontal
  • Victory Scarlet Fire
  • Victory St Boisterous
  • Victory V12
  • Weyerbacher Blasphemy
  • Oxford Class(Cask)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Clipper City Organic Beer Dinner @Magnolias

Clipper City at MagnoliasThursday 22 May is the Virginia kickoff beer dinner for Clipper City Brewing Company's new organic line of beers -- Oxford Organics -- at Magnolias at the Mill, a beer-centric restaurant in a restored mill in Purcellville, VA. Weather permitting, the dinner will be the first ever held on the newly expanded patio of the restaurant, and will feature two fresh casks, including the new Oxford Organic Amber Ale.

6pm-7pm: A reception open to everyone (no dinner reservation required). Chris O'Brien, author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World, will be there to sign copies of his book, and brewers of Clipper City Brewing Company will be there to talk about the beers and the brewery. No charge except for the beers you drink.

7pm-9:30 pm: a Five-course beer dinner, pairing Chef Mark Marrocco's creations with five beers from Clipper City. The cost is $75 including tax and gratuity. Call 540.338.9800 to make reservations.


1st course
Local Organic Asparagus Salad, mixed field greens, candied pecans, warmed goat cheese, and tarragon-mustard dressing.
Paired with cask of Oxford Organic Amber Ale, served by gravity pour.

2nd course
Belgian-style steamed mussels, saffron-fennel sauce, chorizo sausage with Belgian-style frites and dipping sauces.
Paired with draft Red Sky at Night Saison.

3rd course
Skewers of grilled spiced shrimp, scallops, & pineapple, served with pineapple-ginger couscous and red curry sauce.
Paired with cask of loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, served by handpump.

4th course
Hickory-smoked pork spare ribs, served with Hooks Blue Cheese & Red Bliss potato salad.
Paired with draft Peg Leg Imperial Stout.

5th course
Bananas Foster with house-made vanilla-bean vanilla ice cream.
Paired with Hang Ten Dopple Weizen Bock (2007 vintage).

[UPDATE: Photos from dinner.]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Birth of a cask

Here's a photo journal depicting the 'birth' of a cask ale
at Clipper City Brewing Company.

casking at Clipper City

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Beer, Chocolate, and Wizards too

There's a short write-up in the Washington Post about this past Monday's Sweet Charity event.

Monday night's Sweet Charity fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental hotel featured tons of free samples, beer and wine bars, and a runway fashion show with models wearing chocolate. Amid the edible hats, jewelry and purses on the runway, two Wizards players' wives (plus the spouse of the team's director of player personnel) stole the show, reports our colleague Dan Steinberg.

The trio -- Jackie Songaila, Sonia Daniels and Shalaun Newton-- emerged half-dressed in thigh-skimming slip dresses covered in chocolate by chef Eric Johnson of Krishon Chocolates. Looking like they just emerged from a sweet, dark bath, the "chocolate pixies" deservedly caused a sensation.

"Chocolaty," said Wizards guard Antonio Daniels. "I wish she would wear that home."

What is organic beer? (Washington Post)

Parrot, Organic, and Loose Cannon PirateThe Washington Post has an article today (6 May 2008) on organic beers, written by Beer columnist Greg Kitsock.

Some interesting points:

  • According to the Organic Trade Association, 2006 sales of organic beers (1% of the craft beer segment) were $25 million, up 32% over 2005.
  • Organic malt, according to Hugh Sisson of Clipper City Brewing (Baltimore, Maryland), costs double that of 'regular' malt.
  • Until recently, most organic hops came from New Zealand. That is changing.
  • According to the USDA, 95% of the dry weight of an organic beer, excluding the hops, must be certified organic.

The rest of the piece: There's a Tinge of Green in the Glass.


Bud to be sold? part 2

When I wrote yesterday about rumors of a pending sale of Anheuser-Busch to international beer conglomerate InBev ...

I would think it more likely that Anheuser-Busch will purchase InBev.

... Blogger Stonch asked me why.
I can't see why you'd see it more likely that A-B would acquire InBev as opposed to the other way around. InBev is the larger company by some margin, and certainly the one that's better bedded down in the global beer market.

Good points: I gulped hard.

Whatever I may feel about the flavor of its beers, Anheuser-Busch is indeed the last surviving wholly American-owned brewery of international standing. I wouldn't want it to disappear as such. There are other American breweries dating from Prohibition or before such as F.X. Matt, Shiner, August-Schell, Yuengling, Anchor, but none of these are substantial international players.

This is patent American jingoism on my part, an emotion we in the States may have to shed in the coming new world order. But that being stipulated, I believe that, if there is to be a merger, it will be Anheuser-Busch buying InBev rather than the other way around. Here's why.
  • Budweiser and Bud Light are the two best-selling beers in the world. InBev's Stella Artois and Becks? I don't think so!
  • A-B has expanded its international business by 20% over the last 7 years.
  • A-B concentrates on developing its own brands. Although there is overlap in their strategies, InBev and SABMiller have grown more by acquisition.
  • A-B's operating revenues per barrel are 60% greater than that that of InBev. Its margin per barrel is $62 versus $50 per barrel for InBev.
Simply put, Anheuser-Busch is of greater real value.

And then, there's this:
Anheuser-Busch Chairman August Busch IV said last month that he wouldn't allow the brewer to be sold

The Busches are ferocious competitors. We in the US craft beer business know that firsthand.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Budweiser for sale?

There is renewed speculation that Anheuser-Busch will be acquired by conglomerate quisling InBev. I would think it more likely that Anheuser-Busch will purchase Inbev. But when millions billions of dollars are at stake, who knows?


Renewed speculation that Anheuser-Busch Cos. will be acquired sent options on the world's second-largest brewer to the highest prices since January. <...>

"It looks like a significant position being built in anticipation of a potential takeout,'' said Henry Schwartz, president of Trade Alert LLC, a New York-based provider of options market analytics.

Hmmm. But where do these rumors start?
[Shares of] Anheuser-Busch and larger rival InBev NV rose Feb. 1 after the Wall Street Journal said they have discussed a merger that may occur this year. Speculation of an InBev takeover also boosted Anheuser-Busch shares on Oct. 3. <...>

Anheuser-Busch climbed 2.3 percent to $51.41 by 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, reaching an almost four-month high of $51.41. The shares closed at a record $54.97 in October 2002.

May 5 (Bloomberg)

[UPDATE: a followup comment.]

Beer sweets

Beer and chocolate? You bet!

Actually, nearly 50 pastry chefs and chefs from the D.C. created special pastries, chocolates, and non-sweet desserts, last evening, at the annual gala fundraiser and silent auction —Sweet Charity— to benefit the Heart of American Foundation and its literacy programs.

From its website:

[Heart of America] combine[s] character education, literacy, and service learning. We are a national,nonsectarian, non-partisan, nonprofit, humanitarian organization

Clipper City brought four of its beers. Our friends from Capitol City Brewing Company were there as well, with a tasty Belgian-style Pale.

During the evening, I met up with "chocolate artist" Eric Johnson of Krishon Chocolates. He and I had collaborated last year on a beer and chocolate tasting.

The gala included a fashion show in which models wore outfits of chocolate and pastry. Eric worked with wives of several Washington Wizards players (DC's pro basketball team), applying chocolate as their costumes.

Hearing that their husbands had stood close by, observing, I asked Eric how he had proceeded.

"Carefully!" he replied.

The theme of the show was 'fairy tales'. Here's a model 'dressed' as Ariel the Little Mermaid. Her costume is all pastry and sugar, as created by Something Extra Cakery.

Something Extra Cakery

Sunday, May 04, 2008

No April emails

send me an email
When you submit a comment here on the blog, it usually will be posted.

But in April, any private messages sent to me via the Feedback/Guestbook Form may have been lost.

There apparently had been problems with the feedback hosting page. I apologize if I failed to respond to any emails.

The problem has been, I hope, corrected. Try again!

A director's take (on my styles post)

David Edgar is president of Mountain West Brewery Supply, a company which supplies, among other things, glass, hops, yeast, and tap handles to the craft beer industry. For 14 years prior, from 1987 through 2001, Edgar had been the Director of the Institute of Brewing Studies, the operations arm of the Association of Brewers (now Brewers Association). In response to Style creep: a modest proposal, he wrote this:

I read with interest your blog and the discussion about too many categories and too many awards at the World Beer Cup.

Now that I have experience judging GABF for six years (since leaving the AOB/BA) plus this year’s World Beer Cup, I have a better understanding of how that all happens.

You might consider volunteering to judge yourself – you would just need to send a CV and get two other judges to recommend you. Chris Swersey is always open and in need of good judges, especially those in the industry like yourself who have experience brewing for a living. Anyway, if you have the time, it is always worthwhile and educational, I find.

As far as changing the entire way of awarding medals over to a points/numbering system, from my perspective the only way that could happen would be if there was believed to be sufficient reason to have a sea-change in the philosophy of the awards and the judging. This would require buy-in not only from the organizers, but also the Board of Directors of the BA (some of whom participate as judges), and the judges themselves, as well as BA Brewery Members. Could you really successfully argue that the entire system is broke, and thus needs fixing?

In other words, the horse left the barn – or the train left the station – two decades ago and despite having a few imperfections, of course, both GABF and WBC are each in themselves now “institutions” of sorts – and brewers wouldn’t still be sending beers in to compete in ever growing numbers (despite the high cost, which can be an obstacle) if they didn’t believe in the validity of the judging as a whole and the value of the medals. In other words, overall, both competitions contribute in a very positive way to the industry. Even though some brewers may not have the promotional budget, or the marketing smarts to best capitalize on a brand new bronze, silver or gold, you can’t deny there is a huge injection of energy into the market each time the awards are announced, after 250 or so beers all of a sudden have won national recognition, or international acclaim with the World Beer Cup.

You have to admit, even though few individuals, many judges included, could readily define for you what makes a perfect “International Pale Ale”, the bottom line is, Clipper City’s Winter Storm just won a gold medal, which means easily hundreds, if not thousands of people, are all of sudden hearing more about this beer, and may have greater incentive to buy one, than they did a month ago.

Some of the lesser-understood categories do get dropped after a few years if there is sufficient lack of interest or merit in the category.

Then again, if 20 breweries are producing a new style of beer that seems to be growing in popularity, or consumer interest, why not have a category for that type of beer?

The easier way to set up a competition with a numbering/point system would be to establish a new competition entirely. (That’s “easier” but of course in no way “easy”.) I’m not saying you can’t change GABF or WBC but if you really want to, you would need to undertake a huge grassroots campaign, at the least, I think, to push through that kind of sea change). In Balmer, you might call that a Heavy Seas change (sorry, couldn’t resist…).

I’m the first to agree that we need more numerical ratings that the industry can use for shelf/door talkers – because, personally, that’s how I often choose a wine, and they seem to help. (While letter grades might seem to make sense, unfortunately, beer retailers are more likely to hang something on the shelf that says “87/100” than a rating that says “B-“.)

The beer magazines and brewspapers, more and more, it seems, do a great job of publishing intelligent/educated and largely unbiased ratings and reviews. While those, too, may have their imperfections, I think the more that the beer press/media can work with brewers (and vice versa) to better publicize the fact that “Beer X” garnered a top-notch review in their latest issue – and can successfully communicate this to consumers at the retail level – the better the industry can help educate beer fans about what are some of the truly best-tasting and best-drinking beers out there.

David Edgar

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Wine is NOT the new beer

Wine is not the new beer. Oh, I got that wrong. It's beer that's not the new wine. Oh, it's ...

Stop, already!

The entire thing is wrong. A wine is a wine, an orange is an orange, a beer is a beer. "A rose by any other name", went the line.

I thought these were interesting points. I’ve had the occasional debate with a wine-lover about how sophisticated beer can be, how it can be just as complex as wine, but I’d never really thought about the origins of our cultural prejudices, or how common they were across Europe, despite the differences in drinking cultures.

UK bloggers Boak and Bailey raised this point, translating segments of a Spanish-language blog in the process. Read the rest here, even though even they —as do most of us— seem to fall into the same trap: "how sophisticated beer can be, how it can be just as complex as wine".

If a wino wishes to feel superior, let him! His loss. If a beer geek wants to get puffed up, let him! How silly!

Beer is not the new wine. Beer is beer. And that's a wonderful thing.

Oh, and by the way, beer had been a wonderful thing for nearly a thousand years before wine even was wine. (Whoops! I did it again.)

Similar posts:

Frank response on beer judging

From Steven Frank, one half of the beer-writing duo, the Brews Brothers, came this response to my recent rant about beer styles and judging:

I agree with you that a point system would be more fair and probably be better for promoting beer. Interesting examples of how the current system of medals is flawed come from the experiences of two locals: Bill Madden when he was at Cap City in Shirlington, and Clipper City. Both took Silver medals in a category when no gold was given at their respective GABFs. Either these were the best beers in the category or not. Presumably so, and they deserved the Gold. Sort of contradictory for the judges to judge it the best of the style and not award a Gold. A point system would have been much more fair and would have given a better idea of where the beer stood.

Original post: Style creep: a modest proposal

Go west, brewery, go west

Lest I'm accused of merely 're-blogging', I'll mention that yesterday afternoon, over a beer and a veggie 'Philly' Cheesesteak, I asked a respected reporter of the beer scene his opinion of the just announced merger/acquisition of Pyramid Brewing with/by Magic Hat Brewing Company.

He was puzzled by the cross-continental fit: both breweries produce an esoteric style, an Apricot wheat beer. He theorized that Magic Hat may have been looking to tap into Pyramid's national distribution network. As to duplication of brewing facilities, he felt that, at least initially, both breweries would remain open, but that —sooner rather than later— one would be closed down in the interest of cost efficiency (my translation: jobs lost).

It's interesting to note that Magic Hat had been one of last year's suitors for Old Dominion Brewing Company of Virginia, but eventually lost out out to the Fordham Brewing /Anheuser-Busch partnership.

As always, Lew Bryson has posted a concise analysis at his blog.

Pyramid of Seattle, Washington, was founded in 1984. Based upon barrels of beer sold, it was the 18th largest brewery in the United Sates in 2007. Magic Hat in South Burlington Vermont was founded ten years later, in 1994, and was the 22nd largest US brewery last year. (Rankings from the Brewers Association.)

Press release