Monday, June 30, 2008

Words, words everywhere, but not a book in sight

Journalist David Samuels' collection of essays, extended and short, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, was published earlier this year. It is written, appropriately for Samuels' profession, in a terse style, but with felicitous and Menckian choices of phrase.

Samuels has described journalism, his career, as "the mongrel art of writing literature on deadline." (Would we bloggers, then, be the feral alleycats of journalism?)

The Brewers Association (you knew I would veer back to beer) annually recognizes "outstanding media coverage that increases beer drinkers' understanding of the diversity and flavor of American craft beer." It honors short forms in consumer print media, consumer electronic media, and trade and specialized beer and brewing media.

But it ignores the longer forms — books.

Michael Jackson, our beer Samuel Johnson, was first and foremost a writer of books, of beer literature. Should not an award named for him —the Michael Jackson Beer Journalism Awardsalso recognize those whose beer writings are indeed books?

Bob Skilnik, an author of two books on beer, asks just this question at his blog.

Looking at the the Michael Jackson Beer Journalism Awards handed out in the last few years by the Brewers Association, [I see that] there really is no category for books and I find this an odd oversight.<...>

Why are books, works of considerable research and effort, ignored over 1,000-word articles?<...>

Somehow, I think Jackson would even question this program in its current form; “The Michael Jackson Beer Journalism awards is the only program of its kind. The contest allows the craft beer community to acknowledge, reward and thank journalists who feature craft beer.” Except for book authors.

If the Brewers Association can't help, Bob suggests creating a separate award for books- on-beer, as there once had been. Read more here.

I think it's a good idea. Whether few or many, words written well, in furtherance of our thing called beer, should be treasured and nurtured.

Of course Bob Skilnik would like the recognition for his books, as any author should. But his point is valid: why does the Brewers Association fail to honor beer literature?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Left coast meets right, for beer & veggies

roasted shitake salad with cask Oxford Organic Amber Ale
We here on the American right coast celebrated an organic beer and vegetarian beer dinner this past Thursday. It seems that our left coast brethren did the same —on Tuesday— if not with organic beer.

Chalk one up for bi-coastal beer synchronicity.
As one attendee at the Maryland dinner said to me, "This butcher's son enjoyed the meal."

Break the email chain?

I once stepped out of a office and used my cell phone to call the person to whom I had been speaking, after he had interrupted our face-to-face business conversation to take a business phone call.

If I am talking in person to a person, I will not answer the phone. (I will return the call later.)

I tell my customers and clients that email is the preferred manner with which to contact me. Although this may seem to be a tautology, I answer emails at the time of day when I have the time to do so (usually early in the morning).

But there is a big problem with email as a business tool. When one's InBox is crammed full, email can become a nearly all-consuming time demander. Here's more on that, from an IBM IT-er:

I stopped using e-mail most of the time. I quickly realized that the more messages you answer, the more messages you generate in return. It becomes a vicious cycle. By trying hard to stop the cycle, I cut the number of e-mails that I receive by 80 percent in a single week.

It’s not that I stopped communicating; I just communicated in different and more productive ways. Instead of responding individually to messages that arrived in my in-box, I started to use more social networking tools, like instant messaging, blogs and wikis, among many others. I also started to use the telephone much more than I did before, which has the added advantage of being a more personal form of interaction.

I never gave up my work e-mail address, because I still need it for some work-related activities — for example, for one-on-one discussions that are too private and confidential to discuss publicly.

I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip
Published: June 29, 2008
New York Times

I recently had a discussion with a brewer at a small brewery that is now partly owned by Anheuser-Busch.

Many of his days are devoted to responding to a barrage of emails from A-B managers, many asking the same questions or for the same reports, sometimes weeks after the fact, and many of whom he doesn't even know.

The above NY Times article might be of assistance to Anheuser-Busch, especially in light of their recent announcement of $1 billion of cost-cutting.

Don't Cry for Me, Saint Louis

There is schadenfreude in observing Anheuser-Busch's frenzied efforts to stay independent. After all, what the Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate InterBrew is attempting to do to A-B, A-B has done to others ... for years.

Yet, there is room for real concern. A foreign sale of an iconic American brand is an actionable metaphor for the diminishing international influence of the brand of America itself.

There are some recent interesting developments.

  • In part because A-B is considering increasing its debt load by about $10 billion dollars to purchase all of Grupo Modelo SA (of which it already owns half),
    InBev began taking legal steps Thursday to replace Anheuser's board, seeking a court ruling in Delaware clarifying that Anheuser shareholders could oust all 13 directors by written consent without cause.

  • Contrary to earlier reports, A-B has announced that it will NOT sell its Busch Garden amusement parks.

  • A-B has warned that InBev will cut jobs (which indeed InBev has done in aggressive fashion at previous purchases). Ironically, that is what A-B itself has announced it will do itself to save $1 billion dollars in operating costs by 2010. It also announced that it will raise prices and buy back shares.

  • A-B says that InBev, with its cash proffer of $65-a-share, has undervalued the company. There are rumors, however, that a bid in the $70s-per-share might be acceptable to the board.
    Anheuser estimates that the measures it is undertaking to improve earnings would result in a share price of $62, according to people familiar with the matter. That figure, however, doesn't include a takeover premium. Such premiums are typically in the range of 30%. Anheuser stock, which has been boosted by InBev's offer, closed on Friday at $62.26, up 91 cents, in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading.<...>

    InBev prefers a calculation that doesn't include Anheuser's 50% stake in Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo SA or its 27% stake in Chinese brewer Tsingtao. By that method, InBev's offer values Anheuser at 12 times 2007 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. <..>

    Anheuser prefers to reflect the value of both Modelo and Tsingtao, however. Including those holdings, it says InBev's offer is only worth 11.5 times Anheuser's 2007 Ebitda [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization]. What's more, it puts the value of other recent beer deals, including the purchase of Scottish & Newcastle PLC by Heineken NV and Carlsberg A/S in the 13-14 times Ebitda range.
Anheuser to Slash 1,000 Jobs, Raise Prices
Wall Street Journal
June 28, 2008

Previous posts:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another Summer beer festival in NW Virginia!

It's a summer bounty of good beer in the Old Dominion.

Ten miles further west than, and one month after the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, it's Magnolias at the Mill First Annual Beer Festival on Saturday, 19 July.

Magnolias is a 30 beer tap restaurant, built in a converted mill in the small farming town of Purcellville in western Loudoun County.

Magnolias at the Mill in Purcellville, Va.

From the festival flier:
Some of our very favorite breweries will join us for a festive day of awesome beer, music, and barbecue.

A partial list includes the following breweries:
  • Flying Dog
  • Clipper City
  • Stone
  • Allagash
  • Troegs
  • Bell's
  • Abita
  • Lagunitas
  • Victory
... More to be added. (Attendees subject to change, but the guaranteed good time is not!) Tickets include a souvenir glass and five beer sample tickets plus Chef Mark's Barbecue Feast.

Clipper City Brewing Company will be there ... pouring Red Sky at Night Saison, Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock, and Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat.

It's a wonderful excuse for a bicycle excursion. The restaurant's patio sits only a few feet from the western terminus of the nearly 50-mile Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park, a biker/hiker trail which can be traversed from the Washington D.C. National Mall to Purcellville.

Festival hours: 11am-6pm. More information and tickets here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Uber crab

The July issue of Washingtonian Magazine is always the "Best of" issue.

This year they asked the beer directors of two Washington-area restaurants, Bill Catron of Brasserie Beck and Greg Engert of Rustico, to select the best beers to accompany lobster, steak, burgers, and crabs.

In other words, Brews for Summer Food.

Baltimore's Clipper City Brewing has done well with the editors: best overall local brewery in July 2006, for example. And this summer, Bill and Greg have selected Clipper City's Small Craft Warning Uber Pils as a quenching beer when eating Chesapeake crab.

The rounded, rich, malty center contrasts with—and cools—the spice of the Old Bay seasoning, while the snappy, floral hop finish balances the sweetness of the crab.
Why, and what were the other selections?

You'll have to buy the issue! p. 83. [UPDATE 2008.07.24: Article posted on Washingtonian website.]

Caveat: I work for Clipper City Brewing Company.

New Brewpub in Virginia

Brewer Jason Oliver sent out this email today:

After six and a half years with Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Washington, Friday the 27th will be my last day at GB. I am moving to beautiful Nelson County Virginia and will be involved in the start-up of a new brew pub called Devil's Backbone Brewing Company which will sit in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains just down the road from Wintergreen ski resort.

When down in central Virginia, please make it a point to stop by. We plan to be open this fall, around October November.

Best regards,
Jason Oliver
Regional Brewery Supervisor
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants
Washington, DC

For more, see yesterday's blog post.

[UPDATE: 2008.07 Photos of brewery under construction.

A-B vs. Interbrew: The battle is joined.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Anheuser-Busch's Board of Directors will reject the Brazilian-Belgian conglomerate's $46.35 billion acquisition tender. InBev, it is assumed, will then take the battle directly to A-B's stockholders.

Anheuser-Busch is the American brewer of the world's number one and two beer brands: Bud Light and Budweiser. Its anti-takeover strategy is assumed to be:

  • cost-cutting of $1 billion over the next 4 years.
  • selling its Busch Garden theme parks for $3 billion
  • purchasing the remaining 50% of Grupo Modelo SA for $10 billion
  • sell all of its packaging operations (!), that is, bottling, canning, and kegging.

Purchasing Modelo might make A-B too expensive for InBev. The attempt, in an attempt to keep Budweiser American, would be ironic:
Modelo also is a fiercely nationalistic [Mexican] company that wants to remain independent. And, relations between the brewers have been frosty at times over the years, mostly because Modelo executives felt Anheuser got half the company too cheaply.

Anheuser Girds for Fight With InBev
June 26, 2008

Previous posts:

Fred Matt: We're here to stay

Good news was reported from Utica yesterday: "We're alive, we're going to be well, and we're here to stay," said Matt Brewing's Vice-President Fred Matt.

As reported at the Syracuse Post-Standard, recovery is moving forward at the upstate New York brewery, since fire gutted its canning plant on 29 May.

The bottling line - which cranks out the Saranac beers - survived, but it's taken nearly a month of cleanup and restoration to get it in shape. The brewing area was not affected.

Meanwhile, the brewery's been kegging some Saranac, but the tanks are still full, waiting for bottling to resume.

Some Saranac flavors, such as the best-selling Pale Ale and the increasingly popular Pomegranate Wheat, may temporarily disappear from some store shelves. But Matt expects production to get back on schedule within a few weeks of the bottling line's restart.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two more DC restaurant departures

Only ONE restaurant in the DC/Baltimore area has ever followed the lead of Garrett Oliver and conducted a beer vs. wine dinner. That's a dinner in which each course is matched with a beer and a wine, and the diners vote on the better pairing.

That one restaurant was Colorado Kitchen. In 2007, Chef Gillian Clark called her take on the dinner idea The Battle of the Barrels.

Sadly, Chef Gillian Clark has just announced that she will be closing the Colorado Kitchen. Read more about her plans.


In September of 2005, while at restaurant Cafe Saint-Ex, Chef Barton Seaver put together a Tomato and Beer Dinner as a coming-out party for the then brand new Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale of Clipper City Brewing Company.

Seaver was intrigued by the herbal character of the Loose Cannon, and proposed pairing a fresh cask of it with a tomato-based dessert. When I appeared momentarily skeptical, he laughed. "That's why I'm the chef and you're the beer guy", he said. Go here to see what he created.

Seaver left Cafe Saint-Ex to open an award-winning sustainable-seafood restaurant called Hook. Now, in a plotline worthy of television's Hell's Kitchen, he's just resigned his position at Hook.

More at the Best Bites blog at the online Washingtonian.


And one more:

Jump here for a post on the departure of a long-time fixture of the DC brewing scene.

Jason Oliver's surprise

Jason OliverEmbargoed until Wednesday 25 June at 5:30 PM.

Abbie Longero
Sales and Marketing Manager
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
900 F Street NW
Washington, DC

I am writing because, as I'm sure you all know, Jason Oliver will be leaving Gordon Biersch sometime in the very near future for a position in Wintergreen Mountain, VA. Jason has been an immeasurable asset to our company and we are very sad to see him go. However, we also know that this is an incredible opportunity for him and want to send him off in style, the only way that would be appropriate.

His last tapping party is for the "Summer Gold" and will be taking place on Wednesday, June 25th. Mark your calendars (or your blackberry or whatever)....

Festivities, including a costume contest and a buffet to benefit Special Olympics, will be from 5:30-7:30. Jason will tap the keg on the later end of those two hours. Per tapping party tradition, I'm sure the celebration will extend to around 10 or so.... The theme is 80s, so break out those tapered jeans and fluorescent tops!

It will be at the Gordon Biersch on 9th and F streets in downtown D.C.

We would like the news of this event to spread far and wide.... however.... we would like to keep it a surprise for Jason. He knows that we will be doing a little something for him, but I think it will
be even more memorable if we can manage to keep it a secret that all of you will be present!

My Clipper City work pulls me elsewhere tonight, but I wish Jason gratitude for the phenomenal brewing he has done in the DC area. In a milieu of extreme beer, he has continued to brew beautiful beer.

I wish him good fortune at his new The Devil's Backbone to open in late 2008. There, I won't fail to be. [UPDATE: Jason Oliver sent out a farewell email on Thursday. Go here.]

Rosé confusion

The Washington Post ran a story today about French-style rosés:

Pink wines are made from red grapes that are allowed to ferment for a much shorter time than for red wines, so the grape skins spend less time leaching their color into the juice. The process (which the French call saignee, derived from the verb meaning "to bleed") is halted when the wine is merely light to dark pink instead of red.

I think that this description may be a bit misleading.

Fermentation of rosés is not necessarily shorter than that of red wines, even though the aging may not be nearly that of the decades-long of a Bordeaux. It's the contact time of the red grape skins in the pressing that makes the difference.

From Wikipedia:
Saignée, or bleeding, is used when the winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine, and removes some pink juice from the must at an early stage, in a process known as bleeding the vats. The removed juice is then fermented separately, producing the rosé as a by-product of the red wine, which is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration is concentrated.

The Post article continues:

Blush wines such as California's white zin are typically off-dry (slightly sweet) to sweet in flavor. However, rosé wines tend to be drier than dry and are made around the world.Even far outside their spiritual homeland in Provence, spicy rosés are a staple of summer drinking.

Read more with the authors' specific rosé wine recommendations here.

At the recent Northern Virginia Beer Festival, I enjoyed a tasty Virginia rosé.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wine at the beerfest

keg tossOut of the many brewery tables at last weekend's Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, there was one booth sampling that other fermented beverage.

Representatives of Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard had driven up from Charlottesville, Virginia to pour three delicious wines: Albemarle Viognier, Albemarle Simply Red (a Bordeaux-style blend), and Albemarle Rosé. All three wines had been aged in oak; the last, a French-style rosé, showed a bright berry fuitiness and dry tannic finish. A great bone-dry summer refresher: I went back for seconds.

The winery representative told me that several festival goers had told her how happy they were to find wine at a beer festival.

I smiled. At wine festivals, I feel the same way, but in reverse. The contrast proves refreshing.

More about the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest:

July jaunt

As a salesman for Clipper City Brewing Company, it's going to be a real road-warrior week for me in early July.

  • Monday 7 July at 6pm. POSTPONED until 4 August. I'm bringing a firkin cask of our summer seasonal -- Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock -- to Aromas Wine Bar in Athens, Ga. It's an unusual choice for a cask; English or Anglo-American style ales are the norm. But even so, at 10% alcohol by volume (abv), this strong, malty weizenbock should be a lot of fun served fresh from a cask.

  • Wednesday, 11 July at 5pm. Cask tapping at newest Taco Mac location: Metropolis on Peachtree in downtown Atlanta. It's a firkin of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, and I'll be there to tap it. And by the way, this Taco Mac restaurant features 140 beers on draft, and over 280 in bottle. [UPDATE: Photos here.]

  • Thursday, 10 July at 5pm. It's a little bit o' Bawlmer Beerlanthropy. I'll be sampling Heavy Seas beers for my friends at Bruisin' Ales in Asheville, North Carolina. [UPDATE: Photos here.]

  • Friday, 11 July at 6pm. Clipper City has been invited to help inaugurate the new upstairs American draft beer room at the Thirsty Monk, a Belgian beer taphouse, also in Asheville, North Carolina. I'll be tapping a fresh firkin cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, our brewery's triple-hopped India Pale Ale (I.P.A.) . [UPDATE: Photos here.]

  • Saturday, 12 July at noon. It's an overnight drive from Asheville, N.C. to Del Ray in Alexandria, Va., for an organic beer and cheese tasting at My Organic Market. [UPDATE: recap here.]

    • Organic Brie w/Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat
    • Gruyere w/Oxford Organic Amber Ale
    • Virginia Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson w/Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pop goes the beer -sicle

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control tried its hardest to ban them last year, but it failed when the Virginia General assembly intervened.

And what was it the ABC attempted to prohibit?

Beer popsicles, or Brew Pops, to be more precise.

Brew Pops will make their triumphant return at Alexandria restaurant and beer bar Rustico on Tuesday 1 July. The restaurant will be offering seven flavors during the summer-only run: framboise (raspberry), kriek (cherry), peche (peach), cassis, banana, plum, and chocolate stout.

Here, from the email press release:

From The Washington Business Journal:

The brainchild of Executive Chef Frank Morales and Beer Director Greg Engert, the icy dessert ruffled the feathers of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) last year. Citing a variety of conflicts, ABC prohibited Rustico from selling its popular brew pops. Thanks to a bill sponsored by Del. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Sen. Patsy Ticer, D-Alexandria, that amended the ABC's law on alcohol content in prepared foods, Rustico is able to sell its brew pops once again.

"Seventy-five years after the end of Prohibition, I am glad that we are finally making reasonable modifications to Virginia's Alcoholic Beverage Control laws," said Ebbin, a co-sponsor of the bill. "As long as adults consume responsibly, government should certainly not over-regulate the inclusion of alcohol in food -- or brew pops for that matter,"

Get 'em now while it's hot and they're cool!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

a Tuppers' Revival?

Bob and Ellie Tupper at 08 NoVa Summer BrewfestI met up with Bob and Ellie Tupper at the Northern Virginia Brewfest yesterday. They told me that there may be good news in the next week or so. Good Beer enthusiasts in the mid-Atlantic area will be crossing their fingers. Here, from

June 20, 2008-- We believe that we will complete arrangements within a week to resume production of Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale. We cannot obtain at any price the exact hops we used at Old Dominion, but we have found a brewer who actually can obtain high quality hops and that's no small feat these days. The new version of Tuppers' Hop Pocket will be bottle conditioned, as always. It will be dry-hopped, as always. And it will have our signature balance between malt and hops -- hoppy enough for Bob, smooth enough for Ellie.
We haven't been this close, but we have been close, and we're just not ready to give details until the ink is dry on the deal. But keep looking here-- within a few days we should have it done.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

AP relents - a little - on bloggers' rights

There's a non-resolution resolution to the recent flap caused when the Associated Press attempted to crack down on what it considered un-fair use of its published stories.

In a statement Friday, Rogers Cadenhead said he is "glad" the dispute over his site, the Drudge Retort, has ended. He said a larger conflict remains between AP's view of acceptable use of its content and the practices of many bloggers. Cadenhead declined to comment further, referring all questions to his attorney.

An AP statement Thursday night said the company had provided additional information to Cadenhead about posting its material online, and both sides considered the matter closed. It also said the AP was having a "constructive exchange" with a "number of interested parties in the blogging community" about the relationship between bloggers and news providers, and intended to continue the dialogue.

Earlier this month the AP sent a legal notice ordering Cadenhead to take down seven entries on the Drudge Retort, his takeoff on the Drudge Report. The news agency said the postings were violating the AP's copyright.

Cadenhead highlighted the disagreement in his personal blog,, and prominent bloggers rallied behind him, saying the posts in question were protected under the "fair use" provision of copyright law. That allows quotation of copyright material for commentary and certain other purposes without asking permission.

In response, the AP said it was working to develop guidelines for what it considered permissible use of its content by bloggers.

AP, blogger resolve dispute over copyright
By SETH SUTEL, AP Business Writer Fri Jun 20, 4:59 PM ET

Friday, June 20, 2008

Washington DC's exclusive beer addresses

Call it Washington D.C.'s Permission for the Proper Address rule.

DC has prohibited single beer bottle or can sales in certain areas of the city and is considering expanding that prohibition to other areas. The ostensible point is to reduce loitering and public drunkenness. Many higher alcohol beers, such those insipid 'malt liquors', are sold in larger portion (often 40 liquid ounce) single containers, cans, or bottles.

The problem, or the controversy, is that exemptions can be made. Call it Washington D.C.'s Gourmet Exclusionary Rule. From the

Over the last few years a number of ANCs and Wards -- including a stretch of H Street NE, part of Logan Circle, and wards 4, 7 and 8 -- have banned the sale of single cans and bottles of beer, citing their tendency to cause their drinkers to pee on sidewalks, litter, and generally make trouble.

Now the Examiner is reporting that Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) would like to see bans on single alcohol sales imposed in their respective domains. Evans is looking to ban singles in Shaw, Thomas Circle, Logan Circle and part of Penn Quarter (that's ANCs 2C and 2F), while Wells’ bill is for all of Ward 6.

Both Evans and Wells have included a provision that would allow stores to enter into voluntary agreements with their ANCs to continue the sales of single beers. This sort of provision, like the in place in Logan Circle that allows the Whole Foods on P Street to sell single craft beers without restriction, has caused cries of double standards along racial and class lines in the past.

It's an amusing sight in DC liquor stores which don't get exemptions and yet still sell large bottles of craft beers and imports such as Belgian beers. The stores will shrink-wrap two 750-ml bottles together to create a two-pack, thus satisfying the prohibition against single bottle sales.

Laws against public drunkenness, loitering, and disturbing the peace already exist on the books.

I first read about these proposals of City Council members Evans and Wells at Living in the District, a blog published by one of my fellow members of the DC-area Bloggers Meetup.

Enjoyment, not bloviation

Substitute the wine-words with beer-words, and you might think that the LA Times piece below was about beer, not wine.

When wine drinkers tell me they taste notes of cherries, tobacco and rose petals, usually all I can detect is a whole lot of jackass. The language of sommeliers, winemakers, sellers and writers has devolved into nothing besides a long list of obscure smells that tells me nothing. I get a lot of cherry and cassis from Manischewitz too, but it would help a lot more if you told me it was cough-syrup-goopy sugar-water.

I miss the days when we made fun of wine snobs for saying that a wine was "ingratiating without being obsequious." Now wine snobs are too boring to make fun of. Ever since UC Davis professor Ann Noble created the Wine Aroma Wheel more than 20 years ago, people have become obsessed with seeing how many memories they can inhale out of a glass. <...>

So from now on, wine drinkers, you get to mention three things you smell in a wine, max. Then you have to tell me something more interesting. If that seems too hard, I suggest drinking more wine until it isn't.

The language of wine snobbery

Joel Stein
LA Times
June 13, 2008

There's similar silliness in the beer world, whether it's beer styles or beer reviewing.

And as with better wine reviewing, better beer reviewing begins with homework.
a clever 'un-pompous' beer review
Learn to identify the 5 basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), the aroma of hops (floral, grassy, citrusy), the aroma of lager fermentation (sulfury), the aroma of ale fermentation (green apple), the taste of malt (bready, toasty, caramel, coffee), and gasp, yes, the off-aromas of beer.

Be precise.

A bartender said to me yesterday, "I don't like it. It has an aftertaste." I thought in response, "I hope so!"

What he meant to say was that he didn't care for that particular aftertaste. But I disagreed, silently, as I took another sip of the Sierra Nevada Summerfest.

Drink to enjoy, not to impress. It's more rewarding.

I was alerted to the LA Times column by Kevin Erskine's Scotch Blog, on which there's this hilarious comment:
Hmm I'd say it's the pretentious twit who reads the original notes and says "Ah yes, I also identified the 'wet dish towel' and '1970 Chevy Malibu interior' notes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Washington DC Bloggers Meetup

Cizauskas at RFD for DC Bloggers MeetupI attended The Washington Blogger Meetup last evening at RFD.

It was my first meeting with this DC-area group for "blog writers, readers, and retired bloggers of all stripes."

The Meetup has over 400 members; our group last night was comprised of about a dozen. This did promote more one-on-one conversation. A person even two chairs down would have to shout to be heard; RFD was packed to the gills.

Most were hi-techers with much greater skill at such than I would ever hope or want. But among the group there was a comedian, a political website developer, a DC scene observer. No one seemed particularly worried about the Associate Press' recent hamfisted attack on bloggers' use of source material references.

On cask at RFD was a just-tapped firkin of Williams Brothers' Ebulum. It was in perfect condition: a dark, fruity, luxuriant pour. (Here's an account of a similar encounter, but from 2003.)

One of the more valuable things I learned? Always check, and double-check your URL (that is, the address, for your website or blog). In my profile for this group of bloggers, I had typed the address for my blog --incorrectly.

Now, that's embarrassing!

I photoshopped the photo a bit for clarity. It was taken at the Meetup on a Mac by Joe of the Dumb Things I've Done Today blog. More of his pics here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To blog, or not to blog

A few months ago, a newspaper reporter interviewed me for a story about craft beer.

After we were finished, I offered to buy the reporter a beer. He thanked me but politely refused. I work for the Clipper City Brewing Company and, in that capacity, I was to be quoted in the piece. So, my gesture —a $5 pint— could have been perceived as a conflict of interest.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press (AP) delivered several cease-and-desist orders to a blog site at which bloggers had quoted AP stories.

The Associated Press, following criticism from bloggers over an AP assertion of copyright, plans to meet this week with a bloggers' group to help form guidelines under which AP news stories could be quoted online.

Jim Kennedy, the AP's director of strategic planning, said Monday that he planned to meet Thursday with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, as part of an effort to create standards for online use of AP stories by bloggers that would protect AP content without discouraging bloggers from legitimately quoting from it.

The meeting comes after AP sent a legal notice last week to Rogers Cadenhead, the author of a blog called the Drudge Retort, a news community site whose name is a parody of the prominent blog the Drudge Report. <...>

Short quotations of copyrighted material are allowed under the "fair use" provision of copyright law, but the law can be murky, Cadenhead said.

AP to meet with blogging group to form guidelines
Monday June 16,
By Seth Sutel, AP Business Writer

Without the AP —and other news organizations— much of the original reporting to which we bloggers react and reference would not be available. But the issues of copyright, blogging, freedom of speech, ethics, and the Digital Millennium Act all seem to intersect in the AP's legal action.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation lists the four things at which courts look to determine fair use:
  • Purpose and character of the use.
  • Nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used.
  • Market harm (As the EFF points out, linking to the original story seems to negate most 'harm".)
Above, I've quoted approximately 150 words from the Associated Press story. I think those four paragraphs were essential to relating the 'gist' of the piece. And I've linked them back to the original article. Is that fair use?

To understand these and other matters of blogging, I'll be attending my first DC-area Washington Blogger Meetup later this evening. And here's an earlier post about another area of ethics in beer journalism.

The reporter and I?

We enjoyed a pint of saison apiece. And each paid for his own.

[UPDATE 2008.06.21: Resolution?]

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day gueuze-lambic

I admit it.

I do read reviews at And I do enjoy reading them, but not for the reasons that maybe I should.

As an illustration, read these three comments in reviews of 3 Fonteinen's Schaerbeekse Kriek:

Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek
  • Acidic fruit that’s almost gueze [sp] like.
  • The aroma is mostly sour.
  • This is as close to a fine pinot noir you get by using cherries and beer.
Review comment 1
3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek is a gueuze beer; so I would be surprised if it didn't have a gueuze character (or as the brewery spells it, "geuze".)

Review comment 2
I don't know what sour smells like. That's something I normally associate with tasting.

Review comment 3
Burgundy (aka French Pinot Noir) would be my wine of choice, that is, if I were a rich man. 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek is most definitely not a Pinot Noir. (Purchased for $24 in an Athens, Georgia beer/wine/spirits shop.)

It is however, a most delicious kriek gueuze-lambic: a slightly pink head, a bright red hue (from the infused and fermented Schaerbeekse cherries), a gentle garrigue like the aroma of a soaked backyard after a rain, a bright pitted fruitiness, and a creamy sourness which was more lactic than acetic, producing a softer beer than other lambics such as Cantillon. I'll need to taste other 3 Fonteinen lambics to see if this is a house character.

There is a lot of sediment in the bottle, so pour carefully. The more turbid glasses, although not as aesthetic in appearance as the initial, clearer pours, were still fine going down.

We enjoyed this 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek on a Father's Day sunny, pleasantly warm afternoon.

Remembering Albert C. Cizauskas (1920-2002), my father.

Ignore that Clipper City mug. Not that brewery!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Will InBev's Bud hurt craft brewers?

From Jeff Alworth at Beervana come these observations about international conglomerate InBev's $46 billion bid for Anheuser-Busch, the third-largest foreign purchase of a U.S. company but the biggest all-cash deal.

As the hops and barley crisis have shown, small breweries can be seriously affected by brands against whom they don't compete. The hops markets, in particular, are global, so the Lucky Labs [brewery/pub in Portland, Oregon] of the world have a stake in this thing. Craft breweries have little juice to swing deals for hops, and many of the little guys are left on the outside. With InBev controlling some massive percentage of the world's beer production, this seems like a scary proposal.

Then there's the institutional advantages afforded by having such a huge stake in the market. Recall my recent post on distributors--InBev's bid would make A-B distribution deals all that much sweeter. In markets on the West Coast this won't be as big a deal as it will in smaller markets.

Finally, what about breweries in other countries? If InBev is trying to increas Bud's reach internationally, that means aggressive marketing that will overwhelm many small, venerable national brands elsewhere.

The rapacious tendencies of InBev might become very much in evidence at the wholesale/retail level. Overt and covert pressures might force many craft beers off the shelves, especially in supermarkets. Independent wholesalers could be hurt in much the same way.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Barley to feel the effects of the Iowa flooding

The flooding in Iowa will remount price pressures on corn. As the need for grain for animal feed increases, price pressures will redound to barley -- feed and malting varieties. Flex fuel prices will feel upward pressure. And so on.

Since June 6, Iowa has gotten at least 8 inches of rain, following a wet spring that already saturated the ground. As of Friday, nine rivers were at or above historic flood levels. More thunderstorms are possible in the Cedar Rapids area over the weekend, but next week is expected to be sunny and dry.

Gov. Chet Culver declared 83 of the state's 99 counties disaster areas, a designation that helps speed aid and opens the way for loans and grants.

The drenching has also severely damaged crops in America's No. 1 corn state and other parts of the Midwest at a time when corn prices are soaring. Dave Miller, a grain farmer and director of research for the Iowa Farm Bureau, estimated that up to 1.3 million acres of corn and 2 million acres of soy beans — about 20 percent of the state's overall grain crop — had been lost to flooding.

From the Wall Street Journal:

On the Chicago Board of Trade Friday, corn prices hit a new record high of $7.3175 a bushel, while soybeans traded near record highs, closing at $15.60. Corn prices have climbed about 10% in the past week, threatening to put further upward pressure on food prices that have been climbing for a year.

Bill Lapp, an economist at consulting firm Advanced Economic Solutions, Omaha, Neb., and former chief economist at ConAgra Foods Inc., said higher grain prices brought on by poor weather will help push food prices up by 9% a year through 2012 <...>

Expectations for tighter ethanol supplies because of higher corn prices could increase demand for gasoline, in turn helping to force up gas prices. The squeeze on ethanol also could heighten calls for the federal government to suspend its requirement that nine billion gallons of biofuels be blended into gasoline by the end of this year.

To assist the displaced victims of the floods: Network for Good.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Message in a bottle


The bottle says it all.

Beer is food. Drink your 'food' FRESH!

It's a growler of Stone Brewing's Imperial Russian Stout, filled only a few days ago, flown from Escondido, California to Alexandria, Virginia, and happily enjoyed at Rustico Restaurant.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's now a matter of dollars and euros at Anheuser-Busch

You know things are happening, or rather, already have happened, when a story appears in the Washington Post.poster photo courtesy of

Belgian Brewer InBev is offering a big payday to shareholders of Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., but its bid to create the world's largest beer company is already facing a major obstacle — U.S. election-year politics.

InBev SA, whose brands include Beck's and Stella Artois, delivered an unsolicited all-cash bid of $65 a share for Anheuser-Busch, which makes Budweiser, Michelob and Bud Light. That's well above the St. Louis-based company's closing share price of $58.35 Wednesday.

I do find it ironic that is a Republican official —Missouri Governor Matt Blunt— who is threatening governmental interference with the free practice of enterprise.
Republican Gov. Matt Blunt said Wednesday he opposes the deal, and directed the Missouri Department of Economic Development to see if there was a way to stop it.

"I am strongly opposed to the sale of Anheuser-Busch, and today's offer to purchase the company is deeply troubling to me," Blunt said in a statement.

Web sites have sprung up opposing the deal on patriotic grounds, arguing that such an iconic U.S. firm shouldn't be handed over to foreign ownership. One of the sites, called, was launched by Blunt's former chief of staff, Ed Martin.

"Shareholders should resist choosing dollars over American jobs," Martin said in a statement Wednesday night. "Selling out to the Belgians is not worth it — because this is about more than beer: it's about our jobs and our nation."

the remainder of the Associated Press story from which the Post wrote its.

As of this morning (Thursday 12 June), A-B stock is at $63.23, up 8% over yesterday. From the Morning Brief at the Wall Street Journal:
The Belgian-Brazilian brewing conglomerate InBev is going after Anheuser-Busch and its Budweiser empire. The offer of $46.4 billion, or $65 a share, amounts to a 14% premium over Anheuser's closing share price on Tuesday, though InBev says it represents a 35% premium over the 30-day average for Anheuser stock before deal speculation boosted the price, as The Wall Street Journal reports. A takeover by the world's No. 2 brewer in terms of volume of the No. 3 would supplant British-based SABMiller as largest global purveyor of beer, with a combined annual net sales total of about $36 billion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chris Pons: an appreciation

There are a lot of people in the good beer business who aren't the 'rock stars', who don't receive the renown or notoriety, but who are as crucial to the success of good beer.

Bar owners and bar managers are such, at the front lines every day. And Chris Pons was one of them.

During the 1990s and through early 2004, the Last Chance Saloon, a long-time fixture in Columbia Maryland, was a good beer mecca, in fact an East Coast destination point for better draft beer.

To no small measure, instrumental to its success was Chris Pons, its beer manager during the 1990s. He aggressively featured the new local beers and, at that time, the hard-to-acquire West Coast beers and imports. In fact, under Chris's stewardship, the Last Chance Saloon became one of the pioneering bars to feature cask ale. He was an active supporter of the Oxford Brewing Company, Maryland's original microbrewery, and for whom I worked at the time.

Chris died earlier this week. He was a young man.

[Please read more about Chris in the comments section below.]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Virginia loss

Mark Sedar, with his wife Kay and son Michael, runs a beer & wine store in small Berryville, Virginia called The Virginia Touch.

More than that, he purveys Virginia food and products such as local honey that one can't find in the big box stores and chains.

Mark's level of welcome and enthusiasm was (and is) palpable and infectious.

Good food, good beer (and wine), good people -- that's what this business is all about. But it's a tough business. And, as Mark said to me, "the margin of profit for beer and wine is tiny." In this economy, it will only become smaller.

Mark Sedar (on left) at Magnolias Mill beer Dinner

Mark Sedar (at right) with his usual enthusiasm! At a beer dinner in Purcellville, Virginia at Magnolias Mill. On left is Tuscarora Mill's Shawn Malone. In center is Ted Curtis of Select Wines, a beer and wine distributor.

So, from an email:
It is with a heavy heart that I announce the closing of The Virginia Touch. Kay, Michael and myself have been discussing closing the store the last several months and have been planning the closing over the last month.

It is not the closing of the store that brings us sadness but it will be not seeing you, our fantastic customers, who have supported us these past four years.

Our final tasting will be July 5, 2008 and the store will officially close July 31, 2008. June will be our last month for our beer and wine clubs.

I will keep you informed as to our complete closing schedule and specials in future emails.

Most of our store fixtures, equipment and displays will be for sale and I will provide you with a complete list.

Thanks for all your support.

More than as a beer salesman, but as an appreciator of good food and good people, I will miss the Virginia Touch. I would go in to conduct a beer sales call, and walk out with other breweries' beers, and Virginia wines and cheeses.

The store itself will close at the end of July, but Mark will keep the Virginia Touch website open, selling non-alcohol Virginia products such as honey, cheese, hot sauces, etc. Go now and visit before the shelves are depleted of the wonderful beer selection. It's a beautiful drive to Berryville.

Support your local breweries. Support your local businesses.

Canada prefers beer, but not as much

While Canadians continue to buy more beer than any other alcoholic drink, wine is becoming increasingly popular. But lest this become a zero-sum game, a winner-takes-all-battle in which the losing beverage goes home empty handed, it’s worth noting that Canada's overall alcohol sales rose by 4.9 % in 2007. Lets just declare this a victory for fermented liquor.

Beer Canada's favourite alcohol, wine eyes crown

Much a-foaming about nothing

Musings Over a Pint's David Turley has examined a recent puff piece in the Wall Street Journal:

A Pint-Size Problem
Beer lovers nurse a grudge as some bars switch to smaller glasses

It's all about the practice of establishments serving beer in glasses smaller than 16 ounces.

News flash to WSJ: this has gone on for years! Bars charge you for a glass of beer, not necessarily for 16 ounces, although that indeed often is the measure.

And guillotined beers? Pouring and pouring and pouring through foam to create a headless beer only produces a flatter less lively pint, er, glass of beer. It's an incredible waste of money for the bar.

A perfect pour is about the content of the liquid not the measure of the measure. Embrace the foam!

David also examines some of the logical and reportorial inconsistencies in the piece. Read his post here: A Pint-Size Problem - Or much ado about nothing?

The Campaign for Real Ale in the United Kingdom has seen short pouring as a serious problem, requiring governmental oversight.
For several years, CAMRA has been lobbying the government to enact legislation to ensure drinkers get a full imperial pint (or half pint) when they pay for it. It may surprise you to learn that currently the law only requires a publican to serve a pint which is 90% liquid. CAMRA have launched a new website,, which hosts an online petition to be delivered to 10 Downing Street.

Although I want to support CAMRA, I have a concern. If there's one thing I hate more than a short pint, it's a flat pint - cask beer is supposed to be served with a head. Remember, real ale is alive, and the natural carbonation should deliver at least a small head with little or no agitation. However, if you want a pint that's 100% liquid, there's no room left for the foam in a standard glass.

Stonch's Beer Blog
18 April 2007

Do we really want the government in the business of minding our Ps and Qs (pints and quarts, that is)? This is a case of an issue in search of a problem.

Maybe we should bring back the ale conner.

If so, I'd prefer female inspectors in leather breeches. But that's just me.

Monday, June 09, 2008

38.8 degrees on the road

hot northern Virginia day in early June 200838.8 degrees ... Centigrade.

That would be 102 degrees Fahrenheit: the late-afternoon temperature on Monday 9 June 2008 on the road north from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

I drive a lot; I'm a salesman for the Clipper City Brewing Company.

The return of Jeff Wells

Word on the DC Street

Jeff Wells, known to his friends and others as Hoppy Jeff, is a long-time enthusiastic fixture of better beer in the mid-Atlantic. During the early and mid aughts (that's the 2000s), first at Whole Foods, then with Craft Brewers Guild/Global Brewers Guild, Jeff was a tireless promoter of the good life of good beer.

Then he left for New York a couple of years ago.

And now .... he's back!

Jeff will be taking up where he left off, but with local distributor DOPS based in Fort Washington, Maryland. He'll be a competitor, but with his joie de bière, we wish him well and welcome him back.

Seeing the SAVOR

Josh Mishell of Flying Dog Brewery has put a nice 4 1/2 minute video on SAVOR up at his personal site, Bank Gothic Overload.

SAVOR may have been the first ever national exhibition of beer-with-food, held mid-May in Washington D.C. The sponsoring group was the Brewers Association, the national advocacy group for small breweries. I have a small write-up here.

If you look closely during the first scene of the crowds entering the Mellon Auditorium, you'll catch a glimpse of Fred Lewis. He's wearing the biege suit.

Fred is a long-time demiurge of the Washington DC beer scene. Well before good beer was a a given in our area (think 25 years ago!), Fred was hosting many beer events at the Old Europe in Georgetown, and still occasionally does so.

There's also an amusing shot during the the interview with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head. Look over his shoulder and you'll see the caterers chowing down big-time!

Savor - An American Craft Beer & Food Experience from Flying Dog Brewery on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Lagered Greens; hold the pig

Alexander D. Mitchell IV lay down a challenge yesterday at his Baltimore, Md. beer blog:

I have a sister. She has a blog. In her latest entry, she mentions an attempt to render collard greens edible. It involves a Community-Shared Agriculture co-op. And bacon. And a bottle of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Okay, how many of you just went "Huh?!?" I sure did. I'm guessing that, aside from beer bread, she's relatively new to the concept of beer in cooking. (Wait'll I get her to try Belgian beer and mussels.....)

So, here's the challenge: What kind of beer SHOULD she try steaming collard greens with? (First thing I'd do is tell her to head to the Penna. Dutch Farmers Market near her and procure some thick slices of dry-cured bacon rather than the frozen slices of presumably nitrate-injected bacon she probably had--but that's just me. And I'm betting some of you are vegetarians, like my wife.)

ADM's premise is wrong. Collards are hardly inedible. Not only delicious, they are cheap, easy to prepare, and ridiculously healthy. So get over that!

So, here's a non traditional recipe for greens, that is, vegetarian, minus the pig fat:

Lagered Greens

Clean the greens of any grit. Remove the stems. Coarsely chop the greens, or as ADM's sister does, chiffonade them.

Put in a large soup pot. Add beer, and enough cool clean water to cover. Now simply simmer for 30 minutes. Don't overcook!

Drain. Then, toss the warm greens with Kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, balsalmic vinegar (which cuts the bitterness of the greens), and your favorite hot sauce, all to taste. Serve with a (small) dollop) of soy margarine, or more balsalmic.

Easy and quick (and inexpensive) ... and good over rice.

The beer, when simmered, will add a yeasty flavor, similar to the dried yeast you'll often find in prepared soup mixes, but with a hint of hops. But avoid heavily hopped beers, which would impart unneeded bitterness to the greens, and ales which will add a distracting fruitiness. Any good honest American Lager will do, such as Victory Lager, Dominion Lager, or Sierra Nevada Summerfest. Avoid North American industrial lagers (N.A.I.L.s) such as Budweiser, Miller Lite, etc., which are produced with non-barley adjuncts.

Why 6 ounces? You don't want to overdo the flavor, but only to add subtle hints. And, a half bottle will remain for the thirsty cook.

The Washington Post's Kim O'Donnell recently discussed vegetarianism, and included this observation:
You may have heard that Oprah is in the middle of a vegan experiment, as part of a 21- day alcohol, gluten, caffeine and sugar-free cleanse. On Day Two, she writes in her blog: "Wow, wow, wow! I never imagined meatless meals could be so satisfying."

Some easy recipes too: Vegan and You Don't Even Know It

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Beer and Cheddar in Leesburg, VA

Cabot CheeseAt the upcoming Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, I'll be partnering with Cabot Cheese of Vermont, and hosting a Beer-With-Cheese demonstration, Saturday and Sunday June 21 and 22.

[UPDATE 2008.06.21: due to logistical considerations, the demonstration was cancelled on Saturday. No word yet for Sunday.]

  • From Bill Madden at Vintage 50: an ESB with Cabot's 3-year-old cheddar.
  • From Clipper City: Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale (on cask) with Tomato Basil Cheddar.
  • From Victory Brewing: Prima Pils paired with Cabot's Pepper Jack Cheddar.
  • From North Coast: Old Rasputin paired with Cabot's Hot Habanero CheddarNorthern Virginia Summer Brewfest!
There's no cost -- once you're in the festival, that is. But the tent for the demo will only seat 40 persons, so be sure to check on times, etc. I'll post more information, when I have those details.

Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest
Saturday, Sunday, 21/22 June
Morven Park, Leesburg, Virginia

  • From the Fest, there's potentially some good news for fans of Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale ... sort of. Read here.
  • Fest photos here.

Friday, June 06, 2008

SABMiller merger with Molson Coors approved

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the US Justice Department has approved the proposed merger of the US operations of SABMiller with Molson Coors. Even so, their combined sales will be still be less than those of Anheuser-Busch, whose sales sit at just under 50% of the US beer market.

The antitrust enforcer's approval, which largely had been expected, allows the brewing giants to form a company that will control nearly 30% of beer sales in the U.S. <...> One major hurdle will be to figure out how to effectively promote both Miller Lite and Coors Light, longtime competitors in the light-lager category.

The merger combines Miller Brewing Co. of Milwaukee, the second-largest U.S. brewer with about 18% market share, and Coors Brewing Co. of Golden, Colo., the No. 3 player with about 11% market share.

[SABMiller, the world's largest brewer in terms of volume, will have a 58% economic interest in the joint venture. Molson Coors will have 42%. They will have equal voting interests.]

The companies aim to pare $500 million in costs over the first three years of the venture, in part through lower transportation costs derived from using each other's breweries to make each other's beers.

In other words, what will be the flavor difference between the two? Then there's this issue, what a smaller beer importer once explained to me as the "real-estate of the shelves":

As one company in the U.S., Miller and Coors will also have more leverage with retailers, which could help them garner more shelf space at bars and stores.

This "leverage" is something the smaller breweries fight against every day. A chain store or large grocery may decide to stock beers from a smaller brewery, but it's actually the distributors for the large breweries that control the stocking on the shelves, or what is known as the "sets". But ...
The Justice Department said in a statement that it determined the joint venture "is not likely to lessen competition substantially." It said cost savings the companies are expected to gain from the deal are "likely to have a beneficial effect on prices" for consumers.

Good news from Matt Brewing

Nick Matt and fellow brewers at SAVOR, Washington, DC, May 2008.I received an email from Nick Matt, president of Matt Brewing Company about the status of his brewery after the fire.

Here's an excerpt:

The fire and the resulting damage is presenting a variety of challenges ... but longer term we will recover fully and be better for it. The out reach from everyone has been overwhelming.

In the photo, it's Nick Matt with fellow brewers at SAVOR in Washington D.C. in May. Left to right: Nick Matt, Rich Doyle (Harpoon Brewery), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), Jim Koch (Boston Beer), and Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada).

Photo courtesy of Jordan Utz, beer buyer for Whole Foods Market in Vienna, Virginia.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Electronic cockpit

Beer salesman's electronic cockpit
A friend laughs at this electronic 'braintrust' in my office, that is, my car. But, along with a portable desk that sits strapped into the passenger seat, these are essentials for this many-miles-driving beer salesman.

Clockwise from upper left:
  • Garmin GPS
  • trusty ol' Palm T/X PDA
  • Creative Zen (a non-Apple Creative Zen mp3 player)
  • Samsung 'smartphone' (again non-Apple) with 'hands-free' Bluetooth earbuds
For long trips, I listen to audio books and music on the Creative Zen. Audible, long in the audio books market, has a large library, but eMusic releases its books in a non-proprietary mp3 format. For tunes, my choice is the latter.

Not pictured: -----more-----