Thursday, July 31, 2008

What I'll miss

examining the pintIt was my final official event as a representative for the Clipper City Brewing Company last evening: a cask tapping at Fireworks, a pizzeria in Leesburg, Va.

Several friends stopped by:

Kim Ross and Chef Mark Marrocco of Magnolias at the Mill; Dean Lake, brewmaster for Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling, Va.; Shawn Malone of Tuscarora Mill; Ron Lindenbusch of Lagunitas Brewery, who was on vacation with his family, and in fact was the guest of honor at a Lagunitas beer dinner later in the evening next door at Tuscarora; and many more cask ale fans, and customers of Fireworks.

I'd be remiss if I didn't offer props to Clipper City Brewing's cellarman, Stephen Marsh. It has been his skill in preparing the brewery's cask ales that has allowed me to present the cask ales to great acclaim.

Go here for more about the event, and here for photos.

2008 Craft Beer shipments up 6.8% over 2007

During the first six months of 2008, American craft beer sales rose 6.8% in terms of volume (to 4 million barrels) and 11% in terms of dollars, according to figures released by the Brewers Association.

Price increases due to increased ingredient costs were probably the greatest factors causing dollar sales to increase at almost twice the rate for sales volumes. That being said, a significant portion of those ingredient and energy costs were not passed on by the breweries, thus reducing the breweries' profit margins.

A 6.8% increase of volume, though smaller than last year at the half-point, is still a significant increase. And indeed refutes my earlier gloomy predictions!

I was alerted to this story by the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Books called Drink

DrinkJonathan Yardley, a Washington Post columnist and book reviewer, wrote today on Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by British writer Iain Gately.

Yardley quoted from Gately's opening paragraph:

Alcohol is a fundamental part of Western culture. It is the most controversial part of our diet, simultaneously nourishing and intoxicating the human frame. Its equivocal influence over civilization can be equated to the polar characters of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. At times its philanthropic side has appeared to be in the ascendant, at others the psychopath has been at large. <...> In both ancient Greece, and the present millennium, it has been credited with the powers of inspiration and destruction.

In 1999, fellow British writer Andrew Barr published his book, also entitled Drink.Drink

His subject matter, however, was specific to the history of alcoholic beverages in the USA. The title after the colon continued: A Social History of America. Barr took more of an active stance in favor of the salubrious aspects of good beverages and against American alcoholic prudery (his view, not altogether untrue).

I was alerted to Barr's Drink several years ago by Baltimore beer blogger Alexander D. Mitchell IV, who in fact gave me a copy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Re-Judgment of Paris, and Leuven

Somewhat overlooked in the press on the Belgian InBev brewing company purchase of the US Anheuser-Busch brewery, was the news of a European purchase of an iconic American winery.

Chateau Montelena, the historic Napa Valley estate that took first place for its 1973 chardonnay in the Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976 and later became best known for its structured, focused cabernet sauvignons, has been sold to Cos d’Estournel, a leading Bordeaux producer in St.-Estèphe, the two producers announced today. <...>

Last summer Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, which took first place among red wines in the 1976 Paris tasting for its 1973 cabernet sauvignon, was sold to a partnership of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates of Washington State and Marchesi Antinori of Tuscany.

French Winemaker Buys Judgment of Paris Winner
July 22, 2008, 5:47 pm
Eric Asimov
New York Times

The original Judgment of Paris was the mythological cause of the Trojan war. What was the 1976 Judgment of Paris? Let's ask beer guy Lew Bryson:
[In 1976] a few big producers dominated U.S. winemaking with cheap, well-made, and unexciting jug wines. Imported wines that were similar to domestic products sold strongly as well: Lancers, Mateus, Riunite. Wine was perceived as a drink for snobs or dipsomaniacs. (Drunks used to be called winos, remember?) Then came the shock of the Judgment of Paris, the 1976 wine-tasting event where, for the first time, wines from small American producers publicly trumped those from Old World makers.

As to what might be the wine/beer connection in this, Lew writes: "You don't need to read tarot cards to see into beer's future. Just look at wine's past."
Two different drinks, two different markets, similar enough to be intriguing. If beer follows the path that wine did, what developments might we see in the next 20 years? <...>

The best thing about this trend is that it will change beer’s image. In a widely quoted 2005 interview in the Wall Street Journal, Miller Brewing C.E.O. Tom Long, then the company’s chief marketing officer, said, “People will tell you that beer is not sophisticated enough or stylish enough to compete with wine and spirits. Why do they think that? Well, I believe it’s because we told them to.” <...>

That was the key to the wine revolution, and it’s crucial to the nascent beer revolution: people enjoying the drink based on its flavor and character, rather than its effectiveness as an alcohol-delivery device, a party accessory.

A Blueprint for Beer
Jul 20 2007
Lew Bryson
Conde Nast

On this topic of the craft beer business mirroring boutique wine, Hugh Sisson, a beer and wine guy, offered a similar analysis at his blog: Diary of a Brewer:
Both product categories were dominated by a few large players (and really still are) focused on making rather generic products sold mostly on price point rather than quality. <...> In many respects America’s small brewers embarked on a similar approach beginning in the late 80’s. People who once thought all beer was pale yellow and very light now understand the difference between Pale Ale, Stout, and Weizen.
An entire media industry has grown up around the growing interest in wine, both assisting in consumer education and sustaining consumer interest – The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator just to mention two examples. Craft beer has also developed a large number of publications
One of the results of increased consumer education is consumer awareness of wine and beer as foods to accompany other foods. <...> Even some die hard wine buffs have to admit there are certain foods that go better with beer than wine! [Emphasis mine.]

Hugh Sisson

Following on the success of the movie Sideways (putatively about American pinot noir), another wine-themed movie will be commercially released in early August 2008. The plot of Bottle Shock revolves about the success of Chateau Montelena's chardonnay at the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting.

Friday, July 25, 2008

a Dominion departure

Confirmed by two sources: Scott Zetterstrom, Vice-President of Brewing Operations for Coastal/Dominion Brewing of Annapolis Md/Ashburn, Va. has left that position. He'll stay in the area, however, working at another mid-Atlantic brewery.

Zetterstrom began with Dominion Brewing in the early 1990s, hired by John Mallett, one of the original brewers there. Scott eventually rose to head the brewing staff. His background was mechanical engineering; he brought that expertise to the brewery and to other local breweries as a much sought after consultant.

With Scott's departure, those brewers and employees from the original ownership of Dominion number only a few.

John Mallett has been the Production Manager for Bells Brewery of Michigan now for several years.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

a bonanza of Belgian beer photos

This is Baltimore, Md. (only just moved from Richmond, Va.) beer writer Chuck Cook's profile, which he's posted at his Flickr page:

Since 1994, I have visited Belgium 16 times, and toured 60 Belgian breweries. I have written for such publications as Ale Street News, All About Beer magazine, Beers of the World magazine, Beeradvocate magazine, CAMRA What's Brewing, Celebrator Beer News, Delta Sky, The Gotham Imbiber, and Great Lakes Brewing News, as well as the Beeradvocate and Ratebeer websites. I have also contributed to Tim Webb's "The Good Beer Guide to Belgium."

Now, check out some of the photos he's uploaded to Flickr. Thorough stuff!

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Final Port of Call with Clipper City

When I joined the Clipper City Brewing Company in August of 2004, I wrote this:

I have accepted an opportunity to work with Hugh Sisson, a pioneer of Maryland craft beer, as a representative of his Clipper City Brewing Company .

I have great respect for what Sisson, lead brewer Scott Dietrich, and the entire team of the Clipper City Brewing Company have accomplished.

Specifically ...
1. There's the quality control evident throughout the portfolio.
2. There's the design of the brand extensions -- Clipper City, McHenry, Oxford Raspberry.
3. Finally, there's the introduction of the flavor-driven Heavy Seas line.

Together, these things became a coalescence irresistible to me.

As Territory Manager for Clipper City Brewing Company, I plan to continue to expand the reach of its brands throughout the District, Montgomery County, and Northern Virginia.

Since that point, my sales territory has increased dramatically to include all of Virginia, and then North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina as each of those states allowed beers of greater than 5.9% alcohol to be imported.

Since that point, Clipper City has itself changed. Some of its beers are now organic. Some of its beers are paradigms for new craft styles. Its roster of brands has grown from nine to sixteen, its basket of brewing medals brimming. And the cask ale! Ahh!

In 2004, Clipper City was a dynamic Baltimore, Maryland brewery. Today, Clipper City is truly an East Coast brewery, its beers sold and respected in 20 states along the East Coast and into the Midwest.

It has been an incredible voyage. I've met so many fascinating and beery folk: brewers, salespeople, wholesalers, beer shop owners and managers, beer lovers, and, in fact fascinating people of all sorts throughout the South.

That I have been part of that voyage has been my privilege. It has been exciting; it has been frustrating; but it has never been boring.

Thomas Cizauskas (l), Hugh Sisson (r) discuss beer in 2006.Beer is serious business

I sincerely thank Hugh Sisson, Brewmaster Ernesto Igot, Sales Manager Pat Helsel, and everyone, then and now, at the Clipper City Brewing Company for having included me in their wonderful voyage of good beer.

But now, I sail forth. As of 1 August 2008, I will leave the employ of Clipper City Brewing Company.

This blog --YoursForGood will continue, and with honest effort, improve, and even gain new perspectives. Look for more features on fermented fruit and distilled spirits. To all my readers, to those who have offered praise, and to those who have pointed out my factual errors: I thank you.

Beer, gentlefolk: beer is our business. And that is why the voyage continues.

Hops with your pie: pizza, cask ale, & Leesburg

In Leesburg, Va., Fireworks is the pizza-restaurant adjunct to the town's long-established Tuscarora Mill Restaurant.

Like it's older sister, Fireworks features an extended selection of good beers on draft and has a smaller, yet still interesting, list of bottled beers.

Tuscarora's Shawn MaloneIn a recent issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, Shawn Malone, the General Manager of both restaurants, announced plans to introduce regular cask ale service to Firework's draft lineup. [Photo was taken at recent Magnolias at the Mill Beer Festival.]

In the meantime, he has invited Clipper City Brewing Company to bring the restaurant its first cask ever: Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. We'll be tapping it at 6PM sharp, Wednesday, 30 July.

[UPDATE: Photos from the tapping.]

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just say no ... to lawnmower beer

The Session is a monthly web powwow, in which various beer bloggers post on a common theme. Session # 17 - July -

could be summed up thusly: Drinking anti-seasonally. <...> Beer and weather, perhaps? More like beer despite the weather, I guess. Cracking open a Guinness on the beach. <...>For a summary of the Sessions thus far, check out Brookston's handy guide.

As Lady MacBeth might have said to a swill-drinking husband, 'screw your lawnmower beers to the sticking place'.

I missed The Session submission deadline, but here are two photos, illustrative of that theme.

JW Lees Harvest Ales aged casksOn a hot July day 2008, Maxs TapHouse in Baltimore Md. was offering pours from two different vintages of aged wooden casks of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (11.5% abv) via handpump.

Pictured, on the left: 2004 Lagavulin whisky-aged. On the right: a non-spirit cask, but from 1999!

I was amazed to find two such rarities on cask at the same time. And I applauded the aplomb of Casey Hard, beer manager at Max's, to feature these full-bodied treats in the midst of summer. (In fact the weather is even more oppressive than usual. Tropical Storm Cristobal is churning off the Carolinas, pushing tropical weather into the mid-Atlantic region.)

We passed the samples around to several bar patrons, who sipped and appreciated these barleywines (and even in cold weather, these are beers to be savored not gulped). Dark fruit, deep depth, sticky mouthfeel, alcoholic heat, and in the case of the Lagavulin casked iteration - smoke and peat.

Yesterday, at an outdoor beer festival at Magnolias in Purcellville, Va. —with temps in the 90s (that's 35 °C for our non-American friends) and humidity in the 70% range— patrons were enjoying Clipper City Brewing's Hang Ten, a weizen dopplebock of 10% alcohol by volume. Out of all the festival-goers, only two returned their samples and asked for something lighter.

If you needed hydration —something light— there was plenty of ice-cold bottled water available.

InBev's effect on independent wholesalers

I've had many different responses from folk about the InBev purchase of Anheuser-Busch. These from three industry members who might be directly and indirectly affected stand out:

  1. from a brewer whose brewery is partly owned by A-B at present, and thus soon may be owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev: "I don't know. I'm concentrating on making and selling my beer."
  2. from an observer of the beer scene: "InBev is not going to concern itself with its craft holdings, at least at first. The capital invested in them is so small compared to the $52 billion dollars of debt accrued by the purchase that a sell-off would do very little to help."
  3. an importer rep: "The sale won't make any difference to me or my high-end imports."
I'm not so sanguine.

I think that the combined power of the behemoths could be stultifying to the business. Even (or especially) the large indepedent wholeasalers, such as Reyes (which in the D.C./Va./Md. area is known as Premium), may suffer consequences.

From Progressive Grocer:
The consolidation inherent in an InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch Cos., which the latter brewer's board agreed to yesterday, will affect wholesalers much more profoundly than retailers, Nick Lake, v.p., client service, Beverage Alcohol, the Nielsen Co., told Progressive Grocer. <..>

"The merger is likely to be neutral for retailers, as Anheuser-Busch already markets Inbev's European brands, including Stella Artois and Becks in the U.S.," Lake told Progressive Grocer. "The biggest changes will be at the wholesaler level, as more and more consolidation will likely happen [since] the combination of MillerCoors and AB Inbev represents over 80 percent of the category volume," he explained. "It may become more difficult for some imports and independent craft brands to maintain shelf space, as both MillerCoors and AB Inbev bring cross-segment portfolios to the retailer."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The 13th Fermenter

While presenting cask ale over several occasions last week, I was asked: So, why isn't this firkin made of wood?

First: what's a firkin? A firkin is simply a specific size of English beer cask, one which contains 9 Imperial gallons. That approximately translates to 10.8 US gallons, or 86.4 US pints (16 ounces).

it's spiled
As are kegs, most (but not all) firkins today are constructed of stainless steel.

Prior to the 1930s, although wood may have been the material of the vessel, wood was not necessarily wanted as a flavoring agent. Normal practice would be for brewers and coopers to line their casks with pitch or other substances to prevent the beer from coming into contact with the wood. Wood could be a source of microbiological infection.

Beers today that are deliberately infused with wood flavor might be tasty, but they are not necessarily historically accurate in that practice.

So what is the point of cask ale, the advantage of serving beer from a firkin?

Imagine a firkin cask as a small fermenter. Beer is transferred, still fermenting, from large brewery vats to this smaller 10.8 gallon brewery 'vat'.

cask Loose CannonCask-conditioned ale —real ale— is beer in its ideal state, literally fresh from the fermenter, still alive. Rather than a drinker traveling to a brewery, the brewery has figuratively and literally come to the drinker. The very opposite of an aged wine cask, a firkin is indeed the 13th fermenter. Brewery fresh.

And what does 'fresh beer' taste like? What does fresh bread taste like, straight out of the oven?

It's an ineffable quintessence of flavor.

  • Go here for a handy comparison of serving sizes and containers.
  • Go here for more on one brewery's wooden casks.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meet the Ozzys

Local beer makes good ... again ... and again.

Never been to the The Brewer's Art brewpub and restaurant in Baltimore? It's a Belgian-themed brewpub "set in a grand Mt. Vernon townhouse" with a "seasonally-influenced menu of European-style country fare."

The pub opened in 1996. It remained draft-only until mid-2007 when Volker Stewart and his crew began bottling their beers using the facilities at the Sly Fox in Pennsylvania.

Le Canard
In 750-ml champagne-corked bottles, the initial release was Green Peppercorn Tripel, then Le Canard, and now, Ozzy. From the website:Ozzy Ale from The Brewer's Art

Our answer to the Belgian «devil» beers (i.e.Lucifer, Duvel, etc.). Both rich and dry, this beer is all too easy to consume in large quantities. Hopped with Styrian Goldings. 7.25% abv

The bottles are distributed only in the DC and Maryland area. If you're that close, why not visit the brewpub itself?

[UPDATE: 2008.08.03 tasting notes]

The beer pours with a gorgeous white spumous head and tastes similar to the draft at the pub: hints of spice, hay, pear fruit, and and with an off-dry finish. The pub's draft also has a slight sulfury edge (a tasty thing) but this is not present in the bottle.

For fun, I often peek at after I write up my impressions. One reviewer said this: " Drinkability is good, but it seems a little 'rich' to be a true sessioner." Well, Ozzy is 7.3% alcohol by volume, after all!

Appropriate to the name of the beer, and befitting the zeitgeist of the pub, "A portion of the proceeds will benefit bat conservation programs."

Alerted to the beer's release by the Beer Sage.

Thinking Globally, Drinking Locally

From WAMU-FM's website:

Thinking Globally, Drinking Locally
Wednesday 16 July 2008, 1:06PM

In the world of beer, Anheuser-Busch has long been an American icon and a dominant global player. So when the St. Louis-based corporation accepted a $52 billion takeover by Belgium-based brewer InBev, the move raised eyebrows in boardrooms and bars across the country. We explore how the increasingly global beverage industry is affecting local consumers.

The Kojo Nnamdi Show airs on WAMU weekdays, noon to 2 pm. The live two-hour magazine program highlights news, political issues and social trends of the day.

Nnamdi, a native of Guyana, lends a global perspective to front page headlines and explores emerging stories before they are news.
At 88.5 FM in the Washington, DC. Streamed at

A History of the World in 6 Glasses is a concise look at the influence of six beverages on world history, industry, and commerce: beer, wine, distilled spirits, coffee, tea, and cola.

[UPDATE: Some interesting comments.]
  • TS: Beer is a a genuinely global drink. Beer arose spontaneously all over the world thousands of years ago.
  • HS: [Will In Bev 'improve' the recipe of Budweiser?] We might argue with what A-B has produced from a personal stylistic preference standpoint, but clearly the numbers sustain it. No, the downside could be catastrophic.
  • TS: Drink and food serve as a lightning rod for discontent. It's a way of expressing oneself.
  • HS: [Will the Inbev purchase affect the craft brewers?] Inbev will control nearly 30% of the world's market of beer. It's a whole different league.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Long live the new King of American Beer!

In the 1890s, there were over 4,300 2,300 breweries in the United States.

In 1978, just before the re-birth of craft beer, there were 41.

Now, in 2008, there's a continuing return to brewing glory with the count of active breweries at more than 1,400.

But this past Sunday morning only five breweries remained from that 1890s roster: Yuengling, F.X. Matt, Anchor Brewing, August Schell, Anheuser-Busch. [Read the comments for 5 more survivors, including High Falls, formerly known as Genesee, and Straub's.]

That list will soon be four since Anheuser-Busch has agreed to be purchased by Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate InBev.

And where are Coors, Miller, and Pabst? Coors is owned by MolsonCoors of Canada; Miller is owned by SABMiller of England; Pabst brews none of its own beers.

Anheuser-Busch, as it is now, accounts for 48% of the beers sold in the US.

  • Anheuser-Busch: 48%
  • Miller: 18%
  • Coors: 11%
  • Crown Imports (Corona, St. Pauli Girl): 5%
  • Heineken USA: 4%
  • Craft beers: 3.8%
The top ten beers sold in the US are:
  • Bud Light: 19.2%
  • Budweiser: 11.3%
  • Miller Lite: 8.4%
  • Coors Light: 7.9%
  • Natural Light: 4.2%
  • Corona Extra: 3.8%
  • Busch light: 2.9%
  • Busch: 2.8%
  • Heineken: 2.4%
  • Miller High Life: 2.3%
[Source Beer Marketer's Insights as cited by the Washington Post: Bud's Belgian Buyout.]

But ... the number one American-owned brewery, the new King of American Beer is...

Well, here's how Jay Brookston of Brookston Beer Bulletin put it:
Once the merger of the two companies is finalized, Anheuser-Busch InBev, will be a Belgian company. MillerCoors consists of MolsonCoors, managed from Canada, and SABMiller, which is either a South African or London-based company, depending on your point of view. That leaves Pabst, the fourth largest beermaker by volume, but they do not own a brewery, instead contracting to have all their beer made at Miller’s breweries. So in terms of actual brewers (that is companies that own and operate a brewery) and who are U.S. owned, the biggest one remaining will be Boston Beer, making Samuel Adams as the undisputed biggest American brewer. Way to go, Jim. It also means Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, becomes number two and Sierra Nevada comes in third.
In 2007, Boston Beer produced (combining its own production and beers produced for it by other brewers) over 1.8 million barrels of beer. Yuengling produced (all at its own plants) 1.2 million barrels. A barrel, at 31 US gallons, yields about 13.7 cases of beer (24 12- ounce bottles). [Source: The Brewers Association.]

Interested in Anheuser-Busch InBev's plans for Budweiser? Jay Brookston has that inside scoop as well.

Watch what I drink, not what I say

There's a deliciously ironic moment noted in the Washington Post today (Bud's Belgian Buyout):

"It's messed up," St. Louis native James Metz said at the bar in Afterwords Cafe at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle [Washington, D.C.]. The St. Louis community, he said, depends on Anheuser-Busch for jobs and philanthropy.

"If there was a Budweiser here now, I'd drink it," said Metz, hoisting a Stella. Kramerbooks doesn't sell Bud.

Emphasis mine. Stella is, of course, brewed by the "messed up" InBev.

And, an American irony:
At the Post Pub downtown [Washington, D.C.] yesterday evening, network engineer Monty Ottwell was ending his workday by knocking back a Jack Daniels with a Bud chaser.

"I'm a big fan of Belgian beers. I'm not a fan of Bud selling out," Ottwell said. "It's an American beer. Red, white and blue."
Fiducuiary duty, maximizing profit, capitalism, free enterprise. Wouldn't that be the American way?

And, in the 'that's-why-they-make-the-big-bucks' department:
"InBev needs the Anheuser-Busch brand culture," Credit Suisse analysts Carlos Laboy and Anthony J. Bucalo wrote in a research note yesterday. "InBev is weak in marketing processes, particularly in developing consumer insight for optimal occasion-based marketing."
Never let clarity stand in the way of obfuscation.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

'Anheuser-Busch InBev' is the world's largest brewery

It's done. Anheuser-Busch has been sold.

From Reuters on Sunday evening just before 9PM:

U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc agreed to be acquired by Belgium-based InBev NV for $70 per share, a source familiar with the situation said on Sunday.

Anheuser would have representatives on the board of the combined company, which was slated to be called Anheuser-Busch InBev, the source said. An announcement was expected on Sunday night.

At $52 billion dollars, it's the biggest purely cash business purchase ever.

Now, let the games begin: distribution networks, brands, employees, those craft breweries partially owned by Anheuser-Busch, the Department of Justice, etc.

A man walks into a bar. Do you have any Belgian beers, he asks? The bartender replies: Sure do. How about a nice cold Bud Light?

Previous, related posts:

Bye, Bye Bud?

From Friday's Wall Street Journal:

Anheuser Chief Executive August Busch IV began discussions with InBev CEO Carlos Brito in recent days after InBev sweetened its original offer of $65 a share, or $46.35 billion, a person familiar with the matter said. Board approval is likely this weekend, but the talks could still fall apart, this person cautioned.

The companies are ironing out such details as a name for the combined company. Key to the talks for Anheuser is protecting the interests of its employees and distributors, people familiar with the matter said.

On the road for a week, I wasn't paying close attention to the potential sale (probably a good thing) except to note that Anheuser-Busch's stock had risen on Friday to its highest point in a year: $65.55. I was alerted to the story at Stonch's Beer Blog.

The stinkier, the better

As a representative for the Clipper City Brewing Company, I was invited to conduct a tasting of organic cheeses and organic beers at My Organic Market (MOM's) in Alexandria, Virginia on Saturday, 12 July.

One of the cheeses was Grayson.
Grayson and Loose Cannon
Grayson, one of my favorite East Coast cheeses, is from the Meadow Creek Dairy of southwestern Virginia in the town of Galax, Virginia, just a few miles north of the border with North Carolina.

Grayson is unpasteurized, or in foodie parlance, a raw cow's-milk cheese. It also is a washed-rind cheese. From the American Cheese Society's website:

“Washed rind” is used to describe those cheeses that are surface-ripened by washing the cheese throughout the ripening/aging process with brine, beer, wine, brandy, or a mixture of ingredients, which encourages the growth of bacteria. The exterior rind of washed rind cheeses may vary from bright orange to brown, with flavor and aroma profiles that are quite pungent, yet the interior of these cheeses is most often semi-soft and, sometimes, very creamy. Washed rind cheeses may be made from both pasteurized and raw milk, depending on the style of the cheese and the cheesemaker producing them. Cheeses in this category include some tomme-style cheeses, triple-crème, and semi-soft cheeses, similar to Epoisses, Livarot and Taleggio.

Grayson is very pungent. If this weren't polite company, we might label it a stinky cheese. The entire area surrounding my table at MOM's was indeed redolent of the cheese. Think barnyard, stinky socks. You'll either love it or hate it. And that in fact was the case with the folks who tasted the cheeses and beers on Saturday.

Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale was paired with the Grayson (as it was recently at SAVOR -- the national beer with food event recently held in Washington, D.C.). The American hop bounty of this India Pale Ale (I.P.A.) provided an pungent aromatic complement to the cheese.

Loose Cannon is not an organic beer but the other two Clipper City beers poured on Saturday are.

Oxford Organic Ale Raspberry Wheat was served with an organic brie. Subtly redolent of fruit, the beer finishes tangy and wine-like, characters that cut through the gentle butterfat of the brie.

Oxford Organic Amber Ale was served with a Gruyere cheese (not organic). The nut-brown character of the beer's toasted malts paired well with the nutty flavor of the cheese.

As a beer and cheese fan mentioned at the table, organic is important, but 'beer-miles' matter as well. If a food, such as beer, is created from organic ingredients, but shipped thousands of miles, environmental harm from carbon fuel emission may outweigh the original good.

In other words, drink locally. As Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association put it on his blog, Beer Examiner:
The average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery. Taking the effort to locate the brewery that’s beyond the glass at the end of your arm is an accessible endeavor.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pink elephants in Asheville

In North Carolina for a few days, I stopped in last evening at the Thirsty Monk in Asheville.

The managing director of Brouwerij Huyghe was the bar's special guest.

, family-owned and independent, is best known for its strong Belgian golden ale, Delerium Tremens, and for the beer's label featuring pink elephants.

Standing on a chair to be heard over the din of the appreciative crowd, Alain De Laet delivered a simultaneously informative and gracious mini-lecture on the good fortune of Huyghe and the state of good beer itself.

Alain De Laet
Rather than damning international light lagers such as Stella or Bavik (as many of us often do), he pointed out that these beers can be gateways to better beer. Discovering a new, slightly fuller-flavored beer may lead an inquisitive drinker to look for another... and another.

And the world of full-flavored Belgian beers suddenly will become evident.

American craft brewers have long sought inspiration and instruction from Belgian brewers, he said. Now, De Lait added, many Belgian brewers are asking American craft brewers about the Americans' creative use of hops.

Among others, I met up with Julie and Jason Atallah, owners of Bruisin' Ales (where I had just finished an in-store tasting of Clipper City beers), and with James, aka Kilgore Trout, of the Asheville Beer Blog.

Thirsty Monk is itself only a few months old. It exclusively serves Belgian beers on draft and a mixture of Belgian bottles and Belgian-styled American beer bottles. A few days ago, the pub opened an upstairs room, named the Pintroom, pouring only American craft beers on draft.

Over a snifter of Delerium Tremens, I asked Alain how to pronounce "Huyghe". There were inflected gutturals --something like "Hu(rt) gh(ch)uh-- that I couldn't quite duplicate. Maybe a few more Deliriums would have helped.


Thirsty Monk's owner Barry Bialik has invited Clipper City Brewing to bring the first firkin ever to be served at the Pintroom. So, I return this evening to tap a cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, our India Pale Ale (I.P.A.), which I had hand-delivered on Monday. [UPDATE: Photos here.]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beer and civilization

George F. Will --that's correct, George F. Will-- wrote an oped piece today about beer, and in a refreshingly positive manner.

Published at the Washington Post, it begins with the story of the potential sale of Anheuser-Busch to InBev.

Mr. Will goes from there to address how human civilization began because of beer (really). And how beer functioned as an evolutionary gene-pool-strengthener (really!). And that beer is a health food (again, really!).

Without commenting on the accuracy of the above comments, I should point out that there were two was one definite factual error(s):

  • InBev is the world's largest brewer, not number two as Will erroneously states (that position is held by SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch being merely the third largest in the world).

    I should check my facts first. Will is correct. SABMiller moved ahead in early 2008, with Heineken at #3 and A-B at #4. But if the InBev purchase of A-B does go through, then InBev will be #1, by far. (Figures, by sales volume, from Reuters.)

  • Benjamin Franklin did NOT say that "Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy." (He did say something like that, but in reference to wine.)
Will recovers though, concluding with a deliciously felicitous turn-of-phrase:

Or, less judgmentally, and for secular people who favor a wall of separation between church and tavern, beer is evidence that nature wants us to be.

Survival of the Sudsiest
By George F. Will
Thursday, July 10, 2008; Page A15
Washington Post

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A milestone

My Toyota Corolla-- she's been a stalwart courier of good beer. And she's still going strong.

Photo taken just outside of Woodstock, Virginia along I-81, with three firkins in the back seat ... behaving well.

[UPDATE] Captain Hops at Beer Haiku Daily has penned a poem for the occasion:
Rugged Chariot
Stalwart courier of beer
Roll on down the road

I, and my Corolla, thank you!

16 May 2010: The end of the road.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

And so it may go, for Bud

Here's Maureen Ogle, author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, on the brewing chickens coming home to roost for Anheuser-Busch ... maybe.

... our Budweiser, a beer as American as baseball and barbecue -- is about to become Belgian (and Brazilian too). "No!" I wail, tears splashing into my beer, when I hear that Carlos Brito, chief executive of InBev, the Belgian-Brazilian corporate behemoth headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, wants to acquire Budweiser.

<...> Anheuser-Busch is the target of an aggressor's hostile takeover bid, but usually, it plays the role of the bad guy.

In 2006, Anheuser-Busch snapped up the Rolling Rock brand brewed at Latrobe Brewing Company of Latrobe, Pa. A travesty, many declared. How dare that nasty corporate giant destroy a Latrobe tradition and move the brewing process to (ugh) Newark? The people of Latrobe (population 9,000; the brewery was a major employer) begged the company not to shut down its plant. The St. Louis brewing titan shrugged, and that was that. It's worth noting, however, that Anheuser-Busch purchased Latrobe from . . . InBev.

The commentary was printed in the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post. Ogle concludes:
Besides, the Brazilianization of Bud doesn't mean the end of American beer. That same story of little guys creating something from nothing is unfolding right now in more than 1,400 breweries around the country. In 1978, there were only a few dozen brewing companies in the United States. In the intervening 30 years, the industry has exploded in size, and today the United States boasts the most dynamic, creative brewing culture in the world.

The Latrobe brewery is active again, by the way, having been purchased by City Brewing Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, itself the remains of the former brewing giant G. Heilemann. A significant amount of Sam Adams beer is brewed there under contract.

Previous, related posts:

Friday, July 04, 2008

First Pitch

Clipper City Golds at Camden Yards
Clipper City Golds
Originally uploaded by cizauskas
A photo of Clipper City Gold Ales, served on draft at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Md.

Much of the Clipper City Brewing staff was at the ballpark on Wednesday 2 July to watch as Hugh Sisson, owner of Clipper City, threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Baltimore Orioles in their game against the Kansas City Royals.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera may have taken a cue from Hugh. Cabrera pitched a complete game as the the Orioles defeated Kansas City 5-2.

KC's only two runs occurred in the 1st inning: a home run which landed a few feet from where we sat.

In the photo, it's Clipper City's QA director, Lynne Sigler. More photos at Flickr.

East Coast Fat Tire

Word on the street had New Belgium Brewing Company's President Kim Jordan recently in North Carolina pre-selling Fat Tire Amber Ale.

That's right. In a long-anticipated and long-desired move, New Belgium's beers may finally come to the East Coast ... in 2009.

New Belgium, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, is the third largest-producing craft brewery, after Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada, and the 8th largest US brewery overall. (Statistics from Brewers Association.) It is well-regarded for its Belgian-styled beers.

There's no information yet on what states other than NC (and Tennessee, where the beers have only just arrived). Or as to which beers other than Fat Tire.

La Folie, please!

UPDATE 2009.02.03. New Belgium has announced that Fat Tire, Mothership Wit, and dark lager 1554 will be available in selected markets in North Carolina, beginning in March 2009. More at BeerAdvocate.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

MillerCoors (and BevBud?)

MillerCoors, formed 1 July 2008 I received an email yesterday afternoon from a Process Quality Specialist at Coors Brewing.

Strange: I don't believe I know this gentleman. Stranger yet: he was announcing that his email domain had changed from to

Coors (owned by MolsonCoors of Canada) and Miller (owned by SABMiller of South Africa the United Kingdom) have merged their US operations into one company. Their respective corporations and international operations remain separate ... for now.

Peter Coors, vice chairman of Molson Coors Brewing Company, becomes chairman of MillerCoors. Graham Mackay, CEO of SABMiller, becomes vice chairman of MillerCoors.

The new company believes that it will achieve half a billion dollars in savings by streamlining across its 8 US breweries and combining distribution networks (which have already been merged in many areas).

Here's more from BrewBlog ("a daily look at Beer Industry News brought to you by MillerCoors").


Greg Kitsock at the Washington Post writes today about the proposed merger between Belgian/Brazilian conglomerate InBev with the last remaining American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch.

Kitsock puts a face, a brand-name face, on InBev, which produces beers such as Stella Artois, Labatt, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden, and many more, but no 'InBev' brand per se. (There's a fairly complete list of InBev's brands at

Kitsock asked the Brewers Association (the advocacy group for small US breweries) if the potential merger would be bad for craft beer in the US. Director Paul Gatza answered yes, and then no.

[Gatza] said a larger player would be able to dominate the market even more, grabbing taps and shelf space from the little guys. "I see no real upside for craft brewers," he said

On the other hand, Gatza said his member breweries are not too concerned, at least not yet. "If InBev sees craft brands can be done profitably, they'll support craft beer getting into the marketplace," he said.
Meet the Stranger You Already Know
Greg Kitsock
July 2, 2008
Washington Post

p. F5

Previous, related posts:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The IPA myth,and other beery fairy tales

The history of beer is often delivered wrapped in the mists of fairy tales.

The Zythophile, aka Martyn Cornell, is one blogger who has taken aim at several of these cherished shibboleths. And when he does so, Cornell lists his original source material, as opposed to Wikipedia and others, who do not.

Take for example, his recent re-examination of India Pale Ale (IPA):

  • there was NO real difficulty exporting beer to the East: contemporary evidence shows everything from small beer to porter surviving the journey.

  • the Indian market was tiny, at 9,000 barrels a year in 1800.

  • There is NO evidence George Hodgson, a small-time porter brewer, actually invented IPA

  • the East Indiamen ships did NOT travel “along the coast of Africa” on their way to India, they went via Madeira, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and St Helena to get round the Cape, and then up through the Mozambique Channel.

What is true, The Zythophile states, is that:
IPA developed out of the strong, well-hopped stock ales, designed to last a year or two in cask before being drunk, that British brewers were already making [emphasis mine] before entrepreneurial ship’s captains decided to make a few bob taking beer out to sell in India. The stock ale went through a speeded-up maturation on the journey, and arrived out East in prime condition.

And what of those oft-repeated tales about the origin of the beer-style porter? The three-threads thread, and the Robert Harwood story? Try The Zythophile again.

More myth-busting: Benjamin Franklin's non-quote on God and beer, and the pilgrims and beer.