Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Clamps and Gaskets: Week 16

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly wrap-upClamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories that I have not posted at Yours For Good, but that, nevertheless, I find interesting or germane.

Most are concerned with beer, or wine, or whisk(e)y. Some are not. But all are brief. And many are re-posts from my Twitter account:

This is Week 16:
19 April - 25 April 2009

  • 2009.04.24
    On NPR Science Friday, news of genetically modified beer yeast to improve flocculation.

  • 2009.04.23
    Are you organizing a (Your City's Name Here) Beer Week? Read this post-mortem about why Philly Beer Week worked.

  • 2009.04.23
    "I Am A Craft Brewer" video from the Craft Brewers Conference. Posted via Greg Koch of Stone Brewing @StoneGreg:

  • 2009.04.23
    Brewers Association Achievement Award Winners. Bravo! Steve Parkes -Maryland's 1st craft brewer (Oxford Brew,1988), now of the American Brewers Guild & Otter Creek/Wolavers Brewing- received the 2009 Russell Schehrer Innovation award.

  • 2009.04.23
    Export volumes of Scotch whisky fell 2% in 2008.

  • 2009.04.23
    More bad news for Britain's pub culture: 2% increase in the beer duty. Average pint to cost US $5.10.

  • 2009.04.23
    Jay Brooks @brookston assumes Bottoms Up blog, in honor of deceased San Francisco beer writer Bill Brand.

  • 2009.04.23
    via @beersage an updated list of 200+ breweries on Twitter: New in DC/MD/VA is Capitol City Brewing Company @CapCityBrewers. Still no Clipper City.

  • 2009.04.22
    On 20th anniversary of Delerium Tremens, Huyghe boss Alain De Laet says other Belgian brewers are colleagues not rivals.

  • 2009.04.22
    Earth Day note: California's Concannon Winery (oldest continuously operating in US) and its sustainable practices.

  • 2009.04.22 reviews Beer Wars Movie, noting the HUGE impact of unsung hero: Henry King.

  • 2009.04.22
    On Earth Day, news from Facebook that Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, IL buys 100% of their power wind-generated.

  • 2009.04.21
    NotionsCapitol blog selects Beer For a Day column by Hop Talk as a 'Blog with a Bite'.

  • 2009.04.21
    via @Brookston: a blog devoted entirely to frites, called ... Frites.

  • 2009.04.21
    Real (good) potato salad: NO mayo, just potatoes, frisee, truffle butter, o/v. Lunch at Willow in Arlington, Va.

  • 2009.04.19
    A brewpub grows in Falls Church, Virginia. A sign of upcoming Mad Fox brewpub, to open November 2009.

  • 2009.04.19
    Belgium to investigate AB InBev over "abusing its dominant position" in delaying payments 120 days to suppliers.

  • 2009.04.19
    Beer sales in Scotland lowest since 1940s. All UK Beer sales fall 8.3% in 2008 4th quarter, most since 1997.

  • Outlaw Mild Ale

  • 2009.04.19
    The Death of Mild Ale and Porter? .... But long live Mild Ale! May is Mild Ale Month.
The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No excuses for foamy beer

This is when the Brewers Association shines.

Not with videos decrying the evil of the large breweries. Not with self-congratulatory pats on the back. Not with unseemly resentments of success.

But with real work, real acknowledgment, and with real information. Here is such an example:

The Draught Quality Guidelines group formed in March 2007 under the direction of the Brewers Association Technical committee. Our overriding mission was to improve the quality of draught beer dispensed to our customers.

Distributors, wholesalers, retailers or draught installation teams may install a draught system. But once in place, each system commonly pours a wide range of brewers’ and suppliers’ products. We have sought to bring the industry together to agree upon standards that present everyone’s beer in an optimal condition.

When handled properly from brewery to bar, draught beer delivers what many consider to be the freshest, most flavorful beer available to the customer. But the job does not end once the keg is tapped and the beer begins to flow. Good beer quality depends on proper alignment of the dispense variables and consistent housekeeping practices.
Draught Beer Quality ManualThe draught quality group focused on these and other areas to develop a clear and well researched resource of best practices for draught beer. Of course, individual brewers may have additional quality requirements or recommendations for various brands beyond these commonly agreed upon standards.

With the Brewers Association release of its 2009 Draught Beer Quality Manual, there will be no more excuses for bars wasting beer across their taps, of pouring foaming beer (and MONEY) literally down the drain.

If you're a pub owner or bar manager: read this manual. If you're a bartender, read this. If you're a brewer, read this. If you're a ballpark owner (or other large venue), read this, If you're a beer distributor, read this.

The Brewers Association has thrown down the gauntlet: no more excuses for foamy draft beer. Well done!

Related posts:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not on my watch! NO cask for growlers

At a brewpub, a reader of this blog asked to have his growler (a refillable, resealable container) filled with cask ale. "Sorry, we don't do that," was the response, although he was assured that the establishment would gladly fill his growler with draught beer, instead.

So, the reader asked me:

Why is it that you can't fill a growler with a cask ale? Will it lose most of the co2? Could brewpubs add a little primer and consumer let it condition a bit after taking it home?



I asked three brewers their opinions on the practice.

Jim Busch, an investor at Victory Brewing of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and an award-winning homebrewer.
As for cask ale and growlers, I think it ruins the taste to decarbonate what remains in solution. We dont fill them at the brewery for this reason. Our cask ales are made just like they do at Fullers. We rack youngish beer prior to spunding into cooperage - both straight sided sankeys and also firkins, and allow final conditioning in the cask.

Chris Rafferty of Rock Bottom Brewpub in Arlington, Virginia, is willing to fill growlers with cask ale, but only after advising his customers:
We will fill growlers with cask ale, but only after the guest has been fairly warned that the sparkle, and soft effervescence, that one experiences from a hand drawn ale, will be a lost effect when the growler is decanted. We have guests who are so appreciative of the cask flavor that the extra-low conditioning is not an issue.

Also responding against the practice was Bill Madden of Vintage 50, a brewpub/restaurant in Leesburg, Virginia:
For various reasons, I do not fill cask ale into growlers.

The number one reason is that cask ale will not present itself the same way from a growler as it would from a hand pump. The hand pump agitates the beer and allows air to become a part of the 'living' beer; this would later become an oxidized beer and not a pleasant experience.

The second reason is that cask ale is precious and it is created by hand filling casks and charging them with either fermenting beer or priming sugars to create a secondary fermentation in the cask. The beer is also fined for clarity and then it is conditioned so that it will be served in its prime.

All this handling to create a positive experience for the drinker could be ruined once it has left the bar in a growler. So why after all this work would we allow someone to take it away in a growler to possibly reflect poorly all that has been done.

Filling a growler


The strong opinion and practice of these brewers —and mine— is that cask-conditioned ale (and lager) if removed from its natural environment will lose that which is its defining characteristic: freshness. It would be like going to a fine restaurant and taking the entire meal home.

Leaving no doubt, Madden concluded:
Not on my watch!

  • Follow Madden at his Madd Brewer's Blog. UPDATE: Since this post was written, he has opened his brewpub, mad Fox Brewing, in Falls Church, Virginia.
  • Here in Virginia, the statute has been recently amended to allow non-brewpub bars, with the proper accreditation, to fill growlers from their taps. Not all states or jurisdictions allow bars to do so, or even brewpubs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twittering in Boston

Since I'm not in Boston, Massachusetts this week, I'm getting my vicarious Craft Brewers Conference jollies by following the Tweets of some folk who are there.
Craft Brewers Conference 2009

  • @BeerAdvocate
  • @Brookston
  • @brophybrewer
  • @CapCityBrewers
  • @BeerAmericaTV
  • @CapCityBrewers
  • @CharliePapazian
  • @Cicerone_org
  • @fullsteam
  • @jcperro
  • @macgruffus
  • @StoneGreg
I had originally suggested #cbc as a Twitter search term for the Conference, but that turns out to be the Twitter search term for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Charlie Papazian of the Brewers Association/American Homebrewer Association suggested the much better #cbc09. It avoids the confusion, and has been adopted by most.

So to follow along, you don't even have to sign up with Twitter ... although you should. Go to and type in #cbc09.

CBC 2009
For example, a Tweet today from @CapCityBrewers (Capitol City Brewing Company in Washington, DC area):
Harpoon has been a great host. Brewers and industry folk mixing it up. #cbc09

You know a great bar ... when you're in one.

Congratulations to The Brewer's Art of Baltimore, Maryland.

As of today, Esquire Magazine on-line considers this pub and restaurant to be the best bar in the United States.

You know a great bar when you're in one. If it's a dive, it's Christ-this-place-is-a-dive dive. If it's an Irish pub, it's not an "Irish" pub. If it's a cocktail lounge, it's got some Tanqueray Ten and a bottle of good rye somewhere. This site is about those places.

Esquire's Best Bars

The rankings may change tomorrow, but the Belgian-styled beers will remain fresh. They're brewed on-premise. The Brewer's Art is a brewpub.

... And their garlic frites are to die for, or at least to binge on. Solid carb lovers should check out this new all-frites, all-the-time blog, called —what else would you expect— Frites.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Flying Dog Twitter

TasteLive!There was an internet beer tasting on Saturday evening. Folk around the web participated, via Twitter, from 8 -9pm US Eastern Time, tasting beers from Flying Dog Brewery.

The co-host and sponsoring website was Taste Live!

Participants signed up with Taste Live! or went to the search page and followed along by entering the hashmark #ttl. (In fact, when the TasteLive! feed proved to be sluggish, many participants did just that.)

Tasted were 4 beers from Flying Dog's Canis Major series:

  • Kerberos Tripel at 7.8% alcohol by volume (abv)
  • Gonzo Imperial Porter at 7.5% abv
  • Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale at 10.2 abv
  • Double Dog Double Pale Ale at 11.5% abv
tasting room at Flying Dog
Flying Dog (Twitter handle was, of course @FlyingDog) began the tasting with good advice for the evening and whenever tasting beers with intensified flavors, especially higher alcohol or darker beers:
Please let your beers warm up a bit. The flavors will be much more intense if they are "slightly chilled.

Sipping, rather than drinking full bottles seemd to be prudent, as the pace was fast and the beers strong. And there were only 60 minutes in which to taste, post, and respond.

As the hour progressed lips did get looser and typos hilarious-er. Some Twitter-ers apparently drank all 4 full bottles (even if they were only 7 oz). One Twitter-er assured us:
Deceptively strong yes, but 8.5% is still session beer territory for me ;)
[Did he have more alcohol-dehydrogenase enzyme in his system than the rest of us?]

The short bites (bytes?) format that is Twitter forced brief comments. Many descriptions, posted without time for contemplation, seemed to be concise first impressions, although I could easily imagine someone preparing notes beforehand in order to impress.
Explain, please... Are you in MD or CO??
one Twitterer asked.

Jim Caruso (Twitter handle= @jcperro), General Partner for the Flying Dog, Tweeted back:
All the beer is brewed in Frederick, MD. 58 of 69 people are based in Frederick. But we also have an office in Denver, CO.

And this from Director of Brewing Operations Matt Brophy (Tweeting @BrophyBrewer):
We also have some barrels of brett [brettanomyces yeast- a funky wild yeast, often found in belgian beers] Gonzo [Imperial Porter] hiding in the brewery. You'll probably have to visit the brewery to try it.

Like always with matters beer, sometimes there was just plain misinformation, as when one participant told us:
Any beer brewed @ > 8% ABV &, technically, getting all of its characteristics from malts & yeast, w/ hops taking a back seat.
He was later silent on that point when the last and strongest beer of the tasting —Double Dog Double Pale Ale (11.5% abv)— was all about the hops.

Alcohol laws were discussed.
About the Horn Dog, @kallardnyc asked Flying Dog:
You say "Barley wine style." How does it differ from a true Barley Wine?

To which I Tweeted:
"Barleywine style" is a federally legally mandated term. Can't have "wine' on a label with beer. Might sow fear and angst.

At which point @beercommdood harrumphed.
Federally legally mandated terms can blow me. It's a barleywine. ;)
Food pairings were suggested for the beers, and even music. I probably was the statistical off sample.
Music and beer: Flying Dog's Gonzo Porter with Mahler's 2nd Symphony. Or maybe Muddy Water's Mannish Boy.
The most creative food pairing suggestion of the evening:
Gonzo Imperial Porter and scooter pies.
[It certainly would beat out a RC Cola and a Moon Pie.]
The tasting was co-hosted by TasteLive! But back in January, I had participated in another Twitter-wide tasting, of Trappist ales.

A group called Twitter Taste Live had hosted that event. Its website is now a minimal members-only sign-in page. And, since that January event, its tastings seem to have been exclusively limited to wine:
TTL is a new tasting format that brings the famous wine personalities of the world to the consumer via the social networking tool Twitter.This network is by invitation only.
TasteLive!'s website is more informative and less restricted, and it hosts both beer and wine tastings. But note that both TasteLive! and Twitter Taste Live share an identical hashmark: #ttl.

By the hour's end, alcohol did induce a typo.
I posted:
Thank you to all the rabid dogs at Flying Dog Brewery for avery enjoyable tasting: the commentary ... and the beer!

To which @Krukewitt responded: Freudian slip? You thanked them for an "avery" enjoyable tasting. What will Adam think?

Don't drink and type!

Twittering and Drinking

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Clamps and Gaskets: Week 15

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly wrap-upClamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories that I have not posted at Yours For Good, but that, nevertheless, I find interesting or germane.

Most are concerned with beer, or wine, or whisk(e)y. Some are not. But all are brief. And many are re-posts from my Twitter account:

This is Week 15:
12 April - 18 April 2009

  • 2009.04.18
    Campaign for Real Ale ( may vote today to allow ales served via cask breathers to be listed in Good Beer Guide.

  • 2009.04.18
    Grow your own .. hops, and barley that is. The Mad Fermentationist reviews 'The Homebrewer's Garden'.

  • 2009.04.18
    The Wall Street Journal reports that OVERALL US beer sales ar
    e down 4% in the first two months of 2009. What are the figures for 'craft' beer for the first two months?

  • 2009.04.18
    The Wall Street Journal reports that sales of imported beer fell 19% in the first two months of 2009.

  • 2009.04.17
    Just reports the first fall in US wine sales in 15 years. http:

  • 2009.04.17
    Real Beer Wars: In Alabama, is fighting to pass the Gourmet Beer Bill, allowing beers of greater than 6% abv.

  • 2009.04.15
    Wine giant Constellation Brands posts a 2008 loss of $301million, to cut 5% of its global workforce.

  • 2009.04.15
    Got $82 million? Anheuser-Busch InBev selling Rolling Rock. There's probably a discount.

  • 2009.04.14
    Read jack Curtin's blog piece on baseball Philadelphia Phillies longtime announcer Harry Kalas who died suddenly on Monday before the Washington DC Nationals home opener.

  • 2009.04.14
    11 Useful Twitter Tools That Don’t Require Your Password:

  • 2009.04.08
    Wall Street Journal reports that cyberspies penetrated the U.S. electrical grid; Homeland Security had no comment.

  • 2009.04.14
    Beer wars in real life: MolsonCoors files suit in Puerto Rico against a lower excise tax exemption there for small brewers.

  • 2009.04.14
    Why the Mad Fermentationist WON'T be going to the Beer Wars movie. (Read the comments as well.)

  • 2009.04.12
    Want to guarantee that your pint of beer IS actually 16 oz? @Beervana has a new Facebook page for the Honest Pint Project.

  • 2009.04.12
    Jay Brooks of Brookston beer Bulletin to
    assume the late Bill Brand's Bottoms Up blog and Oakland Tribune newspaper column.

  • Camilla the Hun of DC Roller Girls and Jeff Wells of Ale Street News
  • 2009.04.11 - Camilla the Hun of DC Roller Girls stopped by the Rock Bottom Brewpub in Arlington Virginia for the International Cask Ale Toast.
The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Craft Conference Crucial

It's time for the annual Craft Brewers Conference, next week in Boston, Massachusetts.

And I believe it, this year, to hold special, if not crucial, significance.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that imported beer sales in the US plummeted 19% just in the first two months of this year.

Sales volume of imported beer, generally more expensive than domestic brews, is slowing as Americans cut discretionary spending.

Saying that "craft beer is different" or that "we're special" or that "we're recession-proof" is an antipodal Chicken Little response. Imports are more expensive than mainstream beers, as are craft beers. A decrease in sales for imports is a bellwether for all higher-priced beers.

volume and dollar sales may have been up for 'craft beer' in 2008, but the amount of increase was dramatically less than that of recent years.
The beer industry's overall sales in the U.S. were down about 4% in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2008.

Breweries, wholesalers, retailers, pubs: A demonstrable decrease in discretionary spending is something we, as an industry, need to adjust to and to discuss at the conference. We fail to do so at out peril.

I had planned to attend the conference, but circumstances have prevented that.
Fortunately, my friends at Capitol City Brewery ( a DC-area trio of 3 brewpubs) will be attending, and will be Twittering while there.

I'll be following. It's too important not to.

More Twitterers at the CBC.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beer Wars: a movie review

Beer WarsI watched Beer Wars Brewed in America tonight in an under-filled theater in Arlington, Virginia. I would guess there were 120 theater-goers, an enthusiastic 120 (even though a member of the beer press low-balled the figure at 35).

The documentary was shown simultaneously in approximately 440 venues across the U.S., preceded by a live lead-in broadcast from the L.A. screening, and followed by a live broadcast of a panel discussion. It had been heavily marketed via Web 2.0 means: Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

My initial impression was that it is an entertaining film worth viewing (I guess you'll be waiting for the DVD), however ...

Any medium chronicling the craft beer industry is worthwhile, if just for that. In the craft beer world, we seem to shove out the old and embrace the new, almost a monthly purge. There is very little organized history or memory of the men and women who make the beer we love.

As a paean to the craft and business I love —artisinal beer— Beer Wars is a valentine. But as a documentary, the movie is flawed. Director Anat Baron seems to have set out to prove a point, rather than to research a situation.

For example, after the movie there was a live broadcast panel discussion hosted by Ben Stein (and why Ben Stein?). Panelists were Charlie Papazian (of the Brewers Association), Greg Koch (Stone Brewing), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head, featured in the film), Rhonda Kallman (New Century Brewing, featured in the film), historian Maureen Ogle, Todd Alstrom (, and the film's director Anat Baron.

Stein challenged the panelists as to why small brewers were intrinsically different than macro-brewers.

The panelists failed to respond in a convincing manner. The answers —it's fun, we're passionate, we're different— don't really explain million dollar expansions. The protestations about growth seemed a bit disingenuous. The situation reminded me of Ted Kennedy's interview when about to run for President in 1979. He fumbled about, with no cogent answer, when Roger Mudd asked him: "Senator, why do you want to be president?"

The exception on the panel was Maureen Ogle. Her answer: Between macros and micros, there's not much difference in goals, but a big difference in products (and money).

... More to come.

Local Beer Stars

I spotted five Washington/Virginia/Maryland beer folk in the movie.

Dave Alexander, proprietor of the Brickskeller and RFD, is seen at the Great American Beer Festival, as is Devon Arloski, southeast rep for Dogfish Head. There is Betty Buck, owner of the eponymous beer wholesaler in Anne Arundel County. Marc Sorini, lawyer to the craft beer industry (McDermott Will & Emery LLP), talks about the sheer volume of state beer laws. And 'beer activist' Chris O'Brien discusses the unintended monopolistic consequences of the three-tier system.

Before the movie, I drank a beer at the Rock Bottom brewpub with some of the stars of the local beer scene: brewers who, day in and day out, make the beer we enjoy. If their names are unfamiliar, it only reinforces my earlier point.

Cap City at Rock Bottom
L-R: From Capitol City Brewing: Christina McCarthy, Travis Tedrow, John Dykstra, Mike McCarthy, and me (not from Cap City!).

Blogger Alan McLeod scoured the internets to assemble an array of posted opinions and Twittered reviews. Read the comments section of his post.

Cask ale, or what I like to do

When I was the peripatetic representative for the Clipper City Brewing Company —up and down the southern East Coast delivering, conditioning, and talking about cask-conditioned ale was my favorite thing to do. Oh, yes: drinking it too. 

In my new position in northern Virginia, I don't have the frequency of cask-opportunity that I once had. So, I'm happy to have been asked by Lary Hoffman and the folk at Galaxy Hut in Arlington, Virginia, to present a cask, in fact, the first at his pub.

inside out_Galaxy Hut

An anonymous questioner here at the blog once asked: "What is the difference between keg and cask?" I have a website at which, eventually, I'll go to great length to answer this question. Currently, the site is only a bunch of (good) links, including one to all the posts here at Yours For Good

So, for now, the quick and easy answer is a cask is nothing like a keg. Except that they both contain beer. 

 Think of a cask not as a keg, which it might superficially resemble, but as a small 10.8-gallon fermenter. A cask contains beer that is still fermenting, or that at least contains active yeast. Thus, a cask is a fermenter brought to you, rather than you traveling to the brewery. Outside of a brewery, a cask contains beer that is the freshest a beer can be. 

 And what does that —what does fresh beer— taste like? 

 Come visit Galaxy Hut on Tuesday 28 April at 6pm. I'll give a (quick!) primer on cask ale, and then tap the firkin. And, appropriately enough, it will be a cask from Clipper City: Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. Lots of fresh hops. 

[UPDATE: photos from the tapping.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The top 50 US breweries of 2008; craft beer growth

The Brewers Association (BA) —an advocacy group for small breweries in the US— has released its top 50 rankings for year 2008 for US breweries (based upon sales volume) as well as the top 50 'craft breweries', as it defines that category.

Overall, Anheuser-Busch Inbev is number one. Boston Beer, maker of Samuel Adams is the number one craft brewery, and number four overall, finishing just ahead of Yuengling.

The Brewers Association lists the top 10 craft breweries as:

  1. Boston Beer Co.
  2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  3. New Belgium Brewing Co.
  4. Spoetzl Brewery
  5. Pyramid Breweries Inc.
  6. Deschutes Brewery
  7. Matt Brewing Co.
  8. Boulevard Brewing Co.
  9. Full Sail Brewing Co.
  10. Magic Hat Brewing Co.

The 50th largest US brewery on this list is Big Sky Brewing of Missoula, Montana. The 50th largest 'craft brewery' is the Saint Louis Brewery, of St. Louis, Missouri. Maryland's Flying Dog brewery ranks as 41st overall and 30th in the 'craft' category.

Overall Craft Beer Growth for 2008.

Furthermore, the BA has announced that "growth of the craft brewing industry in 2008 was 5.8% by volume and 10.5% by dollars," producing 8.6 million barrels of beer for sales of $6.3 billion. Contrast that with beer's overall growth of 0.5% and with the double-digit growth of craft beer in 2006 and 2007. The report is available at the association's website at

The Brewers Association releases these figures annually in anticipation of its Craft Brewers Conference, which this year will be held in Boston 21 April - 24 April. Actual sales figures and further analysis will be released in May in the association's New Brewer Magazine.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Clamps and Gaskets: Week 14

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly wrap-upClamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories thatI have not posted at Yours For Good, but that, nevertheless, I find interesting or germane.

Most are concerned with beer, or wine, or whisk(e)y. Some are not. But all are brief. And most are re-posts from my Twitter account. References preceded by "@" or "via" or "#" are the names of Twitter account holders or discussion threads.

This is Week 14:
5 April - 11 April 2009

  • 2009.04.11
    1st batch new Tuppers Hop Pocket goes into kettle on Tuesday at St. George Brewery.

  • 2009.04.11
    Dooming the world in 140 characters or less. Twitter jumps the shark at Brewster Rockit comic strip

  • 2009.04.11
    Beer Institute says beer industry contributed nearly $200 billion to U.S. economy.

  • 2009.04.11
    Amusing AND useful "Should I Visit My Local Brewpub?" web app at Draft

  • 2009.04.11
    President Obama will NOT be throwing out 1st pitch at Nat's home opener on Monday 13 April 2009.

  • 2009.04.10
    "Beer According to Women" panel at Craft Brewers Conf. Necessary? [Yes: good for business., and more.]

  • 2009.04.09
    Your Beer Smells Like Goat – Chowhound post re beers made with Brettanomyces yeast.

  • 2009.04.09
    Evan Rail's Beer Culture noted as Blog with Bite by

  • 2009.04.08
    Gruppo Campari acquires Wild Turkey

  • 2009.04.08 was on hold to talk to head of Aramark PR re: beer selection at Oriole Park. Aramark never called back.

  • 2009.04.08
    Wall Street Journal reports that cyberspies penetrated the U.S. electrical grid; Homeland Security had no comment.

  • 2009.04.08
    ABC News says California wine sales up, but at lower price points.

  • 2009.04.08
    The state of ballpark beers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. Particularly read the Comments.

  • 2009.04.08
    At Musings Over A Virginia breweries featured in [new] International Restaurant Magazine.

  • 2009.04.08
    For tonight? Vegan matzo ball soup (Post Punk Kitchen) and Kosher(?) Beer.

  • 2009.04.08
    Dubious anniversary: My one year plus, on Twitter. @Cizauskas joined Twitter on Fri Mar 28 2008.

  • 2009.04.08
    "I just had an exclusive interview with myself. "This is [poppycock]!" Award-winning Mike Walter fired unceremoniously by Washington DC's WUSA TV9.

  • 2009.04.07
    At Brookston Beer Bulletin, an interview with Craig Purser, Pres. of Nat. Beer Wholesalers Assoc: "Beer is NOT recession proof."

  • 2009.04.07
    There will be a full house at SAVOR in DC in May: Brewers Association just declared a sellout!

  • 2009.04.07
    via @FishbowlDC: Washington Post reporter calls out George Will for dissembling on climate change in WaPo columns.

  • 2009.04.07
    Twitter live blogging hashmark #wbw for Wine Blogging Wednesday. The theme for April is fine kosher wine; date is the 15th. is the sponsoring website but it's not always updated. is this month's host.

  • 2009.04.07
    Sweet, sour, salty, bitter. But what are the SIX tastes? From Daniel Bradford of All About Beer:

  • 2009.04.07
    EMI to release digitally remastered Beatles catalogue... on CD. No mp3s ... yet. Tip via @robpegoraro of Washington Post.

  • 2009.04.07
    Recession hits 'medical' wine purchases at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

  • 2009.04.07
    @FullSteam in North Carolina ponders local bread, local cheese, local wine, local pride. But wonders why is there such support for anonymous industrial beers?

  • 2009.04.07
    From the Brewers Association, states ranked by breweries per capita: VT no. 1; VA no. 30; MD no. 32; DC no. 35; last is MS with only 1.

  • 2009.04.07
    From the NY Times: the recession is forcing high-end restaurants to serve less trendy pub fare. The good news is that they have begun to feature beer.

  • 2009.04.06
    Advice For Opening Evening for Baltimore Orioles fans via @BeerInBaltimore: best bars near Camden Yards:

  • 2009.04.06
    Chain restaurants suffering; over-expansion and recession at fault.

  • 2009.04.06
    Carolyn Smagalski reviews a new beer cookbook: The Beer Bistro Cookbook.

  • 2009.04.06
    How to Drink Beer and Save the World: coming(soon?) to a theater near you?
The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Serve better beer and save money!

A draught beer system is a combination of temperature, pressure, distance, height, resistance, and pressure. Foamy beer is caused by an unbalance of one or more of those parameters. And foamy beer is a big waste of money for any bar operator.

To prevent foaming, many bar operators rely on what is commonly called G-mix, a mixture of 75% nitrogen and 25% carbon dioxide gasses. It is called that because it is used to serve draught Guinness Stout.

That blend, however, is inappropriate and injurious to beers that haven't been nitrogentated at the brewery. Translation: serving a beer with the G-mix that wasn't originally gassed with the G-mix at the brewery will result in flat, non-carbonated beer at the tap.

Why? In physics, Henry's Law states that

At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas dissolved in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid.
Or as Garrett Oliver, brewmaster, The Brooklyn Brewery, puts it:
Here is the slightly confusing part (unless you remember your high school physics, which most of us don’t). Only CO2 can hold CO2 in your beer and keep it from going flat.
What to do?

In my brewpubs, I have installed beer pumps. These are impellers that sit in-line. They simply impel the beer forward. They're powered by an air compressor; but the air does not into contact with the beer. This can be an expensive option as each beer line will need its own impeller.

I wrote about another solution in an earlier post: No laughing gas in stout. (That was a reference to nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, which is not used in beer dispense! It's nitrogen that is meant.) Use a gas blend, but reverse the blend: 75% or so CO2 and 25% Nitrogen. Pressure is thus increased, pushing the beer further, but without necessarily over-carbonating the beer.

Here's another useful primer, reprinted with permission from Garrett Oliver, brewmaster for The Brooklyn Brewery: The Truth About G-Mix - Serve better beer and save money!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Last Tango in Ashburn

Brewmaster Favio Garcia fired up the brewkettle at the Old Dominion Brewing Company tonight for its last brew in Ashburn, Va.

The Final Brew

Several past brewers showed up in solidarity. No word as to what the final brew was.

Operations and equipment are being moved to Dover, Delaware, as part of the Coastal Brewing Company.

Walking from Dominion

In Ashburn, Va., the grand old lady has said goodnight. (1989-2009)

Dominion was sold to Coastal Brewing of Dover, Delaware, in March 2007.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Beer, tref for Passover

For the next seven (or eight days), God tells us beer drinkers to abstain. Beer is tref, that is non-Kosher, for Passover.

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened [without yeast] bread unto the LORD; seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread.
Leviticus 23:6
Steven Frank, who writes on matters beer, published an article in the American Brewer Magazine in 2006 about what Kosher beer means, and how certification is obtained. And how, despite approval, beer is not Kosher for Passover.
During Passover, some foods which are acceptable during the year are not permitted for the holiday, including fermented grain products from wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt.
Divine Approval for a Divine Brew
Steven Frank
American Brewer Magazine
7 April 2006
(original version reprinted with permission from the author)
He goes on, however, to reassure us that, depending on the particular brand, many beers can be Kosher during the remainder of the year.
Generally, malted barley barley and fresh or pelletized hops are not a concern, but hop and malt extracts, by nature of the extracting process, and any enzymes, colorings, flavorings, and filters have to be specially examined.

More than 50 kosher-certifying organizations exist in the US. One is the Chicago Rabbinical Council. Its website has a list of Kosher and Kosher-approved beers.

Wine, by the way (if strictures are followed), is Kosher for Passover.
Divine Brew
Here's a recipe for vegan Matzoh Ball Soup: no eggs or chicken stock.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Pratt Street Cask Update

Steve Jones, brewer for the newly reconditioned Pratt Street Ale House (née Wharf Rat Brewpub in 1989), knows that we're cask ale fanatics here at

So, he wrote today to ameliorate any concerns we might have about cask ale at the brewpub (and that's appropriate news for Cask Ale Week):

Just wanted to let you know that our 3 beautiful new beer engines have finally been installed at the Pratt St. Alehouse. At the moment, we have casks of ESB, Three Lions Strong Brown Ale and Strongman Pale Ale on.

When either the Three Lions or Strongman kick, they will be replaced by the Best Bitter giving a permanent line up of ESB, Best, and a rotating Brewer's Choice.

Upcoming for the Brewer's Choice are Porter, Vanilla Porter, Oak-Aged Three Lions, and, of course, Dark Mild. (Mild May Month is just around the corner!)

I have also just taken delivery of some kilderkins to use for the ever popular ESB and Best.

We have a dedicated cask cooler now, so I'm confident that we will continue to be one of the premiere locations for cask beer on the East Coast. We will be upgrading with some self-tilting stillage equipment soon and it is my greatest hope that sales will justify the addition of two more beer engines later in the year (we already have the lines in place).

Exciting stuff. I think it calls for another I-95 boogie.

Restaurants: waste, costs, and woes

Illustrating waste, costs, and woes of restaurants in the current recession, especially as it concerns beer ....

From the London Free Press, 6 April 2009: School of Labatt suds (as linked to by A Good Beer Blog):

"The biggest goal, from my customers' standpoint, is to reduce wastage and preserve profit," says Steve MacGillivary [territory manager for Labatt in London]. <...>

"In a typical bar, five to 10 pitchers of beer are spilled during each (bar server's) shift because of poor pouring practice. <...> He explains that pressure within the draft-beer line and the new keg have to be properly balanced "or beer spews out," not only making a mess, but subtracting from profit. "Between $50 and $100 a shift can be going down the drain," he says.

At how many bars have you seen bartenders pour beer after beer through foam, sending beer literally down the drain? I'd wager the loss is greater than $100 per shift on a busy night.

Training of staff on how a draft system works and 'balancing' that system properly will quickly pay for itself. A restaurant or bar that does not would serve itself better by ripping out that system and switching to bottles only.

Reducing losses would be important at any time, but crucial in a recessionary environment. From the Wall Street Journal Online, 3 April 2009 : Bar Wars as linked to by Brookston Beer Bulletin):
Technomic, a Chicago restaurant consultant, predicts that this year fine dining sales will plunge at least 12%, after falling 4% last year.

Meanwhile, analysts are predicting a less painful contraction in alcohol sales: Technomic predicts a 1.6% decline in sales of alcohol consumed where it is sold.

And why? This breakdown of costs vs. prices in a restaurant, fairly accurate, might explain:
Selling alcohol, and cocktails in particular, is typically a better business than selling restaurant food because the margins are higher. While ingredient costs may account for as much as 35% of the price of an entrée in a high-end restaurant, they typically only account for about 14% of the price of a cocktail or 25% of the price of a glass of wine. [Beer has even a lower cost, the exact percentage depending on draft (more) vs. bottles, craft/import vs. mainstream.]

Bar snacks, which often include inexpensive items like pizzas, can also have better margins than fine-dining dishes.

From the New York Times, 3 April 2009: Empty Tables Threaten Some Restaurant Chains
Since 1990, the number of restaurants and bars has grown to 537,000 from 361,000, a 49 percent increase, according to the National Restaurant Association. Population in the United States grew 23 percent in that period. <...>

Now consumers are cutting back, and dining out is among the casualties. Finer restaurant chains have been hit hard, and so have the casual sit-down places that flooded suburban shopping center <...>

After 16 years of sales growth, inflation-adjusted sales declined 1.2 percent last year, an already tough year for restaurateurs as ingredient costs hit record highs. Sales are expected to decrease another 1 percent in 2009, according to the National Restaurant Association. <...>

Many of the companies going out of business are small enterprises with one to three locations; they are struggling because of slower sales and limited access to credit <...> But larger chains have struggled too, particularly those with a more expensive menu than competitors, or onerous levels of debt.

So, to recapitulate:
  1. Know how to serve your beer.
  2. Know how much your beer costs; price it accordingly.
  3. Serve good beer.

Monday, April 06, 2009

What's it all about?

Beer ...

Sometimes, it's not about the yeast strain, or the barley type, or the hop varietal.

Sometimes, it's not about the IBUs, or the OGs, or the SRMs, or the ABVs.

Sometimes, it's not about the latest and the greatest ... but simply about a beautiful beer on a beautiful day.

beers on deck

And so it was on on a recent drop-dead gorgeous April Saturday afternoon, on the outside deck of Legend Brewing Company in Richmond, Va., overlooking the James River.

Two beer drinkers and their dopplebock and 'Belgian-style' Pale Ale ... and a deck full of fellow customers.

That's ... that's what it's all about.

Cue Burt Bacharach.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Clamps and Gaskets: week 13

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly wrap-upClamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of many stories and other observations which I have not posted at Yours For Good, but that, nevertheless, I find interesting or germane.

Most are concerned with beer, or wine, or whisk(e)y. Some are not. But all are brief. And most are re-posts from my Twitter account. References preceded by "@" or "via" or "#" are the names of Twitter account holders or discussion threads.

This is Week 13:
28 March - 4 April 2009

  • 2009.04.03
    DC Sports Blog has list of beers available at Nationals Stadium's Red Porch this year.

  • 2009.04.03
    May is Mild Ale Month. And Saturday 9 May is Mild Ale Day. Plan now!

  • 2009.04.03
    DC area DROPS in ranks to 5th most congested traffic in the nation.

  • 2009.04.02
    Anorak alert: The true history of Fuggles hops ... .and why I love them (read the penultimate paragraph).

  • 2009.04.02
    Jesse taps the Snake... a firkin of Snake Dog IPA from Flying Dog, at Fireworks Pizza in Leesburg, Va.

  • 2009.04.02
    Interesting observation at Baltimore Sun that recession is DECREASING the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

  • 2009.04.02
    Received an email ad from a wineshop that was awarded 'Best Beer and Wine Selection'. But it contained only wine ads; beers were NOT even mentioned. Funny but sad.

  • 2009.04.02
    Amstel Pulse running weird guerrilla marketing campaign on YouTube.

  • 2009.04.01
    Flying Dog's April 1 low-alcohol beer line announcement. Too funny.

  • 2009.04.01
    ABC's Jake Tapper fooled by April Fools(Bush torture lawyer John Yoo NOT arrested for war crimes.)via @FishbowlDC.

  • 2009.04.01
    C.R.A.B.B. member @VADavid has his blog Musings Over A Pint selected as "Beer Blog of the Week" by

  • 2009.04.01
    Geek alert: Add a button to your blog posts that Tweets short link to Twitter.

  • 2009.03.31
    Reading: "Shooting Creek Brewery Blog and News":

  • 2009.03.31
    A question via @Tatuaje1: Is Metropolitan [in Federal Hill, Baltimore, MD still doing firkins? Answer: yes!

  • 2009.03.31
    Muggsy's in Baltimore, MD is in the old Sean Bolan's. The first Friday of every month, Muggsy's taps a firkin. This Friday: Troegs Hopback

  • 2009.03.31
    Wonder why Otter Creek has both a new BIG Imperial IPA and a Russian Imperial Stout? Mike Gerhardt, longtime at Dogfish, is now with Otter/Wolavers.

  • 2009.03.31
    Analysis of GABF medals state-by-state 1987-2007. VA=48, MD=33, DC=2, CA #1.

  • 2009.03.31
    The likes the Maryland-area beer locater tools found at the blog BaltimoreBeerGuy.

  • 2009.03.31
    France bans blending red and white wines to make rosé; European Commission approves practice.

  • 2009.03.31
    Heineken, brewer of Beamish Stout, removes the stout from international distribution. Story tip via@thebeernut.

  • 2009.03.30
    Chlorine to be added to water in D.C., Arlington, Falls Church, parts of Fairfax County April 6 through May 4.

  • 2009.03.30
    It's handlebar mustache week at Capitol City Brewing Company brewpubs in Wash DC area.

  • 2009.03.30
    Millon Dollar Baby: Blogger Smirking Chimp cries crocodile tears for AIG quitter.

  • 2009.03.30
    Via @VADavid this story of "tattletexting" of drunks and miscreants at sporting events.

  • 2009.03.30
    Anorak alert! A fascinating look at decoction mashing practiced by German breweries of the 1930s.

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Session No. 25: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em!

Today being the first Friday of the month, it's time for The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

And for once, I'm on time.

The Session no. 25: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em!

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was begun by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.

This month's topic was hosted by beer journalist Lew Bryson at his blog Seen through a Glass: The Session No. 25: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em!
I'd like to invite everyone to join me out back of the barn, where we're going light up some smoked beers.

There may be more smoked beers than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio [what's CSI got to do with it? Oh ... Shakespeare.]; it's not just rauchbier lagers from Franconia. Within the last year, I've had a strange smoked wheat beer, light and tart, that local brewers insisted was a re-creation of a Polish grodziski beer; a lichtenhainer, another light smoked wheat beer; several smoked porters; the odd Schlenkerla unsmoked helles that tastes pretty damned smokey; and, yeah, several types of smoked lagers. You've got three weeks, is what I'm saying: go find a smoked beer.

Because I'm not going to tell you that you have to like them, how you have to drink them, or whether you can have an expensive one or where it has to be from. But I do insist that if you blog on this Session, that you drink a smoked beer that day.

Smoked lager beers are known as rauchbiers in Germany, as well as by lager emulators elsewhere. They are brewed with malted barley that has been cured with smoke. Of course, ales can be (and are) smoked beers as well.

I don't remember my first smoked beer, except that I definitely did not care for it.

I do remember my second: same result.

Third smoked beer? That, I liked.

I and a friend were talking with beer writer Jim Dorsch at the Brickskeller in Washington, DC, some point in the early 1990s. Have an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, Jim said (pronouncing the name of that beer is a feat in and of itself.)

Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier

We demurred.

He asked again.

We relented.

Our first sips confirmed our worst fears: weird ashtray and cured bacon aromas. Similar tastes. But then we noticed a pleasant sweet malt character that softened the effect. And, by the second glass, we were willing to say that maybe it wasn't bad. By the third glass, it had become ... good.

Maybe a year later, I tasted a fresh, vibrant, and husky Rauchbock from Degroen's, a now-closed lager brewpub in Baltimore, Maryland. And I was hooked.

But I'm reminiscing.

This year I celebrated the New Year with a 7.8% alcohol by volume (abv) smoked dark lager.

Matt Brophy, vice president in charge of operations for Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Maryland, brought a fresh sample of his brewery's Dog Schwarz straight out of the fermenter to a night-after-New Year's party. It combined the flavors of a strong dark lager (which, not strong, would be called a schwarzbier) with a restrained smokey character; it was dangerously drinkable.

And only recently, I celebrated the the vernal equinox with a Bavarian smoked beer: Fastenbier from brewery Heller and Trum. (Read more here.)

The brewery produces Fastenbier only for the Christian Lenten period. I found it a sweeter, draft version of the brewery's Aecht Schenkerla, yet still redolent of bacon (!), a characteristic of smoked-malt beers. Were I observing, it would have softened the Lenten fast.

UPDATE 2009.03.03:
Lew Bryson —our host for this month's The SessionBeer: Blogging Friday— stipulated that blogging participants actually taste their beer on Beer Blogging Friday. A demanding fellow.

So... here. I've returned for a second round of Fastenbier. And for Mr. Bryson, I've obtained proof of purchase.

Fastenbier was here

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Jack McAuliffe, first US craft brewer, in auto accident

Before us, there was him.

Before 1977, the US had no brewpubs or microbreweries. Jack McAuliffe changed that. In 1977, he began brewing at his New Albion Brewery in Sonoma, California.

There were no small brewery fabricators in the US. So McAuliffe built the brewery from cast-off and re-purposed equipment. The brewery ceased operations in 1982.

Beer historian Maureen Ogle reported yesterday that

Jack McAuliffe, pioneer microbrewer, was in a serious car accident. He’s in intensive care, on a ventilator, in a Las Vegas hospital.
Ms. Ogle has since reported that Mr. McAuliffe is out of the hospital and on the mend. We all hope for his full recovery.

In 2007, the Brewers Association honored McAuliffe with its Recognition Award.

2009.04.04 From Maureen a tiny update on Jack McAuliffe — And A Peek Into His World

2010.01 Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2010, releasing special beers brewed in collaboration with pioneers of the craft beer industry. One is a barleywine designed by Jack McAuliffe.

HopBack wins at Washington Post

Congratulations to Troegs Brewing of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Its HopBack Amber Ale has won this year's Washington Post March Beer Madness.

Nugget Nectar

Troeg's rep Pete Shovwalter pours HopBack's bigger brother --Nugget Nectar--
fresh from a cask at a recent festival.

Thirty-two beers, sourced from across the US, were winnowed down in a bracket-style blind-judging competition. Although the beers were sourced from across the US, the Final Four consisted only of beers from the East Coast: Troegs, Baltimore's Raven Special Lager, and New York's Ommegang Hennepin and Brooklyn Brown.

Freshness counts?
  • The Washington Post story here.
  • An earlier post on the competition here.
  • Caveat: I work for a northern Virginia wholesaler that distributes beers from Raven and Brooklyn Brewing.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


The organizers of the UK's National Cask Ale Week (6-13 April) are attempting to break the world record for a simultaneous toast, which, according to their website, stands now at 485,000 people. Over 6,000 venues across the UK will participate at 7pm on Saturday 11 April 2009.

The simultaneous toast will celebrate Britain’s national drink – cask ale – and wrap up a week-long festival that is National Cask Ale Week. (NB: participants don’t have to raise a glass of cask beer but can use any drink, although cask is preferable)

At present, I know of two 'real ale' pubs located in the US that will be participating, both in New York City. From the Facebook announcement (sent to me by cask ale maven Alex Hall):
The 1st Cask Ale Festival at The Gate will happen Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th April 2009.
Location: The Gate, 321 5th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Be part of the world's biggest toast (to cask ale) - Saturday 11 April, 2pm, at The Gate. The toast is also happening at Rattle 'n' Hum, 33rd Street, Manhattan (between 5th and Madison Avenues).

If you know of other US 'real ale' venues that will be participating, please comment below or drop me a line. I'll update the list here. And contact the organizers so that your toasts will be counted toward the total. To coordinate with our friends in the United Kingdom, the toast in the US should be held at 2pm on the East Coast, 11am on the West Coast, and other time zones accordingly.

[UPDATE: A world's record was not achieved. From organizer Lucy Kemp via email:
Unfortunately we didn’t break the world record this year. We made a good start and will hopefully revisit this again next year.]

1) I was at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in Arlington, Va. as 10 real ale fans joined brewer Chris Rafferty as he tapped a cask for the Toast. Photos here.

2) The Society for the Preservation of Beer From the Wood (SPBW) was to participate at Johansson's in Westminster, Md. (See the comments below.)

3) The Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society (FABTS) participated in the toast —not with a cask ale, but with a premium bitter— at  at Kybecca Wine and Beer Store in Fredericksburg, Va.  Story here.