Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bloggers blog 'bout beer (Washington DC area)

The phrase, 'boutique brewery', fortunately never caught on with the beer drinking public. It was one of the few misfires of beer writer Michael Jackson.

Unfortunately, 'blog' —a truly ugly neologism— has become standard parlance for a 'web log', that is, a journal published on-line. Such as this one.

If you were to blog, about beer, in October, what might you call that? Here, from Orr Shtuhl of the Washington City Paper on-line:

The Blogtoberfest happy hour (which admittedly sounds way more fun than “planning meeting”). Throughout the month of October we’re getting local bloggers, foodie and non-, to share their beer stories on their own blogs. Cross-linking and conversation will ensue. Meet at 6:30 p.m. [Wednesday, 30 September 2009] at Axis Bar and Grill [in Washington, D.C.].

Across the Potomac River, at the same time tonight,, northern Virginia Twitter-ers will be Tweeting-up (aargh, these Twitpuns) at the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Chantilly, Virginia.
NoVA Tweetup at Dogfish in Farifax, VA Sept 30 6PM, because DC's a pain in the rear.

Well, I don't know if DC has a monopoly on that affliction. Traffic along the Rt. 50/I-66/Rt. 28 corridor can be quite the slow-moving ache in the arse.

Here's a (very) short list of other blogger associations in the Washington D.C. area.
  • C.R.A.B.B. is a loose confederation of beer bloggers in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. I'm a member. We've never had an actual meeting, but we share a common agenda. We blog about beer issues in general and those of particular interest to readers in the tri-state area. The acronym stands for Chesapeake Region Alliance of Beer Bloggers. Read more here.

  • The Washington, DC Area Meetup
    The Washington DC Blogger Meetup is a eclectic group of group of bloggers and micro-bloggers. We meet on the third Wednesday of every month in Adams Morgan for a casual social gathering.

    Join us as we write about current trends in the DC blogosphere and explore venues inside the beltway. Our “communal blogging events” or CBEs are first-person experiences of events, such as street festivals or museum exhibits, that happen in and around our city.

  • DC Blogs is an aggregator of blogs in the Washington, D.C. area.
    The main page is a news site. It reports on topics raised by bloggers, changes in the DC blogging community, as well as bring new blogs to the attention of readers. We're always on the hunt for interesting content and suggestions are encouraged

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

There's a BB/C in WDC

Well, well, well.

Things look as if they are finally coming together for Birch & Barley/Churchkey. Originally slated to open in April of 2008, but delayed by various building and legal snafus, this Washington D.C. beer bar and restaurant may soon be more than a promise.

Birch & Barley/Churchkey
Three web presences popped up today: a site for the restaurant Birch & Barley, a site for the accompanying same-building beer bar Churchkey, and a blog written by Greg Engert, beer director for Rustico in Alexandria, Virginia and soon for BB/C.

Those join BB/C's already up and running Twitter feed.

Here's a little bit of what Engert wrote in his first blog entry:

555 unique labels culled from over 30 countries, including 50 draught beers and 5 authentic cask conditioned ales in fluid rotation. We’ll also provide a multitude of exceptionally rare, often exclusive, beers on draught, cask, and among our 500 hand-selected bottles. A Cellar Stash list of obscure and vintage bottled beer
Three distinct temperatures zones will insure that the various styles of draft, cask and bottled brews attain their highest flavor expressions

Let's repeat that: 500 different bottled beers, 5(!) cask ale lines, a reserve bottle list, and 3 different serving temperatures for lighter vs. heavier vs cask beers.

Engert doesn't mention much about a menu but here's Chef Kyle Bailey talking about beer and food:
Throughout school and up until this point in my career, the focus has solely been on pairing food with wine, and while I love wine, I’ll let you in on a little industry secret – chefs drink beer.

Look for an October opening at 1337 14th Street, NW, in Washington, D.C.
  • When open, BB/C will be the 9th location of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG).
  • There's more at Washington City Paper and Beer in DC.
  • Earlier stories from YFGF here and here.
  • Caveat lector: I might refer to BB/C's marketing as web-savvy, but because Rustico is a client of mine, I'll leave that determination up to my readers. I sell beer and wine as a representative for Select Wines, a wholesaler in northern Virginia.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 38

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 38:
20 September - 26 September 2009

  • 2009.09.26
    "Denver is the Napa Valley of beer," said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper in his welcoming remarks at the Great American Beer Festival.

  • 2009.09.25
    Room for beer education. From a blog review: "Fruity like Czech lager." NO! Ales are fruity. Lagers have "no fruity esters." From the Beer Judge Certification Program:

  • 2009.09.25
    Northern Virginia Tweetup (meeting of Twitter users): Dogfish Head Alehouse in Chantilly, Virginia on September 30 at 6PM: Use the hashmark #NoVaTwtUp on Twitter.

  • 2009.09.25
    FollowFriday on Twitter: Two brewers at the Great American Beer Festival. From the East Coast: Bill Madden @MadFoxBrewing. From the West Coast: Greg Koch @StoneGreg of Stone Brewing.

  • 2009.09.24
    Cool, rainy spring produces lower yields but more "intense" whites for Virginia wineries. Roanoke Times:

  • 2009.09.24
    Via Maureen Ogle: Was the 'craft beer revolution' actually 'revolutionary'?

  • 2009.09.24
    Austria is marketing its wine as a good pairing with the flavors of Asian cuisines. From Chicago Tribune:

  • 2009.09.24
    It's NOT only malt: why brewers in the US can get British beer recipes very wrong. Reasons for invert sugar in brewing:

  • 2009.09.24
    Four criteria for determining a good beer town: breweries, pubs, shops, distributors.

  • 2009.09.24
    Happy Anniversary Guinness! 250 years of monopolistic business practices and beer monoculture.

  • 2009.09.24
    Water on the Moon? Maybe. Observations by 3 spacecraft suggest water widely distributed over thin layer of lunar surface.

  • 2009.09.23
    French government disavows its own earlier study promoting abstinence. Now, it says "moderate" drinking may have "positive aspects".

  • Clipper & Cabot @Carnegie

  • 2009.09.23
    "Avoid red wine with cheese." Wine writer pairs cheese with wine AND with beer.

  • 2009.09.23
    70 years later Toto and Dorothy are still "not in Kansas anymore." The film 'The Wizard of Oz' is re-released, remastered:

  • 2009.09.23
    Baltimore Sun columnist Rob Kasper and a tasting panel choose the best of 35 Pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers:

  • 2009.09.22
    Congratulations to yet another new Virginia brewery: Wolf Hills in Abingdon, Virginia:

  • 2009.09.22
    Global brewers are in business to “make money, not just sell boxes.” Their stock shares up in 2009 despite 2% fewer sales.

  • 2009.09.22
    Snobbery ruins delight. A wine writer says that the study of beer needs a "much smaller level of knowledge and skill" than that of wine.

  • 2009.09.21
    Beer style inflation. The 1987 GABF competition included only 12 categories. There are 78 categories at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.

  • 2009.09.20
    From the Going Out Gurus of the Washington Post: even more best bets for Washington, D.C.-area Oktoberfest celebrations:

  • 2009.09.20
    Wharton study questions the Long Tail hypothesis, as seen in Netflix data.

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

15 + 1 for MD & VA at GABF

Yesterday afternoon, I was furiously re-Tweeting DC/MD/VA results from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), as they were being announced. The live Twitter feed provided by the GABF failed part-way into the roll call, so I relied instead on who somehow managed to keep up, typing in names and awards, as they were announced, without advance notice.

Cizauskas Tweets MD/VA GABF2009

So, how did the region fare? Out of 78 categories: 15 medals and one major award.

David Turley, my Virginia compatriot in C.R.A.B.B. (the Chesapeake Region Alliance of Beer Bloggers) has tabulated the results. Here, from his website —Musings Over a Pint:


Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Md. and its head brewer Robert Malone, were recognized for a stellar performance, receiving the award for Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year. Putting it another way: of all the breweries in the United states, producing between 15,000 and 2,000,000 barrels of beer per year, Flying Dog has been recognized as the most proficient ... until next year, that is. The brewery's Dogtoberfest —its Märzen lager— won gold for the second year in a row.

Clipper City Brewing of Baltimore, Md has now had its MärzHon win a medal for four consecutive years in the Vienna lager category: one gold, one silver, two bronze. Congratulations to head brewer Ernesto Igot and staff.

Clipper City Brewers GABF 2009
Clipper City Brewers Chris Farley (l) and Chris Mallon (r) flank Charlie Papazian (c) of the Brewers Association.
Photo courtesy of

Just late last year, Jason Oliver commenced brewing operations at new Devils Backbone Brewpub in Wintergreen, Va. Now, only a few months later, he has received four medals. That's a remarkable achievement for a new brewery. It's a testament to his brewing skills, as much as to the categories themselves, all lagers, more difficult, generally speaking, to brew well than ales. His showing pushed the state of Virginia's medal count to eight, compared to only one in 2008 and two in 2007. (analysis by Maryland received 7 medals.

Congratulations as well to Chris Rafferty —brewer at Rock Bottom in Ballston, Va., to Tom Flores and Maggie Lenz —brewers at Brewer's Alley in Frederick, Md., to Mark Thompson and his crew at Starr Hill in Crozet, Va., and to DOG Brewing of Westminster, Md.
  • A list of all the winners here.
  • A description of all 78beer style categories here. (pdf file)
  • My apology is offered to Flying Dog's brewmaster Robert Malone. I bolloxed his name in my Twitter feed.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for northern Virginia wholesaler Select Wines, I sell the beers of Clipper City and Flying Dog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: Aargh!

Pirate lass

Aargh! Missed it by 7 days. September 19th was International Speak Like a Pirate Day.
International Talk Like a Pirate Day (ITLAPD) is a parodic holiday created in 1995 by John Baur (Ol' Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap'n Slappy), of Albany, Oregon,[1] U.S., who proclaimed September 19 each year as the day when everyone in the world should talk like a pirate.[1] For example, an observer of this holiday would greet friends not with "Hello," but with "Ahoy, me hearty!" The holiday, and its observance, springs from a romanticized view of the Golden Age of Piracy. <...>

Actor Robert Newton, who portrayed Long John Silver in the 1950 Disney film Treasure Island and then in the 1954 film Long John Silver, is described as the "patron saint" of Talk Like A Pirate Day. Newton was a native of Dorset, and it was his native West Country dialect, which he used in his portrayal of Long John Silver and Blackbeard, that has become the standard "pirate accent".

More from Talk Like a Pirate

The pirate lass above was stylin' with a Heavy Seas (Clipper City Brewing) eyepatch at the August 2008 Brew at the Zoo at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

The annual outdoor festival is a charity fundraiser, organized by the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), featuring the beers of over 20 breweries and food from as many restaurants.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Take me out to the brewpub ... at a Virginia ballpark?

The Lerners couldn't (wouldn't?) get it done at Nationals Ballpark in Washington, D.C., but officials and developers in Loudoun County —a suburb of Washington D.C., in northern Virginia— may.

Organizers of a new Loudoun County ballpark in suburban D.C. are looking at quirky features [emphasis mine] for their new ballpark in the proposed Kincora development. That could include any number of features already found in Peter Kirk ballparks in suburban Maryland, like water-based bumper cars and a climbing wall. It could also include a microbrewery, which organizers say would be the first in a minor-league ballpark. (Coors Field, of course, has its own microbrewery on the MLB level.) <...>

The Kimcora Village development, to be built at Routes 28 and 7 in suburban Washington, D.C., will be a mixed-use development anchored by the new 5,700-seat ballpark, slated to open for the 2011 season.

On tap for new Loudoun ballpark: microbrewery

I wouldn't call a brewpub in a ballpark a 'quirky feature'. More like: it's about time.

Traffic is already atrocious in that area, roads and flow patterns insufficient to handle the volume. With all the additional traffic that this development will engender, one might appreciate a good beer.

GABF and gemutlichkeit

As strange as it may sound, there are many who are not aware that yesterday, today, and tomorrow, it's time for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

Held every year in Denver Colorado, the GABF is the premier 'craft' beer event in the United States. This year at the festival, approximately 49,000 attendees will consume over 2,000 different beers, provided by 450 participating breweries.

Great American Beer Festival 2009
Those attendees will stand in long lines, they'll wait for small one-ounce pours, and —spoken from personal experience— they'll have a great time.

They'll taste beers that they may never again have the opportunity to taste. They'll talk with the brewers who make those beers. They'll network (if they're in the beer business). They'll join in the fun at associated events and symposia. And they'll be awash in buzzed gemutlichkeit.

Simultaneously, there's a blind judging of American beers in multiple style categories. Gold, silver, and bronze will be awarded in each. Many consumers and breweries consider an award here as recognition of a high level of achievement.

It's not all 'beer and skittles', however.

I've gone on rants before about the silly excess of supposed beer 'styles'. And as Andy Crouch put it at his Beer Scribe blog:

The Brewers Association’s cornerstone event well-serves the general public and generates a huge amount of revenue for the association itself, all while small craft brewers don’t get paid for their time or beer (still an issue for another article entirely).

For a few days, however, we'll concentrate on the good, and celebrate the diversity and health of the American 'craft' brewery business and culture. If you're not in Denver and you'd like to follow along e-vicariously, read real-time posts at Twitter, or view photos at Flickr.

Better yet, today, show your support for a brewery in your community. Buy a locally-brewed beer.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

VeggieDag Thursday: Vegan MoFo

VeggieDag has been on a summer sabbatical. The first Thursday of autumn might be a good time for a return.

So, here. October will be the third annual Vegan MoFo, that is, the Vegan Month of Food.

Vegan Mofo 2009

This year, the master list of participants is being hosted by Kittee, Cake Maker To The Stars. Here's her post:
For the entire month of October, blogs from all over the free world and Alaska will be writing about vegan food and the awesome power of veganism. Vegan MoFo started in 2007, when Isa Chandra Moskowitz thought it'd be a good idea to give NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] some stiff vegan food related competition. Since I still haven't managed to read all the MoFo posts from last year, I suggest you buckle up. For seriously, this year's MoFo's shaping up to be more gigantic than last, and the single most common denominator amongst serious vegans is an unending-giant-love for pontificating about vegan chow. You know it's gonna be wordy.

Go to Kittee's blog to list your blog. Go to the Vegan Mofo Flickr group to post your photos.

By the way, beer is a fine vegan foodstuff (and, yes, wine too).


Every day at Yours For Good is meatless. On an occasional Thursday, I'll blog about that —as inspired by Veggiedag in Ghent, Belgium.
Keeping with the 'good fermentables' aspect, I'll often inveigle beer or wine (or spirits) into the posts.
Tom Balthazar [mayor of Ghent, Belgium] has officially declared Thursday meatless in his city of nearly a quarter million people. In an effort to make the connection between meat consumption and greenhouse gases (18 percent of which come from livestock production), Balthazar has asked his fellow civil servants to abstain from meat every Thursday.
Kim O'Donnel
Mighty Appetite

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy September Equinox!

The September equinox brings the first day of fall for residents of the Northern Hemisphere. The official start of fall occurs at 5:18 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, September 22. The astronomical start of fall means that Earth is no longer tilting the northern half of the globe toward the sun. Instead, the sun is directly over the equator. It has moved from a more northerly location in the sky and will be heading south for the winter.

The equinox is often referred to as a time when the day and night is equal. This is not precisely the case. Day and night are quite close to being equal, more so than in summer or winter, but it would be more accurate to look at it as if the length of time for night in both hemispheres is equal.

The Night Sky for September 2009

© Kelly Whitt
22 September 2009
A fistful of beers

Keeping this celestial occasion beer-real, here's Bret Stetka from MSN City Guides:
Existing somewhere between the light, refreshing offerings of summer and the richness and heavy spice of winter brews, fall beers provide the perfect seasonal transition. Malts take center stage. Hues get darker, matching the season's withering foliage. And overall flavors get heartier, preparing to hold their own against fall's thick stews, slabs of turkey and decadent wedges of pumpkin pie. Plus they offer a more flavorful alternative to throwing back cans of Budweiser and Coors on football Sundays (not that there's anything wrong with that).

10 Great Fall Beers
Bret Stetka

I might disagree with that final parenthetical clause, but, overall, it's a wonderful synopsis of why craft beer season begins now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 37

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 37:
13 September - 19 September 2009

  • 2009.09.19
    A gorgeous day in Baltimore, Maryland. Walking the 3k from Federal Hill to Fells Point for Maxs German Beer Fest.

  • 2009.09.19
    Do no evil. US Justice Dept asks court to reject Google's book settlement re: antitrust, copyright.

  • Ready for another?

  • 2009.09.19
    "O'zapft is!" Happy Oktoberfest to all!

  • 2009.09.18
    Beer blogger Lew Bryson to test 3-oz fluid TSA limit at airport with 90-proof Bourbon. And blog about it. Go here: Read comments.

  • 2009.09.18
    Photos and story from the new White House farmers market. From Washington City Paper:

  • 2009.09.18
    Room for beer education. Overheard at a bar: I don't like THIS Oktoberfest. It's not hoppy enough for me.

  • 2009.09.18
    Mad Fox Brewing has signed a 15-year lease for its brewpub set to open in Falls Church, Virginia, in 2010.

  • 2009.09.18
    FollowFriday today is @Brunehaut_Beer: Using Twitter to link to noteworthy beer stories.

  • 2009.09.17
    Today in history 1787. The U.S. Constitution signed:

  • 2009.09.16
    Baltimore MD's City Paper best of includes @MahaffeysPub, @BrewersArt, @ClipperCityBeer, Beer in Baltimore, more:

  • 2009.09.16
    In an article called "Beer Goes Upscale", the Sarasota Herald Tribune quotes me WITHOUT ever having interviewed me. The writer uses a Washington Post article without attribution.

  • 2009.09.16
    A Twitter welcome to Rustico in Alexandria, Virginia at @RusticoVA and its soon-to-open sibling Birch & Barley /Churchkey in Washington, D.C., at @Birch & Barley.

  • Withered hops

  • 2009.09.16
    Czech Hydrometeorological Institute says rising annual average temperatures are decreasing central European hop yields.

  • 2009.09.15
    $350 beer dinner. That's right $350 per person for 7 beers and 6 courses. Brooklyn Brewing at Per Se Restaurant in New York City, New York.

  • 2009.09.15
    Facebook Crosses 300 Million Users. Oh Yeah, And They Just Went Cash Flow Positive.

  • 2009.09.15
    Aardvark: A new Web 2.0 question search service uses real people at Facebook for answers. Review from New York Times:

  • 2009.09.15
    Michelob's Rye (India) Pale Ale has been released. It's 5.9% abv and 50 IBU. So, what's it's target market?

  • 2009.09.15
    Beer imports are down 9.3% in the US for 2009. That's 160,000 fewer cases per DAY.

  • 2009.09.13
    Text messaging costs phone companies $0.03 per. That's NOT what they charge consumers.

  • 2009.09.13
    British Prime Minister offers posthumous apology to WWII code-breaker Alan Turing.
The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: Taking one on the chin for beer

Legends, Ltd. Trade Show 007

That's Lanny Hoff of Artisinal Imports on the left. Appearance to the contrary, Lanny's one of the more genial and knowledgeable folk in the small-brewery import business. Here, he's deep in conversation with Casey Hard, the beer manager and cellarman for Maxs Taphouse of Baltimore, Maryland.

The location was the Baltimore warehouse of Legends, Ltd., a beer importer and a beer wholesaler in Maryland and Washington, D.C. The occasion was the company's 4th annual Fall Trade Show, and its first since being acquired by the L. Knife & Sons Companies. The idea of such trade shows is to bring as many suppliers with as many of their products into one location at one time. That gives the managers of restaurants, bars, and shops a comprehensive opportunity to sample or see many of the beers and to learn more directly from the suppliers themselves.

It's not generally open to the public. I was there courtesy of Legends' original owners and founders Patrick and Sherri Casey (who is in the above photo).

A few of the standouts for me were:
  • Williams Brothers Anniversary Fraoch
    11% abv heather ale, aged in cherry-wood scotch whisky barrels. (They're not allowed to say which whisky, but onecan guess fairly easily.) It takes the delicate Fraoch into an entirely new dimension.
    [imported by Legends, Ltd.]

  • The Bruery Black Orchard
    almost like a stout with a Belgian-yeast character (aniseed)

  • St. Feullien Saison
    Yeasty (I got the bottom of the bottle) but still refreshing with a nice cloviness.
    [imported by Artisinal Imports]

  • Viking Blod Mead
    19% alcohol by volume, from Danish Dansk Mjod
    Fermented with hops and hibiscus. Very alcoholic, with a strong hint of honey and herbs. But because it wasn't sweet, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Only took one sample though.
    [imported by B United]

  • De Dochter Van de Korenaa Embrasse
    9% alcohol by volume. Full dark rum flavor with requisite Belgian yeast spice, apple, anise)
    [imported by 12% Imports]
As importer Brian Ewing was telling me about this fine beer, I sensed the onset of a bit of carbonated indigestion. I covered my mouth, politely turned ... and let loose an unfortunate belch toward two young ladies I hadn't noticed standing behind me.

Abashed would be putting it mildly. I apologized, several times.

Looking at their name-tags, I saw that the two were Amy and Holly of The Black Squirrel, a good beer pub in Washington, D.C. It's a pub I haven't visited yet, but which I follow on Twitter (@ThBlackSquirrel).

Laughing, the gracious duo invited me to visit the pub ... and to get burpy with it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

If not in Munich, then Baltimore

As I type, it may be six in the morning here in the USA, but it's noon in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.

There, Christian Ude —the city's Lord Mayor— is fulfilling one of his most important civic functions. Inside the Schottenhamel tent, he's tapping the ceremonial first keg of beer for Oktoberfest 2009.

Christian Ude, 2009
I won't be in Munich today. Instead, 6 hours later, at noon (Eastern Time USA), I'll be in Baltimore, Maryland, drinking from a wooden-tapped keg of German beer.

Max's Taphouse, in the Fells Point district of Baltimore, is celebrating its second annual German Fest: over 80 German beers on draft, over 70 German beers in bottles, and a "German-inspired food menu." (Hmm. For us vegetarians, that might be sauerkraut and pretzels!)

Here's the beer list. It's subject to change: after all, the beer does have to travel 6,836 kilometers from Munich to Baltimore ... give or take.

Zwei Maaß-krug Bier

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two Baltimore Beer Writers Noted

Kudos is due to two mid-Atlantic beer bloggers:

Peripatetic Chuck Cook at Belgian Beer and Travel has written 30 entries for the upcoming book 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die. It's part of a series of 'do this before you die'.

Chuck has done quite a bit of travel to Belgium in search of good beer. The book is scheduled to be released in March 2010.

The indefatigable Alexander D. Mitchell IV has had his Beer In Baltimore honored by the Baltimore City Paper as the city's "best drinking blog."

No matter how much you love beer, we promise you it's not as much as this guy. For the past year and a half, Alexander Mitchell IV has been keeping us entertained and informed with his Beer in Baltimore blog, a frequently updated collection of short thoughts on beer--more nuts, bolts, and flavor than philosophy--news postings, and links. Sure, he dotes on Max's a bit much, but that's to be expected, and more importantly, this is a guy that just doesn't stop thinking about beer. We guarantee you'll get a whole new appreciation for it, too.
  • More: The rest of the Best of Baltimore beer here.
  • Apology: That's twice in a few days that I've appended the adjective 'indefatigable' to Mr. Mitchell's name. But, it fits. He's a hard-working guy.
  • Proofreading: 'Kudos' is a singular, not plural, noun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's beer festival season

It's September, and in the beer world, that signals the frenetic onset of beer festival season ... not that there aren't festivals all year round.

The world's biggest beer party is Oktoberfest. It runs from 19 September through 4 October in the city of Munich, in Bavaria, Germany.

The big kahuna in the USA is the Great American Beer Festival, back at its usual calendar placement, 24-26 September, in Denver, Colorado. It's sold out, but if you don't have tickets you still have many other options.

As always, Bryce Eddings at has published a fairly inclusive on-line list of beer festivals across the USA. Check it out here.

For a much, much smaller list of just a few of the events in the DC/VA/MD area, check out my calendar —Where I'll Be— to the right, in the sidebar. Yours For Good will be attending and/or participating at several local beer festivals over the next couple of months.

For good information on Virginia events, read the blogs Musings Over A Pint and Relentless Thirst.

For Maryland: Kasper on Tap, Beer in Baltimore,, Baltimore Beer Guy.

For Washington, D.C., read DC Beer.

For a non-web resource, look for bi-monthly issues of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. [As brought to my attention in the comments section below by the indefatigable Alexander D. Mitchell IV, Baltimore correspondent for MABN, you don't have to wait for the print issue. The paper has a calendar of beer events posted on-line. Go here for that.]

From Fritz Hahn of the Washington Post on-line: Best Bets for Oktoberfest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wine volumetrics

In the past, Yours For Good Fermentables has examined beer volume measurements. It's due time for a look at wine metrics, courtesy Wente Vineyards.

  • 1 grape cluster = 1 (big) glass of wine
  • 75 grapes = 1 grape cluster
  • 4 grape clusters = 1 750-milliliter bottle of wine (~ 25.4 fluid ounces)
  • 40 grape clusters = 1 grapevine
  • 1,200 grape clusters = 1 barrel* of wine
  • 1 barrel of wine = 60 gallons
  • 60 gallons = 25 cases
  • 1 grapevine = 10 750-milliliter wine-bottles
  • 1.2 grapevines = 1 case of wine (12 750-milliliter wine-bottles)
  • 30 vines = 1 barrel
  • 400 vines = 1 acre
  • 1 acre = yields 332 cases

* A wine barrel in Burgundy contains the equivalent of 228 liters or ~ 60 US gallons. A Bordeaux wine barrel, however, is sized at 225 liters or ~59 US gallons. One US beer barrel equals 31 US gallons. One US bourbon barrel equals ~53 gallons.

Fewer imports; less aspiration

As the US economy continues to tank AND as US 'craft' beer sales continue to rise (albeit not nearly as well as last year), imports in the US are cratering. As reported by beer author/blogger Lew Bryson at his Seen Through a Glass:

[The] Beer Institute released figures yesterday indicating that imported beer shipments were down another 8.1% in July, bringing year-to-date import shipments down 9.3%, or a loss of about 160,000 case equivs a day. There was some hope among import suppliers that sales would start to rebound toward the end of summer, but that just hasn't happened.

A case equivalent is a conversion of barrels into cases (of 24 12-ounce bottles), as if all the beer produced by a brewery were only cases. One barrel equals approximately 13.78 cases. Known in beer business jargon as a 'CE', it's a convenient measurement for some.

I also found illuminating an add-on by Lew in the comments section:
The person who's drinking Amstel -- or any of the imported light lagers -- is often what marketers call an 'aspirational drinker.' They're drinking the brand because it sets them apart, and the higher price only reinforces that. Bud Light doesn't set anyone apart. <...> Some people really do drink more expensive beer just because it costs more, studies have proved this over and over.

Ignoring for a moment the inanity of such marketing argot, the same 'aspiration' can be true of some wine drinkers as well, who will peruse 'ratings' of experts and the price tags on wine bottles, rather than trusting their own palates on the wine within.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 36

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 36:
6 August - 12 September 2009

  • 2009.09.12
    A Twitter welcome to @MadFoxBrewing: Falls Church, Virginia, brewpub to open in 2010. And, coverage in the Falls Church News-Press:

  • 2009.09.12
    Spitting in your mash. Chicha corn beer, from Dogfish Head via New York Times: From 1994, via Charlie Papazian:

  • 2009.09.11
    Michelob Rye IPA from ABIB coming this fall.What is Anheuser-Busch's target market for this? /

  • 2009.09.11
    Free beer at the Washington Nationals? Should a baseball club’s record justify its beer prices? From the Wall Street Journal:

  • 2009.09.11
    Can food be too salty? Can beer be too hoppy?

  • 2009.09.11
    Take a minute to remember those we lost and those who worked tirelessly on and after Sept. 11, 2001.

  • 2009.09.11
    Pairing wine and .... cupcakes! From the Falls Church News Press: James Roth of wine shop- Red, White, & Bleu.

  • 2009.09.11
    #FollowFriday. @BeerBizDaily: The Twitter feed from the website of the same name. The business of beer, of course.

  • 2009.09.10
    What are the odds? Baby born at 9:09 on 9/9/09 weighs 9 lbs, 9 oz.

  • The Brewers' Braintrust
    Barrett Lauer (l), brewer for the District ChopHouse

  • 2009.09.08
    A Twitter welcome to District ChopHouse (@ChopHouseBrew) brewpub in Washington DC! WeizenBock (7.8% abv ) is current seasonal

  • 2009.09.07
    The growing disparity in the foreign exchange rate hurts draft sales of Chimay in the US.

  • 2009.09.07
    Virginia ABC says its regs supersede local zoning laws. Winery in Fairfax County wins preliminary approval.

  • 2009.09.07
    Good point from @TheBeerWhore: "Breweries and brewpubs aren't using Twitter very effectively." [But there are some which do.]

  • 2009.09.06
    Via @gabeer: Savannah Craft Brew Fest (Georgia) had almost double attendance from its first year, last year.

  • 2009.09.06
    8 great Pilsners, by Gourmet Magazine:; World's top 100 beers, by Imbibe Magazine

  • 2009.09.06
    Room for beer education. Overheard at a bar: guy says he doesn't want a wheat beer, but he orders a hefeweizen.

  • 2009.09.06
    Two vegans in pro sports. 10-time Pro Bowl/Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. And baseball's Prince Fielder.

  • 2009.09.06
    Aardvark: A new Web 2.0 question search service uses real people at Facebook for answers. Review from New York Times:

  • 2009.09.06
    Health update on Jack McAuliffe (America's first craft-brewer): He "has a ways to go- but he’s doing okay."

  • 2009.09.06
    @agoodbeerblog opines on 'amateur' beer writing vs. 'professional' beer writing:

  • 2009.09.06
    Could you call it a beer 'rave'? A trove of rare beers were poured at a event at a publicly 'undisclosed' location in Richmond, Virginia. Two stories: and

  • 2009.09.06
    When corks fly! Truck carrying Oregon and Washington wines catches fire; firefighters dodge corks.

  • 2009.09.06
    On 30 September 2009, Google Wave hits: "a real-time communication platform."

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: Veggie Brunch

Coffee & Breakfast
In late August, it's a Sunday breakfast on the deck:
  • Organic peaches and 'grape' tomatoes from the Falls Church Farmers' Market.
  • Scrambled Tofu (with cilantro and ranchero sauce).
  • Tempeh 'Bacon'.
  • Bagel, of course. (Earth Balance spread)
  • Coffee: Organic Papua New Guinea.
The recipes for the tempeh 'bacon' and scrambled tofu were adapted from recipes in Vegan with a Vengeance.
  • More photos and my recipe procedures here.
  • More Pic(k) of the Week selections: here.

Brewery per capita claims: UK, Germany, US

British beer author/blogger Roger Protz recently made this claim:

Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz said the nationwide total of breweries made the UK "undisputed top brewing country in the world".

Canadian beer author/blogger Stephen Beaumont challenged the statement. He "ran the numbers."
  • Population of the United Kingdom: 61 million
  • Number of Breweries: 711
  • Population of Germany: 82 million
  • Number of Breweries: 1250 (more or less)
  • British population per brewery: 85,794
  • German population per brewery: 65,600

In an email to Beaumont, Protz defended his claim:
I was at pains to stress in media interviews that I wasn’t claiming that British beer is better than, say, Belgian, Czech, or German beer, but that the choice and diversity now available here is quite astonishing.

The USA, by the way? I ran the numbers:
Not even close.

Stephen Beaumont may live in Canada, but he writes, entertainingly and adroitly, about the entire world of beer. Read the full post from Blogging at World of Beer: here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Beer, boxes, and salesmen

I was in a bar yesterday when I overheard this snippet of conversation:

Salesmen know zero about their products. They only care about selling boxes.

Well, I sell wine and beer. So, I like to think I know a little bit about the 'boxes' I sell. It's my job.

Cizauskas makes a point

I posted the overheard comment to my Facebook page and received several replies. I've reprinted some of them here (without their authors' names).
  • Too bad that in some cases it is true.

  • I have met many reps in which I knew more about their product then they did. Maybe I work in the wrong field!?!?

  • I know very little about boxes. Thankfully I sell beer.

  • Quit FB'ing and go sell some damn boxes!!!!

  • I like my boxes shiney.

  • Bud, Miller and Coors sells boxes. We sell beer.

  • At Siebel during the packaging segments the point was made by one of our instructors that, like it or not, breweries were in the business of selling bottles. While this came from a man devoted to expertly running a massive packaging operation, his point carried some weight, even with a few craft brewers. This needs not hinder our passion, thankfully!
And, my favorite:
  • I sometimes put a box on my head and run through my neighborhood nekked. It keeps me busy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's craft?

What's the difference between a so-called 'craft' brewery and a so-called 'mega' brewery?

The Brewers Association has a tortured definition: independent, 'small', traditional.

The US tax code? It increases the marginal tax rate on 50,000 barrels or more if that brewery produces 2 million barrels or more.

In the midst of a rough summer, the beer industry just posted a victory. Trade groups representing brewers big and small have cajoled over half of the legislators in the House of Representatives to sign onto HR 836, aka the “Brewers Excise and Economic Relief [B.E.E.R] Act of 2009.” Beer Business Daily explains the significance:

"The bill would reduce federal beer excise taxes to pre-1991 levels, when they were doubled. The bill seeks to reduce big brewer taxes from $18 a barrel to $9 a barrel, and rollback the small brewer tax break on the first 50,000 barrels from $7 to $3.50 a barrel."

More than half of U.S. Representatives support slashing beer taxes
By Jeremiah McWilliams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
27 July 2009

The newest edition of the Good Beer Guide, published by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) doesn't define 'craft' brewery, but just states it:
Britain has more small breweries than any other major industrialised nation, according to the Good Beer Guide.

Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz said the nationwide total of breweries made the UK "undisputed top brewing country in the world".

British brewery numbers soar
The Independent
10 September 2009

Hmmm. You might need to submit some more data for that claim, Mr. Protz! [Per this, in the comments section below, read the comment from Jim Dorsch, past editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.]

Large conglomerate breweries may say that they insist upon the 'best' ingredients, but as their goal is to maximize profits for their shareholders, 'best' might imply cost over quality. Maybe the defining difference between 'mega' breweries and 'craft' breweries is the latter's preference for quality over profit ... within reason!

Notice the 'bolded' sentence in this story about the Mad Fox Brewing Company, a brewpub scheduled to open in Falls Church, Virginia in early 2010:
Every aspect is planned to the smallest detail, making Mad Fox seem less like a business and more like a science project. The glassware is carefully chosen so that each beer style is paired with the optimal drinking vessel. Ingredients are selected and imported based on their region rather than the price per unit. The recipes are always evolving, constantly being refined in order to obtain brewing perfection.

Local Brew Master to Bring Award-Winning Lineup to F.C.
By Matt Sapsford
Falls Church News-Press
10 September 2009

Of course, don't take that too far. Non-conglomerate breweries are indeed businesses, and successful ones operate with good business practices. For example, Mad Fox brewpub has a business plan and 'crafty' investors. Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) sold nearly 2 million barrels of beer last year. It's the joy of the beer itself (and the joy of brewing the beer) and the sense of connecting with their community that separate small (or 'craft' or micro or local) breweries from their much bigger brethren.

A barrel of beer is a measurement of volume equal to 31 gallons or 13.78 cases of beer. More on beer volumes and measurements here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Baltimore Beer Week: Getting there, Staying there

Baltimore Beer Week —the first-ever— occurs October 8-18, 2009.

The blog Beer in Baltimore has posted a very useful guide to lodging in the Maryland city, including special rates at two downtown hotels, and to transportation to and within the city.

Welcome to Baltimore


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mak, Mak! Beers, drinks, & pagans in Vilnius, Lithuania

Lithuania was the last European nation to convert to Christianity. Of this, Lithuanians are not abashed. Many customs age-old remain, if latter-day filtered.

These video-tours come from comedian Zane Lamprey. He toured Vilnius —the capital city of Lithuania— in search of its drinking customs.

Lamprey found them: a pedal-powered mobile beer bar, a 19 year old brewer, Austijia (sp?)—a bodacious pagan goddess of hops, Ragutis —a well-endowed pagan god of brewers, and "Mak, mak" —a phrase you're apparently supposed to repeat when downing shot glasses of distilled roots and bark.

Part 1

Part 2


Monday, September 07, 2009

On Labor Day, a brewer's remembrance

The Manayunk Brewing Company sits on the bank of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the Manayunk district of the city. In 1996, I was the brewpub's original brewer.

The pub opened to the public in October of that year. Lunch patrons were unaccustomed to the pungent sweet aromas of cooking barley. In deference to their sensibilities, the pub's owner had asked me to finish brewing before noon.

So, I would arrive in the dark well before dawn. I'd start a pot of coffee, and then begin the mash.

The pub's system was only partially automated. In the malthouse, I would hoist several 55 lb bags of malt at a time into the mill, and then run across the alley to the 15 barrel mashtun, where I would mix the grains and hot water with a long boat paddle. The mechanical mixing blade supplied by the manufacturer was not up to the job.

Then, it was back across the alley to hoist in a couple more bags, and then quickly back to the brewhouse to stir. Back and forth, and back and forth, until the several hundreds of pounds of barley malt had been doughed in.

Now, the mash would rest for an hour, while enzymes, inherent in the barley, would silently convert malt starches into malt sugars.

The pause afforded me an opportunity to have that cup of coffee. I would walk with it outside and sit on a retaining wall, overlooking the spot where the Manayunk Canal emptied into the Schuylkill River.

The steam would rise from the coffee, and also from me. In October 1996, the early morning air along the river was crisp. The sweat from the exertion of mashing would evaporate from the top of my head.

In my reverie, though, I was not alone.

Every morning, a majestic bird, a crane, balancing on one leg, would perch itself on the far bank of the canal. The sun would rise behind us, and she and I would seemingly acknowledge each other, wordlessly, siblings of the dawn.

Throughout October and into November, we would repeat our early morning encounters. The crane would be there, as if waiting for me.

One cold, drizzling morning just before Thanksgiving, I mashed in as normal, poured my coffee, and sat on the wall. I looked about, but the crane was not at her perch. She would not be there the next brew morning, nor the next, nor the next. She would never return.

In the days following her disappearance, the brewpub experienced its first successful weekend. Had my silent avian companion actually been Nikasi, goddess of beer, made manifest, there to bless the brewery, I mused? Over a decade later, the brewpub, now called the Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant, continues to thrive.

I left Philly the following year for a different brewing opportunity, but I still vividly remember that bird, and the metaphysical marvel of those mornings, long ago.

Happy Labor Day to all brewers, and to all who produce for us.

By the way, the name of the river is pronounced SKOO kll, almost swallowing the 2nd syllable.

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 35

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 35:
30 August - 5 September 2009

  • 2009.09.05
    Dutch brewery conglomerate Heineken say Nein to eine kleine Swiss brewery's Keineken.

  • 2009.09.05
    Using wine judging as a model, a study shows that flavor objectivity may be mostly subjective. Blogger Beervana says this is mostly applicable to beer.

  • Full Nelson, in cans from Blue Mountain Brewery of Virginia
    Photo courtesy blog: Barlow Brewing.
  • 2009.09.05
    Full Nelson from Virginia's Blue Mountain Brewery NOW available in cans. /

  • 2009.09.04
    Favorable review of Pete Brown's 'Hops & Glory' on history of IPAs and a modern voyage.

  • Crabcakes and Pale Ale
  • 2009.09.04
    A late afternoon in early September: al fresco at Sweetwater Brewpub in Falls Church, Virginia. (crabcakes and Great American Pale Ale)

  • 2009.09.04
    "The economic downturn appears to be bolstering craft beer sales." Not so big breweries. At

  • 2009.09.04
    In the midst of a recession, Maryland breweries are surviving, some thriving.

  • 2009.09.04
    The US jobless rate hits 9.7%; 216K jobs lost in August: the highest rate since June 1983.

  • Bryson and Cizauskas
  • 2009.09.04
    Beer blogger Lew Bryson attempts to post once per day. Does better. Lives to blog the story!

  • 2009.09.04
    Reports of sporadic outages of Google calendar, follow problems with Gmail earlier this week.

  • 2009.09.04
    Belgian scientists are looking to slow the development of trans-2-nonenal in beer. That is, keep beer fresher, longer. From the Wall Street Journal:

  • 2009.09.04
    #Follow Friday: Anat Baron -maker of documentary Beer Wars- Tweets interesting comments and beer links. Two Twitter 'handles': @beerwars, @BeerWarsMovie

  • US beer map, by medals awarded
  • 2009.09.03
    I haven't checked it for accuracy, but here's a nice map of craft beer in America, by medals awarded at the Great American Beer Festival.

  • 2009.09.03
    French wine exports plunge 25% in the first half of 2009; less expensive French wines down by only 1%.

  • 2009.09.03
    At, the 6th most popular uploaded photo category on Twitter is ... beer & food.

  • 2009.09.02
    Room for beer education. An article [WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!] from Indianapolis Beer Examiner- Beer Snob: Craft Beer Basics (since removed from the site).

  • 2009.09.02
    "Saddle-ridden hard and put away wet." More brewers are loving the gamey/phenolic character of brettanomyces yeast. From the Washington Post:

  • 2009.09.02
    In Washington DC, it's legal for restaurants to pack wine 'doggie bags ' to go.

  • 2009.09.02
    A German brewer on why he bottle-conditions his beers: “It’s like sex and Champagne, worth the bother.”

  • 2009.09.02
    How a review of a beer dinner SHOULD be written: Pretty Things & Armsby Abbey "50 Mile" Vegetarian Beer Dinner.

  • 2009.09.02
    Press release from former imprisoned journalists: "We were violently dragged to North Korea."

  • 2009.09.01
    Erich Kunzel, conductor of classical 'pops' concerts dies at 74.

  • 2009.09.01
    From "80% share (for Miller-Coors & A-B-INBEV) almost begs for antitrust review."

  • barrels at Flying Dog
    Photo courtesy Matthew Brophy.
  • 2009.09.01
    Photo of newly arrived used bourbon barrels at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland. To be filled with Gonzo Imperial Porter.

  • 2009.08.31
    Sad news from the jazz world: singer Chris Connor dead at 81. What a 'canary' she was. YouTube video tribute:

  • 2009.08.31
    Predicting rowdy customers, Fairfax County, Virginia looks to prevent its 1st and only winery from opening. (Maybe a sedate brewery?)

  • 2009.08.31
    Yet another 'chevalerie de biere' for Washington DC: Thor Cheston of Brasserie Beck.

  • 2009.08.31
    Craft Beer goes mainstream! Via @SaranacBrewery: "Saranac Brewery" was the answer in a New York Times crossword puzzle, 8/20, no. 23 down, to the question: "CraftBeer made in Upstate NY?"

  • 2009.08.31
    A-B, Labatt sue Ontario brewery over word "lime" and color green on label. From Bloomberg:

  • 2009.08.31
    Taylor Smack, brewer/owner of Blue Mountain Brewery in Virginia: "We're like the love child of a Bavarian beer hall & Virginia vineyard."

  • 2009.08.31
    Philanthropy from American breweries- large and small:

  • 2009.08.30
    The great one passed way 2 years ago today -Michael Jackson, the beer writer.

  • 2009.08.30
    Via @TikrasAlus: "Mak! Mak!" Pagan beer gods, mobile beer bars, a 19-yr old brewer. Video comedian Zane Lamprey in Lithuania:

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Session #31: Summer Beers

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

The Session #27: Beyond the Black & Tan

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 Peter Estaniel at his BetterBeerBlog: The Session #31: Summer Beers.
With the summer coming to a close, what was your favorite beer of the summer? It doesn’t even have to be from this summer. Is it a lager or maybe a light bodied wheat ale? Maybe you’re drinking anti-seasonally and are having a barleywine or Russian Imperial Stout. Why is this beer your favorite? Is there a particular memory associated with this beer? How about a city? Maybe there was a particular dish that made this beer memorable? Spare no detail.

Past Haitian dictator 'Baby Doc' Jean-ClaudeDuvalier was reputed to have thrown lavish soirees in the heat of the summer. Air-conditioning would be turned down to frigid temperatures, mimicking the cold of winter. Fireplaces would roar. Glamorous women would party wrapped in fur coats.

YFGF wouldn't recommend such behavior —'Baby Doc' was deposed in 1986— yet drinking whatever flavor of beer appeals at whatever time of year is a natural thing.

For instance, I posted last year in the heat of the summer about enjoying cask English barleywines and bottled US craft weizen dopplebocks: Just say no ... to lawnmower beer.

Enjoying lighter styles of beer in the summer —lawnmower beers, if you will— is also fine and dandy. Refreshing as the beer might be, however, what it is not is rehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic.

One of my special treats in past summers has been pouring Quelque Chose over crushed ice, with a splash of bitters. The beer —from the Unibroue brewery in the town of Chambly, in Quebec, Canada, and so pronounced as KEL kuh shows— is an oak aged pale ale, re-fermented with Canadian cherries. It ends up un-carbonated, 8% alcohol by volume (abv), and wickedly sour and complex, but not to the puckering dimensions of a lambic. On hot and muggy Washington, D.C. summer evenings, it has been the occasional treat: refreshing and unique.

Quelque Chose

I use the past tense because this tale has a sad ending. Unibroue's Maryland wholesaler has informed me that Unibroue is no longer exporting Quelque Chose to the United States.

C'est dommage.
  • My post is two days past due for The Session's Friday deadline. Go to BetterBeerBlog for the recap of those who did manage to submit on time.
  • I don't recall why Watership Down was on the table in the photo, except that it may have been a relaxing read for the evening.