Monday, November 30, 2009

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 47

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupClamps 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 of the pieces deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:

This is Week 47:
22 November - 28 November 2009

  • 2009.11.28
    Burton, UK: NOT the first place in the world to brew pale beers. Martyn Cornell deflates another beer myth.

  • 2009.11.28
    "A holiday beer doesn't have to be spiced, or a malt-bomb. It can be just a special beer."

  • 2009.11.28
    Almost a year old, but still useful: Tips for integrating Twitter with a blog.

  • 2009.11.27
    That's what it's all about. The Scranton, PA, native credited with writing "Hokey Pokey" dies at 104:

  • 2009.11.27
    #FollowFriday today. Homebrewers: US: @olllllo. Ireland: @thebeernut

  • 2009.11.27
    Support your local brewery! New York Times story on 'young' breweries like Sixpoint & The Bruery

  • 2009.11.27
    Is wine political? Israeli wines produced in 'occupied' territories:

  • 2009.11.26
    In time for Thanksgiving: A print ad for National Premium Beer with turkey ... from the 1950s.

  • B&B/C night light

  • 2009.11.26
    The Washington Post reviews Birch & Barley/ChurchKey:

  • 2009.11.25
    National Public Radio's Morning Edition interviews Roger Protz on the re-opening of the Bass Beer Museum (by MolsonCoors):

  • 2009.11.25
    National Public Radio's Morning Edition reports on craft beer brewery Dry Dock of Denver CO, the Small Brewery of the Year.

  • 2009.11.25
    Albert Pujols wins his 3rd National League Baseball Most Valuable Player. It's his 2nd in a row, and this one's unanimous.

  • 2009.11.25
    More 'craft' brewery consolidation. Vermont's Long Trail Brewing to buy Otter Creek Brewing Company.

  • 2009.11.24
    A good man and a good owner: a rare example. Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin Dies at 85.

  • 2009.11.24
    Sad but expected: the incredible shrinking newspaper biz. The Washington Post to close its last three U.S. bureaus.

  • 2009.11.24
    Edible Chesapeake Magazine is closing. Renee Catacalos: "So proud of what we did, very sad to stop."

  • 2009.11.24
    From Blogs With Bite, for Thanksgiving: The British Beer & Pub Association says drink healthy, refreshing beverages ... such as beer.

  • 2009.11.23
    Carl Kasell gets to sleep in but morning's will be the poorer for this. He's leaving NPR's Morning Edition on December 30.

  • 2009.11.23
    Science fiction as scientific hypothesis. The Hadron Super Collider is back: Will forces from the future step in?

  • 2009.11.23
    The Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2009:

  • 2009.11.22
    Making Christmas Beer Pudding on Stir-Up Sunday (the last Sunday before Advent):

  • 2009.11.22
    MillerCoors reverses its earlier decision: WILL reopen former Bass Museum of Brewing in Burton in 2010, incl 30-bbl brewery.

  • 2009.11.22
    A primer on factors affecting the price of a beer.

  • 2009.11.22
    The Washington post publishes a breakfast recipe for Indian Spiced Scrambled Eggs ... WITH a witbier pairing suggestion.

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: Double Rainbow

Double rainbow 2

A sudden November storm, with adjoining areas of sunshine and ominous, dark clouds, produced this double rainbow in Arlington, Virginia.

As I pulled off the road onto a quiet side street to snap this photograph, another car followed close behind. I waited till it had passed by, and opened my car door, camera in hand. The other driver opened her door, and we both laughed. She had had the same idea.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brickskeller Winter Beer Events Announced

Forget annoying Christmas jingles, artificial holly at the malls, and ho-ho-ho-ing Santas. For good beer fans in Washington, D.C., it wouldn't seem like Christmas and winter without the long tradition of seasonal beer tastings at the venerable Brickskeller Dining House and Down Home Saloon.

Proprietor Dave Alexander has just announced the dates for this winter's two big beer events.

The first and oldest (going back 20 years) is the Christmas Beer Celebration, featuring the beers and brewers of the area (and some out-of-towners). It's scheduled for Wednesday, 9 December, and the following Wednesday, 16 December 2009. Dave calls it

The Brickskeller Regional Multiple Guest Brewmaster Winter Holidaze Extravaganzee —two nights of too many beers and too many brewmasters

The Strong Ale TastingThe Regional Multiple Guest Brewmasters Strong AleStravaGanZee— also extends over two days: Tuesday, 2 February, and the following Tuesday, 9 February 2010.

Deck the Halls

Each event will feature different brewers and different beers each night. Many of the brewers have brought unique and interesting beers to these popular and often sold-out events. The specific rosters will be posted on-line soon at the Brickskeller's website: Tickets must be purchased on-line as well.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving, beer(e), and the Pilgrims.

There's a famous passage from a 17th century collection of recollections by Pilgrim leader William Bradford that's often quoted in reference to Thanksgiving:

... we returned again a-shipboard, with resolution the next morning to settle on some of those places; so in the morning, after we called on God for direction, we came to this resolution: to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of two places, which we thought most fitting for us, for now we could not take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer

But what usually is omitted is the very next line:
and it now being the 19th of December [1620].

That debunks the timing for a Thanksgiving landing. And the story about the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock because they had run out of beer? Not so fast, says beer historian Bob Skilnik. That's not exactly what transpired.
Land was sighted on November 9 [1620] but [the Pilgrims] didn't attempt to set out a landing party until days later, when they also realized they were no where near the Virginia Colony but instead were off Cape Cod. <...> By December 4, they knew they had to quit being picky about where they were and settle down. Cold weather and disease were starting to take their toll <...> After an armed run in with some more Indians, the Mayflower headed south and another expedition found "running brooks," cornfields, and after sounding the depth of the harbor, realized this was about as good as it could get in the middle of December and the dead of winter. <...> Despite what looked like prime territory, they took yet another look around, finally resolving that it was time to make a decision, pick a spot and start a settlement [as quoted above]. <...>

The Pilgrims had arrived in the 'New World' on the 11th of November, but didn't decide to set up a permanent camp until 5 weeks later. That was some serious dithering.
So what we have here, my friends, is NOT a party of starving Pilgrims who simply pulled up to Plymouth Rock because they were out of beer, had no water and no "victuals" on hand. No, what has been described instead was a group of naive individuals who called a little bit too much on God for direction, failed to heed the philosophy that "God helps those who help themselves," took too long to pick a spot to settle down, even if it was to only to be for the winter, and as a result of indecision, watched as more than half of them died through the winter.

Beer & The Pilgrims
Beer (and more) in Food
by Bob Skilnik

On the other hand, the ship's crew —hired hands— had not run out of their beer, hoarding their stash for their return trip to England after the winter storms had abated.

Water was not always a healthy drink in those days; sanitation was not pristine. Beer could be a potable substitute. On shipboard, however, that beer would not be low-alcohol or 'small' beer, as has often been reported. It was strong 'Ship's Beer' (what we would call extreme beer). Again, Skilnik:
'Ship's Beer' was a high-octane beer, made so in order to keep it viable during a prolonged sea passage.

It wouldn't be until 1621 that the Pilgrims would first unofficially observe a Thanksgiving celebration. And it wouldn't be until a few centuries later that the official date for the holiday —in the US, on the fourth Thursday of November— would be set.

Be safe in your travels this Thanksgiving ... and enjoy your beer.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beer pairings for Thanksgiving

She wrote it ... so now I won't have to!

Lauren Buzzeo is Wine Enthusiast Magazine's Assistant Tasting Director and a columnist for UnReserved, its house blog. For Thanksgiving, she asked several folk in the beer business to suggest what they would pair with the traditional turkey meal:

  • Sam Calagione; President and Founder, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • Julia Herz; Craft Beer Program Director, Brewers Association
  • Vinnie Cilurzo; Brewer/Owner, Russian River Brewing Company
  • Gregg Glaser; Editor of Yankee Brew News and News Editor of All About Beer
  • Rob Tod; Founder and Brewer, Allagash Brewing Company
  • Greg Koch; CEO, Stone Brewing Company
Then, Lauren pleasantly surprised me by asking me to contribute. I was honored to be in that company.

What beers did we suggest? Read her article: Knockout Turkey Day Pairings from the Brew Pros

Of course, people may wonder how I, a vegetarian, could suggest beer for Turkey Day. I can remember: turkey was bland at dinner, but great the next day for a sandwich.

There's another answer.

Beer is prepared by cooking; in fact, barley malt is prepared by kilning/toasting/roasting sprouted barley. In the process, browning reactions occur between proteins and sugars, just as they do when food is cooked. It is —as brewer/writer Garrett Oliver has termed it— the flavor hook: "the element of the beer's flavor that mirrors a similar flavor in the food."

For this reason (there are others) beer can be a more forgiving beverage than wine. There are very few poor beer-with-food choices; rather, there are some pairings that are even tastier than others. And vegetables and grains seem to have an affinity for beer, which is itself, a vegetarian beverage.

Bon appetit!

Otter Creek Brewing to be sold

Andy Crouch at Beer Scribe has revealed that Otter Creek Brewing of Vermont —maker of beers under its own name and organic beers under the Wolaver's rubric— will be sold to Longtrail Brewing, also of Vermont. The deal is expected to be consummated by the end of December.

Longtrail began operations in 1989. Otter Creek was opened two years later by Lawrence Miller. In 2002, Mller sold the brewery to current owner Morgan Wolaver.

Otter Creek Oktoberfest

Andy offers some concise commentary about the ongoing (and accelerating) pace of mergers and acquisitions in the 'craft' beer industry. Read more here.
  • In my position as a wine and beer salesperson, I'm often privy to confidential information. In my position as a blogger, I want to divulge that information. I don't, and, as a result, Thomas the Blogger is often scooped. C'est la biere!
  • As an employee of a northern Virginia beer and wine wholesaler, I sell Otter Creek and Wolaver's beer.

Take a firkin break from cooking tonight

My friends at the Evening Star Café —in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia— celebrate the evening before Thanksgiving.

Tonight they also continue their three-year old tradition: tapping a fresh cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. A special tradition indeed: This is their only cask each year.

After work today, I've planned a mad, mad visit to the grocery store. Afterward, I'll be happy to be at the Evening Star, for beer. I'll need it. I tap the firkin at 6pm.

Loose Cannon firkin
  • Update: photos here.
  • Loose Cannon is an IPA (India Pale Ale), 7.3% alcohol by volume (abv), hopped more for citrusy/fruity aroma and flavor than pure bitterness. (A hop is, after all, an herb!) It's brewed by the Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland.
  • A Facebook description of the evening's music and food specials: here.
  • Caveat lector: I sell the beers of Clipper City as an employee of a northern Virginia beer and wine wholesaler.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 46

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupClamps 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 of the pieces deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:

This is Week 46:
15 November - 21 November 2009

  • 2009.11.21
    How to destroy a brewery. The sad saga of the demise of Pittsburgh PA's Iron City:
  • Anchor Brewing Company
  • 2009.11.21
    Jim Stitt: the artist who has drawn Anchor's Christmas tree beer labels for almost 35 years.
  • 2009.11.21
    Got beer porn? That is, what you might consider a Pulitzer-worthy beer photo? Enter it in the 2009 Yule Blog Photo Contest:
  • 2009.11.20
    Dale Van Wieren —author of American Breweries II— has tasted 10,000 beers. More at Philly Daily News:
  • 2009.11.20
    Remember the French Paradox: eat fatty foods, drink red wine, stay thin? Not any more!
  • 2009.11.20
    #FollowFriday today on Twitter is Christina Perozzi @beerchick, co-author with Hallie Beaune @Hbeaune of The Naked Pint.
  • 2009.11.20
    Environmentalism and the corner pub. An interview with 'The Beer Activist' Chris O'Brien:
  • 2009.11.20
    Holy gourd Batman! Major canned pumpkin pie shortage before Thanksgiving.
  • 2009.11.19
    'Kasper on Tap' —the blog of Baltimore, Maryland beer writer Rob Kasper— returns.
  • 2009.11.19
    A Basque study finds that a beer a day cuts heart disease by a third (well, any alcoholic beverage).
  • 2009.11.19
    6 myths about hops and beer busted by beer blogger Zythophile:
  • 2009.11.19
    National Beer Wholesalers Association hosted a book signing for the authors of 'The_Naked_Pint' at CulinAerie culinary school, in Washington D.C.
  • 2009.11.18
    US brewery Allagash set to debut its 'Maine-style' lambic in Belgium:
  • 2009.11.18
    It takes 5 gallons water (and often more) to produce 1 gal of beer. A recap of the Great Lakes Craft Brewers & Water Conservation Conference:
  • 2009.11.18
    A list of Washington DC's Women of Beer:
  • 2009.11.17
    A scientific study reports that the wine rating system is badly flawed. The Wall Street Journal reports:
  • 2009.11.17
    The Federal Drug Administration delivers a 30-day ultimatum to producers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages:
  • 2009.11.17
    The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) membership hits all time high - 107,469. 12.2% growth.
  • 2009.11.16
    Girls rule, boys drool. Pioneering women in the craft beer industry:
  • 2009.11.16
    There's a new beer drafthouse/restaurant opening in Clarendon, VA in 2010: Lyon Hall, with 20 draft lines:
  • 2009.11.16
    This author says that food choices are NOT solely personal. A vegetarian diet and the global environment:
  • 2009.11.15
    Which buzz is cheaper? The alcohol costs per ounce of craft beer, industrial lager, and box wine are compared.
  • 2009.11.15
    How Stella Artois lost its groove: why marketing matters in the beer industry.

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cask Ale: Process & Travel

The Washington Post, in a recent Food Section, printed two articles on cask-conditioned ale:

No frost, no fizz. Just 'real beer' in the glass.
By Blake Gopnik
Washington Post art critic
November 11, 2009

Cask hopping in Washington
By Greg Kitsock
Washington Post beer columnist
November 11, 2009

There has been a lot of misinformation written on the topic, so it was refreshing that —for the most part— these were informative and accurate. Enough so, that Steve Parkes, a degreed English brewer residing in the US, and a curmudgeon on such things, declared: "A nice article. For a change the writer seems to know his stuff."

But not enough so, that I and others could not comment. For example, read this excerpt from a response by Andy Anderson, originally posted to DC-Beer, an on-line forum. Pay particular attention to his comments on cask freshness, on cask handling (and mishandling), and on which styles are better suited for casking.
Cask beer, or cask ale, is a term which covers a process, and is not actually a type of beer. If you read CAMRA's definition [the Campaign for Real Ale, a consumer beer advocacy group in the UK], you can legally have "cask ale" lagers (and there are usually some to be found at GBBF [the Great British Beer Festival].). In fact, go to Franconia, Germany and you can find Ungespundet, which is a lager version of cask beer.

REGARDING CASK BEER & TRAVEL, there are 3 factors at work:

1) The capability of the brewery -
If a beer is brewed and consumed locally, it may be only 3 weeks from brewing to consuming a standard British ale. If you now ship it over the Atlantic, its shelf-life may have to be doubled. A fair number of British breweries are not as maniacal about sanitation as the average American brewery, so a British brewery sending its beer to the States may have their flaws exposed with the extra time needed for shipping. [A charge which should allow equal time to be answered!]

2) Temperature fluctuations -
The yeast in the firkin is a living organism and is susceptible to problems when put in a situation of varying temperatures. The changes in temperature have a greater impact on the beer than the actual miles flown/driven.

3) Infrastructure/Stillage -
To serve the beer properly, after a pub receives the firkin it should sit anywhere from 48 hrs to a week or so in the location from which it will be served at a steady temperature of around 55F. You just can't do that except at a very few places in the US, plus, we have already pointed out that some beers may be at the end of their shelf-life when they finally arrive at the pub.

REGARDING CASK BEER AS A PROCESS (and where I will get stones thrown at me):

1) When done correctly, cask beer is fantastic; when done incorrectly, cask beer can be horrid.
There is a reason why lager sales are larger than cask beer sales in England: consistency. Look, as an analogy, you may not like to eat at McDonalds, but you expect a hamburger from McD's in Tempe, AZ, will taste the same as one in NYC. Cask beer, done correctly, requires a skill that the average bar and bartender do not have. That's why it is a lot easier for a brewery to sell its product in a keg, rather than as a cask-conditioned beer.

2) Cask conditioning is not the best method/process for all beers.
From EXTENSIVE product testing (uhm ... that was a joke), I've come to the conclusion that the process works best for lower alcohol and lower hopped ales. It can sometimes be difficult to achieve secondary fermentation in high-alcohol beers (such as barleywines). Also, highly hopped beers, especially those with strong aromatic characters, suffer when going through a beer engine, especially one equipped with a sparkler. Now, you could make the case that a gravity-dispensed firkin would not subject the beer to that fate, which is true, but then you will probably face temperature problems due to infrastructure issues.

3) Cask ale work will only be a niche in American brewing.
To make cask ale work in the US, you would need breweries packing their beer in completely different kegs (a pin, firkin, kilderkin, barrel, puncheon, tun, hogshead, and butt can all lie on their side so that beer dispensing does not take place where the yeast & sediment collect), plus you would need a dedicated space refrigerated at 55 °F for the kegs to sit while conditioning/settling as well as for dispensing. Throwing a firkin on a bartop on a Friday afternoon for Happy Hour just doesn't cut it.

To conclude this 'lesson,' let me be clear on one thing: I really like cask conditioned real ale. However, all that being said, cask conditioning is not the one-and-only perfect process for serving beer. It is a system that really works well for certain styles of beer, but does require an infrastructure commitment as well as a qualified cellarman/bartender.

All I'm trying to say is that while I really appreciate cask conditioned ale when done properly, I also recognize that the process can simply be used as a gimmick. So ask yourself the next time you are sampling a bar's latest cask-conditioned real ale if the cask conditioning is being done in a manner that truly benefits the beer.
  • Andy Anderson is a past president of B.U.R.P. —a Washington D.C. area homebrew club— and an award-winning practitioner of cask ale. He gave permission to re-post his comments.
  • Steve Parkes has had a long career in the US 'craft' beer industry. His first position here was in 1988, as the founding brewer of British Brewing Company, Maryland's first post-Prohibtion microbrewery. He now owns and operates the American Brewers Guild, a distance-learning brewing school.


This post is one in a series on Cask Ale: Fobbing at the Tut.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: 2009 Yule Beer Blog Photo Contest

A Gonzo Tapping (2)

Got beer porn? Have a photograph you've taken with beer as a subject, of which you're just so very, very proud?

Submit it to the 4th annual Yule Beer Blog Photo Contest, organized by Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog. Rules, guidelines, here. Winning entries will receive good beer schwag as prizes. The contest ends 12 December.

For the record, I won an honorary mention in 2008 with this submission ...

soft spile fobbing

... for which I received this tee shirt from Wynkoop Brewery, Denver, Colorado's first brewpub.
Obamanator logo
Pic(k) of the Week: entire series here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Birthday in Beer: Sean Wilson

If you live in North Carolina and you're a fan of good beer, you're a fan of Sean Lilly Wilson —even if you didn't know you were!

Since 2005, beers of up to 16% 15% alcohol by volume (abv) have been legal in that state, in no small measure, because of Sean's efforts as the coordinator of Pop the Cap.

Pop the Cap

In 2010, he'll be opening his own brewery, Fullsteam, in Durham, North Carolina.
Southern agricultural beer brewed with local farmed goods, heirloom grains, and Southern botanicals . Experiments to-date include scuppernong grapes, sweet potatoes, hickory-smoked malt, kudzu, and rhubarb.

Today, offer a toast to Sean with a good beer. It's his birthday.
  • An earlier post here.
  • Follow the Brookston Beer Bulletin's comprehensive calendar of beer birthdays. It's a marvelous resource for learning more about the folk who make, bring, and talk about beer.

In defense of the corner bar recently interviewed Chris O'Brien, the Beer Activist. One question was on the state of the beer culture in Washington, D.C.

It still needs lots more corner bars though. Places with local character. <...> People just aren’t socialized to visit their local watering hole in the evening. They go home and drink their beer watching T.V. I’m as guilty as anyone. Though I often wish I was socializing for an hour or two each weeknight instead of being at home on the couch. That’s why we need good corner bars. Places where conversation is enabled rather than discouraged by loud TVs and music. I can watch TV and crank up the stereo at home. Not that I mind having loud music at bars…just not every night. I’m actually a loud music fan. I have about 1,000 punk rock records. But I want to socialize in a bar.

More corner bars stocking more better beers: might that be a method to reduce driving? Safer, less gridlock .... and greener.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Extreme' beer and innovation

Al Gore became the butt of a lot of ribbing and sniping when he boasted that he had "taken the initiative in creating the internet." In today's Washington Post, Boston Beer's Jim Koch takes credit for inventing the term "extreme beer."

The founder and chairman of Boston Beer Co., best known for its Samuel Adams brand, first applied the expression to his Triple Bock, a dark, syrupy ale that upon its release in 1994 became America's strongest commercial beer, clocking in at 17.5 percent alcohol by volume.
But don't confuse "extreme" with "strong," Koch says. "Extreme is bringing something new to the brewing process. It's like creating a whole new genre of music, as opposed to just playing the same music louder."

When British beer historian Ron Pattinson pointed out that what's hyped as new is often something that has been done before, Canadian beer writer Stephen Beaumont responded "In Defence of Innovation." He cited as examples Pilsner, innovative in the 1840s —'extreme' if using Koch's definition— and Liberty Ale, from Anchor Brewing, innovative and 'extremely' hoppy when it was released in 1975.

The posted comments provide some lively and give-and-take. For example:

I don’t think anyone is against innovation, as long as there is innovation. Many of the things that some believe, or sell as, innovative aren’t so much so.

There’s also the cult of innovation for innovation’s sake that many are against, or put in other words, the worship of innovation, as if innovative beers or brewers were somehow better than that brew “just” good beers

Alan McLeod — from A Good Beer Blog— chimed in:

My only personal complaint against innovation in brewing (if we can related that to X-treme) is that it is no longer very innovative. If, say, session beers were to take off with the nerd crowd or saisons were all the popular rage I would relish the innovation as there would be something new. Didn’t extreme jump the shark a ways back?
I wish more attention were paid in the marketplace to making more wonderful moderately priced beers where the edge is in the yeast or the another aspect of the brewer’s skill.

Innovation is fine —and is an indicator of health in the craft and business of beer— but at the end of the day (literally) I want a tasty, refreshing beer, please. The four principal ingredients of beer —barley malt, hops, water, and yeast— have not yet reached their final boundaries of flavor.

After a long lecture on an arcane bit of brewing technology, the venerable brewmaster asked: "How does the beer taste?" The answer: the process is subservient to the result.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I want tasty, refreshing beer, please.

Ron Pattinson is a beer historian, based in the United Kingdom. His modus is researching original brewing records. He's dogged about it. In the process, he has refuted 'standard' beer myths. Today, he ranted.

I don't want innovative beer. I want tasty, refreshing beer. Beer I want to drink more than a mouthful of. Beer that's a joy to drink rather than an exercise in endurance.

The Schlock of the New
By Ron Pattinson
Shut Up About Barclay Perkins
17 November 2009

I couldn't have said it better. He did.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 45

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupClamps 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 of the pieces deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:

This is Week 45:
8 November - 14 November 2009

  • 2009.11.14
    A Google-based map of beer bars and brewpubs in the greater Washington, D.C. metro area:

  • 2009.11.14
    Beginning in 2013, 35-yr old music and book copyrights revert from businesses to composers, performers, and authors.

  • 2009.11.14
    A report on the growth of real ale in the UK, a very modest gain, but encouraging:

  • 2009.11.13
    My #FollowFriday today is @The_Beermonger: "Wine professional. Beer Geek." His Twitter posts are a companions to his thoughtful beer blog:

  • 2009.11.13
    Are you on someone else's Twitter list? Go here to find out: [Use your Twitter name rather than USERNAME]

  • 2009.11.13
    How do breweries get back their empty beer kegs? One company that specializes in retrieval:

  • 2009.11.12
    An appreciation of management theorist Russell Ackoff who advised businesses including Anheuser-Busch:

  • 2009.11.12
    Archiving shortened urls. Storing internet links at the Internet archive:

  • 2009.11.12
    A New Year's gift for Virginia/Washington, D.C./Maryland good beer fans: Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale will be available in bottles by January 2010:

  • 2009.11.12
    The great real ale sparkler debate, as seen in Ireland.

  • 2009.11.12
    MillerCoors is making cask ale. Not a misprint: Coors is brewing real ale in the UK.

  • 2009.11.11
    Journalism or activism. Lou Dobbs quits CNN:

  • Tapping the firkin
  • 2009.11.11
    An art critic at tbe Washington Post: Cask ale is to draft beer like "raw milk cheese is to Kraft singles."

  • 2009.11.11
    A wine guy's take on beer for dinner. Some misinformation, but also some interesting observations.

  • 2009.11.11
    'Farm to Table' has won the 2009 Best Green or Sustainable Blog from Foodbuzz:

  • 2009.11.11
    Today, remembering US military veterans and those currently serving:

  • top 50 US Craft Brewers 2008
  • 2009.11.10
    Top US craft brewers by sales. A graphic: [Maryland's Flying Dog Brewery at #30.]

  • 2009.11.10
    What NOT to do: a primer on planning a beer dinner:

  • 2009.11.10
    "Breezy, but without all that freaky magic mushroomy stuff." A Good Beer Blog reviews a new beer book - "A Naked Pint" -

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Fobbing at the Tut

Announcing a series of essays, explanations, pictorial demonstrations, and interviews on cask-conditioned ale:

on what cask-conditioned ale is (and what it isn't), on how to make it and how to serve it, and —the most important thing— on how to appreciate it.

The Oxford English Dictionary calls it real ale, and defines it as:
draft (or bottled) beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Marketing matters: Guinness vs. Stella

When I worked in radio, I was taught to create commercials as thirty second word-pictures, movies for the radio, if you will. Memorable television commercials do the converse, relying on images to tell a story, with the concise use of a few words to reinforce the message.

There's a wonderful television advertisement for Guinness Stout from the mid 1990s that is such a visuals-only creation.

The spot begins with a thirsty man ordering a pint of Guinness Stout, while dancing to the sounds of Perez Prado. (Irish stout and Latin-American big-band jazz: how's that for a cross-cultural melange?)

A publican draws the initial 2/3 of the pour. A burst of nitrogen-injected bubbles cascades upward, like an off-white waterfall defying gravity in a river of inky-black stout ale.

Waiting, the man dances, for it will be 5 minutes before the foam will subside (abbreviated to 60 seconds by the wizardry of video). Only then does the publican pour the remainder of the pint. The meringue of foam bulges ever so slightly above the top of the glass.

The thirsty man ends his dance, and, at long last, exultantly enjoys his pint of stout. Good things come to those who wait.

No dialogue needed. Cribbing from a more recent campaign, it's brilliant!

In a recent piece in the Daily Mail, UK beer writer Pete Brown has an illustrative study of how Guinness continues to market its beer intelligently, creatively, and effectively versus how Stella Artois —an international-style lager (I.L.L.)— has lost its groove.

According to Brown —who was working in the early 1990s for a UK advertising agency that held the Stella Artois account— Stella Artois was achieving 20% growth during the 1980s and 90s. Was Stella really any 'better' than other international-style lagers? Maybe, maybe not. What mattered more was the perception that it was.
The timeless continental neverland in the commercials showed a beer that was expensive not for its own sake but because of its inherent value. Even though Stella was outspent by its rivals, its ads were the most recognised and best-loved of their day.

InBev drastically discounted the price of Stella to supermarkets, effectively undercutting its own message of higher price equaling higher quality. (The ad tagline had been "reassuringly expensive".) Simultaneously, InBev cut the cost of ingredients by changing the recipe. It would be a lethal combination.

After the merger [first as InterBrew with AmBev of South America in 2004, and finally as ABIB after the purchase of Anheuser-Busch in 2008] Inbev instituted an aggressive cost-cutting culture. Out went the lavish TV ad production budgets. In came cheaper, high-visibility posters. Out went the embossed cans; in came a smaller bottle size for supermarket multipacks.

The beer itself, brewed in the traditional style with quality ingredients, had always tasted more full-bodied than its competitors. That put some people off. Inbev started to brew with maize, cheaper than barley, producing a blander-tasting beer. <...>

Sales of Stella went into reverse, with a rumoured annual volume decline of ten to 15 per cent.

Brown also briefly touches upon the question of provenance.

Stella had relied upon the inference that a beer produced in Belgium would be, ipso facto, better than a lager produced in the UK. Then it acquired brewing plants in the UK, and moved some production there. Brown quotes Nick Miller, marketer for SAB/Miller in the UK:
'We're in the "world beer" market - beers that are brewed in their country of origin (the Stella we drink is brewed in Wales) and that offer the consumer something genuinely different.'

Brown counters:
Some of these 'world beer' brands feel like a desperate marketing gimmick. Beers from countries such as Russia, Estonia, Brazil or Peru are sold at a premium to established brands and are considered fashionable simply because they come from somewhere we haven't seen beer from before. But inside the bottle, they can be very average. When they lose their novelty value, what's to stop them disappearing like any other fad?

This is a topic that deserves greater scrutiny. It goes to the questions of freshness, image, and local business support. And as to whether technology can trump taste, and, if so, in what cases (pun intended)? Guinness might be the poster brew-child: the beer is produced in many locations around the world, whereas the marketed identity is defiantly Éireann.
Ah, but we make 'craft' beer, some might say. That's folly. Do you not sell that beer? Read the entire article. It has important lessons for those smaller 'craft' breweries who are becoming regional brands, and those who may only just be beginning to expand their sales markets.

The rise and fall of Britain's favourite beers:
Why brewers are desperate for us to spend £4 on a pint of lager
By Pete Brown
The Daily Mail
11 November 2009

  • I was alerted to this story by Jay Brooks at his blog Brookston Beer Bulletin.
  • Watch Guinness' brewmaster Fergal Murray demonstrate the "Perfect Pour" here.
  • The hilarious dance moves in the ad are in themselves a clever connection with many of us who likewise can't dance.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: A sign on the door

VA smoking ban (2)

The long-time symbolic heart of the tobacco industry skips a beat. On December 1st 2009, the State of Virginia will ban the smoking of tobacco in restaurants. There are, however, many exemptions and exceptions to the ban.

Photo taken at Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church, Virginia.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

VeggieDag Thursday: A Beer Dinner for Vegetarians

Of all the beer dinners with which I've been involved, one stands out for me if only because of its personal relevance.

You see, I'm a vegetarian. Beer itself is a fine vegetarian foodstuff, but the food courses at these dinners are, more often than not, animal-based.

I ask for food substitutions, and the chefs graciously oblige, creating special plates. But I miss out on the flavor pairing conceptions that the chefs had originally created for each beer.

That was always the case, that is until last year, when Great Sage Restaurant in Clarksville, Maryland asked me to co-host a vegetarian beer dinner. That evening would be the first time in my career that I had attended a beer dinner at which I would enjoy each and every course as the chef had created it.

Great Sage Restaurant
Now, take 2!

This coming Monday, 16 November, Great Sage is repeating that experience, again with the beers of Clipper City Brewing but now with a new chef and a new vegan menu. Here are the details of the 4-course Gourmet Beer Dinner:

First Course
Tabouli cucumber salad with frisee, bell pepper curls & curry vinaigrette
Small Craft Warning Über Pils

Second Course
Pistachio and citrus crusted ‘goat cheese’ log with fresh herbs & sea salt
Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale

Third Course
‘Tenderloin’ Au Poivre with horseradish roasted fingerling potatoes & haricot verts
Winter Storm Category 5 Ale

Tempura marshmallow-fudge brownie crouton in mocha chocolate soup
Peg Leg Imperial Stout
  • More information, reservations, and directions are available at the website:
  • As I no longer work for Clipper City Brewing, I will NOT be hosting this year's dinner . However, I do still sell the brewery's beers as an employee of Select Wines, Inc., a wine & beer wholesaler operating in northern Virginia.
  • My story on last year's dinner: Here.
  • Why the name VeggieDag Thursday? Here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 44

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupClamps 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 of the pieces deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:

This is Week 44:
1 November - 7 November 2009

  • 2009.11.07
    Join the hive! Via @Cicerone_org: Mary Pelletieri (at Miller-Coors in Quality Control) calls beer industry social network a "mind hive".

  • 2009.11.07
    The 1st Friday of each month is occasion for The Session: #beer bloggers write on one theme. This month: Framing a Beer -

  • 2009.11.06
    Should a craft brewery-in-planning consider new or used equipment? Mad Fox Brewing discusses this:

  • 2009.11.06
    Stunning beer photos at Beer and Nosh website:

  • 2009.11.06
    For the latest in Twitter's fight against hacking & spam, follow @spam.

  • 2009.11.06
    Today's #followfriday is @DCsWineCountry because sometimes it's NOT about the beer.

  • 2009.11.06
    Non-beer writer for The Atlantic 'gets it' (that freshness is essential for beer quality). He describes a small brewery German beer as "so fresh & fragile that no one should ever drink it outside 20-mile radius of the brewery."

  • 2009.11.05
    Attempting to comprehend the senseless loss of lives in Ft Hood, Texas today. Thoughts go out to the soldiers' families.

  • Dominion 1998 Millenium keg (2)

  • 2009.11.05
    Beer archeology! 1998 Millenium Barleywine from now-closed Dominion Brewing on tap at Max's.

  • 2009.11.04
    It’s NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month. Post at least once per day during November. [I've missed a day already.]

  • 2009.11.04
    Frightening and true. Cat catches 'swine' flu from human:

  • 2009.11.04
    Cleaving its website from that of the Brewers Association, the American Homebrewers Association has a new site:

  • 2009.11.04
    The State of Montana decides that beer is not liquor, but, well, beer; allows sale and production of beers of up to 14% abv.

  • 2009.11.04
    What's that stink in some Baltimore, Maryland, basements? It's fermenting sauerkraut. From the Washington Post, some how-to as well:

  • 2009.11.04
    Beer & politics CAN mix. Baltimore, Maryland's Liquor Board Chairman is also an advocate for promoting good beer.

  • 2009.11.03
    How to build a Twitter list:

  • 2009.11.03
    A review of Battlefield Brewing: Fredericksburg, Virginia's first and only brewpub.

  • Autumn maple (2)

  • 2009.11.03
    Why do a tree's leaves turn different colors in the autumn? Scientists don't know, but hypothesize.

  • 2009.11.03
    You too could own Natty Boh. Contract brewer Pabst, owner of that and many other US legacy brands, has been put up for sale.

  • 2009.11.03
    The most important right NOT guaranteed by US Constitution: VOTE.

  • 2009.11.01
    Brookston beer Bulletin blog publishes a marvelous series called Beer in Art. Today's entry is a classic: Pieter Bruegel's Peasant Dance:

  • 2009.11.01
    Word on the street is that closed Arlington, Virginia beer pub Dr. Dremos may be plotting a return to the Clarendon area, but in a new location.

  • 2009.11.01
    Impressive. Brewer Jason Oliver at Virginia brewery Devils Backbone: 365 days of operation, 98 brews, 4 medals.

  • 2009.11.01
    Impressive. Brewer Jason Oliver at Virginia brewery Devils Backbone: 365 days of operation, 98 brews, 4 medals.

The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by NotionsCapital.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Reviving Dr. Dremo's

Long-time beer bar Dr. Dremos closed its doors in the Clarendon district of Arlington, Virginia, in January of 2008.

Dremo's totem

Originally opened in the early 1990s as a brewpub, called Bardo Rodeo, Dremo's became a victim of the neighborhood's gentrification. The landlord, deciding to redevelop the land, razed the building and replaced it with ... an empty field. Poor timing: business conditions would soon go south.

Demolished Dr. Dremo's

Owner Andrew Stewart auctioned most (but not all) of the paraphernalia and went south as well, literally. South to Columbia, South Carolina, where he opened a bar —Elbow Room— in October of this year.

Dremo's was known for its adventuresome beer list but also for its funky devil-may-care 'tude and decor (and, when it was Bardo Rodeo, its home-brewed beers and a brawl involving a Kennedy family member). When it closed, Dremo's took a lot of local beer history from that now vacant field.

Now, Andrew has plans to come back, and to bring back Dr. Dremo's. He would like to open in spring of 2010 in a new location in Clarendon. I talked with him about his plans.

What will you call the new place?

Dr. Dremo's!

Where will it be?

In Clarendon, near the Metro station. The building exists already, but it's essentially a shell that will need a kitchen, bathrooms, HVAC, etc. The building is 2,400 square ft but has the ability to be expanded to roughly 4,500 sq ft. There will also be another 3-4000 square feet for outdoor seating.

Will you be brewing on-site? (as did Bardo Rodeo —Dr. Dremo's predecessor, opened in the early 1990s by Andrew's father brother Bill Stewart.)

No, there won't be a brewery, but we will be a multi-tap with 25-40 taps (depending on how big of a walk in I can get in there). I would like to have some house brews contracted for me (I still have the Bardo recipes) —if I can find someone who brews in small enough batches. I can't take 100 kegs at a time.


No plans for a cask ale system.

What's your idea of the look of the place? And the food?

It'll be a Dr. Dremo's clone, recreating many facets of the previous location, including some of the old decor. The main attractions will be an extensive lineup of draft beer and an unpretentious atmosphere. The state of Virginia requires restaurants with a beer and liquor license to sell fifty per cent food, but an establishment with a beer-and-wine-only license needs to to sell five percent food. So, no liquor and 'quick' food such as burritos, sandwiches, nachos, hummus, chips and salsa, and the like.

UPDATE 2010.03.05: reports that negotiations for this location have proved unfruitful, and that a different, larger, again undisclosed, location is planned.
  • Per Andrew Stewart's request, you can get more information here.
  • History of Dr. Dremo's and Bardo Rodeo here
  • YFGF covered Dremo's closing here.
  • More photos of the original location here.
  • A reader pointed out my typo. It was Andrew's older brother Bill who opened the original Bardo Rodeo. Their father, Bill, did however help out, and was still often seen at Dremo's before it closed.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: Ghost Car

Ghost Car

Folk in Richmond, Virginia had fun with Halloween. 31 October 2009.

As an added bonus, there's this — a 'scientific' analysis of Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome— created after obviously watching one too many zombie flicks.
A Head-Shrinker Studies The Zombie Brain
31 November 2009
Ira Flatow (NPR Science Friday) interviews Psychiatrist Steven Schlozman about possible neurobiological explanations for the behavior of the undead, such as lack of a frontal lobe and an overactive amygdala. Of course, all made up in fun, based upon watching too many zombie flicks!
I post a photo each weekend. The entire series here.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Drink fresh, drink local

Nap Turner was a longtime blues radio announcer and performer in Washington, D.C. With a mellifluous baritone voice, he would daily intone, only gently haranguing, "Don't forget the blues," affirming that the blues —an American art form— was too important to our cultural heritage to not be remembered, and too joyous for our ears —yes, blues can be joyous— to not be heard.

I'm no Nap Turner, and my blog is about beer not the blues, but after reading this morning of yet another beer bar in Washington, D.C., that proudly displays its large draft list without offering even one locally produced beer, I felt that I needed to take a stand: Don't forget your local brewery.

The 'eat fresh, eat local' movement (unfortunately called 'locavore') has become loud to the point of annoyance. The 'craft' beer movement, on the other hand, often seems to pooh-pooh the local in favor of the new, the elsewhere.

I enjoy beer from elsewhere, but I return to the local. There's the business angle: supporting the local economy. There's the ecological reason: less traveling is less fuel consumption.  There's the common brotherhood.

Like bread fresh out of an oven, beer is a perishable foodstuff. It's best fresh. Yes, there are many exceptions to 'fresh beer,' but they are the spice to the fresh, main course. Even barleywines and other aged beers have a freshness, an etched quality, that is lost as the beers evolve. And, after a point, even 'beers for keeping' will go off. So, Drink fresh, drink local.

For purposes of local business and organization, I've drawn the local map by political boundaries rather than simple geographical distance. For Yours For Good, that's the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area.

  • Comprehensive listing of all of the breweries operating in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. 
  • Twitter list of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, breweries. 
  • DC Beer: An 'old-fashioned' list-serve for Washington, D.C.-area beer fans. 
  • Nationwide, find a U.S brewery at
  • For good beer bars, nationnwide, as well as breweries, a useful resource is

Thursday, November 05, 2009

BURP Real Ale Festival

If you live in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and you're a fan of cask-conditioned ale, there's good news for you this weekend. It's the B.U.R.P. Real Ale Competition & Festival, Saturday, Nov 7, 2009, noon till 6, in suburban Maryland.

B.U.R.P. Brewers United for Real Potables— is the D.C. area's premier homebrewers' club, founded in 1981.

For this festival, members have brewed cask ales in several categories; many of the beers will be judged the evening before. On Saturday, all the beers will be served from firkins, pins, and converted Cornelius kegs, and with beer engines and simple taps.

Brewers United for Real Potables

There is one catch, however. As the festival is held at the private home of a B.U.R.P. member (as are most of the monthly meetings), the address of the location is known only to members.

The solution? Become a member here.

Some terminology:
  • Firkin: 10.8 gallon cask.
  • Pin: 5.4 gallon cask.
  • Cornelius keg: 5 gallon keg used in the past for soft drink dispense. Common now in homebrewing.
  • Beer engine: a handpump used to pull beer from a cask to a tap at a bar.
  • Real Ale is a neologism coined by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), a cask beer consumer advocacy group in the UK. The term refers to cask-conditioned ale: "beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Birthday in Beer: Alex Hall, cask maven

Alex Hall, on Flickr by timeoutnewyork
A mover and shaker force for cask ale in the US celebrates his birthday today. Alex Hall sells and cajoles and encourages and organizes and teaches cask ale. A transplant from the UK, his base is New York City, but through his website and advocacy, his influence has spread much further.

As I wrote on his Facebook page: "Happy Birthday Alex, and here's to another year of bringing the casks to the people." I've never met Mr. Hall, but I look forward to many more years of his fierce advocacy for real ale.

Follow him on Twitter at: @Imbiber

Jay Brooks, at Brookston Beer Bulletin, maintains a calendar of beer birthdays. It's a marvelous resource for learning more about the folk who make, bring, and talk about beer.

Three times, the caskman smileth

If you're not certain on all the fuss about cask-conditioned ale, come visit me at three cask events this month in northern Virginia.


Winter Storm @ Tap & Vine

Saturday, 7 November
Tap & Vine
Arlington, VA
6pm, until the Winter Storm cask is drained. ( A firkin is a cask that holds 84 US pints. More on cask measurements here.)

We'll be tapping the first Winter Storm firkin of the season in Virgina. From Clipper City Brewing of Baltimore, Maryland, it's an Imperial Extra Special Bitter.

Let's deconstruct that. Extra Special Bitter is the name of an actual beer brewed in England. American beer-style writers have adopted the phrase as a style designation. Think medium bitterness matched with barley malt flavor and a caramel-like sweetness. The word 'extra' doesn't mean extra bitter, but rather greater alcohol than a 'standard' example. 'Imperial' is an American affectation implying even more strength than that: stronger than strong. Winter Storm is 7.5% alcohol by volume (abv).

UPDATE: Photos here.


Eventide bar

Wednesday, 11 November
Arlington, VA
6pm, until the Gonzo cask is drained.

We tap a cask of Gonzo Imperial Porter. Here's the description from Flying Dog Brewing of Frederick, Maryland:

Like Hunter S. Thompson [creator of so-called 'gonzo journalism']... Gonzo Imperial Porter is deep and complex. This turbo charged version of the Road Dog Porter is mysteriously dark with a rich and malty body, intense roasted flavors, and a surprisingly unique hop kick. With Gonzo weighing in at 7.8% ABV, it will bite you in the ass if you don't show it the proper respect.

Eventide is a wine-centric restaurant, so this cask tapping, its first, is a special event for Bar Manager Stephen Warner.

UPDATE: Photos here.


The pre-turkey crowd @Majestic

Wednesday, 25 November
Evening Star Cafe
Alexandria, VA
6pm, until the Loose Cannon cask is drained.

This has become a three year tradition for the Majestic Lounge, the backroom bar of this restaurant in the quaint Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia. A firkin is tapped on the evening before Thanksgiving. It's the only cask of the year for the pub. And it's always Loose Cannon Hop3, an India Pale Ale from Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland.

An IPA -the acronym for the style- is deep golden in color, with a citrusy aroma and bracing bitterness, and is fairly high in alcohol. Loose Cannon, for example, has an abv of 7.3%.

UPDATE: Photos here.


Cask 'gravity' pour

At each of these three, there will be no formal presentations, but I'll be on hand for the first hour or so, and, if you ask, I'll gladly pontificate on cask ale. The caskman smileth!

Caveat lector: I sell these three beers as an employee for northern Virginia wine/beer wholesaler Select Wines, Inc.