Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Celebrate 'Real Ale': It's Cask Ale Week

You yet have time to celebrate Cask Ale Week. It began Monday 29 March but it continues through Monday 5 April. This party for fresh, living "real ale" is organized in the UK; most of the official activities occur there. There are, however, a few unofficial participants here in the US. [Click here for a list.]

Pouring from the wood

You can enjoy cask ale 'weeks' year-round in the US. Click here for Alex Hall's list of outlets that regularly serve real ale.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 12

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 12
21 March 2010 - 27 March 2010

  • 2010.03.27
    China overtakes US, becomes Bordeaux’s biggest overseas market ... but principally for 'low-end' wine. From Wine Spectator:
  • 2010.03.27
    It would have been beer writer Michael Jackson's 68th birthday:
  • 2010.03.26
    Room for more beer education. Overheard: The Sierra Nevada Brewing Glissade Golden Bock doesn't have enough hops. [That's NOT what a bock beer is!]

  • Phil Sides
  • 2010.03.26
    Twtter FollowFriday. Phil Sides @hopsock: a past organizer of NERAX; a co-developer of BJCP beer styles; a national beer judge.
  • 2010.03.25
    From 1964: John Updike’s paean to the beer can.

  • A full bar at Churchkey
  • 2010.03.25
    Congratulations! Churchkey is named Best Beer Bar with Best Beer List by Washington [D.C.] City Paper.
  • 2010.03.25
    Is beer blogging mere 'preaching to the choir'? "Does anybody read beer blogs?"
  • 2010.03.25
    Quintessence of cool. Robert Culp dies at 79.

  • Lithuanian-style potato kugelis
  • 2010.03.25
    Sveiks! Veritas and kugelis and other Lithuanian (American) treats.
  • 2010.03.23
    President Obama signs US health care reform bill into law.
  • 2010.03.23
    THE voice of the Washington Redskins, the mellifluous-piped Frank Herzog, retires from radio broadcasting.
  • 2010.03.23
    Support H.R. 4278: reduction of small brewers tax from $7 to $3.50 per bbl. Write your representative:
  • 2010.03.22
    Beer in posts a recap of Baltimore, Maryland, Spring 2010 Real Ale Festival:
  • 2010.03.21
    Statistical anlysis showing "The Untimely Death of the American Session Beer."


  • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories  not posted at Yours For Good Most deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:
  • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: ALL way stop

Your tax dollars at work ... or topsy-turvy priorities.

ALL ways stop


Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birthday in Beer: Michael Jackson

He was a newspaperman by trade, a Yorkshireman by birth (of Lithuanian heritage), a witty speaker with a dry sense of humor, an erudite author of books on beer, and an adherent (when there had been few) of beer style and terroir. Today would have been his 68th birthday: Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter.

I recently talked with a professional brewer who dismissed Jackson as "that Englishman who was always drunk." Well, I'm (not) sorry, but that's a calumny.

Jackson, so outspoken in his advocacy for good beer, long waged a private battle against Parkinson's Disease, its progressively deteriorating symptoms observable as slurred speech, rigidity, and herky-jerky movements. After publicly revealing his disease a year before his death in 2007, Jackson would quip that he was writing a memoir entitled, "No, I'm Not Drunk."

In Jackson's second appearance on the Conan O'Brien show (embedded below), you might notice the disease's effects upon him, but you can't miss his wit, sharp as always. Jackson may have been losing, but he wasn't surrendering. Even O'Brien, beyond his schtick, was gracious.

Today, in Michael Jackson's honor, consider offering a donation to a charity funding Parkinson's research. And then, of course, toast his memory with a good beer ... but for Jackson's sake, pour it in a glass.

"It's a waste of money if you drink out of a bottle because so much of the taste is in the aroma."

  • To help find a cure, you can link your home computer into a worldwide distributed computing effort - Folding at Home - run by researchers at Stanford University to better understand protein folding errors, believed to be a cause of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative diseases. There is no cost.
  • More YFGF posts on Michael Jackson: 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.
  • More of my short list of Birthdays in Beer: here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 11

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 11
14 March 2010 - 20 March 2010
  • 2010.03.20
    Why did spring arrive a day earlier than 'usual'?
  • 2010.03.20
    The 4,600 lb pizza oven arrived at Mad Fox Brewing in Falls Church, VA. [Link includes other pics of the brewpub's construction.]
  • Brewing friends at SAVOR
  • 2010.03.19
    New 2010 Brewers Association board members: Nick Matt, Sam Calagione, Mark Edelson.
  • 2010.03.19
    The new FCC broadband plan has good ideas but nothing too drastic:
  • 2010.03.19
    From 1964: John Updike’s paean to the beer can.
  • 2010.03.19
    Yelp sued for deleting positive comments when business refused to buy advertising on the site:
  • 2010.03.19
    Twitter #FollowFriday: Maryland for Better Beer & Wine Laws @MBBWL advocates for change in US alcohol laws, specifically in Maryland.
  • 08_Cheese wheel, unwrapped
  • 2010.03.19
    The results of the recently completed World Cheese Championships, held in Madison, Wisconsin:
  • 2010.03.18
    The US House of Representatives subcommittee on Courts and Competition held hearing on the three-tier system of alcohol distribution in US.
  • 2010.03.18
    SABMiller/Coors begins US testing marketing on a new small-batch beer that they are promoting as a Pre-Prohibition style lager.
  • 2010.03.17
    Congress proposes halving small brewers’ excise tax and reducing the marginal rate.
  • 2010.03.17
    In an internet world of bloggers, why professional food critics still matter. Why foodies should worry when a mainstream paper, such as the Wall Street Journal, loses a food reviewer.
  • 2010.03.17
    The top chef of Bravo cable network's Top Chef program has "astonishing array of beers available to match food" at his New York City restaurant, Colicchio & Sons:
  • 2010.03.17
    Guinness bubbles really do flow down in a glass, rather than up, say scientists.
  • 2010.03.17
    Four brewing companies control and brew half of the world’s beer.
  • 2010.03.17
    What did the original Pliny the Elder (b. AD 23, d. 79) actually say about hops? Pronouncing "Pliny" [as in the beers Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger from Russian River Brewing Company]:
  • Rosé and face
  • 2010.03.17
    For wine, 'terroir' is about smallness of scale & uniqueness of product.
  • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories not posted at Yours For Good Most deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:
  • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

All About 'real' Beer

Firkin Brown Ale: Capitol City Brewing, May 2009

During American Craft Beer Week in May of 2009, I set out to taste a different local beer (local to me: VA/DC/MD) each day for that week, and to document the exercise. For beer #5,  I had two pints at Capitol City Brewing Company, a Shirlington, Virginia, brewpub: an organic Saison and a cask-conditioned Nut Brown Ale.

I'm no photographer, and —to paraphrase a long-ago advert— I don't even play one on TV, but my photograph from that day —of the bartender pulling the pint of Nut Brown— has become the cover artwork for the just-released May 2010 issue (Volume 31, No. 2) of All About Beer magazine.

The feature story is by Steve Hamburg: "Real Ale in America: Can an English tradition survive here?" It's a brief primer and worth a read: commending the growth of cask-conditioned ale in the US, indicting sloppy techniques.

Here's how the photo appears on the the cover:

For this shot, I used a Canon PowerShot SD400. I've since 'upgraded' to a Canon Power Shot SD980IS.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Happy Vernal Equinox!


I purchased this beautiful display of organic mushrooms, from Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms —of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania— today, during the final hours of winter, just before the Vernal Equinox, at the Falls Church City Farmers' Market.

I predict that, in those mushrooms' very near future, there will be some olive oil, onions, and garlic. And a Chimay Grande Reserve.


The vernal equinox —when winter becomes spring— occurred today at 1:32 PM US Eastern Daylight Time, when the sun was directly over the Earth's equator, that is, there was no tilt of the Earth's axis in regard to the sun. It is not true, however that today there will be equal amounts of day and night. It's close, but not quite.

Any why the 20th of March, not the 21st? explains:
While it's true that we've traditionally celebrated the beginning of spring on March 21, astronomers and calendar manufacturers alike now say that the spring season starts one day earlier, March 20, in all time zones in North America. Unheard of? Not if you look at the statistics. In fact, did you know that during the 20th Century, March 21 was actually the exception rather than the rule?

The vernal equinox landed on March 21, only 36 out of 100 years. And from 1981 to 2102, Americans will celebrate the first day of spring no later than March 20.

In the years 2008 and 2012, those living in Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific, Mountain and Central time zones will see spring begin even earlier: on March 19. And in 2016, it will start on March 19 for the entire United States.

The reasons have to do with the inexactness of our calendar and that Earth's "elliptical orbit is changing its orientation relative to the Sun." The Catholic Church uses this day to date Easter. It's the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.


Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

VeggieDag Thursday: In-season tomatoes

VeggieDag is a series of occasional Thursday posts on
vegetarian cooking and food issues. Why the name: Here.

Suggestions and submissions from chefs and homecooks welcomed: Here.

Before a recent beer dinner, I talked with Evan Buchholz, chef at the American Flatbread in Clarendon, Virginia.

Flatbread hearth

I asked why, in a restaurant devoted to flatbreads, why there was no margherita pizza option.

"Well," he answered. "I can buy locally-produced mozzarella year-round, maybe even hot-house basil. But tomatoes? I wait until they're in-season."

A stance to eat by.


For the 'beer dinner', the restaurant invited Hugh Sisson of Heavy Seas Brewing of Baltimore, Maryland to be the guest host. His beers were matched with several courses from the restaurant. In other words, local ingredients paired with local beers.

Here, it's a flatbread of oven roasted fennel, toasted pine nuts, kale, locally-produced feta cheese, mozzarella, and lemon zest.


In staying with the fresh theme, the flatbread was matched with pours from a cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA. Properly prepared, cask-conditioned beer is the freshest a beer can be served.


I had to ask him, so I did. "Why is it called flatbread, rather than pizza?" "It's Italian pizza," Evan suggested with a laugh. "It's American flatbread."

  • More photos from the dinner: here.
  • More about the freshness of cask-conditioned ale here.
  • Caveat lector: As an employee of Select Wines, Inc., a wholesaler in northern Virginia, I sell the beers of Heavy Seas.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mad libs (as in libations)

At about this time last year, I wrote this, and it applies today:

It's Beer Madness time again at the Washington Post. (In case, you're not a US sports fan, the name is a play on March Madness, the collegiate basketball championship tournament which occurs every March.)

Eight panelists are selected, based upon their one-sentence emailed applications. 630 applied, including me. ("I sell beer, and I wear a tie," I wrote this year, as I did last year, again failing to secure a spot. Maybe I should re-write.)

They vote their preferences (in blind fashion) on thirty-two beers —-as selected by Washington Post beer writer Greg Kitsock— pairing two at a time. The winning beers advance through 4 rounds until one remains. <...>

Last year, the results and process seemed to distress a few 'serious' beer gurus who decried the judges' lack of training and the somewhat arbitrary match up of beers. But it's that very approach that mirrors the real-world of commercial beer. Beer is bought and enjoyed in a non-rigorous manner.

This year, the Washington Post loses at least some of the parochial aspect of the first three year's contests:
Beer Madness, our annual quest for Everyman's favorite brew, returns with a twist. This year, we've included beers from 22 nations. Our panelists met for a blind taste test in early March, but we want to see where your votes different from theirs. Each week, we invite you to play along by voting for your favorite in each matchup.

The lack of inclusion of even one IPA —India ale Ale: highly hopped pale ale and arguably the most popular craft beer style in the US— is certain to raise further questions about relevance. Then again, it is Beer Madness. The interactive brackets are here.

The first year of the competition, 2007, Brooklyn Lager won the championship round. In 2008, Backdraft Brown --contract-brewed for Silver Spring, Maryland's Hook and Hadder Brewing Company-- took top honors. Last year, it was Pennsylvania brewery Troeg's Hopback Amber Ale.

I'm still selling beer (and wine), and I still often wear at tie.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 10

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 10
7 March 2010 - 13 March 2010
  • 2010.03.13
    It's nothing new. 'Black' IPA beer style was brewed in the UK ... in the 19th century.
  • 2010.03.13
    The Maryland beer tax increase looks to be defeated this session.
  • 2010.03.12
    Corned beef & cabbage is not an Irish national dish. Nor is green beer for St. Patrick's Day.
  • 2010.03.12
    #FollowFriday on Twitter for information on 'real ale' in the UK: @caskaleweek, @TonyJerome.
  • 2010.03.12
    The European grapevine moth threatens California wine crop. Discovered in Napa, the pest has spread to Sonoma. A quarantine has begun.
  • 2010.03.12
    New Hampshire Liquor Commission bans Flying Dog Brewing's Raging Bitch 'Belgian-style IPA' because of its name.
  • Examining the pint
  • 2010.03.11
    Food & Wine Magazine honors Greg Engert of Churchkey beer bar in Washington, D.C. as a beer sommelier.
  • 2010.03.11
    Iowa legislature corrects inequity. In-state breweries may now make and sell beers of up to 12% abv. Out of state breweries ALREADY could.
  • 2010.03.11
    On 11 March 1991, Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union.
  • 2010.03.11
    Belgian brewery De Dolle fire update: it was bad but its impact was not as bad as initial reports. Hurt employee recovering.
  • 2010.03.10
    The National Beer Wholesalers Association publishes a blog dealing with developments in alcohol regulation and litigation.
  • 2010.03.09
    The Brewers Association reports that overall beer numbers were down in 2009, but small brewery sales dollars were up 10.3%, volume up 7.2 % over 2008.
  • 2010.03.09
    Britain creates a Minister of Pubs to assist pubs to survive as "centre of the community they serve."
  • 2010.03.09
    Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), House Small Brewers Caucus co-chair, to keynote the Craft Brewers Conference, in Chicago in April.
  • 2010.03.09
    More on the raids on Philadelphia-area beer pubs by the State of Pennsylvania.
  • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories not posted at Yours For Good Most deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:
  • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good good-beer news for Arlington, Virginia

The area of Arlington, Virginia bounded by Ballston, Clarendon, and Court House, is about to become very good-beer friendly.

There's the granddaddy Galaxy Hut, which has been pouring good beer since the early 1990s.

Inside-out at Galaxy Hut

Soon joining Galaxy Hut will be Fire Works Pizza, whose original location, in Leesburg, Virginia, is an intimate restaurant of wood-fired pizzas and good draft beer selections.

Fireworks Wood-Fired pizza

The new, much larger, location will be in the Court House district of Arlington at the intersection of Clarendon Boulevard and Adams Street. It should have 30 draft lines plus 2 dedicated cask lines, and a wood-burning domed oven similar to the one in Leesburg. The projected opening is the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2010.

Future Fireworks (02)

The ownership team at Liberty Tavern is opening two new restaurants in April: Northside Social, a bakery lounge with a wine emphasis (and coffee), and Lyon Hall, at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Highland Street. Here's how Northern Virginia Magazine described it:
a bistro/bar project ... 20 draft lines–with Eastern European cuisine, including: Alsatian tarts, hanger steak and frites, skate schnitzel, roast chicken, and a [homemade] sausage platter.

The three-story establishment will also feature an open kitchen (basement), 18-seat marble bar, outdoor patio, semi-private dining in the “Trophy Room” and reclaimed New York City subway light fixtures throughout.

Neighborhood Restaurant Group —the folk that brought you Churchkey in Washington, D.C., and before that Rustico Restaurant in Alexandria (and several other establishments)— has just publicly announced what has been whispered about for months: There's a second Rustico to open, this one in the Ballston area of northern Virginia in mid-June 2010.

Coming attraction

It's to be at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard at Quincy Street. [At the link, scroll a few blocks to the right —east. Google Maps was acting a bit goofy.]

There will be 30 40 draft lines and two dedicated cask lines. An off-premise license means that one will be able to purchase bottled beer for take home. The original location in Alexandria will also be adding a second cask line in addition to its original one.

The late lamented Dr. Dremo —a pool hall/draft beer emporium— was torn down in January 2008 and replaced by ... an empty field.

Demolished Dr. Dremo's

Former owner Andrew Stewart announced plans to re-open Dremo's this year in a new location in the area. His plans seem to have been derailed, at least for the present, due to building code requirements, although he believes he has found a newer, larger location.

UPDATE. More good good-beer news for tHE rest of northern Virginia: here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Saké!


10 March 2010

One table, among many, at a wine tasting presented by wholesaler and importer Winebow in the Terrace Dining Room of the Kennedy Center, on the banks of the Potomac River, in Washington, D.C.

Here, a representative poured samples from the Japanese saké brewery Ichishima.

Contrary to common misconception, saké is not wine but beer. A wine is a beverage produced by the fermentation of fruit sugars. A beer is created from the starches in grain. Beer, as we recognize it now in the West, is brewed principally from barley, often with other grains as adjuncts, such as wheat, rice, or corn. Saké is brewed from rice.

  • Photos from the event: here.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Birthday in Beer: Rob Kasper

Rob Kasper

Rob Kasper is a features columnist for the Baltimore Sun. He writes about cooking, eating, gardening, life's foibles and small moments, and ... beer. His most recent column on that topic concerned Stillwater Artisinal Ales, Baltimore's newest brewery.

Here's how Rob describes himself:
[I] have been writing about beer for 20 years. I recall when when Anchor Christmas and Noche Buena were about the only beers at a holiday tasting and Sisson’s was the only brewpub in Baltimore. A collection of his columns, "Raising Kids and Tomatoes, Amusing Tales and Appetizing Recipes," was published in 1998. He lives with his wife, Judith, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, in a downtown Baltimore rowhouse. They have two grown sons, who come home from time to time and drink their father’s beer.

In his spare time, Rob writes a blog about beer: Kasper on Tap. He hasn't been prolific as of late, so be sure to click the archives link at his site. There's lots of good stuff there.

And, oh yes. It's Rob's birthday today.

UPDATE: In 2011, Mr. Kasper retired from the Baltimore Sun, and wrote Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing.


Good beer does well in 2009 in US

Wall of Beer 02

It was good business for most US small breweries in 2009. Here's what the Brewers Association (BA) reported yesterday:

BOULDER, Colo.• March 8, 2010 —The Brewers Association, the trade association that tabulates production statistics for U.S. breweries, today released 2009 data on the U.S. craft brewing industry. In a year when other brewers saw a slowdown in sales, small and independent craft brewers saw sales dollars increase 10.3 percent and volume increase 7.2 percent over 2008, representing a growth of 613,992 barrels equal to roughly 8.5 million cases.

Total beer sales —that is, when the US numbers of the international corporate brewers are figured in (there are no American-owned 'big' brewers remaining)— decreased 2.1% from 210.4 million barrels in 2008 to 205.8 million barrels.

Restaurants nationwide struggled during the recession; thus, there was concern for brewpubs. Looking at the graphic supplied, one can be reassured: the physical number of brewpubs increased — if only slightly— 0.9% to 992.
2009 small brewery growth width=

The number of small breweries also increased —at a healthier pace— 8.3%, from 504 to 550. But dollar growth was down from its high of 14% of a few years ago, and volume growth down from its high of 11%. (Read more: here.) Determining whether that decline in the rate of growth is situational or systemic —or temporary— will require more metrics and greater analysis. The Brewers Association does plan to release more information at its annual celebration and exposition —the Craft Brewers Conference— in April 2010, in Chicago.

The keynote speaker for the conference this year will not be exhorting cheers from the converted. (See  I Am A Craft Brewer.) The speaker will be addressing the political realities of selling beer. The BA has invited Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), House Small Brewers Caucus founder and co-chair, to keynote the Craft Brewers Conference. It might be be a sign of the coming-of-age of the small-brewery industry.
  • The magazine Beer Marketer's Insights reported similar results in January. Read more: here.
  • A barrel is not a keg. It's a unit of liquid measurement, that in the US is equal to 31 US gallons, or 13.78 cases of bottles of 12-ounce beers. Read more here.
  • The BA defines '"craft breweries": here. I have a different take on what I prefer to call "small breweries": here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 9

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 9
28 February 2010 - 6 March 2010
  • 2010.03.05
    #FollowFriday: Seen Through a Glass blog @lewbryson  Read about Lion Brewery's new Stegmaier craft beer line.
  • firkinsRAF
  • 2010.03.05
    Is your US pub or brewery celebrating Cask Ale Week March 29 - April 5?
  • 2010.03.04
    Brewer InBev beer volumes down 1% in 2009, but "underlying profits" up 16.6%. How? Higher prices!
  • 2010.03.04
    What makes a restaurant wine list 'good'? From Philly's Table Matters:
  • 2010.03.04
    Quake damage suffered by Chile wine industry: $975 million in spilled wine.  2010 harvest possibly decimated.
  • 2010.03.03
    Photo tour of Westvleteren, De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren in Belgium, 1 of 7 extant Trappist breweries:
  • 2010.03.03
    Saveur Magazine announces 1st annual best food blog contest. Includes wine, but no beer or spirits category.
  • 2010.03.03
    Canadian essay on women's hockey team beer choice: "If you drink Coors Light the terrorists have won."
  • 08_Cheese wheel, unwrapped
  • 2010.03.03
    Washed rind cheeses: "Beyond the stink, glorious flavor."
  • 2010.03.03
    Virginia Wine Cup results. Meritage from King Family Vineyards of Crozet wins gold.
  • 2010.03.03
    Microdistilleries, and "white dog'' - legal moonshine.
  • 2010.03.03
    Maryland's Clay Pipe Brewing to cease operations.
  • 2010.03.03
    US brewery Allagash Brewery to pour "Maine-lambics" at Night of Great Thirst in Belgium
  • 2010.03.03
    German cruise ship outfitted to brew beer with onboard water desalinization plant.
  • 2010.03.01
    Results of 23rd Annual Wammies (Washington Area Music Awards) at State Theatre in Falls Church VA.
  • 2010.03.01
    President Obama to buy Canada's P.M. Stephen Harper a case of Molson beer for losing Olympics hockey wager.
  • 2010.03.01
    Frédéric Chopin's 200th Birthday
  • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories not posted at Yours For Good Most deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:
  • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Session #37 - The Display Shelf: When to Drink the Good Stuff

The Session #36: Cask-Conditioned Beer

The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community begun by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer, and co-moderated with Jay Brooks at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

On the first Friday of each month, a predetermined blogger hosts The Session,
chooses a specific, beer-related, topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and posts a roundup of all the responses received.

For more information and to host a Session, go to the archive page at
the Brookston Beer Bulletin

What a difference a month makes! February's topic was fresh beer, served cask-conditioned. This month, the Session begins its third year with a discussion of beer collections: cellaring beer for drinking later. Here's how host BeerFerm announced the theme for The Session #37 - The Display Shelf: When to Drink the Good Stuff:
My journey to a full-fledged beer enthusiast has gone from having a preference for full flavored beers -- to homebrewer -- to craft beer drinker -- to beer traveler -- to beer collector -- to beer blogger. Over the past few years, I have purchased or been gifted numerous bottles of beers that I subsequently cellared and designated as “to be opened on a special occasion.” My dilemma, however, is matching an occasion with opening a particular bottle in my collection.

In the 1990s, Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine was considered somewhat undrinkable when young,  at 9.6% alcohol by volume, and with lots of aroma, flavor, and bitterness from  'C' hops: Cascades, Centennial, etc., all brash and grapefruity when fresh. By today's standards of extreme beers —a meaningless label of fungible definition— Bigfoot could be considered tame.

I popped open a bottle of 1999 vintage: a vinous maltiness with the citrusy hops now in the background. I drank it —well, I sipped it— with a simple dinner of sautéed mushrooms and onions. Wonderful together.

cellared beers

I drank my lone surviving 1991 Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy Ale while snowed in during the Washington D.C. area's recent historic blizzards. The beer was somewhat thin and hot: it had passed its prime.

My 'cellar' contains  about 130 vintage beers, including another Thomas Hardy from 1994, and two more Bigfoots from 1999. (I relish the opportunity to use that plural construction.) My collection is minuscule by some standards, but it's too large an assortment for my current tastes.

I need to have a party.

'Sir Ron' of BeerFerm has posted his round-up of all the contributions: here.

Pic(k) of the Week: Cool Blue Mobile

Cool blue mobile

I liked the interplay of melting snow on my car window and the antique sedan across the street. It was the first snow of the 2009/10 season. Little did we know then.

Fells Point, Baltimore, Maryland.
5 December 2009

Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

National Cask Ale Week: in US?

National Cask Ale Week
It's time again for National Cask Ale Week, 29 March to 5 April.

Haven't heard of the celebration, you say? There might be two reasons for that.

It's only in its second year, and the "National" is Britain. The organizers include the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) —which "campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights" in the UK— and the Cask Marque Trust —an independent voluntary association 'certifying' cask ale quality at pubs in the UK.

Look carefully at the pump clip in the logo. It appeared as if the organizers had crossed out the word "Britain." Not so! Alastair Macnaught at Cask Marque emailed this clarification:
...the word Britain wasn't actually crossed out (although it looks like it I agree!), it has the UK flag on it. I can send you the image if you like. Although we have no plans to involve other countries we are very happy for them to get involved - it is only a lack of resources to involve other countries which is stopping us. Could be something for the future though. All the best with anything you can organise and keep us posted on the best stories!

In 2009, only a few  (a very few) pubs in the US participated. [More: here.] So, my open question to pubs and brewpubs in the United States: Will you be observing Cask Ale Week 2010? And, if so, what are your plans?


29 March - 5 April
  • Colorado

    • Dry Dock Brewing Company: 2 April
      On Friday, it's a Coconut Porter cask ale in honor of Cask Ale Week. Every Friday we have a different cask ale, usually one of our regular beers, and put our own little spin on it.

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

    • NERAX
      New England Real Ale Exhibition: 24 - 27 March.
      14th annual festival. Over 80 firkins of Real Ale. Half U.K. beers from England, Scotland, and Wales; and half American beers from New England. Occurs before Cask Ale Week.

  • Pennsylvania

  • Virginia

    • Galaxy Hut
      Special Cask tappingFirkin of Heavy Seas Siren Noire imperial stout (with chocolate nibs): 5 April, 6-8pm

  • Washington, D.C.

    • Churchkey
      Bell's HopSlam Cask Tapping at ChurchKey: 29 March. The ONLY CASK of Bell’s HopSlam to make it to the greater Washington, DC region.

      Flying Dog 'Bitch' Session at ChurchKey :1 April
      The first 50 people to order a Flying Dog Real Ale will receive a Limited Edition Raging Bitch stemless goblet. Firkins of Gonzo Imperial Porter, Snake Dog India Pale Ale, and Doggie-Style Classic Pale Ale

    • Black Squirrel
      Snake Dog India Pale Ale from Maryland's Flying Dog Brewery, which has had Simicoe hops added after fermentation for extra aroma.
I'll update this page to include events as I receive responses. Add a comment below or email me.
  • In 2009, an attempt was made to coordinate the worlds' largest toast ... to cask ale. The story here.
  • The UK organizers on Facebook: here
  • The UK organizers on Twitter: here. The rest of us should hashmark our events with #CaskAleWeek
  • Photos on Flickr: here. Tagged with Cask Ale Week

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Birthday in Beer: Jay Brooks

Saveur Magazine has announced their 1st annual Best Food Blog Awards, and the editors should be abashed. They failed to nominate the Brookston Beer Bulletin, one of the best blogs on beer written in the United States. (Even though there are several wine blogs in the running, there are none for beer or spirits writing.)

Jay Brooks, based in California, writes prodigiously for the nearly eponymous Bulletin. He is entertaining, concise, and analytical. If you haven't read the Bulletin recently —or at all— read it now.

Jay features several series: for example, one on beer advertisements and one on beer in art. He also compiles a comprehensive calendar of beer birthdays: anniversaries of the folk who make, sell, and write about beer. It's a marvelous resource.

Yesterday was Dr. Seuss' birthday. In his honor, Jay wrote a beery doggerel. Today is Jay's birthday, and he was too humble to mention that himself. So, I will.

Happy Birthday, Jay.

[UPDATE: He has posted a few photos of himself, from past days: here.]

  • More of my short list of Birthdays in Beer: here.
  • Jay's much more comprehensive list of beer birthdays: here.

Guns and breathalysers

The Virginia General Assembly has passed a bill permitting concealed weapons in restaurants. This 'corrects' an earlier law that had allowed only openly carried weapons.

If signed by the Governor, the law will prohibit "those who pack guns from drinking [alcoholic beverages]" in establishments serving alcohol. There are no bars, per se, in Virginia. Establishments which are allowed to serve alcohol must also serve food prepared on-site.

This begs some questions. If a weapon were concealed, how would the bartender know this? Would he/she be complicit in violating the provision?

"ID, please. Up against the wall, and spread 'em!" [The story here.]

Maryland is considering car ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders of alcohol violations. A breathalyser would prevent a car from starting if any alcohol were present in the breath of the driver. Presumably non-entertainment purposes might interfere with the ignition, such as, for example, mouthwash. The bill catches with a wide net: intoxication has not been, and cannot be, demonstrated to be the same as having one standard drink. [The story here.]

Here's a modest proposal.

If there were more public transportation, wouldn't there be less driving? If there were more sidewalks, wouldn't more residents be able to walk safely? If state and local governments would relax suburban zoning laws, might not there be more neighborhood pubs to which adults could walk ... rather than drive?

Let a thousand pubs bloom!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for Week 8

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 8
21 February 2010 - 27 February 2010
  • 2010.02.27
    “Like baby boomers adopted wine, their kids are adopting beer." The New York Times reports on the popularity of beer tourism.
  • 2010.02.27
    Room for beer education. A wine guy told me that draft beer is different than bottled beer because it is fermented dryer. [No! It's usually the same liquid stream.]
  • Vegetable plate (02)
  • 2010.02.27
    For almost all of California, the 2007 vintage will be one of the all-time great wine vintages. Neither '08 or '09 are as consistently superb. On Twitter, via @RobertMParkerJr.
  • 2010.02.27
    Room for beer education. Wine/beer shop advertises: German pilsner-style premium beer made since 1627. [Pilsners 'invented' in now Czech Republic in 1800s.]
  • 2010.02.27
    Chile earthquake news on Facebook
  • 2010.02.26
    #FollowFriday mixing politics and beer. From the right: @VADavid. From the left: @jayjacey.
  • The Firkin Waits 02
  • 2010.02.26
    March Madness in Maryland and Pennsylvania, firkin style. Real ale events in March:
  • 2010.02.25
    Need a real ale fix in Massachusetts? Attend the New England Real Ale Exposition (NERAX) Mar 24-27:
  • 2010.02.25
    "He's bringing some hooch out of the back room!" A 'beer' man tours Mexico. Finds other beverages.
  • 2010.02.25
    After 30 years, Washington, D.C. weatherman Bob Ryan leaving NBC TV4, due to contract dispute.
  • 2010.02.25
    Pubs that serve real ale listed on a world-wide map. (5595 listed in UK. Only 15 listed in US)
  • 2010.02.25
    A slideshow of the history of the Village Vanguard, New York's historic jazz club, at 75 years old this week.
  • 2010.02.25
    A Czech beer blogger scoffs at so-called Imperial Pilsner style in the US: "No one had ever thought of strong lager before?!"
  • Clipper City's reps at table
  • 2010.02.25
    Tickets for SAVOR (a national beer-with-food exposition) sells out in 10 minutes. The sponsor, the Brewers Association, comments.
  • 2010.02.24
    More on Longtrail Brewing's purchase of Otter Creek and Wolavers Brewing.
  • 2010.02.24
    National Cask Ale Week in the UK: 29 March - 5 April
  • 2010.02.24
    Do no evil?  Europe launches antitrust inquiry of Google.
  • 2010.02.24
    It's oysters IN stout with Gene Muller of Flying Fish Brewery and Kate Tame of Harpoon.
  • 2010.02.24
    Late to the game. Yahoo announces plans to integrate Twitter into search results.
  • 2010.02.24
    The World Beer Festival expands to Richmond, VA, Saturday, June 12, 2010.
  • 2010.02.24
    Wine is now made in all 50 US states. Where to find it, in the Washington DC area:
  • 2010.02.23
    At the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Why don't figure skaters get dizzy?
  • 2010.02.23
    On Twitter: @DalaiLama. Yes THAT Dalai Lama.
  • 2010.02.23
    Despite drop in beer exports to US, Heineken's profit 'soars.' Sees further fall in ingredient costs.
  • 2010.02.23
    Celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich team with celebrity brewers to open a restaurant and real ale brewpub on prime New York City site.
  • 2010.02.23
    From the New York Times: 1) the value of beer vs wine:; 2) Belgian golden ales described:; Belgian golden ales paired with fish:
  • 2010.02.22
    Remember those who have made our beers. Rest in peace, Jeff Charnick, past award-winning brewer for Commonwealth Brewing in Boston.
  • 2010.02.22
    Room for beer education. Oak flavor was long regarded as a taint in beer. "The Complete English Brewer" by George Watkins, 1773:
  • 2010.02.22
    The long journey of the domain name, and where it is now.
  • 2010.02.21
    No one at Gallo noticed? Red Bicyclette & The Case of (3.57 mil gallons) the Fraudulent Pinot Noir.
  • 2010.02.21
    The James Beard Foundation nominates 4 beer personalities in the "Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional" category.
  • Taps upstairs @Barleys
  • 2010.02.21
    Citing the lack of care of lines and/or slow-selling beers, beer author Andy Crouch calls for the end of multi-taps. Says 24 taps is "magic number."
  • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories not posted at Yours For Good Most deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); some do not. But all are brief, and many are re-posts from my Twitter account:
  • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Chopin and my father

Depending on whether you believe the birth certificate or the man himself, either 22 February or today, 1 March, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin. Read more (and listen) at The Collaborative Piano Blog, and at the Washington Post here:

Chopin's piano pieces -- all of his pieces involve the piano: no symphonies or operas here -- are lyrical and lovely, poetic and, therefore, seen as accessible. Yet they can also be harmonically intricate, technically challenging. <...> Chopin's pieces represent a towering hurdle, the benchmark against which a classical pianist is measured -- in part because of the difficulty of finding a way to plumb the music's depths while sounding simple.

Today, I also honor the birthday of Albert C. Cizauskas. Were my father alive today, he would have been 90 years young. He introduced European Classical music to me, a gift that yet thrills my soul.