Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Brewery but Beautiful

Fritz Maytag once said something along the lines of "don't tell me that good beer can be made at an ugly brewery." His former brewery, Anchor Brewing, in San Francisco, is a beautiful edifice; as is Brewery Ommegang— in the foothills of upstate New York, near Cooperstown, the site of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

All breweries should be so lovely.

Sunlit archway

Silo and hoppers

These photos were taken in July 2007 at the Belgium Comes To Cooperstown Festival, a camp-out and festival held annually on the brewery grounds. This year's festival occurs this weekend.

  • Ommegang, roughly pronounced: OH muh gong.
  • From Wikipedia: Ommegang (Dutch: "walk around (the church)" is the generic name for various medieval pageants celebrated in Belgium, in the Netherlands, and in northern France. A famous one is celebrated every July in Brussels, Belgium. It commemorates the "Joyous Entry" of Emperor Charles V into Brussels in 1549.
  • More photos from 2007: here.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, usually posted on a Saturday, and often of a good fermentable as subject.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

VeggieDag Thursday: Corn, Tomatillos, & Pizza Pie

Three quick links for a summer edition of VeggieDag Thursday.

Grilled Corn 003

How to grill corn? ... Just grill it, baby! From Mark Bittman at the New York Times, with suggestions for 4 sauces (other than salt and butter).

Personally, I love the charred, popcorn-like flavor that corn gets when it’s exposed directly to the flame, so I grill my corn out of the husk and until it’s browned — really browned — in a few places; as it happens, this usually leaves other parts bright yellow. Not only is this super-easy but it results in the kind of flavor I associate with the crunchy street corn of Mexico.

Tomatillos (02)

Golf-ball sized green tomatoes wrapped in tan, papery husks? Tomatillos! Salsa and 4 more ways to cook them, from the Smithsonian's Food & Think:
The tomatillos broiled quickly in the toaster oven, and had a citrusy tang of their own before we even added the lime juice. The resulting salsa jazzed up our roasted corn, pepper & bean burritos that night, and our veggie burgers the next night.

There seems to be another 'gourmet' pizza parlor opening every other day in the Washington, D.C. area. What should one look for in a good pizza pie?

Piola pizza (02)

From Ed Levine, the author of Pizza: A Slice of Heaven —a 3-step lesson, it's the crust, the mozzarella, and the sauce.
The superior pizza crust is neither cracker-thin nor thick as bread. It should have a veneer of crispness and be softer and more tender on the inside. A great pizza crust should have browned and blackened char spots. They lend a needed bit of smoky flavor. The interior of the crust should have the hole structure of well-made and well-baked bread.

For the cheese Fior di latte —fresh cow's milk mozzarella— and for the sauce, uncooked canned tomatoes —from either California or Italy— strained and seasoned with salt and maybe some oregano.

VeggieDag is an occasional Thursday post on vegetarian issues. Why the name? Here.
Suggestions and submissions from chefs and homecooks welcomed! Here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Keep it DYBTG

Here is what John Hansell, editor of Malt Advocate Magazine, wrote in a recent blog piece:

In this very interesting and exciting era of mushrooming new distilleries and unprecedented experimentation (both of which I am thankful for), I am asking distillers to keep one thing in mind:

While you’re trying to “one-up” your competition by using the newest barley strain, the newest grain(s), the highest peat level, the newest type of wood, the most distillations, the oldest whisky, the fanciest packaging, the most esoteric wine barrel, etc., please remember that all we really care about is that your whisky tastes good. And that it is fairly priced.

Now, here's what beer writer Stephen Beaumont wrote in reaction to that:
"think about substituting “brewers” for “distillers” and “beer” for “whisky” throughout!"


Keep it DYBTG: does your beer taste good? What follows depends upon that.

Related post: 'Extreme' beer and innovation

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for 2010 Week 29

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 29
18 July 2010 - 24 July 2010

  • 2010.07.24
    More on the locavore wine controversy: do LOCAL restaurants support LOCAL wines? A Washington, D.C.-area discussion:
  • BURP at the Fox
  • 2010.07.24
    Despite predicted decline for 2010, restaurant beer sales are up 1.2%. More statistics, via the Brewers Association:
  • 2010.07.24
    President Obama touts Chicago beer: Goose Island Brewery's 312.
  • 2010.07.24
    CBSNews Video interviews James Watt of BrewDog about his brewery's 55 alcohol-by-volume beer, 'The End of History':
  • 2010.07.23
    Veteran newsmaker Daniel Schorr has died.
  • Liefmans Kriek (02)
  • 2010.07.23
    Production of Oud Bruin, Goudenband, and Kriek have resumed since Liefmans —a 'sour' beer brewery in Belgium— was purchased by Duvel/Moortgat.
  • 2010.07.23
    FollowFriday on Twitter. 4 British beer Twits: @MelissaCole, @TonyJerome, @MarkDredge, @Tandleman.
  • 2010.07.23
    In terms of an inflation/unemployment metric, Seattle is the least miserable city in the US; Detroit is the most miserable. Washington, D.C. is the second least miserables.
  • Klaus Wittauer
  • 2010.07.23
    Gruner Veltliner? Zweigelt? An interview with Klaus Wittauer, a Virginia, U.S.-based importer of Austrian wine:
  • 2010.07.22
    Virginia's Rosemont Winery 2007 Meritage wins the 2010 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition.
  • 2010.07.22
    A guide to how many beer-equivalents various exercises will burn off.
  • 2010.07.22 is selected as Best Baltimore Beer Blog, by Baltimore Magazine.
  • 2010.07.21
    The beer list for the Great British Beer Festival: The international beer list at the GBBF:
  • 2010.07.21
    What the colonists might have quaffed. Yards Brewing of Pennsylvania attempts to brew modern interpretations of 18th century beers:
  • 2010.07.20
    Oak barrels, 'wild' yeasts, and bacteria: US brewers sour their beers, deliberately.
  • 2010.07.19
    A digital media milestone: In the last 3 months, Amazon has sold more e-books than hardcover books:
  • 2010.07.19
    Governor McDonnnell ponders privatizing Virginia's liquor stores. Proponents and opponents weigh in:
  • 2010.07.19
    A proposed reduction in the beer excise tax reduction could ADD $10.91 in sales for each dollar lost in government revenue.
  • 2010.07.19
    James Suckling —The Wine Spectator's long-time writer/reviewer on Bordeaux wines— retires suddenly. Controversy ensues: And, do wine scores really matter?
  • 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, July 24, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Brewers' Boots

See a brewer at work, and she or he will probably be wearing rubber boots: waterproof totems of the profession.

Brewers at small local breweries often get together to discuss brewing techniques, swap tall tales, and sample each others' wares. They'll call this informal session a Rubber Boots Society: a competitive atmosphere, but leavened with bonhomie.

Displaying his golden couture, here's Mike McCarthy, executive brewer for Capitol City Brewing Company, at the brewpub's 9th annual Oktoberfest in the village at Shirlington in Arlington, Virginia, on 4 October 2008.

The Brewer with the Golden Boots

Capitol City Brewing Company hosted ***************
Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, usually posted on a Saturday, and often of a good fermentable as subject.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The End of Beer?

Only 12 bottles have been made, at $800 or so per bottle. Each is packaged in a stuffed 'road kill' rodent (really). Each is a 55% alcohol by volume malt-based beverage produced by fermentation and subsequent extensive fractional freezing. In spirits talk, that's 110 proof. The product is called The End of History, and it's made by Scottish brewery Brew Dog.

The name comes from an infamous piece of analytical history published in the early 1990s, in which author Francis Fukiyama claimed that Western-style liberal democracy had ultimately triumphed against all other models. Subsequent war, atrocity, statist hegemony, and economic collapse have challenged that thesis.

Have I tasted The End of History? No.

Would I wish to?

Curiosity abounds, but if alcohol were truly the end-point of beer, would we not simply distill (or fractionally freeze) all fermented barley wash to 200 proof, re-carbonate the firewater, and be done with it? This testosterone-driven 'mine is so much bigger that yours' concoction is indeed sui generis: it may not be a beer (and all the more a silly distraction, as several of the brewery's 'regular' beers are quite tasty), but it is a special achievement.

I'd rather have a wee dram of whisky, thank you.

  • BrewDog's owner/brewers are skillful marketers. One datum: this post contributes to their publicity campaign, free of charge.
  • Proof refers to a measurement of ethyl alcohol in a beverage, and is usually only applied to distilled beverages. In the US, it's determined simply by multiplying the alcohol (by volume) times two.
  • A simpler, if less exact, phrase to describe 'fractional freezing' would be 'freeze distillation,' that is, concentrating a beer by freezing the constituent water. Most beer produced falls in the range of 4 - 6% alcohol by volume (abv), and thus comprising about 95% water. The End of History contained approximately 25% abv after fermentation, and thus contained much less water before being subjected to freezing procedures.
  • UPDATE: BrewDog's marketing director, James Watt, responded to criticism: "How many of the haters are stuck in a job they hate, working for a company that sucks, sitting on their ale soaked arses with nothing better to do than to become uber self righteous in a bid to justify their own existence?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for 2010 Week 28

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 28
11 July 2010 - 17 July 2010

  • 2010.07.17
    Divers in the Baltic Sea discover submerged bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne, possibly from 1772, still drinkable.
  • 2010.07.17
    Times of London removes ALL free content from its on-line edition.
  • 2010.07.17
    In London, US-based beer writer Garrett Oliver expounds upon beer-with-cheese pairings, beer-with-food, and beer versus wine.
  • 2010.07.16
    FollowFriday on Twitter. My short list of Marylanders who Twitter about beer: @Cizauskas/beer-maryland.
  • 2010.07.16
    Earthquake, 3.6 magnitude, rattles Washington D.C.
  • 2010.07.16
    Before 15 August, vote for your favorite Virginia winery.
  • 2010.07.15
    BP says oil flow from well has stopped as cap is tested.

  • Real Ale quintessence
  • 2010.07.15
    Quintessence of Real Ale: a photo, with brief explanation.
  • 2010.07.08
    The search for a new location for now-closed Clarendon, Virginia beer bar, Dr. Dremo's, hits another snag.
  • 2010.07.15
    For summer thirst, 5 'lawnmower beers', but with character, as selected by the Washington Post:
  • 2010.07.14
    US Postal Service dedicates two new stamps to honor Negro League baseball.
  • 2010.07.14
    To not conflict with DC Restaurant Week, DC Beer Week has been moved to 22- 28 August. No new website yet. On Twitter @DCBeerWeek.
  • 2010.07.14
    12 Reasons to Look Beyond the Usual Wine Selections. The New York Times lists some lesser known wine types:

  • Siciliana Pizza, closer
  • 2010.07.14
    What to look for in a great pizza pie. A 3-step lesson:
  • 2010.07.14
    From TIME magazine, a video on summer beer selections:
  • 2010.07.14
    "So, You Think Anheuser-Busch InBev is Big Enough?" Buy-ins AND takeover rumors:
  • 2010.07.14
    "The great and powerful Oz." The wit and canards (and appreciation of Virginia wines) of British wine writer Oz Clarke.
  • 2010.07.13
    The Boss leaves - with bravo and bluster, and style. George Steinbrenner, long-time owner of baseball's New York Yankees, as remembered by Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell:
  • 2010.07.14
    A good sign in Alexandria, Virginia: The future home of Port City Brewing.
  • 2010.07.14
    Room for more beer education. Overheard from a bartender to a customer: "It's cask ale. Barely carbonated and served room temperature." No!
  • 2010.07.14
    Disposable, plastic kegs: how they work, and what they look like inside.
  • 2010.07.11
    Now, he calls balls & strikes for the, ahem, angels? Sad news: Bob Sheppard, legendary Yankees Ballpark announcer, dies at 99:
  • 2010.07.11
    Beer-clean glassware, the proper beer pour, & THE beer exam: Cicerone.
  • 2010.07.11
    Is your beer vegan? (Gelatin and isinglass are animal products, and are used for clarification.)
  • 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, July 18, 2010

In Search of the Perfect American Beer

Joe Stange is an ex-pat American who had been based for several years in Belgium. While there, he co-authored the wonderful Around Brussels in 80 Beers. He has since re-located to Costa Rica.

Mr. Stange is back in the USA for a short visit, and he is on a mission, a mission for the "perfect American craft beer":

I know that brewers have been getting very creative. I know they've been doing some very wild and innovative things. I also know that sometimes these things have been very alcoholic and expensively done and bottled and priced accordingly. And you know what? We're not interested. That's not for us.

I'll be looking for beer with that winning combination of great drinkability and great character. Sessionability is not strictly required but will receive bonus points. Exorbitant prices will not be punished, but simply avoided.

Last week Stange was in my corner of the beer world, Washington, D.C. He stopped into a locally respected beer-centric restaurant, Pizzeria Paradiso, where he found a "nominee", the Bitter American from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, California.
Full of zesty hop flavor and aroma, dry and sessionable, with enough malt backbone for balance but checking in at a svelte 3.6 percent strength. Inspiring, nearly perfect, and handpicked by 1-year-olds everywhere for thirsty dads. Especially those throwing down sausage-and-peppers pies at Pizzeria Paradiso on this sultry DC afternoon.

Stange was with his infant son, so a 'small' beer was advisable. Washington, D.C. has been in the grips of a swampy summer heat wave, so a thirst-quenching beer —what others might disparagingly call a 'lawn-mower' beer— was a palliative. Bitter American is only 3.6% alcohol by volume (abv) but, as Stange tasted, full of flavor. There was no need for a North American industrial lager, such as a Budweiser or Coors or Miller, each at or about 5% abv, but of much less flavor. Alcohol and flavor are not synonymous.

Belgium, Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., San Francisco: Mr. Stange's quest continues, cross-pollinated, at his blog, Thirsty Pilgrim.

Beers of lower alcoholic strength, but not necessarily of lower flavor, are often referred to as session beers: one can drink a couple of these at a session without courting over-indulgence. In reaction to the current surfeit of 'extreme' American craft beer of high alcoholic strength, a guerrilla moment is developing for more session beers. There's even a website devoted to this topic: Lew Bryson's The Session Beer Project.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Sisson's

Sisson's Restaurant & Brewery was the first brewpub to operate in Maryland after the repeal of Prohibition —some 56 years earlier— when an 8-barrel brewhouse was installed in the Baltimore, Maryland pub 1989.

Sisson's had originally opened as a non-brewing pub in 1979; it was sold and remodeled as Ryleigh's Oyster in 2002; the brewing equipment was removed and shipped to a brewery in West Virginia in 2005.

Here, in this photo, the brewhouse sits idle.

Sisson's brewhouse

Sisson's small size belied its influence. Its general manager, Hugh Sisson, would successfully lobby the Maryland Assembly (with the able assistance of a Baltimore City representative) to permit the legal existence of brewpubs in the state. Others would soon follow his lead in Virginia and the District of Columbia. Sisson would later found Clipper City Brewing Company, now known as Heavy Seas.

Sisson's storefront

These photos were taken in November of 2000, just after the Sisson family had sold its remaining stake in the pub.

Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, usually posted on Saturdays, and often of a good fermentable as subject.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Celebrate Belgian Independence Day, in Washington, D.C.

On 21 July 21 1831, King Leopold I ascended to the throne of the newly independent Belgium. One hundred-and sevety-nine years later, a growing political rift between Wallonia (the predominantly French-speaking, southern half of Belgium) and Flanders (the predominantly Dutch-speaking, northern half of Belgium), may be placing that union in jeopardy. So, celebrate now, as are these restaurants in Washington, D.C.:

Saturday, July 17th: Mussels Throwdown at Belga Café – As part of their week-long Belgian National Day Celebration, Chefs Bart Vandaele of Belga Café, Robert Wiedmaier of Brasserie Beck, and Claudio Pirollo of Et Voila! will throw down for the "Master of Mussels" crown. The competition will be judged by some of DC's finest foodies. 202-544-0100 for reservation info. Noon to 2pm.

Sunday, July 18th: St. Arnoldus Day at ChurchKey – Featuring Four Delicious Belgian Drafts. Beginning at 4pm, ChurchKey will celebrate the Patron Saint of Brewing--St. Arnoldus--by featuring four classic Belgian Ales and giving away some gorgeous Belgian glassware. Beers will be priced individually in 4oz and full glass pours. 202-567-2576 or

Sunday, July 18th: Non-Traditional Waffle Brunches at Belga Café, Brasserie Beck, Et Voila – As part of their week-long Belgian National Day Celebration, each of the Belgian National Day Celebration restaurants will hold brunches featuring "non-traditional" Belgian Waffle dishes. Drop in or call the restaurant for reservations. 11:30am-3pm. 202-544-0100 or

Monday, July 19th: ChurchKey Celebrates Belgian Independence Day with Rodenbach Classic and Palm Speciale – ChurchKey will be pouring Rodenbach Classic and Palm Speciale on Draft in honor of Belgian Independence Day. Come and celebrate this great nation and its wonderful brewing tradition. Free Rodenbach glassware beginning at 6pm. 202-567-2576.

Monday, July 19th: Mussels from Brussels at Brasserie Beck – As part of their week-long Belgian National Day Celebration, Brasserie Beck will feature a special three-course menu highlighting mussel creations from Chefs Vandaele, Wiedmaier and Pirollo. 5-11pm. Drop in or call for reservations. 202-408-1717 or

Tuesday, July 20th: Belgian Chocolate Fest at Et Voila! – Enjoy a day filled with chocolate creations and Belgian beers at Et Voila! Call 202-237-2300 for details. 5-10pm.

This listing of events courtesy Hop Tips at Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. The column can be received as an email bulletin: here.

One invaluable source for information on Belgium and its beers, read Belgian Beer & Travel, the blog of Baltimore, Maryland-based beer writer Chuck Cook.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

#VeggieDag Thursday: Gazpacho on a summer day.

The muggy weather broke (a bit) this week, but it's still beastly hot. Gazpacho can be the summer anodyne: spicy, chilled tomato vegetable soup.

Make it from scratch, or 'cheat' and use store-bought tomato juice as the base liquid. The keys are to buy good, low-sodium juice (you can always add salt if you need to) and, of course, fresh vegetables.

Gazpacho (05)


  • Tomato Juice (low sodium)
  • Medium Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • 1/2 White Onion
  • Roasted Garlic
  • Jalapeño(s)
  • Bell Pepper (1 red, 1 green)
  • 2 Tomatillos
  • Corn
  • 1 Celery Stalk
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • Malt Vinegar
  • Vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce


  • Slice 3 or 4 garlic cloves lengthwise, making thin crescent-shaped slices. Roast at 400* F for 15 minutes for a firm texture or 20-30 minutes for a softer texture.
  • Remove and discard the husk from a corn cob. Boil the cob for 5 minutes, just covered in water. Reserve the corn water. Allow corn to cool; then slice kernels from cob.
  • Remove and discard the husk from the tomatillo. Gently scrub the outside of the fruit to remove the sticky residue. Dice.
  • Slice the jalapeño in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and discard. Chop. (I use latex gloves to keep the pepper oil off of my fingers.) Two jalapeños for a spicier soup.
  • Chop the bell peppers, tomato, cucumber, onion, cilantro.
  • Add chopped vegetables, garlic, onions, and corn to the tomato juice. Stir.
  • Remove 1/3 of mixture and blend. Mix the puree back into the soup.
  • Add reserved corn liquid into soup less a little at a time, until desired consistency is achieved
  • Add lemon juice, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to taste. (Less is better; you can always add more later.) Mix into soup with olive oil. Mix (not blend) well.
  • Cover and place in refrigerator to cool for a couple of hours or overnight.
  • Serve topped with a sprig of cilantro, and accompanied with a nice cold glass of Witbier.

VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and envfironment and ecological issues.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for 2010 Week 27

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 27
4 July 2010 - 10 July 2010

  • 2010.07.10
    Who first used the term "craft beer"?
  • 2010.07.10
    The double standard of the locavore movement: it ignores good local American wine.
  • 2010.07.10
    Housemade "historic cocktails" at Columbia Firehouse Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia:
  • Firkin Delivery Man
  • 2010.07.09
    Twenty-six US breweries to sending their beers to London in August, for the Great British Beer Festival. Several sending cask-conditioned ales.
  • 2010.07.09
    #FollowFriday on Twitter: @dcblogs is an aggregator of blogs in and around Washington D.C., about the area. Also check the website:
  • 2010.07.09
    #FollowFriday on Twitter: Spot good beer in Virginia? Use the hashmark #VAbeer. In Maryland: #MDbeer. In DC: #DCBrews.
  • 2010.07.08
    July 8th: Catholic feast-day of St. Arnold of Soissons, the patron saint of hop-pickers & brewers.
  • 2010.07.08
    The search for a new location for now-closed Clarendon, Virginia beer bar, Dr. Dremo's, hits another snag.
  • 2010.07.08
    Belgian-soaked Mussel Bar to debut in Bethesda, Maryland.
  • 2010.07.08
    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) promotes bill to reduce excise tax on small breweries.
  • 2010.07.08
    New to Twitter? Don't 'get' it? Then, read - Reid's Recommended Reads: Twitter Basics.
  • 2010.07.08
    George F. Will reviews "Daniel Okrent's darkly hilarious 'Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.'"
  • 2010.07.08
    DC Beer Week 2010 announces August 16-22 dates. On Twitter: @DCBeerWeek. Website with more details to follow soon.
  • 2010.07.08
    Louisiana brewery Abita to produce unfiltered wheat Pils called S.O.S.(Save Our Shores) to benefit oil spill victims and shore restoration.
  • 2010.07.08
    USDA Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2010 include health benefits for moderate alcohol consumption.
  • 2010.07.07
    End of an era: After 40 years, Doctor Demento to end his radio broadcast. Will webcast the program.
  • 2010.07.07
    The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference to be held in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • 2010.07.07
    The first employees are hired by DC Brau brewery in Washington, D.C.: themselves! Financing and plans are moving forward.
  • 2010.07.07
    The National Restaurant Association concerned that the Food and Drug Admininstration may begin defining beer styles for soon-to-be required nutritional labels.
  • 2010.07.07
    Happy Birthday, Gustav! The "musical prophet" of the 20th Century, Gustav Mahler was born today 150 years ago.
  • 2010.07.06
    Iran's new men's hairstyle guide bans the mullet but deems goatees acceptable.
  • 2010.07.06
    Fred Anderson, Chicago modern jazz hero, appreciated.
  • 2010.07.06
    Analysis of the Big 6 beer companies in the UK, all international conglomerates. By beer author Pete Brown:
  • Kettle boil
  • 2010.07.06
    New technique for low energy wort-boiling announced by SAB/Miller. Details remain confidential.
  • 2010.07.06
    The Brickskeller in Washington, D.C. to offer "Beer School", beginning July 12th.
  • 2010.07.06
    Craft beer: a term in search of a definition? Essay by beer journalist Andy Crouch:
  • 2010.07.06
    The German state of Bavaria bans smoking indoors AND under beer tents, and, thus, at Oktoberfest in Munich.
  • 2010.07.06
    How homebrew has influenced 'craft' beer. The summary of The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.
  • 2010.07.05
    How Jimmy Carter unwittingly created the "Disruptive Technology" that launched the 'craft' beer revolution.
  • 2010.07.05
    The papers of George Washington to be housed at Mount Vernon.
  • 2010.07.05
    The best beer blog post you've probably never read: The Beer Geek’s Manifesto.
  • 2010.07.05
    Thomas Jefferson changed the word 'subjects' to 'citizens' in the Declaration of Independence:
  • 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, July 12, 2010

Mad Fox Monday!

Mad Fox awning

At 11 am today, Mad Fox Brewing Company opened its doors to the public for the first time, and Falls Church, Virginia, a city of 11,000 or so, situated 8 miles east of Washington, D.C., became home to its first ever brewpub.

Bill Madden

Mad Fox is a collaborative project of Brewmaster/CEO Bill Madden, a long time doyen of the Washington, D.C. brewing establishment and principal investor Rick Garvin, himself a national homebrew judge and self-professed 'foodie.' Joining them is coterie of area investors, who believed enough in Madden and the project to invest despite an economic downturn.

I was fortunate enough to get a preview.

Sampler flight

Staff training is one thing, but operating a restaurant when customers are present is another. Thus, Friday evening past, investors, wine salesmen, friends, and members of the press were invited to enjoy the food and beers (and some wine and cocktails) and offer critiques. Beer blogging occasionally offers benefits.

Joining me were Nick Anderson of The Beermonger and Andrew Nations of, and their significant others. The two had not met each other personally but immediately recognized each other's Twitter handles: @The-Beermonger and @drinkrealbeer, respectively. It's a brave new Web 2.0 world we live in.

The entrance is not on the Broad Street side, but along the interior courtyard. There are many glass doors, none marked "open here." Look for the one in the center, marked "Suite I." At some point soon, the restaurant will have outdoor seating as well. Parking is not an issue: there is an underground garage in the complex.

Serving tanks
Open the door, then open the doors of the inside foyer, and then ... there they are! Serving as function and aesthetic, six stainless steel serving tanks sit immediately behind the host stand, reminding the customer that this is a brewery as well as a restaurant. Each holds 13,720 pints of beer. The tin ceiling overhead is actually cleverly disguised acoustic tiles. The high ceilings and lots of wood of the 9,000 + square foot interior are well-lit by sunlight through the plate-glass windows ringing the establishemnt and by diffused light from attractive overhead fixtures.


The dining room is to the left and the bar area is to the right. The very back wall of the dining area is now empty, but it will eventually be a floor-to-ceiling shelf holding wooden barrels of aging beers.

Dining room

Diners can see the brewery behind tall windows in the dining room.

In addition to a 15-barrel brewhouse, there are several 30-barrel fermenters, double jacketed so that both 15-barrel and 30-barrel batches can be brewed. If a tank is needed to ferment or serve a beer, the remaining finished beer will be racked into kegs. He'll need to do that, because he plans to have at least 12 to 15 beers on tap at any given time.


The long bar seats some 30+ customers, and the bar area can accommodate many more, with several bar tables, as well as booths and bar stools along the windows. A service area sits at the end of the bar, not for staff, but at which customers, not sitting at the bar, can order.

Real Ale Pale Ale

Wrapped past the bar, and parallel with Broad Street, is a narrow room with long tables, and a fireplace at the rear wall. In Germany, a communal table like this is referred to as Stammtisch. This room can also be used for private parties and special events. Beer dinners, Madden promises!

Fireplace Room


There are 30 taps, split between two towers. For the mock opening, Bill was pouring four: his 'signature' Kölsch (a 'lagered' ale, previous iterations of which have garnered Madden medals) a 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv) American Pale Ale (malty and toasty, with a hefty citrusy aroma and finish), a 6% abv Porter (dark reddish-brown, with characters of bakers chocolate and dark fruit), and a 6% abv Saison (orange-hued, demi-dry, and earthy).

Beautiful Saison


 Sometimes referred to as real ale, cask-conditioned ale is beer which has been refermented within the cask from which it is served. It is living beer, so to speak, and very fresh. (More here.)

Madden has long been an advocate for cask ale, and his new brewpub will be a showcase for it. Six firkins (10.8-gallon casks) rest in refrigerated coolers under the bar, the temperature set in the low 50s °F, which some refer to as traditional English cellar temperature (but which is definitely not room temperature). A row of hand-operated 'beer engines' sit above, used to handpump the beer up to the bar.

Madden will have four cask ales tapped at any one time. The other two casks will sit undisturbed in the coolers for several days, allowing the beer to 'come into condition': natural carbonation created, and proteins and yeast in the unfiltered beer settled out of solution. He'll serve no beer before its time!

Perfect pour

Beer to go —filled into 2-liter glass 'growlers'— will be offered, although not for cask ale. Bill is a stickler for details. Nothing other than beer can be poured into his "beer-clean" glasses, (He has different shaped glassware for different styles.) and no chemical sanitizers can be applied. The glasses are cleaned and sanitized in a high temperature dishwasher, separate from the plates, utensils, and dishes in the kitchen.

That evening, Pale Ale, Porter, and an 80-Shilling Ale were offered in cask. The last —dark red, caramelly, but not sweet- think of as 5.2% abv version of the much bigger Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, that is yet to finish its fermentation, and for which Madden has won several awards.


Mad Fox scored quite a coup in attracting their chef, Russel Cunningham. He has built a reputation among Washington, D.C. area foodies, having previously 'cheffed' at such places as Dupont Grill and Agraria. Cunningham and Madden refer to menu as from a "scratch kitchen". They source many of the ingredients locally, use food in-season, and produce many items in-house.

Wine, too!

The menu for the 'mock' service was quite extensive, if not the complete menu that will be offered once Mad Fox opens today.. We ordered several appetizers for the table including house-made onion rings, house-made fried pickles (called Frickles), Prince Edward island (P.E.I.) mussels prepared 'Bloody Mary': vodka-tomato sauce with fresh horseradish, and a Tuna and Avocado Salad over shredded cabbage (the tuna was beautifully rare).

Tuna Salad

As much as we enjoyed our choices, we could not help overhearing the "oohing" over the Virginia Pork Belly at other tables: "slow roasted for 12 hours, glazed with molasses and local honey," read the menu.

For our main course, we skipped all but one of the entrées: Shrimp & Grits (Cajun-spiced sautéed jumbo shrimp, served with smoked Gouda grits, and braised greens).

Shrimp & Grits

This was not because the choices didn't sound promising -NY Strip Au Poivre, Grilled Lamb Chops, Slow-smoked 'St. Louis' Ribs, Pan-Seared Sea Bass, to name but a few- but because the restaurant touts the pizza as the star of the show.

Pizza oven (03) Mad Fox has two pizza ovens in its kitchen: one, a New York-style convection oven (a chewy and thin crust for holding more sauce) and the other, a wood-burning Neapolitan-style oven ("High-moisture fresh mozzarella and low-gluten flour). Pizza oven (02)

We ordered:
the Carbonara Pizza (with a cooked egg on top), the aptly named Garlic Pig Pizza (artisinal pepperoni and bacon), and the Salami & Goat Cheese Pizza (without the salami for me, a vegetarian: a demonstration of the kitchen's versatility to adapt). All were prepared Neapolitan-style: a nice level of char on the underside of the crusts, and toppings cooked just-right.

Choices for vegetarian fare were more limited. There were salads and gazpacho soup. If dairy, there were the pizzas, of course. Specifically vegetarian, there was a house-made Black Bean Burger, The Veg —a sandwich of roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant, etc.— and a Crispy Tofu entrée with sautéed spinach, wild mushrooms, Israeli couscous, and and carrot-apple broth.  (None, except for the pizza, were sampled that evening.) More are promised.

Veggie pizza

Go for the food, stay for the beer. Go for the beer, and stay for the food. Mad Fox should be a hit as a brewery and a restaurant.

  • Lunch will be served and there will be continuous service throughout the day into the evening for dinner.
  • The address is 444 W. Broad Street [just off the intersection of Broad & Pennsylvania], Falls Church, Va. 22046. The telephone number is (703) 942-6840.
  • Metro access is a mile away at the East Falls Church station on the Orange line. The website dcbeer has a useful list of Metro buses that will take you there. Keep in mind that the routes stop earlier than bar hours! You might not have a return bus trip after 10pm.
  • The website at is still under construction. Better to follow Mr. Madden's blog at or the restaurant blog at
  • More photos, including construction: here.
  • Read a pre-opening write-up at here.
  • Read an interview with Bill Madden: here.
  • Click for more blog posts about Bill Madden and Mad Fox.
  • CAVEAT LECTOR: As a salesman for northern Virginia beer/wine distibutor Select Wines, Inc., I sell wines to Mad Fox.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Barefoot and beer'd

I have more than 6,000 photographs publicly displayed on the website Flickr. Many are specifically about beer. Of them all, this picture is the one that has been the most viewed, and is the one listed by more viewers as their 'favorite.'

I wonder why?

Muddy feet

It was the 'fall' edition of the Northern Virginia Brewfest, held at Bull Run Regional Park, October 24th and 25th, 2009. Gusty winds, rain squalls, and colder temps in the later afternoon kept attendance low on Saturday, the first day of the event. Not so for these festival go-ers, who braved the rain, and saved their shoes from the ankle-deep mud by going barefoot.

Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, usually posted on Saturdays, and often of a good fermentable as subject.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Brewery brews to save Gulf shores

Abita Brewing Company —founded in 1986 in Louisiana— will be releasing a 7% alcohol-by-volume wheat pilsner in mid to late July. That busting of beer style categories might be interesting enough for remark.

More noteworthy is that the brewery will be donating 75¢ from each bottle sold of S.O.S. (Save Our Shores) to a fund wholly dedicated to ameliorating the effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. According to David Blossman, president of Abita:

We have established “SOS – A Charitable Fund” that will assist with the rescue and restoration of the environment and helping people and their families survive this disaster. The Northshore Community Foundation administers the fund and 100% of all the money will go to charity. An advisory committee made up community members will ensure that the funds get into the hands of the folks in need quickly and efficiently.

Save Our Shores Fund

Read the rest of the interview at beer blog BeerUtopia.

The beer will not be sold, ironically, in two states directly affected by the oil spill. Alabama forbids the sale of beer in 22 ounce bottles, and Mississippi forbids the sale of beers of greater than 5.9% alcohol by volume.

Caveat lector: As an employee of beer/wine wholesaler, Select Wines, I distribute Abita beer in northern Virginia.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Good fermentables for life

Ronald Neame died in June at age 99. He was a film director of many films. Several achieved critical acclaim, including Tunes of Glory and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. His greatest box office success —which he referred to as "just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill action picture"— was The Poseidon Adventure.

At age 95, four years ago, here's what Mr. Neame had to say about his long life, as quoted in the Washington Post:

Mr. Neame said that among the atrocities of old age was losing his taste for alcohol, which the Brit had long considered his fountain of youth.

"When people ask me about the secret to longevity, I say the honest answer is two large vodkas at lunchtime and three large scotches in the evening," Mr. Neame told Bowes. "All my doctors have said to me, 'Ronnie, if you would drink less, you'd live a lot longer.' And they are all dead, and I'm still here at 95."

Mr. Neame leaves a legacy in film, and a legacy of living life well. Good fermentables for life.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for 2010 Week 26

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundupWeek 26
27 June 2010 - 3 July 2010

  • 2010.07.03
    Downy Mildew has infected mid-Atlantic basil plants, but NOT, so far, Maryland hops. Photos of healthy hops at Frederick, Maryland, Stillpoint Farm:
  • 2010.07.03
    Reducing its beer carbon footprint, Rogue Brewery in Oregon already grows some of the barley for its beers. Now it is adding a a malting plant.
  • 2010.07.03
    Fredericksburg, Virginia's newest brewpub opens: Lee's Retreat at Blue & Gray Brewing.
  • 2010.07.02
    Reflect upon 2 July 1776: the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence:
  • 2010.07.02
    Passion + money + good management + small returns. Many want to start a brewery. Few invest.
  • 2010.07.02
    How did Twitter's #FollowFriday begin? Here, from Baldwin:

  • Cooking liquid
  • 2010.07.02
    Other than Budweiser commercials during the World Cup , AB-InBev #beer has scant presence in Africa.
  • 2010.07.02
    #FollowFriday. Washington DC area beer folk. #DCbrews: @whatsbilldoing @VTjawo @Lagerheads @beerspotter @dcbrau @seanldalton @HurraBier @NoVA_Beer @RickG_VA @hopsock @beltwaybeer
  • 2010.07.01
    Diageo [big international drinks conglomerate] uses Scotch whisky to plug gap in pensions.
  • 2010.07.01
    Beer Education: Article on Anton Dreher, "forgotten father of [European] continental industrial brewing." From 1867:
  • 2010.07.01
    Book Review: 500 Beers By Zak Avery:
  • 2010.07.01
    "Environmentally driven establishment w/ focus on American craft beer & American contemporary dining.” Meridan Pint opens in Washington, D.C.
  • 2010.07.01
    Gold is the new black? AB InBev launches a golden-hued beer called Stella Artois Black.

  • Rosé and face
  • 2010.06.30
    Why a good vintage for red wine is not necessarily good for rosé. 2009 French "vintage of the century" not so for rosé.

  • 2010.06.30
    Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewery, to star in Discovery Channel beer program.
  • 2010.06.30
    More good Virginia brewery news: Wolf Hills Brewing expands to meet demand.
  • 2010.06.30
    NY Times reviews US pale ales. Maryland's Flying Dog takes top honors.
  • 2010.06.30
    Maryland and Virginia breweries area among those that will send cask-conditioned ales to the Great British Beer festival in London in August to compete in the American Beer Draught Championship.
  • Flying Dog +
  • 2010.06.30
    The end of an era: the last batch of Wild Goose Oatmeal Porter. A mid-Atlantic beer since the early 1990s:
  • 2010.06.29
    Zymurgy Magazine announces the results of its poll: "Best Commercial Beers in America".
  • 2010.06.29
    Pabst sold; "hipsters" nonchalant.

  • Cizauskas & The Naked Pint
  • 2010.06.29
    Why are women better at tasting beer than men?
  • 2010.06.28
    0-0 game World Cup beer wager: UK's Prime Minister Cameron gives US President Obama a case of Hobgoblin; Obama gives him a case of Goose Island.
  • 2010.06.28
    ASCAP campaigns to shut down Creative Commons and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • 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.

Pic(k) of the Week: Independence Day

Washington Monument (01)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, usually posted on Saturdays, and often of a good fermentable as subject.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Session #41 - Craft Beer Influenced by Homebrewing

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, an inviteded 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

Here's how hosts Jeff and Tom Wallace of Lug Wrench Brewing Company announced the theme for The Session #41 - Craft Beer Influenced by Homebrewing:
As demonstrated in prior Sessions, topics typically come from the host's area of passion – something they have a strong affinity towards. For Tom and me, the real pathway in our appreciation of Craft Beer has been through the hobby of homebrewing. <...> In the end, it wasn't until we got a little friendly nudging by Stan and Jay that our topic for the 41st Session coalesced. The chosen topic: Craft Beers Inspired By Homebrewing. How has homebrewing had an affect on the commercial beer we have all come to love?

Midnight Sun Porter

"What's the spice," I asked the bartender, unable to identify a subtle background flavor in the pint of Midnight Sun Porter I was drinking.

The beer had traveled to this pub in Alexandria, Virginia, from the Williams Brothers Brewery in Scotland, a voyage over land and sea of some 3,500 miles. It had been shipped in a firkin (a 10.8 US gallon cask). Live yeast within —from the fermentation— had provided a measure of protection against staling and infection.

At the pub, the seal was broken, and the beer was hand pumped from the cask, pint by pint. It was remarkably fresh-tasting, more so than it may have been in a bottle or keg. Dark dark brown, creamy, with an off-beige head of foam, a not-so-bitter roastiness, toasty, toffee-like, herbal, with whiffs of licorice and dark berry fruit, ... and what was that spice? Ahh, it was ginger root, a small amount of which had been infused in the wort.

What's the homebrew connection? Here, from the brewery website:
A long time ago, in a home brew shop not too far away......
A lady of Gaelic descent came into the Williams owned homebrew shop in Partick, bearing a translation of a 17th century recipe for 'Leanne Fraoch' (Heather Ale), Inherited from her Gaelic family. It was her goal to try to recreate recipe made famous by the old legend of the Pictish king who supposedly threw himself off a cliff after the English king captured & tortured his son in an attempt to coax the recipe from the Pict King. This translated recipe was developed in homebrew size quantities by shop owner Bruce Williams to the recipe that is used today.

The brothers began their professional career on a very small scale; their brewery's capacity, and roster of beers, grew in stages. Finally, in the mid 2000s, they moved into the "New Alloa Brewery at Kelliebank, Alloa, where [they] are the last remaining brewery in the old Scottish brew capital."

In the early 1990s, a former tech industry executive in the US was casting about for a new venture. He knew little about the beer business, except that he liked beer, especially beers from the UK. So, he thought, "why not?" He researched the business, and, with his wife, founded an artisinal-beer import company.

Soon thereafter, the duo met the charismatic Bruce Williams. They were quickly convinced to import Williams' "Historic Beers of Scotland." A substantial segment of the brewery's growth would be derived from those US sales, and the import business would grow as well, exponentially, and include a distribution arm in the state of Maryland. Just this past April, Patrick and Sherri Casey sold their company, Legends, Ltd., and retired.

Drinking the Williams' porter, I thought back to how a homebrewed porter had played a role in my professional 'craft' brewing career.

I began brewing at home in the late 1980s, encouraged by my younger brother, initially 'educated' by Charlie Papazian's Joy of Homebrewing, and patiently assisted by a good friend. In 1992, I entered a batch of porter in the Spirit of Free Beer, a contest organized by B.U.R.P. —Brewers United for Real Potables— a Washington, D.C. area home brew club.

The recipe was not complex —especially as contrasted with today's so-called 'extreme' beers of high alcoholic strength and exotic procedures— but, at 5.5% alcohol by volume, the porter was flavorful enough to garner a silver medal.

That simple success got me hooked.

A year after the contest, I enrolled at the Siebel Institute to study zymurgy (beer-making). A few months after that, I apprenticed at the Oxford Brewing Company, then near Baltimore, Maryland.

From there, I would go on to brew at several other breweries, opening two, and owning one.

I've been 'out' of brewing for several years. For a period in the mid 2000s, I sold beers for the Caseys (including those of Bruce Williams), and now I am selling beer and wine for a living (and writing this blog).  I don't refer to myself as an 'ex-brewer' because the yearning to brew remains too intimate and too strong. Rather, I regard myself as 'brewer without portfolio.'

Good brewing insinuates itself into one's soul. "Another one of those tasty porters, please," I asked the bartender.