Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Devils' Decoction

There's an interview of Jason Oliver of Devils Backbone posted at DesJardin Brewing. It's worth a read and especially so for the discussion of decoction brewing. Decoction is a time (and money) intensive method of mashing barley malt which can add flavors of toasted bread, caramel —and other ineffable oven-cooked characters— to a beer, usually a lager, which are not necessarily duplicated in the malting process.

Devils' Decoction
The decoction 'cooker' at Devils Backbone.

Devils Backbone is located in central Virginia, near to several ski resorts. It's just two years old, but a multi-medal winner already. The building is lovely, the food is good, and ... the beer! If you're not a lager lover after you leave, you're not really a beer lover.

At his blog Appellation Beer, beer author Stan Hieronymous muses whether decoction actually produces flavors not produced during malting, and, if so, whether the taste difference would be significantly noticeable for all beers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for 2010 Weeks 49/50/51

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A non-comprehensive roundup of the week's
(in this instance, 3 weeks)
news of beer and other things.

Weeks 49/50/51
5 December 2010 - 25 December 2010

  • 2010.12.25
    For Christmas, how to go a-wassailing, via Zythophile website.
  • 2010.12.21
    Taylor Smack, brewer for Blue Mountain Brewery refutes the myth of buying warm beer vs. cold beer.

  • Moon halo (03)
  • 2010.12.21
    Happy Winter Solstice! Totality of the lunar eclipse occurs between 1 and 3 am ET.
  • 2010.12.20
    The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild has been re-launched by the Virginia Manufacturers Association.
  • 2010.12.20
    Who actually brews the beer sold at Trader’s Joe’s?
  • 2010.12.20
    Cautionary tale for US brewers? Alberta, Canada, cracks down on "high-octane" beers.
  • 2010.12.20
    What is the meaning of the phrase "Sans pris de mousse" found on some French language beer bottles?
  • 2010.12.20
    Washington, D.C. area bar has been sued for a death caused by an inebriated customer.

  • Brickskeller taps
  • 2010.12.19 remembers Washington DC's now closed Brickskeller.
  • 2010.12.19
    Discovery News reports that Amelia Earhart may have survived months as a castaway.
  • 2010.12.18
    It will always be a "Tropical Hot Dog Night." Captain Beefheart dies, aged 69.
  • 2010.12.17
    Dave Alexander talks about the imminent end of Washington D.C.'s Brickskeller; to leave behind beer & memorabilia.

  • Devils' bar
  • 2010.12.16
    Devils Backbone Brewpub in Roseland, Virginia, planning new production facility and 2nd restaurant.
  • 2010.12.15
    Billie Holiday to Bruce Springsteen. Today would have been the 100th birthday of Columbia Records' talent scout John Hammond.
  • 2010.12.14
    A destructive bug has infested Hawaii's Kona coffee fields.
  • 2010.12.14
    British beer historian Zythophile explains the differences between old styles: X, XX, AK, KK, Burton Ale.
  • 2010.12.14
    Winners of 2010 beer photo contest announced at A Good Beer Blog.
  • 2010.12.13
    A look at the long-gone Consumer Brewery of Rosslyn, Virginia.
  • 2010.12.13
    A Federal judge in Virginia strikes down the Federal health care law. Via NPR.
  • 2010.12.10
    James Moody, jazz great saxophonist and composer. dies of cancer at age 85.
  • 2010.12.09
    A list of beer apps for mobile phones.

  • Hugh Sisson
  • 2010.12.08
    Happy 15th anniversary to Heavy Seas Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland.
  • 2010.12.07
    50-tap drafthouse opening in Columbia, Maryland, as Frisco Grille moves to new digs, and renamed as Frisco Tap house.
  • 2010.12.07
    St. Nicholas: Patron Saint of Brewers. Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.
  • 2010.12.05
    Amateur photographers post their best photos of 2010 to Flickr.
  • 2010.12.05
    The most expensive beer ever: $1,185 (US dollars) bid for Antarctic Nail Ale, in a charity auction.
  • 2010.12.05
    Evidence that many 19th century wooden beer casks in Britain were NOT lined (with pitch, etc.). Via British historian Ron Pattinson.

  • 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, December 27, 2010

More Maris Otter, then less

For all you real ale fans —and I'm not referring to over-the-top hopped beers, but fresh, full-flavored lower alcohol beers, in which the character of malt, the soul of beer, is not masked— there's good news in the December issue of What's Brewing, the house organ of the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) in the UK. Maris Otter barley —which many consider to be the premier barley varietal for malting, in terms of flavor and low-nitrogen— had a bumper crop in England, due to winter rains followed by a dry spring and summer.

Devils' malt (02)

There is bad news, however.

Even though malting barley often garners a premium price over feed barley and other grains, its lower yields-per-acre can negate that advantage. Furthermore, the price for wheat surged past that for barley during 2010. Many British barley growers reacted by switching their fields to wheat.

Drink your cask-conditioned ale now!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

To air in April 2011 - "Brewed on the Bay: The Craft Beers of Maryland"

In April 2011, Maryland Public Television will be airing Brewed on the Bay: The Craft Beers of Maryland, a half-hour documentary on the history of Maryland brewing and the rise of the 'craft' beer movement.

UPDATE: airing 14 April 2011.

Brewing on the Bay will film at breweries throughout Maryland, including all of the state's brewpubs. Those interviewed will include Hugh Sisson, Jim Lutz, Steve Jones, Rob Kasper, Turkey Joe Traber, Volker Stewart, Tom Flores, and other brewers and beer poobahs in the region.

Al Spoler is the brains behind the project.

Brewing on the Bay (04)

A former director at Maryland Public Television (MPT), now working as a freelance producer, Spoler may be better known as sidekick to Hugh Sisson of Heavy Seas Brewery on the long-running Public Radio show Cellar Notes, a weekly wine (and occasionally, beer) review program in Baltimore, Maryland. Spoler runs the annual Maryland Governor's Cup Wine Competition, and teaches at Loyola University.

I may have a small part in Brewing on the Bay.

In mid-December at the Olney Ale House, Spoler interviewed me about the Oxford Brewing Company, where, in the early 1990s, I had been a brewer and, later, manager. Begun as the British Brewing Company, but now closed, Oxford was the first microbrewery to operate in post-Prohibition Maryland.

Brewing on the Bay (07)

Once aired, the documentary will be available on the MPT website as streaming video; DVDs will be available for purchase.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Merry (Easter) Christmas

Unlike his Easter Island brethren, this Moai in Falls Church, Virginia, was wearing a Santa hat.

Christmas 'Easter Island' in Falls Church

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, fulfillment, health, and, of course, good fermentables.

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, December 18, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Devils' Silo

On a December afternoon, we toured two breweries along the Brew Ridge Trail in central Virginia: Devils Backbone (brewpub) in Roseland and Blue Mountain (brewery with a tap room) in Afton, both on VA route 151.

Pictured here is the barley malt silo sitting out back of Devils Backbone, the 2010 World Beer Cup Small Brewpub Champion.

Silo at Devils Backbone (02)

The red of the berry bush provided contrast to an overcast (near) winter's day ... as did the beers and food inside. More: here.

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, December 11, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Last Call at the Bricks

The Brickskeller, Washington D.C.'s venerable beer emporium, operating in the Dupont Circle/Rock Creek area since 1957 —and in the Guinness Book of World Records for its twelve-hundredish beer bottle list— has been sold.

Brickskeller exterior (03)

The Washington City Paper has reported that:
The Brickskeller will close on Dec. 18 [2010], owner Diane Alexander said today, confirming the date previously reported. The property is scheduled to change hands on Dec. 23, re-opening as Rock Creek The Bier Baron Tavern three days later.

According to reporter Orr Shtuhl, the new Rock Creek Bier Baron Tavern will remain beer-centric, but will be gussied up by the new buyers, who currently own and operate three other D.C. hotels: the Windsor Inn, Embassy Inn, and District Hotel. Included in the sale will be the The Brickskeller Inn,
built in 1912, a charming five story, 42 room, boarding-house style hotel above the Brickskeller Saloon.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that

[Dave and Diane] Alexander will leave behind most of the beer inventory (except for a few prized bottles that were gifts from brewers) and most of the antique cans and other beer memorabilia decorating the walls.

But he's not ceding the name Brickskeller. "That name was created by Diane's grandfather. It's like a family member," he said.

At this juncture, the Alexanders continue as owners of the beer-centric restaurant DA's Regional Food & Drink (R.F.D.), located in the Penn Quarter district of Washington, across from the Verizon Center.

On Thursday, a packed house attended what seems now to have been the last ever official Brickskeller beer event, its annual Christmas Beer tasting, or as Dave Alexander has called it: The Multiple Guest Brewmaster Winter Holidaze Tasting Extravaganzee. More: here.

Through a glass

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.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Clamps & Gaskets: Roundup for 2010 Weeks 46/47/48

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A non-comprehensive roundup of the week's
(in this instance, 3 weeks')
news of beer and other things.

Weeks 46/47/48
14 November 2010 - 4 December 2010

  • 2010.12.04
    Montgomery County, Maryland, proposes allowing BYOB in restaurants, including a maximum $25 corkage fee. From: TBD.
  • 2010.12.04
    Searching for science in a glass of beer. Professor Charlie Bamforth on National Public Radio's Science Friday.Says golden rule of brewing is good hygiene.
  • 2010.12.04
    Birthday in beer - Baltimore, Maryland's Maxs Taphouse cellarmaster Casey Hard.
  • Clipper City Golds
  • 2010.12.04
    Better beer coming to Baltimore, Maryland's Orioles basball Camden Yards? Beer In Baltimore has some promising news.
  • 2010.12.03
    The 1st Friday of the month, beer bloggers blog upon one theme. This month's The Session: Unexpected Discoveries, from blog Burgers and Brews.
  • 2010.12.03
    Wine Enthusiast Magazine selects its Top 25 Beers of 2010. With 96 pts, #1 is Belgian Black from Allagash Brewing (Maine). With 92 points, Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA from Heavy Seas Brewing (Maryland) is #13.
  • 2010.12.03
    Another craft beer merger: Colorado's Breckenridge and Wynkoop. Via RealBeer
  • 2010.12.02
    What makes a 'winter beer' a winter beer? Via YFGF.
  • 2010.12.01
    R.I.P. Bruce Nichols, co-founder of Philly Beer Week. Via Philadelphia Inquirer
  • 2010.12.01
    Draft Magazine selects 12 Breweries to Watch in 2011. In mid-Atlantic: Devils Backbone, Stillwater Ales.
  • 2010.11.29
    British bloggers Oh Good Ale and Shut Up About Barkley Perkins say: Down with the 'craft' beer zietgeist!
  • 2010.11.29
    Washington City Paper's food critic Tim Carman leaves for the Washington Post.
  • 2010.11.29
    Britain's National Cask Ale Week to move to the autumn in 2011. Via The Publican
  • 2010.11.29
    Maryland re-rollout of Belgium's Rodenbach beers to be held at Maxs Taphouse, in Baltimore, 7 December. Via Belgian Beer & Travel.
  • 2010.11.29 --one of the first web resources for the specialty beer industry-- now has a Twitter account: @ProbrewerPage
  • 2010.11.26
    The origins of porter (and a bit about three-threads): forget Ralph Harewood. Via Zythophile.
  • Pulling a Nut (Brown Ale)
  • 2010.11.20
    Updates on Washington D.C.'s Capitol City Brewing Company: 2g-IPA -its 2000th brew 2G-IPA, the 2011 closing at Union Station, and a new restaurant.
  • 2010.11.16
    It may have been Budweiser, but it was ours. Via National Public Radio: Dethroning The King: How Bud Got Bought Out.
  • 2010.11.16
    Washington, D.C. are supermarket chain, Giant, to restrict Salvation Army presence outside its stores.
  • 2010.11.16
    Ten Words Beer Bloggers Use Too Often. Via Pencil and Spoon.
  • 2010.11.15
    Brewpub chains Gordon-Biersch and Rock Bottom to merge. Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.
  • 2010.11.15
    Travel and Leisure Magazine selects its list of Top 20 list of 'Microbrewed Beer Cities.' New York, Washington, D.C., and Asheville, North Carolina are excluded. Philadelphia relegated to 17th, San Diego to 18th.
  • 2010.11.15
    A Good Beer Blog announces The Great Beer Photo Contest of 2010.
  • Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale
  • 2010.11.15
    Happy 30th anniversary to Sierra Nevada Brewery. Ken Gossman and Paul Camusi brewed their 1st batch of beer, today, November 15th, in 1980.

  • 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, December 04, 2010

Pic(k) of the Week: Fog & Steam

From winter 2008, a street-scene in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, looking north on S. Charles Street toward downtown.

Fog & Steam

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, December 03, 2010

St. Nick's Flix Nixed on 5th

A Good Beer Blog
Our friend Alan McLeod publishes a 'good beer' blog, which, in case you might miss the point, he calls A Good Beer Blog. Since 2006, he's taken upon himself the thankless task of organizing an annual Christmas Beer Photo Contest. To be precise, the entries are not limited to Christmas beers (though they could be). Alan hosts the contest -with prizes!- for three weeks, at the onset of the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas/Yule season.

The rules are simple: take a picture with beer as primary object or tangent, limit the size of the file to 500KB, email to Alan by this Sunday, 5 December, at noon Eastern (US/Canada) Time, and curb your enthusiasm to only five entries. Although Alan was originally adamant that he would disregard any beer-with-food shots, he seems to have softened his distaste. More on the rules: here.

The grand prize, and it is grand indeed, is the four-part Beer Hunter Series on VHS tape, originally a Discovery Channel series in the early 1990s. As compared to the current Discovery Channel infomercial called Brewmasters, Beer Hunter is joyful beer exploration, written and hosted by the witty and erudite Michael Jackson. A partial list of prizes: here.

Here's a photo I submitted ...
Bartender and beer

... and one that I didn't.
Menage a trois?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Washington, D.C.'s Father Christmas

Dave Alexander is the Big Dawg, the Papa Smurf, the Father Christmas of the good beer scene in Washington, D.C. He and his wife Diane run the Brickskeller Down Home Saloon in the city.

Oliver, Alexander, & Lauer
In 2007: Dave Alexander (c); Jason Oliver (l), of Devils Backbone Brewing (then of Gordon-Biersch); Barrett Lauer (r), District Chophouse.

In 1957, when the bar was opened by Diane's family (née Coja), the Brickskeller was the one place one could confidently go for a good beer. That remained true even into the early 1990s, when brewpubs and other beer emporia began appearing. Due to an interesting clause in the city's liquor laws, the Brickskeller was able to act as its own beer importer, and would often send a truck to other regions of the country to bring back otherwise unavailable microbrews. The Bricks didn't own a boat, but stocked many overseas beers not normally found in the D.C. region. The Brickskeller is in the Guinness Book of World Records for its beer list of over 1,200 beers. (A good ordering strategy is to ask for 1 of at least 5 beers: the Brickskeller's wide variety often lends itself to temporary out-of-stocks.)

Dave has, shall I say, an exuberant writing style. Here's his announcement (unusually brief, but not failing to emphatically punctuate) for the 21st running of the Christmas Beer Tasting, Thursday, 9 December.

Howdy Rowdies! And the warmest of non-denominationally specific winter seasonal greetings to all of youse. Happy Holidaze! The Multiple Guest Brewmaster Winter Holidaze Tasting Extravaganzee
is a’comin!

Thursday December 9 at the Brickskeller

This is the TWENTY-FIRST Anniversary of this wonderful and popular annual tasting! This tasting is always one of the staff’s best of the best favorites! We bring a whole bunch of the regions best brewmasters to our stage with their winter seasonals! For 21 years this has been the best, easiest, cheapest and funnest way to meet the area brewmasters, hear them speak and taste their great winter brews! Doors open at 6, we never start at 7!
[That's very true.]

The Brickskeller is a true mom and pop shop, family owned and operated since opening her doors October 7, 1957, at 1523 22nd St NW.

Tickets for this event can be had by surfing on over to and clicking the “events” tap handle.