Friday, September 30, 2011

MAC Brewfest cancelled

Just announced: Sad news for Washington, D.C. area good beer fans.

Unfortunately, due to late planning, lack of staffing and unfortunately poor ticket sales, we've had to cancel MAC Brew Fest which was planned for Saturday, October 15th, 2011 in Washington, D.C. -

We really appreciate all the breweries that had planned to participate - we really wanted to hold this event, but we priced tickets too high in order to cover costs - Urban events simply cost more - and our planning and marketing simply got behind. All ticket purchasers have been notified and will receive Full Refunds - we've been around 14 years, and we will make good on that promise.

Thanks for working with TasteDC Management and MAC Brew Fest - Cheers to American Craft Beer!

We second Mr. Adler's toast, and we wish him continued success in spreading the good beer news, and, phoenix-like, a Mid-Atlantic Brewfest for 2012.

Life isn't all beer and skittles.

It's not often, but sometimes, that YFGF looks up from a beer mug. Tonight, that will be so.

Baseball playoffs!

Clipper City Golds"
Unless you're a citizen of Boston or a native of Atlanta, Wednesday's season conclusion may have been the most thrilling thing to happen in recent baseball history. (And, please, let's not have that trope that nothing exciting ever happens in baseball.) The down to the last strike, last out, last game, win by the the Orioles (yeah, Baltimore) and the Rays (go, uh, Tampa), and the double-historic end-of-season collapses by their respective opponents Red Sox and the Braves —collapses so severe that their scopes have never been witnessed since baseball was first organized in the 19th century— together were the ingredients that brewed an evening of pure baseball ecstasy.

As the best writer in baseball today, Tom Boswell, of the Washington Post, put it: "The glorious insanity fed on itself and went viral."

Now, October begins —a day early— and we, Washington Nationals fans, will root for the nefarious Philadelphia Phillies to lose (and, we, Nats fans of a certain vintage, will yet root against the nefarious Bob Short and his 40-year old progeny, the Texas Rangers).

For the next few weeks, the air will be crisp, the foliage brilliant; the beer will be cold, and the baseball hot. October is the splendid season.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pic(k) of the Week: Chaos among the kegs

Where in the world? What in the world?

Chaos among the kegs

This was the warehouse of a beer and wine wholesaler, somewhere in 2006. Identity withheld to protect the guilty.

Borrowing a family phrase, passed down from my father's mother, Anna: "Hacar, macar, šiandien, vacar!" It's Lithuanian, as filtered through Williamsburg, Brooklyn, patois, and can be roughly translated as "here, there, today, tomorrow," or, in other words, "helter-skelter."

I'm uncertain as to the spelling.

Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's Autumn!

Autumn augur (02)

The Autumnal Equinox occurred at 5:04 US Eastern Time this morning. The Earth's axis stood straight up and down, relative to the sun, and autumn began. For our neighbors south of the equator, it's spring that's beginning. For them, this was the Equinoccio de Septiembre (Equinócio de Setembro in Brazil).

Contrary to popular belief, in most of the world today the hours of daylight and dark will not be equal in duration. Close but not quite. From

During the equinox, the length of night and day across the world is nearly, but not entirely, equal. This is because the day is slightly longer in places that are further away from the equator, and because the sun takes longer to rise and set in these locations. Furthermore, the sun takes longer to rise and set farther from the equator because it does not set straight down - it moves in a horizontal direction.

Moreover, there is an atmospheric refraction that causes the sun's disk to appear higher in the sky than it would if earth had no atmosphere. has a more detailed explanation on this topic. has more information on why day and night are not exactly of equal length during the equinoxes.

I think that an Oktoberfest Lager will be called for tonight!


  • For many, Oktoberfest —the annual lager beer celebration held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, and arguably the largest party in the world— is a sure sign of autumn's arrival. Oktoberfest actually begins in late summer and ends in early October. This year's festivities kicked off last Saturday, 17 September 2011, and will continue through Monday, 3 October. More than six million guests from around the world are expected to consume some 7.1 million Maßkrüge — one-liter mugs of beer, pronounced "MAHSS KREW-guh). That's 17 days of gemütlichkeit.
  • The Washington Post has published a round-up of Oktoberfest celebrations in Washington, D.C., and its Maryland, and Virginia suburbs.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pic(k) of the Week: Beer Tableaux

Beer training

Displayed, like a tableaux, at a beer-training class for a restaurant staff.
  • A bottle of Yeungling Lager, brewed by the oldest brewery in the United States (1829), and the largest wholly American-owned brewery (or the 2nd-largest, depending upon who is doing the counting).
  • Sample of malted barley.
  • An issue of All About Beer Magazine, with Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver on the cover.
  • Garrett Oliver is the Editor-In-Chief and leading author of the forthcoming book The Oxford Companion to Beer, a 943page reference book, to be published by Oxford University Press, and released this month (September 2011).
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject.Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Learn about Cask Ale, then drink it!

Real Ale is a beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops, water and yeast), matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide. Real ale is also known as ‘cask-conditioned beer,’ ‘real cask ale,’ real beer,’ and ‘naturally conditioned beer.’
CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale)

Cask ale USA

It's a wonderful thing, that's happening now in the United States.  It seems that almost very week, more and more cask-conditioned ale is being served at brewpubs and 'regular' bars and restaurants than at any time since possibly before Prohibition. But, for every well-made cask, there's another not so well-cellared, and for every well-intentioned publican, there's misinformation on proper service.

Three of us (among many others) have been discussing this 'real' information gap, if you will, for a couple of years now. Steve Jones is the long-time brewer for Oliver Ales at the Pratt Street Alehouse in Baltimore, Maryland. Paul Pendyck is an importer of cask equipment at UK Brewing Supplies and the proprietor of the cask-ale serving Bulls Head Publick House in Lititz, Pennsylvania. All three of us agree that there is an urgent need for cask ale education: not only for brewers and cellarmen, but for pub operators, and, yes, for drinkers.

So, we're excited to announce our first joint project: a Cask Ale Panel discussing: what cask-conditioned real ale is, how to make it, how to serve it, how to enjoy it, and where to find it. As part of the Baltimore Beer Week festivities, the seminar will be held Saturday, 15 October, from noon until 1pm, during the hour preceding the Chesapeake Real Ale Fest, at the Pratt Street Alehouse.

Baltimore Beer Week

Seven members will comprise the panel, and each will speak to a certain aspect of cask-conditioned beer.

  • Steve Jones
    Brewer: Oliver Ales at Pratt Street Alehouse
    Baltimore, Maryland.
    ... the Festival's host brewer will discuss the production of cask ale in a brewpub setting, and the traditional use of isinglass finings.

  • Paul Pendyck
    Owner: UK Brewing Supplies, Bulls Head Pub
    ... how to successfully serve cask ale in the United States, and what equipment a pub needs to do so.

  • Bill Madden
    Brewer/Owner: Mad Fox Brewing Company
    Falls Church, Virginia.
    ... the issues of brewing and serving cask ale in a brewpub. Using a cask breather vs. not using a cask breather. And, what exactly is a cask breather?

  • Steve Marsh
    Cellar Master: Heavy Seas Brewing Company
    Baltimore, Maryland.
    ...producing cask ale not in a brewpub, but in a production brewery, and the use of ‘non-traditional’ ingredients.

  • Casey Hard
    General Manager/Cellarmaster: Max’s TapHouse
    Baltimore, Maryland.
    ... successfully serving traditional cask ale in a U.S. beer bar. Cask breather or no cask breather? Pushing cask ale up through long lines from cellar to bar.Training staff AND customers!

  • Ron Fischer
    Division Manager: B. United International, Inc..
    ... U.S. importer of award-winning British cask-conditioned ales. The difference between US and British cask ales. How to ship cask ales great distances, and still have those casks 'like you' when they get there.
I'm the 7th panelist. I'll be moderating the discussion.

Chesapeake SPBW

The Chesapeake Real Ale Fest is organized by the Chesapeake branch of the SPBW (the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood), the only US branch of the UK-based society. This year, it's the 8th annual run for the festival at the Pratt Street Ale House. Before that, for 7 years, a smaller festival, the Real Ale Challenge, was co-organized by the SPBW and the venerable Racers Cafe.

The list of casks remains fungible until the day before the festival (when Steve Jones must vent and prepare the lot), but as of today, it includes: [local breweries highlighted]:

  • Breckenridge (Colorado)
  • BrewDog (yes, that BrewDog in Scotland)
  • Brewer’s Alley (Frederick, Maryland)
  • Brewer’s Art (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Dog Brewing (Westminster, Maryland)
  • DuClaw (Bel Air, Maryland)
  • Evolution (Delaware)
  • Flying Dog (Frederick, Maryland)
  • Flying Fish (New Jersey)
  • Great Divide (Colorado)
  • Heavy Seas (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Oliver Breweries (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Oskar Blues (Colorado)
  • The Raven (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Stillwater (Baltimore, Maryland)
  • Stone (California)
  • Stoudt’s (Pennsylvania)
  • Troegs (Pennsylvania)
  • Weyerbacher (Pennsylvania)
  • White Marsh (White Marsh, Maryland)
  • Yards (Pennsylvania)
Pratt Street Alehouse

Cask-conditioned real ale is beer at its freshest. Come learn more about it. And then ... drink it! We hope to see you there.

  • The Chesapeake Real Ale Festival runs from 1 until 5 pm, on Saturday, 15 October 2011.Tickets are $40 in advance, via the website: The cost includes unlimited sampling and a souvenir glass. The Cask Ale Seminar occurs at noon.To attend, purchase a VIP ticket at $60.That gets you in the door to begin your cask sampling, whether you attend the seminar or not!
  • The Pratt Street Alehouse is located across from the Baltimore Convention center (and only a few blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards) at 206 W. Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland. 21201.
  • The idea that cask ale is being produced and served in the U.S. more now than at any time since prior to Prohibition is conjecture, based upon practical observation. Neither the Brewers Association nor any other organization compiles statistics on real production and sales in the U.S. However, Alex Hall, at the Gotham Imbiber, maintains a list of bars and restaurants across the US that serve cask ale. He regularly updates the list, using information sent in by 'tickers' across the nation.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

VeggieDag Thursday: Answer the question

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

On numerous occasions, someone, who upon being told that I am a beer 'expert' or some such silliness, will ask me what my favorite beer is. I have no answer for them, because for me, it's more about the beer experience, an ever ongoing thing. That answer has often upset the questioner, who will accuse me of evasiveness or worse.

Now, another conundrum.

On a recent occasion, a person overheard that I wouldn't be ordering a certain dish at a restaurant, because. as I explained, I don't eat animal flesh. He asked me, "Oh, are you a vegetarian or a vegan?" Those two terms are so fraught with different definitions for different people, especially those who are not 'vegan' or 'vegetarian,' that I find them pointless. I chose my response carefully. "I don't eat animal flesh," I replied.

Do I eat eggs? No. Do I wear leather shoes? Yes.

Do I eat fish or cows or pigs or chickens...? No. Do I eat honey? Yes.

Do I eat cheese? For over a decade, I haven't. I do now, but only artisinal cheeses (and for a very beer-related reason: it's such an amazing food pairing with artisinal beer.)

My interrogator pressed the issue, so I answered, again, "I don't eat animal flesh." The response did not sit well. "You're just like Michele Bachmann," he said, annoyed. To him, I appeared to be evasively staying 'on point,' as he believed the presidential candidate to be during interviews.

Regardless, I don't believe Mrs. Bachmann to be a meat abstainer.

Mock 'Tuna' Salad Sandwich

Here a few non-animal flesh recipes, tested here at the YFGF kitchen.

  • Cole slaw: My Nana's recipe for a non-creamy slaw.
  • Sandwich: Mock tuna salad.
  • Pasta: Quick zucchini pasta.
  • Rice: Kale with brown rice.
  • Dessert (or breakfast): Banana spread.


    • Why the name "VeggieDag?" Here
    • Suggestions and submissions from chefs and homecooks welcomed!.
    • See prior VeggieDag posts.
    • Follow #VeggieDag Thursday on Twitter.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


On the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001, my stepdaughter and I walked, carefree, to her pre-kindergarten school, in Baltimore, Maryland. I confidently left her in the care of the Catholic sisters, and returned to our family's row-house home.

Then, everything changed.

My wife had turned on the television set to watch the morning news. Something was happening in New York, the newsman was saying.

We watched, unbelieving, as the second plane flew into the World Trade Center. We telephoned our parents to be sure that they were safe, and I hurried back to the school to bring our daughter home.

A man, running on the street, called out, warning me to take cover. "It's World War III," he shouted.


The Dust Cries Out

The Dust Cries Out was a memorial to the victims and survivors of 9/11, sculpted by Virginia artist Karen Swenholt in 2008. It featured two life-size nude figures representing the dust-covered victims (and survivors) of the Twin Towers and Pentagon crashes (and the heroes of Shanksville), with arms reaching toward the sky. It was briefly displayed in the artist's hometown (and now, mine) of Falls Church, Virginia.

8:46am ET 9.11.01
World Trade Center, North Tower: New York City.

9:03am ET 9.11.01
World Trade Center, South Tower: New York City.

9:37am ET 9.11.01
Pentagon: Arlington, Virginia.

10:03am ET 9.11.01
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pic(k) of the Week: Ye Olde English Gambit

Ye Old English Gambit
One of the better moves in chess: distract your opponent with beer?

Chess match and Olde English 800 Malt Liquor, as seen on Canal Street, in the French Quarter, in New Orleans, Louisiana, 23 July 2011.

Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, usually posted on a Saturday, and often with a 'good fermentable' as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Friday, September 09, 2011

And, off they go ... to the GABF.

In a scene being reproduced this week at breweries throughout the United States, brewers are packing up their beers, and shipping them via Fed Ex, UPS, and other conveyance to Denver, Colorado. Later this month, the beers will be judged against each other in 83 style categories (and 85 subcategories) at the Great American Beer Festival.

Great American Beer Festival 2011

The 2011 Great American Beer Festival runs three days, Thursday, 29 September, through Saturday, 1 October, in Denver's Colorado Convention Center. According to the press release, 2,400 different beers from 465 different U.S. breweries will be served to 49,000-plus attendees. Many of the beers are routinely only available at single brewpubs, or in the limited geographical distribution area of small breweries, so this will be a unique opportunity for may.

This year marks the 30th running of this annual festival and competition, organized by the Brewers Association —a trade organization for American breweries producing fewer than 6 million barrels per year. Most American breweries —small to large— consider the GABF to be the preeminent competition of American beer. Only 3 medals are awarded in each category.

Although most of the beer at the festival is served from kegs, any beer to be judged at the GABF must be submitted in bottles. Many brewpubs —restaurants that brew on-site— do not have bottling facilities. They often resort to makeshift devices, such as those used by homebrewers, to bottle their beers by hand.

Mad mailing (02)

Above, Bill Madden, owner and brewmaster of Mad Fox Brewing Company —a brewpub in Falls Church, Virginia— is arranging the shipment of 72 hand-bottled beers: that is, 4 bottles each of each 18 different beer 'styles.' Madden told me that his brewpub will also be sending 5 kegs of beer for the non-competition part of the festival.

  • Altbier
  • Big Chimneys Porter
  • Broad Street IPA
  • Defender IPA
  • Elixir Hellerbock
  • English Summer Ale (Citra hops)
  • Fennec Ale ("ordinary bitter")
  • Kolsch
  • Kolsch Kellerbier (pulled directly from the fermenter)
  • Orange Whip IPA (citra-hop ale)
  • St James Stout
  • Tuppers India Ink (Black IPA)
  • Saison
  • Slobberknocker Barleywine (aged in oak whiskey barrels)
  • Strawberry Blonde Ale
  • Wee Heavy Strong Scotch Ale
  • Wee Heavy Strong Scotch Ale, aged in oak whiskey barrels)

Bad news: the festival has sold out of tickets.


  • The issue of so many beer styles —and of beer styles themselves— is a contentious one for many, including for us here at YFGF. For the moment, though, we'll suspend judgement, and simply revel in all the fun. Follow the festival via Twitter @GABF or on Facebook.
  • Thursday, September 08, 2011

    Hardywood is Richmond Va.'s newest brewery

    Yes, Virginia, there is a new brewery in Richmond. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

    Hardywood Park Craft Brewery started brewing its first major batch of ale Wednesday, a Belgian abbey-style blond ale expected to hit some local [Richmond] restaurants and stores in October. <...>

    The company's flagship brew, Hardywood Singel, is expected to be available locally in October. The brewery also plans a series of reserve ales, the first being Farmhouse Ale, a seasonal brew spiced with locally grown pumpkins, and cinnamon, brown sugar and ginger supplied locally. <...>

    The Hardywood Park name comes from a sheep station in New South Wales where [co-owners] Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh first tasted an amber ale home-brewed by the Crawford family that owned the station. <...>

    The brewery also plans a series of reserve ales, the first being Farmhouse Ale, a seasonal brew spiced with locally grown pumpkins, and cinnamon, brown sugar and ginger supplied locally."We will always focus on using local ingredients whenever we can," McKay said.

    Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

    The brewery had originally announced plans to open in June. Starting any business, let alone a brewery, is difficult. Missing the deadline by only a few months is a testament to good business skills. McKay, an MBA, previously worked for a craft beer distributor; Murtaugh studied brewing at the Siebel Institute in Chicago.


  • Tip of the hat to Edmond Medina at Virginia Craft, whose Tweet alerted me to this good news.
  • Tuesday, September 06, 2011

    American Tap Room taps flow in Clarendon

    ATR outside

    The American Tap Room opened its third area location today in the restaurant-booming Clarendon district of Arlington, Virginia.

    50 taps, numerous bottled beers ... and wine and a full bar, of course.

    ATR inside

    I sat at the bar, and ordered an American Tap Room Pale Ale, brewed for the restaurant by Heavy Seas Brewing, of Baltimore, Maryland: refreshing with a restrained slug of grapefruity American hops. The fellow sitting next to me asked the bartender if it were "high or low caramel," pronouncing the final word in two syllables. To the bartender's credit, he responded well. Good staff training.

    There's lots of wood and plenty of natural light through large windows ringing the restaurant, which helped to lighten the mood, so to speak, on a very wet day. And, there are plenty of TVs. And, there's even more light: the menus, both for the food and beverages, are back-illuminated with LEDs when opened. Very cool.

    ATR LED beverage menu

    ATR is NOT a vegetarian restaurant, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a vegetable sushi plate. Tasty. Carnivores, fear not. There are indeed many, many more non-veggie options.

    ATR lunch veggies

    Bar manager Jayson Kostyk plans to serve cask ale. The installation of two beer engines and a cask refrigerator at the bar is ongoing. When the system is operational, ATR will be only the second restaurant in Clarendon/Court House to have a permanent cask system. Fire Works is the first; Galaxy Hut offers occasional cask tappings.
    [UPDATE: The two beer engines went 'live' on 23 September; the restaurant is now pouring cask ale.]

    On may way out, I ran into Noreen Burns, columnist for on-line Ballston Patch. She may have been a couple of Metro stops away from home, but she was there to write her own review of American Tap Room.

    Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas.

    Monday, September 05, 2011

    Happy (Beer) Labor Day

    On September 5, 1882, the New York City Knights of Labor organized the first parade honoring New York's workers. Two years later, they voted to make it an annual event. Over the next ten years some thirty states across the US followed New York's lead and declared a day to honor laborers with parades, fairs, barbecues, and picnics. In 1894, an act of Congress finally declared the first Monday of September to be a federal holiday, and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law: Labor Day — dedicated to America's work force.

    Today, on the commemoration of this most egalitarian of American holidays, let us also remember our brothers and sisters who labor to make ... our daily beer.

    Mash man

    For every 'rock star' of the 'craft beer' industry, for every well-paid manager or CEO of a major beverage (fermented or otherwise) conglomerate, there are thousands of American brewery employees who labor earnestly for much less recognition and recompense. And, there are even millions more of American workers, who, associated with the beer industry, either directly or tangentially, comprise, as a whole, a vital part of the US economy. In 2010, the brewing industry accounted for:
    about $223.8 billion in output or 1.5 percent of GDP. American and international brewers, along with their wholesale and retail partners, directly or indirectly employed approximately 1.84 million Americans in 2010. These workers earned almost $71.2 billion in wages and benefits. Members of the brewing industry and their employees paid $33.5 billion in direct federal, state and local taxes. In addition, the consumption of beer throughout the country generated $5.3 billion in federal and state excise taxes, $4.9 billion in state sales taxes, and almost $682.2 million in other beer-specific local taxes.

    The Beer Institute
    Economic Contribution Study

    This beer's for all of you. Have a happy Labor Day.

    Saturday, September 03, 2011

    Pic(k) of the Week: Lovely Tattoo

    It was the 'fall' edition of the Northern Virginia Brewfest, held at Bull Run Regional Park, 24/25 October 2009.

    Gusty winds, rain squalls, and cold temperatures kept attendance low on Saturday, the first day. None of that seemed to deter this young lady. Taking cover under a tent because of a sudden rain squall, she daringly displayed her temporary Flying Dog Brewery stick-on tattoo ("Good Beer, No Shit").

    Lovely tattoo

    • See more beer tattoos: here.
    • Vote for the Top Ten Tattoos of Craft Beer, as selected by the Brewers Association: here.
    • This year's Northern Virginia Fall BrewFest is scheduled for 22/23 in October in Manassas, Virginia.
    • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a 'good fermentable' as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.