Sunday, October 30, 2011

Just say no to Twitter: NaBloPoMo

November is National Blog Posting Month. Write at your blog once a day, every day, for the 30 days that hath November.

The whole thing started off as a goof based on National Novel Writing Month, the challenge of which is to try to write an entire novel during the month of November. Not everyone can commit to an endeavor of such magnitude, though, and so National Blog Posting Month was born.

The time has finally arrived: it's November's NaBloPoMo, the birthday of this blogging project AND its first month being in its new space on We are so glad that you've joined us. If you're new to NaBlo, you can learn more about its history here. Now, let's get this blogging party started!

November is the only month that doesn't have a separate theme. Instead, the theme for November is blogging for blogging's sake. As we always do in November, there will be prizes for participants who are writing daily. We have prompts lined up from writers and bloggers. And we'll be posting writing advice to cheer you on (sort of like water tables at a marathon) throughout the month.

You can currently sign up for November's NaBloPoMo by adding your blog name and url to the form. The blogroll is open until 11 pm EST on the 5th, at which time it will close to new entries.

I signed on last year. I enjoyed sixteen straight days of inspiration, and, then, crashed and burned, suffering a mighty case of blogger's block. Beginning this Tuesday, I will try again, and with gusto. Twitter, and Twitter-length (140 characters) posts, I won't count.

I challenge my fellow beer, wine, and spirits bloggers to join me on this 30-day blogsmith marathon. Once a day, every day this month, post to your blog: inspire, challenge, question, inform, ruminate, investigate, infuriate, drink! Just do it. Say no to Twitter (or at least allow the blog and it to co-exist for the month).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pic(k) of the Week: Sonnymoon 'rainbow'


A 'rainbow' appears above the moon, Monday evening, 10 October 2011.

That night, Thelonious Monk —jazz pianist and composer, now playing for the angels— would have been 94 years young. As it was, that night, Sonny Rollins —octogenarian jazz composer and tenor saxophonist who is still playing for us terrestrials— performed at The Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C.

Sonny Rollins @Kennedy Center

A reviewer from the Washington Post utterly failed to comprehend the excitement, the vital energy, and the musical brilliance of Mr. Rollins' performance that evening. Regardless, I considered the evening a "Sonnymoon for Two", which also happens to be the title of one of Mr. Rollins' several brilliant composition/improvisations: in this case, a distinctive 12-bar blues.

Mr. Rollins has been selected as a 2011 Kennedy Center Honoree.

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.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Imperial Session of Session Beers

If you choose your beer because of its alcoholic strength, don't. It's an inefficient alcohol-delivery system, of about only 5% alcohol. Skip the beer and drink Everclear. That's a distilled spirit, and nearly 95% alcohol.

There are many beer drinkers —and a large subset of 'craft' beer drinkers— who choose to drink only so-called 'Imperial' beers (those of more than 8% alcohol by volume). Their reasons range from more bang for the buck to disdain for perceived lack of flavor in less-potent beer.

Any cook can add more salt to the pot. Any brewer can add more hops or more malt to the kettle. But those brewers, who produce beers full of flavor but of less than 5% alcohol by volume (abv), have real skill. It's not the amount of ingredients used that necessarily yields flavor; it's the creative use of the ingredients.

Sam Fitz and Tim Prendergast are the first certified cicerones in the city of Washington D.C., beer sommeliers, as recognized by the Cicerone Certification Program, after rigorous testing. Fitz and Prendergast are also the managers of The Meridian Pint, a beer -forward bar and restaurant in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

They are celebrating their mutual birthdays tonight, throwing a party at the Meridian Pint, everyone invited.

So that all attending will have unfuzzy heads the following morning, all twenty-five beers they will be serving will be of 5% or less in alcohol content, by volume. That's a 'style' of beer, if you will, referred to as 'session beer' as in, make a session of the evening and still walk, coherently, out the door. That's good for you, and that's good for the publican.

There are many in the U.S. —again, principally in the 'craft' beer ambit— who think that low alcohol beer is low-flavored beer. They will tell you that only 'Imperial' beers of prodigious alcohol levels can deliver intriguing and satisfying flavors. But if alcohol were indeed the primary building block of flavor, would not Everclear be the most flavorful alcoholic beverage? Ah, but alcohol, by itself, is flavorless. The fruit of skillful brewing isn't.

Session beer, for various reasons, is more prevalent in the United Kingdom, than here in the United States, especially served as cask-conditioned 'real ale'. Full-flavored lower-alcohol beers are, however, beginning to garner interest here, from both brewers and drinkers. Beer author Lew Bryson maintains a website wholly devoted to the topic: The Session Beer Project.

Here are the details of tonight's celebration, as described on Facebook. Call it an Imperial session of Session beer.

Sam and Tim , the folks who maintain the beer program at Meridian Pint, decided to celebrate their birthdays by putting on a celebration of flavorful, low-alcohol, and eminently drinkable session beer. All 24 draft lines and one cask will be pouring beer 5% and under. In keeping with Meridian Pint's commitment to local beer we are proud to say that 11 of the 24 beers being poured are produced at 5 breweries within 40 miles of DC. There will also be a pig roast on the patio featuring a Tamworth Pig from the Bella Terra Family farm in Montgomery County.

We will be debuting two beers including the ONLY KEG of an American Dark Mild brewed by DC Brau on their Pilot system and the release of the latest Meridian Pint/Oliver Ales collaboration, MP4, a 4.5% boundary straddling English-American Pale Ale. Anyone with facial hair, real or fake, gets a free 4oz taster of the cask!

We'll also have beer from two brewpubs whose beer doesn't make it to DC: Mike Roy brewer at Franklin's Brewery in Hyattsville graciously agreed to bring his Stonehenge English Dark Mild and we couldn't be more excited to announce that we'll be pouring beer from Mad Fox Brewpub in Falls Church who recently brought home two medals from the Great American Beer Festival including a gold for their Keller Kolsch.

The rest of the draft list is rounded out by a slew of high quality and hard to find session beers by breweries including Jolly Pumpkin, Epic, Schlafly, Brewer's Art, Bell's, and Lost Rhino.

Draft list:

  • Oliver MP4 Cask and Draft
  • Oliver Dark Horse- 4% English Dark Mild
  • Oliver Pagan Porter 4.9% English Porter
  • Oliver Blonde Ale- 4.3% Blonde Ale
  • Oliver Bishops Breakfast- 5% Oatmeal Stout on Slow Pour
  • Bell’s Third Coast- 4.8% American Blonde Ale
  • Epic Hop Syndrome- Hoppy American Pale Lager
  • Fox Kolsch - 4.4% German Kolsch
  • Lost Rhino Navigator- American Amber Lager
  • Brewer’s Art Proletary- 5% Belgian Dark Ale
  • Schlafly English Pale- 4.4% English Pale Ale
  • Ommegang Witte- 5% Belgian Witbier
  • Franklin’s Stonehenge- 4% English Dark Mild
  • Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam- 4.5% Barrel Aged Farmhouse Hefeweizen
  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere- 4.5% Barrel Aged Saison
  • Festina Peche- 4.5% Berliner Weisse
  • Stoudt’s Heifer-in-Wheat- 5% Hefeweizen
  • Bear Republic Double Aught- 4.2% Czech Pilsner
  • DC Brau American Dark Mild- ~4.5% American Dark Mild
  • Port City Optimal Wit - 5% Belgian Witbier
  • Heavy Seas Pale Ale - 4.8% English Pale Ale
  • North Coast Scrimshaw - 4.4% German Pilsner
  • Schlafly Kolsch - 4.5% German Kolsch
  • Victory Headwaters Pale Ale - 5% American Pale Ale
  • Bluepoint Blueberry - 4.6% Blueberry Ale

MP4 Ale

Notes from the evening

Of the beers I sampled, two really stood out for me (and, there were many, of course, I didn't even get to). MP4: a 4.5% abv 'best bitter' from Steve Jones of Oliver Ales in Baltimore, Maryland. Served both on draft and on cask, the latter was a bracingly hoppy beer. Its (non-grapefruity) aroma and big structured finish could put many 'Imperial' beers to shame.

From Franklin's in Hyattsville, Maryland, the 'mere' 4% abv Stonehenge, an 'English' Dark Mild, was a dark-chocolate malted milkshake of a delight, with dark fruit flavor thrown in for good measure.

There were lots of good beer folk and lots of good beer conversation. Photos: here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pic(k) of the Week: If it isn't Scottish, it isn't worth a ...

If it isn't Scottish, it isn't worth a ...

Bruce Williams —brewmaster/owner of Williams Brothers Brewing of Alloa, Scotland— emphatically makes his point to kilt-wearing representatives * for BrewDog Brewing of Fraserburgh, Scotland.

Dateline: 15 October 2011.
Pratt Street Alehouse, Baltimore, Maryland.

Brilliant October weather, live music, a large crowd, and 50 casks of real ale:

Beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.

This was the 8th annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, co-organized by the Chesapeake branch of the SPBW (Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood) and the Pratt Street Alehouse. Since 2009, the CRAF has also been a 'bookend' festival for Baltimore Beer Week.


  • More photos from the 2011 Chesapeake Real Ale Festival: here.
  • * To be precise, these two gentlemen are not actually representatives of BrewDog, but instead are U.S. fans of the brewery, who, when not talking with Mr. Williams, were volunteers for the festival, pouring samples from the BrewDog cask for festival attendee. [Thank you to Alexander D. Michell IV for that clarification. Mr. Mitchell was the 'official' photographer for Baltimore Beer Week.]
  • 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.

Monday, October 17, 2011

State of the Brewnion in Washington, D.C.

State of the Brewnion

The State of the Brewnion (a bit of a tongue-twister) is a panel discussion on the state of the 'craft' beer industry in Washington, D.C., scheduled for this Thursday evening, 20 October, from 6:30 til 8:30, at the Bier Baron, off of Dupont Circle, in Washington, D.C.

Tammy Tuck —who writes for the Young and Hungry column of the Washington City Paper— is the organizer; she's asked me to participate. It's a interesting panel; the discussion should be enlightening.

Tammy Tuck likes!

On the Facebook page, here's how Ms. Tuck describes the agenda:
What's next for D.C.'s booming beer scene? How did D.C. become a craft beer town? What kind of new breweries and beer trends should enthusiasts look forward to? And what do beer-business professionals think of today's scene?

Join Tammy Tuck of the Lagerheads [her Twitter handle] as she moderates a panel of insiders and enthusiasts who will be discussing everything from home brewing to beer menus to the future of D.C. area's rapidly advancing craft beer culture. Come thirsty for beer and knowledge. The evening also features complimentary tastings, appetizers, beer trivia, and prizes.

UPDATED list of guests includes:

  • Elicia Belle –Co-organizer of Beer Bunnies International
  • Mike Dolan – Founder of and DC Homebrewers Club
  • Teddy Folkman – Co-founder of DC Beer Week and executive chef at Granville Moore’s
  • Jeff Hancock – President and head brewer for DC Brau
  • Dorlyn Catron – Bar manager at the Bier Baron
  • Jeff Wells - Co-founder of DC Beer Week and sales manager for DOPS, Inc.
  • Greg Engert – Beer director for Neighborhood Restaurant Group including Birch & Barley and ChurchKey
  • Tom Cizauskas - Beer blogger at Yours For Good Fermentables and a Beer and Wine Salesman for Select Wines, Inc.
  • Erin Tyler - Legends Limited Distributors
  • Mike McGarvey - Co-founder 3 Stars Brewery
  • Ben Matz - Co-founder, Owner and Head Brewer for Chocolate City Beer LLC
  • Fred Moosaly - ABRA Director [Washington, D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration]
  • Thor Cheston - Was the general manager and beer director for Brasserie Beck from 2007 - 2011, and managing partner and beer director for Mussel Bar by Robert Wiedmaier from 2009 - 2010. Previously he was the beer director for Eulogy Belgian Tavern in Philadelphia and before that he opened the Birreria Paradiso, the beer bar underneath Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown. In 2009 he was inducted into the Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff in Brussels, Belgium. He is currently in the process of starting his own business.
  • Barrett Lauer - Head Brewer, The District ChopHouse and Brewery. Started brewing in 1996 at the Wharf Rat, Camden Yards, Baltimore. Now Pratt St. Ale House. Specializing in English-Style Ales, Stouts, and Porters with all English malt, hops, yeast, and equipment. Moved down Pratt St. to the Baltimore Brewing Company/DeGroens to learn the German art of brewing under 5th generation brewmaster Theo DeGroen. While at BBC he won 5 GABF medals in 3 years under his helm as head brewer. He has been the head brewer at The District ChopHouse for the last 7 years, resides in Baltimore, and loves the Baltimore/Washington beer scene.

The Bier Baron was long known as the Brickskeller. The current owners purchased the venerable beer bar/restaurant almost a year ago in December of 2010. I have not been back since; I'm intrigued to see the re-do.

The Bier Baron Tavern
1523 22nd Street NW
Washington, D.C.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pic(k) of the week: Lil' Pirate

Lil' pirate

A red-headed pirate and his schwag: Heavy Seas Brewing eyepatch, a DC Brau sweatshirt, and Woodchuck Cider stickers. The beer is his dad's.

Over 8,000 people attended the 12th annual Capitol City Brewing Oktoberfest, 8 October 2011, organized by the Arlington, Virginia, brewpub of the same name. More than 40 breweries poured more than 160 beers.


  • More photos from the festival: here.
  • 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, October 14, 2011

Thank a homebrewer today!

An important milestone was reached on this day, 14 October, thirty-three years ago, 1978.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, lawmakers decided to again permit citizens to produce small amounts of wine and beer at home. However, due to a stenographer's error, the 1933 law failed to mention beer. Thus, even though it became legal to ferment wine at home, homebrewing remained illegal. For the next 44 years, no congressman would find it politically expedient to demand the right of homebrewing for his or her constituents.

That is until January 1977, when Barber Conable, a House of Representatives Republican from New York, would introduce bill HR 2028. Alan Cranston, a Democrat from California, introduced a similar bill in the Senate, along with Senate co-sponsors former NASA astronaut Senator Harrison Schmitt (R) of New Mexico (R), Senator Dale Bumpers (D) of Arkansas, and Senator Mike Gravel (D) of Alaska.

The next year, 1978, these bills would become House Resolution 1337 and Senate Amendment 3534. On 14 October 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the bill into law.

The law did not actually legalize homebrewing. Rather, it revoked the federal excise tax on homebrew, for up to 100 gallons per adult per year for a total of 200 gallons per household per year. (200 gallons is the approximate equivalent of 89 cases of beer.) Actual legalization would require state-by-state approval, as provided under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. Only Alabama Aand Mississippi still explicitly forbid the practice. [UPDATE: As of May 2013, homebrewing is now legal in all 50 states.]

Homebrew and 'craft brew' had a strong correlation in those days. In 1978, there was only one 'craft' brewery. In 1981, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company began its operations - founded by two homebrewers - and the craft beer revival had begun in earnest.

Buy a homebrewer a beer today, or better yet, drink one of hers. And, then ... thank her!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Pic(k) of the Week : That's Why We Like Real Ale!

Why we like Real Ale!

It's fresh. That's ... why we like Real Ale!

Beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.
The Oxford Companion to Beer

In the photo, the bartender is pulling a lovely pint from a cask of Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA, brewed by Heavy Seas Brewing, of Baltimore, Maryland, (then known as Clipper City Brewing). She is using a hand-operated piston pump —known as a beer engine— to pull the ale directly from the cask without the assist of any compressed gas, such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen. That's ... Real Ale!

The annual Chesapeake Real Ale Fest occurs next Saturday, 15 October, in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Pratt Street Ale House. It's a signature event of Baltimore Beer Week.

The Festival is co-sponsored by the Pratt Street Alehouse and by the Chesapeake branch of the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood, SPBW, for short.

The parent organization of the SPBW is located in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1963, when most cask-conditioned ales were still drawn from wooden casks. Today, most casks are constructed of stainless steel.

The Baltimore, Maryland based branch of the SPBW is one of the few that is active outside of the UK, and it is the only one found in the US. It was founded in the 1990s by Joe Gold, who is also a co-founder of Baltimore Beer Week.

This year's Chesapeake Real Ale Festival also features a panel discussion on cask ale the hour before the festival begins, which I'll be moderating. Details: here. Tickets and more information are available at the website:


  • The web address for the Baltimore, Maryland, SPBW is spbw.ORG, whereas, for the parent organization in the UK, it's spbw.COM.
  • UPDATE: Photos from the 2011 Chesapeake Real Ale Festival: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas.
  • 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, October 07, 2011

Capitol City Oktoberfest, in Shirlington, Va.

Capitol City Oktoberfest 2011

Tomorrow, Saturday, 8 October, it's the 12th running of the Capitol City Oktoberfest, organized by the Arlington, Virginia, brewpub of the same name, in the streets around the brewpub, in the Village of Shirlington. More than 40 breweries are participating, pouring more than 160 beers from keg and bottle.

UPDATE: Organizers estimated that, with 15% more beer than the year before, more than 8,000 people had attended by festival's conclusion. Photos: here.

The event costs $25 if you want to sample the beer, but is free to teetotalers, designated drivers, non-beer drinkers, under 21-ers, etc. Partakers receive a complimentary 4-ounce glass and 10 beer sample tickets. Additional tickets can be purchased at $1 each. There will be Bavarian (and non-Bavarian) food vendors, oompah bands, and traditional German dancers.

With all these choices, here's a beer scooper tip: Come early, and have a plan. For example, with your 10 tickets, sample 10 Oktoberfests, or 10 locals (and meet the brewers), or 10 beers you haven't tried. But definitely, come early! The weatherman is forecasting sunny skies, temperatures in the (high!) 70s, and low humidity. The festival will be busy. Gates open at 12 noon, and close at 7pm; sampling ends at 6pm, promptly and ABC-enforced.

Here's the beer register, as it stands today:

Local beers (Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia):

  • Capitol City Brewing (the host and organizer) 
  • DC Brau 
  • Gordon-Biersch 
  • Heavy Seas 
  • Legend 
  • Lost Rhino 
  • Mad Fox 
  • Olde Richmond (contract-brewed by St. George)
  • Port City 
  • St. George 
  • Starr Hill 
  • Sweetwater Tavern

  • Bitburger/Köstritzer 
  • Corsendonk 
  • Erdinger 
  • Fuller's 
  • Hacker-Pschorr (Munich Oktoberfest) 
  • Hofbrau (Munich Oktoberfest) 
  • Huyghe (Delirium Tremens) 
  • Liefmans 
  • St. Louis Framboise 
  • Timmermans 
  • Traunstein 
  • Weihenstephaner

U.S. Beers:

  • Abita 
  • Alewerks 
  • Allagash 
  • Avery 
  • Ballast Point 
  • Bells 
  • Bluegrass 
  • Blue Point 
  • Boston Beer (Samuel Adams) 
  • Boulder 
  • Brooklyn 
  • Climax 
  • Clown Shoes 
  • Dogfish Head 
  • Duck Rabbit 
  • Epic 
  • Firestone Walker 
  • Founders (a secret stash of Canadian Breakfast Stout, please!) 
  • Green Flash 
  • Harpoon 
  • Lagunitas 
  • Laughing Dog 
  • Left Hand 
  • Long Trail/Otter Creek 
  • Lost Coast 
  • New Holland 
  • Old Dominion/Fordham (Coastal Brewing) 
  • Oskar Blues (Dales Pale Ale) 
  • RJ Rockers 
  • Rogue Schamltz (Hebrew) 
  • Shlafly 
  • Sierra Nevada 
  • Smuttynose 
  • Southern Tier 
  • Stone 
  • Stoudts 
  • Terrapin 
  • Thirsty Dog 
  • Tröegs 
  • Uinta 
  • Victory 
  • Yuengling


  • Crispin Cider 
  • Original Sin 
  • Woodchuck Cider

Not only do I write about beer, I sell it. As a representative for Select Wines, a northern Virginia wine and beer wholesaler, I'll be bringing several of the beers on Saturday. Please stop by the tables and say hello. Here's my list:

  • Abita (Louisiana)
    • Fall Fest (Otoberfest-style lager)
    • Purple Haze (raspberry ale)
  • Allagash (Maine)
    • Curuiex (Belgian-inspired Tripel abbey ale, aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels)
    • Dubbel (Belgian-inspired Abbey ale)
    • White (Belgian-inspired, spiced wheat ale)
  • Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York City, New York)
    • Concoction '(Penicillin cocktail' inspired spiced ale)
    • Oktoberfest
    Junior Acevedo, the local representative from the brewery, will be on hand.
  • Heavy Seas (Baltimore, Maryland)
    • Märzen (Oktoberfest-style lager)
    • Davy Jones Lager (Imperial Cream Ale)
    • Red Sky at Night (Saison)
    Jonathan McIntire, the local representative from the brewery, will be on hand.
  • Stoudt's (Pennsylvania)
    • Scarlet Lady ESB
    • Oktoberfest

Our host, Capitol City's executive brewer, Mike McCarthy, is currently supervising a major expansion of the brewpub's facilities. He also manages to deftly manage a major beer festival. Here he is, doing just that, at the 2008 festival, wearing his golden brewer's boots.

The Brewer with the Golden Boots

The address is 4001 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA. For more information, call the brewpub on 703-578-388, or email at Follow on Facebook at Follow on Twitter at @CapCityBrewers.


  • In Germany, only six breweries —all within the confines of the city of Munich— are allowed to call their beer Oktoberfest: Augustiner (independently owned), Hacker-Pschorr (Heineken), Hofbräu (Bavarian government), Löwenbräu (Anheuser-Busch InBev), Paulaner (Heineken), and Spaten (Anheuser-Busch InBev). Only those beers are served at Munich's Oktoberfest. The Capitol City Oktoberfest is pouring Hacker-Pschorr and Hofbräu.
  • The original location for Capitol City was at 12th and H Streets, NW, in Washington, D.C. When it opened in 1992, Cap City was the first brew pub to operate in the city since before Prohibition. That location is still open, but longer brews onsite.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Eleven Days of Pleasant Living: It's Baltimore Beer Week, hon!

Baltimore Beer Week begins tomorrow, Thursday, 6 October. When it concludes eleven (!) days later, Sunday 16 October, the Land of Pleasant Living will have celebrated its beer heritage, past and present, at 327 events (give or take).

Baltimore Beer Week 2011

The organizers have appropriately lifted the slogan "The Land of Pleasant Living" from the labels of bottles (and cans) of National Bohemian, the beer that was once the proud provenance of the city and region. Honoring that, the organizers have included events, not only in Maryland's largest city, but, as well, in the areas surrounding Baltimore.

Many events are free; some require a fee; many are beer tastings or pay-as-you-go meet-and-greets; some are festivals and dinners. With such a wealth, it would be difficult, and non-inclusive, to pick the best of the best. But, here are a few to consider:

  • Baltimore Beer Week begins with a Star-Spangled Banger Parade [spelling intentional!], beer tour and pub crawl with the organizers of Baltimore Beer Week. It begins, tomorrow, 6 October, at noon at Fort McHenry [a battle there inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem] "whereupon the fabled Star-Spangled Banger mallet [video] will weave its way through some of Baltimore’s storied neighborhoods, visit various landmarks and taverns, and ultimately end at Rams Head Live for the Opening Tap Celebration."

  • The official 2011 Baltimore Beer Week Opening Tap Celebration occurs tomorrow night, Thursday, 6 October, at Rams' Head Live, in the Inner Harbor, beginning at 6pm with the ceremonial tapping of the First Firkin, brewed by Heavy Seas Brewery. Details and tickets: here.

  • Saturday morning, 8 October, there's a rare tour of the historic Wiessner/ American Brewery building, "perhaps one of the most iconic jewels of Baltimore's brewing and architectural history and landscape," now 're-habbed' with a substantial amount of the long-closed brewery's memorabilia and architectural fixtures retained. Details from Baltimore beer blogger (and one of Baltimore Beer Week's oganizers) Alexander D. Mitchell IV: here.

  • The first of two 'bookend' beer festivals: The 9TH Annual Maryland Brewer’s Oktoberfest at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, including over 80 beers from fifteen local breweries, an assortment of food, live bands, and oompah bands, and the Maryland Brewer’s Homebrew Competition and the announcement of the winners of the 2011 Governor's Cup for Maryland's best beers. The festival is organized not by a third party promoter, but by the breweries of Maryland themselves, through their guild, the Brewer's Association of Maryland. [Despite the spelling, there is more than one brewery in Maryland, sixteen of which are members of the association.]

  • Pints for Poe Fundraiser. The Baltimore City Council has cut funding to the Edgar Allan Poe House, located in West Baltimore on Amity Street. A fundraiser has been organized to help save this home of one of America's greatest poets and authors. it's Tuesday evening, 11 October, from 6 to 9pm, at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson. Details available on Facebook, or at the Week's website.

  • The other 'bookend:' The 8th annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, sponsored by the Baltimore branch of the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood, Saturday, 15 October, 1-5pm, at the Pratt Street Alehouse. Details and tickets: here. Prior to the festival, there will be an hour-long panel discussion on real ale. Details: here.

And, anything at Max's Taphouse, Pratt Street Alehouse, Brewer's Art, Mahaffey's, and Metropolitan. The non-mention of many other Baltimore pubs and locations is not meant as a slight to them, but is simply a matter of bandwidth limitation. Check your local listings: the rest is up to you, doen'cha knoe, hon!


  • The Baltimore Sun has a story on the Week's genesis: here.
  • The Week itself has a list of several articles on Baltimore's beer history: here.
  • Learn more at the Baltimore Beer Week website at; follow on Facebook at; follow on Twitter at @BaltBeerWeek and hashtag #BBW11 [that's NOT #BBW, which leads to 'non-family' material!); see photos on Flickr at
  • One event not officially sanctioned by Baltimore Beer Week is also worth consideration: Science on Tap at the Maryland Science Center, Thursday, 6 October, 7-9pm. Details from the Center's website: "The Maryland Science Center’s popular science of adult beverages series focuses on beer in October with Jim Wagner, Brewmaster of DuClaw. Explore various ingredients and the different roles ingredients play in the brewing process. The evening includes sampling of various DuClaw specialties including Venom Pale Ale and Black Lightning." Reservations required: here.

Monday, October 03, 2011

It's Cask Ale Week... over there.

National Cask Ale Week 2011

All this week, many in the U.K. are participating in National Cask Ale Week. Also known as 'real ale' and 'cask-conditioned ale,' cask ale is fresh, unfiltered beer that is served from the cask in which it undergoes a secondary, carbonation-producing, fermentation. Many beer drinkers —including me!— consider cask ale to have more fully developed flavor than kegged or bottled beer, due to live yeast in the cask, its ultimate freshness, and the gentle method of serving the beer.

The 'week' began on Saturday, 1 October, and will continue through Sunday 9 October 2011 (besting The Beatles' Eight Days a Week). Cask Marque —a 'real ale' quality assurance program in the UK— is the organizer, assisted by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), a UK-based consumer cask ale organization.

Over 7,500 pubs in Britain are said to be participating, billed as the "World's Biggest Ale Trail."

Timed to coincide with the launch of Cask Ale Week, Cask Marque are launching the new Ale Trail section of their app. Available for iPhone and Android "The World's Biggest Ale Trail" offers customers the chance to use their phone's camera to scan QR codes placed on Cask Marque certificates in each of their 7,500 accredited pubs. When they reach certain numbers of pubs scanned then prizes are won.

The app allows participants to find nearby Cask Marque-accredited pubs, to search for similar cask ales in other pubs, to rate beers in a communal database (akin to the Untappd smartphone app or web-based BeerAdvocate and RateBeer), and to access other 'beer-ticking' functions.

National Cask Ale Week also corresponds with the annual release of the Cask Report, a state-of-the-UK-industry analysis written by beer author Pete Brown.

But NOT here in the U.S.

Although cask ale growth is empirically obvious in the U.S., there is no American analogue to Cask Ale Week, or, really, to CAMRA. The Brewers Association —the trade association for small breweries in the U.S.— neither maintains a database on cask ale nor compiles statistics from its member breweries. Its recently concluded 30th annual Great American Beer Festival offered no national competition for 'real ale.' Ray Daniels, of Cicerone —the beer server education program— once organized a national Real Ale Festival, but that competition is no more.

There are several smaller regional festivals. Two examples would be NERAX (the New England Real Ale eXposition) and this month's Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, in Baltimore, Maryland. It's organized by the only US-based branch of the SPBW (Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood) —another consumer advocacy group for real ale, based in the UK, though less politically active than CAMRA. Cask ale guru Alex Hall —British born but New York-based— maintains a a database of restaurants and pubs that regularly serve cask ale, at Cask Beer Finder.

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to push for a Cask Ale Week —or a Cask Ale Day, to start with— here in the U.S.A., in 2012. Anyone with me?


Saturday, October 01, 2011

Winners at the 2011 GABF

The awards at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival have been announced.

This was the 30th iteration of the GABF, organized annually in Denver, Colorado, by the Brewers Association —a trade association for small American breweries. Think of the competition as the Oscars of American beer, and the winners, as among the best in their profession.

Three medals —gold, silver, bronze— were awarded in 83 'styles.' In addition, overall recognition was given in the categories of Small Brewery, Medium Size Brewery, Large Brewery, Small Brewpub, Large Brewpub, and Brewpub Group. Awards were also given in a Pro-Am Competition.

From the festival press release:

The 2011 Great American Beer Festival® (GABF) competition drew an impressive field of competitors, with 2011 topping last year's entries by 11 percent. GABF remains the largest commercial beer competition in the world, with 3,930 beers vying for medals (compared to 3,523 entries in 2010). Competition entries were received from 526 breweries from 48 states plus Puerto Rico.

YFGF —this blog— is mid-Atlantic-based. So, first, I'll offer felicitations to the seven DMV winning breweries at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival: that is, those in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area.

In Maryland, three medals were won by three breweries: one Gold, two Bronze. In Virginia, eight medals were won by four breweries: three Gold, four Silver, and one Bronze. D.C.? Next year! Local overall bragging rights go to Mark Thompson at Starr Hill, in Crozet, Virginia. Congratulations!

  • GOLD
    • Category #25: Kellerbier or Zwickelbier
      Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Bill Madden
      Kolsch Kellerbier
    • Category #34: Vienna-Style Lager
      Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Mark Thompson
      Jomo Lager
    • Category #45: English Style Summer Ale
      Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Taylor Smack
      Summer Lovin'
    • Category #83: Barley Wine-Style Ale
      Flying Dog Brewery (Frederick, Maryland)
      brewmaster: Matt Brophy
      Horn Dog Barleywine
    • Category #15: Indigenous Beer
      Starr Hill Brewing Company (Crozet, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Mark Thompson
      Monticello Reserve Ale
    • Category #17: American-Belgo-Style Ale
      Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Taylor Smack
      Blue Reserve
    • Category 26: Smoke Beer
      Starr Hill Brewing Company (Crozet, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Mark Thompson
      Smoke Out
    • Category #31: Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest
      Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      Tommy Two Fists
    • Category #45: English-style Summer Ale
      Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, Virginia)
      brewmaster: Bill Madden
      English Summer Ale
    • Category #58: Scottish-Style Ale
      Rock Bottom Brewery (Bethesda, Maryland)
      brewer: Geoff Lively
      Brown Bear Brown
    • Category #64: German-Style Sour Ale
      Gordon-Biersch (Rockville, Maryland)
      brewer: Kevin Blodger

National winners

Congratulations, of course, to all the winners! Breweries competed within 83 styles divided among Ales, Lagers, and so-called 'Hybrid' styles. The Ales were further divided into 41 subcategories, the Lagers into 18, and the 'Hybrids' into 26, Prius' excluded. That's a total of 168 style designations. The full list of styles can be viewed here, and as a downloadable pdf file here.

Three medals were awarded in each parent category only — Bronze, Silver, and Gold— thus for a total of 248 medals, plus 3 in a Pro-Am competition, in which a brewery and a homebrewer cooperate. (If the math doesn't quite add up, it's because there was no Gold awarded in Category #29, Bohemian-style Pilsener.)

Best-of show honors were awarded to six breweries based on some sort of algorithm combining brewery size, total medals won, number of competitors in those medals, and the strength of the medals (i.e, Gold being best):

  • Small Brewing Company / Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
    Chuckanut Brewery (Bellingham, Washington) / Will Kemper
  • Mid-Size Brewing Company / Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
    Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, California) / Matthew Brynildson
  • Large Brewing Company / Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
    Pabst Brewing Company (Woodridge, Illinois) / Bob Newman
  • Small Brewpub / Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
    Pizza Port Ocean Beach (San Diego, California) / Yiga Miyashiro
  • Large Brewpub / Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
    Pizza Port Carlsbad (Carlsbad, California) / Pizza Port Brew Guys
  • Brewpub Group / Brewpub Group Brewer of the Year
    TAPS Fish House & Brewery (Brea, California) / Victor Novak

In Conclusion

One hundred and sixty-eight style designations? To borrow from another sport: "You can't be serious!" YFGF is not alone is dismissing this creeping style inflation (and consequent dilution). As only one datum: What exactly is an International-Style Pale Ale?

Since there are only 3 awards given in each category, without numerical scores determined, many deserving beers (and deserving breweries) are slighted. I see no reason not to publish scores. The point of the GABF is to celebrate and to promote American breweries. Ignoring all those non-top-three beers — many of which would be potentially high-scoring— is a disservice to those beers, and more importantly, to the industry, which the Brewers Association, the sponsoring association, ostensibly represents.

It's not merely quality of a beer or skill in brewing that's rewarded. It's cleverness in gaming the system —not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that. Though any one brewery might win, the odds favor those breweries that enter as many categories as possible, that brew beers to match judges' style expectations, and that enter beers in categories that are ill-defined or that have fewer participants.

Be that as it may be, an award at the Great American Beer Festival does indeed give a brewery bragging rights as tops in its field (at least for a year) and indicates a level of brewing acumen, acknowledged by the judgement of its peers. For all the rest: wait till next year!

Finally, congratulations must be offered to the Brewers Association, and all the volunteers involved. The logistics of running such a mammoth celebration and competition are staggering. And special recognition must be offered to Charlie Papazian, the founder of the Brewers Association, the American Homebrewers Association, and the Great American Beer Festival. Thirty years ago, he had a crazy dream, and made it real.


  • An interactive list of all winners can be viewed at the GABF website: here.
  • A downloadable pdf file: here.
  • A simpler list, published by here.
  • Some additional metrics, complied by Jay Brooks: here
  • The 2012 GABF has been scheduled for 11-13 October, in Denver, Colorado, of course.

Whither Virginia wine 2011?

There was this tidbit in the Washington Post's Reliable Source column on Wednesday.

Steve Case —ex of AOL— and his wife, Jean, have applied to purchase the Sweely Estate Winery, in Madison, Virginia. Good for them, and good for the winery, which has been struggling financially.

What really caught my attention, however, was a seemingly throwaway comment in the penultimate sentence:

owners at Virginia's 200 wineries are struggling with a dismal rainy harvest.

The spring started off wet. Then, during July, the temperatures went above 90 degrees every day. Adding greater insult to injury, in August and September, there came the torrential rains. In fact, that 2-month period was the wettest on record in the region.

That is good news for fungi fanciers.

Mushrooms are sprouting in beds across forest floors up and down the East Coast. <...> “The mushrooms loved Irene,” says Ray Lasala, president of the Mycological Assocation of Washington. “Mushrooms are 90 percent water, and they appear a few days after the rain. They’re like compressed little sponges that develop in the ground and tree logs and pop when they’re hit with enough moisture.”

The Georgetowner
22 September 2011
(with recipes from Chef Ris Lacoste)

But for Virginia (and Maryland) vegetable and fruit farmers, these conditions —especially the extended deluge, coming as it did at the end of the growing season— did not bode well. At local vineyards, for example, should winemakers wait for their grapes to achieve physiological ripeness, and risk mold contamination, or should they harvest early, and risk under-ripe grapes.

For an answer, I turned to Virginia wine blogger Dezel Quillen, of My Vine Spot, who was more sanguine in his forecast.

The early reports I've heard from some have been surprisingly satisfactory to good for early ripening varieties. The verdict is still out on later-ripening grapes.

Harvest and crush are ongoing.

Now: the good wine news: On Thursday, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced that Virginia wine sales are now at an all-time high. From the Virginia Wine Marketing Office:
462,112 cases of wine were sold in fiscal 2011. That's up 11.4 percent from the 414,785 cases sold in fiscal 2010 [which was 13% over 2009]. The state collected almost $1.8 million in wine liter tax revenue, up from about $1.6 million in fiscal 2010. [The Virginia wine liter tax is applied at a rate of $3.60 per case of wine.] McDonnell says the increases in sales and tax revenue show that more consumers domestically and internationally are choosing Virginia wines. Virginia has nearly 200 wineries, the fifth largest number in the nation.

As he did in 2010, the Governor has again declared October to be Virginia Wine Month.

October 2011 is Virginia Wine Month!
With activity that belies the current conservative credo that minimal government is better government, McDonnell, a Republican party governor (who is said to be in the running for the vice-presidential nomination), is actively promoting Virginia's wine industry, and that's a good thing, even if you're a teetotaler.

Promotion of the Virginia wine industry both domestically and internationally is one of Governor McDonnell's many economic development and jobs creation initiatives. During the last two sessions, the McDonnell administration has worked with the General Assembly to establish a reimbursable tax credit program for the establishment or expansion of vineyards and wineries and to more than the double amount of funds from the wine liter tax placed in the Virginia Wine Promotion Fund for research, education, and marketing programs.

Governor McDonnell also has promoted the sale of Virginia wines during trade and marketing missions to the United Kingdom, Japan, China and South Korea. In addition, First Lady Maureen McDonnell has made the promotion of Virginia wines and winery tourism a key component of her First Lady's Initiative Team Effort (FLITE). .

Virginia Wine Month events continue unabated throughout the month. Find an event, or a winery near you, at Virginia As part of the festivities, the winery winner of the 2011 Virginia Governor's Cup will be announced on Wednesday 5 October.

Follow also on Twitter at @VAwine, and on Facebook at For more information about the Virginia wine industry, visit, or contact, in that 'old-school' manner, Annette Ringwood Boyd at (804) 344-8200.


  • Be very careful with wild mushrooms. Many are very poisonous and potentially lethal. Rather than personally harvesting, rely on farmers and markets. As the Georgetowneer states: "This newspaper does not condone the picking and eating of wild mushrooms unless you are a fungal expert. So I, for one, adhere to Thoreau’s assessment of these exotic sprouts: 'The value … is not in the mere possession or eating of them, but in the sight and enjoyment of them.' ”
  • It's wonderful —and economy-boosting— that the state of Virginia is promoting the business of wine. Witness this brochure (pdf file) of Virginia wineries. But, then, why not beer, and spirits? Virginia Brewers Guild: lobby and petition!

Pic(k) of the Week: Guilty!

Guilty again

Still holding the shoe she's purloined, Ethel Mae the beagle plots her escape.

Ms. Mae was not quite two when she stole this shoe. Now, five years older, she's not quite as svelte, but she's still mischievous ... when she's not snoozing, that is.


  • 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.