Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thoughts on DC's Winter Holidaze Extravaganzee

In 1988, Washington, D.C.'s venerable beer pub, the Brickskeller, held its first ever Christmas Beer Tasting. Back then, there were only four 'local' breweries in Virginia and Maryland (and none in D.C.): G. Heileman Brewing Company, in Halethorpe, Maryland, Anheuser-Busch, in Williamsburg, Virginia, and upstart 'micro-breweries' Chesbay, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and British Brewing Company, in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Schoolteacher and beer raconteur Bob Tupper, the host, would have to round out the evening's tasting with beers from breweries elsewhere.

The final winter beer tasting at the Brickskeller was held in December of 2010. Proprietors Dave and Diane Alexander would sell the restaurant/pub/hotel later that month. But the tradition of the Winter Holidaze Extravaganzee has continued at their other restaurant: D.A.'s R.F.D. (The "DA" stands for Dave (and Diane) Alexander; the "RFD" for "regional food and drink").

Introduction and interruption

It was held this year on 19 December 2012, for the 25th time, and, this time, with 16 local breweries represented. Many, many more local breweries could have been invited: there are five breweries in Washington, D.C. proper, forty from Virginia, and twenty in Maryland. Four in 1988; sixty-five in 2012. What a difference a quarter century has made.

I did find the list of the missing to be somewhat peculiar. There was no Capitol City Brewing, Washington D.C.'s first brewpub since Prohibition (although now brewing in northern Virginia). There was a reason for this, however, which I learned of a few days later. Although D.C.'s 3 Stars Brewing was present, where was DC Brau, the first production brewery in the the District of Columbia since 1956? And, where was Flying Dog, Maryland's largest brewery, and the 23rd largest regional brewery in the U.S.?

As it stood, however, even sixteen were too many for the evening, which began around 7 pm and continued past 11:30 pm. Inviting four more breweries but splitting the event over two nights would have been logistically better. Here's the evening's roster:

Christmas beer tasting 2012

Here are some other 'takeaways' from the evening ...

  • Most humorous moment #1:
    Host Bob Tupper —he, in his 60s, looking like Santa Claus— says of the smooth alcohol-masked flavor of 3 Stars Brewing's (Washington, D.C.) Winter Madness: "I wish they had had beers like this when I was dating in college." (Rest of thought left unsaid!) Brewer/owner Dave Coleman holds up his hand, showing wedding band. "I wouldn't know, Bob. I'm 5 years happily married." Tupper retorts: "I've got 30 years on you, Dave."

    10.6% alcohol-by-volume 'Winter Warmer,' brewed with Vienna, 2 Row, Crystal, Special Roast, Biscuit, & Chocolate malts, and rolled oats, and hopped with Centennial and Cascade.
    3 Stars @RFD

  • Best beard trio:
    See above! Left to right: 3 Stars brewer/co-owner Mike McGarvey; brewer/co-owner Dave Coleman; RFD host Bob Tupper.

  • Most humorous moment #2:
    Host Bob Tupper lets out a guffaw at something Jason Oliver, brewer for Devils Backbone (of Roseland, Virginia), has said. Unfortunately, my notes don't indicate what was said.

    For the evening, Oliver brought his 16 Point Ale, the newest entrant in his line of 'buck beers:' a 9.1% alcohol-by-volume 'Imperial' India Pale Ale, hopped with Columbus, Centennial, and Simcoe.

    A Devil of a laugh!

  • Best fail:
    A couple of minutes into talking with George Humbert —owner of DOG Brewing (of Westminster, Maryland— about his Chocolate Porter 6.9% abv), host Bob Tupper —in his best school teacher manner, which is, after all what he does when not talking about beer— picked up his plastic glass, and asked the staff: "Is THIS the Chocolate Porter?" It wasn't. The crew had inadvertently served the spiced Longest Night Solstice Ale (7.4% abv) from Vintage 50 (of Leesburg, Virginia). After a few minutes, Humbert's beer was served, and both Kristi Griner —brewer at Vintage 50— and Humbert were seated on the dais. "I knew immediately it wasn't mine, but I didn't want to embarrass anyone, and it was good," said Humbert.

    Mixed up, then fixed up.

  • Most embarrassing moment:
    Lost Rhino Brewing (of Ashburn, Virginia) 'collaborated' with Westover Market (an independent supermarket in Arlington, Virginia, with a year-round outdoor beer garden) to produce HopStar Triple IPA. The recipe was created, and small-batch tested, by Steve Marler (in the center of the photo), an award-winning home-brewer and a long-time member and officer of Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP), the Washington, D.C.'s area's largest and longest-running homebrew club. And the result, brewed by John Peters (on the right) at Lost Rhino Brewing —HopStar Triple IPA— was indeed a marvelously hoppy and bitter beer. The recipe included mango puree, which may have added to a citrus fruit aroma and flavor.

    The embarrassing moment occurred when Devin Hicks, the General Manager of Westover (on the left in the photo) —who was the impetus for making the beer— told the audience that the beer was just like Bells Brewing HopSlam but hoppier, and "everyone likes HopSlam, don't they?" The response from the audience was silence.

    Lost Rhino @RFD

  • Best posse:
    Mad Fox Brewing (Falls Church, Virginia) brought four brewers to the dais. There weren't enough chairs. In the photo, left to right: assistant brewers Brad Hulewicz (standing) and Brian Murphy; head brewer Charlie Buettner; brewmaster/owner Bill Madden; host Bob Tupper (wearing Santa hat).

    The beer they brought was one of the stars of the evening: Crazy Ivan, a 10% alcohol-by-volume 'Russian Imperial Stout,' aged 8 months in Evan Williams whiskey oak barrels.
    Mad Fox gang

  • Best personal moment:
    As I was writing down my tasting notes, an attractive brewer patted my back: "You're so organized," she said. Little did she (or I) know, that I would misplace my notebook, and have to recreate those notes from memory. So much for organization!

  • Best beers:
    Purely subjective, and purely my choices. The audience was not polled.

    Kevin Blodger —brewer and co-owner of Union Craft Brewery (Baltimore, Maryland)— brought Pregame, an 'English-style' Dark Mild: Deep brown/black, with some red highlights, with a strong coffee and baker's chocolate aroma and flavor. Only 4.4% alcohol-by-volume, yet packed with character. In fact, Pregame tasted fresher and more flavor-defined than a couple of the other beers (of much higher alcohol) that evening (to remain nameless).

    Union Craft @RFD

    Dave Warwick, brewer at Rock Bottom (Ballston, Arlington, VA), brought Fallen Angel,a blended Belgian-style Tripel: 50% of the mix was from a batch brewed in 2008 by then-brewer Chris Rafferty, and aged since then in a Woodford Reserve bourbon oak barrel; the other half was freshly fermented Tripel, brewed by Warwick, to provide carbonation and soften the wood and bourbon character. It didn't taste like a Tripel, but rather a strong golden ale with spicy notes, high-toned fruity aromatics, and a depth of bourbon heat and finish.

    Rock Bottom @RFD

  • And, finally: What is a winter beer?:
    That evening, we were served a saison —a Belgian-style spiced wheat beer. Is that a Christmas/winter beer? I believe the answer to be a simple one. A winter beer is a beer brewed, or drunk, or both, during the winter months. A merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good beer.

  • The Brewers Association —a trade association for U.S. breweries of annual output of fewer than 6 million barrels— defines regional brewery as "A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels." A microbrewery, it defines as producing less than that.
  • By 11:15 pm, concerned about missing the Metro from downtown back to northern Virginia,  I left without tasting the 11.5% alcohol-by-volume Pumpkin Retribution from Jim Wagner and his crew at DuClaw. Thus, their beer didn't make my 'Best of' list, possibly undeservedly.
  • Photos of the brewers and descriptions of their beers can be seen on Flickr: here.
  • Saturday, December 29, 2012

    Pic(k) of the Week: Boxing Day dusting

    Boxing Day dusting

    A white Christmas, even if a day late, even if just a dusting. Some gusty winds too.

    northern Virginia.
    26 December 2012.

  • 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 a subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission,as per Creative Commons.

  • Monday, December 24, 2012

    The Things that Matter

    December ice (02)

    When my siblings and I were growing up, Christmas Eve was the special night of Kūčios, the family meal in vigil of the commemoration of Christ's birth. There were the rituals (communal sharing of apple and Communion wafer); the foods (kugelis); the desserts (ausuakai); the licit sip(s!) of strong honey liqueur (vititus); the discussions (the was-Adam-or-Eve-to-blame argument, always won by mother and sister).

    And there were the Christmas tales. One my father would tell was that of a Kūčios of his childhood in the 1920s, the story of The Empty Chair. These are his words.


    Christmas Eve at my childhood home in Brooklyn, New York was a time of joyous fulfillment, when the four weeks of preparation during Advent culminated in the ceremony of Kūčios, the traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve meal. It was the most important family event of the year, when all its members, even those who had married and left home to live in faraway places, felt drawn to join in the ritual.

    My wife and I try to carry on the Kūčios tradition in our own family. When the bright star of Christmas Eve becomes visible in the winter sky, we gather around our table for family prayers. Then we kiss the family crucifix, and share our Christmas wafers (plotkeles) and one large apple.

    As years pass, I repeat those stories that accompany these old customs, just as my father used to do: of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, an act whose disobedience involved us all and required the birth of the Savior to redeem, and of the sharing the wafer and the apple, which symbolized the family's unity and its spiritual kinship with the rest of mankind through Adam.

    One year not too long ago, a chair at our Kūčios table was empty for the first time. Our daughter, who was then studying at the University of Innsbruck, planned to visit St. Peter's in Rome on Christmas Eve for the midnight mass. She had asked that we keep open a place at the table for her. Since the family Kūčios began at 6 PM, it would coincide with the ceremonial opening of the Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter's celebrated by the Pope himself.

    Looking at my daughter's empty chair, I was reminded of another empty seat, many year's ago, in my parents' home on a Christmas Eve.

    It was the depth of the Great Depression, jobs were scarce in Brooklyn, and my parents could not even afford to buy a Christmas tree. The empty chair belonged to my grandfather. My family was celebrating Kūčios and grandfather was missing.


    Grandfather was our favorite. We called him Tevukas (Little Father) and (always) spoke with him in Lithuanian, as we did with our parents. He was tall and thin, and had a large gray mustache which curled up the side of his mouth.

    Tevukas had the irrepressible spirit of a young child deep within him. He would often come to our flat on Hope Street in Brooklyn to play radutai, a kind of 'horsing around' that Tevukas had indulged in as a youngster himself in Lithuania.

    It wasn't that he did so much with us — besides lifting us high into the air and catching us before we could hit the ground — but his infectious spirit of fun filled us with childish delight. By contrast, the other grown up folk would treat us as if somehow we were adults who, through our own fault, hadn't grown up.

    Tevukas would regale us with happy tales of the peasant life he had lived as a boy a long time ago in old Lithuania. He told us of how he had watched over the sheep as a little boy, and of the fearsome wolves who prowled nearby. He told us about the deep forest he would walk through late at night to get home.

    Once, along the way, he thought he heard voices through the trees warning him, "Vincai, Vincai, take the other way home". Frightened, Tevukas did so. When he finally reached home, his mother embraced him, filled with relief. She told him that one of the workers on a neighboring estate had gone berserk and had been hiding in that very forest.

    He would tell us of the proud lord on whose land his family lived and worked, of the lord's beautiful manor house, and of his beautiful daughter who spoke only Polish and would taunt Tevukas for being poor.

    Tevukas would enchant us with stories of amber castles perched below the waves of the Baltic Sea, or frighten us with tales of haunted houses and evil spirits. He would tell us of the olden times, when the people worshipped the tall oak trees and the stones in the forests.

    Every Saturday night, so that he would be clean for church the next day, Tevukas would wash his feet in a tin bucket. Sunday morning, he would put on his old, shiny but well-pressed suit and top it off with a black derby, looking like a dapper ponas (gentleman), twenty years younger than he was. He always sat in the same pew, at the aisle-end, and attended what was called the suma, the solemn high mass at 11:00 AM when the choir filled the old church with its beautiful singing in Lithuanian and Latin.

    Tevukas loved to dance. At his granddaughter's wedding, when he was already 80 years old, Tevukas was determined to see if the young girls in America were as pretty and graceful as those in Lithuania. So, risking Grandmother's's stern disapproval, he danced with all of the bridesmaids at least half a dozen times.

    Yes, they were as pretty and graceful, he eventually admitted, but there was none that could compare with his little Katuke (kitten), his affectionate name for Grandma.

    The Empty Chair

    That cold Christmas Eve, in Brooklyn, many years ago, we were all worried about our missing Tevukas. Grandmother couldn't be consoled, frightened that some tragic accident had befallen her husband. "Kur mano Vincas? Kur mano Vincas?" ("Where is my Vincas?"), she wailed over and over again throughout the Kucios meal.

    We youngsters stole anxious glances at one another and prayed all the harder in our hearts that nothing bad had happened to Tevukas. We knew presents would be few, but at that point, we wanted nothing more than to see our Tevukas safely home again.

    What made his mysterious disappearance even worse was that snow had started to fall the night before and had continued all during the day. Normally we would have been delighted with snow for Christmas. Now we were worried that Tevukas was lost in the blizzard.

    Father gave thanks for God's gift of food for us. He inserted a quick prayer for Tevukas' safety. Our Kucious meal came to a melancholy conclusion.

    A Christmas Gift

    Suddenly, we heard a strange noise on the stairs leading to our flat. It had a peculiar, swishing sound which grew louder and louder as it approached our door. Then it stopped, and a loud banging ensued.

    Father opened the door.

    There stood a huge Christmas tree, full of snow. Behind it was Tevukas, all white too, like a living snow man, his mustache frozen stiff.

    "Tevukai, Tevukai!", we all shouted at once. "Where were you? What happened?"

    Tevukas smiled thinly through cracked lips and walked over to the stove in the kitchen to thaw out. Great globs of melting snow fell to the ground and Mother rushed to wipe them up.

    Tevukas drank a warming shot of veritos (a strong, spiced honey liqueur), and began to tell his story.

    When he had awakened that morning, he had seen the big flakes of snow. He knew that meant that the trolley car bosses would be hiring men to keep the tracks free of the falling snow. So, while it was still dark, he dressed quietly as not to wake Grandmother and trudged out to the car barns, where the trolleys began and ended their journeys.

    Tevukas had worked all day in the cold and snow. With the money he earned, he bought us the biggest Christmas tree he could find. He told us that he had no money left to buy us anything else and hoped that we would like the tree. Well, even as young as we were, we kids understood what a sacrifice Tevukas had made for us. We jumped all over him, thanking him again and again, kissing him and wiping the melting snow that was still dripping from him.

    Father stood the evergreen in a bucket in the parlor. And we marveled at what a wonderful Christmas present Tevukas had given us. It was the largest and best Christmas tree we had ever had.

    Tevukas, finally thawed and warmed, sat, weary but contented, down on his waiting chair. Grandmother, though still scolding him, smiled as she brought him his Kucios meal.

    Gifts would be few that evening, but our hearts were glad. Beloved Tevukas was safe and home with us on Christmas Eve.

    The chair no longer sat empty.

    —Albert C. Cizauskas

    Now, at Kūčios, I keep an empty chair for Albert, my father.


    Mike McCarthy, long-time executive brewer for Cap City, departs.

    I thought it peculiar that the nation's capital's first operating brewpub since Prohibition was not present at the local brewery winter beer tasting at RFD last week. There was neither beer nor representative from Capitol City Brewing Company. Now, I know why.

    I can confirm, sadly, that Mike McCarthy —10 year-long brewer for Cap City, 8 years its executive brewer— has resigned his position, and, in his words, is "exploring other options." McCarthy began at Capitol City in 2002, and became executive brewer in 2004. Under his stewardship, the brewpub won numerous awards. The outdoor Oktoberfest celebration he would organize annually grew to become the area's largest.

    The Brewer with the Golden Boots

    When Capitol City opened its doors in 1992, it was the first brewery to operate (even if a brewpub) in the city since 1956. Martin Virga, now with Gunpowder Falls Brewing in Pennsylvania was the first brewer, brewing at the original location on 11th and H St., NW. That location is still open, but no longer brewing. (Several of the original fermenting tanks are in use now at Vintage 50 in Leesburg, Virginia).

    Cap City throws a party!

    Under Bill Madden —who succeeded Virga and would be executive brewer for over 9 years (and is now president/brewmaster of Mad Fox Brewing)— Capitol City would open three more locations: one in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, one in the National Post Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and one in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Inner Harbor. The last two would eventually be closed. The Shirlington location remains open; McCarthy oversaw a major expansion of its production size.

    I stopped into the pub on Sunday for a pint and a growler. The pint was a cask-conditioned ESB: brilliant in clarity, firm in malt, with an earthy nose and finish. Delicious.

    Cask ESB @Cap City

    The growler was filled with a newly-released German-style Pilsner, which I'll serve with Christmas Eve dinner. Both beers would have been two of the last brewed under McCarthy's supervision.


    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Pic(k) of the Week: Don't tell Mrs.Claus!

    Don't tell Mrs. Claus!

    Don't tell Mrs. Claus!

    Adjusting Santa's hat was Kristi Mathews Griner, brewster for Vintage 50, a brewpub in Leesburg, Virginia.

    Santa Claus was Bob Tupper, host of the Winter Holidaze Extravaganzee. Brewers from sixteen breweries in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia brought their winter seasonal beers, and talked about them.

    Held on 19 December 2012, at RFD, in Washington, D.C., the evening was the 25th annual occurrence of this winter beer tasting. For many years prior, the venue had been the Brickskeller; it was sold in 2010.

  • More photos from the tasting: here.
  • 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 a subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission,as per Creative Commons.

  • Monday, December 17, 2012

    Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 48/49/50, 2012

    Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
    A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
    of news of beer and other things.

    Weeks 48/49/50
    25 November - 15 December 2012

    • 2012.12.13
      7,500-year old evidence of cheese-making found in Poland. Via Reuters.

    • 2012.12.13
      N. Joseph Woodland, the creator of the barcode, has died at age 91. Via AP.

    • 2012.12.12
      Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar dies at 92. Via Minnesota Public Radio.

      Hop bines @Legend (02)
    • 2012.12.12
      New study finds that humulone found in beer (from hops) can prevent the common cold. Amount needed? 30 'standard' beers. Via Yahoo News.

    • 2012.12.12
      Pete Brown, author of "Shakeseare's Local," wins U.K. Beer Writer of the Year ... for the second time.

    • 2012.12.07
      Seventy-one years ago today: the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. "A date which will live in infamy." Via Wikipedia.

    • 2012.12.05
      Jazz legend Dave Brubeck dies one day before turning 92. Via Minnesota Public Radio.

    • 2012.12.05
      It was 79 years ago today that the 18th Amendment -Prohibition- was repealed by passage of the 21st. Via Wikipedia.

    • 2012.12.05
      France proposes 160% increase on beer excise taxes. Via New York Times.

    • 2012.12.03
      "The cultural character of a place." An appeal to UNESCO to grant London’s pubs world heritage status. Via The Drinks Business.

      Cloudy cask!
    • 2012.12.03
      An ex-pat British brewer in the U.S. argues against cloudy cask-conditioned beer. Via Pratt Street Ale House.

    • 2012.12.03
      Archaeologists discover remains of 3,500 year-old malt kiln and brewery in Cyprus. Via Belfast Telegraph.

    • 2012.11.29
      New study says eating meat —and cooking meals— were evolutionary advantages for human brain development. Via Washington Post.

    • 2012.11.27
      Burgundy's 2012 harvest very small; prices expected to spike. Via NPR News.

    • 2012.11.27
      Burgundy's 2012 harvest very small; prices expected to spike. Via NPR News.

    • 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
    • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Pic(k) of the Week: Love in the Time of Garlic Fries

    Love in the time of garlic?

    Food truck romance?

    As captured at the grand opening of ...
    Center of the Universe Brewing
    Ashland, Virginia.
    17 November 2012.

    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 a subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission,as per Creative Commons.

    Saturday, December 08, 2012

    Pic(k) of the Week: Life is Good (with beer and cigar)

    Life is good

    "I'm a single-malt man," he told me but, even so, life was looking pretty darn good for this gentleman, wearing his tartan colors. On a warm, sunny, Friday after Thanksgiving late afternoon, he was enjoying a stogie and a beer.

    On the beer patio at World of Beer, Arlington (Ballston), Virginia, USA. 23 November 2012.

  • 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 reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons. For non-commercial purposes, no permission is required (but kindly link back).
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia— I sell the beers of Abita Brewing (of Louisiana).

  • Thursday, December 06, 2012

    Church-bells & brewers

    It was always the church-bells. A city filled with them.

    My parents were in the U.S. Foreign Service. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, they were stationed in Bonn, the capital of the then West Germany. From our family's two-floor apartment, a field away from the Rhine River, I could hear the pealing of many church-bells.

    It was the pealing of those bells on St. Nicholas Day morning that especially appealed to a young boy's anticipation. St. Nicholas (Nikolaos of Myra 270 A.D. – 6 December 343) is the Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox Christian patron saint of brewsters and brewers. And the predecessor to the modern Santa Claus.

    Happy St. Nicholas Day! (01)

    Every 6 December morning, those bells meant ... chocolates! Chocolates that St. Nicholas had stuffed in the wooden shoes we had placed out the night before, to welcome him to our house. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that, upon a few occasions, St. Nicholas filled my shoe with lumps of coal, for purported bad behavior.

    Today, in honor of St. Nicholas, why not thank a brewer for their beers (or a confectioner for their chocolates)? But NOT with a lump of coal!


    Digitally transferred from an out-of-print German record album of the early 1960s. That record was played often during the Christmas season in the Cizauskas household. The scratches can attest to that.

    Wednesday, December 05, 2012

    Drinking, again. Mad casks and hops.

    Beer reviews

    Mad Fox Brewing Company is conducting an interesting crowd-sourced IPA recipe project, using cask ales.

    Defender is this Falls Church, Virginia, brewpub's house pale ale, brewed with English Pale malt, German Vienna malt, and the American hop variety, Columbus, for bittering, flavor and aroma.

    Columbus is one of a triad of hops —Columbus, Tomahawk, and Zeus— commonly referred to as "CTZ." Each may actually be the same hop, or similar genetically, but each has its own proprietary names, and each was bred to be a bittering hop, containing a high percentage of alpha acids (~12-14%). But 'craft' breweries, such as Mad Fox, like to break the 'rules.' Many are using CTZ hops for bittering and aroma, the latter imparting a pronounced alliaceous character.

    Mad project (01)

    Brewer Charlie Buettner racked Defender into 6 different firkins, carbonating the beer --naturally, with live yeast-- within those 10.8-gallon casks. Then, in a process called dry-hopping, he added hops to each. In a neat twist, he placed a different hop variety into each firkin. Buettner asked customers at the brewpub to taste samplers of all six and offer comments. He will brew an IPA next year, hopped with their choices.

    Mad project (02)

    My rankings, least preferred to most, were:
    • Topaz (dank, harsh, tasting/smelling of wet dirt and graphite)
    • Stella (a cardboardy/geranium aroma/flavor)
    • Motueta (meh)
    • Wakatu (very limey; the closest of the 6 hops to the typical American grapefruity aroma)
    • Crystal (lemony; softly spicy)
    • Helga (brightly floral and spicy)
    Mad Advocate (02)

    But, hey, what do I know? Mad Fox customers felt differently than I. Buettner tabulated the customer comments, and reported this:
    For the cask-hopped APA event, we dry-hopped six APA casks each with a different emerging hop and asked for your comments and rankings. We've been looking at comment cards since yesterday and (so far) Topaz and Mouteka are neck and neck with Stella in a close 3rd. Thanks for helping Mad Fox decide on the hops we will use for an IPA next year.

    De gustibus non disputandum!

    • In the photo above, look closely at the party behind brewer Buettner. It's the Alstrom brothers, creators of the crowd-sourced beer-review website and magazine BeerAdvocate.
    • Drinking, Again is a series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits). No scores; only descriptions. Graphic created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

    Monday, December 03, 2012

    Allagash at Lyon Hall

    Tap 'takeovers' seem to be all the rage these days: at one bar, as many beers as possible, from one brewery, on as many taps as possible. Sometimes too many is too many ... how many beers can one actually drink —responsibly— in one session? But it's fun, and, if small portion samples are provided, one can survey a brewery's breadth and depth.

    The 'Keep' at Lyon Hall

    Lyon Hall is a brasserie-styled restaurant in the 'hot' Clarendon district of Arlington, Virginia. Allagash Brewing is a Belgian-beer-inspired brewery in Portland, Maine. The two will team up for a tasting of four draft beers —a mini-tap takeover, if you will— on Wednesday, 5 December.

    The 5th of December (1933) is an important date in the history of U.S. good fermentables. Here's how Lyon Hall put it, on its Facebook page:
    Repeal Prohibition Day
    Almost 80 years ago, Americans wised up and realized that we can't live without booze, thus repealing the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So on Wednesday December 5th , we celebrate with a bounty of sweet, delicious beer! Join us at the bar for a special tapping of 4 unique Beers from American craft brewery Allagash! On tap for the evening will be Confluence, Smoke and Beards, Curieux, and Bourbon Black. Take home a glass, enjoy a special Allagash Beer Flight, and revel in the fact that none of us ever lived during Prohibition!

    There is no entrance fee. Simply pay as you go. The 'official' tappings commence at 5 pm. Lyon Hall's bar manager, David McGregor, is the official host. Suzanne Woods, the local representative from Allagash Brewing, is the official guest.

    Allagash Brewing
    • Bourbon Black
      A Belgian style stout brewed with 2-row barley, roasted torrified wheat and roasted oats, chocolate malt, and a generous portion of dark caramelized candi sugar. The silky mouth feel is a great balance to the roasted character, coffee and dark chocolate notes expressed throughout. Then ...aged in aged in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels. 7.5% abv.

    • Confluence
      Dry Hopped Golden Ale created with a mixed fermentation; utilizing our house primary Belgian style yeast in combination with our proprietary Brettanomyces strain. The two yeast strains work in tandem creating a marriage between spice and fruit flavors that ultimately leave a lingering silky mouth feel. Confluence is brewed with a blend of both imported pilsner and domestic pale malts as well as a portion of caramel malt, resulting in a complex malty profile. Tettnang and East Kent Golding hops are added in the brew process to balance the intricate malty profile while adding a sweet and spicy citrus aroma. After fermentation, Confluence undergoes a lengthy aging process in stainless steel tanks to enhance the flavors. Dry hopped with Glacier hops, providing a pleasant balance of aromas. 7.5% abv.

    • Curieux
      The brewery's first foray into barrel aging. Curieux is made by aging its Tripel Ale in Jim Beam bourbon barrels for eight weeks in cold cellars. The aged beer is then blended back with a portion of fresh Tripel. The resulting beer deep golden, soft with coconut and vanilla notes, with hints of bourbon. 11% abv.

    • Smoke and Beards
      A 'collaboration' brew with Belgian brewery De Molen, Smoke and Beards is a smoked Tripel ale, brewed with a blend of 2-row and smoked malts, and then lightly hopped with Northern Brewer, Hallertau,and saaz hops. The beer is hazy and light golden in appearance, with an aroma of light smoke and spice. The flavor is smokey, with hints of dried fruit. The body, medium; the finish, dry. Menno Olivier, owner of Brouwerij De Molen, has a habit of naming beers with paired words. After meeting a few of the Allagash brewers, he knew he wanted one of the words for this beer's name to be "beards." 9.2% abv.
    Celebrating Repeal Day

  • UPDATE: Photos from the tasting: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia— I sell the beers of Allagash.

  • Sunday, December 02, 2012

    Drinking, again. This is a story of a Pale Ale (31).

    Beer reviews

    This is a story of a 'small' cask-conditioned ale that traveled 2,766 miles, from a brewery in Paso Robles, California, to a bar in Baltimore, Maryland.

    This is a story of Pale 31 Ale: 4.8% alcohol-by-volume and 38 International Bittering Units; sparkling and bright; pungent and refreshing; full-flavored and sessionable.

    It's a tale of the brewing chops of this man —Matt Brynildson of Firestone-Walker Brewery— and the publican skills of this man —Casey Hard of Max's Taphouse.

    Here's the story. I was sitting at Max's, as the bartender pulled a pint of Pale 31 from a cask.

    Cask Pale 31

    I looked. The ale was bright, although unfiltered; it was carbonated, although naturally, with a lacy head of foam.

    I sipped. It was fresh —amazingly fresh, considering how far it had come— redolent of piney hops, and tasting of biscuity malts and those hops. There was no shredded wood bark there, no Madagascar single-rhizome ginger (no offense to that island nation), no civet-extruded coffee beans, no hermetic cellaring at Funk & Wagnalls. There was nothing but the 4 beer verities: water, malt, yeast, and hops. It was cask-fresh. It was all it needed to be.

    I sipped again, and again, until I had reached ... The End.

  • Pronounce Paso Robles: "pasoh ROH buhls," not "pasoh ROH blays."
  • More about the process and practice of cask-conditioned real ale: here.
  • Drinking, Again is a series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits). No scores; only descriptions. Graphic created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

  • Saturday, December 01, 2012

    Pic(k) of the Week: South Baltimore Canvas

    South Baltimore canvas (02)

    Long-time residents call it South Baltimore; newcomers, Federal Hill. Regardless, artist and art-gallery owner Crystal Moll was enjoying a warm autumn morning on South Charles Street, painting the street view.

    Baltimore, Maryland.
    10 November 2012.

  • See what Ms. Moll saw: 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 reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons. For non-commercial purposes, no permission is required (but kindly link back).

  • A Victory, with Stilton

    NaBloPoMo 2012The month of November was —for three thousand, three hundred, and thirty-eight of us— National Blog Posting Month: NaBloPoMo, for short. The idea was to write and post one blog entry per day.

    I managed to complete the month, but only just. Writing 30 short-form pieces in 30 days, of content of worth, of length greater than a Tweet or photo caption, posted relatively on schedule, while holding down a real job, proved downright difficult. The exercise only increased my astonishment that 'real' writers who write for a living —and write much, much longer pieces— do so under (multiple) deadline demands.

    Tonight, for this 30th post, I celebrated (and toasted writers everywhere). I opened a bottle of Victory Brewing Storm King and unwrapped a chunk of Stilton cheese.

    Victory and Stilton

    First released by Victory Brewing (of Pennsylvania) well over a decade ago, Storm King is a very dark beer, and quite strong (9.1% alcohol-by-volume) and roasty. The brewery calls it an Imperial Stout, but with the its aromatic slug of resiny and piney hops, Storm King out-muscles parvenu Black IPAs at their own game. (In the 1990s, there had been no such Black IPA style designation.)

    Stilton, described.

    Stilton, a British blue cheese, has a stinky-foot aroma (in a good, non-Rex Ryan way) and a buttery, salty flavor. As I did, eat the cheese while drinking a strong dark beer like an imperial stout. In a pas de deux of flavors, the beer's roastiness will soften the cheese's blue mold, which, in its turn, will calm the beer's roastiness.

    Thirty posts written, I'm sipping from a glass of Storm King, and nibbling on crumbles of Stilton. That's a victory. Until next year, NaBloPoMo; until next year.

    By cheese law, Stilton (or, at least, cheese called Stilton) can only come from the three English counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire. Cheese made in the town of Stilton, ironically, cannot be designated as Stilton.

    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    Why I blog

    A person in the wine industry asked me, "Why DO you like beer? It's boring."

    There, then, I groaned silently. Here, now, I respond.

    No sir, beer is NOT boring.

    Boring is a mindset, a giving up. We all have been there, from time to time. But what is not boring are those crystalline moments when one grasps past the quotidian, or is pulled from it.

    Which is why a bite into a freshly baked loaf of bread is not boring (even if that loaf has been baked with a grain that was not a recently rediscovered ancient heirloom), or why the first sip of a good beer is anything but boring (even if that beer has no 'extreme' character other than the brewer's joyful care), or why a glance into your lover’s eyes —a really deep look— is anything but boring.

    No, sir, pleasure and discovery are not boring. Complacency and ignorance are.

    So, for that 'gentleman' of the first sentence, I paraphrase the great American composer, Charles Ives: Stand up, sir, and use your taste buds like a man.

    After reading Facebook comments about this post, I felt I should append a postscript. I originally wrote this essay in November 2011, but have waited to post it until now, in part, to protect the guilty person, and, in part, myself. This wine industry person is indeed real, but his opinions could be also viewed as a composite of others' in the industry. But not all! Wine and beer, two very different alcoholic beverages, have many advocates who find value and pleasure in both.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Cool Yule 2012! Beer Book #11:" Why Beer Matters."

    Cool Yule 2012_11

    Evan Rail lives in Prague, Czech Republic. Earlier this year, he published (if that's the word) an ebook —an ontological essay, if you will— on "why beer matters," which is, it so happens, the exact name of his book.

    Why Beer Matters Available only for Kindle, Why Beer Matters sits at position #11 on my Cool Yule 2012! list only because of its brevity. That economy, however, is a plus. In the time it might take you to drink a pint (or two?) of your favorite beer, Mr. Rail will have succinctly limned his arguments for beer's place in life.

    To summarize his thesis:

    On the metaphysical and geo-physical differences between wine and beer.

    In talking about vintage, he finds each year's harvest of wine to be "much like the aurochs or the passenger pigeon, something that is doomed to extinction." Wine is a creature of the weather, climate, and soil —the terroir. Beer is much less so; it is repeatable. Those are not bad or good things. They just are.

    On beer's inherent nature.
    when beer leaves the brewery, its clock is ticking like a time bomb. This immediate nature means, in part, that there are many beers that are truly seasonal, that are firmly tied to a specific date on the calendar.

    On an egalitarian —"demotic"— aspect of beer, his central point.
    This is partly why beer — good beer, great beer, especially what we might call “craft” beer — has touched so many people in the past few years: not its affordability (though the lower price per unit of joy certainly does have some appeal), but rather its accessibility, the fact that the beer world is one where everyone’s opinion is equally valid, where there is no equivalent to Robert Parker or The Wine Spectator’s James Suckling: not Garrett Oliver, not Stephen Beaumont, and not Roger Protz. ... The concept of applying this to beer dies even before the key hits the ignition: it is not possible to name a beer journalist, writer or critic who holds anything like that kind of influence.) Instead, consumers’ relationship to beer is decidedly more flat and fair than the old-fashioned, top-down approach.

    Rail's Why Beer Matters is a thoughtful paean to the simple joy that beer rewards: at the end of the day —literally— it's the anticipation and the thing itself. Read the essay as the best conversation about beer with the person on the next bar-stool over ... that you've never had.

  • Rail is the author of the Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic. He blogs on beer at Follow him on Twitter @evanrail. He may have pointed the way for fellow bloggers to find some remuneration from their avocation. Expand upon a particular post and 'Kindle-ize' it.
  • Cool Yule 2012! is a list of a dozen books on beer. It is NOT a comprehensive compendium of the best-of-the-best books about beer published in 2012. It is my list of recommendations for twelve books — some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit, some not published this year but worthy chestnuts, and some, while not on the topic of beer, apropos. The full list: here.

  • Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    "Lincoln," The Movie (& Robert Portner, the brewer)

    There's a scene in Steven Spielberg's new film, Lincoln, that, among many, caught my attention.

    The year is 1865; Abraham Lincoln has been re-elected President, and the Civil War is nearing conclusion. James Spader —in a hilarious turn as a sleazy political operative — is hatching tactics with his fellows over beers in a Washington, D.C. tavern. (The more things change ...!) His character although fictional as portrayed is historically believable.

    The beers they are drinking are served in glass. They are golden; they look like lagers. I'd like to believe that they had been brewed by the Robert Portner Brewing Company, located just over the Potomac River, in Alexandria, Virginia. Unfortunately, that's not so. Portner —which would eventually grow to become the preeminent brewery of the U.S. southeast (at least until the ignoble experiment of Prohibition)— would not be founded by its namesake until 1869.

    Portner Brewhouse logo

    The great-great grand-daughters of Robert Portner —Catherine & Margaret Portner— have set out to re-launch the brewery as Portner Brewhouse, a combination brewpub, breweriana museum, and craft beer test kitchen, and in Alexandria. They are seeking 'crowd funding' of $30,000 via IndieGoGo.
    This crowd funding campaign is a piece of a larger funding puzzle. The total amount required to truly launch this concept will be $1.3 million – daunting but very possible. The remaining funds will be supplied by personal savings, outside investors, and commercial debt. Some 75% of the total raised will be used for developing the property and purchasing all of the equipment for the brewery restaurant. The remaining funds will be put to use securing staff, implementing technology, marketing, and, artifact preservation.

    The film Lincoln is based, in part, on a book by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Adapting it to the screen, Spielberg has done his expected mixing of bathos and pathos, of hagiography and foibled humanity. Rather than trying to be inclusively unwieldy, Spielberg tells the story of the fight to ratify the 13th Amendment, which codified the end to slavery.

    Daniel Day Lewis is spectacularly convincing as Lincoln, and Sally Fields and Tommy Lee Jones are excellent in supporting roles (although Spielberg adds a gratuitous scene with Jones near the film's conclusion). James Spader, as mentioned above, is hilarious.

    Writer Tony Kushner deserves an award for the script. He seems to be channeling Lincoln through Lewis. Watching, you can believe that the words are indeed Lincoln's own: from him telling a scatological story about a portrait of George Washington in a British loo, to the President looming, in terrifying fashion, over his Cabinet comprising politically powerful men who seem to be cowering from his countenance: "I am the President of the United States of America, clothed in awesome powers."

    Spoiler alert: Lincoln is assassinated at the end of the movie, his work unfinished. Spielberg depicts the tragedy compassionately, non-literally. At movie's end, I heard a lot of sniffles in the theater, including those from my seat.

    Monday, November 26, 2012

    Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 46/47, 2012

    Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
    A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
    of news of beer and other things.

    Weeks 46/47
    11 November - 24 November 2012

    • 2012.11.24
      President Obama visits bookstore in Arlington, Virginia, promotes "Small Business Saturday" Via Reuters.

    • 2012.11.23
      Maryland brewery Peabody Heights learns first-hand that federal beer labeling restrictions can sometimes be absurd. Via Baltimore Business Journal.

    • 2012.11.22
      Burgundy's 2012 harvest very low; a big increase in prices expected. Via WAMU.

    • 2012.11.22
      Twinkie-maker, Hostess, to go out of business. Blames union. Via Dallas Morning News.

      'Serious' meal? (02)
    • 2012.11.21
      The history of the Thanksgiving meal begins in... 1841. Mythbusting via FastCompany.

    • 2012.11.22
      National Fish and Wildlife Foundation receives $4 billion for conservation purpose from BP's Hurricane Katrina-related oil spill settlement. Via Washington Post.

    • 2012.11.14
      Black IPAs: the gateway to dark beers for hopheads? Via The Guardian.

    • 2012.11.13
      Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper voted National League Rookie of Year. At 19, youngest non-pitcher player ever. Via WAMU.

    • 2012.11.11
      A WWII vet, the symphony he wrote, and the standing ovation he received 70 years later. Via NPR.

    • 2012.11.11
      The Governor of Virginia declares the week of 11-17 November 2012 as Virginia Cider Week:

    • 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
    • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Wherefore local beer?

    President Obama visited my neck of the woods on Saturday.

    Promoting Small Business Saturday (and buying Christmas gifts with his two daughters), he stopped in One More Page Bookshop, a small book store in the 'Little City' of Falls Church, Virginia. Well, okay, it's actually just over the border in Arlington County.

    A couple of days ago, I riffed on this idea of a one-day only promotion of small businesses.
    Why not, tomorrow, make it SMALL BREWERY SATURDAY, be that at the brewery (if it has an open house) or at a brewpub, or at an independently-owned beer shop, or at a locally-owned restaurant or pub that supports local beers. And, for that matter, why not repeat often?

    ... which begs the question, or, should I say, begs an answer. If beer itself is mostly a built product, produced by a brewer from ingredients shipped in from elsewhere, what's local about it? If a local beer is an 'inferior' beer, why should one buy it?

    Padawan Pumpkin Ale 2012
    My small contribution to Small Business Saturday was to visit Corcoran Vineyards/Brewing in Loudoun County, Virginia, and purchase a growler of beer.

    Roger Baylor —an owner of the New Albanian Brewing Company, in New Albany, Indiana— gave his answers to those questions in a piece in Food And Dining. They bear repeating.
    • 1. the positive local business economic impact
    • 2. the likelihood that local most small breweries will be producing beer of good flavor
    • 3. beer is a local food
      • (a) the single largest component is taken from the local water table
      • (b) the finished value derives form local sources [emphasis mine]
      • (c) the resulting product is the freshest it can possibly be.

    As to corporate breweries, and their 'faux craft' beers (even if of good quality), Baylor describes the end result of Anheuser-Busch InBev's purchase of Goose Island Brewery (figuratively completed with the recent retirement of John Hall, the founder of that brewpub and later large midwest brewery) as the
    GOOSE ISLAND ZOMBIE CRAFT BEER UNIT that means absolutely nothing to A-B InBev save for its unquestioned utility as a tactical chess piece to keep genuine craft beers off store shelves and draft lines.

    Good, sharp, witty stuff. Go to it: here and here.

  • Baylor writes a blog called The Potable Curmudgeon.
  • Tipped to Baylor's story by a BeerPulse Twitter feed.
  • More photos from Corcoran Brewing: here.

  • Saturday, November 24, 2012

    Pic(k) of the Week: The Man in the Yellow Suit

    The Man in the Yellow Suit (02)

    Mike Killelea is the brewer for Center of the Universe Brewing, in Ashland, Virginia. He also might be a fashion-setter. As pictured above during the brewery's grand opening on Friday evening, 17 November 2012, he was sartorially golden.

    COTUB (its less time-consuming acronym) is a production brewery, which means that it is a factory that produces beer, and not a restaurant that also makes beer (i.e.,a brewpub). A Virginia law was changed recently to allow production breweries to sell their beer on-site (as wineries had already been permitted). That's what COTUB is doing.

    When I arrived at 5 pm, the facility was already packed with well-wishers, the curious, and the thirsty. Several food trucks were parked on the grounds, offering an array of foods, from barbecue to kimchi tacos. The beer lines were long (but fast-moving). On tap were
    • Kölsch (4.6% alcohol-by-volume; bright, clean, a hint of yeasty fruitiness without any of the eggy character of some iterations)
    • Ray Ray's Pale Ale (5% abv; well-structured, grapefruit character of Cascade hops not overdone)
    • Main Street Alt (5.5% abv; dark toasted bread topped with a dollop of dark-fruit jam)
    • The Richard IPA.(8.3% abv; wowsers: biscuity malt character preceded and chased by slugs of citrusy and turpentiney —in a good way— hops).
    When I interviewed Killelea about the brewery last month, he made no mention of The Richard. So, I asked him about it.

    The Richard was supposed to be our IPA. Back in October, we had been waiting patiently for our ABC license. We finally got it at 5 pm on a Wednesday. So we wound up brewing through the night. Finished up at 8 am the next morning. It was the first time using our brewhouse, and the boil was a bit, shall we say, vigorous. We got a crazy evaporation rate. What was intended as a 6.8% IPA, ended as a 8.5% borderline double IPA. Not what we intended. Still, it tasted pretty damn good.

    We have since dialed in the steam to our brewhouse, and things are working smoothly. However, we didn’t want to release this as our IPA. So we’re calling it The Richard, after Chris and Phil’s grandfather. Those who liked it, don’t worry. Our IPA will have the same hops, malt and yeast. It just won’t be as strong. Or expensive…

    The name for Center of the Universe Brewing comes from a nickname used by residents of central Virginia for the area. The brewery is owned by Phil and Chris Ray, the latter a professional baseball pitcher, who for a time was the starting closer (that's a wonderful phrase) for the Baltimore Orioles. Now, he's a brewer, and he's pitching yeast.

  • At least at first, the brewery will package its beers only in kegs, and distribute only in and around Ashland, and soon thereafter, Richmond, Virginia. But customers can also purchase beer at the brewery itself. COTUB will fill growlers —two-quart resealable glass containers— with any of the beers on draft in its taproom. These can be purchased at the brewery or can belong to the customer. Keep in mind that growlers can come in various volumes. Killelea emphasized that the brewery will fill only those of 64 fluid-ounces, and that, if a customer brings in her own, she's responsible for its cleanliness!
  • Public hours are Monday through Friday from 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm, and Saturday from 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm. For directions and more information (and to check on any changes to the hours), follow on Twitter: @COTUBrew. Follow on Facebook: COTUBrew.
  • See more photos from opening night: here. Read more about the brewery: here.
  • I.P.A. is an abbreviation for India Pale Ale, usually written as an acronym, without the periods. An IPA will tend to be strong in alcohol, in America about 6-7%, pale to amber in color, and very hoppy: usually bitter, often aromatic. For why the beer is called that, read The first ever reference to IPA, by Martyn Cornell at his blog Zythophile.

  • Friday, November 23, 2012

    Small BREWERY Saturday (& winery, cidery, farm, etc.)

    Sandwiched between today's so-called Black Friday and Monday's Cyber Monday —both about retail businesses hoping to break even for the year— it's Small Business Saturday tomorrow.

    Small Business Saturday is a day for everyone — from the business owners who create jobs to the customers who buy locally — to support small businesses that invigorate the economy and keep communities thriving. It began in 2010 when American Express founded Small Business Saturday to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. Last year, over 100 million people came out to shop at independently-owned small businesses on the day.

    I wondered if anyone had noticed the irony of not-so-small American Express sponsoring a small business promotion. Bungalow Bill's blog did.

    It's very expensive for small business owners to accept American Express, and many small business owners already hurting to make a profit simply cannot afford to take American Express.

    You see, when you shop at a small business and use a credit card, not only are you paying an interest fee or annual fee to use that card, the merchant as well must also pay the fee. For the small business owner, this hurts the already tight bottom line. American Express charges higher fees than other credit cards, which of course takes away from important profits small businesses need to survive in these tough times.

    If you are going to visit a small business today, don't pull out your American Express. Pay with dollars. You will be helping the small business owner out.

    Small Business Saturday

    As I wrote last year on Small Business Saturday, if one 'buys' the set of statistics that —

    for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures, whereas if spent in a national chain, as so many are doing today on so-called Black Friday, only $43 remains locally, and if on-line, probably nothing

    —supporting your neighbors would seem to be a mutually beneficial cause.

    According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses of less than 500 employees account for around half the U.S. GDP (gross domestic product) and more than half of the employment in the U.S. More than 75% percent of those small businesses have fewer than 10 employees.

    But why stop there?

    Why not, tomorrow, make it SMALL BREWERY SATURDAY, be that at the brewery (if it has an open house) or at a brewpub, or at an independently-owned beer shop, or at a locally-owned restaurant or pub that supports local beers.

    Support Your LOCAL Brewery!

    According to the Brewers Association, 97% of the more than 2,000 breweries in the U.S. are small and independent. It defines small as producing fewer than 6 million barrels per year. In 2011, these small breweries, combined, were responsible for 103,585 jobs and produced a total retail dollar value of $8.7 billion.

    Tomorrow, while you're at it, why not support your local farm, winery, and cidery? And, for that matter, why not repeat often?

  • There are several on-line resources for finding local breweries, brewpubs, and beer shops and restaurants which support local and 'craft' beer. One of these is the Brewing News chain of bi-monthly beer newspapers, in print and on the web.
  • For a list of of breweries in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia breweries, who post on Twitter, go here.

  • Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Postprandial reading: beer & corn

    For your Thanksgiving postprandium: Beer Mythbusting: The Truth About Pilgrims, Adjuncts, and Prohibition.

    Beer blogger and writer Lisa Grimm has written a piece for the website Serious Eats on why the Pilgrims, in 1620, would make landfall at Plymouth Rock and not at their original destination, further south, along the Hudson River. Spoiler alert: The reason had to do with beer.

    And so in the morning, after calling upon God for direction, we came to this conclusion: to go presently ashore again. For we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer.
    —William Bradford, 1620, writing aboard the Mayflower.

    In a nice twist, Ms. Grimm has connected that forced landing with a historical analysis of why American brewers' have brewed with a proportion of grains other than barley, principally corn. In modern usage, those non-barley grains are called "adjuncts." It's a term that carries a pejorative patina, at least to 'craft brewers' and 'craft beer' drinkers. Ms. Grimm disagrees with them. She writes that it's a matter of history, intent, and method, not the corn itself.

    Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

    Dominion Millenium 2002 (1)

  • More on the Pilgrims and beer (and on disabusing a popular beer myth about Ben Franklin): here.
  • More on the use of corn in American beer: "Praise the Maize."
  • Pictured: Seitan Roast and a 2002-vintage bottle of Dominion Brewing Millenium Barleywine (brewed in Ashburn, Virginia, when the brewery was still located in that Washington, D.C, suburb).

  • Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Cool Yule 2012! Beer Book #12.

    Cool Yule 2012 (12)

    The 12 Books of Cool Yule!. It's not a comprehensive compendium of the best-of-the-best books about beer published in 2012, but, rather, my proffered selection of twelve recommendations — some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit, some not published this year but worthy chestnuts, and some, while not on the topic of beer, yet apropos.

    Last year, in 2011, I counted down from #12 to #5, but fell off the tracks at that midway stop. So, this year, I'll try again, stoke the coals, and begin 2012 with all of last year's choices as a multiple choice for this year's position #12.


    Cool Yule! Beer books for 2012.

    Ah! It's that time of year again. The 12 Books of Christmas, or One Dozen Winter Writings, or a Slew of Solstice Suggestions, or

    ... Cool Yule 2012!

    not a comprehensive compendium of the best-of-the-best books about beer published this year, but, rather, my proffered selection of twelve recommendations — some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit, some not published this year but worthy chestnuts, and some, while not on the topic of beer, yet apropos.

    Cool Yule 2012!
    The list: ***************
  • I buy the books I review. For on-line purchasing, I link to the Brewers Association book store, or to, or to another independent book seller. When not available at any of those, or if published as an ebook, I link to
  • The 12 Books for Christmas 2009: here.

  • Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Literally, a varietal (not)

    Why use the proper word when a fancy word will do?

    I recently 'tweeted' a link to a story on Virginia cider and the apple varietals commonly grown and pressed for cider. Wrong, I was! I had used the word "varietals," when what I should have written was "varieties."

    Merriam-Webster defines "varietal" as an adjective —" of, relating to, or characterizing a variety"— although it offers a secondary definition, first used in 1950, of a noun meaning " a wine bearing the name of the principal grape from which it is made."

    A Twitter account that trolls Twitter searching for any incorrect usage of "varietal" discovered my error. (Yes, there is such a thing person!)

    I searched back through my blog and found that I had committed this egregious error on eighteen other occasions. Consider this my mea culpa. When I have the time, I'll redact change all "varietals" to "varieties," or, fancier yet, "cultivars."

    I'm literally red in the face. Well, figuratively.