Thursday, August 30, 2012

When to be quiet: another beer, and a life lesson from Michael Jackson.

From Dave and Diane Alexander, past owners of the Brickskeller and current proprietors of RFD, in Washington, D.C.

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of one of the world of beer's greatest friends, The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson.

Michael was a dear friend of Diane and mine. I hosted well over 30 events with him [at the Brickskeller and later, at RFD, both in Washington, D.C.] from the early 1980s up to his passing, including hosting his 60th birthday party. He was a great friend, and is sadly missed.

Dave Alexander pours Below Decks

He was without question an unparalleled beverage writer. He taught the world of beverage writers how to write about beer, elevated beer to (and I believe actually past) the status of wine and was personally responsible for the creation and re-creation of numerous beer styles including but certainly not limited to one that had vanished form the brewing world and returned only upon his insistence with the brewers of Samuel Smith: Oatmeal Stout.

Michael fondly lives on in the memories of all who knew him as well as in the writings of all who write about beer, whether they realize it or not. Any time you read a piece about a beer that is written in a respectful thoughtful, insightful, perceptive, precise, and spot-on accurate manner, with a sharply developed sense of humor and clever wit of a Beatles lyric, you were just touched by Michael.

Michael Jackson at R.F.D. (04)

In a world of "no crap on tap" and other left-handed, insulting, condescending remarks directed at beers with lower flavor profiles by the 'lift your pinkie' faddish set, I asked him why he was never obviously critical of a beer whose flavor profile he did not care for. If he did not care for a beer, but had to write about it, he simply and respectfully stated its flavor profile and ingredients.

Probably the most dismissing comment I ever heard him make about a beer was at one of my tastings after Red Dog came out. He said, "Well, it's not red, but it certainly is a ...", and allowed the audience to complete the thought.

He told me the reason he was never insulting to a beer he did not care for, aside from the fact that that type of behavior was not any part of his makeup, was that these large breweries employee many people. He said he could not live with himself if he thought a casually dismissive remark he made about a beer resulted in lowered sales and, thus, a reduction of staff at that brewery, that might take a job away from someone who needed it.

What a guy.

The world could certainly use a whole lot more men like Michael Jackson. So, please raise a glass, today, to one of the very very best. God speed to you, Michael Jackson. We all miss you greatly.

  • Mr. Alexander's comments were originally posted on DC Beer, a list serve of beer enthusiasts in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
  • Beer Hunter: The Movie, a film about Michael Jackson is planned for a March 2013 release.
  • More about Michael Jackson: here.

Michael Jackson lives!

Humans crave kinship with greatness. It validates us; it anoints us with purpose. It creates community; it bestows us with a sense of belonging.

So, I grasp for a personal kinship with Michael Jackson (the beer writer), albeit a small perch, but to me, almost somatic.

Mr. Jackson's parents emigrated from Lithuania to the United Kingdom; my four grandparents did so as well, if to the United States.

Five years ago today, Mr. Jackson succumbed, after a decade-long struggle, to complications related to Parkinsons Disease, as had my own father, a few years before him.

But, of course, there's the beer, the glorious beer: our (if I might be so bold) similar love of its flavors, production, people, history, and evolving creation.

Michael Jackson wrote about beer, and he was a great writer. He used words as only skilled brewers know how to use hops: for beauty, for telling a story.

He was a newsman: he brought Edward R. Murrow's 'you are there' to beer, wherever in the world he could find it. He traveled often. He became known as the "Beer Hunter".

Mr. Jackson was a historian: he noted the birth of 'craft' beer as it was happening, and chronicled it.

He was a libation scientist: he, solo, recognized that beer had phyla, when no one had thought of that before, christening his eureka moment, 'beer styles.' Read his seminal work World Guide to Beer, originally published in ... 1977. As Fritz Maytag —past owner of Anchor Brewing (and a mighty 'craft' beer pioneer in his own right)— put it:
I think that Michael Jackson did more for the brewing industry than anyone since Louis Pasteur.

Five years have passed since the great man left us. And, there are many who are unfamiliar with Jackson or his work, and that includes many new, young beer drinkers. Thus, it is fortuitous that there is a new tribute to Michael Jackson in the works. It's called Beer Hunter: The Movie.

J.R. Richards is an independent filmmaker. Beer Hunter: The Movie is his labor of love. He's raised a great portion of the funds for the film from beer folk, who donated via Kickstarter. From that site, here's his latest update.
The past few months we've gathered interviews with Sam Calagione, Charlie Papazian, Greg Koch, Tomme Arthur, Gina Marsaglia, the New Zealand beer writer Geoff Griggs, Garrett Oliver, Nancy Johnson and Julia Herz from the Brewers Association, and Randy Clemens from Stone Brewing. The past two months we have been editing through all these interviews and b-roll, and adding them into our footage where appropriate to the U.S.

We've also tracked down some more recent footage of Michael visiting breweries in tell Michael's story.

By the end of the summer we'll be finished with the main edit of the interviews and existing footage of Michael, and the next step will be gathering a few final, crucial interviews regarding Michael's early history and his role in the world of whiskey, and also licensing and incorporating all our archival materials. Though this will extend the release of the film, we feel that it's essential in telling Michael's story and creating a lasting tribute to his life and work.

We've tracked down some rare archival footage which we'll be tackling in the next couple of months. Charles Finkel was one of the first importers to bring great beers from around the world to the U.S., and he was also one of the first, if not the first, person to bring Michael here as well to conduct tastings. He has an old film that he shot with Michael from some years back, which he is kindly letting us use. We'll be heading up there soon to go through the footage and get an interview with Charles and his wife Rose Ann, as they were some of Michael's oldest friends here inBelgium, which we are negotiating a license for. This is even more recent than the footage I have of Michael in Belgium, so we are excited to be able to use some of it, and include extended scenes on the DVD.

And finally, after two years of inquiries, we've tracked down the license holder of the original Beer Hunter series. The footage, as expected, will be quite expensive to incorporate, but we are working out a reasonable fee, seeking additional sponsors to help out, and at the very least will have a few minutes of this priceless footage to feature in the movie. At best, we are working on licensing and remastering the entire series to DVD or Blu-Ray, an effort which is long overdue.

While we had hoped to have everything done in time for a fall release, in all reality this is going to be difficult if we want to incorporate these final elements. A winter release is more feasible, but we are also considering a global premier on the anniversary of Michael's birthday, March 27th of 2013. I know it's a long ways off, but it would give us plenty of time to line up screenings, finish everything off properly, add subtitles to international versions, complete the full DVD with all extended scenes, and give us time for marketing, distribution and PR.

This date is not set in stone, but I wanted to let you all know it's a date we are considering. We'll update on our progress as it evolves, and thanks again for your patience and support.

J.R. Richards

For more information, follow Beer Hunter: The Movie at
Michael Jackson was also an appreciator and scholar of that other malt: whisky (no 'e'), or, what we in America call, Scotch. Here's a passage from Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion:

My first MALT WHISKY was a 12-year-old, and single. I was 18. We were introduced by a mutual friend in an otherwise undistinguished pub in Edinburgh. Until reaching that height of maturity, i had believed whisky to be something that I did not like. I cannot imagine how I ever held that view. That first kiss of Glen Grant was enough to initiate a lifetime's devotion and exploration.

A simple moment made evocative. A sip made great. Words made refreshing.

I was fortunate enough to have met Michael Jackson on several occasions. I talked with him, but I don't think I ever thanked him.

Mr. Richards said that we'll be raising our glasses together this Thursday in remembrance. Yes. Have a beer tonight, or a wee dram. Have it in a good pub with good folk, or at home in good company with any of his writings. Toast Michael Jackson.

I'll thank him.

  • I asked Mr. Richards if he'd care to add anything else. Here:
    The kinship this project has created by bringing together so many friends and fans of Michael has been truly amazing. There is always a need for further donations [emphasis mine], however, I'm hoping that we can get some industry sponsors on board as well to help license some of the original Beer Hunter footage and help out with final post production needs. I've made a playlist on our YouTube page with all sorts of Beer Hunter videos.
  • Carolyn Smagalski, aka The Beer Fox, has written a moving tribute at Philly Beer Scene: The Unique Michael Jackson.
  • I've written on several occasions about Mr. Jackson. Here are a few of those.
  • From the films' website:
    Proceeds from the film and fund raising efforts will go towards Parkinson's research, and the producers hope to establish a non-profit foundation dedicated to preserving Michael's legacy through annual events on March 27th, to coincide with Michael's birth date.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Capital's Nations to leave DC, open brewery in Louisiana.

Andrew Nations, co-editor for DC —Washington, D.C.'s premier site for news on 'craft' beer, is leaving the Washington, D.C., area. But the Nation's Capital's loss will be Louisiana's gain.

Nations has announced plans to open a brewery in Shreveport.

Andrew Nations

In a few days’ time, I will pack my home into a truck and drive 1,200 miles south to my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana with the intent of starting the first production brewery in the area since Prohibition.

My wife and I want to bring a little bit of what we love about the DC beer culture back to our hometown and join a handful of others who are already well underway in shaping craft beer in Louisiana.
28 August 2012.

Mr. Nations has been an integral part of DC, almost from its beginnings, initially as a writer for founder Mike Dolan. The site's success and influence has been in no small measure due to Mr. Nations' efforts. The greater Washington, D.C., area good-beer scene will miss his advocacy.

On a personal note, I bid farewell to a good friend in beer —and a friend in deed. I anticipate the day, soon, when I can visit Shreveport and hoist pints with Lindsey and Andrew —their pints.

Until a website is created, follow news of the brewery on Twitter: @drinkrealbeer.

Monday, August 27, 2012

And, the winner of the 2012 Virginia Craft Beer Cup is ...

The first ever Virginia Craft Brewers Fest was held this past Saturday, on the grounds of the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, in Nelson County, Virginia, presented by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild and the Virginia Manufacturers Association "to promote Virginia's craft brewing industry and the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild."

Hoisting the Virginia Craft Beer Cup
Photo courtesy Skye Marthaler of

The festival was also the running of the 2012 Virginia Craft Beer Cup competition, in which twenty-four Virginia breweries participated. Judges awarded three medals in each of five categories, and one, the Virginia Craft Beer Cup, to the brewery which brewed the beer judged best-of-show.

Virginia Gold Cup 2012 medal for Mad Fox

Here are the results.
Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2012

There were 67 entries from 24 breweries. Alexandria, Virginia's Port City Brewing snagged the most medals: three —one gold, and two bronze.

To determine the overall winner, the judges re-tasted and re-judged the five gold medal-winning beers.

And, their choice for winner of the 2012 Virginia Craft Beer Cup was ...

... host brewery Devils Backbone —for its Schwartz Bier.
Our 2010 Bronze medal winning World Beer Cup Schwartzbier is Back! Black, light to medium body with subtle roasted notes of coffee and caramel. These flavors blend together with a smoothness that only lagers can provide. 5.1% abv, 22 IBUs

By all accounts, it was a wet day in Roseland for the 1,250 attendees, with intermittently heavy showers throughout the day. So, kudos and thanks belong to the folk at Devils Backbone for organizing this first ever Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, and for successfully slogging through!

Congratulations belong to all the breweries that participated, and, in particular, to brewer Jason Oliver —and the rest of the brewing team at Devils Backbone— the holder of brewing bragging rights throughout the Commonwealth ... until next year!

  • Lyle Brown —a Master Beer Judge based in Virginia— was the Competition Director. He selected judges among local professional brewers, local beer professionals, BJCP judges, and beer writers: Matt Reich (EcoLab at Coors, formerly Starr Hill), J.T. Smith (Maryland Brewers' Association), Les White (MD Homebrewers Guild), Steve Marler (longtime beer judge, and officer of homebrew club, B.U.R. P.) Diane Catanzaro (BJCP judge, and past Beer Drinker of the Year), Chris Jones (BJCP judge), Julie Jones (BJCP Master Judge), Al Reece (beer writer). Tastings were blind with judges seeing entry numbers only. The judges worked in pairs and used scoresheets similar to those of judges at the Great American Beer Festival, but with no numerical scores, just perceptions and impressions. A smaller panel selected the Cup Winner from among the 5 gold medal winners.
  • Photos of the winning brewers, as posted on Facebook by blogger Jolly Good Fellows: here.
  • The Virginia Cup has been an on-again, off-again, recognition of Virginia brewing. With approximately 40 'craft' breweries open in the state, and the formation of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, it may be here to stay. The trophy itself, fashioned from kegs, is patterned after the Dominion Cup, its predecessor from the 1990s and early 2000s.
  • The State of Virginia, in an official proclamation, designated August 2012 as Virginia Craft Beer Month. The state's tourism department was actively involved in promoting the festival, as was a still-nascent Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 21/22/23, 2012

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

Weeks 21/22/23
20 May - 9 June 2012

  • 2012.06.09
    Birthday in Beer. Ray Daniels: beer educator is just one of the many 'craft' beer hats he wears. Via YFGF.

  • 2012.06.07
    6.4 million passwords may have been stolen from LinkedIn website. Via ABC News.

  • 2012.06.05
    'Transit of Venus.' Next won't occur for another 105 years. Via Wikipedia.

  • 2012.06.05
    New evidence supports fat as the 6th basic taste, joining sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. Via Washington Post.

  • 2012.06.04
    It's a big week for small and independent 'craft' brewers as Brewers Association presents SAVOR. Via Brewers Association.

    Brewery on a hill: Stillpoint Farm (02)
  • 2012.06.04
    Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signs a bill establishing a Farm Brewing license. Via Examiner.

  • 2012.06.04
    4,000 hours of recorded, unreleased jazz discovered at loft of photo-essayist W. Washignton D.C> hosts DC Jazz Festival. Via DCist.

  • 2012.06.03
    spacebar lands in Falls Church, Virginia. 24 beer taps, 19 grilled-cheese sandwiches. Via YFGF.

  • 2012.06.03
    Ernesto Igot -25 years brewmaster for San Miguel in the Phillipines, and 10 at Heavy Seas Brewing in Baltimore, Maryland- has retired from the brewing industry. From YFGF, on Flickr.

  • 2012.06.03
    The Museum of Endangered Sounds. Via The Atlantic.

  • 2012.06.03
    The business of 'craft' beer, as discussed by Julia Hertz of the Brewers Association, Greg Engert of Churchkey, and Greg Kitsock of the Washington Post. Via Kojo Nnamdi Show on

  • 2012.06.01
    Maryland grocery stores attempt to change the law into allowing them to sell beer and wine. Via Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws.

  • 2012.06.01
    Philly Beer Week. Via The Omnivore.

  • 2012.05.30
    6,000 hectares (70% to 100%) of Cotes-de-Provence and Coteaux-Varois vineyards destroyed after a heavy hail storm. Via The Drinks Business.

  • 2012.05.30
    An Israeli orchestra to break a long boycott against performing Wagner's works in Israel. Via Haaretz.

    DC Brau tasting room
  • 2012.05.30
    New laws permit Washington, D.C. area breweries to conduct tours with samples for customers, and sales on-premise. Via Washington Post.

  • 2012.05.30
    Stillwater Artisinal Ales opens a restaurant in hometown of Baltimore, Maryland: Of Love and Regret. Via Belgian Beer and Travel.

  • 2012.05.30
    Washington D.C. bids farewell to Chuck Brown, Godfather of Go-Go music. Via WAMU.

  • 2012.05.30
    Doc Watson —folk musician, singer, and guitar player whose style influenced generations— has died at age 89. Via New York Times.

  • 2012.05.29
    Proposed Virginia brewery —Center Of The Universe— announces plans to open in Ashland, Virginia. Via Musings Over A Pint.

    Local beer at Nationals (04)
  • 2012.05.28
    'Craft' beer proving a hit at baseball parks. Via Associated Press.

  • 2012.05.26
    Stift Engelszell -soon-to-be certified as world's 8th Trappist brewery- in Austria, releases its first beer: Gregorius, a 9.7% alcohol-by-volume ale. Via Belgian Beer and Travel.

  • 2012.05.24
    Milestone reached for American breweries. 2000 'craft' breweries now operate in the the U.S. Via Brewers Association.

  • 2012.05.20
    "The Voice That Made You Fall in Love With Lieder:' Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died at age 86. Via New York Times.

  • * YFGF is several weeks behind on updates for Clamps & Gaskets. While the column gets 'current', readers can expect several consecutive Mondays of 3-week summaries.
  • 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, August 25, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Hands of a Brewer

Kevin Blodger —co-owner and lead brewer for Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, Maryland— zwickle-teases a sample of Union Craft Schwarzbier directly from a 40-barrel fermenting vessel.

Hands of a brewer

A Schwarzbier is a dark lager that balances somewhat roasted malt flavors with moderate hop bitterness. Think stout, but as a lager rather than an ale, and with more of a baker's chocolate character than the burnt malt flavor of the former. Blodger's lager had finished primary fermentation, and was in a state known as diacetyl rest, in which the beer is kept relatively warm for a day or two to eliminate the buttery character of yeast fermentation. After that, the beer will be matured at cold temperatures for several weeks, a process known as lagering.

A zwickle is a sample port —on the side of a fermentation or maturation tank— used to extract samples of young or fermenting beer for measurement and observation. To pour a sample for tasting, with Germanic license, is to zwickle-tease.



Union Craft Brewing is Baltimore's newest brewery —kegs began rolling out only in late June of 2012— and is the only production brewery operating within the city limits. It sits in 7,200 feet of a re-built warehouse along the banks of the Jones Falls River in the old mill district of Woodberry.

The brewery's initial offerings are Duckpin Pale Ale (5.5% alcohol-by-volume) and Balt Altbier (a brownish-red German-style ale, 5.6% alcohol-by-volume). A third beer, a seasonal, Old Pro Göse, is also a German-style ale, but a wheat beer fermented with lactobacillus as well as standard ale yeast, yielding a refreshingly low-alcohol (4.8% alcohol-by-volume), sour/sweet ale. In 2011, Blodger brewed the same recipe for the Gordon-Biersch brewpub in Rockville Maryland, and received a bronze medal for it at that year's Great American Beer Festival, the nation's premier brewing competition. In late September, the Schwarzbier will replace the Göse as the brewery's second seasonal.

Blodger & Zerivitz
Kevin Blodger (l); Jon Zerivitz (r)

Blodger's business partner is Jon Zerivitz, a past graphic designer who "wanted to get out from behind his desk." Zerivitz wrote the business plan, and recruited Blodger. He helps with the brewing (a veteran homebrewer himself) and handles the marketing.

Union Craft's beers are currently only available on draft, and only in Maryland. The partners hope to add a canning line in 2013, as their production passes their first year goal of 1,500 barrels.

Union Craft Brewing_est. 2012

  • More photos, and more about the brewery: here.
  • Tours are offered Saturdays, 1-4.
    See the website —— for more information.
    How to get to the brewery: here.
  • A barrel is not an actual thing, but a unit of liquid volume measurement. It equals 31 gallons. Thus Union Craft's projected first year production of 1,500 barrels would be the equivalent of 46,500 gallons of beer. Each of its four 40-barrel fermenters holds 1,240 gallons of beer; that's the equivalent volume of 80 kegs.
  • A production brewery differs from a brewpub in that it is not a restaurant. It is a factory, so to speak, for producing beer. There are a couple of brewpubs in Baltimore, but the last production-only brewery to operate in the city proper was the National Brewing Company, located in the Highlandtown area, and closed in 1978. Much later, Degroen's would be bottling its beers in Baltimore's Little Italy neighborhood, but it had begun its life as a brew pub, the Baltimore Brewing Company, and would close in 2005. Yet another production-only brewery is projected to open in Baltimore in late 2012: Peabody Heights Brewing, to operate in the Waverly neighborhood.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Bethesda skylights

Bethesda skylights (01)

A door opening.
Fleeting shelter from the storm.
Now a door closing.

As seen on River Road, looking toward the western sky, in

Bethesda, Maryland.
9 August 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 subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

3 cheers for 3 Stars: Washington, D.C.'s newest brewery

3 Stars Brewing It's official! 3 Stars Brewing —Washington, D.C.'s newest brewery— began selling its beers to the public on 9 August 2012.

3 Stars is the brainchild —and sweat-equity— of two homebrewers, now professionals, Dave Coleman and Mike McGarvey. Their three initial offerings —initially draft-only— are

  • Pandemic Porter (an American 'Imperial' Porter at 9.6% alcohol-by-volume)
  • The Southern Belle (an 'Imperial' Brown Ale at 8.7% alcohol-by-volume)
  • Urban Farmhouse (a Belgian-style Saison at 6.5% alcohol-by-volume)
3 Stars Pandemic Porter

There are now five breweries in Washington, D.C.: two brewpubs, and three production-only breweries. Alone among them, 3 Stars holds the distinction of being a brewery and a home-brew supply shop. The brewery is located in the Takoma district of far northwest D.C. Read more here.

And, here —in a video from Washington, D.C. radio WTOP— Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, reviews Pandemic Porter.

  • The name of the brewery, and the design of its logo, are heraldic cognates of the flag of Washington, D.C. From Wikipedia:
    The flag of the District of Columbia consists of three red stars above two red bars on a white background. It is based on the design of the coat of arms of George Washington, first used to identify the family in the twelfth century, when one of George Washington's ancestors took possession of Washington Old Hall, then in County Durham, north-east England. The flag was officially adopted on October 15, 1938.
  • Learn more about 3 Stars Brewing at the website; Facebook; Twitter.
  • One of the two release parties for 3 Stars Brewing was held at The Big Hunt, a multi-tap pub in the Dupont Cirle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where 3 Stars' co-owner Dave Coleman had long been the beer director.
  • The 5 breweries in Washington, D.C. are: District Chophouse (brewpub), Gordon-Biersch (brewpub), Chocolate City, DC Brau, and 3 Stars.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Keg Rx

Keg Rx

Working in the cold of a keg refrigerator, hidden behind a 50-tap bar, Matthew and his fellow World of Beer bartenders struggle with a recalcitrant keg to get it pouring. Their efforts would prove ultimately successful.

World of Beer is a Florida-based franchise with nearly 30 multi-tap drafthouses, most located in the southeastern U.S. The newest opened on 7 August 2012, in the Ballston district of Arlington, Virginia.

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

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tim Hillman: A Gentleman of Beer

Tim Hillman: 1963-2012

For more than twenty years, Tim Hillman was the beer manager at The Wine Source in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, and at its predecessor shop —Rotunda Wine and Spirits.

His career, which began in 1992, neatly coincided with the birth of 'craft' beer in Maryland. Early on, he recognized its staying power, and became a powerful advocate, prominently stocking the beers in his store. Also, early on, he began organizing annual tastings of autumn, winter and Christmas beers; the results would be tabulated and reported by the Baltimore Sun.

Tim died this past Sunday, suddenly, of a heart attack. He was 49.

From the Baltimore Sun:
"Baltimore has lost a pretty big figure from the world of craft beers. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of beers," said Volker Stewart, owner of The Brewer's Art restaurant and brewpub on North Charles Street in Mount Vernon.

"Tim was a pretty super guy who was always very supportive of the craft business as a whole plus the local players, and has been conducting tastings for 20 years," said Hugh Sisson, founder of Heavy Seas Brewing Co. "He was always looking for ways to get people to experience what was in the market. Even though he was a back-of-the-house guy and pretty understated, you could rely on Tim. He knew the market, had his finger on its pulse, and managed to walk both sides of the street with equal respectability."

"Despite his encyclopedic knowledge of beer, Tim was not a beer snob," said Mr. Kasper, retired Baltimore Sun food columnist and author of Baltimore Beers: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing. "When asked, he would tell you what he thought about a particular beer, but if you liked it and he did not, he recognized that tastes differ."

Tim Hillman organizes 2008 Christmas beer tasting

A beer guy, yes, but more than that: Tim was a true gentleman.

He had a preternatural sense of calm. When customers were complaining, when salesman were fretting, when deliveries were late or arriving all-at-once, Tim would be the eye of the storm: always polite, multitasking without a curt word, not loquacious, but patiently answering customers' worries and dealing with store crises.

With me, during a time when I was attempting to deal with personal loss, he would always find the time to talk about family. I may have been just a beer salesman to his shop, but he invariably treated me as a friend. I haven't seen Tim since 2008, but those memories remain strong.
"He's our version of Cal Ripken. He came to work every day and never sought the limelight. He's both shy and very unassuming. Still waters run deep," said David Wells, owner of The Wine Source.

Tim was the quintessential behind-the-scenes guy. He quietly provided critical support for Maryland beer during its birth, then again during its difficult adolescence, and most recently during its robust adulthood. Beer will miss that. And, if you knew Tim Hillman as a person, you now mourn the loss of a true gentleman. There aren't many of them.

A Funeral Mass of Christian Burial was offered at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Catonsville, Maryland on Friday morning, 10 August. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that memorial contributions may be made to the LTRC Soccer Program, 121 East Ridgely Road, Lutherville, MD, 21093.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A World of Beer comes to Ballston, Virginia.

500 bottles of beer on the wall.
500 bottles of beer.

50 kegs on draft.

No BudMillerCoorsPabst.

That's the World of Beer, a Florida-based franchise, which officially opens its first Washington, D.C.-area location today, in the Ballston district of Arlington, Virginia.

World of Beer, outside

The pub seats about 100 inside, and about the same outside. The kitchen is small, putting out small bites like chicken sausages, brats, and pretzels stuffed with jalapeno cheese.

True to its name, the World of Beer serves no liquor, cocktails, or even wine. But, then again, there are those 550 beers.

Draft line spaghetti (02)

Here's the opening day roster:
  • Anchor Steam
  • Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider
  • Bavik  Wittekerke
  • Bell's Two Hearted
  • Bold Rock Virginia Apple Cider (Virginia)
  • Boulevard Tank 7
  • Chimay Cinq Cents
  • Devils Backbone Vienna Lager (Virginia)
  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • Firestone Walker Union Jack 
  • Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale (Maryland)
  • Flying Dog Underdog Atlantic Lager (Maryland)
  • Founders Dirty Bastard
  • Goose Island Pere Jacques
  • Guinness Stout
  • Hoffbrau Dunkel
  • Hoffbrau Original
  • Huyghe  Delirium Tremens
  • Lagunitas IPA
  • Left Hand Milk Stout (nitrogen-dispensed)
  • Long Trail Double Bag
  • Lost Rhino Rhino Chasers Pils (Virginia)

  • Lost Rhino Pilsner @WOB

  • Old Dominion Lager
  • Ommegang Abbey Ale
  • Oskar Blues G Knight
  • Paulaner Hefe-Weizen
  • Port City Essential Pale Ale (Virginia)
  • Port City Optimal Wit  (Virginia)
  • RJ Rockers Son of a Peach
  • Reissdorf Kölsch
  • Rogue Dead Guy Ale
  • Rogue Shakespeare Stout (nitrogen-dispensed)
  • Rogue XS Imperial IPA
  • Schafly Kölsch
  • Schneider Weisse
  • Sea Dog Bluepaw Blueberry Wheat Ale

  • Bartenders ready to serve the world ...

  • St. Bernardus Abt 12
  • St. Louis Framboise 
  • Starr Hill  Starr Pils (Virginia)
  • Starr Hill The Love  (Virginia)
  • Tröegs Flying Mouflan
  • Tröegs Hopback Amber Ale
  • Unibroue Éphémère
  • Van Steenberge Piraat
  • Van Steenberge Gulden Drak
  • Victory Golden Monkey
  • Weihenstephaner Original Lager
  • Woodchuck Pear Cider 
  • Wychwood Hobgoblin
  • Young's Double Chocolate Stout

The draft list will change almost daily, said bar manager Lee Couey, with local breweries always represented. He promised that there would be occasional cask tappings as well.

Friends of WOB

  • There are many multi-tap draft-houses which publish their beer-lists to the web. Some keep them updated; others —maddeningly— do not. Many use social media —such as Facebook and Twitter. World of Beer does all that and has an app for that, for Android and iPhone.
  • See more photos from the 'Friends and Family' pre-opening tasting: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell beer to World of Beer.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Coming attractions: DC Beer Week 2012

DC Beer Week 2012 —a week-long celebration of Washington, D.C. breweries, and of the city's beer culture— takes place in the nation's capital from Sunday August 12th through Sunday August 19th, 2012 (an eight day week!). It's the fourth iteration of the festival, which was begun, in 2009, by Granville Moore's chef/owner Teddy Folkman and beer wholesaler representative Jeff Wells.

DC Beer Week 2012

Washington, D.C., has an estimated population of 618,000. The Washington Metropolitan Area, of which the District is a part, has a population of nearly 5.6 million, making it the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the country.

Ignoring that greater population —as did DC Beer Week for its first three years— frivolously diminishes the Week's impact. So, I'm happy to see that, this year, the festival has expanded its geographical grasp outward from the city's physical borders to the circumference of the Capital Beltway. Of the Week's 38 events 84 events, 19 21 are events featuring local breweries, from the District and from suburban Virginia and Maryland.

More information is available at the Week's website: However, due to a conflict with one of the Week's sponsors, the calendar of events is NOT listed on the website. To view a schedule of the Week's events, one must go to a different website, that of I'm sorry, but that's simply bizarre.

UPDATE: With six days to spare, the Washington City Paper has put the week's 'official' calendar of events up on its website.

Furthermore, DC Beer Week's 38 or so events —compared to neighbor Baltimore's Beer Week (scheduled for 19-28 October), and other cities' Beer Weeks— comprise a pittance of a schedule. I would expect the number to increase by next week. [UPDATE: It has.] But a week out? That's a bit last-minute, and it's emblematic of an amateurish feel to this festival. Washington, D.C. —the Nation's Capital— deserves better.

Okay, it's time for me to step off my keg-box and acknowledge the good. Of course, I'll support and attend events during DC Beer Week. It's my hometown beer celebration, after all. So, here are just a few of the noteworthy events next week:
  • DC Beer Week Craft Beer & Dinner Cruise
    Sunday, August 12, 2012, 6pm.
    The Week's 'kick-off', a 3-hour cruise along the Potomac River on the Odyssey cruise ship, with unlimited tastings of more than 40 craft beers and imports, buffet dinner, DJ, and cash bar available for wine & spirits. $125 per person (in advance only).

  • Solidarity Saison debut
    Monday, 13 August, 6pm.
    ChurchKey/Birch & Barley: Washington, DC.
    The debut of Solidarity Saison: the official beer of DC Beer Week, created by blending saisons brewed by seven local breweries especially for DC Beer Week.

  • DC Brau’s Crab Festival Monumental Extravaganza
    Wednesday, 15 August, 6pm.
    Quartedeck Restaurant: Arlington, VA.
    All-you-can eat Chesapeake Bay crabs, as well as discounted pitchers of DC Brau beers. Tickets required.

  • Mad Fox Cask Beer Dinner
    Wednesday, 15 August, 7pm.
    Mad Fox Brewing Company: Falls Church, VA.
    A beer dinner pairing five courses with five of the restaurant-brewery's cask-conditioned beers. This is the ONLY beer dinner of DC Beer Week. Reservations required.

    UPDATE: The official calendar published at the Washington City Paper, lists 5 more beer dinners, but excludes Mad Fox's dinner, as well as all but one event outside the boundaries of the District.

  • 2nd Annual Cask Night
    Thursday, 16 August, 6pm.
    District Chophouse Restaurant & Brewery: Washington, DC.
    Cask ales from over 18 D.C., Maryland, and Virginia breweries. Unlimited sampling from the casks. Tickets required.

  • Chocolate City Beer One-Year Anniversary Party
    Friday, 17 August, 6pm.
    Penn Social : Washington, DC.
    Celebrating one year of brewing for Washington, D.C. brewery Chocolate City Beer. $5 drafts all night long: 1814 ESB, Cornerstone Copper Ale, Coast Bohemian Pils, El Segundo Farmhouse Saison (brewed for DC Beer Week). Beats by: DJ Benny C.

    Proud Matz (02)
    Ben Matz (l), Chocolate City lead brewer, posing,
    at the brewery's official launch party, held during DC Beer Week 2011.
    With Orr Shtuhl (r), then beer columnist for Washington City Paper.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Night Ball

Night ball

Occasionally, one gets lucky with his or her camera phone.

Here, it was good content and nice contrast, during an evening baseball game at Nationals Park, in Washington, D.C.

On a hot, humid August night, the Washington Nationals —the Major League Baseball franchise in the nation's capital —were en route to defeating their arch-rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, three to nothing.

2 August 2012.


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Have a happy #IPADay

Today is International IPA Day, according to its two co-founders of the "Universal Celebration of Craft Beer": Ashley Routon —otherwise known as the Beer Wench— and Ryan Ross —marketing manager for the Karl Strauss Brewing Company.

What is an I.P.A.? It's an acronym for India Pale Ale. According to the American-based Beer Judge Certification Program —uh, that's the BJCP— an IPA is either
a decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale.


a hoppy, moderately strong pale ale that features characteristics consistent with the use of English malt, hops and yeast. Has less hop character and a more pronounced malt flavor than American versions.

Not so fast, writes British beer historian Martyn Cornell. At his blog, Zythophile, he enumerates
five IPA myths that must die on #IPADay":

Despite the best efforts of many, an amazing amount of inaccurate, made-up rubbish continues to be perpetuated about the history and origins of IPA, or India Pale Ale. All the myths below are genuine statements culled in the past few weeks from websites that claim to be experts on beer.

Crying complete cobblers’ awls and marketing fackwittery, Mr. Cornell lays waste to published claims that
  • Myth 1: The original IPAs had strengths close to 8 to 9 per cent alcohol by volume.
  • Myth 2: Historians believe that IPA was then watered down for the troops, while officers and the elite would savour the beer at full strength.
  • Myth 3: Porters and stouts were not suitable for the torrid Indian climate.
  • Myth 4: North American craft brewers more closely adhere to early IPA specifications than do British brewers who, as a group, do not.
  • Myth 5: ‘East India Pale Ale’ was first brewed in England last century for the colonies East of India such as New Zealand and Australia.

Beer ring toss (02)

Despite all that, here's how Ms. Routon and Mr. Ross suggest to observe #IPADay (and they indeed write of day with that hashtag):
1. Organize an IPA Day event at your brewery, brewpub, restaurant, bar, bottle shop, home, or office. Post your events to the Event Calendar.

2. On August 2nd, share your photos, videos, blog posts, tasting notes, recipes, and thoughts with the world. Be sure to tag your posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and other social media platforms with #IPADay hashtag.

3. See what other people are saying on Twitter by searching “#IPADay”.

4. Become a craft beer steward in your community. Encourage non-craft beer drinkers to take a break from their normal beverage routine and join the collective toast on August 2nd.

The 'craft beer' business prides itself on romantic notions of artistry and non-conformity. Thus it's bemusing (or maybe telling) that it describes its products with so many decidedly unromantic acronyms —such as IPA, DIPA, IBU, ABV, etc.— a practice similar to that of government agencies, which are not exactly 'romantic' outposts.

So, for me, I.P.A. today will be "EEE-puh." And, I might win a bar bet or two, by citing the correct historical record.

Decisions, decisions. What EEEpuh would I drink for #IPADay? Twice. Here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Happy Craft Beer Month, Virginia!

August is Virginia Craft Beer Month

WHEREAS, the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild works to promote the interests of small, independent, and traditional brewers of beer and currently 40 craft breweries operate in the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild was established in 2010 to promote economic development, streamline business processes, develop good relationships with business partners, and encourage tourism efforts; and

WHEREAS, Virginia’s craft breweries already are an economic engine in the Commonwealth; most sell their beverages only in Virginia, thus the money raised from sales of craft beers and the revenue from tourists visiting the breweries remains largely within the local economy; and

WHEREAS, the members of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild also contribute to the state’s economic growth through job creation, the purchase of locally grown barley and hops, and the donation of spent brewing grains to local farms to be used as animal feed; and

WHEREAS, the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild has designated August as Virginia Craft Beer Month, encouraging residents and visitors alike to patronize the dozens of traditional craft breweries in the state; a festival will be held August 18, 2012, August 25, 2012 in Nelson County, which will feature the Virginia Beer Cup competition to determine the best craft beer in the Commonwealth; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly hereby commend the good work of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild to promote Virginia’s small breweries; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Mike Killelea, chairman of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, as an expression of the General Assembly’s appreciation for its efforts on behalf of economic development in the Commonwealth.

So, yes Virginia, August is your Virginia Craft Beer Month, and there will be much drinking and celebrating throughout the state during the month. Several of the approximately 40 breweries and brewpubs in the state will hold special events, as well as many of the Virginia restaurants, pubs, and shops that make a point of supporting local beer.

The state's tourism department has created a website about Virginia breweries at In addition to containing an interactive map of the state's breweries, the site also has a calendar of Craft Beer events for the month. The site will continue 'live' after August.

Click for map to Virginia breweries

Connected to all this festivity are two beer-related bills —that aim to promote the business of Virginia breweries— which became law on July 1st. One allows alternating proprietorships for breweries; the other allows breweries to sell their beers and hold samplings for the public onsite in their breweries, something Virginia wineries had long been allowed to do.

Logo: Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2012

The month's crowning event will be the 1st ever Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, to be held at Devils Backbone Brewing Company's grounds in Nelson County, Virginia, on Saturday, 25 August (not the 18th as had been previously announced). According to the website —

Presented by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild and the Virginia Manufacturers Association, the 2012 Virginia Craft Brewers Festival is designed to bring together all qualified and interested Virginia Craft Breweries as an opportunity to promote the Virginia Craft Brewing Industry and the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. The event will feature the Virginia Craft Beer Cup competition in 5 Categories with the cup being awarded to the best overall brewery), beer tastings, some of Virginia’s best live bands, an amazing food experience by The Rock Barn and CAMPING in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

The passage of these bills, and the recognition of Virginia breweries, were accomplished through the hard work of many folk, but one group stands out for special recognition —and is, is recognized per se in the House and Senate proclamation— the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild and its chairman, Mike Killelea.

So, to those 40 breweries throughout Virginia ...

... we thirsty Virginian good beer drinkers, do— today, and throughout August, and long after that— drink to you in thanks ... with your Virginia beer.

Blue Mountain Silo

  • If your local beer shop or pub is NOT celebrating, ask them —politely— why not, and then refer them to the website, tell them about the burgeoning growth of 'craft' beer in Virginia, and encourage them to join the fun.
  • Another excellent resource on events during the month is the blog, maintained by Richmond, Virginia, beer enthusiast Edmond Medina.
  • Alternating proprietorship: A brewery or even a wholesaler will be able to pay another brewery to produce the former's own brand for it, and then take immediate ownership of that beer for distribution through its own channels. More on what that means here.
  • Several Virginia breweries celebrated the change of the tasting room law on July 1st, some of whom used the unfortunate term "Brewdependence," where, of course, the opposite of independence was meant. Port City celebrated (without the moniker) but on the 3rd. That story: here.
  • Virginia House Joint Resolution #522 —commending the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild and proclaiming August as Virginia Craft Beer Month— was offered in the General Assembly on 5 March 2012.