Sunday, September 30, 2012

A 10th anniversary for YFGF

This past Friday, 28 September 2012, I marked a milestone on Yours For Good Fermentables. It was ten years earlier, on 28 September 2002, that I had posted my first entry.

I didn't say hello to the world that morning at 6:11 am; I just jumped right in. The first post was Brewed in Space, a link to a story about the effects of weightlessness on yeast fermentation. I would post only eight more times that year.

The first five years went like this...

  • In 2002: 9 posts. (Prorated for the year, there would have been 35 posts.)
  • In 2003: 13 posts.
  • In 2004: 17 posts.
  • In 2005: 21 posts.
  • In 2006: 36 posts.
Then, in 2007, I became addicted: I posted on 380 occasions. That's a 75% increase of posting frequency over the first five years combined. (I went post-al?) The next year, 2008, would be my apogee: 441 entries. In subsequent years, there was a regression to the mean.

The second five years have gone like this...
  • In 2007: 380 posts.
  • In 2008: 441 posts.
  • In 2009: 340 posts.
  • In 2010: 211 posts.
  • In 2011: 169 posts.
  • In 2012: 121 posts. (At this rate, the count at year-end will be 162.)
So: 1,758 posts in ten years. That works out to about one post for every two days.

What have I written about? 74 posts have been about wine. That's 4.2% of the total. Whisk(e)y and spirits were the focus of 15 posts (0.5%). I've posted 65 times (3.6%) on vegetarianism; on cheese, 58 times (3%). Cask-conditioned ale? On that, I've written more than 209 entries (11.8%). There are other posts, in small percentages, about this and that, flotsam and jetsam, but the remainder, the biggest chunk by far, has been about beer.

During the first five years, I posted sporadically and miscellaneously. Then, in years 2007 and 2008, YFGF transmogrified into a beer travelogue, as I sold the beers of Clipper City Brewing up and down the southeastern seaboard of the United States, and wrote about it. Since leaving the brewery's employ in late 2008, I've posted more on the local beer scene of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, home base to YFGF. At the same time, my posting has become more beer-universal. I'm writing a lot now on the nature of beer, on beer culture, and on the overall business of beer. Some posts are advertisements for events; some are links to others' stories; some are short-form notes; some are analytic essays; and some are (good-natured) rants.

That's a decade of blogging about beer. Back in 2002, how many beer blogs were there? Very few. But, what does it all mean? In the big scheme of things: not much. I'm just one man drinking beer. I still struggle with writing well. I still dangle unattached adverbs at the start of sentences. But, oh, those beers!

In 2002, there were 1,457 small, local, and independent breweries and brewpubs operating in the United States —what the Brewers Association refers to as "craft breweries." Today, there are over 2,000. That's more than ever before in the history of the nation. Some of these brew good beers, some bad, but many of the beers are interesting, and many are downright delicious. And, the majority of them, a trove of beer, I may never have the opportunity to taste.

During those ten years, I've seen more and more good beer —okay, craft beer— move into every corner of the nation, from specialist shops and pubs to convenience stores, malls, and corner bars. It has become 'main-streeted.' Isn't that —exceptionalism as the norm— our goal?

So, why have I written YFGF for ten years?

It's certainly not about the money. I make only pennies from the ads placed by Google AdSense.

One thing I haven't done much of is to post reviews of beers. That's been done to distraction by too many others —often as incomprehensible drivel. If I like a beer, I may mention it. If I don't, I won't. The number of my reviews over 10 years? 117 (that's 6.6% of the total number of my posts). I've preferred to respect the personal palates of my readers. And, this is important. If ever I post about a beer I sell, or in which I have a stake, I mention that connection, very clearly. Without ethics in blogging, readers' trust is violated, and a blog becomes irrelevant.

I've been a brewer in my career, although not so for several years now. These days, I'm selling beer for a living, but the yearning to brew professionally remains an intimate part of my make-up. Thus, I don't refer to myself as an "ex-brewer." Rather, I regard myself, wistfully, as "brewer without portfolio." I think my career has given me insight into understanding and empathizing with brewers, and, if needed, criticizing.

Among those two-thousand breweries open today, there are many that may never achieve nationally heralded rock-stardom. That omission is not necessarily a measure of the quality of their beers or skill of their brewers, but sometimes, rather, a matter of luck, of demeanor, and of geography. Furthermore, there are many worthy breweries that have long ceased operations, and there are some brewers who are no longer with us. My blogging about them inscribes their names into the permanent record of the internet.

So, the question remains: why do I blog? Simply put, it's because of those brewers and their beers, and that is a humbling thing. For me, beer has been the journey, not the destination. And, what a splendid journey this decade has been. Now, with good fortune, I'm on to the next. As Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass

Sail Forth- Steer for the deep waters only.

broaching casks in cooler

  • I began posting photos to Flickr in 2006. To date, I've posted 10,483 'public' pictures.
  • I joined Twitter in 2008. Since then, I've 'Tweeted' 9,120 times. That's 5.5 Tweets per day. As my frequency of Tweeting increased, my frequency of blogging decreased. UPDATE: Another milestone of a sort: on Saturday, 6 October, my Twitter account attained its 2,000th follower.
  • More about my career in beer: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Clipper City (Heavy Seas).

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Rhubarb


Photo courtesy: Albert Cizauskas.
Camera: Canon EOS 40D

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, September 28, 2012

Cask ale at Camden Yards!

Back in April, on baseball's Opening Day in Washington, D.C., I bemoaned the limited choices for good beer at Nationals Park. A reader took me to task, writing:

Nats Park is a baseball stadium and not a bar. You can get many great local beers at many pubs in the district. The beers that are available at the park are beers that appeal to the mass consumers and that is what sells. It is not cheap to own a baseball team and they have a right to sell products that will generate revenue. You are going to sell a lot more of a domestic light beer at a baseball game than a IPA or Porter. I think the selection is fine and the food options are great as well.

Well, check this out, Mr. (or Ms.) Anonymous!

Babe & Bromo

Just 45 miles north of Nationals Park sits Oriole Park at Camden Yards —home to the Orioles in Baltimore, Maryland. Not only does Camden Yards offer a greater number of concession stands serving good beers, bottled and draft, than does Nationals Park, it also serves ... cask-conditioned ale.

Cask ale is naturally carbonated, unfiltered, beer that is served in a small cask in which the secondary fermentation occurs (that is, the carbonating fermentation). Think of a cask almost as a mini-fermenter, sent out from a brewery. Thus, when a cask is tapped, it's truly fresh beer. It's a specialist product, requiring much more care to handle than bottles or kegs.

For nearly every Friday home game this season, Flying Dog Brewing of Frederick, Maryland, has tapped and served two casks at Camden Yards —one at the Roof Deck, a bar and pavilion overlooking centerfield, and the other at Section 23 in the main level concourse.

On Friday, 7 September, I was invited to tap a cask of Flying Dog's —ahem— Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout. Two firkins (10.8 gallon casks) had been transported to the ballpark several days earlier and allowed to rest, kept cool, on their bellies. Then, on Friday morning, J.R. Woolsey —the brewery's Sales Specialist in Maryland, and the point man at the ballpark— vented the casks on the stillages on which they would be tapped (a process known as bringing the casks into condition).

My part in this caper was easy —other than navigating the traffic of the D.C. Beltway/I-95 north corridor. I arrived at Camden Yards at 3:30, and was met by J.R. and the rest of the crew from Flying Dog.

Firkin 4
Left to right: Adam McGinnis —creative director; Keith Kohr —brewer; J.R. Woolsey —Maryland Sales Specialist; Ben Savage —Vice-President Marketing & Brand Development.

We had a quick beer at Dempsey's, a brewpub on the grounds of the ballpark. Then, it was on to the centerfield Roof Deck just opened for 2012. In fact, the entire ballpark has had a facelift and was looking mighty spiffy.

Cask-conditioned ale is traditionally served less cold than bottled or draft beer. The fresh flavors, and subtleties of the secondary fermentation, are better revealed and appreciated at what's known as 'cellar' temperature: 54 °F degrees or so. But that Friday was a very hot day, and standard cooling methods wouldn't work to keep the beer cool. So, the crew draped a bag of ice over the firkin.

Cizauskas vs. cask (04)

At 4 pm, I swung a mallet, pounding a tap into a wooden keystone, and the stout flowed, pouring jet black, with a cafe-au-lait head. It was 5.5% alcohol-by-volume, and 35 IBUs (bittering units) from Perle hops.

Here's the kicker. Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout was indeed brewed with actual whole Virginia Rappahannock oysters, added to the mash and boil. Brewer Kohr told me that the oysters' shells added alkalinity to the mash, somewhat countering the elevated acidity of the dark and roasted malts.

Those oysters didn't become beer in vain, however. A portion of proceeds from sales of the beer is donated to the Oyster Recovery Fund.

How did the beer taste? Roasty like espresso, dark chocolatey (like unsweetened baker's chocolate), with a hint of sweetness at the finish. That this was not a hyped-up-high-alcohol beer was refreshing on a hot day. And, was that saltiness I tasted on the finish? ... Or was that the power of suggestion?

Friday Pearl Necklace firkin

The ballparks' concessionaire, hospitality company Delaware North, might have been a bit squeamish about the beer's name. At the ballpark, the beer was simply called Oyster Stout. But they are to be commended for their craft beer program (not withstanding any financial considerations) and —to my mind— a benighted proffer of cask ale at a ballpark. Commendation must also go to Flying Dog Brewery for initially suggesting the project, and then steadfastly following through. (Nationals Park: are you paying attention?).

The beer that afternoon was good; the game, not so much. The Orioles lost to the New York Yankees, 4-3.

But, the team has done well, and, three weeks later, with only 6 games to play in the season, it's but one game behind the New York Yankees in the race for the American League East Division pennant. One of those games is tonight vs. the Boston Red Sox. It's at 7:05, and it's at home, and that means there will be cask ale from Flying Dog. It's the last home game of the season; it's the last cask ale at the ballpark until next season.

Ain't the (Flying Dog) beer cold (02)

Flying Dog's Single Hop Imperial IPA is brewed and fermented with Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand hop with a pronounced character not unlike that of that nation's Sauvingon Blanc wine. Two firkins of the beer were infused —directly inside the casks— with more of those Nelson Sauvins. The firkins are there now at Camden Yards, waiting to be tapped: 4 pm on the Roofdeck Bar, and 4:30 pm at the Section 23 Flying Dog concession stand. The beer will be sold tonight until the casks' contents are drained. And, did I mention that Single Hop Imperial IPA is a 'mere' 10% alcohol-by-volume?

To paraphrase the late great Orioles sportscaster, Chuck Thompson, and to recognize the challenging logistics needed to serve cask ale at a ballpark:

Ain't the ale cool?

  • More photos from the 7 September tapping: here.
  • Earlier press notices of cask ale at Camden Yards:
  • The only other baseball park —that I know of— serving cask ale is AT&T Park, home to the Giants, in San Francisco, California.
  • Learn more about cask ale: CaskAleUSA.
  • Although the idea of a brewpub (a restaurant that brews its own beer on the premises) in a ballpark is splendid, I was less than impressed with the quality of beer at Dempsey's. To be fair, I tried only one beer —the IPA— and I didn't try the food. Since the pub will remain open year-round, maybe I'll visit again after the baseball season has concluded.
  • Contrast all this with the less stellar state of beer at Nationals Park, 45 mles to the south: here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I don't always drink wine, but, when I do, might I drink Paso Robles?

"Does a man have only one wine? Preposterous."

The video below is posted purely for your wine drinking pleasure... and, it should be noted, for your wine education. It's mildly funny and gently educational. The wines from Paso Robles, in California, can be, indeed, quite tasty.

By the way, say it "pasoh ROH buhls," not "pasoh ROH blays." Or, maybe not.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Willkommen Oktoberfest!

In the northern hemisphere, today is the first day of autumn, and the daylight hours already are noticeably fewer. In Munich, Germany, it's the first day of Oktoberfest, putatively the largest party in the world.

Jumping the gun by nine days, Gordon-Biersch brewpub in Tysons Corner, Virginia, celebrated the annual release of its Oktoberfest lager, on Thursday, 13 September, Brewer Grant Carson, bedecked in Bavarian garb, presided. The pub, plunked in a suburban mall, was filled that night. A traditional German band played beer tunes (Ein Prosit), and a 2-liter boot of Oktoberfest was passed around, folk sipping communally.

Willkommen Oktoberfest!

Carson told me that, six weeks earlier, he had brewed the 5.9% alcohol-by-volume, amber-colored lager with imported-from-Germany Wyermann malts (pilsner, Munich, Caramel, Melanoidin) and German hops (Hersbrucker). After fermentation, he lagered the beer (matured it at cool temperatures) in horizontal tanks during the intervening 35 or so days.

I found the beer to have a firm toasted-biscuit malt flavor, with a finishing touch —just a touch— of caramel sweetness. And, if you searched for it —I did— you noticed some floral Hersbrucker hop spiciness. Delicious! I invite 'hop heads' to join in the fun and become re-introduced to the intoxicating (pun intended) flavors of malted barley.

0.5 liters of Oktoberfest (01) Washington, D.C. posts a list of Oktoberfest-themed festivals in the greater Washington, D.C. area, some of which, such as Gordon-Biersch, have occurred already, and many of which will take place well into October (not quite following the time-line of the Munich festival).

Two long-standing area establishments deserve special mention. Blob's Park in Jessup, Maryland —a Bavarian beer hall, beer garden, dance hall, and restaurant— has been open since 1933. It was closed in 2007/8, before being re-opened by the great-nephew of the original owner, German immigrant Max Blob. The Selinger family opened the Old Stein Inn in Edgewater, Maryland in 1983. Last year, son Michael and his wife Beth rebuilt and re-opened the restaurant and beer garden after a devastating fire.

See other round-ups of D.C. area Oktoberfests at:, Washington Post's Going Out Gurus, and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News' Hop Tips.

As to the world's largest party, here's what's happening in Munich, Germany, today through Sunday, 7 October.
Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world's largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event.

The Munich Oktoberfest originally took place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival would go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the first Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1.


Official 2012 Oktoberfest Poster

From the official Oktoberfest website:
On Saturday, September 22nd, the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noontime, 12pm, the lord mayor of Munich will have the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the barrel has been tapped, all visitors will then be allowed to quench their thirst. It pays to arrive early in order to experience the festivities up close and personal and it's quite common for visitors to come around 9am to secure good seats. The festival will last until October 7th.

  • More photos from the Gordon-Biersch tapping: here.
  • Related story on the Munich Oktoberfest: Einstein's Oktoberfest.
  • My 'local,' Mad Fox Brewing Company, in Falls Church, Virginia, is blocking off the courtyard in front of the brewpub on Sunday, 22 September, for a day-long festival including a traditional German band, a German-inspired food menu, the tapping of the brewpub's Oktoberfest lager —Hitzig Frau, and, very un-traditionally, 22 IPAs (very hoppy ales) from other mid-Atlantic breweries.
  • Via TimeAnd, the autumnal equinox occurs on the U.S. east coast at exactly 10:49am today, Saturday, 22 September 2012. The autumnal and vernal equinoxes are the only two times during the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west.
  • 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.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 30/31/32, 2012

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

Weeks 30/31/32
22 July - 11 August 2012

  • 2012.08.11
    Sake 'micro'-brewery to open in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2013, only the 4th in the U.S. Via

  • 2012.08.11
    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney chooses Rep. Paul Ryan to be his Vice-Presidential running mate. Via Washington Post.

    Tim Hillman: 1963-2012
  • 2012.08.10
    Tim Hillman: A Gentleman of Maryland Beer. Via YFGF.

  • 2012.08.10
    New Maryland brewery, Ruhlman (Farmhouse) Brewery, opens in Carroll County. Via "The Original" Beer in Baltimore.

  • 2012.08.09
    Washington, D.C. and Maryland good beer fans lend a helping hand to Bethesda, Maryland, publican Greg Hourigan. Via YFGF.

    Hugh Sisson talks
  • 2012.08.09
    Hugh Sisson of Heavy Seas Brewing discusses 'gypsy brewers.' They respond. Via Beer Pulse.

  • 2012.08.08
    Washington DC's newest brewery, 3 Stars Brewing debuts its beers. Via Washington Post.

  • 2012.08.08
    The story of National Premium's rebirth. Via Baltimore City Paper.

  • 2012.08.08
    How to open a beer bottle with a dollar bill (and other valuable techniques). Via Bar Tricks.

  • 2012.08.07
    Marvin Hamlisch, Broadway composer, dies at 68. Via New York Times.

  • 2012.08.08
    Monocacy Brewing opens in Frederick, Maryland. Via WTOP Radio.

  • 2012.08.06
    Smartmouth Brewing Company announces plans to open in Norfolk, Virginia. Via Inside Business.

  • 2012.08.06
    After voyage of 324 million miles, Rover Curiosity touches down on Mars, on schedule at 1:32am EDT. Via Washington Post.

  • 2012.08.04
    The number of 'farmers markets' in the U.S. increased 9.6% in past year. Now, 7,864 registered markets. (In 1994, there were 1,744.) Via Huffington Post.

  • 2012.08.03
    Virginia Governor Bob Mcdonnell increases state support of in-state wineries. Via WVIR-TV.

  • 2012.08.03
    In Cannes, France: a winery at ... a monastery. Via

  • 2012.08.02
    August 2nd, 2012: International IPA Day.

    Presenting: Garrett Oliver
  • 2012.07.29
    Birthday in beer: Garrett Oliver, author, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery. Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • 2012.07.27
    The official beer of the London Olympics will be ... Heineken. Via Brewers' Guardian.

  • 2012.07.25
    Birthday in Beer: Paul Gatza, the director of the U.S. (small) Brewers Association.

  • * YFGF is several weeks behind in its updates for Clamps & Gaskets. While the column becomes '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, September 15, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Ink & Firkin

Ink & Firkin

Bartender Ian Morgan pours a pint of cask-conditioned Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop3 American IPA (7.2% abv) from a cask. His personal artwork enhanced the visuals.

Falls Church, Virginia.
8 September 2012.

Several weeks earlier, Lary and Erica Hoffman —proprietors of spacebar — had traveled to the Heavy Seas Brewery, in Halethorpe, Maryland. There, with the assistance of the brewery's cellarman, Stephen Marsh, the duo racked fresh beer into a firkin (a cask that holds 10.8 US gallons), added a small measure of freshly fermenting gyle for carbonation, and (for additional flavor) infused the ale with herbs, hops, and fruit of their choosing: Kaffir lime leaves, dried Maryland peaches, 'fish' peppers, and Simcoe and Citra hops.

There are many hop varietals —grown usually only in female form— for brewers to use in their beers. Many new cultivars are released every year, but some are discontinued after a few years.

Most hops —in particular, those geared toward use by small, 'craft,' brewers— have a fruity and citrusy aroma and flavor, others grassy and floral. In addition to aroma and flavor, they impart finishing bitterness. For example, Simcoe hops are 'catty' and grapefruity, while Citra lean more toward the tropically fruity.

How was the cask that day? In tandem, the Citra hops and dried peaches created quite an insanely fresh fruit basket aroma. The 'fish' peppers added a little kick at the finish ... although that may have been foreknowledge!

  • More photos from spacebar: here.
  • What is cask-conditioned ale? Here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virgina— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas Brewing.
  • 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, September 14, 2012

Happy birthday, Star Spangled Banner!

Star-Spangled Banner

Today, 198 years ago, American lawyer Francis Scott Key composed the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner, while held captive by British forces during the Battle of Baltimore.

It was during what became known as the War of 1812, fought between Britain and the United States, over various issues including trade and territorial disagreements (including attempts by the U.S. to annex Canadian territory).

In August of 1814, the British captured and burned Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia. They moved on to attack Baltimore, Maryland. Over a two-day battle, 13-14 September 1814, they would be repulsed by Maryland and national forces. On the morning of the 14th, Key saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry, and was inspired to write his poem The Defense of Fort McHenry.

His poem would soon be set to a tune of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th-century London club of amateur musicians, and become known as The Star Spangled Banner.

On 3 March 1931, Congress would officially declare The Star Spangled Banner to be the official anthem of the United States of America.

The land of the free and the home of the brave.

  • I took this photo on 11 September 2012, in Arlington, Virginia. It's a large United States flag draped on the County Building, in honor of the more than 3,000 Americans who lost their lives on 11 September 2001, when terrorists attacked in New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Shankesville, Pennsylvania ... and, as of Wednesday, in honor of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other personnel, who were murdered during a terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.
  • Caveat lector: My source for much of the history above was Wikipedia. Even so, its information seemed well-annotated.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 27/28/29, 2012

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

Weeks 27/28/29
1 July - 21 July 2012

  • 2012.07.20
    'Craft' beer sales up 12.6% for 2012. IPA is fastest growing category, and most purchased 'craft' style. Via Shanken News Daily.

    Stoudt's on the dais
  • 2012.07.18
    Birthday in beer: Carol Stoudt: craft beer pioneer going strong.

  • 2012.07.16
    Study finds nicotinamide riboside, a molecule in beer, to boost metabolism while preventing weight gain and diabetes. Via Jaime Jurado on Facebook.

  • 2012.07.14
    Boston University study finds those aged 50+ who drink "in moderation" have better quality of life than teetotalers. Via MSN.

  • 2012.07.14
    Folk singer, composer, and social activist Woody Guthrie would have been 100 years old today. Via NPR.

  • 2012.07.13
    The Beer Philosopher asks: Can 'craft' beer be filtered or pasteurized?

  • 2012.07.13
    The Beer Scribe says that fewer people are reading beer blogs.

  • 2012.07.13
    The U.S. Beer Bloggers Conference was held 13-15 July 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

  • 2012.07.12
    Yahoo confirms server breach: over 400,000 accounts compromised. Via Engadget.

  • 2012.07.12
    The Rolling Stones played their first gig 50 years ago today. Via NBC News.

    Nats by water
  • 2012.07.12
    PETA recognizes Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. for vegetarian fare. Via DCist.

  • 2012.07.11
    Draught wine making a comeback. Is it a more sustainable, profitable alternative to bottled wine? Via Triple Pundit.

  • 2012.07.10
    New Washington, D.C. brewery 3 Stars begins brewing. Via YFGF.

    Samuel Adams Brewery in Cincinnati
  • 2012.07.09
    Boston Beer Company (maker of Sam Adams) stock falls nearly 7% after UBS downgrades its analysis to ‘sell.’ Via BeerPulse.

  • 2012.07.08
    Feast day of Saint Arnold - Roman Catholic patron saint of hop pickers & brewers - celebrated today. Via Wikipedia.

  • 2012.07.08
    Ernest Borgnine, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a butcher in 1955's "Marty," has died, at age 95. Via CNN.

  • 2012.07.08
    The subtle science of Scotch Whisky: Master Blender Rachel Barrie of Morrison Bowmore Distillers has a great nose. Via Wall Street Journal.

  • 2012.07.08
    Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, at 19, is youngest position player ever to be in baseball's All-Star game. Via Washington Post.

  • 2012.07.03
    Higgs boson particle discovered: "the final piece of the Standard Model of physics, which describes the interactions of all subatomic particles and forces, and is required to give all other particles their mass." Via Wired Science.

  • 2012.07.03
    Andy Griffith, actor, TV sheriff From Mayberry, dies at 86. Via New York Times.

  • * YFGF is several weeks behind in its updates for Clamps & Gaskets. While the column becomes '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.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

“I Have Nothing to Say and I Am Saying It.”

A few years back, I attended a performance of 'avant-garde' music at which one piece was by the composer, musical artist, and teacher, John Cage. As one of the musicians twirled a noise-maker over his head (instructed to do so in the score), I heard a loud guffaw behind me. I turned around to see who was interrupting. It was John Cage, himself, thoroughly enjoying the moment. "I consider laughter preferable to tears."

While in college, I 'performed' Cage's 4'33" on the student radio station, WTJU, 'live,' with several participants. The piece, as 'written,' consists of the sounds of the environment, the performer, and audience, and only those sounds, as a pianist sits at a piano: coughs, breaths, giggles, and all. For four minutes and thirty-three seconds, we did little except move about, an electric piano in the room, while the microphone remained open. Several listeners called to complain; a few called, worried that something was amiss.

If John Cage's art were merely didactic (it wasn't), a lesson may have been that the world itself is a music-maker. To hear it, one must shut up and listen.

John Cage died in 1992. September 5th was the centenary of his birth.

I have nothing to say 
and I am saying it 
and that is poetry 
as I needed it.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Weizen sippers

Weizen sippers

These two patrons of World of Beer are enjoying their hefe-weizens.

Arlington (Ballston), Virginia.
6 August 2012.

In the foreground, she's sipping a weizen brewed by G. Schneider & Sohn (Kelheim, Bavaria, Germany). In the background, she's drinking a wheat beer adorned with a slice of fruit, an accouterment one would not see in Germany.

  • "Weissbier is the classical wheat beer of Bavaria <...> Weissbier means "white beer" in German. This name derives from the yellowish-white tinge that is imparted by the pale wheat and barley malts from which the beer is made. Outside Bavaria, most weissbier is better known as hefeweizen, literally "yeast wheat" in German. This name is derived from the fact that it is a wheat-based beer that is usually packaged unfiltered, with plenty of yeast turbidity in the finished beer."
    The Oxford Companion to Beer
  • 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.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A brewer speaks at the Democratic Convention.

Bill Butcher is a 40-something small-business owner in Alexandria, Virginia. A past wine company executive, his business now is beer, and he's all in.

Butcher opened Port City Brewing Company, in Alexandria, in 2010, the first production brewery to operate in that town —located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.— since 1916.

Bill Butcher of Port City Brewing

Tonight, Mr. Butcher goes —not to Washington, but— to Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been invited to speak before the Democratic National Convention. I asked him about this signature honor, what he would be speaking on, and about his brewery.

YFGF: How did you receive your invitation to speak?
I got a call from the campaign a few weeks ago. The DNC [Democratic National Committee] was looking for a couple of small businesses that had gotten SBA [Small Business Administration] loans over the past few years. That's how we got on their radar. It turns out that many of the local DNC folks are also fans of our beer.

YFGF: When will you be speaking, and how much time have you been allotted? (Will you be talking to an empty chair?)
I will be speaking for about 2 minutes, between 9:00 and 9:30 on Wednesday evening. No empty chairs: that's been done

Democratic National Convention 2012

YFGF: Without giving away the speech itself, what will be your major points?
The administration had enacted a program to waive the fees on SBA loans and cut red tape to get banks to start lending money to small businesses again. We were able to take advantage of this program, which encouraged our bank to work with an independent start up, and saved us money on fees, which we were able to invest instead in more brewing equipment. 

YFGF: What have been the challenges of small businesses in this economic environment?
Capital is still very hard to raise. It's not easy to get a business loan, and banks are not in the business of taking risk; they make sure that the loans are fully collateralized. The SBA continues to have a positive impact in helping entrepreneurs get loans, by being an additional guarantor. This additional security encourages banks to work with more small businesses. 

YFGF: Is mixing politics and beer business a good thing?
While I do vote in every election, I do not get involved politically. I'm simply too busy running our business. Our beer is served at Republican fundraisers as well as Democratic fundraisers. I believe that beer is apolitical, and it is something that brings people together. Tonight, I'm there simply to tell our story. We were able to take advantage of an SBA program that helped us finally get the attention of a bank, and encouraged them to make us a loan. I think that no matter your politics, we can all be pro-business, pro local business, and pro small business. That's what we are. 

YFGF: Let's talk about Port City Brewing. What is the percentage of sales growth since you opened the brewery in February 2011?
We brewed 3000 barrels (~42,000 cases) of craft beer in our first year. We will roughly double that this year with about 85,000 cases. We will continue to grow our business in our existing markets, and open new markets as long as we can ensure continuity of supply. We are seriously committed to no out of stocks for our existing customers. Due to our careful planning, we have not let any of our customers down by not having product available for them. We are quite proud of that. 

YFGF: Is local citizenry attuned to supporting local businesses like yours?
Definitely! I see a real sense of local pride developing around our brewery, as well as around the whole emerging local DC beer scene. 

YFGF: What do you think your greatest achievement with Port City has been?
We are only at the beginning of this adventure. We still have a lot to do! We wake up every day ready to hustle, and we know that if we're not brewing great beer, then people will have no reason to buy it.

Port City beer on the shelf

Our beers are now sold in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and North Carolina, and are available in about 600 bars, restaurants, and retailers from Asheville to Annapolis. I am very proud of our distribution that we have been able to achieve; it's a good start! We are building a solid foundation for success, and that is our greatest achievement. 

Tonight, Bill Butcher's television audience will include many Virginians and, nationwide, many small-brewery owners and brewers. They'll be listening with interest; they'll be watching with pride.

I know what you're thinking, and sorry. I'm not here to give out free beer.

You know, I don't have time to pay much attention to politics because I'm too busy running my business. I think a lot of small-business owners feel the same way. We don't care about the daily back and forth of campaigns. We just want leaders in Washington who believe in us and make it just a little easier for us to succeed. Our president is that kind of leader.

There were moments when my wife Karen and I wondered if we would ever get our business off the ground. I remember what it was like to go to bank after bank after bank hearing "No." We may not have ever gotten to "Yes" if it wasn't for President Obama and the SBA loan program he started.

For these last four years, I've had a president who's on my side. He cut small-business taxes 18 times. He kept middle class taxes low, which meant more customers for my product. He knows that growing the middle class helps businesses create jobs.

And I know that if he gets a second term, entrepreneurs like me will have the best possible chance to succeed.

I hear President Obama has been brewing some beer in the White House recently, and I know you're not supposed to endorse a competitor, but in this case I'm going to make an exception.

Our president has fought for small-business owners, and now it's time to fight for him. Thank you everybody.

  • Mr. Butcher speaks tonight between 9 and 9:30. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, himself a past brewery owner, speaks during the 8 o'clock hour. Full schedule of speakers: here.
  • C-SPAN has the video of Butcher's appearance: here.
  • Transcript above via Daily Kos.
  • If you're at the convention, and you'd like to enjoy a Port City beer, here's a list of who's got it in Charlotte.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

DRP welcomes Heavy Seas, with 5-course dinner

Del Ray Pizzeria presents 
A 5-course beer dinner 

featuring the menu of
Chef Eric Reid 
& the beers of
Heavy Seas Brewing

of Baltimore, Maryland. 

General Manager Sean Snyder welcomed the 25 guests to the restaurant's new upstairs private dining room. Co-hosting was Spencer Hannas, the newly-minted local representative for Heavy Seas, and Stephen Marsh, the brewery's cask cellarmaster. Photos and commentary added after the dinner.

  • 1st COURSE 
    Kartoffelsuppe (Potato Soup) & Leberwurst

    Served with Heavy Seas
    Red Sky at Night Saison,
    on draught (7.5% abv, vintage 2011)

  • 2nd COURSE 
    Spätzle and Mushrooms

    Served with a freshly tapped firkin of The Great Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale (8.5% abv)
    Reid and Snyder collaborated with Heavy Seas' cellarmaster Stephen Marsh to fill a cask of Great Pumpkin, adding smoked vanilla beans, fish peppers, Chipotle peppers, and molasses.

    Some of those herbs and vegetables, such as the fish peppers, had been grown on Marsh's own 2,00 square food garden in Maryland. Fish peppers have an interesting provenance. According to Mother Earth News:
    The ‘Fish’ peppers came from Baltimore, where they had been employed by African-American caterers to make white paprika for the cream sauces then popular with fish and shellfish cookery. In terms of heat, they are like cayenne, but are more mellow when cooked. The white pods were also used in soups where red peppers would have created a muddied appearance. These peppers had been in use since the 19th century, one of those secret heirloom ingredients that never showed up in cookbooks. They were simply part of oral tradition.

  • Box Roasted Suckling Pig
  • 3rd COURSE
    Box Roasted Suckling Pig
    Sauerkraut and Warm Potato Salad

    Served with Heavy Seas Winter Storm Imperial ESB (7.5% abv)
    This will be the 2012 release for the brewery's award-winning annual winter beer.

  • 4th COURSE 
    Veal Cordon Bleu
    Steamed White Asparagus

    Served With Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop3 American IPA (7.25% abv), on draught.

  • Two collaboration casks (02)
    Crumb Cake
    made with brown sugar and a touch of cayenne, finished with apple slices

    Served with Heavy Seas Below Decks Barleywine, on draught (10% abv, vintage 2011)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Toward a better Labor Day

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

But despite that right of assembly, the United States is, today, less free for labor than 41 other nations —as rated by Freedom House— in part, because U.S. employers can, with relative impunity, fire or demote employees for attempting to assemble into a union. Although such 'freedom of association' is not explicitly protected in the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in many cases that the Constitution does do so implicitly.

From authors Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit:

Labor must make clear, in word and deed, that it is part of a broader movement for social justice and against concentrated wealth and power, not just a special interest concerned only with its membership.

When union wages increase, nonunion employers respond by raising pay, too, to attract workers. And each percentage-point decline in the U.S. unionization rate has been accompanied by a comparable fall in the proportion of income going to the middle class.

We Can Do It!

Unions need to show that they are a vehicle for vindicating the individual rights that Americans hold dear against the power of large employers and the government. Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for individual civil rights as a fulfillment of the Declaration of Independence’s promise of equal opportunity, so the labor movement should fight for individuals’ First Amendment right to engage in the freedom of association, including the right to form a union.
[emphasis mine]

Federally recognized in 1894, Labor Day is an American holiday, observed on the first Monday in September, that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. Today, let's honor them by pledging to work toward a better Labor Day.

  • Read this marvelous rant from Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent Senator from VermontLabor Day, 2012. "The American people are angry."
  • I would be sorely remiss, if, on Labor Day, I failed to thank the brewers —who make our daily beer, so refreshing after an honest day's work. So ... Thank you!

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 24/25/26, 2012

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

Weeks 24/25/26
10 June - 30 June 2012

    Tree down on Great Falls Street
  • 2012.06.30
    Aggressive storm, called a derecho, knocks out power to more than one million in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland. Via Huffington Post. YFGF photos: here.

  • 2012.06.28
    In split decision, Supreme Court upholds the individual mandate of the Affordable Health Care Act, but as a tax. Via New York Times.

  • 2012.06.27
    Cider making a 'comeback' in U.S., especially by big breweries. Via Washington Post.

    Heavy Seas hires new Brewing Operations Director
  • 2012.06.27
    Maryland's Heavy Seas Brewing Company hires former Sam Adams brewer as Director of Brewing Operations. Via YFGF.

  • 2012.06.26
    Despite more consolidation among big breweries, beer blogger Beervana says fans of 'craft beer' need not be concerned.

  • 2012.06.25
    The best restaurants, chefs, and bars in the Washington, D.C. area, as voted upon for the 2012 Rammy Awards of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Via the Washington City Paper.

  • 2012.06.25
    Supreme Court strikes down portions of Arizona immigration law , but allows 'show me your papers' provision. Via Washington Post.

  • 2012.06.25
    2012 International Cheesemonger Invitational: Washington, D.C.'s Adam Smith of Cowgirl Creamery crowned champion. Via Cheese and Champagne.

  • 2012.06.22
    It's the "Summer of Riesling": 22 June through 20 September, 2012.

  • 2012.06.18
    Fraud scandal threatens Burgundy's vaunted reputation. Via New York Times.

  • 2012.06.18
    Pitcher Roger Clemens found not guilty of all charges in perjury trial. Via ESPN.

    Federal Hill flag
  • 2012.06.18
    The War of 1812, fought between the United Sates and the British empire, began on this date in 1812. Via Wikipedia.

  • 2012.06.17
    Brewer Terry Hawbaker leaves Farmer's Cabinet Brewery in Alexandria, Virginia, after less than a year and just as distribution begins ... but only in Pennsylvania. Via Lew Bryson.

  • 2012.06.17
    Senate Small Brewers Caucus members 1012 roll: here. House Small Brewers Caucus 2012 roster: here

  • 2012.06.17
    Lost Rhino Brewing of Ashburn, Virginia, ferments a wheat beer with a 'wild,' native Virginia yeast. Via DC Beer.

  • 2012.06.17
    It's Bloomsday 2012, and the 90th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses. Via Borderbend Arts Collective.

  • 2012.06.15
    The top 20 U.S. markets for craft beer drinking, percentage-wise. Via [The Original] Beer in Baltimore.

  • 2012.06.15
    Sandor Katz: author, Art of Fermentation: "The flavorful space between fresh and rotten." Via Fresh Air.

  • 2012.06.13
    4,000 hours of jazz recorded at loft of photo-essayist W. Eugene Smith, discovered. Via Indy Week.

  • 2012.06.11
    British beer historian, Martyn Cornell, tastes 137-year old beer: bottle of Allsopp's 1875 Arctic Ale. Via Zythophile.

  • * YFGF is several weeks behind in its updates for Clamps & Gaskets. As the column becomes '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, September 01, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: The Road goes ever on and on!

The road goes on forever!

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

With apologies to Bilbo Baggins (or not), Ethel Mae the beagle checks out life on the road.

McLean, Virginia.
25 August 2012.