Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cask pour? You must be joking.

My usual practice on this blog is to ignore bad beer, write about good. Not so in this case. On a recent visit to a restaurant in my local area, I saw such an egregious ignorance of basic cask ale cellarmanship or, worse yet, disdain for its customers that I couldn't remain silent.

In addition to serving draught beer, the pub in question serves cask ale, both via hand-pump from temperature-controlled and blanket-pressure-protected casks, and by gravity-pour from casks on the bartop.

On the early afternoon of my visit, a cask was sitting on the bar, warm, unprotected by any cooling method: neither ice-blanket, nor insulated jacket, nor simple wet towel. The cask may have resided there for a couple of days, as there was scant in it.

I watched as the bartender tilted the cask almost vertically, and, with a straight face, pour a customer the below-pictured glass.

Cask pour? You must be joking.

Really? You must be joking!

Cask ale is fresh, CLEAR, cool, gently carbonated, and refreshing. That glass was not that. It was spent yeast and proteinaceous sludge.

A customer, not knowing the actual appearance and flavor of the beer in question, might have easily assumed that it and its brewery were not worth a second chance (let alone cask ale itself). I, 'knowing' the beer, could attest that the brewer is a capable one, and that the beer, —in its proper state— is delicious and only slightly hazy.

I've re-touched the photo to remove incriminating logos from the glass. I'll say no more than this: the restaurant is located within the Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia area. If the U.K.'s Casque Marque operated here, the pub's accreditation for "serving great cask ale" would have been summarily suspended. I'll protect the restaurant's identity but I'll abjure its actions.

UPDATE: I've been contacted by restaurant management, who has assured me that this was an aberration, not the restaurant's standard practice, and that it is taking corrective measures to prevent a recurrence. I understand that 'things happen,' which is one reason why I kept all names anonymous. I write Yours for Good Fermentables to promote good beer, not to flame someone's livelihood. I thought this a teachable moment, not a 'Yelp' gotcha.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pic(k) of the Week: Tapping The Heavy Seas

Tapping Heavy Seas (04)

It's a beer shower!

A Heavy Seas Brewing firkin (10.8 gallon cask) is tapped during the Northern Virginia Brewfest, at Morven Park, in Leesburg, Virginia, 23 June 2013.

A festival volunteer, walking by, observed: "You have cask ale today? That's bad-ass!"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pic(k) of the Week: Mr. Boh of Brewer's Hill

Mr. Boh of Brewer's Hill (02)

Mr. Boh is the iconic mascot of the long-closed National Brewing Company of Baltimore, Maryland, whose flagship beer had been National Bohemian ("Natty Boh').

Office space, retail, and condos now reside in the former brewery —located at the at the intersection of S. Conkling and O'Donnell Streets, in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore— rechristened Brewer's Hill. At night, the illuminated Mr. Boh winks once every 47 seconds (at least as counted by Baltimore beer blogger and author Alexander D. Mitchell IV).

National Bohemian is still produced, but not in Baltimore for quite some time. The international conglomerate SAB/Miller produces the beer as a contract brew for Pabst Brewing, in its Eden, North Carolina, plant. Baltimoreans will tell you that it definitely is not the original recipe, hon.

Photo taken 6 April 2013.

  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject. Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL1.
  • Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

  • Thursday, June 20, 2013

    VeggieDag Thursday: Quick Links for June

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

    Quick links for June:
  • Why the name VeggieDag? Here. Follow on Twitter: #VeggieDag.
  • Suggestions and submissions from chefs and homecooks welcomed! Here.

  • Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    2013 NoVA Summer Brewfest in Leesburg, Virginia.

    NoVa Summer Brewfest It's the 2013 edition of the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, this Saturday and Sunday, in Leesburg, Virginia. Over sixty breweries are scheduled to participate. Here's what the festival website has to say:

    This Celebration of American Beer will feature more than 60 of the America's best breweries, plenty of food to complement the craft beers, outstanding local and regional bands providing entertainment and a wide array of artists, crafters, local businesses and commercial exhibitors.

    The festival will be held at Morven Park, found just north of Leesburg, on Route 15, at Tutt Lane, Saturday, 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM, and Sunday, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM. Taps close an hour before the festival ends.

    Here's the list of 59 breweries, plus one (Virginia) cidery, and two international conglomerates: Anheuser-Busch InBev and SAB/Miller, who'll be participating this weekend. I've 'bolded' the local (Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland) breweries. (My thoughts on that after the jump.)

    Monday, June 17, 2013

    Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 21/22, 2013

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

    Weeks 21/22
    19 May - 01 June 2013

    • 2013.06.01
      How a massive volcanic eruption 200 years ago may have put American hops in the original IPAs shipped from Britain to India. The story of biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history —Mount Tambura in Indonesia— and how it impacted the English hop harvest. Via Martyn Cornell at Zythophile.

    • 2013.06.01
      Cask Ale: "Draught Beer At Its Best." Essay by Hugh Sisson of Heavy Seas Brewing, via

      DC Beer Week
    • 2013.06.01
      Dates for DC Beer Week 2013 announced: 11-18 August 2013. Via DCBeer.

    • 2013.05.31
      The Catch-22 absurdity of "gluten-free" beer regulations from the FDA (U.S. Federal Drug Administration) and the Brewers Association. Via Win Bassett at All About Beer.

    • 2013.05.31
      Beer writer Jeff Alworth proposes state-by-state beer championships, with a small number of beer styles, judged by accredited professionals and consumers panels. Via Beervana.

      Philly Beer Week
    • 2013.05.31
      Philly Beer Week returns for its 6th year, running 31 May to 9 June 2013, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    • 2013.05.30
      The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issues ruling allowing alcohol beverage manufacturers to place nutritional information on beverage labels. Via BeerPulse.

    • 2013.05.29
      Igor Stravinsky's orchestral work and ballet, The Rite of Spring, was first performed 100 years ago on 29 May 1913 —to a near-riot in the theater. Via Wikipedia.

    • 2013.05.27
      Local government forbids a Fredericksburg, Virginia, brewpub from offering cicadas on the menu because they were not "from a registered source." Via Musings Over A Pint. [Although numerous elsewhere, Brood II cicadas absent in large portions of northern Virginia. Via Fairfax Times.]

    • 2013.05.27
      Washington D.C.-area food critic defines "craft beer" as beer not sold in supermarkets. Others differ in opinion. Via DCBeer.

    • Downright Pilsner
    • 2013.05.25
      Slavish reproduction or ale-like "wacky lager." Jonathan Reeves —brewer for Port City Brewing of Alexandria, Virginia— muses about the difficulty of producing 'craft' lager.

    • 2013.05.25
      The growth of 'craft' brewery openings continues in Virginia. Stories via Northern Virginia Magazine and Washington Post.

    • 2013.05.24
      The burgeoning scandal of Rudy Kurniawan and his counterfeit Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, and its effect on the high-end wine business. Via Decanter.

    • 2013.05.24
      German brewers unite against fracking, citing the Reinheitsgebot -the German beer purity law. Via Bloomberg News.

    • 2013.05.24
      A 2012 snapshot of the business of 'craft' brewing in the United States. Via YFGF.

    • 2013.05.21
      The U.S. government's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) publishes rules for alcoholic beverage companies use of 'social media.' Via YFGF.

    • 2013.05.20
      48 killed by Oklahoma tornado and violent storms; great property damage. Via Huffington Post.

    • 2013.05.20
      Yahoo board approves $1.1 billion cash acquisition of Tumblr (via TechCrunch); re-designs Flickr (via Huffington Post).

    • 2013.05.20
      Craft brewery in Delaware divests itself of Anheuser-Busch InBev connection. Dominion Brewing, via YFGF

    • 2013.05.19
      Florida woman wins highest Powerball jackpot in history, of $590.5 million. Via CNN.
    • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories, many of which deal with beer (or wine, or whisky). Most are re-posts from Twitter @Cizauskas.
    • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

    Saturday, June 15, 2013

    Pic(k) of the Week: Blues for all ages

    Blues for all ages (01)

    Thumb's up! It was the Tinner Hill Blues Festival, in Falls Church, Virginia, on Saturday, 8 June 2013, and even this young one was getting down with the groove.
    The Tinner Hill Blues Festival was launched in 1994 [in Falls Church, Virginia] as a music-centered street festival. From those modest beginnings, the event has developed into the weekend-long fête of all things blues: art, film, lectures, and – of course – blues performances, some by acts celebrated on the national level.
    Falls Church News-Press.

    Sunday, June 09, 2013

    Open house at Peabody Heights Brewery!

    To my readers in Maryland and Washington, D.C. and its close-by suburbs of Virginia: my friends at Peabody Heights Brewery passed along this information about an open-house they're throwing on Saturday, 15 June. I'm passing it along to you.

    Peabody Heights is Baltimore's newest production brewery, and home to three separate beer brands: Baltimore-Washington Beer Works (The Raven Lager and other Edgar Allan Poe-themed beers), Public Works Ale (Red Cent Amber and more), and Full Tilt Brewing (Baltimore Pale Ale and more).

    Peabody Heights Brewery presents 
    Welcome to Summer
    Open House

    The taproom at Peabody heights

    Saturday, June 15, 2013, from 2 pm – 6 pm

    Peabody Heights Brewery
    401 E. 30th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218

    Note: This is the original location of Terrapin Park – later renamed Oriole Park!

    Tickets are $20 online at

    Brewery Tour *Beer * Food * Live Music (Willies Light and Lazlo Lee & the Motherless Children)

    Peabody Heights' brewhouse & tanks

    You MUST be 21 years or older to enter. Admission ticket includes your choice of 3 draft beers. Additional beers will be available for $3 per draft. First 100 ticket holders get a free Peabody Heights Brewery glass. Food available for purchase. You may purchase tickets at the door for $25.

    Rain or shine: we have plenty of space indoors and out! More information: here.

    Saturday, June 08, 2013

    Pic(k) of the Week: Firkin & Barrels

    Firkin & barrels

    An empty firkin (10.8 gallon cask) waits to be filled with Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale (9% abv) that had been maturing in wooden brandy barrels, at Heavy Seas Brewery.

    On 22 May 2013, employees and managers of Rustico Restaurant of Alexandria and Arlington (Ballston), Virginia, had driven north to tour the brewery, located just south of Baltimore, Maryland. There, teams from both restaurants filled a firkin apiece, primed each, and added a small measure of herbs (without knowing what the other had chosen). When the firkins reach 'condition,' each restaurant will tap its own as a challenge to the other.

    The beer is an abbey-style dubbel, fermented 25% alcoholically-stronger than 'traditional' practise:' 9% alcohol-by-volume rather than 7%. The team from Alexandria infused its firkin with orange peels, dried chamomile leaves, grains of paradise, and vanilla beans. Arlington went simpler, with strips of cherry wood and dried chipotle peppers.

    The tapping dates are Tuesday, 25 June 2013 at Rustico Alexandria, and 26 June at Rustico Ballston. More details at

    Monday, June 03, 2013

    Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 19/20, 2013

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

    Weeks 19/20
    5 May - 18 May 2013

    • 2013.05.18
      World Whisky Day was observed on 18 May 2013. In 2014: 17 May.

    • 2013.05.18
      Is craft beer's "love affair with hops" is alienating people who don’t like bitter beers? Slate Magazine wonders.

      The USS Constellation in the Inner Harbor
    • 2013.05.16
      Travel and Leisure Magazine selects the 20 best "beer cities" in the United States. (Baltimore, Maryland, picked as #20.)

    • 2013.05.16
      The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling on states to lower the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.05 or lower from the current 0.08. Via Washington Post.

    • 2013.05.15
      First ever music video from earth orbit: Commander Chris Hadfield sings David Bowie's Space Oddity aboard the International Space Station. Via YouTube.

    • 2013.05.14
      Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell growing hops at the Executive Mansion in Richmond. The hops will be used in a commemorative beer to highlight the Virginia craft beer industry, and to recognize this year's 200th anniversary of the building. Via Musings Over A Pint.

    • 2013.05.14
      The Brewers Association supports the Congressional SMALL Brew Act, which would give excise tax relief to small breweries, but opposes the BEER Act, which would do so for all breweries; claims it would be a windfall for very large international conglomerates. YouTube.

    • 2013.05.13
      American Craft Beer Week runs from Monday, 13 May through sunday 19 May 2013. Organized by the Brewers Association.

    • 2013.05.13
      A modest proposal in honor of American Craft Beer Week: Bring back the Untied States Brewers Association (USBA). Via YFGF.

      Signpost: Heavy Seas Alehouse
    • 2013.05.13
      Baltimore, Maryland's Heavy Seas Ale House to open 2nd location, in Arlington (Rosslyn), Virginia, in late 2013. Via Baltimore Sun.

    • 2013.05.11
      Birthday in beer: Jack McAuliffe, the "father" of American 'craft' beer, is 68. Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.

    • 2013.05.10
      U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) re-introduce Small BREW Act (S. 917, The Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, a bill "to stimulate regional economies nationwide with a reduction in the excise tax on each barrel of beer brewed by small brewers." Via Brewers Association of Maryland.

    • 2012.15.10
      Homebrewing legalized in Alabama and Mississippi, the last two states in the United States to forbid it. Via YFGF.

    • 2013.05.08
      More than 60 additives have been approved by U.S. regulators for use in wine-making. Most never make it to the bottle label. Via Dave McIntyre of Washington Post.

    • Clamps and Gaskets is a weekly wrap-up of stories  not posted at Yours For Good Many of the stories deal with beer (or wine, or whisky); a few do not. But all are brief, and most are re-posts from
    • The Clamps and Gaskets graphic was created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.

    Sunday, June 02, 2013

    Decades later, Bert Grant wins the argument. Beer IS food, Feds say.

    Bert Grant was one of the pioneers of the American 'craft' beer industry. A veteran of the 'mainstream' brewing industry, he left that, disenchanted, in 1982, to open the nation's first brewpub, the Yakima Brewing and Malting Company, in Yakima, Washington. When and where there had been no prior examples, it was Grant who established the brewpub paradigm, including removing government obstacles.

    Today's growing fascination with the concept of 'session' beer was predated by decades by Grant's Celtic Ale, a 3.2% alcohol-by-volume dark bottled beer, with a hefty slug of a finish: 38 International Bittering Units. (By contrast, Budweiser, containing about 5% alcohol-by-volume, is, maybe, 10 IBUs.) At the same time he was brewing small, Grant was going the other way, creating high-alcohol beers, one of the nation's first Russian Imperial Stouts, and one of its first 'craft' IPAs.

    Never reticent to promote his beer or resume, Grant was always a feisty showman. Presiding at his brewpub, and elsewhere, attired in a kilt and tam o'shanter, he would challenge:
    If you don't like [my beer], drink something else. I make it for me. I don't make it for the masses. But a lot of people seem to like it as well as me.

    Grant also took on the Federal Government. As he —and we fellow maltworms— knew, beer is liquid bread. So, he asked, in 1992, why shouldn't there be nutritional information on beer labels? In answer, he put nutritional specifications on six-pack carriers of his Scottish Ale.

    Unfortunately, the government didn't agree with his assessment.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) determined that putting nutritional information on a beer label might confuse consumers into thinking that beer actually had nutritional value, just as, say, a Twinkie might, which is required to have a nutritional label. Specifically: "any reference to vitamin content in the advertising of malt beverages would mislead a substantial number of persons to believe that consumption of the product would produce curative or therapeutic effects." The Bureau ordered him to cease and desist forthwith.

    Grant died in 2001, and his brewpub followed, in 2005. But now, two decades since the original decision, Bert Grant has a new legacy. He's won the argument.

    Last Tuesday (28 May 2013), the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) —the successor to the the BATF— ruled that breweries, wineries, and distilleries can indeed put serving size, servings per container, calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat per serving on their labels. The ruling is voluntary. A brewery (winery or distillery) does not have to do this, but may, if it wishes to.

    The distilled spirits industry has longed pushed for this change, but, ironically, breweries (and wineries) not so much. Printing the information would take up valuable 'real estate' on a bottle label and incur additional costs, and they worry that the ruling could become mandatory, as the TTB had proposed in 2007. But the ruling does contain one other significant change that breweries do commend. Labels can also list alcohol content as a percentage of alcohol by volume, rather than as a serving size.
    “We applaud the TTB’s conclusion that rules be based on how drinks are actually served and consumed,” said Joe McClain, president of the Beer Institute.

    The photo, above, of the Grant's Scottish Ale nutritional label is re-printed here, courtesy Lew Bryson (all rights reserved), from a story of Bryson's 1997 trip to Washington hopfields in 1997, which included a stop at Yakima Brewing and Malting Company, where he met with Bert Grant. If you look closely, you'll see that the photo is actually of a large poster, that Grant had produced after the BATF action. Ever the curmudgeon, Grant had written:
    Please note: Publication of this data is banned in the U.S.A. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has determined that the publication of analytical data on any alcoholic beverage that shows a positive health benefit is illegal. They do not dispute the accuracy of the analysis.

    Congratulations, Mr. Grant, and a belated thank you. I think I'll have a nutritional beer for lunch.


    Saturday, June 01, 2013

    Pic(k) of the Week: Welcomed by a Blonde

    Welcomed by a Blonde

    During American Craft Beer Week, Fire Works Pizzeria (in Arlington, Virginia) invited Allagash Brewing Company (of Portland, Maine) to host a 5-course, 6-beer dinner.

    The brewery's draft-only spring ale, Allagash Blonde —brewed with pilsner malt and traditional, noble hops (Hallertauer and Saaz), and finishing at 7.1% alcohol-by-volume— was the welcome beer for the evening.

    Things then went like this:
    • 1ST COURSE
      Baked Apple and Walnut Tart
      Served with Allagash Dubbel (7% alcohol-by-volume)

    • 2ND COURSE
      Trio of Sushi Rolls: Tuna, California & Crab Tempura
      Served with Allagash Tripel (9% alcohol-by-volume)

    • 3RD COURSE
      Brown Sugar Cedar Planked Salmon
      Served with Allagash Curieux (11% alcohol-by-volume)

    • 4TH COURSE
      Pork Roulade, Sour Cherries and Spinach with Sweet Potato Mash
      Served with Allagash Four Ale (10% alcohol-by-volume)

      Almond Cinnamon Phyllo Purse with Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
      Served with Allagash Bourbon Barrel Black (9.2% alcohol-by-volume)

    Fire Work's chef, Frank Mayo designed and prepared the menu. He and bar manager Devin Ochs chose the beer for each course. Suzanne Woods, the mid-atlantic representative for Allagash Brewing spoke at the dinner.

    14 May 2013.

  • More photos from the dinner: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia— I sell the beers of Allagash.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject. Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL1. Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.