Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From 12-18 May 2014, it's American Craft Beer Week®.

From 12-18 May, it's American Craft Beer Week, organized by the Brewers Association (BA), a national advocacy group for "small and independent" breweries in the U.S.


Here's an excerpt from the BA's press release:

A Country Brewnited During American Craft Beer Week®

Toasting Small and Independent Brewers with Celebrations in All 50 States

ACBW2014From May 12-18, 2014, beer lovers everywhere will toast the country’s craft beer renaissance during the ninth annual celebration of American Craft Beer Week (ACBW). With more than 2,800 small and independent craft breweries and hundreds more popping up across the country every year, the observance of ACBW is more significant than ever before. Across all 50 states, craft beer lovers, breweries, wholesalers and retailers will celebrate the culture and community of craft beer.

“American Craft Beer Week allows everyone to honor and toast the hard work and success of the craft beer community,” said Julia Herz, publisher of and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association. “Against many odds, craft brewers have used grassroots efforts to grow the industry one glass, one bottle, one can, one keg, one growler and one customer at a time.”

ACBW2014New this year, ACBW celebrates the many faces of craft beer. Presented in a video montage, brewers from all 50 states have united by taking “selfies” to best represent their brewery and state. All are encouraged to take their own “selfies” with craft beer from small and independent brewers and post on social media using hashtag #ACBW to help celebrate the week.

Untappd, the mobile-based social network that connects breweries with craft beer lovers, is also offering an American Craft Beer Week Badge for users who check in during ACBW events. Find an expanded list of U.S. beer weeks and join the conversation on Twitter with #ACBW and look for updates on the ACBW Facebook page. To find a local celebration, event or promotion, visit

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Celebrating Legend!

Celebrating Legend

It was a party twenty years in the making, and this gentleman was making the most of it. Legend Brewing Company —of Richmond, Virginia— celebrated its 20th year of existence with a party, a really big party.

Twenty years earlier, in February 1994, Legend —and, the name is indeed spelled without an 's'— would brew and deliver its very first beers, ever. At that time, the only other microbreweries (such things were not yet ubiquitously called 'craft') in Virginia were Richbrau (also in Richmond), Blue Ridge Brewing (in Charlottesville), Bardo Rodeo (a brewpub in Arlington), and Dominion Brewing Company (in Ashburn, northern Virginia). Dominion has since moved to Delaware, but the other three have closed. 1

To commemorate the two-decade milestone, Legend threw a big shindig for its fans, Saturday, 19 April 2014, on the brewery grounds, along the banks of the James River, in the up-and-coming Old Manchester neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia. Bagpipers, barbeque, musical acts, horses, and, oh, yes, beer. One of the four beers this Legend fan was holding was the brewery's Imperial Brown Ale, which had been aged in bourbon barrels especially for the anniversary.

The brewery produces seven year-round beers —Lager, Pilsner, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Golden IPA, Porter, HopFest— and several seasonals, all in draft, bottles, and cask. The malt-forward Legend Brown Ale is the brewery's number-one seller, rare for 'craft' breweries these days, which tend to neglect this once popular style in favor of super-hoppy beers.

Legend is not only a production brewery, but a pub, a live-music venue, and a restaurant serving casual American-fare. An outdoor 200-seat patio overlooks the James River, with a prime view of downtown Richmond directly across the river. Come warm weather, it's packed, as it was for the party.

There's some serious brewing pedigree at the brewery. Tom Martin, Legend's founder and principal owner, holds a Masters Degree in Brewing Science from the University of California, Davis. Before opening Legend, he had worked as a brewer for Anheuser-Busch. His father before him had been the Vice-President of European Brewing Operations for Anheuser-Busch, and was the original brewmaster at the Budweiser plant in Williamsburg, Virginia.

At age 20, Legend is now Virginia's oldest extant 'craft' brewery, not only surviving but thriving. Three years ago, it surpassed the ten-thousand-barrels-of-beer-per-year mark; now, it is well past that, selling throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Overseeing the brewing is longtime head brewer —and Vice-President of Production— John Wampler, first hired in 1995. Rick Uhler —Vice-President for Sales & Marketing— began working for the brewery the same year, and Dave Gott —Vice-President of Operations— joined in late 1996.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 14/15, 2014.

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

Weeks 14/15
30 March - 13 April 2014

  • 2014.04.13
    Joseph Bramah was born 266 years ago on 13 April 1748. Considered the 'father' of hydraulic engineering, Bramah would patent several inventions, including the 'beer engine': the hand-pump used to dispense cask-conditioned ale. Via Wikipedia.

  • 2014.04.12
    The recently concluded 2014 World Beer Cup awarded medals in 94 beer styles. If all the sub-styles were added in, the total sytle count would come to 174. That, and the winners, via YFGF.

  • 2014.04.09
    A serious security flaw called Heartbleed is attacking OpenSSL, the security infrastructure of the internet. The vulnerability may affect at least a half a million servers, worldwide. Via Chicago Tribune.

  • 2014.04.08
    Microsoft ends support for Windows XP and Office 2003 on 8 April 2014. The operating system and program will become vulnerable to hacking and security intrusion. Via PC World.

  • 2014.04.08
    The current state of beer journalism, and how to improve it. Via Heather Vandenengel (for The Session: Beer Blogging Friday).

  • 2014.04.08
    "American craft brewing has become a pathetic nation of followers." Beer/whiskey writer Lew Bryson disputes the authenticity of many of the current rash of 'session' beers from U.S. 'craft' breweries. Via The Session Beer Project.

  • Belgian flags fly at Maxs (02)
  • 2014.04.07
    Belgium asks the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to recognize its beer culture as a "global cultural heritage." Via NPR.

  • 2014.04.07
    "Life is Too Short." Famous Hollywood actor Mickey Rooney dies at 93. Via Washington Post.

  • Heurich Wholesome Home Brew
  • 2014.04.07
    7 April 1933 did NOT mark the end of Prohibition. Rather, it was the day that Congress redefined "intoxicating" beverages upward from 0.5% to 3.2% (by weight). The day has recently become known as National Beer Day and as Session Beer Day.

  • 2014.04.05
    Is U.S. 'craft' beer's 'hop-bursting' a new brewing technique? (Via Beervana.) Or is it late-kettle hopping? (Via Zymurgy)

  • 2014.04.05
    Microbiologists track the genomic ancestry of the first known pure lager yeast strain —Saccharomyces carlsbergensis— comparing it to another pure lager strain —Weihenstephan WS34/70. Via the G3 Journal (at Brookston Beer Bulletin).

  • 2014.04.05
    Following Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium Brewing, Stone Brewing Company (of Escondido, California) plans to open a brewery on the East Coast. Candidates, in the state of Virginia, include the city of Norfolk and Albemarle County.

  • 2014.04.05
    New York City rediscovers its brewing past, then demolishes it. The former site of Jacob Ruppert’s Knickerbocker Brewery, in Manhattan, to be a 35-story apartment building. Via New York Times.

  • 2014.04.03
    David Letterman to retire in 2015. The late-night television host has had three decades on the air -the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history- since "Late Night" was launched at NBC in 1982. Via SF Gate.

  • 2014.04.03
    Carlsberg, Bitburger, Warsteiner, and other brewers found guilty of beer price-fixing in Germany. Via Just Drinks.

  • Mash man
  • 2014.03.30
    The U.S. Brewers Association says that the rules on spent grains proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) create onerous burdens for small breweries and farms.

  • 2014.03.30
    Almost 30% of U.S. adults "consume" their news on Facebook. Via Pew Research (at Mashable).


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Hops proffered for a brew

Hops proffered for a brew

The hands of a farmer and brewer proferring hops for a brew: New York state Cascade pelletized hops will 'dry-hop' 1 an "East Coast Pale Ale", that had already been fermented with Maryland whole hops.

The photo may be somewhat out-of-focus, but I like the image and imagery.

At their Milkhouse Brewery —a farm-brewery 2 at Stillpoint Farm in Mt. Airy, Maryland— owners Tom and Carolann Barse have a half-acre of Cascade hops under cultivation. Tom and assistant brewer Thomas Vaudin produce 10 barrels of beer per batch.

5 April 2014.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday. It's wabbit season. No, it's asparagus season.

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

The Easter 'Wabbit' hops into action this Sunday, predicted to be carrying baskets of brightly-dyed chicken eggs, a colorful scramble of animal husbandry.

Here, along the mid-Atlantic East Coast, the month of April marks the beginning of asparagus season. The harvest runs through the beginning of June. Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a perennial vegetable, originally native to the eastern Mediterranean.

Ah, asparagus: at least this vegetarian's delight. Its tips, nutty and sweet; its spears, just ever-so slightly bitter. Buy it fresh. Eat it fresh. If you must store it, wrap with damp paper towels, and keep in the refrigerator for no more than a few days.

Roasted Asparagus

How to cook?

Asparagus is so innately flavorful that you don't have to do much (and shouldn't) to enjoy it.
  • Steaming is a simple method. (You could microwave, but why?) There's no need to peel. Simply cut off the tough, fibrous ends. (Save for vegetable broth.) In a steamer basket, steam from two to six minutes (thin vs. thick stalks). The asparagus is done when you can easily pierce a spear with a knife. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, and s/p, all to taste. Maybe a few sprigs of fresh herb (tarragon?) or a dash or two of prepared Herbes de Provence.

  • A tip from Mom: steam the asparagus in an old-school coffee percolator. (I used to do just this, that is, until the percolator was mistakenly discarded.) Tie the stalks together, add water to just below the tips, and boil, upright, for 2-6 minutes. The thicker ends get cooked thoroughly; the succulent tips, lightly steamed. A double-boiler will do, almost as well.

  • Asparagus with vegan hollandaise

  • Asparagus, roasted, develops a hint of caramelized just-so sweetness— and, again, it's simple to prepare. For example, here's my recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Mock Hollandaise Sauce. Of course, you could just serve it, as is, out of the oven, without the hollandaise, with just a spritz of lemon juice.

  • Grilling is another option. Even more sweetness and now some smokiness. To prepare, toss in olive oil. Grill removed from open flame for 5 or so minutes: just the non-side of char. Trepidatious? Here's the not-difficult procedure from The Food Network.

  • Grilling marinated veggies (01)

  • And, from The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, by Mollie Katzen, here's a recipe for Gingered Asparagus with Soy Caramel Sauce. Katzen was once a member of the renowned Moosewood collective.

What to drink?

Wine? Drunk with asparagus, red wines get all vegetal and metallic. Go white wine, but not oaky chardonnay: woody and vanilla are lousy companions. Try fragrant, spring-like Pinot Blancs and minerally, bracing, Grüner Veltliners.

But, without much doubt, there's beer. Grab a German-inspired Kölsch, märzen, or maibock (in order, light to full-bodied); from the U.K., a bitter (cask-conditioned, if you find it); from Belgium, a singel, Blonde/Golden Ale, or Tripel.

It's Wabbit season. No, it's Duck season.

Here, from Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and the animators and writers at Warner Brothers (and voice-over artist Mel Blanc): a 1950s episode of Merrie Melodies. Enjoy with asparagus. Hold the wabbit.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No beer for Passover.

It's Passover. And, during these high holy days, God has told the faithful that there will be no drinking of beer.

Foods which are acceptable, that is, Kosher, during most of the year —such as meals of wheat, barley, oats, rye, or spelt that are baked or fermented with yeast— are not permitted during Passover. Beer, therefore, is tref, that is, non-Kosher, for Passover.

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened [without yeast] bread unto the Lord; seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread.
—Leviticus 23:6

The good news is, that for the rest of the year, beer can be Kosher.

The ingredients in beer are not unkosher. There is nothing in craft beer (water, hops, barley, yeast) that is not inherently Kosher.

However, that doesn't make beer made with these ingredients Kosher. For instance, they could have been made in the same tanks as some other non-Kosher product and the tanks may not be properly cleaned in between, or perhaps some of the ingredients were in touch with non-Kosher items before getting to the brewery.

Two other esoteric items would make them non-Kosher. One is how the yeast is grown. Redhook, the first major brand to be Kosher certified, had to change the medium in which they grew the yeast. Another is the finings that may be used to clarify the beers. Some of the fish finings come from un-kosher fish which would make the beer unkosher.

Lastly, in a bit of real trivia, for the super-Orthodox, including the chief Askenazi rabbi in Israel, beer has to be made with 'old barley' which is barley that sprouted before the second day of Passover. All Sam Adams beers shipped into Israel are made from old barley.

The bottom line is that it is not Kosher unless it is certified by a Kosher certifying agency. They usually do a pretty thorough check of the purchases, brewery etc... and spot visits one or two times a year. There are a large variety of logos of these agencies and the logo is stamped on the bottle label.

Coors/Molson is/are Kosher, Redhook is Kosher, Sam Adams is Kosher. A host of others too numerous to mention includes a lovely small brewpub in Oregon that doesn't charge Jewish customers for beers on Saturdays because the owner knows they are not supposed to carry money on their Sabbath.

All that aside, Kosher for Passover is a contradiction in terms. Beer is a fermented grain, which is our usual definition. Since fermented grains are not allowed on Passover, beer cannot be Kosher For Passover.

Steve Frank is one-half of the Brews Brothers. With Arnold Meltzer, his work has appeared in the American Brewer, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and other periodicals. His explanation, above, of what Kosher beer is (and why no beer is Kosher for Passover) was originally posted on DC-Beer, an on-line group of good beer partisans in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore area.

In 2006, Frank and Meltzer published a much lengthier article on the topic in American Brewer Read it here: Divine Approval for a Divine Brew.

Divine Brew
Depending on the particular beer brand, many beers can be certified Kosher (but just not for Passover). Frank and Meltzer wrote that, generally speaking, malted barley and fresh or pelletized hops are not a concern, but things such as hop and malt extracts —and any enzymes, colorings, flavorings, or filters and filtering agents— by nature of the extracting process, might be.

Thus, to be Kosher, a beer's entire brewing process —and ingredient chain— must be specially approved by one of the more than 50 kosher-certifying organizations that exist in the U.S. One such is the Chicago Rabbinical Council. Its website has a list of Kosher and Kosher-approved beers.

By the way, wine, is Kosher for Passover —if strictures are followed. Mazel tov!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

A beer style riot broke out at the 2014 World Beer Cup!

There was a riot at the 2014 World Beer Cup. That's "riot" as in profligate behavior, not public tumult. A riot of beer styles.

The recently concluded 2014 World Beer Cup awarded medals in 94 officially recognized beer styles. If all the sub-styles were added in, the total style count would come to 174. One-hundred-and-seventy-four. Indeed?

The drinker doesn't need 133 beer styles. Or 70. Or even 30.

Most people who cook have only seven recipes in their repertoire. Even if they have shelves full of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, when it comes to planning what the family meal is going to be that night, research shows they revert to a list of no more than seven or eight choices. If they learn a new favourite dish, they forget one of the regulars they used to rely on. <...>

Keep it simple. Keep it relevant. Think about it from the point of view of the time-pressed, information overloaded consumer. This is one of those occasions when I realise the marketing guys have something to contribute. Sometimes, the reason they simplify stuff and reduce it down is because they understand that most people give a fraction of a second to each purchasing decision they make, and things have to be simple in order to register.

Beer styles help inspire some people to better brews. I'm very happy about that. But that's ultimately meaningless if it doesn't help - or in some cases even prevents - turning more people onto great craft beer.

Thus wrote Pete Brown in 2010. I agreed then; today, I concur 174%. It's style formalization run amok.

Be that it as it may, we can still take the time to celebrate the acumen and triumph of brewers across those 94 categories at the World Beer Cup. So, here ya go ...

World Beer Cup 2014


Boulder, CO • April 11, 2014—The Brewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America's small and independent craft brewers—announced the results of one of the largest commercial beer competitions to date, the 2014 World Beer Cup Awards. The awards were presented at the conclusion of Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® in Denver, Colorado.

Drawing the highest number of entries to date, this edition of the World Beer Cup saw 4,754 beers from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries—a 21 percent increase in the number of entries from the 2012 World Beer Cup, which had 3,921 entries.

Brewers from five continents earned awards from an elite international panel of judges at this tenth biennial competition, with brewers from 22 countries—ranging from Australia and Brazil to Taiwan and the United Kingdom—honored. Judges awarded 281 out of 282 total possible awards, reflecting the chance for one gold, one silver and one bronze award in each of 94 beer style categories.

This year’s event was particularly competitive; the proportion of winning breweries winning one or more awards was 18 percent, compared to 27 percent in 2012. There was a 75.6 percent increase in breweries competing this year versus 2012, which had 799 breweries that entered beers in the competition. A total of 253 breweries took home awards in 2014, a 16.6 percent increase over 2012.

A detailed analysis of the entries and awards can be found in the 2014 World Beer Cup Fact Sheet [a pdf file].

“Brewers from around the globe participate in the World Beer Cup to win recognition for their creativity and brewing skills,” said Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association. “For a brewer, a World Beer Cup gold award allows them to say that their winning beer represents the best of that beer style in the world.”

A panel of 219 judges from 31 countries participated in this year’s competition, working in teams to conduct blind tasting evaluations of the beers and determine the awards. Drawn from the ranks of professional brewers and brewing industry experts, 76 percent of the judges came from outside the United States.

Category Trends
  • The average number of beers entered per category was 50, up from 41 in 2012.
  • The category with the most entries was American-Style India Pale Ale, with 223 entries.
  • The second most-entered category was American-Style Pale Ale, with 121 entries.
  • The third most-entered category was Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer, with 111 entries.

Award Highlights
  • The 281 awards were won by 253 breweries, with very few breweries earning more than one award.
  • 226 breweries won one award.
  • 26 breweries won two awards.
  • One brewery won three awards.

Competition Manager Chris Swersey commented, “This is the most diverse set of winning breweries in any World Beer Cup.”

The non-U.S. entry rate and winning rate tracked very closely in the 2014 competition, with 28 percent of beers entered coming from outside the U.S., and 27 percent of awards going to beers entered from outside the U.S. <...>


To be clear, the BA hosts a beer festival and competition solely of American breweries —the Great American Beer Festival— every year in Denver, Colorado. Likewise, it organizes an annual convention concerned with the business of U.S. 'craft' beer —the Craft Beer Conference— hosted by a different American city every year. The BA's World Beer Cup, however, is a biennial international competition (first begun in 1996), held in the U.S., whose judging and awards ceremony are held concurrently with that year's Craft Beer Conference.

For this year's World Beer Cup in Denver, there were 4,754 beers entered; of those, 3,402 (or 71%) came from American breweries. So, by pure shock-and-awe preponderance of numbers, the U.S. took 205 medals of the 281 awarded (or 72%). In second, but well behind, was Germany, with 249 entries and 27 medals.

To make the contest fairer and more truly 'worldly,' maybe the BA could consider a percentage-based quota on entries from any one nation. This would, of course, disproportionately affect the U.S., necessitating a weighted lottery system of some sort to determine participation.

As to defeating style inflation, it's probably a battle lost several years ago. So, joining the riot, one could ask: why is there no cask ale category out of all of those ninety-four styles? If there's kellerbier, why not cask? Make it 95.


Since YFGF is 'published' in the mid-Atlantic, we'll give shouts-out to those victorious breweries here in Maryland (which garnered 2 medals) and Virginia (5 medals, including 2 gold). Washington, D.C. would be included, but none of its breweries won a medal. There's always next year two years from now! 1
    • Category 24: Aged Beer (14 entries)
      Silver: Vintage Horn Dog
      Flying Dog Brewery: Frederick, MD. (brewer: Matt Brophy)

    • Category 48: German-Style Brown Ale/Düsseldorf-Style Altbier (36)
      Bronze: Balt Altbier
      Union Craft Brewing, Baltimore, MD. (brewer: Kevin Blodger)

    • Category 17: American-Belgo-Style Ale (56)
      Gold: Whiter Shade of Pale Ale
      Starr Hill Brewery: Crozet, VA. (brewer: Mark Thompson)

    • Category 26: Smoke Beer (54)
      Bronze: Brewers Select Rauch Märzen
      Gordon-Biersch Brewery Restaurant:
      Rockville, MD Tysons Corner, VA. (brewer: Grant Carson) 2

    • Category 35: Vienna-Style Lager (39)
      Silver: Vienna Lager
      Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Outpost): Lexington.
      (brewer: Nate Olewine)

    • Category 45: American-Style Dark Lager (18)
      Gold: Old Virginia Dark
      Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Basecamp): Roseland, VA.
      (brewer: Jason Oliver)

    • Category 77: Scotch Ale (47)
      Silver: Heavy Red Horseman Scottish Style Ale
      Apocalypse Ale Works: Forest, VA. (brewer: Lee John)

Congratulations to them, and congratulations to all the winners worldwide. To paraphrase Mr. Shakespeare: A blessing on your hearts, you brew good beers.


Pic(k) of the Week: Cherrydale blossoms

Cherrydale blossoms

The cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin may be well-renowned, but pastel hues bloom throughout the region, during this time of year. Such as, above, in the appropriately-named Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia.

11 April 2014.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Help save a 19th-century archaeological piece of Washington D.C. & Alexandria Virginia brewing history.

Help save a 19th century archaeological piece of the brewing history Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia. (Alexandria was once part of Washington, D.C.) Donate to the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology toward their efforts to preserve and restore a wooden beer barrel of the long-closed Washington Brewery Company.

On Wednesday, 9 April, the City of Alexandria is holding its annual Spring2Action Campaign, a day-long fundraiser for city-wide charities. As part of that campaign, the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology is looking for supporting funds. To donate to the restoration fund, go to this link, today or tomorrow (Wednesday). The Alexandria Archaeology Museum will match up to $1,000 in donations.

The barrel was recovered during an archaeological investigation at the site of the Shuter’s Hill Brewery in 1993 - 1994 in advance of the construction of the Carlyle complex in the 2000 block of Duke Street. "The barrel was excavated from a subterranean passageway that led from the brewery to the beer cellar,” said Paul Nasca, an archaeologist and collections manager at Alexandria Archaeology, which runs a small but illuminating museum on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union Street #327). "The passage and cellar contained 7-8 feet of water when first exposed during excavation. It’s because of this wet environment that the barrel was so well preserved.”

The beer barrel is itself a bit of a mystery. A quarter the size of a standard 32-gallon barrel 1, it is stamped W.B.C. WASH.DC, or the Washington Brewery Company, Washington, D.C. <...>

Alexandria Archaeology dates the barrel to the Washington Brewery that operated from 1889 to 1917. (There were six Washington Breweries that operated at seven different locations in DC’s history; this particular location is now the site of Stuart Hobson Middle School on Capitol Hill). The Shuter’s Hill Brewery opened in Alexandria’s West End in 1858, and was the first Alexandria brewery to produce lager.

—Washington, D.C. historian Garrett Peck, at DC Beer.

UPDATE: Ruth Reeder —Education Coordinator for the Office of Historic Alexandria/Alexandria Archaeology— told me that the campaign raised $1,770. "We still can’t believe it." Thank you to all who supported the effort. Now, barrel restoration and preservation begins.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 12/13, 2014.

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

Weeks 12/13
16 March - 29 March 2014

  • 2014.03.29
    Paste Magazine picks the top ten baseball ballparks with the best selection of 'craft' beer. PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is 1st; Washington, D.C. Nationals Park, is 6th; Baltimore, Maryland, Camden Yards, 9th. In contrast, The Daily Meal selects Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington, as 1st; Nats Park as 5th; Camden Yards as 9th.

  • 2014.03.28
    Toronto beer blogger Chris Schryer has forsaken solid food for Lent, partaking only of beer (and juice), and no solid food. Via National Post.

    Maryland beer cans
  • 2014.03.27
    'Craft' beer trademark wars. Maryland's DuClaw Brewing sues Colorado's Left Hand Brewing for trademark infringement. Via City Paper. Rocker Ozzy Osbourne sends cease-and-desist letter to Baltimore brewpub Brewers Art over its longtime Ozzy Ale. Cease & desist your longtime Ozzy Ale. Via City Paper.

  • 2014.03.25
    Philadelphia's Dock Street brewpub brews beer with goat brains, as homage to season finale of cable-television series, "The Walking Dead." Via CNET.

  • 2014.03.25
    The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) —of the U.S. Department of the Treasury— okays the use dimethyl dicarbonate in beer as a preservative. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) —of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services— has okayed the use of dimethyl dicarbonate for several years in wine and non-alcoholic beverages. Via Beerpulse.

  • 2014.03.25
    Citizens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, petition to have Pabst Brewing return to the city as city or publicly-owned brewery. Via WUWM radio.

  • 2014.03.24
    A small Massachusetts brewery exits the (U.S.) Brewers Association, cites several reasons including including the residency of very large breweries now in same organization as very small breweries. Via Pivní Filosof.

  • 2014.03.23
    New Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study on alcohol advertising finds that Internet access to alcohol-related sites should be tightened against minors. Via Brewbound.

  • 2014.03.20
    Anheuser-Busch InBev spending $4.3M lobbying for an excise tax-lowering bill that it admits has little chance of passing. [The Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2013, known as the BEER Act, proposes reducing the per-barrel tax on beer from $18 to $9 and implementing a bigger reduction for small brewers that would virtually eliminate excise taxes on the first 15,000 barrels.] Why, via The Motley Fool.

    "Brewmore" poster
  • 2014.03.20
    "Brewmore │Baltimore" —documentary on brewing history of Baltimore, Maryland— debuts at Maryland College Institute of Art. Via YFGF.

  • 2014.03.18
    Scientists detect gravitational waves from 1 trillionth of 1 trillionth of 1 trillionth of 1 second after the Big Bang. Via Scientific American.

  • 2014.03.17
    The human nose can detect at least ... 1 trillion odors (!) ... says new study of sense of smell, conducted at Rockefeller University, published in Science Magazine. Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.03.17
    Beer bloggers blog on the question: "Why do you drink beer?" Via Baltimore Bistros & Beer for The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

  • 2014.03.17
    In 2013, craft beer accounted for 7.8% of the total United States beer market volume (up from 6.5% in 2012) and 14.3% ($14.3 billion) in terms of dollars of all beer sold. Via Brewers Association.

    Remembering Dr. James Kollar, VMD, craft beer pioneer (1946 - 2014).
  • 2014.03.14
    'Craft' beer pioneer, Dr. James Kollar —founder, in the early 1980s, of the Chesapeake Bay Brewing Company, Virginia's first-ever microbrewery, and only the second microbrewery to open on the East Coast— has died. Via Allen Young (at YFGF).


Saturday, April 05, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Me and Mr. Jackson

Me and Mr. Jackson (1995)

In 1995, British beer and whisky journalist Michael Jackson —known as The Beer Hunter— had plans to write a book on the burgeoning American microbrewery movement.

In March of that year, he would begin his research tour, flying into BWI Airport, just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Jackson's first stop was the nearby Oxford Brewing Company —Maryland's original microbrewery— in Linthicum, Maryland. In the photo above, Jackson (on the left) is taking notes on the brewery's beers, as described by the then-brewery manager, me. (Note the date stamp on the photo: it was one day after Mr. Jackson's 53rd birthday.)

Jackson's 'chauffeur' that day was Jim Dorsch, a freelance beer writer, who is now the editor/publisher of American Brewer Magazine. The three of us would go on to visit the Baltimore Brewing Company, Brimstone Brewing, the Wharf Rat Pub, and Sisson's brewpub. Of those, only the Wharf Rat, now known as the Pratt Street Alehouse, continues on today. [I recounted the day's adventures: here.]

Wags would call the whirlwind American visit, "Michael Jackson: The Iron Liver Tour", and, Jackson, a prolific writer, would never write that book. He observed that there were far too many American microbreweries opening far too quickly to chronicle them comprehensively. (Back then, he and we didn't readily refer to them as 'craft' breweries.)

Jackson would continue to write books —and pieces for numerous periodicals— on beer in America, in Belgium (where he was officially recognized for his efforts), at his 'local' in London, and around the world. He wrote on whisk(e)y. He became a much sought-after lecturer on these things.

Jackson died in 2007 of complications due to Parkinson's Disease. He left behind an unsurpassed oeuvre of witty and erudite reporting, singlehandedly establishing the concept of beer styles: geographical, historical, and modern. His book, "The World Guide to Beer," first published in 1977, remains a sine qua non.
"Do you ever drink wine?" people ask me, as though beer were a prison rather than a playground. A day may pass when I do not drink wine, but never a week. Whatever is argued about other pleasures, it is not necessary to be monogamous in the choice of drink. Beer is by far the more extensively consumed, but less adequately honored. In a small way, I want to help put right that injustice."
—Michael Jackson

Jackson's 72nd birthday would have been celebrated on 27 March of this year.


Thursday, April 03, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday. Recipe: Black Pepper Beer Bread

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

As the weather pivots from winter to spring, there's still time for a hearty loaf of Black Pepper Beer Bread. In fact, plenty of time: this recipe requires no more than sixty minutes from start to slice. And, there's no yeast kneaded needed.


  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-12 ounces lightly hopped lager or ale
  • 1 tablespoon melted non-dairy butter substitute.


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a nine-inch loaf pan.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and pepper. Whisk together.
  • Pour in the beer, a few ounces at a time, and whisk gently until combined. (Cold beer is easier to use that room temperature: it won't foam as much.) Use only enough beer to make the dough just the moist side of stiff, balling up and separating from the bowl. (Any beer remaining in the bottle is reserved for the baker.)
  • Dump the batter into the loaf pan, and smooth out the top. Create a crease, and top with the ersatz butter.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crusty in appearance.
Black Pepper Beer Bread (01)


  • Recipe adapted from Pop Sugar.
  • I substituted a portion of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour to produce a less dense consistency. I halved the sugar and doubled the pepper, and, since this is a no-yeast recipe, all of the sugar could be omitted.
  • Avoid a hoppy beer. The hops will impart an unpleasant bitterness. Similarly, avoid a roasty beer, such as a strong stout. (Guinness Stout —neither particularly roasty nor strong— would be okay.)
  • I used Kolsch 151, a delightful golden ale from Blue Mountain Brewery (in Afton, Virginia).

    A light German-style ale indigenous to Cologne. This ale is treated like a lager, undergoing extensive cold aging to produce a clean, crisp beer. German Pilsen and Vienna malts, and Hallertau region hops, lend a balanced flavor to our lightest beer.
    5% abv; 18 IBUs.

    Blue Mountain Kölsch 151

  • Serve with a hearty soup, such as this Split Pea Soup from Moosewood. Vegetarian, of course. (Well, okay, vegan. How, I detest that ugly word!)

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Craft Beer 2013: by the numbers

According to the Brewers Association (BA), the growth rate of the 'craft' beer business has averaged 10.9 percent per year over the past decade. That's in the face of flat overall beer sales, dominated by the international big boys. 1

Continuing that growth, the most recent figures show that 2013 'craft' beer sales controlled 7.8% of the total U.S. beer market. (In 2012, the share was 6.5%.) Put in dollar terms, it's dramatic: 'craft' beer is 14.3% of the U.S. market. That's $14.3 billion in sales (versus $11.9 billion in 2012).2

Who is the Brewers Association?

It's a 2005 merger of the Association of Brewers (a somewhat happy-go-lucky group representing microbreweries, when it was created in 1975 with only a few onboard) with the Brewers' Association of America (the remnant of what was once a powerful, small brewery caucus, formed during World War II, as a counterweight to the United States Brewers Association).3 In 2013, here's how the now influential BA defined its membership:
An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional.
  • Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
  • Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  • Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

So, here are the top 50 'craft' breweries in the United States, as determined by the BA's 2013 definition: 4

The top 5 are: Rounding out the list is 21st Amendment Brewery (of San Francisco, California), at 50th, new to the list.

Now, compare that list to the BA's list of the top 50 overall brewing companies operating in the U.S. in 2013. 5 Note that the No.1 'craft' brewery of the first list, Boston Beer, falls to the 5th position overall.

Years ago, I worried that 5% was the Rubicon for a no-holds-barred beer war pitting big against small. 5%? How about 14.3%?

Do you think that, in 2013, the international beverage-and-beer conglomerates, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller, Miller/Coors, Heineken, and their ilk, hadn't noticed that 14.3% share they'd lost? You bet your pallid I.L.L.s (International Light Lagers), they had.

Which may be a reason the Brewers Association, this year, changed its definition of traditional to be more inclusive.
  • A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients [emphasis mine] and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

  • Breweries, such as family-owned Yuengling, will now be part of the 'craft' beer coalition. The BA will need as many allies as it can get for the battles to come.

    Light the watchtowers. The conglomerates are coming. And they aren't happy.