Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Pouring Blue Bee Cider

Pouring Blue Bee Cider

There are only a handful of American cideries found literally within a city's boundaries. Blue Bee Cider is one of those few. Located in Richmond, Virginia, it first opened in July 2013, and is the first —and still today only — 'urban' cidery in the state.

I visited Blue Bee nearly a year after it opened, at its small warehouse and tasting room, in Richmond's Old Manchester district, a partly gritty, partly revitalizing neighborhood, found across the James River from the city's downtown.

Our guide/host/pourer told me that Blue Bee grows most of its apples —winesap and others— in orchards leased in Nelson County, and on a few trees planted in an 'urban' orchard in Richmond itself. The apples are pressed —and the juice, fermented and bottled— on location at the cidery. Production is small but increasing: 2,500 cases of cider in 2013.

Above, she's poured Charred Ordinary. The winery —and that's what a cidery is. Apples are fruit, just as grapes are— describes this cider this way:
Hay, mushrooms, and bruised apple in the aroma. Dry and sharp with grapefruit and salt in the finish. Semi-sparkling. 0.5% residual sugar (RS), 8.4% alcohol-by-volume (abv)

Me: A slightly barnyardy and funky aroma, well-focused flavors of apple-skin and grapefruit (think New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but with great restraint), and a bracingly tart finish.

19 April 2014.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday. Quick links for May 2014.

VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and ecological issues.
Beer and wine are, after all, fine vegetarian foodstuffs.


Quick Links for May 2014

  • 2014.05.23.
    California's severe drought isn't making food cost more despite 75 percent less water from dams and reservoirs. Why?
    • Many farmers are pulling from the aquifer.
    • Some parts of California are less dry than others, such as the Salinas Valley.
    • The limited water is going to crops that consumers are most likely to notice.
    But, if the drought continues into next year, some of the current coping strategies may not work so well.
    — Via NPR: The Salt.

  • 2014.05.17.
    What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong.
    — Via Dan Barber (in the New York Times) —author of the forthcoming book “The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.”

    "For all its successes, farm-to-table has not, in any fundamental way, reworked the economic and political forces that dictate how our food is grown and raised. Big Food is getting bigger, not smaller. In the last five years, we’ve lost nearly 100,000 farms (mostly midsize ones). Today, 1.1 percent of farms in the United States account for nearly 45 percent of farm revenues. Despite being farm-to-table’s favorite targets, corn and soy account for more than 50 percent of our harvested acres for the first time ever. <...> Diversifying our diet to include more local grains and legumes is a delicious first step to improving our food system. <...>Imagining the food chain as a field on one end and a plate of food at the other is not only reductive, it also puts us in the position of end users. It’s a passive system — a grocery-aisle mentality — when really, as cooks and eaters, we need to engage in the nuts and bolts of true agricultural sustainability."

  • 2014.05.14.
    Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity may NOT exist, says the researcher of the original study which said it did exist. In 2011, Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and director of the GI Unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, published a study that found gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, to cause gastrointestinal distress in patients without celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder unequivocally triggered by gluten.

    However, in a followup study, Gibson has come to the opposite conclusion: “In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten." Patients reported gastrointestinal distress without any apparent physical cause. Gluten wasn't the culprit; the cause was likely psychological.
    — More, via Real Clear Science.

  • 2014.05.12.
    The National Wildlife Foundation certifies areas as official Wildlife Habitats. The beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro in Bellingham, Washington, is the only brewpub it has designated as such.
    — Via YFGF.

  • 2014.05.12.
    A NASA-funded study by the University of California at Irvine has found that the West Antarctica ice sheet is collapsing irreversibly. Seas, world-wide, will rise up to rise 12 feet, but not suddenly, in spite of what the word “collapse” implies, said a statement by the university in announcing its report. “The fastest scenario is 200 years, and the longest is more than 1,000 years.” University scientists used detailed maps and computer models to reach their conclusion “that a collapse appears to have already begun.”
    — More, via Washington Post.

  • 2014.05.07.
    The increasing demand for nutrient-dense micro-greens, such as kale, mizuna, tatsoi, and shungiku.
    — Via Kojo Nnamdi Show.

    Bridge to Algiers (03)
  • 2014.05.06.
    U.S. climate report —National Climate Assessment— says that global warming impact is already severe, and only to worsen. "The report cites wide and severe impacts: more sea-level rise, flooding, storm surges, precipitation and heat waves in the Northeast; frequent water shortages and hurricanes in the Southeast and the Caribbean; and more drought and wildfires in the Southwest."
    — More via Washington Post.

  • 2014.05.06.
    The biochemistry of chili peppers, which are actually fruits, and are believed to be the first plants ever cultivated by humans, in what is now Bolivia and Peru, over 6,000 years ago.
    — Via Chemistry Views.

  • 2014.04.24.
    The city of Washington, D.C. has decided to to regulate Farmers’ Markets on health issues and prepared foods.
    — Via Washington City Paper.

  • 2014.04.24.
    The history of "salt-rising bread" bread dates to the isolated Appalachian region in the late 1700s, where enterprising women who did not have access to yeast figured out a way to make a yeast-free bread. The origins of the name are also unclear. There's little or no salt in the recipe. No yeast, either. The bread rises because of bacteria in the potatoes or cornmeal and the flour that goes into the starter. The taste is as distinctive as the recipe. Salt rising bread is dense and white, with a fine crumb and cheese-like flavor.
    — More, via NPR: The Salt.

    Chopped salad 007
  • 2014.04.17.
    What are called "capers" are actually the unflowered buds of the caper plant.
    — Via The Splendid Table.

  • 2014.03.31.
    "Gone are the days of experts calling for ultra-low-fat diets. For instance, it's clearer that some fats, namely plant-based fats found in nuts and olive oil, as well as those found in fatty fish, are beneficial. There's strong evidence that they help reduce the risk of heart disease."
    — More, via NPR: The Salt.

  • 2014.03.31.
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations has released a report warning that the impact of global warming will be "severe, pervasive, irreversible."

    The report details significant short-term impacts on natural systems in the next 20 to 30 years. These include threats to unique systems such as Arctic sea ice and coral reefs, where the risks are said to increase to "very high" with a 2C rise in temperatures. Food security is highlighted as an area of significant concern. Crop yields for maize, rice and wheat are all hit in the period up to 2050, with around a tenth of the projections showing losses of over 25%n of yields.
    — More, via BBC.

  • 2014.01.12.
    Huanglongbing —also known as “yellow dragon disease” and “citrus greening” is a currently incurable bacterial infection that may destroy all of Florida's citrus crop, where about half the trees in every citrus orchard are stricken. The bacteria is spread by a tiny, invasive bug, also from China, called Asian citrus psyllid. Roots become deformed. Fruits drop from limbs prematurely and rot. The trees slowly die. Citrus greening has caused a severe lime shortage in Mexico; there is worry that the disease will soon spread to California's citrus crop.
    — Via Washington Post and LA Times.


Monday, May 26, 2014

The first American 'Memorial Day'?

On 1 May 1865, newly freed African-American slaves buried and honored 257 Union soldiers, during a special ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina. Was this the first 'Memorial Day' to be observed in the U.S.?

The "First Decoration Day," as this event came to be recognized in some circles in the North, involved an estimated ten thousand people, most of them black former slaves. During April, twenty-eight black men from one of the local churches built a suitable enclosure for the burial ground at [at a racetrack turned war prison called] the Race Course. In some ten days, they constructed a fence ten feet high, enclosing the burial ground, and landscaped the graves into neat rows. The wooden fence was whitewashed and an archway was built over the gate to the enclosure. On the arch, painted in black letters, the workmen inscribed "Martyrs of the Race Course."

At nine o'clock in the morning on May 1, the procession to this special cemetery began as three thousand black schoolchildren (newly enrolled in freedmen's schools) marched around the Race Course, each with an armload of roses and singing "John Brown's Body." The children were followed by three hundred black women representing the Patriotic Association, a group organized to distribute clothing and other goods among the freedpeople. The women carried baskets of flowers, wreaths, and crosses to the burial ground. The Mutual Aid Society, a benevolent association of black men, next marched in cadence around the track and into the cemetery, followed by large crowds of white and black citizens.

All dropped their spring blossoms on the graves in a scene recorded by a newspaper correspondent: "when all had left, the holy mounds — the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them — were one mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen; and as the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them, outside and beyond ... there were few eyes among those who knew the meaning of the ceremony that were not dim with tears of joy." While the adults marched around the graves, the children were gathered in a nearby grove, where they sang "America," "We'll Rally Around the Flag," and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The official dedication ceremony was conducted by the ministers of all the black churches in Charleston. With prayer, the reading of biblical passages, and the singing of spirituals, black Charlestonians gave birth to an American tradition. In so doing, they declared the meaning of the war in the most public way possible — by their labor, their words, their songs, and their solemn parade of roses, lilacs, and marching feet on the old planters' Race Course.

After the dedication, the crowds gathered at the Race Course grandstand to hear some thirty speeches by Union officers, local black ministers, and abolitionist missionaries. Picnics ensued around the grounds, and in the afternoon, a full brigade of Union infantry, including Colored Troops, marched in double column around the martyrs' graves and held a drill on the infield of the Race Course. The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration.

—David W. Blight: Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Big flag


Sunday, May 25, 2014

A #MemorialDay Sunday grilling edition of #VeggieDag Thursday

Port City's "One" Stout

Here's how the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) describes a Russian Imperial Stout:
Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. High roasted malt/grain flavors can suggest bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, and/or strong coffee. A slightly burnt grain, burnt currant or tarry character may be evident. Fruity esters can take on a dark fruit character (raisins, plums, or prunes). Malt backbone can show some supporting caramel, bready, or toasty flavors. Alcohol strength should be evident, but not hot, sharp, or solventy. No diacetyl. The balance and intensity of flavors can be affected by aging, with some flavors becoming more subdued over time and some aged, vinous or port-like qualities developing.

And, here's why scientists say that, for your Memorial Day picnic, you should switch from fizzy yellow beer to dark, roasty, full-bodied stout.
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals formed when muscle meat from beef, pork, poultry and fish is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame. The American Institute of Cancer Research adds there is "limited, but suggestive evidence that compounds produced in meat through the grilling process factor in human cancer." Studies have suggested that marinating meat and fish before grilling can decrease the formation of HCAs; scientists point to antioxidants in marinades as possible HCA blockers.
    —More via Chicago Daily Herald

  • Researchers at the University of Porto, in Portugal, tested the effect of marinating meat with a Pilsner, a non-alcohol beer, and a dark beer, against a control sampling of raw meat. Dark beer showed the strongest "inhibitory effect," reducing the formation of carcinogenic PAHs by 53 percent. Pilsners and non-alcoholic beers showed less significant results: 13 percent and 25 percent respectively. The scientists aren't entirely sure why a beer marinade has this effect; they speculate that it might be the antioxidant compounds in beer, especially darker varieties, which inhibit the movement of free radicals necessary for the formation of PAHs.
    —More via Mother Jones.

Be careful, here. The research isn't stating that (dark) beer is good for you, but rather that the anthocyanins in beer may reduce the amount of potentially dangerous HCAs and PAHs in grilled foods. On the other hand, there is indeed plenty of evidence to support the supposition that beer, in and of itself, is a health-promoting foodstuff.

So, now that you know how to be prophylactic while grilling, it's on to the recipes, with a few appetizers to begin with.



  • Mango-avocado salad with cilantro-lime-serrano-pepper dressing. Via Cooking Stoned.

  • Chilled radish soup. Via The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge. As their recipe uses buttermilk, here's a simple process for making vegan 'buttermilk', via Southern Vegan Food: "Add 1 tbsp vinegar to 1 cup of non-dairy milk. Let stand for 5 minutes. The milk curdles immediately."

  • Veggie Hot Dogs in beer (04)

  • Steam soy 'hot dogs' in beer. Do not grill them; they blister unattractively. Via YFGF.

  • 'Grilling' corn on a George Foreman Grill. Via YFGF.

  • Grilling Corn with George Foreman (03)

  • "Oh She Glows" blogger Angela Liddon has seven requirements for "Perfect" Veggie-Burgers:
    • Can’t be mushy in the middle.
    • Crispy outer shell.
    • Lots of flavor from fresh herbs & spices.
    • No tofu.
    • Crunchy, chewy texture is a must.
    • No cracking or falling apart.
    • Must cook well 3 ways: frying pan, oven, and BBQ.
    A video tutorial on how to prep and freeze the 'burgers.'

  • Grilling spiced olives. Via Primal Palate.

  • A trio of grilled vegetables:

  • Stout-marinaded Grilled Veggies (02)

  • Salad of Grilled Vegetables. "A marinade can add flavor in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, and can be used on vegetables, as well as meats, seafood, and poultry," * says cookbook author Lucy Saunders, who wrote this year's Dinner in the Beer Garden [a —mostly— vegetarian beer-with-food cookbook], and 2006's "Grilling with Beer."

    For a basic marinade, use olive oil, vinegar, juice of lemon or lime, fresh herbs, and soy sauce ... for umami. Toss the cut vegetables and marinade into a locking plastic bag, and press out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least a couple hours.

    Saunders is partial to beer in marinades and adds this advice: "If adding a malty amber ale or stout to a marinade, the malts will add to the caramel color of the food, turning white onions or pale lobes of endive into gilded and browned beauties. I prefer milder kölsch or weissbiers for grilled fruits and tender vegetables, and brown ales or stouts for richer flavored grilled onions, eggplant, or sweet potatoes," she says. "I use fresh beer, but not the most expensive or rare beer. Very hoppy beers can make food too bitter."

  • And, for dessert:
    • Grilled peaches with ginger-coconut vegan 'ice cream.' Via Isa Chandra Moskowitz of Post Punk Kitchen.
    • "Grilled, strawberries become pockets of warm jam, bursting in your mouth." Via Forks in the Road.

Veterans' Commons

Tomorrow, on Memorial Day, please remember those who gave the "last full measure of devotion" toward protecting the ideals of America.

And, maybe, in their honor, enjoy good grilling and good eating. But don't forget the stout. For health purposes, of course.

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

-----Read more-----

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Chocolate Stout Crème Brûlée

It may have been a case of accidental 'beer cuisine'.

A Neapolitan chef at an Italian restaurant in northern Virginia was not a fan of American beer, but when he took to the task of creating a menu for a 'craft' beer dinner, the results were delicious.

For his final course of the evening, he baked a crème brûlée. He infused the custard with an 'imperial', bourbon-aged, chocolate-nibbed stout. Then, he served it with the very same stout, on the side.

Beer, bourbon, and chocolate: it was syzygy.

Chocolate Stout Crème Brulee
  • The beer:
    Siren Noire from Heavy Seas Brewing (of Baltimore, Maryland).
    Our Siren Noire isn’t your father’s chocolate stout. We’ve used almost 3 pounds of Belgian cocoa nibs per barrel. We’ve aged it for five weeks in bourbon barrel, with vanilla beans added. A mix of dark malts gives Siren Noire a well-rounded body that is decidedly chocolatey—but without being extraordinarily sweet. Brewers Gold hops contribute an earthy spiciness, with notes of black current.
    ABV: 9.5%. IBUs: 18.5
  • The restaurant:
    Ovvio Osteria (of Merrifield, Fairfax, Virginia).
    15 May 2014.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 18/19, 2014.

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

Weeks 18/19
27 April - 10 May 2014

  • 2014.05.10
    Taxes, not taxonomy: 121 years ago on 10 May 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a tariff decision, in Nix v. Hedden, declaring the tomato to be a vegetable, not the fruit that it actually is. Via Wikipedia.

  • 2014.05.08
    A new National Climate Assessment from the U.S. government states that the impact from global warming is already being felt, and will worsen. "More sea-level rise, flooding, storm surges, precipitation and heat waves in the Northeast; frequent water shortages and hurricanes in the Southeast and the Caribbean; and more drought and wildfires in the Southwest." The Cato Institute countered that the assessment was “biased toward pessimism” and meant to justify “federal regulation aimed towards mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.” Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.05.07
    Small breweries are creating beers infused with gin botanicals, and beers aged in gin barrels. Via Daniel Fromson in Washington Post Food.

  • 2014.05.05
    Garrett Oliver, brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewing Company, wins a 2014 James Beard Award, a first for beer. Via YFGF.

  • 2014.05.05
    A group of German winemakers are promoting the concept of "slow wine": wines showing regional identity, with artisanal methods, and an ecological mindset, following agreed-upon methods of "green' winemaking. Via Schiller-Wine.

  • 2014.05.05
    Cinco de Mayo: a story of France, Austria, and Mexico, but not of Mexican Independence Day. The biggest Mexican holiday not celebrated much in Mexico. Via Long Beach Post.

  • 2014.05.03
    Is craft beer becoming a luxury item? Are some craft beers positioning themselves as luxury items? Via Tom Rotunno.

  • 2014.05.02
    Pete Coors —chairman of the Molson Coors Brewing Company and of MillerCoors— is "baffled about trends that show more expensive craft beer market growing by about 7%", while "the light premium beer market staying flat and the economy beer market with brands such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and Keystone dropping by 7 percent or even into double figures." Via Denver Post.

    Bourbon barrels on ricks

  • 2014.05.01
    Looming barrel shortage may hurt small distilleries and 'craft' breweries. Via Insider Louisville.

  • 2014.05.01
    Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing: “Beer is best consumed fresh. We work hard to build great flavors in all of our beers—especially hop flavor—but that complex and vibrant character can fade over time. We want our fans to taste our beer like it was meant to be tasted—full of the bold flavor and aroma of fresh malt and whole-cone hops.” Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 2014.04.30
    Kurt and Rob Widmer of Widmer Brewing on the industry politics of the defining 'craft beer', and how breweries such as Widmer were excluded from that definition. Via The Street.

  • 2014.04.30
    Florida State Senator Kelli Stargel compares craft brewers to children, herself to a parent, in their attempt for self-distribution. Via Barb Wire.

  • 2014.04.29
    The dimpled, handled imperial pint glass is making a return in the U.K. "Butt ugly," says beer writer Melissa Cole. Via BBC News.

    Hopyards @Stillpoint Farms (02)

  • 2014.04.29
    Quality hops may be difficult to grow in Mid-Atlantic, due to weather, and susceptibility to diseases such as powdered mildew, says agriculture agent at the University of Maryland Westminster Extension office. Via Carroll County Times.

  • 2014.04.29
    Happy 115th birthday, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, born 29 April 1899.

  • 2014.04.28
    Different whiskies taste better at different proofs. Via Washington Post Food.

  • 2014.04.28
    Renowned 'character' actor British Bob Hoskins dies at age 71. Via CNN.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pic(k) of the week: Talk, Eat, Drink, Muse.

Talk, Eat, Drink, Muse.

It was a damp and stormy Saturday afternoon ...

... in May, when members of the North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) met at Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont, in Washington, D.C. The pizza was savory; the conversation collegial; the hospitality warm; the beer cold and tasty.

The NAGBW was originally active from the 1980s through the 1990s, before disbanding. In 2013, beer writers Jay Brooks, Lucy Saunders, Don Russell, and others resuscitated the organization. Beginning with last year, it organizes an annual competition for beer writers, bloggers, broadcasters, and authors.

The group met up that day because many of its members were in town for SAVOR, an exposition of beer-with-food, held annually, since 2008, in Washington, D.C. (except in 2013, when the host was New York City). The event is organized by the Brewers Association (BA), an advocacy group for breweries in the United States producing fewer than 6 million barrels of beer annually.

Pictured in various meet-up poses, left to right: "Are you going to SAVOR," I was asked by another attendee? "Naw, the admission is too rich for my wallet," I replied. (That the BA forbids non-journalists from using cameras at SAVOR was another factor. Beer bloggers are a nefarious lot, you know.)

"Ah, that's why I'm a journalist," was the response.

Washington, D.C.
10 May 2014.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Irony during "American Craft Beer Week"®.

I was in a supermarket yesterday morning, straightening a display of beer that had been decimated over the weekend (a good thing), re-filling it with beer from a small, independent, local 'craft' brewery. Brewery X, I'll call it.

A man noticed, and asked me: "Are you a representative of Brewery X?"

Celebrate ACBW 2014 (01) "No," I replied, "but I'm with the wholesaler that distributes Brewery X beer."

"Well, I know Mr. S." the man continued. "He's the owner of Brewery X."

"I know him too," I replied.

"He's a good guy," the man said. "Yes, he is," I agreed.

The man nodded, walked a few steps to the beer cooler, and grabbed an 18-pack of Busch beer.

It's American Craft Beer Week® this week —sponsored, nationwide, by the Brewers Association. They, breweries, and drinkers alike may be celebrating, but there's still much work to do. Go out and do it: support your small, local, American brewery.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Dinner In the Beer Garden": Lucy Saunders cooks veggies; serves beers.

Beer is food: "in cooking, at the table, and by the glass."

Beer cookbooks usually come in one of two flavors: a collection of recipes of dishes that should be served with beer (but don't have to be) and a compendium of recipes using beer as an integral ingredient. Combining both approaches, four of the better beer cookbooks, currently in-print, have been written by one person, Lucy Saunders.

Now, Saunders —who hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin— has written her fifth cookbook, self-publishing it with the assistance of a successful Kickstarter campaign. And, it's a cookbook for vegetarians. That's something long anticipated, because beer is, after all, a fine vegetarian foodstuff itself.

"Dinner in the Beer Garden" title=

Dinner in the Beer Garden is my new cookbook about pairing craft beer with plant-based recipes, enjoyed outdoors in gardens and other social spaces. This isn't about traditional biergarten food like ham hocks and bratwurst. It's a cookbook for people who like carrots and kale - as well as butter, fish, cheese and chocolate! Profiles of gorgeous brewery gardens, a chapter on the history and design of beer gardens, and juicy color photographs of recipes turn the book into a tasty read. Recipes are both original and contributed by home cooks and chefs in the craft brewing community.

Saunders likes her grilled meats and her barbeque (and has written about those in prior books) but it's fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, herbs, and grains that are the stars of Dinner in the Beer Garden. She may include a few recipes for fish, eggs, and cheese (Saunders is from Wisconsin), but, as Saunders writes, her new cookbook is for people who "love craft beer, who love cooking with fresh produce, and who love sharing meals in sociable garden spaces."

Saunders divides the book into eleven chapters of recipes, each centered about a family of ingredients:
  • Appetizers
  • Beans & Legumes
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Greens
  • Noodles & Pasta
  • Roots
  • Squash & Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Sauces & Soups
  • Fruits & Desserts
Saunders depicts each recipe with a photograph of the finished plate. She suggests a beer for each —with a reason why— such as, with Cauliflower-Chickpea Cakes and Cucumber-Onion Relish, a recommendation for Debutante, a farmhouse ale brewed as a collaboration between Baltimore, Maryland's The Brewer's Art and Stillwater Artisinal Ales.
I love falafel, one of the easiest and fastest vegan bar snacks around. Here's a tasty riff on a baked version, adapted from Lauren Downey, author of the blog Veg-ology. It's a blend of cauliflower and spices folded into a red lentil and chickpea cake. <...> Downey likes a farmhouse ale for its refreshing, yeasty character to balance the seasonings and earthy lentils. I also like an English bitter, which is malty and bracing for a refreshing finish.

Often, what are the only 'vegan' snacks that brewpubs and beer bars offer on their menus? Baked pretzels and French fries (or variants thereof). No more excuses, guys! Why not falafel (or chickpea cakes)? But, then again, Saunders does include a recipe for pretzels: Bock Beer Pretzels, with the strong lager contributing caramel color, aroma, and flavor. It's one of the over 100 recipes in her book, for such things such as:
  • Butternut Squash and Beet Salad
  • Roasted Corn with Chile and Cotija Sauce
  • Fresh Beet Gnocchi
  • Hop-Infused Grilled Cheese with Heirloom Tomatoes
  • IPA-brined Potato Salad
  • Millet Flatbread with Manchego Cheese and Rosemary
  • Summer Rolls with Coconut-Sriracha Dipping Sauce.
  • Thai Carrot Burgers with Cucumber Relish
... to name but a few. The recipes are approachable for a home-cook —never too complicated, or too multi-stepped, or too ingredient-unusual— but they are not simple-tasting. You really do need to try Brown Ale Bananas, grilled, and served over rice or as dessert.

Beer Gardens

So, what is a beer garden? Saunders writes this:
A welcoming social space outdoors, designed with seating where you can relax in the shade, chat and sip beverages in the company of friends and family. <..> Plantings for a beer garden provide shade, enclosure, color, texture, foliage, and flowers. <...> And training bines on a trellis above an entry gate always makes a welcome symbol for the beer garden.

A guest essay describes the beer gardens ubiquitous in Bavaria, Germany.
To the Germans, beer gardens seem to be a way of life —a part of the community where everyone gathers to discuss politics and the weather over liters of dunkel and some crispy fried potatoes. <...> For the most part, everyone [is] content to relax and enjoy the food, beer, conversation, and setting. There is a respect for the shared space and all who are experiencing it, be they tourists or locals. <...>If you go to a beer garden, don't just go thirsty. They offer so much more than giant pretzels and beer —even for the vegetarians among us.

Unfortunately, it's much rarer to find the same here in the U.S. "Washington, D.C. doesn't have beer gardens," Greg Kitsock, editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, once said to Washington D.C. historian Garrett Peck. "It has beer patios."

Things may be changing, and Saunders writes on that. Interspersed among her recipes, Saunders identifies and describes beer gardens in the U.S., including one at the Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro. The National Wildlife Federation has designated this Bellingham, Washington, brewpub's beer garden as an official Wildlife Habitat, the only brewpub so honored. Saunders gives a shout out to Virginia's own Brew Ridge Trail, closer to YFGF's home territory.

Blue Mt. Sunset (03)

In a short essay "About Tasting and Pairing Beer with Vegetables", Saunders muses:
On a warm summer evening, I love to watch light filter through the leaves of the dogwood and viburnum with a beer in hand, salad on table, listening to the conversation of friends as I refill their glasses. "Why is it," I wonder, "that food and beer taste so much better together when we're in the beer garden?"

Camaraderie and environment are essential ingredients of good beer flavor, and good food. This is something that 'craft' beer folk —not Ms. Saunders— can on occasion neglect when trumpeting the newest, 'special-est' beer. A beer garden could be anodyne: a calm third-place for slow-beer. And, maybe more. During the spring through early autumn seasons, as fresh vegetables march in their annual parade, a beer garden could not only be an ornamental place in which to enjoy a beer, but home-ground to many of the very ingredients featured in Dinner in the Beer Garden. Grow 'em; cook 'em; enjoy 'em. With beer. With friends, outdoors.


About Lucy Saunders

Lucy Saunders on TV

At, Lucy Saunders has chronicled American brewing since 1987. Her work has been featured in publications such as Saveur, USA Today, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and elsewhere (such as here at YFGF!). She teaches cooking-with-beer-classes and tastings at the Siebel Institute and throughout the U.S. Saunders is a co-founder of the newly-resuscitated North American Guild of Beer Writers, on whose board she serves as Director.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Tank Boneyard

Tank boneyard

Twenty years of brewery tanks: some long 'dead', some anticipating a new life repurposed, and one yet 'working' as a barley malt silo. As seen behind Legend Brewing, in the 'Old Manchester' neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia.

19 April 2014.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Garrett Oliver wins at James Beard Awards; a first for beer.

The news was announced Monday night. For the first time ever, beer had won at the James Beard Awards.

At the gala celebration in Manhattan, Monday evening, 5 May 2014, Garrett Oliver —long-time brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing Company, author of several books including the award-winning The Brewmaster's Table (a tome on beer and food), and the editor of the comprehensive Oxford Companion to Beer— received the prestigious award for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional, the first time a beer professional has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation.

The mission Of the James Beard Foundation is to celebrate, nurture, and honor America's diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire. The James Beard Foundation Awards are annual awards for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education in the United States. The Awards were established in 1990 and are held annually on the first weekend in May.

Here is Mr. Oliver's personal reaction upon winning, as he posted it to Facebook
Okay, so I know that posting about something you've won is a class-A dork move, but hopefully you'll allow me this one. Last night I was named "Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional" by the James Beard Foundation. These awards are often called "the Oscars of the food world" and given the star-studded black tie ceremony at Lincoln Center, the description seems apt.

What Oliver wrote next really demonstrates why the man deserved the award, and why it was a milestone moment for good beer in the United States.
I don't need to tell you that beer has always taken a back seat in these circles, though by rights beer should have arrived here a very long time ago. My esteemed fellow nominees, especially Sam Calagione and my friend David Wondrich, have preached our bona fides from the rooftops for many years. This shiny chunk of bling is for my Brooklyn Brewery brewing team and for all the 3,000 American breweries making some of the most amazing beverages the world has ever seen. Stand facing the mash tun, get stuck in, and make some magic today. "This thing of ours" is the very best thing in the world.

Cizauskas & Garrett Oliver
The best-dressed brewer of the Western world: Garrett Oliver, that is (on the right),
and I, at the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C., in 2013.

Not that beer's worth and beauty needed outside affirmation, but Mr. Oliver's award was, in a way, recognition by the sometimes myopic wine and food world for the accomplishments of all of American 'craft' beer.

So, congratulations, Garrett Oliver. And, thank you for all you've done for the cause of good beer (and good food) as brewer, author, and advocate.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 16/17, 2014.

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

Weeks 16/17
14 April - 26 April 2014

  • 2014.04.24
    How does the Brewers Association select brewery participants for its SAVOR beer-and-food festival? By a lottery system and sponsor/supporter contributions. Via DC Beer.

  • 2014.04.24
    The history of the first American 'craft' beer India Pale Ale (IPA), Anchor Liberty Ale, and why many 'craft' beer drinkers no longer consider it an IPA. Via Bob Brewer of Anchor Brewing: "Beer styles are so nuanced that I think the people who write them also write horoscopes."

    Removing spent grains

  • 2014.04.24
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) backed off its proposed stringent regulations that would have made it too expensive for small breweries to recycle spent grain by providing it to dairy farmers. Via AP.

  • 2014.04.23
    The Vienna Lager of the Devils Backbone Brewing Company (of Roseland, Virginia) wins the best beer of Washington Post Beer Madness, conducted as a bracket-style panel vote of breweries in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

  • 2014.04.22
    Albert Pujols of the San Diego Padres became the 26th player in Major League Baseball history to hit 500 home-runs, the third-youngest player to hit 500, and the first to ever hit his 499th and 500th in one game. He did so against the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C., against pitcher Tyler Jordan. In 2006, he hit his 400th home run against the same team in the same ballpark. Via ABC.

  • 2014.04.22
    Earth Day, celebrated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014, was first observed on that date in 1970.

  • 2014.04.21
    36,000 runners ran in the Boston Marathon, today, one year since the attack upon it. It was won by Meb Keflezighi, the first American to win since 1983, with an official time of 2:08:37. Via CNN.

  • 2014.04.20
    Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter died at 76. A boxer, falsely convicted of murder. Campaigned against racial injustice. Via Washington Post.

    Legend Brown Ale truck

  • 2014.04.19
    Legend Brewing Company is Virginia's oldest operating 'craft' brewing company. It celebrated its 20th anniversary on 19 April 2014. Via YFGF.

  • 2014.04.18
    Beverage Industry Magazine releases its 2014 "State of American Beer Report."

  • 2014.04.18
    Beverage Industry Magazine releases its 2014 "State of American Beer Report." [Registration required.]

  • 2014.04.17
    "Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian writer who immersed the world in the powerful currents of magic realism, creating a literary style that blended reality, myth, love and loss in a series of emotionally rich novels that made him one of the most revered and influential writers of the 20th century, died April 17 at his home in Mexico City. He was 87." Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.04.14
    The first total lunar eclipse of 2014 occured the evening of 14 April and early morning of 15 April. The Earth moved between the moon and the sun, casting a shadow across the surface of the moon. When the moon was completely blocked from the sun, it appeared a certain hue of red, which is the projection of all the sunsets on the Earth onto the face of the moon. Thus the moniker, "blood moon." The next lunar eclipse occurs 8 October 2014. Via Christian Science Monitor.

  • 2014.04.14
    A woman was arrested for drinking a beer while breastfeeding her infant in an Arkansas restaurant. Via Houston Press.


Saturday, May 03, 2014

Bonus Pic(k) of the Week: Brewers' Discussions

Brewers' discussions

A meeting of the minds —four Washington, D.C.-area brewing minds, that is.

l-r: The occasion was Capitol City Brewing Company's first ever SpringFest 'craft' beer festival. Brewer Kristi Mathews Griner invited over 45 breweries, many local to the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, to bring and pour their beers.

It turned out to be a (mostly) sunny spring afternoon, which was a good thing for good-beer drinking at the festival, held along the two blocks outside the brewpub, in the Village at Shirlington.

In the fall, Capitol City will organize its much larger Oktoberfest, which this year will be its 15th year running.

Arlington, Virginia.
26 April 2014.


Friday, May 02, 2014

He brought a smoked Brown Ale to a beer festival (and lived to tell the tale).

Bret Kimbrough is the brewer at Vintage 50, a brewpub in Leesburg, Virginia, that sometimes seems to fly under the radar, as it were. I met up with him at the recent SpringFest in Shirlington, Virginia. He was pouring a Smokey Bluff Brown Ale.

Wanting to know more, I emailed him afterward. Kimbrough was so forthcoming, that I've posted his entire reply here (with permission).

Brewer Kimbrough pours his beers

Thanks for asking about Smokey Bluff Brown Ale. I was really flattered and pleased by the response it got at Springfest. It's based on a Northern English brown ale that we brew at Vintage 50 called Ball's Bluff, hence the name Smokey Bluff for the smoked version. It is brewed using pale ale, chocolate and crystal malt with the addition of one of my favorite roasted grains, Perla Negra from Patagonia Malting. Perla Negra is a roasted pearled barley that adds great roast flavors to beer without husk bitterness. And because it is unmalted, it really brings a boost to the mouthfeel of a beer so that it can seem bigger than it actually is. Many people are surprised when the hear that Smokey Bluff comes in under 5% ABV. As you can probably guess, the hops are barely there. I only add a very small charge at the start of the boil to give 12 IBUs. Fermentation took place on Ringwood yeast. Of course, the true star of this show is the smoked malt.

I really wanted to brew this beer after I was visited by Charlie Wise, the brewery liaison for Copper Fox Distilling [in Sperryville, Virginia], who brought samples of the various malts he had to offer. I was really impressed with the six-row malt that was smoked over apple and cherry wood. It was mild and very approachable. I thought I could use it to subtle effect to make a smoked ale with broad appeal. I also like that the barley was grown and malted here in Virginia. I like to use local products whenever I can.

Fortunately, my effort seems to have paid off. The overall remarks for the beer have been very good and I have been really excited to see many of our customers have taken a liking to it. The beer also gets used extensively in our kitchen to braise meats, make sauces and as an ingredient in marinades. Probably my favorite Smokey Bluff infused dish was the short rib chili that our chef, Amy Charney, made when the beer first hit the taps.

Crowds begin to fill SpringFest (02)

Festivals, especially warm-weather ones, are usually awash with India Pale Ales (IPA). Kimbrough did not bring one "Why," I wondered.
I brought the smoked beer to the Cap City Springfest for two reasons. First, as sort of an acid test to see if the beer really had the broad appeal I hoped it had, or if I was somehow kidding myself. Festivals are good for that sort of thing. Second, I have noticed over the last couple of years that dark beer tends to be scarce at fests, so I make a point of bringing a couple of darker beers with me wherever I go. This way, after swimming through the sea of IPAs that always seem to be ubiquitous at these things, the guests seem pleasantly surprised to find a change of pace with a brown ale, porter, etc. Don't get me wrong. I am not an IPA hater. I just found an unexploited fest niche and settled into it. In a business as competitive as craft beer, that's what you have to do.

I agreed. And took a second pour.


Pic(k) of the Week: Mint Julep & Hat

Mint Julep & Hat

The cold wasn't just beading, it was frosting on the metal shaker.

A Mint Julep of Jim Beam bourbon, fresh mint leaves, simple syrup, a dash of bitters, crushed ice, and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Paul Taylor, the 'mixologist' at Rhodeside Grill —a restaurant and bar in the Court House neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia— created this refreshing thing.

The hat was mine.

1 May 2014.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday. Of May Day, Fiddleheads, Ramps, & Pea Soup.

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

Pea soup, ramps, and fiddleheads. 
Workers in solidarity. 
May Day: sing Joy Spring. 1


What is May Day?

At its 1884 national convention in Chicago, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886." On 1 May 1886, a massive rally was held in Chicago in support of workers striking for the eight-hour day. An unknown person threw an explosive at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded. 2

International Workers' Day began thereafter as a commemoration of that day, of what would become known as the Haymarket Massacre. Now, this day, May Day, is honored as a worker holiday in many areas of the world. In the U.S., Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.

Going further back in history,
May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls half a year from November 1 – another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European paganisms and the year in the Northern Hemisphere – and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations. 3

As May Day can be one totem of spring, so are the arrivals of artichokes, asparagus, beets, fava beans, morels, nettles, radishes — the first in the yearly mid-Atlantic vegetable parade to come. 4 Here are three more.

Fiddleheads, Ramps, & Pea Soup

  • Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled tips of ferns. The fiddleheads in North America we eat are usually from the ostrich fern. They are available only in early spring, when ferns grow their new shoots. The young fern fronds are mainly available by foraging. Fiddleheads have a grassy, spring-like flavor with a hint of nuttiness. Many people agree that they taste like a cross between asparagus and young spinach. Some detect an artichoke flavor as well, and even a bit of mushroom.
    • Warning: Other ferns can be toxic, so never forage without an experienced guide. Fiddleheads should be at least lightly cooked (some authorities recommend they be completely cooked). Raw fiddleheads can carry food-borne illness and/or cause stomach upset if eaten in large quantities. 5
    • Fiddleheads have become a popular menu item in Washington, D.C.-area restaurants. Via DC Eater.
    • Recipes, via Blisstree.

  • Ramps (allium tricoccum) are an early spring vegetable with a pungent garlic-like odor and onion flavor, found across much of the eastern United States. Recipes via Huffington Post Taste.
    The city of Chicago took its name from a dense growth of ramps near Lake Michigan in Illinois in the 17th century, after the area was described by 17th-century explorer Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, and explained by his comrade, the naturalist and diarist Henri Joutel. The plant was called shikaakwa (chicagou) in the language of native tribes. The ramp has strong associations with the folklore of the central Appalachian Mountains [whose inhabitants] have long celebrated spring with the arrival of the ramp, believing it to have great power as a tonic to ward off many ailments of winter. Indeed, ramp's vitamin and mineral content did bolster the health of people who went without many green vegetables during the winter. 6

  • Peas: snow, snap, and sweet
    Fresh green peas, just shucked, can be sweet and delicious. And, of course, when cooked. How about a bowl of Chilled 'English' Pea Soup?

Chilled Pea Soup

May Day. Good jobs for the people, and good food.