Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Cask pour in Technicolor

Cask pour in Technicolor

Bright colors saturate the background at Fat Tuesday's, a New Orleans-styled pub in Fairfax, Virginia, as a representative of Heavy Seas Brewing pours a pint from a cask of Loose Cannon IPA (infused, in the cask, with grapefruit zest and Maryland-grown Cascade hops).

The nautically-themed, Baltimore, Maryland-based, brewery was celebrating International Talk Like A Pirate Day by tapping casks of its India Pale Ale, simultaneously, in over forty establishments, in eleven states and the District of Columbia, in an attempt to establish a Guinness Book of World Records record for the most casks of the same beer tapped at the same time.

6:00 pm EDT
19 September 2014.

No word yet on the record.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday. Quick Links for September 2014.

VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on issues of an animal-free diet, ecology, and the environment.


Quick links for August 2014

  • 24 September 2014:
    "There is a tentative sign of hope for the mass migration of monarch butterflies, whose numbers dropped to their lowest level ever last year. The head of Mexico's nature reserves, Luis Fueyo, said the first butterflies have been seen entering Mexico earlier than usual this year. Fueyo said it is too early to say whether butterfly numbers will rebound this year from a series of sharp drops, but noted 'this premature presence could be the prelude to an increase in the migration.' "
    —Via Real Clear Science.

  • 23 September 2014:
    "Rare earths are a hot commodity—they’re vital to securing solutions for the world’s energy concerns, with energy-saving applications in wind turbines, solar cells, and so much more. And with China tightly clenching the purse-strings to more than 90% of worldwide production of rare earths, some countries are eager to secure their own sources of the precious materials. [...] Now a student team from the University of Houston is also working to help supply the United States’ own rare earth stream from a different source. The team is commercializing a novel and proprietary method to recycle rare earths neodymium and dysprosium from waste electronics."
    —Via The American Ceramic Society.

  • 23 September 2014:
    Presidential science adviser John Holdren counters the arguments against climate change promulgated by members of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Jon Stewart, host of the Comedy Channel's Daily Show, analyzes the exchange.
    —Via Salon.

  • 18 September 2014:
    The C&O Canal Park was created sixty years ago, winding 184 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. to rural Cumberland, Maryland.Five million people a year visit the canal, making it the ninth most popular park in the nation. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon signed legislation to make the site a national historic park. Then Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was instrumental in its preservation.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 18 September 2014:
    Ten wildfires are burning nearly uncontrollably over 111 square miles in California. Fueling the fires is California's ongoing historic drought. On Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state emergency in El Dorado and Siskiyou counties, where the King Fire and another wildfire burned wide swaths of land and destroyed homes.
    —Via CNN

  • 17 September 2014:
    "The artificial sweeteners that are widely seen as a way to combat obesity and diabetes could, in part, be contributing to the global epidemic of these conditions. Sugar substitutes such as saccharin might aggravate these metabolic disorders by acting on bacteria in the human gut, according to a study published by Nature."
    —Via Scientific American

  • 14 September 2014:
    A Wisconsin utility plans to add an additional charge to customers who produce their own solar energy and sell it back to the grid.
    —Via Climate Progress.

  • 10 September 2014:
    "The Awful Reign of the Red [un]Delicious Apple. How the worst apple took over the United States, and continues to spread."
    —Via The Atlantic.

  • 9 September 2014:
    The great tomato debate: to refrigerate or not to refrigerate. Serious Eats says yes, refrigerate, and has the data to prove it.
    —Via Serious Eats.

  • 9 September 2014:
    Greenhouse gases hit record high in 2013, according to World Meteorological Organization. "The volume of carbon dioxide, or CO2, the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities, was 396.0 parts per million (ppm) in 2013, 2.9 ppm higher than in 2012, the largest year-to-year increase since 1984, when reliable global records began."
    —Via Reuters India.

  • 5 September 2014:
    France's 'top chef,' Michelin-starred cook Alain Ducasse reopened his Parisian restaurant by ditching duck, veal and steak for largely vegetarian dishes. His three-star restaurant at the luxury Plaza Athénée hotel now features a largely organic produce menu. "The chef has not gone as far as to declare his restaurant vegetarian – fish, seafood and some meat will still be served – but Ducasse has got what he calls 'naturalité' (naturalness). 'The planet has increasingly rare resources so we have to consume more ethically, more fairly.' "
    —Via The Guardian.

  • 3 September 2014:
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new regulations that could effectively forbid the sale of raw-milk cheeses, both imported and domestically produced. "Roquefort — France’s top-selling blue — is in the agency’s cross hairs along with raw-milk versions of Morbier, St. Nectaire and Tomme de Savoie. [...] The limits for nontoxigenic E. coli were cut from 100 MPN (most probable number) per gram to 10 MPN. These are bacteria that live in every human gut; they are typically harmless and we coexist happily. But the FDA considers them a marker for sanitation: If a cheese shows even modest levels of nontoxigenic E. coli, the facility that produced it must be insufficiently clean."
    —Via Janet Fletcher (in the Los Angles Times). Fletcher is the author of several books on cheese.



  • Use the oven to make the second-best tomato sauce "you've ever tasted." (Your grandmother's, of course, was better.)
    —Via Serious Eats.

  • The caustic chemistry of pretzels and Maillard reactions. How to cook a proper pretzel using lye or baking soda.
    —Via NPR Food.

  • Pickled peppers - no canning required. "A briny, crunchy, brightly colored snack."
    —Via Kathy Barrow aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow.

  • Vegan 'Cream' of Tomato Soup.
    —Via YFGF.

  • Recipe for poutine with vegetarian gravy.
    —Via Flourishing Foodie.

  • Scorched and Skewered Fruit Salad. "Grilling enhances fruit’s flavor by caramelizing it, and skewers provide an easy way to cook and present it."
    —Via Washington Post "Smoke Signals" .


Monday, September 22, 2014

Farewell, summer. Tonight at 10:29, it's the Autumnal Equinox.

I trod upon my carpet of gold,
While the reds, the browns, and the enduring greens
Bespeckle the pathway beneath my feet,
Casting autumn's prism in all its glory.
Verse by Genovaite Ambraziejus Cizauskas, my mother.

Autumn Leaves

Tonight, at 10:29 PM Eastern Daylight Time (2:29 Universal Time), it will be the exact moment at which the Autumnal (or September) Equinox will occur. And, at that moment, autumn will have begun (or spring, in the southern hemisphere).
At the instant of the September equinox, the midday sun will be shining straight overhead at the equator. As the September equinox sun crosses the equator, going from north to south, it’ll signal the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere. On the day of the equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west all over the world, with everyone worldwide receiving the same amount of day and night. By October, however, that’ll change dramatically. By then, the sun will rise noticeably south of due east and will set noticeably south of due west. That’ll mean shorter days and longer nights for the Northern Hemisphere, yet longer days and shorter nights in the Southern Hemisphere.

Nuts (02)

Why do leaves change color in autumn?
As the autumn days grow shorter, the reduced light triggers chemical changes in deciduous plants causing a corky wall to form between the twig and the leaf stalk. This "abscission layer" eventually causes the leaf to drop off in the breeze. As the corky cells multiply, they seal off the vessels that supply the leaf with nutrients and water and also block the exit vessels, trapping simple sugars in the leaves. The combination of reduced light, lack of nutrients, and no water add up to the death of the pigment chlorophyll, the "green" in leaves.

Once the green is gone, two other pigments show their bright faces. These pigments, carotene (yellow) and anthocyanin (red), exist in the leaf all summer but are masked by the chlorophyll. (The browns in autumn leaves are the result of tannin, a chemical that exists in many leaves, especially oaks.)

Sugar trapped in autumn leaves by the abscission layer is largely responsible for the vivid color. Some additional anthocyanins are also manufactured by sunlight acting on the trapped sugar. This is why the foliage is so sparkling after several bright fall days and more pastel during rainy spells. In general, a set growing season followed by a dry autumn filled with sunny days and cool, frostless nights produces the most vibrant palette of fall colors.
The Farmer's Almanac


The season for beer

How does this all apply to a blog about good fermentables? Maybe it doesn't. But I'd like to think that the colors of autumn —yellow, red, auburn, brown, black— are indeed the colors of beer.

I remember, unfondly, a late September day, several years ago, when I was flogging small brewery imports in Annapolis, Maryland. A manager of a certain 'high-end' wine-and-beer shop dismissed my sales call. She would not be interested in any more beer for the fall, she informed me, because she could only sell beer in the summer. That she said that to me while standing amidst a stack of Miller Lite.

Please don't tell her about the late summer hop harvest and its accompanying true autumn seasonal, deep golden 'fresh-hopped' beers. Don't tell her about amber-hued Oktoberfest and Märzens. Or about beers mashed with gourds and spiced with cinnamon. And, please, do not tell her about deep auburn German doppelbocks and Belgian dubbels, or copper English barleywines, or jet-black Russian Imperial Stouts. No! Please reserve more of those for the rest of us.

Ah, but, please! Don't tell her about football and beer.

Welcome, autumn. Welcome the season for beer.

India Ink has Mt Hoods!

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 36/37, 2014.

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

Weeks 36/37
31 August - 13 September 2014

  • 2014.09.12
    Americans prefer red wine over white, by 58% to 42%.
    —Via Washington Post Wonk Blog.

  • 2014.09.11
    Washington D.C.-based Air Force F-16 pilots, lacking live ammunition on 11 September 2001, were prepared to ram the hijackers with their jet.
    —Via Washington Post

  • 2014.09.08
    How much -and which- alcohol is drunk in the world during a week?
    —Interactive infographic via Ghost in the Data
    (Source: World Health Organization)

    Nats by water
  • 2014.09.06
    Nationals Park, in Washington, D.C., will be the site, outdoors, for the 1 January 2015 Winter Classic National Hockey League (NHL) hockey game, between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks.
    —Via Washington Post

  • 2014.09.06
    There's a fear of a pretzel shortage at Munich's Oktoberfest, as the Bavarian bakers' guild threatens to strike for a 6.5% wage increase.
    —Via Telegraph

  • 2014.09.06
    The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) recently released domestic production and domestic tax paid figures for the first six months of 2014 showing
    • Total U.S. malt beverage production growing 0.6 percent for a gain of more than 7.7 million case equivalents (560,000 barrels).
    • Canned beer packages carried the industry in 2014, growing 3.1 percent by more than 23.1 million cases in just six months.
    • Imports' share of market rose to 14.4 percent, compared to 13.8 percent for the same time frame in 2013.
    • More important for beer sales is the domestic tax paid figure that represents domestic cases sold to distributors by U.S. breweries. Year-to-date, this figure is basically flat, showing only a small volume decrease of around -0.2 percent.
    —Via National Beer Wholesalers Association (NGBW)

  • 2014.09.05
    How the rules and regulations for buying alcohol differ in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
    —Via Huffington Post
    (Sources: Wikipedia, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States).

  • 2014.09.05
    Remains of a Colonial-era brewery found at College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
    —Via Associated Press.

  • 2014.09.02
    Year-to-date beer sales figures from the Brewers Association (whose self-described purpose is to "promote and protect small and independent American brewers":
    • Total U.S. beer sales up 2.9%
    • Craft beer up 20.9% at 7.8% of the 196 million barrels of beer sold
    • Domestic premium beer sales down 0.1%
    • FMBs (flavored malt beverages) up 24.6%.
    —Via Market Development Committee (of Brewers Association).

  • 2014.09.02
    Wine Enthusiast Magazine selects its top American tastemakers under 40 for 2014. Three are in the 'craft' beer world.
    • Meg Gill, brewer at Golden Road Brewing
    • Pat Fahey, the youngest-ever Master Cicerone, a program which "certifies and educates beer professionals in order to elevate the beer experience for consumers"
    • Travis Benoit, owner of Crowd Brewed: "financing and fundraising options for the craft beer industry and its affiliates."
    —Via Wine Enthusiast Magazine

  • 2014.09.01
    Pabst to release recreation of legendary Ballantine IPA, at 7.2% alcohol-by-volume (abv); 70 International Bittering Units (IBU).

    Ballantine may bave been "the first India pale ale (IPA) brewed in the United States. It was certainly the first made by the Peter Ballantine & Sons Brewing Company, of Newark, New Jersey, dating back to 1878. It was one of the few breweries to outlast prohibition and continue making IPAs for decades after."
    —Via Gizmodo

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Dirndl und bier

Dirndl und bier

Autumn begins Monday evening, but today could be considered the unofficial beginning of the fall season.

At noon, today ―München (Munich), Germany time― the lord mayor of Munich, in Bavaria, tapped the first keg of the Oktoberfest. Standing in the Spaten (Schottenhamel) tent, he proclaimed, "O'zapft is!" ("the barrel has been tapped"), and the world's largest party commenced, for the 181st time.

For the next sixteen days, today until 5 October, over 6.5 million people will attend Oktoberfest in Munich. They'll drink more than 5.8 million Maßkrug of Oktoberfest beer, mugs holding a liter each. (To put it in U.S. terms, that'll be 10.6 million pints.) They'll eat more than 589,000 rotisserie chickens, 320,00 sausages, 200,000 fish, 60 deer (in smaller portions), and meat butchered from 84 cows. And, they'll make use of 1,800 toilets.

The fraulein (young lady) above, is not the lord mayor of Munich, but she is wearing a 'glamed' up variant of a dirndl: "a type of traditional dress worn in Germany – especially Bavaria – based on the historical costume of Alpine peasants."

Note, however, the non-traditional can of Red Bull at her feet. She was not in Munich, but in Arlington, Virginia, in 2011, for the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, an annual one-day festival organized by the Capitol City Brewing Company, in the neighborhood outside its brewpub, in this Washington, D.C. suburb. If not quite 6.5 million people, 8,000 attended that year.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What are the odds?

What were the odds that these two Major League Baseball teams, separated by only thirty-five miles of Baltimore-Washington Parkway traffic, would both be playing in the 2014 baseball playoffs?

The Baltimore Orioles, at home last evening, defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2, to clinch the American League East title, and guarantee a playoff berth. The Washington Nationals, playing in Atlanta, defeated the Braves, their nemesis for much of the season, 3-0, securing the National League East title and a playoff spot.

What are the odds that —these American League Baltimore Orioles, in that Maryland city since 1954, and these National League Washington Nationals, who in 2005, brought baseball back to the Nation's Capital after a thirty-three year drought— that these two neighboring teams might play each other in the World Series, the Orioles not being there since 1983, the Nationals never? *

Whisper it; don't jinx it. The Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, and Pirates, and the Tigers, Royals, Angels, and A's, all are yet barring the way. But dare to dream it.

In the National's locker room celebration last night, amidst the spraying of the Dom Perignon and the foaming of the Miller Lites, outfielder Jayson Werth drank a Bard's Beer, gluten-free. Two weeks from now, it's baseball in October: that magical, wonderful time. Anything could happen, and the beer —sorghum or barley-malt— will be cold.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Here they are -- the 'Best' Beer Bars in America for 2014 -- as you voted for them.

"I don't mean to interrupt," one says, just before one does just that.

The Brewers Association is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers, and the community of brewing enthusiasts. For the past few years, the BA has organized a nation-wide vote for the 'best' beer bars in the United States, by region, and overall. And, the results for 2014 are in.

I don't usually go in for these popularity-contest shenanigans, but, today, why not, I will.

Congratulations to the twenty-five bars who won 'Best in America,' but in particular to those three in the home territory of this blog: Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The first two of those jurisdictions didn't place, but the last one certainly did. Virginia had three winners: Blue 5 Restaurant, in Roanoke, The Birch Bar, in Norfolk, and Mekong, in Richmond. In fact, Mekong, now a three-time winner, could be considered one of the five best beer bars ... in the nation, for 2014. It's a question of organizing your base; as in politics, of getting out the voters. And these folk did.

And, of the three Virginia bars, I've been to Mekong several times, which is located just outside the city limits of Richmond. So, I'll concur with, and applaud, the vote. An Bui, a Vietnamese restaurateur, several years ago recognized the compatibility of good beer with his native food, and its value for his bottom line. He tells visitors that "beer is the answer." And apparently, it has been. He's just opened a brewpub, called The Answer, next door to Mekong. Opened, but not yet brewing.

The Battle of the Bars’s 2014 Great American Beer Bars 

Boulder, CO • September 15, 2014—Now more than ever, bars across the U.S. showcase the wide array of offerings from the more than 3,000 breweries in operation throughout the country today. To help navigate the nation for some of the best places to imbibe, —the Brewers Association (BA) website for beer lovers— surveyed its audience for its annual Great American Beer Bars competition.

More than 19,000 craft beer fans cast over 3,400 nominations for better beer bars this year. Once nominations were collected, the field was then narrowed to the 10 most-nominated bars in each of the five regions of the country. The top five craft beer establishments from each region, as well as the overall winners from each, have been recognized.

Methodology: asked readers to help choose the winners for the annual Great American Beer Bars competition. Readers were asked to nominate their favorite craft beer bars in the country; one bar from each of the five designated regions. Craft beer fans cast more than 3,400 nominations, which were narrowed down to the 10 most-nominated bars in each of these five regions. Over 19,000 votes were cast in total. Voting was conducted from August 15 to September 5.

Regional Winners (listed in alphabetical order)

Mountain West

·         Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe*, Denver, CO
·         Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO
·         Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids & Solids, Longmont, CO
·         The Attic*, Phoenix, AZ
·         The Mayor of Old Town, Fort Collins, CO

·         Bulls Head Public House*, Lititz, PA
·         Cloverleaf Tavern, Caldwell, NJ
·         Growler & Gill Craft Beer Shoppe*,  Nanuet, NY
·         The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Burlington, VT
·         The Ruck, Troy, NY

North Central
·         Ashley's, Ann Arbor, MI
·         HopCat, Grand Rapids, MI
·         Lizardville Beer Store & Whiskey Bar*, Bedford Heights, OH
·         The Bavarian Lodge, Lisle, IL
·         The Cellar Peanut Pub*, Oskaloosa, IA

·         38 Degrees Ale House & Bar*, Alhambra, CA
·         APEX Bar, Portland, OR
·         Beer Stein Bottle Shop & Pub, Eugene, OR
·         Prospectors Pizzeria & Alehouse, Denali National Park, AK
·         The Pine Box, Seattle, WA

·         Blue 5 Restaurant*, Roanoke, VA
·         Mekong Restaurant, Richmond, VA
·         The Birch Bar, Norfolk, VA
·         The Porter Beer Bar*, Atlanta, GA
·         The Thirsty Monk, Asheville, NC

*Represents newcomer to Great American Beer Bars competition finals

2014 Great American Beer Bars (Overall)
(receiving the most votes out of each respective region and listed in alphabetical order)

·         Beer Stein Bottle Shop & Pub, Eugene, OR
·         Cloverleaf Tavern, Caldwell, NJ
·         Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO
·         HopCat, Grand Rapids, MI
·         Mekong Restaurant, Richmond, VA


Two casks in August

Bad pull.

"What's this," I asked the bartender, looking at a murky glass of sour beer dregs he had set in front of me. "Why, that's the best part of the cask," replied the bartender. "I tilted it so I could pour the beer for you." "I thought you said this was a cask-conditioned pale ale," I said, accenting the word "pale.' "It is," he replied, missing any irony. I asked for something else. He continued to pour the cask for others.

Good call.

"What's that?" asked the brewer, as he walked past me, seeing a murky pint in front of me. "That's your cask-conditioned pale ale," I replied. "No," replied the brewer, "I apologize. You should never be served a pint that looks like that." After turning to talk (quietly) to the bartender, he removed the nearly empty cask from service. The bartender returned to offer me a different (bright) pint, on the house. He did the same for several other customers.

Cask ale is not to be cloudy, flat, sour, or warm. If yours is, send it back. Tell them I —and many others— say so.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Ducks on a rock

Two ducks enjoy an end-of-summer afternoon reverie, a few warm weeks before they may decide to fly south for the winter ... or not.

Ducks on a rock

On the banks of the Potomac River, near

Belle Haven Marina
Fairfax, Virginia.
10 September 2014.


Monday, September 08, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 34/35, 2014.

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

Weeks 34/35
17 August - 30 August 2014

  • 2014.08.30
    The top U.S. city, in terms of drinks consumed per capita, is Boston, Massachusetts, at 15.6 per month. Norfolk, Virginia, is second at 15.1 drinks per person per month.
    —Via Daily Beast (using data from Experian Marketing Services).

  • 2014.08.26
    Philippine de Rothschild, a scion of the vaunted winemaking family who helped modernize and expand a renowned wine-producing enterprise —Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA owner of the Château Mouton Rothschild estate— that sells 22 million bottles annually, died on 23 August 2014 in Paris. She was 80.
    —Via New York Times.
  • 2014.08.26
    A strip club in Dayton, Ohio, had trouble getting a liquor license. So, the owners got a brewery license instead.
    —Via Dayton City Paper.

  • 2014.08.25
    The ancient origins of beer (and drinking straws): 10,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years.
    —Via Jay Brooks (in the San Jose Mercury News).

  • 2014.08.25
    Most wineries in Napa Valley are located north of where a magnitude-6.0 earthquake was centered on 24 August 2014, and were spared damage. "At some wineries, bottles and barrels rolled off shelves and burst, fermentation tanks ruptured, and fine wine was running in rivulets through the streets. Elsewhere, however, the wine appeared largely secure."
    —Via Washington Post, quoting the (California) Wine Institute.

  • 2014.08.24
    On this day, two hundred years ago during the War of 1812 (on 24 August 1814), Washington, D.C. was captured and burned by the British.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.08.24
    The online magazine, Thrillist, ranks each U.S. state by beer. Oregon finishes #1, Mississippi lat at 50th. Washington, D.C. was ignored. The criteria: "Quantity and quality are both important, but quality's a bit MORE important. If you're a small state turning out a disproportionate amount of great beer, it did not go unrecognized. We also gave a boost to states who played a historical role in American beer as we know it today."
    —Via Thrillist.

  • 2014.08.23
    The best beers in Virginia, brewed by Virginia 'craft' breweries: the winners of the 2014 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup are announced.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2014.08.22
    "Of Pints and Prices." Reasons why a pint of 'craft' beer costs $7 or more in the U.S.
    —Via Literature & Libations.

  • 2014.08.19
    Don Pardo, legendary announcer for "Saturday Night Live" and many television game shows, dead at 96.
    —Via Baltimore Sun.

  • 2014.08.17
    "From Grain to Growler" is a documentary on the history and recent growth of 'craft' beer and breweries in Virginia. The film was publicly screened for the first time, on 9 August 2014, at the Capital Ale House, in downtown Richmond, Virginia.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2014.08.17
    "BREWLAND™ is a feature-length documentary exploring the craft beer industry and culture in the United States. It’s a “coming of age” tale about an industry struggling to define its identity in an ever-changing environment while growing at an unsustainable pace. We will reveal how it has evolved through American history, the challenges of being a craft brewer, and what the future may hold for the craft brewing world." The producers are crowd-sourcing funds at IndieGoGo.
    —Via Brewland.

    Tuppers (03)

  • 2014.08.17
    Bob and Ellie Tupper —long-time advocates of good beer in Washington, D.C.— have tasted in excess of twenty-five thousand beer, and kept notes on them. The husband-and-wife-duo are writing a memoir and guide to European beers.
    —Via Tammy Tuck (at Washington City Paper).

  • 2014.08.17
    Go EAST, young man. How some western U.S. craft beer breweries are dealing with the historic drought, by opening facilities in the eastern U.S.
    —Via The Beermonger.

  • 2014.08.17
    The top 10 beer brands in the world. At No. 1 is Snow, brewed in China by CR Snow, a joint venture between SABMiller and China Resources Enterprises, only first released in 2004. Bud Light is third. Via @teamdb:
    —Via The Drinks Business.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Satisfied with his Draft Punk.

Satisified with his Draft Punk

A customer seems quite taken with his pint of cask-conditioned Draft Punk IPA, brewed and 'casked' by the Oliver Brewing Company, of Baltimore, Maryland. This, he told the photographer, was his first ever cask-conditioned 'real ale.'

Real Ale

Beer brewed from traditional ingredients. Matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed. Served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide. Presented unfiltered, yet 'bright' not cloudy. Served at cool 'cellar' temperature, approximately 50 - 56 °F, at which point the subtleties of flavor become prominent. The beauty of beer at its freshest.
Cask Ale USA

Draft Punk

This IPA is about as American as we get. Generously bittered with Chinook and Cascade hops, finished with whole leaf Cascade hops, and then dry-hopped with more whole-leaf Cascade hops. 7% alcohol-by-volume.
Oliver Brewing Company, Baltimore, Maryland.

Served at...

... William Jeffrey's Tavern, in Arlington, Virginia, on 4 September 2014.

Not only was Draft Punk the first cask ale the customer had ever experienced, it was indeed the first cask-conditioned 'real ale' that the pub itself had ever served. Kismet.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday: Tomato Prep and Tomato Soup

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

A friend once told me that her perfect lunch would be a hot cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Today, it's the tomato soup we'll discuss. And, now, at the end of summer, it's the right time to do so.
The perfect tomato soup fully embraces its central ingredient, and, crucially, it should only be made when the absolute best tomatoes are available. That time, roughly, is right now, when absurdly buxom tomatoes are spilling out of bins at local markets (and, if you’re lucky, your neighbor’s backyard). Seriously: Sad, ratty, out-of-season supermarket tomatoes will fail you here. The only real time to make tomato soup is when the nearby bounty is ripe.

That's Jeffrey Bloomer of Slate Magazine. Back to him in a moment.

But, first, here, from Joe Yonan, of the the Washington Post, it's information, so basic and, yet, so useful: how to store, peel, and de-seed tomatoes.

[If the video fails to load, here's the link.]

Now, here's how to cook up some 'Cream' of Tomato Soup. I've adapted the recipe from that of Mr. Bloomer, 'veganizing' it, removing the dairy.


'Creamy' Harvest Tomato Soup

Time: 35 minutes
Makes 3 servings
  • 4 to 5 medium, ripe, in-season tomatoes.
  • 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (or butter substitute, such as Earth Balance).
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  • Pinch of sugar, or so, to taste.
  • 1/3 cup vegan 'heavy cream' [recipe below].
Peel the tomatoes, and slice them in half.


Heat the oil (or Earth Balance) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, cut side down, and season with a pinch of salt and and a twist of cracked pepper. When the tomato juice begins to bubble, reduce the heat -just- enough so that the juice simmers but doesn't steam off. Cook until the tomatoes have released most of their juices (but aren’t charred), 15 minutes or so.

Turn the tomatoes over, smash them a bit, and cook over just-less-than-medium-heat, until they begin to break down, 10 minutes, or so.


Remove the pan from the heat. Add most of the tomatoes and juice to a blender, reserving some unblended pieces in the pan. Add a bit of the 'cream,' and blend for a couple of seconds.

Taste, perhaps adding a pinch or two of sugar to cut the acidity. If more cream is needed, add and blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings (salt pepper, and/or sugar). Add back to the reserved tomato pieces in the pan, and serve the soup warm.


Store any leftover soup in an 'airtight' container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

I was surprised to find so many odd and uninspired recipes for homemade tomato soup. Some are more accurately described as vegetable soup, so prodigious are their list of ingredients. Others drown the tomatoes in too-rich chicken stock. And some even call for canned tomatoes, which are preferable to the gritty varieties sold in winter but still result in the pallid flavors of their precooked brethren. No aromatics can disguise a lackluster main ingredient. And that really is the key: Tomatoes should be the star ingredient, and practically the only ingredient.


To make vegan 'heavy cream'

  • 1/2 block of silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup of unflavored, unsweetened almond milk.
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
Making vegan 'heavy cream'

Blend until thick and creamy and un-lumpy.


  • I prefer almond milk because it's easier to find it in unsweetened AND unflavored varieties at the store. Most unsweetened soy milks still contain flavorings, for which you have to look long and hard hard at the listing of writ-tiny ingredients to notice.
  • It's important to use so-called silken tofu (nèn dòufu, in Chinese): undrained, unpressed tofu that contains a higher moisture content than 'regular' tofu. When used in soups, or for baking, it yields a much less 'grainy' or lumpy consistency.
  • Check the label on non-buttery spreads. Many contain lactose or whey, derived from milk. Avoid them if you want a vegan recipe. If not, why not simply use real butter? I choose not!

Vegan 'Cream' of Tomato Soup (02)


Monday, September 01, 2014

Happy Labor Day, and thank you for the beer!

This way to Beltway beer

According to the Beer Institute, not only does the American beer market directly and indirectly employ around 2,000,000 people, but one job in a brewery or wholesaler supports 45 jobs outside of it -- and not just because the people in those jobs go to the bar after work.

The recent study -- which took into account years of economic data and required drinking/looking at lots of beer -- also concluded that the brewing industry generates around $246 billion for the US economy and earns $79 billion for the folks working within it, and proposed a sort of "Beer Ripple Effect", where a single brewery job can create positions in agriculture, distribution, retail, and lots of other industries.
Thrillist, 27 August 2014.

The beery contributions of the state of California lead the nation: 241,640 jobs, $11.1 billion in wages, and $34.2 billion in total economic input.

Virginia is 15th, where beer produces 51,830 jobs, $2.2 billion in wages, and $7.3 billion in economic contribution. Maryland is at the 21st position, with 34,670 jobs, $1.2 billion in wages, and $3.1 billion in economic contribution. The city of Washington, D.C. is 48th — 3,590 jobs, $106 million in wages, and $296.9 million in total economic contribution —but it beats out three actual states, including Wyoming, which finishes last. 1

Bob Kittrell at Sisson's (1997)

Beer might be a commodity, but labor is not. It's a right, enshrined by international law 2. And, it's the fruits of brewers' labors at breweries that are gifts to us all. So, thank you, brewers and brewery workers, and beer distributors and drivers, and beer store employees and publicans. Thank you all for your labors.

Today, Labor Day 3, may be a federal holiday, but chances are those brewers won't have the day off. Yeast never sleeps.