Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Cask Stout Pour

Cask pour of Peg Leg Stout

A photo of a pretty pour, hand-pumped from a cask of Peg Leg Stout —brewed by Heavy Seas Brewing (of Baltimore, Maryland)— is this week's Pic(k) of the Week.
  • The cask was stored in an under-bar-counter refrigerator, kept at 50 °F.
  • It was vented, tapped, and served, standing upright, using a cask widge.
  • To forestall spoilage, a cask breather provided blanket carbon dioxide (CO2) coverage, but at zero pressure. *
Served at:
American Taproom
Arlington (Clarendon), Virginia.
22 October 2014.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 40/41, 2014.

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

Weeks 40/41
28 September - 11 October 2014

  • 2014.10.11
    "Tasting Whiskey," new book by Lew Bryson —editor of Whiskey Advocate Magazine— released.
    —Via Facebook.

  • Baltimore Beer Week 2013 (logo)
  • 2014.10.10
    The 6th annual Baltimore (Maryland) Beer Week began today. Runs through 19 October 2014.
    —Via Baltimore Beer Week.

  • 2014.10.09
    Stone Brewing Company, of Escondido, California 10th largest U.S. craft brewery, to build an East Coast brewery and restaurant, in Richmond, Virginia, opening in 2016, employing more than 288 people.
    —Via Barley Blog.

  • 2014.10.06
    The 'best' beer of each U.S. state, as determined by the highest scores.
    —Via Business Insider.

  • 2014.10.04
    Is drinking local beer always the best way? Greg Engert of Bluejacket, Washington, D.C., looks at beer quality and flavor as obvious, but sometimes ignored, factors in choosing a 'good' beer.
    —Via Esquire Magazine.

  • 2014.10.04
    The great American beers of 2014, as judged at the Great American Beer Festival, in Denver, Colorado.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2014.10.03
    "If craft brewing had come along just a little sooner, Ballantine IPA might well now be considered [craft beer's] grandfather."
    —Via Jeff Alworth in All About Beer.

  • 2014.10.02
    "Beer is the purest of all alcoholic beverages." Franciscan Roman Catholic nun, Sister Doris Engelhard, Europe's last brewmaster nun, at Mallersdorf Abbey, in Bavaria, Germany.
    —Via The Atlantic.

  • 2014.10.02
    U.S. government to reduce brewers bond and paperwork, for breweries producing fewer than seven thousand five hundred barrels of beer per year.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 2014.09.30
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the first-ever case of Ebola in the U.S., in Dallas, Texas.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.09.29
    Beer writers continue to equate the complex flavor of wet-hopped beers (beers hopped with hops only hours removed from the harvest) with insipid, immature, Beaujolais Nouveau wines.
    —Via Bon Appetit.

  • Cinderella & the pumpkin
  • 2014.09.29
    Pumpkin beers in early Colonial America.
    —Via Library of Congress.

  • 2014.09.28
    German waiter sets world record, carrying 27 liter-mugs of beer, weighing 62 kilograms (136 pounds), for a distance of 40 meters (43.7 yards). Some spillage allowed.
    —Via Daily Mail.

  • 2014.09.28
    For the 2012 vintage, two hundred and sixty-seven Medoc chateaux have been classified as Cru Bourgeois; the most ever.
    —Via Decanter.

  • Bartender Rachel @DRP (03)
  • 2014.09.28
    A ten-step primer to pouring draught beer correctly —and actually pouring the beer is only one of the ten.
    —Via Brewers Association.

  • 2014.09.28
    "Wine should be paired with a meal, not a weather report." The wine reviewer for the Washington Post recommends Riesling (for its acidity and relatively low alcohol content) for Oktoberfest-style meals of wurst and sausages.
    —Via Dave McIntyre.

  • 2014.09.28
    In 2014, two-thousand acres in New York were devoted to growing barley for malting. Future demand in the state could support thirty-thousand acres.
    —Via Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Wine Contemplations

Wine contemplations

As seen at a wine café and market, only latterly opened: two, in seeming wine reverie.

Bistro 360
Arlington (Rosslyn), Virginia
17 October 2014.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Chesapeake Real Ale Festival 2014

Baltimore Beer Week 2014 began last Friday, 10 October. It ends this Sunday, 19 October. (Yes, that's a ten day week.)

Before it all ends, the Pratt Street Ale House and the Baltimore chapter of the Society for the Preservation for Beer from the Wood (SPBW) present the 11th annual Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, this Saturday, at the brewpub, in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.

Jones vs. the firkin
Festival host brewer, Steve Jones, of Oliver Brewing.

There will be at least forty-one casks of real ale (and one 'real' lager) at the festival. And, what is 'real ale'?

Also known as cask-conditioned ale, 'real ale' is 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. It's the beauty of beer at its freshest.

The festival takes place both inside and out the Pratt Street Alehouse. Outside, no problem. The weather forecast for Saturday is for good autumn weather. Or, as some might say, good cask ale weather. And, the festival is a bargain. For one admittance fee, a festival go-er can drink unlimitedly (within the bounds of supply and good and decorum), without the nuisance of purchasing drink tickets. Food, however, is not included, but can be purchased off the pub's menu, in the dining rooms or at the bar.

Here's the line-up of casks: some TBDs (to be determined), some MIAs, and, as always, some yet-to-be-named guest beers.

Brewery Location Beer Cask Additions Alcohol %
Blue Mountain Afton, Virginia Double Oat IPA Centennial hops 8.4
Breckenridge Colorado Oatmeal Stout Salted caramel and coffee beans 4.9
Brewers Alley Frederick, Maryland IPA ... 5.8
The Brewer's Art Baltimore, Maryland Proletary Brown Ale ... 5.3
The Brewer's Art Baltimore, Maryland Apres Saison Citra hops 5.3
DC Brau Washington, D.C. Stone of Arborath Scotch ale Gin-soaked oak chips, rosemary, thyme 8
DuClaw Baltimore, Maryland Neon Gypsy IPA Simcoe, Amarillo, Chinook hops 6.5
Evolution Salisbury, Maryland Lot 3 IPA ? hops 6.8
Flying Dog Frederick, Maryland The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale vanilla 9.0
Flying Dog Frederick, Maryland The Truth Imperial IPA ... 8.7
Flying Fish New Jersey Exit 16 Wild Rice Double IPA Citra hops 8
Flying Fish New Jersey Red Fish Amber Ale Simcoe hops 7
Frey's Mount Airy, Maryland Pussy Pilot Parade Black Rye IPA ... 5.9
Full Tilt Baltimore, Maryland Hop Harbor IPA Mosaic hops 8.3
Gordon-Biersch Baltimore, Maryland Heather Mel Scotch Ale (aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels) 7.5
Harpoon Massachusetts IPA El Dorado hops ...
Heavy Seas Baltimore, Maryland Plank III (Wood-aged tripel) ... 8.5
Jailbreak Laurel, Maryland The Carrot Cake Conspiracy (Amber Ale, with roasted carrots and spices) ... 6
Milkhouse Farm Brewery Mt. Airy, Maryland IPA ... 6
Monacacy Frederick, Maryland Riot Rye Amber Ale ... 6.2
New Belgium Colorado 1554 (Black Lager) Fuggles hops 5.6
Oliver Brewing Baltimore, Maryland Bizarre Gardening Accident (Anglo-American Brown Ale) ... ...
Oliver Brewing Baltimore, Maryland The Black Code #2 Black IPA ... 7
Oliver Brewing Baltimore, Maryland ESB ... 6
Oliver Brewing Baltimore, Maryland Modern Life is Rubbish Porter ... 5.9
Oliver Brewing Baltimore, Maryland My Monkeys Gone Sour (Oak-aged, soured barleywine) ... 10.5
Oliver Brewing Baltimore, Maryland Pink Torpedo Raspberry Saison ... ...
Oliver Brewing Baltimore, Maryland There's A Fine Line Between Stupid And Clever (Smoked Black 'Pseudo' Lager) ... ...
Pub Dog Brewing Westminster, Maryland Imperial Dog IPA ... 6.5
Pub Dog Brewing Westminster, Maryland Pumpkin Ale ... 6.66
Oskar Blues Colorado/North Carolina Dales Pale Ale mangos 6.5
Oskar Blues Colorado/North Carolina Old Chub Scotch Ale coffee, vanilla 8
Real Ale Revival Cambridge, Maryland Nanticoke Nectar IPA Citra, Cascade hops 6.0
Sly Fox Pennsylvania Chester County Bitter ... 4.5
Sly Fox Pennsylvania Hop Project #05256 #05256 hops 6.1
Terrapin Georgia Midnight Monk Black IPA ... 9.8
Union Craft Baltimore, Maryland Hampden on Rye Ale coriander 5.9
Weyerbacher Pennsylvania Last Chance IPA Simcoe hops 5.9
Weyerbacher Pennsylvania Last Chance IPA Centennial hops 5.9
Yards Pennsylvania Presidents Peculiar Bitter Ale ... 5
Yards Pennsylvania Brawler English Mild French Aramis Hops 4.2

Pratt Street Ale House


Monday, October 13, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 38/39, 2014.

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

Weeks 38/39
14 September - 27 September 2014

  • 2014.09.27
    Cold temperatures and wet weather damage already historically small North American barley harvest. Malted barley prices may rise. Will beer prices increase as a result?
    —Via Reuters.

  • 2014.09.25
    Cask ale volumes (in the U.K.) grew in 2013, despite a declining market. The 2014 U.K. Cask Report has been released.
    —Via Pete Brown.

  • 2014.09.25
    Britain celebrates Cask Ale Week, 25 September through 5 October, organized by Cask Marque: "only in UK, only in pubs."
    —Via Cask Ale Week.

  • 2014.09.23
    Belgian brewery, De Halve Maan in Bruges, to move its beer via an underground pipeline from its brewery to its bottling plant, three kilometers away.
    —Via AFP.

  • 2014.09.22
    Autumn began on Monday, 22 September 2014, at 10:29 EDT in the Northern Hemisphere, with the occasion of the Autumnal Equinox.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2014.09.21
    NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) probe arrived in Mars orbit late Sunday, 21 September 2014.
    India's first-ever Mars probe, the Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission, arrived at Mars orbit on 23 September.

  • 2014.09.20
    The best beers in Maryland as determined by the Maryland Comptroller's Cup.
    —Via Brewer's Association of Maryland.

  • Mr Boh
  • 2014.09.19
    Pabst —the non-brewing owner of several American 'legacy' brands including Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Schlitz, Colt 45, and National Bohemian— has been sold to a consortium including a Russian company, Oasis Beverages.
    —Via Baltimore Sun.

  • 2014.09.19
    Scottish voters have rejected independence, opting to stay in the U.K.
    —Via CBS News.

  • 2014.09.18
    Anne-Françoise Pypaert is the first-ever woman brewmaster at any Trappist brewery, directing brewing operations at Brasserie d’ Orval, where she had been Director of Quality Control since 1995.
    —Via Belgian Beer Specialist.

  • All about "All About Beer"
  • 2014.09.17
    Daniel Bradford, owner of All About Beer Magazine for 22 years, has sold the magazine and the World Beer Festival to a North Carolina company. The sale marks a generational change in craft beer, Bradford was former director of the Great American Beer Festival, former president of the Brewers Association of America, and former marketing director of the Association of Brewers.
    —Via Real Beer.

  • 2014.09.15
    Nearly one in every three beers in the world might soon be owned by the same company. Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest beer maker by volume, is preparing to offer as much as $122 billion for SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewing company.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 2014.09.15
    The twenty-five 'Best' Beer Bars in America in 2014, as selected in a national poll, run by the Brewers Association.

  • Why 'craft' beer costs so much
  • 2014.09.14
    Why does a 6-pack of craft beer cost what it does? An explanation, via writer Joe Satran.
    —Via Huffington Post.

  • 2014.09.14
    Sad legal kerfuffle at Balcones Whisky, one of America's 1st 'craft' distilleries, in Waco, Texas. The distillery founder, Chip Tate, has refused to attend board meetings with the venture capital group that now owns a majority stake in the company.
    —Via Whisky Advocate.

  • 2014.09.14
    The 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key's writing of the "Star Spangled Banner," in 14 September 1814.
    —Via Washington Post.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Stouts & Dirndls.

Stouts & dirndls for Oktoberfest

Attending an Oktoberfest celebration, these two were into the spirit of the thing, wearing dirndls, traditional Bavarian peasant dresses.

But the beers they were holding?

Dark ... cask-conditioned Oatmeal Stouts. Brewed byOliver Brewing of Baltimore, Maryland, which served them hand-pulled from a firkin (10.8-gallon cask), via a 'beer engine.' Not so Bavarian-traditional, but quite the traditional English way of doing things.

'Chick' beer? Hah!

Photo taken at the Mid-Atlantic Oktoberfest, organized by the Capitol City Brewing Company, in Arlington, Virginia, a close-in suburb of Washington, D.C.
4 October 2014.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy birthday, Mr. Monk.

Thelonious Sphere Monk, the great American composer and jazz pianist, would have been 97 years old today. He was born on 10 October 1917. He died on 17 February 1982.

I would like to play a beautiful tune I composed not so long ago, entitled Pannonica. It was named after this beautiful lady here. I think her father gave her that name, after a butterfly that he tried to catch. I don't think he caught the butterfly.

Monk's performance, here, of Pannonica —named for Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter (Rothschild), an English-born patron of late 1940s and 1950s American bebop jazz ('Nica' for her friends)— displays his compositional ethos and keyboard virtuosity distilled to its essence. Utilizing null time, rhythmic surprise, dissonant harmonies, 'wrong notes,' and then seemingly coaxing tones from between a piano's keys, he transformed his deceptively simple melodies into miniature gems of severe beauty.

Along with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and a handful of other players, he developed the style of jazz that came to be known as bebop. Monk's compositions, among them "Round Midnight," were the canvasses upon which these legendary soloists expressed their musical ideas. In 1947, Monk made his first recordings as a leader for Blue Note. These albums are some of the earliest documents of his unique compositional and improvisational style, both of which employed unusual repetition of phrases, an offbeat use of space, and joyfully dissonant sounds.
Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

Happy birthday, Mr. Monk, wherever you are!


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Birthday in Beer: Greg Engert

Greg Engert is the Beer Director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) of Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia. A past English literature major at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Engert now oversees the beer program for seventeen restaurants and retail shops.

Greg Engert

Already successful by 2009, Engert, and NRG's principal, Michael Babin, really hit their stride when, that year, they opened their first Washington, D.C. properties, the beer-centric restaurant Birch & Barley, and —just up the stairwell— Churchkey, its accompanying beer bar. There, Engert arranged a beer list —500 in bottle, 50 on draught, and 5 served from cask via handpumps— by weight and flavor, a practice often thought (more for exclusive snobbery) exclusive to wine. His categories are Crisp, Hop, Malt, Roast, Smoke, Fruit & Spice, Tart & Funky.

In 2010, Food & Wine Magazine selected Engert as one of seven Sommeliers of the Year: the first time the magazine has brought beer on-board its list.

Bar at Bluejacket

In October 2013, the group opened Bluejacket, a brewery and restaurant in southeast Washington, D.C., in the now-bustling neighborhood near to Nationals Ballpark. Engert presides there as brewmaster and beer director.

A young man in a hurry to success, Greg Engert celebrates his 35th birthday, today.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Great American Beers of 2014: across the U.S. (and in the DMV).

Judges have judged. Medals have been awarded. Champions declared. Thousands of beers drunk. The 2014 Great American Beer Festival —held at the Colorado Convention Center, in Denver, Colorado, Thursday through Saturday, 2-4 October, with 49,000 good beer fans in attendance— is now history.

The Great American Beer Festival is the premier U.S. beer festival and competition. Each year, GABF represents the largest collection of U.S. beer ever served, in the format of a public tasting event plus a private competition. GABF was founded in 1982, and has been growing and evolving along with the American craft brewing industry ever since.

[...] The 2014 Great American Beer Festival competition awarded 268 medals (in 90 categories), plus three GABF Pro-Am medals, [from 1,309 breweries, in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.] In its 28th year, the 2014 competition surpassed all previous participation records... with 222 beer experts from 10 countries evaluating 5,507 commercial entries, plus 89 Pro-Am entries, with assistance from some 150 competition volunteers.
  • Gold
    A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma and appearance.
  • Silver
    An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma and appearance.
  • Bronze
    A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor deviations in taste, aroma or appearance.
If judges believe that no beer in the category meets the quality and style-accuracy criteria, they may elect not to award a medal. Judges may award a beer with a silver or bronze medal and yet not award a gold medal.

If all the substyles recognized at this year's GABF were added to the number of all the style categories, the total count of beer styles for the competition would reach 180. As evidence of this conspicuous inflation, the 2014 GABF competition featured three new categories: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer, with 41 entries; Historical Beer, with 12 entries; and Kuyt Beer, which had no entries. Saké, for example, was considered a sub-style of Experimental Beer (Category #16). Please don't tell the Japanese that saké is only "experimental." And, the International Style Pale Ale (Category #51a)? What exactly does 'international' taste like? And, what could the difference possibly be between an American India Pale Ale (Category #55) and an American Strong Pale Ale (Category #53)?

The business and soul of 'craft' beer might be better served if the GABF, rather than birthing or disinterring styles, were to award scores in addition to medals (as wine and spirits do, for better or worse). Thus, even if a brewery might not secure one of three medals in a style-category, it might still receive a high score, and use that number to promote its image, and thus all of 'craft' beer.

According to The Full Pint —which 'live' tweeted the results as they were announced on Saturday— the top five most-entered categories were:
  • American India Pale Ale (279 entries)
  • Herb and Spice Beer (150 entries)
  • American-Style Pale Ale (145 entries)
  • American-Style Amber/Red Ale (140 entries)
  • Imperial India Pale Ale (135 entries)


The Overall Champions

So ... the winners of the 2014 Great American Beer Festival —those with the bragging rights of best-beer-in-America (until next year)— are these. I'm not certain of the exact algorithm used to determine the results, but it must (I assume) involve medal count and strength of finish.
  • Small Brewpub of the Year
    Bastone Brewery: Royal Oak, Michigan.
    brewer: Rockne Van Meter
    [He's hands-down the choice of Yours For Good Fermentables as the winning brewer with the hippest name.]
  • Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year
    Brasserie Saint James: Reno, Nevada.
    brewers: Josh Watterson & Matt Watterson
  • Large Brewpub of the Year
    Beachwood BBQ & Brewing: Long Beach, California.
    brewers: Julian Shrago & Ian McCall

  • Very Small Brewing Company of the Year
    Draught Works: Missoula, Montana.
    brewer: Draught Works Brew Team
  • Small Brewing Company of the Year
    Marble Brewery: Albuquerque, New Mexico.
    brewer: Team Marble
  • Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year
    Devils Backbone Brewing Co.—Outpost: Lexington, Virginia.
    brewer: DB Brewery Team
  • Large Brewing Company of the Year
    AC Golden brewing Company: Golden, Colorado.
    brewer: AC Golden Brewing Team
    [AC Golden is a subsidiary of MillerCoors, itself a joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Company. It operates in the former pilot plant of Coors Brewing.]

Now, the state-medal math, thanks to Jeff Alworth of Beervana:

courtesy Beervana

These are numbers somewhat in a vacuum, as the GABF does not reveal the number of breweries submitting from each state. But, still, the results are those expected at the top, and interesting beneath. It's worth reading Alworth's analysis.

You can see the list of all the winners in each category this year —and every year, dating back to 1983, when the GABF was first held— at the festival website:



Now, on to the winners in the DMV —that is, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia— the home territory for Yours For Good Fermentables.

Last year, in 2013, no beers from the District medalled at the GABF (although they have before). So, this year, hearty congratulations go to DC Brau for its silver medal, for The Citizen, in the Belgian-and French-style Ale division (Category #73).

At last year's GABF, Maryland grabbed only one medal, a bronze for Flying Dog, in Frederick. This year, the 'Free State' garnered five medals, including one gold by the Gordon-Biersch Brewpub, in Annapolis, for its Rauchbier.

In 2013, Virginia took home fourteen medals, four of them gold (two of those from Devils Backbone, in both the Lexington and Roseland locations, and one each from Port City, in Alexandria, and Lost Rhino, in Ashburn), the 5th most medals accrued by any state.

But, in 2014, Virginia won only seven medals, slipping to 9th/10th (as shown in the graph above). That's still a respectable showing, and includes two gold medals: one to Devils Backbone, for its Schwarzbier, and one to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, for its Raspberry Stout," the first medal of any sort that a Richmond brewery has brought home from the GABF" (according to Richmond beer columnist Lee Graves).

In terms of degree-of-difficulty, brewer Kristi Mathews Griner of Capitol City Brewing Company, in Arlington, Virginia, should get a special commendation. Her Amber Waves took a silver in the American-Style Amber/Red Ale division, competing against one-hundred-thirty-nine other beers, the most of any category won in the DMV, and the fourth toughest competition, nationally. [Read her response, below, in the comments.]

But top honors must go to Devils Backbone, in Virginia, which not only won four medals —the only local multiple-winner— but repeated as a national champion for the third time in as many years.

At the 2012 GABF, the Devils Backbone 'Basecamp,' in Roseland, won Small Brewpub of the Year; in 2013, again, but as Small Brewery of the Year. This year, the brewery's production-only facility —which the company calls the 'Outpost'— won Mid-Size Brewery of the Year. In addition, in 2010, Devils Backbone won, globally, as the World Beer Cup Champion Small Brewpub. In a few short years, Devils Backbone has become the elite brewery of the area, and in the top tier, nationwide.

So, here they are: thirteen awards altogether in the DMV, for ten different breweries, including three gold medals. Congratulations to all!
  • Washington, D.C.
    1 medal
    • DC Brau Brewing Co.: Washington, D.C.
      The Citizen —Category #73: Belgian- and French-Style Ale (27 entries)
      brewer: Jeff Hancock

  • Maryland
    5 medals; 1 gold
    • Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant: Annapolis, Maryland.
      Rauchbier —Category #29: Smoke Beer (55 entries)
      brewer: James Sobczak

    • Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant: Rockville, Maryland.
      Belgian IPA —Category #21: American-Belgo-Style Ale (69 entries)
      brewer: Christian Layke

    • Union Craft Brewing: Baltimore, Maryland.
      Old Pro Gose —Category #66: German-Style Sour Ale (80 entries)
      brewer: Kevin Blodger
      [I reviewed this beer in May. Read that: here.]

    • DuClaw Brewing Co.: Hanover, Maryland.
      Sweet Baby Jesus! —Category #9: Chocolate Beer (44 entries)
      brewer: Jim Wagner

    • Heavy Seas Beer: Baltimore, Maryland.
      Gold —Category #46: Golden or Blonde Ale (90 entries)
      brewer: Chris Leonard

  • Virginia
    7 medals; 2 gold
    • Devils Backbone Brewing Co. -Outpost: Lexington, Virginia.
      Schwartz Bier —Category #42: Schwarzbier (37 entries)
      brewer: Jason Oliver

    • Hardywood Park Craft Brewery: Richmond, Virginia.
      Raspberry Stout —Category #3: American-Style Fruit Beer (56 entries)
      brewer: Patrick Murtaugh

    • Capitol City Brewing Co.: Arlington, Virginia.
      Amber Waves Ale —Category #56: American-Style Amber/Red Ale (140 entries)
      brewer: Kristi Mathews Griner

    • Devils Backbone Brewing Co. -Outpost: Lexington, Virginia.
      • Old Virginia Dark —Category #41: American-Style Dark Lager (19 entries)
      • Turbo Cougar —Category #43: Bock (27 entries)
      brewer: Jason Oliver

    • Devils Backbone Brewing Co. -Basecamp: Roseland, Virginia.
      Alt Bier —Category #7: German-Style Altbier (33 entries)
      brewer: Jason Oliver

    • Three Notch'd Brewing Co.: Charlottesville, Virginia.
      "Hydraulion" Red —Category #62: Irish-Style Red Ale (60 entries)
      brewer: Dave Warwick


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Squirrel prepares for autumn

Squirrel prepares for autumn (02)

Squirrel foraging for food at end of summer.

Northern Virginia.
8 September 2014.


Friday, October 03, 2014

Howard Hart: beer & baseball man

The Washington Post recently posted a video interview of Howard Hart, a sixty-something stadium vendor who has sold beer for nearly four decades, most of those years at Baltimore Orioles games, at the old Memorial Stadium, then at Camden Yards, and, now, both there and in Washington, D.C., at Washington Nationals games, at Nationals Park.

Howard Hart

Mr. Hart, who counts himself as a fan of both teams, comes across as an unsung 'character' of the beer business, right at the intersection of commerce and conviviality, an observer of life through beer and baseball.

In Baltimore, the number one beer is Natty Boh. In Washington, the shandy, the IPA, the Heineken. That tells you about everything you need to know. If I were to have a big party, I could invite the Orioles and Nationals fans. There wouldn't be any fights.

I wanted to know more about Howard Hart, so I asked Charlie Vascellaro —a baseball and travel writer, based in Baltimore, who blogs at Baseball Vagabond— to tell me more. "I love this guy," Vascellaro said. "He's one of the most spiritual people I know."

Charlie Vascellaro

Hart engages the crowd, Vascellaro told me, more than by simply selling to it. "He's a sweet and sentimental man," who seems to know what folk are thinking before they say it (and we're not talking just "beer, please," Vascellaro interjects!). "Going out of his way to be nice," he is "the true definition of an old soul."

Hart runs a constant dialogue, not a set patter, but more like an always topical stand-up routine. He will quote passages of literature, germane to the game in progress, and often recommend books he has read. He's got great stories about the teams behind the scenes, during the season and at spring training where he also works, Vascellaro added. "There's that's that one about George Steinbrenner" (former owner of the New York Yankees). And, Vascellaro marvels, Hart is always "into the game," which is a difficult thing for a vendor who's concentrating on selling his wares. "Somehow, he always knows the count."

Hart has written stories on baseball, and was instrumental in assisting with the success of the recent Paul Blair Day —a celebration, at Camden Yards, of the Orioles' great former centerfielder, who died suddenly last year— organized by Vascellaro and fellow Baltimore-based writer, Rafael Alvarez.

Only vendor Clarence Haskett (known as "Fancy Clancy" because of his behind-the-back double-beer pour) has more tenure than Hart. Both men grew up in Baltimore during a time of rampant segregation. Both men —Hart, white; and Haskett, African-American— became colleagues because of beer and baseball. Both would become friends because of beer and baseball.

Howard Hart

"I never realised I would get old," says Hart, who has waited a long time for another opportunity to see one of his teams win it big. Well, we wouldn't dare tempt the ire of the baseball demiurges by saying more, but ...

Last night at Camden Yards, the Orioles spanked the Detroit Tigers 12-3, in the first game of the American League Division Series. Howard Hart was there, smiling and doing what he has always done, dispensing warm wisdom and cold wares, in the stands along the first base line at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And, today, he'll be doing the same at Nationals Park, working near the home team's dugout, as the Washington Nationals take on the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series.

Look for the "Popeye" forearms that Hart has developed from years of lugging pounds of ice and beers. Listen for his distinctively booming voice. Buy a beer, tip him big, and tell him: "Charlie sent me."


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Drinking, Again: DC Brau's Oktoberfest.

"What are you drinking here today," he asked, saying hi. "I'm checking out the Oktoberfest lagers," I replied.

"Why," he asked, somewhat bemused. "Why aren't you drinking the IPAs?" "Well, I can get IPAs anyday," I explained. "I appreciate the skill needed in lager-brewing; I like the the interplay of sweet malt and dry finish in märzen/Oktoberfests. Brewers brought different interpretations of the style here, today."

He shook his head. "No, I'll stick to the IPAs."


It was a sunny, early autumn, afternoon, outside Mad Fox Brewing Company, in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Saturday, 27 September 2014, the brewpub had invited local breweries (mostly) to submit Oktoberfest-style lagers and India Pale Ales (IPAs) for its beer festival, Hoppy Oktoberfest. That was a smart move on its part, understanding that a majority of 'craft' beer drinkers prefer hops, no matter what; that a minority prefer malt; but that a plurality enjoy both.

Here's a description of the märzen/Oktoberfest beer style, culled from the The Oxford Companion to Beer (Oxford University Press, 2012):
Much of the base malt is called Munich malt, a highly aromatic malt with a color rating of 3 to 10 degrees Lovibond. As a result märzen and Oktoberfest beers tend to be primarily (golden) amber in color, showing sweet, almost toffee-like maltiness, combined with biscuit and bread flavors, as well as plenty of mouthfeel.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) adds this:
  • Aroma: Rich German malt aroma (of Vienna and/or Munich malt). A light to moderate toasted malt aroma is often present. Clean lager aroma with no fruity esters or diacetyl. No hop aroma. Caramel aroma is inappropriate.
  • Appearance: Dark gold to deep orange-red color. Bright clarity, with solid, off-white, foam stand.
  • Flavor: Initial malty sweetness, but finish is moderately dry. Distinctive and complex maltiness often includes a toasted aspect. Hop bitterness is moderate, and noble hop flavor is low to none. Balance is toward malt, though the finish is not sweet. Noticeable caramel or roasted flavors are inappropriate. Clean lager character with no diacetyl or fruity esters.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body, with a creamy texture and medium carbonation. Smooth. Fully fermented, without a cloying finish. ABV [alcohol by volume]: 4.8 – 5.7%

Among several tasty specimens at Hoppy Oktoberfest, I found one märzen that I was particularly impressed with ... that is, that I drank a couple samples of.

The Oktoberfest from the Washington, D.C.-based brewery, DC Brau.

DC Brau Oktoberfest

Brewer Mike McCarthy told me the beer was 5% alcohol-by-volume, lightly hopped with the German noble hop Hallertau Mittlefrüh, and brewed with German Pilsner and 'Munich' malts from Wyermann Maltings. That was evident. The malt imparted a depth of toasted bread, melanoidal flavor, characteristic of the style, but avoiding the caramel flavors of caramel malts, often used by American craft brewers in their Oktoberfests. Untraditionally (but successfully), DC Brau added Belgian 'Abbey' malt to the grist. 'Abbey' malt is also called 'brumalt' or 'honey malt.'
Malt sweetness and honey like flavour and aroma make it perfect for any specialty beer. The closest comparison is a light caramel, but Honey Malt has a flavour of its own: sweet and a little bit nutty. Made by restricting the oxygen flow during the sprouting process, Honey Malt is essentially self-stewed. When the oxygen is cut off, the grain bed heats up, developing sugars and rich malt flavours. The malt is lightly kilned for a color color profile of 25 SRM and is devoid of astringent roast flavors.

So: DC Brau's Oktoberfest.

Dark orange in hue. An aroma of sweet malt, with herbal notes in the background. Toasted biscuity malt body and dry finish. Less sweet than others: deep in malt character, but not cloying. What wasn't to like? I didn't miss the hops.

P.S. I did also enjoy a very hoppy 'wet-hopped' India Pale Ale that afternoon.