Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Mild Ale wort

This is a photo of a glass of wort: the solution of barley sugar and hops, boiled in a brew-kettle, that will eventually become a beer. Careful. It's hot!

Mild Ale wort

And what a splendid-looking wort sample it is.

A vivid garnet hue; the clarity of a well-produced wort; and the obvious specks of a 'hot break': proteins, carbohydrates, polyphenols, hop acids, fatty acids, and other solids from barley and hops that coagulate during the boil, and that will be left behind in the kettle when the wort is chilled and sent to a fermentation tank.

I didn't take this photo. Kristi Mathews Griner, brewmaster for Capitol City Brewing Company, did ... just after her lead brewer at the Arlington, Virginia, brewpub, Matt Ryan, had finished mashing, and separating the wort, from his recipe (23 April 2015).

In two weeks or so, after yeast has done its magic, this wort will have been transmogrified to a Ruby Red Mild, and Capitol City will serve it, in draught and cask-conditioned fashion.
The beer is brewed with Irish Stout malt from the Malting Company of Ireland, Munich, flaked barley, crystal, Caramunich, and a touch of chocolate malt. Hops are American, Summit and Cluster, and yeast is American as well. Anticipated ABV is 4.1% with 23 IBUs. Beautiful garnet hue.

The occasion will be the first-ever American Mild Month, a month-long celebration in May, when brewers and drinkers across the the United States will "indulge in mild ales," arguably, the quintessential 'session' beer style. *



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015.

Today is the 45th internationally observed Earth Day.

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.
John James Audubon

Virginia state line

Earth Day has been celebrated every 22 April, since 1970. On the day, events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. In the U.S., the occasion was first organized by Republican Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 14/15, 2015.

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

Weeks 14/15
29 March- 11 April 2015

  • 2015.04.11
    April 11: the purported birth date of King Gambrinus (1254-1298), considered the unofficial patron saint of brewers.
    —Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • 2015.04.11
    Smithsonian Magazine publishes a story on the history of India Pale Ale (IPA). In a review, beer historian Martyn Cornell identifies at least twenty-five errors of fact and interpretation.
    —Via Zythophile.

  • 2015.04.10
    The (U.S.) Brewers Association releases its 2015 Beer Style Guidelines. Adds categories for Session India Pale Ale, Contemporary Gose, Chili Pepper Beer, and Mixed Culture Brett Beer; deleted Indigenous Beer category. One-hundred forty-five in total (double that if all subcategories included.
    —Via Brewers Association.

  • 2015.04.09
    Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant 150 years ago on this day (1865), effectively ending the Civil War. The Associated Press covered it then.
    —Via Associated Press (at Yahoo News).

  • 2015.04.08
    Your beer isn't as innovative as you think it is." Essay on trends in beer: "Trends are not necessarily a result of innovation."
    —Via Craig Gravina (at Drink. Drank.).

  • Session Beer Day 2015
  • 2015.04.07
    Session Beer Day is celebrated today.
    —Via Lew Bryson (at Session Beer Project.)

  • 2015.04.07
    National Beer Day is celebrated today. But Prohibition did NOT end on this day in 1933. Fact check, please!
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2015.04.07
    The 100th anniversary of the birth of the great jazz singer/composer Billie Holiday. 7 April 1915 - 17 July 1959.
    —Via NPR Music.

  • 2015.04.07
    Abita Brewing (of Louisiana), the 21st-largest 'craft' brewery in the U.S., has been purchased by new 'craft' beer investment company, Enjoy Beer LLC, headed by Rich Doyle, co-founder of Harpoon Brewing (of Massachusetts), no longer with the brewery.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 2015.04.07
    The 122 oldest bars in America, still open and serving!
    —Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • Keynote by Kim Jordan (02)
  • 2015.04.06
    Beer philanthropy. New Belgium Brewery and its CEO, Kim Jordan, give $1 million to Colorado State University for its Fermentation Science Program.
    —Via Craft Beer.

  • 2015.04.06
    "There’s a real cost of beer that is not measured in dollars and cents: brewery injuries. At its core, brewing beer is an industrial process. Like many other industrial processes ... There is real danger involved ... Between 2009 and 2012, four people have died in 'craft' brewery incidents."
    —Via Washington Beer Blog.

  • 2015.04.05
    How a beer brand can die in two years: start with poorly designed product; finish with bad marketing. How Miller/Coors 'killed' Miller Fortune.
    —Via Hey Beer Dan.

  • 2015.04.03
    Colorado's Oskar Blues buys much smaller Michigan 'craft' brewery. As 'craft' breweries purchase other 'craft' breweries, the definition of a 'craft' brewery is becoming simply “not Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors.”
    —Via Market Watch.

  • 2015.04.02
    Nielsen study shows 'local' rivals flavor as motivating factor for 'craft' beer buyers, especially among 21-34 year-olds.
    —Via Bart Watson (Chief Economist for (U.S.) Brewers Association.

  • 2015.04.01
    In face of historic drought, California governor imposes mandatory water reductions.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 2015.04.01
    The state of Maryland to legalize hemp production, but it's still illegal under federal law.
    —Via WAMU-FM.

  • 2015.04.01
    Proposed USDA Dietary Guidelines under fire again from alcohol-prohibitionists.
    —Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • Top 50 'craft' breweries (U.S.) 2014
  • 2015.03.31
    By sales, the top 50 breweries and the top 50 'craft' breweries in the U.S.
    —Via YFGF (analyzing statistics from the Brewers Association).

  • 2015.03.29
    'Craft' brewery purchases fellow 'craft' brewery. Colorado's Oskar Blues purchases Michigan's Perrin Brewing.
    —Via Beer Pulse.

  • 2015.04.06
    Between 2009 and 2012, four people have died in 'craft' brewery incidents.
    —Via Washington Beer Blog.

  • 2015.04.05
    Barbara Bergmann, a pioneer in the study of gender in the economy who herself overcame barriers to women in the world of academic economics, died on April 5 at her home in Bethesda, Md. She was 87. "Ms. Bergmann called for the government to do more in the marketplace on behalf of women and single-parent families, including support for increased access to day care and the passage of legislation mandating comparable pay for women and men."
    —Via New York Times.

  • 2015.04.01
    "In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian Calendar, which moved New Year’s Day from March 32(really) to January 1. People who didn’t know that March 32nd was now April 1st and were still celebrating the old New Year looked pretty foolish that day, hence April Fools’ Day."
    —Via Notions Capital.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Craft Brewers Conference: State of the 'Craft' Beer Industry 2015.

The 2015 Craft Brewers Conference is now history. And, if only for the number of attendees, a three-fold leap over only a few years ago, it made history.

Boulder, CO • April 17, 2015—The Brewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade group representing America’s small and independent craft brewers—has concluded the 32th edition of the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® (CBC) in Portland, Oregon.

As the largest industry gathering, CBC brought together more than 11,500 brewing industry professionals and some 600 exhibitors in one of the biggest beer cities for discussion and dialogue surrounding America’s craft beer culture. Themes included unity, quality and safety.

Craft Brewers Reach Record Volume Share of Marketplace

CBC also saw the BA release a full, extensive analysis of 2014 data on U.S. craft brewing growth. For the first time ever, craft brewers reached double-digit (11 percent) volume share of the marketplace. The state of the industry presentation is available in the CBC Media Kit.

The 2016 CBC will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May 3-6, in conjunction with the 2016 World Beer Cup®.
— Full BA press release: here.

Every year at the conference, the (U.S.) Brewers Association presents its annual State of the 'Craft' Industry report.* This year was no exception. And, for the most part, the BA reported a good state of affairs. In May, it will provide more extensive analyses and statistics in the The New Brewer, its trade publication. Much of that, however, will be considered proprietary, and thus accessible only to Association members.

Here are a few of the bullet points, made public.

Total Craft Breweries 2014

There were 3,418 breweries in the U.S. at the close of 2014. Extrapolating from figures on other slides, there was a net total of 1.5 breweries opening every day during 2014, with an additional 2,051 breweries in planning by the end of the year. Considering that, that total of 'craft' breweries, a this point in 2015, may be well under-represented.

What's the difference between a brewpub, a microbrewery, and a regional brewery? There's a slide for that.

Definition of Craft Brewery 2015 (Brewers Association)

'Craft' beer volumes grew 18% in 2014 (vs. 0.5% for all U.S. beer), reaching an 11% share of all beer in the U.S.. Here's a slide showing the inherent potential for 'craft' beer growth in 2015, just with the breweries that existed in 2014.

U.S. Craft Brewery Production vs. Capacity 2014

There are a lot of people employed to make, sell, and deliver all that beer. The 'craft' beer industry has become a non-trivial part of national economic vitality.

US Small Brewing Industry Jobs 2014

Quo vadis, 'craft'?

But ... all that new 'craft' beer will have to be sold somewhere to someone. Will demand continue to push supply? And where? In off-premises shops, whose shelves are already bursting with choices, where, on average, prices increased $1.01 per case, a 3% jump? Will consumers continue to open their wallets? Will demand continue in pubs and restaurants, where there are already signs of diminishing growth?

In 2015, will we see a more agitated tug-of-war between big 'craft' —which, although it grew 17% in 2014, saw a drop in its growth rate from 2013— and small 'craft' —brewpubs, which showed 20% growth, and microbreweries, which grew by 33%?

Will non-'craft' mega-breweries continue to purchase 'craft' breweries? Will more 'craft' breweries be themselves purchased other 'craft' breweries? (Here and here.) Interesting times. Stay tuned.

Finally, just a chuckle. Is the U.S. in danger of losing its brewers, as this slide headlines, allowing them to be exported to overseas competitors?

U.S. Craft Beer Exports 2014


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Pink blossoms, yellow door.

'Tis the season for bloomin' pastels.

Pink blossoms, yellow door (01)

And the pink wasn't limited only to Washington D.C.'s Tidal Basin.

Here's a street scene, in suburban...
Fairfax, Virginia.
12 April 2015.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dave and Diane Alexander honored by Brewers Association at Craft Brewers Conference.

Every year since 1987, the Brewers Association (and its predecessor, the Association of Brewers) presents the Brewers Association Recognition Award "to an individual or company whose inspiration, enthusiasm, and support have contributed to the brewpub and microbrewery movement" in the United States. The selection is announced during the Craft Brewers Conference.

In 1987, influential beer writer Michael Jackson received the first Brewers Association Recognition Award. Last year, in 2014, the award went to pioneering brewer Teri Fahrendorf, founder of the Pink Boots Society, "empowering women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry through education."

Yesterday, at the 2015 CBC, in Portland, Oregon,, the BA recognized 'DA': Dave and Diane Alexander, the husband wife team that for many years brought good beer to the Washington, D.C. area, as co-owners of the venerable beer tavern, the Brickskeller, and later, R.F.D.

Dave Alexander welcomes Beer Hunter fans

At the Brickskeller, the Alexanders organized tastings and appearances, bringing in brewers from across the United States, and Europe. (Some of the evenings quite infamous!) The couple was doing this years before such things became commonplace and accepted as the norm, as they are now. A dive bar appear in appearance, the Brickskeller Down Home Saloon would achieve national and international renown. Its beer list boasted over one-thousand choices (on paper, if not always in the cupboard).

Brickskeller exterior (03)

After over fifty years of operation, the Brickskeller was sold in 2010. (R.F.D. remains open.) But the Brick's legacy lives on: many of the attendees at the Brickskeller's events, and many of the drinkers who poured over the beer menus, were inspired enough to become some of the next generation(s) of good-beer brewers.

Congratulations to Diane and Dave. Well-deserved!

The final Brickskeller menu (01)


#VeggieDag Thursday. Beer and food pairing with Lucy Saunders.

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

Spring-like weather is here, it being spring and all that. Seemed like a long winter.

The bounty at farmers' markets is growing more bountiful. Here's a timely YouTube upload from Lucy Saunders, author of several beer-in-food cookbooks, including her most recent, Dinner In The Beer Garden.

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, which she has written for people who "love craft beer, who love cooking with fresh produce, and who love sharing meals in sociable garden spaces."

"Brewers are a lot like chefs," Saunders says, "in that they take ingredients and transform them." For the drinker and home-cook, "building bridges with beer and food" is pairing the flavors of beer ingredients and food ingredients, whether together in the recipe, or together at table (or in a beer garden).


Monday, April 13, 2015

Doing the right thing when your beer goes bad.

Here's a story about doing the right thing in the face of a problem.

When Richmond, Virginia brewery, Triple Crossing recently discovered a flavor deficiency with one of its beers, rather than trying to sell the beer, it dumped every single bottle from that batch, and told us about it.
Monday night, we bottled roughly 260 bottles of our precious and favorite Nectar and Knife DIPA. After realizing a minor issue with the finished product, we stopped packaging immediately and dumped...all...of..them.

There, we said it out loud - still hurts. What happened you ask? Honestly, we still aren’t sure, but our instincts say oxidation of some kind given the lower level of carbonation we saw AND the muddled hop character that we work so hard to get in the finished beer. Needless to say, that shit ain’t happening.

Since then, we’ve re-bottled another run with our original method, a more labor intensive, but tried and tested model, that we used when we bottled the last run of Nectar.

With our size, we simply didn’t make enough beer to bottle the same amount after dumping what feels like a ton of it down our floor drain. We want to make sure the product we are providing for you is the absolute best we can manage. So, while it pained us to dump all of this beer, we felt it necessary in the end to maintain the high standards we hold ourselves to.

In 2008, Boston Beer discovered glass shards in a few bottles of its beers. Identifying this as a problem with one of its bottle suppliers, the brewery immediately went public with its discovery, and recalled every single bottle from that batch of beer, nationwide, bad glass or not, and destroyed them.

Many of us in the business have heard stories of breweries selling infected or below-standard beers. I'm sure folk have been in brewpubs where the beer seemed off, but was still being poured. It's refreshing to read stories, like this one, of honest, open, and strict standards. And, to be fair, whether we hear of the stories or not, more often than not better practices and intent do prevail.

Well done, Triple Crossing. But, sorry about the beer.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

YFGF on Facebook.

Last year, I created a Facebook page as companion site to YFGF.*

At first, I didn't do much with it, but then, a few months in, a funny thing happened on the way to the Facebook forum.

It became my secondary posting site.

Whereas my tweets —eight years in, it's still tough to write that word with a serious tone— are limited to 140 characters, my Facebook posts can express more than that, even though they themselves are shorter than full blog posts, which themselves are less comprehensive than essays or articles, which, in the end, are less consequential than books (ah, but that's another, unwritten story).

So, for what it's worth, the YFGF Facebook page contains:
  • Links to my current blog posts.
  • Expanded tweets.
  • Flickr photos.
  • 'Re-gifted' Facebook posts from others.
  • Beery rants.
  • Short 'bloggy' posts.
  • Topics not covered at the blog.
  • Localized comments on the beer scene in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
'Like' it, if you'd like: less wordy, different content. Then, carry on.

Eat Bertha's Mussels; drink Bertha's Bitter


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Luncheon Tableaux

Luncheon tableaux

The elegant posture of the gentleman to the left, and the overall tableaux, seemed reminiscent of a (not so) rustic Italian trattoria.

Arlington (Rosslyn), Virginia.
10 April 2014.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Crafty Combo! Artisanal beer makes a better match with cheese than many wines.

Enjoying cheese and beer together. Oh my!

That's an accepted morsel of wisdom these days to many of the American 'craft' beer zeitgeist. Thus it might come as a surprise that beer-with-cheese as a culinary concept had until only recently been poo-pooed by foodies in the U.S. (who somehow ignored the ubiquitousness of beer-with-pizza). Silly, considering that in other parts of the world, beer-with-cheese has long been a staple of food culture.

Ten years ago, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun wrote an article on the superiority of beer over wine when matching with cheese. I've posted it below. Was it because she quoted me?

Before you read that, consider this. In that same year, 2005, the vino-zeitgeitist Wine Spectator wrote this:

  • "Cheeses fight with dry wines."
  • And this: "Many people find that the moldy flavors of these cheeses fight with dry wines. Their creaminess is especially tough on reds. Sweet wines are the answer."
  • And this, about washed-rind cheeses: "As much fun as these cheeses are to eat, in most cases only very sweet or fortified wines can hold their own against them."
Shocker! That was the Wine Spectator itself telling us that wine and cheese weren't always suited for each other. To be fair, the editors didn't suggest beer as an alternative.

I will: "Try beer!"

Brett and funk (01)

Crafty Combo! Artisanal beer makes a better match with cheese than many wines.

A prize-winning soft chevre from Quebec.

A buttery California brie.

A semi-firm, washed-rind cheese and a potent blue, both from Wisconsin.

Like fragrant, edible jewels, the cheeses nestle on a rectangular ceramic platter. Four different bottles of craft beer are arranged behind them.

The delectable still life has been assembled by Susan Scovell, cheesemonger at the Wine Source in Hampden [neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland], as an introduction to the ambrosial pleasures of pairing cheese and beer.

The two farmhouse products that have long been a part of traditional meals in Europe, including the venerable ploughman's lunch, are being reinvented with inspired finesse. The resulting proliferation of artisanal cheeses and craft beers has brought forth boundless possibilities for pairings in restaurants, gourmet shops, homes and even wine bars.

Scovell initiates a novice with a modest selection so as not to overwhelm the palate. "Think in terms of contrast or similarities when you pair cheese and beer," she says.

Scovell begins with Biquet, a soft goat's milk cheese made by Fromagerie Tournevent in Canada. She smears a bit on a cracker, takes a bite and lets it rest in her mouth with a sip of Blue Moon's Belgian White, a tangy ale made with wheat. "It lifts a little bit in the mouth - nice," Scovell says. The Biquet is a young cheese, high in acidity, she says. "Pair it with something fresher, a little higher in acid." Also, "The cheese tends to be dense. A wheat beer will cut through that."

The combination does a tingly tango on the tongue that begs the question: Why should wine grab all the glory, particularly when both traditional and innovative beers can frequently be a better mate for cheese?

Why cheese with beer?

"Wine struggles with cheese," says Tom Cizauskas, a sales representative for Clipper City Brewing Co. [now known as Heavy Seas Beer] and a veteran of many cheese and beer tastings. The butterfat in cheese "often overwhelms the flavor of wine. And the acidity of wine seems to create an off-putting metallic character in the presence of cheese," he says.

Beer and cheese "don't joust with each other in the mouth; they complement each other," Cizauskas says. "The natural sweet graininess of beer brings forward the aromas and flavors of cheese, just as a good hunk of bread does with cheese."

Cheese and beer are natural companions, he adds. "The fermented flavors of cheese -- cream, nut, slight fruit, funk -- all are present to various degrees in beer."

Beer, as well, "has its own built-in palate cleanser," Cizauskas says. "The bubbles, or carbonation, cleanse the palate after each nibble of cheese."

8 'winter' cheeses

Like others who take pleasure in food and drink, Cizauskas has a strong gustatory memory and can wax poetic about tasting a particularly transcendent match of cheese and beer. "Nelson Carey * at the wine bar Grand Cru in the Belvedere Square has hosted formal beer and cheese tastings. He once offered me a slice of Livarot with a rauchbier I was drinking. The pungent slug of the Livarot's aroma chased by its creamy flavor was an inspired mate for the smoky, almost bacony, aroma of the rauchbier and its finishing sweet German malt."

The Cheese Wars, with Garrett Oliver.

When exploring traditional beer's born-again clout in fine dining circles, all roads lead to Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and champion of a series of tastings that he calls "The Cheese Wars -- Beer vs. Wine With Cheese."

In these tempting tournaments, Oliver and his friend, sommelier Paul Grieco, have paired cheeses with beers and wines and let guests who sample the selections judge the winning matches.

Oliver recounts one such battle in his book, The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer With Real Food (Ecco, 2005): "I drew my secret weapon -- Castelain, a French biere de garde, displaying a complex aromatic interplay of damp earth, herbs and aniseed, wrapped around a soft, golden beer with a warm, malty center. Eyebrows were raised. The match was perfect. The wine was vanquished."

Designed to be humorous and fun, the wine against beer smack downs allow "people to learn a lot about flavor and really get into it," Oliver says by phone as he speaks of beer's new gastronomic credentials. "People have expected wine to do everything. [But] often there are a lot of areas of food where wine has considerable difficulty -- for example, with spicy food or various vegetables, and cheese is actually one of those areas."

The 'rules' of beer-and-cheese pairing.

The first rule of beer-and-cheese pairing is that there are no rules, "only enthusiastic suggestions," Cizauskas says.

"Rather than mating flavors between beer and cheese, look to pair intensity (or gentleness) and character," he says. "A pungent cheese mates well with a beer that has a good tannic structure. A subtle cheese mates well with a beer of soft malt sweetness. A blue-veined cheese mates well with dark malty sweetness. A rich and spicy cheese mates well with a beer showing similar fermentation attributes, such as many Belgian beers. A hard and slightly nutty cheese mates well with a beer which shows toasted and earthy notes."

The 7 styles of cheese.

With seven basic styles of cheese to choose from, and a growing array of flavorful beers, from malty bocks to chocolaty stouts, it is easy to become bewildered by the ever-expanding universe of options.

Laura Werlin, co-author of The New American Cheese (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2000), advises beginners to become familiar with those seven styles -- and proceed from there.
  • fresh
  • semi-soft
  • soft ripened
  • semi-hard
  • aged
  • washed rind
  • blue
"Once you learn those styles, it becomes pretty manageable," she says. "Your universe is cut down."

The adventurous will take risks in their cheese selections. Still, "Your chances of not ruining a beer are much better than the chances of not ruining a wine, because of a wine's delicacies and nuances," Werlin says.

Pairing cheese and beer: Always, something will surprise.

Once you've got the basics down, cheese becomes a catalyst for other pairings, Oliver says. "Cheese is a great way to do it. It allows you to bring really complex flavors and put them in front in essentially a small chunk." From there, "People can extrapolate to something else," Oliver says. Cheese, in essence, can be used "as a metaphor for all sorts of things. Once people see how these [flavors] work together, they'll think, 'Hey, it's not just the cheese. I can see drinking this beer with a salad, with fish, with all sorts of other things.' "

As an award-winning authority on brewing, Oliver is likely to approach pairings with specific beers in mind. Scovell, though, would start with the cheese. "It's different for everybody," she says. "To me, it's a question of what are you most excited about."

After the first pairing of the evening, Scovell repeats the process with the remaining three cheeses and beers. She uses a new knife for each tasting. That way, there is no cheese residue to confuse her taste buds.

She takes a sip of beer, a nibble of cheese (always at room temperature) on a plain cracker and lets the flavors mingle. "Let them rest a little bit and let them marry. It helps you figure out what's working," she says.

The brie from the Marin French Cheese Co. and a sharp, Belgian-style saison, or "season," beer traditionally brewed at the end of winter or spring from the Yards Brewing Co., make a smooth, but not extraordinary match. Perhaps "a fruity beer would be better," Scovell says.

Then, she pairs the subtly delightful, semi-firm cheese called Pleasant Ridge Reserve with Anchor Steam porter [sic]. "Nice salt component and rounded texture," Scovell says.

"The finale is a blue," she says. Because of their strong flavor, blue cheeses are always tasted last, "no matter what the age," Scovell says. She pairs the Hook's Cheese Co.'s blue with "a nice, round, chocolaty-type beer," Rogue's Shakespeare stout. "The creamy blue surrounds it nicely," Scovell says.

That is just for starters in a world of infinite flavor combinations. Pairing cheese and beer is "a constant learning process," Scovell says. "Always, something will surprise me."
By Stephanie Shapiro
© Baltimore Sun
September 21, 2005.

Cheese with Trappists (03)

Try these 'enthusiastic suggestions.'

Some of the more so-called 'extreme' beers, such as 'Imperial' IPAs, might clash with or simply overwhelm some cheeses. But, all in all, beer and cheese are delicious partners. For example, in a recent tasting, I paired a Trappist Tripel with a washed rind-cheese, a Trappist Dubbel with Stilton (blue cheese), and a brettanomyces-fermented and dry-hopped Trappist Ale with a goat cheese.

As I was quoted in the article above: "The first rule of beer-and-cheese pairing is that there are no rules, only enthusiastic suggestions." Here are some more.
  • Triple creme with fruit beer.
  • Aged gouda with Oktoberfest.
  • Cheddar with British bitter.
  • Manchego or other sheep's milk cheese with pilsner.
  • Goat's milk cheese with saison.
  • Bloomy rind cheese with 'wild' ale (brettanomyces).
  • Blue cheese with a strong stout; British Stilton with a barleywine.
  • Washed rind cheese with an aromatic IPA.
Better yet: explore!

  • A good resource is Cheese & Beer, by Napa Valley-based writer Janet Fletcher, published in 2013. It's exclusively on-the-topic, with beautiful photography. "Nobody needs convincing that beer and cheese go together."
  • The bias against beer as noble or elegant, even when complimenting it, runs deep. Note this damning-with-faint-praise aside from Ms. Werlin in the article: "Your chances of not ruining a beer are much better than the chances of not ruining a wine, because of a wine's delicacies and nuances."
  • Confused about beer 'styles'? The (U.S.) Brewers Association has recently created an online beer-style guide. Although slanted towards American interpretations of styles and their history (and finding many distinctions where there are none), it is a useful starting-out tool.
  • * "Last July (2014), the affable and original owner, Nelson Carey, died of heart failure." Grand Cru remains open, but under new ownership.

  • For more from YFGF:

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Happy Days are Here Again!

"Pretty good. Not bad at all!"

Based upon an event that occured in the United States in 1933, many now celebrate 7 April as National Beer Day.

That day, after more than thirteen dry years of national Prohibition, the manufacturing, distribution, importation, and sale of beer again became legal in the United States.

Well, sort, of. There was a 'small' beer catch. Prohibition, per se, remained in effect.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution never explicitly outlawed beer, wine, or liquor. Rather, it prohibited the "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" [emphasis mine]. To define what that meant, Congress passed additional 'enabling' legislation, the principal bill of which was the National Prohibition Act (commonly known as the Volstead Act, after the Congressman who wrote it). In it, Congress defined "intoxicating liquors" as ANY beverages containing 0.5% alcohol-by-weight or more. All such beverages became illegal on 20 January 1920, the day the 18th Amendment took effect. 1

Thirteen-plus dry years later, Congress didn't actually legalize beer but, prodded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, simply altered beer's parameters upward. (Roosevelt's campaign planks had included a promise to Repeal Prohibition.) The legislation it passed, the Cullen–Harrison Act, declared, in effect, that alcoholic beverages of up to 3.2% alcohol-by-weight (abw) —which is the equivalent of 4.05% alcohol-by-volume (abv)2— were now to be considered as "non-intoxicating"! On 22 March 1933, the president signed the bill into law, noting that "I think this would be a good time for a beer." The bill took effect two weeks later, on 7 April.

Unfortunately, stronger beers and alcoholic beverages remained prohibited. It wouldn't be until eight months later, on 5 December 1933, that a majority of states would approve the 21st Amendment, finally revoking federal Prohibition of most alcholic beverages.

So, it may have been 'small' beer poured and drunk across the nation on 7 April, but it was an all-day party that started (or at least legally started) at midnight. It's estimated that one and a half million barrels of beer were consumed that day.

Anheuser-Busch rushed a dray of its new team of Clydesdale horses to Washington, D.C. to deliver a just-bottled case of 4.05% Budweiser to President FDR at the White House. To their dismay, the drivers found that other breweries —including the Abner-Drury Brewing Company of Washington, D.C. and the Yuengling Brewery of Pottstown, Pennsylvania— had already been there, done that. A delicious defeat, especially considering future brewing history.

Shortly after midnight, a few miles to the north, Baltimore, Maryland's curmudgeonly scribe, H.L. Mencken, took his first legal sip of beer in thirteen years and un-petulantly declared it, "pretty good —not bad at all." And radio stations across the nation gleefully spun the hit song, Happy Days are Here Again.

So long sad times, so long bad times,
We are rid of you at last.
Howdy gay times! Cloudy gray times,
You are now a thing of the past.

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again.
Let us sing a song of cheer again,
Happy days are here again.

All together, shout it now. There's no one
Who can doubt it now.
So let's tell the world about it now,
Happy days are here again.

Your cares and troubles are gone.
There'll be no more from now on.

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again.
Let us sing a song of cheer again.
Happy days are here again!

Happy Days are Here Again
Milton Ager (music); Jack Yellen (lyrics). 1929.


Monday, April 06, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 12/13, 2015.

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

Weeks 12/13
15 March- 28 March 2015

  • 2015.03.27
    (U.S.) Brewers Association creates position of Executive Chef, "to promote the value and compatibility of craft beer and cuisine." Hires Adam Dulye, of Abbot’s Cellar of San Francisco, California.
    —Via Brewers Assocaition.

  • 2015.03.27
    The masterful acoustic guitarist John Renbourn, a founding member in the 1960s of the folk-rock band, Pentangle, has died at his home in Scotland. He was 70.
    —Via Associated Press.

  • 2015.03.27
    Washington, D.C. news organization rewrites local beer history, excising any mention of the city's brewpubs.
    —Via YFGF.

    Michael Jackson, 28 March 1995.
  • 2015.03.27
    Remembering the late Michael Jackson, the beer and whiskey writer, on what would have been his 73rd birthday.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2015.03.26
    Indiana Governor Mike Pence signs controversial measure that would effectively legalize discrimination against same-sex couples by those who object on religious grounds. National backlash ensues.
    —Via Daily News.

  • 2015.03.26
    Rising oil inventories in the U.S. could lead to sharply lower prices at the pump this summer, possibly under $2 a gallon. In 2014, the oil industry pumped 8.7 million barrels a day, and despite low oil prices the U.S. Energy Information Administration is expecting production to increase to 9.3 million barrels a day in 2015 and 9.6 million barrels in 2016.
    —Via Daily Finance.

  • 2015.03.26
    England's King Richard III, exhumed from an undignified grave beneath a car park, was finally buried with honour at Leicester Cathedral in central England, 530 years after his death at the Battle of Bosworth, in 1485, aged 32.
    —Via Agence France-Presse.

  • 2015.03.26
    Co-pilot of Lufthansa's Germanwings Flight 9525 deliberately slams plane in Alps; kills 150 people. European airlines to to require at least two employees in cockpit at all times, as American airlines already require.
    —Via AP.

  • 2015.03.25
    Kraft and Heinz Ketchup merge, creating 3rd largest food and beverage company in North America.
    —Via Market Watch.

  • 2015.03.23
    Gary Dahl, creator of the Pet Rock, dies at 78.
    —Via USA Today

  • 2015.03.23
    "California is now heading into its fourth year of record-breaking drought, with no liquid relief in sight. High temperatures, little precipitation, and historically low snowpack have left the state with dwindling water reserves. [...] The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million people (that’s one out of every two Californians), has stored water reserves that can only last three years, with prudent conservation."
    —Via Wired.

  • 2015.03.23
    Anheuser-Busch InBev may be pressuring its distributors to sell only its 'craft' beers.
    —Via Jack Curtin's Liquid Diet.

  • 2015.03.23
    "Mainstream media falls for California wine arsenic HOAX story. [...] In truth, the arsenic levels are extremely LOW. Far lower than you'll find in many other foods."
    —Via Natural News.

  • 2015.03.21
    "Thousands of people gathered on beaches in northern France and south west England on Saturday to watch what is being called 'the high tide of the century.' The exceptionally high spring tide, swollen by a 'supermoon' effect linked to the solar eclipse on Friday, sent huge surge waves crashing onto beaches and along estuaries on both sides of the English Channel. The most dramatic effects of the day’s supertide were witnessed at the picturesque island of Mont Saint-Michel, off the coast of Normandy, where a wall of water as high as a four-storey building momentarily cut it off from the mainland."
    —Via The Telegraph.

  • 2015.03.22
    U.S. sales of mainstream beer down, -0.6% in 2014; total U.S. beer sales up slightly, +0.4%. Sales of canned beer up significantly; bottles trending down; draft beer down slightly.
    —Via National Beer Wholesalers Association (at YFGF).

    Craft beer growth in 2014 (Brewers Association) (02)
  • 2015.03.22
    U.S. 'craft' beer sales up +18% in 2014; capture 11% of total U.S. beer market: 22.2 million barrels, produced by 3,418 breweries.
    —Via Brewers Association (at YFGF).

  • 2015.03.22
    Sixteen fables of beer history debunked.
    —Via British beer historian Martyn Cornell (at Zythophile).

    Beer brands_by global region 2015
  • 2015.03.22
    The word's most popular beers, region by region. Global map infographic.
    —Via Vinepair.

  • 2015.03.21
    A definition of 'craft' beer from British beer writer, Pete Brown:
    "For the more mainstream audience, who don’t really care about the relative merits of cask and keg, or the size of the brewery that made their beer, craft is a useful shorthand for quality, flavour and integrity. It’s something a bit different from the normal, mass-produced homogeneity; something worth paying a bit more for. And that’s all the definition it needs."
    —Via The Guardian)

  • 2015.03.20
    China's per capita alcohol consumption for people who actually drink is more than 15 liters per year. That's more than the amount seen in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, and more. Only drinkers in Tajikistan and Russia drink more, per estimates by the World Health Organization.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 2015.03.15
    Altbier vs. Kolsch: touring Dusseldorf and Cologne, in Germany, for their beer.
    —Via Washington Post Travel

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Azaleas at sunrise

Azaleas at sunrise

sveiki sulaukę Šventų Velykų!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Cask bitter for a Friday afternoon.

Cask bitter for a Friday afternoon (01)

A cask strong bitter, brewed in Shropshire, England; pulled from a cask in Arlington, Virginia; enjoyed in contemplation on a Friday afternoon; and raised in honor of Michael Jackson —the Beer Hunter, the British beer and whisk(e)y writer— who, had he still been alive on 27 March 2015 to write about and drink good malts, would have been celebrating his 73rd birthday.

Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1942, Jackson, a journalist by trade, would become the author of several very influential books on beer and whiskey. In his seminal book, The World Guide to Beer, published in 1977, Jackson would, nearly single-handedly, coin the term (and concept) of beer styles, when there had been nothing such, before. That might come as a surprise to parvenu 'craft' beer drinkers today, accustomed as they are to the now 90 beer 'styles' recognized by the Great American Beer Festival (actually 180, if all sub-styles are included), a number which seems to grow every year.

Jackson's image loomed large at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival

In 1995, Jackson was planning to write a book on the burgeoning American microbrewery (now called 'craft' brewery') movement. Wags would call his whirlwind American visit, "Michael Jackson: The Iron Liver Tour." But he would never write that book; even then, twenty years ago, there far too many breweries opening far too quickly.

The World Guide to Beer is now out-of-print. But its follow-up, the New World Guide to Beer, is still in-print, as are several of Jackson's other books, and many of his newspaper and magazine articles can be read at the Beer Hunter website.

Beer deserves to be treated as a civilized drink; it may even have been the cause of civilization. [...] "Do you ever drink wine?" people ask me, as though beer were a prison rather than a playground. A day may pass when I do not drink wine, but never a week. Whatever is argued about other pleasures, it is not necessary to be monogamous in the choice of drink. Beer is by far the more extensively consumed, but less adequately honored. In a small way, I want to help put right that injustice.

Jackson died, in 2007, of complications related to Parkinson's Disease. Consider contributing to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, in Jackson's name. Or link your PC or Mac into Folding @Home, a distributed computing campaign run by Stanford University: a network of thousands of home computers working to find a cure.

Here's another view of that ale, from the same day, but with a different focus. Notice the unusual hand-pull mechanism built into the wall.

Cask bitter for a Friday afternoon (02)

Rustico Restaurant
Arlington (Ballston), Virginia
27 March 2015.


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

By sales, the top 50 breweries and the top 50 'craft' breweries in the U.S.

It's the list of the biggest 50 'craft' breweries 1 in the U.S., hot off the (U.S.) Brewers Association's presses. Released 31 March 2015, the rankings are based on sales volumes.

New to the list, at number one, is Yuengling, which only last year was not considered a 'craft' beer by the BA. Based in Pennsylvania, Yuengling is the oldest operating brewery in the United States (founded in 1829), and is still family-owned.

The actual sales numbers will be published in the May/June issue of The New Brewer, the trade journal of the BA. (Much of that information will be proprietary.) In 2013, Yuengling produced 2,500,000 barrels of beer (according to Wikipedia). Right behind it, for 2014, was Boston Beer, a corporation, maker of Sam Adams beers. (In 2013, both produced about the same volume; one would suppose the same for 2014.).

Yuengling tin

Compare that list to this list, below, also from the BA: the top 50 breweries overall. It ranks not only 'craft' breweries, but the big bad boys (Anheuser-Busch InBev and its ilk), and those breweries the BA does not consider to be 'craft.' 1

In this list, Yuengling and Boston Beer fall to fourth and fifth. Anheuser-Busch InBev remains, of course, number one. According to Statista, AB-Inbev produced 106,427,250 barrels in 2014, and almost four times that, worldwide.

Read the footnotes to this list. 2 They identify some of the brands held by various brewing companies. For example,
  • What is North American Breweries, at position number six?
    Dundee, Genesee, Labatt Lime, Magic Hat, and Pyramid brands.
  • What is the Craft Brew Alliance, at ninth?
    Kona, Omission, Red Hook, and Widmer Brothers brands.
  • Then there's the largest contract-brewer in the United States, Pabst, at #3.
    Owner of Pabst, Schlitz, National Bohemian, and 28+ other brand families, Pabst does not own an actual brewery.
  • And what the heck is the World Brews/Winery Exchange, at position 43?

Top 50 U.S. Breweries (2014)