Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reflecting on beer and life, and Michael Jackson.

The great beer writer Michael Jackson died on this date, 30 August, in 2007, at the age of 65. During his career, Jackson, a journalist by trade, 'beer-hunted' the world, bringing its attention to Belgian beer, telling the birthing stories of America's beer renaissance, writing on malt whisky, and single-handedly promulgating the concept of 'beer styles' when there had been no such thing.

In the September 2013 issue of All About Beer Magazine, past editor Julie Johnson selected her ten favorite columns written by Jackson for that magazine.

  • Calagione”: September 1999, Vol. 20, No. 4.
    Long before Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and founder Sam Calagione gained national fame, Jackson spent a day with Sam in Delaware, talking literature and tasting what he called “extraordinarily adventurous beers.”

  • Finally, the Kiss of Magic Malt”: January 2000, Vol. 21, No. 1.
    This tour of Moravia is a perfect example of Jackson on the road—part history, part travelogue, with brewery visits and brief but tempting tasting notes.

  • Tasting Beer Under the Sea”: November 2000, Vol. 21, No. 6.
    In a PR exercise to promote his Great Beer Guide to a group of booksellers, Jackson hosts an all-day beer tasting on a train as it travels from London, under the Channel and on to Belgium.

  • Just Words”: January 2001, Vol. 22, No. 1.
    A playful exploration of the origins of words used in brewing, with the help of a friendly priest.

  • Blue Collar Brews”: May 2001, Vol. 22, No. 3.
    Jackson recalls his immigrant background and working-class roots, and the English beer styles formulated to slake the thirst of laboring men.

  • Celebrating a Great 21st … But This is not Kansas City”: September 2002, Vol. 23, No. 5.
    At the 21st Great American Beer Festival in Denver, he recalls the visit of its founder, Charlie Papazian, to the Great British Beer Festival years earlier and the role of that meeting in launching the GABF.

  • Farewell, Father … It’s Beer War”: November 2002, Vol. 23, No. 6.
    Readers love lists, but woe betide the writer who omits a favorite beer from one titled The Ten Best Belgians.

  • My Tribute to The Coach” July 2005, Vol. 26, No. 4.
    A touching remembrance of a favorite publican in a portrait of the pub he tended and the community that gathered there.

  • The Silence of the Ram”: September 2006, Vol. 27, No. 5.
    A rare flash of anger over the closing of a venerable brewery.

  • Did I Cheat Mort Subite?”: September 2007, Vol. 28, No. 5.
    Jackson’s final essay for All About Beer, published after his death.


But I digress

In that same 2013 issue, Stan Hieronymous —a writer on beer, excellent in his own right— wrote about the Michael Jackson Collection at the Oxford Brookes University library: an archive of 1,800 books, the contents of 29 filing cabinets, and countless handwritten notes.

Michael Jackson, 28 March 1995.

Jackson's spoken voice was a Yorkshire tang delivered sotto voce, punctuated by an oft-repeated "but I digress," after many would sit entranced by yet another wonderful story.

What did Jackson's written voice sound like?

Here he is, from "A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Dish by Dish," a 1983 Washington Post byline (his first for that paper) on choosing beer, not wine, for the American tradition of the Thanksgiving meal.
The most dismal Thanksgiving I can imagine is the one detailed by Dale Brown in his definitive work "American Cooking": "A glass of spring water stood at each place. No wine here, not ever - except perhaps when the men drank it in the barn." So what should it be next week: A little Seawright Spring Water, from the Blue Ridge Mountains? Or, to be moderately more chic, a glass of Perrier - while the men drink Zinfandel in the garage?

Water taken in moderation cannot hurt anybody, as Mark Twain observed. Those watery celebrants, however, were guilty of what Twain termed "intemperate temperance." There is an idea, whose time has surely gone, that, because they were Puritans, the Pilgrims did not drink alcohol. I have heard of poor souls in New England who, in glorification of this myth, affect to enjoy glasses of cranberry juice with their Thanksgiving meal.

To give thanks is a matter of joy; should that be confined by excessive sobriety? Better still, Thanksgiving is an annual opportunity to refresh old friendships and make new ones, in which matter both the ritual and effect of a shared glass is the best tie.

Wine should be more than acceptable at this feast, for even the most ordinary meal without the grape is, proverbially, like a day denied sunshine. Unless, of course, you prefer beer.


Parkinson's Disease

Eight years ago, Michael Jackson died of complications related to Parkinson's Disease. Today, consider contributing to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, in Jackson's name. Or, at no cost, 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 to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and many cancers.

Tonight, to the man who described himself as "sometimes the quiet, courteous, friendly Lithuanian Jewish Yorkshire Englishman," I say, in fractured Lithuanian: "Labanaktis, Ponas Jackson." (Good night, Mr. Jackson.)


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: With a beer, he waits.

With a beer, he waits (02)

A man waits at The Ornery Beer Company.

But not for his beer. He has his beer, the first pour of the day in the brewpub's biergarten — a large space with long communal-seating tables, whose garage-style doors can be opened to the outside on a pleasant day, which they were, on that afternoon, Friday, 28 August 2015.

Notice the beer glass. The stem allows the drinker to hold his beer without warming it. The tulip bulb shape concentrates the beer's aromas. The size is sufficient to hold a full sixteen-ounces of beer and a head of foam. There are no standard 'mixing' pint glasses at this pub.

Ornery Beer Company is located in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County, Virginia. The brewpub began public operations on 17 August 2015: the first brewpub in the county, a southern suburb of Washington, D.C.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 32/33, 2015.

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

Weeks 32/33
2 August - 15 August 2015

  • 15 August 2015
    Seventy years ago, 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender to the Allies in WWII. The formal signing would be on 2 September.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • 14 August 2015
    Nine 'craft' breweries make Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States, ranked according to percentage revenue growth over a four-year period.Revenue in the initial qualifying year must have been at least $200,000 and revenue in the most recent year must have been $2 million. At #1 among the 'craft' breweries is Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company (at various locations in southern California) at position #519 out of 5,000, with 893% growth ($6.1 million in revenues).
    —Synopsis via YFGF.
    —Full story via Brewbound.

  • 14 August 2015
    The United States Social Security Act became law 80 years ago, on 14 August 1935, creating unemployment insurance and government-backed pension plans.
    —Via United States History.

  • 12 August 2015
    In a story on the recent rapid growth of the 'craft' beer industry in Washington, D.C., the Washington Post compares the aroma of boiling wort to that of light-stuck 'skunky' beers, and manages to get parts of American beer history wrong.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 12 August 2015
    • Welsh brewery, Tiny Rebel, won the 2015 Great British Beer Festival, marking the first time in the festival's history that a Welsh brewery has won best beer of Britain
      —Via Roger Protz.
    • Stone Brewing (of Escondido, California) won the Michael Jackson Award —for the best cask-conditioned ale made in America, at the festival— for its cask of Ruination Imperial IPA (8.2% abv).
      —Via YFGF.

  • 12 August 2015
    "There isn’t going to be another success story like IPA in near future." Bart Watson, economist for the (U.S.) Brewers Association charts the recent great growth of IPA in the United States. IPAs can finish 2015 with a 27.5%+ craft share, thus having grown more than ten times their 2008 share, or more than 6 million barrels in absolute growth.
    —Via Brewers Association.

  • Fred Eckhardt 1926-2015.
  • 12 August 2015
    Fred Eckhardt —homebrewing and beer author, and a pioneer of the craft beer industry since before its legalization in 1979 until the present day— has died.
    —Appreciation via John Foyston, at Oregon Live.

  • 12 August 2015
    Beer blogger/author, Jeff Alworth publishes "The Beer Bible."
    —Via Jeff Alworth.

  • 11 August 2015
    Kim Jordan, the woman who co-founded New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado, 24 years ago, has stepped down as CEO and tapped Christine Perich to be the brewery's next leader. To remain as Chair of the brewery's Board of Directors. New Belgium is the 4th largest 'craft' brewery, and 8th largest U.S. brewery overall.
    —Via Citizen-Times.

  • 9 August 2015
    The 7th annual DC Beer Week, now celebrated throughout the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area: 9 -16 August 2015.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 9 August 2015
    Ten years after Sean Lilly Wilson (now owner of Full Steam Brewery in Durham, North Carolina) shepherded passage of "Pop the Cap" in 2005 — which permitted beers of greater than 6% alcohol-by-volume to be sold and produced in North Carolina— the state is experiencing great growth in its 'craft' beer industry. As of August 2015, there were 132 'craft' breweries in the state.
    —Via News-Observer.

  • 8 August 2015
    "On beer cicerones, wine sommeliers, and the cult of the 'expert'."
    —Via The Pour Fool.

  • 6 August 2015
    The United States deployed the first-ever atomic bomb seventy years ago, 6 August 1945 during WWII, devastating the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
    —Stories of the survivors, via Washington Post.

  • 5 August 2015
    "Why I Wanted to Talk About Race." The 'whiteness' of craft beer.
    —Via Bryan D. Roth, at This is Why I'm Drunk.

  • 3 August 2015
    Taxes paid on beer during the first six months of 2015 are down 1.7% from the same period in 2014 (and thus, sales/production can be considered down).
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 3 August 2015
    Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon, may be planning to join the movement of western U.S. breweries eastward. There are indications that it may be planning to open its second production brewery, in Greenville, South Carolina.
    —Via Greenville Onine.

  • 3 August 2015
    What 'craft' beer bubble?
    "Production/capacity ratios are reasonably healthy," says Bart Watson, economist for the Brewers Association. Micro-breweries (producing fewer than 15,000 barrels of beer per year) continue to show no signs of slowing, and grew significantly faster than the rest of the 'craft' brewery category. For regional breweries (producing anywhere from 15,000 to 6,000,000 barrels per year) growth is shifting to off-premises. Data from the BA's bench-marking survey for 2014 showed the average regional moving from 62.4% packaged production in 2011, to 65.6% packaged in 2014. 87% of the breweries responding to the BA's survey reported growth compared to the same period a year ago, versus 13% that reported being flat or down.
    —Via YFGF (Synopsis of data released by U.S. Brewers Association.)

  • 2 August 2015
    • "If the current craft beer 'revolution' has a defined starting point, you might say August 2, 1965, was that moment. On that date, Fritz Maytag, heir to the Maytag washing machine company, bought a stake in Anchor Brewing Company."
      —Via CNBC.
    • It's been 50 years since the birth of U.S. craft beer. Why no celebration?
      —Via Tom Acitelli, at All About Beer.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pic(k) of the week: Sunflower and bees

Sunflower and bees

Bumblebees foraging for pollen on a sunflower, in late summer, in Arlington, Virginia.

21 August 2015.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Today is the last day to enter the 2015 Beer Writing Awards of the North American Guild of Beer Writers.

Do you write about beer? Do you believe know you write well?

Well, then, read this, and act ... today!

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) aims to broaden the conversation about beer and brewing, raise the standards of (beer) writing, provide leadership and continuing education for practitioners of the profession, and encourage and support more participation throughout all media channels. In North America.


Toward that end, the NAGBW has announced its 3rd annual Beer Writing Awards for writers, bloggers, broadcasters, and authors to honor the best beer and brewing industry coverage. This year, there are nine categories, organized by content.
  • Best Beer and Food Writing:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that places beer in the context of food, including but not limited to recipes and pairings (e.g., cookbooks).

  • Best Beer and Travel Writing:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that transports the reader to a place and provides guidance or insight on the location’s unique features and beer landscape (e.g., travel books).

  • Best Beer Writing, Short Form:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that contains fewer than 600 words.

  • Best Beer Writing, Editorial/ Humor:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that provides the author’s position or opinion on a topic related to the beer industry with or without comedic emphasis (e.g., columns).

  • Best Beer Writing, History/ Technical:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, that chronicles beer historically and/ or technically, offering industry guidance (and introductory beer books).

  • Best Beer Writing, Local/ Regional:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, intended for a local, statewide or regional audience (alt weeklies, brewspapers, local newspapers submit here).

  • Best Beer Writing, National/ International:
    Beer writing, including print or online media, intended for a national or international audience (e.g., magazines, online magazines and newspapers with national/ international circulation or readership).

  • Best Podcast/ Broadcast:
    A serial podcast or broadcast that focuses on beer/ the brewing industry. Please submit three examples of your online series that best represent your beer industry coverage.

  • Best Blog:
    A blog series dedicated to beer/ the brewing industry. Please submit three posts that best represent your beer industry coverage.
The deadline to apply is today, Monday, 17 August, 2015. (The contest was opened 3 August.) To be eligible, entries must have been published between 1 July, 2014 and 30 June, 2015. And you the writer, must officially reside in North America.

Acceptable formats include: .pdf, .doc, .docx. The submitting site accepts large files. One article/ item per entry, except where indicated for Blog and Podcast/ Broadcast. If you have a book that is not available in .pdf form or would prefer to submit a hard copy, email NAGBW Director Erika Bolden at for mailing instructions.

There is a fee of $30 per each entry. Proceeds go toward winner prizes and modest judge stipends. Members of the NAGBW pay only $15. If you're a beer writer, why not join us? (Yes, YFGF is a member.) The Guild has members from USA, Canada, United Kingdom, and Costa Rica. Membership is open to all writers and content producers who cover beer and brewing, although industry and associate memberships are both non-voting categories.

For more information and/or to submit an entry, go: here. But do so quickly!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Bubbles on the ledge.

Bubbles on the ledge
It’s common to hear wine professionals comment on the size of bubbles as being some indication of quality. A good quality Champagne has a steady stream of fine bubbles, while an inexpensive Prosecco has much larger bubbles. That’s how the received wisdom goes.

But it’s a myth.

How many bubbles does a bottle of Champagne have in it? Zero. The same goes for a bottle of Prosecco, or Cava, or English sparkling wine. They all have carbon dioxide dissolved in them, up to pressures of 6 atmospheres. It’s only when they are poured into a glass that the bubbles appear, and the nature of the bubble largely depends on the characteristics of the glass.

It’s also a myth that the way that the carbon dioxide gets into the wine determines the bubble size. Once carbon dioxide is in the wine it doesn’t matter whether it was produced by yeasts or pumped in from a cylinder. It’s the same gas.

So how do glasses affect bubble size? Bubbles are formed from what is known as nucleation sites in the glass. Typically these will be small bits of cellulose fibre (for example, from cleaning cloths) or other imperfections. As the glass is filled, these will harbour microscopic air bubbles that are then able to initiate bubble formation in the wine. The dissolved carbon dioxide comes out of solution at these sites and a stream of bubbles is released. Some glasses are deliberately etched at the bottom to create nucleation sites that will cause a pretty stream of bubbles to flow upwards.

If you were to clean a glass perfectly, for example by using phosphoric acid, then there would be no nucleation sites and no bubbles.
Jamie Goode's Wine Blog
14 August 2015.

But why exactly does that fine-mousse of a Champagne dissipate so rapidly, whereas the foamy head of a well-made beer lingers on? Here, Charles Bamforth, at the University of California, Davis, educator to 'craft' brewers, explains:
Foam is an inherently unstable phenomenon because of the huge increase in surface area within an aqueous system that is counter to the force of surface tension. That beer foam is stable, unlike that in richly carbonated beverages such as champagne and sodas [and cider], is due to the presence of surface-active agents in beer. The main foam-stabilizing agents in beer are hydrophobic polypeptides derived from grain. These molecules cross-link with the bitter iso-alpha-acids derived from hops to render the foam more rigid and not only more stable but also adhere to the side of the glass as the beer is consumed.
The Oxford Companion to Beer: Oxford University Press, 2012.

In other words, beer has proteins from barley and wheat, and compounds from hops. Wine, from grapes, does not.

Long-lasting bubbles or not, the quality of the wine inside a bottle of Champagne does make a difference. The yeasty, toasty, elegant, well-acidified flavor of a French Champagne is a thing of beauty.
In France, Champagne and sparkling wine are drinks enjoyed everyday, not only reserved for special occasions.

So said Isabelle Bricout, the U.S. Business Development Manager for Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte of Épernay, France, when hosting a recent luncheon at L'Auberge Chez Francois, in Great Falls, Virginia.

Words to lunch by, in America.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 30/31, 2015.

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

Weeks 30/31
19 July - 1 August 2015

  • 1 August 2015
    It's been 50 years since the birth of U.S. 'craft' beer. In August 1965, Fritz Maytag, heir to the Maytag washing machine company, purchased a dying San Francisco brewery, the Anchor Brewing Company, and the rest is history.
    —Via Tom Acitelli, at All About Beer Magazine.
    —Via Tom Rotunno, at CNBC.

  • 1 August 2015
    Buddy Emmons, the country-music pedal-steel guitarist who 'taught everybody to play,' has died, at age 78.
    —Via NPR.

  • 29 July 2015
    Odell Brewing is the latest 'craft' brewery to forestall potential take-over bids by selling ownership back to employees.
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 29 July 2015
    Five reports on the state of upcoming hop harvests, and five different conclusions.
    • Craft Beer Business (9 July 2015) reported that the 2015 hops harvest in the U.S. would be the third highest total harvested acreage on record.
    • NBC News (25 July) reported that the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 98.6 percent of Washington state in a severe drought. The drought will boost hop prices for anything on the spot market. There could be a hops shortage starting in 2016.
    • The annual report from the international Barth-Haas Group (released, July), stated that U.S. Pacific northwest hop growers do not anticipate that the 2015 hop crop will suffer from lack of water.
    • The (U.S.) Brewers Association (16 June) reported a strong increase (16%) in acreage [in the Pacific Northwest] between the 2014 harvest and 2015 plantings, but cautioned that long term water issues could have devastating effects on the ability of new plantings to mature.
    • Stan Hieronymus (29 July) reported that the International Hop Growers Congress in Bavaria announced that production in Germany’s main hop growing regions would likely fall 12 to 22 percent short of earlier predictions, and that the Hop Growers of America is worried that the U.S. alpha varieties yield in 2015 would be down up to 5 percent and aroma varieties off 10 to 15 percent.
    —Via YFGF.

  • Beer Serves America: Economic Contribution Study (2014-2015)
  • 28 July 2015
    In 2014, the U.S. beer industry accounted for $253 billion in economic activity (1.5% of the national Gross Domestic Product) and produced 1.75 million jobs.
    —Via The Beer Institute.

  • 27 July 2015
    Researchers at Purdue University have found that humans have taste receptors for sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami ... and fat. Scientists had already discovered the chemical signature and two specific receptors for fat, but now were able to prove that humans can indeed distinguish fat from other tastes.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 27 July 2015
    As of the end of June 2015, there were 3,739 breweries in the United States, an increase of 699 over June 2014. (1,755 breweries are in planning.) During the first 6 months of the year, those breweries sold approximately 12.2 million barrels of beer, up from 10.6 million barrels during the first half of 2014.
    —Via (U.S.) Brewers Association.

  • 22 July 2015
    Regular moderate drinking helps to lessen debilitating effect of chronic pain, a new study has found, whose results were published in the medical journal Arthritis Care & Research.
    —Via The Drinks Business.

  • 22 July 2015
    The record for the most beer taps in the world? The Raleigh Beer Garden in Raleigh, North Carolina has 366 drafts.
    —Via Forbes.

  • 22 July 2015
    E.L. Doctorow —one of America's great 20th/21st century novelists— has died, at 84. Most famous for "Ragtime."
    —Via Washington Post.

  • Cantwell addresses CBC13
  • 21 July 2015
    Dick Cantwell —a co-founder of Elysian Brewing, who recently relinquished ownership there over displeasure with a buy-out by Anheuser-Busch InBev— has been appointed Quality Ambassador, a new position of the (U.S.) Brewers Association, with the Association's Technical Committee, "to provide a framework for quality to craft brewers and to provide guidance to achieve the vision of a membership that consistently produces beer of the highest quality."
    —Via (U.S.) Brewers Association.

  • 21 July 2015
    The USPS Shipping Equity Act, a bill currently under consideration by the U.S. Congress, would allow beer, wine, and spirits to be send through the U.S. Postal Service, overturning a 1909 law, if passed. This would apply, however, only to licensed brewers, distillers and winemakers; individuals would still be prohibited from doing so.
    —Via The Drinks Business.

  • 20 July 2015
    New York City's commissioner of health says NO to cold beers or cold showers during the city's 100 degree heat wave. Huh?
    —Via Observer.

  • 20 July 2015
    Dwayne Wade, star basketball player for the Miami Heat, has launched his own wine, called, naturally, "Wade."
    —Via The Drinks Business.

  • 20 July 2015
    According to market research firm Mintel, 23 percent of new beers released globally in 2014 contained greater than 6.5% alcohol-by-volume. In 2012, that number was significantly lower: just 15 percent were that strong. Those high gravity brews are mostly coming from America, with over three times as many beers over 6.5% released in 2014 compared to those released in 2011.
    —Via Food and Wine.

  • 19 July 2015
    53% of beer drinkers in the United States, aged 21-34, say ‘local’ is very or somewhat important in their decision to buy beer.
    —Via Nielsen.

  • The Barth Hops Report 2014/2015
  • 19 July 2015
    In 2014, worldwide beer production totaled 1,960,000,000 hectoliters (the equivalent of 1,670,249,098 U.S. barrels), down 0.6% from 2013. China was the world's largest producer of beer, as it has been for several years, at 492,190,000 hectoliters (419,428,522. U.S. barrels).
    —Via Barth-Haas Group, at YFGF.

  • 19 July 2015
    A list of the top 40 breweries in the world, by production volume in 2014. (At number 1 was Anheuser-Busch Inbev, with 411.5 million hectoliters, 21% of the total world production.)
    —Via Barth-Haas Group, at YFGF.

  • 19 July 2015
    "AM radio kicked streaming's ass. Analog cassettes and 8 tracks also kicked streaming's ass, and absolutely rocked compared to streaming. Streaming sucks. Streaming is the worst audio in history. My music is being removed from all streaming services."
    —Via Neil Young, at Rolling Stone.

Good night, Mr. Eckhardt.

Sad, sad news for 'craft' beer today. Well, really for beer. Fred Eckhardt, uber-mensch of 'craft' beer, has died, aged 89 (1926-2015).

Some very sad news has just been reported, via Lisa Morrison that Oregon beer writing legend Fred Eckhardt has passed away at 89 years old. Beer advocate, critic, beer guru and historian, Fred was often referred to as America’s greatest living beer writer. Fred was also a huge advocate of sake and wrote the 1989 book “The Essentials of Beer Style” that really put him on the list as one of the world’s leading beer journalists and historians. Fred will be remembered by his longtime partner, thousands of fans and the annual Fred Fest charity fundraiser celebration held in his honor every year at Hair of the Dog Brewing. Fred Fest 2016 is scheduled for May 1st, 2016.
The New School Beer

Fred Eckhardt 1926-2015.

If you are a 'craft' beer brewer and you don't know who Mr. Fred Eckhardt was, you should. He is a big reason why today, nearly fifty years after his first work on beer, "A Treatise on Lager Beers: A Handbook for Americans and Canadians on Lager Beer," was published in 1969, you are still saying your beer is "revolutionary." The subtitle of the book is "How to make good beer at home." Of course homebrewing was still illegal in 1969!

A Treatise on Lager Beers (front)

Mr. Eckhardt's next book, "Essentials of Beer Style," published in 1989, would become a seminal treatise expositing the principles of beer character and style, using qualitative analysis of beers available at the time of its publication. Although outdated today if only in terms of beers available, this book remains an invaluable educational resource, timely today, especially as beer 'experts' purport to 'discover' more and more beer styles.

Essentials of Beer Style (01)

Mr. Eckhardt has bid us good night, and we might be the lesser for it, except that he has left us with a great legacy. He was indeed a revolutionary for 'craft' beer, years before that term was coined or claim was ever made. It is now our responsibility to keep it such, brewers and drinkers alike.

As Mr. Eckhardt was famous for saying, "Listen to your beer."

Fred Eckhardt
An inveterate raconteur, [Fred Eckhardt] first tasted good beer while a radio operator in the Marines. He was stationed in Japan of all places, during the Korean War, and the beer? Tuborg from Denmark. When he got back to the States, Mr. Eckhardt, who would settle in Portland, Ore. (that’s important), and from there visit Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Steam. There he discovered the second flavorful beer of his life and came to the realization such a thing could be (re)created in the United States, even as there remained a woeful dearth of both ingredients and know-how.

Nevertheless, Mr. Eckhardt began teaching homebrewing courses in Portland at a junior college and through a local winemaking-supply store; and, at the encouragement of the store’s owner, in 1969 wrote the seminal A Treatise on Lager Beers: A Handbook for Americans and Canadians on Lager Beer. It became for the times the step-by-step guide to homebrewing the world’s most popular beer style (this was, mind you, 10 years before homebrewing was legalized by the federal government).

Mr. Eckhardt eventually pecked out what was the first regular beer column in an American newspaper, for The Oregonian in Portland, which he fast helped make one of the beer capitals of the world.
—Tom Acitelli
The Five Most Important Figures in American Craft Beer
New York Observer: 21 December 2010.


Sunday, August 09, 2015

It's the 7th annual DC Beer Week!

In 2009, Jeff Wells —Washington, D.C.-area beer guru— and Teddy Folkman —co-owner and chef at Granville Moore's, a Belgian-beer and food inspired 'gastropub'— conceived and created DC Beer Week, a celebration of the beer culture in the nations's capital, whether brewed there (not many choices at the time) or enjoyed there (many more choices).

Today, Sunday 9 August 2015, marks the beginning of the 7th running of DC Beer Week. À la most such city-wide 'beer weeks,' the festival will run one more day than a true calendar week. For celebrating, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

And different than in 2009, there are many more choices among breweries: this year, there are ten breweries in Washington, D.C. alone, whereas in 2009, there had been only three int he city. And that's not to mention the numerous breweries and beer-centric venues in Washington, D.C.'s ring suburbs who will be participating, who had been excluded for the first few years of the festival.
DC Beer Week is a celebration is of good beer in the National Capital Region from conception to consumption and everyone and everything in between. DC Beer Week aims to educate all on good beer through various events and seminars from August 9th through the 16th.

The folks bringing you the 2015 edition of DC Beer Week are: This year, DC Beer Week will feature eight "Marquee Events," including the kick-off, today, and a tap takeover at Churchkey, on 13 August, featuring fifty drafts and five casks, all only from breweries within the boundaries of Washington, D.C., the largest such D.C.-only draft event ever. Find the list of events at and at independent website, DC
DC Beer Week is excited to announce its kick-off event at Suburbia on Sunday, August 9, 2015. The 1967 Airstream bar outside of Union Market in northeast DC will host 20 of the region’s top breweries, cideries, and meaderies to mark the beginning of the 7th Annual DC Beer Week. The daytime event will feature tastings, music from DJ-59, and a ribbon cutting ceremony with a special guest who will also tap the first official keg of DCBW’s Solidarity Beer of 2015.

Follow all the fun on social media: Several years ago, during the early iterations of DC Beer Week, I had suggested ten proposals for improving the experience. Whether or not I had any influence (I've never been on the planning board), nine of the ten proposals have been adopted, the most important of which was including the entire metropolitan area in the celebration.

The one not accepted was moving the date from the heat and humidity of August, but, this week, a good local 'craft' beer might just be anodyne indeed for summer in the city.


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: A cask's keystone should never look like this!

Would you want to drink a beer poured through this keystone? I wouldn't.

A cask's keystone should never look like this! Clean that mold.

That green stuff is mold. Mold growing on beer residue left on the keystone of a firkin after that 10.8 gallon cask was sealed at a brewery. Mold insinuating itself into the wood (and maybe the beer). Should the brewery have done a (much) better job of cleaning the keystone? Uh, yes.

Should the pub have done a better job of cleaning the keystone upon receiving the cask? Uh, yes (although I suspect that no attempt was made).

At some point, the publican will be tapping that firkin through that keystone. So, I ask again. Would you really want to drink the beer poured through that bung? Not me!

I have left unmentioned the identities of the guilty brewery and pub in order to gently prod them toward better, more hygienic, practices. They know who they are.


Sunday, August 02, 2015

Two days before DC Beer Week, it's Cask Night!

The 7th annual DC Beer Week officially begins next Sunday, 9 August ...

...but just before that, on Friday and Saturday, 7/8 August, Barrett Lauer, brewer at the District Chophouse in downtown Washington, D.C., hosts an unofficial kickoff: Cask Night & Cask Day, a two-day festival of locally-produced 'cask-conditioned' ales.

Cask Night and Day_2015

What is 'cask-conditioned' ale —often referred to as 'real ale'? CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale in the U.K.) has this handy definition:
a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide.

In the U.S., American 'craft' brewers often infuse their cask ales with non-traditional ingredients and flavorings, such as fruits, vegetables, or spices.

Several breweries in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have already pledged to send a cask ale apiece to Cask Night & Day. The line-up, so far, will be twenty-four beers: nine each from breweries in the District and Maryland; and six from Virginia. Each cask ale will be served Friday evening for Cask Night, and, again, Saturday afternoon for Cask Day. Plans may change and different casks appear, and ten of the beers remain yet to be announced. I'll update this post as new details arrive.

  • WASHINGTON, D.C. (9)
    • 3 Stars Brewing (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Mike McGarvey
      • ---> Peppercorn Saison
      • Style: Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale, brewed with peppercorns; aged on cherries.
      • Specs: 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv); cask infused with cherries.
    • Atlas Brew Works (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Will Durgin
      • ---> TBA
    • Bluejacket (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Josh Chapman
      • ---> TBA
    • DC Brau (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Jeff Hancock
      • ---> TBA
    • District ChopHouse (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Barrett Lauer
      • ---> Cheque Please
      • Style: Czech Style Pilsner
      • Specs: 5.7% abv; 70 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Hallertau Blanc; infused with hull melon.
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Washington, D.C., downtown)
      Brewer: Scott Lasater
      • ---> TBA
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Washington, D.C., Navy Yard)
      Brewer: Travis Tedrow
      • ---> Cream Stout
      • Style: Milk Stout with lactose
      • Specs: 5.6% abv; 23 IBUs.
    • Hellbender Brewing Company (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Ben Evans
      • ---> Saison
      • Style: Hopped Saison
      • Specs: 5.9% abv; 25 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Galaxy.
    • Right Proper Brewery (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Nathan Zeender
      • ---> TBA

  • MARYLAND (9)
    • The Brewers Art (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Steve Frazier
      • ---> Birdhouse
      • Style: American Style Pale Ale
      • Specs: 5% abv; 32 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Simcoe hops.
    • Franklin's Restaurant and Brewery (Hyattsville, Maryland)
      Brewer: Mike Roy
      • ---> Sourgarden
      • Style: Kettle Sour ale with garden herbs.
      • Specs: 5% abv; 9 IBUs.
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Rockville, Maryland)
      Brewer: Christian Layke
      • ---> ESB
      • Style: Extra Special Bitter
      • Specs: TBA
    • Heavy Seas Beer (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Chris Leonard
      • ---> Cross Bones
      • Style: Session IPA
      • Specs: 4.5% abv; 35 IBUs; cask infused with dried grapefruit.
    • Key Brewing Company (Dundalk, Maryland)
      Brewer: Mike McDonald
      • ---> TBA
    • Oliver Brewing Company (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Steve Jones
      • ---> One Last Laugh in a Place of Dying
      • Style: Southern Hemisphere IPA
      • Specs: 7.5% abv; 80 IBUs.
    • Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant (Bethesda, Maryland)
      Brewer: Geoff Lively
      • ---> Scottish Export
      • Style: Scottish Export
      • Specs: 5.5% abv; 19 IBUs.
    • Union Craft Brewing Company (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Kevin Blodger
      • ---> TBA

  • VIRGINIA (6)
    • Capitol City Brewing Company (Arlington, Virginia)
      Brewer: Kristi Mathews-Griner
      • ---> Biere De Garde
      • Style: Biere De Garde with fresh ginger, and black peppercorns
      • Specs: 7.4% abv; 31 IBUs.
    • Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, Virginia)
      Brewer: Jason Oliver
      • ---> TBA
    • Fairwinds Brewing Company (Lorton, Virginia)
      Brewer: Charlie Buettner
      • ---> Howling Gale
      • Style: American Style IPA
      • Specs: 7.2% abv; 82 IBUs; cask dryhopped with Citra and Amarillo.
    • Lost Rhino Brewing Company (Ashburn, Virginia)
      Brewer: Favio Garcia
      • ---> 2200 lbs of Sin
      • Style: Barrel-aged barleywine
      • Specs: 10.5% abv; 96 IBUs; cask infused with Virginia honey, and lemon, orange, and grapefruit peels.
    • Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, Virginia)
      Brewer: Bill Madden
      • ---> TBA
    • Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant (Ballston, Virginia)
      Brewer: David Peeler
      • ---> TBA

Mr. Lauer at the tap
Cask Night host brewer Barrett Lauer is going a different route. His cask 'ale' will be a hoppy lager: Cheque Please, a 5.7% (abv) kellerbier with a bracing 70 IBUs imparted by Czech hops.

The District Chophouse & Brewery is located in Washington, D.C.'s Penn Quarter (which old-timers used to call Chinatown) at 509 7th Street NW, between E and F streets, just 1 1/2 blocks south of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop on the Red, Green, and Yellow lines.

Admission to Cask Night (or Cask Day) is $50 for unlimited tasting (within reason!), a food buffet, and a complimentary tasting glass (NOT plastic). For more information, and to purchase a ticket, call the Chophouse on (202) 347-1922 or email:


Saturday, August 01, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Disrepair at historic warehouse of A. Smith Bowman Distillery.

Disrepair at historic A. Smith Bowman Distillery (01)

Dilapidated and overrun with weeds. The original warehouse of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery stands abandoned today in Reston, Virginia.

In February 1988, the A. Smith Bowman Distillery moved its operations from here, where it had operated since 1934, to Spotsylvania County, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, into a large, former cellophane plant, where operations continue today.

A decade later, in 1999, the National Park Service listed the original warehouse on the National Register of Historic Places.
The original building, in what is now Reston, Virginia, was constructed circa 1892 under the guidance of Dr. C.A. Max Wiehle, a physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who tried to establish a town and farming community known as Wiehle on 3,228 acres of land he purchased in 1882. The first floor served as the Wiehle town hall, and the second floor housed the Wiehle Methodist Episcopal church.

Abram Smith Bowman bought the building in 1927 as part of a 4,000-acre parcel called Sunset Hills. Bowman opened his eponymous distillery in 1934 on the day after Prohibition was repealed, and the building originally served as the warehouse of the distillery. The first bourbon produced by the distillery was shipped from the warehouse in 1937. Between 1934 and some point in the 1950s, Bowman's was the only legal whiskey distillery in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The primary brands were Virginia Gentleman and Fairfax County bourbon whiskeys.
Wikipedia (accessed 26 July 2015).

Photo taken 12 April 2015.