Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Lunch!

Liquid bread? Bock. It's what's for lunch.

Ayinger Celebrator, on draft

Ayinger Doppelbock: pronounce it "EYE inger". Brewed by Ayinger Privatbrauerei in the town of Aying, fifteen miles southwest of Munich, in Bavaria, Germany.
Doppelbocks ("double bocks") were probably first brewed in the 17th century by monks in Bavaria - a stronger version of bock beers that originated in Einbeck, Germany. Doppelbocks are usually rich, malty lagers; usually dark-colored; the names often end with the suffix "-ator." Ayinger Celebrator is probably little changed from the doppelbock first brewed at Ayinger in 1878; Ayinger's doppelbock was once called "Fortunator" but this global classic is called "Celebrator" around the world now.
6.7% alcohol-by-volume (abv)
Merchant du Vin

What I saw:
Dark brown (with crimson streaks).

What I tasted:
Toasted pumpernickel bread topped with a schmear of plum jam. Some baker's chocolate. Slightly sweet, nutty finish.

What you see:
The photographer, me, in his glee, had neglected to take a picture before drinking. The bartender kindly re-poured a partial for the camera. (Or was it just my scam to get some more bock, please?)

Where I 'lunched':
On draft at Lyon Hall, in Arlington (Clarendon), Virginia.

30 October 2015.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Sisson's Grundys

Sisson's Grundys (02)
Grundy tank is a term adopted by the North American craft brewing industry for UK-built pub cellar tanks. These inexpensive, mass-produced tanks were fabricated in the 1950s and 1960s, and have been utilized at almost every stage of the brewing process. The 8.5 [U.S.] barrel (10.1 hectoliters) tanks were originally produced for directly dispensing carbonated beer from pub cellars but have been utilized for fermentation, conditioning, and bright beer storage.
The Oxford Companion to Beer: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Pictured above are 'Grundy' tanks which were used as beer serving tanks at Sisson's Brewpub, in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. The photo was taken in December 2000, when the brewpub was undergoing renovations.

Sisson's had been the long-time pub of the Sisson family of Baltimore, when in 1989, son Hugh Sisson —after successfully lobbying the Maryland legislature to allow brewpubs to operate in the state— installed brewing equipment, and the pub became Maryland's first-ever brewpub (and, in fact, the first brewpub in the entire Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. area). In 1995, he would sell his share of the brewpub, and open Clipper City Brewing, now known as Heavy Seas Beer, just outside the city and still in operation today. But Sisson's? The other family members sold it in 2000; brewing operations ceased in 2002.

Another view:

Sisson's Grundys

From this brewer's perspective, Grundy tanks were a pain in the arse. Leaky; never quite holding pressure; difficult to repair or find spare parts. But we still loved them. They were part of our American 'craft' beer beginnings.

What's old is new. From British beer historian, Martyn Cornell, at his blog, Zythophile (21 October 2015):
Tank beer – “tankova” – may be a hot new trend in London, with Meantime in Greenwich and Pilsner Urquell delivering fresh unpasteurised beer to pubs in beautiful shiny big containers, but the idea of putting beer in cellar tanks to deliver better quality is, even in London, more than a century old. [...]

The first “tank” beer system in the capital appears to have been introduced by Hugh Abbot, a brewer at Watney’s original Stag brewery in Pimlico, London, just around the corner from Buckingham Palace. In 1913 he had three standing butts fixed up in the cellar of a Watney’s pub, and beer delivered in an old horse-drawn tank wagon of the sort that brewers used to transport beer to their bottling stores. The experiment was successful enough that by 1920 Watney’s had electric-powered tanker lorries, fitted with copper tanks, taking beer around to its pubs. It was still using electric vehicles in 1949, though by then tank deliveries to pubs were done using trailers mounted behind standard tractor units.

In the early 1970s a brewery such as Mansfield was putting nearly two thirds of its beer into tanks. But by 1994, changes in tastes had cut that to less than 20 per cent, and tanks were coming out of cellars. Ironically, the demise of tank beer in Britain in the 1980s and early 1990s proved a boon to the growing craft beer movement, both here and, especially, in the United States. Redundant pub and club cellar tanks, cheap and easily available, some of them 50 years old, were converted into fermenting vessels and conditioning tanks in their thousands for new small breweries, and “Grundy tank” became the general term in the United States for imported UK-built pub cellar tanks, even though many were not actually built by Grundy.
— Read more: here.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

#VeggieDag Thursday: Beer Pickles!

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

I discovered this recipe for Beer-Brined Pickles in Brooklyn BrewShop's Beer Making Book, a how-to-homebrew book published in 2011. Beer stands in for some of the vinegar.
  • 8 Kirby cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces IPA (India Pale Ale) *
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon juniper berries
Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then in half again to get four spears per cucumber. Whisk together salt, sugar, and vinegar, until sugar has dissolved. Add beer, coriander, and juniper to mixture. Pack cucumbers into glass container with a tight-fitting lid (such as a mason jar or a re-used pickle jar, cleaned, of course) and pour the mixture over the cucumbers. Top off with cold water (or up to 2 ounces more beer) until the cucumbers are submerged.

Refrigerate for three days. Eat! (The pickles will last for up to three weeks, refrigerated.)

Cannon-ized pickles (02)

* The authors of Brooklyn BrewShop's Beer Making Book suggest a Belgian-style ale as the beer ingredient. But, for the beer-pickles pictured above —the creation of Stephen Marsh, the past long-time cask cellarman for Heavy Seas Brewing (Halethorpe, Maryland)— the cucumbers were prepared with that brewery's Loose Cannon IPA. Since there was no heat involved in the 'cooking',  the beer was not merely a substitute for a similar measure of vinegar (or water); the beer's flavors —hop aromatics and bitterness— were readily apparent when crunching on a pickle. Delicious.

As to the rest of Mr. Marsh's recipe: How much Loose Cannon IPA to add? (I suspect he marinated with more than two ounces!) Which herbs and spices to use? He's kept that a secret.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 40/41, 2015.

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

Weeks 40/41
27 September - 10 October 2015

  • 8 October 2015
    "What the customer thinks is craft beer is what craft beer is."
    —Via Brock Wagner of Saint Arnolds's Brewing (Texas), quoted at Craft Brewing Business.

  • 8 October 2015
    Celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme, who popularized spicy Louisiana cuisine, dies at 75.
    —Via AP.

  • Craft beer: 4% of the breweries produce 80% of the beer.
  • 8 October 2015
    Regional 'craft' breweries, although only 4% of the total number of 'craft' breweries in 2014, produced 80% of all 'craft' beer.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 7 October 2015
    After thirty-plus years, craft brewing’s foundational triumvirate of fine beer, community, and profit is aging and fragile. Craft’s “origin” story is (relatively) ancient history to industry newcomers. “Community” and solidarity has given way to making deals with outside entities that offer easy access to profit, whether those are with larger brewers (read: Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors or SAB Miller) or with the distributors who put the beer on grocery store shelves. [...] And it’s not clear that the BA [Brewers Association] or [Charlie] Papazian [the founder of the BA] or anyone else can do anything about it because the craft beer industry is enduring a generational shift of epic proportion and tectonic impact.
    —Via Maureen Ogle.

  • 4 October 2015
    Narragansett Brewing, founded in Rhode Island in 1890, and long-closed, is now contract-brewed, and the throwback beer of choice among 'hipsters' on the East Coast.
    —Via Fritz Hahn, at Washington Post.

  • 5 October 2015
    "A pint of beer never tastes as good as it does on Monday."
    —Via Chad Dukes, Washington, D.C.-areA sportscaster on 107.FM The Fan.

  • 4 October 2015
    Is beer blogging dead, "the 8-Track tape of beer writing?" No, says beer blogger and author, Alan McLeod, the October host for The Session: Beer Bogging Friday.
    —Via A Good Beer Blog.

  • 2 October 2015
    (Some of) the best beer writing of 2015: the North American Guild of Beer Writer Awards.
    —Via YFGF. [With links to all winners.]

  • 1 October 2015
    To ferment sour beers, lactobacillus is "a beautiful bacteria. It'll give you a really clean, delectable tartness.”
    —Greg Engert, beer director at Washington, D.C.'s Neighborhood Restaurant Group, quoted at Washington Post.

  • 1 October 2015
    Ten dead, more wounded, in shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, as shooter targets Christians.
    —Via CNN.

  • 1 October 2015
    In September 2015, there were six craft beer acquisitions and investment deals announced: Golden Road, Saint Archer, Dogfish Head, Cisco, Lagunitas, Virtue Cider. One possible effect of these, and future, acquisitions:
    There will certainly be some big pressures on the guys in the middle–both upward and downward pressures. So you’ll have the 20 or so national guys that can compete on things like pricing. They have better access to ingredients, raw materials, they’re going to be able to operate more efficiently. And then the guys that are smaller, they’re going to be nipping at the heels of the guys in the middle for tap handles. They’re going to be a little more local, a little more artisanal. I think that’s going to make it difficult for the guys who are stuck in the middle that are trying to compete.
    —Via Chris Furnari of Brewbound, as quoted at Drink Insider.

  • 30 September 2015
    Twenty-two Maryland breweries evaluated Maryland-grown hops, met the growers, and placed orders during the 3rd annual Maryland Hop Market, sponsored by the Brewers Association of Maryland and the Northeast Hop Alliance, and hosted by Flying Dog Brewery, in Frederick, Maryland.
    —Via Flying Dog Brewery.

  • 30 September 2015
    The Brewers Association of Maryland (BAM) hosted the 10th Annual Maryland Craft Beer Competition, and announced the winners, in fourteen categories. Maryland's overall winner will be announced at a later date. [According to the website of the Maryland Comptroller, there are fifty-four breweries in the state.]
    —Via Brewers Association of Maryland.

  • Calagione addresses CBC13 (02)
    Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head, at Craft Brewers Conference, 2013

  • 29 September 2015
    Dogfish Head Brewery, in Delaware, sells a 15 percent stake to private equity firm, LNK Partners. Dogfish produced 174,194 barrels of beer in 2014, making it the 13th largest 'craft' brewery in the U.S., and the 19th overall.
    —Via Delaware OnLine.

  • 29 September 2015
    Alto saxophone player, Phil Woods, "an unrepentant bebopper," dies at age 83.
    —Via Jazz Times.

  • 28 September 2015
    Whole Foods —an American supermarket chain specializing in organic food— to cut 1,500 jobs across all its stores in the U.S. over the next two months (1.6% of its workforce), including the position of beer specialist.
    —Via USA Today.

  • 28 September 2015
    Green Flash Brewing, of San Diego, California —to open a second brewing facility, in Virginia Beach, Virginia (joining the recent eastern expansion of several western U.S. breweries)— to lose its longtime brewmaster, Chuck Silva.
    —Via West Coaster.

  • 28 September 2015
    Fermented beverages like cider and wine are reflections of place. Beer is a constructed beverage, more like food, and beer style is akin to the cuisines of the world: they reflect the people that brewed them.
    —Via Jeff Alworth, at Beervana.

  • 28 September 2015
    NASA discovers evidence of “liquid briny water” flowing on Mars.
    —Via PBS NewsHour.

  • 28 September 2015
    The story of brewer Dick Cantwell, and why he left his brewery, Elysian Fields (of Seattle, Washington), after it was purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
    —Via Seattle Met.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Did a parent of lager yeast originate in Tibet?

Research was published in 2011 which suggested that Saccharomyces eubayanus —one-half of lager yeast's parents— had originated in Patagonia (at the southern tip of South America). Scientists found it there, growing on the sides of native beech trees. Left unanswered was how the yeast would have traveled to Bavaria before Europeans began traveling to the Americas.

Research in 2014 may have provided an answer: maybe the initial cross-hybridization came earlier, not from South America, but from Asia. Researchers have discovered S. eubayanus yeast on the Tibetan Plateau showing a closer genetic match to modern lager yeast than that in the Patagonian forests.

From Lars Marius Garshol, a Norwegian beer author and blogger:
The two species that gave birth to lager yeast are S. cerevisiae and S. eubayanus, which is one of the cold-tolerant species. It has been known for decades that lager yeast was a hybrid of ale yeast and some other species, but which species was not known. Then S. eubayanus was discovered in 2011 in Patagonia, and was found to match 99.56% of the non-ale yeast part of the lager yeast genome. Initially there was some confusion as to how it managed to travel from Patagonia to Bavaria to work in lager brewing, when lager brewing began before any European visited Patagonia.

However, in 2014 S. eubayanus was found on the Tibetan plateau in Tibet and the western Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan and Shaanxi. The yeasts found here turned out to match the S. pastorianus genome even more closely, so it seems likely that the ancestors of lager yeast came from this area. Given that the Silk Road passed through this area that provides an possible explanation for how the yeast came to Europe. When the hybrid was formed, and where, remains unknown.

Very likely, what happened was that the early lager brewers were brewing with mixed yeast cultures. That's what kveik is, and these yeast cultures will have been treated the same way. Probably the brewers began by fermenting at relatively, but not very, cold temperatures. This will have given cold-tolerant yeasts an advantage. At some point, already-formed S. pastorianus got into the fermentation, or it was formed in a brewery. At that point, evolutionary pressure towards tolerating cold would have caused it to out-compete the other yeasts, and lager brewing with S. pastorianus began.

krausen for priming

Interestingly, S. pastorianus is divided into two groups, which may have arisen separately. One is the Saaz group, which was used in the Czech Republic and by Carlsberg. The other is the Frohberg group, which was used by other Danish breweries and also in the Netherlands. (What did the areas not mentioned here use? The literature doesn't say.) Frohberg has lost most of the S. eubayanus r-DNA, while Saaz has lost most of the ale yeast genome, so these two groups are quite different. Saaz seems to produce less higher alcohols and esters during fermentation, which is also interesting.

Read the rest of the story at LarsBlog: The Saccharomyces family, part of Mr. Garshol's informative three-part series on yeast.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Firkin Thursday.

Firkin Thursday

A blast from the past: in November 2008, a bartender is pulling a pint of cask-conditioned ale from a firkin, via a beer engine, at the Metropolitan Coffeehouse & Wine Bar, in Baltimore (Federal Hill), Maryland.
A beer engine, also known as a handpump, is a uniquely British dispensing device that is specifically appropriate for traditional cask-conditioned ales. The beer engine is a piston pump that allows the casks to be kept in a cooler cellar beneath the bar [in U.S. pubs, often in a refrigerator under the bartop] and the beer to be pulled or drawn up to the bar. [...] A version of the beer engine was patented by the prolific British inventor, locksmith, and hydraulic engineer, Joseph Bramah, in 1797.
The Oxford Companion to Beer

There are several sizes of British-style ale casks. The most common is the firkin, the British term for a cask that holds 9 Imperial gallons, which, in U.S. measurement, is 10.8 U.S. gallons.

There's an amusing anecdote connected with this photo. Read it here: Tradition and 'traditionalists', and beer engines.


Friday, October 16, 2015

'Craft' beer defined.

You 'craft' brewers make beers that you yourselves would like to drink. That's it. Say it loud. Say it proud. That should be your definition of 'craft' beer. But don't say: "the ... best ... beer ... ever ... made." Unless you wish to spew advertising gimmickry like the mega-brewer(s).

Are you still suffering a Linnaean pang? Do you still need a more formal definition of 'craft' beer? Well, then, here you go:

Craft beer is beer produced by those breweries who pay dues to the [U.S.] Brewers Association

You pay them your dues; they anoint you as 'craft.' Paid validation beyond self-proclamation. Quod erat demonstrandum. *

MP4 Ale

But keep this in mind, 'craft' brewers: what you do now has been done before. Except that in the twenty-first century, you do it with thermometers, hydrometers, and stainless steel tanks, all things which you do not make, and which earlier brewers did not possess. Which does not diminish what you do.

What you do is make beer. Some of you do that very well. But none of you are revolutionaries. Embrace your history, not your myths. You are brewers.

Well, if you must: 'craft' brewers.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What will President Jimmy Carter be remembered for?

It was an important day for 'craft' beer, thirty seven years ago today, 14 October 1978. Back then 'craft' beer wasn't known as 'craft' beer. In fact, it only barely existed. And, that it does today, and thriving, you should first thank President Jimmy Carter for what he did on that day.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, lawmakers decided to again permit citizens to produce small amounts of wine and beer at home. However, due to a stenographer's error, the 1933 law failed to include beer, and, for the next forty-four years, the insalubrious omission stood as law. No congressperson believed it politically expedient to demand the right of his or her constituents to brew beer at home. As late as the 1970s, the federal penalty for home brewing was as much as five years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

That is, until January 1977, when Barber Conable, a House of Representatives Republican from New York, would introduce bill HR 2028. Alan Cranston, a Democrat from California, introduced a similar bill in the Senate, along with Senate co-sponsors former NASA astronaut Senator Harrison Schmitt (R) of New Mexico (R), Senator Dale Bumpers (D) of Arkansas, and Senator Mike Gravel (D) of Alaska.

The next year, 1978, these bills would become House Resolution 1337 and Senate Amendment 3534. And, on 14 October 1978, President Jimmy Carter would sign the combined bill into law, putting beer-making at home on the same legal footing as wine-making at home.

The law took effect a few months later, on 1 February 1979, but even so, it did not actually legalize homebrewing. Rather, it revoked the federal excise tax on homebrew, for up to one-hundred gallons per adult per year and a total of two-hundred gallons per household per year. (Two-hundred gallons is the approximate equivalent of eighty-nine cases of beer.) Actual legalization —the right to brew at home without fear of the police knocking at your door— would require state-by-state approval, as provided under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

Several states acted quickly; several did not. It would take until May 2013, for homebrewing to be legal in all fifty states, when Alabama (and Mississippi just preceding it) approved.

In the 1970s and 80s, there was a strong correlation between homebrewing and 'craft' brewing, with former homebrewers (some possibly benignly illicit, others, later and legal) going on to become brewers and owners at the few, new, microbreweries —what 'craft' breweries were then called. 1. In fact, in 1978, when Carter lifted the homebrewing restrictions, there was only one microbrewery in the U.S., New Albion Brewing, in California. (Or two. 2) There, Jack McAuliffe would brew an ale with a hop that had been released only five years earlier, Cascades, whose 'grapefruity' flavor quickly became the hallmark of the American Pale Ale style. In 1981, two homebrewers, Paul Camusi and Ken Grossman, opened their microbrewery, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and the microbrewery movement had begun in earnest.

Nearly four decades later, homebrewing and 'craft' beer again seem to be dancing partners. As the number of breweries in the U.S has surpassed 4,000, homebrewers are the driving force behind many of those small and very-small breweries opening at the rate of almost two per day.

Here's the late, great 'Beer Hunter', beer writer Michael Jackson, as recorded in 2004, reminiscing, with wry wit, on that important legal change, and the significance of homebrewing in America.

Enjoying that 'craft' beer you're drinking today? Thank a homebrewer; and thank President Jimmy Carter.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Resistance is futile, says AB-InBev to SABMiller. 'Craft' beer should be wary.

This is not the actual logo of the combined entity; that is yet to be determined.
Graphic created by beer news website BeerPulse.

Pending details to be worked out, a vote by stockholders, and antitrust hurdles to cleared, the dirty deed is apparently done. Brewing conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewery (at 350,241,009 barrels annual production, 21% of total world volume) has become even larger, purchasing number two SABMiller (at 160,037,133 barrels, 9.6%) for $104 billion dollars. I'd call that playing with Monopoly money, pun intended.

Reuters, at Yahoo Finance, offered analysis.
  • The combined entity would account for nearly one-third of all beer sold in the world, with expected annual revenue of $64 billion.
  • The deal would rank in the top five mergers in corporate history, globally.
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev would pay $67 a share, 50% more than SABMiller's stock price yesterday.
  • The new group would combine AB InBev's Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona lagers with SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell. AB InBev would add Latin American and Asian breweries and enter Africa for the first time.
  • There are significant antitrust hurdles to any combination, particularly in the United States, where the companies would have about 70 percent of the beer market.
    • A deal would likely result in Denver-based Molson Coors acquiring SABMiller's 58 percent stake in their U.S. joint venture.
    • Any merged group may also have to sell interests in China, where SABMiller's CR Snow joint venture with China Resources Enterprise is the market leader.
    • It would also force change in the wider beverage sector, with SABMiller a large distributor of Coca Cola, while AB InBev has ties with rival Pepsi.

Quick thoughts on this, and maybe a bit trite. (There will be many more, and many more thoughtful.)

It's not quite a done deal, but it's significant step toward one. To put the scale of it in some perspective, when InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch in 2008, the purchase price was $52 billion, exactly half of today's merger. Of the forty largest breweries in the world, only one is American-owned (Constellation Brands, at #26, producing Modelo for the United States market, accounting for 0.5% of the worlds' production). If the output of all 'craft' breweries were counted as one brewery, at 21.7 million barrels, it wouldn't even make the list.

In response, there will be yawns and dismissive 'who cares?' from many in the 'craft' beer industry. Facing a juggernaut of this size, such attitudes would be foolish. For 'craft' breweries, wholesalers, and suppliers to say, "This won't affect me," is a blinders-on short-term mentality. There will be many intended and unintended consequences. Smarter minds than mine will immediately start thinking about the ramifications.

What of AB-InBev's ongoing purchasing of 'craft' breweries themselves (which, granted, may slow because of the debt incurred for this merger). More insidiously, what of AB-InBev's intervention in the supply and distribution side of 'craft' beer? What of AB-InBev's ongoing purchasing of distributors to allegedly squelch 'craft' distribution? What of the prodigious purchasing power of the combined behemoth? Induced shortages of certain varieties of hops and malt? Glass bottle and aluminum can shortages? And what of the significant pressures on the larger 'craft' breweries?

The merger may have little immediate effect upon 'craft' breweries in the U.S., especially with the probable anti-trust-forced re-arrangement of MillerCoors, and associated distribution. (And even that might be tricky. MillerCoors is a U.S.-only partnership between Molson/Coors and SABMiller.) Once AB-InBev/SABMiller, or whatever it will call itself, pays down its debt, it will return its glare, Sauron-like, upon 'craft' beer. What will happen then?

Keep brewing, but stay vigilant.


For 2015: Baltimore Beer Legends Hall of Fame.

Baltimore Beer Week 2015

Baltimore Beer Week is on! The Baltimore, Maryland, metro-area celebration of beer began Saturday 9 October and runs through Sunday 18 October.

For this year, the festival's 7th annual iteration, the organizers have created the Baltimore Beer Legends Hall of Fame,
to recognize and honor men and women, past and present, who by their innovation, achievement, influence and/or contribution, and by the example of their lives, personify the great contribution that beer has made to our way of life in the 'Land of Pleasant Living': the beer industry in Baltimore and the surrounding Chesapeake region.

Baltimore Beer Legends Hall of Fame 2015

Individuals will be inducted every year during Baltimore Beer Week. For 2015, those inaugural inductees are:
  • Thomas “Nelson” Carey III : beer, wine retailer, and restaurateur
  • Bob Footlick: President, Bond Distributing
  • Tim Hillman: beer, wine retailer
  • Mick Kipp (aka Mick T Pirate): food and beer entrepreneur

Baltimore Beer Week was founded in 2009 by longtime Baltimore, Maryland, beer maven Joe Gold; Baltimore Sun then-columnist, Rob Kasper; beer and real ale organizer, Dominic Cantalupo; then-president of the Free State Home Brewer's Guild, Les White; and Alexander D. Mitchell, a reporter for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Kettle calandria at Fair Winds.

Kettle calandria at Fair Winds

That's a calandria, inside the 30-barrel kettle at Fair Winds Brewing Company, a production brewery in Lorton, Virginia.
A tubular heat exchanger that heats wort quickly and efficiently, enabling it to be boiled vigorously in the kettle. [...] Most kettle designs include a dish-shaped wort spreader device that suppresses over-foaming, mixes the wort, and drives off unwanted volatiles. [...] The higher temperatures achieved using a calandria, typically up to 220 °F, can reduce boil times up to 30% while also increasing hop utilization.
The Oxford Companion to Beer.

Fair Winds opened in March of this year; in September, the brewery entered its beers at the Great American Beer Festival, and won a gold medal, the first time out, for Siren's Lure, a hoppy saison.

Charlie Buettner is the head brewer for Fair Winds. For 4 1/2 years prior to that, he had been the head brewer at Mad Fox Brewing, a brewpub in Falls Church, Virginia.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 38/39, 2015.

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

Weeks 38/39
13 September - 26 September 2015

  • 26 September 2015
    By the numbers: the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, 24-26 September, in Denver, Colorado.
    "Winners were chosen from 6,647 competition entries (20 percent more than in 2014) from 1,552 breweries hailing from 50 states plus Washington, D.C. This year’s GABF competition saw its biggest panel of judges ever, with 242 beer experts from 15 countries."
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 26 September 2015
    Mid-Atlantic winners at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.
    —Via YFGF.

  • Four thousand breweries in the United States.
  • 26 September 2015
    Major American beer milestone announced at the Great American Beer Festival. There are 4,000 breweries in the U.S.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 23 September 2015
    He came to the big fork in the road, and he took it. Hall of Fame New York Yankees baseball catcher —and wordsmith— Yogi Berra dies at age 90.
    —Via Yahoo Sports.

  • 19 September 2015
    "We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners." Roman Catholic Pope Francis I, a native of Argentina, visits the United States for the first time as pope.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • Prost! (01)

  • 19 September 2015
    Oktoberfest, the world's largest party began today, in Munich, Germany. To continue for 16 days until 4 October.
    —Via Oktoberfest.

  • 18 September 2015
    How hops prevent infection in beer: they cause bacteria to 'starve.'
    —Via LarsBlog.

  • 16 September 2015
    What would be the impact be on U.S. 'craft' brewers if Anheuser-Busch InBev would purchase SABMiller?
    —Not so much in the immediate future, via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 16 September 2015
    Today would have been the 90th birthday for blues guitarist, singer, and composer, B.B. King, who died 14 May.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • 14 September 2015
    The "invisible" men and women of good beer: importers.
    —Via Jeff Alworth, at Beervana.

  • 15 September 2015
    MillerCoors to close its Eden, North Carolina, brewery, which began operations in 1978.
    —Via Jay Brooks, at Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • 14 September 2015
    National grocer Kroger to pour draft beer AND wine at several of its stores in Ohio, Georgia, and Virginia, and offer growlers (take-home resealable containers).
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 13 September 2015
    Nine reasons why there might be an upcoming 'craft' beer bubble-burst.
    —Via Mitch Stone, at The Hop Tripper.

  • 13 September 2015
    On wine reviewing, and the effects of social media on it, sanguine and not so.
    "I have read arts critics fulminating against the proliferation of “amateur” reviews and arguing that these cannot possibly carry the weight of those freighted by decades of experience and deeply relevant education. But it’s not an argument I can use when I have spent my entire working life trying to arm consumers with as much information as possible so that they can make up their own minds about individual wines."
    —Via Jancis Robinson, at Financial Times.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

He's visited every brewery in Virginia; and shows you how to.

I caught up with the peripatetic Rayner (Ray) Johnson, Friday afternoon, at Port City Brewing, a production-brewery located in a light-industry-zoned area in a neighborhood at the southwestern corner of the city of Alexandria, Virginia.

We were both there, along with many others, to congratulate owner Bill Butcher, head brewer Jonathan Reeves, and the entire brewery staff of Port City. The brewery had just won Small Brewery of the Year, the previous Saturday, at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), in Denver, Colorado.*

Three medals for Port City (2015 GABF)

Bill Butcher sat down with us for a few minutes. He was soaking in the good feelings. He told his brewery staff to do the same, even though they, of course, needed no prompting. "But temper this," he said he had admonished them, "with the memory of the feelings we had last year when we won nothing" (after having won four medals in 2013, and one in 2012, the year the brewery opened).

The [U.S.] Brewers Association has determined that there are now four thousand breweries in the U.S., with nearly two opening every day. The competition will only become fiercer, Butcher added, making national victories —especially for smaller breweries like his — much more difficult to attain in the future.

As the Port City taproom began to fill with well-wishers, Ray Johnson was up and schmoozing, busy passing out complimentary copies of the November/December issue of Virginia Craft Beer magazine, for which he is the Distribution Manager for Northern Virginia. I know this because he gave me his business card.

Beer and magazine

In 2014, Johnson visited every brewery in Virginia, and had a beer at each. There were eighty-two breweries in the Commonwealth last year, give or take. This year, there are one-hundred twenty-five.

Johnson —who is better known as the long-time organizer of the annual Blue & Gray Breweriana Show, in Fredericksburg, Virginia— maintains a database of each brewery visit, and a spreadsheet of those he has yet to visit. He has a watch-list of one-hundred fifty breweries currently in planning, and, of those, forty that are scheduled to open by early 2016. It's as up-to-date as he can keep it, he told me. The rapid growth of brewery openings makes the task, well, a labor of love.

Virginia breweries spreadsheet

Writing in the current issue of Virginia Craft Beer Magazine (October/November 2015), Johnson put some order into it all, creating six 'brewery trails': highway-arranged brewery-jaunts in the state.
  • I-95 Trail (Alexandria to Petersburg)
  • I-64 East Trail (Toano to Smithfield)
  • I-64 West Trail (Richmond to Danville)
  • I-66 Trail (Arlington to Sperryville)
  • Route 7 Trail (Capital Beltway to Bluemont)
  • I-81 Trail (Winchester to Bristol: the longest of the 'trails', running over 314 miles, north to south.)
In his article, Johnson listed the breweries and brewpubs of his I-95 and Route 7 trails. He'll do the same for the remaining four in upcoming issues.

Ray Johnson of Virginia Craft Beer Magazine

There are four, more formal, brewery trails in Virginia, independent of Johnson's research, each with its own website: -----more-----

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Socks of a brewer

Socks of a brewer (02)

The 'hose' couture of Matt Ryan, lead brewer for Mad Fox Brewing Company, in Falls Church, Virginia. This is just one of many colorful pairs in his closet.

As seen at the brewpub's 4th annual Hoppy Oktoberfest, an outdoor festival to which several mid-Atlantic-area breweries brought their Oktoberfest-style lagers, autumnal beers, and IPAs.

19 September 2015.


Friday, October 02, 2015

Beer blogging: beating that drum to the emptiness of the universe.

Session 104: Quick! Write... And Make It Good!! The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, begun in March of 2007 by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

On the first Friday of every month, a pre-determined beer blogger hosts The Session: Beer Blogging Friday. He or she chooses a specific, beer-related topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and posts a roundup of all the responses received. For more information, view the archive page.

When no potential host stepped forward to host October's edition, the 104th, The Session's co-creator, Jay Brooks, seemed to suffer an existential pang of doubt:

Way back in early 2007, Stan Hieronymus had an idea, one he’d borrowed from the wine bloggers, who at the time were further along in both numbers and longevity. That idea was Beer Blogging Friday, the monthly Session that takes place on the first Friday of each month. The plan was simple. Beer bloggers from around the world would get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic each month, on the first Friday.

Lately, however, it’s been hard finding hosts and fewer and fewer people have been stepping up. For the last year or so, we’ve limped along, and we’ve been able to keep going only by the skin of our teeth. There have been more than a few months when someone stepped up just in the nick of time and offered to host. Should we keep the monthly Session going, or put it out to pasture, and declare it past its prime and no longer of any enduring interest? Certainly beer blogging has changed in the eight years since we started the Session. When I asked Stan [Hieronymous, beer blogger, writer, and co-founder of The Session] yesterday — since it’s really his baby — he wondered if we should “take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course,” noting that “it lasted longer than the similar wine project” that inspired it.

To the rescue came Alan McLeod —beer writer and author of blog A Good Beer Blog.
I was going to tell you to write anything you feel like whether it makes any sense or not... but then I realized that's what you do anyway. Especially you. Yes, you!! So you are going to write about this: if we just "take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course” aren't we really admitting that beer blogging is a massive failure? I say no. I say this is a fabulous way to cover up problem drinking with anti-social internet addictions. Maybe you know of another reason we should keep writing and try to make some sense of the beer and brewing world. Well, goodie for you. Write about it. Explain yourself. Because if you can't you are really admitting (i) you've wasted the best part of the last decade or (ii) you live in a fantasy world where think you are a beer writer and not a beer blogger and that's soooooo much more important.

Alan, you've asked:
If we just "take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course” aren't we really admitting that beer blogging is a massive failure?

Well, in three words: I think not. In more words: you're foisting a false dilemma upon us. Or a claim to beer-blogging exceptionalism.

As I write this, Hurricane Joachin is bearing down on me —or maybe it isn't.
The weather Sunday and Monday remains highly uncertain with heavy rain…strong gusty winds…tidal flooding and erosion remaining a concern…though it could just turn out to be a partly sunny and breezy day.
—The National Weather Service

That's a C.Y.A. hoot.

To be well-prepared —for either contingency: emergency or autumn life as normal— I stocked the larder with an ample supply of batteries, pet food, toilet paper, and bottled aqueous extract of hordeum vulgare —that last item fortified psychotropicly by my friendly neighborhood brewer— minus extranea.

Before doing that, I posted a not-in-any-way-storm-related Facebook rant against corn syrup, modified corn starch, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, artificial flavor, and artificial color (aka marshmallows) as having any place in 'kraft' beer. Smores extranea. As a reward, I was quite wonderfully 'trolled':
No one cares. But keep beating that drum to the emptiness of the universe.

And that's a hoot I'll accept as a challenge. Why not?

I'll continue banging that good-beer drum into the void, confident that, somewhere, good-beer SETI will hear me. But better with the companionship of The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

  • The troller equated actual significance with virtual Facebook 'likes.' That's an unsettling view of validation, a commentary for another day.

  • For more from YFGF:

(Some of) the best beer writing of 2015: The NAGBW Awards.

North American Guild of Beer Writers

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) announced the winners of it 3rd annual NAGBW Awards for writers, bloggers, broadcasters and authors, at the recent Great American Beer Festival, in Denver, Colorado.
The NAGBW Awards honor the best beer and brewing industry coverage in nine categories, restructured this year to organize material by content rather than format.

The NAGBW has members from USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Costa Rica. Guild membership is open to all writers and content producers who cover beer and brewing, although industry and associate memberships are both non-voting categories.

With the formation of the NAGBW and an annual writing competition, the Guild aims to broaden the conversation about beer and brewing, raise the standards of writing and provide leadership and continuing education for practitioners of our profession, while also encouraging and supporting more participation throughout all media channels.

Here is the list of the 2015 winners, with links to their winning submissions. To be eligible, entries must have been published from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. They were then judged on these criteria:
  • Readability 25%
  • Voice and style 25%
  • Knowledge of subject/accuracy/factual content 20%
  • Creativity/originality 15%
  • Interest/newsworthiness 15%
Here's what beer writer Alan McLeod, on the judging panel, had to say about judging the contest.
This was my third year judging in the NAGBW... Or is it NABWG? I don't know if that counts as big enough a sample size but a few observations from what I've seen.

Entries numbers generally were up as far as I saw as was the average quality. There were about 25% of entries which should not have been passed on to the judges, 50% were work-person-like pieces and 25% showed actual independent creative thinking. Not bad. Not like year one.

Like last year, I got to judge writings I would not be bothered to hunt out myself and half the time I felt rewarded. Not bad. It's good that folk want to write. There's little chance of making money out of beer writing, so it's likely out of honest interest. Which is good. It's quite sad that breweries don't support good beer writing, but that doesn't change how I feel about good writing.

Congratulations to all the winners. I recommend folk read what they wrote. Click on the links; they're free. Buy the books; they're enjoyable and educational, and they further a good cause. Beer.