Tuesday, December 01, 2015

So long, and thanks for all the beers!

For more than half of a century, I have lived here in northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland (with some time elsewhere).

One morning, about a decade ago, in October 2006, I was driving to work just outside of Baltimore, and I passed by a sad scene of destruction. A demolition crew was ripping the once mighty kettle of the former Carling/National Brewing Company out of its housing; the building itself was next to be razed.

I had been engaged in the 'craft' brewing industry for over fifteen years, but I had been far from diligent in photographing it. My blogging of it, and before that, my pen-and-paper chronicling of it, likewise had been insignificant. Why, I thought, why had I never taken photos of that impressive brewhouse, whose whirlpool I had once seen in operation, ten years earlier, awed by its volume and force? Why, when I had had numerous opportunities, why had I never taken pictures of the brewery's monumental outdoor fermenters, by that day long ago sold for scrap?

Things changed for me that day.

I opened a Flickr account, at which I have now stored nearly thirty-thousand images, most of which are of beer, and its people, places, and things. This blog, which I had begun in 2002, had been only a dalliance. Since then, however, I have written more than two-thousand times of beer (and, yes, occasionally of other things).

I became, shall I say, an honest 'song and dance man' for good beer. I observed —and contributed in small measure to— the exponential growth in the production, availability, and acceptance of good beer here in the mid-Atlantic area. And beer has been good to me. I have been enriched, emotionally and monetarily, even though for me and for many of us in the beer business, the latter has not been "the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice" but of providing sufficient scratch to pay the bills and to save a bit.

I began brewing at home well before that day, in the late 1980s —dared to do so by my younger brother ("Put up or shut up," he challenged me.), taught by Charlie Papazian's Joy of Homebrewing, and patiently assisted by a good friend ("Clean up that mess in the kitchen when you're finished!").

In 1992, I entered a batch of porter in the Spirit of Free Beer, a contest organized by the whimsically named B.U.R.P. (Brewers United for Real Potables), a Washington, D.C.-area home brew club. The recipe was not complex —especially as contrasted with today's so-called 'extreme' beers of high alcoholic strength and exotic ingredients— but, at 5.5% alcohol by volume, the porter was flavorful enough to garner a silver medal.

I went on to study at the Siebel Institute of Technology and then brew professionally for a decade. Later, as a beer salesmen, I would never refer to myself as an 'ex-brewer.' The yearning to brew remained too intimate and too strong. Rather, I regarded myself as 'brewer without portfolio.' Good brewing insinuates itself into one's soul.

Beer may be my vocation, but cask-conditioned 'real ale' —beer served at its glorious freshest— has been my calling and advocacy. Ah, for a pint of properly-cared-for bitter! I can only hope that American cask-ale producers' recent dalliance with their corn-hole toss of silly ingredients and murky beer will be only a passing whimsy.

Although I am a beer judge, only upon occasion have I posted reviews of beers at the blog. After all, anyone can write a review, and so many do. Rather than that, I have attempted to write the story of my search for the 'best' beer, my favorite beer. In the process, I have tasted many contenders, but not yet the one sine qua non. (And if I were to discover that, why continue?)

More than that, much more, I have tried to sculpt this blog into a historical snapshot of good local beer, to make for posterity a small record of our brewers, breweries, and beer folk and things.

I can only hope that that my time here with 'craft' beer provided others with entertainment and refreshment (after all, that is what beer should be), and helped to provide those bringing us beer with the recognition and livelihood they were due.

Or, it may have been all a self-indulgence. No matter.

Thirty-two years ago, in 1983, there were only two breweries in this area: Anheuser-Busch in Williamsbrug, Virginia, and that Carling-National plant in Halethorpe, Maryland. Then this happened ...

  • In 1984, our first area post-Prohibition 'craft' brewery would open: Chesapeake Bay Brewing Company, aka Chesbay, a production brewery in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Closed: 1988.)
  • In 1987, Virginia's first brewpub would open: Blue Ridge Brewing Company, in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was, indeed, the first brewpub in all of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. (Closed: 1999.)
  • In 1988, Maryland's first 'craft' production brewery since Prohibition would open: British Brewing Company in Glen Burnie — later moved and re-named Oxford Brewing, for whom I was privileged to brew. (Closed: 1998.)
  • In 1989, Maryland's first brewpub opened: Sisson's, in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. (Closed: 2002.)
  • In 1990, Virginia's second 'craft' production brewery opened: Old Dominion Brewing, located in Ashburn, and thus the first in northern Virginia. (Moved to Delaware: 2009)
  • In 1992, Capitol City Brewing (with its amusingly misspelled name), opened in Washington, D.C., becoming the city's first brewpub, and, de facto, its first brewery since 1956. (Still open!)
  • In 1993, Richmond, Virginia's first brewpub, Richbrau, would open. (Closed: 2010.)
  • In 1994, northern Virginia would get its first brewpub: Bardo Rodeo, in Arlington. (Closed: 1998. Re-opened as Bardo Brewpub, in Washington, D.C.: 2014.)
  • In 1994, Richmond, Virginia's first 'craft' production brewery would open: Legend Brewing. (Still open!)
  • In 1996, the Carling/National/G. Heilemann/Strohs brewery closed in Halethorpe, Maryland.
  • In 2011, Washington, D.C. finally would get its first production brewery in decades: DC Brau. (Open!)
One goal of the microbrewery, now 'craft' beer, movement — a big goal— has been the main-streeting of good beer. Where and when good beer had been seldom seen anywhere, we would work toward taking it everywhere —not simply skulking in subterranean beer-geek grottos or pontificating in haughty beer Xanadus— but by bringing it everywhere, to every corner shop and every pub, to every suburban chain-store restaurant and every urban white-tablecloth foodie haven, to shopping malls and 7-11s, to big-box stores and to independent wine and beer shops. We're not quite there yet, but the times, they are a' changing.

Today, as 'craft' brewery buy-outs and mergers proliferate, gee-whiz innocence might be lost, but we can be proud that there is a brewery within ten miles of every American citizen. Here, in 2015, in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, after thirty-three years, where once there had been not one 'craft' brewery, there are now more than one-hundred-and-sixty. Benighted jurisdictions helped: DC, Maryland, and Virginia recently gave winery parity to breweries, allowing direct-to-consumer sales in their taprooms, spurring brewery number growth. But, more than that, it was the benighted endeavors of the entrepreneurs ...

How better could I comment but by exclaiming, "wow!"

Or, how better could I comment than by saying to all of you —you area brewers, past and present, you beer entrepreneurs, publicans, purveyors, wholesalers, retailers, bartenders, raconteurs, partisans, writers, bloggers, homebrewers, consumers, businesspersons, bold pioneers, and rogues and demiurges alike—

(to name only a few) James Kollar, Wolfgang Roth, Allen Young, Steve Parkes, Craig Stuart-Paul, Hugh Sisson, Jim Lutz, Theo DeGroen, Marianne and O.B. O'Brien, Jerry Rush, Dan Carter, Rob Kasper, Jerry Bailey, John Mallett, Bill Stewart, Jerry Russell, Bill Oliver, Rob Mullin, George Rivers, Joe Marunowksi, Martin Virga, Bok Summers, Bud Hensgen, Jim Dorsch, Larry Robinson, Tom Martin, Dave Gott, John Wampler, Bill Stewart, Jack Callanan, Tom Flores, Volker Stewart, Tom Creegan, all the members of B.U.R.P. (Dan McCoubrey, A.J. deLange, Bill Ridgely, Andy Anderson, Tom Cannon, Tim Artz, Wendy Aaronson, Rick Garvin, et al.), Judy and Reuben Rudd, Mark Weiner, Mark Cardwell, Maurice Coja, Dave and Diane Alexander, Bob and Ellie Tupper, Dan Brown and all the members of DC Beer.org (the original DC Beer list-serve) Ron & Gail Forman, Gary Heurich, Joe Gold, Dominic Cantalupo (and all of the members of the Chesapeake branch of the S.P.B.W.), Rich and Gil Ossenberg, John Bates, Tony and Laura Norris, Mark Tewey, Joe Kalish, Bill Covaleski, Ron Barchet, Terry Fife, Mike Byrne, Alice Despard, Nick Funnell, Bill Madden, Barrett Lauer, Geoff Lively, Mike McDonald, Jason Oliver, Casey Hard, Pat and Sherri Casey, Tim Hillman, Mick Kipp, Mark Thompson, Martin Wetten, Steve Frank and Arnie Meltzer (the Brews Brothers), Jim McGinty, Paul Hill, 'Hoppy' Jeff Wells, Ted Curtis, Lyle Brown, Lee Graves, Mike McCarthy, Abe Abernathy, Howie Faircloth III, Steve Frazier, Jim Wagner, Norm Yow, Greg Kitsock (and the entire staff of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News), Steve Jones, Favio Garcia, Steve Marsh, Ron Fischer, Greg Engert, Bill Butcher, Kevin Blodger, Ken Krucenski, Wayne Mahaffey, Ernesto Igot, Thor Cheston, Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock (and all the post-2011 brewers of Washington, D.C.'s beer revival), Brad Klipner, Maureen O'Prey, Alexander D. Mitchell IV, Fritz Hahn, Tammy Tuck, and the websites DC Beer.com (Andrew Nations, Bill DeBaun, Jacob Berg, et al.) and Cheers Virginia!

— by saying to all of you beer (and wine) folk in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area of the past three decades, too many to personally recount (and please forgive me if I haven't): thank you!

Yes, it may not always have been just good beer and skittles. There have been some wretched beers and several alcoholic ass-hats. (Hey, we're all dealing with the extracted products of rotted grains and fruits; it ain't no rocket science. Get over your little selves.) But, so much more of it has been good times, good beers, and good folk.

You may recognize some of those people above; some not. But they and many others were and are part of the local history of our good beer revival. Their stories and that larger story remain to be told.

Today —now with a goatee instead of a full beard; now with hair 'extra-blond' (others might say gray); and now a beer-guy-with-a-tie rather than a brewer-in-boots— I say ...

This has been an amazing trip, and I may have played a small role in it, but now is your time and I'm only a hitchhiker in your galaxy. This blog may continue, but the time is overdue for its author to embark on a new adventure. Today, after more than half of a lifetime, I exit, stage left, leaving northern Virginia, and my previous homes of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.

beers on deck

So long, and thanks for all the beers.

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

  • References (other than personal recollections):
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    1. Thanks to you for your many contributions. It goes without saying that your name belongs in the list above. Best of luck in all your endeavors. I look forward to many years of your blog posts, from who knows where. Those you meet and visit in your travels will be the richer for it. Best to you always, my friend.

    2. Thank you, Tom, for all your work, insight and expertise. You've been a great resource and part of the industry.

    3. Cheers, Tom! I hope our paths cross again, sooner than later! Thanks for all of the support and insight over the years! -JT

    4. Best wishes Tom.

      I was just telling a manager at Capital Ale House last week about all the fresh hopped casks of Clipper City Hop3 Ale you always brought to beer fests. I hardly knew what it tasted like from the bottle!

      And yes, it will always be known a Clipper City to me.


    5. Best of luck! Where ya headed?

    6. Thank YOU, Tom! Reading your list of people ( and the list of past - many closed - local breweries ) was like traveling back in time. Craft beer has come a long way in this area.

    7. Thanks for everything. The region's beer scene will be lesser without you. Best of Luck!

    8. Best of luck, Tom, and thanks for the article. I am truly touched. I hope we all hear from you soon!

    9. Replies
      1. Tom, too late for me to join your merry Christmas List of cheering folks for your evangilism? My Blue Ridge investment was with attnys Kevin & Marge in Frederick MD; Wild Goose in Cambridge, MD, with Marc Sease and Alen Pugsly. Don't forget our homebrewer emeritus, Chuck & Helen Popenoe, who hosted MASHOUT 25 years? And, what of Ralph Bucca, frugal BURP brewer using sustainable salvage and animal parts?" Then there is Dave Batty of Whole foods and young Loren Rodman of Rodmans? Truly sorry we didn't scout more brews with Chuck Triplett in Hannibul. Thanks most sincerely for the memories. Rod "Hannibulskeeper" Rydlun. PLS don't be a stranger down the road.

    10. It has been an honor and a privilege to have both known you and worked with you. Safe travels and stay in touch!

      Hugh Sisson

      1. Thank you, Hugh (owner/founder of Heavy Seas Beer)!

    11. Tom, it's always been a total pleasure working with you and reading your wonderful website. Thank you for everything and enjoy all future beers that life brings.

      Ben Wohl

    12. Hey Tom,
      I'm pretty sure I still owe a beer !
      Thanks for all the support.


    13. I'm honored to be included in your list, Tom, and honored to have conspired with you in various capacities over the years. It was never anything but a pleasure. Best of luck in your adventures and be well.

      Terry Fife


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