Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Drinking, Again! Winter Cheers: a one sentence review.

Victory Brewing's Winter Cheers

New world meets old, as hop-derived lemon aromas give way to yeast-derived aromas and flavors of clove and banana and then a gently hoppy finish, in Winter Cheers, a hopped hefeweizen (a "celebratory wheat ale," the bottle label propounds), a delightful, if atypical, winter seasonal from Victory Brewing (of Downingtown, Pennsylvania) that bucks the trend for big and/or spiced beers in December (even though, at 6.7% alcohol-by-volume, it ain't no slouch), a beer designed as a chef might create a meal of unexpected combinations: flavorful yet even-handed.

Whew! A one sentence review.

From the brewery:
Winter weather may drive us indoors but cannot dampen our spirits when hearth, home and hops meet in jubilation. Hoisted high in its golden glory, Winter Cheers lives up to its name, fueling festive times and chasing winter’s chill. Glowing and glimmering, frothy and shimmering, our celebratory wheat ale features luscious fruity and spicy notes, making it a perfect brew to brighten spirits even on the deepest of nights. Light in body, this fruity and warming holiday brew delivers a crisp finish, with spicy hints of banana, clove, and citrus.
  • Malt: German wheat and barley malts, and oats
  • Hops: Whole flower Tettnang and Citra hops
  • ABV: 6.7%

In February 2016, Victory Brewing was purchased by Artisanal Brewing Ventures, a consortium consisting of 'craft' brewery Southern Tier Brewing (of New York) and a private investment company, appropriately named Ulysses.

A series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits).
No scores; only descriptions.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 45/46, 2016.

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

Weeks 45/46
6 November - 19 November 2016

  • 18 November 2016
    The 2016 hop harvest in Washington State 2016 is reported to have increased 16% over last year; the state is now the world's largest hop producer of hops, even more than the nation of Germany, the former top global producer.
    —Via WSU News.

  • 18 November 2016
    Big-voiced soul-revival singer Sharon Jones dies at 60 of pancreatic cancer.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • Chaos among the kegs
  • 15 November 2016
    Keg loss cost craft brewers in the United States upwards of over $33 million in 2015. [...] The bottom line is, whether you’re an account or a consumer, that keg you cut up amounts to stealing—plain and simple.
    —Via Andy Sparhawk, at [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 15 November 2016
    The World Meteorological Organization announced that it expects 2016 to be the hottest year on record, surpassing 2015, which had been the warmest. The average global temperature was 2.16 °F above pre-industrial levels.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 15 November 2016
    Jazz songwriter, singer, and pianist Mose Allison has died, at 89. "He was someone who generated his own joy."
    —Via Associated Press.

  • 15 November 2016
    No free beer tomorrow. Anheuser-Busch cuts off free-beer-for-life benefit for retired workers of its Labatts plants in Canada.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 14 November 2016
    Gwen Ifill, a groundbreaking journalist who covered the White House, Congress, and national campaigns during three decades for The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC and, most prominently, PBS, has died from complications of uterine cancer She was 61.
    —Via New York Times.

  • Super moon rises through the Georgia brume (03)
  • 14 November 2016
    On Monday (Nov. 14) at 6:15 a.m. EST, the moon will arrive at its closest point to the Earth in 2016: a distance of 221,524 miles (356,508 kilometers) away. It will also be a full moon and thus, a so-called 'supermoon, when the full moon occurs as the moon is at its closest point of approach in its orbit around Earth. The full moon won't come this close to Earth again until Nov. 25, 2034.
    —Via Space.

  • 12 November 2016
    Anheuser-Busch InBev announces its 2020 Dream Incentive Plan. By the year 2020, the company wants (plans) to nearly double its annual revenue from $55 billion to a cool $100 billion and awarding it top executives $5.4 million apiece if ti is reached. Analysts speculate:
    Having hoovered up many of the big targets in brewing, including its biggest rival, the company may be forced to look further afield to other parts of the drinks industry. A move into soft beverages, which could use the same manufacturing plants, distribution, and suppliers, is the obvious next step. [Anheuser-Busch InBev and Coca-Cola] are a match made in heaven financially. Combine Coke’s annual sales of $45bn to the $55bn InBev makes, and that elusive $100bn is suddenly reached. Who said don’t mix your drinks?
    —Via The Telegraph.

  • 9 November 2016
    Repurposing! A Sunoco ethanol plant in New York state, which was once a Miller brewery, will now also become (in part), a 'craft' beer malting house. When it becomes operational in 2017, the plant will be able to supply more than 2,000 tons of barley malt each year, making it one of the largest suppliers of barley malt to the craft brewing industry in the United States.

  • 8 November 2016
    Republican Donald Trump defeats Democrat Hillary Clinton; is elected 45th president of the United States.
    —Via NPR.

  • 3.2 beer in 2016
  • 8 November 2016
    Oklahoma voters have voted in favor of State Question 792 (66% to 34%) to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine and "full-strength beer" (defined as beers of not more than 8.99 percent by VOLUME). The measure goes into effect in 2018. Colorado already plans to do away with 3.2 beer in 2019. Will AB InBev, Pabst, etc., even continue to make 3.2 beer for the three remaining states —Utah, Kansas, and Minnesota— that restrict higher alcohol beer under varying circumstances?
    —Via YFGF.

  • 7 November 2016
    Leonard Cohen, a Canadian-born poet, songwriter and singer, whose lyrics explored themes of love, faith, death and philosophical longing, and whose song “Hallelujah” became a celebratory anthem recorded by hundreds of artists, has died at age 82.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 7 November 2016
    Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as attorney general of the United States, has died at 78, from complications of Parkinson's disease.
    —Via NPR.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Session beer of the 1950s?

Session beer in the 1950s?
Shaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one.
Shaefer's pleasure doesn't fade even when your thirst is done.
The most rewarding flavor in this man's world,
For people who are having fun,
Shaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one.

That's a 1950s-era television commercial for F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company of New York, New York (1842-1981), once a titan of the American beer industry.

Suggesting —encouraging— that a consumer drink more than one beer? That's an inducement to intemperance that would not be permitted in the 21st century. Or would it? Compare that sixty-year-old jingle to this slogan of very recent vintage:
The beer you’ve been waiting for. Keeps your taste satisfied while keeping your senses sharp. An all-day IPA naturally brewed with a complex array of malts, grains and hops. Balanced for optimal aromatics and a clean finish. The perfect reward for an honest day’s work and the ultimate companion to celebrate life’s simple pleasures.

Founders Brewing (of Grand Rapids, Michigan) first publicly brewed its All Day IPA as a 'seasonal' beer in 2012; in 2013, the brewery released it as a year-round item. With an alcohol content of 4.7% and an IBU content of 42 (a measure of hop-derived bitterness), All Day IPA is widely considered the most most-imitated —if not the progenitor— of 21st-century so-called 'session IPAs.' Of having more than one.

The Alcohol Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) is the agency of the U.S. government tasked with regulating alcoholic beverages under Federal law. It has specific rules on the advertising and labelling of beer, prohibiting, for example, health statements of a therapeutic nature or claims "that imply a physical or psychological sensation results from consuming the malt beverage." Such as keeping your "senses sharp"? It's meretricious when the 'big' boys do it, but brilliant when the 'craft' boys do?

Beer writer —and 'session' beer campaigner— Lew Bryson defines an American session beer as of 4.5% alcohol-by-volume or less, with flavor. Others insist upon moreish 'drinkability' as an additional, necessary postulate: a beer out-of-whack in any one department would not be a session. Like lots of hops. Others would disagree. All Day? I'd not call it a 'session' beer, but a hoppy American pale ale. (HAPA anyone?) But that's just me.

Session beer: the one beer to have when you're having more than one.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pic(k) of the week: Torched Pils & Pie

Torched Pils & Pie

Beer and food pairing? If it tastes good: eat it. If it tastes good: drink it. Q.E.D. (That's Latin for quod erat demonstrandum, aka: done!, boom!, snap!, mic drop.)

In the photo, it's a Citra-hopped lager and a Caprese pie, made and served at Torched Hop Brewing Company, a brewpub in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, on 18 November 2016.

It describes the beer as:
a 100% Citra hopped German Pilsner. Citra hops are now one with lager yeast. This 100% Citra hopped lager is an American twist on a traditional German Pilsner.

Hey, now! That's not a Pilsner and, of course, not a German Pilsner. It is, however, a dank, melony American (Georgian?) lager with a bright, dry finish. A tasty hoppy lager, but not a Pilsner. No need to grab foreign laurels. The folk at RateBeer go even further off-kilter, listing the lager as an India Pale ALE [emphasis mine].

Several years ago, the now-departed SABMiller put out an unintentionally humorous pamphlet on pairing beer and cheese. In it, the international beer conglomerate provided descriptions of various cheeses, each illustrated with beautiful photographs. For each cheese, the company suggested one beer pairing. But for each, it was always the same beer: Pilsner Urquell, a venerable Czechian beer which the conglomerate had acquired. And a true, if not German, Pilsner. (One could argue that the "original" Pilsner was from Czechian Plzeň, or Pilsen, after which an "er" was appended, registering Bohemian provenance.)

I wish I had saved the pamphlet.

From four decades earlier, here's a 1963 print advertisement from another beer behemoth, Anheuser-Busch, one in a series of 1960s ads entitled “This calls for …”

Cheese 'n crackers, and Bud.

In this case, the this —Budweiser lager— “calls for cheese 'n crackers.” Although I might would opt for a different beer, the overarching idea stands: beer and cheese are natural 'partners.'
To prove that life's greatest pleasures are simple, set a really ripe farmhouse cheese —a well-mannered fruity Cheddar or blue Stilton for preference— alongside freshly baked wholemeal bread, a spoonful of home-made chutney, and a foaming pint of well-hopped, CASK-CONDITIONED [emphasis mine] English ale. Cheese, bread, and beer — the holy trinity or epicurean ecstasy. In other words, the perfect ploughman's, the definitive pub grub from time immemorial.
—Susan Nowak
The Beer Cookbook

And a pizza pie would do just fine.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Not so clear

Lifting that glass up toward the light, you can see it all: The color, clarity, history, science, chemistry, humanity, culture, craftsmanship – it all comes together in a pint of beer.

We each appreciate beer in different ways, and this season, we wanted to explore the reasons brewery insiders love what they do. It’s an experience we all share, and we bet some of the reasons they’re thankful for craft beer are on your list, too.

Look at the qualities praised of 'craft' beer in the above guest piece at the newly re-designed CraftBeer dot com: "Why I’m Thankful for Craft Beer." Especially regard the second 'craft' beer attribute: "clarity."

Now, I might be thankful this season for the mothers' daughters and sons who brew my beer. (I am.) But for clarity in a 'craft' beer? No. These days and this season, that limpid marvel is not among my thank-you tally; it's on my wistful list.

Be that as it may, let me be perfectly clear. A happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all, a good beer.

Crazy hazy


Monday, November 21, 2016

A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Thanksgiving Dish by Thanksgiving Dish.

Dining partners, regardless of gender, social standing, or the years they've lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat - and drink! - with the right mixture of abandon and restraint. They should enjoy food, and look upon its preparation and its degustation as one of the human arts.
M.F.K Fisher

Beer for Thanksgiving? Yes! But as to what beer to drink with which dish, let the curators drink alone. There are no rules, but only enthusiastic suggestions.

Be that as it may, maybe a non-dank pilsner, or a spicy, dry (that's the key) saison or dubbel, or, if you're so blessed, a cask-conditioned bitter: sip, pull, and repeat. (Or, okay, a dry IPA.) Beer drunk with cheese; with everything else, don't make beer the star, just the pal. Maybe with sweets, it should be sweeter. Over-hoppy-ed examples? They belong in long special-release queues; over-alcohol-ed, with postprandial digestive stupors.

Pretty in Pink Saison

But, above all, this should be fun. And it's all been done before.


A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Dish by Dish

In 1983, the late British beer writer Michael Jackson commented upon American Thanksgiving for the Washington Post. In A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Dish by Dish, Jackson wrote on drinking beer, not wine, at the Thanksgiving meal. The principles endure, even if the beers have been superseded by latter-day choices.

[N.B. Jackson's essay is unavailable to read at the Washington Post, even via the paper's archive service. Fortunately, The Beer Hunter, Real Beer's archive of Jackson's writing, has preserved it. And, from there, re-printed here.]

A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Dish by Dish
Shared Glass

By Michael Jackson
Special to The Washington Post
Nov 16, 1983.

Everyone knows what to eat on Thanksgiving, but what to drink? 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.

In Europe, whether you drink wine or beer with your meal may depend simply upon where you live.

On this choice between wine and beer, there is a snobbism which is particularly American.
In Europe, whether you drink wine or beer with your meal may depend simply upon where you live.Wine is the natural drink in the hedonistic, warm, grape-growing countries of the South, like France, Spain and Italy. The diligent folk of the Protestant North, whence the Pilgrims came - from The Netherlands and England - grow grain and make beer.

There is some significance, too, in the fact that the social cultures are similarly split on the question of hard liquor. The Catholic South produces various types of brandy; the Protestant North makes gin (in The Netherlands and England) and whisky. As a matter of fact, the birthplace of gin was the city of Leiden, in The Netherlands, one of the points of departure for the Pilgrims. Gin was originally produced as a medicine, and was customarily taken on sea journeys.

Suspicions about the Pilgrims' drinking habits must mount when it is noted that their other two points of departure, London and Plymouth, are the English towns most associated with the distillation of gin. Perhaps there is a vestige of tradition in the only recognized cocktail for Thanksgiving, which is gin-based. It also includes lemon juice (to combat scurvy?) and, incongruously, apricot brandy and vermouth.

The Thanksgiving cocktail is presumably intended as an aperitif, and it sounds moderately awful. Better to precede the meal with a beer and carry on in the same vein. This pays homage to the priorities of the Pilgrims.

When the Pilgrims sought a place to make their permanent landing in America, they did so, according to their diaries, "our victuals being much spent, especially our beer." Having thus landed because they had run out of beer, they probably set out to make some, perhaps using birch sap (Captain Cook did the same with spruce when he landed in New Zealand).

A more conventional type of beer - a darkish and broadly English ale - was last month (October) brewed especially for a commemorative dinner at Plymouth Plantation, the "living museum" of Pilgrim life, in Massachusetts. Such delight has been expressed over this beer that the Plantation now hopes to secure a regular supply from its source, a home brewery called William P. Byrnes.

Just as the wine-drinker can choose a different style to accompany each course of his Thanksgiving meal, so can the beer-buff.

Just as wine has attained a hint of sophistication since the days when it was consumed surreptitiously in the barn, so beer has gained a degree or two of refinement since it was brewed from birch sap. Today's wine drinker has an elegant choice of varieties, styles, vineyards and regions from which to select, and the choice before the beer-buff is arguably even greater. Just as the wine-drinker can choose a different style to accompany each course of his Thanksgiving meal, so can the beer-buff. In either case, so to speak, it might be fastidious to the point of pedantry to plough through six or seven different wines or beers (though it would make for a roseate Thanksgiving); in practice, three or four would be plenty. Let us, nonetheless, explore the possibilities.

As an aperitif, a wine-drinker might well choose a fino sherry: intensely dry, individualistic and with its own freshness and vitality. Precisely the same characteristics are to be found in a magnificent beer called Orval, which is brewed in a monastery in Belgium and is now a quite widely available import in the United States. Like some fine wines, it throws a sediment, so decant it carefully into the glass. It should be only lightly chilled, to what would be a natural cellar temperature, ideally about 55 degrees F. Orval has an alcohol content of more than 4.5 per cent by weight; about 5.75 by volume.

Since the Pilgrims were Protestant, purists might object to a beer from a Catholic monastery. An alternative might be to cleave to the good old Scottish name of Ballantine and the famous American beers behind that label: not the regular beer, nor the basic Ballantine Ale, but the same company's quite different I.P.A. (India Pale Ale). This type of beer was originally brewed by the Scots and English for long sea voyages to the Empire. Ballantine's I.P.A. was first brewed in the Northeast of the United States, where it has a staunch following, though it is now a national product. It is a dry, aromatic ale of about 6.0 per cent by weight; 7.5 by volume. Like all ales, it expresses its palate most fully at a natural cellar temperature.

With oysters, the wine-drinker would opt for Chardonnay, Muscadet or, best of all, Champagne. On the question of beer, there is no doubt: it has to be a dry stout, preferably Guinness or one of the Irish examples like Murphy or Beamish, which are occasionally to be found in the United States. Perhaps it is that dry, tangy quality that makes such a wonderful success of the unlikely marriage between big, black beers and delicate shellfish. No one has been able wholly to analyze the magic, but dry stout and oysters are a long-honored partnership in Ireland. If you feel that an American feast should be more patriotic, substitute a native porter like Pottsville (from Pennsylvania) or Narragansett (originally from New England, of course, though again now national). Serve these beers only lightly chilled or better still, half-and-half with cold Champagne, in a flute. Stouts generally have an alcohol content of around 4.0 per cent by weight; 5.0 by volume.

Two labels are imported: one from the Lindemans farmhouse brewery and the other under the commercial Belle Vue trademark.

For both wine and beer, one of the most difficult relationships is with salad, whether savory or fruity. Wine-writer Hugh Johnson has an interesting approach to this question: the character of a wine is assassinated by vinegar. So, in your salad dressing, use wine instead. An impudent extension of this theory would be to use a wine-like beer. This is an opportunity to try one of the world's most unusual beer-types: gueuze, a specialty of the Senne valley, near Brussels. This is one of those beers that gain a special fruitiness from the use of wheat in addition to the normal barley. More important, as in traditional wine-making, it is fermented with wild yeasts, in wooden casks. It has a tart, vinous, perhaps even cidery, character and is in its native country regarded as the most refreshing type of beer for summer. Two labels are imported: one from the Lindemans farmhouse brewery and the other under the commercial Belle Vue trademark. To serve gueuze with (and in) a salad might prove quite a coup. An even bolder stroke would be to present its companion beer, kriek, with a fruit salad. This is a beer of the same basic type but with the addition of dark cherries in the maturation cask. Both Lindemans and Belle Vue have kriek beers in the American market. Gueuze beers generally have an alcohol content of around 4.5 by weight or 5.5 by volume. Kriek comes out at about 5.0; 6.0. They are best served lightly chilled. Alternatives might be the German wheat beers, Berlin weisse and Bavarian weizen respectively. There is no American counterpart to any of these products at the moment, though wheat beers were produced in the U.S. before Prohibition and one brewer is toying with the idea of reintroducing them.

With the centerpiece of the meal, the turkey, the wine-drinker has a difficult choice. Should it be a medium-dry white? Or a drier, medium-bodied red? Among beers, I would opt for a pale but medium-dry brew of the type produced in the city of Munich and elsewhere in Bavaria. This type of beer features in the extensive portfolios produced by all the famous Munich brewers: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Spaten. In this instance, though, check to make sure that what you are buying is described in one way or another as the brewery's Light beer. It may be designated as Munich Light, Light Reserve or Light Export or have some similar sobriquet, perhaps even the irreverent-sounding German counterpart Hell. These descriptions refer to a light color, and most definitely not to body; nothing quite like these beers is produced in the U.S., and they are not intended to quench the thirsts of footballers.

With just a hint of sweetness to match some of the turkey's accompaniments, these Munich Light beers have plenty of body without being too filling. Their alcohol content is pretty ordinary, at well under 4.0 per cent by weight or 5.0 by volume. As for serving temperatures, the simplest rule to observe is that any beer from Munich or elsewhere in Bavaria should be served chilled but not to American popsicle level; not less than 48 degrees, in fact.

A more pronounced sweetness is clearly required to go with the pies, and this might be a case for the chocolate-colored Munich dark (around 4.0; 5.0) or the stronger, amber Marzen or Oktoberfest beers (4.5; 5.5), from the same selection of breweries. Among dark beers alone, these Munich breweries produce so many different varieties that intrepid drinkers have a considerable challenge on their hands. It might be advisable at this stage to retire gracefully, but you don't have to....

After dinner, instead of a brandy or port, the determined drinker will return to Munich for a bock, (5.0; 6.25) or even a double one, a doppelbock, (6.0; 7.5). All double bock beers have names ending in -ator, in deference to the original, Salvator ('Saviour'). This sounds like a suitably religious beer with which to salute the Pilgrims, though celebrator is another fitting label. Only the brave will try E.K.U.'s Kulminator '28', which has an alcohol content of around 10.0 per cent by weight, 12.5 by volume and is the strongest regularly-produced beer in the world.

By the time the nuts come round, anyone still fit to drink might opt for a Madeira or perhaps a sweet stout like Mackeson, from England, at around 4.0; 5.0. Serve this one at room temperature, preferably in a big, leather armchair.

Some foods are perhaps less well suited to wine than to beer. Shellfish go well with either but sushi, for example, has a happy relationship with a light Japanese or American beer. The same is true of any spicy Oriental food. Naturally enough, smoked meats and sausages are perfectly accompanied by German beer. Perhaps the happiest combination of all is red meat, especially roast beef, with English Pale Ale. Here are some simple guidelines.

As an aperitif: Dry, hoppy beers with some bitterness. Try New Amsterdam (from New York) or Anchor Steam (San Francisco).

With fish: Pilsners. Almost all of the well-known American beers are loosely of this style. So are the best-known imported brands, like Heineken and Carlsberg. Czech and German Pilsners tend to be drier, and therefore go especially well with the more oily varieties of fish.

Shellfish: Dry stouts or porters.

Smoked meats, sausages: If you can find it, the smoked Rauchbier of Bamberg, Germany. Or a German altbier or weizenbeier.

Pasta: The less spicy pasta dishes of Northern Italy go quite well with the Munich Dark type of beer. It is, after all, commonly served with the admittedly-heavier noodle dishes of Germany.

Fowl: Munich Light with turkey; perhaps the slightly less sweet Dortmunder style might go better with chicken.

Red Meat: English Pale Ale.

Game: Scottish ale, which is heavier.

The myth that American beers are especially weak derives in part from the use of U.S. regulations of the alcohol-by-weight measure. This produces lower figures than the measure of alcohol by volume. A typical American beer of 3.75 alcohol by weight would have almost 4.7 by volume. This is typical of ordinary beers in many parts of Europe. The beers mentioned in this article are inclined to be stronger because they are specialties. Alcohol by volume is the best guide for the shopper because it is the system used on wine labels. Beer is, of course, the more filling of the two drinks, though wine is stronger, at 11.0-13.0 by volume in most cases. Anyone planning to sample a beer with every course at Thanksgiving might consider using goblets like those employed for red wine. An eight-ounce serving of beer with each course should be plenty.

The style of beer familiar to Americans is, in connoisseurs' language, a lager broadly of the Pilsner style, which originated in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia. However, 'beer' is a general term which covers many other styles, including ale, porter and stout.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Twisted Lights

Twisted lights

Here, I had focused on a twisted strand of lights on a tree branch and its bokeh background. But was I finding art in all the wrong places? I was surrounded by a display of glass sculptures, an exhibition of artist Dale Chihuly.

Medusa Chihuly? (02)

As seen at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, in Atlanta, Georgia, on 27 October 2016.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 43/44, 2016.

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

Weeks 43/44
23 October - 5 November 2016

  • 3 November 2016
    The Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team wins the 2016 World Series, ending its 108-year World Series championship drought, the longest such occurrence in Major League Baseball and, in fact, in all major North American sports.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 3 November 2016
    The preliminary results of the 2016 hops harvest in Germany show about 42,700 tons produced, 4,600 tons of which would be alpha, that is, bittering hops. If so, it would be a record harvest.
    —Via HVG German Hops.

  • 3 November 2016
    The blob! Anheuser-Busch InBev buys another American 'craft' brewery: Texas-based, five-year old, Karbach Brewing (which produced 55,000 barrels in 2015).
    — Via All About Beer.
    — Map of Anheuser-Busch InBev's American 'craft' brewery acquisitions to date, via Jeff Alworth at Beervana.

  • 2 November 2016
    Analysis of results of the 2016 Great American Beer Festival.
    • The five states whose breweries won the most medals were: California, at 68; Colorado, 38; Oregon, 21; North Carolina, 17; and Virginia, at 14.
    • Over the last three years, thirty states have entered two hundred or more entries, and none had ever won even 6 percent of those entries until Virginia’s performance this year.
    • The style most entered was American-style IPA. No surprise there, but Watson notes that its entries were down from 4.98 percent to 4.27 percent of all entries.
    • American-Style Sour Ale saw the largest percentage jump of any category, from 1.28 percent of entries in 2015 to 1.93 percent of entries in 2016–a total jump of 56 entries.
    —Via Bart Watson, chief economist at [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 1 November 2016
    On good beer and character...
    On one side of the equation you have to have quality and consistency and that is balanced on the other side of the equation by flavor and character. There are breweries that specialize in producing high quality, very consistent beer—companies like Budweiser and Carlsberg and Heineken. They produce high quality, very consistent beer, but maybe they forgot about the other side of the equation, which is to have some flavor and some character. [...] What I want from London Pride—or any Fuller’s beer—is that when you order a pint of it, I want you to recognize it as London Pride. Yes, I want it to occasionally surprise you—today it’s a little bit more malty or caramelly or hoppy or fragrant or whatever—so that you are having a dialogue with that beer. You’re noticing things about that beer and it interests you and involves you because of that. And that’s really what we call character.
    —Via John Keeling, 35 years head brewer for Fuller's Brewery in London, England, as quoted at Beervana.

  • 31 October 2016
    'Craft' beer demographics.
    • Forty-two percent of all 'craft' beer drinkers are age 35 or older. (Of course, that means that fifty-eight percent are younger than 35, 'millenials.')
    • Women hold a 32 percent share of the overall 'craft' beer market, while women aged 21-34 comprise 15 percent of overall 'craft' drinking volume.
    • Forty-three percent of Hispanic consumers order 'craft' beer in restaurants and bars at least once a month, and 31 percent consume craft beer at home.
    —Via Craft Brewing Business

  • 31 October 2016
    Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch Inbev, has suggested that the growth of 'craft beer brands may be nearing an end in the United States saying that consumers "get a bit tired of choice."
    • If, when he refers to "consumers," Brito means retailers, such as when he added this comment —"There's only so much shelf space that you can share and cold box that you can spilt [typo?]" —then there's validity in his observation.
    • But if by "consumers," Brito is referring to drinking consumers who purchase beer, then he appears to be tone-deaf to the situation, to the marketplace, and to what 'craft' beer means and is.
    • As one retailer noted,
      There are signs that retailers have reached their limit as to expanding space for additional brands, but I see no sign that consumers are tired of choice.
    —Commentary by YFGF.
    —Original story, via Just Drinks.
    —Response to the contrary, via Bob Pease, [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 28 October 2016
    American 'craft' beer sales fell off slightly in the third quarter, vs. the same period in 2015. Beer sales in brewery taprooms (production breweries and brewpubs), however, increased significantly, by sixty-one percent, to 1.2 million barrels.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association, at YFGF.

  • Top 6 global breweries
  • 25 October 2016
    In wake of Anheuser-Busch InBev's $107 billion purchase of SABMiller completed on 10 October 2016, Molson Coors has finalized a $12-billion purchase of MillerCoors, thus gaining now all of the former Miller and MillerCoors brewing facilities in the U.S. Moreover, it gains exclusive worldwide rights to all the Miller brands and trademarks; and the royalty-free U.S. licenses for many of former SABMiller's import and license brands, including Peroni, Pilsner Urquell, and Fosters. In doing so, Molson Coors —jointly based in Montreal, Canada, and Golden, Colorado— becomes the third-largest global brewer.
    —Via Financial Post.

  • 25 October 2016
    The first-ever successful commercial delivery by a self-driving truck has delivered two thousand cases of beer, Budweiser, in Colorado, over a distance of 120 miles, from from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 24 October 2016
    For fall seasonals, it’s pretty clear that the bloom is off the pumpkin. Seasonals have been behind trend pretty much all year, culminating over the eight weeks through October 2, when BA [Brewers Association member breweries] craft seasonals were down -8.5 percent in IRI Group scan data versus the previous year. [...] A lot of weakness clearly stems from pumpkin beers, which weren’t ordered by distributors at the same level as previous years and are clearly generating less interest than in recent years.
    —Via Bart Watson, chief economist for [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 24 October 2016
    In 2015, atmospheric carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million, the first time that that level has been reached on Earth in three million years. Those levels are expected to repeat every year for many generations to come, according to a new report issued by the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization. Atmospheric methane levels are now 256 percent above pre-industrial concentrations, accounting for nearly twenty percent of greenhouse warming. The WMO report warns that forests and oceans which currently absorb roughly half of human carbon emissions, “may become saturated” in the future, accelerating the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
    —Via Gizmodo.

  • Five fermenters and a bright tank
  • 23 October 2016
    Ubiquitous in 21st-century 'craft' beer breweries: conical, closed unitanks, the 1908 invention of Leopold Nathan, an unsung hero of modern brewing.
    —Via Beer et seq.

  • 23 October 2016
    Brewery taproom sales have become a real thing, dollarwise, nationwide, as many states have allowed breweries to do what wineries already could. Beer blogger Bryan D. Roth dubs this "own-premise(s)" sales.
    From 2006-2015, the number of taxable barrels sold at breweries reported to the TTB [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] increased by 179%. From 2014-2015, it jumped from 690,395 to nearly 1.2 million BBLs reported. Through the first half of 2016, sales were projected to go just beyond 1.7 million for the full year.
    —Via Bryan D. Roth, at Good Beer Hunting.

  • 23 October 2016
    Tom Hayden, preeminent 1960s political radical and anti-war protester, dies at 76.
    —Via Washington Post

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Fog over downtown.

Fog over downtown

Morning fog dampens and partially obscures downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The photo was taken in spring, March 2016, but selecting it for today seemed appropriate to the current autumn season.


Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Make America Drunk Again

A presidential electoral riff, proffered in the unlikely circumstance that you haven't yet decided for whom to vote.

Make America Drunk Again (02)

But, decide and vote. Because, in America, you can. Vote, that is.


Saturday, November 05, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Things are REALLY gettin' bad.

Things Are REALLY Getting Bad

Clifford H. Baldowski (1917–1999) was the editorial cartoonist for several American newspapers, including the Atlanta Constitution. He went by the pen name, Baldy.

This drawing of his is hung on a wall at Manuel's Tavern, in Atlanta, Georgia. Local politician Manuel Maloof opened his eponymous tavern in 1956; it would become a Democratic Party watering hole and meeting place. And Baldowski drank there.
To my friend Manuel Maloof, one of those rare, perceptive guys who gives a damn.

One of Maloof's children operates the tavern now. In early 2016, he closed it for renovations, which could have been an ominous sign, but not in this case. Manuel's re-opened for business in late summer with, among other things, several new 'craft' beer tap-lines.

Manuel's Tavern (before renovations)

This upcoming Tuesday evening, the 8th of November 2016, Manuel's will be a crowded place in which to grab a beer: sorrows diluted or huzzahs celebrated. Things might be gettin' bad, but NOT Manuel's beer prices.


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Anthony Bourdain can't be bothered with good beer; I can't be bothered with him.

Anthony Bourdain —"American chef, author, and television personality"— was flogging his new cookbook on the food, drink, and travel website Thrillist, when this happened:

  • Thrillist:
    "I read somewhere that, based on some drinking on the show, you were getting flamed online from beer snobs. Does that happen often?"

    A lot. I would say that the angriest critiques I get from people about shows are when I'm drinking whatever convenient cold beer is available in a particular place, and not drinking the best beer out there. You know, I haven't made the effort to walk down the street 10 blocks to the microbrewery where they're making some fucking Mumford and Sons IPA. People get all bent about it. But look, I like cold beer. And I like to have a good time. I don't like to talk about beer, honestly. I don't like to talk about wine. I like to drink beer. If you bring me a really good one, a good craft beer, I will enjoy it, and say so. But I'm not gonna analyze it.

  • And this, on 'craft' beer bars vs. Bourdain's preferred 'type' of beer bar:
    I was in San Francisco, and I was desperate for beer, and I walked into this place. I thought it was an old bar. And I sat down, and I looked up, and I noticed there was a wide selection of beers I'd never heard of. Which is fine. OK, I'm in some sort of brew pub. What's good? But I looked around: the entire place was filled with people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes. This is not a bar. This is fucking Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is wrong. This is not what a bar is about. A bar is to go to get a little bit buzzed, and pleasantly derange the senses, and have a good time, and interact with other people, or make bad decisions, or feel bad about your life. It's not to sit there fucking analyzing beer. It's antithetical.
    Hold on a minute. This isn't 'craft' beer's exclusive domain. For years, pinky-in-the-air wine fanciers have been mocked, rightly or wrongly. Now, I'll agree that there may be 'craft' beer-ers who have now adopted the same supercilious sneers. But not all, and not most. Mr. Bourdain says he drinks beer only for the buzz: it shouldn't be difficult for him, while traveling about, to find a 'proper' pub to supply his fix.

  • Here, at least, Mr. Bourdain does rant against cork-dorks (if not with equal time).
    It's the same way -- I've sat at tables where somebody's bringing out one fantastic, life-changing wine after another. But, you know, just give me the name, tell me where it's from, and that's OK. I don't need to know what's out of the fucking hill, or who put the grapevines in, or that they were transplanted. I don't need this. I drank it already, dude. I just -- I don't care.

  • Thrillist is really, really trying to bait Bourdin into proving its point:
    Are beer snobs more extreme [than food snobs]?

    I think people's expectations of me, as far as what I'm eating, are already pretty low. They think that I'm a known quantity, that I'm a cheap date, that I like street noodles pretty much more than anything. But I think they somehow expect me to have better taste in beer than whatever generic green bottle I happen to be grabbing.

  • When you can't defend your opinion, just repeat it, without defense.
    And they see that I'm passionate about food, why am I not passionate about beer? I just ain't. I'm just not.

  • Thrillist attempts to lead Bourdain into its point of view, as is its non-journalistic technique. Bourdain doesn't take the bait, and, instead, demeans the visual appeal of beer (and wine):
    Also, it's different, because the show is more about going and finding the food, not the beer, right?

    Well, beer -- visually speaking, it's why we generally don't do winery scenes or brewery scenes. Because no matter how good it is -- this might be one of only five remaining bottles left on Earth, Napoleon may have put it in the bottle -- but visually, it's red stuff going into a glass. There's nothing to differentiate it from a big box of Gallo Burgundy. It's just not visually interesting. And also, I don't really care. Even with wine, I'm happy, maybe even happier, drinking some local stuff at an agriturismo.
    And gazing at a kitchen would be any more enthralling? Try hiring a different art director, or maybe looking at this one documentary view of breweries, produced in 1989, to see how beer can be interestingly presented.

  • Finally: is ignorance really bliss (talking of wine)?
    I'd rather order a Burgundy, not knowing what I'm doing. Let's see. They're so unpredictable. I know nothing about them. It's always a surprise. Spin the wheel. Some of them suck, some of them are going to be good, some will be interesting -- that's interesting to me.
    Should we really bother with Mr. Bourdain's opinions if he himself can't be bothered?

British beer authors, Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey read the interview and wrote, among other things, this:
Thrillist is a frightful den of clickbait, and craft beer types are easily baited, but Mr. Bourdain often has interesting thoughts and in this case, he makes some good points.

I was baited —and Boak and Bailey were— but you don't need to be.

Yes, taking beer too seriously is silly. But Mr. Bourdain goes much further: that beer, itself, should never be part of the experience, but only there for its psychotropic effect. That knowledge is bunk, except when it's of food. Willfully refusing to acknowledge beer's flavor or worth —especially when gastronomy is your profession— is ignorant.

I've never met Mr. Bourdain or viewed any of his programs; I've never read any of his books or essays (rants?) —until this interview. It'll be sufficient. I can't be bothered.