Monday, June 26, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 23/24, 2017.

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

Weeks 23/24
4 June- 17 June 2017

  • 17 June 2017
    Zach Kosslow of Wilmington, N.C., wins Homebrewer of the Year Award at the 39th annual National Homebrewers Conference —now also known as HomeBrew Con— held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    This year’s competition saw 8,618 entries from 3,530 homebrewers located in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and 13 other countries. The final round of competition took place at Homebrew Con, where 1,134 entries were evaluated by some of the top beer judges in the country. Over its 39-year history, the National Homebrew Competition has evaluated 134,835 brews. The first competition, held in 1979 in Boulder, Colorado, judged 34 beers.
    —Via All About Beer.

  • 16 June 2017
    Online retailer giant Amazon to buy Whole Foods Market in deal valued at $13.7 billion. “This deal should leave no doubt that Amazon is deadly serious about dominating all aspects of retail.”
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 15 June 2017
    Carlsberg —the world's fourth-largest brewing company, headquartered in Denmark— has announced its intention to use renewable electricity at all of its breweries by 2022, and to eliminate carbon emissions and halve its water usage by 2030. CEO Cees 't Hart noted that the decision by President Donald Trump to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement is a signal for businesses to reaffirm their commitment to the environment.
    —Via Just Drinks.

  • 14 June 2017
    • By proxy, Anheuser-Busch purchased beer rating website RateBeer in October 2017. A few month's later, something appears to be fishy with RateBeer's brewery rating numbers.
      —Via Paste Magazine.
    • Dogfish Head asks to be removed from RateBeer.
      —Via Full Pint (5 June 2017).

  • 14 June 2017
    Princeton University professor Tracy K. Smith selected as America's newest poet laureate.
    History, with its hard spine & dog-eared
    Corners, will be replaced with nuance,
    Just like the dinosaurs gave way
    To mounds and mounds of ice.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 9 June 2017
    Some American breweries are no longer welcome as sponsors at Great American Beer Festival.
    Effective immediately... only breweries that meet the BA [Brewers Association] craft brewer definition are eligible to be a Featured Brewery sponsor.
    —Via Food and Wine.

  • 10 June 2017
    When vintage opportunities have to do with more than wine.
    Don’t think of wine as just a beverage. Wine is a time machine.
    —Dave McIntyre (wine critic at Washington Post).
    To take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history.
    —the late American intellectual Clifton Fadiman.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 9 June 2017
    America's superhero has left us. Adam West —Batman— has died at 88.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 7 June 2017
    National pushback is growing against perceived excesses of 'craft' brewery taprooms.
    —Via Tara Nurin, at Forbes.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Warhol in Atlanta

Warhol in Atlanta

Looking like its own Pop Art, a billboard —promoting the High Museum's exhibition of Andy Warhol's graphic art— stands over a colorful intersection in the East Atlanta Village neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. 12 June 2017.

Andy Warhol harnessed the power of celebrity, consumer goods, sex, death, and disaster to create his iconic Pop Art. The foundation of his revolutionary career lay in printmaking. This retrospective exhibition, encompassing over 250 works on loan from Portland-based collector Jordan D. Schnitzer, establishes Warhol’s innovative graphic production as it evolved over the course of four decades. The exhibition explores his nearly singular use of the silkscreen process, once largely a commercial format that Warhol elevated to the status of fine art.

The series and portfolios on view highlight Warhol’s obsession with repetition and with printmaking as a mechanical means of artistic reproduction. In this convergence, Warhol famously blurred the distinctions between original and copy and employed print multiples as a medium for conceptual rebellion and experimentation.

As a result of Warhol’s fascination with popular culture, the exhibition also chronicles American life in the second half of the twentieth century, from glamour icons Jacqueline Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe to the violent imagery of the Birmingham civil rights protests, political posters of the 1970s, and 1980s ad campaigns. Warhol’s work also addressed his own identity as a gay man in a time when homosexuality was stigmatized and persecuted.

In total, the works on view offer a bellwether of postwar American life and foreshadow our culture’s frenzied obsession with celebrity, fashion, sensationalism, and scandal.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

SAVOR-ing RE-tox

Since I didn't attend SAVOR earlier in June, I assuaged my sorrow last Friday evening by personally curating my own beer-with-food pairing.

Friday evening retox

Here: a murky tropical-fruit-punch West-Coast (although it might have been Virginia-coast) New-England-style India Pale Ale paired with meatless nachos (let the cows run free).

Because, all things considered, sometimes you just have to RE-tox.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Because the national repudiation of Donald Trump must begin ...

Lithuanian-Americans for Lithuanian-Americans Jon Ossoff for Congress
6th Georgia Congressional District

If there, vote today; if elsewhere, continue to #resist.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Facebook Checkout (June 2017)

An occasional collection of
short stories on beer and other things,
originally posted to YFGF's companion Facebook page
but not posted here at the blog (that is, until just now).


“What’s happening to US IPA? Has it turned into a sort of fruit punch?”

That was British beer historian Ron Pattinson, recently in Atlanta, Georgia, musing as he sipped (gulped?), there, a pint (!) of Transmigration of Souls, a 10% alcohol-by-volume IPA, brewed by local brewery, Orpheus Brewing.


Some American breweries no longer welcome as sponsors of Great AMERICAN Beer Festival.

At this year's Great American Beer Festival, for the first time, breweries who don’t fit the definition of 'craft brewery' as determined by the Brewers Association will no longer be allowed to purchase sponsorships. Sponsors receive perks such as larger exhibition booths with more prominent placement. "Effective immediately and in support of the BA’s mission and purpose, only breweries that meet the BA craft brewer definition are eligible to be a Featured Brewery sponsor at GABF," according to the BA.

To put things in perspective, last year, the GABF had eight sponsors that will not be eligible this year: 10 Barrel and Breckenridge, which are owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev; Blue Moon and Leinenkugel, which are produced by MillerCoors; Ballast Point, which is owned by Constellation Brands; Lagunitas, which was recently acquired entirely by Heineken; Magic Hat, which is a part of the North American Breweries conglomerate; and Pabst.
  • Original story at Food and Wine (9 June 2017).
  • The [U.S.] Brewers Association does not define 'craft' beer. It does, however, define 'craft' brewery, principally as a measure of annual production.


Beer works

Economic impact of beer industry (2017)

The U.S. beer industry provides jobs to nearly 2.23 million Americans, contributes over $350 billion to America’s economy, and pays $63.5 billion in annual taxes.
  • Brewers and importers directly employ 64,745 Americans.
  • Suppliers to the brewing industry employ more than 491,800 Americans.
  • Beer wholesalers directly employ more than 134,240 Americans.
  • Beer retailers employ 915,700 Americans.
Read more, from Michael Uhrich, chief economist for The Beer Institute.


A CBMTRA thought experiment.

Status of CBMTRA 2017

On 30 January 2017, Senate Bill S.236 —aka the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reduction Act — was (re) introduced in the U.S. Senate by Ron Wyden, a Democratic senator from Oregon. The bill now sits with the Senate's Committee on Finance for consideration.
  • Under current law —the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (!)— a small brewery that produces fewer than 2 million barrels of beer per year pays $7.00 U.S. excise tax per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels it produces. The CBMTRA would reduce that rate to $3.50 per barrel.
  • Once production exceeds 60,000 barrels, the rate is currently $18 per barrel excise tax rate, an industry-wide rate, large or small. The CBMTRA would reduce that rate to $16 per barrel (up to 6 million barrels of annual production).
  • Among additional provisions, the CBMTRA would also expand the list of ingredients that could be automatically included in a beer without prior approval (not including cocoa puffs and dingleberries), and allow breweries to transfer beer between themselves without any additional taxes (think collaboration beers or, in some cases, contract brews).
The graphic above is a slide that lawyer Marc Sorini presented to the recent Craft Brewers Conference. He noted that there were 28 Senate co-sponsors of the CBMTRA (in addition to Senator Wyden). That count was taken at the end of March. As of today, it's almost double that: now, 44 in all. And fairly bi-partisan: 25 Democratic senators, 18 Republican, and 1 Independent.

In the House, Rep. Erik Paulsen [R-MN-3] re-introduced its version of CBMTRA on 30 January. The bill now sits with the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration. In March, there were 109 House co-sponsors of CBMTRA. Now, there are 191, also a bi-partisan spread.

The [U.S.] Brewers Association insists that the excise tax cut of CBMTRA is needed to spur the growth of the 'craft' brewery industry. But...

Concurrently, the BA trumpets the robust growth of its members to a 5,300 historical high count of breweries. Growth which has occurred without a tax cut. Thus, hasn't growth been robust, nay, 'revolutionary,' without? Considering inflation, wouldn't maintaining the beer excise tax rate —$7 for the first 60,000 barrels of beer a brewery produced— which Congress legislated in 1976, be the virtual equivalent of a significant rate cut in 2017, in fact, almost half the 1976 rate?


Something fishy with RateBeer

Anheuser-Busch buys share of RateBeer

Like a bad-news chyron, Anheuser-Busch InBev's purchases of 'craft' breweries and other 'craft' things continue unabated. Blink and you might miss the next one. Unannounced in October 2016, Anheuser-Busch InBev —via its wholly owned ZX Ventures, a "global disruptive growth" investment company— purchased a minority stake in RateBeer —a highly regarded web-based crowd-powered beer-rating service.

RateBeer was founded in 2000 and purchased in 2001 by Joe Tucker, a web-site consultant. As of 2013 (according to Wikipedia), RateBeer had amassed 4.5 million ratings of 200,000 beers, from 16,000 breweries, worldwide.

Official word of that purchase came only on 3 June 2017, and then seemingly only because of the investigative journalism scoop of website Good Beer Hunting.

Tucker's reasons for selling, which he posted to RateBeer, comprised the typical happy-talk that seems cut-and-pasted from all such similar craft-to-corporate sales.
What we’ve found on the other side is a multicultural company that cares deeply about their own employees, cares about the local communities they invest in developing and is taking significant steps to better understand and foster local beer. It’s a great small team in a big company. ZX Ventures has the utmost respect for the integrity of the data and the unbiased service we offer to the entire community and industry. [...] Life at RateBeer will continue as it has. I’ll continue to work writing code, crunching numbers, answering questions, working with our administrators, reaching out to talk to people in the community and planning new features.

The granddaddy of crowd-sourced web beer raters, Beer Advocate (founded in 1996), remains independent. Newer beer rating service Untappd (more a mobile phone service than desktop) was purchased in whole in 2016 by Next Glass, a beer-and-wine rating application. Since its founding, RateBeer has been a trove —through its voluminous and real-time data— of insights and analysis into trends in 'craft' beer.

Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. RateBeer, no wife of Caesar, just fell into a world of doubt. A world that most 'craft' beer drinkers will refuse to enter. Despite its protestations of non-interference, ZX's influence over RateBeer will be a consideration in the minds of 'craft' beer drinkers. Are those scores created by ABIB bots or by ZX (thrice-removed) paid-off bloggers? And then this happened, as reported by Paste Magazine on 14 June:
In Sept. of 2016, RateBeer introduced a feature called “Brewer Rating,” which appears on every brewery’s profile page. The number is meant to be an at-a-glance indicator of how well that brewery’s full lineup of beers has rated; the purest and most simple condensation of which breweries are “good” and “bad” for an average user who isn’t going to deep-dive among the entire lineup of brews. When the system was introduced, and at least into Oct. of 2016, the Brewer Rating of Anheuser Busch-InBev stood at 74/100. Not exactly rosy.

Today, that number stands at 90/100. In the interim, only a superficially small number of new ratings have been added to the brewery—1.3% more reviews, to be precise—which is not nearly enough to reasonably expect them to influence the score from 74 to 90. It at first appears to be a significant 21.6% increase in the overall Brewer Rating, but because the actual range of the scale is 50-100 rather than 1-100 (for reasons we’ll explain shortly), 50 being the lowest possible score a brewery can have, the relative percentage of increase in Brewer Rating is even higher. Taking into consideration that this is actually a 50-100 scale, it’s as if the score changed from 24/50 to 40/50, which is a 66.7% increase since October—which is of course also when AB-InBev happened to invest in RateBeer

Moving forward, RateBeer's impartiality will be in doubt. As writer Steve Body —never one to mince words on his loathing of anything Anheuser-Busch — put it, at his blog, The Pour Fool:
You have just struck a deal with the Devil and NO amount of slick explanation is going to invalidate or blunt the simple FACT that you are now beholden to the very company that is making the most concerted effort – in fact, pretty much the ONLY concerted effort – to hamstring or destroy altogether this culture that has spawned your own personal success, that of the 5000 small, independent breweries that make up the Indie/Craft community, and the happiness and enjoyment we all have lived out for the past 25 years, in watching our beer horizons open wide and carry us up and out of the century+ morass of sameness and forced homogeneity of beer. [...] So, here it is. DEAD. RIP RateBeer, long loved and QUICKLY compromised.


Schadenfreude, not success?

News of YFGF's former bailiwick:
A newly released economic impact study shows that Virginia’s booming beer industry contributes more than $9.34 billion annually to Virginia’s economy. [...] Virginia’s Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) has reported 206 active brewery licenses in the Commonwealth, a 468% growth since 2012, when the tasting room bill, SB604, passed the General Assembly. A recent economic impact report by the Beer Institute showed that the Virginia beer industry employed over 28,000 people in production, distribution, and retail, and contributed nearly a billion dollars in state and local taxes in 2016. Excise and sales taxes on beer consumption contributed another $280 million to Virginia’s tax rolls last year.

—This comes from Virginia Craft Beer Magazine online, which weirdly decided to put the emphasis not on the state's success but on that it now comprises more breweries than neighboring state North Carolina. The magazine titled its story, "Virginia surpasses NC with 206 Breweries," reporting that "the North Carolina ABC reports 186 active brewery licenses."
  • The piece pictured Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe (in white patterned shirt, NOT holding a beer), during whose administration beginning in January 2014, the story notes, "the number of breweries in the Commonwealth has more than doubled." Not identified are the three people the Governor is standing with and not mentioned is where they are or why (a news story no-no).
  • As an additional reference point: when YFGF moved from Virginia in November 2015, the Virginia ABC listed 127 active brewery license holders.


Like mixing your beer with rainwater and sugar.

Mild & bitter in 1944 London (as an American tasted them)

A fortnight before the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied Normandy, France— the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Free-Lance Star published a story by American war correspondent Hal Boyle, one of many for Boyle, who would later win the Pulitzer Prize for his wartime dispatches.

Boyle's reporting, on 25 JMay 1944, described the condition of booze in wartime London, England. Gary Gillman, at his blog "Beer et. Seq.", summarized the account. His post —"Blondes, Taxis, and the West End"— includes Boyle's description of what he and the American GIs thought of British milds and bitters.
Seeking to explain mild ale and bitter beer to Americans, Boyle said mild is like mixing your beer with rainwater and sugar. And bitter is like mixing it with rainwater and quinine. (Today he might say that currently faddy 'juicy' IPA is like mixing Bud with vodka and grapefruit juice).

Given that American lager in this period was still fairly bitter, it shows that English beer – pale or bitter ale – easily outstripped it. Since no unusual bitterness was detected in mild ale, one can assume its bitterness was about equal to mid-century American lager.

The weakness of British beer was remarked on, something I’ve discussed before as noticed by an Australian journalist. He stated the government must have pondered long and hard to get the stimulant/austerity balance exactly right. [And Boyle noted that] The American soldier’s reaction was typically popular and idiomatic: it’s like our beer if you drink it and get hit in the head with the bottle.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Donald the Plumber.

Donald the Plumber

In these times when a leak of information can be considered more heinous than the corrosive act that pricked it, I found this refreshing. The beer, that is.

Not knowing Donald the Plumber's political bent, I've redacted his business' phone number from the koozie. But, his name: so timely. Finally, there's someone whom we can trust to find those #@&*^ leakers!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 21/22, 2017.

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

Weeks 21/22
21 May - 3 June 2017

  • 3 June 2017
    The 'Islamic State' terror group claims responsibility for an attack in London, England, as stabbings, gunshots leave at least 7 dead, 48 injured at London Bridge, Borough Market.
    —Via Daily News.

  • 2 June 2017
    Unannounced in October 2016, Anheuser-Busch InBev purchased a minority stake in RateBeer —a highly regarded web-based crowd-powered beer-rating service— via ZX Ventures, a "global disruptive growth" investment company wholly owned by Anheuser-Busch. Official word, however, only came on 2 June 2017, after the aquisition was discovered by website, Good Beer Hunting.
    —Via Good Beer Hunting.

  • 2 June 2017
    One thousand two hundred members in fifty chapters across ten countries: the Pink Boots Society —women in the 'craft' beer industry— celebrated its 10th anniversary, with a convocation in San Diego, California, 2-3 June.
    —Via LA Times.

  • 1 June 2017
    Trump removes the United States from the Paris Climate Change Accord.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 31 May 2017
    Brewing records and why they matter (and how 'craft' beer might be losing its history).
    I’m wondering right now if a concerted effort could be made by the industry to preserve some brewing logs from early craft brewers in a safe place, like a library or a museum, where researchers in the future could go back and learn about the techniques and ingredients being used today. As difficult as it was to research beers brewed in the 1800s, I sadly suspect that 100 years from now, it might be even harder for historians to research the beers that are being brewed today.
    —Via brewmaster Mitch Steele, at Hop Tripper.

  • 29 May 2017
    Frank Deford —an erudite and witty sports commentator and writer, and an advocate for cerebral palsey research— dies, at 78.
    Now, ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, children of all ages, I bid you goodbye, and take my leave.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 25 May 2017
    Ice cold beer lacks the exhilarating effect.
    How not to drink beer: advice from Robert Wahl and Arnold Spencer Wahl in 1937.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 24 May 2017
    Maryland Governor Larry Hogan allows 'controversial' House Bill 1283 to become law, but without his signature; notes harm the bill might do to Maryland craft breweries; urges legislature to revise the bill and reform other Maryland beer laws. Nevertheless, Hogan wrote that he was allowing the bill to come law because it would facilitate the plans of international drinks conglomerate Diageo to open a Guinness brewery and visitor center in Baltimore County, "a welcome economic development project."
    —Via Brewers Association of Maryland.

  • 24 May 2017
    To save on the expense and environmental wear-and-tear of beer trucks and kegs, a heavy-metal music festival in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, is installing a temporary underground pipeline to transport 400,000-liters of beer for 75,000 festival-goers. That's over 11 pints per person, in U.S. measure. Headliners to include Alice Cooper, Megadeath, and Marilyn Manson.
    —Via The Local (Stockholm, Sweden).

  • "American Sour Beers" (front cover)
  • 23 May 2017
    Michael Tonsmeire —author of the book, "American Sour Beer: Innovative Tecniques for Mixed Fermentationss"— to co-open a brewery in Maryland, called Sapwood Cellars.
    Expect beers that are balanced, drinkable, and highly aromatic without tongue-scraping bitterness from hops or piercing sourness from mixed-fermentation. Beer should be a pleasure to savor, not a challenge to conquer.
    —Via Tonsmeire, at his blog, The Mad Fermentationist.

  • 23 May 2017
    Southern rocker Gregg Almann dies at 69.
    For decades the frontman of the Allman Brothers Band, a pioneering but conflict-ridden blues-rock collective that modeled its guitar runs on the melodies of Brahms and performed instrumental jams inspired by the improvisational jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane. His vocals bore a rough-edged rasp that Mr. Allman gradually refined into one of the most distinctive sounds in American music: a blend of Tennessee twang, traditional soul and gospel, and a hard-won sense of the blues.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 23 May 2017
    Roger Moore, the "suave British actor best-known for his tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the dashing British spy James Bond in seven films from 1973-1985" (holding that role the longest of its five actors), has died at 89. Moore initially won a following as character Simon Templar on the 1960s British action-romance series “The Saint.” Moore was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for his charitable work for UNICEF, helping to raise more than $90 million for a worldwide campaign to eliminate iodine deficiency.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 23 May 2017
    The good vs. the bad of the big vs. the small whisky distillers: are multinationals good for Scotch whisky? Many in the Scotch whisky industry may find this debate puzzling as there is plenty of respect between the different companies, whatever their size. Yet among consumers there is a growing antipathy towards big corporations.

  • 22 May 2017
    The 'Islamic State' terror group claimed responsibility for a Manchester, U.K. suicide bombing that killed 22 people - including children - and injured at least 59 in an explosion that tore through fans leaving an Ariana Grande pop concert. U.S. President Donald Trump offered condolences, calling the terrorists, "losers."
    —Via Yahoo News.

  • 21 May 2017
    The Federal Communications Commission votes to undo rules protecting net neutrality. Will now allow Internet service providers to block and/or slow down websites for consumers.
    —Via Washington Post.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Wahl-Henius

Wahl-Henius (01)

In 1901, preeminent American brewing scientists Max Henius and Robert Wahl, published —

The American Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades: A Book of Ready Reference for Persons Connected with the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades, Together with Tables, Formulas, Calculations, Bibliography and Dictionary of Technical Terms

— which could be considered the Bible of American brewing, or at least the Old Testament thereof: a historical window into the brewing practices of turn-of-the-last-century America.

From their preface:
The American Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades is designed to be a book of ready reference for the use of persons connected with the trades designated. It does not pretend to be a text-book, which the student of brewing will read through from beginning to end with a view of becoming acquainted with the principles and practice of this great industry. It aims to be, as it were, a pocket encyclopedia, by reference to which the brewer, maltster, refrigerating machine engineer, bottler, etc., as a person engaged in the commercial activities of a brewery, may find an immediate answer to questions that may come up in connection with the exercise of his calling, without requiring him to wade through bulky volumes and peruse quantities of information in search of a single item of knowledge.

The initial printing quickly sold out; Wahl and Henius released a second edition the following year. They published a revised, third edition in 1908, in two volumes covering 1,266 pages. An excerpt from its preface:
In these days of railroads, telephones, wireless telegraphs and rudimentary airships, six years, measured by achievement rather than by hour-glass, represent a considerable period of time. It is six years since the second edition of the Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades was published, and the brewing trade has made rapid strides in that time. Many things current six years ago have been dropped and new even have taken their places. The second edition having been exhausted for over two years, a new one, taking account of the march of progress, has become necessary.

There have been important changes in the general plan of the work, and many changes of detail have been introduced.

Naturally, the more general adoption of electrical machinery in brewery and malthouse operations, growing out of the rapid development of those devices, calls for more extensive consideration. A new chapter has therefore been added on "Electricity and Magnetism." Likewise, the attention devoted of late years to the study of the barley plant and other agricultural products connected with the industry, bringing into prominence the importance of botanical marks of plants, is one of the reasons for the addition of chapters on "Botany" and "Barley." It goes without saying that the constant development of brewing methods, leading in some instances to the elaboration of entirely new systems of brewing, called for the separate treatment of "Special Brewing Systems." Another development of recent years grows out of the agitation for pure food and consequent legislation, affording grounds for a new chapter on "Beer Standards."

Wahl-Henius (03)


Who was Max Henius?

Max Henius was probably America’s greatest brewing scientist, in any era. Yet he is virtually unknown to most beer and brewing fans, even those with some historical knowledge. He co-authored in 1902 the American Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades. The other writer was Dr. Robert Wahl, an American Henius had studied with in Marburg, Germany. The book was a stupendous achievement, a fat tome of 1200 pages covering every conceivable aspect of brewing operations. Many questions of science and theory were addressed but in a way accessible to practical brewing people. [...] Anyone who investigates American brewing history runs into the book sooner or later. The modern beer writer, Michael Jackson, who developed the basic stylistic schema of craft brewing, almost certainly read the book. Jackson’s basic classification seems based on Wahl & Henius’ work, not just the “ur” distinction between bottom-fermentation, top-fermentation, and spontaneous fermentation but the main beer types under each of those heads.
—Gary Gillman ( Beer st Seq.).


What was the Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology?

The Wahl-Henius Institute was a brewing research laboratory and school in Chicago that operated between 1886 and 1921. Founded in 1886 by Dr Robert Wahl and Dr Max Henius as the Wahl & Henius, the name was changed to the Scientific Station for Brewing of Chicago and then to the Institute of Fermentology before becoming the Wahl-Henius Institute. Its educational division, the American Brewing Academy, was created in 1891. The school and laboratory operated successfully until Prohibition, when the near dissolution of the brewing trade forced its closure and sale to the American Institute of Baking, which retains the nucleus of the Wahl-Henius library.
—Randy Mosher ( Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine).


Friday, June 09, 2017

Hand-crafted malt, local all over.

Craft Maltsters Guild @CBC17

"What is the Craft Maltsters Guild?"

Here's how Brent Manning —a Craft Maltsters Guild board member and a representative of Riverbend Malt House of North Carolina— answered that question, and others I had, at the recent Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C.
The Guild is an association of North American craft maltsters with similar values and ideals maltsters even though we have had inquiries from Central and South America and small operations in Europe.

All of these people are making malt using different varieties of grain, using different equipment, some of it is homespun, a lot of it is homespun. And it's pretty exciting, because this is searching for new flavors. The tie-in for all of it is regional sourcing, support for your farmers, and transparency of quality commitment.

  • YFGF:
    Why has the traditional malt industry been concentrated in the upper Midwest, but the craft' malting industry elsewhere?

    The northeast used to be America's grain basket until we headed west due to consolidation, land costs, and economies of scale. The upper Midwest has fantastic growing conditions: the soil is rich, the topsoil is deep, the yield per acre is much higher than in other areas. You're looking at 125 bushels an acre in America's heartland; 75 in the South.

    In the Pacific Northwest, and Idaho and Montana, it's more traditional grain-growing areas. Elsewhere, there was some disease pressure early on before we had a robust plant breeding program at public universities. The schools and a couple of private individuals are bringing in some really exciting new varieties to the market. Just giving that sense of place as you move region to region; everybody's choosing their own way of doing business.

    And in the Southeast we did not have that food-grade supply chain in place. We've been really working to try and suss that out and support it, so that we can make this industry grow.

  • YFGF:
    I see a lot of 'craft' maltsters in the Northeast. Why is 'craft'malting developing so robustly there?

    There other things you're seeing. Brewery density is one reason you don't see craft malthouses in certain regions. Another is laws. New York State has a very expansive farm-brewery law that is tying a set of legal benchmarks to brewing and ingredients. They're great. They're fantastic, but that explains the density in New York state relative to anywhere else.

  • YFGF:
    And elsewhere?

    Yes. For instance, I'm the salesman for Riverbend Malt, in North Carolina. North Carolina has nothing that helps the craft malt industry. So, I'm just a crazy man right now. Whenever I walk the halls, they say, "So tell me about the hops business." I'm not talking about hops; I'm talking about barley. And North Carolina grew twenty-thousand acres of it, but it all goes into the feed market. So, it's a complicated conversation to help bridge that gap.

  • YFGF:
    Anyone from Georgia using 'craft' malt [home territory to YFGF]?

    Well, Riverbend has a couple of folks: Wrecking Bar Pub, a little bit with Sweetwater. Pretty much anybody who's doing the farmhouse-focused stuff. The malt really carries a lot of flavor, so it tends not to work well with IPAs. Because you want a neutral flavor or preferably nothing!

  • YFGF:
    How do craft maltsters incentivize farmers to grow brewing barley?

    In the South, we grow winter grains: plant in October and harvest in June. So, I'm not disrupting their normal cash-crop schedule. That makes my job easier. Up north, they are competing with some of the higher price per bushel cash crops. So the price per bushel in the northeast is higher than it is in the south because of that competitive landscape.

    But, yes, cash is king. If we want someone to take a risk, we have much more stringent specs than the feed-grade industry. So, yes, we use cash as a way to incentivize.

    The other thing, too, is that we want to pull them out of the commodity loop, as well. We try to agree on a variety, agree on specs, agree on a price before the grain is even planted. So, we don't really care what sort of geopolitical events might take place during the growing season that might negatively or positively affect that price point. Because it's set.

    It helps everybody involved. Farmers thought we were kind of crazy at first because we were shunning these global markets that they had gotten up and checked every day for ten, twenty years. We said, no, we don't want to do business like that. We want to do business with a handshake and, hopefully, as little paperwork as possible to get these projects in motion.

  • YFGF:
    How do craft maltsters get their product to brewers?

    Everyone is wearing a lot of hats right now. An owner might also be the accountant, might also be the floor grain raker, might be everything in between. The industry is still in that early stage right now. Only one of our member maltsters uses a distributor. That's Pilot Malthouse in Michigan; they use BSG. Everyone else self-distributes. For most of us, it's door-to-door sales.

  • YFGF:
    Do craft maltsters emphasize base malts or specialty malts?

    It totally depends. At Riverbend, we do heirloom and specialty malts. The South, for example, has a long history of growing some pretty tasty raw materials that could be used in the brewing industry. It's pretty exciting to bring those into production.

  • YFGF:
    I'd assume sourcing equipment had been a difficult thing at first, most of it sized for much larger malting houses.

    It still is. We have people with a lot of different backgrounds. I was a stream wetland biologist before so I don't really understand the mechanics of the machinery, but understand what's going on in the kernels. But other malt houses have engineers, fabricators that they've worked with on other projects on their farm, or whatever, so they will work together, and noodle through some ideas and come up with equipment design.

    That's part of why we [at Riverbend] did floor malting, obviously. It took out one of the big mechanical problems, which is how do you turn it? A guy pulling a rake, a guy with a shovel full of malt. It may not work perfectly day one, but you continue to refine it and improve upon it.

  • YFGF:
    Some in the 'craft' hop industry are forming cooperatives. Is 'craft' malt doing that?

    We're not so much working in that space. Geography is challenging; everybody wants to make their own products. There's not the same need for centralized equipment processing and product testing. Everyone is getting grain from different farmers.

  • YFGF:
    Does the Guild advocate best practices?

    We are about to release a quality and safety manual for start-up malt houses, not pushing them into 'hassip' [HACCP: Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point] but a series of following the process from planting, the growing season, the harvest, the testing phase. That is one thing about growing grain in these non-traditional areas. Those quality specs are absolutely essential. Some farmers will get it done; some of them will not. We're trying to educate.
  • Craft Maltsters Guild logo
  • YFGF:
    You're here at the Craft Brewers Conference. Does the Guild work with the Brewers Association?

    Right now we have a really beautiful relationship with the BA. One of their technical guys is on our board as well. There's a really nice exchange of information between quality, flavor, quantities. Really looking at the supply chain issues, it's not just the farmer and the malt house and the brewer. There's seed cleaning, trucking, and storage, and all those pieces of the puzzle that all have to be lock-step if this is going to work.

  • YFGF:
    Does the Guild have meetings?

    Yes. In fact, we're about to have our annual meeting, here at the Conference. Usually, between 60 to 80 people show up. We have a few tiers of membership, everything from our regular members —which are ou our producers— to the associate level which could be a malthouse in planning to allied trade. We're pretty well formalized. We have some great information on our website. We do a pretty exciting webinar series for members, which is part of our quality management and training. It's pretty specific: for instance, smoking the malt.

  • YFGF:
    Smoking the malt? I hear that's legal in some states now.

    It is! [Laughs]

  • YFGF:
    Good luck at your meetings. Thanks for answering my questions.

There were, in fact, a few other booths at the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference devoted to 'craft' malting, such as this 'craft' maltster, from Minnesota. And there was a seminar on field trials of barley and malt for the 'craft' brewing industry.

For a heretofore hop-centered industry, that's a welcome pivot.

Maltwerks @CBC17


Saturday, June 03, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Technicolor idyll

Technicolor idyll

There, in the background, is what is colloquially known as Postal Pond. Formed from the headwaters of Shoals Creek, the small man-made lake is located in DeKalb County, Georgia, on the former grounds of the Methodist Children's Home —built there in 1877.

The buildings and grounds, including the pond, were sold to the city of Decatur, Georgia, in April 2017. Greenspace is promised for the seventy-seven acres but warning signs of mixed-use development —endemic to the Atlanta-metro area— have citizen groups on high alert.

A generous citizen must have provided the table and chairs. No park authority here. The only thing missing was a packed picnic basket and a couple of beers. Inscribed on the edge of the table: "pack it in; pack it out."


Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Paris Climate Change Agreement will not be derailed by the ignorance of one man.

The Paris Climate Accord is the world's first comprehensive global climate agreement. A recent Yale Program on Climate Change Communication poll found that nearly seventy percent of Americans, including a majority in all fifty states, support American participation in the Paris Accord.

Despite that, despite the facts of established science, and despite the agreement of almost all of the nations of the world to attempt to ameliorate the manifesting effects of global warming, Donald Trump insists upon denying science and, in so doing, risking the health and welfare of his nation and, by extension, the world.

Even though he teases the announcement as if it were a reality television game show, Trump has indicated his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, ignominiously joining in denial with only Syria and Nicaragua.

And, he has.

This is not just bad science; it's bad business. Leaving the accord could undermine America’s economic competitiveness, technological innovation, and global leadership, and allow China to take the lead in global climate reform. (Per Bloomberg.)

There may still be time to reverse Trump's travesty. According to the terms of the agreement, no country can begin the withdrawal process until three years after the Agreement enters into force, and that occurred only on 4 November 2016.

And folk of goodwill can resist Trump's decision. Read, for example, this reaction (and plan of action) from the Sierra Club's Executive Director Michael Brune:

Donald Trump has made a historic mistake which our grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality. Trump has abandoned the standard of American leadership, turned his back on the what the public and the market demand, and shamelessly disregarded the safety of our families just to let the fossil fuel industry eek out a few more dollars in profits. This is a decision that will cede America’s role internationally to nations like China and India, which will benefit handsomely from embracing the booming clean energy economy while Trump seeks to drive our country back into the 19th century.

But the world should know that state and local action in the United States is moving strongly forward even in the face of Trump's historic mistake. For every terrible decision Trump makes, grassroots activists, frontline communities, local governments, and concerned people across the country are fighting to make sure clean energy continues to grow by leaps and bounds. With our allies, Sierra Club members and supporters have helped retire more than 250 polluting coal plants and ensured more than 25 American cities have already committed to getting 100 percent of their energy from clean, renewable sources by 2030.

Our resistance is sustainable and we will serve as a counterpoint to Trump’s dangerous policies every step of the way. Like leaders across the world, we aren’t going to wait around for our climate denier-in-chief to play catch up. As we win locally, countries across the world are already moving forward on meeting and surpassing their climate commitments.

Make no mistake: the Paris Agreement was adopted after decades of climate advocacy by concerned citizens across America and around the world, and it certainly will not be derailed by the ignorance of one man.

The Sierra Club seems sanguine of the struggle's result, but a good conclusion is not yet determined. Trump's action is an abdication of his sworn duty as president to preserve, protect, and defend the United States.

But this is greater than a political issue. This is more even than a scientific issue. Climate change is a metastasizing worldwide threat. Shepherding the only Earth that we have been bequeathed is our moral trust. As Americans, we must stand with humanity or we stand against it.

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