Sunday, December 31, 2017

We'll Meet Again.

Vera Lynn 100

Here, for New Year's Eve 2017, is WWII's Vera Lynn —now Dame Vera Lynn and still releasing recordings at 100— singing her hit We'll Meet Again (as reprised by Stanley Kubrick at the conclusion of his 1964 film classic, "Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love").

We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.

Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

And, will you please say hello,
To the folks that I know.
Tell them that I won't be long.
They'll be happy to know that, as you saw me go,
I was singing this song.

We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.

Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So, will you please say hello
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long,
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go,
I was singing this song.

We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when.
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.

And, so, to close the year, I wish you appreciation for those loved and lost; felicitations for good health, good luck, and good fermentables; and gratitude for your perusal of this little blog. Next year, Ninkasi willing, may we meet again.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: New Year's Poinsettia

Christmas poinsettia

For the final Pic(k) of the Week of 2017, no beer. Instead, it's a 'macro' of a house-cut poinsettia, 'filmed' with a 16-millimeter extension tube.

I pronounce the plant as it is spelled: "poin SET tee uh." If you say it otherwise, ignoring that final 'i,' I say you're wrong.

Did you know that you can preserve a poinsettEEa well past the winter holidays? I guessed at that last year, and replanted it outdoors, under a tree, in the spring. Here are tips about that from Gardening Know How:
In spring, return the plant to a sunny area and water well. Cut back all canes (branches) to about 6 inches from the pot’s rim. It may also be a good idea to repot the poinsettia using the same type of soil. While poinsettias can be kept indoors throughout summer, many people choose to move them outdoors in a sunny, but protected, area of the flower garden by sinking the pot into the ground. Either way is fine. After new growth has reached between 6 to 10 inches, pinch out the tips to encourage branching. This can be done once a month until the middle of August. Once nights become longer in fall, bring the poinsettia indoors. From about September through November light becomes crucial in poinsettia plant care. In order to encourage blooming, poinsettia plants require long periods of darkness at night (about 12 hours). Therefore, move the poinsettia to a location where it will not receive any nighttime light or cover it with a box. Allow plenty of light during the day so the plant can absorb enough energy for flowering. Warmer days (65-70 F./18-21 C.) and cooler nights (55-60 F./13-16 C.) are also recommended. Provide semi-cool, humid locations in bright, indirect light with plenty of moisture once blooming occurs.

Mine fared well. But, did you notice that line about the fall? "Bring the poinsettia indoors." I ignored that advice. That's when this happened.

Snow on the Poinsettia

So pretty, but, then, a couple days after that, this happened.

After the freeze

Oh, well. Back to another store-cut poinsettia. Green (red?) thumbs are not my cups of beer.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Beer Writers: mentors & mentees.

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) is establishing a network of mentors and mentees to "better connect its membership, to enhance communication skills, and to further understanding of the beer industry."

To that end, the NAGBW is looking for veteran beer writers to mentor aspiring writers. And, vice versa: new beer writers looking for advice on covering the industry and pitching their stories.

Vet or newbie? Consider signing up.

North American Guild of Beer Writers

About the NAGBW

The North American Guild of Beer Writers is an all-volunteer group of professional beer writers dedicated to elevating the level of the craft as it covers the art of brewing.
We are serious in our purpose, but strive to enjoy ourselves in doing our jobs.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas, with beer.

Merry Christmas from Falstaff

Leave a beer out tonight for ol' Saint Nick!

Šventų Kalėdų to all!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: 'Easter Island' Christmas

'Easter Island' Christmas

Unlike his Easter Island brethren, this Moai wears a Christmas hat.

As seen in Falls Church, Virginia, on 21 December 2008. Has he since enjoyed the longevity of his grander Rapa Nui kin?


Friday, December 22, 2017

Porter: the drink that launched thousands of ships.

And if [the pint of Plain] is all drawn properly, the way it should be done, then the [contented] cream is borne majestically above to form the clerical collar that proves the goodness in its heart. And the true porter drinker would look upon such a glass with great reverence, indeed.

A brewer in Virginia, USA, recently posted a dark lament to Facebook.
"IPA, IPA, IPA! I think it's time that 'real beer' drinkers and brewers (not the Instagrammers and Untappd abusers) take beer back. When was the last time anyone saw a brown ale or a porter or stout that wasn't flavored or imperial? There is nothing quite like a nice, unflavored porter. DARK BEERS MATTER!"

A few days later, it just so happened, British beer authors Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey —in their eponymous blog's year-end list of top beer tweets— linked to a tweet from the archives of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

At the end of April 1973, then-Irish brewing company Guinness ceased production of all its porter. A few days later, on 11 May 1973, BBC presenter Larry McCoubrey drank one of the last draught pints to be had. As the BBC tweeted on 11 May 2017, the forty-fourth anniversary of that Belfast broadcast:
Larry McCoubrey's panegyric to porter was pure pub poetry. Pint of plain, please, publican.

Yes, brew (more) Porters again. Yes, make (more) beers dark again! Malted serendipity, indeed.

[A grandfather clock can be heard ticking.]

Porter, an old established tradition in Irish drinking history. Why, we've even got songs about it.

[Folk-singer sings.]
If you want your child to grow,
Your child to grow,
Your child to grow,
If you want your child to grow,
Give him a jar of porter.
Sing Toora loora loora lay,
Toora loora loora lay.
Sing Toora loora loora lay,
Give him a jar of porter.

It's an acquired taste, of course. But, at least, it comes easier than the bitter thickness of stout. But just as England produced beer that was mild and bitter, so we developed porter and stout. This is the 'mild.' "Plain" they call it. You would always call for a pint of Plain. That was just part of the mystique that grew up around this drink.

The more essential part of it was the way in which it was drawn. Barmen could rise and fall on their ability to draw a pint of Plain.

You see, it's drawn from two barrels. A high one, first, to give it a bit of life. A good glass full of gushing good cheer that settles slowly towards the bottom of the glass into a thick, contented cream.

It takes several minutes for that cream to substantiate towards the bottom of the glass, when it's ready for the muscle and the sinew, the real body of the drink itself. And that comes from the other barrel...of flat.

And if it's all drawn properly, the way it should be done, then the cream is borne majestically above to form the clerical collar that proves the goodness in its heart. And the true porter drinker would look upon such a glass with great reverence, indeed.

If work was the curse of the drinking classes, then porter was their salvation.

And, yet, you know, it was not the traditional drink of Ireland the disciples would have you believe. This was a city drink; there were definite centers for it. It was the liquid lunch of countless working men in Dublin, and Derry, and in Belfast, where the shipyard drew most of its strength from the dark substance.

It was the drink that waited for the men as the horn blew in the evening and pubs up in Newtownards rolled around the station and up Ann Street, Short Strand, the pints of plain used to be standing in rows on the counter, waiting for the onslaught from the yard.

Used to be...for pubs progressed. Bottle beer broke through; gin and tonic took over; and porter became impolite. Lately, there have been less than a hundred pubs in Ireland selling it.

And, now, these are probably the last pints of Plain you'll probably ever see in Belfast. For on the thirtieth of April 1973, they stopped making it altogether.

This was more than a way of drinking. This really was a way of life. Porter: the drink that launched thousands of ships.

[A grandfather clock ticks...and then stops.]


Monday, December 18, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 47/48, 2017.

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

Weeks 47/48
19 November - 2 December 2017

    Beer Holiday Rankings (2016)
  • 2 December 2017
    Analyzing on- and off-the-premises volumes of beer distributor sales to retailers during ten different holiday periods across the country in 2016, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) found that ...
    • Christmas beer sales ranked 4th for off-the-premises sales —that is, beers bought at retail stores— but only 8th for on-the-premises sales.
    • Thanksgiving: 5th for off-the-premises and 7th for on-the-premises
    • For other holidays, Fourth of July took the number one spot in off-the-premises sales. For on-the-premises sales, St. Patrick’s Day took the top spot while Independence Day fell to 8th. Halloween and Thanksgiving were the two holidays for which both on and off-the-premises sales were most equivalent.
    — Via NBWA, which does not provide the actual sales volumes for those holidays.

  • 30 November 2017
    North Korea has tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking most of the U.S. mainland.
    — Via CNN.

  • 29 November 2017
    Cask Marque is a U.K.-based organization that certifies pubs, breweries, and brewpubs that properly serve cask-conditioned ale. Its accreditation is also available in the United States.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 29 November 2017
    What's next? Winemakers experimenting with traditional flavorings... like grapes?
    What we’re starting to see now is more brewers experimenting with traditional flavourings like malted barley.” [...] Hops could fall out of favour in craft beer industry as brewers look to barley.
    — Via Drinks Business.

  • 28 November 2017
    Avery Brewing Company is the latest large craft brewery to sell a stake of its company to a foreign brewing company. Spanish brewery, Mahou San Miguel, has purchased a 30 percent share for an undisclosed amount. The [U.S.] Brewers Association —which bills itself as the advocacy organization for small and independent breweries— defines a craft brewery as one of which "less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer." Ownership by a non-brewing entity, however, such as a private equity firm, does not count against the definition.
    When asked how he felt about no longer being considered a 'craft brewer' by an organization that is located just 6 miles away from his brewery, [Brewing Founder Adam] Avery responded succinctly: 'I don’t care,' he said, noting that private equity’s 'infiltration' into the craft industry should be more of a concern than large beer company acquisitions. 'It is so funny how ‘big beer’ is demonized. The only way private equity makes money is by selling the business to someone else. Guess who will be the highest bidder in four or five years? Probably big beer. As far as the BA’s definition of what ‘craft’ is, I couldn’t disagree more.
    — Via Brewbound.

  • 30 November 2017
    North Korea has tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking most of the U.S. mainland.
    — Via CNN.

  • 27 November 2017
    U.S. barley research...
    Researchers at Oregon State are [...] trying to quantify the ways different strains [of barley] affect flavor in beer, and in turn, how those strains are affected by terroir. "Barley genotype had significant effects on many sensory descriptors. The most significant sensory descriptors—when comparing barley genotypes—were cereal, color, floral, fruity, grassy, honey, malty, toasted, toffee, and sweet. Golden Promise was significantly higher in fruity, floral, and grassy flavors, whereas Full Pint was significantly higher in malty, toffee, and toasted flavors. CDC Copeland was closest to neutral for most flavor traits. There were notable differences for some descriptors between locations." That researchers documented the way different barley strains vary in flavor is entirely predictable and well-known--at least to Europeans. Americans, it seems, are centuries behind them in tumbling to these ancient truths.
    — Via Jeff Alworth, at Beervana.

  • Carrots & swedes, chopped
  • 23 November 2017
    Chopping swedes and carrots (for roasting in brown ale with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar).
    — Via YFGF.

  • 22 November 2017
    It’s one of the most intense 20th-century storms you may have never heard of. And it consistently makes it to meteorologists’ top 10 lists of all-time greatest storms — including those published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Weather Channel. The Great Thanksgiving Storm of 1950: East Coast flooding, widespread wind damage, record snowfall, and low temperatures conspired to make the storm, also known as the Great Appalachian Storm, a meteorological powerhouse. Upward of 383 deaths are attributed to this storm, which impacted 22 states and levied nearly $700 million in damage, after adjusting for inflation.
    — Via Capital Weather Gang, at Washington Post.

  • 22 November 2017
    Black Star Line Brewing opened in Henderson, North Carolina, in October 2017. Since then it has has been profaned, threatened, and vandalized. Why? Maybe this:
    We are proud to be the first OUT, Black, queer, woman-owned-and-operated brewery."
    — More about the brewery and L.A. McRae, via Asheville Citizen-Times.
    — More about the attacks and vandalism, via Mountain XPress.
    GoFundMe campaign to replace vandalized equipment.

  • 22 November 2017
    George Avakian —groundbreaking jazz producer and record executive, who helped introduce long-play LP vinyl records, live albums, and album liner notes— has died at 98. He produced, among others, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Keith Jarrett, Johnny Mathis, Bob Newhart, Bill Haley, and the Everly Brothers, and oversaw retrospective releases that revitalized interest in Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith.
    — Via Washington Post.

  • 22 November 2017
    Jon Hendricks 91921-2017) —master of vocalese, “the epitome of hip,” “poet laureate of jazz”— dies at 96.
    A singer and composer who developed [vocalese,] an intricate style of vocal gymnastics to match his tongue-twisting lyrics. [His] Grammy-winning vocal trio, "Lambert, Hendricks & Ross," is widely regarded as the most influential singing group in jazz history.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 21 November 2017
    Stitching temperance and the lack thereof, biomedical/sociological endeavor, wine-envy, and sacred herbal taxes:
    I do tire of references to temperance as code for everything one does not like in beer regulation. It’s up there with anxieties over lack of wine world respect. Face it – public health is a key foundation of modern western civilization. Who would choose to go back to the pre-temperance society? Even when the do-gooder sociologists in their laboratories get it wrong, no one in their right mind wants them stopping doing their work. Give the church its gruitgeld!
    — Via Alan McLeod, at A Good Beer Blog.

  • 19 November 2017
    Large craft brewery Left Hand (Boulder, Colorado) has sued White labs —a major supplier of yeast to the brewing industry— for selling it contaminated brewers yeast that, the brewery claims, forced the brewery to recall several of its beers in 2016, costing it $2 million dollars. White Labs denies the charges.
    — Via Brewbound.

  • 19 November 2017
    Cult-leader Charles Manson, mastermind of grisly 1969 murders, dies at 83.
    —Via Chicago Tribune.

  • 19 November 2017
    Keystone pipeline leak spills 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota.
    "We told you so," Daniel Sheehan, chief counsel of the Lakota People's Law Project, said in a statement. "It was just a matter of time. There have been over 200 significant leaks in these pipelines since the year 2000. This is the exact threat that the Lakota people were trying to protect their sole source of water from at Standing Rock."
    — Via CBS.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Tannebaum topper

Tannenbaum topper

Getting into the spirit, a can of Night On Ponce IPA (from Three Taverns Craft Beers, a brewery in Decatur, Georgia) sits jauntily atop a Christmas tree.

Getting into the spirit, the decorator consumed the contents of the can (7.5% alcohol-by-volume, 69 International Bittering Units) before fixing the beer atop the tree.

13 December 2017.


Friday, December 15, 2017

The BA's 2017 Beer in Review (sort of)

The [U.S.] Brewers Association (BA) —"the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers"— has released an end-of-year summary, looking "back on the defining beer moments of the year."

But... NOT included were any actual numbers for production, depletions, or sales (other than the amount of homebrew produced) for 2017. Of course, there are two more weeks of sales to go before the year is out, including Christmas which is the 4th highest holiday period for off-the-premises sales.

Here's a partial summary of the BA's summary:

☞ There were 6,000 breweries in operation during 2017—with 98 percent of them small and independent craft brewers.

☞ At present, 83 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a local brewery.

☞ 'Craft' breweries contributed $67.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, a 21.7 percent increase from 2014. [2017?]

☞ in 2016, 'craft' breweries were responsible for more than 456,373 full-time equivalent jobs, a 7.5 percent increase from 2014, with 128,768 of those jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs. [2017?]

☞ More than 2,700 small and independent 'craft' brewing companies, representing more than 75 percent of domestic volume, have signed on to use the Independent Craft Brewer Seal, informing beer lovers they are choosing a beer from a brewery that is independently owned. [But how many actual breweries? Most are small.]

☞ The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) has been added as an amendment to the larger Senate Tax Reform Bill. If passed, it would significantly reduce the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of any domestic brewery that produces fewer than 2 million barrels a year and would lower the federal excise tax on barrelage up to 6 million barrels.

☞ There are currently an estimated 1.1 million homebrewers in the U.S. In 2017, they produced more than 1.4 million barrels of beer—equaling one percent of total U.S. beer production. The National Homebrew Competition, hosted by the American Homebrewers Association, continues to be the world’s largest beer competition, this year with 8,618 entries from 3,530 homebrewers worldwide.

☞ The average 'craft' beer drinker visits 3.5 breweries near their homes and 2.5 breweries within two hours’ driving distance.

☞ American 'craft' breweries donated an estimated $73.4 million to charitable causes in 2016, up from $71 million in 2014. [2017?]

2017 Craft Beer in Review


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Beef & Beer (and Wild Irish Rose) ... and Jazz.

In January 2008, I was in a wine & beer bar in Greenville, South Carolina, flogging the beers of my employer. A vintage record shop shared an entrance with the restaurant.

These days, I avoid such places; they do great damage to my wallet. But that day, finished with the sales call, I walked in. Fortunately for my wallet, my working schedule was nearly filled for the day, so my browsing was limited. I purchased only one CD.

The Main Ingredient

That compact disc was The Main Ingredient, a jazz album that Washington, D.C.'s own Shirley Horn —the late great jazz vocalist and pianist. The session was recorded in 1996 in Ms. Horn's D.C. home...but the quality doesn't betray that. It's an exquisite session of intimate jazz chamber-music

Steve Williams and Charles Ables, on drums and bass, respectively, back up Ms. Horn on piano. They comprise her regular trio. But, then, there's the who's-who remainder of the lineup: a young Roy Hargrove on trumpet; bassist Steve Novosel and tenor saxman Buck Hill, Washington D.C. stalwarts; and drummers Elvin Jones and Billy Hart, and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, stars of the first order in the jazz firmament.


But wait! There's more.

Printed on the back page of the liner notes is an astounding recipe for...Beef & Beer (and Wild Irish Rose).

Beef and Beer (and Wild Irish Rose)

Look at the ingredient list. Scroll down to the final two ingredients: a bottle of beer — Heineken — and a lot of wine — Wild Irish Rose.

In case you've forgotten your days of reaching for a quick, cheap buzz, the latter is a sweet fortified 'wine' of a mere 18% alcohol. The recipe calls for a full half pint of it! It suggests you "open a beer or drink & chill"; and, maybe to regain a healthy veneer, the recipe concludes with an underscored admonition: "Remember no salt."

Although the recipe looks like winter comfort food, I've never cooked it (and probably won't *). But, since that day in Greenville, I have replayed the disc many times.

Ms. Horn died in 2005. I am fortunate to have heard and seen her perform live on several occasions. Her music —quiet and sensitive yet insinuatingly powerful— is the main ingredient. It lives on.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Drinking, again! Bell's Christmas Ale.

Christmas Ale, by the light of the NFL

This was the scene on a recent late Sunday afternoon: watching football on the tube and drinking —from a lantern tankardChristmas Ale, a 'specialty Scotch ale,' brewed by Bell's Brewery (Comstock, Michigan)

The brewery's take (on the beer):
This traditional Scotch Ale is rich and malty with notes of caramel and a warm finish. Certain to make any occasion festive, or at least a bit more bearable. Enjoy with the company of friends and family. Alcohol-by-volume (abv): 7.5%.

YFGF's take:
It's a translucent ruddy reddish-brown, on the fuller side of medium-bodied, malty in flavor (toffee, nuts, caramel) without being treacly, hinting at grape jelly, and finishing with a gentle hop presence that helps to dry the finish.

Final observations:
Not for hopheads, Christmas Ale is quite the enjoyable beer and strong (not so, the NFL product). But warning! It's a far different beer than the Bell's Winter White Ale. Rather, it's like an American take on a trad beer that, I would surmise, Bell's Director of Ops John Mallet might want to drink. I did.

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


Saturday, December 09, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Sartorial Charlie

YFGF's Pic(k) of the Week has gone to the dogs.

Sartorial Charlie

Cancer survivor Charlie, a French bulldog resplendent in his snappy Christmas bow-tie, was expectantly watching the Reindog Parade and Contest, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, in Atlanta, Georgia, on 2 December 2017.

The competition, in its tenth annual observance, showcases canines in their winter fashions (and their companion humans). Categories include Best Puppy, Best Adult, Best Botanical, Best Dog-Owner Dress-alike, Best Dog Pack, and, ultimately, Best in Show.


Saturday, December 02, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Canopy Walk, by night.

Canopy Walk, by night (01)

This photo was taken in December 2011, but Garden Lights, Holiday Nights is an annual December tradition of the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta, Georgia. Over one million energy-efficient LED lights bedeck the 30-acre garden and facilities.

Pictured is a night view from the 45-foot high Canopy Walk, a reverse-suspension bridge, the only tree-canopy-level walkway of its kind in the United States.