31 March 2010

Events This Week:

Debut of the 2009 Letter of Marque homebrew competition from Heavy Seas, Hop Rye Porter, at Mahaffey's in Canton 5 PM on Thursday the 1st.

We are partway through Cask Ale Appreciation Week in the UK.  Of course, Pratt Street Ale House is marking the occasion with a week of specials.

Judge's Bench in Ellicott City marks its third anniversary this Friday, with a firkin of Heavy Seas Big DIPA being tapped at 5 PM and $3 personal pizzas.

I think a couple other places are supposed to have firkins on Friday, including Alonso's and Muggsy's Mug House, as well as the usual weekly firkin at Metropolitan on Thursday. 

Max's Downsizes

More on the Scottish beer tastings, etc. later, but for now, just so you're not caught by surprise:

Max's Taphouse has finally begun their long-planned tap expansion project.  The bad news for now is that this takes out ALL the draft lines in the back bar, leaving only the 24 drafts along the bar plus the five cask handpumps.

Still good beer.  Just not as much of it on draft, for now.  Expect the "drought" for two weeks or so.

30 March 2010

New Beer Shop in Salisbury

Press release in to my inbox.  The Eastern Shore in general has often been a good-beer wasteland; I remember blundering into Corrbin's, a gourmet shop with good beer, in downtown Salisbury years ago, but that has long been gone.....

On Saturday, March 27th at 11:30AM, over 70 people from the Salisbury area gathered to celebrate the Grand Opening & Ribbon cutting of the Specific Gravity Bottle Shop- the second component of the Specific Gravity Pizzeria & Bottle Shop. Located near Salisbury University at the corner of South Division and E. College Ave (105 E. College Ave. Salisbury, MD), the brand-new store offers a variety of libations including craft brews [including Evolution, brewed nearby], first rate liquors and specialty wines.
John and Tom Knorr, co-founders of Evolution, are partners in the store.  See here for another of their projects in town, "SoBo's Wine Beerstro."  

Fells Point Update

I'm about a week behind in posting, but here are some highly useful tips:

1) Final reminder:  Fraoch Heather Ale maker Bruce Williams (whose brewery also produces some terrific session ales) will be at Max's Taphouse tonight.

2) A building on South Broadway at Eastern Boulevard has collapsed, according to some news reports.  This is thoroughly screwing up traffic on Eastern Avenue and South Broadway.  If you are coming down for Bruce tonight, seek alternate routes.  (I often head east on Pratt and turn south on one-way-southbound Wolfe.)

UPDATE:  Emergency demolition underway, the former auto supply building at the southwest corner of Broadway and Eastern.

25 March 2010

Can Someone Help My Friend?

A homebrewing friend of mine, disgruntled with his Dilbert-like job, has told me he has applied for a job with a microbrewery.


Do any professional brewers out there want to talk some sense into this bloke?

24 March 2010

Reminder: Scottish Extreme Beer Brewer at Max's Taphouse Tonight

James Watt, half of the creative/management team of the admittedly eccentric, "hip," and off-beat Scottish brewery BrewDog, will be at Max's Taphouse tonight, along with several of his beers on tap, cask, and in bottles.

To answer the obvious question:  Watt has said that he will have at least limited samples of both his record-setting high-alcohol beers, Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck!, at 32% and 41% respectively.  I believe the bidding starts on eBay momentarily............

No, wait, seriously.  He SHOULD do a silent auction of small samples, to benefit an appropriate charity.  Earthquake relief in Haiti and Chile.

In other news, the Brickskeller in D.C. has scheduled two beer "dinners" (which are usually more tasting events with snacks) with Bruce Williams of Fraoch Heather Ale fame on April 6 and 7, just in case you can't make it to Max's Taphouse to see him there on March 30th or prefer a more formal event and presentation.  Tickets are $35 and are available at www.lovethebeer.com.

Elsewhere tonight, as reported by Baltimore Beer Guy:

Frisco Grille's latest pint night event is happening today (Wednesday) starting at 7 PM.
Delaware's excellent Evolution Brewing will be on hand with a cask conditioned Rise Up Stout as well as the brand spanking new Lot #6 Double IPA, the excellent Lot #3 IPA, the Exile ESB and something called Sprung.

23 March 2010

A Baltimore Beer Drinker Abroad

Folks, a reminder of what disappeared from the collective mass media screens after November 2008, when bringing up the subject repeatedly apparently no longer suited the mainstream media's desires or whims......

Lieutenant Colonel Eric Murphy is an A-10 pilot from Baltimore.
Lt Col Murphy flies with the 104th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from the Maryland National Guard.  In his day job, “Captain” Eric Murphy is a commercial pilot [with United] who flies A320s but today he’s not flying British tourists traveling within the United States.  He’s going to Helmand Province to cover the British “Royal Welsh.”


White Marsh brewer Michael McDonald confirms that Lt. Col. Murphy is, indeed, the Red Brick Station patron that was the inspiration for Murph's Porter, the 6.1% seasonal that occasionally appears on the drafts there, and is part of the Maryland National Guard and test-pilot regular crew that frequents/frequented the brewpub and inspired/instigated the A-10 Warthog IPA, another seasonal/occasional.  {OOPS--see below....]

Judging from where he is now, he probably misses having a good beer.  Keep him, and his comrades, in your thoughts and prayers.

More superlative coverage from Michael Yon here, including three pages on just that one day's visit, including Murphy's return that evening. Michael Yon's blog homepage here.  Hat tip to Instapundit for the lead and link.

Trackback URL

Clipper City/Heavy Seas Events Tonight

Clipper City Heavy Seas beers will feature prominently in three events in Harbor East and Fells Point tonight:

The current featured beer:  Big DIPA, their Double IPA.  A firkin of it will be at Max's Taphouse tonight for their weekly Beer Social.  (Speaking of Max's, don't forget tomorrow is to feature an event from BrewDog of Scotland.....)

A block away, Kooper's Tavern on Thames St. will have a Heavy Seas Pint Night that includes $2.50 Classic Lager & Kooper's Ale, $1 off Loose Cannon and Big DIPA. 9pm-midnight. 

Meanwhile, over at Whole Foods Market on Fleet St.:
Cocktail Party and Silent Auction, Tuesday, March 23, 5-8 pm, Tickets: $10- Food, $15- Food, Wine & Beer;  Kids under 5 are free; All proceeds go to the Whole Planet Foundation. Silent auction items are varied. Menu for the Evening Featuring: Gourmet Hors d’oeuvres with Vegan and Vegetarian options, Sushi and Decadent Desserts, Kid friendly foods, Wine from Bin 604, and Beer from Clipper City Heavy Seas.

Finally, a last reminder (if they haven't sold out already) of their BBQ Party at the brewery this Saturday from 12 to 4; see here for ticket orders ($49; $35 for designated drivers).  Limited to 350 attendees.

21 March 2010

Another firkin at Alonso's

A firkin of Stillwater Stateside Saison will be at Alonso's (on Cold Spring Lane in Roland Park) on Friday, March 26th, presumably being tapped at happy hour.........   so reports Steve Summers of Alonso's.

18 March 2010

One Handsome Beer Glass

The quite attractive glass design, with etched logo, that Brian Strumke has chosen for his Stillwater Artisanal Ales.  Don't let the shape fool you; the glasses hold 12 ounces with a rich and luxurious head, 16 ounces with a thin head, or 18.5 ounces full to the rim.

Strumke said, "That's why I picked them.  I wanted room for lots of head! You can split a 750ml bottle in 2 glasses perfectly."

Brian is just back from Belgium, where he brewed "Vol. 1" of the series "Of Love and Regret" in a small brewery in Beerzel, Belgium. The style, according to Strumke, is "a Belgian Saison Ale brewed with an array of spring botanicals and grassy hops to celebrate the season."  He will be holding another tasting at The Wine Source, the noted liquor store on Elm Avenue in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, from 5 to 7 PM on Friday, March 19th.

Review: Harpoon Island Creek Oyster Stout

Following up on my earlier screeds on oyster stout and my review of Flying Fish's Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout, Nick Green of Harpoon Brewery graciously supplied me with a review bottle of Harpoon's recent 100-barrel Series release, Island Creek Oyster Stout. 

The video below from Harpoon and the Boston Herald shows more on the making of this beer back in January.  Note that the brewer responsible for this beer is Katie Tame, another of an increasing number of female brewers in the trade:


The beer pours bright, dark but not opaque, like a good stout, with a nice brown head.  The nose is that of a classic stout, good roast barley nose with a huge whiff of what resembles sea breeze, with hints of seaweed and salt air (no, I am not being overly dramatic--it smells like the seashore sand.)  The flavor is very dense, a mineral-laden, almost chalky stout with just a hint of sweetness in a medium roast.  The body and mouthfeel are ridiculously thick and creamy, especially for a beer that's only 5.5%.  There's a thick mineral component to this, like salt without the salty taste, or fish minus the "fishy" oily taste.  It's possibly the most complex beer flavor profile I've had of late aside from more brazenly spiced or fruited beers.  Would I know it was an oystered beer if I hadn't been told?  Maybe not, but it definitely has all the characteristics one asks of an oyster stout, and then some.  If I were trying to make this beer, I'd want a touch more residual sugars to balance out the dryness of the stout's roast and emphasize the ale character, but all in all it's an excellent example of the style and an excellent beer.

The resident sea otters here, including Gilligan, a refugee from the Gilded Otter brewpub in New Paltz, NY, agree wholeheartedly.  <:-) 

Sadly for them, Green reports that this beer was a fast seller, and only a few stray bottles remain on shelves in the Maryland market.  Grab one if you see it.


(Label art courtesy of Harpoon)

Off Topic: The Wonderful World of the Internet and Publishing Today

So I have an idea for a particular story/article for a beer magazine.

I go to the website for one particular beer-centric publication (name withheld for now--let's just say it has the word "beer" in the name).  They happen to have a "Submit a Story" page on their website.

Here's what the directions say:
  • To submit the story or an idea, send an e-mail to [e-mail address].
  • Then this:
"Terms of Acceptance: By posting or submitting any materials (including but not limited to any remarks, ideas, graphics, photos, comments, product concepts, advertising concepts or ideas, and suggestions for improving or changing existing content) to this Site, you automatically grant (or warrant that the owner of such rights has expressly granted) to [publishing house] a royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual and irrevocable worldwide right and license to use, reproduce, modify, publish and distribute such materials or incorporate such materials into any form or technology now known or later developed, and you waive any moral rights you may have in having the material altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you. You further grant [publishing house] a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to use your name in connection with the Submitted Content, and to use the Submitted Content for editorial, advertising and promotional purposes."    
The translation of this legalese: If you send it to them, they own it.  Note that there's nothing about paying a writer or photographer.

  • Required in the e-mail: Your name, address, contact information, anything they may need to know about who you work for, etc.;  "1. Detailed description of story;  2. Story itself copied and pasted to the body of your email plus 72 dpi supporting images in the following file formats: jpg, tiff, gif, png, pdf, eps, ai, PSD. No files in excess of 8mb."
Now, to recap:  In order for them to consider your proposed story idea, you have to send them the entire thing, which they then own outright.  My wife--an artist with lots of experience in intellectual property rights--just looked this over, and said "What the [bleep]?!?"  

Now, there exists the possibility that this is just a VERY sloppily written submission page, which preemptively covers every possible contingency, including press releases and letters to the editor, but inadvertently lays claim to anything submitted to them.  Maybe what they meant was you should send them either the story outline OR the story itself.  But if this is how competently they assemble what is effectively a legal notice, how well will they assemble the content of their magazine?

Sheesh.

The Latest Salvo in the Strength Wars: 45% from Holland

From the Washington City Paper blog:
Alcohol content has little to do with a beer’s quality, but hey, just as some guys need red convertibles to compensate for their, um, inadequacies, some brewers need a ridiculously large ABV in their beers. The latest entrant into this silliest of arms races is the Dutch brewery Brouwerij en Distilleerderij, makers of Obilix, a 45-ABV beer that promises to taste like… alcohol. How could it not?
Here is the company's Dutch website as rendered by Google's translation engines.....  the company is basically a distillery that uses beer as a base rather than just malt, and produces a hopped beer whisky (what you might have seen as "beer schnapps"), a juniper-infused whisky (gin), and this beer called Obilix......

The funny part?

If you go to the "pricelist" page (prices in euros, so thus far their stuff at >$20 a 500-ml bottle is coming off as more affordable than the $65 a 330-ml bottle BrewDog was asking for mail-order Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck), Google mistranslates "strongest beer in the world" as "worst beer in the world"....................

Some Middling Progress on Direct Wine Shipping?

It's like watching the progress of a glacier, but here's an update from the Maryland Politics blog at the Baltimore Sun on at least some token, middling legislative "progress" on direct booze wine shipments in Maryland.

17 March 2010

Calling All Scottish Ale Fans: BrewDog and Williams/Heather Ale at Max's

Straight from the e-mails from Max's Taphouse:

MEET THE BREWER FROM THE BREWDOG BREWERY
WED MARCH 24, 2010
6PM

BREW DOG PINT NIGHT, WITH JAMES WATT, BREWER
MEET JAMES WATT, BREWER/OWNER OF THE BREWDOG BREWERY FROM SCOTLAND

 We will be featuring these beers:
ON CASK:
Paradox Smokehead
Paradox Springbank  (Both aged in whisky casks)

ON DRAFT:
Tokio  (18.2% a.b.v.!)
Zeitgeist
Punk IPA
Hardcore IPA
5am Saint
Brew Dog/Stone Bashah

IN BOTTLES:
Atlantic IPA
Brew Dog/Stone Bashah
Chaos Theory
Brew Dog/Mikkeller Divine Rebel
Dogma
Paradox Islay
Paradox Glen Grant
Paradox Macallan
Paradox Port Dundas
Paradox Smokehead
Paradox Speyside
Riptide
Storm

These guys make some really great beers and may have a few special beers to taste , you never know. See you All next Wednesday.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________---
ALSO

MEET THE BREWER/OWNER OF HEATHER ALES AND WILLIAMS BROS. ALES.

MEET BRUCE WILLIAMS BREWER /OWNER OF HEATHER ALES FROM SCOTLAND.
TUESDAY MARCH 30, 2010
6PM.

WE WILL BE FEATURING THESE BEERS:

ON CASK:
MIDNIGHT SUN
JOKER
SESSION ALE
SCOTTISH HEAVY
ALBA

IN BOTTLES:
FRAOCH HEATHER ALE
ALBA (Scots Pine Ale)
EBULUM (Elderberry Black Ale)
GROZET (Gooseberry Wheat Ale)
KELPIE (Seaweed Red Ale)
FRAOCH 20TH ANNIVERSARY ALE

These guys have been making historic ales for 20 years.  This is a great time to meet one of Scotland's best brewers.
We will be meeting at the main bar due to the amount of casks.

More on Maryland's Weird Alcohol Laws

Not that Maryland has a lock on such oddness, mind you, but here's an article from MarylandReporter.com that runs down some of the bizarre stuff in Maryland's alcohol laws:
From beer tastings in Washington County and a wine festival in Garrett, from caterer's licenses in Somerset to micro-breweries around the state, there are 68 bills relating to minute changes in alcohol regulation making their way through the General Assembly this year.
Most only affect one jurisdiction, like a bill for a dance hall license in Prince George's County, or even parts of a jurisdiction, such as the closing hours for bars in downtown Baltimore and the percentage of food restaurants with liquor licenses can sell in Baltimore's upscale Harbor East.
"It's a very complicated area," said Sen. George Della, a Baltimore Democrat. "There are only a few people that understand the law."
Della is one of them and gets phone calls from other attorneys to ask him to explain the process. Half the city's 1600 liquor licenses are in his district, which covers some of the oldest parts of south and east Baltimore.
This year he has a bill to lower from 65 percent to 60 percent the percentage of food that eateries in certain precincts of the revitalized southeastern neighborhoods must sell to keep their licenses. The law was set up "to prevent them from turning into these mega bars," Della said. This could put the neighborhood taverns peppering scores of street corners out of business. But in the current economy, people are spending less and restaurants are hurting, so Della says the change could give eateries more flexibility.
Much more at the link.

Washington Post's March Beer Madness

Right here, complete with brackets.  This year, they've gone international, instead of having only American beers--which explains the dearth of local beers (only The Raven is "local").

16 March 2010

Your Guide for Green Beer Day

IRISH BEER TROUBLESHOOTING GUIDE
SYMPTOM
CAUSE
CORRECTIVE ACTION
Feet cold and wet 
Glass Being held at incorrect angle.
Rotate glass so that open end points toward ceiling 
Feet warm and wet 
Improper Bladder Control
Stand next to nearest dog, complain about lack of house training 
Beer unusually pale and tasteless 
a. Glass empty.

b. You're holding a Coors Lite
Get someone to buy you another beer 
Opposite wall covered with fluorescent lights
You have fallen over backward.
Have yourself leashed to bar 
Mouth contains cigarette butts, back of head covered with ashes 
You have fallen forward
See above 
Beer tasteless, front of your shirt is wet 
a. Mouth not open

b. Glass applied to wrong part of face
Retire to restroom, practice in mirror 
Floor Blurred 
You are looking through bottom of empty glass
Get someone to buy you another beer 
Floor moving 
You are being carried out
Find out if you are being taken to another bar 
Room seems unusually dark 
Bar has closed
Confirm home address with bartender. If staff is gone, grab a six-pack to go and hit the nearest fire escape door. Run 
Taxi suddenly takes on colorful aspect and textures 
Beer consumption has exceeded personal limitations
Cover mouth, open window, stick head outside 
Everyone looks up to you and smiles 
You are dancing on the table
Fall on someone cushy-looking 
Beer is crystal-clear 
It's water! Somebody is trying to sober you up
Punch him 
People are standing around urinals, talking or putting on makeup 
You're in the ladies' room
Do not use urinal! Excuse yourself, exit and try the next door down the hall. Try to get phone numbers (optional) 
Hands hurt, nose hurts, mind unusually clear 
You have been in a fight
Apologize to everyone you see, just in case it was them 
Don't recognize anyone, don't recognize the room you're in 
You've wandered into the wrong party
See if they have free beer 
Your bedroom is painted gray, has a concrete floor and an interesting steel door. Toilet may be conveniently located next to your bunk 
a. You're in jail

b. You're in the navy
Sleep it off, you can always get out tomorrow. Don't talk to your new roommate, and under no circumstances sleep on your stomach 
You are dancing to a Village People song, and your partner is wearing leather chaps 
You're in a gay bar
Keeping your back to the wall, edge toward nearest exit. Do not accept offers for backrubs 
Your singing sounds distorted 
The beer is too weak
Have more beer until your voice improves 
Don't remember the words to the song 
Beer is just right
Play air guitar

National Amateur Drunk/Green Beer Day

What I used to do on St. Patrick's Day:
Work for a day in J. Patrick's Irish Pub in Locust Point, being a combination of pint-puller, keg-roller, and security.  (Steel-toe boots mandatory; handcuffs in back pockets optional.)

(How real an "Irish pub" is J. Patrick's?  One year, I spied a young woman adding blue food dye to her Harp to produce a green beer.  As she went "Wooooo!" and others averted their eyes at the travesty, I politely took her arm, put down her beer, said "C'mon, out.  Out, out, out!" and pushed/dragged her out the front door.
The spectators cheered me.  We let her back in, but our point had been made.)

What I intend to do tomorrow:
Hide.  Hide more.  Then make my way to The Barns of Wolf Trap for a concert by Scotland's greatest folk music band, Battlefield Band.  At least Wolf Trap has some decent beer--and I'll wager none of it will be green.

Vote for your favorite bartender

Bthesite.com, the website for the freebie tabloid "b" (affiliated with the Baltimore Sun) is running an "Ultimate Baltimore Bartender" contest, with voting through Friday.

Bartenders from several noted Baltimore beer bars are in the running.  Let the ballot box jamming begin.

(Though they listed Ryleigh's as a "Brew Pub"..............  duh.......)

15 March 2010

Congressional Bill Proposes Cutting Beer Excise Tax For Microbrewers In Half

Who says that Congress is always about bleeding its constituents dry with taxes?

Not this article (which, we shall point out, is not written by a media reporter but by Brewers Association founder and homebrew author/guru Charlie Papazian, who obviously has his own agenda in mind and at work):

The small brewer tax rate was established in 1976 and has never been updated. Since then the annual production of America's largest brewery increased from about 45 million to 107 million barrels (300 million globally). The ceiling defining small breweries is 2 million barrels.
H.R. 4278, a bill introduced in December 2009 by Democrat Representative Richie Neal (MA) and Republican Representative Kevin Brady (TX) would redefine the ceiling defining a small brewery and reduce the beer excise tax for small brewers from $7 to $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels of beer production.  It would also reduce the tax on beer production between 60,001 and 2 million barrels by $2, from $18 to $16.  All brewers large or small would pay the full current rate of $18 on any beer produced over 2 million barrels in any given year.
Go to the article to review the pro-bill propaganda rehashed there.

Anyone taking bets on whether a pro-business, tax-reduction bill stands a chance in this current political climate and Congress?

Stillwater Ales at Max's tomorrow

From the Max's e-mail:
This Tuesday we are proud to be serving the first beer from Stillwater Ales. Stillwater Artisanal Ales is a brand new brewery in Maryland.We will be serving Stateside Saison on draft.  This beer has a hazy gold color , creamy head:tastes of white wine, citrus, passion fruit, mild funk, dry and has a delicate bitterness. It uses European malts, fresh hops from New Zealand and the US with a farmhouse yeast.
If you missed it at Max's Belgian Fest, here's another chance. 

Pratt Street Ale House, Annapolis? UPDATED

Well, maybe they'd have to change the name to a different street..........

Baltimore Sun blogger Sam Sessa is reporting that Pratt Street Ale House owner Justin Dvorkin is eyeballing the potential acquisition of the former Riordan's on Market Square in Annapolis, closed in July 2007.

An Annapolis Capital article from March 2008 details the structural problems the building had, leading (allegedly) to the business's closing.  More on that closing here.

Anyone want to report on the current state of that building?

UPDATE: Another article here.

14 March 2010

How Hard Should You Want What You Can't Get?

On one regional e-mail group recently, someone asked if there were a place where he could get a certain unobtainable-in-this-area beer, because, as he said, "I need to try this beer."  (Said beer was supposedly on one of those "BeerIsHolyAndMighty.com" website's Top Ten list or something.)

I responded, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, "No.  You WANT to try this beer.  Unless you're being paid to review or report on the beer, or people are holding your family hostage until you drink it, you don't need to drink any specific beer."  This, of course aroused a storm of unappreciative responses from the humor-impaired on the list.

Every good-beer bar and liquor store manager will tell you:  You can stock 1,520 different beers, and the beer aficionados STILL come in asking for #1,522, #1,649, and #1,737.   Why bother?  It's almost not worth the aggravation.

Think about this for now:

The entire controversy in Philadelphia with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and several beer bars came about, no matter what boneheaded overreactions the police and PLCB pulled, because a couple bars were pouring beers that weren't legally available in Pennsylvania--AND it was being openly discussed, if not promoted.

(One of the bars, Resurrection Ale House, was given a keg of  Brewer's Art Resurrection by said brewery as a sort of "housewarming present."  No money changed hands, but I was asked not to mention that fact, lest it get the place in trouble, and I did not.  The bar still got an official warning from the PLCB over that keg, apparently in part because other folks blabbed.)

They wouldn't have gotten the stuff (and violated the law, as specious as the law and bureaucracy may be) if they didn't have folks asking for the stuff, or willing to pay (probably dearly) for it.  And it's probable the customers knew darn well that they were getting beers that weren't officially approved for sale in the commonwealth.

Aren't we beer geeks making bar and liquor store managers' lives miserable enough without asking for the other galaxies when we already have the moon and the stars?  It's not like we're asking them to carry locally-made beer when all they have is industrially-produced lagers.  It's not the famous "Cheese Shop" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus.  It's as if they're taking the trouble to stock extra-special herbed goat cheese, and we're asking what breed of goats gave the milk and which state the herbs grew in.

Yes, I love BrewDog's Tokio.  And I'm lucky that a plastic keg of the stuff made it over here for me to sample on draft, and that I can get a bottle or three if the spirit moves me.  But if I couldn't?  There are other beers out there.  LOTS of other good beers.  I'll live.  It's SOOOOOOOO much better than the day when Sam Adams was considered a "microbrewery."

12 March 2010

Philadelphia and the PLCB: The Blowback Continues.......

The fallout from the ill-thought-out, ill-executed raids on Memphis Taproom, Local 44, and the Resurrection Ale House in Philadelphia for serving "unregistered" beers continues, and it's pushing as far as Harrisburg, the state capital:

Faced with anger, confusion and disbelief from beer-drinkers and the beer industry, Pennsylvania lawmakers are pressing for an explanation of recent State Police raids on bars and distributors, over allegedly unregistered brands.
The state Liquor Control Board posted a new list of legally registered brands yesterday, including several of the popular beers that were seized last week from three high-end city taprooms.
The liquor-enforcement arm of the State Police has quietly returned some of the confiscated brew to bar owners.
But both agencies continued to dodge questions on the armed raids against the three bars, and the chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee scheduled a hearing in Harrisburg next month to get answers.
"The way things were done, I wasn't happy with," said state Rep. Bob Donatucci, a South Philadelphia Democrat. "We've heard what everybody else has heard, one agency blaming the other, typical BS. . . . I can guarantee you, we're gonna straighten out the problem, one way or the other."
He said his committee and its Senate counterpart, the Senate Judiciary Committee, would hold a joint hearing on the raids April 13.
"We're scared," one bar owner told the Daily News. "I've instructed my staff to match every beer we get delivered with the PLCB's list of registered brands. If it's not on the list, we're not going to take delivery."
Sources told the Daily News that several beer distributors in other parts of the state had been visited by State Police in search of unregistered beer.
More at the link.

Tax Increase or Not?

The Washington Post seems skeptical that Maryland's legislature will actually follow through with a massive proposed tax increase, thanks to the liquor industry lobby.

The article's comments seem to indicate that a lot of Washington Post readers are virulently pro-taxation.

The Latest Weird Beer Concoction

From a DuClaw e-mail announcing firkins to be tapped at the three DuClaw locations on March 26th, their return to Firkin Fridays:

At Arundel Mills that date:

1. Cinnamon Vanilla Sawtooth
2. Peppermint Infused Imperial Chocolate Rye Porter
Ohhhhhhh-kaaay...........

11 March 2010

Just DON'T DROP THE GROWLER, dammit!!!!!

For no particularly good reason (a long story), I ended up calculating the cost of BrewDog's recent ├╝berbiers, Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck!

£457.14 (approximately $743) a gallon, retail in the UK.

Md. Wine-Shipping Bill Not Dead Yet?

So says the All We Can Eat blog at the Washington Post:

Legislation to allow Maryland residents to have wine shipped directly to their homes is still alive in the state Legislature, but on life support – and proponents lost a main advocate last week when the head of a citizens group pushing for direct shipping resigned abruptly.
Adam Borden, executive director of Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, resigned Friday afternoon following a three-hour hearing on direct shipping before the state House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee. Borden sent an impassioned e-mail to supporters Monday morning announcing his resignation.
Characteristically, he went down swinging.
"Many in leadership have said that 2010 is NOT the year to debate wine shipping,” Borden wrote. “Why not, I ask you? Because our leaders fear angering what is arguably the most generous political patron in the state at a time that every incumbent Delegate and Senator desperately needs campaign funds.”
Those campaign funds come from wine wholesalers who are adamantly opposed to direct shipping, fearing that such legislation would undermine the traditional alcohol-beverage distribution system put in place upon repeal of Prohibition in the 1930s. Borden estimates direct shipping would account for only about 1 percent of wine sales in Maryland.
Maryland is one of 13 states that prohibit their citizens altogether from having wine shipped directly to their homes from retailers or wineries, and efforts to change the law have been repeatedly stymied in the Maryland Legislature. This year, as I have reported, Borden was hopeful the bill might pass because a majority of legislative members signed on as co-sponsors.
More in the blog post.

How Does a 1,289% Tax Increase Sound?

We all know that the current governmental financial situation, state and federal, is unsustainable.  Yes, among other things, we have to consider raising taxes.

How does a 1,289% increase in your beer taxes sound?

That's the proposal out of Annapolis right now.

A state Senate committee was expected to consider a bill Wednesday that would raise the state tax on beer by twelve-fold.
Lawmakers on both sides of the General Assembly are weighing bills to raise taxes on all types of alcoholic beverages. The measure could add more than $200 million in annual tax revenue to state coffers.
The House of Delegates is slated to hold a hearing on the bill Thursday.
Both the Senate and House legislation would change tax rates from:
• $1.50 per gallon to $10.03 per gallon for distilled spirits [a 669% increase] ;
• 40 cents per gallon to $2.96 per gallon for wine [a 740% increase]; and, 
• 9 cents per gallon to $1.16 per gallon for beer. [That's right: 1,289% increase.]
A chunk of the revenue — 42.25 percent — would go to Maryland’s Medicaid Trust Fund, to help pay for health care of low-income residents. Another 45 percent would be divided evenly among state funds that support people with developmental disabilities, addictions and mental health issues.
The remaining 12.75 percent would go to the state’s general fund, used to fund day-to-day operations and salaries in state agencies.
Nonprofits are urging the passage of the bill to increase funding available for health and mental health care.
“Thousands of children and adults with developmental disabilities languish on waiting lists for services essential for them to live and work in the community,” Cristine Marchard, executive director at the Arc of Maryland, said in a statement.
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce hasn’t taken a position on the bill.
Once again, beer is discriminated against.

You know what to do.

March 9, 2010
Dear Maryland Beer Activists,
The Brewers Association of Maryland has requested that beer enthusiasts take action to oppose legislation seeking to increase the state excise tax on beer and other alcoholic beverages.
____________________________________________________________
Maryland Beer Enthusiasts,
Maryland House Bill 832 and Senate Bill 717 would raise MD beer excise taxes about 12 fold, making MD among the highest alcohol beverage tax states in the country. Consumers would pay up to $4.50 more for a case of beer in Maryland.
Both bills are scheduled for committee hearings in the next two days – time for action is short!
The sponsors are passing this legislation off as a harmless proposal that Marylanders pay an additional “dime a drink” – which certainly sounds reasonable enough. But if you look a little deeper, the true impact could be to increase the cost of a case of beer at retail by about $4.50 per case – anywhere from a 15 to 25 % increase in cost to the consumer.
Also, let’s not forget the inestimable benefit this tax increase will deliver to our good neighbors in Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and DC. Think of all the Marylanders who will flock to those states to buy beer, wine, and liquor – saving fairly large dollars and making sure that all that money goes out of state, and hurting Maryland businesses and jobs. We need to keep the playing field level!
This kind of legislation is more about small business rather than beverage alcohol. Those of us in this industry are an easy target – remember, they call it a “sin tax”! But just because we are an easy target doesn’t make it either right, good business, or even more importantly, good tax policy.
We are collectively just now beginning to emerge from one of the most difficult economic times in our history. This is NOT the time to take this kind of action. Let MD small business get back on its feet, and then let’s look at options for balancing the state budget correctly - with broad based initiatives rather than penalizing any one industry.
Please communicate to your state Delegate and Senator that you oppose these bills:
  1. Click here.
  2. Enter your address and city and hit "Find Elected Officials"
  3. The next screen will give you email links to both your State Senator and Delegates.
  4. Send them an email today! Please be respectful, but tell them what you think!
Thank you,
Brewers Association of Maryland
____________________________________________________________
Thanks for your support of Maryland’s small brewers.

Charlie Papazian
President
Brewers Association

Gary Glass
Director
American Homebrewers Association

10 March 2010

Tentative SPBW Real Ale Fest Beer List

March 20th, noon-5, at Pratt Street Ale House only a scant few of the 110 tickets left:

Arcadia Angler's ale with Goldings
Arcadia IPA with Cascade
Weyerbacher Hops Infusion
Stillwater
Flying Dog Gonzo
Brewer's Art Resurrection infused with Blackberries
Pub Dog Belgian Golden Strong ale
Oliver Hot Monkey Love (pin)
Oliver Oak Aged 3 Lions (pin)
Oliver Mocha Java Porter (pin)

I want the Blackberry Resurrection.  I have a schedule conflict; maybe I can help set up and get a sample then.......

The Latest Bizarre-Ingredient Beer

I swear, in about three weeks, we're going to get press releases looking just like this, only they may or may not be April Fool's jokes.

The latest novelty bottled beer from Dogfish Head, supposedly inspired by the Alstrom Brothers of Beer Advocate:  "Wrath of Pecan," which according to the Alstroms, is "brewed w/ plantains, carob, and pecan-smoked malt."

I think I'll take a trip through the Asian supermarket in Catonsville (you know, the one where you need a passport and an interpreter), grab three random ingredients off the shelf, make a beer from them, and then get someone to interpret the labels for me..............  and then Dogfish or whoever can buy the recipe off of me.

New brewpub in Howard County?

Is Frisco Grille adding a brewing facility to the new location to which they're moving?  That's what it seems to say at Baltimore Beer Guy's blog post about Frisco Grille...........

Just as long as it's not the extract system from the old Rocky Run Tap & Grill up the street. 

Hey, I wonder what happened to the system that was at Bare Bones Ellicott City?

Scottish beer tasting at Max's March 30th

Unofficial, still awaiting 100% confirmation............ 

... but the affable, charismatic Bruce Williams, co-founder of Williams Bros. Brewery and the man behind Fraoch Heather Ale and other "historic ales of Scotland," is tentatively scheduled to be at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore for the Tuesday Beer Social on March 30th, to be followed by a more formal Brickskeller-style beer tasting at the Brickskeller in DC on April 6th.  This info from the importers, subject to final confirmation, but mark your calendars accordingly.

So You Think the Philly Debacle Can't Happen Here?

So you think the Philly Debacle can't happen here?  Just because one state-appointed official happens to be a certified beer geek that celebrated his 1,000th beer at Mahaffey's recently?

Think again.

I went to a liquor store where the owner and I were setting up a beer-tasting dinner (sorry, private event, can't tell you where), where we had to grab the details and planning and make it happen because the primary organizer of the event was currently in hospital in intensive care with pneumonia.  Anyhoo.......

I had the job of going through the Maryland Beverage Journal--the basically official monthly state catalog of which distributors carry what booze products--and finding the stuff we were supposed to order, and finding a few more to possibly  add in at the last moment.  Say someone comes in waxing eloquent about, oh, Clay Pipe Hop-Ocalypse, and wants two cases pronto.  You grab this book, which looks like a small phone book, and all going well, you can find which of 20 or so booze distributors in Maryland carries it (if your customer was smart enough to remember the name Clay Pipe or brought the empty bottle, and isn't just spouting some word nobody can spell), then order two cases, calculating your mark-up from the wholesale price that may (or may not) be listed.

I was looking for specific Scottish and American-made Scottish-style ales.  I already knew the importers for most of them--not as in "know who imports them," but as in "know them personally."

Here are some things I found:
  • I found Scottish-made beers listed in "Domestic."  I found American beers listed in "Imported." 
  • I found several beers that were listed by their names and not by their brewery (think "Colossus" instead of "DuClaw", or "Hopocalypse" instead of "Clay Pipe").
  • I found that, apparently, Old Dominion and Fordham no longer exist in Maryland, if that "official" publication is to be believed.
  • I found one brewery not listed in the official directory as being distributed by the distributor, in spite of the brewer himself telling me "Well, they just made a pick-up here, so...." on the phone.
That was a total of maybe only five minutes perusing the pages for *very* specific products.  I wonder what would have happened if I had looked at Belgians.  Or special releases.  Or, hell, looked up BrewDog and tried to order Tactical Nuclear Penguin.  Oh, and by the way?  I tried like hell to search online to find the Maryland distributor for BrewDog.  As far as that information online, it must be a classified secret.  (You can find out in the MBJ--it's a wine distributor.)


I was then told by a rep for one of these distributors, "The Journal is a great joke book.  Don't even try to find most of the Belgians.  They don't bother listing the stuff.  What they do is, if you're interested in the stuff, like Max's or the Brewer's Art or the gastro pubs would be, they have that little line in the listing that says 'Belgians: call so-and-so for availability.'  And B. United's guy will come around with a list that looks like a small phone book that goes thud on your desk."

Another funny part?  "Every once in a while, we get in a few cases from overseas we didn't even know were coming over.  We have no problem selling every drop of it, however.  The old guard places that have been doing craft beer for decades, we call them up and ask if they want X number of cases, and they're happy to get anything we hand them, they understand the limited quantities.  The new guys, they're the ones that get peeved and think you're jerking them around  when you won't sell them twice as much as arrived in the warehouse!"

Now, is an "official catalogue" like that a potential recipe for disaster?  What must the official state roster of registered beers in Maryland look like?  (But at least no one's trying to sell Russian River Consecration here that I know of.)

The PLCB Monkey Business Continues in Philadelphia.....

They went after a distributor yesterday.

Pennsylvania State Police have staged another beer raid, confiscating about a dozen cases from a leading distributor in Northeast Philadelphia and ordering it to stop selling several well-known imports, including Duvel, a popular Belgian beer sold throughout the Philadelphia region.
Agents from the State Police Department's Bureau of Liquor Code Enforcement (BLCE) descended Monday night on Origlio's Beverage, a wholesale distributor in the Far Northeast whose primary brands include Coors and Yuengling.
The police seized about a dozen cases from a small California beermaker, Russian River Brewing Co., and ordered Origlio's to stop selling Duvel and other beers, including Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner and Monk's Cafe Ale, developed in Belgium for the Philadelphia bar at 16th and Spruce streets.
As in armed raids conducted last week against three Philadelphia taprooms, the State Police alleged that the targeted beers were not properly registered with the state Liquor Control Board for sale in Pennsylvania - a process involving limited paperwork and a $75 fee.
The sketchy evidence available suggests that several of the beers in fact had been properly registered, and related liquor taxes had been paid.
But apparent miscommunication between the Liquor Control Board and the State Police has left the state's investigators with only a foggy notion of what's registered and what isn't. The State Police proceeded with the latest raid in spite of the confusion.
"This is really an outrage," said a local bar owner who missed his Duvel delivery yesterday. "The state doesn't understand that Duvel actually is registered and has been sold here for years and years. It's almost unbelievable."
 Continue to monitor the news from the three intrepid Philly bloggers listed to the right: Jack CurtinLew Bryson, and Don Russell, and also Lew Bryson's long-running anti-PLCB blog . . . . .

. . . .  because, you know, we might look at this and shake our heads and laugh and say "whatta buncha mo-roooooons!"........  while at the same time, some busybody bureaucrats in Annapolis, a city/county office, or whatever, will see this and be inspired, and the next thing you know, Max's or The Wine Source are closed for three days while officials take inventory against a thoroughly fusterclucked official inventory list.......   and if you don't believe me, look at the fact that, in spite of overwhelming support for the concept, the booze industry STILL couldn't get a bill for direct wine shipments out of committee.  (More on that here and here.)

09 March 2010

SPBW at Metropolitan this Thursday

Yep, that means instead of one Thursday firkin, Metropolitan in Federal Hill have two:


The first firkin will be Three Spires Ale from Oliver Breweries, Ltd. of Baltimore, Maryland.  Three Spires is a "generously hopped golden ale" at 5.0%.

The second firkin will be 
Charlotte's West Coast Amber Ale from White Marsh Brewing/Red Brick Station in White Marsh, Maryland.  Charlotte's is a 5.5% amber ale that, in West Coast style, is aggressively hopped with American hops but balanced with creative use of malts .
Both beers will be available for $3 a pint in the Upstairs Bar starting at 6:00 pm.

Membership in the organization secures benefits such as door prizes.  Go to www.spbw.org for info.

08 March 2010

Why I don't have an iPhone

Or a Blackberry, or whatever snazzy web- or application-equipped phone is hot this week/month.....

This just in to the Beer in Baltimore newsroom:

MillerCoors, the second largest beer company in the U.S., has launched a new iPhone application called Tip ‘n Spin in time for March Madness. The new application provides a unique, fun experience for basketball fans by allowing them to compete and earn points by balancing a basketball on a Miller Lite bottle with their iPhone. . . . 
No need for me to read any further, thanks.

Your Growler is Illegal in Baltimore City!

So, in the wake of the latest PLCB nonsense up in Philadelphia, we have late-breaking action on another query in Baltimore, prompted by a call from a Washington Post reporter:  Is your growler illegal?

Technically, yes.  Still.

In spite of brewpub regulations in Maryland that require a brewpub to sell any "beer to go" in a resealable growler, a careful review of the Baltimore City liquor regulations reveals this fascinating bit of legal arcanum, according to Baltimore Liquor Board chairman Steve Fogleman:  It is illegal for an alcohol serving establishment in Baltimore City to reuse or refill any alcohol container [his emphasis].  Fogleman pledged to get back to me with "chapter and verse" of all the relevant laws.

Now, the intent of this law is plainly and painfully obvious: it's designed to prevent an unscrupulous bar owner from filling a premium-spirits or single-malt bottle with cheap hooch (do you really think the vodka martini crowd can taste the difference between Grey Goose and Popov?) or a classy wine bottle with cheap rotgut.  But at the same time, this completely obliterates the intent of the growler except as a one-time-use vessel.

Fogleman assured me via a phone call that no Baltimore City enforcement efforts were being expended towards whether growlers are an issue, and that any energies towards that would probably be addressed in future legislation to modify the existing laws. 

Left unsettled for the moment, however, were other side issues: whether a brewpub could legally fill a growler with another bar's label on it (may violate the "relabeling" intent of the existing law), or whether a non-brewpub bar or liquor store can fill a growler (you may recall Max's had growlers available for a very short time--and now they barely admit that did have them), or whether attendees of a beer festival could fill growlers with "leftover" beer at the end of a festival (see the SPBW fests).  Unfortunately, the issue is a little less critical than it used to be; only five widely-scattered establishments offer growlers at all in this immediate region, and only two of them are "in" Baltimore: Pratt Street Ale House and Ellicott Mills.  Ellicott Mills has been careful to take back an old growler and swap it out for a previously refilled growler from a special growler cooler, thus neatly "dodging" the legal issue; it's possible the same tack of swapping new for old may come into play at Pratt Street Ale House for the time being........

Previous blogpost by Midnight Sun's Sam Sessa here. 

Also in today's Washington Post online, once again, great minds think alike.

Upcoming Md. Beer Events

Liberally lifted from, and of course brought to you by, the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News' Hop Tips e-newsletter, with edits; you can subscribe yourself here and find out much more in your own e-mail box, and also set your own self-desired geographical locations for news.  (Yes, a lot of the below is Heavy Seas.  That means their PR folks are on the ball, so to speak.  Send me/us your event, and we'll add it to both my blog and the MABN directory if/as space allows.):


Tuesday, March 9th: Growlers of Gaithersburg Beer Tasting – 7pm. Rsvp at 301-519-9400 or info@ growlersbrew.com. www.growlersofgaithersburg.com.
Thursday, March 11th: Free Tasting at Friendship Wine in Abingdon – Sample your favorite Heavy Seas beers or try one of their seasonals. 4-7pm. 877-569-7400.
Thursday, March 11th: Beer Dinner at Melting Pot in Annapolis – Enjoy a multi-course meal featuring Heavy Seas beers paired with melted goodness from the Melting Pot. For reservations and menu details contact the restaurant directly. 410-266-8004 or www.meltingpot.com.
Saturday, March 13th: Free Tasting at Beltway Fine Wines, Towson – Stop in and sample some Heavy Seas Beer then pick some up to take home. Noon to 2pm. 410-668-8884.
Saturday, March 20th: St. Patrick’s Pub Crawl in Downtown Silver Spring – Dedicated to promoting all that downtown has to offer, this pub crawl promises to be full of St Patty specials for all crawlers. Meet up at 8pm at Piratz Tavern to pick up your punchcard (though the other establishments should have one in case you miss Piratz), get a stamp at each of the participating restaurants, return to Piratz Tavern with proof, and receive your honorary t-shirt. So far, participating establishments include: Quarry House Tavern, Jackies, Langano Ethiopian Restaurant, Eggspectation, Planet Bollywood, Nicarro, Olazzo, and Piratz Tavern. 301-588-9001 or www.piratztavern.com.
Saturday, March 20th: Microbrew Beer Tasting – Roots Market will be pouring beer from at least 4 brewerys. No charge, just a few sips, but you'll know right away if you like it, and they'll have plenty on hand for purchase. No promises, but they may even get Mr.Tupper to pour his newly re-released Hop Pocket Ale. Roots Market, 16800 Georgia Avenue, Olney, MD 301-774-1344 or www.rootsmkt.com.
Saturday, March 20th: SPBW March Real Ale Festival – The Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood will hold another Real Ale Festival at Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore. $35 in advance -- limited to 110 "Lucky Souls". Noon to 5pm. 410-244-8900 or www.prattstreetalehouse.com.
Tuesday, March 23rd: Heavy Seas Pint Night – Visit Kooper's Tavern in Fells Point, Baltimore for a Heavy Seas Pint Night that includes discounted prices on your favorite beers. $2.50 Classic Lager & Kooper's Ale, $1 off Loose Cannon and Big Big DIPA. 9pm-midnight. 410-563-5423 or www.hsbeer.com/pint-night-koopers-balt-md.
Saturday, March 27th: Heavy Seas Real Ale and BBQ Fest – This event features the best of Heavy Seas cask ales with special one-of-a-kind firkins. 12 taps plus firkins and behind-the-scenes access to the brewery. Enjoy all the BBQ and sides you like from Baltimore's best restaurants and live music. Noon to 4pm. $49 or $35 designated driver. 410-247-7822 or www.ccbeer.com.
Thursday, April 1st: Letter of Marque Release Party – Congratulations to Frank and Neil, winners of the 2009 Heavy Seas Letter of Marque Competition! Join them and the Mahaffey’s crew for an old-fashioned block party to celebrate the release of their Hop Rye Porter, which they brewed alongside the Heavy Seas brewmaster. 5-7pm. 410-276-9899 or www.mahaffeyspub.com.
Friday, April 9th and Saturday, the 10th: Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival – Join in at the Timonium Fairgrounds for a great day of beer sippin’, bourbon tastin’, music listenin’, cigar smokin’, and barbeque eatin’. 60 beers, 40 bourbons, and lots of bbq. Your admission buys you a sampling glass to enjoy an all-you-can-taste sampling of beer and bourbon. Some of the best bbq vendors on-site if you get hungry all while enjoying seminars in the tasting theater and live music all day. Tickets and more details at http://beerandbourbon.com/matyland/show-info.

More on the PLCB Busts in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Daily News presents more details on the story we reported on a couple of days ago:

The alleged offense: Although the bar owners had bought the beer legally from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and had paid all the necessary taxes, the police claimed that nobody had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board - a process that requires the brewers or their importers to pay a $75 registration fee for each product they want to sell in Pennsylvania.
Based on a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify, three teams of officers converged last Thursday on the three bars, run by Leigh Maida and her husband, Brendan Hartranft. Checking their inventories against the state's official list of more than 2,800 brands, the cops seized four kegs and 317 bottles, totaling 60.9 gallons of beer, according to police calculations.
In fact, according to Maida, more than half the beer removed by the State Police was properly registered - but the cops couldn't find it on their lists because of "clerical errors" or "blatant ineptitude" between the police and the Liquor Control Board, with whom the officers were conferring by telephone.
She estimated the total value of the confiscated stock at $7,200, representing about 20 brands, some of which go by multiple names.
For instance, the cops grabbed Monk's Cafe Sour Flemish Red Ale.
The beer has been sold throughout the state at dozens of restaurants and distributors for the last seven years. The brand appears on the state's online list as "Monk's Caf├ę Ale." It's on tap seven days a week at the Center City bar after which it was named: Monk's Cafe, at 16th and Spruce streets.
But that wasn't enough to keep the State Police from confiscating 20 bottles and three kegs of the supposedly illegal ale at the three bars run by Maida and Hartranft - Resurrection Ale House, at 2425 Grays Ferry Ave.; Local 44, at 44th and Spruce streets, in West Philadelphia; and Memphis Taproom, 2331 E. Cumberland St., Port Richmond.
Maida said that the State Police also confiscated bottles of Duvel, a popular ale imported from Belgium that is widely advertised and available in at least 200 bars throughout the city and suburbs. The beer appears on the PLCB list as "Duvel Beer," while its label reads "Duvel Belgian Golden Ale."
"No actual investigating was done," Maida said in an e-mail to the Daily News. "The police sent a shoddily typed list to the PLCB, some drone fed it into the machine verbatim and returned what came back, without . . . even trying to offer us the benefit of the doubt by double-checking on some of the so-called unregistered beers."
While acknowledging that it appears that some of the confiscated brands had not been properly registered, Maida said that about half appeared on the state's registration list in some form.
"My main beef with this whole convoluted situation is that the PLCB is the sole regulator of a set of products that they do not even know the names of," she said.
There's a Maryland angle to this as well:

La Torre noted that Resurrection had been warned last year when it served an unregistered beer from Maryland - Resurrection Ale, made by Brewer's Art, in Baltimore. Maida acknowledged that violation - the beer had been a gift in honor of their new business, she said, but the resulting citation made the couple extra-careful about compliance with the Liquor Board's rules, she said.
La Torre said that the investigation was sparked by "a citizen complaint."
"It doesn't matter where the complaint is coming from," he said. "If there is merit to the complaint, we have to follow through with it. . . . We received a complaint regarding the licensee bringing in unregistered beers and we confirmed with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board that certain brands were not registered."
Francesca Chapman, a PLCB spokeswoman, said that the registration requirement helps the state assure payment of state beer taxes and helps prosecutors identify alcoholic beverages in drunk-driving cases or any other type of prosecution.
Industry sources complain that brand registration is typical of the onerous regulations that make selling beer in Pennsylvania difficult. For example, while it is the responsibility of the brewer or importer to submit the necessary paperwork and registration fee, it is the tavern or restaurant licensee who may be liable for selling unregistered brands, they said.
Registration is further complicated by the growth of under-the-radar one-offs: unique, limited-production, highly sought-after draft beers that appear briefly - perhaps as quickly as an hour - on tavern taps. While they pay the necessary state and federal taxes, breweries sometimes do not bother to register the brands because they are produced in extremely small amounts.
Among the brands that the State Police reportedly sought during its raid was Pliny the Younger, recently named the No. 1 beer in the world by Beer Advocate, a popular online beer-rating site. The ale is made once a year by Russian River Brewing, in California.
Last month, about a dozen small kegs of the beer arrived in Philadelphia amid much hoopla. Several taverns, including the three operated by Maida and Hartranft, advertised specials for as much as $25 a glass.
In most cases, the kegs kicked in less than an hour.
Although it had been registered for sale in the past, Pliny the Younger currently does not appear on the state's list of registered brands.
In an e-mail to the Daily News, Russian River owner Vinnie Cilurzo wrote: "It was a simple mistake on our part that we forgot to register some brands with the state of PA. We are a small mom and pop brewery and every once in a while something slips through the cracks."
But apparently not just small breweries have failed to register brands. Heineken-owned Hacker-Pschorr, one of the largest breweries in Munich, does not appear on Pennsylvania's registration list, though it is widely sold throughout the state.
Read the whole darn thing.  Especially the comments.

Folks, this is what you're supposed to appreciate in a place like Max's, Perfect Pour, Grand Cru, Wells, or the like.Can you imagine, say, someone confiscating an entire inventory of vintage Thomas Hardy's or J.W. Lees Harvest Ale because they can't find specific years on the list?  Can you imagine that it costs these brewpubs or breweries or distributors $75 every time someone comes up with a new name for a beer, or decides to age some in different wooden casks, or bottle-condition a particular beer?  What if they had an issue with, say, Brewer's Art changing the recipe for the Zodiac Pale Ale every month?  Bring in a couple  cases of Pliny the Younger or anything else legally, and you're charging nearly a buck a bottle just to register the name.

We just happen to be lucky enough that the state-appointed official in charge of Baltimore City's liquor licensing board, Steve Fogleman, is a dyed-in-the-wool beer geek and enthusiast that can tell the difference between, say, the three different Chimay beers.  It only takes one little bit of political malfeasance or misfortune to change that situation, and we could end up with a self-righteous neo-Prohibitionist in his place.

So..... you may wonder why Baltimore was selected on some publication's "Top 24 23 beer cities of the world" list, but Philadelphia wasn't?   I have an idea...................

07 March 2010

UPS Says They Will Ship Wine, But NOT Beer?!?

From Friday's Idaho Statesman of Boise:

Boise-based Internet beer retailer Brewforia.com may have to give up the Internet part of the business now that United Parcel Service has decided to stop delivering beer to Brewforia's customers.
This is after about 18 months of UPS making beer deliveries to customers in 34 states with no problems, Brewforia owner Rick Boyd said.
Everything was cool until UPS told Boyd in October he needed a specific contract to distribute beer to other retailers - even though he was selling directly to customers.
By February, UPS reps told him they weren't going to deliver Brewforia products anymore - no matter if a state allows such deliveries direct to consumers or not - and were not going to offer a contract.
Not that it would make a difference - UPS' Web site says "UPS does not accept shipments of beer or alcohol for delivery to consumers." UPS does allow direct shipments of wine, however.
Boyd said he was open with UPS from the beginning in 2008, telling them exactly what his business entailed. Boyd said UPS reps told him as long as someone of legal drinking age signed for the products, the deliveries were fine.
Susan Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for UPS, said if the company was making deliveries for Brewforia, it was in error, because UPS only approves beer deliveries between licensed businesses.
"He needs to seek an alternate vendor," Rosenberg said, explaining that once UPS officials determined what Brewforia was doing, they stopped delivery.
Boyd is trying to get a deal done with FedEx, but says the same issues remain and doesn't expect to get a contract with them, either.
Both companies continue to ship wine for Internet-based wine merchants like Wine.com, however.
When asked why UPS will deliver wine and not beer, Rosenberg said "that has just been a policy that we have had. It's a program where our focus has been working with a number of licensed wine shippers."
"For right now, UPS has chosen policy where beer contracts are for business-to-business shipments."
Rosenberg said the issue is complicated by some states defining wine differently than beer and having different distribution requirements. UPS officials have been working with wine retailers for longer and don't have any immediate plans to revisit their beer policy, Rosenberg said.
If you've read those paragraphs and don't really understand UPS' reasoning, join the club.
 More comments and commentary at the article link.

At best, someone has a contractural misunderstanding.  At worst, We will shortly see the end of any remaining "Beer of the Month" clubs or online retailers.

Not that it's an issue in The People's Democratic Republic of Maryland anyway, where direct booze shipments to residents are barred anyway..... unless you're a Maryland winery shipping to a Maryland address.  (Has any brewery in Md. tried to ship beer anywhere?)

A different way to attract a different kind of "geek" to your bar.....

According to this Cleveland Plain Dealer article, Great Lakes Brewing Co. in downtown Cleveland, which already holds its own quite well in the beer-brewing department, holds monthly forums/programs for science enthusiasts:

Cold beer, warm pretzels and black holes. Just another monthly meeting of the Cleveland Science Cafe in the Great Lakes Brewing Co.'s tasting room.
Nanotechnology, Cleveland's bridges and sleep disorders are a few of the popular topics that local experts have put into layman's terms.
"They make it simple enough for everyone to understand," said Jasmine Patel, a 33-year-old Cleveland Heights woman who attended February's presentation on fingerprints. Like most of the forums, the fingerprint talk drew about 120 people who heard a brief introduction and then engaged the speakers in a question-and-answer session.
While the City Club of Cleveland is nationally known, the Science Cafe -- with its logo depicting a mug of beer, a microscope and a pretzel set before a Cuyahoga River lift bridge -- operates in relative obscurity.
The most popular subjects have been evolution and rocket science, said Darin Croft, a professor with Case Western Reserve's anatomy department and cafe coordinator.

According to the master list at http://sciencecafes.org/, there's a monthly cafe in Rockville, Gaithersburg, DC, Arlington, and Annapolis--but none in Baltimore.  Given that Baltimore has Johns Hopkins University, this is somewhat appalling.

Any science-minded readers interested in starting up one in Baltimore?  Preferably at a beer-friendly place?  Maybe the Max's Mobtown Lounge might be available select dates?

Beer Selling in the Old Days

The Detroit Free Press printed a column by sports commentator Ernie Harwell, finally retiring at age 92, who among other things recounts the beer selling business in Baltimore decades ago:

Working for Gunther Beer in Baltimore, I encountered another bad plan. The ad agency dispatched Herb Carneal and me to various downtown bars. We were to buy a bottle of Gunther, sit and talk about its great taste. A problem arose. Our visits were scheduled for 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. The only bar occupants were lonely drunks and ladies of the evening.
"Sure, you can buy me a drink," one of the barflies told me. "But I don't want no beer. Buy me a whiskey."
The folks at Gunther went back to the drawing board.
My other beer sponsor in Baltimore, National Brewing, missed the target big-time. I had been with the company less than a week when the ad manager invited me to meet some salesman at the famous Oasis, an upholstered sewer in the notorious Baltimore Block. There were dancing girls in this dive and a pasty-faced, emaciated MC named Sid Gray. I chatted with the salesman at minuscule tables surrounding the strippers.
Gray stood and said, "Let me introduce our great Oriole announcer, a man who is doing a fantastic job." (I had been in the city only a few days and was certain that neither Gray nor anybody else had ever heard me broadcast.) "We love him. He is terrific. A big hand for the fabulous Ernie Harwell."
Reluctantly, I rose and took a timid bow. The crowd responded with the enthusiasm of a man in a dentist chair. I sat down as soon as possible. Suddenly to my dismay, Gray was introducing me again. "He is great, folks, just great, Ernie, take another bow." As I stood up again, Gray, with a toothless grin, said, "Sit down, you little so-and-so, nobody wants to look at you."
It was another ad idea gone sour.