30 December 2011

Flying Dog Brewhouse Rarities

Flying Dog recently announced that they were going to be releasing a series of new one-off beers, once a month, in 2012.  They've now announced the planned series:
Introducing Brewhouse Rarities, a series of limited-edition releases crafted by individual brewers here at Flying Dog. 
We'll be releasing twists on the following styles throughout 2012:
  • Imperial Hefeweizen 
  • Black Lager with Cherries 
  • Abbey Dubbel
  • Sour Cherry
  • Red Ale
  • Gose
  • Nut Brown
  • Weizenbock
  • Gruit
  • Belgian Strong
For you locals, the Imperial Hefeweizen will premiere on Thursday, January 5 at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore.  
Not included in the above list is the previously-announced Wildeman, a variation of the Farmhouse IPA, which will arrive in mid-to-late January and become a permanent part of the brewery's portfolio.

By my count, this still leaves one planned release unaccounted for...........

Brewer's Cask is Open.......

Well, kinda sorta.

The new old beer bar in Federal Hill opened for a lunch market yesterday, within minutes of their liquor license being handed to them.  Unfortunately, the draft lines were still being worked on, and the promised cask and beer engine was not set up uet, but they're selling what bottles they have on site--a decent cross-selection of local, national, and international favorites--for $4 a bottle until the drafts are up and running--possibly as early as tonight.

Kitchen's up and running, though.

Penna. Flavor Beer-and-Food Fest in Harrisburg April 28th

You might want to add this to your "to-do" list for 2012, and tickets are already on sale:

The PA Flavor: The Ultimate Beer and Food Pairing will be held Saturday, April 28, 1-5 p.m. at the State Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg, PA.  VIP Admission at 1:00 p.m, General Admission at 2:00 p.m, Event ends at 5 p.m.
PA Flavor: Beer and Food Expo, presented jointly by the Pennsylvania Brewers Guild, the American Culinary Federation and the Department of Agriculture’s PA Preferred Program, is designed to showcase the many unique beer and food offerings in Pennsylvania.
Focusing on Pennsylvania beer and food, this event brings together up to 40 Pennsylvania breweries along with 20 PA Preferred food producers and 20 PA Preferred restaurants in a sampling event for 1500+ attendees.
Attendees will be able to sample from all vendors and be able to purchase take home items from all food producers, as well as sample the numerous beer brewed from around the state and partake in restaurant samples featuring Pennsylvania beer and PA Preferred food items.
Depending on which breweries appear, this may be an excellent opportunity for "one-stop" shopping to sample the range of beers in Pennsylvania without so much driving (but a hotel or motel room afterwards, please).  This may bear watching.

Good Beer Events for New Year's Eve and January UPDATED

Snipped mostly from Mid-Atlantic Brewing News' online Hop Tips Calendar, with a few non-Maryland events thrown in for good measure.

Saturday, December 31st: New Year's in Style at Brewer's Alley, Frederick, MD
Two exciting ways for you to ring in the New Year. Fabulous New Year's Eve Specials that Chef Joe and the gang have put together in the regular dinning areas as well as a 3-course pre-fixe menu in the upstairs Banquet rooms overlook Historic Downtown. Reservations and details at 301-631-0089. www.brewers-alley.com.

Saturday, December 31st: New Year's Eve Bash at Kloby's, Laurel, MD
Ring in 2012 with a firkin of Heavy Seas Smoke on the Water plus many other HS beers on tap. Live music from Dirty Secret, food specials, and more. 8pm-2am. 301-362-1510 or www.klobysbbq.com.

Saturday, December 31st: New Year's Eve at Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia, MD
Special menu at 4pm, live music, complimentary champagne toast. Open 10am-2am. And open New Year's Day. www.victoriagastropub.com.

Saturday, December 31st: New Year's Eve at Ram's Head, all locations
Drink specials from 9pm-1:30am. Live music, party favors, and complimentary beer toast at midnight. .www.ramsheadtavern.com.
 
Saturday, December 31st: New Year's Eve Dinner at KClingers, Hanover, PA
Choose from Roasted Prime Au Jus, Broiled Rockfish Almondine, or Chicken and Crab Stuffed Shells, all with two sides for $20.95, market price, or $16.95, respectively. Or just come for the best local party anywhere -- party favors + champagne toast at midnight for $12, with music by Booker Lee & Co Fair. 717-633-9197 or www.kclingers.com.
 
Saturday, December 31st: New Year's Eve at Belga Cafe, D.C.
Decadent 5-course menu for $79. Reservations an more info at 202-544-0100 or www.belgacafe.com.

Saturday, December 31st: New Year's Eve at Cap City, D.C.
Drink specials, complimentary midnight champagne toast, great food, awesome beer, and watch celebrations from other cities on one of the many large screen tvs. $5 in advance, $10 at the door. 10pm-2am. 202-628-2222 or www.capcitybrew.com.
Monday, January 2nd: Oliver's Pint Night at Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia, MD  featuring The Big D (with limited glassware giveaway), the first release of Winter's Wolves Winter Ale (cask & draft), and Jacob's Winter Celebration, William's Winter Warmer, Hot Monkey Love, BW Rye #2, Draft Punk, Strongman Pale Ale single hop Sorachi Ace and Coventry Cream Ale.  www.victoriagastropub.com
Thursday, January 5th: Scotch Ale Release Party at Ram's Head, all locations
$4 commemorative glassware with $1 each additional pour. 4-6pm. www.ramsheadtavern.com.

Tuesday, January 10th: Heavy Seas Vertical Tasting/Release Party, Max's Taphouse, Baltimore
The Heavy Seas crew will celebrate the annual debut of one of their favorite Mutiny Fleet beers: Siren Noire. Their imperial chocolate stout will be on draft at Max's. They'll also stage a vertical tasting of the barleywine, with four kinds to try (Below Decks 2010, Below Decks 2011, Below Decks Bourbon, and Below Deck Cabernet)! Black Cannon, the brewery's black IPA, will round out the selection; it'll be on draft and in the cask. 6-9pm. 410-675-6297. www.hsbeer.com/vertasting.
Tuesday, January 10th: Bell's Dinner at RFD, Washington D.C.
Five courses and light appetizers. $60 includes tax and gratuity. Tickets at www.lovethebeer.com.

Wednesday, January 11th: Flying Dog Beer Dinner at Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia, MD
Five courses. $85 plus tax and gratuity. 6:30pm. Menu at www.victoriagastropub.com.

Thursday, January 12th: Heavy Seas SPBW Meeting at Liam Flynn's Ale House, Baltimore
A special cask will be on hand for a meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, a group that takes their real ale seriously. Try some Fraoch Abrogod, Heavy Seas Pale Ale cask-conditioned with Northern Brewer hops, heather, and apricot. 5-7pm. 410-244-8447. www.hsbeer.com/liam-flynns.

Tuesday, January 17th: Heavy Seas Pints and Pizza at Johnny Rad's, Baltimore
Black Cannon and Loose Cannon for $3 when you buy a pizza. Bonus: keep your Heavy Seas pint glass with your first beer. 6-9pm. 443-759-6464. www.hsbeer.com/johnny-rads.  

Tuesday, January 17th: Heavy Seas Beer Dinner at Granville Moore's, Washington, D.C.
Teddy and Matt collaborated with HS firkenmeister to design a very special Black Cannon cask to accompany the dinner. 6pm. Details and reservations at 202-399-2546 or www.granvillemoores.com.

Thursday, January 19th: Vintage Beer Dinner with Dogfish Head at Hemingways, Kent Island, MD
$55 includes tax and gratuity. 6pm. Menu and reservations at www.dogfish.com.

Thursday, January 26th: Heavy Seas Beer Dinner at Stanford Grill, Columbia, MD
Join Heavy Seas' founder Hugh Sisson for an exquisite four-course meal. Four of the Mutiny Fleet beers will be served, including Prosit!, Yule Tide, Smoke on Water, and Siren Noire. 6pm. 410-312-0445 or www.hsbeer.com/stanford-grill.

Saturday, January 28th: Beer Pairing Dinner at Pratt Street Ale House, Baltimore
With Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Oliver Ales. 7pm. Info at 410-244-8900 or www.prattstreetalehouse.com.

Saturday, February 4th: Heavy Seas Beer and Oyster Fest, Halethorpe
At least 10 different kinds of oysters brought in from around the world and top local restaurants serving up their favorite oyster and seafood dishes. One-of-a-kind Casks, Firkins, and Heavy Seas Beers. $49. Noon to 4pm. Tickets at http://www.drinkeatrelax.com/tickets/heavy-seas-festivals/heavy-seas-oyster-festival-february-4th/heavy-seas-oyster-festival-febr

Tuesday, February 28th: Heavy Seas Beer Dinner with Hugh Sisson at Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia, MD
In addition to Clipper Fleet classics like Heavy Seas Pale and Märzen, they'll have a vertical tasting of Loose Cannon and Black Cannon. For dessert, expect to see a buttery cabernet barrel-aged Below Decks barleywine and smooth Siren Noire. Tickets and details at 410-750-1880 or www.hsbeer.com/vicgastropub. www.victoriagastropub.com.

27 December 2011

Gordion Biersch: Stifling Creativity? No... and Yes....

An interesting post by MABN/Washington Post's Greg Kitsock comparing Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom/District Chop House over a year after the merger under the Craftworks banner:

The stereotype held by many craft-beer geeks about Gordon Biersch (with locations currently in the District, Rockville, and Annapolis, and thirty-plus other locations across the country)  is that of a lager-friendly brewpub chain doling out mass-market-friendly "cookie-cutter" recipes to their outlets and telling the brewers to crank them out repeatedly, sending samples to the corporate lab for quality-control analysis.  And there's a lot of truth to that.  Meanwhile, Rock Bottom (with an award-winning location and brewer in Bethesda) was widely seen as the "chain that isn't a chain," with each location having its own distinct line-up of beers.

Now? 

Gordon Biersch locations still have to keep five standard German-style brands on tap at all times and release four set-in-stone seasonals at the appropriate times. But the brewers are being granted considerable leeway in crafting “gap” beers to fill the down times between seasonal releases.
Last summer, brewer Kevin Blodger [whom many readers here may remember as a brewer at Capitol City Brewing in the Harborplace location] of the Gordon Biersch in Rockville released a “Gose,” an obscure eastern German-style ale flavored with coriander and salt. It was so well received that Blodger will likely repeat the recipe in 2012. On Dec. 28, Grant Carson of the Tyson’s Corner Gordon Biersch will tap a Rauch Dunkelbock, a strong dark lager made with 60 percent beechwood-smoked malt. Carson previewed the beer at R.F.D. Washington’s holiday tasting on Dec. 15; first sip brought out those bacony, phenolic notes typical of Bamberger rauchbiers, but it quickly was replaced by a depth of bittersweet chocolate flavor.
What’s more significant, Gordon Biersch for the first time is allowing its brewers to experiment with non-German styles. Blodger was set to tap a hoppy, American-style pale ale this week. In late January/early February, as part of a new Brewer’s Select program, all three local Gordon Biersch restaurants will unveil unique house beers. Blodger has a barley wine in the works. Scott Lasater at the Washington Gordon Biersch plans to tap a Belgian-style dubbel. And Carson will offer a saison, an IPA and possibly a Vienna-style lager.
But over at Rock Bottom?

Before the merger, each Rock Bottom brewpub offered a unique lineup of beers. Now, brewers are required to toe the line by keeping four year-around beers on tap at all locations: Rock Bottom Kolsch, White Ale, IPA and Red Ale.
“We’re being stigmatized because we’re all brewing the same beers, but we picked award-winning recipes that have a lot of hardware behind them,” protests brewer Dave Warwick of the Arlington Rock Bottom. The Red Ale, for instance, is based on the Raccoon Red formulated by Geoff Lively of the Bethesda Rock Bottom, winner of numerous Great American Beer Festival medals.
Both Warwick and Lively, however, stress that they’re still allowed considerable freedom in brewing a rotating dark beer and a once-a-month seasonal release. For about the 12th year in a row, Lively released his Anniversary Ale, but this year for the first time he added a dry-hopping with Amarillo, Mt. Hood and Cascade varieties, which contribute a spicy, herbal underpinning to the fresh ginger and sweet orange peel traditionally added to the beer. (He was also planning to tap one-, three- and five-year-old versions of his Atom Smasher barley wine.)
Left out of this comparison is District ChopHouse, one of four ChopHouse locations taken over by Craftworks, which is but a block away from the D.C. location of Gordon Biersch, and for which Wharf Rat/Oliver Ales alumni Barrett Lauer still brews......

Have you seen these places lately?  Thoughts?  Do folks still want a GB or Rock Bottom in Baltimore?

24 December 2011

Christmas Eve in Rural Retreat, Va. 1957



Train 42 'The Pelican' headed by Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 Class J 603 arrives at Rural Retreat, VA eastbound from New Orleans to Washington shortly before 10 pm Dec. 27th, 1957, and thunders off into the night. The Norfolk & Western Railway's own Class J was perhaps the finest of all express steam engines, and 603 is heard here in its last days of main line service with a consist of 17 cars. The photograph with the video is of Train 17 'The Birmingham Special' westbound arriving later that same night at 11.37 pm, being waved through by Agent J.L. Akers. The photograph and sound recording were by O. Winston Link and his assistant Corky Zider who operated a Tapesonic recorder and non-directional microphone; the Christmas carols on the chimes were played specially for the recording at the nearby Grace Lutheran Church by Mrs. Kathryn Dodson. Seven nights later, steam motive power would come to an end on the N&W main line through Rural Retreat and Bristol.

Alternate recording, with different photo of an eastbound and possibly of better audio quality:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdWl4ur6hMM

NPR interview with Mrs. Dodson in 2001:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqRwIKJYPLA

The station still stands in 2011, in poor condition but the subject of a preservation effort:
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/25703516 

22 December 2011

The Wild Goose is Still Dead...........?

A year ago today, many Mid-Atlantic craft beer aficionados were rejoicing over the pre-Christmas news that the new start-up Logan Shaw Brewery then starting up in Washington, D.C. had acquired the Wild Goose brand, which had just been abandoned the previous month by Flying Dog, new owners of the brand's second home in Frederick. 

In February 2011, the brewery was reportedly signing a lease on a property in Waldorf, outside the District.  Earlier, the company had announced that they were searching for a contract partner to brew the beer for them until they could get their own brewery up and running.  Anybody following the travails of The Raven Beer, Pratt Street Ale House, Heavy Seas, and Flying Dog will laugh at that proposal that someone in this area has the spare capacity.  (Left unmentioned in this discussion is yet another brewery, with Ringwood equipment like the original Cambridge Wild Goose brewery, about which little has been heard lately, but that's another story.....)

Nothing has been heard from the principals of Logan Shaw in months.  E-mails and phone calls have gone unanswered.

Is this Wild Goose finally dead, cooked, and gone?

Ironically, another "Wild Goose" has shown up in craft brewing--Wild Goose Engineering in Boulder, Colorado is now designing and building canning lines for craft breweries, including a new system installed this past summer at Breckenridge Brewing.

16 December 2011

New Flying Dog Beers Now and for 2012--and Time for a New Brewery?

Lots of Flying Dog news swarming out, so here's a quick recap:

Newest beer:  Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout, a now-permanent addition to their portfolio after earlier Coffee Stout experimental batches. It's out on draft and on shelves as of this week.

To follow soon: 12 new beers for 2012.  First up: Wildeman, a variation of the Farmhouse IPA brewed earlier this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the legendary Amsterdam taproom, In De Wildeman. Wildeman will arrive in mid-to-late January and become a permanent part of the brewery's portfolio.  Other new beers will include an "Imperial Hefeweizen," an Abbey Dubbel with the working title Disobedience, a black lager brewed with cherries, and a Gose.

Canning will begin in March; the first beer to get canned will be Underdog, a "sessionable East Coast pale ale" that will check in between 4.5 and 4.8 percent ABV.
“We aren’t sure yet if we will call it a session beer, but everything about it will indicate to the consumer that it is an easier drinking beer with tons of flavor,” brewery CEO Jim Caruso said in an interview with Brewbound.  "I think this beer has the potential to be one of our top sellers next year.”  Underdog will replace Tire Bite Golden Ale. Caruso said that ten percent of the brewery production (100,000 cases) will make its way into cans and expects Snake Dog IPA to be canned as well. The cans will be released only to the Mid-Atlantic market, and consumers will recognize slightly larger but still familiar Flying Dog artwork.

Flying Dog will also be partnering The Perfect Truffle, a Frederick chocolatier, to brew up a special chocolate beer just for SAVOR, the annual craft beer and food pairing event hosted by the Brewers Association in Washington D.C.

All this production comes at a price, of course. Caruso said the company plans to finish 2011 using over 75% of its potential 110,000-barrel brewing capacity at its Wedgwood Boulevard plant.. At that pace, Flying Dog will produce between 82,000 and 86,000 barrels of beer before the year’s end.  He also said that he expects the current facility to reach its 110,000 barrel limit next year and is currently investigating ways to expand, including expanding at the current site or relocating to a new site.  An additional four 200-barrel fermenters are scheduled to arrive in the early part of January.

The brewery also announced a "Junto Society," a beer club meeting monthly at the brewery, named after the philosophical society founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1727.  The $150 annual memberships, which were limited to 100 subscribers and included benefits such as a six-pack or growler of each month's limited-release beer, sold out within hours of being announced to the brewery's e-mail list.

15 December 2011

Brewer's Art Donates Domain Name to Belgian Family Brewers Association

The Brewer's Art brewpub of Mount Vernon, which registered the highly-coveted (and potentially valuable, had it been offered for sale today) domain www.belgianbeer.com way back in 1996, has donated the rights to the domain to the Belgian Family Brewers Association.

Baltimore Belgian beer writer Chuck Cook, who had a hand in the donation process, has the full story at his blog.

The Brewer's Art still retains its second, and now primary, domain, www.thebrewersart.com.

13 December 2011

A New Beer Business In Town, and other quick updates

More Max's Mania

I'm jus' gonna put up what the e-mail said (with corrections)........  You already see/know about Wednesday's fun (see post below this one):


THURSDAY DEC 15, 2011
5PM TILL--?
FLYING DOG KUJO CASKS - 5 DIFFERENT VERSIONS
We will be featuring 5 different versions of Flying Dog Kujo stout on Cask.
 
ON CASK:
Kujo w/ Samtura Coffee & Oak Chips Soaked in Rum primed w/ Agave Nectar
Kujo w/ Brazilian Coffee & Vanilla Bean primed w/ Agave Nectar
Kujo w/ Ethiopian Coffee & Elderberry primed w/ Agave Nectar
Kujo w/ Colombian Coffee & Star Anise primed w/ Agave Nectar
Kujo w/ Kenyan Coffee & Vanilla Bean primed w/ Agave Nectar
 
we will also have on draft- Kujo, Old Scratch, Raging Bitch, Double Dog & k9 Cruiser.
 
FRIDAY DEC 16, 2011
8PM-TIL ?
COME MEET JEREMY COWAN, THE OWNER OF SCHMALTZ BREWING (HE'BREW & CONEY ISLAND ALES)
 
We will have
ON DRAFT:
He'brew Messiah Bold
He'brew Genesis
He'brew Hop Manna IPA
He'brew Jewbelation 14
He'brew Bittersweet Lenny RIPA
He'brew Geektoberfest
He'brew Genesis 15:15
He'brew Vertical Jewbelation
He'brew Rejewventaor
He'brew Origin
He'brew Jewbelation 13
He'brew Jewbelation 12
Coney Island Human Blockhead
Coney Island Albino Python
 
Plus Bottles of Hebrew Jewbelation 15
 
TUESDAY DEC 20, 2011
6pm-til ?
STILLWATER SATURNALIA DAY
We will be featuring a bunch of different versions of Stillwater Folklore and many others.
 
ON DRAFT
Folklore
Folklore Red Wine barrel
Folklore Jack Daniels Barrel
Folklore W/ Coffee (Cask)
Folklore w/ French Oak (Cask)
Our Side Red Wine Barrel
Autumnal Red Wine Barrel
Debauched
Stillwater/Mikkeller Rauchstar
Plus a Few others....
 
IN BOTTLES
Stillwater/Max's 25 to One
Stillwater Barrel Aged Cellar Door
Stillwater Barrel Aged Stateside
Stillwater Barrel Aged Existent
Stillwater Folklore
Stillwater Of Love & Regret

12 December 2011

Max's at 25

Max's Taphouse is marking its 25th anniversary on Wednesday the 14th with a party beginning at 6 p.m. filling all three bars.  Fun, crowds, door prizes, food, music (two bands), and some very special casks made by Max's own employees at the Heavy Seas Brewery, offered at $4 a pint from 6 p.m. on:

THE SPECIAL CASKS:

HEAVY SEAS GOLD
W/ Amarillo Hops
Orange Peel (Bitter)
Orange Peel
White Oak
Persimmon

HEAVY SEAS MARZEN
w/ Black Locust Cascade Hops
Stayman Apples
Clover Honey
Toasted Pear Wood
Cinnamon Chips

HEAVY SEAS LOOSE CANNON
w/ West Coast Cascade Hops
White Peaches
Elderflowers
Honey(Pure)
Coriander 2011

HEAVY SEAS PALE ALE
w/ West Coast Amarillo
Hibiscus Flowers
Fig
Coriander
Lavender

Be there or be square.

Survey Mania, or Indecision?

Let's see.  In the past couple days, I've been mulling a request by the owner of a particular bar, who wants to survey the readers of this blog readers for which beer(s) he would add next to his rotation of multiple taps.  (Still thinking.  Need to catch up with him in person and talk it over.)

Next, Heavy Seas announces a survey asking what hops and spices should be added to a cask of Loose Cannon for their upcoming Oyster Fest.

Next comes Burley Oak Brewery of Berlin, Md. asking on their Facebook page, "What type of beer would you like to see us create?"

Hmmmm.  What do you think?

09 December 2011

You Know You're Too Much of a Beer Geek When....

...........  when you can perfectly interpret this tag on a beer cask:

"Below Decks Toasted Pear Wet West Coast Simcoe".

It's a featured cask at tomorrow's Brewer's Art Holiday Beer Tasting at Pratt Street Ale House, by the way.  And as last report, a few straggling tickets should be available at the door for $40 each.

(Photo from Oliver Ales via Facebook)

DuClaw Plans Major Expansion in Harford County

From today's Baltimore Business Journal (preview only; full story for subscribers but may be posted publicly later):

DuClaw Brewing Co. is plotting a major Harford County expansion, part of a plan to push its line of beers into states up and down the East Coast.
The 15-year-old suds maker and restaurant chain has outgrown 10,000 square feet of brewery space in Abingdon and has a contract to acquire a vacant 165,000-square-foot building in Havre De Grace to help meet its expansion goals. DuClaw plans to occupy roughly half of the 26-acre property, at 1601 Clark Road, and lease the bulk of the excess space to contractors and vendors it does business with.
DuClaw founder/president David Benfield had briefed me on the general expansion strategy last week, over a 2005 DuClaw Repent at Max's Taphouse, but safe to say the cat's now out of the bag.  The building in question is located just southeast of the junction of Rt. 40 and Post Road  (Rt. 7A), on the other side of the industrial siding tracks from Stancil Field Park, in the "industrial" southwest corner of Havre de Grace.

According to information provided by a DuClaw publicist, renovations to the new site will begin in April, with hopes to have the building ready for brewing by next fall, and immediately expand production from the current 8-9,000 barrels to around 25,000 barrels annually within a year.  The building affords the space for a potential production of around 125,000 barrels, which if realized would place DuClaw in the same league as Flying Dog, Victory and Troegs.  Also projected is an immediate expansion of distribution to Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; expanded bottle packaging and draft accounts at non-DuClaw bars has increased to reflect 35% of its sales in late 2012, up from a mere 1% from last year's 22-ounce-bottle sales.

Benfield is also planning an expansion of its beer-restaurant chain through a franchising arrangement similar to Dogfish Head's Alehouses and the pending Heavy Seas Ale House, beginning with an initial Maryland location, possibly in Baltimore City or Montgomery County, Md., with potential future locations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

UPDATE:  More from the Baltimore Sun's Explore Harford County page, including comments from Jim Richardson, Harford County's director of economic development, who notes that a deal for the property, which has been vacant for several years, has still not been signed.

07 December 2011

Fourth Time the Charm for S. Light Street Bar? Brewer's Cask Looks to Break the Jinx

The location at 1236 S. Light Street, across the street from the Light Street Branch of the Pratt Street Library, should hold a soft spot for craft beer enthusiasts in South Baltimore, if not all of Baltimore.  But it's had a somewhat troubled history. 

First, it gained attention as Ken Krucenski shifted his Irish-themed Sean Bolan's into a craft-beer emporium, adding twenty draft lines and a multitude of craft bottles to turn the bar largely away from its Guinness-and-shamrock trappings into a well-regarded craft beer emporium.  Ken's personal life ended up taking precedence, however, and he sold the bar in October 2005 to a team that reopened the place as Clayton's, an upscale-aiming restaurant that paid little attention to its beer line potential.  That place folded after a year or so, allowing Krucenski to reclaim his real estate and offer the modestly redecorated bar for lease.  Local bartender Danny Young took up the call, opening the bar as Muggsy's Mug House, in early 2008, focusing on servings of craft beer in the 10-ounce mugs once used by Sean Bolan's to offer three-mug beer samplers (a technique pioneered by the original Wharf Rat in Fells Point and still in use by Mahaffey's in Canton).  Young gave it a valiant effort for three years, but closed in June 2011

Now a pair of partners have purchased the location, and are feverishly rehabilitating the interior for a projected opening before Christmas, possibly a soft opening early next week.  And with a name like The Brewer's Cask, you know they are aiming at the craft beer market.  Indeed, the bar's slogan is already "Love thy beer".

According to one of the owners:
We are going to have 20 beers on tap and will decent size of bottled selection and grow the selection based on customer's recommendations.  Also we are going to try acquire the brewing licence and start brewing in home, and YES! we are going to have Cask Ales.
We have hired [a] Chef from Milan restaurant in Little Italy and he has put together a great menu.
Check out the website.


Beer List for Saturday's Brewer's Art/PSAH Tasting

Still trying to decide if you want to go to that Holiday Beer Tasting Saturday afternoon at Pratt Street Ale House?  Here's a partial beer list--and did we mention free food to go with it all?:

Brewer's Alley - Scotch Ale
Brewers Art -St. Festivus
Pub DOG -Very Berry Tart
DuClaw -Devil's Milk and Bourbon-Aged Porter
Evolution - Secret Spot Ale
Flying Dog - Pearl Necklace oyster stout & K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale
Heavy Seas - Winter Storm
Olivers - As well as the usual PSAH offerings, now including Hot Monkey Love and William's Winter Warmer, BW Rye #2 (8% Rye Porter, brewed in collaboration with 3 Stars Brewing Co. of D.C.)
Red Brick Station - Murphy's Porter
Stillwater/PSAH/Brewers Art collaboration: Merry Ole S.O.B. with Belgian yeast & rosemary, draft and cask (latter dry-hopped with German Tettnanger)
Troegs - JavaHead, Troegenator and Mad Elf
Victory -Yakima Glory
Weyerbacher - Winter Ale

05 December 2011

A "Facebook Photoblocker" for Bars?

It's come to this: The problem of people snapping candid photos of friends and acquaintances in bars and nightclubs, posting them to Facebook/Twitter/whatever, and arousing ire and problems for the subjects is now apparently so prevalent that an Argentinian beer company, Cerveza Norte, is now promoting a tabletop beer cooler for bars that comes complete with a flash mechanism that "blinds" the camera from which the flash came, washing out the intended picture and protecting the privacy of those at the table.  This is likely to become an extra-cost option for patrons, much like the tap-equipped tables at some bars.

Those who still want to post pictures of the beers they're drinking are apparently still safe.  And I can easily figure out how to build one myself (flipping through the B&H photo catalog in a minute to confirm my suspicions).....

Beer Events Week of Dec. 5th

Just a quick run-down, likely to be updated as events warrant:

Max's Taphouse is holding its annual Holiday Beer Social on Tuesday the 6th:
ALL ON DRAFT:
Struise Tsjeeses Reserva
10.0% Belgian tripel aged 8 Months on Stone Fruits and 6 Months on oak (Belgium)
Struise Pannepot Grand Reserva 2005
10.0% Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Aged 24 Months on oak barrels; The Last 10 Months are aged on Calvados oak Barrels. (Belgium)
Hebrew 15:15
13.5% Hybrid Barleywine w. Pommegrantes, Dates & Grapes (US)
Firestone Walker XV
12.5% Barrel Aged Blended Beer. 76% Barleywine style Beer, 19.0% Stout 5% Imperial IPA (US)
Evil Twin Soft Xmas
10.9% Imperial Stout w/ Vanilla & Sour Cherries (Denmark)
Evil Twin Christmas Eve At a New York City Hotel Room
10.0% Imperial Stout (Denmark)
Van Steenberge La Biere Du Boucanier Christmas
9.5% Belgian Holiday Ale (Belgium)
Emelisse Winterbier
9.0% Quad Style w/ Pils, Munchener & Abbey Malt w/ Candi Sugar(Netherlands)
Mikkeller Ris A La M'Ale 2011
8.0% Dutch Ale Based on a Traditonal Desert.(Denmark)
Plus Maybe one More Surprise Beers....
Meanwhile, just tapped at Max's Taphouse in addition to the above list for tomorrow: 
Apostelbrau First Bavarian Pale, Sierra Nevada Ovila Quad and Ovila Dubbel, Corsendonk Christmas, Heavy Seas Winter Storm, New Belgium Prickly Passion and Fresh Hop, Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter, Emelisse Barleywine and Triple IPA, Laughing Dog Bourbon Dogfather, Evil Twin Williamsburg Hipster, B. Nektar Imperial Funky Monky Mead....... [the latter blends honey, cherries, and hops]....
Tuesday, December 6th: Holiday Beer Dinner at Brewer's Alley, Frederick -
Six courses for $45 plus tax and gratuity. Seatings at 5:30 and 7:30pm. Reservations at 301-631-0089. Menu at http://brewers-alley.com.

On Thursday the 8th, the Chesapeake Bay Branch SPBW gathers there.  Expected to be served: Thornbridge Jaipur, Kipling, and  Halcyon, Flying Dog Pearl Necklace and a beer from the Flying Fish stable.

Also on Dec. 8th:  Beer and Food pairing at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on Key Highway in South Baltimore.   Hugh Sisson, founder and managing partner of Heavy Seas, and "Mick the Pirate" Kapp, Whiskey Island Spices purveyor, will host the Beer and Food Tasting.  Hugh Sisson will provide five of his beers, and Mick will pair them with some of his signature dishes.  For more information, contact Penelope at pfallon@thebmi.org or 410.727.4808 x129 or purchase your tickets now ($25 BMI members, $35 non-members). Online ticket sales will be open through 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, December 6.

Also on Thursday: Heavy Seas Beer Pints and Tunes at Leadbetters, Baltimore: Keep your Heavy Seas pint glass with your first Loose Cannon, Heavy Seas Pale, or Winter Storm. Live music by G-Tore. 6-9pm. 410-675-4794 or www.leadbetterstavern.com.

Friday the 9th: not in Baltimore, but out in Frederick the Flying Dog Brewery is holding its Merry Firkin Christmas Freak Show from 7 to 11 PM:

We’ll have jugglers, magicians, fire dancers, sword swallowers, fire breathing, and more for a freak show that puts your in-law’s 20-person dinner table to shame. It’s the kind of party meant for those consistently shunned to the kids’ table.
DJ Two Teks will be spinning in the interludes. Along with 12 beers on tap, we’ll have 3 cask-conditioned ales on the bar and beer engine.
Tickets $30 in advance (service fee alert!), plus get a hotel room or the services of a designated driver.

Also Friday, December 9th: Winter Storm Cask at Judge's Bench, Ellicott City Taps at 5pm sharp. Keep the logo'd pint glass with your first pour from the cask. http://judgesbenchpub.com.

Saturday the 10th: need we say, the Mid-Atlantic Holiday Beer Festival at Pratt Street Ale House, brought to you by The Brewer's Art and PSAH.   Breweries expected with their holiday/winter beer offerings include The Brewer’s Art, Brewer’s Alley, Dog Brewing, DuClaw, Evolution, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Oliver/PSAH (of course), Red Brick Station/White Marsh, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Troegs, Victory, and Weyerbacher, with a few possible surprises.  A generous buffet of food, supplied by both the Brewers Art and PSAH culinary wizards, is included with the $40 admission, and in past years at the Brewers Art has been worth the price of admission itself.  (If you've been avoiding the Brewers Art dining room on the basis of the price, here's a chance to sample something besides the rosemary-garlic fries!)  Tickets, which may well sell out before Saturday if past trends at the smaller Brewer's Art are any indication, are available here (service fee alert!).

Finally for now, Liam Flynn's is expecting another firkin of their house-blended Fraoch Abrogod Ale (a Heavy Seas cask with apricot and heather).

Lost in the Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition.....

Folks seemingly seeking any excuse possible to hoist a celebratory drink have glomped onto the anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Dec. 5th, 1932, when Utah became the 36th of 48 states to approve it.  (Even though, as noted by many a party-pooper, myself included, this simply passed the regulatory powers to the local level--as much as half the nation emerged still under some form of "prohibition" for months or even decades later.)

Lew Bryson pulled up this New York Times website page showing the news in that paper that day.  And buried under the big news in that article is an ugly truth for those wishing to deify Franklin D. Roosevelt for his role in the end of Prohibition:

.... FDR wanted to not only outlaw bars, but impose government control of liquor distribution:


Mr. Roosevelt asked personally for what he and his party had declined to make the subject of Federal mandate -- that saloons be barred from the country.
"I ask especially," he said, "that no State shall, by law or otherwise, authorize the return of the saloon, either in its old form or in some modern guise."
He enjoined all citizens to cooperate with the government in its endeavor to restore a greater respect for law and order, especially by confining their purchases of liquor to duly licensed agencies. This practice, which he personally requested every individual and every family in the nation to follow, would result, he said, in a better product for consumption, in addition to the "break-up and eventual destruction of the notoriously evil illicit liquor traffic" and in tax benefits to the government.
The President thus announced the policy of his administration -- to see that the social and political evils of the preprohibition era shall not be revived or permitted again to exist. Failure of citizens to use their new freedom in helping to advance this policy, he said, would be "a living reproach to us all."
He expressed faith, too, in the "good sense of the American people" in preventing excessive personal use of relegalized liquor. "The objective we seek through a national policy," he said, "is the education of every citizen toward a greater temperance throughout the nation."
As a means of enforcing his policy, the President has the Federal Alcohol Control Administration ready to take control of the liquor traffic and regulate it at the source of supply. [emphasis added]
 Just a reality check, y'all.  Remember that if FDR had his way, you wouldn't have a saloon like Mahaffey's, Max's, Baltimore Taphouse, Alonso's, Racers, Frisco, TBonz, etc. in which to hoist your toast.

02 December 2011

New "Oriole Park" Brewery in Waverly--a Collaboration Brewery, To Boot!

This writer has been sitting nervously on this story awaiting official confirmation and a chance not to "jinx" the story, but it just snuck out this morning in the Baltimore Business Journal, so....

Baltimore-Washington Beer Works, makers of The Raven, and Oliver Breweries, of Pratt Street Ale House and Wharf Rat fame, are in negotiations to take over the old Beverage Capital Corp. building on 401 E. 30th St. in the Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore. They would do so under the auspices of Charm City Brewing Co., a new company being formed by J. Hollis Albert, a consultant with BWBW and a former owner of Operators Energy Services, a Baltimore-based fuel-supply company that sold its business to Carrol Fuel in 2003.

The goal of Charm City Brewing would be to form a type of co-op that would help some of the city’s smaller beer companies increase their distribution and bottle their beers, Albert said to BBJ.  The company would brew in new equipment to be installed in the long-vacant former beverage-packaging and distribution facility, which just happens to sit on a block that formerly housed a predecessor Oriole Park, built in 1916 and burned in 1944.  (As the Wikipedia article explains, there have been a number of "Oriole Parks."  After the blaze, Orioles games moved to Municipal Stadium on 33rd St., and then to the new Memorial Stadium in 1950.)

As planned, Albert's brewery would contract brew and bottle for The Raven until BWBW completes its planned brewery and pub in Highlandtown, and also for Oliver Breweries, in part in order to take some of the strain and pressure off of Oliver's head brewer Steve Jones, who calls himself "The Hunchback of Pratt Street" for his claustrophobic work environment at the Pratt Street Ale House.  Albert also entertained the idea of other local breweries or bars, such as The Brewer's Art, using the brewery for commercial-scale production and distribution.  (Tom Creegan, one of the Brewer's Art's owners, said in response "We have never negotiated or had any conversation about this new project.")

The proposed brewery has received zoning approval from city officials, with no neighborhood opposition.

Justin Dvorkin, owner of the Pratt Street Ale House, was enthusiastic about the possibilities of the new partnership.  "It's a great idea, if everything comes together.  We've been looking for a way to expand out of this building ever since we acquired it [from Bill Oliver], and this looks like a good way for us to move forward.  And, yes, to spare Steve's back a bit.  It's a great facility--it's already laid out for beverage production, so putting in a brewery is going to be easier than most places."  The planned partnership would allow Oliver Breweries to expand its distribution with bottled beer in retail markets, something the former Wharf Rat experimented with twice, both times briefly.  (You're a true veteran of the Baltimore craft beer scene if you remember the original bottled "Oliver Ale" cranked out at Wild Goose Brewery in Cambridge, with green bottles!)

Stephen Demczuk of BWBW told the BBJ that his beer is currently distributed in five states, and that his current contract brewer, Clipper City Brewing Co. in Halethorpe, doesn't have enough room to continue brewing The Raven with its own increased production.  "I can't get any more beer there.  It's as simple as that.  I could triple my [production] volume, but I can't.  So I'm losing revenue as a result."

More on this story to come...........

29 November 2011

Md. Alcohol Tax Raised Under False Pretenses--So How About Giving It BACK?

Yeah, remember how, in April, the People's Democratic Republic of Maryland raised the sales tax on your alcohol purchases fifty percent, from 6% to 9%, and then retailers weren't allowed to add it as a separate line on your receipts?
Do you remember what that money was supposed to go for?

Remember that lovely "bait and switch" tactic where the excise tax was proposed with revenues going to specific health programs, and then once everyone got that in their heads and favored a tax increase, it shifted to a sales tax increase to be phased in over three years, with much (not all) of the money targeted to education programs in Baltimore and Prince George's County.
According to stories at MarylandReporter.com (which broke the story) and in the Annapolis Capital, the state's Developmental Disabilities Administration, the Maryland state program that allocates monies to pay for the care and development of those with physical/mental disabilities, received $15 million from that tax increase this year so far.

And it didn't need it:
For more than two years, Heidi Berlin and her husband, Dan, have fought state bureaucracy while seeking help for their developmentally disabled son.
And for more than two years, officials have told the Edgewater couple there isn't enough money in state coffers.
So the Berlins were shocked to learn this month that over the past two years the Developmental Disabilities Administration hadn't spent at least $34 million intended to help people with disabilities - and actually returned more than $25 million to the state's General Fund.
A spokeswoman said the Developmental Disabilities Administration serves about 22,000 people. It operates on a nearly $840 million annual budget, including about $498 million from the state and $342 from the federal government. As a result of the state's new 9 percent alcohol sales tax, the agency received a $15 million boost this year.
Kirkland didn't know why the agency didn't spend the $34.5 million. He said it came to light over the summer as his agency closed its books on fiscal 2011 - which ended June 30.
An investigation is under way by the inspector general of the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and a private consultant. Preliminarily, Kirkland said it doesn't appear anything criminal occurred.
"It just seems to have probably been poor business practices," Kirkland said.
According to an Oct. 28 letter from DHMH Secretary Joshua Sharfstein to legislative leaders, the surplus was the result of the "inappropriate charging" of fiscal 2011 expenditures to the previous fiscal year. When officials corrected the error, the agency first believed it ended fiscal 2010 with a $25.7 million surplus and fiscal 2011 with a $12.6 million surplus.
Upon further review, the agency determined the fiscal 2011 surplus to be only $8.8 million.
The agency was able to forward the $8.8 million into its fiscal 2012 budget, but had to forfeit the $25.7 million under state accounting rules, officials said.
"The underlying problem appears to relate to challenges in the budgeting and payment process in the DDA program, dating back several years," Sharfstein wrote in his letter. "We are hiring new fiscal personnel, reassessing our current budgeting process, and developing plans for an upgraded accounting system."
 The editorial board of the Capital responded with an editorial that, rightfully, calls out the Maryland legislature for its advocating the tax increase on what turned out to be false pretenses, or a "bogus argument":

"What's very hard to swallow is that at the same time that the services were underfunded, we were advocating our support for the alcohol tax," said Nancy Pineles, an attorney for the Maryland Disability Law Center. She and other advocates for the disabled would like to know how a blundering state agency could be sitting on so much money even as this affluent state, according to the ARC of Maryland, ranked an unimpressive 43rd in the nation in spending on services for the developmentally disabled.
The bookkeeping problem, according to state Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein, goes back for years. And bookkeeping problems are nothing new at the DDA. A legislative audit from two years ago said the agency was wasting millions by overpaying care providers and not seeking federal reimbursement it was due.
So, earlier this year, why didn't it occur to the legislators to ask whether the agency really needed the new tax revenue to help fund services? The DDA currently gets $488 million from the state, and state officials ought to be sure that it's being properly spent before raising taxes to get more.
It is disgusting that state money could be so poorly managed. But it's even more disgusting that people with severe disabilities were denied help while DDA employees falsely claimed that the agency was short of money, then quietly dropped $25 million back into the state general fund.

 A much better question is why the legislators doesn't give due consideration to dropping the sales tax increase?  It's an obvious question, of course, unless you're in the government "company town" that central Maryland is, and apparently believe all money comes from, and goes through, the government to be allocated out to the "people" as the government sees fit.  Besides which, the General Assembly saw to it that too many other sucklings, namely the schools of Baltimore City, Montgomery County (one of the richest counties in the nation, mind you), and Prince George's County, would be feeding on this teat to be able to cut it off completely.

Folks, do you now understand where the "Tea Party" gets its mentality and philosophy?  This isn't based on believing government and taxes are the Devil's work (even if God supposedly only rates/wants ten percent); this is a call for accountability and responsible action with what the governments already take from us.  Before us right now is Exhibit A (actually more like #8,639,742 or something like that) that government is either incompetent in running its own affairs or has made itself too complex to operate efficiently and effectively.  But any serious calls for a rescission of this tax will automatically be met, of course with howls from "liberals" that the tax opponents want to "throw the disabled out into the streets" and "rob poor children of their educational opportunities," or other such overwrought hyperbole.  All over a paltry three percent 1.8 percent of its total budget (recalculated to factor in the Federal appropriation).

(Sincere tip o' the hat to fellow blogger--and anti-government-overregulation activist--Lew Bryson for tipping us off to a story that sailed past our normal search filters by not involving the word "beer" anywhere.....)

28 November 2011

Upcoming Events: Leininkugel Beer Dinner, Book Signings, Collect Glasses, and More

Some upcoming local craft beer events:

Leinenkugel's Beer Garden has announced a beer dinner this Thursday, Dec. 1, featuring (among others) their "Big Eddy" Russian Imperial Stout.  Menu will feature catfish fingers, beef tenderloin, cherry bread pudding, three other beers, and more.  Tickets are $35 and available here (service charge alert).

TBonz in the Ellicott City area is featuring a "25 Pint Nights of Christmas" series of "keep the glass" events, starting tomorrow night; a full list of glasses/breweries featured is at the Baltimore Beer Guy's site.

Ladies Night at Heavy Seas' Clipper City Brewery in Halethorpe, $20 per person; see here for additional information.

Also at Heavy Seas on the 17th of December, Maureen O'Prey, author of the new Arcadia book Brewing in Baltimore, will be joining Heavy Seas before and after tours for a special pre-release book signing. Brewing in Baltimore has a foreword written by Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson.  Tours and visits just to pick up the book are free; the $5 charge only applies to tastings before and after tours.

The Washington City Paper's Tammy Tuck has a whole list of coming events in the immediate D.C. vicinity, including the debut of this year's version of Oliver Breweries' Hot Monkey Love at The Big Hunt and Flying Dog pouring more Pearl Necklace at Meridian Pint.  (Big Hunt is currently pouring Great Lakes Christmas Ale, not available in Baltimore.....)

And you should expect Hot Monkey Love to debut in Baltimore this week, too, at the usual suspects.....

Dec. 16th:  The annual "Christmas vs. Hanukkah" tap-takeover at Max's Taphouse will feature, as well as the annual return of He'Brew/Shmaltz Brewing's Jeremy Cowan, a book-signing for Cowan's new book, Craft Brewing Bar Mitzvah: How It Took 13 Years, Extreme Jewish Brewing, and Circus Sideshow Freaks to Make Schmaltz Brewing Company an International Success.  If Max's Taphouse doesn't happen to work for you, Cowan will also be reading from and signing his books at Hampden's Atomic Books from 6 to 8 PM, arriving down at Max's as soon as traffic permits.

Finally for the moment, the December issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News should be out at its usual distribution points sometime this week.


21 November 2011

Beer-Food Recipes for Thanksgiving

Just in time (well, maybe, depending on your shopping habits) for the Thanksgiving meal planning, Heavy Seas has posted a couple side dish recipes for Thanksgiving--all involving beer, of course.  As a bonus (at least as far as this household is concerned), they're all potentially vegetarian.  (Note: many of the cheaper cornbread mixes use lard as an ingredient; read the ingredients list carefully if this is an issue for you.)

Now, let's see, what can I add to the turkey brine this year?

17 November 2011

Mid-Atlantic Holiday Beer Fest Tickets On Sale

Well, now that you have a chance of getting in without being on the inside track, you might as well order your tickets now.

Heavy Seas Ale House coming to Harbor East

Heavy Seas, the popular Clipper City Brewing brand which had its origins in Maryland’s first brewpub, (Sisson’s in Baltimore’s Federal Hill, which later became Ryleigh's and lost the brew house), is in a sense returning to its roots with the Heavy Seas Ale House, to be opened in 2012 in downtown Baltimore's Harbor East area.

The project is the brainchild of Patrick Dahlgren, owner of The Rowhouse Grille in Federal Hill and stepson of Hugh Sisson, in partnership with Kevin Hollins, managing partner at The Tack Factory and landlord for the new site.  It will be located at 1300 Bank Street at Central Avenue (more or less between Harbor East and Fells Point), the location of the former Diablita and adjacent to the Mustang Alley bowling bar.  Heavy Seas will only be a provider of beer and a licenser of the brand name, not a partner in the operation of the restaurant.

“Heavy Seas Ale House,” says Heavy Seas marketing director Kelly Zimmerman, “will allow patrons to tap into the Heavy Seas Beer experience in a brick and mortar extension of the pyratical brand.”  Clipper City founder and general partner Hugh Sisson, who often recounts the tale of how his father tossed him the keys to the family’s Sisson’s restaurant one night, literally and metaphorically, with the admonition “Now don’t [screw] it up!”, relishes the opportunity to pass on at least part of the business to his stepson.  "I love the symmetry - the pub business launched my craft beer career.  How cool is it that my brewing career will further the pub profession of my stepson?" said Sisson.

The Heavy Seas Ale House is the first in what is hoped will be a chain of several such locations around the region.  The bar, much like the Dogfish Head Alehouse chain, will be a "tied house" to its namesake beer brand, featuring the various Heavy Seas beers in bottle, on draft, and on cask.

The neighborhood tavern inspired decor will feature a  long bar, dark woods, comfortable seating, flat screens and a unique outdoor beer garden offering first class food and beer pairings, an array of specialty beer and cask ales, a raw bar, and growlers to go.

This does not mean an end to Heavy Seas distribution to other Baltimore locations, any more than the Pratt Street Ale House limits distribution of Oliver Breweries projects.  You'll still see Heavy Seas drafts and firkins at better beer bars throughout the city.  (As a matter of fact, the brewery held off on releasing this story until the Heavy Seas crew itself, including Sisson, had a chance to go around and personally inform his steady, loyal patrons in East Baltimore, the bars that serve his beers, that he was working with the project and not directly setting up shop to compete with them.)

Interestingly, this announcement comes at a time when several other projects are--pardon the expression--brewing in Baltimore.  In addition to the previously announced Raven Brewery in Highlandtown and Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry, this writer is tracking down the full story behind at least one other confirmed brewery proposal in Charmingly Crabby City.  Stay tuned........

UPDATE:  More here, from the Baltimore Sun (subscription site alert).

16 November 2011

SPBW at The Brewer's Art Thursday

For all the quality Belgian-style ales it produces, The Brewer's Art in Mount Vernon is not known as a "real ale" or cask-conditioned beer location.  Belgian ales seldom lend themselves to cask-conditioning and handpumps, and the noted gastropub focuses most of its energy on house-brewing its ales and the limited production brewing (canned Resurrection and bottled Ozzy, Resurrection, Green Peppercorn Tripel, Le Canard, etc.). 

Nonetheless, the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood's Chesapeake Bay Branch, having presumably recuperated completely from last month's Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, will be "meeting" at the Brewer's Art on Thursday, the17th, "beginning" at 7 PM.  In addition to at least one firkin (reported the dark Proletary Ale), the pub had on hand two house tripels (Ceberus and Sun Roi), the annual "Christmas beer" Festivus, plus more deliciousness, with Happy Hour running from 4 to 7.  (A note on the tripels:  They're a delicious straightforward respite from the rich complexities of Stillwater's saisons.)  Bar food is available; for the dining room, reservations are recommended.

Not enough for you?  Depending on your stamina, Liam Flynn's Ale House is a couple blocks to the north at North and Charles Streets, with two cask ales on handpump (most likely Oliver beers), plus an expanding array of ciders and Williams Brothers Ginger Brew from Scotland............

A gentle reminder that both The Brewer's Art and Liam Flynn's are withing walking distance of Penn Station, Light Rail, and the Metro Subway, and the Charm City Circulator takes you to both pubs (well, within two blocks of Liam Flynn's).

14 November 2011

Woodberry's Union Craft Brewing gaining traction

These days, it seems that all you need to call yourself a "brewery" is a homebrew rig and a label printer.  Or even just a Facebook page and Twitter account.

This writer is keenly aware of several pending or proposed brewery and beer-bar projects in the immediate Baltimore region.  Some are awaiting regulatory blessings; some are little more than a Facebook page; and at least one will be detailed in the upcoming issue of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.  Some grandiose announcements or proposals simply crash or peter out (anyone seen much of Bawlmer Beer lately?  How about Logan Shaw's promised return of the Wild Goose brand?)

The Baltimore Sun's "Midnight Sun" blog now has details on one of these slowly-forming projects, Union Craft Brewing in Woodberry.  (Reminder: The Sun now limits you to fifteen free page views per 30-day period.)  Founder Jon Zerivitz, who freely admits that the first Baltimore Beer Week was part of the inspiration for his business plan, has taken the necessary first step away from a "virtual" presence with the signing of a lease on a 7200-square-foot industrial building adjacent to the Woodberry Light Rail station, almost in the literal shadow of the historic Meadow Mill building cupola visible from the Jones Falls Expressway.  Construction begins later this month, with four fermentation tanks scheduled for delivery in February, according to Zerivitz.


11 November 2011

Baltimore's Bottle Tax: Did you REALLY think they would stop at Two Cents?

Contrary to the opinion some folks out there must have of me, I'm not one of those anti-tax activists who thinks the income tax is illegal and unconstitutional.  Nor am I one of the folks that say "No taxes, nohow, no way!"  I've even made a case recently for an increase in the highway gas tax, provided the monies raised went strictly to highway infrastructure (fat chance).

But when the Baltimore City Council and mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake proposed a two-cent bottle tax in Baltimore, I had my reservations. My major problem?  Government has shown it can't be trusted.  Give them an inch, they'll yank it to a foot.  Concede that foot to them, and they'll take a yard.  Let 'em have the yard, and they'll demand a league.  Surrender to the league, and they'll demand a chain.

Can we say "I Told You So!" yet?:

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has announced plans to increase the city bottle tax from 2 cents to 5 cents.  She plans to ask City Council to consider the measure Monday, according to 11 News reporter David Collins.
The mayor said funds generated by the increase would go toward school construction and renovation. Critics, meanwhile, contend the idea is irresponsible and may be necessary because of poor decision making at City Hall.The 2-cent tax took effect in July 2010, but the 11 News I-Team reported last month that it fell short of achieving expectations in its first year.

City officials estimated the tax would bring in $5.8 million a year. It generated $4.7 million in its first year.  Rawlings-Blake announced the proposal for a 5-cent tax two days after she was elected to what will be her first full term as mayor.  [emphasis added] “We were looking for ways, creative ways to really put more resources into school construction,” she said. “If you take a look at some of our schools around the city, and you know our kids deserve more, we think this is a way to help us get there.”  School administrators are still looking into how much money is needed, Collins said. A recent study put the figure at $2.8 billion, Collins reported Thursday.
Increasing the bottle tax to 5 cents would generate about $10.2 million. The money, combined with other dedicated school construction funds, would enable the city to sell bonds to help pay for the improvements.
But the tax increase needs approval from City Council and is expected to face stiff opposition from the beverage industry and business.
Rob Santoni of Santoni Markets estimates that the 2-cent tax has cost his business a half-million dollars in sales, along with seven jobs.“  (Customers) say ‘I'm done,’ so they just go out into the counties and do their shopping,” Santoni said.  Upon hearing about the 5-cent proposal, Santoni said: “Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake continues to demonstrate an outright disrespect for Baltimore businesses. Mocking our industry like this, in my opinion, is somewhat of an abuse of power."
Current bottle tax revenue, which is scheduled to end after three years, was supposed to go to street cleaning and other public works projects. Under the increase, the funds would be used for schools.“(We are) fully committed to finding a way to speed up the pace of school construction so we can make sure the facilities match the greatness of our kids,” Rawlings-Blake said.
More from Patch.com:
Councilman Bill Henry, who opposed the initial 2-cent bottle tax, told Patch on Thursday the only way he can see the mayor getting a bill increasing the bottle tax through the council this session is by amending legislation already submitted by Councilwoman Belinda Conaway that was meant to bring the bottle tax to an end sooner.
Henry said he questioned whether or not such an amendment to the bill would violate a council rule that stipulates an amendment may not change the purpose of a bill.
“It’s an interesting suggestion to take an otherwise unpalatable tax increase that businesses complain puts them at a business disadvantage and to make it palatable link the proceeds to—I won’t say bulletproof—but to a need that is pretty solidly agreed on by everyone,” Henry said.
This writer, fo one, has done his part.

Do you know how many bottles of beer I've bought retail in this city since the bottle tax was enacted?

One six-pack.  Of something I was getting for someone else.

A post on the subject from last year.

10 November 2011

Balto. Sun: '[Micro]Breweries Booming in Md."

I think I need not direct most of you to today's front-page story in the Baltimore Sun by Erik Maza that has a broad overview of the craft beer industry in Maryland, including Frederick's Monocacy Brewing (a satellite operation of The Brewer's Alley, much like what happened to DuClaw's brewing operation).  A second story at his Midnight Sun blog covers the pending move of Evolution Craft Brewing from its old Delmar, Del. location to a former ice plant in Salisbury (which, importantly, has its own water well!).

Note:  If you do not have a subscription to the online Sun website, looking at those two stories will count towards your 15 free pages a month visible at that website.

DuClaw Oak Barrel Bottles

Yeah, once again, just regurgitating the e-mail and letting you decide for yourselves.
Actually, no, I'll go gurther than that--the Retribution and the Divine Retribution served to me during Baltimore Beer Week may have been the best beers, at least of the "extreme" or "special" variety,  I had that week.  I can't be sure--it's apparently also something of a memory-wiper.....

22oz bomber bottles of, oak barrel aged Black Jack Russian Imperial Stout, Retribution Single Barrel Bourbon Aged Imperial Stout, and oak barrel aged Double Black Lightning are on liquor store shelves now in Harford, Carroll, Howard, and Baltimore Counties and Baltimore City!
Oak Aged Black Jack Russian Imperial Stout
A smoky, sophisticated Russian Imperial Stout boasting warm aromas of smoky malt and charred oak, and a big, bold swirl of dark chocolate, coffee, smoky malt flavors, with accents of charred oak, vanilla and caramelized sugar.
Retribution
A full-bodied, Single Barrel Bourbon-aged Imperial Stout with rich aromas of espresso and dark chocolate, and smooth roasted malt flavor, aged for 6 months inside charred Kentucky white oak bourbon barrels to add the natural vanilla and caramelized sugar flavors of the bourbon soaked wood to the beer. Each bottle run is drawn from a single barrel, making each batch a unique drinking experience.
Oak Aged Double Black Lightning
Double Black Lightning is twice the roasted malt flavor and northwestern hop bitterness of our Black Lightning American Black Ale, backed by a strong 7.7% abv for double the intensity. Hold on tight; you’re about to experience the perfect storm of flavor.
All three of these barrel aged brews are now available at liquor stores in Harford, Carroll, Howard, and Baltimore Counties and Baltimore City, so get them while you can!

09 November 2011

Your Mead or Honey Beer May Not Have Honey In It UPDATED

From Food Safety News:

More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn't exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News.

The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled "honey."
The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world's food safety agencies.

The food safety divisions of the  World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey. However, the FDA isn't checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey - some containing illegal antibiotics - on the U.S. market for years.
Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.
 If you're a mead or honey beer enthusiast, or simply care about your sweetners, read the whole thing.

How concerned should we be about this?  It's a good question.  On the one hand, the presence or lack of pollen hardly has any actual effect on the actual quality or flavor of the final product.  If you're enough of a brewer that you're discriminating between orange blossom and buckwheat honeys, this probably doesn't apply to you.  On the other hand, the recent catastrophic price increases in honey have no doubt spurred much of the above behavior--five-gallon (typically 60-pound) buckets of honey that cost under a hundred dollars a dozen years ago now cost in excess of $250.

The Bee Folks, a Mount Airy, Md. apiary that is often seen at festivals and Renaissance Festivals, posted the following on their Facebook page:

The Bee Folks strains the honey. We use a gravity filter that catches the crunchy bits (beeswax, bees, extraction debris). We can filter down to 100 microns on a gravity filter (a remarkable amount of pollen still gets through, we can see it in the honey), but we typically use something between 200-600 microns.

The major US packers filter their honey under heat and pressure. Done correctly, it has minimal effect on the flavor. However, it kills the natural enzymatic activity, and removes the majority of particulates. Why? Primarily, because particulates, such as crystallized honey, pollen granules, etc, encourage crystallization of the honey. The average American prefers crystal-clear honey. (I have lost track of the number of people who have told me that they threw out honey because it had "gone bad" and "turned solid".) If the honey crystallizes on the shelf of the grocery store, the store views it as an unsalable product, and throws it out. Therefore, to "extend the shelf life" of honey, all particulates are removed. Also, the USDA grades honey by color and clarity. By removing particulates by filtering under heat and pressure, the packer gets a higher USDA rating, and can fetch a higher price for table honey.

The Chinese are are well-known for ultra-filtering. They add water to honey, run it through 1 micron filters, then dehydrate it. This is what the FDA referred to in the letter. The intent is to hide the country of origin by removing all traces of pollen, and to remove or mask the presence of antibiotics and fillers. This is supposed to be called a honey product, but not sold as actual honey. However, you don't get as high a price for a "honey product", so the Chinese call it honey, ship it to India or Vietnam, relabel it as Indian or Vietnamese honey, and ship it into the US.
UPDATE:  More on how to avoid tainted honey.  Glad to see my only remaining mass-commercial source for any sort of honey receives a passing grade.

07 November 2011

Another Local-Hop Beer, at DuClaw

A special, small batch of Venom American Pale Ale, hopped with locally grown Cascade hops from Maryland’s own Black Locust Farms, is on tap now at DuClaw Brewing's outlets (except BWI Airport), according to the company.

The Beer Industry Answer to Occupy Wall Street

As illustrated here, in today's "Non Sequitur" comic strip.

04 November 2011

Oyster Stout Revival in Md.

I've been a fan of a properly-done oyster stout since first encountering Fordham's Blue Point Oyster Stout at the Ram's Head in Annapolis in the mid-1990s.  In recent years the style had disappeared from Fordham's portfolio, abandoned by the Ram's Head in favor of a re-tweaking to "Genius Stout" on nitro pour.  Lately the style has been reintroduced on the local market by Ireland's Porterhouse, and then by Flying Fish, Harpoon, and Sixpoint.

Now it's Flying Dog's turn, as per their press release:

A dry stout brewed with local oysters, Pearl Necklace was the brainchild of Flying Dog, Rappahannock River Oysters, and Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen.

“Both Rappahannock and Woodberry were great partners in educating us on the oyster issues facing the Chesapeake Bay,” Flying Dog Brewmaster Matt Brophy said. “When we became fully aware of how crucial oysters are to the Bay’s fragile ecosystem, we knew we needed to do more than just brew a beer.”

Proceeds from Pearl Necklace will benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership, which coordinates and conducts large-scale oyster restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay. Both Woodberry Kitchen and Rappahannock River Oysters work closely with the Partnership on shell recycling programs and more.

“Woodberry Kitchen has been one of the most ardent supporters of our program to help restore the oyster population in the Bay, and Flying Dog jumped right in to help us both drive an innovative angle for reaching more consumers with our message of restoration and revitalization,” Travis Croxton, owner of Rappahannock River Oysters, said.

Pearl Necklace will be released in mid-November on draft only in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

“We are pumped that this beer is coming out at the start of oyster season,” Corey Polyoka, restaurant manager at Woodberry Kitchen, said. “Finally, we have a beer made with Chesapeake oysters to drink with Chesapeake oysters. It’s as good a food pairing as Muscadet, but is much more about where we are in the world – a better representation of our culture.”

The beer’s launch will be at Woodberry Kitchen on Monday, November 14. From 6 to 9 pm, they will be pouring Pearl Necklace, shucking Rappahannock River oysters, jamming to Cris Jacobs with members of The Bridge. Tickets are $35. Space is limited, so reservations through Woodberry are required and should be made soon.

Other Pearl Necklace release parties include:
-- Alewife in Baltimore, MD; Tuesday, November 15 at 6 pm
-- Firestone’s Culinary Tavern in Frederick, MD; Thursday November 17 at 5 pm
-- Olney Ale House in Olney, MD; Thursday, November 17 at 6 pm
-- Hank’s Oyster Bar in Washington, DC; Monday, November 21 at 5 pm
-- Hellas Restaurant and Lounge in Millersville, MD; Friday, November 25 at 5 pm