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.
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

03 November 2011

International Stout Day?

Apparently it's supposed to be International Stout Day.

This writer first heard of this promotional effort through an Oct. 27th "Media Alert" press release--which came close to a "Press Release We Never Finished Reading" at first--from O Communications, marketing on behalf of Carlow Brewing and O'Hara's Irish Stout.  However, by word of mouth, it appears to have spread as a marketing concept here and there.

The Pratt Street Ale House, for example, is offering $3.00 Bishop's Breakfast pints, both cask and draft, and $3.00 Snifters of Bishop's Indulgence.  Alonso's, meanwhile, is offering North Coast Old Rasputin, Lancaster Milk Stout, Young's Double Chocolate Stout, Guinness, Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, and Crispin Landsdowne ("I know it's a stretch, but it is brewed with stout yeast!").  Alewife Baltimore is promoting Old Rasputin, Rogue Shakespeare, Green Flash Double Stout, and Stone Imperial Russian 10th Anniversary and Belgo.  Meanwhile, Dogfish Head is holding a number of events, including debuting a "brewpub exclusive" in Rehoboth Beach, Count Chocula.

Possibly the most interesting offering?  The Maryland debut of Leinenkugel's specialty "Big Eddy" line at the namesake Beer Garden at the Power Plant Live, which happens to be starting off with a 10% Russian Imperial Stout, tapped yesterday.  RateBeer gives it high marks, BeerAdvocate not as high.

My interesting question:  How long before savvy (or obnoxious) marketers start up more "official" beer-style days?  Red Ale Day (May Day for the "revolution"?)?  Imperial IPA Day?  Saison Day?  Wood-Aged Sour Ale Day?  "Beerjoulais Nouveau" Day??  Heck, with the explosion or inflation of beer styles judged at the Great American Beer Festival, soon every other day would be a different "beer day," and dilute their collective impact and attention accordingly, ultimately defeating the purposes of such "events."

Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for marketing, and for places finding or creating "excuses" to pay attention to their projects.  Many brewpubs mark their official birthdays (it's coincidence that one of my favorite brewpubs shares my birthdate, and marks the occasion annually), or hold cask ale events (every Friday the 13th at the Grey Lodge in Philly, for example).  But, as with the style guidelines/categories at the GABF or in the BJCP, never underestimate the ability of a good thing to run amok.

And now I get a press release that this weekend is "Learn to Homebrew Day"--or so says the American Homebrewers Association...........

01 November 2011

Another Alewife opens... in NY

Another Alewife, this one Alewife Queens, has opened in Long Island City.  And yes, Daniel Lanigan of the Baltimore Alewife has a hand in it.