30 October 2008

Federal Hill and "No-Tolerance" Parking?

The Baltimore Sun's Sam Sessa is covering in his Midnight Sun blog a proposed change to parking restrictions in Federal Hill--a change that certainly doesn't bode well for those hoping to visit the area's many fine beer bars:

a brief synopsis: In most Federal Hill parking zones, you can park on most non-metered streets in Federal Hill for two hours without a permit between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., give or take. Before or after those hours, parking is free.

But on baseball and football game days, if you don't have a permit and you park in one of these spots, you get ticketed and towed.

Got it? OK. Now, here's what they want to do ...

With the new proposal, they want to make it so you can park for two hours without a permit between the hours of 7 am. and 6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and similar hours on Sundays. Before or after those hours, you're going to need a permit.

I'm not entirely sure of the time table, but if community organizers get enough signatures, we could see these changes go into effect next year.

More at the links, along with a boatload of comments from readers.

29 October 2008

Wharf Rat: Beer Geek Halloween!

I'm still awaiting more details from the whole crew at the Wharf Rat regarding the recent sale of the brewpub (and much of it will go to Mid-Atlantic Brewing News because they pay me for it), but I wanted to pass along an initial invitation by the new owner, Justin Dvorkin:

While the youngster are mobbing Fells Point we figured we would have a bit of a beer geek night at the Wharf Rat. We are going to have 2 Firkins on the bar, one Old Habit($3), and one TBA (we are taking requests) and we are trying to bring in a couple high end pumpkin beers (Weyerbacher, Dogfish, etc.)($3). Please help me get the word out, if I can get some support, I would love to do nights like this on a regular basis.
Consider it done; I'll be there. It's kind of hard for me to get my head around the concept of a brewpub having enough firkins on hand to be able to entertain requests.....

UPDATE from Justin: "Just wanted to give you an update on what we have planned for
tomorrow. Steve has decided to spice things up a bit. Our firkin of Old Habit is currently being aged with vanilla beans, and we will also be pouring a dry hopped firkin of our Irish Red. Please pass the word along to anyone who may be interested. Hope to see you there!"

Orkney Skullsplitter--Too Violent a Beer?

Oh, blimey.

First, we've had various beers get in trouble with the ATF (later the TTB) over claims that could be construed to be "healthful" (see Bert Grant of Grant's in Washington sticking a factual nutritional-content label--a label that is REQUIRED on other foodstuffs--on his Celtic Ale years ago) or that could be construed to be a claim of superior alcoholic strength (ever see the labels on the bottles of the first batch of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout with two black marker lines at the bottom of the text, crossing out the words "Vim and Vigor"?).....................

Now add violence to the mix.

Quoting the website for Scotland's Orkney Brewery:


The Orkney Brewery has mounted a vigorous defence of its award winning Skull Splitter ale, which could be withdrawn from sale in the UK following a report claiming its Viking branded bottles had an “aggressive” theme.

The report, by management consultancy PIPC, was commissioned by controversial drinks marketing watchdog, the Portman Group, to investigate compliance with an industry code of practice on the naming, packaging and promotion of alcohol.

Skull Splitter, an 8.5% ale created over 20 years ago and sold internationally, was singled out in the PIPC report because “it’s name implies violence and also the impact the strength may have on the drinker”.

The report claimed that, potentially, Skull Splitter was in breach of the drinks industry’s code and the Portman Group will meet later in the year to consider what action, if any, it may take against the Orkney Brewery. That action could include an instruction to UK retailers not to stock the ale.

Fearing one of its longest established and most popular ales could be withdrawn from sale in the UK, the brewery has now launched a campaign to save Skull Splitter, a former Champion Winter Ale of Britain.

Already commended for leading the way with efforts to increase awareness of sensible drinking, the brewery – set to undergo a major redevelopment - has repeatedly stressed to the Portman Group that the ale is in fact named after Thorfinn Hausakluif, the Seventh Viking Earl of Orkney - nicknamed “Skull Splitter”.

Orkney Brewery’s parent company, Sinclair Breweries Ltd, is mustering support for its case ahead of the final decision by the Portman Group.

Norman Sinclair, managing director of Sinclair Breweries Ltd, said: “We’re completely stunned by the hard line the Portman Group has taken with Skullsplitter. When they first raised their concerns with us on the back of the PIPC report we fully explained the historical background to the name and, as responsible brewers, we were happy to try and work with them to find a solution. Indeed, we’ve cooperated with them every step of the way but it’s apparently got us nowhere.

“Again and again we have stressed to the Portman Group that Skull Splitter, like all our beers, is a high quality, hand crafted product designed to be savoured by adults who enjoy the real ale experience. We never target any of our beers at a young market, nor do we allow them to be sold cut price. In addition, Skull Splitter is not sold in supermarkets.”

Mr Sinclair said he had reminded the Portman Group that Sinclair Breweries Ltd, which also owns Kinlochleven’s Atlas Brewery, was the first small, independent brewer to incorporate new government alcohol consumption guidelines on all its labelling.

“We’ve always promoted a responsible attitude towards our products and, whilst we recognise that the Portman Group is trying to address a very real problem with under age drinking in this country, real ales are not the cause of these issues,” he said. “Sadly, the Portman Group does not appear to have grasped this fact. They have chosen to disregard everything we’ve said about the history of Orkney and the associated branding of what is a carefully crafted and well loved product, enjoyed the world over.”

He added: “We await their final decision with considerable concern. It’s almost inconceivable that a quality product such as Skull Splitter, one that has won numerous industry awards, could disappear from sale in the UK and I sincerely hope that common sense prevails.”

I presume these folks are the same brand of folks that insist that all "Tom and Jerry" and/or "Road Runner-Wiley Coyote" cartoons promote violence.......

(My thanks to fellow beer geek John Phelan for forwarding me the news, uncovered while searching for beers to drink during a planned trip...... and the "Baltimore" tie-in for this beer news? Well, it's imported by local beer distributor Legends Limited, run by Patrick Casey, a fine gentleman to whom we are much grateful.......)

23 October 2008

Metropolitan expanding

Metropolitan Coffee House in Federal Hill has reopened several months after being damaged by a fire. If you liked the old place, you'll like the new. One major improvement: during rebuilding, Bruce Dorsey took the opportunity to add more draft lines, including a two-tap Unibroue tower. The downstairs bar conversion is not yet finished ("Contractors!" said Bruce of the ever-popular source of renovation delays), but when it is it will sport a total of fourteen taps, plus the upstairs beer engine and six more taps upstairs. In addition, another bottle refrigerator has been added, giving them a few more "big-bottle" selections to offer.

On tap right now (well, as of a couple hours ago): Schneider Weisse, Ommegang Hennepin, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, Troegs Rugged Trail Ale, Wolavers Oatmeal Stout, and North Coast Red Seal Ale downstairs, Brooklyn IPA, Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter, Allagash White, Weyerbacher Hops Infusion IPA, Ommegang Witte, and Troegs Pale Ale upstairs, as well as a firkin of Loose Cannon and an Olivers on the engine. Pending as soon as the cooler is finished: Unibroue Maudite and Chambly Noire, Bittberger Pils, Fullers ESB, Reading Premium, Uintas Anglers Pale Ale, and Lagunitas IPA.

Man, is this place looking good.

Pub grub tip: They offer two chilis on the menu, a vegetarian and a three-meat offering. If you ask, they'll blend the two in a bowl, which works out to be the best option for omnivores. They do also offer a full restaurant menu, up to steak and stuffed chops.

Wharf Rat-Camden Yards SOLD!

I wanted to save the news until I had a chance to actually sit down and talk with the principals in person, but as that seems to keep getting postponed by my busy work schedule and the fact that I occasionally like to eat and sleep:

Yes, it finally happened. The Wharf Rat Brewpub has been sold.

The new owners, who closed the sale Monday, are Justin Dvorkin, a brewer from Fordham Brewing, and Donald Kelly, who has operated bars in Connecticut. Bill Oliver will retain the original Wharf Rat in Fells Point. Stephen Jones comes with the brewery.

Changes? As of this moment, no changes are planned (although, lord almighty, they said that about Old Dominion, too), save for one: a possible expansion to TWO real-ale festivals a year! Jones and Dvorkin are slated to appear--along with a firkin of Oliver ale--at Metropolitan in Federal Hill next Thursday evening.

21 October 2008

"Rare Beer" Tappening at Max's Nov. 20th

[please to cue up Richard Thompson's "Now Be Thankful" for an event right before Thanksgiving......}

"Thursday, Nov 20, 2008 [Thursday before Thanksgiving]
Time:5pm-till ? Cost: cash Bar
No entrance fee location:main bar downstairs
I have pulled out some really rare and obscure kegs from my vault.These kegs are vintage, one- offs or very hard to find on draft.I have one kegs each of these and most are smaller kegs.So here is the line up.
BFM Abbaye de Bon Chien
BFM La Madragore
JW Lees Harvest Ale
Southern Tier Chocolate
Southern Tier Creme Brulee
Smuttynose Brett & I
Smuttynose Jack Daniels Porter
Smuttynose Oak Aged Barleywine 2005
Great Divide Espresso Yeti
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head Theobroma
Allagash Victoria
Allagash Black
Birra De Borgo TE
Birra De Borgo Genzina
E. Dupont Organic Cidre Bouche Brut 2007
Samichlaus Helles
George Gales Prize Old Ale
JW Lees Harvest Ale aged in Calvados
De Regenboog Catherine The Great"

[end quote]

See y'all there?

20 October 2008

Blob's Park Revival!

I said after the first year or so of writing for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News that I was getting sick of writing obituaries for closing bars/breweries. Well, it is now my pleasure to revoke a recent one.

Folowing up on several rumors that had been floating about, it appears that Blob's Park, down near Jessup, is being rebuilt for a reopening! To quote an e-mail from a leader in the German-American folk-dancing community:

John's brother Max Eggerl is renovating and will manage the new
Blob's Park. I talked with him at the Timonium Festival after
we performed. He's quite positive about doing things differently
and getting better results.

The other Max mentioned has moved here from Bavaria and into
[former owner] Katherine's home. He'll be the acting chef living
on site and that should mean an expansion of both menu and hours
open. Those are big investment on the two Max's parts. We've gotten
used to higher admissions with dinner included at our many forays
into Baltimore's ethnic dance halls this year so we'll be ready for
whatever program keeps the place alive.

Once his plan is in effect it's up to those who have wept and
moaned about the closing to stop talking about the great loss
and to do something to support the new place. We'll hold parties
there every month and will support special events every way we can,
performing at Oktoberfests, teaching at band breaks, and always
dressed ethnic to add to the atmosphere.
There are photos of the extensive renovations up at the old website
and the new one.

Chesapeake Real Ale Festival Report

The quick and dirty first:

As far as I can tell, everything shown on the earlier list for casks at the Real Ale Fest showed up save for The Raven. (Brewer Steve Demczuk practically admitted at the Md. Oktoberfest a week earlier--and yeah, I have to post on that, don't I?--that he was simply running out of firkins, and might have to pass it up.)

Best beer of the day? Oh, PLEASE don't make me pick. It was a ludicrous embarrassment of riches, not a bad or even non-excellent beer to be had in the line-up. Of course, no doubt there was something that someone may not care for--say, if you're not a fan of extra-hoppy beers, or cider, or black/roasty beers--but so what? There was a mild, or an ESB, something to please just about anyone that cared about real ale.

Better yet, unlike previous years where runs on particularly rare or popular beers depleted supply quite early, almost every beer, even those in small pins, lasted almost to the end of the festival, when growler fills were available for $5 each--a bargain for every beer there. (Though, admittedly, only one growlerful at best remained of some beers.)

There are rumors floating about, however, that the festival may have to find a new home for 2009. More on that if and when it all transpires.

Great Beer Cheap!!!!!!!

Note: This is only posted as a service to my readers. I gain no financial benefit from this.

Wells Liquors (and if you don't know where/what that is, why are you reading this?) currently has on sale three large-bottle specials, typical of distributors looking to make some shelf space by discounting the last of the inventory:

Brewers Art Le Canard, the first bottled batch (750ml corked)
Southampton Tripel, Imperial Porter, and Pumpkin Ale (22-oz. bottles)
Flying Dog Wild Dog Colorado Saison (corked 750ml)

Several cases of each on hand. All are excellent beers, and VERY cheap relative to original prices ("so low, we can't even say it here!"). Stock up, but leave me a couple more, please. And there are, as always, a couple other "last of the batch" beers on sale, such as Lancaster's Rooster Rye.

UPDATE 25 Oct.: Only some Wild Dog and Southampton Pumpkin left......

14 October 2008

Free Book Giveaway!

Courtesy of The Book Thing, I have two FREE copies of Charlie Papazian's "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing" to give away to any readers here.

Tell you what: I'll give them to the first two respondents who make the best case--in my arrogant, biased judgement, of course--why I should give them a copy of the book.

Fine Print: Both books are stamped inside the cover "Not for resale; THIS IS A FREE BOOK" and one copy has the trait common to most copies of this book, evidence of spilled beer wort. Books must be picked up from me in person at any reasonable location to be named, OR winner can pay for media postage or buy me a beer or two for the trouble.

Allow me to take an aside to plug The Book Thing in Waverly: to the bibliophile, it's like free cocaine is to an addict. Tens of thousands of free books, available every Saturday and Sunday, absolutely FREE. They accept donations of books and financial support (the latter through their website only), and volunteers sort books by general category. Free books for growing children and schoolkids. Free books on art, music, science, sociology, food, drink, sci-fi, history, travel, romance novels, crafts, car repair, biographies, classics, etc. Heck, take obsolete computer books and travel guides and burn them for heat all winter for all they care (and a few books are only good for that, sadly). And on Saturday mornings year-round, the Waverly Farmer's Market is a short two blocks to the north--so you can get food for the body AND the mind in one easy Saturday morning junket!

Quick October Updates

Yes, it's been a while. There's a joke that "starting a blog = doubling your workload for no additional pay." Paying work comes first.

So without further ado:

*Metropolitan Coffee House in Federal Hill reopens Wednesday, Oct. 15th at 7 AM. Rebuilt after the fire a while back.

*The firkin list for Saturday's Chesapeake Real Ale Festival at the Wharf Rat-Camden Yards:

Barley & Hops Big Ben Nut Brown
Brewers Alley Oatmeal Stout
Brewers Art Beacon Ale & Seven Beauties Rye
BW Beer Works The Raven
Cape Ann Brewing Pumpkin Stout
Clipper City Loose Cannon & Winter Storm
Dogfish Palo Santo
DuClaw Alchemy
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Franklins Sierra Madre - American Pale
Growlers Nut Brown
Lancaster Celtic Rose
Old Dominion Unfiltered Dry Hopped Pale
Otter Creek World Tour "Otter Mon" Jamaican Stout
Red Brick Station Murphs Backdraft Porter
Reid's Orchard Hard Cider
Rock Bottom Bethesda ESB - Extra Scary Beer
Smuttynose Old Brown Dog
Troegs HopBack Amber
Victory Brewing ESB
Weyerbacher (Easton, Pa.) Old Heathen
Wharf Rat Dark Mild, Harvest Ale, Pin of 3 Lions
Wild Goose IPA
Yards (Phila.) General Washington Tavern Porter & Brawler, an English ruby mild

Ticket info: www.spbw.org/realale/ Ticket supplies ARE limited, and if they sell out you will be turned away. Bring growlers. Take mass transit or a taxi. Don't drink and drive.

*Latest Mid-Atlantic Brewing News (Oct-Nov) is on the streets. Go there for my column, as well as an article on Eastern Shore Brewing (to answer the one reader who commented by asking about that place).........