27 February 2009

Beer Marketing in 2009

Courtesy of the Washington Post's Comics Riffs blog by Michael Cavna, a cartoon from Tom Meyer of the San Francisco Chronicle. (If your browser chops it, click on the picture for a full view.)

26 February 2009

Off Topic: Last Baltimore phone booth?

The Washington Post ran an article a while back on what was believed to be the last stand-alone phone booth in the metropolitan D.C. area, in the Clarendon neighborhood of Virginia. It's gone now, but that had me paying attention to the few remaining old-style booths in the Baltimore region.

For a while, I thought the last one--at least the only one I could find--was outside St. Agnes Hospital on Wilkens Avenue, but that one disappeared a couple weeks ago.

The other day, I discovered another one on the 6300 block of Reisterstown Road, outside the Pratt Library branch under reconstruction. The phone line is apparently dead, and it appears from what I saw that this box survives more as a bus stop shelter than anything else.

Any others in the Baltimore area? We're talking outdoor four-sided boxes, not kiosk stands or indoor booths like in the Hotel Belvedere. Bonus if the phone works. [UPDATE: I can't find the ones that used to be in the Belvedere. A victim of remodeling, or just faulty memory?]

If arcane roadside trivia like this interests you, I heartily recommend Baltimore Ghosts by Adam Paul, a website FULL of odds and ends still located all over Baltimore.

Abbey Burger Bistro, and more on Cross Street

This little hideaway has appaently stayed hidden from me--both literally and figuratively--for several months now, so here's a long-overdue look:

The Abbey Burger Bistro opened in November in the former Sky Lounge location at 1041 Marshall Street, that little cul-de-sac alley running north from Cross Street right near Ryleighs (the former Sisson's) and north of the Cross Street Market. It does one thing: burgers, albeit a nice variety of same. You have a choice of a "build-it-yourself" burger with a bewildering variety of toppings at various prices (some free for the asking), or a couple house specialty combos at a fixed price (usually $9). Among the choices are extra-low-fat local bison burgers, lamb, mushroom "burgers," and an excellent veggie burger (my wife speculates it was house-made, definitely not the typical mechanically-made frozen patty, with a loose texture akin to a crabcake). Burgers are served with house-made potato crisps, seasoned with the now-ubiquitous rosemary and salt (not sure I tasted garlic there). Sweet potato fries came dusted with pretzel salt for a sweet-salty taste rather than the extra-sugary treats seen at some other places.

The beer menu, updated weekly, had 52 premium bottles, 13 drafts (on two levels), six premium cans (three of them Oskar Blues beers), and seven North American industrial lagers (including Yuengling). So how "abbey" is the place? Not that much--I counted two Belgian drafts, one Unibroue draft, and two Ommegang drafts, as well as ten Belgian bottles and one bottled Unibroue. Lagunitas seems to be the house specialty at the moment, with $3 Lagunitas drafts during happy hour today.

Another specialty of the house is $7 "adult" milkshakes, with a variety of liqueur additions (Grand Marnier, Godiva, Jamesons, etc.).

The website invites feedback, including suggestions for beers. I slipped in fairly incognito and just ordered food and a soda, but was spotted by someone wondering where I was during the Belgian Fest. Sheesh.
Further up (or down) Cross Street, the Pub Dog/Dog Pub is currently pouring a Belgian White and a Porter, as well as still providing an occasional firkin to the other bars in town. A little further still, there's a new Australian-themed place called Billabong's in the former Turner's. The bad: of course, it thinks it has to have Foster's. The good: they also stocked four bottled beers from Barons of Australia. It's still a work in progress, with renovation continuing upstairs, but it shows some promise, to say the least.

25 February 2009

Wharf Rat/Pratt St. Ale House Update

Made a quick stop at (translation: I found a meter with time on it outside) the soon-to-be-former Wharf Rat-Camden Yards this afternoon. Considerable remodeling and reconstruction apace; contractors say they are on pace to complete in time for a reopening on March 10th. In a shocker to those used to the old layout, the bar back that dated to the Wharf Rat's predecessor, P.J. Crickett's, is now gone--as is every last bit of beer/breweriana memorabilia, presumably in storage pending reinstallation or possible "thinning of the herd" (anyone else want to be at that sale, if it happens?).

And, yes, the contractors report that brewing has continued in spite of the reconstruction! Kudos to Steve Jones!

Taverna Corvino, Federal Hill

Casey Hard of Max's tipped me off to a new place in Federal Hill worth our attention.

Taverna Corvino ("raven black") now occupies the former Junior's location (if you blinked, you may have missed it, and you may remember it better as the former Vespa) at 1117-1119 S. Charles St., just south of Matsuri and Mother's. It's an Italian-themed restaurant, currently going through a "Test Kitchen" phase (with signs to that effect) in lieu of a "soft opening." I stoped by before opening today and perused the bar menu, a range of appetizers in the $6-$9 range, as well as cheese plates (three cheeses $11); dinners reportedly hover around $16-25. The owner, Bian McComas, also owns Ryleigh's Oyster Bar, the former Sisson's brewpub around the corner.

But we want to know about the beer, right? The beer selection is thus far all bottles (and a can or two), ranging from Guinness and Grolsch to a Unibroue selection to Fullers and Duvel to Italian mainstreams like Peroni and Moretti. As I started nosing about, the management eagerly pulled out two new bottles: Almond 22 Torbata, an old ale spiced with orange peel and honey, and Genziana, a saison-style brewed with gentian and coriander.

Their official opening is March 3rd; stop in this weekend and give them your feedback.

24 February 2009

Recession? What recession? UPDATED

Article from yesterday's Boston Herald:

As most other business segments contend with negative growth, craft beer makers - small, independent and traditional brewers that produce less than 2 million barrels per year - are enjoying slowed but still-strong sales increases and outperforming the beer industry as a whole.

While craft brewers have seen slowdowns in the volume of their beer consumed at restaurants and bars, business has picked up at the packies as more people spend their free time at home to save money.

Massachusetts-based brewers such as Boston Beer Co., Harpoon Brewery and Cisco Brewers say they’re also benefiting from consumers trading down to their brews from more expensive wines and liquor.

“In boom times, we might be envying our friends in financial services, but they’re now envying us,” said Dan Kenary, cofounder and president of Harpoon Brewery in Boston. “Beer is a staple. You might not be able to go out and spend $75 on dinner, but you can go out and spend $8 or $9 on a six-pack.”

Go read the whole thing. (Thanks to Instapundit for the link.)

UPDATE: More on the subject from Washington Post beer columnist Greg Kitsock, with a slightly different take:

Americans are not drinking less in the recession, but they appear to be drinking cheaper stuff.

Shipments of beer, for instance, were up by more than 1.3 million (0.6 percent) last year, according to the Beer Institute. But the so-called premium mainstream brands such as Bud and Miller Lite and major imports Corona and Heineken reported decreases. The big winners: no-frills economy labels such as Pabst Blue Ribbon and Keystone Light, whose 12- or 30-packs often sell for less than a six-pack of some higher-end brands.

"Keystone Light is the hottest brand in the industry," says Benjamin Steinman, publisher and editor of the newsletter Beer Marketer's Insights. "It grew more than 500,000 barrels last year."

Nonetheless, craft beers (fuller-flavored and pricier, from small independent breweries) also fared well, up 5.8 percent in volume last year, according to the Colorado-Based Brewers Association. True, that's only half the torrid 12 percent growth rate that craft beers registered in 2007. But it's still way ahead of the beer industry as a whole.

The explanation? Many believe it reflects a trading down: that craft beer is siphoning off sales from wine and spirits. "The people who bought top-shelf $10 margaritas are now buying Sam Adams for $5," says Jim Koch, chairman of Boston Beer Co.

(Disclaimer: Kitsock is also the editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, which runs my Baltimore column and occasional articles.)

23 February 2009

Upcoming Beer Events--updated

Max's Taphouse this week:

This Tuesday's Beer Social features 3 new beers in bottles.
They will be serving
from Scotland:
Belhaven Scottish Stout
7.0% ABV and
from Lincolnshire, England:
Batemans Triple B.-A 5.0% ABV English Pale
Batemans Combines Harvest. 4.7% ABV Multi-Grain Beer (Barley, Oats, Wheat and Rye)

Wed Feb 25th, 2009- Troegs Night
cash bar
featuring 3 Troegs beers on draft and one cask on the bar
Troegs Nut brown
Troegs Troegenator
Troegs Nugget Nectar
and serving a pin (Cask) of Troegs Nugget Nectar on the bar.

Thurs Feb 26th, 2009- Stoudts Event

Thursday, Feb 25, 2009
Cash bar
featuring 11 Stoudts drafts for this event.
American pale Ale
Winter Ale
Double IPA
Fat Dog
Scrawney Dog
Abbey Double
Abominable 2007
glassware and sample glasses sizes available

In addition, Metropolitan Coffeehouse should be featuring a British cask for their Thursday night firkin event--
a cask of Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout from Wye Valley Brewery in Stoke Lacy, Hereford, England. Dorothy Goodbody's is a 4.6% stout. Here is what the brewery website has to say about this stout:

Wholesome Stout, which was voted Supreme Champion at the CAMRA Winter Beer Festival 2002 and was awarded Bronze Medal in the 2005 CAMRA West Midlands Stout Category, is produced using only the finest ingredients available. They include Pale malt with roasted barley which produces a rich dark colour. Flaked barley is used to create a full and creamy head. The Stout is flavoured with Northdown hops which give a dry resinous taste. Awarded 5 stars by top beer writer Roger Protz on his website www.beer-pages.com. Only the second beer to gain his full 5 star rating. Ingredients - Water, Malt, Maris Otter, Flaked Barley, Roast Barley, Crystal, Chocolate, Hops: Northdown, Yeast

and also, Metropolitan is hosting the Federal Hill Chili Cookoff on Sunday, March 1 beginning at 5:30 PM. A $5 cover charge goes to a women's shelter; Bruce is promising beer specials for washing down the chili.....

20 February 2009

Singles Banned In (parts of) D.C.; Might Baltimore Be Next?

The Washington City Paper has an article on a new D.C. law that effectively bans sales of single beers in some jurisdictions.

Intended aim: blocking sales of "40-ouncers" of cheap booze to folks who then piddle in alleys and garden pots.

Unintended consequence: effectively banning the sale of Belgian beers, 22-ounce "bombers" of craft beer, and "big" beers like Thomas Hardy's, Dogfish Head's bigger beers, Flying Dog's Wild Dog beers, etc.

“I think it is a terrible policy no matter which way you slice it, but unfortunately all too typical of DC politics—a broad, superficial gesture aimed at a deep infrastructural problem,” wrote a member of the Beer Advocate board last month.
Could this happen in Baltimore? If we're not careful. We may be extremely lucky in that we have a local liquor board chairman who is a certified beer geek and has his name on a stool at one of the local great beer bars, but that does little if bigger politicians get bees in their bonnets. Be ready to oppose.

18 February 2009

Beer Shipped by Rail--at Last!

Forwarded by a railroad friend. North Coast Brewing is, of course, the brewer of Old No. 38 Stout, with a steam locomotive chugging off the label (supposedly modeled after California Western 45, a steam locomotive on the Fort Bragg-based tourist line):

Source: NJ Biz
Craft Beer has arrived by Rail to the East Coast

SADDLE BROOK, NEW JERSEY - Imagine a world where Craft Beer could be transported by railroad to the East Coast. Thanks to LAK Warehouse, Inc. and North Coast Brewing, it has been done.

With a simple idea from George Fisher, Steve Krawczuk and Doug Moody came up with a cost-cutting idea that at the same time keeps the East Coast supplied with North Coast products. This is the first time a pair of smaller companies put together a plan to compete like the big companies. By loading a train car full of beer and sending it via rail direct to LAK Warehouse, shipping costs are dramatically lowered (1 box car holds 4 trailer loads of product) and there are no additional costs since LAK Warehouse has rail siding at their facility making the product go from the rail car right into the warehouse. All these services can be tailored to individual needs.

With LAK's customer base, adding North Coast to their portfolio was a "no-brainer". Since North Coast Brewing's East Coast Customers already pick up product at LAK Warehouse, it is easier and more cost effective for the distributors to consolidate with other suppliers at LAK Warehouse. End result - North Coast keeps stock at LAK Warehouse so East Coast distributors have easier access to the product. Imagining a world where Craft Beer could be transported by railroad to the East Coast is no longer a dream.

Blogger up--kinda.............

Update: I got back home late yesterday.

First order of business--covering a beer event in Inner Harbor (Clipper City celebrating its roles in the new movie "She's Just Not That Into You").

Second order of business: Showing up at Max's Tuesday beer social, slamming down an IV bag and saying "Fill 'er up!" Only one of the regular bar staff was there, however, to get the joke, as the usual guys were all recuperating from the long, hard weekend.

Third, and longest, task: recuperation. Still eating timidly and slowly, a low-fat diet (as Garfield will point out, "diet" is "Die" with a "t", though I always called it the penalty for exceeding the feed limit), and no booze for the time being, orally OR intravenously.

Ironically, today I received a call asking if I wanted to renew my subscription to "Brew Your Own" magazine. They were most gracious when I explained my excuse.

14 February 2009

Max's Belgian photos

The first lot of Belgian Fest photos I've found so far (not like I have anything else to do lying in this f%cking hospital bed).

Feel free to send me your own (links to galleries, please, such as the above--not actual photos), and I'll post them (or at least the best of them).

UPDATE: From Chodite. Note the new display cases upstairs in the lounge.

13 February 2009

An Obama Beer Shut Down

The Brownstoner blog out of Brooklyn (New York, not Maryland) reports that the Sixpoint Ales brewery there is reporting that the Feds have shut down distribution of their "Hop Obama" beer, mentioned in my Mid-Atlantic Brewing News article in the current issue.

Quote from brewery in comments:

The Feds ordered us to shut down the production of the beer, but they certainly didn't raid us with guns and teargas like this post makes it sound.

They sent a TTB rep down to the facility, and then later followed up with someone from the Dept of Homeland Security to make sure we weren't doing anything funny. A cease and desist order was given, and we were required to surrender our labeling license and destroy all product that may have been in inventory.

The point is there will be no more Hop Obama as the Feds have officially put the kabosh on it - its over.

12 February 2009

Instant Philly Beer Collectible!

Okay, it isn't Baltimore, but I do more work with transportation/railroad work/history than beer work, and work with the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. I HAVE to laugh (story courtesy AP):

Philly transit agency sells pass with photo of NYC

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia's primary mass transit agency is embarrassed about a discount pass it sold that features a picture of New York City.

The pass is marked with the logo for Philly Beer Week, a festival celebrating local breweries and taverns. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is selling the pass to discourage people from driving from one event to another during the festival.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Jerri Williams, says transit officials liked the look of the pass but didn't realize the stock photo was of the wrong city. New passes are being printed.

Another Reporter's Viewpoint....

The nice thing about the Internet is that it allows people to seek out more than one source for news and information. (Unless, of course, you're in China or the like.)

So if my sister's going to report on my hospital stay at her blog, I guess I'd better humor her.

She's a nice sister. One or two of you might have even met her. But we look both so similar in certain features and so unalike in others (body shape, for one), that we've jokingly harassed each other under our breaths for years, "You're adopted."

Okay, who's saving me some beer from tonight's SPBW event at Red Brick Station?

11 February 2009

"Aw, Screw the Guy On the Floor--Where's the Beer?!?!?"

Okay, your lives don't revolve around me.

Tonight (maybe some left over tomorrow--call before a trip): a firkin of Troeg's Nugget Nectar at Frisco Grille in Columbia.

Thursday the 12th: SPBW meets 7 PM at Red Brick Station, the Avenue at White Marsh (click at SPBW link on the right for information).
Meanwhile, back downtown, Metropolitan puts on a firkin of American Dog Ale, an American IPA from Dog Brewing of Westminster/Federal Hill.

And this weekend, of course: Belgian blowout at Max's, starting @ 11 AM Friday.

Now, if any of you enterprising chaps wants to swing by the University of Md. Medical Center, mercilessly mock my being fed with a tube up my nose, and then take an IV bag over to any of these places on my behalf...............

10 February 2009


Needlessly-long and personal narrative whittled down to the bare essentials for your consumption:

Saturday, Jan. 31st while attending the Great Scale Train Show at Timonium, I received an acute case of "indigestion". The pain was basically that of a sucker punch up under the front of the rib cage/sternum. (For the history-minded, think the punch that ultimately killed Harry Houdini.) I chalked it up to either acid indigestion or just "something I ate" and left for home, where I laid around for most of the weekend, suffering a bit more and not having much of an appetite.

On Wednesday the 4th, I woke up somewhat lethargic and ill-at-ease. I chalked that up to inadequate sleep, called work to tell them I was coming in late if at all, and went back to bed. Around 11 a.m. I got up to do more normal Wednesday routines--eat the breakfast my now-unemployed wife made for me, get the Washington Post and Baltimore City Paper, read e-mails--and then go down to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum to see if they had the CD for Microsoft Front Page so I could work on their website.

While I was at the BSM in the Md. Rail Heritage Library, the "indigestion" came back like Refrigerator Perry trampling for a touchdown. I managed to stagger home and crawl up the stairs to my flat, where I promptly made an altogether vain effort to get comfortable.

By 7:00 or so I was having my wife call for suggestions. My sister and brother-in-law were a bit taken aback by my asking for any good gastro-enterologists that might be available.

Around 9 p.m. my wife pulled up to the emergency department of Maryland General Hospital ("because I know where it is!") and I was admitted, to spend hours more in a waiting room with no possible place to lie out or get comfy.

The verdict, after x-rays and an ultrasound scan: Pancreatitis and gallstones. A massive gallstone was thought to be blocking the duct from the pancreas to the digestive tract, and several more were clustered in the gall bladder. I was transferred to U. of Md. Medical Center the next evening by ambulance, although I joked that they could have just put me and the stretcher on a southbound Light Rail train!

More details will follow as I get the chance, but suffice it to say that the short-term goal is reducing the inflammation from the pancreatitis to the point where the gall bladder can be removed via a simple (possibly outpatient basis) laproscopy. I just hope that for all the pain these buggers are causing, I get to take them home in a glass jar!

Alcohol consumption? THAT topic made for lively discussion and debate--starting with how no doctor ever seems to believe anyone who straightforwardly states they drink in moderation (specifying exact amounts from a journal, no less). First, no way I can expect to partake of any booze until well after the gall bladder is removed and the pancreas and incisions heal. (And goddammit, let me tell y'all how much I've lusted for certain beers of late, such as Uinta Wildfire, Coniston Bluebird Bitter, and Fraoch Heather Ale....) Even then, there appears to be a faction of doctors that are of the belief that alcohol is what instigates the pancreatitis, and that alcohol should thus be verboten forevermore. I'm not buying that, but if they ultimately win, I may be holding a nice "charity fundraiser" beer sale whereas all my valuable stashes go to settle outstanding hospital bills.

UPDATE midday 11 Feb.: Not yet on solid foods, but still alive and kicking. The pain level is down substantially, and there's a chance in Hell I actually might make it to Max's this weekend, albeit with the condition that I have NO beer or even food there.

06 February 2009

Max's 5th Belgian Fest--The Final(?) Draft List

FEB. 13-15 2009
TIME: 11Am-Close-Each day
NO ENTRANCE FEE, cash Bar, also over 200 Belgian beers in bottles and a full Belgian inspired food menu. We will also be serving a free Belgian breakfast buffet on Friday morning at 11am
SO HERE IS IS THE FINAL DRAFT LIST: Casey hopes to see you all next week.
Abbaye Des Rocs Blonde
Allagash Fedelte
Alvinne Bathazaar
Alvinne Extra
Alvinne Kerasus US Debut Beer
Alvinne Podge
Bavik Petrus Winter
Bels Pils
Benelux Archangel
Cantillon Fou Foune
Cantillon Iris
Chimay Cinq Cents
Chouffe N' Ice 2007
De Dolle Dulle Teve
De Dolle Stille Nacht 2006
De Dolle Stille Nacht 2007
De Glazen Toren Canaster
De Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte
De Glazen Toren Toren Ondineke
De Glazen Toren Saison De Epre Mere
De Glazen Toren Saison Special Eindejaar
De Koninck 175th Anniversary Ale
De Ranke Pere Noel
De Ranke Guldenberg
De Regenboog Catherine The Great
De Regenboog Guido
De Regenboog T' Smisje Calva Reserve US Debut Beer
De Regenboog T' Smisje Grand Reserve US Debut Beer
De Regenboog T' Smisje BBBourgondier
De Regenboog T' Smisje Kerst
De Regenboog T' Smisje Dubbel
De Regenboog Vuuve
De Regenboog Wostinjte
Dupont Avril
Duvel Green
Ellezolloise Quintine Blonde
Fantome De Noel
Geants Goliath
Geants Saison Vosin
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Cuvee De Keizer Blauw
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Cuvee De Keizer Rood
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Noel
Huyghe Delirium Nocturnum
Huyghe Delirium Noel
Huyghe Delirium Tremens
La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux
La Rulles Triple
Lefebvre Barbar
Lefebvre Barbar Winterbok
Lefebvre Floreffe Triple
Leifmans Kriek
Leifmans Oud Bruin
Ommegang Fruit Brewed for the fest
Ommegang Wes' Triple
Point Bruges
Scaldis Noel
Silly Pink Killer
Slaapmutske Triple Night Cap
St Bernardus Abt 12
St Bernardus Christmas
St Feuillien Brune
St Feuillien Cuvee De Noel
St Feuillien Printemps
Strubbe Itchgems Grand Cru
Strubbe Itchgems Pils
Strubbe Keyte Double Triple
Van Honsebrouck Kasteel Rouge
Van Steenberge Kloekke Roeland
Hanssens Youngs Lambic (Cask) US Debut beer
Hanssens Old Kriek (Cask) US Debut Beer
Brewers Art Cerberus (Cask)
Brewers Art La Petroleuse (Cask)
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Mardesous 6
La Rulles Estivale
Lindemans Framboise
Oud Beersel Framboise
Saturday and sunday drafts beers
These will be on Saturday or Sunday-They are in no special order.
Chouffe Houblon
La Chouffe
Mc Chouffe
Bavik Pilaarbijter Ale
Corsendonk Christmas
De Koninck Ale
De Koninck Winter Koninck
Urthel Hop It
Triple Karmeliet
Ertvelds Wit
Gulden Draak
Ommegang Three Philosophers
Ommegang Witte
Ommegang Rouge
Ommegang Rare Vos
Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence
Ommegang Abbey
Ommegang Obamagang
St Bernardus Prior 8
St Bernardus Pater 6
Val Dieu Grand Cru
Fruli Strawberry
Heavy Seas Holy Sheet (Cask)
Gouden Carolus Ambrio
Gouden Carolus Triple
Floris Apple
Blanche De Bruxelles
Popering Hommel
Abbaye De Forest
Stone Vertical Epic
Kasteel Donker
Kasteel Triple

AND A LATE UPDATE: I actually may have to miss it this year, for reasons beyond my control. Stay tuned...........

02 February 2009

More Real Ale In Federal Hill

Make that "returns to" in the case of this address............

cribbed from an e-mail from Danny at Muggsy's Mug House--the former Sean Bolan's at 1236 S. Light St.:

Just wanted to let you know we are having our first "Firkin Friday" next weekend, Friday February 6th. We have a firkin of Loose Cannon just waiting to be tapped. everything gets kicked off at 7pm, mugs are going for $4 each, it should be a lot of fun.