31 March 2009

Max's Tuesday Night Beer Socials

Okay, it just occurred to me.

There are people out there who may not know about this. Duh.

So, without further ado:

Every Tuesday at Max's Taphouse (save for a rare excuse such as a holiday or an upcoming Belgian Fest) at 6 PM, there's what's called a Beer Social. It's usually held upstairs in the Mobtown Lounge, although sometimes it's held downstairs to the rear of the main bar. The offerings vary: sometimes it's one special beer (the regional debut of a "new" beer or brewery); sometimes it's a particular brewery, perhaps with a brewery rep or actual brewer on hand; sometimes the first few patrons get a free glass with the featured beer; maybe it's a beer on cask or a specially brewed/dry-hopped/etc. firkin......... Often, a beer sold in large bottles is sold by a smaller glass instead. As a bonus, free munchies are also supplied, varying from week to week--one week it may be nachos and chicken tenders, another week mini-burgers and fries; another week fish, chips, and mozzarella sticks.

Tonight, for example, it was four beers from Troeg's of Harrisburg, Pa., including a local debut of the bottled Flying Mouflan, a dark beer with 9.3% alcohol and 100 IBU's (International Bittering Units--in other words, a VERY hoppy beer). Also available were their Pale Ale, Troegenator Dopplebock, their Nugget Nectar extra-hoppy beer, and the Nugget Nectar on cask handpump. Also on hand--one of the brewery reps and co-owner Chris Trognor.

Want to add this to your options? E-mail bar cellarmaster Casey Hard at chard@maxs.com ; tell him you wish to be added to the Beer Social e-mail list. You will be added to that list, and only that list, and will receive an e-mail anytime between Sunday morning and Tuesday morning telling you, briefly, what the featured beer(s) is/are that week, as well as a run-down of recent new drafts added. If you're reading this blog, that's usually enough to decide whether or not you want to make the trip--if it isn't the cask English beer or whatever the special feature is, there may be something else in the draft list to draw you. Drafts are also discounted on Tuesdays, making it a doubly special trip.

Beer of the Week

Was trying to catch up with the chaps who run Illusions, to talk with them about Baltimore Beer Week, but Spencer was in the midst of a Very Important Phone Call, so to kill time I wander down Charles Street, and around the corner to The Dog Pub, which opened as I walked up.....

Imperial Dog, their version of an Imperial IPA. Okay, if you're whipping out your AOB/BJCP style sheets, forget it. It supposedly clocks in at 6.5% or a little bit more, about what many snobs would deem just a regular IPA. But it's aggressively, assertively hoppy in the Pacific Northwest style, and would pass for something by Lagunitas or the like on a good day. If you've been bypassing the Dog because you think you've "tried 'em all" or think they're only doing a minimal effort, think again and hie thee down there. At least do so while you're still allowed to park anywhere down there but the West St. parking garage (which is where you go if you can't find legal parking).

A couple doors down, Billabong's is bringing in a few more beers to supplement their Australian/New Zealand theme, including Dogfish 60-minute Tetley's, and Hoegaarden.

Heads-up: Illusions, in spite of the website, is down to two or three nights a week, and will be closed for a couple of weekends as the owners tour China on a magic tour. Call before making a trip, and if you go, dress well (it's a classy place) and pressure them for a decent tap line or two.

26 March 2009

Join SPBW, Get Cheap Real Ale Full-Time!

I knew about this for a while, but I wanted to clear it with all the participants before I publicized it.....

Membership in the Society for Preservation of Beers From the Wood now comes with a full-time bonus, not just a once-a-month event.

Thanks to Red Brick Station/White Marsh brewer Mike McDonald, if an SPBW member presents his or her membership card at Red Brick Station, s/he can get a pint of cask-conditioned real ale from the handpump or firkin for only $2.00....... except on Tuesdays, when it's only $1.00!!!!

You read that right, folks. Present a $10 membership card, get a pint of real ale for $2.00. You can join at the website, but you have to take some effort to secure the now-coveted membership card.

"I don't know why more places aren't doing it," said McDonald. "We even set up an SPBW discount button in the computer registers!"

The next SPBW meeting, by the way, is April 11th at Johansson's Dining House in Westminster, 7 PM.

Baltimore Beer Week--planning continues.......

Others, notably Rob Kasper, have given some publicity to Baltimore Beer Week.

Me, I'm too busy trying to make it all happen.

Like an idiot, I volunteered to be events coordinator for BBW. I have a huge list of possible events brainstormed up by committee members, and right now I'm going to a few possibilities and running ideas up the flagpoles. Meanwhile, if you or your place/group have an interest in staging a Beer Week event of any kind--a beer dinner, a homebrewing demonstration, a history lecture, a pub crawl, a Meet the Brewer event--please drop me a line as soon as possible. There's a "first come, first served" aspect to a lot of this..........

Meanwhile, some lively discussion surrounds the proposed BBW logo, above. People either love or intensely hate it. Your thoughts?
UPDATE: By the way, I'm told the intense green background and the green in the outer ring is NOT actually part of the logo, just a consequence of the background that was used in those specific computer images. And, yes, it CAN be simplified or "dumbed down". Personally, I wouldn't have minded a crab as part of the logo, but that sort of has become its own overused cliche in itself (though I like my crab-themed t-shirt from the American Homebrewers Assn. convention in Baltimore a couple years back...).

25 March 2009

So change the name to "El Ropo's"......

Midnight Sun reports that the Ropewalk Tavern in Federal Hill managed to get itself an exemption to the statewide ban on smoking in bars. You can now smoke on the third floor (wait, they HAVE a third floor? I guess anything's possible in that M.C. Esher-like maze they call a tavern.....). Thus Ropewalk joins Max's Taphouse (the northernmost room is the cigar store/lounge) and Little Havana (on the southern fringes of Inner Harbor along Key Highway) as refuges for beer-swilling smokers.

Cue all the jokes about cigars and burning rope.......

And, of course, the comments of Sam's blog filled up rather quickly with snotty comments over both smokers (and the merits or lack thereof of the ban) and the Ropewalk's clientele. It's probably the overt Republican leanings of its owners (really--statues of Ronald Reagan, anyone?), but the bar has long been a target of dissenters who disapprove of the bar's clientele and perceived obnoxious behavior. (In beer regards, as far as I know Ropewalk is the only establishment in the nation to formally request, and get, removal from the noted Pubcrawler.com website, supposedly over similarly acrimonious commentary with political content, as well as an alleged coupon scam that Ropewalk's owners blamed on the Pubcrawler site.....)

Looks like beer isn't enough for Md. taxes......

From WTOP News, via OpinionJournal.com:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - It's hard to find an old-fashioned soda fountain in Maryland these days, but the state comptroller's office says a nearly century-old fee for the mom and pop joints means all who sell fountain beverages in 2009 need to pay up.

In a March memo, Maryland comptroller Peter Franchot's office put circuit court clerks on notice that a soda fountain is not just a place for ice cream sodas and root beer floats. A soda fountain, the memo said, means "a soft drink dispenser found in fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and other types of retail establishments." The code authorizes the state to collect a $25 annual fee for most soda fountains, $10 from those in communities of less than 1,000 or $60 from Baltimore City establishments.

"Until the legislature clearly defines a 'soda fountain,' since the meaning of the term has changed since the law was enacted, a soda fountain license must be issued and applicable fees charged to all retail establishments which have a soda fountain, i.e. soft drink dispenser," the memo said.

The memo also said the state could collect the fee for each soda fountain located in the restaurant, meaning an establishment with separate dispensers could be paying multiple fees.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland estimates there are roughly 9,600 restaurants in the state, but Franchot's office says there were only 75 soda fountain licenses in 2008, 23 of which were in Anne Arundel County. Joe Shapiro, Franchot's spokesman, said the comptroller's office issued the memo to remind counties of the fee because there has been uneven enforcement of the license requirements.

Restaurateurs, however, suspect they're being asked to cough up now to help plug the state's massive budget deficit.

"It seems a little ridiculous to start trying to enforce a law that was enacted in 1916 when it hasn't been enforced for years," said David McCallum, co-owner and executive chef of Tilghman Island Inn. "But I guess in hard times people search for revenue wherever they can get it."

Anne Arundel County Delegate Nic Kipke is pushing a repeal of the law passed in 1916, which he estimates could cost Maryland restaurant industry $1.5 million annually.

"If we're going to start charging restaurants this fee, what's next?" Kipke said. "Fees for every table, every chair, every cash register?"

Don't give them ideas, please.................

17 March 2009

Why I Go Into Hiding On March 17th's.............

I'm currently reading (at a glacial pace, since I have little spare time, been sick, and am also reading from about four other books simultaneously) "The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick's Day" by Mike Cronin and Daryl Adair (still available at Pratt Library but not Balto. County library).

The more I read it, the more I see myriad ways an occasion can be twisted and perverted for various agendas.

But cut to the chase: Here, from the Washington Post website, is a photo of Pat Troy of Ireland's Own in Alexandria today.

Need more be said?

Yeah. Are those accursed Irish Rovers, that Canadian group singing supposed Irish folk and other dreck, the ones apparently responsible for inflicting this plague (written by the loverly Irish Shel Silverstein, mind you) upon us, still around and performing?
(Update: Yep--or at least some version of the original group--and apparently they just played in Hershey, Pa. eleven days ago. That was a close one.)

Stupid Amateur "Irish" Idiocy Day--but news nonetheless

So I'm drinking green-tea ginger ale with a wedge of lime. Is that green enough for you? Sorry, first I come down with a nasty bout of flu moments after leaving work Friday, ruining my weekend, then my wife catches it from me, leaving me to nurse and feed her until this evening.

But we have some late-breaking news of various sorts, for quick updates:

*The Maryland Legislature is examining raising alcohol taxes in the People's Democratic Republic of Maryland. More action this week--or not. Last time I went to Annapolis to cover a booze-legislation story, the legislation was withdrawn before it could be acted upon:

On Wed. 3/18 at 1:00 Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation committee in Annapolis will have a hearing on senate bill 729 which proposes the following alcoholic beverage tax increases:

Increasing the State tax rates for alcoholic beverages sold in Maryland from $1.50 to $6.00 per gallon for distilled spirits, from 40 cents to $1.60 per gallon for wine, and from 9 cents to 36 cents per gallon for beer; providing for the distribution of the additional revenue to special funds to be used only for the purpose of providing additional funding for specified services; etc.

see http://mlis.state.md.us/2009rs/billfile/SB0729.htm

On Thurs. 3/19 the Maryland House Ways and Mans committee will have a hearing on its version of the bill (number 791) at 1:00PM.

Comments: "Del. William A. Bronrott, a Montgomery County Democrat, said his proposal to raise the tax by 5 cents per drink would generate as much as $80 million each year to be used in part help as many as 1,000 of 19,000 people on a waiting list for disabilities assistance and others awaiting addiction treatment." And if you sincerely believe that's where the monies will go, I have some snake oil in the trunk of my car that will cure your every ailment, as well as title to a lucrative bridge in New York City which I'm letting go cheap. Seldom have I seen a more naked "won't someone think of the children?!?" appeal, and even if Bronrott's heart and intentions are pure, I'm still rooting for the alcohol lobbyists on this one.

Which is pathetic, in a way. I'm not opposed to ALL taxes, just punitive, regressive, and unnecessary ones. And if one looks at the numbers, strictly from inflation adjustment and keeping up with the times, alcohol taxes in Maryland, as with Federal gas taxes, are long overdue for gentle, incremental increases to keep up with reality rather than inflation. But does anyone trust Maryland's legislators to practice such restraint? Show of hands/comments?

*Meanwhile, it will soon be last call for booze at Maryland's state parks:

Drinking without a $35 group permit will be banned March 31 in day-use areas and Nov. 1 in campgrounds and shelters, the Department of Natural Resources said today. After that, consuming alcohol anywhere in the 65 parks except in full-service cabins, recreational vehicles or at the Rocky Gap Lodge will be outlawed and punishable by a $55 fine.
I can get behind this. It would never cross my mind to drink booze at a state (or any) park unless I was in a private, secluded area away from others. Frankly, if a homebrew club or the SPBW can't wing a $35 permit, what are they doing holding a beer picnic at someplace like Patapsco State Park (as they've done in the past)? A dollar or less a head? Call it the "corkage fee"!

*For a different "green beer," Metropolitan on Thursday:
This week for Firkin Thursday we will tap a cask of Smuttynose IPA from Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth New Hampshire. This firkin is somewhat unique in that it has been more liberally dry-hopped by the brewer than the regular keg and bottle versions. In the Upstairs Bar starting at 6.
Enjoy--I'm supposed to be elsewhere.

11 March 2009

Thursday's Events

1) Pratt St. Ale House (the former Wharf Rat brewpub on Pratt St.) reopens tomorrow after remodeling.

2) Society for Preservation of Beers From the Wood meets at Metropolitan Coffeehouse (Charles St., Federal Hill) @ 6 PM. The two firkins will be Snake Dog IPA from Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Maryland (7.1% IPA); and "Oaked" Three Lions from Oliver Breweries, Ltd. of Baltimore, Maryland. Both beers will be available for $3 a pint.

10 March 2009

Pub Dog to Open in Fells Point?

Reports over at Sam Sessa's Midnight Sun blog indicate that Steve Osmond, owner of the Pub Dog "brewpub" in Federal Hill (quotes only because the brewing goes on at the former Clay Pipe brewing facility outside Westminster, not at the pub itself), is in negotiations to acquire the former Admiral's Cup bar on the square in Fells Point, and convert it into the third Dog Pub/Pub Dog location (the other is in Columbia, across the parking lot from Frisco Grille).

Stay tuned.

08 March 2009

Self-Service Taps? Oh, lord.......

Sam Sessa's Midnight Sun blog at BaltimoreSun.com reports on a new development at Mother's Federal Hill Grille on S. Charles St.: Tables with their own beer taps.

The good news (or bad, depending on your point of view): a Kegerator is under the table, and the beer is cheaper per ounce through this convoluted payment system (go to Sam's blog for details) than regular drafts.

The bad news for us geeks: Thus far, only pouring Miller Lite and Blue Moon, though plans are supposedly in the works for more draft lines to feed the tables.

I wonder if you save anything in tips.......

Anyone back from Philly?

Did anyone go to the Philly Craft Beer Festival yesterday?

Are you sober enough to tell us about it? More importantly, did you take notes on new/terrific/different beers/breweries? (If your answer resembles a Tommy Chong soliloquy, don't bother posting it.)

Sierra Nevada at Max's Tuesday Beer Social

From Max's Taphouse's weekly(ish) Beer Social mailing list:

This Tuesday we will be featuring 3 great beers from one of the top breweries in the US. We will be featuring Sierra Neveda Harvest Ale(on draft, 6.7% ABV. Wet hop Ale with Centennial and Cascade), Sierra Torpedo (in Bottles, 7.2% ABV IPA with 70 IBU's with Magnum, Crystal and Citra Hops) and Sierra Bigfoot (I will be pulling out very different vintages). Also, Shawn Conway from Sierra will be here to enjoy the beers.

04 March 2009

Upcoming casks, quick, to the point, and updated

Thursday the 5th: Metropolitan Coffeehouse Federal Hill, Troegs Nugget Nectar 7.5%, beginning @ 6 pm. Handpump, $4/pint.

Friday the 6th: firkin at Muggsy's Mug House, Light Street in Federal Hill (the old Sean Bolan's), Clipper City Heavy Seas' Below Decks.

Too Many Beers, Man........

At last. Someone finally calls it for what it is.

Fellow beer blogger Tom Cizauskas uses his blog (in the CRABB list at right) to call the ludicrous multiplicity of beer styles being named out there for what it is: "An excess of silliness":

The Periodic Table of Elements lists 117 basic chemical elements of nature, including two new discoveries in 2008.

But the Brewers Association (the BA), an advocacy group for small brewers in the US lists ...

... ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY different and unique styles of beer, newly 'discovered' for 2009. I'm going to call it the beer stimulus plan.

It was only last year that the Great American Beer Festival (organized by the BA) had recognized --a mere-- 100 styles, a number I had then thought self-indulgent.

Amen, Brother Cizauskas. I've always said my favorite beers are the ones that defy pigeonholing or categorization. Can't I just enjoy Brooklyn Local 1 or Fraoch Heather Ale or Olivers 3 Lions without having to sit there and decide just what damned style I'm supposed to check off?