30 November 2009

Someone call the Associated Press......

.....  and tell them, who are happily helping Samuel Adams with their publicity for the latest batch of overpriced, over-hyped Utopias, to kindly refer to my post of a couple days ago.  Heck, I'm just amazed that the M.A.D.D. CEO didn't fall all over himself to reflexively condemn the stuff--"However, he hopes the beverage's higher alcohol content is properly labeled and that it isn't marketed to minors."  (Anyone hurt themselves laughing?  Especially in those states where you're not allowed to label the alcohol content on the bottle?)

For the record, the thirteen states where you're not allowed to buy such a strong beer: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington. 

27 November 2009

Mail-Order Beer In Maryland's Future?

Today's Baltimore Sun has an article on the latest effort to legalize wine shipments into Maryland, in an attempt to put it on par with 35 other states and the District of Columbia.

The issue has fermented for years in the legislature where a bill has been bottled up in committee, but wine producers and connoisseurs see an opportunity in the next session that begins in January. They say they have more funding and support, and they hope to draw votes by casting the bill as a pro-consumer issue that lawmakers can promote to voters before the 2010 election.

"We've got a lot of things going in our favor, and this issue will finally have its day," said Adam Borden, executive director of Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, an organization whose membership has grown tenfold with increased outreach over the past year.
The odds are that if it happens for wine, it will equally apply to spirits and beer.  Imagine finally being able to join a "Beer of the Month" club or getting someone to ship you--legally--some prized beer you can't get here--Goose Island, New Glarus, Lost Abbey, etc.  (Not that it's that serious an issue here; there's darned few world-class beers you can't get here in Maryland as long as you go to the right retailers.....)

What beer would you mail-order if you could?

26 November 2009

The Newest "Strongest Beer"

BrewDog, the Scottish brewery that is doing its god-damnest to outdo all other contenders (Dogfish Head, Hitachino Nest, Stone, Unibroue, Three Floyds, you name it) for the Brewery With The Most Attitude, has sent me a press release/blogpost for its newest beer, Tactical Nuclear Penguin.  Weighing in at an ABV of 32%, it beats the previous record of 31% reputedly held by German beer brand Schorschbraer.

Before you folks get your knickers in a bunch, be advised:  This beer, as described by the brewery below, is technically illegal to manufacture in the United States, because the process of removing ice from frozen beer to increase alcohol content is considered--rightly so--a form of "distillation":

The Antarctic name inducing schizophrenia of this uber-imperial stout originates from the amount of time it spent exposed to extreme cold. This beer began life as a 10% imperial stout 18 months ago. The beer was aged for 8 months in an Isle of Arran whisky cask and 8 months in an Islay cask making it our first double cask aged beer. After an intense 16 month, the final stages took a ground breaking approach by storing the beer at -20 degrees for three weeks to get it to 32%.
For the big chill the beer was put into containers and transported to the cold store of a local ice cream factory where it endured 21 days at penguin temperatures. Alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water. As the beer got colder BrewDog Chief Engineer, Steven Sutherland decanted the beer periodically, only ice was left in the container, creating more intensity of flavours and a stronger concentration of alcohol for the next phase of freezing. The process was repeated until it reached 32%.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog on Vimeo.

 Will we get any?  I doubt it.  It may be illegal to make the stuff here, but there are several foreign-made eisbocks and other such products on beer shelves here.  The problem is the limited supply and price:

Of the 500 330ml bottles released, 250 will be available for £30 [$48] with a further 250 available for £250 [$400] – the latter will include a  share in the BrewDog company as part of its ‘Equity for Punks’ campaign which is aiming to raise £2.3m [$3.7 million] to build a new eco-friendly, carbon-neutral brewery in Aberdeen.
 I'm not certain about the international investment laws, but I'm reasonably certain the offer of alcohol with an investment share has to break some Federal investment laws here in the States.......

For a review of one of BrewDog's other ludicrous-extreme beers which, at last report, you CAN get here, see Brad's review of their Atlantic IPA here.

UPDATE:  More from the BBC here.

24 November 2009

Mark Your Calendars: Max's Belgian Fest 2010

Feb. 12-14, 2010.

120 Belgian drafts planned, as well as 120 Belgian bottled beers (as usual, a scant few of both will likely be Belgian-styled American beers such as Ommegang or Brewers Art), plus Belgian-inspired bar eats.

Are You Drinking Thankgiving Eve?

I asked last year about this reported phenomenon: Thanksgiving Eve purportedly being the biggest drinking or bar-traffic day of the year, ahead of even St. Patrick's Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Mardi Gras, New Year's Eve, etc.

And again, I ask:  Is it true?  If so, why?  Anyone got any studies, facts, etc. to prove this allegation, or is it just another scare-mongering tactic by the police and neo-Prohibitionists?

All statistics aside, if you want real ale that night, Metropolitan is tapping a firkin of Dog Pub's Chocolate Oatmeal Stout tomorrow at 6 pm in lieu of their usual Firkin Thursday..........  and all DuClaw locations, including the one in Fells Point, are having parties for the occasion, with growler discounts and extended Happy Hours............

Are you going out that night?  Good weather or bad?  Where and why?

20 November 2009

Beer News Roundup

I'm just stumbling over beer news in my normal news perusal, so here, look over my shoulder:

BBC News: the seemingly weekly news of booze being healthy:  "Drinking alcohol every day cuts the risk of heart disease in men by more than a third, a major study suggests.  The Spanish research involving more than 15,500 men and 26,000 women found large quantities of alcohol could be even more beneficial for men."
Los Angeles Times: Beer bars booming in L.A. (And L.A. gets its first brewpub--or so the article claims.)

18 November 2009

Extreme Beers in the Washington Post

Mid-Atlantic Brewing News editor and Washington Post columnist Greg Kitsock does a Washington Post column on the topic I asked about a short while back, extreme beers.

I was the source of his sample of BrewDog's Nanny State, shipped over for our sampling pleasure (or lack thereof?) by the Scottish brewery.

As for my own thoughts about extreme beers, I feel the whole extreme beer movement is best summarized by this "The City" cartoon by alt-comic cartoonist John Backderf, or Derf (reprinted with permission--and even he no longer has the original in his files); just substitute the latest hop-bomb or exotic-ingredient beer for the game and the beer geeks for the kid:

  (Click on the above image for an enlarged version.)

16 November 2009

Christmas Beer Exchange?

Calling All Homebrewers, and Holiday Beer Fans!

My homebrewing friend John, who sort of twisted my arm into making a Christmas beer this year (and I sought my revenge by making it a public demonstration for Baltimore Beer Week) came up with a brilliant idea:

"Why should the women have all the fun with their Christmas cookie exchanges?  Why don't we have a Christmas beer exchange?  Trade a couple bottles or a six-pack of your Christmas beer with others, and get more variety for the winter!"

So here's what I'm offering:  If you are interested in trading your Christmas-strength homebrew for other folks, comment, and volunteer.  I'm also willing to entertain the possibility of letting non-homebrewers get in on this by buying a commercially-made beer, but I will watch over that and make sure that we don't get ten folks all bringing Snow Goose, Anchor Our Special Ale, or whatnot.

I'll make this one better:  If I get a nice, round 12 or 24 folks commenting, volunteering, and willing to put money where their mouths are, I will arrange with a Baltimore liquor store to assemble mixed 12-packs or cases of Xmas ales.  Your cost will be the actual cost of the beer in question divided by the number of participants, with no mark-up.  This offer will probably exclude homebrew, unless necessary to bring the number to a round 12 or 24.  Just as a guesstimate, expect the cost of a 12-pack to be around $20, and a case to be around $40, unless we go an extra league and rope in something especially spectacular.  In addition, if you are traveling and can acquire 12 or 24 bottles of some holiday beer we can't get through normal channels, drop me an e-mail and we'll see if we can make appropriate arrangements.

Wall Street Journal: A Look at Wine Ratings

Make that one downright cynical look at wine ratings:

They pour, sip and, with passion and snobbery, glorify or doom wines. But studies say the wine-rating system is badly flawed. How the experts fare against a coin toss.

And people occasionally wonder why I don't deal much with BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.............

14 November 2009

Hindenburg Beer Auction Shatters Records!

From the Chippenham Gazette & Herald (UK):
The world record price for a bottle of beer was smashed in Devizes today when a bottle of Lowebrau lager sold for over £10,000 [$16,680].
The bottle was recovered from the wreckage of the German airship Hindenburg after it burst into flames as it moored at Lakehurst, New York, on May 6 1937.  It was part of the collection of survivor Richard Kollmer.
The previous highest price for a single bottle of beer is thought to be around £2,500 and auctioneer Alan Aldridge started bidding at £3,000 [$5,006].  There was fierce competition from telephone bidders all over the world, mainly from the US. Mr Aldridge eventually knocked the item down for £9,400 [$15,687].  With buyer's premium, the bottle will cost the purchaser £10,810 [$18,039] .

An electro-plated milk pitcher, also recovered from the wreckage, went for over £9,000.
The prices for the Hindenburg memorabilia dwarfed those for items connected with Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Peter Sellers and Paul McCartney.

Lot 206 and 207 are shown in the online catalogue here.  Earlier Beer in Baltimore post on the topic here.

13 November 2009

Upcoming Md. Beer Events

Shamelessly flinched from Mid-Atlantic Brewing News' HopTips e-newsletter; if interested in your own e-subscription, contact mabnhoptips@brewingnews.com .

Friday, November 13th: Hugh Sisson Bottle Signing – Join Clipper City Brewing Co founder, Hugh Sisson, as he makes an appearance at Corridor Fine Wine and Spirits to sign bottles of the new Mutiny Fleet release - Yule Tide. Yule Tide is their new Belgian Tripel with a festive holiday label. 4-7pm. 410-247-7829.
Sunday, November 15th: MALT's 2009 Turkey Shoot Homebrew Competition – This year marks the fifth year for the Turkey Shoot. Winners can receive lots of great prizes that were donated by generous sponsors. Entries will be due on November 7th. www.maltclub.org/MALT/Turkey_Shoot.html.
Monday, November 16th: Heavy Seas Vegan Beer Dinner – Join Heavy Seas and Great Sage for a fantastic multi-course beer dinner paired with vegan cuisine. Advance reservations required, seating is limited. 410-247-7829 or www.great-sage.com.
Friday, November 20th: Hugh Sisson Bottle Signing – Join Clipper City Brewing Co founder, Hugh Sisson, as he makes an appearance at Beltway Fine Wine and Spirits to sign bottles of the new Mutiny Fleet release - Yule Tide. Yule Tide is their new Belgian Tripel with a festive holiday label. 4-7pm. 410-247-7829.
Monday, November 23rd: Beer Club with Stone Brewing – Victoria Gastro Pub will be holding one of its regular beer club nights with Mid Atlantic Stone rep Lee Marren on hand to sample out all of the special release beers that Stone does throughout the year. 4-7pm. 410-750-1880 or www.victoriagastropub.com.

12 November 2009

Feel Like a Firkin Tonight?

Heavy Seas Below Decks at Mahaffey's.

Otter Creek Copper Ale dry-hopped with Amarillo, upstairs at Metropolitan Coffeehouse beginning at 6 PM.

And something TBA at Brewers Art beginning at around 7 PM.  SPBW members get first shot at it, however.

11 November 2009

Top Ten Fine-Dining Bars?

Elizabeth Large of the Baltimore Sun posts her "Top Ten" list of what she considers Baltimore's top fine-dining bars (bistros are, by definition, not included).

In my opinion, only two of the ten are really good "beer bars," with possible debate on one or two others.


Cask Ale 101 in today's Washington Post

Two articles in the Food section of today's Washington Post give both a primer about what real ale is (just in case there's a reader of these words unfamiliar with the concept) and a guide to where to find it in the Washington, DC area, written by a Washington Post art critic and the Post's monthly beer columnist (and editor of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News).

They tally six cask-serving places in all of the Washington metro region, including the suburbs, with ten to twelve pumps/engines.  (Not on the list: Franklin's in Hyattsville, which may serve too infrequently to be considered regular; and, inexplicably, the District Chop House, and RFD, the sister location to the Brickskeller.)  Let's see, here in Baltimore, in no particular order:
Max's Taphouse (3 engines), Wharf Rat (four pumps, relocated vintage stand from Pratt Street), Bertha's (one pump and plans for regular on-bar firkins), Mahaffey's (one pump), Grand Cru (semi-regular pump), Red Brick Station (one pump, usually running), Pratt Street Ale House (three engines), and I'm leaving off the list places that do only occasional firkins for special events or don't have a proper outlet (Brewers Art, Clipper City).  Did I leave anyone off that tally?

(Photo: Ronnie Crocker, Houston Chronicle beer blogger)

To Remember.........

10 November 2009

And Now For An Extreme Completely Different...........

BBC Story here:

A blackened bottle of beer found in the wreck of the Hindenburg zeppelin is expected to fetch thousands of pounds at auction.  The bottle was found by a fire-fighter cleaning up the American airfield where the German airship exploded in 1937.  The bottle will be the most expensive ever bought if it meets its estimated price of £5,000 ($8,337) on Saturday.
The airship was engulfed by flames as it landed in New Jersey, killing 38 people and injuring 60.  New Jersey firefighter Leroy Smith found six bottles of Lowenbrau beer and a pitcher intact on the scene of the crash.
He buried his secret find so he could collect them later, as the area had been sealed off by the authorities.
Mr Smith gave the other five bottles to his colleagues.  Most of the others are now lost, although one was given to the Lowenbrau company after the death of Mr Smith's friend.
The bottle and jug were passed on by Mr Smith to his niece in 1966 and are now to be put on sale by auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son.
The beer would have gone off within a year of being bottled.  "You wouldn't want to drink it - it is probably quite putrid to taste," auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said.  Some of the liquid has evaporated from the bottle and the label is burned, but the logo is still visible.
The previous record price for a bottle of beer was a limited edition sale of a Carlsberg lager which cost £240 ($400).

 I'm skeptical.  Are there no other cases instances of beer bottles, full or empty, selling for more?  I'm sure that alleged bottle-price record may well have been broken by someone on an expense account buying a Sam Adams Utopias at a bar.  On the other hand, having recently read The Billionaire's Vinegar about the apparent fraud committed to fabricate bottles of wine allegedly from Thomas Jefferson's estate, I'd probably never trust a piece of breweriana unless it was from someone still alive to answer the provenance.

05 November 2009

The Most "EXTREME" Beer?

Here's a question for all you readers:

What do you consider the most "extreme"--oh, sorry, "EX-TRE-E-E-E-E-ME!!!!!!!!!!!!"--beer you can find in this region, or that I would have a prayer of finding or getting someone to bring/send me?

For this discussion, I am narrowing "extreme" to three categories:

1) High-Alcohol.  The highest alcohol content without distillation or adding alcohol.  Nominees include Sam Adams Utopias at 25+% (is it still for sale anywhere?), DuClaw Colossus at a reputed 23%, Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA at 20%, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout at 18% (the original batch was reportedly 21-22%), and a couple out there around 17% (Mikkeller Black, Sam Adams Triple Bock, etc.)

2) Hops.  I'm looking at a couple 100-IBU beers--Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Avery 13th Anniversary,  Three Floyds Alpha King.............. and a 225-IBU beer to be named later.............

3) Crazy Ingredients.  Let's see........  Dogfish has a TON of such insanity, including the probable winner, Pangaea with ingredients from all seven continents........  Flag Porter, with 1825-vintage yeast from a shipwreck......  Chiostro, and Italian beer with wormwood........  Avery 16th Anniverasary, with jasmine, peaches, and honey....  


03 November 2009

Getcher National Beer News He--- er, at Max's!

Just so you can't say you weren't told:

Copies of ALL SEVEN of the Brewing News' beer newspapers--Yankee Brew News, Great Lakes Brewing News, Southern Brew News, Rocky Mountain Brewing News, Northwest Brewing News, Southwest Brewing News, and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News--were dropped off at Max's Taphouse tonight.  There's a limited supply of each--at least five when I left.

If you're traveling anywhere outside the Mid-Atlantic anytime soon--say, going somewhere for the holidays--this could be a terrific resource.  The papers have guides to all the beer spots in their regions, plus columns with all the latest news.

Steal the Glass Night--Muggsy's Mug House

E-mail from Danny at Muggsy's, the beer emporium on S. Light St in Federal Hill:

This Thursday, November 5, Muggsy's is featuring Harpoon Brewery. We will have four of their best beers on tap and with your first purchase you get an official Harpoon pint glass to take home with you; the beers featured will be Harpoon IPA, UFO Hefewizen, Winter Warmer, and Brown Session Ale.

So I Mentioned Oysters......

Right on the tails of the last item, I get a press release on an upcoming beer and oyster fest at the Timonium Fairgrounds, the evening of Friday, Nov. 20th, $55 a head, all you can eat, limited to 450, a portion of the  proceeds going to a charity.............  Beers promised: "Clipper City and Heavy Seas, Guinness and 250, Harp, Smithwicks, Magic Hat, Lancaster Brewing Co, McSorleys, Dogfish Head, Saranac, Sierra Nevada, Pyramid Brewing and more."

02 November 2009

Oyster Stout Returns--Well, at Least to Jersey.....

Oyster Stout is a style I first ran into nearly two decades ago at the Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis, shortly after they started brewing as a brewpub and long before they went 90% music hall and 10% brewpub.  I loved Fordham's draft-only Blue Point Oyster Stout, in part because it had a wonderful, full-bodied, and slightly chalky flavor with a full ale character and CO2 dispensing (none of this trying to be a Guinness and pouring it through a nitro tap).  Sadly, Fordham basically did away with Oyster Stout some time ago--competing with Guinness with a similar beer pumped through a nitro tap as Genius Stout was apparently more important to them.  (Legend has it that the first batch they did had actual oyster shells in it, but later batches got away with just a carefully controlled dose of gypsum and other minerals.)

The style may be back with Flying Fish of Cherry Hill, NJ, who has just introduced their latest in their "Exit" series of specialty beers, Exit 1 Oyster Stout.  Lew Bryson led me to Jeff Linkous' Beer-Stained Letter blog, complete with his self-produced video (above) about a territory on the Delaware Bay I've explored quite a great deal as a railroad historian.

Anyone headed Joisey way, grab me a bottle of that stuff.  Please.  I beg you.

Pub Dog (Federal Hill) Review

I always like to read what non-beer-geeks think of our favorite beers and beer places, so with further ado:

Taste of Baltimore blogger Nakiya reviews Federal Hill's Pub Dog.

Gratuitous Non-Beer (But Booze-Related) Obama-Querying Post

Breitbart (via Instapundit) reports the following story from AFP (Agence France-Presse) about how Obama souvenirs are not moving so well to D.C. tourists anymore:

This is not for want of supply: from a lifesize cardboard cutout to gold jewelry to a bottle of special vintage champagne bearing the president's name, the list of Obama tchotchkes and high-end souvenirs is long.
 Two questions:  Are these shopkeepers legally licensed to sell such booze, or is this non-alcoholic "champagne" being mis-identified by the reporter?  Second, where is the swift, heavy hammer of authority from the White House and ATTTB that stopped Ommegang from marketing "Obamagang", a special one-off beer for the inauguration earlier this year (but not, mind you, a sugar-laden soda)? After all, we don't want "the President to be seen as promoting intoxication," now, do we?

(Incidentally, my answer to the street vendors mentioned in the article:  Drag out those wonderful "Dissent is Patriotic" bumper stickers and t-shirts that sold so well between, say, 2003 and 2008..........  I'm sure the sales divisions of MoveOn.org and other such places will be glad to let you have them dirt cheap now, or else their hired printers have the presses on standby..........)

ANSWERS?  Here?   Let me get this straight:  $65.00 for NON-ALCOHOLIC "Monterey Cristal," whatever the hell that is? 

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!  Getcher Obama Champagne Glass--now half price!

01 November 2009

Found: Decent Beer in Northwest

I've lamented in this blog in the past about how the northwest corner of suburban Baltimore was severely lacking in quality beer, either retail or in bars.  Well, I'm happy to report I've found at least two retail places up that-a-ways to answer the needs of good beer drinkers.

While in Pikesville yesterday, I asked one liquor store manager why craft beer seemed to not do well in that area.  His answer was perhaps harsh but accurate: "The average age around here is 65 years of age.  Old folks don't drink beer, and the ones with money buy wine and spirits, not microbrew.  The young folks get out of town as fast as they can."

Nonetheless, I discovered two places trying, at least, to offer an alternative point of view.  First, on the "main street" of Pikesville itself, I found Dugan's Discount Liquors at 1322 Reisterstown Road, which yesterday was offering free samples of a couple Oktoberfest and pumpkin beers.  They told me outright they had been working to stock a wider selection of beers just to stand out from the local competition.

Over off of Greenspring Road at Quarry Lake, a new retail development I had never seen or heard of before, I found the glitzy and impressive Quarry Wine & Spirits, also offering a decent selection of micros (200, according to their website), with only a token acknowledgment of mass-market beers.

Now, if we could just find a decent beer-serving restaurant or bar in that neck of the woods.....  any suggestions?