31 December 2010

Fire damages Old Stein Inn

Fron the Annapolis Capital/HometownAnnapolis.com:

The Old Stein Inn, a beloved landmark in Mayo [Edgewater, near Annapolis], was badly damaged by a three-alarm fire Friday morning.
Two passers-by called 911 shortly after 5:30 a.m. Friday, reporting smoke streaming from the restaurant at 1143 Central Ave., said Lt. Cliff Kooser, a county Fire Department spokesman.
Within four minutes, firefighters were on the scene and saw heavy smoke. Because the area does not have fire hydrants, firefighters ran two hoses about three-quarters of a mile down Mayo Ridge Road to draw water from Ramsay Lake on the South River.
Extra firefighters were brought in to man the hoses, and also to allow for frequent rotations because of the cold weather.
The fire went to three alarms - 40 pieces of equipment and 89 firefighters, including crews from Annapolis and the Naval Academy.
The fire was brought under control by 7 a.m., but dozens of firefighters remained on the scene through rush hour Friday morning. Traffic was getting by on Central Avenue one lane at a time.
Fire investigators were still determining the cause of the fire.
The fire likely caused at least $100,000 in damage to the building, which is about 100 years old.
The restaurant's owners live in another building on the property and were not injured, Kooser said.
The Old Stein Inn was opened in 1983 by Karl and Ursula Selinger from Germany.
According to Capital archives, the couple moved to the Washington area in the late 1950s, sharing a love authentic German cuisine and the dream of opening a restaurant. In the late '70s they were ready to buy the decades-old, 2,500-square-foot building on Central Avenue that was once one of the first southern Anne Arundel County gas stations, a general store and a residence.
By July 1983, they had gone to work turning it into Edgewater's own piece of the Rhineland. It eventually became known for its hefty beer selection and traditional German menu - including schnitzel, bratwurst and jagerschnitzel- a biergarten and German entertainment that often gets customers singing along to German beer-drinking songs.
Ten years ago, the restaurant made its national debut on "The Best Of …" a show on the Food Channel cable network that documents regional favorites.
The Selingers recently retired, and the tavern is now owned and operated by their son Michael and his wife Beth, according to the tavern's website.
(Photo courtesy Anne Arundel Fire Department and HometownAnnapolis.com)

27 December 2010

The Former Brickskeller's New Name

WTOP Radio news in D.C. is reporting that the new owners of the former Brickskeller craft-beer emporium near Dupont Circle are renaming it The Bier Baron.  Opening is scheduled for this Wednesday at 6 PM.

If the name's not enough of a hint:
When the bar opens, there will be 350 different kinds of beers left over from the Brickskeller. Those beers will be part of a special "Brickskeller blowout" menu.
Five hundred other new beers have already been ordered as well.
When the Bier Baron opens, the beer offerings and the bar itself will look surprisingly familiar.
"We are keeping most of the staff, including the floor managers who are very knowledgeable about beer," Merrifield says. 

24 December 2010

Christmas in Rural Retreat 1957

Train 42 'The Pelican' headed by Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 Class J 603 arrives at Rural Retreat, VA eastbound from New Orleans to Washington shortly before 10 pm Dec. 27th, 1957, and thunders off into the night. The Norfolk & Western Railway's own Class J was perhaps the finest of all express steam engines, and 603 is heard here in its last days of main line service with a consist of 17 cars. The photograph with the video is of Train 17 'The Birmingham Special' westbound arriving later that same night at 11.37 pm, being waved through by Agent J.L. Akers. The photograph and sound recording were by O. Winston Link and his assistant Corky Zider who operated a Tapesonic recorder and non-directional microphone; the Christmas carols on the chimes were played specially for the recording at the nearby Grace Lutheran Church by Mrs. Kathryn Dodson. Seven nights later, steam motive power would come to an end on the N&W main line through Rural Retreat and Bristol.

23 December 2010

Merry Christmas for Wild Goose fans: Wild Goose brand bought by new DC nanobrewery!

Boy, I leave the computer for four hours, and all heck breaks loose.

But a good kind of heck.

I'm just going to throw up the press release from Ben Savage, Flying Dog's VP of marketing, and let us all read it:

Frederick, MD – December, 23, 2010 – Logan Shaw Brewing Company, an upstart brewery out of Washington DC, has agreed to purchase the Wild Goose brand from Flying Dog Brewery.

Flying Dog Brewery inherited the Wild Goose brand as part of the purchase of the Frederick Brewing Company’s brewing facility from Snyder International in 2006, and has maintained the brand’s presence regionally ever since.  As demand for Flying Dog has increased over the past year (sales are up 40% nationally, with triple digit growth regionally in the mid-Atlantic in 2010), the brewery has moved steadily toward a singular focus on the Flying Dog brand.

Flying Dog began looking for viable options to secure the future of the Wild Goose brand in February of 2010, and the brewery was specifically looking for a suitor that was interested in the continued growth and success of Wild Goose.  In December 2010, Flying Dog decided that Logan Shaw was the best and most capable option to assume ownership of the Wild Goose brand.

Logan Shaw Brewing Company plans to pair the Wild Goose beers with the craft beers produced by Logan Shaw, under the Logan Shaw brand, beginning in mid 2011. "We felt that Wild Goose was a great brand for us as we get into the local craft beer business. It is a well-established brand known for great quality, taste, and consistency.  We thank Flying Dog for their support of the brand and their assistance through this process," says Jeff Harrison, president of Logan Shaw Brewing.

According to Loren Leroy, Logan Shaw Brewing’s head of production, "As a resident of the Chesapeake Bay area, I jumped at the chance to buy the Wild Goose brand.  It has always been one of my favorite beers, and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to grow such an iconic craft beer brand."
Logan Shaw Brewing Company will have Wild Goose contract brewed regionally until its own brewing facility is completed in approximately 18 months. 
Logan Shaw is an upstart nano-brewery based in the suburbs  of Washington DC.  Logan Shaw expects to launch their own line of beers in approximately 18 months. The name of Logan Shaw Brewing pays tribute to two historic neighborhoods: Logan Circle and Shaw, located in the heart of our Nation’s Capital. More information will soon be up at: www.loganshawbrewery.com/

Nope.  I don't know who they are, either.  The "website" is nothing more than a placeholder title for the moment.  But I'll be looking out for them very soon.

21 December 2010

Md. Comptroller Releases Report on Direct Wine Shipment--but Beer Buffs, don't get excited yet....

Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot today released a long-awaited legislative report that wine enthusiasts hope will clear the way for legislation allowing direct wine sale shipments into Maryland.

The report is here, if you have business reasons for slogging through 257 pages in an Adobe PDF.

But beer enthusiasts eager to order prized beers not available in Maryland's retail markets may be in for a let-down:

Franchot's report does make a distinction between direct shipments from out-of-state wineries and out-of-state retailers. It says shipments from such wineries would be considered "exceptions" to Maryland's alcoholic beverage regulatory system.
But because shipments by out-of-state retailers would be "integral" to that three-tier system — producer, wholesaler and retailer — it pointedly says "allowing direct wine shipment from out-of-state retailers is incompatible with existing alcoholic beverage laws in Maryland."
Franchot said he personally supports a direct-sale law, but added that the report was not meant to dictate state policy. Maryland lawmakers, he said, "wanted the facts and that's what we're presenting today."
Indeed, the report explicitly recommends "Allow direct wine shipment for in-state and out-of-state wineries,
but not for out-of-state retailers."  The report cites several higher-court precedents for such distinctions in regulation.

Most craft breweries are not set up for direct retail sales, either legally or logistically, unlike wineries where traveling to the vineyard and purchasing direct is often an integral part of the experience.  If the above distinction is extended to applied legislation, there would be no exclusion for "beer-of-the-month" clubs or purchases from online retailers or bricks-and-mortar retail locations in other states--which would be the primary source of such retail sales, as I am to understand it.

Another factor at play: it's seldom worth the expense to ship two six-packs or a case of even an expensive beer, which would typically retail for less than the cost of a single premium bottle of wine or spirits.  There are exceptions, of course, starting with DuClaw Colossus (if you can find any left) and going up through mega-extreme beers by the likes of Sam Adams (Utopias, etc.), BrewDog, Dogfish Head, and the like.

(In an off-topic note, I noticed, while perusing the Comptroller's official website for a copy of the report that one of the images posted as background decoration is that of a Virginia lighthouse--Assateague Lighthouse, down near Chincoteague, Virginia.....)

Miller Lite subsidizes free MTA service on New Year's Eve

Craft beer enthusiasts usually have little to no use for "North American industrial lager" beers, particularly "light" beers.  Many craft beer aficionados lampoon the presence of a "light beer" tap at an establishment like Max's or Mahaffey's, or even the brewing of a "lawnmower light" or "mild ale" at a brewpub.

Well, apologize:

The Maryland Transportation Authority will offer free services on New Year's Eve thanks to beer conglomerate MillerCoors.
The MTA and Miller partnered to provide free bus, metro subway and light rail service on New Year's Eve throughout the Baltimore region - the first time residents have had free public transportation over the holidays.
The free services begin at 8 p.m. December 31 and will last until 2 a.m January 1. 
Kim Marotta, an executive at Miller Coors, said the freebie is to help Baltimore residents plan for safe rides home from New Year's celebrations. They're calling the program Miller Lite Rides, a name they've actually trademarked.
Miller has offered the free rides for 23 years across the country on different holidays, but this is the first time it's been offered in Baltimore.

20 December 2010

Brickskeller finis

Farewell, Brickskeller of old.  I'll remember the good times.

I think I've finally come up with the right analogy, thanks in part to a Wall Street Journal article and the ensuing commentary and debate it prompted:

The Brickskeller was like Bob Dylan.

Legendary, but. . .    On a good night, terrific, as long as you made peace with the obvious flaws.  On a bad night, an embarrassment worthy of demanding a refund.  It/he changed the whole scene.  But........

More eulogies, by noted names in the industry, here and here.

15 December 2010

Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg sued after patron drinks, drives, & kills

News reports (blog at the Washington Post and Fox TV stations in Washington D.C. and Baltimore) are covering the lawsuit filed Monday against the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg, Md. after it allegedly let a patron buy and consume seventeen Corona Lights and three shots of liquor over a six-hour period; said patron then drove a Range Rover into the back of a Jeep on Interstate 270, killing a ten-year-old girl in the Jeep.

The lawsuit opens--once again--the long-running debate between the responsibilities of bar employees versus personal accountability.

But note that the Dogfish Head in question allegedly was serving this person Corona Lights--not World Wide Stout or any DFH beers or spirits.

Quick Firkin and News Updates

Tomorrow at Metropolitan in Federal Hill--what is supposedly the last firkin extant of this year's last-ever(?) batch of the now-fading/dying Wild Goose Snow Goose. Tapped at 6 pm.

Meanwhile at Max's usual Thursday Cask Night, they will be celebrating the 1500th firkin made by Heavy Seas. Hugh Sisson and the Heavy Seas Crew will be there in the celebration.
On cask: Heavy Seas Thank You Thank You Very Much w/ Special Wood, Heavy Seas Below Decks, Lagunitas IPA, Victory Hop Devil, Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche Oak Smoke
On draft: Heavy Seas Thank You Thank You Very Much, Heavy Seas Below Decks, Heavy Seas Gold, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon (and, of course, dozens of other selections, including a lot of Christmas/holiday-themed beers).

I haven't had a chance to type up my thoughts on the Heavy Seas TYTYVM; I sampled it at its release party last week, and found it spectacular--extraordinarily hoppy and flavorful, with a diverse variety of hop characters without the heavily astringent and bitter notes of many imperial IPAs or heavily hopped ales (yes, West Coast breweries like Lagunitas and Stone, I'm glancing sideways at you).  By all means, go out of your way to sample this one-of-a-kind beer and hoist a toast to one of the region's best breweries and its longevity.

Meanwhile, The Sun's Dining @ Large blog reports an application to transfer the liquor license of the former DuClaw Brewing Fells Point location on Thames St. to a team from Mad River Bar & Grille of Federal Hill.

DuClaw Hires Heavy Seas Brewer

From a DuClaw press release:

Baltimore, Md. -- DuClaw Brewing Company, a Maryland-based craft brewery, today announced that it has hired Kurt Krol as brewer. He joins current DuClaw brewers Jim Wagner and Bo Lenck, and will be in charge of brewing, cellaring, and filtering the craft beer as well as prepping the beer for packaging.
"I am proud to welcome Krol to our DuClaw brewing team," commented Dave Benfield, founder and president of DuClaw. "As we continue to grow our craft beer flavors and expand our bottled beer offerings in 2011, Krol's experience makes him a key player in helping us create the best beer at a pace that can keep up with growing demand."
Prior to joining DuClaw, Krol was a brewer at Clipper City Brewing Company, located in Baltimore, Maryland. During his two-year period at Clipper City, he won five GABF medals and two World Beer Cup medals. A home brewer of more than six years, Krol graduated from UMBC with two bachelor's degrees.

10 December 2010

Random Recent Photos

Stillwater's Existent on cask at Metropolitan last night.  In reserve for next week (the 16th):  Allegedly the last firkin of Wild Goose Snow Goose, ironically packed in a firkin from Williams Bros. of Scotland.....

Another Brickskeller update

WTOP in Washington finally identifies the Brickskeller's new owners:

Megan Merrifield and her husband are buying The Brickskeller, a haven for beer lovers on 22nd Street in Northwest.
When Merrifield takes over the property later this month, they will be changing the name to "Rock Creek" - and that's about it.
"We are buying the Brickskeller with the intention to keep the regulars that are going there, going there. We will offer them their favorite beers," Merrifield says.
The bar may get some new hardwood floors and a facelift for the bathrooms.
"We don't intend to change much. We intend to keep it the institution that it is and just essentially do a facelift," Merrifield says.
The closing on the property is scheduled for Dec. 23.  Merrifield hopes the bar will reopen just days after the closing.
"The Brickskeller policy as I understand is to be closed Dec. 23,24,25 and reopen the 26th. So that's our intention is to reopen according to their schedule on the 26th," Merrifield says.
Merrifield also owns several D.C. hotels: the Windsor Inn, Embassy Inn and District Hotel.
I'm guessing they won't be able to redecorate in only a couple days off, and especially not over the holidays.

08 December 2010

Are you a Stillwater maniac? Love cask?

Are you one of those Stillwater fanatics that loves every last beer Brian makes?  Could you not try every single beer that was debuted during Baltimore Beer Week?

Then you might want to join the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood at their next meeting tomorrow.

I'm jes' sayin'.

Meanwhile, over in Howard County.....

Baltimore Beer Guy has a nice round-up of stuff happening to our west and southwest, including the frenzied "soft opening" of Frisco Tap House.  Rather than repost anything, I'm just telling you to go over there and peruse the info there instead.

2nd DuClaw Beer Brunch: Bowie DuClaw, Jan. 9th

From their graphics-heavy e-mail of a few minutes ago:

The DuClaw Brewing Company Beer Brunch is headed to Bowie! TICKETS GO ON SALE WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15TH, 2010 AT 9AM exclusively through our online store. Tickets are $45 each, and there are ONLY 50 AVAILABLE, so get yours before they’re gone!

The Beer Brunch is Sunday, January 9th, 2011 at 9am, at DuClaw Brewing Company of Bowie. Join us for 6 courses of scrumptious brunch fare expertly paired with some of our finest brews:
• Sweet Potato Pancakes with a Vanilla Almond Syrup topped with Fresh Homemade Cream paired with Cask Conditioned Vanilla Cinnamon Sawtooth Belgian Wit
• Spiced Pumpkin Waffles topped with a Cinnamon Cream paired with Cask Conditioned Double Spiced 31 Munich Dunkel
• Beer Marinated Steak and Eggs paired with Devil’s Milk Barleywine
• Cherry Strata paired with Cherry Black Jack Stout
• Beer Biscuits and Maple Sausage Gravy paired with Euphoria Toffee Nut Brown Ale
• Banana Crepes with a Chocolate Drizzle paired with 13 Degrees Hefeweizen

As an added bonus, DuClaw Brewing Company Brewmaster Jim Wagner will be on hand to discuss the pairings and answer your questions!
I don't have to tell you where to go to get the tickets, do I?  I didn't think so.  Now, considering the unpredictability of winer weather in January, I'm predicting this one will take, oh, about an hour to sell out.

07 December 2010

DC's Brickskeller MAY be closing Dec. 18th..... or not.......... UPDATED

Well, you can't say we didn't give you a heads-up:  Rumors are circulating that the venerable beer institution of DC, The Brickskeller, will close it doors on Dec. 18th.

"Time, gentlemen, please............" as last call is sometimes traditionally called in Britain.................

UPDATE:  More from TBD.com 

UPDATE II:  More from WashingtonPost.com's Fritz Hahn, with speculation that you may have a few more days yet.

Max's Belgian Fest Feb.18-20, 2011: The First List

Just in case you're not one of the folks who have already booked a hotel room close to Max's in February, or you need to hear what's being promised before making plans, here's the preliminary list for Max's 2011 Belgian Fest.  Looks like a few new ones are on order:

Achouffe N' Ice Chouffe
Alvinne Bolleville
Alvinne Caper Fumatis
Alvinne Extra
Alvinne Gaspar
Alvinne Melchior
Alvinne Oak Kersaus 2008
Alvinne Oak Melchior
Alvinne Podge
Alvinne Wild Morpheus
Alvinne Wild Undressed
Blaugies Darbyste
Blaugies La Moneuse
Blaugies La Moneuse Special Winter
Boelens Santa Bee
Brouwkot Kalle
Brouwkot Netebuk
Brouwkot Vlaskapple
Bourgogne Des Flanders
Cazeau Saison
Cazeau Tournay De Noel
Chimay Cinq Cents
Contreras Valier Blonde
Contreras Valier Divers
Contreras Valier Extra
De Dochter Bravoure
De Dochter Embrasse
De Dochter Finesse
De Dochter Noblesse
De Dochter Noblesse XO
De Glazen Toren Angelquie
De Glazen Toren Canaster
De Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte
De Glazen Toren Ondinke
De Hoevbrouwers Toria
De Hoevbrouwers Toria Triple
De La Senne Equinox
De La Senne Taras Boulba
De La Senne Zinnebier
De Proef/Terrapin Monstre Rouge
De Ranke Saison De Dottignies
Smisje BBBourgondier
Delirium Noel
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Dupont Saison
Dupont Moniette Blonde
Dupont Foret
Duvel Green
Geants De Noel
Gulden Draak Vintage
Het Alternatief Ambetantrik
Het Alternatief Bitter Truth
Hof Ten Dormaal Amber
Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde
Jandrian V Cense
Jandrian IV
La Rulles Cuvee Meillieurs Voeux
Leifamsn Cuvee Brut
Leifmans Fruitesse
Leroy Christmas
Malhuer 12
Pauwell Kwak
Petrus Aged Pale
Petrus Winter
Scaldis Noel
Scaldis Cuvee Des Trolls
Scaldis Peche Mel
Silly Enghien Noel
Sint Canarus Triple
Slaapmutske Kerstmutske
Slober Rossa
St Feuillien /Green Flash
St Feuillien Noel
St Feuillien Saison
St Feuillien Triple
Stillwater Saison Darkly
Struise Black Albert
Struise Black Damnation Mocha Bomb
Struise Red Haired Jeanne
Struise Tsjeeses
Smisje Kerst
Smisje Sleedorn
Smisje Wostijnte
Triple Karmeliet
Troubadour Magma

Heavy Seas Oyster Fest Feb. 5th

Just go here.  300 tickets available; I'm betting a sell-out by the end of the week. 

Frisco Grille in Columbia Closes and Relocates as Frisco Tap House

From reader Paul M. in Columbia:

The Frisco Grille web site now reads, "The Grille has CLOSED. We will re-open at the earliest this coming Wednesday 12/8/10 at our new location: 6695 Dobbin Rd. (1/2 mile down Dobbin Rd. away from Rt. 175 on the left hand side)".

Someone took this picture of the sign on the door of the new Frisco Tap House which says they'll be open "Tuesday or Wednesday Night."
Baltimore Beer Guy had this video tour of the under-construction Tap House up last month. More at HowChow.

06 December 2010

Open It! VII: 1995 Flying Scotsman Potables Holiday Ale (homebrew)

Again, why in hell do I still have this?  I'll make it worse: it's been in a former Beck's green bottle that was recycled through Wild Goose in its forst year or so before they switched to brown bottles!  Brewed to be on par with Anchor OSA with an English twist.

Rich porter color, bright if I leave that last half-inch of sludge in the bottom of the bottle.  Decent head retention once the head is coaxed out of a subdued carbonation.  Nose and mouthfeel are horribly thin; almost an easy-drinking Anchor OSA.  Very dry, with a tannic finish.  The sludge in the bottom of the bottle is actually chunky.  Sheesh.

Again, unless you're throwing a lot of sugar and alcohol in it, don't age a "holiday beer" this long.

05 December 2010

Open It! VI: Hitachino Nest New Year Celebration Ale 2004

Dammit, I thought I had a Hitachino Nest glass around here somewhere....  In its place, a Stillwater Artisanal Ales goblet. 

Ridiculously foamy and long-lasting head atop a rich, brown, hazy beer, with a bouquet distinct at several feet--orange peel, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla bean, almost incense-like.  This particular bottle says 9% abv; the brewery's website says the current version is 8%.

This beer is somewhere between a spectacular spiced barleywine and a train wreck of flavors mish-mashing against one another.  The effect is that of a heavily spiced Belgian dubbel with a lot of orange peel substituting for hop bitterness--as bitter, albeit in a different flavor, as a double IPA.  The six years in the bottle have been kind to it, save for some lees in the bottom of both the bottle and glass.

You have to be in the mood for such richness and bitterness, but it works very well for the age.

Open It! IV and V: Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon and Orkney Dark Island Reserve

At a friend's Hanukkah party last night: his Dark Horizon, my Dark Island Reserve.  There were lots of other beers present, including a Founders rye IPA, but these were the "Open It!" candidates.

The back label says it all: 17.5% (which conflicts with the company's English-language website page on the beer), on par with Dogfish World Wide Stout as presently brewed.  (There was a bottle of original DFH WWS we didn't make it to.)  The color and head matches, and it was an awful like WWS in character--once you get that high in alcohol and blackness, little else matters.

The Orkney Dark Island Reserve, by comparison, was more drinkable, with lots more ale and fruit esters present, with hints of treacle, stone fruit, and--of course--peat smoke.  Much more palatable at 10% abv.

04 December 2010

Bar Culture in NYC, London, D.C.--and Baltimore?

Megan McArdle has an interesting blogpost (and resulting "discussion" in the comments) at the website for The Atlantic; in it she attempts to make the case that onerous government regulation negatively affects the nightlife/bar scene in Washington D.C., and, yes, is why you can't fight your way into ChurchKey on most evenings.

There are comments from a Baltimore resident about the comparable-yet-different bar scene in Baltimore in the article's comments.

03 December 2010

Open It! III: Harvey's Christmas Ale

Glass:  La Chouffe Houblon glass.  I have two of them; who wants the other one?

This 275ml bottle is undated and has been sitting around in the cases for an indeterminate amount of time.  Easy pickings.

Pours stout black but bright, albeit bwith thin carbonation and no head to speak of.  8.1%.  Nose is elusive, seemingly mostly fruity English ale yeast as opposed to malt or hops.  Initial sips reveal a malt sweetness not present in the previous two beers.  Rich flavors blending a dose of tannin, raisins, stone fruit, and fruitcake, with a nutiness that adds to the "fruitcake" character.  The mouthfeel is reminiscent of a diluted port wine, fruity and rich.  A sipping beer, to be sure, even if it's not as strong as the bigger names in big beers.  Also a definite hop bitterness, even if any hop nose is largely gone now.

I would easily get more of this if the price were right.  And it holds up well aged.

RateBeer ratings here.  Brewer's website here (not much there).

Open It! II: Anchor Our Special Ale 1992 (Yes, 1992!)

There is no good reason that this beer should still be extant.  And now it won't be.

Anchor's annual holiday/Christmas beers are an easy target for the novice to try aging.  It's readily available, it's "special," and it's different.  But the alcohol content is low, and the "special" attributes of this beer are especially volatile, so this is really not a beer to age.  So why do I still have it eighteen years later?  Inertia.

Beer pours with razor-thin carbonation and dismal head retention.  Deep porter color.  Nose is lots of black pepper with notes of licorice, blackstrap molasses, and used cinnamon sticks.  Flavor is dry, spicy, but stale and a bit oxidized.  Bottle has a heavy coat of sludge on the bottom, but sample is bright.  Extremely tannic finish, like sucking on tea bags and cinnamon sticks.

If you learn nothing else: Don't age this beer.

RateBeer goes back to 2001 for this beer.

Glass: 2002 Anchor OSA glass, rimmed with gold leaf and an actual pint-holding shaker pint glass, as indicated by the 12 ounces shown.

First "Open It!": Corne de Brume Biere des Iles

I've decided to up the ante just a bit by pulling out well-buried, seldom-used beer glasses in which to pour the beer.  First one of those: a thistle-shaped Unibroue Raftman glass, for their long-discontinued peat-smoked ale.  (Ah, the memories of that one....)

Corne de Brume Biere des Iles ["Foghorn Scotch Ale"], as the name implies, is a beer from Quebec.  That's literally all I know about it.  At first glance I thought it was a beer brought back for me by a friend who went to Quebec City and asked me for suggestions before he went, but that was a 500-ml bottle as I recall--I can't find that at the moment, and if I do it's another prime target.  This has a sticker with the U.S. government warning and the address of an importer in Virginia, so I'm guessing I got this during a visit to the Loose Caboose gourmet store
in Ashland, Va. while my friend was bidding on vintage motorcycles on eBay at the nearby library. (I talked him out of the running after he'd exceeded his price by $500.)

DEEP mahogany red, bright and clear with no lees--color-wise, one of the prettiest beers I've seen of late.  Average head retention, not great or sorry.  Nose of rich malt, tobacco leaf, dried stone fruit, molasses, and a hint of fall leaves burning.  (My wife says "Samichlaus?")  Flavor is rich malt, semi-dry with a lot of smoky hints/character and indistinct woody spice tannins.  Distinct alcohol burn in it, no mistaking that this is a 9.0% beer.  This would go brilliantly with a nicely grilled leg of lamb or steak, with green beans or Brussels sprouts.  But its smokiness and dryness demands that something else follow it, such as a sweeter, heavier beer or a dessert.  (Wife says, "Well, give me some chocolate, then!")

Website for the beer and brewery here. RateBeer.com page here (99th percentile, #4 Scotch Ale as of this posting).  I guess it's all downhill from here.
The Google translation of the French description is a hoot:
The foghorn is a Scotch ale at 9.0% alcohol. From a deep brown with hints of ruby, she dons a mocha mousse aspects. In the mouth reveals Fog Horn all its depth. A wall caramelized flavor stands before us and envelops us warmly language. This dance caramelized and lascivious binds with bitterness deaf to form a waltz which combines heady wild fruit and malt. Shortly thereafter, bitterness loosens its grip on our taste buds to slowly bring us back to reality.  Beer to age very well

Tomorrow Never Comes--Open It! This Weekend

Several bloggers have been discussing this, and now it's my turn to promote it.

Most hardcore beer geeks have at least a couple excellent beers that they've put away for aging, in many cases waiting for "just that right time" to open that bottle or raid the horde.

Tomorrow never comes.  Open up that damned bottle.  This weekend.  Now.

The idea was apparently first postulated by Mark Dredge, author of the UK's Pencil & Spoon blog in October and November blog posts.  Others have joined the cause, including regional blogger A Beer in the Hand, and now it's my turn.  There's also a Facebook page for the project, and a Twitter feed for those who just must be instantaneous with their pronouncements in 140 characters..

No excuses.  Advance warning is beside the point.  You were not supposed to run out and grab something special.  You're supposed to go dig your way back into the cellar, crawl way back under the steps where you stashed that barleywine you brewed ten years ago, or dig back in the back of the fridge.  Wherever you keep that extra-special stuff.  (Okay, you have a point if you--like I did for a while--keep your good stuff in a friend's wine cellar across town.  You still have all weekend.

Pencil & Spoon:
Does any of the following sound familiar… Lots of unopened bottles at home, special bottles, rare bottles, expensive bottles or just bottles that aren’t ready to be opened. Most of them are waiting for ‘special occasions’ but these occasions don’t come around or aren’t special enough. And the bottles build up, they get added to, a hierarchy develops, things get pushed up or down. But all you really want to do is drink these beers and you know you should just get it open, drink it and enjoy it. Instead they wait, gathering dust, not getting any better, just because we are waiting for the right moment...

So here’s the idea: let’s create a special occasion. Let’s call this special occasion Open It! and let’s drink the good beers. Let’s find a bottle from the depth of the cellar and open it, drink it and then tell others about it (in blogs, blog comments or twitter or facebook).

Open it alone or open it with others; hold an Open It! party or take it to the pub to see what people think. Most importantly, get that bottle open and drink the thing and then tell everyone about it. 
Don’t hold back thinking that a worthy special occasion will come along soon, that you might get a new job next week, a promotion next month, win the lottery, get married, have some kids, whatever. They don’t come very often and the last thing you want is to go to that bottle in a year and find that it’s past its best. This is the chance to make a special occasion just to open that bottle.

Now I'm off to the beer stock to see what's going to get opened tonight.  I also have the luxury of a party invitation tomorrow for an "Almost Hanukkah Party" at a fellow beer aficionado's house.

Stay tuned for tasting notes.  And go and raid your own stock.  NOW.

"Most Expensive Retail Beer"? Nope..........

Some recent blog traffic and beer-forum postings erupted on the Internet over an Australian brewery's supposed claim to the "Most Expensive Beer" in the world, Nail Brewing's Antarctic Nail Ale, selling the first of only 30 500-ml bottles produced at auction for $800.

Ignore this.  Left out of the hubbub are some very pertinent facts that disqualify this supposed "record":

1) The first-cited record has already been broken: the second bottle auctioned went for $1,850, and a third for $1,200.

2) The dollars are Australian, not American,  The conversion amounts to US$783, US$1,811, and US$1,185 as of today, meaning that the first auctioned bottle broke the US dollar price of BrewDog's twelve "The End of History" bottles by a mere $18.  Of course, the second auction just blows the record out of the North Sea completely.

3) It's a freakin' charity fundraiser, not retail.  The bottles are being auctioned to raise money for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization whose stated mission is "to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species."  So of course people are going to throw money at it for a good cause, not because the contents are worthy of such spending.  Never underestimate the willingness of people to bleed their hearts, especially for nature.  (I have a flashback of Doonesbury's Boopsie screaming to B.D. in an early strip, "Did you hear me?  Baby ducks!!!")
I wonder what BrewDog would have garnered for their 12 "End of History" bottle-stuffed taxidermy projects had they auctioned them for the benefit of a selected charity.  (I highly doubt the RSPCA would have been interested in the proceeds.)

But, hey, more power to Nail Brewing for milking extreme-beer mania for a good cause. Now, how long before someone posts tasting notes on one of the beer-rating sites?

By the way, if you love the Sea Shepherd cause and/or need to brag, feel free to bid on the next bottle Nail Brewing has put up for auction. #3.  One wonders if the price will increase what with worldwide opportunity to get in on the bidding, though no information on the legality of overseas purchase is given in the listing.  Note that the lot is being offered by the Sea Shepherd Society, not the brewery.  (Sorry, they can't ship it to Maryland, you know.  Pesky state laws, and all that.)

Wine Enthusiast Top 25 Beers for 2010 includes Heavy Seas Loose Cannon; Draft Magazine says to watch Stillwater

Wine Enthusiast Magazine released its "Top 25 Beers Tasted in 2010" list.

#13 was Heavy Seas Loose Cannon.  Depending on how hard you look, about half of the 25 are available in the Maryland market, including most of the top ten.

Meanwhile, Draft Magazine issued a list of "Twelve Breweries To Watch in 2011."  Highlighted locally was Stillwater Artisanal Ales, as well as Evolution Craft Brewing in Delmar, Del. and Devil's Backbone in Roseland, Va. (former Wharf Rat brewer Jason Oliver).  The latter, incidentally, has plans for a production brewing facility, raising the prospect that we may see Jason's beers return to Baltimore eventually.  Meanwhile, the article states that "Evolution plans to expand its facility four times the size of its current brewery."

02 December 2010

Lures Xmas Beer Club Dec. 14th

Lures, down on Generals Highway near Crownsville, is holding its monthly Beer Club--buffet, tax, gratuity included for $38.50--on Dec. 14th with Southern Tier Old Man Winter, Rogue Santas, Ommegang Adoration, Avery Jubilation, Anchor Our Special Ale, and more.  No reservations needed, 6-8 PM.

Free weekend parking in Fells Point this month

Shamelessly swiped from Michael Dresser's "Getting There" blog at BaltimoreSun.com (typos corrected):

Fells Point Main Street Inc. is reporting that the Baltimore Parking Authority will allow the group to offer free street parking in the neighborhood for four weekends in December.
According to Main Street, the free parking will be allowed between 8 p.m. Fridays and 8 p.m. Sundays December 3-5, December 10-12, December 17-19 and December 24-26.  The group said it is working with the city to see  that meters and meter boxes in Fells Point are bagged during those times.
The group encourages anyone who knows of problems with the program to call the Fell's Point Main Street office at 410-675-8900. 
 Now, not that we encourage drinking and then driving..........  but just so you can't use the cost of parking as an excuse to not come up/out and check out the beer scene in Baltimore's most diverse beer neighborhood.....  (Yes, you D.C. denizens whose only experiences with Baltimore are through the HBO series The Wire--I'm talkin' to you....)

01 December 2010

But I thought they opened back in September......?

Alewife Baltimore is running full-page ads in the City Paper--and Facebook posts--announcing its "Grand Opening Week" from Dec. 1st through the 5th.  All draft beers are $4, all food discounted $3; happy hour specials 4-6 PM.  According to their website, after the "grand opening week" happy hour policy will be "4pm-6pm every Monday thru Friday all drinks are $1 off and all food is $2 off (except sides). There will also be a $4 Bartender’s Choice Draft Special."

I suppose September, October, and November counted as the "soft opening."  Hey, as long as they don't do what a lot of restaurants and take-out joints do, leaving up a "Grand Opening!!!" sign for months.......

Rodenbach Re-Release and Program @ Max's Dec. 7th; Holiday Beers the 14th

Belgian beer fans will want to be at Max's Taphouse on the evening of Dec. 7th, when fellow beer blogger Chuck Cook will be hosting a program (along with Devin Arloski of Latis Imports) in the upstairs Mobtown Lounge to mark the return of Rodenbach to the Maryland market:
I plan to show some of the 500+ images I have from my 2008 and 2010 visits to the brewery, as well as talking about the history of this Belgian national treasure. I'll also discuss the brewing process. There should be Rodenbach, Rodenbach Grand Cru, and Vintage 2008 on hand. Several Steenbrugge Abbey Ales (Dubbel, Triple, Blonde, and Wit) and Palm will also be available that night.
If you can't make it there, just check out this lengthy blogpost--it almost doubles as a major beer-tasting presentation in its own right!

On Dec. 14th, Max's is holding its Holiday Beers sampling, with eight beers from He'Brew (the Jewish-themed brewery out of NYC) on draft.

A Second DuClaw Beer Brunch Planned

My flippant remark was close:  DuClaw company owner David Benfield reports they sold out of the Dec. 19th beer brunch at Arundel Mills in fourteen minutes.

As a result, he says, "We are working on a second date to accommodate the people who couldn't get tickets."  He'll keep us posted.

30 November 2010

Baltimore City Bans Caffeinated Alcoholic "Energy Drinks" UPDATED

UPDATE #2: The official press release.   Read it as you will: it specifically says "The Baltimore City Health Commissioner is issuing an order barring the sale of alcoholic beverages containing caffeine in the city."  But it also names seven products under six brand names by name, saying "The ban applies to the following commercially available products".   Other caffeine-bearing products such as coffee liqueur are not specifically mentioned or exempted, nor is amy distinction made between caffeine occuring naturally in flavor additives (coffee, tea, chicory, etc.) and artificially-extracted/consolidated caffeine as is typically added to "energy drinks."

The blogpost by Midnight Sun's Erik Maza sums it up nicely, in my opinion:  "Not content to have beat the horse, and left it for dead in a dingy ditch somewhere, Baltimore's health commissioner today banned the sale of caffeinated alcoholic drinks like Four Loko within the city."

Here's a succession of blogpost from Reason.com's Jacob Sullum on the subject over the past two weeks:

And now for something to distract the naysayers from this stuff: alcoholic whipped cream.

 UPDATE:  Howard County jumps on the "Ban Four Loko" wagon!   And Thursday isn't soon enough:  " ,. . . effective at the close of business on Wednesday, Dec. 1."

Baltimore Sun:

The Baltimore City health commissioner has banned the sale of alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

The move allows the city to fine, up to $1,000, those who continue to sell Four Loko and other such drinks in defiance of a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban and an agreement reached by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot with alcohol wholesalers and retailers associations to stop restocking.

"Removing these beverages from the marketplace removes the temptation to abuse them," said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, city health commissioner, in a statement. "The public health consequences of the masking effects of caffeine in alcoholic beverages are real and include increased risk for unsafe sex practices, driving while under the influence and increased risks for blackouts."

The ban applies to products including Core High Gravity HG Green, Core High Gravity HG Orange, Lemon Lime Core Spiked, Moonshot, FourLoko, Joose and Max. The city plans to officially notify Tuesday 566 licensed facilities.
More at the link, and here.  Note: the exact wording of the order has not been posted (as of this blogpost) at the Baltimore City website or other media.  Even the Baltimore City Liquor License Commission chairman, Steve Fogleman, is awaiting official documentation before commenting.

But I will note two things:
1) If this order bans the specific products by name, they only have to introduce new names.
2) Four Loko, for one, has already said it's removing the caffeine from its alcohol-delivery system products beverages.

Still awaiting word:  Has this ban just inadvertently banned Lagunitas Cappuchino Stout, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, Southern Tier Jah-Va, and other coffee- and tea-infused beers?

The FDA, however, did say that its own actions against caffeinenated boozes were narrowly-focused:

Does this action apply to coffee-based liqueurs?
No.  These Warning Letters are not directed at alcoholic beverages that only contain caffeine as a natural constituent of one or more of their ingredients, such as a coffee flavoring. The alcoholic beverages that are the subject of FDA's Warning Letters are malt beverages to which the manufacturer has directly added caffeine as a separate ingredient.
Stay tuned.........

Beer Brunch at DuClaw Arundel Mills Dec. 19th UPDATED

UPDATE: Tickets go on sale at 9:00 AM E.S.T.  I predict a sell-out in ten minutes.

The DuClaw Brewing empire is getting aboard the beer-breakfast/brunch bandwagon with its first Beer Brunch, a six-course, $45 extravaganza on Sunday, Dec. 19th at 9 a.m.at their Arundel Mills location:

  1. Sweet Potato Pancakes with a Vanilla Almond Syrup topped with Fresh Homemade Cream paired with Sawtooth Belgian Wit
  2. Spiced Pumpkin Waffles topped with a Cinnamon Cream paired with 31 Spiced Munich Dunkel.
  3. Beer Marinated Steak and Eggs paired with Devil’s Milk Barleywine
  4. Cherry Strata paired with Cherry Black Jack Stout
  5. Beer Biscuits and Maple Sausage Gravy with Euphoria Toffee Nut Brown Ale
  6. Banana Crepes with a Chocolate Drizzle with 13 Degrees Hefeweizen
Only 50 seats are available, and they are being sold through the company's online store beginning Dec. 1st.  I predict an extremely rapid sell-out, if the popularity of their firkin tappings at that location are any indication.

Two AIDS Charity Events at Baltimore Beer Bars Tomorrow

Two events tomorrow at local beer bars in support of World AIDS Day:

At Brewer's Art, 20% of the day's proceeds go to Chase Brexton Health Services (in the neighborhood) for AIDS-related causes.

Down in Federal Hill, Muggsy's Mug House is participating in "Global Drinks for World Action," a related fundraiser, complete with international music, trivia, and a raffle.

See? EVERY state has stupid alcohol laws....

It's a syndrome you'll see across this land.  Every fan of quality beer, wine, or spirits can instantly and eagerly point out some aspect of their home state's laws on alcoholic-beverage sales, production, or distribution.  Pennsylvania: the "state store" system and the case law.  Maryland: almost no grocery or convenience stores can sell booze.  Virginia: State Stores.  Keg registrations.  Prohibitions against Sunday sales, or beverages over a certain strength.  The various regulations mandating that booze be served only in "private clubs" or restaurants.  Prohibitions against listing strength of beer on beer bottles, while it's required on spirits and wine.

One would think Colorado, home of so many craft brewers and one of the centers of the craft beer revival, and a state where the current governor-elect is a former brewpub owner--would be exempt from this nuttiness.

Think again:

As the happy-hour crowd began trickling into The Celtic Tavern on Tuesday night, bar owner Patrick Schaetzle — flanked by placards and mirrors touting Murphy's Irish Stout — got some unsettling news.
Sometime next year bars will have to stop selling his Lower Downtown pub's signature stout along with an array of other beers that are lower alcohol. The looming restrictions flow from a bitter, three-year battle between liquor and convenience stores over who can sell full-strength beer.
Schaetzle and a number of his similarly shocked patrons pointed out that both waistlines and blood-alcohol levels could suffer as a result of banning low-alcohol — read, low-calorie — beers from taverns and restaurants.
State liquor regulators continue to hammer out guidelines meant to ensure everyone from the brewers down to the retailers follow the rules.
Beermakers will have to test their suds and submit an affidavit stating their alcohol content to authorities.
Once enforced, the rules will likely shut off taps of lighter versions of brands like Shiner, Amstel, Heineken, Yeungling, Michelob and Shipyard among others. Light versions of the big three — Coors, Budweiser and Miller — appear to have just enough alcohol to remain flowing.
More in this Denver Post editorial today.  (Tip o' the hat to fellow beer blogger Jack Curtin for the lead.)

Beer Dinners at Victoria Gastro Pub

The manager at Victoria Gastro Pub (one guess what her first name is?) dropped me an e-mail which included a schedule of upcoming events for the gastropub in 2011.

First, the aforementioned Ugly Sweater Party on Christmas Eve--technically not a beer event, but wottheheck....

Not all of them are beer events, but I thought I'd list the planned beer events so you could plan accordingly.  As always, these are planned events; contact the pub for updates or to watch for additional events that may be added in the future.


Wed-Fri 1/5—1/7 Belgian Beer Fest
Tuesday 1/11/11 Flying Dog Beer Dinner
Mon-Mon 1/17—1/31 Howard County Winter Restaurant Weeks


Sun- Mon 2/6- 2/7 Flying Dog 24-Tap Takeover
Tuesday 2/8/11 North Coast Beer Dinner

Tuesday 3/1/11 Belgian Beer Dinner

Tuesday 4/5/11 The Bruery Beer Dinner

Tuesday 5/3/11 Brasserie Dieu De Ciel Beer Dinner
Mon-Sun 5/16—5/22 American Craft Beer Week

Tuesday 6/14/11 Colorado Beer Dinner (Oskar Blues, Yeti, Great Divide & Boulder)


Wed-Fri 7/6—7/8 Christmas in July
Tuesday 7/12/11 Dogfish Beer Dinner

Mon-Mon 7/25—8/8 Howard County Summer Restaurant Weeks

Mon-Mon 7/25—8/8 Howard County Summer Restaurant Weeks
Tuesday 8/9/11 Unibroue Beer Dinner


Tuesday 9/6/11 Lagunitas Beer Dinner

Tuesday 10/4/11 Oktoberfest Beer Dinner
Fri-Mon 10/7—10/17 Baltimore Beer Week Proposed Dates

Tuesday 11/8/11 Southern Tier Beer Dinner

What, flying dogs aren't freaky enough by themselves?

From Flying Dog PR e-mails and posts:

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls (21 years or older), have yourself a Merry Firkin Christmas at Flying Dog's Freak Show December 10 at the brewery.

We'll have jugglers, magicians, fire dancers, sword swallowers, fire breathing, and more for a freak show that puts your in-law's 20-person dinner table to shame. It's the kind of party meant for those consistently shunned to the kids' table.

DJ Two Teks will be spinning in the interludes. Along with 12 beers on tap, we'll have 3 cask-conditioned ales on the bar and beer engine.

Tickets are $30. They're sure to sell out fast, so get yours as soon as humanely possible. (The rest of your holiday shopping can wait.)

29 November 2010

December Beer Events in Md. and D.C.

This list is edited from the "Hop Tips" e-newsletter sent out by Mid-Atlantic Brewing News to e-subscribers.  Sign up yourself at http://www.brewingnews.com/ht/ 

Tuesday, November 30th: Wonderful Holiday Beer Dinner at Brewers Alley, Frederick Two seatings: 5:30pm and 7:30pm. Both in the upstairs Banquet room, with downtown holiday lights shining in the windows. Details at 301-631-0089 or www.brewers-alley.com.
Thursday, December 1st: Heavy Seas Beer and Pizza Party at Two Boots, Baltimore
Loose Cannon and Small Craft Warning with your pizza toppings or keep the pint glass with your 1st Marzen draft. Live music, raffles, prizes and specialty pizza. 6-9pm. www.twoboots.com/TW2008/baltimore.
Saturday, December 3rd: Pint Night at Hempden Hills BBQ, Hagerstown
Try a pint of HS Gold Ale, which recently won a bronze medal at GABF, and keep the pint glass it's served in. Other Heavy Seas beer will be available. Meet our rep from the brewery who can answer all your beer related questions. 7:30-10pm. 301-797-4455. www.hsbeer.com
Saturday, December 4th: Winter Beer Wonderland at Roots Market, Olney
3-4 different breweries will be pouring their seasonal fare. Brand New Brewery from Rockville MD Baying Hound Aleworks will be featuring their Pale Ale and their Winter brew. Event is just for tastes but free to all. There will be plenty for purchase. 301-774-1344 or http://rootsmkt.com.
Tuesday, December 7th: All About Beer with Hugh Sisson
Join Heavy Seas founder, Hugh Sisson, on the eve of their 15th anniversary for a special event at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Learn about different styles of beer and hear stories from the first brewpub owner in Maryland. Sample 5 Heavy Seas beers paired with food from Bluegrass Tavern. Beer tasting only: $15 (non-members) or $10 ( members). Food pairing included: $20 (members) or $25 (non-members). Reservations required. Tickets at 410-727-4808 x129 or pfallon@thebmi.org. www.hsbeer.com.
Wednesday, December 8th: Holiday Beer Dinner at Dogfish Head, Gaithersburg
Five courses paired with your favorite Dogfish brews. $75 includes all. 7-9pm. Reservations at 301-963-4847. Menu at www.dogfishalehouse.com.
Wednesday, December 8th: Maryland Beer Dinner at Bluegrass Tavern, Baltimore
Heavy Seas and White Marsh Brewing are hosting this 6-course dinner. $85. 6:30-9pm. Reservations required. 410-244-5101 or www.bluegrasstavern.com. Menu at hsbeer.com.
Friday, December 10th: Heavy Seas Pint Night at Niners Canal Pub, Cumberland –Join in for a pint and keep the first glass. 7-9pm. www.ninerscanalpub.com. www.hsbeer.com.
Tuesday, December 14th: Beer Club at Lure’s Bar and Grille, Crownsville –Featuring Christmas/holiday beers. Food and drinks for $38. 6-8pm. 410-923-1606 or www.luresbarandgrille.com.

Sunday, December 19th: Beer for Breakfast at DuClaw Brewing, Arundel Mills
Six courses of scrumptious brunch fare paired with some of their finest brews. $45. Tickets at http://www.duclaw.com/store/default.aspx (on sale beginning December 1st)

Tuesday, December 21st: Loose Cannon Cask at Sean Bolan’s, Bel Air
With added hops in the firkin. 5-8pm. www.seanbolans.com. www.hsbeer.com.

Thursday, December 22nd: Loose Cannon Cask at Sly Fox, Annapolis
5-8pm. www.slyfoxpub.com.

Thursday, December 23rd: Heavy Seas Holiday Pint Night at Federal House, Annapolis Get what you really want this holiday season; Winter Storm and Loose Cannon in a souvenir glass. 6-9pm. www.federalhouserestaurant.com. www.hsbeer.com.

Friday, December 24th: Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia –Winners chosen at 8pm. 410-750-1880 or www.victoriagastropub.com.

Friday, December 31th: New Years Eve Party at Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia – Special menu and live music beginning at 9pm. 410-750-1880 or www.victoriagastropub.com.
Wednesday, December 1st: Craft Brewers Come to Congress…and ChurchKey – Many of the finest Craft Brewers in the US are coming to Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of Craft Beer. After they finish up a tasting for Congressional staffers, they're heading to ChurchKey. Starting at 6pm, ChurchKey will be featuring some amazing draft and cask beers. 202.567.2576 or www.churchkeydc.com.

Friday, December 3rd: Great Lakes Christmas Ale and Cookies at Black Squirrel
Chef Gene Sohn will also make holiday desserts that pair with the beer, including a Christmas Ale bread pudding and a Christmas Ale eggnog custard. There will be a holiday cookie decorating area in the upstairs lounge. 6:30-9:30pm. 202-232-1011 or www.blacksquirreldc.com.

Monday, December 6th: He'Brew Jewbilation Vertical Draft Night – Schmaltz Brewing Company is celebrating their 14th anniversary, and to toast their continued success they’ll be pouring re-brewed drafts of He'Brew Jewbilation 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13, along with 2010's Jewbilation 14. The eighth He'Brew draft is a Vertical blend: Jewbilations 8 through 14 aged in Sazerac Rye Whiskey barrels. 6pm. 202.567.2576 or www.churchkeydc.com.

Thursday, December 9th: 21st Annual Winter Holidaze Tasting Extravaganzee at the Brickskeller – A whole bunch of the regions’ best brewmasters come to the stage with their winter seasonal. Meet them, hear them speak, and taste their great winter brews. Doors open at 6pm, they never start at 7pm. $35. 202-293-1885 or www.lovethebeer.com.

Friday, December 10th: Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch Bottle, Cask, and Draft at De Vinos – 6-9pm. 202-986-5002 or www.de-vinos.com.

Tuesday, December 28th: Belgian Beer Dinner at Belga Café – 6:30pm. Reservations at 202-544-0100. www.belgacafe.com.

26 November 2010

Beery Christmas (Lights)....................

Trust the occasionally offbeat owner and crew at Max's Taphouse to go with something like this.

Regular Christmas lights don't show up all that well on the exterior of a building, so Max's did a little experimenting and fabricated a whole string of giant "oversized" Christmas lights to adorn the roofline of the bar's buildings.

A closer examination, however, will show the true ingenuity of this decoration.  The "lights" combine a string of ordinary 110-volt light sockets and colored compact-fluorescent light bulbs (the light source) with large plastic balls that fit perfectly over said light fixtures.

And where, pray tell, did the balls come from?  They're recycled/reused "Key Keg" PET balls, the guts of recyclable plastic-and-cardboard "kegs" used by many of the European brewers such as BrewDog to ship one-way shipments of low-volume, high-cost quantities of beer to the States!  (A lot of said beers come through local importer Legends Limited.)  I asked bartender Bob Simko where they kept the balls until they built the decorations.  "All over the place!" he said.

Knowing Max's, I'm expecting this is only a preview of forthcoming decorations.  (For Halloween, the roof featured, among other things, a moving giant spider.)

The debate continues...... and beer (again) gets no respect.....

Baltimore Sun:  The great legislative debate on whether to allow direct wine shipments to Maryland residents continues.

No mention, of course, of beer, or "beer-of-the-month" clubs, or direct orders of special releases direct from distant breweries.

24 November 2010

Let's Dash Another Urban Legend About Beer on the (Plymouth) Rocks....

Yeah, you've no doubt heard those Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 because the were "out of beer"?

Baloney, says this article:
So where did these legends start? In the years following the end of Prohibition, Anheuser-Busch and other breweries began running ads with slogans such as "Pilgrim Fathers drank it." The U.S. Brewers Association also ran holiday ads using the tagline "Beer, Not Turkey, Lured Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock." The beer industry was still stinging from 13 years of Prohibition, and they wasted no time trying to persuade customers that beer was a fundamental part of America's history.
I always figured the rewriting came from some fraternity house myself.  (Now to go submit this one to Snopes.com.....)

23 November 2010

Thanksgiving Eve, Updated Again

Keeping in mind the allegations (see posts on this subject in 2009 and 2008) that Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest drinking day of the year (not "holiday," just drinking day), what are your plans for tomorrow?

Metropolitan in Federal Hill is tapping its weekly firkin a day early from its regular Thursday, in tomorrow's case a firkin of Oliver Brewerie's The Darkness, a 7% dark wheat beer.

In contrast, the source of that firkin, Pratt Street Ale House, is closing for Wednesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, DuClaw is going all-out at its Bel Air location, coming right out and saying it's "High School Reunion Night":
There will be plenty of time to nap AFTER the turkey and stuffing. Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday November 24th 2010, catch up with your old friends (or make some new friends) only at DuClaw Brewing Company Bel Air. We’re throwing our own “High School Reunion” from 9pm to 1am, with a DJ spinning tunes, drink specials, contests and more!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a high school reunion without “Superlatives”! Vote for the party-goers (1 male and 1 female in each category, nominees must be present) that you think best embody the following categories:

BARE ASS BLONDE (The Best Bare Ass)
EUPHORIA (Most Dazed and Confused)
MISFIT RED (Cutest Redhead)
NAKED FISH (Best Looking Naked)
KANGAROO LOVE (Spends the Most Time “Down Under”, if you Catch Our Drift)
OLD FLAME (Cutest Couple)
COLOSSUS (Biggest, Buffest, ‘Roid Ragin’est Juice-Head)
PAX NEMESIS (Best Behaved)
HELLRAZER (Worst Behaved)
EXILE (Most Likely to be Arrested)

The DJ will be announcing winners and awarding prizes throughout the evening.

While the party is a Bel Air exclusive, the specials will be available at all participating DuClaw Brewing Company locations.
Okay, the name/contest tie-ins may be a bit cheesy, but it works if you ask me.

I have a proposal from a family member to go out for a pint or so tomorrow, but the updates/feedback have been lacking................

Anyone else want to chime in?

The Bottled Water Market

If any reader doubts the value of marketing for a beverage, all she or he has to do is catch a view--or, more realistically, read this article--which highlights, albeit superficially of course, how the seemingly ludicrous proposition of a bottled-water market grew from an aberration to "one of the biggest success stories in the modern food and beverage industry":
By branding and marketing water, it has been transformed from something that many of us took for granted into a product that now makes billions for global multinational companies.
But like all products, its success is driven by consumer demand.
"Some people… want to consider the bottled water industry as a marketing trick foisted upon consumers," says Kim Jeffery, chief executive of Nestle Waters in North America.
"I wish I was that good or had that much money.
 If you have access to the BBC, it's on BBC2 at 2100 GMT tonight (4 PM EST).

Catherine's to replace Fed Hill bar Taps

Alternate title: "The McFaul empire spreads in Federal Hill."

The Baltimore Sun's Midnight Sun blog, by Erik Maza, reports that the Federal Hill bar formerly operated as Taps, in the old Craftsmen Club building at Fort and Charles Streets, was bought by Marc McFaul, owner of the Ropewalk Tavern, Dark Horse Saloon, and Stalking Horse, and is slated to be reopened possibly by the end of the year after some remodeling--including, according to the comments, two large windows to lighten up the previously cavern-like interior.

Question: Ropewalk Tavern has a relatively large beer selection, one that many folks in the hinterlands would kill for.  Why does that bar remain relatively unnoticed by beer enthusiasts in this area?

The Ugly Side of the Booze Business

Those of you who pay attention to political happenings elsewhere in Maryland, and particularly to our south, may have noticed the recently-evolving story on a corruption scandal involving Prince George's County officials and, among other things, the alcohol and tobacco trade there--both commodities whose commerce is regulated by government on the federal, state, and local level, usually for the purposes of "revenue enhancement" of one sort or another.

In the case of P.G. County, according to the Washington Post article:
The county's chief liquor inspector is also the head of the local Democratic Party. One of the five members on the Board of Liquor License Commissioners - responsible for granting and revoking liquor licenses - is also on the party's central committee, which helps choose the board members.
The liquor board's chairman was first appointed while his wife led the county Democrats in the mid-1990s. And a third board member is married to a senior state delegate.
Corruption of a different sort runs on the other side of the business: the supply side.  Ever since the end of Prohibition and the set-up in the majority of states of the three-tier distribution system--a system ostensibly meant to avoid the situation that arose in Britain, where bigger breweries expanded and obliterated smaller breweries by means of owning the bars as well as the breweries--the "seedy" underbelly of the alcohol business, full of winks, handshakes, and secret deals right out of the campaign-finance playbooks and manuals, has been an "open secret" that nobody has seemed interested in addressing.  And it's not a Maryland problem (although the one-party nature of most of the state's politics is a factor that no doubt perpetuates the scenario); it's a nationwide problem.

It would be easy for craft beer enthusiasts to believe that their favorite places and beers are above that kind of stuff.  After all, there isn't that kind of money involved in craft beer, is there?

Think again.

Crain's Chicago Business, a Chicago business journal, has published a major story highlighting the Chicago beer business scene: "Pay-to-Play infects Chicago beer market, Crain's investigation finds."  In it, the newspaper highlights, among other things, why New Glarus Brewing, one of the Midwest's most successful and popular micros, retreated from the Chicago market (hint: it wasn't, as alleged by Chicago store owners, that they couldn't make enough beer to supply Chicago anymore--a quick trip outside the city lines exposed that fib); that Chicago has lower craft-beer prices than the national average but a dearth of locally-produced beer/breweries; and that craft beer claims only 5.3% of the local market instead of a national average of 6.3%.

Also highlighted and detailed, largely in off-the-record allegations for obvious reasons: the "pay-to-play" atmosphere, where distributors are asked to pay, or offer to pay, to put a particular beer in a bar or chain:
A craft brewer tells Crain's that Rockit Bar & Grill, with locations near Wrigley Field and in River North, wanted to charge him $3,000 to put his beer on tap.
Is there anyone in the business who can explain to us just why the booze business can't be just above-board and straightforward with its business practices?  Indeed, after several generations of this balderdash, it's become a case of "that's how it's always been."  But does it have to be that way?  (Of course, ask them directly, as this article's authors did, and the answer is always flat-out denial that they do it, or "no comment".)
Mike Roper, who owns Michael & Louise's Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville, says large brewers and bars have a strong incentive to keep pay-to-play alive. The bars get free beer and lower costs while the brewers gain access to lucrative outlets. Though Hopleaf is one of the city's best-known gastropubs, featuring 34 regional microbrews and specialty beers from Belgium on draft, a bar in Wrigleyville will sell more draft beer on a Chicago Cubs game day than Hopleaf will sell in a month, he says.
“Craft brewers have to compete in a marketplace that is not completely fair, and it's like athletes having to compete against someone on steroids,” says Mr. Roper, who has been working in Chicago bars since 1982 and says he hasn't engaged in pay-to-play. “Being with Bud or Miller gives craft beers a better chance to get into popular bars or chain stores.” The larger distributors have more clout, but they also can drag craft breweries into the pay-to-play world, he adds.
The follow-up comments to the article are worth reading, as they include important details left out of the original article for space reasons.

I'm currently talking with a brewery owner that's trying to get his products into this market.  He wants to have wider distribution here, but finds himself looking at the demands of the distributors and balking.  Even though we have several distributors in this market that are relatively kind to craft beer and even one or two that are outright craft-beer boosters, he calculates that it would cost him more to enter this market with wider distribution than his brewery would make from it.

And you wonder why your "cheater pint" shaker glass of a craft beer costs so much.