31 January 2010

Haggis Update: Not Quite Yet......

The BBC and NPR are now reporting that the earlier reports on the lifting on the ban on haggis's import to the United States was premature at best:
A spokeswoman from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service emails to "clarify" the matter:
Recently, several news articles have incorrectly stated that the U.S. will be relaxing or lifting its ban on Scottish haggis  At this time, haggis is still banned in the U.S. The APHIS rule covers all ruminant imports, which includes haggis.  It is currently being reviewed to incorporate the current risk and latest science related to these regulations.  There is no specific time frame for the completion of this review.  Please check back with APHIS periodically for updates.

Alex Massie of Britain's Spectator suggests:

This is sad news indeed and not the sort of change anyone can believe in. I encourage US readers to petition their Congresspersons to have this injustice ended and let Americans enjoy the full majesty of the Great Chieftain o' the pudden-race. It's also, obviously, tme for Obama to show some damn leadership...

30 January 2010

EXTRA Vintage Beer Notes: "1994 XMAS ALE"

So it finally stopped snowing......

On a day that included sweeping out that tracks at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum....

So now to celebrate a wretchedly cold night with a vintage beer: My own 1994 Christmas beer, the last bottle from what was probably my first Christmas homebrew and one of my first beers of all.

Explanation for the bottle:  Dusty from 15 years of storage.  The green bottle reflects my reuse of what were originally Beck's Beer bottles, re-purposed for reuse by several start-up micros during the1980s, including my first "favorite" micro, Wild Goose in Cambridge.  I shifted to brown bottles around the same time they did for the same reasons, but I kept 2-3 cases of green bottles about for quick and handy reuse and giveaway, most typically for "Christmas/holiday" beers.  At the time I made this stuff, I was working for a shop that, among other things, had a dot-matrix label-printer for computer chips that they were making, so I had them covertly crank out a sheet bearing the words "1994 XMAS BEER".  Those labels went atop the caps.

The beer? Make your predictions, then I'll tell you.

Pours the classic barleywine/Thomas Hardy's color, extra dark red/porter, no head, very low carbonation.  Nose of orange peel and exotic spices with a hint of smoke.  This was supposed to be a typical Christmas ale, as I recall, probably was a blend of extract and grains, with lots of adjuncts such as honey and spices.  None of that has really survived.  It's dry and thin, very low mouthfeel, barely even alcoholic tasting.  It vaguely starts to remind me of a watered-down Moxie soda, for the one of you reading this that has ever run into that purported soda.  The flavors--orange peel bitterness, wood, nutmeg and cinnamon, smoke--are good, but they need some hops and sweetnes to balance.  These are the flavors I would want to add to a barleywine to make it complex, not the barleywine itself.  Not bad, but definitely aged too long.  

Oh, well, we can't win them all.

Pratt St. Ale House Beer Debut Tuesday (oh, yeah, and at Max's...)

This Groundhog's Day--Tuesday--at Pratt Street Ale House, according to the brewer Stephen Jones:

On Tuesday @ 6pm we will launch our latest seasonal beer, The Bishop’s Indulgence, at The Cask Ale Social at the Pratt Street Ale House. As well as having the beer on tap and on cask (aged on a little American Oak) we will have a glass ended firkin of Best Bitter dry hopped with Maryland Chinook on gravity pour in the lounge so you can see how yeast settles in the cask. The Bishop’s Indulgence will be available in 10 oz snifters for $3 and our other cask beers will be priced at $3/pint. We’ll also have an informal discussion of cask ale brewing and handling so if you have any questions about cask ale come along, have a beer and we’ll do our best to answer them. You may have read in the previous posts about the Bishop’s Indulgence that it is an 8% a.b.v. stout brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans.
 If chocolate oaked imperial stout isn't your thing, then here's Max's beer social:

This Tuesday we are featuring a great new brewery to the US. Bierbrouwerij Grand Cafe Emelisse, from Kamperland, Netherlands.  We will be serving all three on draft:

Emelisse Imperial Stout 11.0%abv. Imperial Russian Stout
Emelisse Winterbier 2009 8.5abv. Belgian Style Strong Ale
Emelisse Double IPA 9.0%abv. Double IPA
Sounds like yet another one of those days where I just have to clone myself or hire a doppleganger.......

Max's Final Belgian List UPDATED

Yep, just as I predicted, there have been tweaks to the "final" starting roster of drafts for Max's Belgian Fest starting on Friday, Feb. 12th.  If you're among thos so detailed or anal-retentive to must have the whole thing planned out in advance, you can review the full list with revisions here.  Update your scorecards and notebooks accordingly.

29 January 2010

"So you say the beer caused food poisoning?"

Anecdote related to the readers of Elizabeth Large's blog at the Baltimore Sun by Brewer's Art co-owner Volker Stewart:

I was sitting in the office one Monday morning when I got a call from a man who told me that he had suffered food poisoning from one of our beers. I found this surprising, as there aren't really any pathogens that like beer (and if you get an infection from a common bacterium like lactobacillus you can tell immediately because the beer tastes horrible). I asked him for more details, and eventually asked him what he had eaten that day. His reply: "Nothing." I: "Nothing? All day?" He: "That's right." I:"And how many beers did you have?" He: "4 or 5."

I mentioned to him that I could not remember the last time I had 4 beers on an empty stomach, but that I was fairly certain that I probably vomited. The conversation kind of fizzled at that point....

28 January 2010

Thursday's Firkins

From the Metropolitan Coffeehouse e-mail:
Join us tonight as we tap a delicious firkin of Pitchfork from RCH Brewery in North Somerset, England.  Pitchfork is a 4.3% bitter named after the Pitchfork Rebellion of 1685 which was the last land battle fought on English soil in the English Civil War.  Expect Pitchfork to be a golden bitter with a floral citrusy aroma with an ever so slightly sweet and fruity taste.  As with all the firkins we serve that have to take a long boat ride over the nasty Atlantic in winter, these pints will be priced at $6 per pint.
From Max's Taphouse e-mail:

Boulder Mojo Risin'
North Coast Red Seal Ale

RCH Pitchfork

Cape Ann Fishermans Greenhorn [double IPA]

We start at 6pm , with cask discounts all night.

ALSO THURSDAY NIGHT..................................
Melvin from Boulder Brewing will be here with a whole bunch of his beers:
We will have on draft:
This is a great chance to taste their Mojo Risin' Double IPA on draft, Nitro and cask.

Also a firkin TBA at Frisco Grille in Columbia (secondhand report)..............

27 January 2010

Beer Breakfast at T-Bonz, Ellicott City this Sunday

Well, personally, I call everything outside of the "Little Switzerland" Main Street corridor of Ellicott City "Columbia," but..........

Everyone else seems to be mentioning this place, so I'll join in the love-pile-up.  T-Bonz is offering a "Pints and Pancakes" beer breakfast this Sunday.  I haven't been to a beer breakfast since Sean Bolan's held one years ago at what is now Muggsy's Mug House.

(Tip o' the hat: HowChow and Baltimore Beer Guy.)

State of the Union Drinking Game, 2010 Edition

 "Liberally" stolen/adapted from several other websites on both sides of the political divide..........

Game time 9 PM EST, 6 PM PST, 27 Jan. 2010 (held early so you don't miss the "Lost" season premiere!)

Obama says "The state of our union is strong" (or some version of this):  Do one shot.of strong ale
Obama says "let me be clear" :   Do one shot of Everclear
Obama says "change isn't easy":    Do one shot with a dime in the glass
Obama says "make no mistake":     Do one shot of the wrong drink
Obama says "Let me be clear, change isn't easy, make no mistake." :   He's screwing with you to get you drunk, so five shots
Joe Wilson yells something:    Do two shots
Obama yells back:     Finish the bottle
Obama says "jobs":    Do one shot, two if you're unemployed
Obama says "health care":    Do not drink, you will not be given a replacement liver
Obam says "stimulus": Do a shot of espresso and Red Bull
Nancy Pelosi leads a standing ovation:  Yep, do a shot and yell "cheers"
Nancy Pelosi leads a standing ovation of 50-55% of the Congress:  Do a shot.
close-up of Nancy Pelosi:  Do a shot without moving any facial muscles
Nancy Pelosi claps like a seal:    Drink a bottle/pint of North Coast Red Seal Ale
Nancy Pelosi becomes a seal :   STOP DRINKING, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD  [and it doesn't help matters that she's wearing gray!]
Hilary Clinton is shown grinning: Do one shot
Hilary Clinton is shown frowning: Do one shot of De Dolle Dulle Teve
Obama mentions Bo, the dog:     Put beer in your dog's water bowl
Michelle Obama wears a slinky dress:    Go immediately to the Huffington Post/NY Times Style page for close-ups
Joe Biden nods-off/laughs inappropriately/starts talking before the speech is over :   Do three shots.  No, one.  Too sure a thing.
Obama uses the term "Congressional leadership":    Do two shots carefully, as all that laughing will make it difficult to swallow
Obama says "filibuster": Drink until 60% of the people with whom you're watching agree to stop... or go unconscious
Obama says "cap and trade":  Swap drinking vessels and caps with the person next to you
Obama references Copenhagen: a bottle/can of Heiniken or Carlsberg, or a shot of Cherry Heering
Obama mentions Ted Kennedy: Drink a shot of Irish whiskey and drive off a bridge
Obama mentions John Edwards: Down a whole bottle of Arrogant Bastard, but deny having drunk it for a year
Obama says he's "fighting for you":    Do one shot, two if you actually believe him, you pitiful fool
Obama mentions Haiti:    Text “Haiti” to the number 90999 and donate the price of three shots to the Red Cross
Obama says "The hopeful audacity of yes we can change": Do one shot of unicorn piddle
Obama blames a problem on the past administration:  Do a shot of something well-aged (also if Robert Byrd is shown)

Off-Topic: High-Speed Rail and Obama

Indulge me, folks, for I finally can't restrain myself.

Some of you may know that I'm a railroad writer and historian well before I'm a beer geek.  In fact, I'm supposed to be down at the Maryland Rail Heritage Library at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum doing some work today.

Well, my inbox overfloweth with people pointing out the following "news" from here and here and elsewhere:
President Barack Obama is planning to follow up his State of the Union address on Wednesday by awarding billions of dollars to develop a high-speed rail plan that he’ll promote as a jobs program, according to an Associated Press report.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be in Tampa for a town hall meeting where the $8 billion in stimulus funds will be announced.
Speculation is growing that Florida will be one of the recipients of funds due to the choice of Tampa as a locale for the announcement. Florida’s proposal is to create a high-speed rail connection between Orlando and Tampa, eventually expanding to include Miami.
Other contenders for the money include California’s proposal for an 800-mile-long rail line from Sacramento to San Diego, as well as a nine-state proposal in the Midwest, the AP reported.
Thirty-one states will receive funds.
Folks, here's reality:
The $8 billion was appropriated by your Congress last year.  This is on top of the annual $1 billion appropriation for Amtrak's operating expenses, plus additional for capital costs.  Obama in Florida is just a photo op.  Nothing new to see here.

I know what railroad lines of the nature of high-speed rail lines cost: approximately $5-10 million per route mile.  And that's once land has been acquired.  And that doesn't include rolling stock--the locomotives and cars.  The $8 billion proposed would just about pay for only the planning studies for the dozens of corridors proposed in the wake of that appropriation.  Any of these projects brought to fruition would have to see matching appropriations by the states involved, and with bankrupt California that's unlikely.  I have seen posts and comments responding to this news on various websites that breathlessly propose such things as trains from Dallas to Atlanta in one hour--a train averaging a speed that breaks the sound barrier.  Everyone wants their own pet corridor taken care of so they don't sit in traffic--and that's just not going to happen, even in the Northeast.

Many of my conservative friends sending this to me invoke the famous Simpsons episode from 1993, "Marge Vs. the Monorail":

I have a much better analogy:
Enjoying a brief six month run on NBC-TV, "Supertrain" has been noted as one of television's biggest disasters of all-time.  "Supertrain" was reportedly rushed into production, cost the network a fortune, and failed miserably in the ratings.
Pray that history isn't repeating itself here.

Tupper's Hop Pocket is Back!

Washington Post article by beer columnist (and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News editor) Greg Kitsock here.

On tap at Max's Taphouse last night.

Sticker shock:
The 12-ounce bottles may cost in the neighborhood of $10 per four-pack. As Bob explains, St. George turns out fewer than 3,000 barrels a year (about one-tenth the volume that Old Dominion pumped out) and can't take advantage of economies of scale when buying malt and hops. "They bought tanks for us. We have to cover the costs of investment and labor."
I was told a price of $51.50 a case by one Maryland representative.

26 January 2010

ReasonTV: Virginia is For (Liquor) Lovers!

Reason TV interviews Virginia's newly-elected Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, on his proposals to dismantle the commonwealth's ABC liquor store system, similar to Pennsylvania's:

Anyone care to predict his success?
(Tip o' the hat: Instapundit.)

DuClaw opening new outlet at BWI?

I've heard several reports that DuClaw was set to open an outlet at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.  The BWI Airport website claims it's "Opening Summer 2009" over on the Southwest Airlines side of the terminal.  Nothing about it at DuClaw's website that I can see.  Signs supposedly went up as early as December 2008 announcing its pending opening.

Hah:  Craigslist ad claims an opening date of 30th January.........  stay tuned.......

The upcoming City Tap House in Harbor East

I wanted to wait until I had something far more substantial than Sam Sessa's blog post and secondhand innuendo to work with on this story, and now I just may have it:

First, from Sam's post:

The City Tap House, a spacious restaurant and bar with more than 100 craft American and European draft beers, plans to open by late August in Harbor East.
A new concept being rolled out by restaurant developer/chain Public House (which also runs the new Field House in Canton), the City Tap House will have a beer sommelier, private tasting lounge, open kitchen and wood-burning pizza oven, according to owner Brian Harrington.
The Tap House, which will occupy the space next to RA Sushi near the intersection of South Eden and Lancaster streets, will seat 175 in the dining areas as well as 60 around the island bar. ...
Harrington plans to bring in local and national brewers for tastings, and have the kitchen staff create four- and five-course meals around the beers.

The catch?  Here's a report on another outlet of this company/franchise (and they DO appear to be corporately connected), from fellow blogger Don Russell, Philly's "Joe Sixpack":

West Philly’s beer scene (or University City, at least) continues to grow. Word arrived that the City Tap House (3925 Walnut St.) expects to open in late February or early March. It’s from the same group that runs the Field House near Reading Terminal and Logan Square’s Public House and Mission Grill.
Andy Farrell, formerly of Bridgid’s, reports he’ll be overseeing the beer program, and he forwards this note from Gary Cardi, one of the owners:
 City Tap House will be providing 84 draft lines with 42 imported and domestic craft beers. [emphasis by Joe Sixpack]

I should emphasize that I have not spoken with any representatives of the Baltimore project yet, but that if this is any indication, we could most likely be looking at a situation where the bar has 100 taps but only 50 draft beers available, with at least some of those being mass-market popular beers.  If that is the case, then Max's Taphouse, currently planning to expand to 100 different draft lines by mid-March (they have around 100 taps already, but many are duplicated between downstairs, side bar, and/or upstairs), will still reign as city/state/regional draft champion. On the other hand, this company/outfit/whatever does seem to be trying to hire competent, beer-knowledgeable staff (Brigid's is a noted Philly craft tap house).

Extend bar hours until 4 AM?

Adam Meister over at The Politics Meister has posted a blog post proposing that bars in "non-residential" areas be permitted to extend their hours until 4 A.M. in order to help boost the city's economy.

Never mind that this would, by definition, exclude the residential drinking neighborhoods of Fells Point, Canton, Federal Hill, and just about any part of the city besides, say, Fort McHenry, Fairfield, or an area within a two-block radius of the Baltimore Convention Center and the two stadiums............

Good idea, or crazy?  I particularly want to hear from bar owners/managers--would you want to stay open until 4 AM?

My comments, which I left with the blog: 
. . . .[T]here are two problems. First, only a very few bars would likely bother with staying open until 4 AM. Second, you suggest that hours be extended only in non-residential areas. That would exclude Fells Point, Canton, Federal Hill, Charles Village, Roland Park, and other “night life” hot spots. About the only area that might qualify is the immediate vicinity of the Baltimore Convention Center and Inner Harbor. This starts to remind me of the laws that decree that an adult-merchandise store can only be located within certain parameters in the county, and it turns out there’s exactly one or two locations in the county that legally qualify, both in industrial wastelands (as Howard County tried).
Aside from that, I believe you’ve vastly overestimated the demand for until-4-A.M. partying. It’s a concept that tends to fade away when real life, real jobs, etc. intervene, Mardi Gras ends, or the Ravens/Orioles championship victory party is over. The Libertarian in me would be happy to allow any place that can pay for the concept stay open as late as they want, but the middle-aged realist in me shakes his head leeringly at the concept.

25 January 2010

Nipping a Brewer's Art Rumor in the Bud--er, Can

Now that I've heard this from more than one source, let me shoot this one down:

There appears to be nothing to the rumor floating around that the popular Brewer's Art beer Resurrection would be showing up soon in cans.

I was forced to call the brewpub the other week when a Pennsylvania beer writer was apparently writing that the Sly Fox brewery in Phoenixville, Pa.--which does brew the Brewer's Art bottled beers on contract and does can some of their own beers--would soon be packaging the Resurrection.  "I think it was an idea that [Sly Fox] were floating around as an idea, but we didn't do anything with it," said a representative who answered the phone the other day.

Too crazy for words?  Or the perfect answer for Camden Yards and M&T Stadium?  You decide.

Just in Time for Burns Day: Haggis Legal Once Again for US Import

Read all about it in The Guardian right here.

For the uninitiated, haggis is a traditional Scottish dish involving lamb parts, oatmeal, suet, and cooking in the stomach of a lamb.  Sounds disgusting?  Och, nae, mate, it's jes' Scottish scrapple--the only difference is you substitute oatmeal for cornmeal and  lamb for pig.

What  I fail to understand, however, is this:
Meanwhile, butchers in the US have tried, and failed, to make their own versions of the pudding without using the vital ingredient: sheep. "It was a silly ban which meant a lot of people have never tasted the real thing," said Margaret Frost, of the Scottish American Society in Ohio. "We have had to put up with the US version, which is made from beef and is bloody awful."
Who in hell ever tried to make a haggis with beef?  And what the heck--have none of you bloody Yank butchers ever heard of lamb?  It's not just something you throw on an Afghan shish kabob, after all!

And for those of you determined, here's  a 21-step-by-step photo guide.  (Not for the vegetarians or squeamish--and there's actually a bumper sticker, supposedly based on a graffito in a Scottish loo: "Scotland is not for the squeamish."  And if you insist, there's more discussion on haggis and vegetarian versions here--though, to my mind, that goes over just as well as vegetarian steaks at Ruth's Chris Steak House or Fogo de Chao..  Or non-alcoholic single malt whisky.)

Back on topic: The Scottish Ale at Pratt Street Ale House is selling probably as briskly as any seasonal they have ever had, and a second batch is in the works as a result, according to owner Justin Dvorkin and brewer Stephen Jones.

Muggsy's Events for February

As usual, all the real news flows in days after my column deadline, so presented here is an e-mail I received from Danny Young of Muggsy's on Light Street in Federal Hill, run through Babelfish from Twitterspeak to English:
Hey, guys!  Muggsy's has a couple big events coming up in FeBREWary!  First up will be the Week of 100,000 Muggs, beginning Feb. 1st!  The details are [below] and on our Facebook page--we will have some really crazy and rare stuff on draft that week, as well as 2 "steal the glass" nights featuring Shmaltz Brewing on Tuesday, Stone on Thursday, and a firken on Friday for our monthly "First Friday Firkin Night".  We will also be drawing secondary prize packages from featured breweries throughout the week.  For example, the Harpoon package includes t-shirts, hats, and a bottle of 100-Barrel series Wet Hopped Ale.  Then for the week of Mardi Gras we will be holding Malti Gras, where we fill our taps with the maltiest beers we can get our hands on, including a "steal the glass" night from Abita Brewing that Tuesday 2/16/10.  Since they are from Louisiana, we figured they knew how to celebrate Mardi Gras the best!  Come on by and, if nothing else, check out the beer.  Forward this to anyone who might enjoy a good beer.  Thanks a lot and see you all soon!!
In the time honored tradition of drinking beer and winning prizes, Muggsy’s Presents WEEK OF 100,000 MUGS starting February 1st. Now we know that only a football stadium would sell that many mugs in a week. But [darn] it this li'l bar has spunk, it has the aptitude, some have even said we have what they call Charisma. With that in mind we will pack some of the best beer you have ever tasted into this li'l Bar and we want to share them with you, all week long. So, here are the particulars of

2010’s WEEK OF 100,000 MUGS:

Step 1:  Come in and order a Mug of beer.

Step 2:  Put your Name on a raffle ticket

Step 3:  Repeat steps 1 and 2 as often as you want all week long, the more mugs you buy the more chances you have to win.

Step 4:  Be at Muggsy’s on Saturday February 6th, 2010 at the stroke of Midnight and you might win the Grand Prize a trip for two to Atlantic City! For the 5th annual Atlantic City Beer Festival, the 2010 Event will be held Saturday March 20th and Sunday March 21st 2010. The one and only Atlantic City Beer Festival “the celebration of the suds” now in its 5th year has grown to be Atlantic City’s most anticipated event. They look forward to hosting over 75 Brewers and Breweries from around the world. Now seriously, who wouldn’t want to go to that!!! Your prize will include two nights stay and admission to all three sessions of the beer festival so that you may try and finish all 75 Breweries.

Now you’re saying to yourself there must be rules, there are always rules:

No one employed by or having any relation to (i.e. dating, married, siblings or anything else) may win any prizes. This is for the customers.
You must be present at Muggsy’s in order to win any prizes, there will be many secondary prizes all week.

23 January 2010

Have a Beer With Your Whopper?

Presented without comment:


MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Burger King is opening a restaurant in Miami Beach that will serve beer along with burgers and fries, the chain’s first U.S. location with alcohol.

At the Whopper Bar South Beach, guests can pair a Whopper sandwich with Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors brews. With fries, the combo will run $7.99.

The restaurant will offer outdoor dining, a walk-up window and delivery service.

It’s scheduled to open mid-February. The announcement was made Friday.

Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy says adding beer at selected locations around the world is part of Miami-based Burger King’s effort to reinvent itself as a fast-food restaurant with a sit-down feel.

Hottovy said making the new image resonate could be a challenge in some locations.

(Tip o' the hat: Instapundit.)

21 January 2010

New Brewer--and beer--at Franklin's

Folks up here may tend to forget that there's a brewpub in Hyattsville, mostly because that part of Prince George's County has about the same reputation among a lot of folks as Baltimore does--a haven for crime. Well, if you can survive Baltimore, Hyattsville's a breeze.

The brewpub restaurant at Franklin's General Store has been running for eight years or so under the same brewer, Charles Noll. When I walked in this afternoon, I inadvertently found myself standing next to a new brewer, whom owner Mike Franklin quickly introduced to me as soon as he saw me. New brewer Mike Roy replaces Charles Noll, who decided to return to his native New York State at the end of last year. Franklin described the parting as amicable, and Noll is helping Roy through the paces in the brewhouse.

At the moment, all the beers left in Franklin's are leftovers from the Noll era, including his trademark Anarchy Ale and Sierra Madre. What is worth a trip, however, is an exceptional Imperial Stout, rich and full of alcohol, not too much roast barley, and a long, red-wine-like fruitiness and finish. It's among the best imperial stouts I've tasted in years. Roy said the alcohol was "somewhere in the tens".....

Currently fermenting and ready to condition shortly are an imperial IPA with a sky-high hop profile and a nice British porter, if the samples from the fermentation vessels are any indication. If you head down to Franklin's, remember that the adjacent "general store" carries a nice selection of bottled craft beer in the back. Fair warning: The parking lot adjacent to the restaurant will be metered parking (numbered spaces and printed tickets for your dash) by Jan. 29th.

Buy Two Beers for the Suffering in Haiti (bumped to keep on top)

Folks, I don't normally do this.

But the fact remains that we can't ignore the suffering of our fellow humans.

Flooding ravaged parts of my home town in 1972.  Ever since, I've known what a real disaster is.

I was down for two weeks rebuilding people's homes after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  The last part of the second week consisted of being on the crew that just found the folks that were reported as needing help, but who couldn't be found by other relief agencies for various reasons.

During and after Katrina, I was working (mostly in vain) with railroads and rail equipment owners to marshal rail equipment to where it could do the most good in the South.  (Mostly, we got a royal bureaucratic runaround.)

Aster the Indonesian tidal wave, I organized a charity beer auction, raising over $2,000 if memory serves right.

And now, Haiti.

Throw aside all the politics, the social analysis, the recession we're supposedly in.  This is real.  It's not the victims' fault.  They need help.  People are dying, and perhaps condemned to die, because there isn't enough water, or medicine, or food, or access to medical care.

We can't all go down there and pick apart rubble.  Hell, most of us wouldn't be able to do a damned thing except hug a bereaved soul.  But there are people, and agencies, and countries down there doing the best they can under trying circumstances to assist.  And it's up to us to support them however we can.  We have to have their backs--otherwise, they really can't do it, after all.

It's a tired cliche, but really, money is the fastest way to do it.  Everyone wants to send their old towels or clothes, or cans of food, or bottles of water.  It's faster, and FAR more cost-effective (you can't ship pallets of water or medicine by electronic transfer) to just donate money to appropriate, vested relief agencies--the International Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Doctors Without Borders, and so forth.  (International Medical Corps issued me a personal plea.  I checked them out, and so should you.)  Wal-Mart coughed up a half-million on the spot, with more to come in the form of goods being sent from the warehouses.  Ditto Target--the mega-store closest to my place.  Yes, yes, as usual these agencies are spending what they have NOW and taking your money for the next disaster.  Sometimes that's the only way it can work.

I walked through two liquor stores a bit thirsty today.  I just couldn't do it.  Not out of overriding guilt or lack of choices, mind you--I just couldn't bring myself to spend during that suffering.  It just didn't feel right.  I came home, opened a homebrew, and kept up with the news.  And made a donation--the money I would have spent today on beer.

Folks, I ask you:  buy two beers for Haiti.  Take what you could have spent on a beer or two tomorrow, or this weekend had the Ravens made the finals, and send it to Haiti instead.  Find a charity that deserves your money, affirm that they are reputable and actually spend their money on relief and not additional fundraising, and donate two beers of your choice.  Or the cost of beer you would have bought had the Ravens made the Super Bowl.

Breweries and bar owners, I challenge you: Pass the hat or bucket if you can.  Dedicate the proceeds from a keg to a relief agency.  Hold a raffle.  Whatever you do, do it once, quick, now, and get it over with before we're as sick of hearing about it as we are of the latest round of "Celtic Tenor Women" or "Lord of the Prance" during the next blasted Maryland Public TV beg-a-thon.

Thank you for your support.   We will resume normal blogging shortly......

While you're at it, go get the City Paper this week.......

Page 20 of this week's Baltimore City Paper (free out of the ubiquitous yellow boxes, at many retailers and bars, or at www.citypaper.com) has an article on making your own hard cider.

On the opposite page: the Brewer's Art Restaurant Week menu (tomorrow through Feb. 7).

Cask and German Gravity Lager at Max's tonight and this weekend

Cutting and pasting is easier, and I'm late for a job:

Olivers Scottish Ale
Brew Dog Hardcore IPA
North Coast Red Seal
and on the Bar:
Cape Ann Fishermans Greenhorn Double IPA
Schneider Aventinus Eisbock in a wooden barrel
Ahornberger Brauerei Dark Marzen
Gunther Brau Amber Marzen
Landbrau Amber Marzen
Hartmann Amber Marzen
Rothenbach Dark Marzen

19 January 2010

Max's Belgian Fest Feb. 12-14: the FINAL(?) Draft list

As with the past couple of years, the list below is the planned draft list for Max's Belgian Fest, but as seemingly annually we'll be greeted on Friday morning the 12th with both the formal printed menu and an "errata sheet" listing last-minute substitutions for late-arriving kegs and bottles:

* = New on the draft list from last year--does not necessarily mean the beer is new to the festival or U.S.

# = North American-made "Belgian" (even if owned by a Belgian brewery!)
overstrike like this--dropped from most recent starting list 1-30-2010   2-8-2010

==>--added to starting roster as of 1-30-2010

*Achilles Celtic Angel
Achilles Serafijn Pale Ale  6.2%
Achouffe Houblon Chouffe  9.0% IPA
Achouffe La Chouffe  8% Golden
Achouffe Mc Chouffe 8.5% Brown
Achouffe N' Ice Chouffe  10% Barleywine
Alvinne Bathazaar  9% spiced
*Alvinne Caper Fumitas
Alvinne Extra
*Alvinne Gaspar   8% Bitter Ale
*Alvinne Melchior    11.0% ale with mustard seeds
*Alvinne Oak Aged Bathazaar  9.0% Oak-aged spiced ale
*Alvinne Oak Aged Podge  10.5% Oak-aged imperial stout
Alvinne Podge  10.5% Imperial Stout
*Barbar Winterbok   8% Dark Ale
*Blaugies La Moneuse Special Winter   8% Winter Saison
*Blaugies Saison D Epeautre    6% Saison
*Bockor Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge    5.5% Flemish Red
*Brugse Zot Dubbel  7.5% Dubbel
Cantillon Gueuze    5.0% Gueze/Lambic
Cantillon Iris    5.0% Fresh Hop Lambic
*Cantillon Rose De Gambrinus    5.0% Raspberry Lambic
*Cazeau Tournay    7.2% Blonde
*Cazeau Tournay Black    7.6% Stout
*Cazeau Tournay De Noel   8.2% Dark Saison
==>Chimay Cinq Cents8% Trappist Tripel
*Contreras Valier Blonde  6.5% Blonde
*Contreras Valier Extra   6.5% IPA
*Contreras Valier Divers   8.5% Tripel
*De Dochter Van De Korenaar Emblasse  9% Strong Dark Ale
*De Dochter Van De Korenaar Noblesse   5.5% Pale Ale
*De Dochter Van De Korenaar Courage    8% Dark Wheat
De Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte   7.0% Imperial Wit
*De Glazen Toren Angelique  8% Historic recipe
De Glazen Toren Ondineke  8.5% Tripel
De Glazen Toren Saison D Epre Mere Special Endejaar
De Glazen Toren Saison De Epre Mere  7.5% Saison
*De Proef Van Twee   7.5% Wild Dubbel with cherries
*De Ranke Noir De Dottignies  9% Special Dark
*De Regenboog T' Smisje Triple 
De Regenboog Catherine The Great   10% Imperial Stout
De Regenboog Guido   8% Ale with Honey and Raisins
De Regenboog T'Smisje Kerst  11% Winter Ale
*De Regenboog Sleedorn Extra
De Regenboog T' Smisje Dubbel   9% Dubbel
*De Regenboog T' Smisje Plus    10% IPA
*De Regenboog T' Smisje Speciale    10.5% Pumpkin Ale
Delirium Tremens   8.5% Strong Golden Ale
Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux  9% Saison
Duvel Green   6.8% Golden Ale
*Ellezelloise Hercule Stout    9% Stout
Ellezelloise Quintine Blonde    8% Blonde
*Geants Gouyasse   6% Blonde
*Geants Urchon   7.5% Brown Ale
Gulden Draak Vintage   7.5% Dark Tripel
*Het Alternatief Eerwaarde Pater 
*Het Alternatief Piet Agoras    9% Special Ale
==>Kerkom Bink Blonde   5.5% Blonde
==>Kerkom Bink Bloesem 7.1% Ale with Pears & Honey
==>Kerkom Bink Bruin  5.5% Bruin
==>Kerkom Bink Triple  9% oh, guess the style.....
La Rulles Triple  8.4% Triple
*La Trappe Isid'or (name corrected)   7.5% Trappist
*Lefebvre Floreffe Dubbel  6.3% Dubbel
Lefebvre Floreffe Triple  7.5% Tripel
Mardesous 6
*Mardesous 8
*Mardesous 10
==>*Silly Enghien Noel   9% Winter Tripel
==>Silly Saison De Silly  5% Saison
*Sint Canarus Pere Canard   9% Winter Strong Ale
*Sint Canarus Triple   7.5% Tripel
*Slaapmutske Dry Hopped Lager
*Slaapmutske Kerstmutske
St Bernardus Christmas  10.0% Dark Ale
*St Feuillien Blanche   6.3% Wit
*St Feuillien Saison   6.5% Saison
==>Strubbe Ichtigems Grand Cru   5.0% Flemish Red
*Struise Tsjeeses   10.0% Special Winter Ale
Timmermans Bourgogne Des Flandres    5.0% Flanders Red
*Van Honsebrouck Bacchus   4.5% Flemish Red
*Van Honsebrouck Gueuze Fond Tradtion    5% Gueze
#Brewers Art Green Peppercorn Triple w/ real Peppercorns(Cask) 9.2%
De Regenboog BBBourgondier Gravity(cask)  12.0% Barleywine
*De Regenboog Calva Reserve Gravity (Cask)  12.0% Strong Ale aged in Calvados
De Regenboog T' Smisje Kerst Gravity (cask)  11.0% Winter Ale
*De Regenboog T' Smisje Great Reserva in a JW Lees Wooden (Cask)
==>De Regenboog Catherine the Great (Wooden Cask)  10.0% Imperial Stout
#The Bruery Two Turtle Doves (Cask)    12% Belgian Style Dark
==>#Allagash Black  (Cask)
==> Stillwater Artisanal Ales Stateside Saison  (Cask) 6.8% Saison

#*Allagash Fluxus
#*Allagash Hugh Malone
#*Allagash Interlude
#*Alllgash Odyssey
De Dolle Dulle Teve
De Dolle Stille Nacht
De Koninck Winter
De Ranke Pere Noel
De Ranke Guldenberg
*Delirium Noel
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
*Dupont Foret
*Dupont Saison
*Echt Kriekenbier
*Gouden Carolus Cuvee Blauw
*Gouden Carolus Noel
*Klokke Roeland
*La Rulles Estivale
#Ommegang Abbey
#Ommegang Rare Vos
#Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence
#Ommegang Hennepin
#*Ommegang Pale Ale
#Ommegang Rouge
#Ommegang Witte
#Ommegang Three Philosophers
*Petrus Winter
Scaldis Noel
*Van Bossche Buffalo Stout
*Van Eecke Kapittel Abt
*Van Eecke Kapittel Blonde
*Van Eecke Kapittel Pater
*Van Eecke Kapittel Prior
Van Eecke Poppering Hommelbier
*Sint Canarus Potteloereke
*Silly Double Enghien Blonde
Silly Pink Killer
Silly Saison De Silly
*Silly Super 64
*Silly Pils
*Silly Titje
*Kerkom Bink Blosem
*Kerkom Bink Blonde
*Kerkom Bink Bruin
*Kerkom Bink Triple
*Het Alternatief Hik Blonde
De Regenboog Vuuve
De Regenboog Wostyntje
*St Bernardus Wit
*La Divine Dark Triple
#Allagash Cask TBA
#Brewers Art Seven Beauties (Cask)

And no, they haven't expanded to 100 draft lines yet.  That project begins after the Belgian Fest.

Why You Should Ignore Men's Magazines When It Comes To Beer

First off, a comment:  Why is there this certain sexism against vapid "men's" magazines that isn't there against similarly vapid "women's" magazines?  In almost every library I walk into today, I will find a copy of Cosmopolitan on the shelves, along with copies of similar magazines such as Glamour, Lucky, and Vogue.   Yet it is difficult, if not impossible, to find magazines such as Maxim, Esquire, FHM (now extinct in the US), and the like on the same shelves.  Don't tell me it's the content; the stuff in a typical issue of Cosmo is just as sexual or raunchy as anything Maxim or the like have to offer.


Philly's beer bloggers Joe Sixpack (Don Russell) and Jack Curtin (Eastern Pa. columnist for MABN) are having fun with the Feb. 2010 issue of Maxim, in which they publish a six-page article of "The 25 Best New Beers in America" (PDF download--not recommended for dial-up readers).  Maxim nominates Philadelphia as their "favorite beer burg".

But surprisingly few of the beers are actually "new."  According to Curtin, Victory Helios is simply a re-naming of Victory's Saison, which has been around for a couple years; similarly, Sly Fox's Phoenix Pale Ale has been around since 2002 and was first canned in 2006.  Dogfish Head Indian Brown, which also makes the list, has been around for over a decade.   So has North Coast's Old Stock Ale, released every winter in vintage-labeled bottles.  And I can personally attest that New Glarus' Fat Squirrel has been around at least seven years, having bought it on my first trip to Wisconsin.

There's also a Baltimore beer in that august line-up, rated as "chug easy," which has also been around for quite a few years:
Based on a traditional Oktoberfest brew, this poundable Bodymore native has hints of syrup-drenched French toast, toffee, and street-corner shootings.
Maxim, if you want to be taken seriously............  oh, why bother?  It's obvious they don't.  We're guessing this article was assembled by the interns mentioned at the end, who just turned 21 and were turned loose in a good beer store for the first time.  But, hey--no such thing as "bad publicity," right?  If Clipper City's crew sent samples to Maxim, well, it worked!  (UPDATE: A phone call reveals they did indeed send them beer--"but that's not the bottle we sent them...")

(What, who, me?  Just using this as an excuse to justify adding a cover picture of a scantily-clad Amanda Bynes?  I resemble that remark!  It's not like I'm, you know, sending y'all to the slide show of Bynes photos or anything...... Like that's going to drive up my hits or anything.  Everyone knows beer geeks that read beer blogs are too dorky to land or be interested in hot women, right?)

Sierra Nevada in Crownsville tonight

This just in:

Sierra Nevada the featured brewery at Lures Bar & Grille's monthly "Beer Club" tonight starting @ 6 pm:  Life and Linb, Belgian Triple, Estate Harvest, and more.

Check their website for details and directions.  If you haven't been there, it's a nice little oasis in what is otherwise a "beer wasteland" in that part of Anne Arundel County (DuClaw and Rams Head notwithstanding).

18 January 2010

Mass. wine-shipping ban declared unconstitutional--Md. next?

Read all about it here.  Or you could read the downright trivial mention of the same story in the Boston Globe (third paragraph!), or the full AP story in the Boston Herald.  (Media bias?  We report, you decide.)

An interesting detail in the law was that it prohibited out-of-state wineries from shipping directly, but not online wine retailers that maintained some specific legal presence in the commonwealth (wine.com is specifically mentioned in the comments of the Herald piece).  Furthermore, it exempted in-state wineries, none of whom were large enough to reach the 30,000-barrel threshold of the law.  One could make the case that this law was indeed about protecting tax revenues, more so than the more broadly-written Maryland law.

(Important name being dropped in the piece:  "Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office had appealed the earlier ruling by a federal district court judge on behalf of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission."  This is, of course, the same Martha Coakley that was named to temporarily replace the late Edward Kennedy in what has sarcastically been called "the Kennedy seat" in the U.S. Senate in a district as thoroughly Democrat as central Maryland, and is now in a runoff race now regarded as neck-and-neck with Republican challenger Scott Brown in a race widely seen as a pre-2010-election referendum on the 2009 actions and proposals of President Obama and the Congress.)

A couple state officials I have spoken with lately have predicted that 2010 will see the end of Maryland's similar ban on wine shipments to residents, be it through lobbying by the industry or by court challenges.  And beer shipments, though not necessarily under the exact same legal clauses, may be legalized soon thereafter, if all goes as these state folks predict to me.

Vaguely related: Nice long cover story in Philadelphia's Philadelphia Weekly on  Pennsylvania's liquor laws, quoting fellow writer/blogger Lew Bryson for the opposition.  Maryland's laws aren't quite so screwy--I joke that I moved to Maryland to get away from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board--but there are lessons to be learned from their horrid examples, sadly.  Including the lead part of the PW story: The PLCB wants to sell wine from vending machines--complete with a breathalyzer you'll have to blow into as part of the purchase.

14 January 2010


I've been given permission from most parties involved to post the following:

There is a joint SPBW/Pratt Street Ale House Real Ale Festival scheduled for Saturday, March 27th, anticipated time frame 12-4 PM.

This festival will feature not only local cask beers, but also several European cask specialties as available in March.  It will be held on the second floor of the Pratt Street Ale House, and as such will be EXTREMELY linited in attendance, as dictated by the fire marshal.  The anticipated ticket sales will be strictly limited to a fixed number, and the number i was told this evening was 110.

It is expected that first ticket offers will be made to members of the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood, so if you really MUST attend, join the SPBW as soon as possible to get first crack.  If you don't join, don't come crying if you can't get tickets.

If naught else, save the date.

11 January 2010

Purple beer?

According to this article, at least one place had purple vodka during yesterday's Ravens playoff game victory.

Was any place crazy enough to have purple beer?  I just want to know so I can stay as far away from that madness as possible......   Noting, of course, that Rob Kasper last year promoted the practice in a video post to his now-gone Baltimore Sun blog, documented here by Draft Magazine's website.....   And just in case purple beer is a jinx that kills blogs, I repeat:  I don't approve.

Finally, are sales of The Raven up at all?

Contest: Win an SPBW Membership!

As noted below, the first meeting of the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood is this upcoming Thursday, Jan. 14th at Max's Taphouse in Fells Point.  My usual arrangement is that I end up buying a membership for someone each year.  It's a nice way to get new blood into the organization.

This year, I'm making it a contest: some lucky winner here will get a free membership, OR their current 2010 dues paid or reimbursed if they are already a member and/or have already paid.

Here's what you have to do:

Guess the official number of beers inventoried by Max's Taphouse as of this morning, as declared by cellarmaster Casey Hard.

Before the big debate starts, I have asked Casey to discriminate between different vintages of Thomas Hardy's Ale and other such vintage beers, and different sized bottles of Belgians, etc. but not different containers of Bud, Miller, etc.  Draft counts, too.  If you can walk in and order it, it counts.  Casey's number will be the sole and final verdict (however, if he hands me a number in six figures, I'm going to ask for an inventory print-out, of course).

Because I think there's going to be a lot of wild guessing, I'm going to make one more rule:  I want at least ten guesses before I award a winner.  If this means I delay past Thursday's meeting, so be it.  Also, the winner will have to go to the SPBW website and fill out a membership form, attend the meeting (or a subsequent one) and introduce himself or herself to me, and meet any membership requirements or restrictions as set forth by the SPBW (long-time SPBW members may start laughing hard now).

For a limited time only. Void where prohibited, taxed, or otherwise restricted. Caveat emptor. Article is provided "as is" without any warranties. User assumes full responsibility. An equal opportunity organization. No shoes, no shirt, no service. If any defects are discovered, do not attempt to repair them yourself, but return to an authorized service center. Use at your own risk. Text may contain explicit materials some readers may find objectionable, parental guidance is advised. Keep away from sunlight. Keep away from pets and small children. Limit one-per-family please. No money down. No purchase necessary. You need not be present to win. Some assembly may be required. Batteries not included.  Action figures sold separately. No preservatives added. Safety goggles may be required during use. Sealed for your protection, do not use if safety seal is broken. Other limitations may apply. Not liable for damages arising from use or misuse.  Author and all other related parties shall not be liable for any damages, either direct or indirect, including but not limited to lost profits, lost savings, or any other damages, either material or immaterial, arising from the use, or from the inability to use, the posts on this blog. Other restrictions may apply. This supersedes all previous notices.  By having read this paragraph you agree to the above conditions.

09 January 2010

Max's German Gravity Keg Mini-Fest Jan. 23

From Max's e-mail of a day or so ago:

Pay as you go, Special Sample Size Glasses Available.

We have got our hands on a bunch of new great gravity kegs from Germany, so we will putting them all on at the same time. These kegs are small so get here early for this event.

Schnieder Aventinus Eisbock
Ahornberger Brauerei Dark Marzen
Gunther Brau Amber Marzen
Lang Brau Amber Marzen
Hartmann Amber Marzen
Rothenbach Dark Marzen

Big Changes Ahead for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News

I don't have ALL the pertinent details, and I think some of them are still being worked out....  But I've been given the OK by my superiors to release the following:

You like beer news from Baltimore and elsewhere, but can't necessarily get to a venue that has free copies of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, or they keep running out before you get to them?  You're traveling to Chicago, San Diego, or New Orleans and want to see what the beer scene is there, but don't have access to a copy of the Brewing News paper from that region?  Stuck in Afghanistan and want to keep up with what you can't get there?

The Brewing News paper empire is making the long-delayed transition to a more substantial online presence this year, with on-line reader editions of the papers themselves supplementing such things as the "Hop Tips" event calendar and online directories.  The online presence won't replace the paper edition, simply increase access for readers that love good beer but find it difficult to subscribe to or get a paper.

See the home page at http://www.brewingnews.com/ for updates and sample content--with more coming soon.

08 January 2010

New Beers Tonight and This Weekend

Just got an e-mail from Alonso's on Cold Spring Lane in Roland Park saying that they're tapping a firkin of Dog Pub's Hoppy Dog IPA at 5 PM tonight......

Also, the Scottish Ale from Pratt Street/Olivers: Utterly delicious.  A spectacular winter ale, warming but not seeming as alcoholic as its actual 7%, loaded with malt with a subtle sweet palate and just the hint of smokiness.  This is actually one of the best local beers I've run into in ages.  I normally have a policy of not picking or naming a "favorite beer;" I may have to rethink that policy........  It's on tap at Pratt Street Ale House as of a couple minutes ago, apparently.  As they say at some websites, GOGOGOGO!!!!!!

Also, at the PSAH, they were pouring (as of last night--likely gone by tonight, but find out for yourself) a spectacular oak-aged version of this year's William's Winter Warmer (it comes off with a slight tartness akin to several British old ales) and a last keg of last year's un-oaked version of William's.  If you didn't get to these, you probably missed two of the best beers Baltimore will see this winter.

Photo: The Olivers Scottish at Metropolitan last night.  That thistle glass is one of the few surviving glasses from a run that Bill Oliver did for his Scottish Ale over a decade ago, and I was lucky enough to get one back then when they sold them.  Even the Pratt Street Ale House only could come up with an old, chipped one.....

07 January 2010

SPBW at Max's Jan. 14th

I haven't received an official notice via e-mail from the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood, but the next "meeting" is slated for the evening of Jan. 14th at Max's Taphouse.  (Well, come on.  A Thursday at Max's is already Cask Night........  not like there's anything necessarily different.....)

If you're not a member, join up for the year at that meeting for a measly $10, and you'll probably recoup that membership cost in discounts or the like even if you only attend a few of the gatherings, which are scattered fairly widely across central Maryland cask bar outlets and usually include a bus trip in the summer.

Howard County Restaurant Week Jan. 18-31

Not to be left out of the Winter Baltimore Restaurant Week hoopla, some of Baltimore County's restaurants are also holding a prix-fixe Restaurant Week in advance of Baltimore's, Jan. 18-31.  Prices vary more than Baltimore's, $10.10 to $40.10.  Here's the website for details.

Beer-friendly places (or at least places that I know are good-beer-friendly) on the master list of participating restaurants:  Diamondback Tavern in Ellicott City (they tried to join in Baltimore Beer Week just a little too late in 2009), Rams Head Tavern at Savage Mill, Second Chance Saloon in the Oakland Mills section of Columbia (get a sherpa or GPS), and the Victoria Gastro Pub.  (If there are other places on the list that are good-beer-friendly, I'd like to hear about it.)


Och Aye, Mate!

Thursday evening at Metropolitan Coffee House in Federal Hill: the first firkin of a "new and improved" Scottish Ale from Olivers.  For other locations you can sample it, including in Columbia and DC, see Steve Jones' blog post here.

06 January 2010

Need Rooms for Max's Belgian Fest in February?

Max's Taphouse has arranged for 30 rooms at the Courtyard Marriott Inner Harbor East, a few blocks east of Max's, for the nights of Friday Feb. 12th and Saturday Feb. 13th, at a discounted rate of $99 (plus taxes, fees, etc.) per night.  Rooms must be booked by Jan. 29th for the rate.  Indoor parking is available for $22.00/dayCall 1-800-321-2211 or 443-923-4000 to make a reservation; mention Max's Taphouse for the rate.

05 January 2010

And Now, a Message from our Sponsor: the National IPA Championship

Well, no, they only pay me for writing for them.....  but.........

Just two weeks remain for commercially brewed IPAs to be entered into the 2010 National IPA Championship!  The National IPA Championship is a head-to-head competition, a la March Madness, with IPAs facing each other one on one. To further the excitement of the event, beer enthusiasts will be able to predict the winners via our beer brackets software. The judging will happen throughout February and March, with the winner to be announced in the April/May issues of the Brewing News publications. Below is a list of the breweries that have already entered their beers, including the previous two champions (Laurelwood Brewing Co. and Green Flash Brewing Co.). Enter your IPA today, as the competition size is limited; there is no fee for entry.

This year, all entries need to be submitted on the web. The entry form, complete with competition rules and the deadlines for beer submission, is located at http://www.brewingnews.com/nipac/entryform

Confirmed entries from: Boulder Beer Company, Lakefront Brewery, Great Divide Brewing Co., Big Sky Brewing Company, Clipper City Brewing, Lawson's Finest Liquids, Full Sail Brewing Company, Deschutes Brewery, Hoppin' Frog Brewery, Lost Coast Brewery, Pike Brewing Company, Laurelwood Brewing Co., Mad River Brewing Company, Watch City Brewing Company, Big Dog's Brewing Co., Haverhill Brewery, Harpoon Brewery, Pearl Street Grill & Brewer, Nebraska Brewing Company, Wolaver's Organic Ales, Empire Brewing Co., Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, Redhook Ales,  Rogue Ales, Stone Brewing Co., Custom Brew Crafters, Green Flash Brewing Company, Blind Tiger Brewery, Sonoran Brewing Company, Moylan's Brewing Company, and Eel River.
 Ahem.......  Olivers?  Flying Dog?  Dog Brewing?  DuClaw?  Dogfish Head?  Y'all up for it?

The rest of you:  Wanna vote?  Sign up here to receive the brackets for voting by e-mail.

Beer Week on the "Left Coast"

Fellow beer blogger Steve Shapiro, who happened to blunder into town from San Francisco right during the height of Baltimore Beer Week 2009, contacts us to give us a heads-up on San Francisco Beer Week, Feb. 5-14.  Shapiro freely admits that they apparently incorporated a few aspects of Baltimore Beer Week into SF Beer Week after he showed them the material he brought home from Baltimore.....

04 January 2010

Heavy Seas Expansion and Line Change

Well, I could copy and paste it all...........  or I could just send you here to read it all from the source.  Nothing I haven't already reported earlier, except "Oxford Organic Ales will be retired, temporarily at least, to make room for the new beers in 2010."

Baltimore Restaurant Week(s), Winter Edition

The Winter 2010 edition of Baltimore Restaurant Week is coming up:  Jan. 22 through Feb. 7. That gives restaurants three weekends to offer their fixed-price menus.

The prix-fixe at all places will be $35.10, an increase of $5 from last year. Lunch (where offered) will retain the year-number price scheme at $20.10 for three courses.  The particulars vary from place to place; most places offer a select menu of one or several specials for the price, often a selection of an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert.  Reservations are usually required lest the place fill up or sell out.

Known beer-friendly places participating: B&O American Brasserie, Bertha's, The Brewer's Art, Jack's Bistro, Mt. Washington Tavern, and Taverna Corvino.  See the website for particulars.

Changes Underway at Lancaster Brewing Co.

Fellow blogger/writer Jack Curtin reports from Pennsylvania on changes underway at Lancaster Brewing Co. in (of course) Lancaster, Pa.  Apparently it's an evolving story, but one change will be immediately apparent among our beer scene: John Frantz, the affable spokesman and sales rep for the company who appeared at most local beer festivals, is no longer with the company.  We wish him well in wherever his future takes him.

(2006 photo from Tom Cizauskas' Flickr page)

03 January 2010

DuClaw Fells Point: The REST of the Story?

Speculation ran rampant online and vocally over just why DuClaw abruptly pulled out of its location on the Bond Street Wharf in Fells Point, closing on Dec. 30th with one day's notice.

First off, I should point out that normally in the urban restaurant industry, unless a restaurant is a long-established "landmark" location (Obrycki's, Haussner's, Women's Industrial Exchange, etc.), closings are usually abrupt and without warning.  The norm in big cities seems to be a notice taped on or inside the door of the restaurant telling just-sacked staff where to report to pick up their final paychecks and any personal belongings.  It's not unheard of for a large restaurant in a prime urban location to be incurring losses as much as a thousand dollars or more a day.  One snowstorm can hit a restaurant for even more in lost patronage, wages, and perishable foods.

In an e-mail from company owner David Benfield, he outlined the seasonal aspect of business at that location:

The Fells Point store was a very seasonal business, strong in the summer but weak in the winter.  Being next to the water was great when it was warm, but blistering cold wind coming off it in the winter made us very unattractive. The seasonality also made it extremely difficult for us to retain good servers and staff year round.  .  . .  We also had issues running the four units as one brand.  What works well in Bel Air or Mills did not necessarily translate well in the city environment. These things all lead to us not performing to what I would accept as an good standard.
Benfield also noted the difficulties of the competition in the urban environment.  The contentious issue that was rumored to be "unpaid rent" actually had to do with landlord fees, special levies similar to community association fees, which were increased in 2008, as well as looming substantial increases in both real estate taxes and unemployment insurance.  Benfield said the landlord made an offer to buy them out of their lease, and they accepted.

Benfield acknowledged that the business, in addition to being seasonal, was extremely competitive in Fells Point--which, as any reader here knows is one of THE most diversified beer markets on the Eastern Seaboard, if not the country.  Whereas a beer enthusiast would have to travel many miles to find another decent beer bar with a diverse selection in Bel Air, Bowie, or Arundel Mills, one only had to walk to one bar across the street to find more (and arguably better) beer at Duda's just on draft, let alone in bottles.  And that completely disregards the rest of Fells Point: Max's, John Steven, Cat's Eye, Kooper's, Bertha's, Waterfront, Wharf Rat, Red Star, Alexander's, Slainte............

There is one really bad part to losing DuClaw in Fells Point, however:  The location was one of the few family-friendly, general-purpose restaurants down there, if not the only one besides Jimmy's Diner (which closes early evenings).  Think about it: Every other place down there is either an out-and-out bar or better-than-average dining more suitable for a couple minus the kids.  At the same time, it was not fast food, nor was it a franchise like TGI-Benni-Outback-Tuesday-Factory.  I believed the concept was a perfect fit for the neighborhood, unique yet approachable.

However, there were plenty of reports of not-terrific food--even Pint Club members told me the food was "lousy" during the last night--and equally abysmal service.  Compared to most places in the Point, where either they know me on sight or I'm visiting on a slow night and thus get prompt service, at DuClaw it always took longer for me to get acknowledged and served, even if the barkeep recognized me.  There and at other DuClaw locations, it often seemed like the strategy of an open bar--keep the place short-staffed enough that no one can get enough booze to get drunk.  My order of happy hour wings that last night took 40 minutes to arrive, but I didn't have terrific expectations on a last night, of course.

The beer?  Stop kvetching, y'all.  DuClaw's beer is not bad.  I can argue with seasoned beer geeks over just what about Jim and Bo's beer is........  ummmm.......  how do we say it?  Not as......  intriguing as others in our area--and indeed I've actively sought out that debate over the past few months.  They do good, solid beers, and a good 75% of the country would be lucky to have them in their area offering their beers.  I think part of the equation is that 1) you don't see quite the same hop and/or yeast character from their beers as you do with Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, or Olivers; 2) the overall mouthfeel is a little bit emptier than that of most of those other beers (which, of course, would attract as many drinkers as it would turn off); and 3) their marketing and image, even in comparison with the distinctly over-the-top marketing of Flying Dog, just rub some folk the wrong way.  Suffice it to say, however, that the people whose opinions and palates I have come to trust would say they didn't care for most of DuClaw's offerings, but when asked point-blank why, they couldn't discern a specific reason or characteristic.  And I'm not even going to pick the brains of those who can do little more than say "Their beer [vacuums]!!!"

So let's be honest.  The last thing we need in that location is another beer bar.  Or another tapas place.  There is speculation that the group that already runs Kali's Court and Mezze and owns the still-vacant Admiral's Cup may try to move something in there, but I can't see that.  It needs to be strong enough to attract non-seasonal business, but not be yet another upper-end place like Charleston, Kali's, etc.  And they don't need a chain, like the tiny 7-Eleven that just opened a few doors down Thames Street.   Hmmmmm.........  How about Kali's takes that spot and gives Dog Pub back the Admiral's Cup they reportedly swiped out from under them?