31 August 2010

The Flying Dog Fresh-Hop Ale

So how was the initial Flying Dog Fresh-Hop Ale?

Well.........  different.  Different from what I had expected, that is.

Other fresh-hop ales I have encountered featured a strong to almost overpowering fresh-hop character, as if someone had picked several hop cones right off the vine, rolled them between the palms, dropped them in my glass or bottle, poured an IPA, and then wiped their palms on the sides of the glass for good measure.  If you're a "hop-head" (the colloquial beer-geek term for those who can never get enough hops in their beer), the experience can be wonderful,  If not, the notes of everything from citrus to cabbage can be overpowering.

The Flying Dog Fresh Hop Ale debuted at the Alonso's Baltimore Beer Week Preview Happy Hour was nowhere near as floral and "green" as many other fresh-hop beers I have experienced (including my own homebrewed variations).  Part of that is because the beer is very dry and "crisp," with a relatively "thin" backbone or mouthfeel relative to the flavors involved.  It had the hop flavors, but that of slightly dried or "sunburnt" hops rather than bright green cones many see growing on vines about this time.  I made a trip out to Stillpoint Farms, where the hops in the beer came from, and it was obvious the summer had not been kind to these specific hop vines--a lot of browned edges to the outermost cones of what was left unharvested at the end.

It's got a nice, strong, assertive hop character, and is crisp and almost a bit chalky.  But it's definitely American in style, lacking the nuances of a British/English yeast note, the bombastic nose of a "hop bomb" like Victory Hop Wallop, or the citrusy snap of, say, some of Goose Island's hoppier products.  Some drinkers at tonight's debut liked the drier notes of Flying Dog's beers over the maltier notes of a bottle of Goose Island Honker's Ale I bought from the bar to compare.  Try it for yourself, and decide (and comment below, if you desire).

So maybe I'm spoiled by Selin's Grove's Hop Nouveau, I dunno. 

(Disclaimer: The first glass was purchased for me by a Flying Dog representative.)

New Oliver Breweries website

The Pratt Street Ale House has set up a separate website for the brewing operation contained within, probably a recognition of the increasing production and off-premise sales of the beers from that brewhouse and cellar.

Find it at http://www.oliverales.com/ and check it out.

Flying Dog Fresh Hop Ale to debut at Alonso's tonight

Just confirmed by phone:

One of the features of the Flying Dog/ Baltimore Beer Week happy hour tonight at Alonso's will be the tapping of (apparently) the first publicly released keg of Flying Dog's new one-off Fresh Hop Ale, detailed in an earlier blog post here.

Let me see if I can be first in line.  Freshness matters, after all.  <:-)

(Hops in a rowhouse backyard in Southwest Baltimore several years ago)

Construction Detours

From Brewer's Art Facebook page: "
Upstairs bar getting renovated - dining room and basement bar business as usual!
Meanwhile, if there's a bar being built or reconstructed, it's had delays in spite of the "soft" economy.  Among the several projects reported or evidenced as being behind schedule:  Liam Flynn's Pint House on North Avenue and De Kleine Duivel in Hampden.

Baltimore Beer Week Opening Tap Tickets on sale Sept. 1st

Tickets for the Baltimore Beer Week Opening Tap event at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, 6-8 PM on Thursday, Oct 7th, will be on sale tomorrow at the BBW website.  Tickets are $30 and only a limited number of tickets will be available--under 250, according to committee reports--making this almost a guaranteed sell-out.

Don't say we didn't warn you.

As "plan B," you can enter to win a pair of tickets to Opening Tap at any of the BBW "preview happy hours" (such as this week's two) or simply by signing up for the BBW e-mail list at the website.

(Also note that the BMI is featuring a beer-tasting event with Hugh Sisson of Heavy Seas Beer on December 7th.  See the BMI website for details.)

(Photo:  Baltimore Museum of Industry)

Flying Dog/Baltimore Beer Week Promo Happy Hours, and other events

Flying Dog is taking their turn helping to promote Baltimore Beer Week with two "preview" happy hour events this week, today (Tuesday the 30th) at Alonso's on Cold Spring Lane in Roland Park and Thursday the 2nd at Alexander's Tavern in Fells Point.  If you're really lucky, they just might have their new Fresh-Hop Ale ready by these events, though I'm not that optimistic yet.....

Also, general reminders: Add to your to-do list the Max's German Fest Sept. 10-12th; a partial list of beers expected:
Sept 10-12, 2010
11am to close each day
Over 50 German beers on draft, including:
Schneider Edel Weisse
Schneider Weisse
Schneider Aventinus
Schneider Aventinus Eisbock
Schneider Hopfen Weisse
Erdinger Hefeweizen
Erdinger Dunkel Weiss
Erdinger Oktoberfest
Bitburger Pils
Wurzburger Pils
Wurzburger Oktoberfest
Warsteiner Pils
Warsteiner Dunkel
Warsteiner Oktoberfest
Koning Ludwig Hefeweizen
Spaten Lager
Spaten Oktoberfest
Spaten Optimator
Spaten Dunkel
Franziskaner Hefeweizen
Franziskaner Dunkel Weiss
Mahrs Weisse
Mahrs Unfiltered Pils
Mahrs Ungespundet lager
Gunter Brau Amber Marzen
Langbrau Amber Marzen
Rothenbach Dark Marzen
Hartman Amber Marzen
Ahornberger Dark Marzen
Uerige Sticke
Uerige Classic
Uerige Dopplesticke
Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock
Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen
Aecht Schlenkerla Helles
1809 Berliner Weisse
Hofstetten Kueblebier
Hofstetten Aurora
Hofstetten Granit Bock
Hofstetten Bio Honigsbock
Stiegel Lager
 Max's beer manager Casey Hard is also expecting to have no fewer than ten gravity-feed kegs of German beers on hand.  Fellow blogger Tom Cizauskas elaborates on the difference between a German gravity keg and a British cask-ale firkin here.

ALSO that weekend, all on September 11th: Mahaffey's "Waynestock" street festival/block party starts at noon in Canton; the DuClaw Real Ale Fest in Bel Air 12-4 PM (NOTE: they use a separate website for this fest and don't seem to acknowledge its existence on the main DuClaw website), tickets still available...

Note that Heavy Seas' Bacon & Beer Fest at the Clipper City brewery in Halethorpe on Sept. 11th is SOLD OUT.  As the Baltimore Sun's Sam Sessa might say, "Behold the power of bacon and beer!"

28 August 2010

Brewers Art Beer Dinner Sept. 1st

$55 a head, details here:

First Wednesday Beer Dinner
September 1, 2010

Seared Diver Scallop
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Heirloom Grits,
Peach-Habañero Jam
Saison de Pècore
Roasted Pork Belly
Sweet Potato Biscuit, Cashew
Butter, Cherries
Twelve Labors
Grilled Quail
Fava Bean Succotash, Cornbread
Pudding, Bourbon Sauce
Slow-cooked Calotte of Beef
Potato Purée, Seared Maitake
Mushrooms, Pinot Noir Sauce
Cherry Phyllo Tart
Coup de Boule

Price does not include
gratuity or
6% Maryland sales tax

Please call (410) 547-6925 for reservations
or make them here. Please note you
must specify beer dinner if
you reserve online!!

(Photo from The Brewer's Art website)

26 August 2010

Programming Note:

Expect posting to be light to non-existent for the next week or so.  Personal obligations/helping out someone.  Later.

23 August 2010

Off-Topic: Philadelphia proposes "blogging license"?

A diversion away from beer for the moment: According to this report from the Philadelphia City Paper, passed on by the Washington Examiner and Instapundit, the City of Philadelphia is going after bloggers to force them to ante up $300 for a business privilege license:

For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features occasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she's made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it's a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.
"The real kick in the pants is that I don't even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous," Bess says.
It would be one thing if Bess' website were, well, an actual business, or if the amount of money the city wanted didn't outpace her earnings six-fold. Sure, the city has its rules; and yes, cash-strapped cities can't very well ignore potential sources of income. But at the same time, there must be some room for discretion and common sense.
When Bess pressed her case to officials with the city's now-closed tax amnesty program, she says, "I was told to hire an accountant."
She's not alone. After dutifully reporting even the smallest profits on their tax filings this year, a number — though no one knows exactly what that number is — of Philadelphia bloggers were dispatched letters informing them that they owe $300 for a privilege license, plus taxes on any profits they made.
Even if, as with Sean Barry, that profit is $11 over two years.
Barry's music-oriented blog, Circle of Fits, is hosted on Blogspot; as of this writing, its home page has two ads on it, but because he gets only a fraction of the already low ad revenue — the rest goes to Blogspot — it's far from lucrative.
"Personally, I don't think Circle of Fits is a business," says Barry. "It might be someday if I start selling coffee mugs, key chains or locks of my hair to my fans. I don't think blogs should be taxed unless they are making an immense profit."
The city disagrees. Even though small-time bloggers aren't exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds.
Mannino says the city doesn't keep track of how many bloggers and small-website owners are affected. But bloggers aren't the only ones upset with the city's tax structure. In June, City Council members Bill Green and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez unveiled a proposal to reform the city's business privilege tax in an effort to make Philly a more attractive place for small businesses. If their bill passes, bloggers will still have to get a privilege license if their sites are designed to make money, but they would no longer have to pay taxes on their first $100,000 in profit. (If bloggers don't want to fork over $300 for a lifetime license, Green suggests they take the city's $50-a-year plan.)
Their bill will be officially introduced in September. "There's a lot of support and interest in this idea," Green says.
Perhaps, but it doesn't change the fact that the city wants some people to pay more in taxes than they earn. "I definitely don't want to see people paying more in taxes and fees than what [we] earn," says Bess. "But I do think the city needs to establish a minimal amount of money that they won't tax, whether you're a bike messenger, microblogger or a freelance typist."

The article's comments are an interesting debate.

Now, never mind that I've never hosted any advertising on this blog, and have no plans to, nor that I don't live in Philadelphia.  This, simply put, is an outrage.  It theoretically allows the city to selectively go after any blog with which it disagrees politically and pursue them for monies (that may or may not exist) in an effort to shut them down, even if there's no proof of any income.

Fine.  Here's my accounting, just in case, you know, Baltimore gets similar inspiration:

GIFTS/SERVICES IN KIND (includes free samples of beer/books/etc., admissions to festivals, etc. on the basis of this blog exclusively): >$100 for FY 2010
EXPENSES: Blog's share of transportation for writing (shared with Mid-Atlantic Brewing News stories) <$200/year
Blog's share of purchases of beer to write about (including gratuities to servers): <$200/year

So this blog is "in the red" at least $300 a year.  Guess I'd better apply for a government bail-out, if you ask me.  Or maybe we can just cut out the government middleman, and you can buy me a beer.  (^_^)

(And, yes, before you ask, my writing and photography income IS reported on my tax returns.)

UPDATE: Editorial on the topic from Investor's Business Daily.

21 August 2010

Late Reminder

Mr. Boh's Brewery, a 30-minute documentary on National Brewing in Baltimore, will be shown at 2 PM today at the Southeast Anchor branch of Pratt Library, 3601 Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown.

20 August 2010

The Hop Nouveaus Are On the Way!

I'm giving everybody ample warning to brace themselves for a soon-to-arrive crush of fresh-hop ales.

Fresh-hop ales, for the uninitiated, are just what they sound like: ales brewed using freshly-picked hops, with minimal time and/or distance between the vines being picked and the brewing kettle.  (One serious contender in this category: Selin's Grove Brewing in central Pennsylvania, whose hops grow mere feet from the brewing kettle!)

Popularized in recent years by such craft brewers as Sierra Nevada, Great Divide, Rogue, and breweries around the prime hop-growing region of Yakima, Washington (which now has its own Fresh Hop Ale Festival!), fresh-hop ales have become a craft beer variation of the hype and frenzy (much of it instigated by marketing forces, mind you) that surrounds the Beaujolais Nouveau vintage releases in France and elsewhere each November.

Spurred in part by the hop shortages of recent years and a corresponding rise in hop prices, many small farms have undertaken to add hops to their acreage.   In Maryland, Stillpoint Farm, in Frederick County northwest of Mount Airy, has become the first farm to commercially grow hops in the state since (according to them) the 1870's.

Stillpoint has a video of their hop harvesting rig in action:

This year's hop harvest, their first, yielded Cascade and Chinook hops that were sold to Flying Dog, Pratt Street Ale House, Heavy Seas, and Frederick's Barley & Hops brewpub.  All four are now seemingly in an informal race to get the resulting beers onto the market, possibly as early as late next week.

Flying Dog's Matt Brophy noted that they received over twenty pounds of fresh Cascade hops from the farm: 

Our Fresh Hop has one bittering addition (90 minutes) with our standard Cascades, and then we used the “Stillpoint Cascades” in our hop-back. We started with a simple grist bill of pale malt with just a touch of C-80, Munich, and Wheat malts. This beer is still in the fermenter, but its flavor is already evident. Straw in color with subtle notes of fruit and citrus in the aroma that intensify in the flavor upon first sip. A solid malt backbone balances nicely with the 40 IBU’s of bitterness before a crisp and clean finish. The perfect beer for a hot late summer day after you have just finished up your special harvest .   5.5% ABV,  9 SRM, 40 IBU
Kelly Zimmerman of Heavy Seas confirmed that their batch was in a fermenter, and would probably hit the streets late next week or by the end of the month: "Very limited quantities."   Steve Jones reported that his share of the crop was delivered earlier this week to the Pratt Street Ale House:
Next week sees the brew day for this year’s Harvest Ale, an amber ale brewed with honey.  . . . I’ll also be using the local hops to dry hop various casks over the next few weeks. The first, our Summer Light Ale, were filled today, dry hopped with Cascade and will be going out to T-Bonz, Meridian Pint, & ChurchKey next week.  I’ll also be dry hopping casks of Ironman Pale Ale, some with Chinook, some with Cascade and some with a mix of both early next week and these will be going to DC also, though I’ll probably keep one back to put on the beer engine at the Ale House sometime soon. 

The race is on, folks.  Reports from the fields of kegs or firkins being sighted, along with tasting notes, are more than welcome, along with any leads from the brewers or distributors on where our local supply can be found, or incoming fresh-hop ales from elsewhere.

If you have the urge to try this yourself, Stillpoint Farm still had some Cascade available for homebrewers.  Check their website for details.

Read this New York Times article from last October on fresh-hop, or "harvest," ales.

(Photo of 2007 hop harvest at Selin's Grove Brewing courtesy of the brewery)

19 August 2010

TWO "Carter deregulated the beer industry" retractions down, several to go... UPDATED

I am most happy to see that Atlantic National Correspondent James Fallows, a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter, had enough scruples to revisit and retract his original promotion of the Kain essay and meme that I readily disproved in a recent blogpost..

Kudos to The Atlantic and Fallows.  Still waiting for Reason and The National Review, however......   As with fellow blogger (and Atlantic reader) Tom Hilton, I am only interested in the truth in this matter, with no political bias for or against Carter himself.

UPDATE:  My own rebuttal has been posted by Fallows, in a "last word" on the subject.  (And greetings once again to readers of Fallows and The Atlantic--feel free to stick around and explore, pester me with questions or debate, or offer to buy me a pint somewhere....) 

UPDATE II:  Mt sincere apologies to Reason Magazine/.com's Matt Welch--it turns out he promptly updated with a link to my spiel at the bottom of yet another interesting/weird "beer and the law" report within a day of my original rant.  Tip of the hat to Mr. Welch, and thanks.....

Today's specials

Firkin at Metropolitan in Federal Hill:  Doggie Style Pale Ale from Flying Dog.  This is Flying Dog's classic pale ale, and recently chosen by the New York Times as the best pale ale in a review of pale ales.

Also, the folks from Baltimore Beer Week will be there for a Baltimore Beer Week preview happy hour at 7:00 pm.  They'll be registering people to win 2 tickets to the Opening Tap event at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on October 7.
DuClaw is having a special of $1 beers all day, and a "new" soft pretzel sticks appetizer they want you to try.  (Note: Applies to Bowie, Arundel Mills, and Bel Air for certain; some specials exclude the BWI Airport franchised location, though I didn't see any disclaimer or exception language.)

Max's Taphouse: the usual Cask Ale Thursday, plus lots of leftover Rare & Unusual beers still hanging around from last weekend.

14 August 2010

Stillwater's Strumke Featured on NPR's Weekend Edition

National Public Radio's Claire O'Neil produced a story on Brian Strumke and his Stillwater Artisanal Ales, and his practice of "gypsy brewing," for NPR's Weekend EditionAn audio clip of the story, photos, and a transcript are here.

13 August 2010

This Weekend's Fun

You already knew about Max's Rare & Unusual Fest; here's the final line-up (with a few typos corrected):

Hogsback OTT
Hogsback TEA
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 30 Year
Lagunitas IPA
Stillwater Stateside w/ Cabernet-soaked French oak chips, licorice root, orange peel, cinnamon, rose hips, lemongrass and agave nectar
Stillwater Stateside dry hopped w/ Citra hops with Pineapple
Oliver's Jacob's Summer Celebration Ale
Dieu Du Ciel Aphrodite
Dieu Du Ciel Peche Mortal
Mikkeller Yeast Series Brett
Mikkeller Yeast Series American Ale
Mikkeller Yeast Series Belgian Ale
Mikkeller Yeast Series Lager
Mikkeller Yeast Series Hefweizen
Mikkeller It's Alive
Mikkeller Fresler
Mikkeller Monks Brew
Mikkeller Rauch Geek Breakfast
De Molen Amarillo
De Molen Disputin
De Molen Stout & Hop
BFM Douze
BFM La Torpille
Stillwater of Love & Regret
Stillwater/Voodoo Jungle Des Rues
Brew Dog/ Mikkeller Divine Rebel 2010
Emelisse Double IPA
Emelisse Espresso Stout
Emelisse Witbier
Emelisse Lentebier
Emelisse Dubbel
Hitachino Nipponia
Haandbryggeriet Farwell Ale
Haandbryggeriet Menno & Jens
Haandbryggeriet Odins Triple
Haandbryggeriet Dubbel Dram
Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bier
Jolly Pumpkin Weizen bam
Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanco
St Feuillien /Green Flash Biere De l' Amitie
Nogne O Saison
Nogne O Pale
Nogne O Imperial Brown
Scaldis Cuvee Des Trolls
Slaapmutske Dry hopped Lager
Jodion Tentation Cider
Broadway Pub La Thucke
Broadway Pub Le Don Juan
Broadway Pub Vent D' Anges
Saint Bock RIP
Blaugies Darbyste
De Le Senne Zinnebier
Christoffel Nobel w/ Brambling Cross
Christoffel Wijs
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18 year
Petrus Aged Pale
Hof Den Doormal Blonde
Amager Fusion
Amager Rug Porter
Mikkeller Bad Worse
Hopfenstark Baltic Porter
Jenlain Biere De Mars
Ommegang Zuur
Ommegang Triple Perfection
Sierra Nevada Charlie, Fred & Ken
Sierra Nevada Fitz & Ken
Hebrew Rejewvenator 2010 w/ grapes
Sloeber Rossa
Oskar Blues Oak Aged Ten Fidey
Allagash Bourbon Black
Allagash Blonde
Victory Gassy Jack
The Bruery Coton
De Ranke Saison De Dottignies
Troubadour Magma
Brewer's Art has released its menu for the summer version of Baltimore Restaurant Week, which starts today.  Note that a serving of BA beer is included.

An employee at Clementine on Harford Road in the Hamilton neighborhood reports that a firkin is supposed to be there tonight--Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA (en route to the bar as this is being typed, I'm told).  Note that they close at 10 pm, not late-night bar hours.

Don't forget TBonz's first Friday the Firkenteenth, either.....

12 August 2010

Gluten-Free Bar coming to Remington?

The Baltimore Sun's Laura Vozzella reports on an effort to establish a gluten-free bar/cafe in the Remington neighborhood:

Just how wild and crazy could the gluten-free bar scene be?
Baltimore's liquor board will ponder that question Thursday, when it reconsiders whether to grant a liquor license to a proposed gluten-free restaurant in the 100 block of 27th St. in Remington, next door to the gluten-free Sweet Sin Cupcakes and Café.
The board turned down the cafe owner's request in July after neighbors expressed concern that the operation would create a lot of noise and traffic.
But the board decided to reconsider the matter after it took a closer look at petitions submitted against the plan and noticed that "the immediate neighbors are mostly not opposed," board Chairman Stephan Fogleman told me.
 Well, one of the gluten-free options out there is mead--and the traditional "stomping grounds" of mead, renaissance festivals and "faires", have their reputations, I understand..........

UPDATE:  Approved, with conditions.  The Sun's Jessica Anderson has the story.

11 August 2010

Baltimore Beer Festival in Canton to wrap up Baltimore Beer Week

Since the guys who asked me to keep it quiet have let the word slip out, I guess it's my turn now.

One of the bigger problems with Baltimore Beer Week last year was the lack of a good beer festival for out-of-state breweries to participate fully.  The Oktoberfest at the Maryland State Fairgrounds is the province of the Brewers Association of Maryland, while the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival is limited in size and scope--a brewery can only get in if they can get a cask ale firkin through the "system," and there's a LOT of terrific non-cask beer out there.  Last year there had been plans to hold a festival on the last day of the "week" on Camden Street outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but those plans fell through.  (Philadelphia, by contrast, had a Philly Craft Beer Festival at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, open to all comers--it was a spectacular fest the year I went.  Imagine a beer festival the size of Mount Vernon, in a huge open building like a Baltimore Convention Center hall.)

Well, this year it's different:
Canton Waterfront Park, Sunday Oct. 17th, Noon-5 PM
$35 in advance, $40 at the gate, $55 V.I.P. in advance.
Commemorative mug
25 different local and international breweries, 60 different beers
Home brewers tent
4oz unlimited samples (while supplies last)

Ravens vs Patriots game on Big Screen
Live music by: Donegal Xpress, Caffiene & Dirt

Local Restaurants to be food vendors such as:
(So Far) Canton Dockside, Saute, Mother's and Della Rose's!!! More to be added.

Proceeds to benefit the Police Emeralds Society & The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

The Charm City Circular Water Taxi from Fed Hill to Canton is FREE and FREE Parking at the 1st Mariner Building parking lot!!!

V.I.P. status ($55) gets you in an hour earlier, private area, food vouchers and select craft beer samples!

The official Baltimore Beer Festival Website will be available soon for Sponsoring/Volunteering and participation information. www.baltimorebeerfestival.com
I'm a LOT more excited about Baltimore Beer Week now.

The Trouble With Alcohol Marketing

Ask anyone in the business.  It's entirely true.

(Link takes you to today's edition of the comic strip The Other Coast by Adrian Raeside, a New Zealand native.  Alternative link here.)

09 August 2010

DC Beer Week Coming Up

I'm not privy to the specifics of what's going on down there, but there's apparently some somewhat-formal D.C. Beer Week in the nation's capital to our southwest on August 20th-26th.

This looks like all the notice and advance schedule that's up so far.  Facebook page here for those so inclined.

Next round of cask beers....

*SPBW gathers at Grand Cru at Belvedere Square on Wednesday beginning @ 7 PM.  (Or earlier, if history is any indication.)

Thursday is the Cask Night of Max's Rare & Obscure Fest, the 12th through the 15th.  A final beer list is due soon and will be reposted here.  It will feature the debut of Jacob's Summer Celebration from Olivers/Pratt Street.

And let's not forget TBonz Grill's Friday the Firkenteenth.......  five casks promised......

08 August 2010

Let Me Get This Straight: Jimmy Carter Deregulated the "Beer Industry"?

So blogger E.D. Kain reported the following Thursday in the blog Balloon Juice:
If you’re a fan of craft beer and microbreweries as opposed to say Bud Light or Coors, you should say a little thank you to Jimmy Carter. Carter could very well be the hero of International Beer Day.
To make a long story short, prohibition led to the dismantling of many small breweries around the nation. When prohibition was lifted, government tightly regulated the market, and small scale producers were essentially shut out of the beer market altogether. Regulations imposed at the time greatly benefited the large beer makers. In 1979, Carter deregulated the beer industry, opening the market back up to craft brewers.
This message and theme got picked up by Jonathan Chait at the New Republic, and then Chait was commented on by Matt Welch at Reason Magazine's website.  Kain then added a rebuttal to Welch on Friday, and the comments there spin off into a wild thread having to do in part with (I can't figure out quite how) gas station hours in Oregon(?!?).

As is typical with online articles relating to beer at such websites, the commentary by readers that follows blathers on and on over the virtues or lack thereof of various craft beers, the "crapitude" of mass-market beers, etc.

There's only one problem.  Actually, make that two.

First, Kain makes no reference to just how Carter "deregulated the beer industry."  No bill number, no details of the changes made, or anything.

Second, everyone else accepts this article on faith, save for quite a few savvy commenters way down the list of 150+ comments on the original piece.

As most homebrewers are made aware in various accounts of homebrewing's history, Jimmy Carter most definitely did one thing legally relating to beer: he lifted the Federal prohibition on making beer or wine at home, in October 1978 with the signing of H.R. 1337, which, among other things,
Allows any adult (formerly only heads of families) to produce wine and beer for personal and family use and not for sale without incurring the wine or beer excise taxes or any penalties for quantities per calendar year of: (1) 200 gallons if there are two or more adults in the household and (2) 100 gallons if there is only one adult in the household.
Now, aside from this, which was indeed a sea change in the way beer other than "North American industrial lager" could be made and discovered by the teeming masses in the nation...........  was there any act or law signed by Jimmy Carter which had any effect of deregulating, in any fashion, the commercial beer industry in the United States?

If so, the appropriate historians should be able to cite the specific law in question, and I/we should be able to look it up online.  The comments are open, folks.  Have at it.

My presumption, until I hear otherwise, is that Kain has made a grandiose error of mis-association by confusing the legalization of homebrewing with the "deregulation" of the "beer industry," possibly from overhearing some associate describe the former (possibly over several beers or homebrews) and making a leap (of ignorance or desire) to the latter.

What's even more egregious is that, in their haste to jump into a mud-wrestling pit debate on deregulation or re-regulation, both Chait and Welch run with this theme without even questioning the original premise.

UPDATE:  In a (so far vain) attempt to discern if, indeed, there was any specific law signed by Carter that "deregulated" craft brewing and made commercial microbrewing possible, I did a couple Google searches.  What I discovered is that, as of this moment, "Jimmy Carter deregulated brewing" is on track to replace "Ben Franklin said 'Beer is proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy'" as THE most popular "urban legend" regarding beer, thanks to people online citing the New Republic piece.....

UPDATE II:  More on the subject here.  "The intermediate step, which goes unnoted by Carlson ("as far as I can tell nothing else substantive changed about the market") and thus by Kain and Chait, is the legalization of brewpubs in individual states. Washington passed its law in 1982, and that same year Bert Grant opened his brewpub in Yakima--the first brewpub in the US since Prohibition. California's brewpub law also passed in 1982 (sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Bates), and Oregon's passed in 1983. Over the course of the 1980s, various other states followed suit." 

UPDATE III: As if I thought the oversimplification couldn't be any worse..........  see this headline at another blog that cites Kain: "Like Beer? Thank Jimmy Carter!"  As if Carter ended Prohibition or something..... 

UPDATE IV:  Welcome, readers of The Atlantic!  I am most happy to see that Atlantic National Correspondent James Fallows, a former Jimmy Carter speechwriter, had enough scruples to revisit and retract his original promotion of the Kain essay and meme.

Kudos to The Atlantic.  Still waiting for Reason and The National Review, however......   As with fellow blogger Tom Hilton, I am only interested in the truth in this matter, with no political bias for or against Carter himself.

UPDATE V: As noted elsewhere, it turns out Matt Welch of Reason Magazine/.com put up a story that included a link to my piece within a day of my original spiel.  Thanks. Mr. Welch and Reason!

05 August 2010

Olivers Jacob's Summer Celebration Tapping

Save the date:

Thursday, August 12th at Max's Taphouse, 6 PM, both draft and cask-conditioned-with-Liberty-dry-hops (perfect for a beer celebrating a July 4th birthday!).

(Note correction.  Oops.)

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon 2nd in Great British Beer Fest US Competition

Just in from the Great British Beer Festival:

1st- Smuttynose, Big A IPA (9.7% ABV, Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
2nd- Clipper City, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon (7.3% ABV, Baltimore, Maryland)
3rd- Lost Abbey, Older Viscosity 2009 (12.5% ABV, San Marcos, CA)

The Great British Beer Festival is today pleased to announce that the winner of its annual American cask real ale competition, the Michael Jackson Award, is the Smuttynose brewery's Big A IPA, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The competition is judged during CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale's flagship event, taking place inside Earls Court, London, from August 3rd-7th 2010.

Smuttynose's Big A IPA, a 9.7% ABV India Pale Ale, is described by CAMRA's US bar team as having an 'orange and citrus fruit, with a nicely balanced body, a hint of malt and a bunch of alcohol, and perhaps a hint of honey. The beer ends nicely with a lingering hop dryness'.

Smuttynose's success today means the New England brewery has now won this award three times, and remains one of the most successful brewers in the competition's history.

The Award is named after the world renowned beer writer, Michael Jackson, also known as the Beer Hunter, and author of titles such as The World Guide To Beer, who sadly passed away in 2007. In dedication to his efforts to promote good beer, the competition is judged by a panel of Great British Beer Festival volunteers, and assessed on taste, aroma and finish.

Ian Garrett, organiser of the Michael Jackson award, said:

'The competition is incredibly tight and many US brewers are keen to get their cask beers over to us. Each year we manage to attract more brewers from a wider area with the help of two of our volunteers- Ken Fisher and Mike Labbe- in the States.

'Originally we were only able to get beers from the east coast, but now west coast beers on cask are appearing which offer a great contrast in the brewing styles. American beers are still renowned in the UK for the adventurous use of hops, and have led the way in the field of experimental beer styles.'

With over 180 beers from the United States at the Great British Beer Festival this week, CAMRA is pleased to showcase the biggest selection of US cask real ale probably ever seen! CAMRA can happily report that demand for American craft beers at the Festival is extremely healthy, and invites people from across the world to its flagship Festival.

See Steve Jones' Pratt Street Ale House blog for more details on just how those firkins got there:  Part One,      Part Two.
And congratulations to the crew of the Clipper City Brewing Co. and Heavy Seas Beer for the accolades and award!

Should Session Beers have Session Prices?

I'm just thinking out loud here.

A lot of fellow promoters of "session beers"--lower-alcohol beers perfect for a working lunch or a hot summer--are eager to promote how the winners of the Great British Beer Festival awards for Champion Beers of Britain were all session beers.  Indeed, the average alcohol strength of all the winning beers was only 4.37%--a figure that would earn derision in many a "beer geek" establishment like Max's, Mahaffey's, The Judge's Bench, etc. even on a blisteringly hot day.  (Like we haven't had a few of those lately?)

Yes, part of this is that we're snobs.  We have been well trained by "beer geekery" to associate bigger beers with more complexity and assertive flavors.  And, yes, part of this is the well-deserved American stereotype that constantly associates "bigger, bolder, brasher" with "better" whether or not it's deserved.  In my personal experience, you can sell the hell out of almost anything in American beer as long as it has a superlative attached to it--most hops, most exotic ingredients, or most bikinis in the advertising.

But there's another factor involved, if you ask me.

Session beers are lower in alcohol, and usually lower in the other attributes that give beer mouthfeel.  That doesn't mean they're watery or lacking flavor; it just means that there's a bit less "there" there.  (I've often run into beers where the brewer or server says "you'd never guess it's an 8% beer--it tastes like a 5%, doesn't it?"  But I've yet to have someone say "you'd never guess that's only 4%, eh?  Tastes as full as an IPA, huh?")

Yet we're asked to pony up the same price as a regular, or even a bigger, beer.

Come on, admit it.  Who reading this hasn't walked into a good-beer establishment intending to only have one or two beers, sized up the list, and ordered the most potent beer for the "biggest bang for the buck"?  Or, for that matter, looked over the list and "thrown back" a selection as being too weak?  Yes, I've done it.  And if you say you haven't, you're probably lying.  Or a very special breed of beer enthusiast, worthy of protection under the Endangered Species Act in the U.S.

Most brewpubs or beer bars, of course, won't hesitate to charge extra for an expensive-to-produce beer, or serve it in a smaller serving for the same price as the rest of the line-up.  I have no problem with that.  I was scared beyond belief at the bar that, on one night, was selling full pints of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for $3--and, thankfully, I was the only one noticing.  But session beers need to be promoted.    Can we not apply the same rationale to session beers? 

Serve up the session beers in a bigger glass--if you're using 12- or 16-oz tumblers, pour the session beer in a 20-oz. imperial pint for the same price.  Knock fifty cents off the price.  Make it the Happy Hour feature for a discount.   Heck, have a heat-wave special: when the publicly-displayed outdoors thermometer breaks 95 degrees F, the session beer is a dollar off!  (When I was in the UK in September 1991 and the temperatures cracked records at 85 degrees, bars pushed all manners of "shandy," typically a lager-and-fresh-lemonade blend but cheap-lager-and-Sprite at its worst.)  Put together a "Dog Days Special" of a cold plate or salad paired to go with the session beer and the beer itself.

Have you ever gone out to eat with a vegetarian or decided you might as well treat your body a bit better, looked at the menu, and then had a change of heart as you realize that the vegetarian options on the menu, despite having ingredients that are at best 50% of the cost of the meats, are only priced a dollar or two cheaper than the "carnivore" entrees?  With a vegetarian wife, I see it all the time--and it's why we seldom go out to eat.

Before the bars and brewers attack me, let me say that I understand the real mathematics of the proposition.  I've been a restaurant manager.  A 25% reduction in ingredient costs certainly does not translate into a 25% cost savings at the glass--there's still labor, overhead, fermentation vessels and cooperage being occupied ("opportunity costs"), and distribution. But at the same time, a token gesture towards what many consumers must certainly feel when they look over the menu or chalkboard can certainly go a long ways towards promoting the finer art of a well-made session beer.

(Much more on session beers at Lew Bryson's Session Beer Project website/blog.)

Cask Beer Directory

Alex Hall, cask ale enthusiast and soon-to-be brewer again, has updated his Cask-Beer-Finder-USA-and-Canada website directory of American cask ale outlets to include a Google Maps map of all establishments.

Yes, the database is slightly out-of-date with regards to Maryland.  I've already submitted updates to Mr. Hall.

04 August 2010

Latest Mid-Atlantic Brewing News is out

Available at you friendly local good-beer outlet.  Cover stories on German-style biergartens and "Is Craft Beer Fattening?"  Also online in the future at http://www.brewingnews.com/mid-atlantic/ .

03 August 2010

Stillwater's "Of Love and Regret" is here.....

Stillwater brewer/owner Brian Strumke reports that the Belgian-brewed batch of "Of Love & Regret" has finally hit distribution.

But be forewarned: There are only ten 20-litre kegs and1,920 330-ml bottles available.

"Even I only got one case for myself!" laments Strumke.

Upcoming Events Around the Area

Let's start with the "new kid on the beer block, Bluegrass Tavern, which is hosting a Dogfish Head beer dinner Aug. 18th:

Please join us at Bluegrass Tavern on Wednesday, August 18th at 7:30 PM for a beer & food extravaganza featuring the beers of Dogfish Head Brewery.  Chef Patrick Morrow has tasted the beers and created a 5 course menu to showcases their exceptional craftsmanship. Reservations are Required.  $70.00 per guest, tax and gratuity is not included.
Dogfish Head Brewery Dinner
Bluegrass Tavern
August 18, 2010

First Course:
North Carolina Shrimp Presse, Kim Chi Puree
Midas Touch

Second Course:
Sahtea Cured Foie Gras Torchon,
Plum Consommé, Pickled Plums

Third Course:
Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Pommes Sardelaise,
Rhubarb Pudding
Raison d’Etre

Fourth Course:
Prime Hanger Steak, Aged Cheddar Grits,
Bordelaise Sauce
Palo Santo Marron

Fifth Course:
Blue Cheese Cheesecake
90 Minute IPA
 Next up: TBonz Grille of Ellicott City is starting up its version of the infamous occasional event at Philadelphia's Grey Lodge with its own Friday the Firkenteenth, where every Friday the 13th the place loads up with firkins.  The Grey Lodge event has gotten notoriously crowded, insane, and perhaps out of hand, resembling more an Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day according to reports and accounts I have heard/read.  Hopefully, TBonz will keep matters in check for now--it's advertising five firkins to start, including one of the upcoming Oliver's Jacob's Summer Celebration Ale.

Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia, meanwhile, is participating in Howard County's Restaurant Week, ongoing through Aug. 8th, with its own prix-fixe menu for the week; coming up for them Aug. 11th is a Scottish Beer Dinner (hold all the comments about "Scots cuisine" being an oxymoron, as the menu will show) at $95 a person.  (No, no deep-fried Mars Bar for dessert, thank you--but a hellishly fine beer selection for the event!)  Following that is a Flying Dog Beer Brunch on August 21st and their own Dogfish Head beer dinner on Sept. 7th.

Also participating in HoCoRestWeek: Union Jack's in Columbia, somewhat British beer friendly though not as much so as Victoria....

Finally for the moment, the next meeting of the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood will be at 7 PM August 11th at Grand Cru, the excellent wine-and-beer bar in Belvedere Square.  Incidentally, there's an article on the SPBW's July DC pub crawl at Greg Kitsock's blog in the Washington Post.

Baltimore Restaurant Week Aug 13-22

It's that time (now twice a year) again.  Various Baltimore restaurants offer prix-fixe three-course dinners at $35.10, and in some cases three-course lunches for $20.10.

The website, with list of participating restaurants, is here.  Click on each listing to get a menu of the specific offerings for the Restaurant Week special--typically three choices for each course.  Baltimore Sun article here.

Craft-beer-friendly places participating: B&O American Brasserie, Bertha's, Bluegrass Tavern, Brewer's Art, Jack's Bistro, Mt. Washington Tavern, Pratt Street Ale House, and Red Star.

Of extra-special note for the beer connoisseurs: Pratt Street Ale House's dinner offering, where each menu offering for the first and second course comes with a 10-oz. Olivers Ale selected to pair with the food offering.  More places need to be doing something like this, especially for Baltimore Beer Week.