30 September 2010

Booze Shipping Across Md Borders? Never Mind--maybe........

For those that continue to fantasize about a Beer-of-the-Month Club, Wine-of-the-Month Club, or ordering direct from Russian River or New Glarus or Port Brewing............  you may have seen recent indications that Maryland legislators may have been considering actions towards liberalizing the rights of Marylanders to buy booze (well, wine, at least) out of state and have it shipped home.

Yeah, well........... even if Annapolis cooperates, the Feds in the District of Columbia appear to have other ideas, according to Reason Magazine Online:

A bill that could wind up severly restricting interstate booze trade—thus raising prices, limiting selection, and generally making the world a dryer place, all while giving the Commerce Clause the heave-ho when it comes to trade in beer, wine, and liquor—managed to win a hearing today from the ready-to-get-outta-Dodge House Judiciary Committee. The legislation in question is the cheesily-acronymed Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act, which would make it easier for state alcohol wholesalers to protect their monopolies. From the Wine Spectator's Twitter feed, this lively little exchange:
HR 5034 CARE Act hearing: Rep. Towns: "I oppose cheaper alcohol." Rep. Conyers: "You just slid into an invisible minority!"

BBW Mobile Phone Website

The Baltimore Beer Week technical wizards have just finished Baltimore Beer Week's mobile site. It's optimized for cell phones and "smart" devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, etc.  It allows users to search events, see recent twitter feeds and recent photos added to our Flickr gallery.

Go here and give it a test run:


Also just an FYI to iPhone users, you can add the mobile app to the home screen (click the + sign in the safari browser). An icon will get added to the home screen just like a normal app and then you can view in full screen. 


29 September 2010

More Chesapeake Real Ale Fest cask updates

More coming for the Oct. 16th fest at Pratt Street Ale House:  From Scotland,  BrewDog Dogma and Paradox firkins should be with us this week; Stone Brewing is sending Smoked Porter with vanilla ("one of my faves," says Oliver brewer Steve Jones)........ DuClaw is sending Double Dry-hopped Venom Pale Ale (5.6%) and Sawtooth (Wit) with Red Clover added to the cask (4.8%)...........  Brewer's Art will be sending Ozzy and Seven Beauties Rye Ale ... DOG Brewery is sending Pub Dog French Oak Vanilla Black Dog Stout ("Quite a mouthful, pun intended, try saying that after a few pints!")............  From Oliver/PSAH, The Bishop's Indulgence (pin), Channel Crossing 2 (pin), High Tea (firkin), Freddie's Revenge (firkin) & My Monkey's Got Wood (from the oak barrel)
more later..........

Start stuffing the ballot box.............

Erik Maza, the replacement blogger for Sam Sessa's Midnight Sun blog, asks for Baltimore's 25 best bars.

Let the shilling and ballot-box-stuffing begin............ in favor of bars with good beer, thank you.......

DuClaw's Baltimore Beer Week plans

Well, since I picked on them so badly last year when they didn't participate, I owe them the shout-out this year, even if they don't technically have a Baltimore presence (save for some bombers in certain liquor stores) this year.  From their promotional e-mail:

In celebration of Baltimore Beer Week, OCT 7th - 17th, we’ve got a full slate of special events honoring everyone’s favorite beverage. Join us...
October 7th at any DuClaw Brewing Company for the release of “31”, our scary good Spiced Munich Dunkel.
October 9th at the Brewer’s Association of Maryland Oktoberfest at the state fairgrounds in Timonium. We’re bringing 37 kegs, 3 firkins and our usual brand of hijinks. You don’t want to miss this...[My camera begs to differ.... after a chipped lens last year courtesy of the raucous crowd there....]
October 11th at DuClaw Brewing Company of Arundel Mills for the tapping of one keg of 2006 Devil’s Milk. Snifters of this special vintage brew will be available all day or until the keg is kicked. Sorry, but no new growler fills or refills will be available.
October 14th at DuClaw Brewing Company of Bel Air, from 4pm to 6pm, for an EXCLUSIVE Meet and Greet with Brewmaster Jim Wagner, Brewer Bo Lenck, and DuClaw Brewing Company founder Dave Benfield. There will be a 1/4 keg of X.1, Chocolate Imperial Rye Porter on tap, the boys will regal you with behind the scenes stories and anecdotes, and, if history is any indication, Jim will challenge Dave to some form of semi-athletic competition before the evening is over. Someone hide the Lawn Jarts.
October 15th at any DuClaw Brewing Company* for Firkin Friday! Casks of real ale will be on tap from 5pm until they’re empty. What flavors/styles will be at each location? Glad that you asked...
Bel Air - Peach Bare Ass Blonde
Bowie - Double Dry Hopped Venom
Arundel Mills - Cascade Hopped Misfit Red
October 17th from noon to 5pm at Waterfront Park in Canton for the inaugural Baltimore Beer Week Festival. Check out www.bbweek.com for more details!
 By the way, we were treated to a "sneak preview' of double-spiced "31" at the DuClaw Real Ale Fest (which I still have to write up here); it was a stunningly great beer with a trick:  it had such a perfect amount of "pumpkin pie spice" (cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice) to trick the taster into believing, with all sincerity, that Jim Wagner had dumped in a boatload of actual pumpkins.  "Not one bit of pumpkin in it," counters Jim, in spite of the official "tasting notes" suggesting "hints" of pumpkin.  Try the regular "31," or the double-spiced version if it appears,  and decide for yourself.

Cheasapeake Beer Madness returns

Once again, What's Up Annapolis/Eastern Shore is doing its Chesapeake Beer Madness 2010, a reprisal of last year's NCAA-like runoff.

The kick-off party is this Friday at Park Place in Annapolis.

Beer brands in the running: Fordham, St. George, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Wild Goose, Old Dominion, Brewer's Alley, Hook & Ladder, The Raven, Williamsburg Ale Werks, Bawlmer Craft Beers, Evolution, Gordon Biersch, Starr Hill, 16 Mile, and Oliver/Pratt Street.

28 September 2010

"High Tea" at Pratt Street Ale House Thursday, and Birch Beer.......

No, not some fancy tea-sipping event with crumpets and clotted cream.  No Mad Hatter or March hare, either (I'm hoping).

From their Facebook post:

Please join Judy Easterbrook for the first pour of her creation, our new seasonal ale "High Tea" at The Pratt Street Ale House on Thursday 9/30 @ 6pm. $3 pints all evening. Read more about the brew on the blog at http://www.prattstreetalehouse.com/2010/09/more-tea-vicar/

The last time I had a tea-infused beer--Cape Ann's Fisherman'sTea Party barleywine during last year's Baltimore Beer Week--I astounded the brewers by identifying two of the three teas used just by tasting.  It seems this one will be a little easier, what with the blog post telling us what to expect....

Brewer Steve Jones has also let slip that two of the beers that will be on hand at the Chesapeake Real Ale Fest (tickets still available) will be "Heavy Seas . . . firkins of Loose Cannon with fresh local hops and a one-off Pale Ale with birch"

More BBW Events.

The magic number is now 326.  

This includes four events from new-to-the-list Ellicott Mills Brewing, including a homebrew contest (Brown Ale) and a Wild Game Beer Dinner on the 10th.

25 September 2010

Procrastination squared, maybe cubed........

The Baltimore Beer Week event tally is now up to 319.

Now added:  several events apiece from DuClaw, Fordham, Old Dominion, Alewife, Hudson Street Stackhouse (a newcomer to the fold in Canton), Spaten, Leininkugel's, Kloby's Smokehouse, Abbey Burger Bistro, Little Havana, and Elliott's Pour House.

Wow.  Just............  wow.

All Hail the Power of Procrastination

The tally of Baltimore Beer Week events is up to 258.  And I myself am finalizing two events of my own, so make that 260.

24 September 2010

Alewife's Oct. 1st Stone Brewing Event details

The following from Alewife via their Facebook account, edited for clarity:
STONE EVENT DETAILS:  To reserve a spot for 4pm entrance on Oct. 1st, stop by Alewife and buy a $25 ticket.  Ticket gets you 10 beer tokens for ten 5-oz. beers.  If you want to get in at 3 pm for a limited VIP session (50 spots only, more intimate hang time with Greg Koch), you can stop by Alewife with $42 ($17 for a limited release t-shirt, $25 for the 10 tokens), or you can just show up Friday and come in, if there is still room.

The Baltimore Beer Week Passport

No, as far as I know, they won't be checking you at the door or the border for it.

This year, Baltimore Beer Week (BBW) is debuting a limited edition Beer Passport- a comprehensive guide to all beer-centric venues participating in BBW 2010. The Official Baltimore Beer Week Passport is designed as a keepsake; it will help you geographically locate BBW venues throughout the State of Maryland and provide vital contact information for these participating establishments. The interior pages can be used for note taking, autographs from your favorite beer celebrities, and more…
…so get you Beer Week Passport and use it to chronicle your journey while "Celebrating all Things Beer in the Land of Pleasant Living"!
There will be only 1500 BBW Passports produced this year. All attendees of the Baltimore Beer Week Opening Tap Celebration will receive a Passport at the event. Additional Passports will be sold at select events throughout Baltimore Beer Week for a nominal price of $2.75 (Yes, Two Dollars and Seventy Five Cents!), wherever Baltimore Beer Week schwag is sold.

23 September 2010

More of the BBW "Sampler Rack".... select from 220 events and counting.......

Continued from a couple posts ago, a post highlighting a few more interesting Baltimore Beer Week events:

Now added to the master schedule:  Abbey Burger Bistro, Ryleigh's Oyster, Hudson Street Stackhouse, Wine Source, and Elliott's Pour House.

Starting this time with Wednesday the 13th:  "Osktoberfest" with Oskar Blues beers at Kloby's Smokehouse off Rt. 29 near Burtonsville and JHU APL, and a simultaneous Oskar Blues "keep the glass" night at Baltimore Taphouse.....  Unibroue "meet the brewer" at Hudson Street Stackhouse........

Thursday: FREE blind side-by-side of Victory Donnybrook Stout and Guinness at Koopers Tavern.......  SPBW, cask ales, blues band, and beer garden on the patio at Red Brick Station in White Marsh...... "Elements" beers (Earth, Fire, Water, Air--send them to chemistry class, please) at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia.....  Free evening homebrewing demonstration and beginner's intro at Maryland Homebrew in the heart of Columbia.....  Beer History and Appreciation class at Howard County Community College's  Columbia campus.....  Local Harvest "Farm to Table" Beer Dinner with Leininkugel beers at Pickles Pub (yes, THAT one near Camden Yards)........ a Stillwater beer dinner at Jack's Bistro in Canton......  Former bartenders return to The Wharf Rat for a reunion......

Friday:  Begins a 3-day "Indoor Block Party at Alexander's Tavern.......  Bacon & Bombers at T-Bonz.........Blues & Brews at the 8X10 in Federal Hill (and Oskar Blues pre-concert specials at nearby Abbey Burger Bistro)....... "Hall of Fame" day at Victoria Gastro Pub......   Druid Hill Park 150th Anniversary Gala, featuring The Raven Lager....  Samuel Adams beer dinner at the always-excellent Baldwin's Station, Sykesville.......  Samuel Smith beer dinner at Metropolitan........  Sierra Nevada beer dinner (read the menu!) at Pickles........ all three Saison du Buffs (Stone, Victory, and Dogfish Head) at Max's Taphouse......

Saturday: The SPBW Real Ale Fest (The Liver!  It must be punished!) at Pratt Street Ale House..... Crispin Cider on cask, draft, and bottle at Max's.........

Sunday, if you survive that long: The first Baltimore Beer Festival, Heavy Seas Brunch and Brewery Tour (new! improved!) at Clipper City, and (finally?) a hop-head's extravaganza at Victoria Gastro Pub.

Literally as I was compiling this list, another 20 events were added!  All I can tell you to do is to go to the events list/schedule for yourself (everything on one page, or searchable database) and see for yourself.

And you know who still hasn't officially shown up on the slate yet?  Alewife.  Late start, what can we say?

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout to Return to US Shelves/Bars

Tip o' the hat to Jack Curtin and Beer Advocate, and a few rumor-mongers in the past week.  Guinness (make that Diageo) may be a company that knows enough not to muck up an effective (if somewhat facetious) marketing strategy for its original Guinness Stout, but insofar as getting onto the Imperial Stout bandwagon in North American craft beer circles, they're about ten years too late.  Edited press release (edited to just bring you more facts and less hype) below:

GUINNESS(r) Irish Stout is proud to announce its U.S. launch of GUINNESS(r) Foreign Extra Stout (FES) on October 1st. The fullest in flavor of the GUINNESS brand variants, GUINNESS FES is carbonated unlike the nitrogenated GUINNESS Draught with which most Americans are familiar. The specialty beer is 7.5% ABV and possesses strong, roasted aromas followed by a unique bittersweet taste. Foreign Extra Stout is already a favorite of many around the world, making up 45% of GUINNESS sales globally, and is sure to be a favorite of beer aficionados here in the U.S.

Fact Sheet GUINNESS® Foreign Extra Stout (FES)

Product Description: GUINNESS® Foreign Extra Stout (FES) is brewed with the highest hop rate of all the GUINNESS® variants. The generous hop additions express fully the beers distinctive character and flavor while also prolonging shelf life in warmer climates, as hops are the best natural preservative for beer. GUINNESS FES is uniquely different from GUINNESS Draught both in taste profile, color and ritual.

Taste Profile: Big, full‐bodied flavor with enormous complexity and character. Strong, roasted aromas followed by a unique bittersweet taste

Appearance: Deep Brown

Dispense: Carbonated (GUINNESS Draught nitrogenated)

Ingredients: Malt, Roast Barley, Hops, Yeast, Water

ABV: 7.5%

Suggested Retail Price: 4‐pack @ $9.49

Brewed for more than two centuries, GUINNESS FES dates back to 1801. Known as West India Porter until the mid nineteenth century, FES was an export beer brewed with extra hops, giving the beer a more intense flavor and higher alcohol strength. The extra hops also acts as a natural preservative for beer, allowing it to survive long journeys overseas.

GUINNESS FES was exported to the U.S. beginning in 1817, but was discontinued in 1920 due to prohibition. The specialty stout will make its return to the U.S. market in October 2010.

Max's Ravens & Lambic Pucker-Up

Funny, I would be guessing the tartness of lambics would be more appropriate to the kind of seasons the Baltimore Orioles have been having for the past couple years.........  but I guess they're done playing for the year by this time.  (Hey, remember when they could have sold out Oriole Park for a chicken fight in left field?)

This is the closing event of Baltimore Beer Week for Max's Taphouse, and maybe an alternative for Belgian fanatics who would rather go here than to the Baltimore Beer Festival in Canton (or in case the latter sells out):


SUNDAY OCT 17, 2010
Location: Max's Mobtown Lounge--upstairs
No fee-but reservations are required.

We will be hosting a event with some of the best lambic beers from Belgium.  Many of these are very rare and I may have only a few bottles.  There is no fee for this event, it is a cash bar and we will be serving all the lambics in 4 1/2 oz glasses,  but, you do need to reserve a space for this event.  Seating is limited, and it is first come, first served.

Not only will we be serving great lambics, but we will be showing the Ravens game on our 100-inch projection screen.

So to reserve a space at this event,  please email me [at chard@maxs.com ] and I will contact you to confirm.  If you are looking for more than one ticket,  please give me all the names in your group; there will be a check-off sheet at the door.

Boon Marriage Parfait 2003
Cantillon Cuvee Des Champions
Cantillon Fou Foune
Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocella
Cantillon Gueuze
Cantillon Kriek
Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze
Cantillon Rose De grambrinus
Cantillon St Lamvinus
Cantillon Iris
Cantillon Vigneronne
De Dochter Enfant Terrible
De Ranke Cuvee De Ranke
3 Fonteinen Doesjel
3 Fonteinen Scheerbecke Kriek
3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek
3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze
Girardin Gueze
Hannsens Cassis
Hannsens Raspberry
Hannsens Kriek
Hannsens Oudbeitje
Hannsens Oude Gueuze
Lindemans Cuvee Renee
Lindemans Faro
Oud Beersel Oude Gueuze
Oud Beersel Oude Kriek
Struise Strusie Lenisis

Question of the Day

If you're having 600-barrel conditioning tanks built for you in another country........... 

........ do you still qualify as a "microbrewery"?

(For the record, similar tanks by the same company are supposedly at Victory and New Glarus.  I'm not picking on the Delaware folks.)

(Photo courtesy Dogfish Head's website/blog)

Cute Beer Special of the Day

To celebrate the birth of 3 lion cubs at the National Zoo in Washington on Wednesday morning, Pratt Street Ale House is offering $1 off pints of 3 Lions Ale all day today.

I can't help but wonder if any of Oliver's DC outlets will do the same.

Events This Weekend and Tonight

Up in Union Mills, a couple miles north of Westminster on Md. Rt. 97, the Maryland Microbrewery Festival, 11 AM-7 PM.

Attending microbrewries and craft breweries include:
Too far away?  The Rowhouse Grille on South Light Street is holding a Beer & Oyster Fest all day Saturday, $5 admission proceeds to be donated to the South Baltimore Improvement Committee, $1 oysters,  and Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin, Marzen, Oktoberfest, Loose Cannon, Classic Lager, and Peg Leg.

Meanwhile, Max's has a cask of Heavy Seas bourbon-barrel-aged Peg Leg on tonight (among others) for their Cask Night.  Good stuff.

Also, the usual Thursday firkin at Metropolitan tonight is the last firkin of Olivers' Harvest Ale.  Last call.......


Dining Out for Moveable Feast Tonight

Today, several dozen restaurants in the region are participating today  in Dining Out For Life, in support of Moveable Feast, a nutritional support program that prepares and delivers meals and groceries at no charge to people and their families throughout greater Baltimore and Maryland’s Eastern Shore who are in need and living with HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging conditions.

Most places are donating 20% of their day's take to The Moveable Feast, but The Brewer's Art and Clementine are donating 50%.

Other craft-beer-friendly venues participating: B&O American Brasserie, Alexander's tavern, Alonso's/Loco Hombre, Joe Squared, Mt. Washington Tavern, and One World Cafe.  See the website for a list of participating restaurants.

My apologies for not getting this out earlier--the promotional e-mails earlier came in while I was helping out friends and spending too little time at my computer to pay enough attention.......

22 September 2010

Now 195 BBW Events and counting...........

In only nine hours, the official count of Baltimore Beer Week events went from 158 to 195.

Dagnabbit, where were you guys when I had a Mid-Atlantic Brewing News deadline?

Baltimore Sun's Beer Guru "retires," in a sense.....

The Baltimore Sun's Rob Kasper, acknowledged as one of the three co-founders of Baltimore Beer Week (along with Joe Gold and yours truly), is finally "retiring" from his "lifestyles" and food writing gig for the Sun, in which he seemingly took advantage of every opportunity possible to extol the virtues of good beers (including a now-lamentably-gone Sun-sponsored blog, Kasper on Tap).

He won't be retiring from the Sun completely, however--he's transitioning to the editorial staff.

His final column--a beer review, of course, sampling Oktoberfest and pumpkin beers--is here.

Baltimore Beer Week 2010: 160 events and counting.....

The schedule at the Baltimore Beer Week website events calendar continues to fill up--at this point, new events are being added several times daily.  At the moment, we're at 158 160 181 events and counting.

This might be behind last year's aggressive numbers--last year at this time, we had 332 "events" listed, but that reflected the first year's policy (now changed) of listing a ten-day-long beer special at certain places as an event each day, along with many, many more "beer tastings" at liquor stores than this year.  Undoubtedly, the bar has been set much higher this year, and the quality of events this year is hardly anything to dismiss--in fact, it's probably far higher, what with a higher capacity at the Opening Tap at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, more and better exceptional events, and more "homegrown" events not driven by industry folks.

A "sampler rack" of events besides the "Featured Events" here:

The very first event by default:  Duda's Tavern opens at 11 AM Thursday the 7th, with "daily specials"--last year, they presented superlative German-style menu specials along with their beer specials, and that turned out to be one of the "sleeper" hits of the week.  Please check out the chalkboard at Duda's if you're in the neighborhood, and plan on a lunch or dinner there.  (Yeah, Max's and a copuple other places open at 11 a.m. that day, too...)

Thursday the 7th, 5-7 at Metropolitan: Scottish Happy Hour, featuring Bruce Williams of Scotland's Williams Bros. Brewery (brewers of Fraoch Heather Ale), and his Scottish Session Ale, Scottish Heavy Ale, Joker IPA and Midnight Sun Porter.  Followed by a Flying Dog firkin and drafts, and arts and crafts 9-11 (see?  One place, one date, three events...............)  and a German beer breakfast the next morning (geez, Bruce D., do you ever SLEEP?)

All Beer Week: a Kegerator raffle at T-Bonz in Ellicott City/Columbia,complete with a full keg of their house beer.

A Championship Series at Frisco Grille in Columbia--see here for an explanation .....

Friday the 8th: Phillips Harborplace Brewfest, Charitably Charmin ChiliBrew, Too, and more.

Saturday the 9th: The Oktoberfest, of course, plus Tap Handles & Homebrew, Made in Baltimore at Mark Supik & Co. in Highlandtown.

Sunday the 10th:  Flying Dog has a charity benefit tailgate in the morning before the Ravens game at (and benefiting) the BARCS animal shelter on Stockholm Street (across the RR tracks from the Stadium, almost underneath the Light Rail bridge).  Jam session Hootenanny and Victory cask at Bertha's (re-birth-place of cask ale in Baltimore) in the evening (hey, Monday's a holiday, remember?).  Urban Pirates Beer Cruise with Heavy Seas Beer as well.

Monday: Another beer breakfast at Metropolitan, "History of Baltimore beer" luncheon at Bertha's, Troeg's beer and cheeses at Grand Cru, Pyrate Pub Crawl of Fells Point (six bars), and Beer Trivia at Metropolitan.

Tuesday: Beer Trivia at Wharf Rat, Judge your Troeg's JavaHead Stout (3 ways) at the Judge's Bench, Beer Dinner at T-Bonz, Unibroue Beer Dinner at Metropolitan.

Wednesday:  What?  Another beer breakfast at Metropolitan?  Breweriana swap meet happy hour at Grand Cru, Heavy Seas firkins at Mahaffey's, Baltimore Brewing Co. mug club reunion at Blue Hill Tavern in Highlandtown, Beer & Baltimore Trivia at T-Bonz, Shantey Sing-Along at Wharf Rat, Meet the Weyerbacher Brewer at Judge's Bench, and more............

MUCH more of this to come when I have more time............  oops, they just added another event.........

City Paper's Best of Baltimore winners

And out comes this year's City Paper "Best of Baltimore" issue, with the emphasis (for us beer geeks, anyway) on the Nightlife section.........

Best Bar, Fells Point: The Cat's Eye Pub

Best Bar, Hamilton:  The Hamilton Tavern

Best Beer Bar:  Max's Taphouse ("Really, would it be anywhere else?")

Best Place to Watch UFC: Pratt Street Ale House

Best Tourist-Friendly Bar:  Duda's Tavern ("...one of the best beer lists west of Max’s...")

Best Local Draft Beer:  Zodiac at The Brewer's Art ("Zodiac features a pale ale’s lower f*ck-you-up percentage—keeping it less than 5 percent—but rotates the type and amount of hops on a monthly basis—12 times a year, you’re gonna get a little something different in your glass.")

In Other Categories:
Local Issue We're Sick Of:  The Bottle Tax
Best Local Blog: The Baltimore Snacker (baltimoresnacker.blogspot.com)
Best Place to Buy Beer:  The Wine Source

Readers' Poll:
Best Local Beer
Winner: Resurrection, Brewer's Art
2nd: Ozzy, Brewer's Art
3rd: Loose Cannon, Heavy Seas
Best Liquor Store:
Winner: Wine Source
2nd: Beltway Fine Wine and Spirits
3rd: Wells Discount Liquors

Much, much more of the issue here, or electricity-free editions in those ubiquitous yellow newspaper boxes scattered downtown or at your favorite retailer or library that has a stack of them..................

21 September 2010

The Dogfish "Randall" is back

Version 3.0 of the Dogfish Head Brewing publicity gimmick/ flavor infuser "Randall the Enamel Animal" is now out and about at selected DFH-friendly venues.  They've supposedly re-engineered the thing to be resistant to the foaming problems that were common with earlier versions.  Furthermore, unlike the earlier versions which more or less only saw fresh or whole-leaf hops added to them, DFH is promoting the use of this device for other flavoring agents as well, such as spices, herbs, or fruit, or (as reportedly tested) espresso beans for the Chicory Stout. 

DFH will be "debuting" the new Randalls at nine bars nationwide tomorrow; sadly, the nearest ones are in Rehoboth Beach (naturally) and Philadelphia.  But no doubt we'll be seeing them here soon enough--one of the nine locations is the Moan & Dove in Amherst, Mass., owned by the same folks who own the newly-opened Alewife downtown; they'll be pumping Midas Touch through Saaz hops.  Other "infusions" include Olde School Barleywine pumped through prunes (!) soaked in 1997 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale (!!!); Palo Santo Marron pumped through coffee beans, and Punkin Ale with fresh roasted pumpkin seeds & cinnamon sticks.

DFH will also start offering built-up units "at cost" through their website for $375.00 beginning Thursday.

(Photo: Dogfish Head Brewery)

20 September 2010

Does the GABF and its medals matter?

So another Great American Beer Festival has come and gone. And with it all the breathless anxiety as beer geeks awaited the pronouncements of the esteemed judges of the winners of gold, silver, and bronze medals in eighty categories.  Many even watched the awards ceremony via live web feed.

I was off enjoying my wife's company on a beach--with some 16 Mile Brewery and New Glarus beers in attendance.

The GABF is always a pack of mixed emotions for me.  On the one hand, the publicity and promotional value of the Festival to both the individual breweries and the craft beer industry as a whole cannot possibly be discounted.  On the other hand, most of the "best" American beers I have had the blessed fortune to run across in our country simply either don't make it to the GABF in the first place or get pushed aside by other competitors.

I've spoken with local and regional brewers across the nation about the GABF, and I almost always get a mix of resignation and delight.  If they go, they like the concept, and they like what results.  As more than one brewer has told me while sweeping their arms towards the display case or wall full of medals from the GABF and other competitions, "You can't tell me that there's no promotional value in those medals.  Of course it's worth the trouble of getting it into the GABF!"

On the other hand, other excellent brewers and breweries are simply hamstrung by the logistics and the expense of getting their beer to Denver.  Think about it:  If you were entering a brewing competition, would you just hand off your kegs or growler to some no-name UPS agent or freight shipper?  Heck, no--you'd personally escort those kegs or growlers to Denver if you could, with a list of dry-ice vendors between here and Denver to replenish your car's cooler.

According to the official statistics, 516 breweries from 48 states and the District competed for medals in 79 categories (plus a "Pro-Amateur" category) with 3,448 actual beer entered (plus 75 additional "Pro-Am" entries).  The Brewers Association itself claims that "Over 1,500 breweries are responsible for the beer brands made in the US with more than 90% of these fitting the small and independent craft brewer definition."  This page puts the number of potential entrants at 1,640.  Even if we cast aside the rare (but no doubt extant) brewery doing nothing but brewing, say, Guinness or Bass for North American consumption, or duplicate Miller or Budweiser or Coors plants, we'd still have way over 1,000 brewpubs and breweries.  So, right off the bat, a good half or more of American brweweries aren't participating in the GABF.

By my rough count, 52 of the medals went to California breweries, and 40 to Colorado breweries, with an additional 26 to breweries in Oregon and Washington.  And even these are wide open to flexible interpretation--for example, Shmaltz Brewing, started in New York City by Jeremy Cowan, is listed as being from San Francisco, California, where some of the beers are now contract-brewed..  I would certainly love to see the GABF rotated to various cities (Baltimore again, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, etc.) if only to level the playing field for competitors.

Then there's the issue of the categories or styles selected.  Fellow bloggers Tom Cizauskas and Martyn Cornell have already addressed the subject recently.  To which I will add a quote from Clipper City/Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson, repeated by fellow "brewer" Volker Stewart: "Are you really going to tell me that there are a couple of hundred IPAs submitted and only three of them deserve medals?"  (For the record, there were 142 entries in Category 47, "American-Style India Pale Ale," which is in and of itself, of course, an oxymoron, considering they don't offer an "English-Style India Pale Ale" category correction noted--see comments......)

Stewart follows with these observations:
[The three-medals-per-category is] a huge drawback to the GABF judging IMHO. I find the World Beer Cup multiple-medal system much more "fair" (although I understand that some folks feel that this "cheapens" the medals...)
I only submitted to GABF once, sending growlers across the country in 1998.  What was enlightening to me was how incredibly subjective the judging was - the wide range of reactions from the same growler was surprising. My favorite line included that I mis-submitted what was clearly a spiced wheat beer (even though there was not a hint of wheat or spice in the beer I sent).
 Another comment from Oliver Breweries/Pratt Street Ale House Head Hunchback Stephen Jones: 

We at Oliver’s haven’t submitted anything to the GABF during my tenure here. I must admit I’m not a big fan of the BJCP style guidelines but I guess at some point we may look to send some beer out there.

More comments from Lew Bryson here.

So whadaya think?  Does the GABF guide you to good stuff or simply give you reason for kvetching? 

A personal aside:  I see that a second location opened by a pre-existing brewpub in Arizona, Lumberyard Brewing in Flagstaff ( a sister to Beaver Street Brewery), has won a gold and a bronze, the former for Imperial Red and the latter for the American-Style IPA........  and they just opened weeks ago............

"Special Delivery..."

"Sign here, please..............  Hey, we jes' deliver 'em.  You're on your own for getting it in."

150-barrel fermentation vessel delivered to Halethorpe, Md. today.  Photo courtesy Clipper City/Heavy Seas.

Stillwater at Max's Tuesday Beer Social tomorrow

From Max's beer-social e-mail update (edited slightly):

We will be debuting Stillwater Ales' newest beer, Autumnal, on cask. Autumnal takes inspiration from Germany with a nod to the Belgian farmhouse tradition. Using two-row barley malt, wheat, CaraMunich malt and roasted barley; hopped with a blend of Perle, Spalt and Hallertau Mittelfruh hops, and fermented with a rustic Belgian Farmhouse Ale yeast.
We will also have Cellar Door on draft and Stateside Saison and Of Love & Regret in bottles.
 Also slated to be available (in fact, probably on already there):

Brew Dog Hardcore
Brew Dog Dogma
Victory Uncle Teddy's Bitter
Heavy Seas Bourbon Aged Loose Cannon
Heavy Seas Bourbon Aged Peg Leg

Marston's Oyster Stout
Pausa Cafe Chicca
Slaapmutske Dry-Hopped lager
Southern Tier Pumpkin
Stillwater Cellar Door
The Bruery Rogbrod
The Bruery Orchard White
The Bruery Trade Winds Triple
Emelisse Witbier
Schlafly Pumpkin
Mikkeller Yeast Series Brett
Mikkeller Yeast Series American
Nogne O Two Captains Double IPA
Piccolo Seson

Piccolo Chiostro
Amager Sundby Stout

Stillwater's Brian Strumke (center) and Belgian-Beer blogger/writer
Chuck Cook at DuClaw's Real Ale Festival Sept. 14th

Oktoberfest at Muggsy's Mug House on Thursday, Sept. 23

This e-mail came in while I was out of town, so I'm late in getting this up:

Hallo, you are cordially invited to join us at Muggsy’s Mug House for Federal Hill’s Original Oktoberfest celebration. Thursday September 23rd the Mug House is kicking off Oktoberfest 2010 with Muggsy’s Muggfest, sponsored by Warsteiner.

Your ticket entitles you to one bottomless 16oz Mug, that you can take home, and 11 different Oktoberfest beers to choose from, as well as a buffet filled with authentic German foods: brats, Sauerkraut, Jagerschnitzel, Soft Pretzels, Rouladen, Potato Salad, and much more. Please join in the fun and wear your best German get-up; there will be games and prizes for the best costume!!

So grab your Lederhosen and get your butts down to the Mug House PROST!

Tickets can be purchased in advance from your bartender ($20) or at the door ($25). Contact Danny for any questions about advance ticket sales at dyoung711@gmail.com or 410-528-9111 (please leave a message).
 Sounds like a good time; sorry I'm spoken for elsewhere that night...........

19 September 2010

Comic Strip of the Day

Today's B.C., maybe a little behind the curve but I'm sure some of us can relate......   Nope, I'm not reprinting it here without permission; just go to the link here.

14 September 2010

Alewife Preview Photos

I got into the "soft" opening of Alewife tonight.  Great beer selection (even if some of the beers, such as Dogfish Head and Stone's beers, were not on yet) and good food, and a staff trying its best to please.

Opens Thursday at 4 PM.  A short walk from Charles Center Metro station, Light Rail, and multiple bus routes.

Md. Comptroller thinks beer buyers don't matter

That's the apparent conclusion one can draw from a survey posted by your friendly Maryland comptroller, which is supposed to survey Marylanders' feelings towards permitting direct wine shipments to Maryland residents.

Apparently, they think only wine drinkers want to take advantage of direct shipments to Maryland consumers.  No consideration for beer drinkers, or single-malt aficionados, or bourbon lovers..........  and goodness help you on the survey if you're looking for Vignoles, or Riesling, or blackberry port, or Vigonier, or mead........

More Fresh Hops

Firkin of Flying Dog's Fresh Hop Ale at Metropolitan on Thursday night, upstairs bar starting @ 6 pm.

Well, at least it wasn't the Feds that shot down those labels.......

Flossmoor Station, an excellent brewpub in southern suburban Chicago (and located in an actual railroad station on the former Illinois Central), is reporting in its blog that its label printer is refusing to print the labels for two of its newest beers, Collaborative Evil and Beezelbeer (a.k.a. batch #666)..

Take a look at the labels and judge for yourself.  Note that the C.E., apparently an annual effort, is the combined efforts of no fewer than eight breweries.

Note also that a former Flying Dog creative offered them a lead on a label printer that apparently would be a little more open-minded.  Gee, you think Flying Dog might know a thing or two along those lines?

Baltimore Beer Week: 85 Events and Counting.......

More events have been added to the official Baltimore Beer Week calendar, and more are being added each day.

Highlights among the new additions:  A party after the Opening Tap event Oct. 7th at Little Havana featuring Victory beers; a "Dog Fight" of Flying Dog, Dogfish, and BrewDog beers (quick! someone sneak in a bottle or keg of Pub Dog's beers!) at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia Oct. 8th; a "Victory Hootinany" (someone tell them it's spelled "hootenanny," please) at Bertha's on the 10th; a "history of Baltimore brewing" luncheon at Bertha's on Columbus Day; and a beer garden concert at Red Brick Station on the 14th.

Also, Scottish "heritage brewer" Bruce Williams of Fraoch Heather Ale fame has just confirmed that he will be in Baltimore from the 7th through the 10th to join the festivities, with pending events to be announced later by distributor Legends Limited.  Stay tuned....

13 September 2010

How to Give Good Head

If that title doesn't earn me a lot of hits, I don't know what will. 

Greg Kitsock of the Washington Post and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News has a WaPo blog post up on the art and science of beer foaming and heads on beers such as Bud, Stella Artois, and Guinness.  An interesting, if quick, read.

11 September 2010

Long-Forgotten Photo......

From July 4th:

Yes, that's Beer Can Chicken with a can of Brewer's Art Resurrection inside of it.

Please don throw things at me, Steve/Volker/Tom/Rob.  It was good.  What can I say?  You knew someone was going to try it......

Eastern Shore Beer Festival Oct. 9-10

Can't get into Baltimore for Baltimore Beer Week?  Or feel like escaping the madness for the Shore?

Salisbury, Maryland is hosting its first beer festival on Oct. 9-10.  The Good Beer Festival is scheduled for 12:30 to 6:30 each day at the town's Pemberton Historical Park, along the Wicomico River west of downtown Salisbury and south of Md. Rt. 349. 

Breweries expected thus far include "hometown" Evolution Brewing, 16 Mile Brewing of Georgetown, Del.; Dogfish Head, Brooklyn, Victory, Rogue, and Anchor.  A total of twenty breweries and 50 beers are expected.

The park is also holding an Autumn Wine Festival the following weekend.

10 September 2010

The latest Fresh Hop update

Clipper City/Heavy Seas recently shipped out several kegs of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon dry-hopped with fresh hops (hey, wait a minute--isn't that an oxymoron?) from Stillpoint Farms.  The (apparent) first of these got tapped at Mahaffey's yesterday--and it is utterly splendid.  The extra dose of hops, crisp and fresh-tasting, perfectly counterbalances the extra alcohol of the Loose Cannon.  Go out of your way to sample this.  Seek it out.  Keep your fingers crossed for the upcoming festivals.

Also at Mahaffey's last night was a firkin of Heavy Seas Hang Ten dopplebock that had been aged in a bourbon barrel.  In spite of the news from the Clipper City reps that the barrel in question had been used already for a couple previous beers and was thus less intense upon the beer than it would have been for earlier batches, I could only come up with three words to describe the result: "Bourbon Bananas Foster."  Your experience/opinion may vary, of course....

Baltimore Beer Festival Tickets Now On Sale

There was apparently a communications hiccup getting this news out, but advance tickets are now on sale for the Baltimore Beer Festival in Canton's Waterfront Park on October 17th--one of the closing events of Baltimore Beer Week.  $35 advance, $40 at the gate (if available), $55 VIP.  Capacity crowd would be 2,500.

09 September 2010

Max's German Fest: The Final Draft List for 2010

Starts tomorrow at 11 AM, 11-2 a.m. through Sunday:

So here we are; tomorrow starts another great German beer fest. We will have 57 German beers on draft, over 20 German beers in bottles, German gravity kegs and a full German inspired food menu.We will have sample size glasses, pints, steins, 1 liter boots and even 2 liter boots.


Schneider Aventinus
Schneider Aventinus Eisbock
Schneider Edel Weisse
Schneider Hopfen Weisse
Baynof Berliner Weisse
Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen
Aecht Schlenkerla Helles
Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock
Leipziger Gose
Erdinger Oktoberfest
Erdinger Weisse
Erdinger Dunkel Weisse
Rothenbach Dark Marzen
Gunther Brau Amber Marzen [any relation to the Gunther Beer of old in Baltimore, I wonder?  >;-) ]
Langbrau Amber Marzen
Ahornberger Dark marzen
Ettaler Klsoter Dunkel
Hostetten Aurora
Hofstetten Bio Hongs Bock
Hofstetten Granit Bock
Hofstetten Kubelbier
Kostitzer Schwartzbier
Wurzburger Pils
Wurzbuger Oktoberfest
Weissenohe Monks Fest
Monschrof Kellerbrau
Bitburger Pils
Julius Echter Hefeweizen
Warsteiner Pils
Warsteiner Dunkel
Warsteiner Oktoberfest
Konings Ludwig Hefeweizen
Spaten Lager
Spaten Oktoberfest
Spaten Optimator
Franziskaner Hefweizen
Franziskaner Dunkel Weizen
Steigl Lager
Mahrs Pils
Mahrs Ungespundet Lager
Mahrs Weisse
Kapuzinger Weizen
Einbecker Brauherren Pils
Einbecker Urbock Dunkel
Einbecker Mai Ur-Bock
Kulmbacher Fest
Tucher Hefweizen
Uerige Sticke
Uerige Classic
Uerige Dopplesticke
Weihenstepahner Hefweizen
Weihenstepahner Dunkel Weizen
Weiehenstaephaner Oktoberfest
Kulmbacher Eisbock



Schneider Aventinus Eisbock
Hartman Amber Marzen

Plus a bunch of others if they show up in time..............

Alewife Baltimore Opens Thursday, Sept. 16th--UPDATED

Boy, that was fast. (Well, it kind of helps to get a place that someone else already turned into a bar.) 

Owner Daniel Lanigan has reported that Alewife Baltimore, the new beer bar restaurant at 21 North Eutaw St. (the former Lucy's/Maggie Moore's, originally the Eutaw Savings Bank Building, built 1857) will open to the public at 4 PM on Thursday, September 16th.  There will be two days of "soft" opening tests by invitation, typical for new restaurants.

The interior, with two 40-tap bars on different floors and a middle level with a balcony and a "vault" room, will be little changed (at least initially) from the Irish-pub days, with the removal of a few Irish-themed bits of decor (such as large Guinness mirrors above the bars) and repainting.  The 40 draft lines are being installed Friday and this weekend, according to Lanigan, who owns two other 40-tap beer bars in western Massachusetts, a third in Cambridge, Mass., and a fourth, more "normal" bar in Boston.  As with the other four locations, cask ales will be a part of the offerings, as will over 100 bottled beers.

Lanigan (seen with the sign that will hang outside soon) also gave a few details about the first beer event planned, the massive Stone "tasting" that begins Friday, Oct. 1st.  Contrary to reports that the event--which will feature no fewer than forty Stone beers on draft, including extremely rare beers and variations on their usual recipes--would be for "one night only," Lanigan said all forty beers would be available through the weekend and through the next week, and then rotated, probably ten at a time, through the bar as other beers are added and tapped with Baltimore Beer Week in mind.  The beers will be available in sample 5-ounce glasses and full servings, but don't get ambitious--Lanigan said that if anyone attempts to order all forty in one sitting, "We won't let 'em.  Forty five-ounce samples, that's over 12 pints in three hours." (Not to mention the expense...)

Lanigan described the restaurant's planned cuisine as "New American, or as I call it, New Viking."  We'll just have to come on by next week to find out just what that's all about, won't we?

08 September 2010

Reason TV's Interview with Anchor's Fritz Maytag

Brought to you by those wacko Libertarians at Reason Magazine.......  Video approximately ten minutes long...
Fritz Maytag, longtime owner and brew master of the Anchor Brewing Company, is a central figure in the story of the American craft beer revolution. When Maytag bought Anchor Brewing Company in 1965, he blazed a new trail in the beer industry. At a time when the market was increasingly dominated by big breweries selling inexpensive, watery lagers, Maytag decided to devote his life to creating more flavorful and traditional beers.
While Maytag worked to improve the quality of Anchor's beer, the number of breweries in the US continued to dwindle, and by 1980 there were fewer than 50 breweries in the United States. But then everything began to change. To the home brewers in the Bay Area who began opening their own small breweries in the 80s and 90s, Maytag was both an inspiration and a mentor. Today, astonishingly, there are more than 1500 breweries in the US.
The craft beer revolution is part of what Maytag calls the "food renaissance." Over the past few decades, economic, political, and cultural freedom—coupled with a uniquely American sense of entrepreneurship—has produced more and better choices for American consumers. Remember how difficult it was to find a decent cup of coffee, let alone an espresso, in the 1970s? Well, today we routinely enjoy outstanding coffee, artisan breads and cheeses, superb California wine and, of course, great American beer.

If the embed above doesn't like your computer, go here for the YouTube page.

Chesapeake Real Ale Fest Update

From Steve Jones at Pratt Street Ale House:

As always it's subject to change (we're at the mercy of the distributors) but the line-up is set to include BrewDog, Lagunitas, Oskar Blues, Flying Fish, Weyerbacher, Troegs, Evolution, Brewer's Art, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Victory, Red Brick Station, Stillwater, DuClaw, Pub Dog, The Raven, DuClaw, and a few surprises!

Baltimore Beer Week: Subtle Changes

This year's Baltimore Beer Week is going to be different from last year's.  If nothing else, Ruddy Duck is coming up to the Timonium Oktoberfest, and the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival is expanding once again. (over 40 firkins promised) AND there's the Sunday Baltimore Beer Festival in Canton.

But this year, the emphasis will be more on quality than quantity.  Rather than simply pack dozens of liquor stores with free beer samplings courtesy of the breweries, there will be a few more wide-ranging and diverse events.

  • Metropolitan is hosting an "Arts & Crafts Night" after the Opening Tap on Thursday, Oct. 7th, with henna tattoos, pumpkin carving, and a firkin of Flying Dog ale;
  • Baltimore-Washington Beer Works, brewers of The Raven Lager, have teamed up with "Baltimore's best beer-guzzling costume rock band, The Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad," for at least two concerts and a video/film contest, at The Windup Space on North Avenue and the Creative Alliance on Eastern Avenue respectively;
  • A repeat of last year's "Blues & Brews" fest at the 8 x 10 (pictured above);
  • A breweriana "swap meet" happy hour at Grand Cru in Belvedere Square;
  • A Brewing History & Appreciation class at Howard County Community College;
  • a "Bacon & Bombers Night" at T-Bonz (perfect for those shut out of this weekend's bacon & beer event at Clipper City);
And more are under planning/development............  check back often at http://www.bbweek.com/events.php for updates.

07 September 2010

In other Washington DC news.....

Washington Post/Mid-Atlantic Brewing News writer Greg Kitsock reports on three new microbrewery projects abuilding in the District: 3 Stars Brewing (potentially 20-barrel brewhouse in Columbia Heights, kegs and bottles), DC Brau (Bladensburg Avenue NE, canning system ordered), and Chocolate City Brewing Co. in the Brookland neighborhood.

I'm not too keen on the last name.  I mean, it's not Hershey.  Maybe they plan cocoa-laden beers?

DC's Brasserie Beck may be opening a Charm City outlet?

The Baltimore Sun's Laura Vozzella reports that the owners of Washington D.C.'s Brasserie Beck, a noted Belgian cuisine-and-beer emporium (warning: splashy/flashy website), are scouting for real estate for a potential Baltimore location.

No, they're not going to be open in time for Baltimore Beer Week.

October 2006 review of the DC location from Esquire.  An internet search will land you many more.

The Weekend's Beer Lineups

THREE beer fests going on this weekend: DuClaw Real Ale in Bel Air, Heavy Seas Bacon & Beer (sold out), and Max's Taphouse German Beer Fest in Fells Point.  (Oh, and "Waynestock" at Mahaffey's in Canton, but that's more about the block party than just the beer--photo above from last year's.)

Dave Benfield of DuClaw just slipped me the cask line-up for the Duclaw shindig:

Stoudts, Red Brick and Troegs have not yet informed us of what they are bringing.

Flying Fish - Exit 16 Wild Rice 2x IPA, and Belgian Abbey Dubbel

Flying Dog - Raging Bitch, and Gonzo Imperial Porter

Stillwater - Stateside Saison, and Cellar Door

Heavy Seas- Loose Cannon, and Pale Ale

Stone - Arrogant Bastard, and Ruination IPA

Barley & Hops - Double Deuce DIPA, and Hoptopsy ESB

Pratt Street - Harvest Ale (amber ale) w/honey and Maryland-grown fresh hops (Cascade & Chinook), & dry-hopped with MD grown Cascade & Chinook; and Iron Man Pale Ale dry-hopped with Kent Goldings

Dog Brewing - Bourbon Coffee Stout (brewed with coffee and aged on bourbon barrels); and Peach Tart - Peach beer with a "tang", brewed with real peach juice

Brewer's Alley - New Moon Ale, and Oatmeal Stout w/ Vanilla

Franklins - Milk Stout, and Hop Zen

Brewer's Art - Monument Belgian Pale Ale, and Coup de Boule

and of course our six:
Double Dry Hopped 2010 Serum
Peppermint & Chocolate Infused Bad Moon Porter
Chocolate Raspberry Imperial Rye Porter (X-1 with a kick of raspberry!)
Double Spiced 31 (2x the cinnamon and nutmeg)
Dark Cherry & Vanilla Infused Black Jack Stout
Diablo Noir (a blend of Devils Milk 2009 and Black Jack 2008.

Benfield reports that about 60 tickets are left, and online sales stop Thursday evening; any remaining tickets will be available at the door on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Heavy Seas/ Clipper City shindig is sold out, so y'all that are going there will get what you get.  And it's likely to be very good, if last year was any indication.  Book your cardiologist appointment now.  And look out for that character above.  

Still awaiting a final German beer menu run-down from Max's..............

Do you "long for a simpler, go-to brew"?

Philadelphia's "Joe Sixpack" (a.k.a. Don Russell) had a column last Friday in which he suggests that a lot of craft beer fans have "this yearning for something basic - a beer that is simply refreshing, with a flavor that doesn't completely overwhelm the palate." With that, he launched a discussion of the concept of "the go-to beer": "Everybody's go-to beer is different, and it may even change over time. It may not be your favorite beer, for that's something you'll save for special occasions. But it's not dumbed-down, either."

Do you?  Frankly, I don't.  When I've done or read polls asking this question in the past, I've found that roughly 50% of craft beer fans I come across profess to have a favorite or two--one that they buy by the case, always have in the house or Kegerator, and woe to them if they run out. 

The other half or so--of which I'm a member--apparently believes variety is the spice of life, and seemingly ask "huh?" at the above proposition.  When I'm looking for a beer, three principal factors guide my selection aside from "I'll probably have to write about this beer for my MABN column/articles":

*Is it a new or different beer from either a reliably good brewer, someone new to the market/my area, or just something oddball and innovative?
*Is it a great beer at a good value for the money?  (Look at the sale shelf at Wells or the "clearance" bottle specials at Max's Taphouse as examples.  Extreme real-life examples: Thomas Hardy's Ale for $5 a bottle at a bar or $2 retail; Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for $2 a tumbler; Heavy Seas Loose Cannon firkin free for the sampling.....)
*If neither of the two above apply (say I've been taken out for dinner at a restaurant with a so-so beer list), is there anything I'm in the mood for or that would match the cuisine, atmosphere, etc.?

I very rarely make it to the last one.  The first two usually rule the day.  And I normally don't go into ANY bar where I can't find something at least up to the standard of a Dogfish Head 60-Minute, a Resurrection, or the like.

And I also don't have standard "go-to" dishes in my kitchen or on my travels.  On the road, I'll look for whatever fits my mood and wallet at the moment, and often that's dictated by whatever advertised special or coupons I see: 2 for $2/$3/whatever burgers, subs, etc.  Or I'll seek out the local cuisine, fish shack, BBQ joint, or whatever.  Once I get the sushi, BBQ, Indian, lobster, Thai, steak, pizza, or whatever kick taken care of, I'm good for weeks or months.  My daily drink is a gallon of "tea of the day"--whatever random compilation of cheap tea and flavorings I pull together at the moment, and between my tea chest and spice rack almost anything can happen, including hopped tea.  (As I type: loose-leaf Eastern Shore Tea Co. Black Raven blackcurrant-flavored tea atop cheap tagless tea bags.)

So let me ask:  If you have a "go-to beer," do you also have a go-to "comfort food," musical group (yes, brewer with 210 cuts of Blur on his iPod, I'm looking at you), TV show, or anything of that ilk?  Are those like me who "play the field" or play "name that beer" at Max's Taphouse suffering from promiscuity or attention-deficit disorders?  Why do those of you who want a Yuengling Porter or Victory Prima Pils or Dogfish 60 every day or regularly want the "same ol' same ol'"?

(Of course, you can just do what Joe Sixpack's readers/commenters did and just name your "go-to" beer in order to "represent," but I'm looking for more in-depth discussion.)

04 September 2010

Homebrew Extravaganza for Baltimore Beer Week at Little Havana

Nope, Little Havana is not replacing all its draft lines with homebrew.  You might wish.

But on Wednesday, Oct. 13th, Little Havana, the waterside club near the Baltimore Museum of Industry on Key Highway, is hosting a "Homebrew Extravaganza" from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.  The event is little more than this Facebook page at the moment and has not yet been added to either Little Havana's website schedule or the official BBW schedule on the website, but stay tuned.  And if you're fast enough, start brewing up a batch to take there (pending the sanction of the organizers, of course).

03 September 2010

Maryland's First Modern-Era Cidery Opens Tomorrow

The full story will be held for Mid- Atlantic Brewing News, but Maryland's first commercial hard-cider production facility of the post-Prohibition era is set to open tomorrow to the public with a day of events and tours.

Distillery Lane Ciderworks has been somewhat of a secret among members of Brewers United for Real Potables for several years now, as the orchard waited for over 2,000 cider apple trees, planted in 2001-02, to produce enough apples for commercial production.  The time has come, and the cidery is opening to the public this weekend with some of the first cases of 750-ml capped bottles ready for purchase.

For those that don't know it, not every apple makes a good hard cider.  Most non- fermented "sweet cider" (the brown, cloudy stuff you see in the jugs in your supermarket or farmers' markets) is made from whatever apples are lying around, usually the cosmetically-imperfect ones that would languish unsold in a produce stand or supermarket.  This can be a mix of eating, baking, or other apples depending on the orchard.  Alcoholic or "hard" cider, on the other hand, is best fermented with specific apple varieties that lend particular characteristics to the finished product--high sugars, aroma, tartness to balance the sugars, etc.  Many of the apple varieties that make ideal cider will never be found on a farmer's market stand, even if the orchard is selling heirloom or antique varieties of apples.  (When was the last time you saw Champagne grapes at a produce stand?  Or Chardonnay, or Riesling, or Vigonier, or Vignoles?  And when was the last time you saw good wine made from Concord or other eating grapes?)

I sampled some test bottles at the cidery last weekend; suffice it to say that they were probably the best ciders I have ever tasted, and that includes way too many English and North American commercial ciders.

Distillery Lane Ciderworks is located at 5533 Gapland Road just southeast of Burkittsville in northwestern Frederick County, west of Frederick in the shadow of South Mountain.  For those so inclined, Gathland State Park is on the top of South Mountain on the other side of Burkittsville and makes a nice picnic or nature hike stop.

If you're going out that way, bring me back another bottle.  Or six.

World's "oldest" beer found in shipwreck? We'll see.....

CNN is reporting that a stash of still-full beer bottles has been discovered alongside a shipment of champagne discovered in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea:

"At the moment, we believe that these are by far the world's oldest bottles of beer," Rainer Juslin, permanent secretary of the island's ministry of education, science and culture, told CNN on Friday via telephone from Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland Islands.
"It seems that we have not only salvaged the oldest champagne in the world, but also the oldest still drinkable beer. The culture in the beer is still living."
Juslin said officials had talked to a local brewer about whether the new-found beer might be able to yield its recipe after experts decipher the brew's ingredients.
The newest find came as divers unearthed bottles separate from the earlier champagne find. While lifting a few to the surface, one exploded from pressure. A dark fluid seeped from the broken bottle, which they realized was beer.
All the cargo on the ship -- including the beer and champagne -- is believed to have been transported sometime between 1800 and 1830, according to Juslin. He said the wreck was about 50 meters deep (roughly 164 feet) in between the Aland island chain and Finland.
The cargo was aboard a ship believed to be heading from Copenhagen, Denmark, to St Petersburg, Russia. It could have possibly been sent by France's King Louis XVI to the Russian Imperial Court.
There is, of course, a precedent for the concept of brewing a beer with shipwrecked beer yeast: Flag Porter, a porter brewed to an 1850 recipe using yeast salvaged from bottles uncovered in an 1825 shipwreck in the English Channel.   This beer was originally contract brewed by Elgood's Brewery in England, and later by Darwin Brewery in Sunderland (northeast England).  It appears that Darwin has ceased production of Flag Porter, at least for the time being (no reference to it on their website except an old mention in a book), and Legends, the former importer, reports that it changed to a different importer earlier this year......

(Tip o' the hat: Jack Curtin's Liquid Diet.  Photo from Associated Press.)

Bryson: "Underage Drinking. . .is not the problem"

Read the whole thing, including the link to a New Zealand post he provides:

What we need to do...is have a serious national discussion about why so many Americans drink solely to get drunk; not lightly buzzed, or socially lubricated, or blissed, but loose-limbed nasty drunk. We need to talk about why we do it, about how dangerous that is in the short and long term, and about how we can stop. We need to change the drinking culture in this country...and no one has a clue on how to do that without Prohibition-type thinking.

02 September 2010

Red Brick Station/WMAR text contest

WMAR-TV is sponsoring a cell phone text contest, with prize of $100 and $50 gift cards to Red Brick Station, the brewpub in White Marsh.  See here for entry information, rules, and conditions.  (Alternate entry by mail offered.)

Baltimore Beer Week: Start Your Planning Calendars

The searchable database at the Baltimore Beer Week website--the official "schedule" at the momnent--is up and being added to at http://www.bbweek.com/events.php.  Thus far, 28 events are formally listed, and I have been hearing from brewery and venue representatives who have been anxiously awaiting the chance to add the official events as soon as possible.

01 September 2010

Chesapeake Real Ale Festival Tickets On Sale!

In addition to the Baltimore Beer Week Opening Tap tickets which went on sale hours ago, tickets are now also on sale for the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival at the Pratt Street Ale House Oct. 16th, 1-6 PM.  $35 advance, $45 at door (if available); $55 VIP (limited to 50).  Details and sales here.