28 January 2011

Expansion Underway at Pratt Street Ale House

Pratt Street Ale House owner Justin Dvorkin let slip the news during a visit today:

"We've taken a lease on the property next to us," he said quietly of the former sports bar at 200-202 W. Pratt Street.  "We wanted to buy it outright, but the owner wasn't willing to sell just yet.  It's going to give us more options, including, first and foremost, the ability to expand the Real Ale Festivals.  We'll have control of the whole sidewalk property.  In addition, we'll be able to offer such things as a private party bar for the conventions."

The bar, run for the last couple years as The Nest and before that as DSX (Downtown Sports Exchange), closed in late 2010; it is laid out differently and separately from its neighbor, with a plethora of large video screens.  Although it was more typically the mass-market beer alternative to its neighboring brewpub, it had offered at least a few token craft brews such as Brewers Art Resurrection and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA in recent years.

27 January 2011

Post #1000: Mikkeller "1000 IBU"

Yes, close to three years now (actual "birthday" is February 14th), and this is officially Post Number 1,000 as far as Blogger.com is counting (and we'll conveniently disregard a handful of posts retroactively deleted, plus updated ones).

I was hoping to review a 1999 bottle of Dominion Millennium for the occasion, but the bottle I thought I had seems to have absconded into the custody of "The Thing That Lives Under Sandy's Stuff."  Steve Jones had offered to split a bottle of Bell's Batch 10,000 today while brewing Oliver Breweries' 18th-anniversary smoked porter, but the nasty weather of the past 24 hours interfered with those plans.  Therefore, without further ado:

Mikkeller 1000 IBU, 9.6% Danish Imperial IPA, served on draft at Max's Taphouse:  Casey says as he serves it, "It's not actually a thousand IBU's!"  Very hazy, deep amber/tan, fine-foamed head akin to a Guinness or well-pumped cask ale, with low carbonation, a head that seemingly could last forever.  The nose is initially subdued thanks to the aforementioned head.  The first sip is an outright assault--enough hop bitterness and acidity to etch the back of the throat, and maybe the teeth.  There is seemingly no malt backbone or character to this at all, at least for the first half of the glass--seemingly the only purpose of the malt is as bread and egg are to the crabcake, a binder.  And seemingly the only purpose of the alcohol in this is as a partial balance.  Over halfway through the glass, the beer finally acclimates to the throat--somewhat.  This beer, like BrewDog's Nanny State, was brewed either as a gimmick or to prove a point, and that point may well be "people will drink hop extract if you market it correctly."  Two-thirds of the way through the glass, I'm getting a headache; at the bottom of the glass, my stomach briefly reacts negatively.

As described in the comments to an earlier post, this beer rates extremely highly with regular reviewers at BeerAdvocate.com, to the extent that more negative reviews left by less frequent brewers were weighted heavily against being incorporated into the total average.  This beer is guaranteed to be as polarizing as major political figures or commentators.  You like hops that much?  Go get it.  Myself, I'll reach for the much better Heavy Seas Thank You, Thank You Very Much if I see any of it again.....

Oh, and the steam locomotive in the last post?  New York Central 999, now preserved at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago..

26 January 2011

National Bohemian to return to draft in Crabby Charm City

As per Erik Maza of the Baltimore Sun:
National Bohemian will be available on tap for the first time in over 15 years, starting Feb. 3, owner Pabst Blue Ribbon announced. The company has pre-sold an initial run of 300 kegs to over 80 locations, mainly in Greater Baltimore, and extending to Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties. . . .

The return of draft Boh will be celebrated with keg tapping parties at seven area locations, starting at Canton's Nacho Mamas on Feb. 3. Brewer's Art in Mount Vernon, Frazier's in Hampden and the Hamilton Tavern will also host Boh parties.
(The reason for the selected image will be apparent in the next post....)

25 January 2011

Heavy Seas Real Ale & BBQ Fest March 26th

You know the drill.  Tickets ($49 each) officially go on sale tomorrow for the Heavy Seas Real Ale & BBQ Fest March 26th, noon to 4 PM.  Don't cry at me if they sell out and you didn't get a ticket.

New Belgium expanding to Md. market in late 2011

DC Beer has a hold of a press release (not yet on the company's website) from New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado saying that they intend to expand to the Maryland, DC, and Virginia markets in September 2011.

Well, at least it'll (eventually) quiet down those regional folks who seem to insist that Fat Tire is the greatest thing since, say, Samuel Adams.  Or New Albion.

1,000 IBUs?

Maybe I should save this post for my 1,000th blog post.

Casey at Max's Taphouse reports that he just put this beer on draft:

That's right, it's supposed to be 1,000 International Bittering Units.  It's been kicking around for a year or so, and lots of folks on BeerAdvocate just had to try it and rate it--over 100, at least, and they seem to like it, but remember that this is the Beer Advocate crowd......

Let's see what a small sample costs me.

That Bill to raise Md. alcohol taxes.......

..... now has a name and a number for 2011, Senate president "Mike" Miller notwithstanding:  The Lorraine Sheehan Health and Community Services Act of 2011, or House Bill 121:

Supporters of the tax increase say it would generate about $215 million in revenue for Maryland. As outlined in the bill, money raised by the tax would expand state Medicaid coverage, provide services for people with developmental disabilities and mental health needs and offer alcohol and drug prevention and treatment programs.
If passed, the tax would raise the wholesale tax on beer from $0.09 to $1.16 per gallon; on wine from $0.40 to $2.96 per gallon; and on spirits from $1.50 per gallon to $10.03 per gallon.
That’s an average increase of 6.6 percent in alcohol prices. For the occasional drinker, that equates to an extra $11 per year, studies show.
From the revenue generated, the bill would dole out the following:
• 34 percent to the Maryland Medicaid Trust Fund;
• 15 percent to the state’s Mental Health Care Fund;
• 15 percent to the state’s Developmental Disability Support Fund;
• 15 percent to the state’s Addiction Treatment, Prevention and Recovery Fund;
• 6.2 percent to the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Fund;
• 2.1 percent to the Health Care Personnel Training Fund;
• and the remaining revenue to the state’s General Fund.  [For the record, that's 12.5%.  I wonder why they didn't just say that.....  actually, no, I don't.]
Note that the distribution of tax receipts is markedly different from the original proposal of last year (PDF format).

Here's last year's version of the House bill. The current version has yet to be posted.

More in the Baltimore Business Journal.  And you can quickly see, or cue, the inevitable "war of words" between proponents ("only a dime a drink") and opponents ("1,189% increase!")...........

And who the heck is Lorraine Sheehan?  See here.

"A Gordon for me, a Gordon for...." Well, not any more......

A Gordon for me, a Gordon for me
If you're nae a Gordon  yer nae use tae me
The Black Watch are braw, the Seaforths and a'
But the cocky wee Gordon's the pride o' them a'!
The refrain of a Scots song, supposedly the response of a fair maiden being courted by "Geordie McKay of the H.L.I." (the Highland Light Infantry) who is more taken by members of the Gordon Highlanders instead, comes to mind when reading the news of why the Oskar Blues heavyweight beer formerly known as Gordon will now be re-branded "G'Knight" (indeed, a few tap handles have already shown up with this new name):

BeerNews and DCBeer report that the name change came about because of a trademark-infringement cease-and-desist order filed by Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries, owner of the Gordon Biersch chain.

BeerNews cites what had apparently been posted on the Oskar Blues website: “It’s brewed in tribute to Gordon Knight, a Colorado craft beer pioneer and Vietnam vet who died fighting a 2002 wild fire outside of our Lyons hometown.”  Thus the new name, both a tribute and a cute pun.

Reaction to the cease-and-desist action by GB is hot and heavy in the comments at the sites linked above; I don't even want to think what it looks like at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.............  To say nothing of reports floating about that at least one Rock Bottom brewer in Oregon has quit rather than accept new brewing orders from Craftworks............  Craftworks had better hope their locations aren't dependent upon craft beer geeks and independent-brewer enthusiasts......

(This Scottish-themed post is brought to you, appropriately enough, on Burns Day, or the observance of Robert Burns' birth date.)

Stillwater to brew double-Anniversary beer for Max's Taphouse

Label approved, from the label copy:

“Quickly after hatching the brainchild that has become Stillwater Artisanal, our good friend and cellar-master extraordinaire, Casey Hard of Max’s Taphouse stepped right up to have us debut our first public release during their annual Belgian Beer Festival. This year, the fest marks our first anniversary and 2011 also signifies 25 years of Max’s. For this occasion we crafted an elegantly deep, dark ale that features elements of roast, light smokiness, and beautiful fruity esters attributed to the Belgian yeast strain used. Thanks for an amazing first year.”
Expect this to show up during the Max's Belgian Fest, Feb. 18-20th.

24 January 2011

T-Bonz Pinta & Pancakes III, Jan. 30th

Baltimore Beer Guy has the details of this Hawaiian-themed beer non-dinner food event at T-Bonz on Sunday--free pancakes, pay-as-you-go beer.  $5 cover for the music; more details here.

19 January 2011

A new local beer-review blog: Balted Marley

Here's a blogger that's apparently trying to write up a review on every beer he can get (well, eventually) at The Perfect Pour liquor store in Columbia.

Given the rate he's been reviewing so far and the quantity of selection at The Perfect Pour, that'll probably hold him for about a decade or so.

18 January 2011

Quick Notes Around Baltimore UPDATED

  •  A firkin of Stone IPA at Alewife Baltimore (who needs to update their website) Wednesday afternoon/evening.
  • Heavy Seas reps remind me that Thursday will see what is supposed to be the first firkin at the Hudson Street Stackhouse in Canton, a cask of Loose Cannon.  Hugh Sisson will be doing the honors starting at 6 PM, though they tell me the cask should be tapped at 5.
  • On the other side of the harbor, Metropolitan will be helping Oliver/PSAH brewer Steve Jones celebrate his birthday with a cask of his new Godgifu, a 7.2% nut brown brewed with chestnuts and aged on French oak.  Also on tap: his Strongman Pale Ale; go ask him what the latest twist to this beer is.
  • A Light Rail ride north up to Mount Washington, The Falls has installed the first two craft beer "DraftMaster" self-service tap tables in the Baltimore region.  The self-service tables, marketed in the region since last September, typically use the nitro gas mix used to pour Guinness, and other units (one at Tir na nOg in Harborplace) do so, but The Falls is using their two table units to let customers pour their own Troegs, Dogfish Head, or other craft beers.   
  • Now on tap at Pratt Street Ale House: Meridian, a 6.4% dark, generously hopped rye ale, available only at PSAH and Meridian Pint in D.C. for a limited time.  Coming soon, according to brewer Steve Jones: "On the brewing schedule for next week ... "eighteen", a smoked porter, to be brewed on the 18th Anniversary of the first Oliver's brew day ... the recipe wrote itself ... 18lbs of chocolate malt, 18 lbs of smoked malt, 18 lbs of crystal malt .... you get the picture!"
  • Flying Dog is set to release two new beers in February: draft-only Single Hop El Dorado, a 10%  I2PA using exclusively El Dorado hops in the brew kettle and hopback; and Lucky S.O.B, a draft-only Ir.........  no, no, there comes a point when even I'm not feeding the publicity-gimmick monster.  Go see for yourself.

    Delia Foley's, Federal Hill

    Delia Foley's is the new name of the McFaul project that was to be called Catherine's, at Fort and Charles in Federal Hill.  It sneaked open quietly on Friday.

    One could easily ask if this city needs yet another Irish pub, but the "Irish pub" as a cliche has definitely seen better days in Baltimore and environs.  Several places that had reckoned themselves as Irish pubs--including the European Union, Angelina's, and Sean Bolan's--have gone away, leaving the field dominated by the "big Kahunas" of Mick O'Shea's, James Joyce, Ryan's Daughter, and An Poitin Still, plus the venerable Irish musicians' gathering place, J. Patrick's in Locust Point, and historic Patrick's of Pratt Street (and I have trouble taking seriously a place that advertises itself as an "Irish wine and cappuccino bar").

    At first appearances, this place seems to be compromising nicely between the typical expectations of the American image of an "Irish bar"--big TVs for sports, the typical Guinness/Harp/Smithwick's/Kilkenny on tap, bottles of Jameson--and the not-insignificant craft beer market in Federal Hill.  On tap today were, among the sixteen taps, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning, Leininkugel's Fireside Nut Brown, Olivers Irish Red, Flying Dog Gonzo, Breckenridge Agave Wheat, and Goose Island IPA.  The bottles/cans are an interesting mix so far, including the old standbys such as Corona Light and Rolling Rock but also Chimay Red, Raven, Oskar Blues Old Chub, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Sierra Nevada Glissade, Starr Hill The Gift and Northern Lights, and Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout.

    Happy hour 4-7, half-priced drafts (I paid $2.50 for a Goose Island IPA).

    15 January 2011

    Stillwater Beer Dinner at Alonso's Jan. 27th

    At Alonso's in Roland Park Thursday, Jan. 27th beginning 6:00 pm: Four-course beer dinner featuring five Stillwater beers. Quesadilla, seafood bouillabaisse, braised short ribs, chocolate lava cake. Bar seating $50, table $55, at the door $60 if available. Contact or stop by the pub for full menu and beer details.

    12 January 2011

    Alcohol "10-cent-a-drink" tax now seems uncertain in Md. Senate

    Yeah, that proposed "ten-cent-a-drink" tax on alcoholic beverages that seemed so certain, in the eyes of other commentators, to pass through the Maryland legislature?

    Not so fast.......

    Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller this morning had sobering words for those advocating a hike on beer, wine and liquor taxes: The proposal is "nonsense," he said.
    "It is not going to happen," said Miller, who has instead pushed for a hike in the state's gas tax.
    Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Gov. Martin O'Malley participated this morning in an annual legislative issue forum hosted by radio host Marc Steiner. The conversations were largely dominated by talk of budget cuts.

    Part of the problem, according to radio commentary heard at WBAL Radio this morning, is that the proposed alcohol tax increase was formerly targeted at--and tied specifically to--raising funds to assist the disabled with medical care.  As predicted by some cynics (including this blogger), the legislature now seems more inclined to instead take the proceeds from this proposed tax increase for the general fund--thus making the tax increase a harder sell to the public.

    Clipper City/Heavy Seas founder and Maryland microbrewery pioneer Hugh Sisson, in  a conversation last night, acknowledged a need for the state to raise taxes, even on alcohol, but said that the "dime a drink" terminology was being used to disguise the fact that, in the end, the typical consumer would be paying "an additional $4-5 a case" of beer, or a dollar or more a six-pack, once the tax reached the retail level.

    11 January 2011

    Cask Ale This Week--and lots of it! UPDATED

    Quick updates:

    *Heavy Seas releases their new 8% imperial chocolate stout, Siren Noire, at Alonso's in Roland Park tonight.  Hugh Sisson should be in attendance, weather permitting (there's that snow threatening us, after all).  Also on draft, four other Heavy Seas beers.  Alonso's Tuesday night special is lobster, though, so BYOB (bring your own bib, as they say).........
    UPDATE: Also to be tapped is the "last" firkin (quotation marks are Alonso's, not mine) of Thank You, Thank You Very Much.

    *Should you miss out on that and/or live out west of the city, a firkin will be tapped on Thursday at the Phoenix Emporium, the beer bar down at the bottom of the hill in downtown Ellicott City, across the street from the Ellicott City B&O Station Museum and the tiny-but-excellent liquor retail establishment Carpe Vinum.  Tapped at 7 PM, accompanied by 25-cent wings 7-close. 

    *Too far away for that firkin?  It's the usual Thursday Cask Night at Max's Taphouse, with a twist: it's also the January meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Branch of the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood.  It's open to the public, and you can join the SPBW there for a year's worth of benefits, which include, right off the bat, two members-only events on the annual schedule, one in January.  $10 cash at a meeting or $11 online with PayPal.
    On the beer engines:  RCH Steam Carnival,  Victory Yakima Glory, BFM Douze, RJ Rockers Patriot (dry hopped), and Wells Bombardier.  Firkins on the bar: Williams Bros. Joker,  Evolution Lot 6, Stillwater Autumnal.

    *Thursdays is also Firkin Night at Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar in Federal Hill:  RCH Old Slug Porter from England:  "In the old brewery we had a problem with slugs getting into the brewery. As the beer leaves a trail down the glass as you drink it like a slug, that's how the beer was named. A delicious traditional porter with a full bodied taste of chocolate, coffee, blackcurrant and black cherry with a good aroma. A near black colour with a good white head when served through a tight sparkler."  .

    *And if my clock and Blogspot's agree with one another, this will be posted at 11:11 on 1-11-11.....

    *Late addition: DuClaw gets in on the cask action on Friday with locally-grown hops:
    Get to DuClaw Brewing Company of Arundel Mills, Bel Air or Bowie January 14th, 2011 at 5pm for a Firkin Friday treat like no other... Double Dry Hopped Black Locust Venom. We have taken our Venom Pale Ale and given it a second dry hopping of Cascade hops in the firkin. But these Cascade hops come hand tendered from the Black Locust Farms in Northern Maryland.
    In 2007, three friends with a shared passion for hops began an arduous journey toward a lofty goal: Building their own hop farm... from scratch, and Black Locust Farms (named for the locally collected trees used to create the farm's hop trellis) was conceived. After nearly four years of back-breaking labor and painstaking attention to craftsmanship, Black Locust Cascade hops are here... and they're in our beer!
    More on the farm (well, not a lot, but enough) at the farm's website.

    07 January 2011

    Want to Make Wild Goose for a Year or Two?

    Erik Maza of the Baltimore Sun finally tracked down Jeff Harrison, one of the folks behind the Logan Shaw start-up "nanobrewery" in D.C., and the buyers of the Wild Goose brand. 

    It appears they're looking for someone else in the region to contract-brew the brand for 2011 and possibly part of 2012, as they new operation doesn't plan to have a brewery operation ready at the about-to-be-leased Waldorf, Md. location for 18 months or so.  (And given the delays to a lot of local brewery/pub projects in this area, they might do well to plan for 24 months or more, unless they're the other winners in the big lottery drawing recently.)

    At least they finally put some content up on their website.

    06 January 2011

    Never Said About Restaurant Websites

    Shamelessly flinched from the Baltimore Sun's Dining @ Large blog:

    Ever consulted a restaurant or brewpub website in hopes of finding out quick and basic information--when they're open, whether they're still serving that barleywine or firkin, whether the menu is vegetarian-friendly, whether they have a cover charge on weekends--and come up frustrated or screaming at the flashy graphics and lack of accessible data?

    Enjoy Never Said About Restaurant Websites.

    DuClaw Old Flame coming out next week

    Since they closed their Fells Point outlet, I don't normally pay as much attention here to DuClaw as it would otherwise rate, but I just happen to like the old ale style of beer, so....

    The brewery's Old Flame (7.5%, 37 IBUs) will be released at the usual release parties at the chain's Arundel Mills, Bowie, and Bel Air locations on the evenings of Wednesday the 12th and Thursday the13th.

    More Brewer Musical Chairs: Barley & Hops in Frederick

    From an e-mail from the brewer:

    Will Golden, the brewer at the Barley & Hops brewpub in Frederick, is resigning as of Jan. 14th (next Friday) to take a position at Austin Beerworks, a just-starting-up micro (with a canning line) in the namesake Texas capital city.

    His replacement/successor: Larry Pomerantz from Flying Dog.

    05 January 2011

    The Booze Monopolies in Pa. and Va. In Jeopardy?

    Reason.com has a quick essay covering efforts by legislatures in four states (including nearby Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina) to kill state-controlled monopolies on the sale of wine and spirits.  These "monsters" have proven unusually resistant in the past to efforts to drive stakes through their hearts, but there seems to be a renewed sense of optimism in 2011.

    Granted, these measures/proposals don't directly affect beer (unless the insane Keystone State requirement that beer only be sold in case lots from distributors, except in bars/delis at bar prices, also falls), but changes in the overall booze market tend to indirectly affect beer.  Imagine if--and I really must be consuming something narcotic here--Pennsylvania were to allow supermarket sales of booze?

    (A reminder that fellow writer Lew Bryson maintains a separate blog devoted exclusively to the inanities and insanities of Pennsylvania's LCB and the efforts to abolish same....)

    Six Microbreweries Opening Soon Around D.C.: Washington Post

    The Washington Post's (and American Brewer's and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News') Greg Kitsock reports in today's paper (and website) on six (yes, six) microbreweries slated to open around the Washington D.C. area/suburbs in the coming few months.  And this article doesn't even include Logan Shaw, the erstwhile purchasers of the Wild Goose brand.

    So one might ask:  What does Washington D.C. have that Baltimore doesn't?  After all, Baltimore reputedly has the better brewing water............

    (My cynical answer: a recession-proof economy driven by the Federal government and bureaucracy.  Meanwhile, we peons out here in the real world wait patiently............)

    04 January 2011

    Jan. Belgian Fest at Victoria Gastro Pub

    Can't wait until Max's Belgian Fest next month?  Columbia's Victoria Gastro Pub will offer you a "warm-up" or training course beginning tomorrow:

    at Victoria Gastro Pub!

    Begins Wednesday, January 5th at 5:00 pm

    Featuring 18 of the World's Best
    Belgian Brews
    On Tap All at Once:

    Augustijn Grand Cru
    Bourgogne de Flandres
    Cherish Framboise
    Duchesse de Bourgogne
    Gulden Draak Vintage
    La Rulles Winter
    Liefmans Lambic Cuvee Brut
    Malheur 12
    N’Ice Chouffe
    Petrus Winter
    Piraat Ale
    Saison Dupont
    Scaldis Peche Mel
    Scaldis Winter
    St. Bernardus Abt. 12
    St. Feuillien Blanche
    Tripel Karmeliet
    Troubador Magma
    Okay, so it's not 100+ Belgian drafts.  It's also not in Fells Point, and it has a parking lot.  That's a big plus for a lot of folks.

    VGP is also holding a Flying Dog Beer Dinner (almost sold out as of this writing, $85 per person) on Jan. 11th, as well as a 24-tap "Flying Dog Tap Takeover" on Feb. 6th.

    We Don't Care How Successful They Are, We're STILL Calling Them Micro-- errrr, Craft Breweries!

    The Brewers Association, the national trade group representing brewers large and small (but mostly small), has revamped its technical definition of "microbrewery" "craft brewery":

    In the BA's craft brewer definition, the term "small" now refers to any independent brewery that produces up to 6 million barrels of traditional beer. The previous definition capped production at 2 million barrels. The changed definition is currently in effect and can be reviewed on the BA website, BrewersAssociation.org. The change to the bylaws went into effect December 20, 2010.
    The change is meant in part to recognize a potential pending statistical abberation:
    The industry's largest craft brewer, The Boston Beer Company, is poised to become the first craft brewer to surpass 2 million barrels of traditional beer within the next few years. Loss of The Boston Beer Company's production in craft brewing industry statistics would inaccurately reflect on the craft brewing industry's market share.
    In addition to Boston Beer, the current growth trajectory of other sizable BA member breweries [among them Anchor and Sierra Nevada] places them on a course approaching the 2 million barrel threshold in the coming years.
    Andy Crouch has much more to say on the issues here.

    02 January 2011

    Another Stillwater "one-of-a-kind" at Max's Tuesday

    From the Max's Tuesday Beer Social e-mail:

    This Tuesday we are proud to announce that Max's will be hosting one of the releases for the new Stillwater / Mikkeller collaboration beer. Both these guys are gypsy brewers renting brewery space around the globe.Brian meet Mikkel at a fest in the Netherlands and they both figured out that they both have a beer called Stateside.So they decided to collaborate on a new beer taking both of their recipes and making it into one, great new beer. This is a mix of Stillwater Stateside Saison and Mikkeller Stateside IPA.

    So, Stillwater /Mikkeller Our Side is a new product packed full of piney, resinous hops, and backed by the esters of a farmhouse yeast strain.

    We will have the regular version on cask and the Dry hopped in French Oak Version on Cask.

    This is going to go quickly and may never be seen again, so I would get down the Max's this Tuesday to get some.
     Yeah, I second that motion............  If you can't be there, there will also be casks at ChurchKey in D.C., , Rustico Restaurant in Ballston, Va. and Rattle & Hum in New York City--all at 6 PM EST Tuesday.  Blink and you'll miss it.