26 July 2011

Putting a Rumor to Rest.....

Contrary to any rumors that may have started from this spectacle, there is NO merger in progress between the English-themed Pratt Street Ale House in downtown Baltimore and the firehouse-themed Red Brick Station in White Marsh.

(The Pierce Manufacturing Co ladder truck was parked across the street from the main entrance of the Baltimore Convention Center for the Firehouse Expo last week, as a showpiece by the manufacturer.)

Hop Mania at Frisco Tap House Aug. 31st

It just goes to show that Max's isn't the only Taphouse in the Baltimore region that can pull off big events like this anymore.  And that's a good thing.  Spread the love, and get something out there for the folks that can't/won't go into Baltimore or D.C.

Frisco Taphouse Festivus Humulus Lupulus

Wednesday, August 31 at 6:00pm at Frisco Tap House, Columbia, MD

A festival for the glory of the hop. 52 of the finest India Pale Ales and Imperial India Pale Ales around. This will also be the release of all 19 Mikkeller Single Hop IPAs on tap with Mikkel in attendance. So pucker up buttercup....get ready to have your palate put into a state of shock with an overdose on hops.
All they need now is more parking..........  or a shuttle bus service.

25 July 2011

Baltimore Beer Week Preview at Max's July 27th

From Baltimore Beer Week's e-mail [edited for clarity]:

Join Max's and the Baltimore Beer Week committee this Wednesday,  July 27th,  for happy hour and a special free  screening of the MPT production of "Brewed on the Bay". Meet us in the downstairs bar for a Maryland brewed beer starting at 6pm. Then at 8pm, it's upstairs for the show and free munchies.  
While you're there - be sure to register to win tickets to the 2011 Opening Tap Event!

Planning on attending? RSVP to our Facebook invite!

21 July 2011

Tonight's choices, and beyond

Firkin of Cascade-dry-hopped Oliver Blonde at Metropolitan.

Christmas in July at DuClaw locations.

Belgian Independence Day at Max's:
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Steenburge Triple
Duvel Single
Ommegang Independence Day Ale
Ommegang Adoration
La Chouffe
Mc Chouffe
N'Ice Chouffe
Chouffe Houblon
Mardesous 6
Plus a few others..........

Rodenbach Vintage
Duvel Triple Hop
Ommegang Gnomegang
Liefmans Cuvee Brut
Liefmans Goudenband
Plus A Bunch more......
Frisco Tap House in Columbia takes it much further-- all 50 taps will be Belgian/Belgian-style starting today, pouring through the weekend, with a few in reserve should you chug too fast..

 Tonight's not good?  Firkin of Heavy Seas Plank 1 at Alonsoville (the upstairs bar at Alonso's), tapped at 5 PM.

Next week:  The start of the overly-extended Howard County Restaurant Week.  Participants include Victoria Gastro Pub, Second Chance Saloon, and Union Jack's, and some of the other places do a decent job of offering beers to match cuisine.

15 July 2011

Real Ale at Artscape UPDATED

Are you headed to Artscape this weekend?  (That would mean you haven't been scared away by the promises to re-create a 1982 experience.....)

TAKE MASS TRANSIT.  DON'T DRIVE.  BICYCLE.  WALK.  Duh.  It's been insane driving around there for the past two weeks already; I expect back-ups to extend to Druid Hill Park, I-95, Leakin Park, and Highlandtown.  (I exaggerate only slightly, at best.)

Liam Flynn's Ale House, right up on North Avenue in the thick of part of the craziness, will open at 4 PM today and at noon  Saturday, and Sunday, and just had five Olivers firkins delivered by the distributors.

If that place is too crowded, you have Joe Squared and their fantabulous pizzas and draft selections on the south side of North Avenue a block west, in addition to the nearly adjacent Windup Space, and the Metro Gallery a block and a half south on Charles, which both have decent bottle selections.  And, of course, The Brewers Art is a short walk south of the mania on Charles Street.

Maryland Beers at Great British Beer Festival

With a tip o' the hat to fellow SPBW member Graham Green for the lead:

The following Maryland (and Md.-related) beers are being served in cask/firkin at the Great British Beer Festival August 2-6::

Brewers Alley:
Oatmeal Stout (6.7% ABV)
Rich and luscious flavour, complex beer with lots of caramel and roasted malt notes.

Clipper City/Heavy Seas:
Big DIPA Double IPA (10% ABV)
Triple hopped during the brewing process with 5 pounds of hops per barrel. Very well balanced with an earthy hop aroma and strong malt backbone. This cask has been dry-hopped with Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial and Palisade.

Loose Cannon Hop 3 IPA (7.3% ABV)
Triple-hopped American IPA: hopped in the kettle, in the hopback, dry-hopped in conditioning tank and finally dry-hopped in the cask. Well balanced with a rich hop flavour, citrus aroma and smooth finish.

Plank 1 English Style Olde Ale (8% ABV)
This English Style Olde Ale is matured on thermally modified Poplar wood. The cask has been additionally dry hopped with Northern Brewer and Fuggle hops. The base beer used in Plank I is special in and of itself, utilizing 8 types of specialty grains.

Devil's Backbone (former Wharf Rat/Oliver Brewing brewer Jason Oliver):
Barclay's London Dark Lager (5.6% ABV)
Collaborative brew with beer historian Ronald Pattinson re-creating a rare London 1930 Barclay Perkins dark lager using a copy of the original brew log. Deep ruby brown in colour with rich malty notes. A recreation of an early English lager before they became pale and bland.

DuClaw Brewing:

Double Dry Hopped Venom Pale Ale (5.6% ABV)
A moderately bitter, but heavy flavour and aroma hopped American-Style Pale Ale.

Flying Dog:
Snake Dog IPA (7.1% ABV)
An assertive American IPA bittered with Warrior and featuring Columbus hops in flavour and aroma. This cask is dry hopped with Amarillo enhancing the tropical fruit and citrus aromas of these varieties.

Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store:

Brewmaster Flash and the Furious Five Hops (8% ABV)
IPA with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus

Oliver/Pratt Street Ale House:
Strongman Pale Ale (Single Hop Sorachi Ace) (8.3% ABV)
A bold, assertive pale ale, generously hopped with Sorachi Ace but with a firm malt backbone for balance. Dry hopped in cask with Sorachi Ace.

The Raven:
Special Lager (5.6% ABV)
An amber German style lager, brewed in honour of Baltimore's literary genius, Edgar Allan Poe.

Stillwater Artisanal Ales:
Cellar Door (6.6% ABV)
Starting with a base of German wheat & pale malts this crisp slightly hazy foundation was then accented with a blend of Sterling & Citra hops providing a intricate blend of herbal grass & tangerine citrus flavours and aroma.

White Marsh/Red Brick Station:
Altbier (4.8% ABV)
Modelled after traditional Dusseldorf Alt biers. The beer has a clean malt aroma and flavour with a hint of hops in the finish.

Also there "locally":  Mad Fox, Capitol City, Sweetwater Tavern, and Vintage 50.  Check out the rest of the overseas contributions (go to the menu drop-downs and select the bar/region).

14 July 2011

Belgian Restaurant Week in D.C. July 15-21

Ten restaurants and the Embassy of Belgium will team up beginning tomorrow to kick off Belgian Restaurant Week in DC, which will run from July 15-21. The week will be chock full of events designed to celebrate the food, beverages, culture, and hospitality of Belgium. The following restaurants will all be participating: Belga Cafe, Brabo, Brasserie Beck, Et Voila!, Granville Moore’s, L O’ocolat, Le Pain Quotidien, Marcel’s, Marvin, and Mussel Bar.  A couple of the places are doing beer dinners.

Read about it here.    And here.

Minnesota Alcohol Sales Dribbling Towards a Shutdown

UPDATE:  Minnesota's shutdown may be ending soon.............

Well, this gives a whole new twist to the concept of "essential state employees":
MINNEAPOLIS—State parks, horse-racing tracks and the state Capitol are all closed because of the government shutdown here. If the budget standoff lingers, the neighborhood watering hole could be next.
More than 300 bars and liquor stores can't buy beer, wine or liquor to sell to consumers because their $20 alcohol-purchasing licenses, known as buyer's cards, have expired, a casualty of the July 1 shutdown. For some proprietors, inventories are dwindling and anger is rising.
"This is beyond the realm of anything I ever thought in my wildest dreams," said Trevor Berg, a liquor-store owner in Walker, Minn. With his annual buyer's card expiring Sunday, he is borrowing cash from friends to buy as much beer and wine as he can get his hands on now.
Meanwhile, state officials told MillerCoors LLC, the second-largest beer maker in the U.S. behind Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, that it must remove all 39 brands of its beer from shelves statewide because its $1,170 brand-label registration fee wasn't processed before the shutdown. The brewer says it is trying to negotiate a resolution with state authorities.
Minnesota's government screeched to a halt after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers failed to close a projected $5 billion funding gap in the state's coming two-year budget.
This should warm Lew Bryson's heart:

At a court hearing Tuesday on shutdown issues, an attorney for Mr. Dayton suggested bars purchase a low-alcohol beer— "3.2 beer"—sold in Minnesota and a few other states. It doesn't require a buyer's card.
But Mr. Forsberg said his customers don't want that product, and even if they did, distributors don't stock enough.
On the one hand, this brings home the gravity of an extended government shutdown--in the grand scheme of things, your ability to buy alcoholic beverages, unless your livelihood is in the trade, is a relatively minor issue.  On the other hand, this does show the folly of what happens when a government acts as the grantor of a privilege it controls, rather than the overseer of a free market it should merely regulate.

Minnesota, as far as I can tell, is relatively "libertarian" when it comes to the alcohol business--there's a reason that many importers and distributors set up shop in Minnesota and then distribute to adjoining Wisconsin and even Illinois.  But this just goes to show that, no matter how "good" your state or jurisdiction may be when it comes to alcohol regulation, there is always something hare-brained in the regulations that residents can complain about--and they are guaranteed to complain, too.

I wonder what would happen with a similar budgetary showdown in Pennsylvania or Virginia.......

Stillwater Sues Stillwater for Trademark Infringement

Well.  This should be interesting to watch.
Stillwater Artisanal Ales LLC, a Baltimore-based brewery, sued beermaker Stillwater Brewing Co. of Stillwater, Minnesota, for trademark infringement.
Stillwater Brewing “knowingly and willfully” used an identical copy of the Maryland brewer’s trademark in connection with its sale of beer, Stillwater Artisanal Ales said in a complaint filed July 12 in federal court in Minnesota. Those actions are causing confusion in the marketplace and at beer competitions and festivals, according to the complaint.
Stillwater Artisanal Ales objected to the Minnesota company’s participation in the American Craft Beef Fest for “the specific purpose of competing against” the similarly named brewer in the national and international marketplace.
Zachary S. Morgan, one of the Minnesota brewery’s co- owners, said in an e-mail yesterday that his company is named Stillwater after the town where it is based. “The name denotes a geographic location in which the brewery is operated,” he said.
Stillwater Artisanal Ales asked the court to bar the Minnesota brewer’s use of the Stillwater mark, and for the destruction of all infringing promotional materials. It also seeks cancellation of the stillwaterbrewingco.com Internet domain name, and awards of profits related to the alleged infringement, money damages, attorney fees, litigation costs, and extra damages to punish the brewery for its actions.

The case is Stillwater Artisanal Ales LLC V. Stillwater Brewing Co LLC., 0:11-cv-01878-JRT, SER, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.
It must be hard to be them.  I can perfectly well see how someone in Stillwater, Minnesota could set up a new brewery linked to and named for its hometown (Baltimore Brewing, anyone?  Frederick Brewing?  Pittsburgh Brewing?  Lancaster Brewing?  Selin's Grove Brewing?) and be oblivious to another business in the same field with the same name (although it's much harder to justify in 2010 than in, say, 1970, what with internet searches).  On the other hand, Strumke has a completely valid point: he (apparently) was there first with the trademark; he's already selling in Wisconsin and Ilinois and is poised to enter the Minnesota market momentarily..  Stillwater, Minnesota even has more than one microbrewery.

Stillwater Artisanal Ales debuted at Max's Belgian Fest on Feb. 13th, 2010; the Minnesota brewery opened for business in January 2011 and released their first beer about two months later.

Many here may remember how John Bates of the Baltimore Taphouse had to change the original name of his Highlandtown bar, Growlers, after a small (two to three locations) pub chain in the St. Louis, Mo. area--not the Growlers of Gaithersburg brewpub, mind you--sent a stern "cease and desist" letter.  Karma may well be a rhymes-with-witch, however; since then the original Missouri Growlers Pub closed in October 2010.

11 July 2011

Old Rasputin Coffee Stout?

Frisco Tap House, in Columbia, apparently tripped over their long-forgotten "Randalizer".

They cleaned it out, filled it with espresso coffee beans and are currently pumping North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout through it.  They're supposedly planning more Monday night "Randalizer" adventures in the future.

Next Beer Debut: Brewers Art/Stillwater D├ębutante July 14th

Thursday, 4 to 7, at The Brewers Art.

Need I say more?  Okay, okay.  Geez, you're a tough crowd.

Brewed with a combination of Spelt & Rye, accented with a blend of Heather, Honeysuckle, and Hyssop. The result is a rustic farmhouse ale displaying earthy tones & floral characteristics while maintaining intricate balance.

Hellas "Christmas in July" Beer Dinner July 25th, Olivers Beer Dinner at Diamond Tavern July 27th

Just in from Hellas Restaurant's Joey Marchiano:

I just wanted to take this opportunity to invite you all out to Hellas for our "X-Mas in July Beer Dinner". It will be on Monday, July 25th, and we'll start pouring at 5:30pm. We've put together a great collection of beers and delicious lineup of food.

First Course:  Stuffed Roma Tomatoes w/ Jumbo Lump Crab Meat served w/ Bacon-wrapped Asparagus w/ Hollandaise Sauce.
w/ Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale.

Second Course: Seafood Lasagna w/ Creamy Old Bay Alfredo Sauce.
Paired w/ Wild Goose Snow Goose Winter Ale.

Third Course: Smoked Turkey Breast w/ Sage & Sausage Stuffing and MD. Sweet Corn.
Paired w/ Brasserie D'Achouffe's N'ice Chouffe Dark Belgian Strong Ale.

Fourth Course: Baked Ham w/ Mac Daddy Mac-n-Cheese & Garlic-Bacon Green Beans.
Paired w/ Southern Tier's Backburner Imperial Barleywine Ale.

Fifth Course: Gingerbread Ice Cream served w/ assorted Christmas Cookies.
Paired w/ Flying Dog's Oak Barrel Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter.

The cost of this dinner is $50 and you must make your reservation in advance.  Please contact myself or Mike Stavlas to make your reservation.
Meanwhile, Steve Jones has to head down the street two blocks to find a place to hold a beer dinner:

We are very pleased to announce our forthcoming beer dinner at The Diamond Tavern (at The Hilton on Pratt St.) on the evening of Wednesday 27th July featuring wonderful food paired with Draft Punk, Blonde Ale, Irish Red Ale, Channel Crossing #4 and Pagan Porter with vanilla. Reservation line 443-573-8710.

Christmas and Viva Italia! at Max's This Week (CORRECTED)

For most folks, all I have to say is: Christmas in July at Max's Taphouse tomorrow, the 12th.

If you need better rationale, they plan on having available nine different bottled "vintages" of Anchor Our Special Ale (colloquially knows as "Anchor Christmas") from 2000 through 2010 (sorry, if you must have 2003 and 2008, you're just out of luck tomorrow).  Servings will be by the bottle or glass, depending on the bottle size being offered.   (Yeah, they'll still sell you a giant bottle, if you insist.)

(Look here for a review of an even more vintage Anchor OSA.)

Also, fresh from Max's e-mail, is the last(?), final(?) beer list for this weekend's Italian Festival, the 15th-17th:

We will have 8-10 Italian beers on draft and over 50 Italian beers in bottles; any Italian beers in 750ml bottles will be served by the glass and 16.9oz and lower will be served by the bottle. There will be special pricing for this fest.

Baladin Nora
Baladin Super Baladin
Del Borgo Duchessa
Del Borgo Enkir
Del Borgo My Antonia
Del Borgo ReAle Extra
Del Borgo Rubus Lamboni
Del Ducato Sally Brown Bracco
and maybe a few others if they make it in time.........

Almond 22 Farrotta
Almond 22 Noa
Almond 22 Pink IPA
Almond 22 Torabata
Baladin Al Ikir
Baladin Isaac
Baladin Super Baladin
Baladin XFume 2006
Baladin Xyauyu 2004(Gold)
Baladin Xyauyu 2006(Copper)
Baladin Xyauyu 2006(Silver)
Barley BB Dexi
Collesi Imper Alter Bionda
Collesi Imper Ego Bionda
Collesi Imper Frat Lux Ambrata
Collesi Main Nera
Collesi Imper Ubi Rossa
Del Borgo 25 Dodici
Del Borgo Duchessa
Del Borgo Enkir
Del Borgo My Antonia
Del Borgo ReAle Extra
Del Borgo Rubus Lamboni
Del Ducato L'Ultima Luna
Del Ducato Nouva Mattina
Del Ducato Verdi
Del Ducato Via Emila
Grado Plato Cantis Caeli
Grado Plato Chocarrubica
Grado Plato Weizen Tea
Italiano Cassissona
Loverbeer NeerBera BeerBera (similar to the name of Barbera grapes used in it)
Loverbeer D'UvaBeer
Loverbeer Madamin
Montegioco Bran Reserva
Montegioco Dolii Raptor
Montegioco Quarta Runa
Montegioco Rex Grue
Montegioco Tibir
Panil Barrique 2007
Pausa Cafe Chicca
Pausa Cafe Navidad
Pausa Cafe P.I.L.S
Pausa Cafe Tosta
Pausa Cafe Tosta Cuvee Normanna
Piccolo Sesonette
Revelation Cat Woodwork Series Base
Troll Stella di Natale
Troll Geisha
Troll Palanfrina
Troll Shangrila
Plus a few others if they come in in time..............

08 July 2011

Wilmington Beer Week

For those of you whose knowledge of beer in Delaware begins and ends with either the downstate breweries or State Line Liquors being on your detour around the Delaware I-95 toll plaza, here's an excuse to expand your horizons.

Wilmington Beer Week begins this Saturday night and lasts through the 16th.

Article from the Wilmington News Journal.

06 July 2011

Liam Flynn's to open Saturday

Well, finally.

Liam Flynn has announced that his eponymous bar will be opening Saturday, July 9th at 4:00 PM.

UPDATE:  Cash only for the first week or so.  There's an ATM practically next door, plus a couple more in the neighborhood, though I doubt you'll find a fee-free one yet....

02 July 2011

The Only Beer Of Its Kind In Baltimore

If you've read this blog for amy length of time, you know that it's less an egotistical (i.e. "me me me me me me") blog than it is just an information-sharing resource.  I don't post a cell-phone photo of every beer I drink; I don't see how many words I can write about every beer I taste; and you can't track my movements from my blog posts or Facebook updates.

But every once in a while, I bend that axiom.

Besides beer, I am a railroad buff.  Geek.  Historian.  Look, you think I know beer?  You think the character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory knows trains?  Well, they have nothing on my knowledge of railroads.  My first published beer article was a very lengthy exposition on railroad-themed microbrews for Railfan & Railroad Magazine many years ago, followed a couple years later by a follow-up article on the same subject.  I found every railroad-themed beer name, label, and brewpub in the nation at a time when we had to do it by telephone, not by an internet search.  I found several brewpubs and breweries in railroad stations, including the then-fledgling New Belgium Brewing Co., then located in the old Fort Collins, Colorado Union Pacific passenger station (later a restaurant and last reported as under another conversion).  I found the Truckee Brewing Co. in California, which had brewing equipment in an old box car.

At one point, I had "part ownership" in five British high-speed diesel-electric locomotives.  In a symbolic sense, I still do--as a Life Member of one locomotive owning group.

So when Pratt Street Ale House brewer Steve Jones heads back to his native "Old Blighty," what does he bring back for me?

That's right.  Buntingford 92 Squadron.  A loco I almost saw under repair in 1991, but... geez, let me see, just which Bulleid class Pacific was it I rode behind out of Folkestone Harbour on those shuttle trains banked by a British Rail 4MT 2-6-4T?  No, must have been 34072 City of Wells.....

Anyhow, you don't care about this railway %)*&#@...........  how's the beer, you ask?

Terrific.  A nice, nutty, semi-dry, malty British best bitter at 4.5%.  Chewy, relatively lean in alcohol (many Yanks would call this a "session beer"), with a very rich malt nose--the first time in ages I could calla beer "like sniffing the malt silo".  The yeast profile is relatively clean (compared to our hometown Ringwood signature from PSAH and Red Brick Station); the malt is dry-finish crystal with just a faint hint of roast, with a mild, leafy hop note floating in the background.  If we had more beers like this in the States, it wouldn't be so hard for me to pick a beer at Max's Taphouse.  (Sorry, Steve and Mike, not quite sure you can do it with the open fermenters you have.....)

Buntingford, it appears from a certain page from their all-too-cheeky-and-sarky website, must have a staff railway enthusiast somewhere amongst their staff.  The entire website, to be honest, is crammed full of the irreverent self-deprecation and cheeky humour so prevalent in the British telly comedy to which we've become accustomed on either public broadcasting over the decades or The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.  (The "Allegedly FAQ" page is a special hoot.  I wish more American businesses could bring themselves to respond with this sort of attitude vaguely reminiscent of Basil Fawlty.....)

Anyhoo, excellent beer, mate.  Next time you're over there, I'll arrange for a pick-up of a pump clip or the like.  Thanks again!

Beer Events in July and August

Shamelessly lifted from a service of my my part-time employer, the Brewing News Calendar (where you can find more nationwide):

Wednesday, July 6th: Heavy Seas Beer Dinner at The Rowhouse, Baltimore - Three courses and four beers for $45. 7-9pm. Reservations at 443-438-7289. Menu at www.therowhousegrille.com.

Thursday, July 7th: Heavy Seas Tap Takeover at No Idea, Baltimore - 4 styles from the Clipper Fleet, 3 from the Pyrate Fleet, as well as the new Letter of Marque and Big DIPA from the Mutiny Fleet. 6-9pm. 410-685-4332 or www.noideatavern.com.

Sunday, July 10th: Beer Class: Hops and IPAs at Punk's Backyard Grill, Annapolis - From clean Pale Ales to "hop-bomb" IPAs, this class explores the varieties and roles of hops in craft beer. Learn about and taste five fantastic brews that highlight the amazing things that hops can do. Snacks are included. $30. 7-9pm. More info at 410-571-7744 or http://punksbackyardgrill.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, July 12th: Dogfish Head Beer Dinner at Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia - Five courses with seven beers. $75 plus tax and gratuity. 6:30pm. Reservations at 410-750-1880. www.victoriagastropub.com.

Tuesday, July 12th: Heavy Seas Davy Jones Lager Release Party at JD's Smokehouse, Baltimore - In both firkin and cask. 6pm. 410-675-4029 or www.jdssmokehouse.com.

Wednesday, July 13th: Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night Release at Frisco's, Columbia - Also on tap will be the July Mutiny Fleet Release, Davy Jones' Lager. Keep the Heavy Seas glass (while they last) with your first beer. 7pm. 410-312-4907 or www.friscogrille.com.

Thursday, July 14th: American Classics Baysox Beer Dinner, Bowie - $41 (or $37 for ticket holders) includes the two-hour all-you-can-eat buffet, and a three-hour all-you-can-drink beer. More info at 301-464-4855 or ddefilippo@baysox.com.

Friday, July 15th through Sunday, the 17th: Max's 2nd Annual Italian Beer Fest, Fells Point - Around 10 Special Craft Italian Beer on draft and over 60 Craft Italian Beers in Bottles. 11am-2am. 410-675-6297 or www.maxs.com.

Friday, July 15th: Lagunitas Tasting at Fenwick Beer and Wine, Silver Spring - 4:30-7:30pm. 301-650-5770 or www.fenwickbeerandwine.com.

Thursday, July 21st: Heavy Seas Beer Dinner at Frank and Nic's, Baltimore - Join Heavy Seas at Frank & Nic's for a fun gourmet food and beer pairing dinner. $40. Reservations at parrish.shelby@gmail.com or 410-474-0904. www.frankandnics.com.

Monday, July 25th: Flying Dog's 21st Birthday at Gilly's, Rockville - Kathleen from Flying Dog will be there sampling the FD line of brews plus some limited releases - and they're keeping their fingers crossed for a firkin. 5-8pm. 301-770-5515 or www.gillyscbfw.com.

Thursday, July 28th: Red Sky at Night at Gilly's, Rockville - Meet Terry from Heavy Seas and try a sample or a pint of the seasonal Red Sky At Night. Get a free Heavy Seas pint glass when you purchase a pint of Red Sky and a 6 pack of any Heavy Seas beer. 5-8pm. 301-770-5515 or www.gillyscbfw.com.

Friday, July 29th: Flying Dog Tasting at Fenwick Beer and Wine, Silver Spring - 4:30-7:30pm. 301-650-5770 or www.fenwickbeerandwine.com.

Wednesday, August 3rd: Oktobeerfest Baysox Beer Dinner, Bowie - $41 (or $37 for ticket holders) includes the two-hour all-you-can-eat buffet, and a three-hour all-you-can-drink beer. More info at 301-464-4855 or ddefilippo@baysox.com.

Wednesday, August 17th: Starr Hill Beer Dinner at Clyde's, Columbia - 7-9pm. Menu and tickets at http://clydesbeerdinners.com.

01 July 2011

Flying Dog Wins Michigan Court Challenge Over Raging B*tch"

From Advertising Age:

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission in 2009 banned Flying Dog Brewery's Raging Bitch Belgian-Style India Pale Ale from the state on grounds that the attention-grabbing label had language "deemed detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public."
But the commission this week reversed that ruling, citing a Supreme Court decision issued last week that favored commercial free speech rights over state regulations.
Flying Dog, a Maryland-based craft brewer, had sued in federal court claiming its First Amendment rights were violated. The brewer said the commission's reversal was a "victory for craft beer," but vowed to fight on in court, seeking to recover damages from lost sales while also hoping to strip the state's ability to "ban any beer that they find offensive.
Flying Dog began selling the beer in several states in 2009 in recognition of its 20th anniversary. The alcohol content in Raging Bitch is 8.3% -- which is about twice the amount of an average mainstream light beer. The brewery, which now sells the Bitch in 32 states, says the IPA is its top seller.
Michigan will become the 33rd state to let the Bitch in, thanks in part to the Supreme Court, which wrapped up its term this week with multiple rulings denouncing government regulation of commercial speech, including striking down a California law that barred the sale of violent video games to children.
The case cited by the Michigan liquor commission had nothing to do with alcohol, but rather a Vermont law that limited the ability of companies to collect information about what drugs doctors are prescribing, a practice that could help drug makers target sales to doctors. 
More at the link above.

Heavy Seas' Letter of Marque winner for 2011

Mind you, we just started drinking THIS year's Heavy Seas-brewed Letter of Marque winning beer.

But just in from Heavy Seas' PR department:  The winner of the Letter of Marque 2011 Homebrew Contest is Clay Wright & Nick Boylan for their Tripel Wit.

Booze is "recession-proof"? Maybe not......

An article from the Southern Maryland Newspapers (Calvert and St. Mary's Counties) suggests that the alcohol beverage retail industry is not as recession-proof as typically believed, and considers the implications of the new sales tax increase:
Though there is a “very good possibility” the increase could drive down sales, Calvert County Commissioner Gerald “Jerry” W. Clark (R) expects his customers will bear the cost more than he will.
“It’s just another tax on the people, another tax on the consumers,” said Clark, who owns Port of Call Wine and Spirits in Solomons. “I assume that food will probably be next.”
“This is going to hurt the guy who comes into our store, works all day and wants to get a six-pack of beer, go home and relax,” [David Dent, who owns WJ Dent & Sons in Tall Timbers and is the St. Mary’s County co-director for the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association] said. “That is the guy this is hurting the most.”

So CAN We Have Beer Shipped To Maryland Buyers, Or Not?

The partial trade-off for the 50% sales tax spike on alcoholic beverages was supposed to be the granting of permission for wineries to ship their products directly to Maryland addresses.

Was it worth it?  And what about beer--can we finally order some Lost Abbey Angel's Share, Russian River Pliny the Elder, or New Glarus Belgian Red?  Or a "Beer-Case-of-the-Month" club?

The first hurdle is the law itself.  I have asked many, many officials in the Maryland government if the wine shipment legislation could apply to, say, a "beer-of-the-month" club.  The few answers I got were collective shrugs of the shoulders.  No one I have contacted has been willing to say "yes" or "no" outright.

So I've gone over the same bureaucratic paperwork that a potential seller would go through in researching the issue online.  The application for a wine shipper's permit refers you to Administrative Release AB-42, which so far is buried away in an obscure corner of the state's website along with all the other Alcoholic Beverages Administrative Releases (which themselves make fascinating reading if you're interested in the ridiculously obscure, utterly arcane, and detailed fine-print bureaucracy that government control of a "sin" product entails).

So what does AB-42 tell us with regards to whether you can ship beer or not?  Read it for yourself (PDF document).  Or I can spare you the trouble:  It says nothing.  It says only "wine," but bizarrely includes the following (emphasis added):
Under the new Direct Wine Shipper’s Permit, an in-state and out-of-state wine manufacturer may ship wine, including pomace brandy, directly to a Maryland consumer through a common carrier, such as Federal Express or UPS.
Pardon me, but where the hell did THAT come from?  Did some legislator have a personal interest in that matter in Greektown or Little Italy?  (Never heard of it?  Me, neither.  Look it up.)

However, playing "devil's advocate," let's look further:
A Direct Wine Shipper Permit may be issued to a:
(1) Holder of a Maryland Class 3 manufacturer’s license or a Class 4 manufacturer’s license; or
(2) Person licensed outside of Maryland to engage in the manufacture of wine.
Okay, you need a winery license, right?  But:
A Direct Wine Shipper’s Permit Application:
(1) Must be filed with the Comptroller of Maryland with payment of a $200 permit fee.
(2) Must have attached a copy of the current alcoholic beverages license issued by the state in which the wine manufacturer is located.
Emphasis added, again.  Note that it doesn't say "winery" license, only "alcoholic beverages license."  Heck, you could, in theory, just be a liquor store or bar, except for that "manufacture" word above.  So could brewpubs ship growlers?

But now let's look at the actual Direct Wine Shipper's Permit Application itself, which basically repeats a lot of the information from the AB-42, and there we find the biggest surprise we can imagine on page 3 (again, emphasis added):
6. “Wine” means any fermented beverage, including light
wines, and wines the alcohol content of which has
been fortified by the addition of alcohol, spirits, or other
There's a loophole big enough to run a UPS truck full of beer through!   (The tequila, bourbon and single-malt whisky fanatics, however, are obviously out of luck, unless they really want to push their luck.  Other laws distinguish between distilled and fermented drinks, with different tax rates.)

At this stage in the game, a potential brewery that wants to initiate direct sales comes into the classic argument that bedevils every last alcohol law in existence, and in theory most of the laws passed by American government since 1787:: If the state or commonwealth or Federal government has not specifically prohibited or regulated the specific act you intend to carry out, are you thus permitted to do so?  Or must we all assume that all economic activity must seek the blessings, sanction, and regulation of the government?

But this is even better!  In theory, if a brewery wants to set a precedent in order to tweak laws nationally or regionally (or, more likely, attempt to garner boatloads of free publicity with potential controversy, press releases, and court cases if they're prosecuted), all they would have to do is go ahead and fill out those forms and pay those fees and start shipping cases of beer (Dogfish Head 750's, anyone?) to Maryland addressees.

All of this is pretty much a Gedanken exercise, anyway.  As reported by the Baltimore Sun, only 30 wineries so far--ten in Maryland and twenty out-of-state, with only one in an adjacent state--have taken the trouble to apply and pay for the permit, at a time when Maryland alone boasts fifty or so wineries.  That number is expected to jump as the process clarifies, of course.  The biggest potential beneficiary of this legislation are "wine of the month" clubs, but I've yet to find one whose website doesn't still say something to the effect of "Sorry, but wine cannot be shipped to Maryland" (including the Virginia Wine of the Month Club).  Very, very few breweries make a product with a sale price and profit worth the extraordinary trouble of such a sales permit process, and those that do typically have retail representation in the state already or are already struggling to keep up with demand as it is.  (Would DuClaw, for example, ship bottles of Colossus?)  And unless you're in the remotest corners of the state--Oakland, Chaptico, Scotland, Crisfield, or the like--going to one of the many, many good retailers is probably still easier than having stuff sent UPS or FedEx, as well as being just generally more fun (even with that damned sales tax hike).

So, could we yet see "Beer of the Month" clubs in Maryland, or better yet, a retailer offering to ship 24 different bottles of holiday ales come Christmas-time?  Stay tuned.

(Please note: This rabble-rousing libertarian is NOT an attorney, and the above should not, in any way, be construed as legal advice.  The bag is not a toy.  Close cover before striking.  Typed in a facility that houses soy, wheat, dairy, and peanut products.)

Booze Tax, Day One

Well, it's the first day of the additional 50% sales tax surcharge on alcoholic drinks in the People's Democratic Republic of Maryland.

Can't you just feel those schools in Baltimore City, Prince George's County, and Montgomery County getting better all around you?  (Of course not, they're closed for the summer.)

The Maryland Gazette has an article on the tax and the legislative process it went through, with enough rich quotes for a "Tea Party" member to harvest richness:

“Everybody’s going to be in line grabbing and growling to get that money,” said Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick. “You can bet Baltimore city, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County are going to get at that money again next year.”
“All the fat cats are saying, ‘We’ve got everything solved,’ and then somebody said, ‘This money from the alcohol tax had been proposed by these advocates,’” Anderson said. “It kind of put the idea of alcohol tax in the minds of a lot of legislators, so when we were working on this deal, we said we can’t cut them out totally.”