28 March 2012

Yeah, National Premium's coming back.....

It's not like I have to help them with their marketing and promotion, after all. They seem to be doing quite well with that on their own.

So, let's see.  A 2012 reinterpretation of yet another mass-market, industrially-produced North American lager with a brand name tied to a local scene.  Something that, from all appearances, will be competing for market share with "Natty Boh," Pabst Blue Ribbon, Yuengling, and all the craft beers out there, for which the major market will apparently be nostalgic 50+-year-olds and methodologically ironic hipsters.

Yeah, I don't think they need my help.

City Paper Talks With Liquor Board Re: Regulations

Van Smith of the Baltimore City Paper sits down and talks with two of the three members of the Baltimore City Liquor Board on a variety of pending bills proposing modifications of Baltimore City liquor laws.

Go grab a dead-trees copy out of the ubiquitous yellow boxes, or read the piece here.

Thoughts: On the one hand, it's a good thing, in the view of this libertarian, to see a liquor board aware of the issues that confront an evolving business environment, and adjust accordingly.  On the other hand, why does it take a freaking act of the state legislature for the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore to tweak its liquor license?  (Heck, aside from the annual Brew at the Zoo--which, by the way, is May 26-27 this year--were you even aware that the Maryland Zoo had to have its own liquor license?!?!?)

26 March 2012

Who's Up For a Good Ol' DOGFight?

From the Flying Dog press release:

Frederick's Flying Dog Ales and Scotland's BrewDog are "collaborating" on a joint beer-brewing challenge: Both will be brewing an IPA with NO hops.  That's right, zero international bittering units, at least hop-wise.

Brewers unclear on the concept?  Hardly:

Flying Dog Brewery and BrewDog’s International Arms Race Zero IBU IPA pits brewer against brewer in a battle of the brewing arts. Unlike your standard collaboration, each brewery will craft its own version of the beer, only guided by common ingredients.

“Each of us producing our own beer highlights the human element of the brewing process,” Flying Dog Brewmaster Matt Brophy said. “Even with the same ingredients, the hands that craft it are hugely influential in the end product.”

To achieve a Zero IBU IPA, the brewers agreed upon a list of ingredients – spearmint, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries, and elderflower – to replace the bitterness typically imparted by hops.

“When the hardcore team at Flying Dog challenged us to battle, there was no way we wouldn’t take them on,” BrewDog Captain James Watt said. “Now it’s time to see who’s boss.”

The project will also be a battle of illustrators, pitting Gonzo artist Ralph Steadman’s work for Flying Dog against the designs of Johanna Basford, a long-time friend of BrewDog.

“There are so many facets to this project, which are challenging but also exciting,” Brophy said. “We are ready for all out war.”

International Arms Race will be available in June on draft and in 12 oz. bottles (6-packs for Flying Dog, loose case singles for BrewDog) in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. and in the U.K.

DuClaw Experimental Cask Pins at Arundel Mills Friday

From the DuClaw press release:

Join us at DuClaw Brewing Company of Arundel Mills for an evening of complete X-1 Imperial Chocolate Rye Porter Pin-sanity! Friday, March 30th, at 5pm, we’re simultaneously tapping three unique cask conditioned variations of X-1 for an unprecedented eX-travaganza. Everyone is invited to this one and only tasting of:
Peppermint X-1, Pumpernickel X-1, and JalapeƱo X-1!
These amazing X-1 variants will be served from five gallon pin-casks, making pours VERY limited, so get there early and experience the pin-sanity, only at DuClaw Brewing Company of Arundel Mills.

21 March 2012

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Fest This Fri/Sat

The regularly-returning Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Fest "road show" returns to the Md. State Fairgrounds in Timonium this Friday evening and Saturday.

Many folks love this fest (Great beer! Bourbon! BBQ!  Music! You can ride Light Rail there! What's not to love unless you're a teetotaling vegetarian?), and many loathe it (too crowded, "who let those cr@p beers in?", too "commercial," "drunkfest," etc.).  But it's one of those fests every local beer (and bourbon) geek should attend at least once.

The (admittedly tentative, inexact, and disclaimered) bourbon and beer list is here.  The best laugh to be had on the list is at Evolution: "Evolution New weird sh*t".

I'd like to see that beer name get label approval from the Feds.

20 March 2012

Heavy Seas Plank II

Fresh from the Halethorpe brewery:

Heavy Seas Beer announces the release of Plank II – the second in a series of beers showcasing unique wood ageing treatment to add flavor and nuance. Plank II features an 8.5% ABV Dopplebock style lager matured with specially treated Eucalyptus and Yellow Poplar wood planks.
Six-foot planks of Eucalyptus and Poplar were placed in the fermenter and allowed to age with the beer for six weeks. The Eucalyptus wood lends notes of chocolate, balanced with a hint of toffee and smoky dryness from the Yellow Poplar.
Watch for Plank II’s release in early April. Plank II will join the Mutiny Fleet portfolio of beers available in 22oz. bottles and very limited draft and cask.

Session Beer Day April 7th

One of brother beer blogger Lew Bryson's other pet projects, the Session Beer Project, has "selected" April 7th as Session Beer Day. 

What is this all about? 

The Session Beer Project is a non-profit, unorganized, unofficial effort to popularize and support the brewing and enjoyment of session beers. You can read more about it here and here.

For our purposes, 'session beer' is defined as a beer that is:

► 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
► flavorful enough to be interesting
► balanced enough for multiple pints
► conducive to conversation
► reasonably priced

If that seems vague...it is. Here's another definition: low-alcohol, but not low-taste. It's subjective. Live with it, and enjoy it. We're here to help make your night out more fun, more tasty, and more safe. Cheers!
One Baltimore brewpub, which has always been somewhat "session-beer-friendly" in spite of the "bigger, stronger, hoppier" mantra seemingly chanted by a large proportion of American craft-beer enthusiasts, is marking the day appropriately: 
Oliver Ales and The Pratt Street Ale House are honored to participate by offering our 3 year round session beers (Blonde Ale 4.3%, Dark Horse Mild 4% & Bishop's Breakfast 4.4%) for $3/pint on the day.

Charm City in Waverly rebrands as Peabody Heights Brewery UPDATED

The new brewery project in Charles Village/ Waverly, formerly going by the name Charm City Brewing, has now rebranded itself after the original name of the Charles Village neighborhood in which it sits, Peabody Heights Brewery.  The name change stems in part, says Raven Lager owner and brewery partner Stephen Demczuk, from threatened legal action by a former Maryland brewer who filed for a Federal trademark for the name "Charm City Brewery" on Dec. 2, 2011, the same day the Charles Village project, and its name, was announced. (UPDATE: There has been some evidence presented that the brewer in question had filed for a Maryland trademark or business name for that name in 2009, but it doesn't readily appear in state databases.)

A 30-barrel brewhouse is on order, and partners J. Hollis Albert and Demczuk anticipate being open for operation by late may or early June, as the building, a former beverage-bottling plant last used by a Canada Dry franchisee and then for automobile storage by a nearby garage, is already set up for industrial beverage processing, with extra plumbing, floor drains and electrical lines.

More at Midnight Sun. (Subscription pay-wall alert...)

Demczuk elaborated a bit on his planned additional Raven Beer recipes: Pendulum Pilsner will be a "clean pils, a bit hoppy;" Tell-Tale Hearty Ale will be a "high-IBU ale of 7% or so;" and Cask of Amontillado will be "a double bock of 8% range in 22 oz bottles and kegs only."

Meanwhile, a planned co-op partner in the project, Pratt Street Ale House, has withdrawn from the proposal as a formal partner.  "We still want our own [larger] brewhouse and facility," said PSAH co-owner Justin Dvorkin recently.  Dvorkin and the Peabody Heights partnership have discussed the possibility of contract-brewing Ironman Pale Ale for Oliver Breweries at the site, but as Dvorkin remarked, "They don't even have any open fermenters yet."  Production may well have to be ramped up one way or another for Oliver Breweries, as the newly-expanded Pratt Street Ale House now has even more taps with which to pump the brewers' products.

Victory to Expand with Second Brewery in Pa.

Lew Bryson's Seen Through a Glass has the press release.

16 March 2012

Leinenkugel's Spring Beerfest 2012

I coulda sworn I already posted about this....

Leinenkugel's Beer Garden is holding a beer festival with a distinct difference: a Friday night festival, 6 to 9 PM on March 30th, featuring unlimited pours from at least ten seasonal beers (management says that they are working to bring in more special releases from Leinenkugel in Wisconsin, including their next "Big Eddy" release, a Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, and are down to the last few sixtels of their Russian Imperial Stout), entertainment, giveaways every 30 minutes, beer-related games, and door prizes, including a trip to Dewey Beach.

More information is at their website.  Tickets are available through MissionTix or at the beer garden; cost is $25.

Yet ANOTHER Brewery for the District of Columbia

Man, it seems D.C.'s getting all the brewing action.

On the tails of D.C. Brau, 3 Stars, and Chocolate City (and a promised but seemingly defunct Logan Shaw) comes the official naming of yet another brewery project for the District, Bluejacket.

Details at Washington Post's All You Can Eat blog.    Part One, from January.

15 March 2012

Oh, THIS Could Be Dangerous......

.....  or nirvana, depending on your point of view.

Aside from beer festivals or specials for one beer at one venue, "All You Can Drink" specials are few and far between in craft beer.

But tonight at No Idea Tavern in southern Federal Hill, they are featuring an Olivers/PSAH special:  a pin (4.5 gallons) of  their Burial At Sea 4.3% ruby mild (brewed in collaboration with DC Brau)  along with 9 other Oliver drafts ... $10 all you can drink 7 PM to midnight.

Heads-up: parking can be heck down in that neighborhood.  Watch the parking sign restrictions carefully.  Or get a taxi or take transit.  Please, it's "all you can drink," not "all you can drink and still drive".

If that isn't enough for you, Metropolitan to the north (eight blocks or so) does its weekly cask with a firkin of Old Dominion Bourbon Barrel Stout, tapped at 6 PM.

14 March 2012

City Paper Brewfest Discount EXTENDED!

After several readers pointed out to us that the MissionTix  listing for the City Paper Brewfest was already charging $35 for tickets as of this morning when the City Paper promised the price of "$30 until the 14th," I immediately contacted the City Paper as soon as I got the message--at 3:30 this afternoon (sorry, trapped in a library doing real work).  This is the OFFICIAL response from the City Paper's Susan Slike, the Publisher's Assistant:
I tried to post a comment on your blog but it wont let me....can you please let them know Mission Tix is fixed...and extended 1 day to compensate for the error....they can also call City Paper Box Office tomorrow from 9am-5pm and get for $30 as we extended a day in-house due to the error.  Box Office is 410-523-2300
Have at it, Beer In Baltimore readers.

We Have a Winner!

We had 38 entries for the City Paper Brewfest tickets.

Custom Random Number Generator (itself randomly selected from several such online random number generators!) selected #27.

The 27th (non-duplicate) entry was "Molly."  Congratulations to her; an e-mail is in her e-mail box.

And because she left her e-mail with her entry, the rest of you can beg to go with her.........  NOT.  Or, you still have until the end of today to buy your tickets in advance at the discounted $30 rate; it goes to $35 tomorrow.  (For the record, the entries with e-mails will be deleted shortly in order to protect the privacy of the readers in question, but I have a witness to the process and selection.  And disclaimer: MissionTix charges a transaction fee.)

13 March 2012

SAVOR to return to D.C. June 8-9

So you can't get to go to the Great American Beer Festival.  Too far, too expensive, yada yada yada.  Well, for a lucky few of you, SAVOR in D.C.  might be an acceptable semi-substitute.

This year's event--rumored/reported in some circles to possibly be the last for the District, at least for the time being--is scheduled for Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9, 2012, from 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.at the National Building Museum on F Street NW.  The list of participating breweries this year is here.

Beginning April 3, 2012 (10:00 a.m. MT), a limited supply of SAVOR presale tickets will be available exclusively to American Homebrewers Association and Brewers Association members. SAVOR tickets will be available for purchase to the general public starting April 5, 2012 (10:00 a.m. MT) via Ticketmaster.  (Schedule your vacation days accordingly, if attending is key to your happiness.)

General Admission Ticket: $120 per ticket (Limit of 4 total tickets per customer); Private Tasting Salon and Educational Salon Tickets: $30 (General Admission ticket purchase for same night of the Salon required. Limit of 4 per customer.)

And find your hotel room or crash space.  You aren't catching the last MARC train home that late.  (Though, to be fair, there IS an option of a 3:15 AM Amtrak departure from Union Station on Saturday morning, Northeast Regional 150, priced at only $11.00 one way...... and also stops at BWI Marshall Airport Station..... which would give you time to explore a couple other D.C. spots like District Chop House, Gordon Biersch, etc. . . .)

12 March 2012

So Is Maryland Tax-Hungry For Alcohol?

So is Maryland--often derided as "The People's Democratic Republic of Maryland" for its near-monopoly of the tax-friendly Democratic Party--really that tax-greedy when it comes to alcoholic beverages?

Decide for yourself.

The Tax Foundation (insert your chosen rant about it being "right-wing" or "left-wing"), in conjunction with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, released this map portraying the relative tax rates on one 12-ounce average commercial serving of a can or bottle of beer, including (in the case of Maryland, Minnesota, and D.C.) state sales taxes. (Click on the map for a larger image; also at this link.)

According to this chart, Maryland assesses 44 cents a serving, the ninth-highest in the nation.  D.C. charges 56 cents; though the chart says "not ranked," it would be #5 nationally.

Delaware?  16 cents, #35.  Most surprising"  Pennsylvania, 8 cents and #46 (but you gotta buy by the case).

So why do Delawareans and Pennsylvanians routinely cross into Maryland to buy their hooch?  Because taxes are only a small portion of what enters into retail choice, that's why.

06 March 2012

Push Craft Brewing Coming to Frisco Tap House (and Brewery)

You know that parking space in the front of the Frisco Tap and Brew House in Columbia that seemed to double as a motorcycle showroom?  As long promised, Adam Carton will be setting up a seven-barrel in-house brewery in that space, to be called Push Craft Brewing.

The Baltimore Sun's Erik Maza has the story here.

And by the way, the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood meets there Thursday evening--cask Fraoch Heather Ale and Williams Brothers Joker IPA.

De Kleine Duivel Finally Resurrected! UPDATED

The stillborn De Kleine Duivel "Belgian brasserie" project, planned for Hampden nearly two years ago but derailed by problems with the planned Chestnut Street site--has finally resurfaced, this time in a different location: Station North.

As tentatively announced by the planners/owners on Facebook on March 6th, they signed a lease on March 5th for space at XXXX  XXXXX Street, , with easy transit, Circulator, and highway access and a parking lot and garage nearby.  [UPDATE: the planners have removed references to the address from their Facebook information page, changing it to a more ambiguous "Station North."]  The plan is, as before, for "'A Classic Belgian Brasserie' featuring a full selection of Belgian beers, boutique wines and spirits, and a select menu of traditional Flemish-French dishes, all served in an Art Nouveau inspired setting."

Opening was originally projected for June 2012, but will be dependent upon renovation and reconstruction of the premises, which may take longer than that.

An official announcement is expected early next week.

The Washington Post Has a Beer-Related Caption Contest

You, too, can enter here.

Good luck.

Mr. Boh Eyes the Competition's New Place

Photo this past afternoon of the future "Of Love and Regret Pub," the former "Natty Boh Lounge at Canton Station." "Mr. Boh" looks apprehensive.

Incidentally, for the truly die-hard Stillwater Ales fan, we shall point out that there are two townhouse lots available right next to the new location, as well as at least two existing homes for sale on that block........

05 March 2012

An Extreme of Mixed Emotions

A story from today's Daily Telegraph (U.K.):
Carlsberg, the Danish brewing company, is locked in a bitter feud with union leaders after reclassifying beer-making as an "essential service" to avoid industrial action by its workers.
Staff at the beer giant's brewery in Lithuania voted to walk out over pay and conditions but were prevented from doing so after a court ruled that the business was "vitally essential".
The strike ballot was subsequently declared invalid and the stoppage illegal, with the walk out suspended for at least 30 days.
The ruling by the Lithuanian court places Carlsberg's beer-making services in the same category as medical supplies and drinking water, after the company successfully argued that no strike should take place during its "high season".
Unite, Britain's biggest workers union, was drawn into the row, with Jennie Formby, the national officer, calling the situation "ridiculous".
"This is probably the most ridiculous decision in the world. Of course many people think beer is great but it does not save lives," she told The Daily Mirror newspaper.
To a union-supporting beer geek, this decision--both affirming the intrinsic value of beer and denying workers a right to strike--must be like watching your worst enemy drive your new car off a cliff.

But, then again, this is Carlsberg Lager we're talking about here.

Happenings at Pratt Street Ale House

It seems every time we turn around, Pratt Street Ale House's Steve Jones is announcing another new beer release or collaboration project.  This time, it's Burial at Sea, a new joint project with DC Brau.  As Steve reports in his blog at the PSAH website (minor edits below):

With DC Brau we decided to brew a red mild, 7bbls at Oliver’s, 30bbls at DC Brau using the same recipe and yeast (Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast) for both. The only significant difference other than batch size is that ours was fermented in our open vessels and DC Brau’s in closed vessels. This makes a side by side tasting of both cask and draft from each brewery an interesting prospect indeed!
Burial at Sea is a collaborative project between head brewer’s Jeff Hancock of DC Brau and Stephen Jones of Oliver Ales in Baltimore, MD. Mild ales are traditionally referred to as “session ales” known for their low alcohol content which is around 3.2 – 4.0%. Despite their low alcohol content, Milds are just as flavorful as beers with a higher ABV. In crafting this beer we used only the finest malts and hops from England. Burial at Sea starts with a great malty nose boasting aromas of milk chocolate and biscuity sweetness. The beer has a medium mouthfeel that drinks with a soft, mineral smoothness and just enough hops to counter the chewy malt character. Fermented with a clean American yeast that lets the oats,  barley and hops dominate and take center stage.”
Our batch came in a little over gravity and is 4.3% abv. A beer such as this just screams to be cask conditioned so we of course obliged, filling several firkins and pins. The remainder of the batch was transferred to conditioning tank where it stayed for a week prior to carbonation.
We will be joined by Brandon & Jeff of DC Brau and Mike of Eyespeak Tattoo for the release of Burial At Sea this coming Wednesday at the Pratt Street Ale House at 6pm on cask and draft. We will offer both for the special price of $3/pint on the evening of release. We’ve also had some limited edition t-shirts made which we will offer at a special price of $12 on the day of release ($18 thereafter). Come join us for the release of this unique Anglo-American mild ale. On Thursday Derek and I will travel to DC for the launch of Burial At Sea at Meridian Pint with multiple cask and draft options available.
Also coming up is this year's Clone Wars, where homebrewers attempt to mimic a house brew, in this case the Olivers Dark Horse mild.  Details elsewhere on his blog

04 March 2012

Stillwater Artisanal Ales Announces "Of Love And Regret" Bar in Brewer's Hill UPDATED

Stillwater Artisanal Ales' Brian Strumke has just announced a partnership with Jack's Bistro chef Ted Stelzenmuller to form a new bar/bistro in Brewer's Hill, to be named "Of Love & Regret Pub and Provisions."  According to Strumke, the two parties decided to join forces after collaborating on a number of successful beer dinners and discovering a mutual admiration for one another's craft.

The new project will involve the acquisition of the former Canton Station bar at 1028 S. Conkling St. in Highland-town's Brewer's Hill district (of which Strumke is a native and resident), at the northwest corner of Conkling and O'Donnell Streets across from the former National Brewing Co. complex.  The former sports bar features three levels of open space for seating and serving.  Plans are to be open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, featuring an innovative menu (with most items designed with the beers in mind) by Chef Ted Stelzenmuller of Jack's Bistro, backed by inspired cocktails, select wines, and a Stillwater-curated beer list of roughly 23 drafts, 1-2 cask ale beer engines, an extensive bottle list, and other exclusive artisan products, all of which will be available for on-site enjoyment or take-away.

The idea, said Strumke in a news release, is "to feature traditional concepts, twisted by a forward-thinking mentality." "Both Chef Ted and myself prefer to work outside the box, and both of us being avid world travelers provides us with constant inspiration," wrote Strumke.  "So the idea is to offer some of the best in global food and drink culture together with a mix of Baltimore local heritage--to quote the Talking Heads, 'head in the clouds, feet on the ground.'"

From the press release:

Designed in Stillwater aesthetic, 'of Love & Regret' will provide three unique environments in the spacious venue of three floors that feature views of Baltimore's Downtown Inner Harbor and outdoor seating. The first floor will be the 'pub,’ featuring causal upscale dining with an innovative menu designed by Chef Ted to compliment the esoteric beer selection featuring many exclusive Stillwater beers and collaborations. The list will also be rounded out by selections from Brian's global brewing brethren, again including many rare and exclusive offerings.
The second floor is where the 'provisions' come into play in the form of a focused 'shop' filled with libations of all types along with other artisan products available for enjoying on site or for take away. Here is where we will see the expansion of Stillwater Artisanal into other avenues of epicurean culture including collaborations with both local and international artisans to produce exclusive cheeses, charcuterie, sausage, bread, and even coffee. "We come across so many amazing craft products around the globe while on our travels, 'of Love & Regret' will give us the opportunity to share some of these experiences with our friends and family back home in Baltimore". The third floor will be reserved for special events during the year and private rental space.
No projected opening date has been announced yet. Strumke is saying "late spring" for an opening.

UPDATE:  If you have a Baltimore Sun online subscription, you can read more here.
(interior photo from Loopnet.com real estate listings)

02 March 2012

So you Absolutely, Positively MUST Try Russian River's Pliny the Younger On Draft Or You'll Just Die?


Head to Philadelphia.  And bring back a growler to share with us.

Video: Heavy Seas' New Tanks

Heavy Seas just released a YouTube video of one of three new vertical 200-barrel fermentation vessels being installed at its Halethorpe brewery.  The tanks replace former horizontal tanks.

(video courtesy of Heavy Seas)