31 May 2012

Resurrection resurrected at Resurrection Ale House for Philly Beer Week

As mentioned to me over a beer at Of Love & Regret yesterday and now highlighted further by Lew Bryson, Brewer's Art Resurrection will now be legally sold in Pennsylvania (where it is also contract-brewed for distribution at Sly Fox in Phoenixville), with a debut at a place certain to be making it a "house ale," the Resurrection Ale House in Philadelphia.  Brewery co-owner Volker Stewart will be in attendance.  This isn't the first time it's appeared, but they try not to talk too much about the first time.

This seems as good a time to make a token mention that Philly Beer Week starts tomorrow as well, though for the moment their web site appears to be repeatedly crashing from overload.  Try their Facebook page, or the Philadelphia Weekly's guide, or Philly.com's write-up.

30 May 2012

Stillwater's Of Love & Regret opens

Well, come on, with a lunch opening on a Wednesday, were you expecting a line around the block?
 The bar itself, at least for now, exudes the shininess and glamor of a new car--richly shellacked and varnished tabletops crafted from old timbers.  At the moment, it's what many would call "cozy" or "intimate"--if you've crammed yourself into Mahaffey's or Ale Mary's during a dinner rush, you'll get the idea, although the ceilings are higher.  For the time being, there's overflow space in the as-yet-uncompleted store space on the second floor.

Stillwater Ales owner Brian Strumke had a firkin of his latest "Channel Crossing" collaboration ale with Oliver Breweries, the fifth in the series, with the firkin seasoned with rosehips.  Unfortunately, he needs a little more experience tapping firkins; this writer ultimately had to do the honors, driving home the tap with two well-placed hits.

If you're reading this blog regularly, you probably need no introduction to the "cult" of Stillwater and its esoteric ales.  So what you should want to know about is the place.
Disregard the ironic placement across the street from the old National Brewing building and its newly-iconic "Boh" winking eye sign.  The location is slightly off the "beaten path," wedged between Highlandtown and Canton on Brewers Hill, and the neighborhood is blessed with free (albeit competitive) parking, as well as direct service to the bar by the MTA Route 7 bus route and indirect service by Route 13 a block away.

The bar currently has 20 beer taps, two wine taps, and a house specialty of Strumke's, iced cold-press coffee aged on French oak.  The beer selections are, naturally, dominated by Stillwater specialties (oddly, the bar's namesake beer is not available yet!), and quite obviously the bar will get first dibs on any Stillwater product issued, making it the place to go to find it all for the "completist.".  A number of guest taps were offering such complementary offerings as Pub Dog Wild Cherry (a funky offering from "gypsy brewer" Stillwater's most-brewed-at local brewery), Hopfenstark Lou Lou Porter, Victory Prima Pils, and Schneider Edel-Weisse.  About two dozen bottles are offered, dominated by Evil Twin products and larger Stillwater bottles.  Bottles are available for takeout purchase, though at prices likely to discourage impulse purchases.  Beer prices, and serving sizes, are listed on the menu and adjusted according to the beer's strength and cost, from $6 for a 16-ounce serving of Channel Crossing to $9 for a ten-ounce glass of barrel-aged Debauched.

The food menu, at least for starts, stays restrained in selection yet long on ambition.  The lunch menu offers a soup of the day, a beer and cheese soup; salads; a mac-and-cheese with smoked pork butt, four cheeses, scallions, and Stillwater Premium beer (not to be confused with National Premium!); and crispy pig ears and grilled duck tongues as appetizers.  The sandwiches include half-pound burgers served on multi-grain croissant buns with various garnishes such as Moroccan spice rub and goat cheese with wilted arugula and a "smoke" burger (pork, bacon, and gouda), a buffalo-chicken-and-bleu-cheese open-face sandwich, grilled cheese (cheddar, smoked gouda, and brie), the seemingly-mandatory vegan burger (chickpea-and-lentil), and oddest of all, a quarter-pound beef hot dog with rock shrimp salad and arugula, as well as the mandatory-for-Baltimore crab cake sandwich and a grilled salmon sandwich.  Sandwiches are generally in the $9-$12 range, with the salmon topping out at $17; appetizers are in the $7.50-$10 range.

Dinner entrees, at $14-$20, include spicy Singapore-style poached chicken and rice served cold, salmon, steak, fried chicken two ways (traditional and tempura), and a Moroccan green lentil vegetarian dish.

Not to be missed, for the drinker seeking unique experiences, are a range of beer cocktails.  Yes, yes, beer cocktails are suddenly the "flavor of the month" in craft beer circles, but the combination of truly esoteric blends of liqueurs, spirits, spices, and adjuncts topped off with Stillwater ales make these $10 cocktails a cut above the rest.  And if you insist, they'll gladly serve you a glass of Premium with a shot of Pikesville Rye, though the spirits rack behind the bar is, as would be expected for a Stillwater-led production, resplendent with far more interesting possibilities.

Although plans are in the works for far more to the experience, including the planned charcuterie and food shop on the second floor, Of Love & Regret at least initially manages to bridge somewhere between the local corner beer bar/bistro experience and the high-end restaurant experience of The Brewer's Art and Heavy Seas Alehouse.  If you're comfortable with the bar-food experiences of The Brewer's Art, you'll fit right in at OL&R.

25 May 2012

Of Love & Regret Opens May 30th

As per "The Man" himself, Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales:

The crew has been working hard, licenses have been secured, and supplies are rolling in.. With that said, I would like to announce the opening of our newest venture, 'of Love & Regret - Pub & Provisions'.

On Wednesday, May 30th we will open the doors starting with lunch at 11am with a full menu and 20 esoteric beers on draught (with more then 10 being Stillwater) as well as select bottle menu, cocktails, and 2 draught wines.

Also, please note that the previously mentioned Provisions shop on the second floor will open later this year.
1028 S. Conkling Street (NW corner Conkling and O'Donnell)

24 May 2012

The Race Is On......

Who will be the next craft-beer project to open in Baltimore?  At the moment, it's an informal race.

For beer bar, it's most likely to be Stillwater's Of Love and Regret across Conkling Street from the old National Brewery in Highlandtown/Brewer's Hill.  It's anticipated that they may open sometime in the next two weeks.

Brewery?  Looks like Union Craft Brewing, which received its Maryland Class 5 brewing license on May 23rd, will be next; they were hoping to actually commence brewing by the end of the month and have its first beers ready in a week or two afterwards.  They've inked a distribution deal with local craft beer distributors Legends Limited.

Brew at the Maryland Zoo This Weekend

Many of you probably made up your minds the instant you saw the first notice for this, but a reminder that this weekend features the Maryland Zoo's annual Brew at the Zoo (and Wine Too) fundraiser.  Both Saturday and Sunday.

Of course, your first priority is "what beers are available?"  Here's the planned list, subject to change.

And here is their FAQ list.  Note that this is a much more laid-back festival than most; you are cheerfully invited to bring your own food, water bottles, chairs, and the like (but no additional booze), and your ticket includes admission to the zoo to visit with the birds and animals from opening at 10 AM to normal zoo close at 4 PM.  And the proceeds go to a good cause.  Tickets are $45 for drinkers, $25 for designated drivers, with discounts for Maryland Zoo members.

National Premium spotted........

For those who can't rest until they refresh their memories and palates with a dose of the revived National Premium brand lager, two bars in Fells Point have just reported deliveries of 12-ounce bottles, and that presumably means more will be out there "on the streets."

(Photo from Ale Mary's)

22 May 2012

The Other "Oriole"-Related Brewery in Virginia

The Columbus (Oh.) Dispatch has an article on former Orioles player Chris Ray's beer-related projects, one charity-related:

“I’ve been home-brewing for about four years,” he said. “I’ve kind of wanted to brew on a larger scale. My brother (Phil) and I are opening a brewery in Ashland, Va., this winter. We signed a lease a few weeks ago on a place and ordered our equipment.”
Ray, 30, broached the subject last week not because he wanted a plug for his Center of the Universe Brewing Co., but for charitable reasons.
While pitching for the Seattle Mariners last season, Ray helped create an India pale ale beer with Seattle-based Fremont Brewing Co. to benefit Operation Homefront, a charity that offers emergency financial and other assistance to the families of U.S. service members and to wounded veterans.
“Through some connections with the stadium (Safeco Field), I was able to get a hold of Matt Lincecum of Fremont Brewing. We pushed the idea of doing a charity beer with all the proceeds going to the charity, and he agreed to it.”
Ray checked with a friend in the Army.
“Operation Homefront is what he suggested,” he said. “We also came up with the idea of using unused Louisville Slugger (maple) bats. We age the beer on the bats after it ferments for about a week. Then we dry the bats out and auction them off. We ended up doing 30 barrels.”
The beer, Homefront IPA, made its debut in Safeco Field last year and raised over $10,000 for the charity, Ray said.
After Ray signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians in January, he hoped to connect with an independent brewery in Cleveland or Columbus to continue his hands-on charity work this season. It didn’t work out.
“I reached out to a couple of breweries in Cleveland and Columbus,” Ray said. “But it’s difficult to do a one-off batch because they have their schedules out months and months in advance.”
This is not to say Homefront IPA was a one-and-done affair.
“We had five other breweries around the country sign up for it this year,” Ray said. “So we’re doing over 11 times more than last year. One brewery — Saint Arnold in Houston — is doing 240 barrels. They’re hoping to raise about $100,000. So it’s going to be a pretty big donation.” The beer will be sold in the six markets where the participating breweries are located: Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa, Fla.
 The "Philadelphia" brewery is Sly Fox, which isn't distributing to Maryland bars or shelves of late.  More information here.

18 May 2012

Gordon Biersch Coming to Harbor East?

A report from Jess Blumberg, blogging at Baltimore Magazine's On the Town blog, says that Gordon Biersch is finally making its long-rumored entry into the Baltimore market with a location in the 1000 block of Lancaster Street in Harbor East, between the Charleston restaurant and the just-announced Townhouse Kitchen + Bar (with a parking lot in the 1100 block, mind you).  Opening is targeted for mid-October--just in time, maybe, for Baltimore Beer Week.

Things are getting interesting here.

17 May 2012

So Who Is Being Protected By Arcane Liquor Laws?

The recent kerfuffle over the planned ownership and administration of a liquor store adjacent to a Wegman's grocery "super-store" in Columbia highlights, once again, the inanity of the legal processes surrounding liquor laws not just in Maryland, but across the nation.

The purported rationale behind the general legal principle enforced in many states--that liquor license holders may hold only one license, and/or that corporations or "chain" operations may not hold multiple bar or retail licenses--is that small businesses need "protection" from, for example, Anheuser-Busch or MillerCoors or Samuel Adams coming into an area or state and opening multiple "tied house" bars or liquor stores, using their size and distribution network to drive out competition.  In some states (such as the People's Republic of Maryland), such measures keep chain mass retailers like Safeway, Giant, Wal-Mart, World Market, Trader Joe's, Target, or Costco, or even alcohol specialists like Total WineBinny's,  or Spec's from opening multiple locations in a state or region.

Folks, this is as big a national joke as the 55-mph speed limit was. 

You know how to tell someone from the Northeast in a grocery or convenience store in the South, Midwest, or Southwest?  They're scratching their heads strangely at the alcoholic-beverage section of the store, with the "Does....  Not... Compute..." brain-gear-clashing almost audible over the hum of the coolers.  We're sitting among four of only eight states in the United States that ban, or for all practical purposes ban, beer sales in supermarkets (Md., Pa., NJ, and Delaware), and among only 19 states that ban wine sales in same.

Look at ANY regulation concerning ownership of an alcohol outlet.  Somebody has found a way to circumvent it.  You get a family member to sign on as the "owner" of the second (or third or more) establishment.  You hire a resident of the jurisdiction to be a partner to satisfy residency requirements.  This is all done quite openly.  It's all "wink and nod" at the liquor board hearings.  The only one I haven't seen circumvented regionally of late is the one about ownership of a second microbrewery--a rule that bit Bare Bones hard in the posterior when they opened up a second brewpub in Cockeysville and then had to shut down the brewery in the original Ellicott City location.  (The Cockeysville brewpub was sold shortly thereafter, leaving them no brewing location at all.)

And what for?  To "protect small business" from big corporate owners.  Well, come on, if we're going to do that to the alcohol business, and it's such a noble gesture, why not extend it to, say, the grocery store business?  Or the take-out fast-food business?  Or the general store business (only one Wal-Mart or Target or 7-Eleven in the state, please)?  Or the gas station business?  Or the hardware store business, or the automobile business, or the movie theater business, or the auto parts business, or even the "dollar store" business?

For the craft beer enthusiasts, the reality is that we're perfectly fine with certain chains--DuClaw, a potential Olivers Breweries outlet chain, Dog Pub, Capitol City, Sweetwater, et al--but we bristle at too much "success" and clout (Gordon Biersch?  Hops?).  In addition, we as Americans continue to stigmatize the alcohol business, and insist on this Kabuki dance for entrepreneurs who simply want to take a successful (i.e. good) thing further.

Maryland is hardly alone in such stupidity, as our neighbors to the north--double victims of a state-run liquor-store system and a requirement that beer be sold by the case--will hasten to tell us.  Every state and providence out there has something stupid, wacky, or downright inexplicable about its alcohol regulations; it's certainly the nature of the beast.  Certainly, someone can reply with a litany of the "horrors" of what happened to the beer business in Britain after the biggest brewers dominated the market with "tied houses."  And I'm sure there's at least one reader of this blog that would be perfectly happy to see all the "big" merchants banned or shut down in favor of quaint little farmers' markets, general stores, mercantile co-ops, and whatnot.  But the United States and the free market should be about choice and liberty, not regulation, nepotism, and sleight of hand.  Note the folks objecting to the Wegman's Columbia proposal.  They're not little producers or retailers afraid of being steamrollered by big business.  They're successful businessmen in an artificially-distorted business field, afraid of competition that would force them to work harder or share their lucrative pie with others. 

Do we turn all of this into the "Wild West" of totally unregulated booze businesses?  No, that's not what I'm calling for.  But we do have to stop pretending that this regulatory balderdash does one iota towards "protecting" the consumer or small business.  Otherwise, the future belongs to whatever entrepreneur can come up with the biggest family.

Another Multitap To Open, This One in Harbor East

Rumors of proposals for this location have floated about for over a year, but the pre-opening press release finally arrived (edited and slightly corrected version below):
Baltimore, MD – Restaurants-America today announced that Townhouse Kitchen + Bar will celebrate its grand opening in Baltimore, MD on Thursday, May 24, 2012. Townhouse Kitchen + Bar will serve as the newest addition to the Harbor East section of Baltimore featuring American fare created from market fresh ingredients for lunch and dinner, a table tap technology providing draft beer at individual tables, more than 40 local beers on tap, and outdoor dining.

Townhouse Kitchen + Bar has named Chef Bryan Perdue to lead its staff in Baltimore. Chef Perdue grew up in Ocean City, MD and began working in restaurant kitchens at the age of 15. Perdue has worked as a pastry chef, Artisan bread baker, fine dining chef and consultant where he was responsible for creating entire menus and concepts from scratch for various restaurants. Perdue has been honored with awards for the best crab cakes in Ocean City, MD, as well as the best fish and chips in Baltimore, and now brings his talent and experience to Townhouse Kitchen + Bar.

At Townhouse, Chef Perdue will create his signature American fare with Latin, Asian and Mediterranean influences. The menu showcases market fresh ingredients and offers a wide variety of shared plates, salads, fire grilled skewers, tacos and more. Townhouse will feature more than 40 local beers on tap, as well as a unique table tap system located at four individual tables for diners. Townhouse will be the first restaurant in Baltimore to implement the table tap system.  [Correction: The same system was in use at The Falls, now closed, and is available at Leinenkugel's Beer Garden.] UPDATED AGAIN: They are now telling me it's an entirely different system, with booth taps as opposed to a table with a tap tower in the center.)

Townhouse Kitchen + Bar will offer happy hour specials weeknights from 3 p.m. –- 6 p.m., as well as brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. –- 3 p.m. Townhouse will be open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. -– 2 a.m. Townhouse is located at 1350 Lancaster Street in Baltimore, Md. and offers valet parking for diners. For more information, call 443-268-0323 or visit www.townhousebaltimore.com. [Website not fully functional yet.]

Townhouse Kitchen + Bar will be part of the Restaurants-America group which owns and operates over a dozen restaurants nationwide, ranging from casual kitchen and bars to contemporary steak houses and wine bars.
(Photo from the restaurant's Facebook page.)

08 May 2012

Poll: Should Md. Grocery Stores Be Allowed To Sell Beer/Wine/Liquor?

Columbia Patch has an online poll following up on a Baltimore Sun article on Saturday.

They need more than 41 opinions, if you ask me.  And they go beyond a simple yes/no choice, so kudos to them.  Go and have a look.

The Sun article goes into the several actions that have been used to "do an end run" around chain ownership of liquor stores in Maryland, including the linked Whole Foods/Bin 604 in Harbor East and the Harris Teeter/Cellars in Locust Point.

Go voice your opinion.

Mysteries Buried In the Walls

Stephen Jones, brewmaster at Pratt Street Ale House, has been reporting on a mystery uncovered in the brewery:
I've heard of dead cats being bricked into walls of houses to ward off evil spirits (or something like that), but this is a new one on me ... we're completely refurbishing our 7bbl fermentation room and when the ceiling was torn out we found this bottle (and yes, it's full) ... the bottling date is 1994! Sort of a brewery time capsule I guess!
A perusal of the original brewing logs (yes, they're still there) provided the original recipe, but not the full story:

It was bottled by the brewer of the time, Todd (couldn't make out his surname) on 12/30/94. I located the brew sheet ... pretty straightforward spiced Christmas Ale (pale, crystal and black malts & torrified wheat) but with way too much spice for my tastes ... I use less than half of the amounts of cinnamon, all spice & nutmeg in my Merry Ole Ale.. . . [original gravity] was around 1.058, but of course has been at ambient temperature throughout the years, i.e. hot in the Summer, cold in the Winter. . . . I certainly wouldn't want to taste it!
Barrett Lauer, one of the earliest brewers at what was then the Wharf Rat, confirmed that "Todd" was his immediate predecessor, departing on not-very-friendly terms, allowing Lauer to transition from kitchen to brewkettle--and the rest was history, for him and the brewery.

Tom Cizauskas has identified Harold "Howie" Faircloth III as the original brewer for the Wharf Rat when it opened in 1992.  Faircloth would later move on to open the Globe Brewing Co. on Key Highway in 1995, then on to Vermont, brewing at The Shed Brewery and Restaurant in Stowe (closed in late 2011), and now a co-owner of Green Mountain Distillers.

(Photos by Stephen Jones, Pratt Street Ale House)

04 May 2012

Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout Now Year-Round

Flying Dog Brewery has just announced that it's going full-time, and nationwide, with its previously-experimental Pearl Necklace oyster stout, with new label art.  From the press release:

Flying Dog decided to brew the beer year-round not only because the beer itself was well received, but also because it supports a cause essential to the brewery’s backyard. Proceeds from the beer benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), one of the region’s leading nonprofits restoring oysters back into the Chesapeake Bay.

“Our initial work with the ORP was just the beginning,” Ben Savage, Flying Dog’s VP of marketing, said. “Sales of Pearl Necklace will continue to benefit the ORP and also raise awareness nationwide of how critical oyster restoration is to the Chesapeake Bay.”

The goal is to enable ORP to plant at least 1 million baby oysters back into the Chesapeake Bay through proceeds from Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout.

“A healthy oyster reef not only filters the Chesapeake Bay’s waters, but also provides habitat for other important marine life such as blue crabs and striped bass,” Stephan Abel, Executive Director of the ORP, said. “Every oyster we plant back into the Bay will have an immediate, positive impact.”

Brewers Cask/DuClaw Beer Dinner May 23rd

At Brewers Cask, 1236 S. Light Street:
May 23rd 2012, 7pm
The Release of DuClaw's all new Mysterium Belgian Spiced Ale

Amuse Bouche
Beef tartar, chives, red onion, cirtus vinaigrette over toast points
Paired with Mysterium Belgian-style spiced ale

Briny Oysters on the half shell over seaweed salad
Paired with Euforia Toffee nut brown ale

Spicy Beef Kabob with kiwi mango glaze over seasoned rice
Paired with Hellrazer Ipa

X-1 Caramel covered brownie w/ cherry infused ice cream
Paired with X-1 imperial chocolate rye porter

$40.00 - 4 courses, 4 beers

get your tickets @ www.missiontix.com