21 December 2012

Full Tilt to Debut Baltimore Pale Ale on Dec. 29th in Canton

Again, the press release pretty much tells it all:

Full Tilt Brewing, Baltimore’s newest craft beer producer, is excited to announce their initial release of their flagship beer, “Baltimore Pale Ale”.  Their introduction to the ever growing craft beer market will take place on Saturday, December 29th at The Americana in Canton, 900 S. Kenwood Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224.  The first pint of “Baltimore Pale Ale” will be poured at 8:00 pm sharp.  Baltimore Pale Ale pints will be sold for $2 all night.
Full Tilt Brewing, (FTB) is also launching their Community Support program the night of the release, whereby their portion of the $5 cover charge and subsequent raffle tickets, will go directly to The American Legion’s – “Heroes to Hometowns” non-profit organization.  While this is only one event supporting those who have given the most for our country, Full Tilt Brewing will focus on continuing to support local veteran causes in the future.  This is the least we all can do for these brave and selfless individuals.
Included in the cover charge each patron will receive a wristband for entry and their first raffle ticket along with a separate ticket for (1) pint of BPA redeemable any time after 8:00 pm.  Each additional raffle ticket can be purchased for $5 for the chance to win a FULL TILT BREWING prize package including a BPA tap-handle.  The winner will be chosen via drawing at 10:00 pm.  Winner must be present to win.

13 December 2012

Gunpowder Falls Brewing: Well, Technically They're Not IN Baltimore, But.....

This blogger has been too busy with other (paid) work to follow up on what he discovered a couple weeks ago in The Wine Source, and it was a gray area, anyway, requiring an out-of-state trip to visit--and as far as Mid-Atlantic Brewing News goes, technically it's the Central Pennsylvania columnist's territory, not ours...

But with a name like Gunpowder Falls Brewing, you just know they're going to market to Marylanders.  In addition, founder Martin Virga, from Phoenix, Md., is a familiar name to the region's craft beer scene, as a former co-founder of both Capitol City Brewing and then Ellicott Mills Brewing in Ellicott City.

And The Baltimore Sun has the story of the new lager-brewing brewery, located along Interstate 83 just two miles over the Mason-Dixon Line in New Freedom (closer to Shrewsbury, in reality).

12 December 2012

"Twelve!! Twelve!! Twelve!!"

Can't help myself.....

Guy's walking alongside a wooden fence and hears a crowd of men on the other side chanting "TWELVE!  TWELVE! TWELVE!" over and over.  He sees a knothole in the fence and peers inside to see what the hubbub is about.
Suddenly his eye is stabbed by a finger poking through the hole, and as he staggers away in excruciating pain, the crowd starts chanting "THIRTEEN! THIRTEEN! THIRTEEN!"


Today is the twelfth day of the twelfth month of 2012, or 12/12/12.  Normally, to beer geeks this date would reflect the release of the latest (and last) of Stone Brewing's vaunted Vertical Epic series of "extreme" beers, released in the past on 01/01/01, 02/02/02, etc.

To the hard-core beer geek crowd, however, this noted occasion has been completely overshadowed by what is threatened to be a "once in a lifetime" opportunity: the chance to buy bottles of Westvleteren beer from the St. Sixtus Abbey, producers of the world's rarest and most desired commercial beers.  And, of course, the beer in question is Westvleteren 12.

"Westy 12," as the beer is nicknamed among aficionados, has been one of those "holy grail" missions for many, as a combination of reputation, notoriety, and scarcity elevated the beer to lofty levels of iconography and idolatry--whether or not it's been sampled by the worshipper.  The beer is quite frequently regarded as the "number one" or "best" beer in the world, a subjective and quantitative measure to be sure, and the hype is no doubt heightened by the beer's extreme scarcity: only 160,000 cases are produced a year of the 12, along with similar quantities of the lighter 6 and 8.  It has been, until now, sold only at the door of the abbey, where its 21 monks brew the beer, and actually purchasing it apparently resembles buying soup from the "Soup Nazi" of the Seinfeld TV show fame (see for yourself the obstacles to be overcome), for the equivalent of $50 a case of 24 bottles plus about $15 deposit on the bottles and wooden carrier.  The monastery insists that "Westvleteren Trappist is sold only to individual customers. Every customer agrees not to re-sell the beer to any third party."  (This condition is, of course, completely unenforceable, as a moment's thought will discern.)  Thus, there is no reliable or commercial distribution network like there is for the other Trappist beers, or basically any commercial brewery.  Bottles, or small lots of bottles, have routinely sold (illegally) on eBay and through back-channel secondhand sales for prices in excess of $25 and even as high as $50+ a 330-ml bottle, and almost no beer bar in the United States would ever admit to stocking the beer, at least officially--places like DC's Brickskeller or Baltimore's Max's Taphouse, if they had any, would only discretely share bottles on special occasions.  (The only bar at the moment publicly listing the presence of Westy 12 on the menu, the Downtown Bar & Grill in Brooklyn, is asking $50 a bottle.)

So imagine the reaction when it was announced that Westvleteren 12 was going to be offered at retail in the United States--one time only (so far as anyone is admitting), starting on 12/12/12, for suggested retail of $84.99 for a gift pack of six bottles and two goblets.  The beer was imported by Shelton Brothers of Connecticut, one of the noted specialty craft-beer importers, and a great deal of the supply--90,000 330-ml bottles and 30,000 goblets--was snapped up by Total Wine, the Delaware-based chain that now operates 85 stores in 14 states.  A total of 144 retail outlets, largely dominated by Total Wine outlets and affiliates, were offering the beer nationwide.

Why did the brewery finally cave and "sell out"?  As National Public Radio's Morning Edition reports, they simply need the money.

To the utter amazement of many, no outlets in Virginia or the District of Columbia were allocated any, and Pennsylvania, being its own bureaucratic nightmare thanks to their "case law" and the Pa. Liquor Control Board, also lost out.  But Maryland and Delaware each got a supply at two outlets, all Total Wine retail places.

Corridor Liquors in Laurel reported last night that the hype had been building.  "Every other phone call for the past two weeks has been about that beer," said one manager last night.  "Today we started getting calls like, 'Is anyone camping out in line?' 'Are you taking reservations or handing out tickets?'  Nope and nope.  First come, first serve, we open at 8:00 AM, and we got fifty-four cases of four packs each.  We've been getting calls from D.C. and Virginia, because they didn't get any."  They later reported one person attempting to "camp out" at 8:00 PM last night; his name was taken and he was told to go home and wait.

Neither Beltway Liquors in Towson nor the fanatics that went there this morning knew what to expect this morning.  Two intrepid customers, one from Columbia, Md. who works in nearby Timonium and another from Lancaster, Pa. were in line at 6:15 this morning, slowly joined by others.

At 7:15, the manager came out, and handed out numbered tickets while taking names.  "We'll hang on to them until noon or so," he said.  Most of the line dispersed for warmer locations to wait, but the first two and this reporter stuck it out.

At 7:45 the manager decided to open early for the 25 or so people now in line. "It's 33 degrees out there!" he was heard remarking to a fellow employee).  Approximately fifty of the gift-packs, out of the 192 (48 cases) they had been allocated, had sold in the first thirty minutes, as many of the shoppers continued to browse the beer aisles for additional new beers or holiday presents.  "We think we'll sell at least half today, and the rest by the end of the weekend," said the manager.  They tried to call the Laurel location for an update from them, but no one was answering--not a good sign. 


This blog has deliberately avoided raising the issue of this vaunted beer's availability until now--there is no need to hype on top of hype, and it's utterly no use extolling the virtues of a fantastic beer that's not available except by preposterous effort.

But it's there.  It awaits you for $92.64 in (or arguably close to) Towson or Laurel, or $84.99 if you drive to Delaware.

Is it worth it?  That's up to you.  There has been perpetual discussion in beer-geekery circles claiming that Westy 12 is simply a hyped version of the far more easily available and highly rated St. Bernardus Abt 12, which supposedly uses the same recipe and almost the same yeast only miles apart (see here and here and here and most of all here.)  Certainly, some of this is simply hype, and folks clustering around the latest "must-try-but-can't-get-here" beer (remember when that was New Belgium Fat TireFAT TIRE?!?!?!?)

But this beer is certainly on any serious beer expert's short list of "beers to try before you die."  And, at least for the moment, it doesn't appear that you have to push aside little old ladies or burly beer geeks, or snipe on an online auction or frustratingly try to grab a "Black Friday/Cyber Monday" deal, to grab a supply.  You know where to find them (and if not, Google/Bing/Yahoo/etc. and online maps are your friends).

UPDATE: This blogger suggests you save your money.  And reports indicate some Georgia outlets not even on the Shelton Brothers' official sales outlet list sold some packs as much as eleven days early.  More from NPR News.

10 December 2012

Another Benefit, TONIGHT at Pratt Street Ale House

Rather than retype, I'm just going to re-post their poster.

In other PSAH news, brewer Stephen Jones says,
". . . get that ugly Christmas sweater on (or "jumper" as we lovable Brits call it) and get along to the Pratt Street Ale House for we have just tapped our only cask of "Merry Ole Ale" ... hey, if I see you at the bar and that sweater is truly ugly (I'm talking Rudolf, Santa's little elves etc.) I'll buy you a pint! "Merry Ole Ale" is also available on draft but you know, cask is the way the Sweet Baby Jesus intended it! Come get some!

05 December 2012

A Gentle Reminder Re: "Repeal Day"

It seems more people (prompted in part by Facebook posts) are jumping on the beer wagon and using this anniversary of the ratification of the repeal of Prohibition as an excuse to "celebrate" (i.e. sell beer).

Here's last year's post on the topic.

"Those who do not study the past........"

04 December 2012

DuClaw Re-releases Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, Announces Holiday Events

Once again, the press release pretty much sums it up.  Regulars may recognize the "Sweet Baby Jesus" as last year's "H.E.R.O." beer.
The brewery has also announced that it's sending a firkin of "a special Gingerbread EuForia" to the Brewers Art/Pratt Street Ale House Holiday Beer Tasting this upcoming Saturday.
We're not too keen on the proposed Christmas Eve opening, but, hey, there have to be enough fans and employees that don't give a figgy pudding about the 25th, right?

DuClaw Brewing Company Sweet Baby Jesus release

    Date: Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 & December 13th, 2012

    Time: 6:00pm at Arundel Mills & Bowie locations, 7:00pm at Bel Air location

    First brewed in 2011, Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter is a complex, robust porter. It is jet black in color with a tan, rocky head, full body and creamy, luxurious mouthfeel. Its lightly sweet, malty flavor is accented by strong notes of chocolate, coffee and peanut butter, and balanced by a subtle hop character and moderate 6.5% abv. Sweet Baby Jesus finishes smooth, dry and roasty with notes of chocolate, espresso and peanut butter so tasty, you’ll no choice but to exclaim the name!

      DuClaw Brewing Company Oak Aged Serum release

    Date: Monday, December 24th, 2012

    Time: 11:00am – 11:00pm

    Beginning 11am on Christmas Eve, DuClaw Brewing Company has an early gift for you, regardless of your current naughty or nice status...

    Serum, our medium-bodied, super hoppy, amber XXIPA, aged in charred Kentucky white oak bourbon barrels to create a smoky XXIPA infused with notes of charred oak, vanilla and caramelized sugar to create a truly unique treat for hop heads and bourbon aged beer fans alike!

    Supplies of this Bourbon barrel-aged XXIPA are EXTREMELY LIMITED, so get to your nearest DuClaw Brewing Company and have a pint today!

    DuClaw Brewing Company Black Jack Stout 2011 on tap

    Date: Monday, December 31st, 2012

    Time: 11:00am – 11:00pm

    Beginning 11am on New Year’s Eve, 2011 Black Jack Stout returns to DuClaw Brewing Company taps! Black Jack pours jet black with a small tan head and full body. This classic, 2011 vintage Russian Imperial Stout boasts a complex swirl of dark chocolate, coffee, smoky malt, and fruit flavors refined by a year of aging and sophisticated enough to conceal a lingering, warming alcohol presence (8% abv). You can’t lose when every glass is a winner, so ring in the New Year at your favorite DuClaw Brewing Company, and score with a sure thing!