Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Virginia Brewery Faces Opposition

The Shooting Creek Brewery is scheduled to open this Summer in Floyd, Virginia. The brewery has run into some opposition from local Baptist ministers. The Star City Harbinger reports in "Local ministers canvass countryside to stop brewery near Floyd":
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the latest unemployment rate data indicates that the Commonwealth of Virginia has an unemployment rate of 4%. The counties of Southwest and South Central Virginia, however, have the highest rates of unemployment averaging between 5-6.9%. This is why the effort by some Baptist ministers in the vicinity of Floyd, Virginia, to stop a new brewery from opening in August is so bizarre.

Brett Nichols has been waiting for the opening of Shooting Creek Brewery for months now. The area between Floyd and the Blue Ridge Parkway is riddled with wineries of all sorts, from Blacksnake Meadery to the Villa Appalaccia Winery.

Sources indicate that upwards to 30%, if not more, of the local economy is tied up in winery-related tourism around Floyd.

According to reports by neighbors in the vicinity of Shooting Creek Brewery, a group of three adult male Baptist ministers have cased each house on the road leading to the brewery site. Nichols first became aware of the situation when the ministers inadvertently visited the home of some of Nichols’ business partners who live in the same area. There are signs that the group opposed to the brewery has been going door-to-door throughout the county, using church members to help spread the word. The group opposes the brewery on Biblical grounds.

What do they mean "on Biblical grounds"? Where do these people get this biblical anti-alcohol rhetoric? Just a reminder to the Baptist ministers, Jesus' first public miracle took place at a wedding party and it involved changing water into wine. And then there's the Last Supper, where wine was also served. Let's hope the VABC is open to common sense when they review the brewery's application. When contacted for comment, Shooting Creek partner Ray Jones replied simply "What we are doing is legal and lawful in the state of Virginia and we have worked with all the appropriate government authorities at the local, state and federal level."

Shooting Creek Brewery is a family-owned, artisanal brewery located on Five Penny Organic Farm near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County. Partners Brett Nichols and Ray Jones plan to feature "unique Handmade American Farmhouse Ales borrowing from the rich tradition and characteristics of farm breweries in the UK, Belgium and France." They eventually will have six ales on tap ranging from an amber rye to a stout.

Complete Star City Harbinger article here.

Update, August 5: Ray Jones reports that the VABC hearing originally scheduled for Monday, August 4 has been rescheduled for Wednesday, August 13th at 10:00 am at VABC Regional Offices in Roanoke. Stay tuned.

American Eats: Beerhead

This video clip should be required viewing for all beer servers. "American Eats: Beerhead, The proper way to present and pour beer" debunks the misconception that head on a beer is bad. "It's just one of those lovely things about beer that it has a beautiful foamy head" says Randy Mosher, author of "Radical Brewing".

View the video
Also, on Thursday, July 31 at 10:00 PM EDT, The History Channel presents "The Works, Episode: Beer". Check your local listings for more schedule info.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No macro-beers will be served

This weekend the men's fraternal and charitable organization at our Church held it's annual family picnic. My buddy Frank and I were asked to "take care of" getting the beer for the event. Thanks to the generosity of Jeff Fitzpatrick of Blue & Gray Brewing Company, we had two beers on tap from our local brewery. On tap were the Classic Lager and Fred Red Ale. And, unlike many such functions, craft beer was to be the ONLY beer served. This is the second year in which no other beers were supplied at this function.

Just as we arrived at the picnic site with the beer, the rain began. Fortunately we were under cover. After 30 minutes of a very hard downpour, the rain become lighter but continued. The weather caused some folks to delay their arrival. This turned out to be a good thing, as we experienced equipment malfunctions and were unable to immediately tap the two kegs. Now what do we do? Although the crowd was still light, folks were arriving, and food was being served. While we worked on a solution, it became an interesting observation in human behavior. More than a few people would walk up to the kegs, pick up the unattached hose, look at it, trace the line to the jockey box, remove the cup that was over the tap handle and attempt to pour a beer. I guess some people are ever optimistic!

Eventually we contacted Jeff who said he would send over some hand taps. Frank also headed back to his house to pick up a couple of taps. Who would arrive back first? I answered questions about the lack of beer, and waited.

Frank soon arrived with the equipment and the two kegs were tapped, and a "beer is served" announcement was made. Shortly after that someone made the observation that as soon as the kegs were tapped, the skies cleared and the sun began to shine. Make your own conclusions, but God certainly must be a beer lover.

Both the Classic Lager and Fred Red were enjoyed by many folks. I heard no one ask for a different beer. As to be expected, a small crowd loitered around the kegs, and I hung out there for a bit answering questions about the beers. I received no complaints about the lack of any "factory beer" and I think a few new craft beer fans were made that day. Many people were pleased that the beer was made locally. Those in attendance ranged from young families to retired folks, and nearly as many women were enjoying the beer as the men. Craft beer really does cross all boundaries. After a rough start the day turned out to be a lot of fun.

I want to extend thanks to Jeff at Blue & Gray. Not only did Jeff supply the beer at wholesale prices, he also provided the serving equipment at no charge. This is an example of why it's important to support your local brewery, as that support can be mutually beneficial.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Changes at Old Dominion Brewing

Via his "Yours For Good Fermentables" blog Tom Cizauskas brings word of changes at Old Dominion Brewing:
Confirmed by two sources: Scott Zetterstrom, Vice-President of Brewing Operations for Coastal/Dominion Brewing of Annapolis Md/Ashburn, Va. has left that position.

He will be working at another mid-Atlantic brewery.

Zetterstrom began with Dominion Brewing in the 1990s, hired by John Mallett, one of the original brewers there. Scott eventually rose to head the brewing staff. His background was mechanical engineering; he brought that expertise to the brewery and to other local breweries as a much sought after consultant.

With Scott's departure, those brewers and employees from the original ownership of Dominion number only a few.

Tom's post is here.

Tasting Events This Weekend

Looks to be a pleasant weekend weather-wise, for Virginia anyway. You know what they say about Virginia weather? Don't like it? Wait 5 minutes, it'll change. I hope to see some of you next week at the Fredericksburg Blogger Happy Hour on Thursday, July 31, at J. Brian's Tap Room. You don't have to be a blogger to attend, just willing to put up with us. :-)

Friday, July 25 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale, Starr Hill Love, Clipper City BaltoMarzHon, Black Sheep Monty Python Holy Grail, Kasteel Triple

Saturday, July 26 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Green's Discovery Gluten Free Beer, He-Brew Pomegranate Ale, plus 1st customer gets to pick 3rd beer
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Coney Island Sword Swallower Strong Lager, Coney Island Albino Python Spiced Lager, plus 1st Customer Picks 3rd Beer

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

iPint for iPhone - Trivial Fun

Here's a way to have a little bit of fun when you're out practicing good beer etiquette with friends. iPint is a free application for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch from the makers of Carling beer. The game uses the phone's accelerometer to sense movement as you slide a pint of beer around obstacles along a bar, delivering the glass to an outreached hand. After completing the course successfully you are rewarded with a virtual pint. The virtual pint is also viewable at anytime by clicking a button in the application. The beer virtual pint sloshes around in reaction to the movements of the iPhone. You can "consume" the beer by tilting the phone as if pouring. Drink as slow or fast as you like. Yep, that's all it does, but it's pretty fun, for awhile anyway. Interestingly, according to the iTunes store you must be at least 17 years old to consume a virtual beer.

View iPint in action
Download from the iTunes store

Update, July 30: iPint is no longer available in the U.S. iTunes store. I've written Carling for comment and will post if/when I hear more.
Update, October 16: Apparently the removal of iPint is due to a lawsuit by the makers of the iPhone application iBeer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beer Etiquette, or how to keep your friends

We've all been there, and have probably been guilty at times. Sometimes it's hard for serious craft beer fans to not get a bit carried away with sharing their knowledge or opinions. The July Merchant du Vin newsletter includes a list of excellent tips that may make your next beer with friends even more pleasant. There is some good advice here.

1. People are entitled to their own opinions about beer. Even if the beer reviews call it a "five-star A-plus," even if it's the first choice of five out of the six in the party . . . someone may just not care for it. For balanced enjoyment, don't let the homebrewing, advanced-beer-hobbyist, double IPA fan order a huge, strong beer for someone who wants a soft, light cream ale or sweet dark lager.

2. If your group is buying rounds, don't feel locked in by the second or third round. People drink at different paces - it's OK to order a beer on your own if other folks aren't ready; it's certainly more polite than sitting with an empty glass or forcing someone else to hurry up and finish their beer faster than they want to.

3. Use a coaster. If your bartender or server doesn't give you one, ask. A beer glass sitting directly on the bar or table sets some people's teeth on edge - maybe someone in your party.

4. Be careful of beer vs. wine vs. cocktail comparisons. They are different. They all range in flavors. People are entitled to choices, but saying "I like wine better than beer," can be upsetting to a beer lover. Try this: "I'm still searching for a beer I really like."

5. Remember: your wine by the glass may be oxidized, and your cocktail may be expensive or slow to prepare on busy nights . . . your beer will likely be perfect, and delivered quickly.

6. Ask your server succinct questions about a beer you haven't had. If he or she doesn't know, that may be a sign that the bar or restaurant often tries a number of new and interesting beers - a good thing, huh?

7. When out for food, say this to a restaurant that offers limited variety of beer: "We prefer to find a variety of beers when ordering food." (Then say) a. "Sorry, but we're leaving now for a restaurant that has more than light lager. " (Or) b. "We'll stay, but we are a lot less likely to return until you bring in a wide range of beer flavors."

8. It's about flavor. Alcohol is a component to flavor; beer is not an alcohol delivery medium.

9. Beer is a value. Some places will charge more based on rent, overhead, neighborhood, etc. . . . but beer is generally a "flavor per dollar" bargain. 10. If you are a homebrewer, don't broadcast your beer expertise to your friends unless they ask. While deep knowledge may enhance your beer enjoyment, it may disrupt somebody else's enjoyment.

11. Be careful of generalizations like "I prefer dark beers," or "I don't like dark beers." It's like saying, "I like movies whose titles start with the letters A through L," or "I don't like red foods."

12. Never order "a beer," - order by style, by variety, or by specific name. (As the late Michael Jackson said, would you order "a plate of food"?)

13. Be grateful for the variety of beer that is out there, from down the street or from a classic brewing nation. You are living in the best beer time in history.

14. Ask if a brand you are unfamiliar with is independent, or whether it's owned by a large entity. Then, assuming the beer is good, decide whether it matters to you.

15. If you get a frosted mug or glass, politely ask your server if they have any non-frosted glassware, maybe for the next round. Cold kills flavor nuances.

16. Read beer publications. They are fun, sincere, useful, and they want readers.

17. Attend a beer dinner, tasting and/or a beer festival.

18. Never assume that a dark beer is high in alcohol.

19. Remember that brewers make wort - yeast makes beer. Brewers consider yeast to be something somewhere between a business partner and a beloved pet . . . or even a beloved child in some cases. Respect yeast!

20. Push your chair or barstool in after you get up!

Previous editions of the Merchant du Vin newsletter can be found here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On to a new adventure says Clipper City's Cizauskas

Friend and fellow blogger, Thomas 'Tom' Cizauskas has announced his decision to leave the employ of Clipper City Brewing. When I read the news, my first thought was of all those fresh casks that Tom brings to so many beer events and tasting sessions.

Tom has probably done more to introduce folks to fresh cask ales in this area, and throughout the South, than anyone I know. He is enthusiastic and knowledgeable on the subject and made it a point to bring casks to many of the events and dinners he attended on behalf of Clipper City. Whether the cask is being served indoors, or outdoors in oppressive heat, you can be sure the cask is being properly handled. I've enjoyed quite a few Clipper City beers from fresh casks thanks to Tom. He's now going to go to work for Select Wines, a wholesaler in northern Virginia that distributes wine and good beers, including Clipper City, Otter Creek, Flying Dog, Brooklyn, Stouts and Allagash. I think this move could be seen as good news for area craft beer fans. His new position provides the hope for fresh casks of an even larger variety being served at area events. Hopefully the breweries will recognize the opportunity presented, as did Clipper City, and provide casks for local events. (That's a hint from me to Mr. Oliver. :-)

Tom emphasized that his leaving Clipper City is voluntary and the change is done with no ill will. He remains a big fan of Clipper City beers, and told me his favorites "are the Red Sky and the Winter Storm, and of course the casks of Loose Cannon." That's exactly the same answer I would give if asked about my favorite Clipper City beers. (See, the man does have good taste. :-) Factoring in his decision is his desire to travel less in order to stay close to his elderly mother. Who can fault a son for that? I wish Tom the best in his new adventure and look forward to see him pulling from a fresh cask very soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Absinthe in Virginia

After being banned in the U.S. for 95 years, absinthe is now available *legally* in Virginia. Absinthe is made from alcohol and distilled herbs, including wormwood and anise. Also known as "the green fairy", it has been long associated with a bohemian lifestyle. From The Virginian-Pilot:
For 95 years, Americans wanting a taste of absinthe had to sneak it in from Europe or Mexico – and risk getting the high-proof herbal liquor confiscated by U.S. Customs.

In May 2007, government officials lifted the ban on the drink once blamed for causing hallucinations and psychosis. A year later, Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved one brand for sale in the state.

Since June, Kubler Swiss Absinthe Superieure has been appearing on shelves at select ABC stores, including 13 in Hampton Roads. A 1 -liter bottle, the only size available, costs $59.95.

Absinthe has long been thought to produce hallucinatory affects. Wormwood contains thujone which produces effects similar to marijuana or opium. Recent studies have shown symptoms that were blamed on the thujone content, are actually attributable to the high alcohol level found in absinthe, something drinkers may be unprepared for.
Today, thujone still is thought to produce secondary effects similar to marijuana or opium. Dr. Chris Holstege, a medical toxicologist with University of Virginia Health System, called that a myth. “My concern over the thujone is minimal,” he said. “The only thing I worry about with the public is that they’re not going to understand the high content of ethanol in it.”

Absinthe is diluted before drinking. The preparation is almost ritualistic with specially designed glassware and slotted spoons. I'm curious. I'd be willing to have a taste, purely in the name of research of course, but probably won't be spending $60 on a bottle in order to do so.

Steaks with Dunkelweizen and Spice Marinade

We enjoy trying out new recipes and this weekend we tried a new marinade to prepare some steaks for grilling. This marinade recipe is from Lucy Saunders' book "Grilling With Beer". The marinade is made with fennel, mustard, and celery seeds, red pepper, garlic, salt, chipotle pepper, brown sugar, and dunkelweizen beer. We used Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel, or Dark Hefeweizen. While Colleen prepared with marinade the house was filled with the aroma of the spices. Our son declared "It smells like barbecue." We let NY strip steaks marinate most of the day before throwing them on the gill. I also slow grilled some Vidalia onions with butter and parmesan cheese. Add in some corn on the cob and we had a super Summer time dinner in the works!

Per the author's suggestion, Colleen held a bit of the marinade aside and thickened it for use when the steaks were plated. We all enjoyed the flavors added by the marinade quite a bit. Colleen and I spooned the reduced sauce over our steaks, while my son found the steaks spicy enough on their own. There's an interesting multi-faceted profile to the marinade. The initial flavors are fennel and sweet, brown sugar. The flavor of the meat is not hindered at all. Then you are hit by the pepper and chipotle spiciness in a flavorful burst.

I decided to serve Clipper City Red Sky at Night Saison with the meal. The Saison stood up very well to the spices on the meat and provided an excellent palate refresher. Even the mild flavors of the buttery, sweet onions were able to be enjoyed next to the spice of the beef. The Dunkelweizen and Spice Marinade was declared a "keeper" and we'll be enjoying it again, soon.

See Lucy Saunders' site at for more information on this book.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What local changes might we see from InBev?

There are some craft beer lovers who put ownership over flavor. They won't drink a beer, no matter how it tastes, if the brewer has some ownership connection to one of the big factory breweries, such as Anheuser-Busch. But what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? Instead of Anheuser-Busch absorbing some small craft brewer, the giant itself has been picked up by Belgian InBev. Will folks drink beers from a Belgian company that also owns Anheuser-Busch? We may have the chance to find out. After the hand-wringing over the loss of an American icon, the guesses start as to what this really means on a local level. InBev produces numerous beers worldwide, only a few of which are seen in the U.S. Whether you enjoy Anheuser-Busch beers or not, one has to be impressed by their distribution network. There can be little doubt that InBev is impressed as well and will likely take advantage.

Our local Anheuser-Busch distributor thinks we'll see more InBev brands locally as a result. In a recent Free Lance-Star report, J. F. Fick believes the sale offers opportunity:
[The merger] means that exclusive Anheuser-Busch distributors such as J.F. Fick in Fredericksburg will likely add ales and other beverages from Belgian-based InBev to their lineup. "We'll have access to a lot more products from InBev that aren't well known in the United States, and this will give us an opportunity to introduce them," said John F. Fick III, Fick's president and CEO.

This same theme was covered by the Wall Street Journal on Friday in "This Jupiler's for You":
Amid all the patriotic tub-thumping about the recently sealed takeover of Anheuser-Busch, maker of all-American King of Beers Budweiser, by Belgian-Brazilian InBev, one vital fact has gotten lost. Americans could soon get to drink a lot more, and more unusual, kinds of beers.

InBev already was one of the world's biggest beer companies before it bought Anheuser-Busch. It makes hundreds of different brews around the globe, but exports only about two dozen to the U.S.. That's likely to change, the company says. For the $52 billion it paid for Anheuser, InBev gets access to the U.S. company's many-tentacled distribution network that can spread its brews into convenience stores, markets and bars across the country. InBev says it's looking at "brand strategies" before deciding which new beers to ship across the pond. "Maybe we'll sell a Russian beer in the U.S.," says spokeswoman Marianne Amssoms. InBev owns four breweries in Russia, including one called Tinkov and one called Tolstiak.

There are other perhaps more pertinent questions to be answered. For example, what will become of Virginia's Busch Gardens amusement park? Of course, all this talk is mere speculation at this point. As Tom Cizauskas so succinctly put it "Now, let the games begin: distribution networks, brands, employees, those craft breweries partially owned by Anheuser-Busch, the Department of Justice, etc."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel

I received a sample of this beer last month from Flying Dog Brewery. Coincidentally it arrived at my home while I was actually in Denver, on the same day I happened to be visiting the brewery's office. (You regular readers will know that the Flying Dog brewery is now in Maryland though the company still has offices in Denver.) I forgot about the bottle until today. Colleen prepared a pistachio encrusted chicken breast salad with guacamole and caramelized onions for dinner and the tripel seemed like a good choice to enjoy with the meal.

The beer pours a golden orange color with a thin white head that rapidly drops. The aroma is that of clove, banana, with some bready notes. The taste has the expected banana and pepper flavors and is slightly sweet up front. A strong hop presence comes through in the finish. There's a bit of alcohol detected, although it's not quite as prominent as one might expect from the brewery's big beers. Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel is part of the brewery's Canis Major series. Better be careful as the 8.5% ABV could sneak up on you. The finish is dry with some lingering mild bitterness.

The Kerberos Tripel indeed went well with the food. The dish was slightly spicy and the caramelized onions provided some sweetness. The mild sweetness of the beer, along with pepper spiciness, and the bitter hop finish, matched well to the varied flavors in the meal.

Two other beers in the Canis Major Series, Double Dog Pale Ale and Gonzo Imperial Porter were review previously. I do have the fourth, Horn Dog Barley Wine, waiting for me downstairs. I'll surely be having it soon. As a fan of "big beers" I've enjoyed this series from Flying Dog.

Merger Humor

News of the takeover of Anheuser-Busch by InBev is well-reported and commented on by other bloggers. I don't think there's much I could say that hasn't been said already. I personally feel fairly nonchalant about it, and I see a lot of irony in many of the protestations. Yea, I too hate to see another American company being owned by a foreign company, but it's not like this is the first time we've seen this happen.

However, perhaps the best outcome of the acquisition so far has been the fodder for humorists. Earlier this week, we were treated to this hilarious Colbert Report. It gets funnier each time I watch it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Weekend Tasting Events

Magnolias First Annual Beer Festival takes place in Purcellville on Saturday. Sounds like a fun event, barbecue and beer! I'll be helping with a Boy Scout skills camp on Saturday so will miss this one. If you go, let me know how it was.

Friday, July 18 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Bohemia, Piraat Belgian Tripel, Wolaver’s (Organic) Pale Ale, Kona Longboard Lager, Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale

Saturday, July 19 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Coney Island Sword Swallower Strong Lager, Coney Island Albino Python Spiced Lager, plus 1st customer chooses 3rd beer
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Troegs Brothers Troegenator Doppelbock, New Holland Dragon's Milk (Barrell-aged Strong Ale), plus 1st customer chooses 3rd beer

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Devils Backbone Construction Photos

Tom Cizauskas has posted a few pictures of the construction at Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Nelson County, VA. Jason Oliver plans to open the new brewpub in late 2008.

I was alerted to the photos by Tom via Twitter. Previous posts on Devils Backbone are here.

Tom's Devils Backbone Flickr Photos

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What’s Next for Starr Hill Brewing?

It's been less than a year since Starr Hill Brewing in Crozet, Virginia signed a distribution agreement with Anheuser-Busch. By all accounts, this arrangement continues to benefit both the brewery and craft beer lovers. Starr Hill beers are available in Fredericksburg now and seem to be quite popular. The Daily Progress in Charlottesville has published an interview with Starr Hill founder and brewmaster Mark Thompson. In "What’s next for Starr Hill", Mark talks about their plans to increase production capacity, the current and future distribution plans, and some new products in the works. Mark also touches on the tourism aspect of the business, something I've discussed on this blog previously.
Q. Any plans for a new restaurant?

A. Starr Hill currently operates a tasting room that is open to the public every Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. with tours of the plant at 1 and 3 p.m. The tastings are free and individuals can purchase cases and kegs for take out. We have experienced success with the Saturday tastings for several reasons. First, there is a large tourist trade that comes to Virginia to tour the wineries, and having a brewery on the itinerary makes a lot of sense. Second, Blue Mountain Brewery in Nelson County and the soon to open Devils Backbone Brewery near Wintergreen will give our region a real beer trail for the first time ever.

With the success of our Saturday tastings, the existing wineries, the new breweries, we have seriously considered doing more retail than we currently do. We know that there is a lot of interest in the retail side of our business and that having people out to the brewery to touch and feel the brand provides real value to our mission. We struggle with the fact that we are first and foremost a manufacturer and that retail is a side business.

Another idea that we have been kicking around is to do more special events at the brewery. We are in the process of looking into doing selected special events at the brewery that center around music and beer. At the end of the day when someone thinks of Starr Hill, we want them to think of beer and music. The thought would be to do an event like an Oktoberfest with a regional band.

Great to see this local brewery doing well. As more craft beer lovers nationwide are exposed to great beer coming from Virginia, the Old Dominion will continue to develop as an exciting craft beer destination. Read the entire article here. I really liked this quote from Mark:
There are very few things in this world that cross all religions, races, colors and creeds like beer. Every culture on this planet has a fermented cereal grain beverage that they gather around to celebrate their culture’s rites of passage. Starr Hill is here to fulfill the mission of the celebration of life.

Related links:
Blue Mountain Brewery
Devils Backbone Brewery

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Slow Cooked Pale Ale Spicy Beef

Here's a dish we've made a few times and one that's great for a quick meal after a day at the pool or other Summer activities. You can put the ingredients together, let it slow cook all day, and pull the meal together in about five minutes when you're ready to eat. We used Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale, but any hoppy Pale Ale will work.
  • 3-4 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast
  • 12 oz. peperoncini
  • 14 1/2 oz. beef broth
  • 12 ounces hoppy Pale Ale
  • 1 package (1 oz.) Italian salad dressing mix
  • French bread
  • Provolone cheese
Trim the fat from the beef and place in a slow cooker. Remove and discard peperoncini stems. Add peperoncini, beef broth, beer and salad dressing mix to the slow cooker. You can add some of the peperocini juice for added heat if desired. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. When you're ready to eat, use forks to shred the beef and combine the ingredients. Place the beef and pepperoncini mixture on thick sliced French bread and top with provolone cheese. It makes a messy, but tasty sandwich. Serve with, what else, Dale's Pale Ale.

(Adapted from "Cooking with Beer, Publications International, 2005.)

FABTS July Meeting: "American Beers"

Yesterday's gathering of the Fredericksburg Brewing and Tasting Society was "big and brash", and not for the faint of heart. This month's theme was American Beer. The theme could be interpreted in a number of ways. One interpretation was that of beers that are uniquely American, based on ingredients, brewing methods or innovations, including of course, the American trend to imperialize everything. (Of course, some might argue that the entire craft beer movement is an American creation.) The other interpretation used was any beer that had "American" on it's style listing in the BJCP guidelines was fair game. All this latitude made for a long, and highly enjoyable afternoon for the dozen or so participants. All total, we sampled 28 commercial beers and three homebrews.

Kona Wailua Wheat, an American Pale Wheat Ale brewed with passion fruit was the kick off beer. This beer got mixed reviews from participants and was noted to be very good when had fresh on tap at the brewery. Legend Golden Ale was an "out of order" surprise in that, despite the name, turns out actually to be an American Pale Ale. Fiddler's Green Blond Ale, from F.X Matt Brewing was a sleeper that many participants had seen but never tried. A nicely balanced blond ale, it might be a good "intro" beer for new craft beer drinkers. Bosmo's Imperial Cream Ale is a special beer brewed for the American Homebrewers Association meeting in Cincinnati this year. Cream ales are an American creation and this one was smooth with a slightly buttery, malt flavor.

Alaskan Winter Ale, a uniquely American beer brewed with spruce tips was a special treat. The flavor was slightly sweet with spicy, herbal notes, and very drinkable. Avery Ellie's Brown Ale, listed as an American Brown Ale in the 2004 BJCP Guide, though it's closer to an English brown, was well-received. FABTS members are quite generous and often share special beers with the group. Williamsburg AleWorks "400" Ale was one such beer, brewed just once to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first Virginia Settlement. Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown Ale, a beer I reviewed previously, was well-received. Brewed with maple syrup and certainly "imperial", it definitely qualifies as uniquely American.

The beer that could be said to have kicked of the American craft beer movement, Anchor Steam Beer was up next. Followed by Coney Island Sword Swallower, a new beer to the area. We next ran through a litany of Pale Ales and IPAs including Boston Beer LongShot Grape Pale Ale, Bluegrass Brewing American Pale Ale, Left Hand Jackman's American Pale Ale, Butternuts Porkslap Pale Ale, Butternuts Snapperhead IPA, Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale, Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale, and Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale.

Port Brewing Hop 15, an Imperial IPA, may have been the hit of the day, at least for the hop heads in attendance. This beer exemplifies the term imperial, and is done very well. Hopped to the extreme, but very well balanced and quite drinkable. First brewed for the 15th Anniversary of Port Brewing in Solana Beach, CA, the brewery uses 15 hop varieties in the recipe.

Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Victory HopDevil, Southern Tier Hoppe and Moylan's Hopsickle rounded out the Pale Ale and IPA section of the sampling.

Three barleywines were next on deck. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, Alaskan Barley Wine and Old Dominion Millennium Ale. The Old Dominion Millenium was previously listed as an American Barleywine by the BJCP Guide (2004) but is now listed as an English Barelywine. It did provide a nice contrast to the two American Barleywines.

The commercial section was concluded with Bell's Kalamazoo Stout and Alaskan Smoked Porter. I'd been eyeing the Alaskan bottle all afternoon, as had others. The smoke aroma and flavor of this beer is very pleasing and is a different flavor profile than other smoked beers, or Rauchbier, that I've had. The brewery smokes the malt over local alder wood and produces this special beer each Fall. That's three Alaskan Brewing beers enjoyed this afternoon. These beers are not available in the East, except by mail order. Did I mention how generous FABTS members were?

We also were treated to three homebrewed beers this afternoon. Dave brought more of his "Applewood Smoked Honey Pumpkin Ale." We've enjoyed this beer several times in the past and it's interesting to see how the beer changes with age. The smokiness level has decreased, and this may be seen as good or bad, depending upon the drinker's opinion of smoked beers. (This drinker enjoys them very much.) Joe brought two beers for us to try. His "English Spoken Here" English IPA was very well-received and quite enjoyable. Finally his "Radiant Copper IPA", an American style IPA was enjoyed.

As usual, thanks go out to our hosts at Kybecca for the meetings space, and donated beers and cheeses, and Angela and James for their usual cheese and cracker platters. Of course, all the members who donated the many beers made the event possible. It was quite an enjoyable, and long afternoon. There was the usual good natured banter and ribbing, but you'll have to come to a meeting to hear about that. I had picked out a couple of special beers to enjoy later in the evening, however after this marathon session, the main thing I enjoyed Saturday evening was a nap!

The next meeting is scheduled for August 9 and the theme will be Meads. Be sure to watch the official FABTS web site for details.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat Beer

Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat Beer is one half of the Oxford Organic Ales line from Clipper City Brewing. The brewery has reformulated the Oxford line to be certified organic by the MD Department of Agriculture. I had the other beer in the Oxford Organic line, Oxford Class Organic Amber Ale, served from a fresh cask, at the Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest and found it quite enjoyable. I've had mixed experiences with "fruit beers" and tend to avoid them. However, I was still interested in checking out this new beer from Clipper City.

As previously noted, I had a sample of the Raspberry Wheat last week and wanted to try it again. The beer arrived on store shelves in Fredericksburg this week and I picked some up today at Kybecca. The beer is a amber-copper color, the raspberry adding red undertones. A hard pour created a half inch of pure white head that drops to a persistent ring. Raspberry is quite prevalent in the aroma. Hmm, I'm nervous. I don't like fruity beers I tell myself. However, the fruit flavor is subdued in the taste. When I had the previous sample, I noted that I might not pick this out as a fruit beer. Upon getting a larger taste of the beer, I can pick up the fruit notes better, but they're still not overpowering. The flavor also has some very mild banana notes, probably from the use of a Hefeweizen yeast. The mild fruit tartness is followed by a bit of hop bitterness in the finish.

This is a pleasant beer and one that's very refreshing on a hot day. It's light (not lite) and goes does easily. I can see enjoying this after (or while) working in the yard. I'm beginning to think that the appellation "fruit beer" is misleading. I tend to think sweet and syrupy when I think of "fruit beers". However Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat Beer joins a few other beers I've had, such as Dogfish Head Aprihop, that use fruit to enhance, not change, the flavors in the beer. My favorite beers from Clipper City remain their Heavy Seas line, however the Oxford Organic line adds some moderation to the brewery's lineup by presenting refreshing, balanced beers for those times when big beers aren't warranted.

Weekend Beer Tastings

In addition to the tastings listed below, don't forget the FABTS meeting on Saturday for a great opportunity to sample an array of "American beer", the theme of the month. Details here.

Friday, July 11 - 5:00 - 8:00pm
Total Wine
Friday 5 @ 5 Beer Tasting:
Magic Hat Circus Boy, Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, Mackeson’s Triple Stout, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, DAB Original

Friday, July 11 - 5:30 - 8:00pm
Virginia Wine Experience, Fredericksburg
Beer Tasting:
2001 J.W. Lee's Vintage Harvest Ale, 2002 J.W. Lee's Vintage Harvest Ale, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen

Saturday, July 12 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
German Wheat Beers! Schneider Weiss, Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel, plus 1st customer chooses 3rd beer
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Hambleton Nightmare Yorkshire Porter, Orkney Brewing Company Dark Island, plus 1st customer chooses 3rd beer

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another beer fest in the works for Virginia - Updated

From the DC-Beer mailing list comes word of another beer festival being organized in Virginia. Jason Oliver sent word to Gregg Wiggins, who in turn shared with the list:
Nelson County is having their first Spirit of Red, White, & Brew Festival Saturday August 30th. It will be a small wine / beer/ music festival hosted at our village of Glen Mary. While DBBC will not be up and running I will be doing brewery tours at that time. The single malt distillery who will be building in Nelson may have a booth with his Eades Double Malt depending on the VABC. This is the first of what will be an annual festival celebrating the spirit, beer, wine, and local bounty of Nelson County. As of now I want to invite Starr Hill and Blue Mountain. I will have to check to see if I can get other breweries, and if so I would love to have South Street, Cally's, and the new breweries in Floyd and Winchester.

As you'll remember, Jason recently left Gordon Biersch to move to Nelson County to open the The Devils Backbone Brewery & Pub. Jason is wasting no time in sharing his love of beer with his new neighbors. No details on the festival plans to be found online yet, but we'll certainly be watching for more news as the date gets closer.

Update from Jason: The festival has been pushed back to November. This change is to avoid a conflict with the Wintergreen Winery festival Labor Day weekend, and to give time to recruit more Virginia breweries to participate. Jason has some great ideas on making the festival work for both Virginia breweries AND wineries. Most importantly, the Devils Backbone Brewery & Pub is planned to be open at that time and it will be a great kick off.

"No beer, no civilization"

So says George F. Will in his Washington Post column, "Survival of the Sudsiest". Referencing Steven Johnson's book, "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World", Will writes about the relationship between urbanization and beer consumption, and survival.
"The search for unpolluted drinking water is as old as civilization itself. As soon as there were mass human settlements, waterborne diseases like dysentery became a crucial population bottleneck. For much of human history, the solution to this chronic public-health issue was not purifying the water supply. The solution was to drink alcohol."

Often the most pure fluid available was alcohol -- in beer and, later, wine -- which has antibacterial properties. Sure, alcohol has its hazards, but as Johnson breezily observes, "Dying of cirrhosis of the liver in your forties was better than dying of dysentery in your twenties." Besides, alcohol, although it is a poison, and an addictive one, became, especially in beer, a driver of a species-strengthening selection process.

To avoid dangerous water, people had to drink large quantities of, say, beer. But to digest that beer, individuals needed a genetic advantage that not everyone had -- what Johnson describes as the body's ability to respond to the intake of alcohol by increasing the production of particular enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenases. This ability is controlled by certain genes on chromosome four in human DNA, genes not evenly distributed to everyone. Those who lacked this trait could not, as the saying goes, "hold their liquor." So, many died early and childless, either of alcohol's toxicity or from waterborne diseases.

The gene pools of human settlements became progressively dominated by the survivors -- by those genetically disposed to, well, drink beer. "Most of the world's population today," Johnson writes, "is made up of descendants of those early beer drinkers, and we have largely inherited their genetic tolerance for alcohol."

The health benefits of beer are frequently reported, and debated. However Johnson takes it a step further and ties the survival of civilization to the consumption of alcohol. The obvious jokes aside, this is an interesting and thought provoking postulation.

George Will's complete column is here. Johnson's book "The Ghost Map" can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

FABTS Meeting This Weekend

The next meeting of the Fredericksburg Area Brewing and Tasting Society is this Saturday, July 12. Mark your calendars now as this promises be an interesting tasting session.

Since July is traditionally American Beer Month, the July theme will be "American Ales". If the style name has "American" in it, it counts. American Wheat, American Pale Ale, American Amber Ale, American Brown Ale, American Stout, American IPA, and American Barleywine are all included. In addition to commercial brews, home brews of any style are welcome and often brought in by members for sharing.

The monthly meetings are held at Kybecca on Plank Road in the Ukrops shopping center. Meetings start at 1:30 PM and end when all the beers have been tasted. There's a minimal $5.00 tasting fee, to keep the alcohol revenuers happy. Beers are donated by members. For more information see the FABTS website. You can also read about some previous FABTS meetings here. FABTS meetings are always a lot of fun, informal, and a great learning experience. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

No Frosted Mugs Please

I've posted in the past about my disgust at being served beer in a frozen mug. I was recently interviewed regarding this problem for an Associated Press article about beverage serving temperatures. From "Setting the Perfect Temperature for a Drink":
His friends may call him a snob, and waitresses may give him odd looks, but David Turley isn't about to drink a beer with chunks of ice floating in it. But that's what can happen at restaurants that insist on serving his favorite beverage in icy mugs. And so Turley has no qualms about insisting upon another, unfrosted, glass.

"I'm pretty passionate about it," says Turley, a 50-year-old information technology worker from Fredericksburg, Va. "The first thing I look at in a restaurant is the beer menu. I consider it a food."

It's nice to see the fight getting some press. I'd like to see more folks step up and reject beer served in frosty, sweaty glassware. The article goes on to talk about proper serving temperatures for beer, wine and other beverages, and can be read in its entirety here.

Read previous blog rants regarding frosted mugs here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Session #17 - Going Against the Grain Bill

The 17th Session is hosted by Rob over at the PFIFF! blog. Our host asks us to think about beers we drink despite the accepted seasonal stereotypes:
The subject for July's Session could be summed up thusly: Drinking anti-seasonally. Think of this as the unorthodox cousin of such topics as "beer and food" and "beer and music". Beer and weather, perhaps? More like beer despite the weather, I guess.

I've commented on this "phenomena" in my own drinking habits a couple of times recently. Though I've never given it much thought in the past, upon reflection I find I do drink "despite the season" regularly. This is especially true in Summer. Personally, I'm not a fan of wheat beers, which so many breweries feature as their "Summer seasonal". Other breweries focus on crisp pilsener beers for the warmer months. I do enjoy a nice Summer pilsener on occasion, however I often find myself reaching for a darker, heavier beer despite the heat. I may reach for a nice imperial stout despite the high temperatures of the day.

I happen to like big beers and the heat doesn't change that. During a recent visit to Odell Brewing in Fort Collins I enjoyed (very much) their Imperial Stout. My friend Dave remarked that he'd enjoyed the beer previously, but it was too warm for such a dark beer. Personally, I was thankful the brewery still had some of this stout on hand, as it's generally only available January - June.

But, our host this month challenges us to explain ourselves. Hmm, I guess "just because" isn't a fair answer. Perhaps, after being worn out by the day's activities, it's nice to sit back and unwind. I don't want a perky pilsener trying to pick me up. That would be sort of like those so full of vim and vigor people, who, in the early morning just want to chat before you've even your first coffee. A big beer is like a quiet friend who will sit and "just be there" while you relax and wind down from the day's activities. Whatever the season.

A history of The Session can be found here. Check back later at PFIFF! to see Rob's Session summary.

Update, July 6: Rob has posted the Session roundup.

Holiday Weekend Beer Tastings

It's a holiday weekend, but the beer tasting goes on. Here are your opportunities to try out a new beer this weekend.

Saturday, July 5 - 12:00 - 5:00 pm
Beer Tastings in 2 Locations:
William Street (Downtown):
Legend Belgian White Ale, Green's Discovery Gluten Free Beer
Plank Road (Next to Ukrops)
Legend Belgian White Ale, Ornkey Red MacGregor Scots Red Ale

Every Saturday, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Blue & Gray Brewery
Beer samples and brewery tours

Please support the folks who bring us these events. Let them know there is an active craft beer community in the area. When you attend any of these events, tell us about it in the comments, and be sure to let the proprietor know you heard about it here.
Have something to add? Let me know, my contact information is here.

Happy Independence Day!

Today is Independence Day in the U.S. We are celebrating the 232nd birthday of our great Nation. Swimming, a cookout with friends, and fireworks will mark the day for us. And of course, plenty of American craft beer. Whatever your plans for the day, be sure to take time to reflect on what it's all about. Be safe and have fun.

Check out the document that started it all, the Declaration of Independence.

Happy Birthday America!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Clipper City Beer Tasting

Clipper City representative Thomas Cizauskas was in Fredericksburg today to host a beer tasting at Total Wine. Tom poured samples of a number of Clipper City beers and offered plenty of information about the beers to a steady crowd. Clipper City BaltoMärzHon led the lineup. Next up were beers from the Heavy Seas line; Small Craft Warning Über pils, Red Sky at Night - Saison Ale, Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, and Peg Leg Stout. Tom also had the brewery's Summer seasonal, Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock with him. Hang Ten hasn't shown up in Virginia yet but look for it soon.

Tom had both of the new Oxford Organic Ales available for sampling as well. Oxford Class Organic Amber Ale and Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat Beer are not yet available in Frederickburg. However I understand the distributor has them and we'll be seeing them both soon. I was quite surprised by the Raspberry Wheat. It's not what I had expected from a fruit beer. The flavor is very crisp and refreshing. I might not have picked it as out as a fruit beer in a blind tasting. Of course it's hard to describe in detail without enjoying a full glass, which I'll be doing as soon as the beer makes it to local shelves.

I enjoyed the chance to try out the new Clipper City beers, along with some old favorites. It was also good to see so many shoppers enjoying the beers and showing interest in craft beer. I saw quite a few people picking up six-packs to take with them after tasting the beers. A lot of local beer folks will be enjoying Clipper City beers with their holiday celebrations.

I've posted a few photos from the tasting event here. You can find out where Tom is pouring Clipper City beers by checking his blog at Yours For Good Fermentables.

Saranac Brewing Company Recovery Continues

After the major fire at the brewery in May, the Saranac Brewing Company is well on the path to recovery. In an email update they send this word:
We're Back!

We are proud to say that our bottling operations resumed as of 6 a.m., Monday morning (June 30th).
A successful test run of Saranac Pale Ale was completed this past weekend and we are back bottling again! We thank you all for your support over the last month following the devastating fire of May 29th.

"We are really pleased to be back and running, and we will be in stores for the Fourth," says our President, Nick Matt.

Our canning operations are currently being outsourced, but as we rebuild, we hope to have this back under our roof soon. We are also pleased to announce that beer prices haven't risen at all, and they will not rise, as a result of the fire.

Their fast actions to get up and running so quickly serves to illustrate good ol' American resolve and determination. That they are putting new product in stores in time for America's birthday celebration is fitting of this American institution.

Beer Celebs' Favorite Drinks is running a special report entitled The Drink. In a piece they call "A Drink With..." various food and beverage celebrities are asked to identify their favorite alcoholic drink and watering hole. Of local interest is Geoff Lively, brewmaster at the Bethesda, MD Rock Bottom. Says Jeff,
My favorite alcoholic drink is the drink in my hand. If I am having medium-rare beef tenderloin for dinner, it would probably be a nice rich cabernet from the Napa Valley. If I am on the beach in San Diego, it would probably be a margarita. The usual beverage of choice, though, is beer. Beer can be the quaff of choice for any occasion; with a meal, on the beach, at a sporting event, at a concert or just hanging out with friends. It is the most consumed alcoholic drink in the world--and by me.

A number of folks involved in craft beer are featured. Interviewees include Dan Carey, co-owner and brewmaster at New Glarus Brewing, Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing, and Jim Koch, chairman and founder of the Boston Beer Company. This is an interesting look into the preferred drinks of the folks who bring us some of our own favorite drinks. Also featured is W. Leo Kiely III, chief executive officer of Molson Coors Brewing (now MillerCoors).

Other "beer people" include Christina Perozzi of the blog Beer for Chicks and Bob Skilnik, author of "Beer & Food: An American History". Famous "foodies" such as Iron Chef Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, and Jamie Oliver are also listed. You can check the responses from these folks and more at

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Snack Time at Safeway

This might possibly be the best idea a grocery store has come up with in a long time. After all, beer is food.

Snack Time at Safeway

Thanks to DCist Photo of the Day: July 2, 2008.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thursday Tasting - Clipper City Beers

Clipper City Brewing representative Thomas Cizauskas will be in Fredericksburg to host a tasting on Thursday, July 3 at Total Wine. He will be pouring samples of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, Small Craft Warning Über Pils, and Red Sky at Night Saison Ale from the brewery's Heavy Seas lineup. Thomas is very knowledgeable about Clipper City beer (and craft beer in general) so it's sure to be interesting and informative. Be sure to stop by Total Wine in Central Park between 3:00 - 7:00 pm on Thursday.

Update, July 3: Event summary and photos here.