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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hey! I'm alive, and I'm having a drink. You should, too.

It's been nuts around here. In the middle of trying to get caught up after the earlier events of the month -- about six stories (13,000 words), editing the proofs of PA Breweries 4, and wrapping up the next issue of Malt Advocate -- I went to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans (and I'll get something up on that) last week and we took Thomas up to Boston University for orientation over the past three days (yesterday was a marathon: a big "Albanian omelette" at Victor's Diner in Watertown, four hours of orientation wrap-up at BU, then about 500 miles of driving to get around traffic, pick up Nora and the dogs in Lancaster, and home again about 11 PM). This morning Cathy and I went over to the Delaware River, turned off our cell phones, and rode fifteen miles of trail, then went to the Newtown Farmer's Market and got some good eats, and then I came home and took the dogs for a half hour walk (Maud's exercise program, and she's doing well).

So I think I've earned a drink. I built a big one of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel and ginger ale, with a lot of ice for the heat. It's tasting pretty damned good; not as sticky as Jack and Coke, but while the ginger ale is spicy, it doesn't overwhelm the whiskey. I just did a whiskey story for Massachusetts Beverage Business (it's coming out in September; my "What's Hot in Beer" piece will probably up tomorrow, including a sidebar on session beer and nanobreweries), and the JD folks told me that Jack and Ginger is the drink they're pushing: more appeal to women (not sure why), and more upscaling options: ginger ale, or Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, or muddled fresh ginger. I'll have to try the fresh ginger option...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Red White & Brew Goes Down the Shore

I've been dropping by Red White & Brew in Mt. Holly for years before I put it in New Jersey Breweries (or maybe Mark wrote that part; I'm not sure). Anyway, they pack a lot of good beer -- often not the same ones you see everywhere else, and they're my closest source for Climax -- into a small space, and they have good whisky, too.

I heard today that they've opened a second Margate. Now that's good news when you're stuck at the shore, awash in Bud Light. I mean, you can't spend all damned day at Tun Tavern and Firewaters, right? You can get good take-out now. It's at Margate Towers, 9400 Atlantic Avenue (just down the road from Lucy the Elephant), 609-823-0060.

Nice to think about on a day when I really ought to be at the beach...and headed for NOLA tomorrow. Heat, baby. Bring the beer!

New Samuel Adams voting challenge

The new Samuel Adams Beer Lovers Choice contest beers are out there, where two proposed beers are sent out to be taste-tested across the country. I got mine yesterday, and they're in the fridge right now: American Rye Ale, and a Belgian-style IPA. After last year's voting propelled Noble Pils into the spring seasonal slot, I promise to never underestimate the American beer geek's palate again; that beer's brilliant. So bring it on; vote early, vote often!

Monday, July 19, 2010

THANK YOU to everyone at the Hulmeville Inn!

I went down to the Hulmeville Inn yesterday to celebrate Steve Hawk's win as Philly Beer Geek. When I got there, the first thing I did was order a Sierra Nevada ExPorter, because Jeff Lavin, the owner, had decided that he would donate the proceeds from the sales of that keg to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in my father's memory. When I wanted to pay, the bartender told me, "You'll have to find The Mayor; he's got The Can." Hah?

Well, I knew who The Mayor is, anyway: Mike Sodano. So I went looking for Mike, and found Jeff. Jeff went to look for Mike, and I went back to my excellent beer (kept for me by my excellent wife and the charming Bryan and Patty Kolesar, and Philly Beer Geek organizer Carolyn Smagalski, who is recently engaged, congrats!). About ten minutes later, Mike and Jeff came and got me for pictures. Pictures? Yeah. What happened, before I got there, they'd strapped a 3 gallon keglet of ExPorter to Steve's back (at left), and he'd gone around telling people what was going on, and Mike followed him with a can for donations. Jeff handed me an envelope that had a check and and more cash donations that totaled $843 for pancreatic cancer research. (That's Mike, me, and Jeff in the picture below; we grabbed Christine Gumpper and got her in because she's such a sweetheart.)

I was stunned...but not speechless. Mike got the mike, quieted the crowd, and let me speak. I told them what they'd done, told them they were fantastic, thanked them "from the bottom of my beer-soaked heart," and toasted my father with them. It was a humbling moment. My thanks to everyone there that day. I will write a check for the cash, and send both checks into PCAN tomorrow.

I may have found a cause.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Follow-up on beer tax relief ("the subsidy")

From the Seattle PI "Washington Beer Blog," this bit of support for the federal tax relief Joseph DiStefano was defaming (and misunderstanding) recently:
The estimated cost of the provision is about $44 million per year and less than $500 million over 10 years. A Harvard study of the Economic Impact of H.R. 4278 indicates that the bill would generate more than 2,700 new jobs over the first year to 18 months, followed by an average of 375 new jobs per year over the following 4 years. Each new job would cost less than $4,000 in foregone government revenue in 2010. According to the study, "Economic activity would increase by $10.91 per dollar lost in government revenue, making the bill an efficient use of government funds."
Sounds pretty damned good, doesn't it? And these are going concerns that are showing steady growth in a mature industry. Still some risk, but...that's damned near money in the bank. If the economy does double-dip, as fears are growing, maybe a different story, but it's going to be a different story for a lot of businesses, and why would you want high taxes on business in a recession anyway? Do this thing. And you, reader, tell your senators you'd like to see this happen.

Barcade Fishtown? Game on!

Thanks to Uncle Jack for bringing this to my attention (I clearly have to put Brownstoner on my regular reading list): Barcade is coming to Fishtown! I love this Brooklyn beer bar, with its beep-booping collection of vintage arcade games and excellent beer, and the Fishtown branch (how cool is a NYC bar opening a Philly branch; you know they see a good market, right?) sounds great, beer garden and all. Looking forward to this.

By the way, Brownstoner linked out to FooBooz for news of Jose Garces next joint: Frohman's Wursthaus (13th and Chancellor). It's wonderful: things just keep getting better and beerier in Philly.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What a Beautiful Pair...

Just saw this pair of new beers coming from Great Divide, and it got me excited. Here's the descriptions: 
"Rumble IPA is an American IPA with subtle nuance. Brewed with heavy handed additions of Pacific Northwest hops, this beer is gently aged on French and American oak resulting in a wonderful balance of bitterness, caramel sweetness, vanilla, and undertones of pine and citrus. Very inspiring. 7.1% ABV. Available in six packs and on draft."
"Smoked Baltic Porter is the sultry sister of a storied style. Brewed with traditional German malts and hops, this dark lager gets its special twist from a hefty addition of Bamberg smoked malt. This smoldering, medium-bodied lager is sure to please. Smoked Baltic Porter is smooth, smoky and dark...mysterious enough yet? 6.2% ABV. Available in 22oz bottles and on draft."
 I'm going to have to find some of this stuff.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My father's memorial service

Forgive me: I'm using the blog to let friends know when my father's memorial service is. You're certainly all welcome (although we won't have any drinks), but it's just a way to get the word out. 'Nuff said.

The memorial service for Lewis Bryson II will be held at 10 AM, this Saturday, July 17, at Leacock Presbyterian Church, 3181 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, PA. The service will last about an hour, with a reception to follow in the church hall. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations to Hospice of Lancaster County be considered as an alternate choice; that was my father's request. 

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The Dead Hand of Jim Bell...

No, Jim Bell isn't really dead; at least, not so far as I know. But his Frankenstein monster, Red Bell Brewing, continues to haunt Philadelphia brewing. Witness this misreasoned claptrap from the usually eruditer-than-this Joseph DiStefano, titled Beer Will Save America! Funny. DiStefano is bringing up the proposal by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) to lower the federal tax on craft beer. Kerry says it will create jobs (it will), Jim Koch of Boston Beer points out that craft brewing is one of the few success stories in the recession (it sure as hell is), and the Wall Street Journal says the tax cut will help the craft brewing industry (well, duh).

But DiStefano says "We've been this way before." He opens up the Scary Closet and brings out the shaggy boogiemen of Red Bell and Independence (and not even the right Independence, you big dope; that link goes to the closed brewpub) as being "among the many beermakers backed by the taxpayer-subsidized U.S. Small Business Administration in the late 1990s; both also sold shares to the general public; both are among the many investor- and taxpayer-subsidized brands that flopped."

Well, imagine that: there are businesses that sold stock and went under. That couldn't have anything to do with how the Inquirer sucked up to Jim Bell and printed any damned bullshit he sent them, could it? As far as that goes, "investor-subsidized"? What the hell's that? The shareholders made an investment, they took a risk. If they'd gotten bailed out, that would have been a subsidy. But small brewers don't get bailed out, they just close.

But the main point? This isn't even a subsidy! The Feds raised the beer tax back in 1991, the senators want to roll that back -- like every other part of the 1991 tax increase, like the luxury tax on yachts that somehow got repealed... -- they're not going to SPEND money on this 'stimulus package,' the brewers are going to do that. 

Then he gets silly: "What's the big deal with small-batch beers? Yes, they probably taste better. Yes, they're definitely winning market share from Bud and Miller and Coors over the years. So much that the giants have been closing and consolidating plants and selling out to foreign owners."

Okay, no. Much as this thought leads beer geeks to turn off the lights and fondle themselves in front of the gently glowing screen of a computer locked on, it's simply not true. The "small-batch beers" just are not selling enough to have caused the "selling out to foreign owners." The big guys have been consolidating to save costs and boost market share, and right now it's the foreigners turn to buy. It's got nothing to do with craft beer, which is still under 5% of the market. You want to point a finger, point it at Corona and Heineken, which have taken three times the share away from the big brewers. So DiStefano is either ignorant, or misleading you. Take your pick.

It's the conclusion that's the kicker, though: "But does that really add up to more and better jobs that merit public subsidies?" Well, yes, it does add up to more jobs. Period. Give craft brewers a tax break, and I guarantee, they will SPEND that money on new hires, on better benefits for the workers they do have, on solid industrial equipment, on advertising and promotions. They won't squirrel it away in a tax break somewhere, or send it overseas. Which, I would think, would be a GREAT way to get an effective stimulus activity out of...wait, that's right, it's NOT a public subsidy! That would be if the government GAVE THEM MONEY. But we're not even talking about giving them money, we're just talking about TAKING LESS AWAY FROM THEM.

Am I wrong? Is it really a "public subsidy" when you cut back on an excise tax that shouldn't even be there in the first place? Or is this just one more example of how the brewing industry (and the spirits and wine biz) is treated unfairly because everyone is scared to death of alcohol? I'll tell you what, Mister DiStefano, I would much rather see taxes ratcheted back on a growing, thriving production industry than see government funds given to the banking industry. How about that, fella?

Five Summer Beers video

After the way CBS screwed the pooch with their silly "Five Best Beers Made in America" poof piece (as I commented on FaceBook, "I have not seen this clueless a set of comments about beer from a wine person in years. I really thought we were making progress...clearly I was wrong."), I opened a link to a TIME magazine video about "Five Beers To Try This Summer" with some trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised: this is so much better than the CBS coprolite I can't even quantify it. Have a look; nicely done.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drinking For My Dad (and Steve Hawk)

They're celebrating Steve Hawk's triumphant win as this year's Philly Beer Geek (Don reports it here, I was...delinquent, but I did have a great time judging) at the Hulmeville Inn this Sunday. Jeff Lavin's grilling up burgers and dogs, and there will be silliness galore, and the taplist -- so far -- is kick-ass: Russian River Registration, Russian River Consecration, Founders KBS, Bruery Coton, Lost Abbey Angel's Share, Yards Grodziski...and one more: a half of Sierra Nevada ExPorter, the 5.8% Baltic Porter I helped brew with a bunch of Philly BeerVolk out at Sierra Nevada in April. I got a half barrel to direct where I wanted, and since the Hulmeville's just down the hill from me, and Steve's a hell of a good guy, well, I decided that would be a good place for it.

Jeff one-upped me, though, God bless him. The proceeds from the sale of that keg of ExPorter will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in memory of my dad. So please come out and help us drink it up! Things start at noon; I'll be getting there a bit later. Thanks, Jeff: class act, all the way.

Join me at Tales of the Cocktail: Mister Smooth's Wild Ride

Hey, I've been remiss: if you're going to be at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans next week, there's still time to sign up for a seminar I'm participating in on...Canadian Whisky. No, really, and it's run by every beer drinker's favourite Canadian, Stephen Beaumont.

Stephen's calling it The Many Faces of Canadian Whisky, and it's a panel discussion of how Canadian whisky, long derided as "brown vodka," is finally stepping out into the brave new whisky world of small batches, single barrels -- an odd concept with Canadian, and one I'll be discussing in my part of the presentation -- extra aging, and all that jazz. The third panelist is Sazerac taste/blending master Drew Mayfield, who'll be presenting Sazerac's two new special Canadian bottlings: Caribou Crossing and Royal Canadian.

Here are the seminar details: if you're going to Tales, drop in and get some Canadian learning. We will have cocktails, of course, and anyone who knows Steve Beaumont knows they'll be innovative, different, and delicious.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lewis Bryson II

My father died last Thursday. He was 81, and one of the most decent men I have ever known. He had no vices -- other than record-keeping; he wrote down everything -- worked hard, was married to my mother for almost 58 years, and was honest to a fault.

He died from pancreatic cancer, a full 21 months post-diagnosis, without surgery. He fought hard, and was one of the lucky people who responds well to chemotherapy; pancreatic cancer kills over 75% in under a year. The end was swift; the picture of Thomas's graduation was only a month ago, and he was still in pretty good shape at the time. Staying alive to see Thomas graduate was a major accomplishment for him, and we were all proud of him.

But it wasn't his death that I'll remember, of course. It was his life, how he touched so many people. Sir (I called him that once to get his attention on a crowded field trip, and it stuck) was a school teacher at the Solanco school district in Lancaster County for almost 30 years, and drove bus for athletic events and special needs students from 1962 to 2008. He held the students to standards -- his buses were clean when he picked them up, and they were clean when he dropped them off -- and they responded well to it. Everywhere we went as I grew up, we ran into former students who would greet "Mister B" with a handshake or a hug. I do mean everywhere, too: in a campground in California in 1973, and a nurse in the ICU, less than an hour before he died.

My father didn't teach me to drink beer. I learned that on my own in college. But he did give me my first sips of beer -- Duquesne -- and straightened me out on the "sinfulness" of drinking. I was ten years old or so, and reading some older books with some quaint ideas, and when Sir asked me if, as usual, I'd like the last half-inch of his beer after Sunday dinner, I said, "No thanks, Father, I don't drink on Sundays." He let me know what he thought of that: "Don't talk nonsense. If it's good enough for other days, there's no difference on Sundays. Have the beer or don't!" I did, and I learned a lesson: drinking is not inherently sinful.

Sir went along on most of my research trips for the Breweries books. He almost never went in the places -- he wasn't much for bars -- but would stay in the car, reading his book. That got rough sometimes. There was Chief's, in Pittsburgh, a neighborhood so bad that Sir kept his .357 openly on the seat beside him. There was The Strip, where things were so busy, he had to park over a mile away and -- in pre-cell phone days -- would drive in to a pre-arranged intersection every 30 minutes to see if we were done yet.

Then there was a long bar-hop in Buffalo, when Flying Bison owner Tim Herzog took us around to...8 places one night. The mini-van had an electrical fault, and the interior lights would not turn off, and the door-open alarm kept dinging the whole time, and it was about 18 degrees. And the bars close at 4 in Buffalo. It was a long night, and Sir was a bit put out with Uncle Don and I when we kept going. When we finally did get to our motel, a $45 a night cheesebox in Tonowanda, well...there was an energetic young couple next door who weren't sleeping much. We pretended to ignore it for almost 45 minutes, when Sir tossed in, "He's my hero." Don and I laughed so hard... I almost fell out of bed.

I could go on forever; I've known the man all my life. How he insisted I set up an e-mail address for Penderyn ("I might have things to say to him I don't want you to read," he explained), the way he loved the simple things in life, the way he loved to tweak people's sensitivities ("Sure are a lot of pansies in this town," he remarked to me on a sidewalk in New Hope once. "Sir!" I hissed, "Stop that!" He took a practiced look of injured innocence, said "What?" and gestured at a barrel planter full of...multi-colored pansies.), or the elaborate lengths he would go to for a bet, or a joke, or to save a nickel.

But I won't. I can't, because I've got work to do, and he'd want me to do it. He was a good husband and father and grandfather, he loved Cathy as if she were his own, doted on the kids, and lavished way too much attention on my dogs. The worst part of this is knowing I can't just pick up the phone and ask him how he's doing, and hear him say one more time, "You know, thanks for that wheelbarrow you got me. It's really great."

Farewell, Sir. We'll see you later on, in the sweet bye and bye.

I expect to have particulars on the memorial service posted later this week. It's at the Leacock Presbyterian Church in Paradise, PA, probably Saturday morning, but we don't know for sure yet. Sir's obituary ran in the Lancaster New Era last Friday...and Saturday. In other tributes, David Byrne posted this note on his "Ringside Ramblings" Lancaster sports blog.

I've been remiss in mentioning someone else: my mother, Ruth, who has been Sir's rock all this time. She never wavered, never gave in until the very end. She was there with him every hour, talking, chiding, calming, caring. Thanks, Mum. I'm sorry I didn't help you more.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Homebrew Mad Lib

I've been cleaning up the desk in prep for this weekend's big party, and came across this homemade homebrewing Mad Lib we came up with a few years ago. I present it just for fun. You know how to do this, right? You copy and paste it into Word or Notepad or whatever, then go through the text, prompting your friends -- who haven't seen the text -- to fill in the blanks only by asking them for the types of words in brackets, and then you read it. Hilarity ensues. That's the idea, anyway. Lame? Sure, and that's half the fun. 

Big Homebrewing Fun!

The National Homebrewers ___________[event] was held in ___________[city] last month, and it ___________[verb ending in 'ed'] a lot. There were ___________[number] contestants, who brewed a total of ___________[number] beers, most of which were ___________[adjective].

The judges ___________[adverb] disqualified most of the beers, saying they were either too ___________[adjective] or not ___________[adjective] enough. The brewers of the disqualified beers said the judges were all too ___________[adjective].

The 2nd place beer, a ___________[beer style], made the judges ___________[verb] with pleasure. The liked the ___________[color] color, the rich aroma of ___________[noun], and the complex flavors of ___________[noun], ___________[noun], and ___________[noun]. Two judges said the beer really deserved to ___________[verb].

But they all agreed that the 1st place beer was a ___________[noun]. "It really ___________[verb ending in 's']!" one judge ___________[verb ending in 'ed']. It was a ___________[adjective, size] beer, with ___________[number] IBU and a massive ___________[number] percent alcohol. "It tastes better than ___________[plural noun]," said the head judge. 

The winner, ___________[first name] ___________[family name], said they had brewed the beer ___________[adverb]. "It's a ___________[adjective] recipe," they said, "and it makes ___________[number] gallons of beer for only ___________[number] dollars."

The judges drank ___________[number] more glasses of the winning beers, then went out on the town to ___________[verb] all night.

(No homebrewers were harmed in the creation of this amusement. I swear. If any homebrewers are offended by this, please feel free to substitute "Pro brewer" for "homebrewer" at any and all points. Or "giraffe," if that works for you.)

The Bourbon, Brews and Bryson Festival

It's a real event: The Bourbon, Brews and Bryson Festival at the Allentown Brew Works, August 21. Check it out here. I'm working with the Brew Works and the folks from Buffalo Trace to bring the Good News of Bourbon to more Lehigh Valley beer drinkers (and maybe preach a little Gospel of Beer to bourbon drinkers while we're at it).

We'll have special bourbon-loving food: fried plantains topped with bourbon pulled pork and smoked mozzarella; ham with honey bourbon bbq sauce; brisket served over collard greens and bacon, topped with fried okra; corn bread with butter and honey; and apple, raisin and bourbon pecan foster over vanilla ice cream -- mouth-watering, by golly!), bourbon cocktails made with Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack (not bourbon, I know, but don't hurt his feelings), samplings of the new Maker's Mark 46, and I'll be conducting hourly tasting seminars with Buffalo Trace whiskeys like Blanton's, Buffalo Trace, and Eagle Rare Single Barrel, helping you taste the wonderfulness of corn likker, talking about what makes bourbon unique, and why bourbon-barrel aging makes great beer better.

There will be beer, of course!
  • Allentown Brew Works Master Brewer Beau Baden will feature Draft Bourbon Barrel Porter as well as a Specialty Bourbon Cask and a Cassis Lambic that will enhance your Bourbon Pecan Foster
  • Bethlehem Brew Works brewer Lewis Thomas will work his magic and provide an infused cask that will match the moment.
  • Guest brewers include Stoudt's, Weyerbacher, and Yards

Tickets are now on sale: you'll find them here, or you can call my old buddy Wendie (610-433-7777 ext. #25 between 11am-5pm M-F) and order over the phone. I will see you there!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yuengling expanding Port Carbon brewery

Holy crap: Yuengling's expanding their 'new' brewery. The Pottsville Republican-Herald is reporting today that the brewery will be adding four 1,500 barrel fermenters and nine 1,500 barrel Lagering tanks to their Port Carbon brewery at 310 Mill Creek Ave.

America's Oldest continues to crank out the Lager.