Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Session #43 Welcoming the New Kids

By Michael Stein

One of the newest (soon-to-be) neighbors on the Mid-Atlantic brew block is the duo, Jeff Hancock and Brandon Skall, co-owners of DC Brau Brewing. The District's first 21st Century production brewery will crank out kegs - the first to do so since the last keg came off Christian Heurich Brewing Company's line back in 1956. These young men with big plans are turning an old factory into a new production brewery in order to make beer for the fine people of Washington AND the District...and of course the Virginians and Marylanders who work daily in the district...and yes (sadly) even the kickballers and interns are welcomed to belly up to the bar for some DC Brau.

So while Washington and the District may remain two separate cities well into 2011, at least they'll have a beer (or three) to unite and bring them together. DC Brau will offer its three flagship craft beers in cans: the Public Ale (Pale/Amber hybrid), the Citizen (same recipe as the Public but fermented with a Belgian yeast strain) and Corruption Ale (an IPA).

Its usually difficult for a lowly homebrewer to give advice to the big bad head brewer for his forthcoming brewery. If not for lack of input, typically for lack of access to the "big guy." Sure you might see the head brewer at some major beer festivals of national scope, but your time is limited and rushed, never with enough moments to discuss fermentation temperature or how a recipe could be improved. So although my best advice would be to tell head brewer Jeff Hancock not to limit his creativity, I know he has no plans to (along with kegs and cans are plans for one-off bombers - a single batch series). Not only does DC Brau have a great head on its shoulders, access is never a problem. Last week during DC Beer Week, Jeff and Brandon were regulars around town for all of the events. And while it was DC Beer Week, Jeff and Brandon are active members of the DC Beer community so there's a really good chance if you're out and about at some of DCs beer bars you will run into the dynamic duo and maybe even their better-halves!

The debate rages on about whether or not Washington, DC is a beer town. In my mind, DC is a world-class beer town. Despite where you stand even the skeptics must admit that the "brewmunity" based in Washington, DC is an amazing human network that far transcends promotional events, tweetups and tastings. I have a strong feeling that their beer will hold up to the "other" beers on the "craft beer scene." With Jeff paying dues at Franklin's, Flying Dog, Grizzly Peak and Arbor Brewing Companies there is little doubt in any one's mind that DC Brau will take the craft beer market by storm. Interestingly enough, DC Brau's entrance into the local community signifies the entrance of the first player in a potential tidal-wave of craft beers. The Nation's Capitol, DC, is often referred to as the "Wild Wild West" amongst beer insiders and distributors alike, in that there has not been full testing and vetting of alcohol laws the way there has been in other cities. There have been those good enough to sell made-in-DC beer through brewpubs: Capital City, District Chophouse and Gordon Biersch. But I have always found it troubling that you cannot take a growler home from those pubs within city limits.

DC Brau will be welcomed into the Washington, DC beer community simply because it's owners are already members of it. Of course they will have outstanding products and some delicious one-off specials but more importantly they will have the respect of the DC Beer Community and perhaps more importantly, the respect of those living in Washington AND those living in the District.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Earth Bread + Brewery: Colonial Ale

By Christopher Kampel

Several months back I was talking to a couple guys at a local Philly brewpub (General Lafayette...which isn't so good) and I learned of a place in Mt. Airy called Earth Bread & Brewery. Reminiscent of our beloved Selinsgrove Brewing Company, their beers are all small batch experiments that are never duplicated. At any given time they have about four house beers on and some great guest beers to boot. They also make their own wholesome hearth-baked flatbreads which are pretty darn good and perfect with a house made beer. Check out their website -

Over the past couple of weeks I've found myself sitting at the bar chatting with some friendly local beer and music fanatics over a great brew named the "Colonial Ale." Appropriately described as "a dark throwback beer" with a mere 3.7% ABV this one couldn't go down any easier. After numerous whiffs pulling me through time and places of the past I landed in the woods surrounded by fallen leaves and that good musty smell Fall air brings. Maybe its my hopes for an early autumn arrival surfacing, but make no mistake this one is perfect for a warm summer evening. Full of flavor from the tip of the tongue to a swallow's bottom this beer is certain to consistently deliver. It is completely clean, fresh, smooth and brown. Far from complex yet no where near boring, the Colonial Ale has steady river-like flow about it. To quote the familiar bartender it is "balanced, mellow, and easy" - the definition of a session beer. Served in 13 or 20 oz glasses, it is being gulped down and unfortunately will be gone by the end of the month.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Session #42 A Special Place, A Special beer

By Michael Stein

The South Fork. Out there, the bumper stickers read “The End” in description of Montauk, Long Island’s easternmost point. And somewhere in between “The End” and the City That Never Sleeps, lies “The Hamptons.” It’s a place often cited within the scriptures of New York art history. Its been home to a plethora of artists just to name a few: Jackson Pollock, Alec Baldwin and Steven Spielberg (also host to Sean “Diddy” Combs’ fantastic white parties). The list reads like a who’s who of contributors and influencers of national dialogue. The South Fork has also been giving what many Americans consider the ultimate sacrifice for freedom for over a century: the lives of their sons and daughters. I’m speaking of a special place where many Americans would not expect to find any personal sacrifice.

It’s a place many Americans associate with the greed of Wall Street. It’s a place where the “haves” and the “have nots” both spend time on the beach. It’s a place where the service industry brings in workers from many countries—Australia, Belarus, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, and Russia—just to name a few. The place I’m talking about is East Hampton, New York and the brewery that reminds me most of my roots here is the Southampton Publick House and Brewery.

The neighborhood that most reminds me of the East End is Springs neighborhood. No, not “the Springs,” just “Springs.” The way the year-rounders say it. Chances are if you are a year-rounder, or a Bonacker, you’ve never contemplated how you say where you’re from. Bonacker is truncated from the word Accabonac, otherwise the people of Accabonac Bay. Such is the nature of places that are unaware of their own significance. These places are magnificent because they do not question their place in history or time. They do not rest on their laurels because they are too busy cranking the mill, harvesting the barley and hammering the tap into the bung before cellaring the firkin.

The Southampton Publick house has a fantastic list of “products.” They have faith in what they’re selling; it’s as obvious as looking at the bottle and seeing brewmaster Phil Markowski’s face. Markowski has created products on par with almost every beer in your craft beer superstore (for me, it’s Total Wine in McLean, VA). Their products range the spectrum from their Abbot 12 (10.5%) to their Montauk Light (3.5%). For a parity taste, I’d take Montauk Light over Bud Light, Miller Lite or Coors Light, any day. While at the brewpub I was able to sample the seasonal Southampton Keller Pils which is single-hopped with the Hallertau Tradition. This pilsner is a fantastic representation of the style and is an amazing summer-sipper. This beer is a lawnmower beer in the best way possible, however it is so thirst quenching you may want one before, during and once your done mowing the lawn. At 5% alcohol by volume it would seem tempting not to put away a half a six-pack before the lawn is looking high and tight.

Beyond the Keller Pils and the Abbot 12 the two standout beers were their award-winning Saison Deluxe (7.4%) and their newly released VIC “antique” Porter (7.2%). The Victorian barrel-aged Brettanomyces porter was truly a unique ale. The bottles’ description reads, “VIC is what we imagine a typical London Porter tasted like during the Victorian era when beer was stored in wood and Brettanomyces was the rule, not the exception.”

When I first tried Markowski’s (now world-famous) double white I was a sophomore in college. I had bought the 22 oz bomber from Bavarian Beverage in Elmsford, New York. These bombers are on every table in the brewpub—filled with olive oil. Now you can buy six packs of double white in many more places than you could back then (they’re even at my local Harris Teeter and Giant supermarkets in Arlington, VA). Back in the days of its bomber release, the words “secret ale” were printed on the bottle. I originally thought that Southampton was in England, perhaps a brewery funded by a king or member of the monarchy. Well Southampton is in England, but not the Southampton Publick House. It has taken me six years to make it out to the pub but I was like a kid in a candy store once we got there. Despite having had Southampton’s double white many times since they were last only offered in bombers, I had yet to try it on draft. My fiancĂ© ordered the double white and it did not disappoint. With the amazing flagship double white on draft, in combination with the three specialty beers—Deluxe Saison, Abbot 12 and the VIC Porter—I can honestly say that the over-300 mile trip was well worth the travel. A pilgrimage to this special place is a journey I look forward to making again next summer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ch ch ch changes

By Michael Stein

East Hampton has changed. There are more retail stores on Main Street than ever before. While the town of East Hampton is no stranger to commerce, the stores and shops have historically been varied. Where once was Barefoot Contessa, a prepared food store owned by Ina Garten, now stands a clothing store. Where Long Island Sound once stood (East Hampton’s sole record shop), now stands a clothing shop. Where Ralph Lauren now stands, there once was a toy store, complete with kid-sized Boogie Boards and dozens of kite varieties. Coach came. Tiffany’s came. The list goes on.

Was there a shadow committee of fashion-Nazis conspiring to make East Hampton a Mecca for Long Island shopping? Maybe. Though it’s highly unlikely.

Amongst other things I’ve noticed, Blue Point Brewing Company, the only Long Island brew I can buy in Virginia, has switched to twist-off bottle caps. Last summer I needed a church key to open their tasty IPA, Hoptical Illusion during a righteous beach drum circle in Watermill. This summer I could crack the beer with a flick of the wrist. “Who cares about such a subtle change?” You may ask. The truth is likely that not many care, but as a homebrewer I care. I choose to reuse my glass bottles.

Blue Point can no longer serve as a vessel for my homebrew; one beer and the brown glass goes into the blue bin. Some metropolitan restaurants, such as the newly opened Meridian Pint, have chosen to offer up their glass, in particular their 750 milliliters bottles to homebrewers. Such reusable methods are often overlooked but are of great interest to those wishing to reduce and reuse. While relatively “cheap” brand-new bottle sales can be found over the internet, many homebrewers choose to bottle in 750 ml bottles, if not for their “authentic” Belgian appearance, then for their gift-like presentation.

I wonder what the switch from sealed caps to twist-off means? Does it mean greater access? Could it mean that more beer can be consumed with a twist off cap? Certainly Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite all have twist off bottle caps. Could it just mean the brewery is spending less on its bottling operation? Maybe. Chances are I’m reading too much into it.

I called Peconic Beverage in Amagansett, just to see how much a keg of Blue Point’s award-winning Toasted Lager cost. $180. A keg of Yuengling Lager? $92. Such is the parity, or lack there of, with Lagers. Such is the parity or lack thereof with macros vs. micros.

With all this talk of change on my recent vacation, it got me thinking back to my first year as a student in Selinsgrove, PA at Susquehanna University. Somehow our freshman Writing and Thinking class had gotten on the subject of beer. Professor Tom Bailey was discussing a recent visit to New York City (this was in 2002) Yuengling had been offered at a bar as a “standout beer.” At $5.00 a pint, the marketing of “standout” might have been offered as to account for the cost. Sure, Yuengling was tastier than Bud, Coors or Miller, but you could have a Bud Lite for $3 and then buy a Metro Card to take you to Brooklyn, the Bronx or Queens with your left over money (where beer would indubitably be cheaper). Professor Bailey was genuinely surprised at how pricey Yuengling had become. Of course at that time you could get a pint of lager in Selinsgrove for $2.50, before I knew the difference between macro, micro and nano breweries.

I’m not sure when Yuengling switched to twist off caps. But I know that when I first started drinking Lagunitas’ brew, they had a twist off cap. Now I’m finding more and more that their caps are pry off, which is of great benefit to me as a homebrewer. As most homebrewers agree, a pry off cap keeps a seal much better—over long periods of time—comparatively to a twist off.

What’s your experience with bottle caps? Can you recall a time when there was no such thing as twist off? Were you alive the time the “beer tab” was a handy dandy new invention? Perhaps it is the obsessive eye for detail, but we choose to discuss these differences in beers because in the end, I would argue, the better the homebrewer the more exquisite her/his attention to detail.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Session #41

By Michael Stein

During the middle ages (as far back as 1295 to be exact) a “Letter of Marque and Reprisal” was essentially a license to wage a private war; to seize as much booty as a captain could get his grubby meat hooks on. The King would allow his captain to seize an enemy’s ship and in return proceeds would be split amongst the crown and the looting privateer. Such was the “Letter of Marque,” it gave the lowly sea-fairing captain imperial permission to loot and load spoils. The word’s etymology helps give its modern-day meaning connotation: in Germanic ‘mark’ is a ‘boundary’ or a ‘boundary marker.’ While the days of Sir Captain Francis Drake looting for Spanish doubloons are long over, boundaries and markers still exist separating home brewing from professional brewing. And while the gaps between home brewing and commercial brewing can be vast they are in many ways the most manageable they have ever been (at least in America).

So why start with the high seas? To shed light on a craft brew inspired by a home brew (the point of The Session #41) of course! One of Maryland’s beloved craft breweries has produced a beer known as the “Letter of Marque.” This beer, brought into production with an annual competition, blurs the lines between home brewing and commercial brewing. As Hugh Sisson, Heavy Seas’ founder, states on his product:

Winners from our annual “Letter of Marque” homebrew competition will work along side our brewmaster to create a yearly special release. Historically, a Letter of Marque was a document that made a Pyrate a legitimate privateer. Our Letter of Marque makes a home brewer a legitimate professional!”

The Letter of Marque series, produced annually by Heavy Seas, is a perfect example of a craft beer inspired by home brewing. While the craft beers produced by Heavy Seas are themselves extraordinary medal-winning libations, their Letter of Marque is both an homage to the crazy creations of home brewers AND a way to lend legitimacy to brewers who never believed their recipes would be bottled and shipped across state lines to a wider audience.

Sometimes a wider audience is not the end goal of a home brewer or a craft brewer. Such is the beauty of brewing locally. Sharing with friends who are within your area code is important—you may be surprised by the amount of home brewers in your area. I certainly was when I attended this month’s DC Homebrewers meeting ( If you want to enter your home brew in a competition that will give you grand syndication there are a number of ways to do it. There’s the Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am, Heavy Seas’ “Letter of Marque” competition and of course Sam Adam’s LongShot Competition for starters.

As “good” beer drinkers know, craft brewing has always been influenced by home brewing. In most cases, home brewers are ahead of the curve in terms of their choices for both “marginal” and “exceptional” home brew recipes. It was not always like this however. And even today, “good” beer drinkers struggle to make sense of the stranglehold ABIB (Anheuser-Busch InBev) still possesses on the market. I would argue that it is a critical mass which has kept ABIB in business, but American microbrewers and American home brewers have been chipping away to convert the masses. Once the majority of commercial beer drinkers have been baptized by cannon fire (Loose Cannon fire that is!) the zealous lot who appeared rogue “hopheads” will become main-stream. Such is the shift in American cultural memory—such is the shift within the home brewer’s memory. Figures like Bert Grant, founder of Yakima Brewing begin to fade as monoliths like Charlie Papazian continue to trail blaze. Had I not attended an O’Dell Brewing Company tasting recently hosted by Doug O’Dell, the myth of a man who carried around a vial of hop oil to flavor the Bud, Miller or Coors he was drinking would still be as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster. However off-kilter his antics may have appeared, Bert Grant belongs to a long line of “beer activists” for lack of a better descriptor.

The world needs these kinds of people. And the world needs home brewers. In the end, the recipes and formulations home brewers create continue to shape the craft beer community and indeed the world. We should honor the prophetic words of Michael Jackson as he interpreted Yakima Brewing Company’s label “brews of such quality made for very special pubs, which in turn sustained wonderful neighborhoods, creating marvelous cities, contributing to magnificent countries, adding up to a beautiful world.”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Le Petite Saison by Twisted Pine: a new session beer for summer

by Jonathan Kosakow for

The Twisted Pine Brewing Company sits in a part of town without too much foot traffic. Located at 3201 Walnut, a quick turn from 30th Street, the brewery and Ale House are just a bit off the beaten path – but not too far. And that style is distinctively Twisted Pine.

In the fifteen years since its opening, Twisted Pine has strived to make their beer just a little bit different, though they still manage to attract a healthy sized crowd by staying true to form. Starting with a simple recipe and adding an ingredient or two to spice things up, they satisfy both the regulars and the more adventurous types.

Available in 22 oz. bottles as of June 1, Le Petite Saison is a solid example of the simplicity that Twisted Pine has perfected. Though the Belgian saison style of beer has more recently become a great collaboration of yeast and spices, often showcasing faint notes of fruitiness, it was traditionally a beer for farmers to relax with after a long day, something simple yet satisfying.

Le Petite Saison lives up to its pastoral tradition. Light in color and cloudy because it is unfiltered, it takes the majority of its flavor from the yeast, a bread-like taste and texture. As it warms, a subtle hint of apricot and pear is also present. It finishes with a touch of hops, but not one so strong that the bitterness is overpowering, as many find is true with hoppier ales.
Though a majority of people will say that summer is a time for a lighter beer like Corona or Bud Light, Le Petite Saison will serve the same purpose of refreshment while also providing a distinct and satisfying flavor.

Like a good brewery should, Twisted Pine continues to evolve every day. In a time when most small companies are scaling back their operations, this brewery is only looking forward. Having just received their food license, the Ale House has plans to put together a thoughtful menu by early July, and with their 15th Anniversary party just a couple of weeks later, it looks to be a good summer at Twisted Pine.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beer in Boulder. Part 1: breweries

by Jonathan Kosakow for

Aside from the countless hiking trails, bike rides, coffee shops, restaurants and overall beauty of the culture, one of the many things that makes Boulder, CO such a great place to live is the fresh, local beer. And, while walking into your favorite restaurant or bar may be the easiest way to get a sampling of what the town has to offer, some people prefer to go straight to the source.

There are a number of breweries in town who serve all of their beers on tap, and others that like to offer a little nosh on the side. Here's a comprehensive (and alphabetical) list for those of you want just a little bit more freshness in your mug:

Avery Brewing is open for food and drinks 7 days a week from noon until 10pm. Tours are free every day at 4pm Monday thru Friday and 2pm on weekends, and there is live music every Thursday and Sunday. Tap Room located at 5757 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder.

Boulder Beer Company was Colorado's first microbrewery. The Wilderness Pub offers dining hours Monday thru Friday from 11am until 9pm, with free tours at 2pm as well. Check their calendar for events like live music and beer festivals. 2880 Wilderness Place, Boulder.

Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery has two locations in Boulder and one in Denver. The Mountain Sun and Southern Sun in Boulder both brew their own beer, while the Vine Street Pub in Denver is currently working on that very project (not to be completed for some time, according to an employee of the Pub). All three provide a diverse menu and live music weekly, just check the calendar. Mountain Sun is located at 1535 Pearl Street, Boulder; Southern Sun is at 627 South Broadway, Boulder; and Vine Street Pub is at 1700 Vine Street (corner of 17th Ave), Denver.

The Boulder Draft House and Colorado Brewing Company, formerly Redfish Brewing Company, is open daily at 11am for food and drinks. Check their events calendar for live music and happy hours, including a weekly "Reggae Wednesday." 2027 13th Street (between Spruce and Pearl), Boulder.

Though it's not exactly beer, The Redstone Meadery specializes in Mead, also known as honey wine, that is brewed in a form very similar to beer (but you'd better talk to the brewmaster about that one). You can visit the Meadery for tours weekdays at 1pm and 3pm and Saturdays at 12:30. Or, if a tour's not your thing, just visit the tasting room Monday thru Saturday starting at noon. 4700 Pearl Street, Boulder.

Walnut Street's Walnut Brewery features food, beer, and weekly trivia every Thursday night. Tours of the small microbrewery within the restaurant can be arranged by appointment. 1123 Walnut Street (between 11th Street and Broadway, one block south of Pearl Street), Boulder.

Twisted Pine Brewery specializes in 100% natural, unpasteurized brewing. Their experimental style lends itself to many full-flavored beers, available to drink in the Tap Room or in your living room. And, they've got the MLB package for all your baseball viewing needs. 3201 Walnut Street, Boulder.