Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Introducing: Joy's Jinger Ale!

It took 2 months, but it was well worth the wait! In honor of our daughter's birth, I brewed a special ale. It was originally going to be a gingerbread ale; however, I didn't go with all of the spices one would include in a gingerbread. Instead, I made a straight ginger ale (6% ABV), where I added 1.5 ounces of freshly ground ginger (courtesy of our microplaner) in the last few minutes of the boil. Even though I was outside, and using a propane burner, the aroma of ginger was powerful, wafting through the air, piquing my neighbors interest in what I was making.

Last fall, I had gone to Annapolis Home Brew, where Jim (one of the owners) was nice enough to stay with me to get me set up with the right keg kit.

I also went to Best Buy and bought a small fridge that came without a freezer. This became my little project - to convert it into a homebrew kegerator - when Rachel took our daughter to visit the grandparents.

With the ginger ale fully fermented, I noticed that it was a bit cloudy in the car boy, sooooooo, I remembered back to Lonnie M. over at Ale Nuts.com using unflavored gelatin as a filter in his kegs. Armed with a little more research and knowledge, I filtered and carbonated 5 gallons of awesome beer. I know it's good because it got the official Rachel Seal of Approval!

I think tomorrow may lead me to brewing a Bitter for the 4th of July...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Holy smokes, that calendar is full!

Hey everybody,

As an aside from some knowledge on starting a brewery, check out the link on the right-hand side of the page and click on the Calendar of Upcoming Events. There is a ton going on in Maryland and D.C. for the next several months. I'll be updating the events that have limited information listed. I guess it's too early to know everything. But, I'm pretty sure the dates a rock solid.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's Awesome, Baby!

It's that time of year again - the Washington Post is holding their second annual

March "Beer Madness" Tournament!

I invite everyone to go and fill out a bracket (you can print them from the website) and follow over the next several weeks to see if your favorites moved on to the next round.

Brooklyn Lager is last year's reigning champion, and they have a first round battle with our near and dear (if you are a Maryland traditionalist) National Bohemian! (Now brewed by Miller, in North Carolina.)

Click here to take a look at last year's tournament.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What does it mean to have a brewery license in Maryland?

I was scouring our Maryland code on beer and breweries (Article 2B), and finding our "code" is a hell of a lot harder than I expected. If the legislature were smart, there would be a direct link to the general code on the main page - an easy to navigate code, to boot.

§ 2-206. Brewery license.

(a) In general.- A Class 5 manufacturer's license:

(1) Is a brewery license; and

(2) Authorizes the holder to:

(i) Establish and operate in this State a plant for brewing and bottling malt beverages at the location described in the license;

(ii) Import beer from holders of nonresident dealer's permits; and

(iii) Sell and deliver beer to any wholesale licensee in this State, or person outside of this State, authorized to acquire it.

(b) Restrictions on service and sale.- A licensee may:

(1) Serve up to 6 ounces for a sample of beer brewed at the licensed premises to anyone who has taken a tour of the brewery, if that person is of legal drinking age; and

(2) Sell beer brewed at the brewery for off-premises consumption to anyone who participates in a guided tour of the brewery, subject to the following restrictions:

(i) The purchase is limited to 144 ounces of beer per person each year, based upon records kept by the brewery and forwarded to the Office of the Comptroller at intervals specified by that Office; and

(ii) The person has attained the legal drinking age.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Following the lead taken by Saranac

I received an email today from DuClaw written in a similar style to Saranac Beer announcing price increases across the board for their beer. Not only that, but there will be no Venom this year, which is their American Pale Ale.

Instead of reformulating the Venom recipe, it was announced that there will be a new American IPA called Hellrazer. I'm pretty sure that it will have a similar grain bill to Venom, however they will just use a different variety (or varieties) of hops.

I'm also anxious to hear the results of today's hearing at the Maryland House of Delegates. They were hearing the direct wine shipping bill, HB 1260, and hopefully it passed with flying colors. It would be tremendously beneficial for home consumers and for the liquor stores, by providing a wider selection.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I appreciate the effort of Saranac Beer announcing the price increase

The Saranac Beer monthly email came today with their announcement of a price increase coming soon.

Not the greatest of news; however, I truly appreciate Nick and Fred Matt coming forward and informing their customers that this is something they have to do and their hands are tied.
We are all aware that prices everywhere are increasing; we see it every time we fill-up our cars. Unfortunately Saranac is being affected too and thus we are writing to explain why you are going to experience a significant increase in the price of our beers over the next few weeks.

We have heard from literally hundreds of our loyal drinkers over the years that you appreciate the fact that Saranac is somewhat more reasonably priced than other craft beers. Thus we know you are going to be sensitive to the fact that the price of Saranac is going to increase about 8%-10% in the upcoming weeks. This at retail will translate to an increase of $.50 for 6-packs and $1.00 for 12-packs. We recognize it is a big increase and we wish it was avoidable.

Unfortunately it is not. We are experiencing dramatic cost increases for malt and hops, the basic ingredients we use to make our beers. In 2008 the price of malt will go up over 100%, and the price of hops, depending on the variety, will increase from 40% to more than 100%. These price increases are unprecedented! They are the result of a number of factors we have no control over including a poor harvest in 2007, increased world wide demand, a decline in the acreage devoted to growing malt and hops and increased demand for that acreage for making ethanol. All in all, these tremendous increases in malt and hops are going to nearly double the cost for us to make our beer. This combined with the rising cost of package materials, energy and labor, is putting us in a position where we have no choice but to increase our prices.

We regret having to take such significant price increases. We have made every effort to minimize the amount that we pass along to you. In fact this increase will not offset all the cost increases we are facing. We have made the decision to absorb some of the increases ourselves, but we must take a significant price increase if we are going to be able to continue to make the quality beer you expect as a Saranac drinker.

We certainly hope you understand and will continue to support us. As always we thank you for your loyalty and support. If you happen to be in our neck of the woods, please come visit us. We hope to see you soon!


Nick Matt Fred Matt
President Vice President
It might not be the beer you normally pick up, but I suggest you support these guys, go out and buy a sixpack of Saranac Pale Ale. While you're at it, buy a sixer of your local beer. They are feeling the same pinch.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

One step toward greatness!

Check it out gang,

As a Valentine's Day gift to me, I'm stopping by Best Buy tomorrow to pick up a Sanyo 4.9 cubic foot refrigerator. I'm going to convert it to a kegerator to hold my two soda kegs and CO2 tank. I figure I can brew up my Gingerbread spice ale and still have a free tap for a stout (maybe?).

It's a step toward opening a brewery, in a convoluted kind of way... baby steps, keg my beer and serve it on draft.

I'll do my best to post pictures and details of the conversion once all of the pieces are in play.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Hot on the heels of the SABMiller news

Courtesy of the ProBrewer.com's forum:

A-B, InBev Talks Heat Up

Reports speculate that deal may happen this year

InBev, the world's second-largest beer producer by volume, and Anheuser-Busch are in advancing talks that could lead to a merger of the two, Belgian business magazine Trends said on Thursday.

InBev, whose key brands are Stella Artois, Beck's, Brahma and Leffe, and Anheuser-Busch have been the subject of consistent merger speculation over the past year.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal said talks between the brewing giants had become more serious and that a deal was possible this year.

Both brewers have repeatedly declined to comment.

InBev was formed from the 2004 merger of Belgium's Interbrew and Brazil's AmBev.

Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat

Keep plowing that land for biofuel production. Not like we need other staple grain to survive.

Courtesy of the NY Times,
"Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these “green” fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.

The benefits of biofuels have come under increasing attack in recent months, as scientists took a closer look at the global environmental cost of their production. These latest studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, are likely to add to the controversy.

These studies for the first time take a detailed, comprehensive look at the emissions effects of the huge amount of natural land that is being converted to cropland globally to support biofuels development."
Click the link highlighted above the quote for the full article.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Speaking of a site to help the beer and wine industry...

Check out Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws.

The following comes directly from their "About Us" section.
"Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws was formed in 2005 to advocate for beer and wine laws that: 1) benefit consumers; 2) promote competition; 3) protect the environment; and 4) support Maryland's brewers and wineries.

MBBWL represents all Marylanders -- consumers, retailers, producers, distributors, and just regular folks -- who share our values.

Specific reforms that we support include allowing consumers to order wine through online retailers like wine.com, and buy beer and wine at grocery stores.

To join our campaign for better beer and wine laws in Maryland, contact:

Scott Ehlers
Executive Director
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws"
If you are seriously considering opening/starting your own brewery or winery in Maryland, I would give this site a visit. It's almost a lobby for beer and wine consumer in Annapolis.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Marylanders, tell your Delegates to say no to Senate Bill 232!

Citizens of Maryland, join me and let's consign this silly bill into the deep!

Courtesy of the Beer Advocate email alert system:

Senate Bill 232 - recently introduced in the MD General Assembly by Senator Forehand (Montgomery County) will increase the MD tax on beer 6 times - from .21/ case to $1.22/case. As you are no doubt aware, recent dramatic increases to the cost of brewing raw materials have already added about a dollar to the cost of a sixpack.

And the recent 20% increase in sales tax has also increased the cost of beer. If the proposed legislation is passed a six pack of beer will go up at least another 50 cents, on top of the increases noted above, and will make Maryland's beer taxes more than twice our neighboring states!

Enough is enough! Just Say NO!

This bill is opposed by our local (to the brewery) Delegates - Jimmy Malone and Steve DeBoy. But tell your local representatives to oppose Senate Bill 232 and any other bill that increases beer excise taxes.

1) Click here http://mdelect.net/electedofficials/

2) Enter your address and city and hit "Find Elected Officials"

3) The next screen will give you email links to both your State Senator and Delegates.

4) Send them an email today! Please be respectful, but tell them what you think!"

SABMiller the largest brewer in the world?

The giant global conglomeration, SABMiller, who provide thirsty drinkers around the world with Miller Genuine Draft, Leinenkugel's, Golden Pilsener, Carling Black Label, and Pilsner Urquell, among several other brands, are positioning themselves to be the largest brewer in the world, overtaking the mega-brewer InBev.

According to the ProBrewer Interactive forum with the take over of Grolsch, and Heineken buying out Scottish & Newcastle, SABMiller will position itself as number 1.

InBev is best known for providing us with beers such as Becks, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Labatt. Their portfolio consists of approximately 200 brands spanning the globe.

Heineken, the number 3 brewer, owns a little more than 120 brands; including the ever-popular Heineken, Amstel, and Murphy's Irish Stout.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Savor" the date

Savor, an event being presented by the Brewers Association, is coming to Washington, D.C. It is a two-day event in May with three sessions. The first one will be Friday night, May 16, from 6:30-10:00 PM. Garrett Oliver is the featured speaker.

The second session is Saturday, May 17, from 12:30-4:00 PM. Featured speakers Randy Mosher, Jim Koch, and Rick Martin will be talking about pairing beer and food.

The final session, Saturday, May 17, will start at 6:30 and end at 10:00 PM. The first seminar will be about "cross drinking". Lauren Buzzeo, Wine Enthusiast Magazine; Ray Isle, Food & Wine Magazine; Ken Wells, CondeNast Portfolio; and Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director, Brewers Association will be the speakers at that event. The second seminar will have hosts Sam Calagione and Marnie Old duke it out over beer and wine.

Tickets are $85 a pop for one of the three sessions, but I think it's worth it. I'm trying to convince Rachel that it's worth it too. :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Crisis in Beer

Part II: Are we going to have to mash Grape Nuts?

What has not been widely reported through mainstream media is the actual shortage of grain; barley, specifically. Barley is grown for food products, livestock feed, and malt. As mentioned in my previous post, malted barley is one of the four main components in beer. The grains impart flavor, color, and body to the liquid. The opening Grape Nuts reference comes from the fact that the cereal is made from malted barley, and, theoretically, could have fermentable sugars extracted from it.

Whether a mega brewery (A-B, Molson-Coors, SABMiller) or a micro everyone uses malted barley, in one form or another.

What are the culprits behind the shortage? Once, the same storms that sacked the European hops crops, did the same to their barley farms. Second, ethanol. Yes, ethanol - the catch-all alternative-energy savior of the United States.

American farmers are receiving substantial Federal subsidies to grow corn, to support corn-derived ethanol as the fuel of choice. The same applies to farmers in Mexico. Their government is paying them handsomely to cultivate corn; which is hurting the tequila distillers.

Unfortunately, you cannot blame the farmers. If you owned a farm, and were getting paid a king's ransom, you would grow corn too.

So, the US government is willing to pay, pay, pay for corn. And guess what, they don't care what quality of corn you grow, so long as it ferments into ethanol. It has been proven that corn-derived ethanol is grossly less efficient than standard gasoline. Not only that, it requires more energy to produce corn-based ethanol than what is rewarded back to the user. How about using switchgrass or poplar trees which produces approximately 540% more renewable energy that energy consumed in their production?

Instead of forcing the consumer to use a more expensive and inferior product, how about forcing the automobile manufacturers to redesign the internal combustion engine? Give them the subsidies! Or, adopt diesel engines as a viable work horse. Diesel technology has come a very long way in the past 25 years. Companies like Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz have practically perfected the diesel engine. They have also adhered to more strict guidelines for automobile emissions than those of the United States!

So, not only are the barley prices going up for brewers & breweries, but a similar pain is being absorbed by the livestock farmer. They can't afford to feed the herd! If they can't feed the animals, than the price of food in the stores goes up due to dwindling supply. To you this may seem like a bit of stretch, but it makes perfect sense to a lot of us.

I fell that, as Americans, we are going to experience a major impact on beer and foodstuff prices. I can see several fine local establishments going out of business because they have to raise the price of their goods due to the increasing price of the resources they need to survive.

Support your local, if you can afford it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Crisis in Beer

Foreword: This is a multi-part post on the impending beer crisis. I am not, by any means, a professional journalist, nor do I claim to be. However, I have an opinion that I want to share on the subject. It is based on information that I have read in newspapers, magazine articles, podcast interviews, and brewery consolidations.

Part I: Where are my hops?

It has been reported, over the past several months, that the brewing industry is facing a shortage in the availability of many of the popular hop varieties. News outlets like the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, and National Public Radio have picked up on the tremors in the trade.

As most of the folks reading this know, hops are one of the four major ingredients that brewers user to make beer. The other three being malted barley, yeast, and water.

Hops have been used in beer for close to a millennium, while beer in one form or another has been around for close to 5,000 years. Prior to the inclusion of hops, an amalgamation of herbs and spices were used to "preserve" the beer. Unfortunately, some of the ingredients used were actually psychoactives. Once hops were "discovered", the monks, who were the brewers, found the cones to offer a better preserving factor, act as a slight bittering agent, and impart a delicate floral flavor.

If we fast forward to the present day, we find that the most popular style consumed around the globe is that of a Pilsner-type of light lager. By light I mean in color and body. The Big Three (Anheuser-Busch, Molson-Coors, and SABMiller) predominantly focus on this style, and their dedication to consistently and quality control are executed extraordinarily well. Most of these beers are very clear, crisp, and have a low-to-moderate alcohol content. They are also low on the amount of hops used - these beers aren't super-bitter. A lot of the bite comes from the carbonation within the beer. On the flip side, modern American microbreweries tend to use an abnormally high amount of hops in their beer, in order to put their own unique twist on a well-known style, or to experiment with something new (e.g. Watermelon Wheat and Imperial Pilsners). Their beer may range from the moderate lager that the mega-companies produce, to over the top, lip puckering, tongue twisting, mouth-scraping IPAs. For them, the latter generally requires a high amount of hops to be used so they can deliver a well-balanced beer.

The ironic part is both the mega-scale breweries and craft breweries have to use a large amount of hops. You are probably thinking, "in the last paragraph, you said the big guys don't use a lot of hops in their beer; what gives?" It is all about production scale. Whether you brew 5, 200, or 100,000 gallons at a time, you will encounter a time where you will need a lot of hops.

There was a series of events in 2007 that are easily identified as sources of the hops shortage. The first was a series of terribly devastating storms in Europe that destroyed approximately 40% of their hop crop. Now, assuming that Germany alone counts for 25% of the total, global, hop supply, a 40% drop in their yield results in supplying 15% of the world's hops. That is a reduction in availability of 10% on the world-scale. The second event was one of the worst droughts to strike Australia and New Zealand, that allowed them to barely grow enough hops for their own domestic brewing use. New Zealand is known as the world's foremost supplier of certified organic hops. The third event was the abandonment of growing hops in the United States, poor yields in the Pacific Northwest, and ravaging wildfires in the hops-growing region of the US. The sum of these events has led to a skyrocketing increase in price per pound. What the brewer could get for $5 USD a pound now costs in excess of $20 USD per pound. Homebrew supply stores are running out of perennial favorite hop varieties, as are the hop distribution companies who are responsible for providing the essential ingredient to breweries around the globe.

All told, the consumer can expect to see a 10+% price increase, per pint, based on the lack of hops alone.

Within the brewing world, this seems to follow a 7 to 10 year cycle. Unfortunately, something on this scale has never been encountered before.