Mid Atlantic Brewing News February/March 2013 : Page 1
By Greg Kitsock The opening ceremony at the 2012 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego. That event drew a record 4,500 attendees. This year’s gathering in Washington, DC is expected to attract 6,000 registrants. PHOTO BY JASON E. KAPLAN COURTESY OF THE BREWERS ASSOCIATION Story and photos by Alexander D. Mitchell IV wo months after the banners and bunting from the Inauguration have been swept away, Washington, DC will brace for another celebration: the annual Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo Trade Show, to take place March 26-29 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The CBC is a moveable celebration, leapfrogging from Boston to Chicago to San Francisco to San Diego over the previous four years. This is the first time Washington, DC has hosted the event. Bob Pease, chief operating officer for the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, says that DC came up as a potential site at the Boston conference in 2009. Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson looks over six newly-kegged ﬁ rkins of Siren Noire, an imperial chocolate stout, at the brewery on January 4th. s Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe, Md. the nation’s largest producer of cask-conditioned ale, if not the continent’s or even the Western Hemisphere’s? None of the beer trade associations keep production statistics on cask ale, and even cask ale specialists are dumbfounded, so the claim is probably impossible to prove. DREAMSTIME But Heavy Seas is making it, nonetheless.“We are currently turning out approximately a hundred firkins of cask ale a month, or about 1,250 for all of 2012,“ says brewery founder and general partner Hugh Sisson. “Our goal is to double that for 2013. We may not get there, but you gotta have a goal!” Numbers are hard to come by, but many larger American breweries, even those with some demand for cask, report at most See Brewers p. 6 See Heavy Seas p. 3 Inside Book Review.................................. 5 Homebrew ...................................10 Fairy Hopmother ........................12 Maps ...................................... 18-21 Event Calendar ............................39 State by State News Virginia ...........14 C. Penn ............22 Philadelphia ...24 E. Penn ............26 Maryland ........27 Baltimore ........30 W. Virginia ......32 D.C. ..................33 New Jersey .....34 Delaware ........36
No Gridlock Here: Brewers To Rally In DC
The opening ceremony at the 2012 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego. That event drew a record 4,500 attendees. This year’s gathering in Washington, DC is expected to attract 6,000 registrants.
PHOTO BY JASON E. KAPLAN COURTESY OF THE BREWERS ASSOCIATION
Two months after the banners and bunting from the Inauguration have been swept away, Washington, DC will brace for another celebration: the annual Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo Trade Show, to take place March 26-29 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The CBC is a moveable celebration, leapfrogging from Boston to Chicago to San Francisco to San Diego over the previous four years. This is the first time Washington, DC has hosted the event. Bob Pease, chief operating officer for the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, says that DC came up as a potential site at the Boston conference in 2009.
“We were hoping for the BA to have increased influence and presence in government affairs; we were pretty new and fledgling back then,” he recalls. “DC was only emerging [as a craft beer community] back then.”
“Fast forward to 2013: We’re very pleased with our decision!” he announces.
Conference events, from the opening reception at the National Air and Space Museum to three days of seminars to the trade show with hundreds of vendors, will be open only to registrants. However, the mass influx of brewers and industry representatives (Pease expects a record attendance of 6,000) should result in a week of unofficial events open to the public. Some have already been announced.
RFD’s Dave Alexander, for instance, will hold his annual Lupulin Reunulin, a showcase of brewing talent, on March 25, the day before the conference. In addition to veterans of the Lupulin Slams held 2004-2006 (Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo, Port Brewing’s Tomme Arthur and Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione), the tasting will feature 40-year Anchor brewmaster Mark Carpenter. Since Carpenter was not part of the earlier events, Alexander laughs that he’s calling it the NonLupulin Reunulin.
Megan Bailey, public relations director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, says that on March 25 Birch & Barley will host a beer dinner featuring “eight rare beers from eight different craft breweries, all of which will have a representative at the dinner.” The company’s Bluejacket brewery in southeast Washington will not likely be pumping out beer by then, but enough equipment should be in place to offer tours of the facility. See the DC column and calendar elsewhere this issue for more.
“We will add a CBC Week Events page to the CraftBrewersConference.com website within the coming months,” says Barbara Fusco, the BA’s sales and marketing director. She also advises craft beer drinkers to check the events calendar on CraftBeer.com for listings.
Expect a lot of out-of-town beers at the taps plus collaborations with local breweries. DC Brau, for instance, will be brewing a coffee doppelbock in conjunction with Ska Brewing Co. In Durango, Colo.; a farmhouse IPA with Union Craft Brewing Co. In Baltimore; and a yet-to-be-determined brew with Stillwater Artisanal Ales, also Baltimorebased. Additionally, DC Brau is teaming up with Devils Backbone Brewing Co. And The Brewer’s Art to make the official symposium beer, a rye pilsner. (See sidebar article.)
The event will take place during Passover and Easter week, which might draw a few complaints, Pease admitted. The reason for the scheduling, he added, is that Congress won’t be in session that week, dropping hotel rates by over $100 per night.
The conference could very well coincide with cherry blossom season; last year peak bloom was March 18 to March 26. That “was not a deciding factor,” said the BA’s event director Nancy Johnson, “but it certainly was discussed as positive for the timing!”
The fact that Congress will be on hiatus will not deter the BA from mounting a major lobbying effort. As of early January, Pease had signed up 300 brewers from 41 states to join him on a “Capitol Hill Climb” set for March 26. The main purpose of the visit will be to acquaint brewers with their elected officials and Congressional staff. Pease also anticipates that by March, the beer industry’s friends will have introduced a new version of last year’s Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief Act (BEER Act), legislation to halve taxes for small brewers from $7 to $3.50 per barrel on their first 60,000bbl.
Like the Olympics, Craft Brewers Conferences require much advance planning. The BA has already tapped Denver to host the 2014 CBC. The organization is leaning towards Portland, Ore. For its 2015 conference, but that hasn’t been decided, says Pease. Attendees gathered in San Diego in 2004, 2008 and 2012, but the conference probably won’t return there in 2016, predicts Pease. The problem is that the venue there, the Town and Country Resort, is too small; last year the BA had to cap registration at 4,500 and pitch a tent to hold the overflow from the trade show.
“There’s a good chance we could be headed back to the East Coast in 2016,” states Pease.
Cask Master Of The Western Hemisphere
Alexander D. Mitchell
Is Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe, Md. The nation’s largest producer of caskconditioned ale, if not the continent’s or even the Western Hemisphere’s?
None of the beer trade associations keep production statistics on cask ale, and even cask ale specialists are dumbfounded, so the claim is probably impossible to prove.
But Heavy Seas is making it, nonetheless.“We are currently turning out approximately a hundred firkins of cask ale a month, or about 1,250 for all of 2012,“ says brewery founder and general partner Hugh Sisson. “Our goal is to double that for 2013. We may not get there, but you gotta have a goal!”
Numbers are hard to come by, but many larger American breweries, even those with some demand for cask, report at most one to three dozen firkins being prepared each month.
Cask-conditioned beer is a more natural version of beer, the equivalent of freshbaked bread. Instead of being filtered and packaged in kegs or bottles, the beer is racked off the secondary fermenter and sealed in a special keg, called a firkin, with a final dose of yeast. The beer’s carbonation derives completely from its fermentation, rather than from additional gas pumped into the beer at the point of sale. It’s served either from a handpump through a beer engine, or via direct gravity pour from the firkin, at cellar temperature (around 50-55 degrees F).
Sisson described the evolution of his cask ale program: “Eight or nine years ago, one of our salesmen, Tom Cizauskas [now working for Select Wines in Virginia], was always big on cask ales, and was pushing me to develop our beers for that market. I initially pooh-poohed the idea, not because I didn’t like it - I did - but because I was skeptical of the U.S. market for it. Remember that cask ale is a niche market within what is already a niche market - a very small one. If we had to survive on a hundred firkins a month, we wouldn’t.
“Tom talked me into going over to a local beer importer, I think it was B. United, who was bringing in some firkins from the U.K. and wanted to sell the returned firkins to American breweries rather than ship them back overseas. Now, some of those firkins had been sitting around with the last little bit of unpasteurized beer in them for who knows how long, and what was in some of those firkins was unbelievably rank!” Sisson recalls with a grimace.
After a couple years of an occasional firkin rolling to some local bar in the trunk of a salesman’s car or through the distributor, “I asked one of our employees, Stephen Marsh, to assume responsibility for cask production and oversight, sometime around 2006. ” Marsh, who soon earned the nickname “Captain Firkin,” expanded the program to include a large and sometimes bewildering variety of beers “dry-hopped” with secondary ingredients in the firkins for additional flavor, from hop varieties to spices to chocolate nibs to hot peppers. He invited bars to personally select and supervise custom ingredient blends.
Marsh recently left the brewery to pursue other ventures. Brewery production manager Joseph Marunowski and special projects director Chris Mallon now oversee the cask program.
Heavy Seas’ cask ale program closely paralleled the development of the cask ale market in central Maryland, spurred in part by the efforts of local competitors Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick and The Wharf Rat (now Pratt Street Ale House), a Baltimore brewpub. Also playing a significant factor: the Chesapeake Bay branch of the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood, a caskale appreciation society.
“Fifteen years ago, if you made up a list of dependable, reliable cask-ale venues, you’d have one, maybe two, in central Maryland besides the brewpubs,” said Sisson. “Now there are 15-20 around the Baltimore area alone, 20 in Philadelphia, forty or so in New York City, fifteen or twenty in Boston.” Heavy Seas firkins are going to markets as far-flung as Boston, Ohio and North Carolina, even the Great British Beer Festival in London, where Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale finished second in the American competition in 2010.
Heavy Seas owns approximately 600 firkins, along with about a dozen “pins” (halfsized five-gallon casks) and 10-15 wooden firkins. That’s an investment of “perhaps $85- 90,000 just in cooperage alone,” estimates Sisson.
With no pasteurization or preservatives, cask ale is especially vulnerable to careless handling or storage. Proper presentation involves beer engines or even special coolers to hold the firkin for several days, or a marketing blitz to ensure the firkin is consumed within hours.
“Once you open that firkin, you have 48 hours to finish it off, unless you have proper preservation hardware. We will sell cask ale to any market that our beer is already in, but I want my area manager to know where they are going so we can verify that the situation is a win-win for all,” says Sisson.
“Our primary goal is to not only be one of the primary suppliers of cask ale in the nation, but also one of the primary educators, for retailers as well as for consumers. We’re doing this primarily as a labor of love, not as a business model,” says Sisson. “However, we feel that it’s a great asset to the brand, has tangible business benefits, and further, we just think that this is great for beer!”