Mid Atlantic Brewing News February/March 2011 : Page 1

By G B Greg Kitsock Ki t K tsock k New owner Megan Merrifi eld announces her plans for the establishment formerly known as the Brickskeller, now renamed the Bier Baron. PHOTO BY NOREEN BURNS By Jack Curtin W ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM Washington, DC-An era came to an end dur-ing the wee hours of Sunday, Dec. 19 when the bar staff at the Brickskeller sounded last call for the last time. After several weeks of rampant rumors and speculation, owners Dave and Diane Alexander had fi nally announced the sale of the landmark watering hole, which traces its history back to 1957, a few days after the launch of Sputnik, and which earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for its inventory of over 1,000 beers. “I don’t see any more mountains to climb. We’ve done enough here,” said Dave Alexander, who’s hosted almost every luminary in the craft brewing business and served burgers and brew to such non-brew-ing celebrities as Jerry Seinfeld, Quentin Tarantino, Neil Young and the band Pink Floyd. Perhaps appropriately, the last beer slung over the bar was Rogue Dead Guy Ale . Ten days later, on Dec. 28, the iconic beer emporium reopened under new man-agement with a new name on the awning outside: Bier Baron. Meet the owner of the Bier Baron: hotelier Megan Merrifi eld, who at 30 is two years younger than Dave Alexander was in 1982 when he abandoned his career as a musician for a publican’s life. She’s a graduate of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., where she admits having “a lot of fun” at Bell’s Brewery. She has a 20-month-old son named Tristan who appears, dressed as a cowboy, on a root beer label from the Jones Soda Co. You might have met her if you dropped by before the New Year. “The fi rst two See Makes Way p. 4 W hen Paul Rutherford, head brewer at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Lancaster, Pa., told his new assistant Chad Rieker that it was time for him to fly solo and make a beer of his own, Rieker was unfazed by the challenge. “I have this recipe for a beer I made for my church which might work,” he said. And thus was born St. James Brown Ale . Editorial ........................................3 Brewing Beyond Boundaries .....8 What Some People Won't Do ....11 HomeBrewing ............................12 Book Review ..............................16 Maps & Directories .............. 18-21 Events .........................................39 Rieker and fellow homebrewer David Rutledge brewed the original batch last August to honor St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, which they both attend. Rieker said they were inspired by the fact that many of their fellow church members were fans of craft beers and that St. James sometimes served beer at church committee meetings or gatherings, both in the church and in members’ homes. They See Blessing p. 6 INSIDE State by State News Virginia ................14 C Pennsylvania ...22 Philadelphia ........24 E. Pennsylvania ..26 Maryland ..............28 Baltimore .............30 New Jersey ..........34 W. Virginia ...........36 Delaware ..............37 DC ........................38

Brickskeller Makes Way For Bier Baron

Greg Kitsock

New owner Megan Merrifield announces her plans for the establishment formerly known as the Brickskeller, now renamed the Bier Baron.

Washington, DC-An era came to an end during the wee hours of Sunday, Dec. 19 when the bar staff at the Brickskeller sounded last call for the last time.

After several weeks of rampant rumors and speculation, owners Dave and Diane Alexander had finally announced the sale of the landmark watering hole, which traces its history back to 1957, a few days after the launch of Sputnik, and which earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for its inventory of over 1,000 beers.

“I don’t see any more mountains to climb. We’ve done enough here,” said Dave Alexander, who’s hosted almost every luminary in the craft brewing business and served burgers and brew to such non-brewing celebrities as Jerry Seinfeld, Quentin Tarantino, Neil Young and the band Pink Floyd.

Perhaps appropriately, the last beer slung over the bar was Rogue Dead Guy Ale.

Ten days later, on Dec. 28, the iconic beer emporium reopened under new management with a new name on the awning outside: Bier Baron.

Meet the owner of the Bier Baron: hotelier Megan Merrifield, who at 30 is two years younger than Dave Alexander was in 1982 when he abandoned his career as a musician for a publican’s life.

She’s a graduate of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., where she admits having “a lot of fun” at Bell’s Brewery.

She has a 20-month-old son named Tristan who appears, dressed as a cowboy, on a root beer label from the Jones Soda Co.

You might have met her if you dropped by before the New Year. “The first two nights I waited on tables until 1:30,” she said.

Merrifield and her husband (who prefers to remain behind the scenes) run three hotels in Washington, DC: the Windsor Inn, the Embassy Inn and the District Hotel. Over the coming months, they intend to turn the inn above the bar—a cheap, Europeanstyle boarding house with shared bathroomsinto a boutique hotel called the Hotel Baron. They also plan to install 50 taps in the Bier Baron, 25 upstairs and 25 downstairs.

New Guard Makes Changes

However, visitors to the bar during the first week of January wouldn’t have noticed anything radically altered from its Brickskeller days. There were a few cosmetic improvements, including white tablecloths and cleaned-up bathrooms. But the glass cases of old beer cans and other breweriana remained, having survived the onslaught of souvenir seekers. “Someone who had etched their name in the bathroom door offered us $500 for it,” laughed Merrifield.

The bottled beer selection was still extensive, although Merrifield and her director of operations, Tom Verola, had pared down the list of brands to about 350 on their Jan. 11 menu. (They intend to gradually raise that number to 500.) A frequent complaint during the Brickskeller’s later days was that you had to name four or five beers before you found one that actually was in the cooler. “What’s on the menu will be here,” promised Verola. “If we run out, we’ll grab every menu and cross it out.” Merrifield said she was investing $25,000 in new computer software to keep the beer lists up to date.

The pub grub was similar to Brickskeller days, with a few additions. You can still chow down on a buffalo burger, but replacing the old Bacon Cheddarburger is a Bier Baron Burger consisting of an Angus beef patty piled high with bacon, salami, cheese, onions and cole slaw. (Merrifield confides that she acquired a taste for pork products while doing marketing for Hormel.)

The menu is a work in progress, she added. She hoped to offer “more homemade items” in the future, to augment the dessert selection and to implement a beer brunch on weekends.

The Bier Baron’s first event, a Jan. 11 meet-and-greet with Dogfish Head’s DC sales manager Josh Fruchtman, featured a treat left over from Dave Alexander’s vault of rare beers: 18%-abv Raison d’Extra, a “beer on hiatus” that Dogfish Head hasn’t brewed in five years.

Merrifield said she’d like to hold monthly beer tastings, inviting guest chefs from area restaurants to do food pairings with the beers. “We’re also interested in getting some politicians to come here,” she added.

What About Dave?

The decision to sell the Brickskeller was made long before the rumor mill started running full tilt last October.

Merrifield said she first noticed the bar was for sale on loop.net three years ago, when she and her husband were living in New York City. It took a year-and-a-half of negotiations to reach a deal, she added.

Not included in that deal was the Brickskeller name. “That name was created by Diane’s grandfather [Felix Coja, who along with his son Maurice founded the selfstyled ‘down home saloon’ 53 years ago],” said Dave Alexander. “It’s like a family member.” On more than one occasion he’s sworn that “nobody whose last name is not Alexander will ever own the Brickskeller.” But he added that he has no intention to open a new restaurant with that name. “RFD was our last venture.”

Alexander will continue to hold beer tastings at RFD, which is run by his son Josh. On January 17, he held a tasting to celebrate the 20,000th beer tasted by Bob and Ellie Tupper, who have been hosting Brickskeller gatherings since 1985. (That milestone beer was India Ink, a black IPA brewed by Mad Fox Brewing Co. In Falls Church, Va.) He's promised that the annual strong beer tastings will take place on Feb. 9 and 16, and on Feb. 28 was planning a special event to mark the 15th anniversary of Victory Brewing Co. In Downtown, Pa.

“I’ve been trying to get Anchor and several other breweries to do a Good Riddance Dave beer,” he joked, “but none of them would do that.”

Read the full article at http://mabnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Brickskeller+Makes+Way+For+Bier+Baron/632203/60000/article.html.

Lancaster Church

Jack Curtin

When Paul Rutherford, head brewer at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Lancaster, Pa., told his new assistant Chad Rieker that it was time for him to fly solo and make a beer of his own, Rieker was unfazed by the challenge. “I have this recipe for a beer I made for my church which might work,” he said.

And thus was born St. James Brown Ale.

Rieker and fellow homebrewer David Rutledge brewed the original batch last August to honor St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, which they both attend.

Rieker said they were inspired by the fact that many of their fellow church members were fans of craft beers and that St. James sometimes served beer at church committee meetings or gatherings, both in the church and in members’ homes. They brewed and bottled four cases of the homebrew, which was greeted with rave reviews when served at a church committee meeting.

The project had the blessing of the church’s rector, the Rev. David Peck, who was born in the U.S. but spent 21 years in England and was ordained there and had a previous ministry there. Peck told the local newspaper that churches in England and beer have had a friendly relationship for centuries. He pointed out that pubs and churches were perhaps the most important fixtures in small English villages and were often located near one another. “Historically, some of the oldest ales were associated with the church,” he said. “Good food and drink provide the opportunity to build friendships and community, which are an invitation to encounter God.”

Indeed, an Internet search turned up several examples of pastors in Great Britain using beer to entice new worshippers, particularly young men, to attend services. In Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, a pair of progressive ministers last winter began holding beer and Bible sessions in the chapel of Sovereign Grace.

At St. Stephen’s Church in Barbourne, Worcester in 2009, Archdeacon the Ven. Roger Morris courted controversy by presiding over a Father’s Day service in which children handed their dads bottles of beer as a token of generosity. “Posies of flowers are given to mums on Mothering Sunday and we wanted to give a laddish, blokeish gift to the men,” he told the press.

Rev. Peck said the reaction among his parishioners to the brewing project was “overwhelmingly positive” and the only negatives were “a few hostile letters to the newspaper.” He says the church would definitely support another special brew if one were offered. “I’ve learned in working with Iron Hill that historically the first seasonal ales were actually tied to the church year seasons, Pentecost and Easter and feasts such as those for the Blessed Virgin and so on. These events were also celebrated at quarterly Market Days. The tie between the local economy, the church year and seasonal brewing has existed since the Middle Ages.”

Brewer Chad Rieker graduated from the American Brewers Guild last June, apprenticed at Iron Hill during the summer and was hired in September. Asked to describe his beer, he said that “it’s a Northern English-style brown ale, a style Dave and I chose because the church is Anglican. It’s a malty beer rather than a hoppy one. It has a pronounced nutty brown aroma and a chocolatey flavor with a nice roasted finish.”

The first batch of St. James Brown Ale was released by Iron Hill on Nov. 12 and was featured at a fund-raising event at the brewery on Nov. 29, which raised $700 for the church. It sold strongly enough that a second batch was on tap in late December and into January. Rutherford says that St. James will become a seasonal release at Lancaster and the next batch will likely go on tap this spring.

Glory be.

Read the full article at http://mabnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Lancaster+Church/632205/60000/article.html.

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