Saturday, February 10, 2018

Save the Beer

I wish even regular Naked Fish was coming out this year :(
There's been a lot about craft versus big beer over the past year. From the Take Craft Back campaign and the Brewer's Association's Independent Brewer label to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot's Reform on Tap Task Force, there's been more and more pushback from small brewers and craft beer aficionados against beer conglomerates and their soulless manufacturing. Being in Maryland, the increasingly petty arguments in the state legislature regarding tap room and small brewery sales has been of interest to me. There are a ton of small breweries within an hour's drive of here; you've likely heard of some, like Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, Evolution and DuClaw. But there are smaller, less well-distributed breweries that also have amazing offerings, including Manor Hill, Black Flag, Jailbreak, Brewer's Art and Oliver. Not only that, there are even more microbreweries that don't even distribute (or rarely distribute anything besides one or two mainstay offerings) such as SmoketownHysteria and RAR. And there are more on the horizon; just last night on our way home from the Capitals game, Pat and I saw yet another new one, Crooked Crab Brewing, in Odenton, plus Jim Wagner's BCB Brewing opening next month in northern Baltimore County.
Just a few Maryland breweries within an hour of me, including Full Tilt, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Evolution and UNION Craft (photo from Baltimore Magazine)
And I'm not even naming everything! There are a ton more in Baltimore City and County alone, not to mention more in Frederick, Montgomery, Washington and Howard Counties.

The Reform on Tap House Bill 518 was proposed in reference to Maryland's archaic and distributor-friendly laws, and was designed to loosen production and sales regulations on small breweries and their associated tap rooms. The short story is that right now, Maryland restricts tap room sales for small breweries so much so that it's not economically feasible for them to have a tap room. Yet, distributors are so incentivized to sell "big beer" labels (including "craft beer" from breweries who've been acquired by big beer, including labels such as Fordham, Devil's Backbone and Goose Island) that a small brewery's beers are often ignored. Even when they are on the shelves, the distribution system so heavily favors big beer that the smaller brewery beers may sit for weeks or months before getting to the store. For some beer styles, that means a loss of fresh flavors that are important to the beer's profile.

There was a house bill hearing for HB 518 scheduled for February 23, 2018 in Annapolis, where people could sound off about their feelings of relaxing some of the restrictions that have been put in place, and make their voices heard regarding the current law and the concessions it has made for new Maryland transplant, Guinness Brewing, which is actually owned by a British company, Diageo. Diageo also owns Harp, Smithwick's and Kilkenny (among other beers) as well as spirits such as Johnny Walker, Smirnoff and Captain Morgan.

However, just yesterday (February 9), house bill 1052 was introduced by Delegates Talmadge Branch (D-Baltimore) and Dereck Davis (D-PG County) that is diametrically opposed to HB 518. In fact, it is even more against small businesses and even more designed to support Guinness. Worse yet, these clearly bought-out politicians scheduled the hearing for HB 1052 at the exact same time as HB 518. Their actions are petty and ignorant, and their bill is anti-business, anti-tourism, anti-farm, when it comes right down to it.

Image from Naptown Pint: Findings of the Reform on Tap Task Force
Small breweries in Maryland support jobs, tourism and farming in the state. For a state that over the past decade (or more) has acquired quite the "anti-business" label, HB 1052 just reinforces the idea that if you are a small business owner, or have thought about becoming one, just forget about it or go to another state. Already because of the actions of delegates like Branch and Davis, Flying Dog has postponed expansion plans that would have included starting to grow their own hops.

For more detailed and specific information on HB 518 and its bizarro-world counterpart, HB 1052, see those with better words, such as Naptown Pint and Baltimore Brew blogs. You can also go to the Brewers Association of Maryland webpage.

If you are a Maryland resident, please contact your state delegates and senator and let them know you support the small, independent craft breweries of our state, and the associated jobs, farming and tourism dollars that go along with them. Please sign the Reform on Tap petition! If you can attend the HB 518 hearing on February 23 at 1PM, please do so.

If you are not a Maryland resident, please check out the Comptroller's page on how you can support good beer.

Thanks, and prost!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ice, Ice Baby

The forecast for today was not looking good -- wintry mix through the night and the switchover to rain wasn't expected until after 9AM. If things progressed as expected, a delay was pretty much guaranteed.

It was posted long before the 5AM cutoff MCPS has for such announcements.
I reset my alarm, and tried to go back to sleep, hoping that just maybe, we'd get lucky and have a closure. I woke up several times just before seven, constantly checking both Twitter and the MCPS website. There was nothing.

Just after seven, I was committed to dragging myself out of bed and seeing just what Mother Nature had thrown at us, when I glanced at Facebook. Helene had posted a lamentation about the lack of MCPS update, but replied to her own post saying it was now a closure. In disbelief, I went to the MCPS page, and saw the announcement.... which surely came across as post-dated to say it had been posted at 7AM exactly. I know I'd been looking at the website at 7AM and 7:05AM, and there was no such announcement visible.

It kind of bothered me that MCPS waited until seven to say anything, but I'm sure they made the right call. At 8AM, a truck evidently slid off the road in Rockville and into a storefront.

And later in the day, Pat texted me to say that a Southwest jet had slid off the runway at BWI!

At least it wasn't too serious, photo by Patrick Griffith
While I had some work related things I could have done, especially getting some sub plans in order for next week, I opted to just not do much of anything. I played a game on my phone. Then I went to DuClaw at Arundel Mills for lunch (after driving up MD170 to see the Southwest plane). Actually, going to DuClaw was kind of embarrassing; between the weather and the day of the week, evidently, I was the first customer of the day, at noon!
DuClaw has several new offerings out, so I had to try them before deciding on a regular pour
I really like their reborn turkey melt with avocado. It's quite tasty. 

When I got home, surprisingly, Pat was already home. He started his new job at Menzies Aviation this week, but it's primarily been training stuff. He's been giving me quite a ton of stories about the millennials that are also going through the training, who can't quite figure out that videos are for learning and there just might be a quiz afterwards, and some who don't understand "working hours" mean you shouldn't plan to help a friend move or go play basketball when you are expected to be at work. 

Anyway, I finished up today by bottling the honey beer that I started three weeks ago. It should be just shy of 8% ABV, and tastes pretty sweet right now. I'm excited to taste the final product. 

It's a dark lager, but tastes very light
Two more days this week, then an extended weekend because I'd originally planned to be in Orlando with Pat at the Matco Tools Expo. I already had a sub and it's my birthday on Monday, so I decided I'd still take off. I just don't know what I'm going to do yet. :)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cancer Sucks

There's not a whole lot else to say about that.

Rest easy, my friend. You were taken far, far too soon. May all your vehicles be LSx powered and handle like a kart on rails, and all your runs be clean.

the most beautiful sounding miata in the world

Mike Kline. 1975-2018. Rest in peace, my friend.
Consider donating to my birthday fundraiser if you hate cancer, too. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Going Pro

Today was a professional day at work, which means that 90% of the staff say they are teleworking.

It's just a day off, really.

I had to go in though. I'm one of the gradebook advisors, and the only one who actually got training, so I need to be on site for at least part of the day to answer questions and deal with any issues that came up. Still, I left just after 1:30, and on the way home, I realize, "Hey! I should move that honey beer to the secondary!"

So, that's what I did.

The beer tastes interesting right now. It starts off as just a flat beer taste, but then there's this sweetness to it afterwards. I'm guessing the sweetness is due to the honey addition, but it doesn't have the marshmallowy taste of the meadowfoam. That's okay though. I think it's going to taste really good, and with an approximate ABV of 7.9%, it'll have some punch to it. However, right now, it doesn't taste very "heavy," and that makes it even more interesting.

The color is different than what I've brewed previously, too. Both the beer and the head have a slight reddish or pinkish shade to them that reminds me a bit of Troegs Crimson Pistil.

I'll bottle it in about a week, and then it's the long wait for the bottle conditioning for the carbonated taste. Maybe I should look into a kegging system! ;)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Snow Day Brewing

We had an unexpected snow day today! I mean, it wasn't totally unexpected. After all, snow was forecast, though the timeframe for the precipitation kept changing. When I left work yesterday, it was forecast to start just after the evening rush hour, and stop in the early morning, before 7AM.

By the time I fell asleep last night, that had changed to "starting after midnight" and "ending mid-morning." Okay, so you're telling me there's a chance of a delay?

I actually woke up before my alarm, and I was annoyed initially as I tried to go back to sleep. Then I thought, maybe I should check the delays? Lo and behold, there was an MCPS delay!

So, I reset my alarm (to Pat's annoyance), and once it went off again, went through my normal snooze, snooze, snooze (again, to Pat's annoyance) before finally getting up and starting to get ready to go in.

After brushing my teeth, something made me check the interwebs again....

Whoa. That was completely unexpected (and Pat was completely unamused).

So, after moving the WRX out of the way so that Pat could do his route, I puttered about for most of the morning before deciding to do something useful. I took down the holiday decorations (finally!), then pulled out some ingredients I'd bought from Maryland Homebrew a few weeks ago and embarked on brewing a honey beer I'd concocted.

The wort tastes very sweet. I'm hoping that the honey retains some of its special flavor through the fermentation, but it'll be okay if it doesn't. For those that don't know, "meadowfoam" honey tastes of marshmallows. I guess I'll find out in a few weeks!

As for tomorrow.... some people are already talking a delay, but I'm definitely not holding my breath. Obviously, though, stranger things have happened.

BTW, if you don't mind subscribing to my YouTube channel while you're watching, I'd appreciate it.