Let’s Get Crafty

Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Spring Is Here, Let’s Have a Beer!

By Timothy Long Spring has sprung!! As I begin work on this article, I pause to look out the window. It’s not really a pause, I’m contemplating just what the hell I am going to write about this month. I notice that the trees are starting to bud. Tiny bursts of green that will soon fill the branches as they grow. I can hear birds outside in the courtyard. They’re squawking and squabbling over nesting spots. I’d prefer singing and chirping.  But still, it’s a sign of Spring, La Primavera. I start to dream of sunny days, baseball, relaxing at the pool, the beach, women in bikinis, women in bikinis playing volleyball. Tim stop it! You’re supposed to be writing an article! OK, it’s Spring. So, it’s time to change what beers we are drinking, right? Wrong!! Spring cleaning does not have to include dispensing with some of your favorite malted beverages. Yes, our dietary trends start to change as the days grow longer and warmer. But that is mostly due to the seasonality of food. Much of the cuisine we enjoy is seasonal. As seasons change, we wait to enjoy certain items that either become available or greatly improve in quality. Spring makes us anticipate tomatoes, avocados, blue crabs, ramps, etc. None of this has anything to do with beer. Beer is a year-round delight. Yes, your local craft brewery may stop producing some beer styles due to lack of demand. Plus, they enjoy putting out a Spring collection of beers, most of which will be of the lighter variety. This does not mean that you must give up your stout or IPA. The brewer’s thought process is this: As Spring comes and Summer looms, everyone wants a lighter beer. It’s the same way chefs approach food. They know…

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Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Charity, Compassion, and The Love of Beer

By Timothy Long “God made beer because he loves us and wants us to be happy.” The above quote is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. However, there is no proof that he ever said it. But we love believing that he did. Beer has been associated with health and happiness since ancient times. Oddly, none of the early cultures that brewed beer recorded much about the process. There are not many writings from them about their beer. Probably because, like bread, it was so much a part of everyday life that they didn’t give it much thought. They knew it made them happy. They also considered it nutritious and healthy. The health association stems from the fact that they could drink beer without becoming sick. Something one couldn’t say about water back then. It took mankind thousands of years to discover that it was the brewing process that made beer safe to drink. When brewing beer, the boiling kills any pathogens. To us, it’s just science. To them, it was magic. To this day, people will still raise a pint to someone’s health. Beer also found its way into ancient religions. One example, according to an article in Wine Enthusiast entitled “Beer Is What Makes Us Human, How Beer Influenced Humanity Worldwide”: “To the Sumerians, beer was considered a gift from the gods meant to promote “human well-being and happiness,” according to a 2019 research paper, The Beverage of the Ages. Four Sumerian deities were closely associated with beer, like the goddess of beer Ninaski.” Since beer has always been associated with health, and found its way into religion, it makes sense that beer became associated with charity as well. Beer is a huge part of celebrating in our culture. Fun and happiness are associated with it. Most charity fundraising events…

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Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

A Stout or Porter, What’s The Difference?

By Timothy Long I asked one simple question: What’s the difference between a stout and a porter?  The answer opened the craft beer equivalent of Pandora’s Box. You’d think that the answer would be straightforward. Here’s how you make porters and here’s how you make stouts. And it seems that at one time, it was. These two beers have a close relationship. One even begot the other. But as many relationships do, theirs became complicated.  Over time, the definitions of both became intertwined. So much so that today, they are almost the same. Well, kind of. It depends on who you ask. I posed the question to Tim Quintyn, the Tasting Room General Manager at Port City Brewing Company. I trust Tim’s opinion on matters of brewing and beer. I sat across from him at one of their high-top cocktail tables. He had just poured me a taste of their Colossal One, a newly released Imperial Stout. To state that it was amazing would be an understatement. It is brewed with Belgian Hops. The flavor is smooth and sweet upfront with hints of chocolate and a light bitter finish. The ABV is 9.5, so it’s a true stout. More on that point later. As I finish adoring the stout, I look Tim in the eye and fire off my question. “What is the difference between a stout and a porter?” Tim looked me in the eye and chuckled, “How much time you got?” He then began to confirm what I had found researching the subject. There are a couple of things most craft beer brewers agree on. The first is that porters came first. The first porter arose in England in the 1700s. Legend has it that a bartender, or barman as they would have said, took a few lighter,…

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Super Bowl Is A Perfect Opportunity To Support Your Local Brewery!!

By Timothy Long In 1991 I was in graduate school and bartending at the Fish Market in Old Town Alexandria. It was the beginning of my love for what would become my adopted hometown. The Fish Market in those days was owned by a man affectionately known as Mr. Ray.  Ray was a short, loud, stocky, gruff man and not always the easiest person to work for. If you followed his rules and did things the way he asked, you were fine…usually. Conversely, he could be quite charismatic and charming. And he was an astute businessman. Mr. Ray was quite a colorful character. I learned a lot from him during my time there.  The Fish Market was, and still is, famous for its schooners of beer. A schooner is a large, thick 32-ounce glass supported by a short stem. The schooners were served chilled and were to be poured in a way that allowed for a 2-inch head on the top. Mr. Ray thought it was important to have a good head on a beer, and he was right. A good head on a beer releases the aromatics of the brew and makes for a better overall presentation. It also ensures that there are a couple less ounces of beer in the glass. Mr. Ray would walk up to your bar to check the beers you had just poured, holding two fingers up to the head to make sure it was correct. This could be a little unnerving, Mr. Ray had big fingers. The Fish Market today serves a large variety of craft beer. But in 1991, they only served draft and the beer was not a craft beer. It was labeled Fish Market Beer, but we all knew what it was. It was Schlitz. Schlitz was at the end…

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Gifts Of The Charred Oak Barrel

By Timothy Long Gifts Of The Charred Oak Barrel In the world of alcohol, the charred oak barrel is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It gives us many gifts. The first, and most important, gift of the charred oak barrel, bourbon. You must have new charred oak barrels to produce bourbon. This part of the production process is part of our heritage. Those barrels give bourbon its distinctive flavor. Bourbon is American, as much as Mom (or at least mine), baseball, and apple pie! But I’ll get back to that. Let’s get to the bottom of the charred oak barrel first. No one knows who charred the first barrel. Legends and rumors abound as to its origins. It makes for fun conversation. The Elijah Craig website claims that their founder, Reverend Elijah Craig, became the first distiller to age his whiskey in newly charred oak barrels in 1789. According to the Angels Envy website, cognac distillers in France would store their spirits is charred oak barrels as far back as the 15th century. They also cite that charring barrels may be a by-product of barrel making, or coopering: “The barrel-maker would toast the interior of a stave in order to make it more pliable and able to be bent inward. Over time, distillers might have noticed that a heavier level of char imparted better flavors in their spirit, and the process could have been a gradual evolution that spread slowly over time. It’s reasonable to assume that this practice could easily have made its way to Kentucky amongst the waves of Scotch and Irish immigrants. It’s even possible that Kentucky distillers began to char their barrels like the Cognac producers in France to appeal to the French settlers in New Orleans, where the whiskey was often shipped.” Another reason stated…

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Wassail!!! And Other Holiday Delights

By Timothy Long Wassail!!! And Other Holiday Delights “Wassailing? What the hell is wassailing?” Was the reply my 15-year-old self gave to his friends when they said we were going wassailing. “Caroling” they said. “You mean door to door?” “Yes” No way! I was too cool for that! Not happening! Then the girls showed up to join us. Suddenly my attitude changed, and I’ve been wassailing ever since. The word “wassailing” has evolved for over 1000 years. It is derived from Old Nordic and Old English words that meant “be in good health”. A British tradition, it originally referred to a drink made of mulled ale or cider, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. According to WhyChristmas.com: “One legend about how Wassailing was created says that a beautiful Saxon maiden named Rowena presented Prince Vortigen with a bowl of wine while toasting him with the words ‘waes hael’. Over the centuries, a great deal of ceremony developed around the custom of drinking wassail. The bowl was carried into the room with great fanfare, a traditional carol about the drink was sung, and finally, the steaming hot beverage was served.” Wassailing was traditionally celebrated on New Year’s Eve, or Twelfth Night. But as time moved on, rich people began to drink wassail during the twelve days of Christmas. Starting in the 1600s it was common to take a bowl of wassail from door to door while caroling. Over time, wassailing became known as caroling. The drink’s heyday is in the past. But it is still not forgotten. Lost Boy Cider in Alexandria will be hosting a Wassail event on January 7th‘ complete with the traditional drink and wassail songs. They are also releasing a 12-pack of their monthly explorer series ciders representing the 12 Days of Christmas….

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Beer With My Turkey? Yes Please!!

By Timothy Long Beer With My Turkey? Yes Please!! No celebration is complete without beer. It’s been that way since 7000 BCE. Why would our modern Thanksgiving be any different? Think about your average Turkey Day. You go out and volunteer for a charity in the morning or walk/run a 5K or 10K Turkey Trot. Will you need a beer afterward? Certainly, you will. In fact, you deserve it for being such a good person. Or you stay home and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. You’re going to need a beer at the end to cheer Santa as he arrives at Macy’s!  And what comes on television after the parade? Football!! It’s almost un-American not to drink beer while watching football. And does beer go with Thanksgiving dinner? Of course! What was the first thing the Pilgrims did when they arrived at Plymouth Rock? They built a fire. And why did they build a fire? To brew beer! They wanted beer. They needed beer. Thanksgiving is a beautiful festival, a giving of thanks for all we have. It’s the great American tradition. It deserves beer. Even Black Friday requires beer. Especially if you work for a retailer and just completed one of those horrific Black Friday shifts. The whole thing adds up to a great weekend for beer. But first, let’s explore Turkey Day and the great beers that can go with it. We’ll start with the founders of this feast, the Pilgrims. We tend to have a stuffy opinion of who they were. They were puritan in their ways, but not actual Puritans. The Pilgrims were separatists who rejected the Church of England and everything in it that was related to Roman Catholicism.  The Puritans came here 10 years later. Their goal was to ‘purify’ the Church of England…

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The Art of the Football Tailgate Party

By Timothy Long The Art of the Football Tailgate Party “You can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning!” My fraternity brother, Smitty, speaks these words to me while he’s ladling Bloody Mary’s out of a full 12-gallon stock pot into two plastic cups for us. The year is 1982. It is eight o’clock in the morning on my first football Saturday living in the fraternity house. There are two 12-gallon stock pots on the bar, the Bloody Mary one, and one full of vodka and orange juice, Screwdrivers, next to it. These are our morning vitamins. The smell of stale beer that had been spilled at the party the night before is our potpourri. I remember the drinks being great. But I’m sure they were terrible. My palate today is much more developed than my 20-year-old palate. Soon we will be in a pickup truck with 3 kegs of beer, a grill, hotdogs, hamburgers, and the accompanying accoutrements. The kegs are full of cheap, mass-produced beer. That’s how it is when you are in college. It was also years before the craft beer trend hit the US. High end beer at this time was imported beer, and it was expensive.  We are on our way to the stadium parking lot, about to have a tailgate party. Tailgates are an American tradition that did not have its beginnings at a football game. It has its roots in traditional Fall bounty festivals and a Civil War battle. The tailgate party is not just about drinking before a football game. These parties occur in fall, when end of summer festivities have been celebrated for centuries. The football tailgate is merely an extension of those celebrations. University of Notre Dame cultural anthropologist John Sherry states that: “The idea of getting out…

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Oktoberfest!!!

By Timothy Long Oktoberfest!!! “Grab the Yank!!” I hear from behind me. It’s September 2004, Oktoberfest.  I’m in Munich, Germany at the festival with my friends. And yes, Octoberfest does begin in September, not in October. Modern tradition is to have the festival in the last two weeks of September so that it can end on the first Sunday in October, close to October 3rd, German Reunification Day. We are in the Ochsenbraterei (Ox Roast) Tent sponsored by Spaten. There are two huge oxen roasting on spits in one corner of the tent. Each major brewer in Munich erects a tent at the festival.  These so-called “tents” are nothing of the sort. They are enormous structures that are more like warehouses than tents. The larger ones hold approximately 6000 people. Imagine a Walmart that has been stripped bare, a band stand placed in the middle, then the rest of the space filled with picnic tables, that would be one tent. This trip is a religious experience for any beer drinker. It’s the world’s biggest kegger. Over 16 million people from all over the world will make the pilgrimage to Munich during the two weeks of the festival. This is my first of my five trips to Munich for Oktoberfest. I’m a rookie. And I’m not paying attention to the Australian and Irish group behind me. We had been laughing and joking with them earlier. I’m too busy dancing on the bench of our table and slaughtering German drinking songs at the top of my lungs with my buddies while trying to maintain control of the giant one-liter stein of beer in my hand. I should be paying attention. “Grab the Yank!” I hear again. And what I stupidly do not realize is that I am the Yank. I’m suddenly grabbed…

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