It's About Beer

This is a place to read articles found in the Maryland and Washington DC Beverage Journals as well as thoughts on current issues from our staff. If you would like to be a registered BJ Blogger, contact Stephen Patten.

Alan Horton

Alan Horton

Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper Marlboro, MD. In addition to his journalistic duties for The Beverage Journal, Al is currently an Adjunct Business Instructor at Anne Arundel Community College.

Dead Rise Summer Ale

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 24 July 2014
in August 2014 Editions

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“What’s more important, having a good product or having good marketing?” This rhetorical question is worthy of academic debate, but Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery has hit both sides of the question with their latest offering, “Dead Rise Summer Ale.”

This beer’s key “marketing hook” is a lesson in local marketing.  Deadrise Summer Ale is a celebration of Maryland’s cultural icons - blue crabs, a Bay built deadrise boat and Old Bay seasoning.  The beer is brewed in collaboration with Maryland based McCormack Spice, the makers of Old Bay Seasoning, to celebrate the spice’s 75th Anniversary.  And  to give consumers another reason to buy the beer; they are donating a portion of each sales dollar to “True Blue,” a program that benefits the Chesapeake Bay’s professional watermen. That’s for the good marketing part, now for the product.

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Is It Possible For Beer to Age Well?

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 28 June 2014
in July 2014 Editions

aged beer.jpg - 106.34 KBOn the first morning of beer school many years ago, the instructor boldly stated, “Nothing good happens to beer once it is put into a bottle, can or keg.” Freshness fades and beer quickly deteriorates once it is put into any kind of container.  And while pasteurization might slow the process, the original taste is changed and the deterioration process from aging continues unabated until beer has lost its freshness, its flavor and its taste. 

During the 1970s and 1980s, the country’s largest domestic brewers spent millions of dollars studying the effects of aging on beer freshness. They concluded that after heat, light, oxygen and dirt, beer’s greatest enemy is time. Preservatives are one way to prolong the shelf life of beer, however, during the past thirty or so years, the use of preservatives has become unacceptable and most, if not all, brewers have discontinued using chemical preservatives. The brewers’ collective answer to prolonged shelf life was to store beer at lower than ambient temperatures, i.e. the temperature surrounding beer. 

Each brewer followed its own approach to address the aging problem only to arrive at a similar but temporary solution. At Anheuser-Busch, brewing chemists experimented with the effect of lower temperatures on beer aging. They concluded temperature played a very important role in the aging process, and was the one element that could be controlled throughout the manufacturing/distribution process. As a result, Anheuser-Busch wholesalers were mandated to either build expensive climatized/refrigerated warehouses or to retrofit existing facilities.  Each wholesaler plan had to be approved by AB prior to construction. The Coors Brewery approach not only involved a similar warehouse solution, but took the extra step to require its beer be shipped  in refrigerated trucks from its brewery in Golden, Colorado. It also required its wholesalers to deliver Coors products in insulated and refrigerated trucks. Miller imposed its own policy on air conditioned warehouses with temperature set points that vary throughout the year. Currently, Sam Adams and Pilsner Urquell amongst other brewers have adopted their own cold storage policies. Without a doubt these approaches have helped slow the aging process, but the overall effect is muted as a large percentage of beer is delivered and stored at retail locations in warm, unfriendly conditions.

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Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 28 June 2014
in July 2014 Editions

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Milk stout takes its name from the milk sugar that is added to a stout to sweeten its taste.  As a style of beer, milk stout was developed more than one hundred years ago as an alternative to the ales, stouts and porters of the time. In those days, milk stout was promoted as having nutritional value and was frequently prescribed to nursing mothers.

The Left Hand Brewery of Longmont, Colorado has made classic milk stout uniquely its own with the infusion of nitrogen directly into the bottle without using a widget.  The combination of nitrogen and a low level of carbon dioxide together with flaked oats and flaked barley gives the beer its creamy texture, smooth body and almond colored collar of foam. 

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Amstel Radler

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Monday, 19 May 2014
in June 2014 Edition

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The Netherland’s Heineken Brewery has added a new product called “Amstel Radler” to its portfolio of world class beers.  

The radler style of beer has been around since 1922 when a Bavarian tavern keeper named Franz Xavier Kugler created a beverage to serve a group of cyclists participating in a local event. His creation married fresh lemon juice with a local beer in roughly a 50/50 ratio. 

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Blue Point Toasted Lager

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 17 April 2014
in May 2014 Editions

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Twenty nine years ago the Blue Point Brewing Company, Long Island’s first significant microbrewery, was founded in Patchogue, New York by two old friends - Mark Burland and Peter Cooper. Unlike most microbreweries, Blue Point’s first beer was a lager rather than ale.  This was risky business as lagers require much more care throughout the brewing process than your typical ale.  Darker color or additional hopping cannot mask flavor flaws and other mistakes.  But Burland and Cooper’s risk paid off.  Toasted Lager became the brewer’s flagship brand, and a Gold and Silver Award winner at the World Beer Cup competition.

Blue Point’s “Toasted Lager” takes its name from a brewing technique that uses the direct application of flames to heat the brew kettle. This is in contrast with the usual method of heating the kettle with steam.  The long used “Fire Brewing “method has been around for a long time and provides a hint of toasted flavor.  It was used and highly touted by Detroit’s famous Stroh Brewery. 

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Beer Festivals: A Recent Marketing Initiative

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 17 April 2014
in May 2014 Editions

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Beer marketing practices have changed rapidly in recent years and continue to evolve. It wasn’t long ago that local beer marketing consisted of the “beer man” bellying up to the bar and buying a couple rounds. While bar nights and trade spending still exist they have been eclipsed by other practices, but the one element that hasn’t changed from those bygone days is the firm belief in the popular slogan “Making friends is our business.”

The reach and power of personal marketing has now become more important than ever, and the majority of craft brewers “get it.” They have rediscovered what industry veterans have known for years that a friendly approach, knowledge about one’s product and providing honest recommendations go a long way in the brand building process.

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Terrapin’s Mosaic Red Rye IPA

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 19 March 2014
in April 2014 Editions

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Mosaic Red Rye IPA is a euphonious name for a beer. The name is quite a mouthful, and so is the beer.  This Rye based IPA is brewed by the award-winning Terrapin Brewery located in Athens, Georgia, which began brewing operations in 2002.  Terrapin brews a wide range of full flavored ales that are well balanced and not over the top in any way.

Much of Mosaic Red Rye IPA’s character is based on the use of Mosaic Hops – a new variety of hop. An offspring of Simcoe and Nugget hops, Mosaic derives its pleasant aroma and bitterness qualities from each of them. This new hop from the Northwest United States has a bright future and likely will become widely used in very short order.  

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Spitfire Kentish Ale “The Bottle of Britain”

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 20 February 2014
in March 2014 Editions

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Spitfire Kentish Ale has an interesting back-story.  During World War II, Messerschmidt fighters from the German Luftwaffe dominated the air war over Britain until the Spitfire, a new Rolls Royce powered airplane, entered the fray and changed the outcome of the Battle of Britain. In 1990, fifty years after the battle, Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewer (1698), brewed Spitfire Kentish Ale in a onetime effort to commemorate the success of the airplane in saving Britain and to raise funds for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.  An unplanned success, Spitfire became popular and has remained in production since then, and during the past two years the brand has become the fastest growing bottled ale in Britain.

When poured into a wide mouthed pint glass, the beer is the color of blood orange and sports a thick off white head. As the beer is consumed, traces of foam lace remain while small bubble carbonation continues to rise in the glass.

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Van Mitchell: Retailer-Legislator-Administrator and Lobbyist

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 20 February 2014
in March 2014 Editions

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Over the years, there have been several retailers and wholesalers who have served in the Maryland Legislature.  Names like Pete Bozick, Jim Simpson, Cas Taylor and former Delegate James King come to mind, but very few have had such diverse experience in business, the legislature, government agencies and the alcohol beverage industry as Van Mitchell.

If asked about his widely diverse work history, Van might joke and say something like, “This guy you are talking about must have had a hard time keeping a job.”  The fact is, his varied and cumulative job experience make him ideally suited for his current job as a lobbyist in a firm that represents the alcohol industry.  When Van speaks with legislators, he doesn’t speak in theoretical terms, he speaks with the authority of someone who has actually been there and done it. As the popular 1960s saying goes, “He can talk the talk and he can walk the walk.” And, in his numerous careers we can see examples of his use of best practices in running a business.

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Goose Island Honker’s Ale

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 21 January 2014
in February 2014 Editions

Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery refers to its “Honker’s Ale” brand as an English style bitter, but don’t be fooled by the name. This fine beer is anything but bitter. What then is an English Bitter?  Simply put, it is a style of ale in which the brew master uses ample amounts of aromatic hops and sweet malt.  The result is a beer with a strong hop presence but a pleasantly drinkable taste.

The brew master at Goose Island uses an interesting mixture of grains including: two row barley malt, wheat malt and roasted barley.  This hearty malt combination produces a bread like aroma with a sweet malt flavor, strong enough to balance out the Stryrian Golden and Super Styrian hops. Although both hops types have mild bittering and aromatic qualities, Super Styrian hops is known especially for its dual flavor and scent characteristics.

When held to the light, a brilliant coppery gold color shows through the glass.  A tight off white head forms as it is poured and quickly dissipates into a nice band of lacey foam around the inside of the glass. An abundance of small bubble carbonation gives the beer a pleasant feel in the mouth that carries through in the aftertaste as a pleasant mix of hops and malt lingers at the back of the tongue.

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Sierra Nevada's Celebration Fresh Hop Ale

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 18 December 2013
in January 2014 Editions

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In 1981 Ken Grossman, owner of the Sierra Nevada Brewery, brewed his first batch of “Celebration Ale.”  This beer quickly became the classic ale sought after year after year during the Christmas Season.

Celebration Ale is an India Pale Ale (IPA) made with a twist. It is brewed in late fall using hops just recently harvested from the fields.  These newly picked hops, although dry by the time they are used, provide a fresh flavor and aroma that can’t be duplicated.  The beer would have a very different character if these same hops were allowed to dry for six to nine months.  The brewermaster uses a blend of Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops that together provide plenty of bitterness with a moderate amount of hop aroma. The combination produces a bitterness level of 65 IBUs, which is at the high end of the bitterness scale for an IPA, as well as for most beers, with the exception of barley wine.  Celebration Ale, however, it is not a “hop bomb” that grabs your tongue and squeezes.  Rather, it is a skillful blending of fresh hops, and two row pale malt and caramalt that yields a delicious and flavorful beer.  Additionally, Celebration Ale is bottled conditioned meaning a small amount of sugar and yeast are added to the bottle before it is capped to induce a secondary fermentation that produces natural carbonation and provides additional life on the shelf.

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Make it a Beer Vacation in 2014

Posted by Alan Horton
Alan Horton
Al Horton retired after 27 years with Bob Hall LLC, a beer distributor in Upper
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 18 December 2013
in January 2014 Editions

Do you need to get away? Are you tired of vacationing in the same place year after year?  If you answered yes to these questions, maybe your first resolution for the New Year should be to plan something new, fun and completely different - so, why not take a beer vacation?  A beer vacation can take you to some never before visited place like Belgium with its unending variety of beer styles, or it might be an adventure closer to home visiting local microbreweries within a day or weekend’s drive.  In either case, the options for a beer vacation are almost limitless.

Vacations are tonic for the soul.  They provide us a mental break from the everyday routine of life. They refresh and recharge us so that we return more energetic and renewed about our lives and our jobs. They can be used as learning experiences or simply as a way to relax. The nice thing about taking a beer vacation is you can do it with family, with friends or all by yourself.  The only rule is there is no rule.

If vacations are meant to fun, then a beer vacation should be a hoot and a really cool thing to do. There are new places to visit and new things to see along the way, while having the opportunity to stop and savor new unfamiliar brews.  And, as beer drinking is a social event, meeting new people may turn out to be the most fun and rewarding part of all. 

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