January 2014 Editions - Beverage Journal, Maryland and Washington, DC http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/categories/listings/january-2014-editions Thu, 26 Nov 2015 03:42:46 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Sierra Nevada's Celebration Fresh Hop Ale http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/sierra-nevada-s-celebration-fresh-hop-ale http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/sierra-nevada-s-celebration-fresh-hop-ale celbrationbottleandglass.jpg - 163.92 KB

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.

Just as the holiday season is fun; this is a fun beer.  A visual first impression is of a big old-fashioned ice cream soda with a huge creamy head.  The head lingers and lingers and finishes as a fine lace on the inside of the glass.  The beer is at its best when it is sipped through the head.  The citrus and pine notes from the hops are balanced by sweet malt that makes you want to take another sip.  It is refreshing, not overly done in any direction, and is a perfect beer to enjoy with friends and family.

I hope you have an opportunity to try a refreshing Sierra Nevada “Celebration Ale” during this festive season.  Happy Holidays.

alan@beveragejournalinc.com (Alan Horton) January 2014 Editions Wed, 18 Dec 2013 14:58:40 -0500
A BEVERAGE BIZ Look Ahead at the 2014 LEGISLATIVE SESSION http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/a-beverage-biz-look-ahead-at-the-2014-legislative-session http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/a-beverage-biz-look-ahead-at-the-2014-legislative-session

The next General Assembly Session is scheduled to re-convene in January, marking the last year of the current four-year election cycle in Maryland.  That means all 188 legislative seats in the General Assembly -- along with the Offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General -- are up for election.  In addition, for the first time in the state's history, the primary election will be held in June just 60 days after the Session's conclusion.

For beverage industry interests, this politically charged time represents an opportunity to become even more actively engaged than they have in the past.  The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), in particular, has no plans to sit idly by.  MSLBA President David Marberger comments, "It's not really politics.  You're just talking facts.  You're saying, 'These are things that I experience.  These are things I face.  These are challenges that we have to overcome.'  And these are challenges that your local politician may not be aware of.  At some point in time, there has to be a give and take.  If you want your politicians to listen to you, you have to listen to him."

He continued, "It's no different than building a relationship with a different wholesaler or supplier.  When you meet them for the first time, it's the beginning of a relationship.  It's a give and take, a listening, an understanding, a take-some/give-some. Legislators are people just like you and I.  They put their pants on just like you and I, and they have a job to do.  Their job is to build a consensus for their constituents.  If you're not part of that conversation because you think it's dirty, nasty, ugly politics, then you will be left out and you'll be wishing that you hadn't been in the long run."

Chain store legislation is expected to be among the top concerns.  The previous Session of the General Assembly indeed saw the introduction of legislation that would allow grocery, big-box, and convenience stores to obtain off-premise beer and wine licenses.  Fortunately, the legislation's proponents filed the bill too late in the Session for it to have any real chance of advancing.  

MSLBA's leadership is preaching vigilance where this issue is concerned, having assembled economic and other data that refutes the contentions of the supporters.  In short, the association is ready to go with the facts!  MSLBA Legislative Chairman Jack Milani remarks, "I certainly think chain store [legislation] will be our most dominant issue.  The scary thing is it's not grocery-store specific.  It's basically take the prohibition away so that any chains can sell beer and wine  whether it be drug stores, convenience stores, and so forth." 

Other issues are also pressing.  This past summer, for instance, Maryland's highest court declined by a scant 4-3 margin to adopt so-called "dram shop" liability.  If adopted, this legal doctrine would have permitted vendors of alcohol to be sued by individuals who have suffered injury at the hands of a patron of that vendor.  Consequently, the owner of a tavern where a customer unwisely opts to drink and then drive hits another vehicle could be sued by the occupants of the other vehicle.

Lawyer and MSLBA lobbyist Steve Wise comments, "That was a decision that preserved the current law, which is that Maryland does not recognize dram shop liability.  We think that is the right position for the law to be in, but there may well be legislation in 2014 to change that."

Marberger, proprietor of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits in Annapolis, urges, "If you are a bar owner or restaurant owner, you need to be part of that conversation.  Insurance premiums for the industry would just skyrocket.  It would change a whole lot of what people do in this state."

Wise, an attorney with the law firm of Schwartz, Metz, and Wise in Annapolis, also is concerned with the impact legislation has had on the economics of the business.  Like many others close to the process, he is still smarting from the recent increase in the state's alcohol tax.  "Ever since the tax was increased," he noted, "one of the side effects has been that whenever a customer purchases alcohol with a debit or credit card, their transaction fees are based on the total sale ... which, of course, includes the higher sales tax.  So, their transaction fees -- particularly among the larger packaged stores -- have gone up considerably.  There was no offset for that when the alcohol tax was raised.  So, we're trying to come up with a way to address that.  We have to be conscious of the fiscal impact of that.  The state has a continuing structural deficit.  We are working against that, but we're still going to try and address that for our members."

MSLBA officials also anticipate that efforts will be made in the 2014 Session to mandate that bars, eateries, and taverns recycle such products as aluminum cans and glass bottles.  Many of the association's members already recycle.  In fact, the MSLBA encourages the practice because it is both environmentally sound and ultimately economical.  However, a blanket requirement that all establishments recycle presumes that options for recycling are available to them.  This is not reality.

Wise comments, "What we're trying to do is show the industry that, through some better education of our members and working with the waste industry, that we can do as much or more to increase recycling on our own without a mandate or additional government regulation.  This is an issue that really does not fit well with a uniform statewide approach, because the economics of recycling for the waste haulers vary considerably depending on the jurisdiction.  One size doesn't fit all for every different retailer.  It depends on how big you are and how much space you have.  But we have found that our members may not be aware of the options that are out there, so we've had the waste industry come in and speak to our association.  We're working on a flyer that would be distributed out to every retailer in the state urging them to contact their waste hauler about the options."

Milani adds, "There is a lot of single-stream recycling that is available with the trash haulers now in the larger metropolitan areas.  But I think when you get to some of the more rural-type areas, it becomes a little cost-prohibitive.  Now is the time to educate, not mandate."

Whatever the issue, all three men stressed the importance of owners and operators getting involved in the process and letting their voices be heard.  Milani, who has co-owned Monaghan's Pub in Woodlawn since 1990, remarks, " When we get new people in, we try and first explain to them how things work.  We have a Lobby Day where we bring our membership in and they get to meet with their own delegates and senators to go over the issues that are important to them.  For some folks, it's intimidating the first time.  But once they realize that their elected officials really do want to hear their concerns, a lot of that intimidation goes away pretty quickly.  Even if it's an issue they don't agree on, most legislators do value conversations with people who are in their districts.  Some members have even noted that now the legislators are actually asking them questions about bills that may affect the industry."

Wise agreed.  "One of the great strengths of the industry is they're in every community," he added.  "Pretty much every member of the Legislature know the operator of a packaged goods store, a bar, restaurant, or tavern in their district.  That personal connection that either exists or could be developed through that network has always been the strength of the association.  But our members have to actively establish that relationship if they don't have it to keep that strength present in the years ahead."

Marberger, whose father-in-law Chuck Ferrar is a past MSLBA president, concluded, "I would love to see interest from our industry grow.  These are people who have invested their time, money, energy, and futures into the businesses that they own.  If they would invest just a little extra time and thought -- not even money -- to the legislative process, it would have dramatic positive effects on our industry."

teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2014 Editions Wed, 18 Dec 2013 12:39:17 -0500
Bill Burrill Maintains His Prestige at Republic National http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/bill-burrill-maintains-his-prestige-at-republic-national http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/bill-burrill-maintains-his-prestige-at-republic-national "It is a industry that is endlessly exciting because it is ever-changing and no two days are the same.  I've been in this business 37 years, and I bet I am going to learn something new today about the business that I didn't know yesterday!"

The industry Bill Burrill is speaking of is, of course, our beloved beverage biz.  And Burrill indeed speaks from nearly four decades of experience.  He started right out of college in June 1977.  Early on, this University of Baltimore graduate worked for Carlton Importing.  "When I was there," he recalled, "it was owned by McKesson.  Back then, McKesson was the largest wine and spirits distributor in the country and they also owned suppliers. So, I got some experience on the supplier side.  But after two years, I came back to the wholesaler side and have been in it ever since.  I've represented pretty much every major supplier, every major winery, and every major importer as well as many smaller ones.  I've worked in mostly Maryland, but also in South Carolina, Boston, and upstate New York. I've always been transferred back here. I'm like that bad penny. I keep turning back up!"

Today, he is manager of Republic National Distributing Co.'s Chesapeake Division, which encompasses off-premise accounts throughout the entire state of Maryland.  In that post, he represents such major suppliers as Pernod Ricard, Heineken, and Bombay Imports, among others.  He was brought aboard RNDC earlier this year after selling his interest in the Prestige Beverage Group.

"The three years at Prestige with my partner Joey Smith were just incredible," Burrill remarked. "They were a lot of fun and very challenging.  We got Prestige to the point where it was becoming very successful, and I was looking for a new challenge.  So, I just moved down Route 1 a little bit.  Instead of being competitors, it's exciting to now be working with Republic National."

Burrill continued, "What drives me is that I just love developing brands.  I've had the pleasure of starting brands from scratch, and I've also been involved in developing mature brands.  That challenge is what wakes me up in the morning.  I've also been so blessed that, in Maryland, we have the best group of retailers and restaurateurs anywhere.  They're outstanding, and I have developed some very good friendships from Cecil County to Southern Maryland to Ocean City."

And in his 37 years in the industry, he has seen some incredible changes.  "When I started in the wine business," he stated, with a slight chuckle, "it was all jug wines, Chablis, Burgundy.  I can still remember representing Gallo as a distributor, and I remember the Gallo people coming in and saying, 'One day, varietal wines are going to sell.'  Today, it's all varietal wines and the jugs are, for the most part, gone!  For the wine business, it has been the change in the consumer that has been the most dramatic."

Some of the biggest changes have happened in Maryland itself.  "Back in the 1970s, you filed pricing with the state," he recalled.  "You couldn't change a price during the month.  Prices were set three weeks to a month prior, they were written in stone, and everything was case wine.  Today, there is no price filing.  You can change a price whenever you want to change a price.  You also have quantity discounts, which have dramatically changed the way business is done in the past five years throughout the marketplace."

From a geographic standpoint, he added, "When you are dealing with an Ocean City, you're dealing with a market that is very seasonal.  So, that has its challenges.  When you're dealing with Cecil County, you're dealing with competition from out of state.  Cecil County will take a look at the pricing that is in Pennsylvania and Delaware, because that's their competition.  They don't care what is going on in Baltimore.  Then, when you deal with Prince George's County and some of Southern Maryland, their competition is Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.  It's very different from market to market."

Looking ahead, Burrill says he is particularly excited about consumer preferences veering more towards flavored whiskeys.  He just marvels at all of the selections now available, from maple-flavored whiskey to honey-flavored whiskey.  "It's going to be exciting to see where that [niche] goes and develops in 2014," he said.  "It is THE new innovation brand in the business."

FAVORITE MOVIES: The "Rocky" series

"60 Minutes" and "Two and a Half Men"

"Do the Right Thing" by Mike Huckabee

"I'm a long-time Heineken drinker."

GO-TO MIXED DRINK: Jameson and soda

Ronald Reagan 

SIDE INTERESTS: "I've been involved in the martial arts my entire adult life.  I am a second-degree black belt in Kembo karate and am part of the American Self Defense Association."


teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2014 Editions Wed, 18 Dec 2013 12:31:53 -0500
Alt Whiskey Goes Mainstream http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/alt-whiskey-goes-mainstream http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/alt-whiskey-goes-mainstream American Distillers Large & Small Are Fueling a Whiskey Revolution

By Jack Robertiello

Behind the bar at The Square One Brewery and Distillery restaurant in St. Louis, pride of place is given to the beers and spirits that are made on-site. Among the spirits, there’s an expected array of new distiller wares—gins, rums, vodka and the like—as well as whiskies that put a twist in the tail of the traditional styles consumers expect. Here, customers can order tasting flights that include J.J. Neukomm Whiskey (made with cherry wood smoked malt and aged in Missouri-made oak barrels) and Hopskey (the house’s hop-infused whiskey, grainy with a pleasant aromatic hoppiness).

Like many other spirits recently entering the market in the American whiskey category, these and others like them are not your father’s whiskies—in fact, they are made with techniques
that probably have never been used to craft anybody’s whiskey.

An incredible range of alternative American whiskies have burst onto the market in the past few years, driven by the growth of numerous micro-distilleries hitting their creative stride with the urge to tinker, toy and completely ignore the old rules of this country’s whiskey heritage. The trend has lately helped encourage even tradition-bound Kentuckians and Tennesseans to come up with things previously unknown.

Consider Filibuster Bourbon and Rye, aged initially in virgin American oak casks, then finished in French oak previously used to mature wine. Witness Van Brunt Stillhouse American Whiskey, made from malted barley, wheat, corn and rye; and 287 Whiskey, a collaboration of Still the One Distillery and Captain Lawrence Brewery—distilled from the brewery’s pale ale (and named for the Westchester County, NY highway that connects the two operations). Tincup, founded by Colorado distilling veteran Jess Graber and bottled in Denver, is an 84-proof new American whiskey made using a blend of rye, corn and malt; cut with pure Rocky Mountain water; and whose functional screwcap recalls the old cups the miners would drink from.

Examples like these, admittedly, are a tiny part of the booming whiskey business, but the value of the enthusiasm and attention these new spirits have generated can’t be overstated. Distillers’ confidence in releasing “experimental” whiskies is built on the success, albeit small-scaled, of the adventurous new kids on the block who have deliberately jiggered American whiskey traditions.

Says Corsair Distillery owner Darek Bell, author of Alt Whiskey: “When we started, we said, ‘If it’s been done before, we don’t want to do it, because imitation is suicide for a small distiller like us. Instead, we need to figure out what we are and do it.’” While other new distillers could establish their business as the first or only local spirit producer, Tennessee-based Corsair was working in the shadow of one of the world’s biggest whiskey brands. So Corsair started experimenting—and hasn’t stopped. The distillery is currently making up to 150 new recipes a year, with the best 20 or so entered into competitions to gauge the response. This method has yielded, among many other spirits, a triticale whiskey, an oak-smoked wheat whiskey and the popular Triple Smoke, made with barley smoked in cherry, peat or beech.

“You’re seeing a lot of the really alternative whiskies coming from the micro-distillers and that has definitely increased the awareness of those things,” says Larry Kass, director of corporate communications at Heaven Hill. But such tinkering is not necessarily novel. He points out that the major distillers had long been experimenting with grain ratios, variations among traditional grains, aging protocols, barrel selection, char levels, finishing methods and other variations, though few of these whiskies get very far. And the experimental whiskies that do make it into the market from major suppliers, more often than ever, are scooped up swiftly by fans. You can count Evan Williams Bernheim Wheat Whiskey (originally distilled back in 2000) and Buffalo Trace Single Oak Bourbon in this category.

Red, White & Brown

Perhaps a subtle adjustment in recent years is the more conscious effort by craft—and larger—distillers to redefine “American whiskey,” and remind people it’s not just about straight bourbon and rye. They have also done a pretty good collective job of tapping American whiskey drinkers’ patriotism. Perhaps no single firm has done a better job of waving the American flag than Michter’s, a Kentucky-made brand revived in the 1990s, but based on America’s very first distillery, founded in Pennsylvania in 1753. Their latest release—Michter’s US*1 Unblended American Whiskey—has no neutral grain spirits blended in, plus Master Distiller Willie Pratt aged this whiskey in bourbon-soaked barrels, adding richness, smoothness and a fresh point of distinction.

On the experimental side of traditional brands, Woodford Reserve’s 2013 Master’s Collection twin offerings, The Double Malt Selections—Straight Malt Whiskey and Classic Malt—are said to be the first fully matured whiskies crafted from malt in Kentucky since Prohibition. The Straight Malt is matured in new barrels and Classic Malt is matured in used barrels, a rare opportunity for a side-by-side comparison of Old World versus New World styles.

Wild Turkey’s Forgiven is a mix of high-proof rye and mature bourbon that is said to have resulted from an accident turned into an opportunity, a 91-proof, small-batch bourbon and rye whiskey. Made from 78% 6-year-old bourbon and 22% 4-year-old rye, the new Wild Turkey extension was released in fall 2013.

Another tangent developing recently and quickly in the American brown goods arena is flavored whiskey. Here, it was the big-brand experimentation (Beam’s Red Stag line; honeyed examples by Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey and Evan Williams; Sazerac’s red-hot Fireball) that have really fueled the trend. Notable smaller entrants include Western Spirits’ Bird Dog (blackberry, peach) and caramel-flavored Whitetail. And Wild Flame is pushing the flavor envelope even farther (peach, coconut, cinnamon, cherry blueberry).

Clear Options

Typically, new American whiskey makers credit two main impulses as catalyst for this range of inventive spirits: their desire to craft something new and their need to pay the bills. Many opted for selling unaged white whiskey while waiting for more traditional styles to mature. As American consumers rediscovered the quality and value in U.S.-produced whiskies, consumers and bartenders tended to focus on unaged spirits as the next
new thing.

“I understand why new distilleries are offering white dogs,” says Jeff Arnett, distiller at Jack Daniel’s. “It’s the same reason we used to offer something less aged under the Lem Motlow name—everybody needs to keep lights on.” And this whiskey sub-genre’s now-legit popularity also explains why Jack Daniel’s in late 2012 released its own white spirit, Unaged Rye, featuring the distillery’s first new mashbill in over a century. Ditto the motivation behind Beam’s Jacob’s Ghost, which is the same basic recipe as Jim Beam White Label Bourbon, but aged one year in oak and then filtered to appear nearly clear. George Dickel #1 Foundation is the latest big-name white whiskey to enter the arena.

But white whiskey was not the only way out of the cash-flow problem, according to David Perkins, owner of High West Distillery and Saloon in Park City, Utah. He, like some others, turned to buying whiskey in bulk and bottling it under their brand name. “We needed to make payroll and to start the company off as selling whiskey, and selling someone else’s sourced product without doing anything to it didn’t really make any sense to me,” he says. “Mainly what we’re in the business for is to create something new
and interesting.”

Early on, High West garnered attention for its combinations of whiskies sourced from various American distillers. Rather than hide these products’ origins behind a fog of marketing, at High West Perkins makes clear where the components of his sought-after spirits come from. For example, their first product, Rendezvous Rye, was a blend of two ryes (one from the Barton Distillery and the other from the old Lawrenceburg Distillery in Indiana now owned by MGP Ingredients) that had been aged for different lengths of time, an idea Perkins adopted from the blending approach used in Cognac, where distillations from many different years are merged.

Creating something that’s greater than the sum of the parts was the goal; similarly, High West’s Bourye is a blend of Four Roses Bourbon and 16 year old rye made at Barton. In this case, the Scots provided the concept. “We didn’t want to just sell Four Roses on its own, so we followed the example of the Scots who when making a blended whisky would mix a fruity whisky with a smoky one and a sherried one,” he says.

New York Benchmarks

While small distillers are blossoming in many states, innovative whiskies have often taken back seat to white dog, rum, eau de vie and gin. States like New York are large and lucky enough to have both white and brown goods cultures thriving: for example, within a hundred miles or so of each other in upstate New York there’s pioneer Tuthilltown, widely seen as breaking the price resistance barrier with its Hudson line of whiskeys—Baby Bourbon, Four Grain Bourbon and Single Malt, notably—and now backed by William Grant and Sons.

Then there’s Hillrock Estate Distillery, a field-to-glass facility that now offers a Double Cask Rye Whiskey along with the Solera Aged Bourbon, Estate Single Malt and George Washington’s Rye Whiskey, Estate Edition. Few manage to take on all the tasks like Hillrock—growing grain organically, floor malting, pot distilling, aging and bottling on the estate. But other novice producers are taking note and tweaking their whiskey formulas. Other Empire State whiskey producers of note: Breuckelen Distilling (one wheat whiskey, one made from corn and rye); New York Distilling Company (aiming to release a rye in 2014); Long Island Spirits (maker of Rough Rider Bourbon and Rye and Pine Barrens single malt). Two that have gone the white whiskey route: White Pike White Whiskey and Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine.

Different Strokes for Different Distillers

Christian Krogstad, founder of Portland, Oregon’s House Spirits Distillery, recently released Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey, aged three years and made entirely from pot still whiskey in the Irish style. As a small step into alt whiskey world, he produced only 13 new barrels worth the first year, followed by 48 in 2012 and 200 in 2013. Made from Oregon barley, it’s one producer’s locally oriented take on international whiskey.

“I think the people interested in whiskey—American whiskey drinkers—are very typically interested in trying the whole range of whiskies made,” he explains, suggesting that while emerging whiskey drinkers are more likely to try spirits like Westward, the aficionado has shown interest as well.

Being able to make these sorts of unusual whiskies in small batches, hoping some will work, is at the heart of the flexibility of the small distillers, says Bell
from Corsair.

“There’s been a lot of demand because for so long whiskey has been pretty similar,” Bell adds. Major distilleries, buffeted by the shrinking of the brown goods business from the 1960s until the last decade, became more conservative and self-similar. “When you make an aged product, it makes you more conservative and reluctant to try something different. So many brands of the same type coming from the same handful of distillers, it was like a monoculture.”

So alternative or locally-sourced grains align with many trends—locavorism and environmental issues as well as the search for the new and unique—that can benefit whiskey overall. “To us, if we can pull people into whiskey, that’s huge. And these experiments are pulling from different crowds, including beer drinkers,” Bell says.

And more can be expected; as Perkins notes, inventories that High West and others have been developing as they sold other whiskies are getting more mature every month, and they’ll have a developed
market to appeal to now that tasting different is so much more acceptable. “The majority of people don’t care where the whiskey comes from,” he says, “as long as they enjoy the taste.”

info@beveragejournalinc.com (Beverage Network) January 2014 Editions Tue, 17 Dec 2013 21:49:16 -0500
Make it a Beer Vacation in 2014 http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/make-it-a-beer-vacation-in-2014 http://www.beerwineliquor.com/new/easyblog/entry/make-it-a-beer-vacation-in-2014 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. 

Some years ago, noted author and political commentator William F. Buckley Jr. was asked by his father about the destination of his next vacation.  The younger Buckley replied in his book “Airborne”, “I don’t have time to take a vacation.”  His father averred, “….A busy man never has a good time to take a vacation; he must just take one!”  And with that advice, Buckley began a trans - Atlantic voyage in his sailboat.


Fortunately, you don’t need to cross the ocean in a sailboat to have a good adventure.  An entertaining microbrewery adventure is never more than an hour away no matter where you live in Maryland as there are more than two dozen microbreweries and brewpubs located throughout the state.  Most of them are concentrated in geographic pockets in Central Maryland, Baltimore and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

A great place to obtain information about our local breweries is by visiting the Brewers Association of Maryland (BAM) website www.Marylandbeer.com.  The Association lists its twenty-six members.  In addition to a list of members, the site provides links to their websites and a geographic map showing their location. Also, the individual websites provide information about beer tours and tastings. 


Travel & Leisure magazine in a recent article named its choices of America’s 20 best beer cities. Although the article is based solely on the opinion of its writers, it does provide an interesting bucket list of some great breweries to visit. The magazine’s top five choices are:

Portland, Oregon 

Widmer Brothers, Bridgeport, Deschutes
and Hopworks breweries.


Home to many microbrewers
including Great Divide, Wynkoop
and the Great American Beer Festival

Portland, Maine 

Shipyard, DG Geary, Allagash
and Sebago breweries

Seattle, Washington 

Pyramid, Elysian and Fremont

Kansas City, Missouri

Boulevard, McCoy’s Public House,

75th Street Brewery and Gordon Biersch

If you don’t venture out on your own, private companies offer guided beer tours for purchase in each of these famed beer cities.

An American Luxury Beer Vacation

If you desire a more opulent beer vacation experience, several specialty inns across the country provide a memorable on property beer experience.  One such location is the Lodge at Woodloch located in Pennsylvania’s Pocono region. This spa uses beer in several of it treatments as well offering its own Palo Sano brew along with brews from the Dogfish Brewery in neighboring Delaware.

Other interesting east coast beer retreat locations include:  Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, and Trapp Family Lodge in Stow, Vermont.  This inn is owned by the von Trapp family. The innkeepers host “Sound of Music” reunions and feature their own Trapp Lagers.  In Norwich, Vermont, the Norwich Inn/Jasper Murdock Alehouse has been a traveler’s destination since 1797.  More recently, a microbrewery was added to the Inn in 1993, and Jasper Murdoch ales were born.  Luxury locations featuring local craft beer are not limited to the east coast but can be found from Texas, to Wisconsin, to Wyoming and the west coast.

Go Big - Go European

Clearly, you won’t go wrong if you venture across the Atlantic to Western Europe to visit some of the many hundreds of breweries located there. Belgium is a particularly good place to begin your journey and add to your beer education.  Belgium arguably produces more beer styles than any other country.  Brussels is a must visit destination and an inviting place to begin your Belgian beer education is in one of the outdoor cafes located in the Grand Plaza, which is home to the original beer guild, and also contains the home office of ABInBev. Whether your tastes run to beer brewed in open vats with wild yeast flowing in through open brewery windows, or to a Trappist made dubble or tripel made with candi sugar to soften the alcohol taste; you will not be disappointed.

Organized Beer Tours

Your beer vacation can last for a week or more simply for a long weekend.  No doubt seeing new sights and visiting new breweries will provide you with lots of new stories to share with your friends when you return home.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys letting someone else plan the details of your vacation, prepackaged, pre-planned beer vacations are available for purchase both here in the U.S and in Europe. 

A new US company called beertoursusa.com promises to deliver its customers a memorable beer chasing and tasting experience.  They arrange beer tours for upwards of 35 people at a time.  Guests travel by motor coach to some of the countries best microbreweries.  For tour information, the company may be reached at 1-855-FUN ON TAP (1-855-386-6682).

Would you rather take a beer trip to Europe?   Beertrips.com is there to help make your journey a memorable one.  Your traveling companions may be singles, newlyweds, novice beer drinkers who want to do something different or well experienced brewmasters seeking a new palate sensation. BelgianBeerMe.com (BMM) is a tour company that focuses exclusively on beer.  It has 14 trips planned to Belgium in 2014.  They will also arrange beer trips to Prague so you can sample Czechoslovakia’s original pilsner beer.

BonBeer.com is another tour company that takes beer-focused guests on it’s company owned barge trips through Holland, Belgium and France.  It plans to add beer tours to Germany and Italy next year.  No more than twenty two guests travel together at one time so each guest can enjoy gourmet dining on board or stop along the way to experience local restaurants as well.  Beer cruises are typically run for one week but weekend beer tours are available as well.

Make it a beer vacation in 2014

Vacations are the perfect way to unwind, unplug and get away from the daily routine. They are stress relievers and leave us feeling refreshed and recharged.  Whether it’s going on an exotic vacation to Belgium or traveling the local highway for an afternoon or weekend away from work, vacations are important for our physical and mental well- being.  

As you head into a new year, consider a resolution to expand your horizons and plan a different kind of trip.  Whether it’s a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a full blown vacation, a beer trip is guaranteed to give you a new perspective on the place you visit and just like any good brew, will have you wanting more.

Also, If you do take a beer vacation in 2014, please let me know. I would love to hear about it.

Here’s to a happy and healthy new year!

alan@beveragejournalinc.com (Alan Horton) January 2014 Editions Tue, 17 Dec 2013 21:28:31 -0500