Thursday, July 31, 2014


A lot of people in my life love this beer. My wife is one of them. It's a biting, sweet drink that is fine out of the bottle, but is even better on ice. I use it to make Moscow Mules.

Crabbie's is from the UK, but it's huge here. Ginger seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing. Some people can't stand the taste of ginger.  I feel sorry for those people.

Ginger seems to growing in popularity around here. Wild Wolf has a ginger lager, Devils Backbone did a ginger, and Bold Rock is saying they're going to be releasing a ginger cider. And Left Hand's Good Juju does pretty well at some accounts.

But Crabbie's is amazing if you're looking for something different.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do You Like It in the Can?

I think I'll be talking about beer in cans a lot more here, pretty soon. The craft beer world is increasingly switching over to cans and in Virginia, there's even a mobile canner who will bring his machine to your brewery and can your beer in a day. It's pretty remarkable to see.

One day in Germany about ten years ago, they thought it was a good idea to start charging a deposit on all aluminum cans: 25 cents!!! It was part of an aggressive tactic to curb the amount of curbside and countryside garbage that had been accumulating. Bottles had a ten-cent deposit that kept most people from just throwing them in the street when they'd drunk all their beer, but aluminum had always gotten a pass. I think it was because of interests like Coca-Cola. Anyway, the huge deposit worked, but it also kind of backfired.

Greedy gas stations and the like demanded that you bring back your can with a token to that exact location. So, say you bought a can of beer from a 7-11, you couldn't just bring back your beer can to any old 7-11; you had to bring it to the same one, which really sucked if you were on a road trip. You just lost 25 cents a can, and the 7-11 just got free money.

Most places just stopped selling cans. See, bottles in Germany are where it's at. They reuse the bottles as many times as they can before recycling them. It's a great system, but Americans hate to reuse anything for some reason. They'd rather just skip to the recycling part. It's annoying for hardcore environmentalists to see this, but it is what it is. Americans refuse to reuse bottles and Germans place too large a burden on aluminum. But there's good news for the USA:

Aluminum is one of our most abundant and most easily recyclable resources!

In fact, I heard on NPR a while back that if we all just recycled everything aluminum, we could cease all mining operations of that material right now! And unlike plastic, we can recycle the same can an almost limitless amount of times.

And that's why I personally love the canning of beer and applaud the continued acceptance of it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Oru Kayak at Douthat State Park

 As soon as we pulled up to the lake at Douthat, it started raining, but we'd come all that way, so we decided to get in the lake anyway. The temperature dropped by 25 degrees, easy, but the water was really warm, so it felt comfortable.
Jim got up on the dam and took some pics.
I liked getting up close to the weir and looking over the edge. Lakes that have that kind of feature are fun because man-made structures like this are cool to explore.

I capsized once trying to get a lure out of some low-hanging branches, but the water was so warm, I didn't mind the swim. Douthat also has a beach with a little platform with a diving board on it. The beach was all but empty due to the rain. We almost had the whole lake to ourselves.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Agritourism and Beer

Breweries per capita

Virginia is getting pretty craft beer crazy. When I got here, most people didn't know what an IPA was and now I could almost drink local beer exclusively. It's an exciting time to be in the beer business.

Lately, there have been a lot of articles like this good one saying what so many brewers are saying, a plateau and a die-off are coming. It's a bit premature to get too worried about, I think, but I thought I'd put my two cents in about how a brewery in a place like Virginia could weather the storm so many prophets are presaging.


Agritourism has been the darling buzzword in this state for years, and I think beer and farmers need to get in bed a bit more. As airfare rates rise, they vacation closer to home. As more people move to cities, they want to visit rural areas to see the trees, the cows, the pastures, the horses, the eagles, the streams, the mountains, the sunrise over the Blue Ridge, etc.

We've already seen the start of this. More and more, I meet people from DC and Maryland and New York who are coming to float down rivers and hike. They want to pick apples and strawberries and hops. They want sit back and enjoy everything local about the Shenandoah Valley, and that includes the beer.

I've got a ton of ideas about how farmers and outdoor adventures companies and breweries can start working together to build stronger economies in our rural areas. I think it's the future. I want to get a brainstorming session going.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pale Fire Brewing Company

A while back, I was in Chicago. I was leaving Goose Island in a black Über SUV and talking with Tim Brady about the name of his new brewery in Harrisonburg. I'd written a paper on Nabokov's Pale Fire at Berkeley, and I simply loved the multi-layered, reference-rich name he'd chosen.

Tim is no slouch when it comes to brewing, but he's going to be working with Jamie Long from Flying Dog on this new venture. Or should I say Flying Dog via Starr Hill via the Siebel Institute? He's a pro, Jamie.

There are too many things I love about this project. They're part of an urban renovation effort at the Ice House in Harrisonburg, they're already collaborating with one of my favorite breweries, and their name is pilfered from a Shakespeare play. And also, you know, beer.

And there are a lot of questions. What will be their flagship? I hope it's not another IPA, but a killer pale ale? Who will distribute? Tim used to sell at Specialty Beverage, and I used to work at Virginia Eagle, and Blue Ridge is dying for more locals. What kind of awesomeness will their tasting room present the scene? I mean, Three Bros has a GREAT tasting room. Theirs has to live up to that for sure!

I wish them luck!
Here's another article about them ➥

The following is just for Shakespeare nerds:

Shakespeare used the term "pale fire" in Timon of Athens: "The moon is an errant thief, she snatches her pale fire from the sun." Nabokov definitely references Timon in his novel. But he also brings up Hamlet. Everyone loves Hamlet, though. Anyway, in Hamlet there's this "The glow-worm shows the matin to be near And ’gins to pale his ineffectual fire." My paper in college was kind of about this. Kind of.

I don't think it was wasted on Nabokov, and I love that Shakespeare uses "Pale" in one as a verb and as a noun in the other. In a nutshell, I think that Nabokov and Timon and Shakespeare are saying that as you steal or borrow or represent or snatch a thing, that thing pales. That's particularly interesting because Shakespeare was definitely a thief when it came to stories, characters, and even whole lines.
Hamlet at one points tell Polonious  "You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I more willingly part withal—except my life, except my life, except my life"
The sun willingly parts with its fire, but she who snatches it only has something far paler, thing which is not the thing itself. It reminds me of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra lamenting that she will one day be aped by a boy on a stage and that no representation of their life will ever be a decent depiction of the passion of their lives. And then there's the "humble cockpit" in Henry V.
OK. I'm stopping now. I do miss talking Shakespeare with people who care about things like that. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Smart Mouth

 Smart Mouth Logo

When I went to GABF last year, I got to hang with the guys from Smartmouth Brewing. They are nice people who make good beer up in Norfolk. I got to try some of their stuff on brewer's night at Wynkoop, and enjoyed it immensely.

You can't get their beer where I live, but when I see it on my travels, I always get a pint. They're canning now, which is nice. Canning is becoming that thing craft brewers have said it would be. I've been listening for years how it would be the norm one day. Mark Thompson is always touting the benefits of canning. Wild Wolf does the same in their ads. Yesterday I had a Heady Topper whose can implored me at length to drink it directly from its aluminum chamber. I didn't. I'm not afraid of sediment. Are bottle shops going to be can shops soon?

Anyway, Smartmouth is doing something cool for Virginia Beer Month (August). They are expanding their capacity by 75% and offering tons of firkins at their tasting room. Not bad, eh?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to meeting up with these guys again in August. I also hope their increase in capacity means they might be stretching out into the Shenandoah Valley soon.

More about Smartmouth here ↠

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rocktown Rye

If you know me, you know I love brewery collaborations. When one can taste the artistic influence of both producers, there's something special in there. My personal belief is that true genius occurs at the nexus of partnership. I've said that a lot and will probably continue to do so until I'm proven wrong.

One of my recent favorites has been this Rocktown Rye from Harrisonburg brewers, Adam Shifflett from Three Brothers and Tim Brady from Pale Fire. The collaboration was put together with help from Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, and the sale of every pint benefits in part that organization, which is nice.

The beer is a dark yellow delight with a hint of malty cereally goodness to make you say "Pale Ale?" but with enough hops to make you say "Pale Ale!" Normally, anything with rye is not what I reach for in the summer, but the rye presence in the Rocktown gives it a grip I enjoy and makes me wonder why I don't become a catcher in the rye every summer. . . even the excruciatingly hot ones.

Getting this beer to market was an adventure that included me running down closed streets with kegs between the people who were racing in the annual 10k. There were major misunderstandings about who could get the beer, where they were supposed to order it, when they were allowed to receive it and tap it. It was a Fourth of July mess. Fourth of July messes are par for the course in distribution: it's the busiest day of the year.

For some reason, they're only allowing restaurants in Harrisonburg to buy it. So if you want some, you'll have to come to the Shenandoah Valley. It's worth a trip to try. Most of the restaurants downtown have it, but Three Brothers has it at their brewery, too, and that's always worth a trip.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Psuedo Craft

I'm growing to hate the likes of Blue Moon and Shock Top. If you didn't already know, Blue Moon is a Miller-Coors product, and Shock Top is an Anheuser-Busch-In-Bev brand. They occupy what is known as the Pseudo Craft segment of your beer aisle alongside Premium, Import, Subpremium, and Craft.

I used to think that of course the big guys wanted a seat at the table when it came to craft beer. It's growing in sales and prestige; why wouldn't the megabrands want a piece? In the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it talks about coming from a standpoint of a abundance rather than scarcity, so I thought there was room for everyone to have fun in the wonderful space we call craft. But now it's becoming clear the giants want crush craft again. They've tried before by smashing distribution rights and whatnot (see Beer Wars), but now they're like Neo when he jumps into an agent and destroys him from the inside. It's a bummer.

And today I look at the Harrisonburg Beer Elite group on Facebook only to find this article. Ugh.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014



My first two shirts did not do very well. That made me sad.
The next shirt I'm doing is a Star Trek theme. Who doesn't love Star Trek?

Here's the link:

It's one of my favorite movie quotes of all time. The Kobayashi Maru was an impossible situation, but Captain Kirk doesn't believe in those, so he changed the parameters. It's a common thread that ties together all of the movies with the original cast. And when people ask me why I love Star Trek, I tell them it's because of the Kobayashi Maru.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Staunton Is All about You

I live in a little city called Staunton. There are a few legends about why locals refuse to pronounce the "u" in the name of this place. One even says the "u" stands for "Union" and the locals stopped pronouncing it during the Civil War in order to more easily spot Union spies who would unwittingly pronounce the word "Stahnton."
This, of course, is apocryphal at best. Staunton was a pretty major train hub probably filled with spies back then, but it was also a pretty liberal place by those days' standards and was divided about secession and slavery. So, the idea that an entire town would change the pronunciation of their home ignores the enormousness of the effort and coordination such an undertaking would require among people who likely felt very differently about the Union and its spies.

But this is from Wikipedia:

Founded in 1747, it was renamed in honor of Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife to Royal Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Gooch.

What do we know about English-speaking people? They pronounce things differently. When it comes to eponyms and toponyms, they pronounce things wildly differently. I once met people from a town spelled "Belvoir" pronouncing their home "Beaver," and I once read about a man named "Featherstone" who called himself "Fanshaw." And that's why I think Stauntonians don't pronounce the U in Staunton.

Anyway, I made a Tshirt with Staunton on it. Why not reserve one so it gets printed?