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What Glitters is Gold at Heavy Seas Beer

When this journalist suggested to Joe Gold that he was a "beer nerd," the Sales Manager at Heavy Seas Beer in Halethorpe chuckled and replied, "Yeah, I guess I am."  Then, he thought for a moment and proudly declared, "Actually, I'm more of a 'beer explorer.'  I go on beer hunts.  What I do is I keep a beer journal, and I travel the globe looking for fun things to visit beer-wise -- taverns, brewpubs, historic sites.  I tend to plan my trips around beer.  For instance, when I'm on the road for work, I'll do some research as to what's happening that weekend with beer.  If there's a festival or some sort of pub I've never heard of, I'll stay over the weekend just to check it out."

Sorry, Joe.  That pretty much qualifies you for "beer nerdom."  Not that there's anything wrong with that!  After all, how many people get to turn their life's passion into a full-time job.  Gold earned his first paycheck in the brewing business in 1986, working for Young & Co.'s Brewery in London.  His younger days as a lacrosse player had moved him from Baltimore to England three years earlier.  When it came time to get a job, the beverage business there beckoned.

"So much has changed from when I first got involved," he stated.  "I used to walk into taverns in the '80s and say, 'I have this phenomenal beer. It's fantastic. We just came out with it.' And the buyer would say, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. Get out of here!' I go in today and tell the buyer, 'Hey, we came up with this new batch of beer. It's fresh off the line.' And the buyer says to me, 'I've never heard of it, and nobody's ever asked for it. I'll take three kegs!' It's the weirdest professional shift I've ever lived through!"

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Black Momma Vodka to Show the Market 'Who's Your Daddy'

You've heard that Secret deodorant is strong enough for a man, but made for a woman? Well, after that woman freshens up her underarms and heads out for an evening on the town, Vanessa Braxton hopes she'll be drinking Black Momma Vodka.  Braxton is CEO and President of the new label, which launched in 2013 as a division of B4MC Group Inc.  On the homepage of her website, she describes Black Momma as "made by a woman for women and still strong enough for any man ... OKAAAY!"

Yes, indeed.  This vodka comes with some sass and five different variations.  There is the popular Straight Vodka, which is filtered from corn through crushed diamond lava rocks; along with a Sour Sop Tea Vodka; a Chai Tea flavor; a Green Tea infusion; a Pomegranate Tea infusion; and, finally, a Peach Tea variation. Braxton stated, during a recent Beverage Journal interview "Women are different, and I wanted to make something that is for us and by us.  It's a male-dominated industry, and that's fine.  I love men!  But our palettes are very different.  I'm a tea drinker, and I always have been.  At the same time, I love vodka.  This is THE product!"

All of the Black Mommas are five times distilled and five times filtered, giving the finished product a clean finish and a most pleasing taste.  "A lot of people think that vodkas all taste the same, but they don't!" Braxton noted.  "We don't add any sugar, there aren't any chemicals, it's all-natural. So, you get that natural sweetness.  I suffer from headaches.  Our process is such that it minimizes headaches that sometimes comes from drinking vodka.  Also, the corn base helps it to be naturally gluten-free."

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Posted by on in February 2015 Editions
SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale

Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney founded the SweetWater Brewing Company.   The two became friends while attending the University of Colorado.  During college, they developed a passion for beer, and after graduating they headed to California to attend brewing school at the American Brewers Guild.  They then worked at various craft breweries before opening their own brewery in February 1997 near SweetWater Creek outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  In April of that same year, they produced their first brew, SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, and it remains the brewery’s most popular beer.

American Pale Ales are made from U.S. ingredients and are brewed for a careful balance of sweet malt and bitter hops.  They are typically a brilliant gold color, are approachable, and are often considered to be session beers because of their easy drinkability.  They are in complete contrast to the older British style ale, which is darker and has a bitterer flavor profile.

SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale perfects the American Pale Ale style with its aromatic and full flavor that is equally weighted in both directions.  The beer pours a rich gold color and has a generous head of foam that sticks around and provides plenty of lacing inside the glass. It gets its gold color and sweet flavor from a blend of Munich malt known for its robust malt flavor characteristics, L40 malt which imparts caramel notes and two row barley malt that supplies the majority of carbohydrates and sugars for brewing and fermenting.

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Active Marketing and Sales

Movie fans are definitely looking forward to Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher reprising their "Star Wars" roles after 32 years when "The Force Awakens" hits theaters this coming December. And just this past week, Sylvester Stallone took to social media to confirm that he would not only be playing Rocky Balboa again, but also John Rambo in a sequel to be subtitled "Last Blood."

Well, the local beverage business has a similar tale of longtime heroes returning to action to tangle with today's young guns. They are Emery Coccia and Larry Brookman. The former has never left. He has been running his Maryland-based independent brokerage, Active Marketing and Sales LLC, since 2005. Overall, he has been active in the beer, wine, and spirits industry since 1971. Brookman, meanwhile, was basically retired after career stints at several companies, the last being Constellation Brands where he was a part of their Spirits Division for 10 years. But late last year, he bought into Active Marketing, and now the two are full partners.

Brookman stated, "God willing, if we stay healthy, Emery and I can do this for at least the next 10 years or however long we want. We're a lot alike. We do business in much the same way, and we know a lot of the same people. His and my goals are very similar. It's not all about the money, especially at our point in the business. We can still make a difference. Emery and I have cloned ourselves. We've duplicated. If both of us are working effectively, we should be able to cover a LOT more territory and build a LOT of brands!"

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Protect Your Livelihood, Get Involved

The Maryland 2015 Legislative session begins in less than a week (it is January 9th as I type this … very much looking forward to the Industry Opening Day Legislative Reception being held on January 14th; look for full coverage in the March edition of the Beverage Journal).  

I recently attended the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association’s (BCLBA) ‘Meet & Greet’ at Hightopps Backstage Grille in Timonium (see page 34 for coverage of this event). The Meet & Greet offered Baltimore County licensees an opportunity to meet with their elected officials (many newly elected). There is no doubt that chain store legislation is a concern of the entire industry … it was the topic du jour of many conversations.  Chain stores being allowed to enter the Maryland marketplace is a dangerous prospect to the independent beer, wine and liquor retailer.  I was told over and over again how important it is to get as many industry members involved and be prepared to defend the independent store-owners’ position to the state representatives.  Many of you are involved and are familiar with the process of protecting your business from harmful proposed legislation.  However, too many are not.  Below is a quick ‘How To’ …

First, you need to know what proposed legislation is coming down the pipe and how it would affect your business.  Becoming a member of your county association as well as the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) would be a great start.  The MSLBA was formed, in part, because the association's leaders understood that actions in the Maryland State House directly impact the operations of your businesses.  The MSLBA tracks proposed legislation that will have an effect on its members’ livelihoods.  They do this right at their web site, www.mslba.org.  

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The hardest skill to teach a new bartender is how to bite your tongue.  I can teach you how to stir, I can teach you how to shake, and I can teach you drink recipes.  But there are customers who are, by their nature, just plain difficult.  You could make them the perfect drink based off of what they said, and it's just not going to be good enough."

So laments Trevor Frye, Beverage Director for the Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.  But that's about the only lament Frye has these days.  According to him, he is in his dream job.  "I'm one of the lucky people," he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I actually feel happy when I'm going to work."

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Posted by on in January 2015 Editions

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At this time of year, retail shelves are stocked with brightly packaged Christmas Beers. The packages, the labels and perhaps even the name contain the word Christmas, but what is Christmas Beer?  It’s one of those questions open to interpretation and opinion to which there is no definitive answer.  Some might reason it is a beer for drinking during the Christmas Holiday.  Others might suggest that it is a spiced beer with aroma and flavor common to holiday desserts; and, still others might say it is a higher alcohol beer brewed especially for the Christmas Season.  Regardless of the definition, Christmas beer has a long and interesting history.

Whether it was pre-Romans, the Druids or Scandinavians celebrating the Winter Solstice, holiday beers have been around for a very long time –thousands of years in fact.  Strongly brewed beer intended to be shared with friends and family became the norm in Europe during the late Middle Ages.  The beer of the time often contained spices, herbs or fruit and plenty of alcohol.  It was a special brew made for the season and to make common folk feel both warm and happy at the same time.  This idea is not entirely new, and could have been a storyline in a Charles Dickens’ novel.

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Posted by on in January 2015 Editions

At first thought, the idea of sour beer seems neither appealing nor appetizing.  But, to the contrary, the sour beer style has gained popularity among sophisticated beer and wine drinkers who appreciate the complexity of its many flavors

Just as the nuances of single malt Scotch are too difficult to appreciate the first time, learning to enjoy the flavor of any complex beverage often requires certain background information before it becomes an acquired taste. But once acquired, it is a taste to be savored and enjoyed over and over again.  It is much the same with sour beer.  In order to appreciate the sour notes that range from tart to puckery to darkly sour, it is important to know something about the subject before embarking on the sour beer journey.  Although it may seem an unusual analogy, it may come as no surprise that a first attempt at enjoying sour beer is much like attending an opera being sung in a foreign language. Without a libretto in hand, it is difficult to follow the story line. Similarly, it is useful to have reference points to guide you as you sip one of the many sour beers now available in the marketplace.

Belgium
The Home of Sour Beer

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The next Maryland General Assembly Session is scheduled to convene in January, and it will be one marked by change.  Big change, in fact, as a very large turnover of elected officials is about to happen.  Yes, indeed, Annapolis is getting an influx of new faces, not the least of which is Governor-elect Larry Hogan.  The Republican defeated Anthony Brown back in November, running on a platform in which he promised a new era of hope and bipartisanship in the Old Line State.

Beverage industry interests are hoping also for a new era of cooperation and recognition of their contributions to Maryland.  The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) is poised to be especially active in tugging the ears of Hogan and others.  In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, attorney and MSLBA lobbyist Steve Wise acknowledged, "There is going to be a 'settling in' period.  We have a lot of new legislators.  We have a new governor, and there will definitely be some turnover on the various committees that we deal with.  The first thing we'll be doing is assessing all of that."

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People tell me all of the time that I have a great job, writing about beer, wine, and spirits for the Beverage Journal each month.  No argument there.  But do you know who has a REALLY great job?  Tim Herlihy, the National Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey.  And he knows it.

“I am in the very lucky position that I get to travel from coast to coast, city to city, and always with a bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. in my hand,” he stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  “It’s a nice way to travel, by the way! I’ve been lucky enough to go to 27 states and [Washington, D.C.] in my three years in this role, and I’m still absolutely baffled that I’m fortunate enough to get paid to enjoy my favorite Irish whiskey. My role is basically to introduce and re-introduce people to our liquids.  So, I host a lot of different tasting events. Unfortunately, although I am an ‘ambassador,’ that doesn’t mean I have any diplomatic immunity.  So, I have to behave!”

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Marcus Notaro (l) with Kevin Bonner; The Center Club.

Pretzels and beer are an unbeatable combination.  So, too, are whiskey and rye.  And certainly wine and cheese.  Just before Thanksgiving, another unbeatable combo hit the Maryland-Washington, D.C. market in the form of Marcus Notaro of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and our own Fran "Pineapple" Schmitz.  Schmitz ushered Notaro around to several major accounts to press the flesh and talk up the Stag's Leap label.

"Every time I've come to the market," stated Notaro, during an interview with the Beverage Journal, "I've had the privilege of working with Mr. Pineapple. He has never failed to deliver me to some world-class establishments. When I have done wine dinners here, the folks who attend are very passionate wine consumers. They are very knowledgeable, and they travel. People in the D.C.-Maryland area not only know about Napa Valley wines, but wines from around the world.  There's also a surprising number of our wine club members here.  So for me to be out in their market and to be able to tie them back closer to our winery is pretty special."

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Posted by on in January 2015 Editions

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This past November market the 100th anniversary of the first bottling of Freixenet, a name known as one of the world’s leading producers of sparkling wine made in the traditional méthode champenoise (and accounts for 80 percent of all cava exports). The Ferrer family has been behind the Freixenet name from the beginning and has shaped their family-owned company, the Freixenet Group, with the promise to produce and share uniquely-crafted, quality wines, and has successfully done so while utilizing innovative winemaking techniques and unique marketing strategies throughout the past century. The Ferrers’ approach in the global marketplace and emphasis on quality in all of their wines have helped mold their legacy of excellence in the United States, one which is exemplified by the recent launch of their new luxury cava, Casa Sala Grand Reserva Brut.

A vintage cava hand-crafted using century-old techniques, Casa Sala is a passion project of José Ferrer Sala, President of Honor of the Freixenet Group and has been released as a tribute to the centennial of the first bottling of Freixenet . All aspects of production are managed by hand—from harvesting by hand and manual pressing, to riddling and disgorgement.

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The Center for Alcohol Policy (CAP) recently commemorated the 81st anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On December 5, 1933, Prohibition ended in the United States when 36 states (the requisite three-fourths majority of the then 48 states) ratified the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thereby repealing the 18th Amendment which began Prohibition in 1920. For 80 years, the United States and its citizens have benefited from a state-based system of alcohol regulation, put in place following ratification of the 21st Amendment, which gives each state the primary authority to enact and enforce alcohol laws consistent with the desires and needs of its citizens.

“It’s important for citizens to understand that the repeal of the failed, one-size-fits-all policy of national Prohibition was not the end of the story – it’s where the story of today’s successful system began,” said Patrick Lynch, CAP Advisory Council member and former Rhode Island attorney general. “The 21st Amendment recognized that alcohol is a unique product that is best controlled by individual states, and it provided a solution that continues to be effective today.”

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Lucien Smith didn't come to Annapolis in 2003 to be a bartender. He came because he was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy. But a sailor's life was not for him. He ended up voluntarily resigning from the Academy to pursue other interests. But there was something about Maryland's capital city that kept this former Californian around. He took a job as a catering bartender in Timonium, then found work right back in Annapolis as a bar-back at the Castle Bay Irish Pub on Main Street. By then, he was hooked on the biz!

In 2007, he was hired at Osteria 177 to be their service bartender. He's been there ever since. "It was here I began to extend my cocktail knowledge through self-study and a desire to continue on this career path and to excel in it," he recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "I'm now a Certified Mixologist through Bar Smarts and Pernod Ricard. "

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Posted by on in December 2014 Editions

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With the launch of Guinness American Blonde Lager, the Guinness Brewery is taking a page straight out of a college marketing textbook.  When a mature product begins to decline, the brand owner has the option of trying to rejuvenate an iconic brand, or it can add a new product to the product line and trade off the strength of the existing brand.  Guinness wants to accomplish both objectives.

Sales of Guinness Stout, similar to other popular global beer brands, have been on the decline in recent years.  Younger beer drinkers who haven’t actually tried the brand have a perception that it is heavy, filling, too alcoholic and loaded with calories.  Although none of these perceptions are entirely accurate, it is a short leap from perception to reality.  Unfortunately for iconic Guinness Stout, the brand is also burdened with a stigma of being “my father’s beer”.  And, as consumer goods manufacturers are beginning to learn, Millennials want to be different from their parents’ generation.

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MarcZTeddyBullyBar 12.jpg - 216.54 KBMarc Zahorchak, Beverage Director at the Teddy & The Bully Bar in Northwest D.C. didn't come to the nation's capital in the early 1990s to tend bar.  He had an MBA degree and found work as a management consultant.  But then the recession that ushered in the Clinton era hit, and he suddenly found himself downsized and unable to find a job.

"A buddy of mine suggested that I get involved with the restaurant business at night to keep the cash flow going while looking for another job," he recalled during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I absolutely fell in love with the business!  I was hooked from the first day I got behind the bar and have been doing it for more than 20 years now."

He tended bar at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill for nine years and also served as the original bar manager for Hook in Georgetown.  He has been full-time at Teddy since August 2013.  " I came in about two months after they opened up," he stated.  [Proprietor] Alan Popovsky  was looking for someone to kind of corral and bring bar costs in line.  More importantly, I think he wanted someone with my experience to come in and teach the younger mixologist-types."

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Hard cider has emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments in the alcoholic beverage industry, and among the fastest-growing brands in that segment are Pennsylvania-based Wyndridge Farm's Crafty Ciders. Now available in Maryland, the two Crafty Ciders -- original apple and cranberry flavored -- are naturally gluten free with a refreshing taste.

Crafty Ciders separate themselves from other hard ciders by making ample use of the local bounty of quality apples found in the Keystone State's central region. Wyndridge Farm President Steve Groff says he and his full-time cider master, Scott Topel, keep their ingredients simple. Chiefly, Wyndridge Farm prides itself on not adding any excessive amounts of extra sweeteners.  Groff stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "Many of the commercial hard ciders start with either apple juice concentrate rather than full juice or their alcohol is made with sugar. We simply use fresh apple juice.  We source local apples just a few miles down the road.  We carbonate and package on the farm.  So, the whole process takes place right here." 

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Posted by on in December 2014 Editions

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Tequila doesn’t circumscribe the entire range of Mexican spirits. Paralleling the growth of tequilas is the resurgence of artisanal mezcal, bacanora and sotol. As the points of distinction between the multitudes of tequila brands diminish, consumers are discovering the profound nuances in flavor and levels of complexity in these traditional agave spirits engaging.

“I think the ongoing renaissance of mezcals to be directly related to the phenomenal success of tequila,” says Barbara Sweetman, vice president of ultra-premium Scorpion Mezcal. “Certification has greatly helped to advance the reputation of mezcal by requiring that it be made from 100% agave and produced under strict quality guidelines. Mezcal is also protected under Denomination of Origin status. The spirit now can be consumed with confidence and complete enjoyment.”

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Mike Rizzo is in charge of all things baseball for the Washington Nationals.  Chuck Hagel is in charge of all things defense for our country.  And what about that other great Washingtonian, Jon Arroyo? "In a nutshell, I am in charge of everything that is liquid for the Founding Farmers Restaurant Group," he stated.

As the company's Beverage Director since its inception six years ago, he truly is responsible for not only all of the beer, wine, and spirits served at Farmers Table D.C., MoCo's Founding Farmers in suburban Potomac, Md., and a soon-to-open location at the upscale Tysons Galleria II mall in Northern Virginia, but also the three restaurants' coffee program, their tea program. "Everything!" he exclaimed, "Every liquid product. I love the juggling act that is my job. There are lots of moving parts, lots of chess pieces."

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Patrón Spirits has inaugurated a buy-the-barrel program called "Patrón Barrel Select" where spirits retailers and on-premise accounts are able to taste and choose their own bespoke barrel (about 27 cases) of aged Patrón tequila unique for them. Each barrel has been in the company's aging room for a specific period of time.  As a result, no two are alike.

Greg Cohen, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Patrón Spirits, recently sat down with the Beverage Journal to discuss the program.  "The way that tequila is produced and aged and blended from different barrels is such a challenge," he stated.  "Our master distiller and his team blend different barrel types, different wood, different lengths of aging to create those products.  We thought it would be really interesting if we gave people an opportunity to sample those different tequilas that are aging in those different barrel types over the different lengths of time, on their own ... just straight out of the barrel. Each is very unique. When they are blended together to create reposado, for example, that's the taste that people know is Patrón.  But when you taste those barrels individually, and there are so many different combinations, you get really distinct and different tastes.  It's still Patrón.  It's still very recognizable.  But you get a lot of different flavors and a lot of different complexities."

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Where do you stand on the debate? Some contend that the best results are obtained by educating bartenders, not training them, that the days of training people stops at the potty. They suggest that what bartenders need is a steady diet of education. Others argue that while some aspects of the job require continuing education, technical proficiency is a strict matter of training and guidance.

Then there’s the third possibility, that being they’re all wrong. The practical reality is that bartenders require training, education and a healthy dose of something called applied leaning, or savvy.

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There aren’t a lot of ingredients that go into making beer, but the type and amount of those ingredients determine the style and taste of the brew.  Add more malt and you get a higher alcohol content; add different hop varieties at different times in the brewing process and you have a completely different beer. Malt from the Midwest gives a beer a different complexity than malted barley from Europe.  But what about beer’s main ingredient – water?

Comprising over 90% (give or take a few percentage points) of a beer’s ingredients, does it really matter where this main ingredient comes from?  Wine enthusiasts often speak of “terrior” which refers to the soil and climate of the area where the grapes are grown.  But when it comes to the water in beer, does “terrior” apply?  If a beer, for example, comes from a famous brewing location such as Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, Trent on Burton in the UK, or Munich, Germany, then yes, local soil and substrata conditions may provide the water source with unique aroma and flavor characteristics. But in the Unites States, and many other locations throughout the world, the water most breweries use comes from the local municipal water source.

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Aaron Joseph has been bartending for 13 years, most of them in the Maryland-D.C. market.  But it was his brief time early on in the Caribbean working for the former Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., now Belmond Ltd., that stoked his passion for using fresh ingredients in cocktails -- a passion that has helped position him as one of the best craft bartenders in the Baltimore market.

Early in his career, he learned his craft at such places as the Inn at Perry Cabin on St. Michaels and Farmers Fishers Bakers in Georgetown.  He really got traction at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons in Washington, which led to his current position as lead bartender at Wit & Wisdom in Baltimore's Four Seasons Hotel.

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Reliable Churchill, LLLP, has opened the doors at their new operations and distribution center in White Marsh/Middle River bringing over 500 jobs to the area. The company’s office and warehouse have consolidated in a 449,200 square foot facility built by Chesapeake Real Estate Group LLC and Industrial Income Trust in the Baltimore Crossroads business community.

“When you get to welcome a new company to Baltimore County with 500 jobs, it’s a great day to be County Executive,” said Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz. “Reliable Churchill adds to Baltimore Crossroads’ success as a significant employment center for eastern Baltimore County.”

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Before Dante Datta got into the bar and restaurant business, and way before he became bartender extraordinaire at Rasika West End, he led a very different life.  "I had a nearly 10-year career in finance before this!" he exclaimed, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "My last job in that field was actually working for the Washington Nationals.  I would write a sales report for the ownership each week."

So, what made him leave the world of numbers and number crunching?  "I turned 27 years old," he recalled.  "It was my birthday, and I went to New York City to celebrate.  A friend of mine asked me, 'If you could do anything, what would you do?'  And like many other guys, I answered, 'Well, I'd open a bar!'  So, I started mopping floors in a restaurant while I was working during the day.  As far as the restaurant business is concerned, I guess you can see I got into it a bit late in life."

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Posted by on in October 2014 Editions

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As summer comes to its end, beer lover’s thoughts turn to Octoberfest.  It’s a time for sharing good food and drink with friends old and new.  It is also a good time to enjoy a seasonal style of beer known as Marzen.  Harpoon Octoberfest is a fine example of the Marzen style.

The Harpoon Brewery was founded in Boston in 1986 by two old friends, Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary.  Four years later, they held their first Octoberfest as a means of selling more beer, generating cash flow and gaining additional notoriety for the brewery.   It is commonly acknowledged that this festival and others provided additional profits necessary to keep the fledging company alive.  Since then, both Harpoon and its Octoberfest celebration have grown and prospered.  Last year eighteen thousand people enjoyed the festival in Boston, while another seven thousand had a great time at the company’s other location in Windsor, Vermont.

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You know you are talking to a person who has found his or her true calling in this world when you ask them: "What do you consider to be the hardest part of your job?" and the answer is: "Going home!  When you are doing something that you love, it can sometimes be so hard to go home and just turn your brain off.  You want to be back THERE!"

That "there" is Lincoln Restaurant in Washington, D.C.  That happy employee is lead bartender Rachel Sergi, who has been in the business for nearly two decades now. She started her career in the nation's capital at New Heights Restaurant before eventually hooking on with Lincoln, an American small plates eatery that focuses on organically sourced menu offerings with a heavy emphasis on its fresh cocktail program, as well.

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Country music fans often sing of having a "hometown honeymoon."  Those who like to strap on the old feedbag and stuff their faces with fried chicken, pizza, and pasta will tell you there's no better place for that than the Hometown Buffet restaurant chain.  But Baltimoreans looking for a hometown beer?  More and more are gravitating to Union Craft Brewing.

Founded by three local friends -- Adam Benesch, Kevin Blodger, and Jon Zerivitz -- this growing operation is quickly becoming a hometown favorite to locals and Marylanders alike.  Benesch, who recently sat down with the Beverage Journal on the eve of Union Craft's two-year anniversary, stated, "Being that all three of us are hometown guys, a lot of our passion for what we wanted to create here revolved around community.  We really wanted to be a community-based brewery.  What that means to us is hosting community-type events at the brewery, but also being very involved out in the community, whether it's partnering with local charities or coming up with ways to connect with other people in Baltimore doing great things.  That could mean restaurants holding various events or local causes that we connect with.  And beer is just that great thing everyone loves having around."

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The Devil’s Backbone Brewery of Lexington, VA, currently Virginia’s largest craft brewery, has won many awards for its beers over the years.  In 2013 the brewery was named “Small Brewer of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival and its flagship brand “Vienna Lager” has won both Gold and Silver awards at GABF and a Gold award at the 2012 World Beer Cup Championship.  Most recently, the brand won The Washington Post’s “Beer Madness” award after five rounds of tasting. 

Vienna Lager, a new style of beer, was first brewed in Austria in 1830 by Anton Dreher a brewmaster at Vienna’s Schwechater Brewery.  It was his goal to create an alternative to Germany’s popular Oktoberfest and Marzen beers. Stylistically, Vienna Lager is similar to both of them, but is lighter bodied and has less alcohol. 

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Historians often urge caution when interpreting current events as being important and permanent because in the larger scheme of things, these events often play only a minor role.  With the passage of time, a longer view can provide interesting and different perspectives.  The changing face of the U.S. beer business is an example.

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Posted by on in August 2014 Editions

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Never have more wines been so eco-friendly. So proudly, consciously, strategically eco-friendly. But before we all hop on this presumably-biodiesel-fueled bandwagon, it is important to ask: What is organic wine, and who cares? Does green-ness even factor in to people’s drinking thinking?

The topic is at once quite simple, and surprisingly complicated. Who doesn’t want to live greener, cleaner and more naturally? At the same time, the devilish details—of certification, and even definitions—make the entire concept slippery. And on top of the real deal, so to speak, the greenwashing in wine can get laid on pretty thick.

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Posted by on 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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can't write about Tino's Italian Bistro with Wine Bar in Columbia without acknowledging that in a couple of days, or at most a week, I'm going to break down and go have dinner there.  It's that kind o' yummy!  But while it may be the authentic Italian recipes that lure customers there in the first place, most likely return for its impressive beverage selections that complement such dishes as Ravioli Chesapeake, Tortellini Bolognese, and Seafood Mare Bella. 

And those who do return often come back on a Sunday for what may be Howard County's best beverage promotion. Free Wine Sundays!  For every entree order, owner Chris Infantino and his staff take 25 percent off a bottle of wine from a list of 25 bottles to choose from. So, if there is a table of four and they all order main courses, they get a free bottle of vino. 

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One of the highlights of the American Beverage Licensees (ABL) conference was the recognition of twenty-one beverage licensees for their success in, and dedication to, the retail beverage alcohol industry with the 2014 Brown-Forman Retailer of the Year awards.  This is the twelfth year that the distilled spirits company has sponsored the honor. “Thanks to the support of Brown-Forman, we’re able to honor the best bar, tavern and package store owners in America,” stated Bodnovich.  “Independent beverage licensees, both on- and off-premise, are where customers discover the brands they love in settings that foster a sense of community, responsibility and hospitality.”  

Among the 21 recognized were Maryland's own Ashish Parikh, proprietor of Kelly's Liquors in Ellicott City; and David Dent, proprietor of WJ Dent & Sons/Chief's Bar in Tall Timbers. Eligible retailers had to be members of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), and they had to be nominated by its members.

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One might describe Garrick Lumsden, bar manager at the Passion Food Restaurant Group's popular Acadiana eatery, as a "company man."  Sure enough, he started in the hospitality business in the late 1980s on the corporate side, serving first as a corporate trainer for the Houston's restaurant chain.  After five years in that position, he moved over to the P.F. Chang's chain to serve in that same capacity.  

In those early years, he stuck close to his home market of Chicago.  "I did some traveling and opened up a few restaurants," he recalled, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "I got tired of Chicago and decided to move to New York City.  But I stopped in D.C. for a year and fell in love with it.  I never made it to New York!"

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Caitlin Love has definitely found both her love and her passion working for Passion Food Hospitality.  She is a seven-year company veteran and has served as bartender at the firm's District Commons eatery since its September 2011 grand opening.  Located on Washington Circle, it's basically a 21st century take on the traditional American tavern.  In terms of food offerings, customers love the huge raw bar and the open-hearth oven where everything from flavorful tarts to tasty flatbreads are baked.  But Love believes it is the drink selection that gets so many customers coming back for more, especially those who like to sample from District Commons' 99 Beers on the Wall.

"District Commons and Burger Tap and Shake are conjoined restaurants," she stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "We are the sixth and seventh restaurants the company has opened.  District Commons is American-themed, so we have an all-American wine and craft beer list and lots of American spirits, as well."

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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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Posted by on 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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Michael_Cermatori0006.jpg - 93.16 KBMichael Cermatori, bartender at the Frisco Taphouse & Brewery in Columbia, has a pet peeve.  "I do not like a sticky bar top!" he declared, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "That's just lazy bartending.  If you go in someplace and it's sticky, it's not some place you want to go back to.  Now, if you work in a dive bar, I don't want you serving me with white gloves and your pinky in the air.  But have some pride in what you're doing."

Cermatori will only turn 29 in July.  But he already sounds like a longtime veteran of the business.  "I would tell anyone new and young in the beverage industry to know your product, know your clientele, and be aware of your surroundings," he said at one point.  "Things can happen pretty quick in the bar business.  I am lucky because Frisco is a great place.  But I've worked at some other places where things would get out of hand real quick.  So, keep your head on a swivel and know what's going on."  

In truth, Cermatori has been in the industry for a decade, having started as a barback and a bartender in fine dining in Long Island, N.Y.  "That's where I'm from," he said.  "I moved down here in the summer of 2005 to attend college." 

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Posted by on in June 2014 Edition

rum.jpg - 34.51 KBFrom its balmy Caribbean cradle, where it was consumed in copious amounts by seafarers, to the blenders of every beach bar in America, rum has ably fulfilled its calling as a fun-loving, tropical spirit.

But in a category as diverse as rum—which can be white, gold, spiced, flavored, overproof or aged—the frolicking frat boy persona that makes rum such a mixable and loveable spirit also means rum has occasionally struggled to be taken seriously, failing to realize the prices and sipping prestige that other spirits categories include. However, a current wave of super-premium rums and upsell options, hailing from both small entrepreneurs and category leaders alike, suggests that rum, as a whole, may finally be getting some overdue respect.

“Rum is the last category to premiumize,” says Tom Herbst, Vice President Marketing for Rum, Diageo. “Rum has characteristic challenges and opportunities, driven by its easygoing vacation values. We love those values because they make rum what it is. What we are trying to do across many of our rum brands is take that spirit, the exotic and fun side, and export it into more occasions.” Diageo’s portfolio includes spiced rum juggernaut Captain Morgan and Guatemala’s Ron Zacapa, as well as Pampero and Myer’s.

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FOR BOTH ON- AND OFF-PREMISE, CREATIVITY GIVES HEINEKEN USA AN EDGE IN AN INCREASINGLY COMPETITIVE MARKET

As an international beer leader, Heineken has always looked to project quality and consistency as core values in their flagship product, especially when it comes to the lucrative draught sector. Of all the tradewinds now buffeting the giant brewers of the world, draught quality is among the most problematic for a variety of reasons but hasn’t always received the attention it deserves. That is, until now, as Heineken USA is set to start the roll-out of what potentially could be a breakthrough in quality, consistency and environmentally sound beer delivery.

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Posted by on in June 2014 Edition

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There are some new features at our web site that are worth checking out.  Not only can you obtain all the information necessary to set up a subscription, get advertising information, pay invoices and renewals, and read all the articles as well as our subscribers being able to access their subscription information and search the monthly Price List as a PDF; but NOW the Maryland edition has an added function: a sort-able/searchable version of the Price List … we are calling it a Dynamic Search.  As I type this we have over 20,000 products up on this service.  We are adding products constantly.  The unique search ability and access to family plan discounts within a distributor make this new online service an incredible added value to your already indispensible Maryland Beverage Journal.   Accessing this added service is easy.  Simply, go to www.beveragejournalinc.com and then click the Login Here tab.  If you are a first time visitor, use the Customer Number option to Login (your customer number can be found on the top line of the mailing label of your hard copy Maryland Beverage Journal). In addition we are also able to offer downloadable data versions of the prices to marry-up with your POS systems. 

I hope you take the time to visit our web site and check out this new service.  Feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email with any questions.

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Adam Carolla is a man known for wearing many hats.  Comedian, author, actor, talk-show host, podcast host,... and now beverage biz mogul.  The third of his highly successful Mangria products recently launched and is now available in our market via Atlantic Wine and Spirits.  A Brand Profile is running in this month's edition of the Beverage Journal complete with a few quotes from Carolla himself.  As a Web edition extra, here is the full Q&A:

BEVERAGE JOURNAL: Every brand has a story behind it. What is Mangria's?

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"I love taking care of the guests.  I like judging how their day has been going and what might make their evening better.  That's always been what I have loved about bartending.  When you get somebody who has clearly had a bad day of work, and they have that first sip and you can see their shoulders just -- ahhhhhh -- relax.  In those moments, I think, 'OK, I'm helping.'"

Those are the words of Amy Russell, bar manager at Casa Luca.  This popular establishment on New York Avenue, is one of Fabio and Maria Trabocchi's most popular dining concepts.  Russell is just proud to be a part of the couple's legacy.  "Casa Luca is Chef Fabio's more family-style restaurant," she stated, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal.  "My understanding is a lot of his regulars kept saying to him at his other restaurants, 'We love this place, but we'd also love some place where we can bring our kids.  That was the inspiration for Casa Luca."

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Some say that whiskey is in the blood of any true Irishman. Well, it's positively surging through Stephen Teeling's veins.  Teeling comes from a long line of 

whiskey makers, as far back as the late 18th century, in fact.  He cut his teeth in the business working at Ireland's Cooley Distillery, which was founded by his father, John, in 1987.  Beam Inc. acquired Cooley in early 2012, and Stephen briefly stayed on as global marketing manager for Irish Whiskey.

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Posted by on 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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Posted by on in June 2014 Edition

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Major changes to the industry in Worcester County will take place July 1, of this year when licensees in Worcester County will be allowed to purchase product from private wholesalers. This has been a long time coming and most agree this is a good thing.

According to Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) Lobbyist Steve Wise, “The licensees of Worcester County mounted a major effort to take down the County’s Liquor Control Board (LCB or Dispensary) beginning in the summer of 2010. The difficulty came in getting the County’s Commissioner’s to part with the sometime significant revenues that the County and its municipalities derive from alcohol sales.”

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Samantha Withall, Beverage Director at The Hamilton on 14th Street, has certainly bounced around the biz locally.  She has been a chef for nearly a decade, having worked at such venues as Cafe Atlantico and Restaurant Nora and helping to open Minibar on E Street and Oyamel Cocina Mexicano.  At one point, she got out of the kitchen and served as Purchasing Director for the Park Hyatt Hotel.  "After that," she said, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, "I did some restaurant consulting work before jumping into a wine and beer buyer position for an all-natural, organic market in Olney, Md."

That job ended up stoking her passion for the beverage side of the business, and she eventually accepted her current job at The Hamilton.  "The Hamilton is the cruise ship of restaurants!" she proudly declared.  "We are very large.  We have a lot of square footage.  In fact, the actual space that we are in used to be a Borders bookstore.  Before that, it was a Garfinckel's department store.  We have six bars and a live music venue in our basement. We offer a ton of all-American cuisine, but we also have our own sushi bar in-house that is manned by a full team of sushi chefs.  We're owned by the Clyde's Restaurant Group, and we're very eclectic in what we offer."

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Posted by on 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 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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