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

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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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