Book Review – Delaware Beer by Tony Russo

DelawareBeerAs a point of disclosure I’m obligated to inform you that there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this book.

Oh sure, I was going on a little faith as I knew absolutely nothing about Tony Russo before I caught wind of his new book Delaware Beer: The Story of Brewing in the First State. A brief stroll through the interwebs informed me that indeed this was not Mr. Russo’s first foray into the area of local craft beer.

Tony Russo, as well as being a part of the ShoreCraftBeer.com site is the author of the book Eastern Shore Beer:: The Heady History of Chesapeake Brewing as well as previously writing and editing for the Metropolitan Magazine, Star Democrat, Bayside Gazette and Laurel Star.

So it seemed on a glance that Mr. Russo would be a capable writer with the necessary level of knowledge of the subject to answer the question that his latest book’s title seems to beg.

What is Delaware beer?

One gets the feeling that in order to answer that question Tony Russo took a cue from Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson. While standing on top of a hill with a clear view of everything that is currently happening “beerwise” in the state of Delaware; Russo seems to have asked the same question Mr. Tyson often asked viewers – How did we get here?

And – much like the show Cosmos – Mr. Russo is going to have to take us on a trek back in time to begin to answer that question.

Mr. Russo starts off in the early days of Delaware. Much to his credit, the author doesn’t proceed into a long rehashing of this time period, simply pointing to John Medkeff Jr’s recently published Brewing in Delaware for a more in depth study.

However, he does use this opportunity to set up future chapters by explaining such things as the influence of German immigrants that drove lager to prominence in the marketplace in Delaware and indeed the US, the impacts of Prohibition on the brewers that called Delaware their home, and also the strong sense of culture – the “tavern” community – that arose around the simple pleasures of family and good beer among these same German immigrants (remember that last one; it’s important).

Once the groundwork is laid we’re brought forward in time for a look at three men Delaware beer enthusiasts should easily recognize: Sam Calagione, Al Stewart and Jim Lutz (who provides the forward for the book).

The author lays out enough history to be informative but not boring while explaining the framework of state regulations, still prevalent prohibition mindsets, and early equipment frustrations that Sam and Al had to wade through to get their respective brewpubs off the ground. And by dialing in other breweries such as Iron Hill, adds a discussion on how each company took a different approach in the attempt to establish themselves in a market place that was (and maybe to a point still is) trying to figure itself out.

At the heart of Delaware Beer are the multitude of stories that are woven within the framework of this history concerning the people behind these breweries and consequently the breweries that would begin to open over the coming decades including 3rd Wave, FoDo, Mispillion, Twin Lakes and most recently, Blue Earl Brewing. Stories which help flesh out the narrative and make the book more than just a dry history text.

Mr. Russo uses these stories to highlight the fact that although each brewery worked independently to find their own identity within their surrounding community (remember that from above?) the overall result was a commonality that solidly defines what he believes Delaware beer is.  How? Well you’re going to have to read the book to find that out for yourselves, but trust me, in my opinion Mr. Russo has more than risen to the task.

At 106 pages, Delaware Beer isn’t a daunting read. The narrative of the book flows effortlessly and it reads quite well. It also contains a good number of black and white pictures throughout (along with a 16 page color photo insert) of places and faces that people familiar with the Delaware beer scene should easily recognize.

As stated above there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this book, and I’m glad to say that I was right – mostly because I had the pleasure or experiencing this beer Renaissance for myself. Tony Russo has written a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in the journey beer brewers took in the state of Delaware to get the beer scene where it currently resides today. I’d consider it an excellent follow up read (if not a totally unintentional companion) to John Medkeff’s book mentioned above.

How did we get here? I think Mr. Russo did a fine job explaining our journey. But unlike Cosmos, not only didn’t we have to leave our galaxy to find the answers – we barely had to leave our state.

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Delaware Beer: The Story of Brewing in the First State, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing/The History Press (American Palate Series). Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing and The History Press at http://www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665, starting May 9th, 2016.

Tony Russo (ShoreCraftBeer)
Kelly Russo – photos except where indicated (KellyRussoPhotography)

MEET THE AUTHOR!

Blue Earl Brewery – May 12th
Dewey Beer Company – May 15th
Seaford Library – May 30th
Fordham and Dominion Brewing – June 3rd
Salisbury Shore Craft Beer Fest – June 18th
Bethany Beach Books – June 19th

[Disclosure: I’d like to thank Emily Hommel and Katie Parry of Arcadia Publishing/History Press for sending me an advanced copy of Delaware Beer.  Receiving this book free as a reviewer’s copy in no way influence my opinion of this book or its review.]

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THE FINAL SIP: “Being child friendly has been an important aspect of running these modern-day beer gardens, but being dog friendly has been critical. People like bringing their dogs to the brewery, especially in places without a restaurant, dogs are very welcome. In preparation for publishing this book, we traveled to all the breweries and saw dogs at nearly every one.” – Tony Russo, Delaware Beer. (PHOTO CREDIT: Mispillion River Brewing Facebook page)

 

Book Release – Delaware Beer by Tony Russo

Below is information from the press release on Tony Russo’s (ShoreCraftBeer.com) up coming book entitled “Delaware Beer: The Story of Brewing in the First State” which is set to go on sale May 9th. Links for pre-orders can be found at the bottom of this post.

***** Press Release*****

About the book: Boasting a brewing history older than the United States, Delaware packs an outsized punch in the craft beer scene with its landmark breweries and bold flavors. In 1873, the German lagers of Wilmington’s Diamond State brewing rose to dominance. After Prohibition and the bust of the first craft beer bubble, entrepreneurial homebrewers resurrected the industry. Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head led the charge by rewriting the state’s beer legislation, and the field opened to other brewpubs like Stewart’s and Iron Hill to pair savory bites with their brews. By 2009, production breweries like 16 Mile and Fordham & Dominion were on the rise, changing the arc of Delaware beer. Beer writer Tony Russo tells a story of big risks and innovative brewers and proves that there has never been a better time to drink local.

(Click on release to enlarge to full screen)

Delaware Beer

You can pre-order “Delaware Beer” from the following locations:

Amazon.com

Arcadia Publishing

Book Review – Brewing in Delaware by John Medkeff Jr

BiD CoverIf you’re looking for a college dissertation-like accounting of the brewing history in the state of Delaware, then Brewing in Delaware the recent addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Images in America series written by Delaware beer historian John Medkeff Jr is not for you.

Think of the book less like a stuffy history lesson and more like a visual museum exhibit as you stroll past pages and pages of photographs collected from numerous historical sources and the author’s own private collection (many of which have never been published before) that are designed to take you through (what I’m sure will be surprising to some) Delaware’s rich history in commercial brewing starting from the state’s first colonies up to the present day.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty here for the history buffs as each photo comes with a very detailed caption that not only describes the subject of the photo, but explains how that subject fits into the overall narrative not only in the past, but sometimes in the present.

While the author covers many of the smaller establishments that operated during this time, the bulk of the book focuses on the histories of three of Delaware’s largest brewing concerns – Hartmann & Fehrenbach, Bavarian Brewery and Joseph Stoeckle Brewing Company from their rise to commercial success on the efforts of mostly German immigrants, to their fall at the hands of prohibition and national brand intrusion.

But while the book does contain a large number of photos covering the growth of these breweries as they moved from location to location, the author also does a very good job at revealing the faces behind these businesses, many of whom brought their love for beer from Europe and/or their experience in the beer industry from other cities in the US.

And of course, the book (sadly) finishes these stories with the all too familiar tale of breweries that struggled in the face of the 18th Amendment only to find more hurtles once it was repealed.

The timing for this book couldn’t be any better as Delaware has been enjoying a rebirth of commercial brewing over the past 20 years. In 2014 the Brewer’s Association ranked Delaware 19th on the list of states by breweries per capita with 11 – four more than it had in 2011. Add to that, breweries like Crooked Hammock, Midnight Oil, and Bellefonte Brewing which are waiting in the wings and it seems only fitting that the fourth and final section of the book takes a look at not only the early pioneers of modern day Delaware beer, but those who seem firmly positioned to guide it into the future.

Mr Medkeff avoids the obvious path by not spending too many pages on industry giant Dogfish Head, whose story has already be told in a thousand other places, but instead after a respectful few pages goes on to talk about others that were instrumental in reviving the craft of brewing in the state of Delaware and indeed it is great to see people like Jeff Johnson (Blue Hen Beer), Al Stewart (Stewart’s Brewing), Marty Haugh (Rockford Brewing), and David Dietz (Brandywine Brewing) get the acknowledgement that they so rightfully deserve.

Local readers will also enjoy revisiting old haunts such as The John Harvard location, Downtown Brewing and Rockford Brewing; as well new additions Mispillion River Brewing and Blue Earl Brewing, plus others.

But what if you’re not into all this…brewing? No problem. The book touches enough on topics like the original settlers and prohibition (a section that I found quite interesting) to satisfy those interested in general Delaware history as well as simply affording the reader a glimpse into Wilmington’s past.

Longtime residents will surely recognize some of the structures and cross streets mentioned, even though they’ve taken on a much different appearance today, as well as recognize names plucked directly from the history of Delaware. And indeed that’s part of the appeal of this book, the fact that even though it mostly centers on an industry that flourished over a hundred years ago, the people and places are still very much woven into the fabric of the surrounding area.

Think you’ve never eaten lunch or enjoyed happy hour in a building that once housed the hotel and saloon owned by one of the men behind the Hartmann & Fehrenbach Brewery? Check out pages 25 and 77. Have you walked through the gardens established by a man who lead The National Association Against Prohibition? Read page 79. Think you’ve never driven your car over the very lot that was once home to Diamond State Brewery? Page 99 may surprise you.

Brewing in Delaware is an amazing collection of photos and documents showing the historical linage of brewing in the State of Delaware, and Mr Medkeff has done an admiral job adding context and substance to those photos. Its visual format and easy reading (It’s about a three/four beer book) makes it approachable for anyone who wants to know more about the breweries and brewers of the nation’s First State, whether you’re familiar with Delaware or you’re not.

SUGGESTED READING: Anyone who is interested in the history of brewing in the pre-prohibition era.

MUST READ: Anyone interested in the history of Delaware and/or the history of brewing within the state of Delaware.

SUGGESTIONS: A great gift or stocking stuffer for that beer lover in your life. Or just buy it for yourself.

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Brewing in Delaware, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing and The History Press at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665, starting August 10th, 2015.

All proceeds from the book are being donated to the Delaware Historical Society and Friends of Historic Riverview Cemetery.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of brewing in Delaware you can follow John’s Facebook page Delaware Beer History, his website, or attend his up coming lecture at the Blue Ball Barn at Alapocas Run State Park on September 5th, 2015 (Tickets Required).

I’d like to thank Emily Hommel and Katie Parry of Arcadia Publishing for sending me an advanced copy of Brewing in Delaware.

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THE FINAL SIP: John Medkeff Jr (R), along with Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione pose with the head of the 11-foot Gambrinus statue that for years adorned what would later become The Diamond State Brewery. The statue was inadvertently broken while in storage in 1978 and currently resides in possession of Mr Medkeff who hopes to restore it. (PHOTO CREDIT: Delaware Beer History Facebook page)

 

Local Delaware Brewers Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you’re totally off any form of social media, or you live under a rock (hmmm, I guess now a days they’re pretty much the same thing, huh?) you’ve no doubt seen people you know, and many that you don’t, pouring buckets of ice water over their heads.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been pouring all over every social media outlet there is.  The stunt isn’t new by any means as pro golfers have been doing it for years to raise money for their favorite charities.  But when golf pro Chris Kennedy challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia (whose husband suffers from ALS), the whole thing just took off after Senerchia accepted the challenge and nominated some of her friends.

How successful has it been?  Well according to the most recent ALS Association press release donations as of today are up to $41.8 million, compared to $2.1 million during the same period last year (July 29 to August 21), while new donor numbers are above 739,000.

The challenge is running through just about every segment of the population from athletes, actors, politicians, and performers.  And it should be no surprise that many in the craft beer (as well as spirits and wine) world have accepted the challenge as well.  Here’s a quick run down of some of the more recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge acceptors from Delaware:

Owner Al Stewart of Stewarts Brewing takes the challenge in his glass walled brew room while people in the dinning room cheer him on:

Klaus from 16 Mile Brewing proves that sometimes it’s better to be on the other side of the bucket:

3rd Wave Owner Lori Clough gets iced by Head Brewer John Panasiewicz. Who’s never thought of pouring a bucket of ice water over your boss’ head?

Painted Stave Distillery goes tall with their Ice Bucket Challenge while nominating fellow Good Libations Tour members Harvest Ridge Winery, Mispillion River Brewing and FoDo (Fordam/Dominion):

The folks from Harvest Ridge accept Painted Stave’s challenge:

The guys from Fordam/Dominion also accept:

As does Mispillion River, putting their own little slant on the challenge:

Of course, many people challenged DFH, so finally owner Sam Caligione proved he’s just one of the guys like everyone one else and accepted the challenge. Well, as much of “one of the guys” you can be when you can get Nascar driver Jeff Gordon to do the honors (warning, audio is loud):

To donate to the ALS Association click here.

Established in 1985, The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.  By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.

As the preeminent ALS organization, The Association leads the way in research, care services, public education, and public policy — giving help and hope to those facing the disease.  The Association’s nationwide network of chapters provides comprehensive patient services and support to the ALS community. The mission of The ALS Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy, while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.

Craft Beer Shocker: Pawtucket Pat’s is Secretly Owned by Industry Giant Duff Brewing

In what has to be the most shocking news to hit the craft beer industry in years, it was revealed this weekend that Quahog, Rhode Island’s Pawtucket Pat’s, brewer of Pawtucket Patriot Ale; is secretly owned to some extent by Duff Brewing.  If true this could serious jeopardize their position as one of the leading craft beer brewers in New England.

Pawtucket Pat’s made a name for itself in the late nineties brewing and distributing their flagship brand, Pawtucket Patriot Ale, a standard bearer in the rising style known as New England Pale Ale. The beer is the only shelf product distributed by the 40,000 barrel-per-year brewery although they do offer special brewery releases at their taproom.

Duff Brewing, centered in Springfield, is the multi-million dollar company known for it’s self-named Duff line, a trio of mass market offerings; Duff, Duff Light and Duff dry (that interestingly taste exactly alike to this reviewer), as well as beers brewed specifically for international distribution; Duff Stout (Ireland), Düff (Sweden) and Le Duff (Canada).  The brewery also releases special “one offs” in their tasting room from time to time, including Dark Duff, Raspberry Duff, Lady Duff, and yes, even Tartar Control Duff.

From its humble beginnings as a small start up brewery, Duff soon grew at an industry alarming rate.  Duff Brewing was soon able to weave together an impressive national distribution while growing its brand marketing in Springfield.  The brewery currently owns the “Duff Blimp”, one of the few remaining national brand blimps still in service; along with the theme park based “Duff Gardens”, which boast an annual attendance in the millions, as well as being the primary sponsor for the AA minor league baseball team The Springfield Isotopes, which plays at the self named Duff Stadium.

Rumors first began swirling last year when Pawtucket Pat’s announced that it was greatly expanding its bottling line as well as its distribution.  Industry insiders questioned how the brewery could afford such expansion with its limit share of its home market, and began speculating that the brewery must have gotten outside assistance; although at the time, such assistance could not be proved.

Proof finally surfaced this weekend from San Diago, host city for the annual Comic Con Convention.  Normally this would seem unusual, but as everyone knows, as far as last week was concerned if it didn’t come out of Comic Con, it simply wasn’t news.

The proof came in the form of footage shown at the Crossovers panel in Hall H.  Crossovers, a show that takes a TV family from one town and unceremoniously drops them into another TV family’s town, is a hopeful tent pole for Fox’s Tuesday lineup.  In order to give the show a push, Fox is airing a special Sunday night addition that will see Pawtucket brewery employee Peter Griffin and his family of the TV reality series Family Guy as they try to make sense of Springfield, home to TV reality show veterans The Simpsons.

During one scene shown, Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson are engaged in an argument over which beer is better, Pawtucket or Duff, when an irritated Moe Szyslak, owner and bartender of Moe’s Tavern where the scene was filmed, pulls the label off of a bottle of Pawtucket Patriot to reveal a Duff label underneath.  Here are some not so exclusive screen shots of the scene, courtesy of Springfield Channel 6:

Moe's Tavern owner Moe Szylack rips of a label of Pawtucket Patriot Ale to reveal a Duff label underneath!
Moe’s Tavern owner Moe Szyslak rips off a label of Pawtucket Patriot Ale to reveal a Duff label underneath!
The shocking truth!!!
The shocking truth!!!

“Yeah, I probably ought not have of done that”, said Szyslak after the footage had been shown.  “But those two ingrates were getting on my nerves and I already had a tough day and all.  Besides it’s ridiculous that uz all didn’t know.  You can see the outline of the Duff label under the Pawtucket one, and when the label gets wet the Duff colors bleed right through there.  That’s why I never ice my beers. Well that and the ice machine was broke when I bought the place.”

Word spread quickly in Springfield as video of the footage began to appear on the internet.  When asked about the incident, Duff spokesman Arthur Duff said, “Duffman has no comment!”  While Android’s Dungeon and Baseball Card Shop owner Jeff Albertson said, “Worst case of craft beer fraud ever!”

On the other side of the controversy, Pawtucket craft beer fans were equally upset.  One of the most vocal was Channel 5 News anchor Tom Tucker who said, “This is Tom Tucker with thoughts on this breaking story, Ollie?”, “IT’S A TRAVESTY!”, “Thank you Ollie.” Meanwhile, two Quahog residents who only wanted to be identified as Bruce and Jeffery had this to say, “OH NO! Pawtucket is owned by Duff!  Hey Jeffery, Pawtucket beer is owned by Duff!” ,”OH NO! That’s Adams’ beer!”, “I know!”, “OH NO!”, “I know…” While local Hummer salesman Paddy Tanniger took the opposite position, “Pawtucket Brewery is owned by someone else?  Big whoop, want to fight about it?”

In a probable attempt to quickly defuse the situation, the Mayors of both cities went on the record.  “I just want to say, that I for one am glad that for once there is a scandal in this city that doesn’t involve me!”, stated Springfield Mayor “Diamond Joe” Quimby.  Meanwhile Quahog Mayor Adam West responded, “I intend to prosecute this Pawtucket Patriot fellow to the full extent of the city’s law.  Right after I find out who keeps putting these pumpkin beers on the shelves in July.  Are you the one putting pumpkin beers on the shelves in July?”

For those who don’t understand why this is cause for alarm, the industry watch dog, The Brewer’s Association has strict definitions as to who can call themselves a “craft brewery”.  And one aspect of that definition is they have to be owned or controlled less than 25% “by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.” I quickly got in contact with someone who sounded like Brewer’s Association State Coordinator Acacia Coast, but who probably wasn’t, who assured me, “We’re treating these allegations as just that for now – allegations.  But you can be assured that the BA will be launching a full investigation into the Pawtucket/Duff situation.”

What could be the ramifications if Pawtucket comes out on the wrong side of those investigations?  “Well I rather not comment until we’ve fully questioned everyone involved.  But if this proves to be true it could greatly influence the location of their booth at next year’s GABF!” Coast warned.

We’re going to stay on top of this breaking story as it unfolds.  Be assured that we will pass along any information that we receive to you.  To see the full trailer for Fox’s up coming show Crossovers, click on the Youtube video below.

[Requests to Duff and some women named Angela at Pawtucket Pat’s for comments were not returned by the time of this posting]

Brew Dogs TV Show – Delaware Edition, Let’s Go Racing!

I thought I’d share some thoughts about the Delaware edition of the Brew Dog show because I actually thought the show was pretty cool for the most part, and well, I need content.  So here we go.

I’m going to assume you know Martin and James from Brew Dog in Scotland and I’m going to assume you have seen or know enough about the TV show Brew Dogs to understand the concept of the show.  If not, basically it’s two brewers from Scotland who come over here to the US and trick unsuspecting brewers into letting them do simple shit while brewing a beer, while all the time secretly going home and laughing about how they can’t believe they get people to let them do this stuff.  I’m not lying (I’m lying), it’s like Jack Ass meets Beer Hunter but it has more nudity than Jack Ass, but less than Beer Hunter.  So it’s right in between there somewhere.  Got it?  Good.

The first segment opens with the usual back and forth between James and Martin; blah blah blah, we’re in Delaware, Dogfish Head – you can probably guess.  There’s a short scene with Sam as they discuss beer, brewing, and their plans for this episode with the straight forward goal of brewing the fastest beer in under 10 days.

The plan then gets all convoluted as James decides they should brew the beer while traveling fast and Martin points out that in truth their speed record  is actually 72MPH while brewing on a train, because apparently we didn’t decided if “fastest” meant time or speed before the cameras started rolling.  Sam points out they are just miles from Dover Speedway, which would be a perfect place to break the land-speed-brewing record.  Because you know, why would Dover have a problem with two guys who normally drive on the opposite side of the car racing an over-sized truck with a bunch of brewing equipment around their track?  It’s Sam after all!  And besides, they couldn’t possibly do much more damage than Joey Logano already has.

What do you mean you can't drive?  I thought you were the DD?
What do you mean you can’t drive? I thought you were the DD?

For those of you unfamiliar with the track NASCAR trademarkingly refers to as “The Monster Mile (TM)“, it’s a 1 mile oval with no flat surface.  The straights bank at 9o, while the two turns work their way up to 24o.  So  you can’t just put brewing equipment in a truck and drive it around the track because of that annoying self-leveling thing that liquids insist on doing.  A fact the show’s fabricator seems somewhat perplexed on how to handle, but you know he’s already figured it out.

We then switch to The Green in Historic New Castle where the guys meet up with the 1st Regiment of Delaware, a group of colonial reenactors that are well known in the area.  Seeing a bunch of people in 18th century garb and firing period rifles may be unusual in some places, but in New Castle few people even notice. Just like no one flinches in NYC when they see a guy walking a llama down the street .

I have a photo that looks very similar to this!
I have a photo that looks very similar to this!

James and Martin talk with several members of the Regiment while they compare aged (2008) and un-aged bottles of DFH’s Palo Santo Marron, with some preferring the aged and some preferring the fresh.  After the interviews James and Martin literally get their “colonial on” as they throw on some period clothing, which apparently includes a red knitted Santa hat with the word LIBERTY stitched across it, and drill with the Regiment.

Not sure about the authenticity of James' hat.
Not sure about the authenticity of James’ hat.

The following segment opens immediately with Brew Dogs’ list of Top Five breweries in the state of Delaware, which I’ll address later in this post.  We then head to Hills Market Farms in Felton to get some honey from Ken Outten, President of the Delaware Beekeepers Association, to use in the beer.  I’m sure the guys thought this idea was theirs, but it’s Sam, and unless we’re making an Ancient Ale where the recipe excludes it, you know he’s putting some honey or maple syrup in that fashizzel.  After watching James freak out over bees (not horribly, only about a 3 on the scale of the way Steve on Ghost Hunters girls out over spiders) the guys collect their honey and head on.

In the next segment it’s time to pair some beers with a well known Delaware food favorite.  And since thousands of beach goers and UofD students have proven for years that any beer can be quaffed with Grotto’s pizza, and the only malt Thrasher’s wants you to have with their fries is the vinegar they put on them, we find ourselves outside of Fisher’s Popcorn in Rehoboth Beach,  where Martin proclaims he can pair beer with anything.  Opening originally in 1937  in Ocean City, MD, Fisher’s has become an institution at the Delaware shore having opened shops in Fenwick Island, Bethany and Rehoboth.  The segment starts with owner Will Hall giving them a quick lesson on how Fisher’s Popcorn is made, which leads to James looking like he’s never stirred anything with a wooden paddle before.  Odd for a brewer.

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Fisher’s Will Hall shows the guys how to make popcorn.

Will decides to up the challenge on the beer pairing and breaks out Fisher’s new flavor, a caramel and crab spice popcorn, which since much has been made about how crabs go with beer doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch, but maybe it will throw the Highlanders off.  Martin chooses Free Will’s C.O.B a coffe oatmeal brown ale, while James goes with the more local Victory Prima Pils, which wins the contest according to Will.  The guys then attempt a “hop popcorn”, which apparently wasn’t bad and paired well with a DFH 120 Minute IPA.

Back at the track the brewing rig is unveiled, a long bed 350 with a brewing system mounted in the back.  To compensate for the bank of the track, the system is mounted on a gimble system that allows the system to swing, thus maintaining its own level regardless of the level of the truck; think how the seat on a Ferris wheel works.  The truck is adorned with the number 07, which is a number of a truck that runs in the Camping World Truck Series owned by SS Green Light Racing.  Sam feels the need to add a bunch of stuff to the beer (shocking I know) and he brings things like Turnips, palo santo smoked Radishes, star Anise, Cardamom and Kala jeera.  Put the capitalized letters in the ingredients together to get his thought process.  Cleverness abounds.

It’s race day and time to brew this beer, but first it’s time to list the Top Five beer bars and again, I’ll comment on them later in the post.  This is the segment that the race plans are detailed, and I have to admit, it’s pretty neat.  While all the rests, holds, boils and such will be done as they circle the track, all the additions and transfers will be done pit crew style by pulling the truck into pit row for a stop .  They even show the device they’ll use to mash in the grains, which is a converted NASCAR gas can.  These guys really thought this through.  Nicely done.

Top Five craft beer bars.
Top Five craft beer bars.

It’s here that we learn that Martin and James will take turns driving the truck, while Sam sits on the sidelines because apparently, “Sam’s wife wouldn’t let him anywhere near that death trap.”  Sam’s wife is either a killjoy, or a very smart woman. Multiple drivers is unusual in NASCAR unless a driver gets hurt, but since NASCAR.COM lists 9 drivers having helmed the 07 this year, I guess we’re going to over look it today.

Martin takes the wheel and before you can say, “Gentleman, start your engines”, it’s “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity…Let’s go racin’!”

As the guys circle the track, the water comes up to mash temperature and Sam calls for the first pit stop.

A real NASCAR pit crew awaits as Sam calls for a mash in and driver switch.

The Mash in!
The Mash in!

After an hour of incident free racing (unusual for Dover), Sam calls for a second pit stop.  No tires, but a sparge and a prep to transfer the wort.

Sam squanders the chance to win over some Bud drinking NASCAR fans when he refers to himself as the “coach” of the team, instead of the more appropriate “crew chief”.  I’m sure his marketing department will be having a talk with him.

During the pit stop the drivers leave the car for the garage area to do some fast craft beer virgin interviews.

Martin is back in the driver seat (that man just WON’T RETIRE!) and the after a few more laps notices liquid leaking from the truck and pit to address a wort pump problem.

Due to the leakage, the wort is now too thin and Sam’s answer is to just add more honey than originally planned.  Of course.

James takes over but can’t get the line he wants through the curves, so while the wort boils he’s not making nearly the speed he needs to qualify.

Sam calls for another pit where the honey and Sam’s grocery bag are added.  Sam decides to turn the wheel back over to Martin, fearing that James is simply more of a road racer and can’t handle the Monster. Don’t feel bad James, neither can David Ragan.

Martin takes to the track like Kyle Busch and doesn’t take long to hit 74MPH after which it’s another pit stop to cool the wort and pitch the yeast.

Eric Williams Mispillion
Eric Williams Mispillion River

The guys then shame Sam into jumping into the truck with them and head out on the track one last time to see what they can do.  Martin hits it hard, and gradually works the truck up to 91MPH; to which James says their “all out” and Sam yells, “My wife’s going to kill me!”  I’m not sure Sam’s wife is going to like how she is being portrayed in this show.  But apparently she runs the team, like DeLana Harvick. Then sadly, with only several laps to go – they run out of gas.  And the show is over. Nah, just kidding.

Sam riding so totally not shotgun.
Sam riding so totally not shotgun.

A Kreston’s Commercial!!!

Finally, we’re back at the brewery with the beer that Sam referred to at the start of the show as “Super Sonic Saison”, where the rest of the show is the three amigos standing in front of the crowd talking about the beer, joking around, having the crowd say whether-or-not they like the beer (they always like the beer), some what I hope was edited for fun conversations because some of them caused me to raise an eyebrow, and Star Anise somehow being morphed into Sam’s Anus.  And if that isn’t a high note to leave on, I don’t know what is.

The cold out is a nice bit that really shows Sam’s geeky sense of humor as he, James and Martin are putting on their fire suits to get into the truck.  Sam and James are putting on blue suits while James is putting on a red one when Sam comments, “I don’t know if you get this on Scottish TV, but on Star Trek the person that wears red always dies.”  That’s right, he may have missed the chance at converting those NASCAR fans, but he wasn’t about to miss those Trekkies.

Argilla gets a nod in the Top Five.
Argilla gets a nod in the Top Five.

Ok, so that’s enough of a run down of the show, let’s get to the two lists!

TOP FIVE BREWERIES                                                      TOP FIVE BEER BARS

#5       3rd Wave Brewing                                                          Arena’s Deli and Bar
#4       Argilla Brewing                                                               Cantwell’s Tavern
#3       Mispillian River                                                                Two Stones Pub
#2       Fordham/Old Dominion                                               Henlopen City Oyster House
#1       Twin Lakes Brewing                                                        Pickled Pig Pub

As far as the breweries are concerned, I’m cool with this list.  I could take acceptation of the apparent need of everyone outside the DelMarVa area to treat Fordham and Old Dominion like conjoined twins because they share the same space, but in this case it allowed them to highlight six breweries instead of just five, so I won’t complain. It does leave me wondering however if Stewart’s and Iron Hill were considered.  Speaking of which, I’m not sure if it’s common practice, but I love that the host brewery was not on the list.  Not for any other reason than everyone knows Dogfish Head, and as I’ve told many people who live outside our state, we’re much more than just them.

As far as the order goes, I’m good with it although I have a felling that as I have more beers from Mispillian, I might be tempted to swap #2 and #3.  Just my opinion.  Twin Lakes at the top?  Love it.

The team from Twin Lakes!
The team from Twin Lakes!

The bar list I can’t comment about too much because I haven’t been to Arena’s or the Oyster House, but from what I’ve heard, they definitely deserve to be on it.  Cantwell’s is such a nice place that I’m glad to see them on the list, and since the guys that started Two Stones were originally part of the Pickled Pig Pub, it feels like a Delaware craft beer family reunion.  Missing?  Only because they ran out of room in my opinion, Ulysses Gastropub which has an excellent beer selection; and Jessop’s Tavern, which probably wasn’t considered because Justin’s beer focus is more slanted to Belgians.

Wow, that’s a lot of laps, I mean words.  Wave the checkered flag.

[Author’s note:  All images are Copywrite and Owned By Esquire TV and Brew Dogs, and are used under Fair Use]

Beer in Movies – That Thing You Do

That Thing You Do MP
Movie Poster for That Thing You Do

I haven’t done a “Beer in Movies” post for awhile because, well, I just hadn’t found the right movie.  I don’t want to do over the top movies like Beerfest or Strangebrew.  I’d like to focus more on dramatic period movies in which a beer or brewery makes a cameo, rather than goofball comedies with beer cans exploding all throughout them.  Mind you, I LIKE the goofball comedies.  I just don’t want to write about them as part of this series (although at one point I may have to do Smokey and the Bandit, you scum bums).

So there I was the other day playing ‘speed TV guide’ with the remote when my eyes caught one of my favorite fluff movies, Tom Hanks’ 1996 That Thing You Do.  Deciding that I could take a few minutes of retro-60s music, I was quickly rewarded with a brewery cameo and realized that I’d just channel surfed my way into my next “Beer in Movies” post.

The film, set in 1964, tells the story of four Erie, Pennsylvania kids (Jimmy, Lenny, Chad, and as a running joke in the film, a bass player who’s never named and credited in the film as T.B. Player), who are trying to get their pop band off the ground.  When Chad breaks his arm in an unfortunate parking meter hopping accident (an original X-Sport, they really should have made those things higher so kids were not tempted to try this) the remaining three enlist the help of Guy Patterson, a salesman at his father’s appliance store by day,  and basement jazz drummer at night.

Guy’s induction into the band proves to be the needed catalyst to jump start them.  It starts slowly with a quick practice for a talent show, where a comment by Guy leads to the bands new name, The Wonders, which Jimmy, trying to be creative at first spells as ‘The Oneders’ which everyone in the movie mispronounces as ‘OH-Needers’.  But like a roller coaster going over the first hump, what starts slowly gets very fast in the blink of an eye (literally) when at the talent show, Guy starts the should be slow ballad at a much faster tempo.  While Jimmy is initially angry with the change, the crowd reaction soon wins him over as suddenly everyone in Erie is talking about the song and his band.

What follows is a nicely paced story of a band who suddenly finds themselves with a hit record climbing up the Billboard charts.  The film follows the band from local radio to state fair tours to headlining an Ed Sullivan type TV variety show, The Hollywood Television Showcase.

The casting is good, with Hanks wearing one of his many hats in this movie (he additionally wrote or co-wrote a good portion of the music) as the band’s manager Mr A.M. White; and Tom Everett Scott (American Werewolf in Paris, Southland), Johnathon Schaech (Roadhouse 2: Last Call, Quarantine), Steve Zahn (Night Train, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) , and Ethan Embry (They, Eagle Eye)  starring as The Wonders (the actors spent months learning how to play their instruments because Hanks wanted their playing during the film to be authentic).  The film also stars Liv Tyler as Jimmy’s girlfriend/want-to-be fiance, Bill Cobbs (Demolition Man, Air Bud) as jazz legend Del Paxton, and marks the third film appearance by Charlize Theron as Guy’s Erie, PA girlfriend (it should be noted that the woman looks hot even in 1960s curlers and hair drying cap).  Sharp eyed movie watches will also catch Giovanni Ribisi (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Avatar) as Chad, musician Chris Isaak as Guy’s Uncle, and Bryan Cranston (John Carter, Total Recall, Breaking Bad) as astronaut Gus Grissom.

But the movie wouldn’t be nearly as effective in telling its story without good music.  And in that regard, That Thing You Do does an admirable job capturing the 60s music scene on the verge of being consumed by the British Invasion sound.  The state fair shows have a nice diversity of music with the TV Detective show theme styled “Mr Downtown”, the three part girl-group harmonies of “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart” (complete with The Ronettes “Be My Baby” style clapping) and the 60s torch-style song  “My World Is Over”.  There’s also a nod to beach movie music with the song “Shrimp Shack” performed by Cap’n Geech & The Shrimp Shack Shooters, a fictitious band that The Wonders are shown portraying during the filming of the equally fictitious movie Weekend at Party Pier.

But all that would probably be for naught without a rocking, gem of a song to play the part of The Wonder’s hit record.  And the self titled “That Thing You Do” (written by Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, and sung by Mike Viola) is perfectly cast in the role.  With it’s almost cliche drum into, jangly C#m/Fm verse turns, patterned harmonies and simple guitar solo (lead into by a textbook Beatles type scream), “That Thing You Do” is a master class in early 1960s pop song writing.

The song also serves as a great barometer of The Wonders’ growth as a band, as you can see the evolution of it through out the movie.  From the intense concentration of T.B. Player and Jimmy as they try to keep up the first time the song is played up tempo, to a more polished, tighter performance later with T.B. actually adding a third harmony.  Sadly, as the performances become more polished, the song seems to lose a bit of the five-take church recorded charm that makes it infectious in the beginning of the film.  Or maybe by this time in the film, you’re just bored by it.

While the movie chronicles the rise of “That Thing You Do” to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the liner notes to the soundtrack (written in ‘mock-u-‘ form the soundtrack credits the movie performers for the songs and contains a historical recap of the band by A.M. White) claim the song made it to #2.  In real life the song didn’t fare as well, although it still made a respectable climb, peaking at #41.

So is this movie about a group on the cusp of long term super stardom, or a movie about four kids who ride their one hit song to the top, only to have everything dissolve when they get there?  I’m not going to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, although people who catch an obvious, slick  play-on-words contained within the story should be able to figure it out.

So where’s the beer in this movie?  Well we’re first rewarded very quickly within the first minute of the opening credits.  The front of Guy’s father’s appliance store is shown several times during them, revealing an advertisement for Erie Brewing Company sitting on top of the store.

Eire Brewing Company Sign

Eire Brewing Company Sign 2

Later in the film the band is approached by local talent manager Phil Horace who tries to convince the boys to sign with him.  During his pitch (in his RV while he’s cooking a pan full of chilli), Phil pulls out a couple of beers from the fridge stating, “I hope it’s not too early for one of these.”

Bottles In Trailer

The beer can be seen clearly sitting in front of Lenny during the rest of the scene.

Bottle in front of Lenny

So what is it?

Koehler

Although the styling is a little bit different, it’s definitely a vintage 1960s Koehler label.  Koehler became part of The Erie Brewing Company in 1899,  almost sixteen years after Jackson Koehler bought the Eagle Brewery and began producing his beer.  Jackson’s father was himself a brewer, and indeed both of Jackson’s brothers, Louis and Fred, were also brewers.  In 1899 Fred would also find his own brewery becoming associated with The Erie Brewing Company.

The Eagle Brewery site was still producing Koehler beer in the 1960s.  In fact, it didn’t close down until 1978.  The building was demolished in 2006.

The label shown in the film appears a little different than the real label.  The side panels appear to be more silver in color than the label shown above.  The blue panel seems to be a little darker in the middle, which isn’t a problem.   Koehler used different colors on their bottle labels for their different beers.  Red was Lager, Black was Ale, and Blue was Pilsener.  But there was also a beer named “Jacks Beer” that had a center panel that was more of a royal blue.

In fact, the label on the bottle actually seems to mimic the color scheme for the cans.

Koehler Can

But no matter the little differences, I applaud the prop guy, and That Thing You Do, for getting it right (although they then turned around and showed a Sabian cymbal on a drum kit.  That company didn’t start making cymbals until 1981).  As far as the movie is concerned, I’d recommend it to anyone who has a touch of nostalgia for the 1960 musical sound.  The movie is chock full of references and hat-tips to the Beatles, including a ‘band running around montage’ reminiscent of “Can’t Buy Me Love” from the movie Hard Days Night.  Tom Hanks also wrote in a lot of neat Easter eggs from other movies he’s been associated with, especially Apollo 13.

To learn more about Koehler Brewing check out these great articles:

Art’s Erie Beer Collecting Page

Old Time Erie

Beer In Movies – The Three Stooges

“Hellooooo, hellooooo, hellooooooo.  HELLO!” Tomorrow the Farrelly Brother’s Three Stooges movie hits the big screen so I though it would be appropriate to take a look at a couple of  the classic shorts from the original Three Stooges that featured beer within the story.  For the record, I’m not in favor of the  movie.  And it’s not because I”m some ubber purist that believes that no one could top the original (I am), but instead it’s due to a distinction I make about the type of act they were verses other actors playing “roles”.

While actors change in roles all the time, the Stooges weren’t just actors in a role.  Ted Healy started what would be called “Ted Healy and his Southern Gentleman” in 1922 when his friend Moe  Howard joined Healy’s vaudeville act.  Moe’s brother Shemp would join the act a year later with Larry Fine being added two years after that.  From that moment they began honing their particular brand of slap stick comedy, working with Healy under several different line ups (Moe’s brother Curly joined when Shemp left)  in several different films.  In 1934, the group – minus Healy – signed a contract with Columbia to star in a series of two-reel shorts.  From those early times, to the signing of that contract that finally dubbed Moe, Larry, and Curly officially The Three Stooges, to Moe’s (the last Stooge) death in 1975 they were always The Three Stooges.

According to Widipedia, the Stooges made 190 shorts for Columbia.  During that span, Shemp (having left the group to pursue a solo career) was the only Stooge to appear in more than a couple of movies outside his “Stooges” character; appearing in such ventures as the Charlie Chan movies and The Thin Man series.  They were the Stooges.  They had not been hired by casting call.  They were not trying to be someone who had come before them.  And in that sense to me, no one can ever take their place.  So while I wish the Farrellys and the actors in the new movie well with their endeavor (I don’t wish failure on people just because I’m not on board with their ideas), I hope they forgive me if I don’t run down to the cinema to see it.

As I said, the Stooges started out as a vaudeville team with Ted Healy.  With Healy, they recorded 11 shorts of which you can still find clips floating around the internet.  Their second short Beer and Pretzels finds the guys ending up as waiters in a high end restaurant, only to wreck the place in true Stooge fashion.  One scene consists of a musical number that includes singing bartenders  performing while pouring beers and ending in a tap dance routine on top of beer barrels.  The scene shows Curly playing the spoons along with the music.

In the 1935 short Three Little Beers, The Panther Brewery (a play off of bad beer tasting like Panther Piss) hires the boys to help improve their deliveries.  After some typical Stooge like mayhem loading the truck they discover that the company is holding a golf tournament.  As luck would have it their first stop is the local golf course so they decided to get in a little “practice”.  What follows is face slapping, eye gouging Stoogery at its best.  After destroying the course, the boys are chased away in the overload beer truck only to end up dealing with rolling beer barrels on a busy hill street.  This episode also has the distinction of giving us one of the most iconic Stooges photos from the trio.  A production shot from Three Little Beers with the Stooges posing in their golf outfits and clubs hangs in probably 7 out of every 10 sports bars throughout America.

But without a doubt the best example of beer in the Three Stooges comes during the 1946 short Beer Barrel Polecats.  After striking out in 16 bars while looking for beer, the boys decide to brew their own.  Every home brewer should watch this scene, it will make any disasters you had during  your first batch look tame in comparison.  After a miscommunication leaves all three Stooges each putting in three cakes of yeast into the beer, it foams up like an over soaped washing machine.  Stoogery unfolds as they struggle to contain the foaming beer into everything from a sack, a suitcase and a bathtub Curly drags into the kitchen.  One of the funnier brewing lines happens as the boys try to figure out why their beer had issues.  As each one assures the others that he put the yeast in, the trio flinches, looks up and says in unison, “We ALL put the yeast in!”  The short switches focus as the boys end up in jail due to what’s explained as Curly having sold a bottle of their home made beer to an under cover policeman.  While in jail the boys give us another valuable beer lesson, never put a barrel of beer under a hot light.  A lesson thoroughly learned by everyone in the room with them when the barrel explodes.

This short is bittersweet in that I really enjoy its focus on beer in the beginning.  But sadly at the time of filming, Curly had already suffered several of the strokes that would debilitate and eventually kill him.  He’s leaner in the beer scenes and you can tell he’s slower and struggling with the timing in some of the gags.  Unable to rely on Curly for the whole short the planned shot was canned, and scenes from two other shorts So Long, Mister Chumps and In The Sweet Pie and Pie, were used to finish the film [Note: I found one reference that suggested this was not the reason for using the two other shorts to finish BBPs, but couldn’t find more information on it.  Many Stooge related sites list this as the cause, so I’m going with it for now].  Only a few years later, Curly would suffer a career ending stroke while filming, necessitating Moe to once again turn to his brother Shemp to return as the third Stooge.

Even though the Stooges only focused on beer in a couple of their shorts, Panther Brewing became immediately recognizable with them.   So much so that early in the 2000s Three Stooges Beer from the Panther Brewing company started hitting the shelves.  I of course bought some, and from what I remember it wasn’t very good.  The brewery was listed as being from Utica NY, and one old link I found rerouted me to Saranac Brewing.  Now if you want to try it,  you’ll have to out bid collectors on EBay.

As a long time Stooges fan I know that their particular style of humor is not everyone’s cup of tea (the delineation seems to be largely along the X/Y chromosome lines) so I’m not going to end with any kind of statement that  you should go watch them.  No, you have probably made the decision on whether-or-not you’re a fan a long time ago and and have adjusted your viewing habits accordingly.  If you are, I hope you enjoyed this little toast to the boys and their escapades in beer.  If you’re not a fan – well then “pick two fingers.”

Time for another beer….

Beer in Movies – The Shawshank Redemption

Movie Poster for “The Shawshank Redemption”

This past weekend I got caught by what I call the “6 or 7 film barrage”.  That’s where a TV channel will take a film and show it at least 6 or 7 times over a span of several days.  The pattern will usually go something like this, once on Thursday, once on Friday, twice on Saturday, and twice on Sunday, sometimes with one more broadcast tossed in somewhere for good measure.  On top of that, one of the days where they broadcast the movie twice, it will be shown back to back.  The movie this weekend was Frank Darabont’s  The Shawshank Redemption.  After stumbling across it several times channel surfing, I finally landed upon it at it’s begin and decided to give it a re-watch (I guess that’s part of the network’s master strategy, toss it at you enough times and sooner or later your resolve will break down) even though I’m not usually a fan of the cuts and edits network TV will normally do to films.

Released in 1994, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of an intelligent banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and sentenced to 2 life terms in Shawshank prison.  Once there, he meets Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) with whom he begins a friendship with along with Red’s circle of inmate friends.  The movie is filled with themes of man’s attempts to find hope and dignity in an impossible situation; which Andy finds himself in when he’s pulled into service by Warden Samuel Norton who uses Andy’s expert banking skills to launder money Norton is receiving for using the prison inmates as skilled labor in the public sector.

The movie has a couple elements that make the it note worthy.  First, it was based on a novella by Steven King entitled, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” that was published in his 1982, “Different Seasons” collection.  Also the movie began what I call, “the Morgan Freeman” narration.  The scenes of the movie are tied together by a voice-over performed by Freeman’s character Red.  Freeman’s deep, non-wavering voice throughout the movie has become iconic and has been parodied on everything from TV commercials to Family Guy.

One of my favorites however is Clancy Brown who, as Chief of the Guards Captain Hadley, delivers one of the best profanity laden performances in a movie by a non Drill Sergeant character.

The movie  benefits from a stellar cast.  Robbins and Freeman are both excellent in their respective rolls, and Bob Gunton is superb as Warden Norton.  One of my favorites however is Clancy Brown who, as Chief of the Guards Captain Hadley, delivers one of the best profanity laden performances in a movie by a non Drill Sergeant character. Sadly, you miss out on this on network TV as most of Brown’s tirades are either cut or overdubbed.  The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy Awards including best picture and best actor (Freeman) but sadly went home with none having been over shadowed that year by Forrest Gump.

As I mentioned, a common theme through the film is man’s constant struggle to find dignity in the brutal environment of prison.  This theme is very well depicted when, tarring the roof of one of the prison buildings, Andy over hears Hadley bemoaning to the other guards about a large sum of money he’s just come into and how the I.R.S is going to take a large portion of it.  Andy informs him (while Hadley is about to push him off the roof for ease dropping) that he can keep all the money tax free if he gifts it to his wife.  This exchange really shows off cinematographer Roger Deakins at his best.  When Hadley pushes Andy against the edge of the roof the camera shot is over head looking straight down Andy’s back to the ground below.  The camera then pans over head and down behind Hadley, catching Andy in his first line of the shot and then swings around along side the two for a dialog exchange and then ends behind Andy on Hadley’s face for his last line of the shot.  Andy offers to do the paper work to set up the gift for a price – three bottles of beer for each of his co-workers who are tarring the roof. The next scene shows Andy’s co-workers (and the guards) sitting on the roof of the building enjoying what Red’s voice tells us was, “…ice cold Bohemian style beer.”

“Bohemian style” beer, was (back in the time frame of the film) a common term used in America to describe pilsner beer.  Pilsner gets its name from Pilsen, a city in Bohemia which is in today’s Czech Republic. Brewers in the city of Pilsen started producing beers with bottom fermenting yeasts rather than the more commonly used  top fermenting yeast and aging the beer in caves to produce a clearer, better quality beer.  The beer type can be considered the father of the early American lager beer as many of the beers initialed brewed back then (and still brewed today) came from a Bohemian style background and indeed, used the term “Bohemian” as a description.  The best example today is probably National Bohemian Beer (or Natty Bo, as it is known in the region) which has been brewed since 1885.  Another brand known for its Bohemian label is Stroh’s which started brewing in Detroit in 1850.  Other examples that have long since faded into time (or prohibition) are Knapp’s, Burger, Duluth, Weideman, Old Tap, Forest City, Prager, Dorf and Cooper’s out of Philadelphia

So which beer are the men supposed to be drinking on the roof ?  The movie never says.  But if you compare the images below, I think we can make a strong case for what the movie makers thought was Andy Dufrense’s  “bottle of suds” of choice.

Left and Center: Screen shots from Shawshank Redemption.
Right: Post 1950’s Stroh’s beer bottle label.

While The Shawshank Redemption might not be for all people with its hard look into prison life and rough language, I highly recommend it.  Its gripping story, excellent acting and Oscar nominated cinematography make it a definite American classic.  Just make sure you have some ice cold Bohemian style beer to go with the popcorn.

Time for another beer.

Singing and Drinking – Here’s Good Luck! Good Luck to the Barley Mow!

Let’s be honest here shall we?  Drinking and entertainment just go hand in hand.  Whether that entertainment is music, movies (the sooner my local theater takes my suggestion and puts in a bar, the better off they’ll be), sports, etc, there aren’t many times where the experience can not be made better with a beer in your hand.  But trust those Irish to put a different spin on things.  See, they didn’t gravitate to some form of entertainment and then figure out how to incorporate beer into the equation.  No quite the opposite really, they started with the drinking, and then found a form of entertainment that fit well with it.

While that statement can be said with a little tongue inserted into cheek, the basic premise is true.  In Ireland’s history the focal point of everything was the public house,or pub.  Here men would gather after a busy day and discuss everything from politics to farming to the weather.  Wisps of pipe smoke would circle up to the ceiling while behind the bar, the landlord would fill glass after glass with frothy beer.  But something was missing.  Something that the men could collectively participate in that would bring them together.  Sadly, the flat screen TV and the NFL Network were hundreds of years from being a reality (and not of interest to anyone who lives in Ireland anyway), so they came up with the next best thing – the traditional Irish drinking song.

Now let’s take a moment to reflect on the simplistic brilliance of this.  We’re drinking, and to keep us entertained while we drink, we’re going to sing songs about – drinking!!  It’s like peanut butter and jelly (ok, it’s not).  And although the Irish Drinking Song has not taken the musical world by storm like Adele, there are plenty of examples out there.  Songs like Beer, Beer, Beer; Mountain Dew; Jug Of This; Drink It Up Men; All For Me Grog; The Jug Of Punch;. The Juice Of The Barley; Whiskey You’re the Devil; Johnny Jump Up; Wild Rover; Nancy Whiskey; Seven Drunken Nights; and The Olde Dung Cow all pertain to drinking either beer, whiskey, cider or the hazards associated with consuming them.

One popular drinking song, Whiskey in the Jar (although to be fair the song doesn’t pertain to drinking Whiskey), has even broken into popular music.  The first time being in the early 70s when it was being performed by the Irish rock Band Thin Lizzy.  In 2000, a cover version of the tune won the Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performance for the band Metallica

One of my favorites however is the traditional song “The Barley Mow”.  Unlike the rest of the songs in the genre, it’s not simply a song about drinking.  No, it’s a song that causes you to drink while you sing it. The song is cumulative in structure, that is to say each verse is built by adding a new line to the previous verses, think “The 12 Days of Christmas” or “Old McDonald”.  At the end of each verse the line rings out, “Here’s good luck!”  To which the audience shouts “Good luck!” and takes a sip from their drink.  By the time the last verse of the song rolls around, your glass should be near empty because you’re required (yes required damn it, we have strict laws about these things!) to finish whatever is left in your glass.  The subjects of each verse are varied and contain everything from old alcohol measurements to people who work for the pub.  They are as follows (in order they’re used, but grouped for easy explanation):

  • the barley mow – Mowed or stacked barley, used in beer production.
  • Nipirkin and a round bowl – Nipirkin was 1/8 of a gill.  A round (sometimes song “brown”) bowl is just that.
  • gill pot, half a gill, quarter gill – A gill is an outdated unit of alcohol measurement that equals 1/4 of a pint.
  • gallon, half gallon, quart pot, pint pot – These should need no explaining.
  • barrel, half barrel – Again, these should be obvious.
  • the daughter, the landlady, the landlord – The landlord is the owner of the pub. The landlady is his wife.  Daughter should be self explanatory.  She would be a barmaid in the old public house system.
  • drayer – The person who transported the beer on a horse cart.
  • slavey – The person who worked the odd jobs of the bar.
  • bookie – The accountant.
  • brewer – The guy who makes the beer.
  • company – The brewery.  Although some people like to interpret this as the people gathered in singing the song.

The song requires a touch of that “Irish eloquence” you get from kissing the Blarney stone.  And I’m not going to lie (I’m going to lie), having a few beers before hand to get you started doesn’t hurt (it hurts, you just care less).  So I’ll leave you to practice this song (oh good, homework on a weekend!) so that you’re ready by Saint Patrick’s day.  And I can think of no better person to leave you with than Irish performer Seamus Kennedy, the man who I first saw perform “The Barley Mow”.  Here’s Seamus!……..

Click on picture for video of Seamus Kennedy doing "The Barley Mow"