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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Town Food & Wine Festival

This time of year we attempt to travel to NYC for that city's Wine and Food Festival; but this year we found a similar event closer to home: The Old Town Food & Wine Festival. This two day event (October 10th & 11th) is held in various locations in historic Alexandria Virginia and includes tastings of Virginia made wine as well as food seminars, demonstrations and wine dinners.

The festival provides the all important grand tasting (from 11AM to 6PM both days); but prudently at two different locations: Holiday Inn, 625 First Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 and Crowne Plaza Hotel, 901 North Fairfax, Alexandria VA 22314. This is a great idea, provide two locations to thin out the crowd and give greater access to the wines. And look who's pouring; the list includes some new wineries that we have not had a chance to visit:
There are also plenty of seminars. Each day starts with a Wine 101 seminar at the Grape and Bean Wine Bar. On the 10th, this follows with Joe David, Author of Gourmet Getaways; Andrew Stover on "ABCs-Emerging U.S. Wine Regions & Their Regional Delights" and Lauren DeSantis, "Cooking With Wine". Stover's seminar should be quite interesting since he's bringing wines from across the United States: Oregon, Idaho, Texas, Ohio, Michigan. We will not miss this one. The 11th includes both Joe David and Lauren DeSantis again, as well as Laurie Forster "East vs West: The Smackdown". If that's not enough several area restaurants are pairing Virginia made wine with their entries throughout the entire weekend.

This should be a fun and entertaining event. Thankfully it helps us avoid the hassles of traveling to New York and provides an enjoyable alternative in our own backyard.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Devils Backbone, Starr Hill win big at Great American Beer Festival

Following up on our post yesterday about craft brewers, last night we were notified that two breweries on the Blue Ridge Trail, Devils Backbone and Starr Hill won Gold Medals at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. In fact, Devils Backbone was awarded four medals with a Gold going to their Gold Leaf Lager - a pilsner styled beer. Starr Hill, based out of Crozet, received a Gold for their Dark Starr Stout - an Irish styled stout. If you can't make a trip to the Charlottesville area, Starr Hill frequents most music festivals in the mid-Atlantic region. As for Devils Backbone, the brewery "rocks' Nelsen County" through regularly scheduled live music. As does its neighbor, Blue Mountain Brewery. Good beer and good music.....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Craft Brewers Turn to Cans

A couple weeks back we listened to a NPR report on how craft breweries are moving towards canning their products; 45 craft breweries now can at least one of their brews. Despite any perceived biases towards canned beer, they do provide benefits - particularly blocking exposure from sunlight - the culprit responsible for skunky beer. Also the metal taste associated with canned beer has been eliminated by lining the insides with an epoxy-based resin. And like boxed wine - canned beer can be easily transported anywhere: boats, beach, picnics - you name it. However, there have been examples where in no situation will we consume a canned beer over its bottled sibling. The prime example is Tecate, where the canned version is far worse than bottled one. The same holds for PBR - one of our favorite domestic retro beers. Not sure why - maybe our personal tastes.

At that time of the NPR report, the only canned craft beer we had tasted was Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery. We liked it, but thought nothing special. So one day we ventured into our local beer supplier, Norm's Beer & Wine, and were startled to see the array of canned products. Not only domestic craft producers from Oregon and Colorado, but several German breweries; truly a universal phenomenon. And in Virginia, we learned from this Washington Post article that Blue Mountain Brewery has become the first Virginia microbrewery to can its beer. We'll be heading down to Nelson County soon.

But at Norm's we decided to stick to Oskar Blues Brewery - the pioneers. Based on the Examiner's portrayal of the brewery's operation here - we purchased six packs of Old Chubb and Gordon. These are stronger ales than Dale's Pale Ale and we hoped would be a good representative of canned craft beer. And the Old Chubb is right up our alley. It's a Scottish ale, but a little smokier than most versions we frequently consume - but overall, very balanced and pleasing. Later we learned that the beer includes "a dash of beechwood-smoked grains imported from Bamburg, Germany, home of the world's greatest smoked beers". But served in a glass - no one would know it was canned. The Gordon was interesting, not necessarily from the vessel, but because of its ingredients - brewed to be a cross between an Imperial Red and a Double IPA. It's hoppy so beware - it took a few sips to become accustomed to the finish. Its very distinct - and I learned to consume this beer with a meal - as it cleanses the palate. Overall though, we preferred the Old Chubb.

So, next time you frequent your local beer supplier, take a hard look at the canned products. If you purchase one, remember, like any quality craft beer, canned craft beer should be consumed using a glass vessel.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Winemakers squeeze all they can from white grape crop

The Roanoke Times published a nice article on southwestern Virginia wineries and how they are coping with the weather.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vintage Virginia & Octoberfest

Although we will most likely not be able to attend either, we wanted to make sure readers were aware of two good local festivals scheduled for the next couple of weeks. This weekend, the 19th & 20th, Across-the-Way Productions hosts the 28th Annual Vintage Virginia held at Bull Run Park in Centreville. Almost 50 wineries will be pouring their products from many established wineries to the newcomers, particularly Democracy Vineyards and New Kent Vineyards. And Keswick Vineyards may be pouring their Governors Cup Cabernet Sauvignon. There will also be plenty of craft vendors and good music (Beleza Brasil, Robert Jospe, Cherry Blossom String Quartet, Lisa Simone, and DJ Williams Projekt).

The following weekend, The Trigger Agency presents Das Best Oktoberfest - held at National Harbor Maryland. Besides the 100+ German produced or styled beers, they will be pouring German wine and schnapps. That means plenty of easy drinking Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Dornfelder, and Piesporter. For schnapps - try the Black Forest Kirschwasser, Kammer William Pear, and Barenjager Honey Liquer. Actually - blend some wine into the Barenjager for a nice change of pace. As for beer, make sure you try the Schneider Weiss, Bitburger, Erdinger, and the Kostritzer Black Beer. Need more incentive. Kelly Bell provides entertainment - see schedule below. Hopefully next year we can indulge.

Looking for Lester Pop 12:00 PM
Love Seed Mama Jump Rock 2:00 PM
The Kelly Bell Band Blues 6:00 PM

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tax Dollars to British distiller for Captain Morgan rum

As a general rule, we feel that any intervention by the government into the wine-beer-spirits industry usually causes more harm for both consumers and producers. And yet, we are left scratching our heads in bewilderment in this one instance in which the federal government is actively trying to assist a spirits producer. According to the Chicago Tribune, the administration is giving London-based Diageo PLC - makers of Captain Morgan - "$2.7 billion in tax breaks in building a state-of-the-art distillery on the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands". We have many reasons to doubt the logic of this move.

First of all, Diageo PLC is the world's largest spirits producer and made a $2.62 billion net profit from June 2008 to June 2009. Second, with record deficits, do we really want to subsidize billion dollar companies - talking about corporate welfare. Finally, Captain Morgan is currently produced in Puerto Rico - so its not like the government is trying to entice a company to move production from another country. The company is moving from one U.S. territory to another.

"The Virgin Islands government will finance the new $165 million distillery by issuing bonds... and the estimate it will create 40-70 jobs on the island." Let's do some math, if 70 jobs are created that means they spent $235,714 per job each year for 10 years. On the other hand, the Puerto Rican government claims that their island could lose up to 300 jobs. I have a suggestion, why don't we just let Diageo PLC use portions of their $2.62 billion net profit to finance the move.