Friday, November 30, 2012

Beer and Jesus

Yeah, yeah, I know—don’t ever talk about politics or religion. But, I came across a blog post by Christian Piatt that, I have to say, made me do a double take.

Before I get into it, I do have to preface this by saying I am not a religious person—at all—I’m not anti-religion or atheist, it’s just that I’m lazy more than anything. Some people like to hedge their bets by saying, “Oh, I’m not religious—but I do go to church on Christmas and Easter.”

Not me.

Why? That’s right—I’m lazy. Feel free to go to church if you want. You can even tell me about, I’m cool with that. Hell, you can even judge me if you’d like—again totally cool with that. I also understand that being an un-religious, lazy, non-church go-er, I may have a few preconceived notions of what “church” is or is not. One of those preconceived notions might be that beer and church don’t normally go hand in hand. That idea is exactly why I took a closer read of Piatt’s post.

Christian—a musician, public speaker and contributor to the Huffington Post—and his wife Amy are the co-founders of the Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado, and after reading some of Christian’s other posts, I’ve come to realize that he’s somewhat—to use a superbly appropriate word—unorthodox when it come to his spirituality. He refers to himself as a father, son and holy heretic on his website and revels in posting pictures of epically failed church signs on his blog. He seems to be going at this religion thing from a slightly different slant.

So where does the beer come in? The Milagro Christian Church hosted a beer and hymns night last weekend. Yup, I just said “Beer” and “Hymns.”

Am I right to think that your preconceived notions about church just got blown out of the water, as well? Granted, Piatt realizes that his approach may have been a tad controversial, but worth the effort. He said of the idea in his post:

If you invite most people … to a hymn sing at a church on Saturday night, they’d decline. I know I would, and I work at a church. But add beer to the formula, and suddenly the event becomes something entirely different. Why does the beer matter? I have beer at home, and it’s not like it was some orgiastic free-for-all; we had a two-beer limit. About half of the folks who came didn’t even drink. So what’s the big deal?

It says something important without words. It says that this isn’t the church of your former understanding. It says to expect the unexpected, to blur the lines between church and the world, to come with an open heart and find, with nothing more than a child-like sense of “what’s next?”

Piatt has tapped into an aspect of beer that often gets overlooked, or at least un-thought of because of the binge drinking reports on television news and the DWI blotters in newspapers. Beer celebrates community, and if your celebrating family and friends, why not—if you’re so inclined—also celebrate God? How far off is what Piatt and his congregation did, from a group of folks signing around a piano in their local pub? In this celebration of God, community and beer, Piatt has also turned "church" on its head—in a good way. As he says in his post “...we had BEER IN CHURCH. The walls didn’t crumble. No strikes of lightning. Just joyful spirited community.” 

Joyful. Spirited. Community.

I've got to admit, religious or not, that sounds like a pretty good time to me.

Monday, November 26, 2012

“The Greatest Beer Run in History”

Okay, I’m back—I'm stuffed full of turkey and mashed potatoes, but nevertheless, back.

Occasionally I troll Google News for a beery tidbit to write about. Normally, the stories and articles I come across are plucked from the business sections of newspapers and magazines. Usually they’re about the successes or failures of a brewery, beer brand or pub—stories about everything from beer marketed specifically at women to the rules and regs of beer gardens. They’re usually just the straightforward beery, business practice stuff you’d expect read in every newspaper, in every town, across the globe.

Then there are the stories that are not so business-related, but just as beery. Brian Stanley’s two-part article (from November 10 and 24) in the on-line edition of the Joliet (Illinois) Herald-News is one of those stories. The story—in two parts—is a rare, little, gem that combines two of my favorite topics—beer and the Second World War. Stanleys' articles focus on the exploits of Clarence “Clancy” Hess, United States Marine Corps aviator, and later, an American Airlines pilot.

Clancy Hess the night he returned,
in December, 1944.

Courtesy of Brett Roseman /
Sun Times Media 
A Chicago area native, Hess, was a torpedo-bomber pilot with the 1st Marine Air Wing during WWII. Hess saw combat throughout the Pacific Theater, and was part of the Cactus Air Force ensembled on Guadalcanal during 1942. In 1943, he shot down three Japanese planes over Bougainville, in the northern Solomon Islands. The first article also recalls some of Hess’ adventures as not only a flier, but also as an amateur photographer. While, Hess’ stories of bombing missions and battlefield puppies are interesting, it’s Stanley’s second article that piqued my interest—a story about Hess' last, and perhaps greatest, "mission."

By the end of 1944, Hess had been in the PTO for over two years, and by December of that year was stationed at the newly establish naval base at Seeadler Harbor on Manus Island, off the northern coast of New Guinea. Not only being an accomplished combat pilot, but also an aviation barnstormer during the 1930s,  helped garner the twenty-three year old Marine a new assignment, as a flight instructor back in Hawaii.  However, one last combat mission before heading back to Oahu, would set the stage for Hess’ beery adventure.

Hess’ squadron was assigned a mission to strike a bridge being used by the Japanese. As he approached the bridge, Hess deployed his payload, dropping the bombs not over the target, but rather just a few inches from their racks—dumping thousands of pounds of weight onto the aircraft’s bomb doors. Hess returned to Manus, to find his payload undelivered—and what's more—unbelievably nestled on the steel belly doors of his plane. While Hess was lucky the bombs hadn’t detonated, the men of Seeladler naval base were even luckier. They had just been informed that Christmas of 1944 was going to be dry, due to lack of supply, and there was no way any officer was about to order a cargo plane on a 1,200 mile, round-trip flight, just to go pick-up beer. They figured the only way to get beer onto Manus was to put it into a combat aircraft—planes that were small enough to take off and land without drawing any undo attention, but had enough payload capacity to bring back the beer. When Hess and the squadron returned to base, the crewmen realized that their problem had been solved—all thanks to those “stronger-than-they-realized” bomb doors. If those doors could hold the weight of those bombs, they surely could hold a bunch of cases of beer. The base mechanics began stripping Hess’ plane—and his wingman Pat Patton’s plane, as well—of anything “unnecessary” for the “mission”—including the guns and radios—making storage room and shedding weight. 

In the article, Hess claims he has no idea how far up the chain-of-command the order went, but in late December of 1944, Clancy Hess—along with his friend Pat Patton—flew 600 miles from Manus Island to the Allied air base at Townsville, Australia—and loaded up two, Marine Corps aircraft with 6,000 pounds of beer, booze and cigars. Hess and Patton's planes weighed so much that on the return trip, they barely cleared the white caps over the Coral Sea, and when Hess landed back on Manus, he blew out his tail wheel—a minor sacrifice for the "Greatest Beer Run in History."

Needless to say, Christmas of 1944 at Seeadler naval base was not dry.

Clancy Hess, at 91, is alive and well living in Lockport, Illinois. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Turkey, Football and Beer... But What Beer?

The greatest holiday in the history of mankind approaches.

I love Thanksgiving. From the roasty aroma of the bird browning in the oven, to the last minuscule, crumb of pumpkin pie crust left on the plate—I love Thanksgiving.

Grandma knows what I'm talking about.
Because I love this holiday so much, for the past few years I've taken to brewing a beer for the occasion. I have a tendency to brew for holidays and events, anyway—they're always a good excuse to do something fun with home brew. Turkey-day, however, is serious business when it comes to brewing. There are so many things going on that day—and not just food-wise, either. People are coming and going, the parade in NYC is parading, the potatoes are being mashed, it's third and goal, the Democrats are ruining everything—no the Republicans are! You've got to come up with the perfect beer for all that—a beer that's not going to have you sacked out on the couch, with the button on your pants undone before the tryptothan kicks in; a beer that's not going to have you filled-up by the first pass of cornbread dressing; a beer that, if one chooses to quaff with dinner, won't clash with those traditional trimmings. The ideal Thanksgiving beer can be tricky.

However, I think I'm on to something with this years brew— a 3.7%, Märzeneque-gristed-hopped-like-a-Pale-Ale, session brew. It's light in body and slightly sweet, mildly bitter, with tangerine upfront and bread at the backend. It's golden orange with a slight haze, and very drinkable. The beer is pretty simple, in make-up—Pilsner, Munich, Vienna and Crystal malts. Chinook for bittering, Cascade for aroma and Perle hops in the middle to round everything out. An American Ale yeast is clean, and lets the malt and hops do their own talking. I think this one is going to work out nicely.

My question is, what's your perfect Thanksgiving beer?

Now, I realize that some of you don't "technically" celebrate Thanksgiving, so I'll rephrase the question: What's your perfect argue-with-Uncle-John-while-eating-large-quantities-of-food-as-any-number-of-professional-sporting-events-play-out-on-television beer?

Thanksgiving, Christmas, La Tomantina, Festivus—they're all really the same.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Albany Ale: The British Invasion...Sort Of

I swear, I don't intend these posts to be so long. Any how, here goes.

British colonial Albany is a bit unusual in that it wasn’t particularly British— at least not culturally, any way. Now, I realize that sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit—a Mike Myers as Linda Richman, “I’m a little verklempt … talk amongst yourselves … I’ll give you a topic” bit, but it’s true. Albany still thought of itself as Dutch well into British control.

The plan for the city of Albany, c.1790
Courtesy of the New York State Museum
In August of 1664 the growing might of the British Royal Navy made itself known to Dutch residents of the island of Manhattan, when four frigates sailed into the harbor and demanded the surrender of all New Netherlands. With that, Director-General of New Netherlands Pieter Stuyvesant acquiesced, and Dutch New Amsterdam became British New York. The colony would fall back into Dutch hands briefly in 1673, but by 1674 it was back under British control.

It wasn’t as if the Brits didn’t try to assimilate the New York Dutch, they did. Beverwijck was re-named Albany in honor of Prince James the Duke of Albany (who would go on to become James II of England), and its street names were anglicized—Jonkers Street became State Street, Handlers Street became Market Street (and later Broadway.) The Dutch became the butt British jokes, as well—implying that New Netherlanders were cheap and lazy. Worst of all, some New Netherlanders were actually sold into slavery and sent to the southern British colonies. However, one last negotiation by Stuyvesant made all the difference to those Dutch living in the Hudson valley—Article VII of Articles of Transfer. Article VII protected religious freedom, and while the British almost everywhere else in the colony ignored the article—and in fact acted against it—it stood fast in New York City and up the Hudson River. This cornerstone of religious freedom allowed the Dutch Reform Church to continue to operate in the colony. Even after British control, Dutch reformed ministers in America were trained in the Netherlands, and therefore church services were held in Dutch, and language affects culture. Had the British quelled the Dutch church, New York may have adopted British culture sooner, but since they did not, Dutch culture thrived well into the second half of the 18th century. It wouldn’t be until the North American extension of the Seven Years’ War—the French and Indian War—in the 1750s, with its influx of British soldiers and supporters that Albany would finally embrace its Anglo alter ego.

Albany was at the edge of battleground New York, during the French and Indian War. It was the largest town between New York City and French controlled Canada, and therefore became the billet and headquarters for a large part of the British Army in North America. It was both a target and a jumping off point of a number of military endeavors. It was the site of the 1754 Albany Congress—an inter-colonial cabal organized to gain support for the war. The city continued to act as a base of operations for the British through the war’s end in 1763. With that conflict over however, British-national support wouldn’t last long. The sentiment quickly turned decidedly anti-British by the end of the decade. The city soon became a hotbed of political dissidence—revolutionaries and tory loyalist vied for control of the city. With the outbreak of violence in 1774, Albany was once again in the midst of war—the mayor, Abraham Cornelis Cuyler celebrated the King's birthday, while the sign of the Kings Arms Tavern was burned at the foot of State Street. Within three years Albany would be the target of British General John Burgoyne. His plan was to head south from Montreal and link-up with redcoat forces moving east from Niagara Falls—at Albany—therefore cutting off New England from the southern colonies. Burgoyne never made to Albany. His army was stopped, as it moved south from Canada, by American forces at the Battles of Saratoga. The British and loyalist militias to the west, never made it to Albany either. This was partly due to the actions of Colonel Peter Gansevoort at the battle of Oriskany and the Siege of Fort Stanwix, in central New York. Gansevoort was the great-grandson of Harmen Harmanse, a Beverwijck patriarch and the proprietor of the brewery on Broadway and Maiden Lane.

Regardless of military strife and shifts in colonial power during the one hundred plus years of British control, Albany continued to grow. By the 1750s the old stockade had been removed and replaced. By the 1790s, that stockade would be gone as well. The city would expand north, south and east. By the 1790s, the city's borders extended south from what is today Clinton Avenue, to modern day 3rd street and east from the river to Dove Street. Further north, along Fifth (now Patroon) creek settlements began popping up, as they did along the Beverkill to the south. By mid-century Albany’s riverfront also began to develop. No longer was it simply a collection of small docks and moorings, but rather a full-fledged commercial waterfront. By the end of the century, having survived colonialism from two major European powers and two bloody and destructive wars, Albany was now an independent, inland port and a capital city—poised on the edge of an industrial boom.

So, how did all this change affect Albany’s beeriness? Surprisingly, it didn’t affect it very much. Albany seems to have been a beer town in the 17th century and that trend continues into the 18th century.

You might think that a British controlled colonial town with river access to the Atlantic ocean may have gotten in on the rum trade, and rum production may have muted beer production. It didn't—and my reasoning goes back to the Dutch culture of New York. Whereas British settlements in New England took advantage of the importation of Caribbean sugar, and involved themselves in the triangular rum trade between the islands, colonies and England, New York did not—at least not until much later. Why? Because rum is British and New York was Dutch, and the Dutch drank what? That’s right—beer. 

“Wait a minute,“ you say “If there was an influx of British soldiers to Albany in the 1750s, didn’t they demand rum—and wasn't colonial rum production more important to the British than beer?”

The un-ghosted area represents the borders of
Albany as represented in the 1790s map above.
Click for a larger view.
They did, and it was—but as I said, not in New York, and especially not in Albany. Not that they're weren't rum distilleries in Albany, there were—a whopping two*. Rum distilling was not a major competitor of beer brewing in Albany. There simply wasn’t enough rum made in Albany to have cut into beer production. Secondly, the first of the two distilleries didn’t open until the late 1750s and the second not until the 1770s. While rum distillation got a late start, many of the old, Dutch family breweries were still operating successfully, garnering their owners both wealth and political power. Second generation Dutch families also began establishing breweries within the city, however it would not be until the second-half of the last decade of the 18th century that a non-Dutch brewer would establish a brewery within the city of Albany.

That being said, lets take a look at the map.

1. The old, Dutch family breweries of the Ryckmans, Gansevoorts, and van Schaicks, established in the 1650s, continued to operate along the Broadway corridor well into the second half of the 18th century. Albert Ryckman was elected mayor of Albany in 1702, while the Gansevoorts became one of the most influential families in all of New York. Brewing may have gained these families wealth and power, but by the end of the 18th century all three had diversified—he families had gotten into everything from from lumber to politics. The Ganesvoorts operated their brewery until tearing it down in 1807 and erected a hotel named Stanwix Hall, in honor of the fort defended by their now famous family member. The Van Schiacks moved further north ip the river, near Cohoes, New York, building a mansion on their namesake island. By the turn-of-the-century the other two families had left the city for country estates, as well.

2. While patroonships were a Dutch concept, the British honored the system after their take-over. In 1666 the first patroon to actually live—permanently—in the colony, Jeremias van Renssealer built a series of mills and a brew house to the west of his manor near the mouth of what is now Patroon Creek. It’s unclear if this was a commercial or personal consumption operation.

3. At some point during the 1680s Beverwijck-born Bastian Harmanse Visscher would open a brewery along Market Street (now Broadway), having learned the trade from his father. By the 1720s Visscher’s son Teunis had joined the family business, followed by his grandson Bastian T. Visscher in the 1750s. Like the old, Dutch families, these second-generation, Beverwijck family would become pillars of Albany society, and like those families, the Visscher's would also leave Albany by the end of the century. Unfortunately, the location of the Visscher brewery is unknown, other than being on what is now Broadway.

Abraham Wendell c.1737.
One of the Wendell's Mills' buildings can be
seen in the background of this painting.

Courtesy of the Albany Institute of History and Art
4. Sometime during the 1730s, the relative newcomers to brewing, the Wendell family, opened a series of mills and a brew house along the Beverkill, near what is now the basin of Lincoln Park. This area became an Albany landmark simply known as Wendell’s Mills, and operated almost to the turn of the 19th century, although it’s unknown if the brewery did as well.

5. In 1796, Scottish-born James Boyd established a brewery at Arch and Green Streets—of which now is the parking lot for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Albany County Department of Health. Boyd becomes the first non-Dutch brewery-owner in the city of Albany. A brewery will operate at that location for next 110 years.

So where does that leave us?

Surprised, actually. Remember at the beginning of the Albany Ale: Going Dutch post, I mentioned the "zones" on the Sanborn Insurance maps?
The first was in the South End along the River; the second was further west, near what is now Lincoln Park; the third was located in the Center Square; and the fourth was on upper Broadway, near the entrance to the Erie Canal.
Our map shows that we've begun establishing those zones, earlier than I expected—three of them at least: the southern zone near the river, the northern zone on upper Broadway, and the zone near Lincoln Park. The fourth, the Center square zone has yet to be established. The Broadway corridor zone also seems to be going strong—at least until the end of the century—since it doesn't exists on the 1890s Sanborn map, it remains to be seen how it fares into the 19th-century.

Speaking of the 19th century—that's up next. Stay tuned. 

Many thanks to the New York State Museum and Steve Bielinski for his work on the People of Colonial Albany website.

* The 1750s era Douw-Quakenbush rum distillery was unearthed by archaeologists in downtown Albany in 2004, just before a revitalization project in the city began. The New York State Museum has a permanent exhibition titled Beneath the City: An Archaeological Perspective of Albany, that includes a variety of artifacts, including two wooden vats from the distillery. Volkert Janse Douw, an early Beverwijck settler and patriarch of the Douw family was a brewer and opened the Dean Street brewery in 1654. The Van Schaicks would eventually buy the property and run their brewery there, into the 18th-century. It's not quite beer, but it's still cool.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quantity Over Quality and the International Stout Day Haiku Contest

The entry numbers were staggering—68 syllables staggering.

With so many entries it was, truly, hard to decide tis years winner of the second annual International Stout Day Haiku Contest. Alan came out strong with this beaut:

Stout: once craft's focus.
But roasted bite ain't a hop.

Tear drops on cream heads.

Derrick, the Beer Runner expounded on Guinness:

My first Guinness was
like mud, only then I was
just eight at the time

However, once again arn of Blood, Stout and Tears has run away with. It's not so much the quality of arn's haiku, but the shear volume of it—two poems for the price of one. He is like the Stephen King of beer-related, Japanese-inspired poetry. If that's not a talent and a niche market, I don't know what is. Here's what he brought to the table:

Engine oil colour
chilli, oatmeal, chocolate
brewdog up to ten

The bottle's last drop
like a black gold tear it falls
perfection acheived

In conclusion, arn, upholding his title as drinkdrank's official poet laureate (is poet laureate a defensible title?) has won the day! Congrats arn, please continuing rhyming and stealing (is that what the kids are saying today?) I'll contact you about your fabulous prize (it's not cash).

For the rest of you—remember the International Session Beer Day Haiku Contest is just around the corner!  


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Point of Clarification

Here at drinkdrank, we strive for accuracy (riiiight). Because of that commitment to excellence (excellence?) I've updated the map of Beverwijck showing the brewery locations in the Albany Ale: Going Dutch post. It's not a big change—you probably would have even noticed—but a change nonetheless. The long and short of it is, I moved the shoreline closer to the stockade border and the stockade border closer to Broadway.

I know your relieved.

Any way, I should have the next installment of brewery locations—those in 18th-century Albany—up soon. I promised the map will be accurate the first time.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Waxing Poetically: The International Stout Day Haiku Contest

As usual, I'll get the ball rolling...

Velvety pitch black 
milk, dry, sweet, imperial
Midnight in my glass

Oh yeah, that's some epic verse, right there. What have you got?

You can post here, or to me at @drinkdrank1 on twitter (remember to include the #StoutDay and #DDISDHC* hashtags). I'll announce the winner (and the prize) next week—so bring it!

*drinkdrank International Stout Day Haiku Contest, that is.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Albany Ale-less

At long last—the menu! 

While I was researching my post about the Beverwijck breweries, I came across this little gem of a menu from Stanwix Hall (thanks to the New York Public Library). Stanwix Hall was a swanky little joint on the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane in downtown Albany during most of the 1880s. The gold-domed building (to the right) was built on the site of the Ganesvoort brewery in the early 19th century and remained there until it was leveled to make way for Union Station in 1899. The building housed offices, a hotel, and obviously a restaurant.

Courtesy of the NYPL Labs What's on the Menu?

This particular mid-day menu is from June 21, 1880. For those who may be confused, sometimes dinner is lunch while supper is dinner—clear? Along with delectable offerings of Chicken Croquette’s smothered in a Sauce Supreme, and a fancy pants version of Mac N’ Cheese—Macaroni lie au Fromage, a la Napolitan. The  restaurant at the Stanwix also served up a good bit of booze—from claret and hock to port and porter. Interestingly enough, there’s no mention at all of Albany made beer, let alone Albany Ale. They served Bass, Guinness, Youngers, even Rochester lager—perhaps a nod to the newly opened Genesee Brewery in that city? But, nothing local—why would a restaurant smack in the middle of a city filled with breweries not offer a locally made beer?

Here’s my theory: Local is local.

While that’s super-cool and hip today, maybe not so much 130 years ago. What’s exotic about Amsdell Brothers? Nuthin’. They’re, just up on Lancaster Street—big deal. Quinn and Nolan? Bah, I remember little Mikey Nolan when he was knee high to a tadpole. But this Guinness Stout, and these Younger’s and Bass beers must be better they’ve been imported—from Europe.

Look at the rest of the menu. Stanwix Hall offered ten varieties of champange, eight clarets and a slew of liqueurs—all imported into Albany, and none particularly cheap either. I’m equating the lack of Albany beer, not as an indicator of an industry past it’s prime but rather that Stanwix Hall may have been a bit highfalutin. I can’t blame the hotel folks, totally on this either—the grass is always greener, right? The exotic is always desirable, and if you’ve got the means, someone will always be willing to satisfy the need.

Think of it this way—it’s like the import beer craze of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Back then high-end bars and restaurants may have been just a little more inclined to sell Lowenbrau and Becks over Iron City and Rainier to their power tie wearing, Magnum P.I. mustachioed, clientele. Trade mutton chops for the moustache, a top hat for the tie and Bass for Becks—viola 1880.
Like I said, the grass is always greener. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Of Poetry and #Stoutday

Yeah, yeah, I know I promised something about a menu today. But, you may have heard that New York City is a bit damp of late and so, apparently are the New York Public Library's internet servers, so no menu post—again.

That has no bearing on the fact that this upcoming November 8th (that's one week from today), is International Stout Day, and therefore it is—as it is on every International (insert your choice of beer style) Day—a time to honor our malty friend with Japanese, 5–7–5 syllabic, poetry. That's right folks, it's time once again for the 2nd Annual International Stout Day Haiku Contest.

You may remember last year's winner:

vanilla slips in
dark magic takes hold of me
roasted bliss deepens

Now that's poetry!

But wait—you think you can do better? 

By all means enter early and enter often (in the comments box here on the blog, or email your entry(ies) to me at between now and Thursday, for you chance to win fabulous prizes! Okay, maybe they're not fabulous, and maybe it's more like prize than prizes, but it's still free swag, right?

So, get ready to get your kireji on, and I'll catch you back here on the 8th!

Konichiwa bitches.