Beers To Your Health

January 21, 2018

It has been quite the week for beer folks! While the federal government may be shut down, the state government is absolutely operational. As the 2018 legislative session has begun in Maryland things have most certainly been heating up, and the local breweries have seen standing room only crowds.

This week I had the opportunity to watch communities rise up and support the craft breweries in their neighborhoods. Perhaps not entirely their ‘local’ neighborhoods exactly, as some travelled from the farthest reaches of Maryland specifically to visit a favorite brewery. Others showed en mass to support a beloved brewery employee celebrating a birthday, while many celebrated new beer releases across the state. The outpouring of support for Maryland breweries was exceptional! It did not stop there however. On Wednesday evening, I had the good fortune of being present at Rockwell Brewery in Frederick. Paul Tinney and Matt Thrasher were also celebrating the release of their collaboration beer with Brian Voltaggio. The lovely wheat beer was created to compliment Family Meal (Voltaggio’s Diner) Chicken, and oh what a pairing it was. Clean, refreshing, perfectly hopped and just delectable.

Rockwell Brewery filled quickly in a very short span, not only to celebrate the beer (and chicken), but to witness Paul and Matt receive accolades from the crusader for Maryland beer reform, Comptroller Franchot. Earlier in the day, the Comptroller sat in for the “Uncapped” Podcast with Chris Sands and Liz Murphy, answering questions, and addressing not so subtle accusations thrown in his direction from well-placed editorials. The editorials have charged that breweries are being kept in check with oppressive regulations due to public health issues, and it is the legislature is acting responsibly. Franchot answered these allegations succinctly. He is the alcohol regulator in the state, and that is not lost on most of us. Franchot stated that he wasn’t advocating for an increase in the amount of alcohol people consume, but sought to increase the proportion of Maryland beers consumed in the state, reducing the out of state intake, thus leaving the consumption rates the same. A reasonable, logical person would understand that is responsible and not at all a public health concern.

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In reality the health benefits of moderate beer consumption have become widely known via scientific studies that have been conducted in recent decades. This is something the medical community knew even before Prohibition. Studies have demonstrated that one or two beers a day offers tremendous health benefits:

  1.  Mitigates symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in women
  2.  Helps prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes
  3.  Increases bone density to stave off osteoporosis
  4.  Slows the decrease of good cholesterol , while lowering bad cholesterol
  5.  Prevents heart disease – moderate beer drinkers have a 42% lower risk of getting heart disease
  6.  Flavonoids found in hops help prevent the onset of Dementia, Parkinsons, and Alzheimer’s disease
  7.  Those same flavonoids (Xanthohumol) are also key preventing Prostate and other cancers
  8.  Lowers Blood Pressure
  9.  Thins the blood, acting to prevent the formation of clots
  10.  Reduces risk of kidney stones
  11.  Reduces risk of gallstones
  12.  Stouts have strong antioxidants that act to prevent the formation of cataracts
  13.  Hops contain Humulone which cures the common cold

Truthfully the list is far longer, but this will suffice to demonstrate that if we want to have a real discussion about public health issues surrounding beer, this might be the place to begin. The editorials are false flags and should be dismissed without merit. Please go forth and research, find the answers for yourself on health benefits of beer,  Maryland’s record of alcohol enforcement, and the legislature’s voting record and list of campaign donors. That is the best way forward to determine where you stand on Maryland’s craft brewing industry, and whether to throw your support behind them. I have done the research and know where I stand- it is overwhelmingly in the corner of Maryland craft breweries.



Beer Unites (Except in the Maryland State House)

To borrow from my friends at Union Craft Brewing, beer unites us all. Take for example the United States Congress. It could not be more divisive, or partisan. It is akin to warring factions from distant galaxies fighting for control of the Universe at all costs. Despite these disparate agendas, they have still found a way to come together over beer. The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, better known as CBMTRA has united both factions of our bicameral congress. This legislation, well covered by Tom Cizauskas at Yours For Good Fermentables, is a once in a generation legislative reform act for the United States craft brewing industry that also provides benefit to wineries and distilleries.
Here are the nuts of bolts of what it does for breweries:

  • Reduces excise taxes from $7 per barrel to $3.50 per barrel for domestic breweries producing less than 60,000 BBLs per annum.
  • Reduces excise taxes from $18 per barrel to $16 per barrel for domestic breweries producing 60,000 to 2 million BBLs per annum.
  • It simplifies beer formulation and label approval by expanding the list of ‘common beer ingredients’ (like fruit).
  • It encourages collaborations by removing regulatory hurdles like enabling tax free transfers, removing restrictions on both inventory and expansion for packaging and storage.
  • It levels the playing field between domestic and international producers.
  • It expands TTB program integrity to crack down on those circumventing the rules.

With 54 Senate co-sponsors, and 299 House co-sponsors this Bill had incredible bipartisan support, and was heavily promoted by both the Brewer’s Association of America, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, and the Beer Institute, among several other industry associations. Since the wording of the Bill was exactly the same in both houses of Congress when approved, there is little doubt it will make it through the conference committee and be signed into law in coming weeks. This will be a grand and much needed victory for craft beer manufacturers across the country. Apparently beer was the only thing capable of uniting this most combative 115th Congress.

Perhaps the political factions within the Annapolis State House should take note. If the federal government is willing to sit down and listen to the concerns of craft brewers, and their need for the modernization of existing, incredibly antiquated laws, why shouldn’t the elected representatives serving in Annapolis? Say what you will about swampy, pay to play Washington politics, but nothing holds a candle to Maryland particularly if the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 does not get a FAIR and IMPARTIAL hearing before the legislature this session. Politicians must pay at the polls in 2018 if they do not heed the demands of their constituents (as a whole); not just the select group lining their campaign coffers.

Make your voices heard! Call your representatives and tell them (as a voter) what you require of them. If you have questions ask your local craft brewer, the Brewer’s Association of Maryland, or the Comptroller. Sign the petition HERE to make the Reform on Tap Act of 2018 a crucial component of the 2018 legislative session in Annapolis. Always remember they serve at OUR pleasure.


Craft Brewers of Maryland Welcome Guinness

October 20, 2017

The arrival of Guinness in Baltimore was met with mixed emotion, instead of the expected anticipation of a new brewery opening in the state. In large part this jubilance was muted due to the legislature in Annapolis cutting backroom deals at the behest of special interest groups while ignoring the welfare of the craft brewing industry in the state. This was carried out with absolutely no regard for the breweries and their role as a driving economic force in so many communities across Maryland. Despite the legal wrangling, the brewers of Maryland rolled out the welcome mat for the new Guinness Brewery in Relay on Friday for their (pre-opening) Industry Night. Union Craft, Denizens, Pub Dog, Monocacy, Jailbreak, Checkerspot, Key, Heavy Seas, and a host of others were represented. The event revealed a first look at the taproom and the sampling of what Hollie Stephenson (Head brewer) and Peter Wiens (Brewmaster) had in store for those experienced palates in attendance.

The evening was a success, and the brewers of Maryland demonstrated their generosity of spirit, and the brother (and sisterhood) that Maryland breweries are so well known for. The offerings ranged from expected staple beers Guinness Stout, and Guinness Blonde Lager, to the rare and small batch. These special delights included the dense, luscious Foreign Extra Stout on draft (apparently for the first time in the USA), and the small batch Golden Series #1. This blonde ale was exceptional, a favorite for most in attendance. It comprised a beautiful compilation of hops (Mosaic, Amarillo, and El Dorado) that complimented Guinness yeast as the ale was fermented at higher temperatures. This brought out an abundance of aromas and a distinct, yet not overwhelming note of peach that married the flavors beautifully. To the credit of Diageo, they have brought together a winning team in the brewery. Maryland is looking forward to what they have in store for future brews in their Golden Series, and beyond.

The taproom is clean, industrial, and spacious. The expected barrel tables accompanied stools for a brief respite while sampling. This however is merely the beginning. Guinness plans to finish off the taproom, and construct an expansive beer garden that can accommodate several food trucks. Additionally a small hop farm is planned for a sensory experience, along with a pub style restaurant on the third floor of the facility where beer and food pairings will take center stage. Of course much like the St James Gate Brewery in Dublin, tourists will be guided through the history of Guinness, and the brewing process with substantial displays, and a retail store from which to purchase remembrances. The 100 hectolitre brewery will be housed in a separate facility, to accommodate the needs of the anticipated 300,000 tourists per year. Coincidentally, Greg Norris of GEA Brewery Systems (formerly the owner of Clay Pipe Brewing in Westminster) happens to be responsible for supplying this brewing system to Guinness.

With a 10 hectolitre system (in addition to the 2 barrel test system) there is much room to experiment with new brews from a hazy New England IPA, to a Belgian, and a host of other brews. It also provides the perfect opportunity for collaboration brews. In just a few hours, collaborations between Guinness and a few different Maryland breweries were already lined up. There is quite a bit in store for beer aficionados in Maryland and beyond! Guinness will no doubt draw a large tourist population, but all of our breweries should benefit. Collaborations will bolster that. Beer tourism was already thriving in the Free State due to our incredible craft brewers, and the arrival of Guinness will foment that trend. All we need now is an adjustment to the legislation and Maryland will become the premier destination for breweries in the United States!


“Women Brewing in Maryland”  Left to Right Julie Verratti of Denizens, Judy Neff of Checkerspot, Lynn Pronobis of Union Craft, Hollie Stephenson of Guinness. Photo by Author.