There Be Beer Here – National Museum of American History

Beer: An American History
Beer: An American History

There is often a lament that there is no museum for beer. There are ample museum for brands of a beer – there is ones for Budweiser, Heineken and Guinness and make big money for those brands. But one for beer in general has been one of constant sorry. Until now.

The National Museum of American History, (Constitution Ave, NW & 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, 10;00am – 5;30pm, V: 202-633-1000) better thought of as the Smithsonian Museum, has recently added a beer section to its wine section. I visited this museum yesterday and It is everything you could want in a museum that is this compact and ready for consumption. Hidden in the Food Section (as opposed to the Water Section), the Beer Section is says pretty much what you want about beer.

Brewing a Revolution
Beginning in the 1980s, “micro” eventually called “craft” – breweries spread throughout the country.

There is a theme to the museum and it largely centers around Fritz Maytag and the Anchor Brewery. Anchor Steam Beer has been brewed for 125 years and was set to go on the block before Fritz Maytag stepped in and saved it in 1969. While there is a lot of pictures of a lot of brewers, none of them dominate Maytag. His coverall is captured in the display. It was his brew that I broke my cherry with in 1988 and have always heald closely to all these years. Beside, Anchor Steam Beer is the only beer to be brewed with steam!

The Alchemist in Detail
The Alchemist in Detail

Though I have tried to capture the whole beer section of the Smithsonian, you should go a see it for yourself. It is small, but it is an honest attempt to thrown it arms around a major piece of American culture.


Old Ox Brewing settles in Middleburg and Experiments

Craft breweries are always on the lookout for the latest ploy that will increase their sales over their local competitors. Whether it is a healthy bottom line for them individually or for a group that is competing against another, sales are an important grounding in giving craft breweries a heads up on their own future. One of these is setting an experimental brewery and I had to privilege to visit one put in operation by Old Ox Brewery.

I went out to Middleburg, VA to check out an experimental brewery that is connected to Old Ox Brewing in Ashburn, VA. The brewery, named Old Ox Brewing – Middleburg, is an attempt to conduct some small scale brewing and sort out that beer production before Old Ox Brewing is prepared to move up to the larger scale at the established brewery. By conducting these small scale experiments at the 5 gallon level, brewers are able to sort out which beers they are going to keep maturing and ones that seemed like a good idea at the time, but they are going to try something else for now.

Old Ox Brewery - Middleburg
The Middleburg is an experimental brewery. They focus on small 5 gallon brews that require more of the brewers time than on large batches.

Old Ox Brewery has reached a point in their brewing process where they need to have more control over their various brews. They need to employ this sort of experimental brewing because they can not brew everything that have dreamed up. By going to experimental brewing, they can keep the stream of brewery ideas alive and kicking and maintain a process for maturing beers that they believe have a good chance of succeeding.

Finding Old Ox Brewing – Middleburg was easy – go west on US 50 and turn left at the first, and only, stoplight in Middleburg, on S. Madison Street and it will be on your right in the first block. (14 S. Madison Street, Middleburg, VA 20117; 1-540-326-8943); Opens at 4pm on Tuesday; Closed on Mondays.) It is below street level, but there are signs indicating its location. It is the old Middleburg Police Station and it still shares the building with number of doctors.

Pomegranate Blonde This was the first beer I tried at Old Ox Brewery – Middleburg and I thought it had pretty good flavor.

They have twelve beers to choose from: four from the Ashburn facility, four from the Middleburg facility and four from surrounding craft breweries. There is seating for twenty to twenty- four patrons and about eight people at the bar. Prices are reasonable and the whole place has a nice, comfortable vibe. Food is available from the on-site chef, and again, at reasonable prices.

This was the second Old Ox – Middleburg I tried. The Blond Red Wine was really reduced in its flavor and I would not recommend it.

Now for the weird part. I was chatting with the bartender (Warden) who works on Saturday, and he asked me if I would like to see their brewing facility. I agreed and we walked out back to a old four car garage where Old Ox was converting it to a brewery. But nothing was finished. No brewing equipment was in place, but they had a brand new sink and kitchen equipment. They had been working for a two weeks and they had nothing finished when it came to brewing beer. The chef was working on a bbq and outdoor fry top and had all of his orders tacked up on a wall. But they had all of the required permits and that was what counted.

Behind the chef, was a door that Warden quickly drew my attention to – this was their cold room. The cold room had a state of the art with a cooling system that allowed Middleburg staff to swap kegs of beer and evacuate their lines in 20 seconds. Impressive. He took me outside and there was a PVC pipe that carried all twelve (or more) of their lines from the cold room to the bar – and this was twenty five yards from point to point. Proof that you need to work miracles even in the quaint town of Middleburg if you are going to have things to work!

This is the PVC pipe that carries the beer from the Cold Room all the way to the bar. It is just short of 25 yards.

The brewery equipment issues should be done in a couple of weeks, but until then, the beer will be brewed at the headquarters in Ashburn. New ideas for beer will be fulminating at the Middleburg branch, but if you have a favorite, you will have to let them know because next week maybe too late. Old Ox Brewing – Middleburg promises to deliver good and tasty beer selections!


Solar Power Is Making Changes for Craft Beer Breweries

Craft breweries and beer pubs are rapidly making their presence felt in terms of the variety of beer and food that they are making available to American consumers. Numbering more than 7,000 breweries and brew pubs in the United States and a growing number in the international market, craft breweries and beer pubs have become a significant fact of life for Americans.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is the largest solar energy producer.
Sierra Nevada is the largest solar energy producer among craft brewers.

One of the factors that has made this possible is the reduced cost of solar power. As major consumers of electrical power, breweries are especially aware of the gains to be made through the adoption of solar power. Though it is one of several resources that needs to be brought together to brew beer, solar energy is one that can be used in any number of products or processes. Solar power, especially combined with the supply of cheap batteries, can make solar energy a “go to” energy source in a renewable resource equation.

When you start looking at solar energy, it is important to look at the top solar producers in the brewery market. In 2016, the Solar Resources Guide listed its Top 10 Solar Powered Breweries. The number one producer was Sierra Nevada Brewing Company with 2.65MW off of approximately 12,000 solar units. This puts them just slightly behind MillerCoors who produced 3.6MW. The rise in Sierra Nevada Brewing and the opening of their second facility in Mills River, NC (just outside of Ashville and pictured above) indicates they are in the brewing business for the long haul.

Science on Tap at Old Ox Brewery

The accident on Apollo 13 and response by NASA’s engineers on the ground to save the astronauts in space was an exemplar of the limits of reliability and a study of success in incident response. Hear about state-of-the-art reliability today and how tech companies respond to outages and security incidents in a cloud-hosted, app-driven world. Speaker Sanjeev Sharma is vice president of data modernization for Delphix, a Silicon Valley based startup. Get here early on Tuesday, August 20 to grab a seat, food from Saffron Gourmet, and a beer!

Tech on Tap is presented by Loudoun County Public Library and Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC).

On Tuesday, August 20, 2019, Old Ox Brewery hosted another presentation in a series with the Loudon County Library titled “Tech on Tap.” This session was titled “Innovation Through the Lens of Reliability” and was presented by Sanjeev Sharma, who is a vice president for data modernization for a Silicon Valley start up Delphix. Dr. Sharma is also an author of two books

Meridian Pint Is back to brewing

Just a short note that after much discussion of having moved out of its iconic headquarters, Meridian Pint has re-established itself in Arlington, VA. Brian Smith from AllThatsBrewed.Com caught up with John Andrade, the owner, and had a good discussion about the rent became outrageous, the decision to move and the difficulties of picking and moving in the middle of the busy summertime.

La Vida Gose #6 by the Charles Town Fermentory

While we will get into the middle of all of that news at a later date, Meridian Pint is up and doing business at 6035 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22205; 703-300-9655;

How World War I Changed Pub Culture, and Beer Itself

History by the Glass by Ron Pattinson | Aug 2019 | Issue #134

The First World War ended 100 years ago. It was a cataclysmic event in more ways than one—not just on battlefields in Flanders. Back in the UK, drinkers suffered, too. And their woes lasted long after the Armistice. The war transformed pubs and even beer itself. Not in a good way.

In August 1914, London pubs were open from 5 a.m. until 12:30 a.m., a total of 19.5 hours. It was commonplace for workers to nip in for a quick pint on the way to the factory. That ended when the Defence of the Realm Act (D.O.R.A.) became law in August of that year.

The government worried that munitions workers would spend their days in the pub rather than making artillery shells. Lloyd George, then Chancellor and later in the war Prime Minister, expressed concerns in a speech in Bangor in February 1915:

“Most of our workmen are putting every ounce of strength into this urgent work for their country, loyally and patriotically. But that is not true of all. There are some, I am sorry to say, who shirk their duty in this great emergency. I hear of workmen in armament Works who refuse to work a full week’s work for the nation’s need. . . What is the reason? Sometimes it is one thing, sometimes it is another, but let us be perfectly candid. It is mostly the lure of the drink.”

“The Control of the Drink Trade” by Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1919, page 47.

Courage X Ale (1914-1920)

As a result of D.O.R.A., pub operating hours were slashed to just 5.5 hours: noon to 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the evening. Afternoon closing—a huge irritation in my early drinking years—lasted until the 1980s.

And some restrictions were just weird. Like the prohibition of treating, buying a drink for someone else. This was taken to the ridiculous extreme of prosecuting men for getting their wives a beer.

Apart from tripling the tax on it, beer itself was mostly left alone until early 1917, when the unrestricted German U Boat campaign started to seriously impact transatlantic trade. So with grain supplies running low, the government imposed a series of restrictions on brewers.

In April 1917 the Food Controller limited annual beer production to 11,470,000 standard barrels—less than a third of the 1914 level. A couple of months later, breweries were forced to brew half of their beer at a gravity of less than 1036º, or about 3.5 percent ABV. In 1914 the average original gravity was 1053º.

That was just the start. A year later, the average gravity of a brewery’s output could not exceed 1030º, or about 3 percent ABV. Maximum prices were also imposed, 4 pence per pint for beer under 1030º, 5 pence per pint for beer 1030º to 1034º. Those fixed prices are why brewers made lots of beer well under 1030º.

There was still money to be made with beers over 1034º, which weren’t price controlled. But for every barrel of beer you brewed at 1035º, you needed to brew one no stronger than 1025º. As a consequence, the strength of popular beers like Mild plummeted. Courage X Ale, a Mild, demonstrates this trend well. Its gravity fell from 1055º in 1914 to a nadir of just 1021º in late 1918. Not a happy time to be a Mild drinker.

As restrictions were gradually lifted from 1919 on, beer strength did bounce back, but it never returned to pre-war levels. On average, UK beer was 19 percent weaker in the 1920s than it had been in 1914.

WWI had a permanent legacy. UK beer became relatively weak and pubs remained closed for much of the day. I suppose it could have been worse. The United States got total Prohibition. ■

VainGlory by Crooked Run Brewery

ABV: 16% 50 IBU Color: Dark Aroma: Coconut flakes, coffee, and nibs and alcohol.

Crooked Run Brewery (22455 Davis Dr #120, Sterling, VA 20164 Voice: (571) 375-2652 is the name of the game in Sterling’s Brewery Row. (Old Ox Brewing, Rocket Frog Brewing, Crooked Run Brewery, Ocelot Brewing, Mustang Sally Brewing , Solace Brewing and Beltway Brewing to name a few) and these breweries have earned a name for themselves. Among these breweries, the stout is point of the hierarchy and they regularly do battle with each other for the “King of the Hill.”

Vainglory is the latest candidate and it is pretty impressive. Having spent of year of its existence in whiskey bottles and flavored with coconut flakes, coffee and cocoa nibs, it is the 16% ABV that really floors you. It simply does not taste like it is that strong, but it is and that is why I am moved to nominate a new king. Any takers welcome to challenge the throne!

Vainglory by Crooked Run Brewery

Africa is a Continent, Not a country

I just got done reading about how 11 breweries across Africa were being greened with the additional of solar power, water power and water management issues. (If I can, I will send the article.)

But what gets me, is that Africa is not a country, it is a continent, and those countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Seychelles, Nigeria and Ghana) represent just a small percentage of the population. If we are going to represent Africa as a continent, then we have to represent Ghana as a country.

What is brewing with you?