Thursday, February 24, 2011

Port City Brewing

There’s a new brewery in Alexandria! I believe Port City Brewing is the first new brewery in Alexandria since Bill Madden's Founders' BrewPub closed. Port City joins Shenandoah as one of only two breweries in this part of metropolitan Washington, DC. Welcome!

I stopped by the new brewery’s tasting room last Friday evening for the tapping of their Monumental IPA. There were about a dozen at the bar at any given time during the free tasting. Others have told me about MUCH bigger crowds; perhaps I got lucky with my timing. I had a nice chat with owner Bill Butcher, brewer Jonathan Reeves, and some fellow patrons. 

Bill's vision is to produce really good, balanced beers for the neighborhood. He's convinced the demand for local craft beer far exceeds the supply, even after the half-dozen or so other micro-breweries coming soon to the metropolitan area are online. Breweries all across the region are brewing to capacity, indicating pent-up demand. Bill wants to fill a bit of that gap with his array of sensible and session-able ales. The current line-up fits that bill.

The four beers on tap are good, especially the dark, rich and roasty Porter. The Monumental IPA is my second favorite. Bill says 50 IBUs and I don't doubt him but as a confirmed hop-head, I was hoping for a bit more bite. The Optimal Wit is nice. If someone in Alexandria has never had a Belgian Wit, they will find Port City Optimal Wit to be fresh, light, spicy, and refreshingly different. In my opinion, it ranks between Blue Moon and Hoegaarden. The Pale Ale is the least flavorful of the bunch. It's solid, just not all that interesting. It reminded me more of a Blonde or a light-colored Mild than a Pale Ale in the vein of Sierra Nevada’s. The ideal tasting progression for the flight is in reverse order of my preference, culminating in what I consider to be the best of the lot. 

It's great to have a brewery in my backyard and a brewer who is offering some tasty beverages for the neighborhood! Port City beers are showing up on lots of local taps. Plenty of people were buying new growlers and getting growlers refilled during my brief visit. Clearly, people love Port City beers! 

The door between the tasting room and the brewery was open, so I took a look. Like the tasting room, everything in the brewhouse is pristine.  There’s plenty of room to double of even triple the brewing operation from its current 5,000 bbl annual capacity. Port City is in a good location with a great facility and super people.  I'll go back for an official tour, and another draft of that Porter! 

Bottom line: The beers are well-made, with a focus on balance and moderation. They may not be overly exciting to my jaded palate, but they are certainly good and very drinkable. 


Burgeoning Brewing Scene in Our Nation's Capitol (v. 4)


This is a great time to be a craft beer fan in the Nation's Capitol! Here's my list of breweries and brewpubs in a 100 mile radius of the Capitol Bldg. Have you heard of all the breweries, brew-pubs, and tied houses below? Have you been to a few to sample the wares?

 >> Comment below about any new discoveries or to share your impressions! << 

While I am more interested in LOCAL brewers, non-locally owned chains are included separately for completeness. I have a short list of tied houses which are retail outlets for particular brewers with no on-site brewing. I also show a list of breweries and brewpubs that are not open but coming soon. I added a select group of current and future breweries and brewpubs outside the 100 mile radius but worth a road trip. Finally, I even included former breweries and brewpubs (both local and non-locally owned) for reasons of nostalgia.

 >> Questions or updates are welcome in the Comments section. << 

Note: some brands you can buy are brewed by contract. One cannot visit the Stillwater Artisanal Brewery, for example, because Stillwater beers are brewed using someone else's facilities (e.g., DOG Brewing). "Currently Open" means a physical place you can go and visit.  


  • Bare Bones Grill & Brewery, Ellicott City, MD  
  •  Battlefield Brewing, Fredericksburg, VA  
  •  Baying Hounds Aleworks, Rockville, VA  
  •  Blue & Gray Brewing Co, Fredericksburg  
  •  Brewer's Alley Restaurant & Brewery, Baltimore  
  •  Brewer's Art, Baltimore  
  •  Capitol Ale House, Fredricksburg  
  •  Capitol City Brewing Company, Arlington  
  •  Capitol City Brewing Company, New York Ave  
  •  Capitol City Brewing Company, Massachusetts Ave  
  •  Clipper City Brewing Company, Baltimore (Heavy Seas and Oxford brands) 
  •  Coastal Brewing Dover, DE (Old Dominion and Fordham brands) 
  •  DC Brau,  Washington, DC  
  •  DOG Brewing Co, Westminster, MD (DOG and Stillwater Artisanal brands) 
  •  Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE  
  •  Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats, Rehoboth, DE  
  •  DuClaw Brewing Company, Baltimore  
  •  Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, Ellicott City
  • Evolution Craft Brewing Co., Delmar, DE   
  •  Flying Dog Brewing Regional Brewery (Corporate HQ in Denver) 
  •  Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery & General Store, Hyattsville  
  • Heavy Seas Beers, Baltimore (Clipper, Pyrate, and Mutiny lines)
  •  Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Wilmington, DE  
  •  Legend Brewing Company, Richmond 
  •  Lost Rhino Brewing Co., Ashburn, VA 
  • Mad Fox Brewery, Falls Church  
  •  Port City Brewing, Alexandria  
  •  Pratt Street Alehouse, Baltimore 
  •  Red Brick Station, White Marsh, MD 
  •  Shenandoah Brewing Company, Alexandria  
  •  Starr Hill Brewing Company, Crozet, VA 
  • Sweetwater Tavern, Centreville  
  •  Sweetwater Tavern, Falls Church  
  •  Sweetwater Tavern, Sterling 
  •  Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge, Leesburg                   


  • Barley and Hops Grill and Microbrewery, Alexandria  
  • Chophouse & Brewery, District, Washington, DC   
  • Gordon Biersch, McLean  
  •  Gordon Biersch, Washington, DC  
  • Hops Grill & Brewery, Alexandria  
  • Rock Bottom, Arlington  
  • Rock Bottom, Bethesda  


  • Dogfish Head Ale House, Fairfax (outlet for Dogfish Head) 
  •  Dogfish Head Ale House, Falls Church (outlet for Dogfish Head) 
  •  Dogfish Head Ale House, Gaithersburg (outlet for Dogfish Head) 
  •  Lee's Retreat, Fredericksburg (outlet for Blue & Gray) 
  •  Old Dominion Brewhouse, Washington, DC (Outlet for Coastal's Old Dominion line)  
  •  Pub Dog Pizza & Drafthouse, Columbia, Maryland (outlet for DOG) 
  •  Pub, Fredericksburg (outlet for Battlefield) 
  •  Ram's Head Tavern, Annapolis (Outlet for Coastal's Fordham line)                


  • 3 Stars Brewery, Washington, DC  
  •  Chocolate City Beer,  Washington, DC  
  •  DC Brau,  Washington, DC  Began brewing March 17, 2011
  •  Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Richmond 
  •  Logan Shaw Brewing Company,  Washington, DC (will brew Logan Shaw and Wild Goose brands) 
  •  Lost Rhino Brewing Co., Ashburn, VA  opened May 10, 2011
  •  Robert Portner Brewhouse and Beergarden, Alexandria, VA (Portner's great-great- grandchildren plan a revival as a brewery incubator) 
  •  Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Baltimore (currently contract brewing at DOG) 
  •  Washingtonian's Brewing Co., Washington, DC  


  • Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, VA  
  •  Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co., Roseland, VA 
  •  St George Brewing Company, Hampton 
  •  Williamsburg Brewing Co., Williamsburg    
  •  Wolf Hills Brewing Company, Abingdon, VA 


  • Bedford Alehouse, Bedford (near Roanoke) 


  •  Consumer Brewery (1896-1904, became Arlington Brewery) 
  •  Robert Portner Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA (Closed in 1916--possibly being revived?) 
  • Arlington Brewery (1904-1920) 
  • Olde Heurich Brewing Company (1872-1956) 
  •  Oxford Brewing Co (part of Clipper City 1998-2009) 
  •  Virginia Brewing Co (Bought by Founders in 2000) 
  • Founders Restaurant & Brewing Co, Alexandria (Closed 2002) 
  • Baltimore Brewing Co (1989-2003) 
  • Virginia Native Brewing Co., Alexandria  (1998-2003). 
  • Bardo Brewing (Closed 2004) 
  • Capitol City Brewing Company, Baltimore (Closed 2007) 
  •  Fordham Brewing Co (Bought 2009 by Coastal Brewing) 
  •  Frederick Brewing (Bought 2009 by Flying Dog) 
  • Old Dominion Brewing Co (Bought 2009 by Coastal Brewing) 
  • Clipper City (reorganized in 2010 as Heavy Seas Beers)
  • Wild Goose Brewery (Closed 2010 and sold recipes to Logan Shaw)   


  • John Harvard's Brew House, Washington, DC (Closed 2006)  

By this count, there are 34 currently open local breweries and brew-pubs within 100 miles of the Capitol, plus an additional 15 non-local brew-pub chains and "tied house" brewery outlets with no brewing on premises.  Added to these establishments, we have 7 more breweries and brew-pubs coming soon to this area. Lots of choice, and more on the way!

Going slightly further afield, I highlight 6 current and future breweries that are not far outside the arbitrary 100 mile radius and well worth a road trip.  And because brewing, like any other business, follows a lifecycle, I list 17 breweries or brewpubs no longer in operation, gone but not forgotten.

In all, 79 past, present and future fresh beer outlets that are part of the burgeoning beer scene in the National Capitol Region.

Rock on, Brewers!

    Survey Results: Preferred URL shortening service

    A week ago I invited a few tech-savvy friends to participate in a quick survey on URL shortening services. I'd like to summarize the results of the survey and offer some comments based on what I learned from this experiment.

    Executive summary: URL shortening services are proliferating rapidly. These services are meeting a growing demand in the marketplace. People who share links really need short, unbreakable links that don't break the 140 character Twitter constraint. As would be the case in any other market with a glut of suppliers, it's a very good idea for the consumer to know what they want, compare options, and read the fine print.

    Here's a quick backstory explaining my interest and motive. Recently, I scanned my Twitter traffic and counted 10 different URL shortening services in use. By "shortening services" I am not talking about URLs generated internally by websites such as yfrog, twitpic, or plixi when you publish a photo from a smartphone to a blog or tweet. I am referring only to 3rd party service providers such 9-year old TinyURL and all of its competitors proliferating of late.

    Have a look at my quick & dirty count of providers. This list is sorted by instance then alpha:

          Site / Count

    • / 19
    • / 7
    • / 7
    • tinyurl / 7
    • / 5
    • / 1
    • / 1
    • eepurl / 1
    • / 1
    • / 1

    This burgeoning variety, combined with the proliferation of users (I needed to scan only 200 or so tweets to find 50 using shortened URLs), plus the fact that upstart has surpassed the original tinyurl nearly 3:1 made me curious: Do people think one service provider is superior, and if so, why? TinyURL shortens your link. Newcomer made a name for itself by offering tracking statistics to customers and quickly captured a large chunk of the market. Most of the other newcomers are also trackers as well as shorteners. In other words, is the one to beat now, not TinyURL.

    Perhaps I am easily amused, but if you wonder whether this passes for a burning issue, do this: Go to your Twitter home page. Type in "#URL shortener" as a search term. See if you don't get 100 hits or more that are less than 24 hours old. This is a hot issue, and I am asking this question and sharing the results as part of my attempt to keep you and me on the right side of the Digital Divide.

    I created a simple, 3 question survey on Survey Monkey and sent links via Twitter, email, and from the blog via Facebook. The survey attracted attracted about 20 total participants. I am pleased with a nearly 80% response rate with ZERO pesky reminders (don't you HATE those nag-notes?). I got 8 direct responses on the survey itself and additional notes from a number of friends who do not use URL shorteners, or were not familiar enough with the URL shortener services to comment and simply wanted to see the results. Fair enough!  And I did not hear anything from a few folks, and that's fair enough, too.

    Here are the questions, responses, and results:

    1. Please select your preferred URL shortening service. If you use more than one, please select the one you use most often. If you don't see your favorite, please write it in the comments.

    Of the 10 services I found in my scan of Twitter, four split the votes evenly. In alpabetical order, they are:, eepurl, and tinyurl. 

    None of the services in this very small sample had a decisive advantage.  One respondent suggested an unlisted choice: However, the respondent who suggested went to the trouble of providing the service's web site and a list of features that made a very convincing case for the superiority of this service. 

    2. Which response most closely describes how you started using your current URL shortening service?

    There were two responses:  

    • Noticed a friend using it, realized how helpful it is, and just used the same one; or 
    • Compared the features of two or more services and made a selection. 

    Both responses got the same number of votes. Early adopters often start using a service because they see a friend using it. Late adopters often prefer to wait until more options are available. Again, this survey reached a very small sample, and no conclusive insights can be drawn from the split vote on this question.

    3. Please think about the features of your favorite URL shortening service. Rank each of the following attributes in terms of importance to you. If the feature is "essential," you use it frequently, or it factored heavily in your selection.

    Here I offered 7 responses and a 4-point importance scale:  Essential, Helpful, Not significant, or Not applicable. The responses are shown in descending order of the percentage of Essential votes:

    • Translates unwieldy URL into a manageable one using tools available on the homepage--80%
    • The link never expires and will not break--60%
    • Exposes its data via an Application Programming Interface (API), so developers can edit the program--50% 
    • Does not require customers to create an account to use the service--40%
    • Provides customers with analysis on how many hits the link generated, and the sources of these hits--33%
    • The link is customizable, i.e., you can edit the random text and create a custom link--20%
    • Offers a fee-for-service model for heavy users--0%

    The first two responses could really be considered screening criteria. After all, who would use a URL shortening service that did not do those things? No one, that's who! 

    Personally, I place a high value on the open-source response. I am a fan of Linux and Android and I like the idea of a distributed network of programmers working to improve a shared product. Challenger surpassed TinyURL by touting its API. 

    One of the respondents pointed out the lack of a response option for security-related issues. A lesson learned for me was that I did not even consider how important security is until I realized that the services can track which sites customers are visiting as well as providing information about who is following your links. I have no way of knowing how relatively important privacy and information security responses would have been, but I believe they would have scored high if I had asked.

    Other Emerging Issues

    It's also worth mentioning three other issues I was not aware of before crafting the survey. 

    1. One of the other issues is that of affiliate commissions. Read these tweets from among the hits to my "#URL shortener" search: 

    • Use our free URL shortening service to earn you easy affiliate commissions! 
    • Use our free URL shortening service to earn you easy affiliate commissions!  
    • Use our free URL shortening service to earn you easy affiliate commissions! 
    • Earn money for each visitor to your shortened links with! Use a URL shortening service that pays.   

    Notice that suppliers are moving into the marketplace with options that offer features the original TinyURL did not even hint at, such as a chance to make money from click-through traffic off of your links. Notice also that TinyURL is now also offering this "opportunity." Sites and are new. "e-Cash" and "ad fly"?

    2. The second unexpected feature is "automatic URL shortening." Honestly, I do not even know what that means.

    • automatic URL shortening and auto character extension with 

    3. Finally, I found many references to creating short URLs and tracking them yourself, on your own computer. This involves downloading someone else's software (or writing your own) and using your PC ans a server. 

    • Make Your Own URL Shortening Service 
    • How to setup your own private URL shortening service 
    • How to Setup your own URL Shortening Service with Google Apps 

    "Life hacker"? Did you see that? What is up with a name like that? Is this something I want to get involved with? I do not even know what these words mean. I did follow the bassett link and stopped short of downloading their software on my PC. Something about the lack of security spooked me.

    I feel like I learned a lot in this experiment, and I hope respondents, other participants, and readers have benefited, too. I would like to keep up with technology, but when it comes to URL shortening, I remain a neophyte. I just learned about URL shortening and now there are sites for URL shortening, sharing, tracking, affiliating, and hacking. All I can say is there's a lot I do not understand (yet).  

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Microchip Spots Cancerous Tumors Within an Hour, Study Shows

    Article published today in Health Day News (HERE) describes how an experimental microchip hooked up to a smart phone was faster and more accurate than standard pathology tests for confirming that a suspicious tumor was cancerous.

    The new microchip correctly diagnoses 96 percent of cases in 60 minutes with 100 percent accuracy, compared to standard pathology methods typically requiring three or more days to produce a diagnosis only 84 percent accurate. This chip worked on people who already had a suspicious tumor and the results were later validated by biopsy. Of course, the biopsy turned out to be less reliable than the microchip, so one wonders of biopsies will soon be obsolete? 

    I don't know how well it would work for asymptomatic people, or for people whose cancer is not currently metastasized. Even with these uncertainties, I find this an exciting development. I imagine future checkups for current cancer patients being much simpler, faster, and more accurate than the current blood draw and 2 week wait. I also look forward to spotting cancer earlier in screening and diagnostic testing.

    Hat tip to MCS for sharing this story. 

    Home Brewing Discussed on Recent Kojo Nnamdi Show

    My local NPR station is WAMU and one of my fav programs is the Kojo Nnamdi Show, which airs from noon till 2 pm weekdays.  Sometimes I can catch the show at lunch, but often I have to rely on the web archive to listen to old shows. I just listened to Kojo's 16 Feb Food Wednesday show on the subject of home brewing. This discussion makes me want to brew!

    Kojo's Guest's:

    Tiffany MacIsaac
    Home Beer Brewer, and Pastry Chef at Birch and Barley (Washington, D.C.)
    Andrew Passell
    Home Beer Brewer; and Roaster at Qualia Coffee (Washington, D.C.)

    Keep an eye out for Andrew's Rocket Science Brewing Co. Great name!

    Tiffany mentioned the word "infuse" several times. I think of infusion with tea. i.e., soaking or steeping without boiling. I do not think of infusion with beer. Wort is boiled and the process is decoction, not infusion!

    Andrew offered an interesting PSA at about 32:30 re: chloramine. He says that our water supply is treated with choramine. Unlike chlorine, chloramine will not dissipate in standing water and will not boil off. I wonder what local brewers are doing about chloramine in the water? Andrew recommends adding potassium metabisulfate to clarify the local water before brewing. Either that, he says, or use bottled spring water. The chloramine leaves behind a nasty phenolic or band-aid taste.

    Andrew dropped the ball on the coffee and beer question. A caller who heard that Andrew is a barista by day and home brewer by night wondered if there was any similarity between brewing coffee and beer. Kojo must've gotten a deer in the headlights stare from Andrew because he quickly changed the subject. Too bad, because the answer could've been quite interesting. For one thing, roasting coffee beans is an art with direct parallels to roasting malted barley. I need to get invited onto Kojo's show.  LOL!

    Here's a link to the program:

    With a hat tip to Angelo who heard the program and sent me a link. Grazie!

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    The Rest of the Story

    In May 1884, two young parents disagreed about what middle name to give their newborn son. The Mom preferred Solomon; the Dad, Shippe--both family names. Because John and Martha couldn't agree, they compromised by choosing the letter "S," the only letter common to both options. Thus Harry "S" Truman would become the only US president with an initial for a middle name.

    And now you know the rest of the story!

    Happy President's Day 2011.

    Hat tip to the 21 Feb entry in Our Daily Bread

    Chartsweep: Snippets of Billboard's Chart Toppers, 1956-1992

    Here is something different: recognizable snippets from each of Billboard's chart topping singles from 1956 (Dean Martin's "Memories are Made of This") through 1992 (Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You").

    Follow this link ( to find ready-to-play MP3 files.  Chartsweep, Part 1 covers 1956 to 1981 in 46 minutes of sound bites. Chartsweep, Part 2 is shorter at 28 minutes. I believe Hugo Keesing considers himself an archivist, but the way these songs are woven together is artful, in my opinion!

    I learned about more about this from Jon Nelson's blog entry about his interview with archivist and teacher Hugo Keesing (HERE). I think Keesing's idea of playing these songs as a form of audio history is brilliant. In the interview, Keesing describes the slideshow of images he would play over the soundtrack so his students would get a fuller appreciation for the times in which these songs were atop the Billboard charts.


    Hero's unwelcome: Wounded Iraq vet jeered at Columbia

    I imagine the hecklers feel exalted by their classless performance. Ignorance is boastful. Ivy League schools are a National Treasure because a good education is the cure for such ignorance. Obviously, (a) the Ivy League schools are not the only place a person can obtain a good education; and (b) a few courses at Columbia are insufficient for most folks in our society. Still, we should not silence those who are learning. Ignorance dissipates over time, and when one is receptive to new ideas.

    Any person who spends 5 minutes actually talking with a Soldier like SSG Maschek will quickly shed their preconceptions about the knuckle-dragging Grunt, yet most people in our society prefer to stay at a safe, “better them than me” distance from the warriors who fight on their behalf. A person who has never faced an armed enemy bent on causing him grievous bodily harm would do well to say and do less and listen a hell of a lot more. However, telling students and faculty at Columbia that bad men want to kill them, while true, is not the best way to convince them that ROTC is a good thing. We are not at our best when we are afraid or when we induce fear in others.

    Until humans evolve to the point at which war is no longer a necessary evil, it makes sense to train our best and brightest to lead in combat—not to glorify war because it is the preferred solution, but to prevent it because it is horrible. War is horrible, better only than slavery, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, or brutal totalitarianism. The value of ROTC is that when diplomacy and deterrence fails, we have an Army with smart, humane, bright, dedicated, and innovative leaders able to achieve decisive victory and sustainable peace as quickly as possible. The ignorant hecklers saw “ROTC” and reacted as if it means “war at any cost.” They were simply not receptive to SSG Maschek’s real message: “peace at any price.”

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    200 countries and 200 years of history in 4 minutes...fascinating!

    A very enthusiastic Dr. Hans Rosling explains the past 200 years of world progress in only four minutes using a fascinating graph. 

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Survey: Which service do you use to shorten and share URLs?

    Please follow THIS LINK and answer 3 quick questions about the service you use to shorten and share URLs. I'll publish the results as a comment to this post. Thank you in advance!

    Backstory: I surveyed my Twitter traffic and counted 10 different services in use. I am referring to 3rd party service providers such as the original, Tiny URL, which launched in 2002, and all of its competitors. I am not talking about URLs generated internally by websites such as yfrog, twitpic, or plixi. This made me curious about whether people think one service provider is superior, and if so, why. I am asking this question and sharing the results as part of my attempt to stay on the right side of technology.

    Concise Reviews of Super Bowl XLV Ads & Performances

    Like millions of people around the world I joined some friends for some good beer (including Tuppers' India Ink Black IPA) and food (I made guacamole) in front of the TV for Super Bowl XLV. In recent years, the ads have been more interesting than the game, but this year, the game was quite entertaining. In my never even remotely humble opinion, the ads and performances ranged from truly spectacular to spectacular flops.

    Did you have some favorite ads? Did you think some bombed? Here are my concise reviews of 21 ads and performances that appeared during Super Bowl XLV, in order of preference.

    Stella Artois with Adrian Brody as a lounge singer -- PERFECT
    Bud tiny dancer -- Great!
    Bridgestone reply all -- hysterical!
    Daytona fan (manhole covers, ferris wheel) -- Exciting
    Chrysler with Eminem -- dark and compelling
    Optima -- epic ride Bud Light product placement -- clever
    Brisk with Eminem -- dude can sell some tea
    Doritos grandpa -- appallingly funny
    Black Eyed Peas -- LAME!
    Snickers Rosanne Barr gets flattened -- she had it coming -- meh -- unmoved
    Career Builder chimps -- whatever
    Pepsi crotch shot -- poor taste
    Doritos cheese sucker -- just gross
    Go Daddy Joan Rivers -- weak
    Best Buy Bieber Ozzie -- looks like a girl
    Mini cram it in the boot -- Not a fan
    Groupon (Tibet and Rain Forest) -- WRONG!
    Christina Aguilera goofs up the National Anthem -- (gAg)uilera?

    Thursdays with Angelo, Episode 11

    Good people + good beer = good times!

    My longtime friend Angelo and I have been getting together every week or so to have a beer or three and talk about a variety of subjects of mutual interest. We share a love of craft beer, slow food, travel, philosophy, religion, art, music, economics, language, national security, politics, biking, Cohen Brothers movies, parenting teen-aged daughters, military service, education, National Public Radio, architecture, running for the health of it, social media, and supporting local farmers. With so much good beer available from around the globe available to us in NOVA, and so many topics of mutual interest, these sessions are always enjoyable.

    We usually have some sort of theme for our get-togethers. The theme drives the beer and food selection. One of our recent sessions was an exploration of beer and food pairing, beer aging, and beer style expression.

    For our exploration of beer and food pairing, we paired Brooklyn Sorachi Ace ($11.99 at Rick's Wine & Gourmet) with a selection of nigiri- and maki-sushi from Matsui Sushi. The Sorachi Ace is a saison style brew, made with sorachi, a Japanese hop also used in making Saporo beer. The sorachi hops impart a lemon zest aroma to the beer. The lemony aroma and flavor complement sushi nicely. However, there is no comparing Sorachi Ace and Saporo. Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing has added the hop in much greater quantities, fermented the wort with a Belgian yeast strain at warmer ale temperatures, and bottled the unfiltered beer with some of the yeast still alive, for secondary fermentation in the bottle. The results are a champagne-like effervescence, a color like sunshine in a glass, and a fruity flavor that is a delight to the palate.
    Rated 4.2 of 5.

    Our exploration of beer aging was conducted with a vertical tasting: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Winter 2009-'10, aged for a year in the back of my refrigerator vs. a bottle of this year's Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Winter 2010-'11. In the photo, you see the older vintage on the left and this year's on the right. The older vintage has a great chocolate aroma and a strong alcohol presence. The chocolate and malt flavors are perfectly melded. The newer version has a slightly darker head, and the alcohol is masked by a more pronounced hop presence. It's a great beer, but the aged version is much more enjoyable. So, aging is good, and I'll set a couple bottles of this year's back for tasting one and two years down the road. This makes me wonder: is the beer better aged, or did last year's beer just start out better?
    Aged rated 4.6 of 5.
    Fresh 4.0 of 5

    For our exploration of style expression, we conducted a Head-to-Head tasting between two chocolate stouts: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout vs. Heavy Seas Siren Noire Imperial Chocolate Stout. Siren Noire pours the same dark brown color. It has a faintly sour aroma, a harsher taste, a thinner body, and a tangy aftertaste. BBCS was the easy favorite here, with both the aged (4.6) and the fresh (4.0) topping Siren Noire. We might have really enjoyed this fine beer, had it not followed the excellent BBCS.

    Rated 2.9 of 5.

    The many subjects Angelo and I like to discuss always seem a bit more interesting over a well-appointed table.

    Life = good!

    Thriving in the Digital World: the Case for

    So I just created a account, with the intent to retire my four month old Tiny URL account. It's worth a few minutes to write about why this matters--and I hope by your comments to learn that it was worth your time to read as well.

    For those who may not be aware, both Tiny URL and are sites that offer members a free method for solving a distinctly Information Age problem, namely, how to shorten long URLs, especially when constrained to 140 characters. If you blog, Tweet, use Facebook, or even email and you've ever tried to copy and paste a typical URL, you'll appreciate the benefit these sites provide. If you've ever had to copy and paste a broken URL into your browser, you wish the sender had shortened the URL first!

    Here is another example, the actual URL that points to this blog post:

    Of course, regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I have taken to using the blog editor's link embedding function to convert a long URL to a short text string. The same link, edited as described, is (HERE). This technique only works within the blog, though. What if I want to share the link in Facebook or Twitter?

    Here's the same URL on Tiny URL: That's 26 characters instead of 88.

    And here it is again on Down to 20 characters.

    The two shortened links look similar, but there are many key differences in how the shortened link is created and turned into something useful for the customer.

    Tiny Tips

    • Tiny URL does not require customers to create an account to use the service. 
    • You can translate an unwieldy, bound-to-break URL into a clever and manageable one using tools right on their home page. 
    • The link never expires and will not break
    • The link is customizable, i.e., you can edit the random text ("5ugdc93") to make you link more distinctive, as in this example:

    Turn this URL: lly/dp/B003FSUDM4/ref=amb_link_353259562_2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIK X0DER&pf_rd_s=center-10&pf_rd_r=11EYKTN682A79T370AM3&pf_rd_ t=201&pf_rd_p=1270985982&pf_rd_i=B002Y27P3M
    into this TinyURL:
    Which one would you rather cut and paste into your browser? That's the power of TinyURL!
    • And I agree, Tiny URL is a powerful and useful tool! But something's missing... bits

    • offers all of the Tiny URL features listed above, plus...
    • exposes its data via an Application Programming Interface (API), so developers can interact in a programmatic way with the website. This means uses a Linux-like open architecture model, and encourages developers to improve it.  Even though I am not a programmer, I like Linux over Microsoft, Android over Apple, and Wikipedia over Collier's.
    • provides customers with click analysis. Not only will customers get the shortened link, but they will get feedback on how many hits the link generated, and the sources of these hits.
    • offers a fee-for-service model for heavy users. 

    Tiny URL is the first provider on the scene, and it enjoys a large share of the customer base as a result.  Meanwhile, is a newcomer, one of many to challenge Tiny URL's early-entry advantage with a different, and in this case superior, business model. I predict will overtake Tiny URL when customers see the benefits of switching.

    Unlike Bing, Microsoft's late-entry attempt to provide a viable Internet search alternative to Google, offers advantages that effectively differentiate it from other competing providers in the market, even those who got a significant jump on them. As you may have heard, Bing discovered the only way they could compete with Google's early-entry advantage was to copy Google's search algorithm! Details: What did was solve the problem Tiny URL identified and solved first, but did it in a different way.

    And the question is: is the difference compelling? Is it so much better that it's worth the cost of changing? And even if so, is it so much better that changing again in a few short months is unlikely?

    My answer is yes, is much better than anything else out there. What's more, it's so much better than Tiny URL that I'd be shocked if Tiny URL were ever able to retake them at some future point, so there is no benefit to keeping the Tiny URL account and waiting for them to regain the upper hand. Tiny URL did not make their code accessible, and they did nothing to prevent nimble competitors from entering the fray. They lost the way Apple is losing to Android: by holding on to the application code instead of opening it up to developers. At this point, is gaining customers and is poised to be the 800 lb. gorilla, the shorten and share (and track) equivalent of Google, Android, Linux, and Wikipedia.

    Open source wins!

    These musings are just part of life in the Information Age, where staying in the right side of the Digital Divide is a full-time job in itself.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    United States of GOOD Beer

    I am a fan of good information graphics, and craft beer. Today I would like to highlight a website I just learned about, This site came to my attention because of an excellent graphic about craft beer in the USA. You can see the graphic (HERE)

    Isn't it nice when different interests overlap? I love beer and everything having anything to do with the history, production, marketing, distribution, sales, and enjoyment of beer. As an operations research analyst, I naturally tend to describe and understand the world around me using quantitative data whenever possible.

    In this graphic we see portrayed the results of a reader survey conducted by GOOD in which they asked readers to "nominate the most awesome, best-tasting, sustainably brewed, independently owned, community-oriented craft beer brewed in your state."

    So many things can be learned from using beer as a means to gain insights into general themes.
    • I wonder how many voters participated? I really like the idea of the poll, and the graphic presentation of the results, even if I am suspicious about the method and reliability.
    • I noticed that NE's Lucky Bucket is misspelled, and anyway, I am surprised that Nebraska Brewing Co didn't win. Again, human error and low levels of participation undercut the validity of the results.
    • There's a blank in the table next to VA, even though there is a winning brewer depicted on the map. That's Starr Hill's logo in VA. Though I'd have voted for Devil's Backbone, myself. Or maybe Blue Mountain, who grow their own hops. Did Starr Hill win because UVA is there in Charlottesville? I wonder if UVA grads were disproportionately represented in the voting population?
    • Too bad NV had to settle for a chain (BJs), but there are relatively few independent choices in NV. 
    • Nothing for ID? I suppose they did not get even one single vote before the cut-off. My recommendation for ID: Laughing Dog. Good stuff.

    The bottom line? Data-driven decision-making depends on quality data.  The problem is not data (there's a glut of it), but collecting enough quality data in a scientifically defensible method to gain useful insights.

    And the insight for me: time for a road-trip!

    With a hat tip to fellow beer aficionado Blue Lou for bringing this wonderful site to my attention.