Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Bob Dylan – "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964)


Come senators, delegates
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall

My apologies to Bob Dylan for tinkering with the words of “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” 

The original lyrics to that song read “Come senators, congressmen,” which I’ve changed to “Come senators, delegates.”  That’s because I’m not addressing members of the United States Congress – I’m addressing members of the Maryland General Assembly, whose lower chamber is called the House of Delegates.

But my message is essentially the same as Dylan’s.  The times need to be a-changin’, folks – it’s time for Maryland’s legislators to stop standing in the doorway and blocking up the hall when it comes to Maryland’s craft beer industry.

*     *     *     *     *

The call that I’m hoping members of the Maryland General Assembly will heed was sounded yesterday by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, when he unveiled the “Reform on Tap Act of 2018” – proposed legislation intended to reform the outdated and dysfunctional laws that govern Maryland’s craft beer industry.

You can click here to read a press release summarizing the Comptroller’s proposal.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot
That legislation represents the culmination of an effort that began back in April when Franchot announced the creation of the “Reform on Tap” task force, whose 40 members included brewers, beer distributors, beer retailers, state and local officials, and consumers from every region of Maryland.

The task force held a series of public meetings over the summer and fall to examine the pros and cons of existing Maryland regulation of craft brewers, with particular attention to how Maryland’s laws compares to the laws of neighboring states – and how Maryland’s laws place its brewers at a serious disadvantage compared to brewers in those states.

Franchot’s staff – led by his very able staff director, Len Foxwell – drafted a report summarizing the task force’s findings.  That report – which was titled Maryland Craft Beer: A World Without Limits – makes a compelling case for enactment of the proposed legislation.  (You can click here if you'd like to read that report.)

*     *     *     *     *

I was pleased when Comptroller Franchot asked me to be a consumer member of the “Reform on Tap” task force.

For one thing, I shared Franchot’s doubts about the legitimacy of the Maryland laws governing the craft beer industry.  If I learned anything from my years as a Federal Trade Commission staffer, it’s that much of the government regulation that purports to protect consumers from being taken advantage of by businesses are actually intended to insulate businesses from competition.  The fingerprints of special-interest groups were all over the Maryland laws that regulated brewers, and the Comptroller was taking direct aim at those protectionist laws.  

Also, I’m a big fan of local craft breweries.  As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to spend a sunny day than to take a long hike or bike ride and then adjourn to a nearby craft brewery for beer, food, and conversation.  

The “Reform on Tap” task force
meeting at Calvert Brewing
Maryland’s craft breweries come in all shapes and sizes.  Many are small and unpretentious – the setting is modest and the man or woman serving your pint is likely the owner or a co-owner, who is more than happy to tell you all about how the beer you are drinking was made.

Others are large and sophisticated operations located in busy urban locations that offer a wide variety of beers and very good food to boot.

When the weather is pleasant, there’s no better place to be than sitting outdoors at one of Maryland’s farm breweries, enjoying a picnic lunch with your beer.  If you’re with your kids or grandkids or a dog or two, a farm brewery usually offers plenty of space for the little ones to kick around a soccer ball, throw a Frisbee to your dog . . . maybe even pet a horse.

Have a beer and hang out with 
horses at the Waredaca farm brewery

*     *     *     *     *

The “Reform on Tap” meetings were always quite informative, but I have to be honest with you: the best thing about those meetings was that they took place at craft breweries around the state.  After the PowerPoint presentations and question-and-answer sessions were over, it was time to sample the host brewery’s beers and get acquainted with the brewers in attendance.    

Quite a few of those brewers are young couples who gave up their jobs and risked their savings to build a business of their own.

For example, task force member Julie Verrati and her wife, Emily Bruno, are ex-government employees who left their white-collar jobs a few years ago to found Denizens Brewing, a thriving brewery and kitchen located in downtown Silver Spring, just a short walk from a Metro stop.

Julie Verrati and Emily Bruno
of Denizens Brewing
Task force member Carly Ogden and her husband Brian moved from California to Maryland only last year, just weeks after Carly gave birth to the couple’s first child.  When their plans to start a brewery in Baltimore fell through, the couple decided to open their new venture instead in the small city of Frederick “on a lark.”  Attaboy Brewing, which occupies a renovated warehouse, isn’t fancy – but neither are the hands-on Ogdens. 

Brendan and Bailey O’Leary are another husband-and-wife team who met when they were both engineering students at Georgia Tech.  The O’Learys – 30-year-olds who are the parents of two small children – hope to open the doors to their new brewery, True Respite Brewing Company, early in 2018.

(True Respite will be just a hop, skip, and jump from my home in Rockville so I’m counting the days until then.)

*     *     *     *     *

Like other small businesses, craft brewers are subject to the vagaries of the marketplace.  Grain prices are unpredictable, utility costs fluctuate, and rents usually go up year after year.  

Consumers are notoriously fickle – they’re constantly searching for the next big thing.  The popularity of craft beers has boomed over the past few years, but there’s no guarantee that positive trend will continue.  

There are well over 5000 craft breweries in the United States, and that number continues to grow at a rapid pace.  You have to wonder how many of them will still be in business in five or ten years.

Brendan O'Leary shops for equipment
for his soon-to-open brewery
A craft brewery near my home went belly up last year.  A new brewery opened for business recently just a block or two from where the failed one was located, and the O’Learys’ new site is only a mile and a half away.  Will two breweries be one too many for my neighborhood?  No one knows for sure what the answer to that question is – if you’re one of those brewers, you pays your money and you take your chances.

Craft brewers like Verrati and Bruno, the Ogdens, and the O’Learys have a lot to worry about.  The last thing they need is for state or local governments to throw up roadblocks to their success.

It’s one thing when a business has to deal with government regulation that imposes costs but is well-intentioned.  It’s another thing altogether when that regulation is at the behest of special-interest groups who rely on their political connections to get the upper hand.

*     *     *     *     *

The “Reform on Tap Act of 2018” would erase a number of arbitrary, anti-competitive, and anti-consumer provisions from Maryland law.  

I’m going to mention only the most ridiculous and blatantly protectionist provision in current law – the notorious “buy-back” provision that was enacted by the Maryland legislature earlier this year.

In general, a Maryland craft brewery can sell only 2000 barrels of its beer annually at its own taproom.  That brewery is allowed to sell an additional 1000 barrels of its beer but only if it first seems those 1000 barrels to a beer distributor, who must transport that beer from the brewery to its warehouse, offload the beer from its trucks so that it “comes to rest” on the floor of the distributor’s warehouse, load the beer back into its trucks, and drive the beer back to the brewery, where it can be served to customers.

What’s the point of all this wasted time and effort?  To generate a profit for the distributor, who sells the beer back to the brewer at a higher price than it paid the brewer for that beer in the first place.  (Gee . . . I wonder whose idea this law was?)

You can click here to view a .pdf that explains which current statutory provisions would be repealed by the Comptroller’s proposal.

*     *     *     *     *

In most cases, that provisions would simply be wiped off the books.  That approach is consistent with what one brewer said at a task force meeting in June:

We’re not asking for anything from the Maryland legislature.  They just need to stop getting in our way!  Stop tying our hands!

That view is shared by each and every Maryland craft brewer I’ve met.  Brewers aren’t asking the legislature to pass a law that insulates them from competition, or that favors them vis-à-vis wholesalers or retailers.  They just want to get out from under laws that limit their ability to make and sell beer – and that limit the ability of consumers like me to buy and enjoy that beer.  

Carly and Brian Ogden of Attaboy Beer
flank task force member Sen. Ron Young
“Don’t stand in the doorways, don’t block up the hall,” was Bob Dylan’s plea to the government in “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and it’s the plea of Maryland’s craft brewers to the Maryland General Assembly.

*     *     *     *     *

If you want to learn more about the proposed legislation, the meetings of the “Reform on Tap” task force, and the events that inspired Comptroller Franchot to put all this in motion, a good place to start is historian and craft beer aficionado Maureen O'Prey’s Brewed in Maryland website.  Just click here to be taken to the “Reform on Tap” section of Maureen’s website.


Another excellent source of information about Maryland craft breweries in general and the “Reform on Tap” initiative in particular is Liz Murphy’s Naptown Pint blog.  Click here and you’ll be taken to Liz’s home page. 

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“The Times They Are a-Changin’,” which one critic has called “the archetypal protest song,” was released in 1964 on Bob Dylan’s album of the same name.


Here’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bryan White – "Eugene You Genius" (1994)


Tell me, Eugene, I just gotta know
Can I go down and buy it
At the grocery store?

Pushing an eight-month-old baby around the neighborhood is thirsty work.

So after spending time recently with grandson number two, I was in the mood to drop by a bar with a good selection of craft beers on tap and a friendly bartender to serve me a pint.

Fortunately for me, the H Street Lounge in Washington, DC – which has a very impressive craft beer list – was just a few blocks from where I dropped off my grandson after our visit.

The H Street Whole Foods
Did I mention that the H Street Lounge is located inside a grocery store

That’s correct – it’s located inside a new Whole Foods store in Washington, DC.

*     *     *     *     *

I had never been in a grocery store that sold craft beer on tap for consumption on the premises.

The H Street Lounge had a number of local beers, starting at only $5 a pint, including beers from breweries in DC (Atlas’s “NSFW” imperial black IPA and DC Brau’s ESB), Virginia (Old Ox’s “Black Ox” rye porter and Hardywood’s “The Great Return” IPA), and Maryland (Jailbreak’s “Feed the Monkey” hefeweizen and RAR’s “Bottom Feeder” blonde ale.)

Some of the beers on tap
at the H Street Lounge
Its offerings also included number of beers that didn’t originate in the DMV – including some exotic, high-gravity (i.e., high alcohol) brews.

For example, there were three beers from the Captain Lawrence brewery in New York State – including the “Seeking Alpha” 12% triple IPA – and Unibroue’s “La Fin du Monde,” a Belgian-style tripel that’s brewed in Quebec.    

Even casual craft beer fans are familiar with Boulevard’s highly-regarded “Tank 7” farmhouse ale.  Instead of Tank 7, Whole Foods was pouring “Saison Brett,” a hard-to-find limited-release Tank 7 variant.

Another rare beer available by the pint at that Whole Foods was Firestone Walker’s “Bretta Weisse,” a Berliner weisse that’s aged for eight months in French oak tanks called foeders.  

This way to the H Street Lounge
The famous Tröegs “Mad Elf” ale – a holiday brew flavored with cherries and honey – sells out quickly every year.  But the H Street Bar was offering this 11% ABV ale at a very good price.

The piece de résistance of the bar’s draft beer list was the 2016 Goose Island “Bourbon County Stout,” a legendary 13.8% ABV imperial stout that’s aged in bourbon barrels for the better part of a year.  

*     *     *     *     *

You may think it’s odd to go to a grocery store for a draft beer.  

The Whole Foods that’s home to the H Street Lounge is as much a restaurant as it is a grocery store.

Like most Whole Foods stores, this one offered a dazzling array of pricey prepared foods that you could either take home or bring to the bar to have with your beer.  You’re not limited to a salad bar and some ready-to-eat soups and sandwiches – the Whole Foods also sells made-on-the-premises pizzas and sushi and ramen and bao buns and raclette and a whole lot more.

Smoked pork shoulder ramen
Nearly all the customers drinking craft beer in the H Street Lounge when I stopped by the other evening were also enjoying the store’s food offerings.  And the majority of those people had their kids with them.

*     *     *     *     *

We have plenty of Whole Foods stores in the Maryland suburbs of DC.  But none of them offer craft beers on tap.

That’s because the great state of Maryland – unlike DC and neighboring Virginia – forbids it.

The Great Seal of Maryland
In fact, Maryland forbids not only the sale and consumption of draft beer in a grocery store, but also the sale of six-packs of beer to take home.

I’m not going to bore you with a long rant about lobbyists and special-interest legislation and all that jazz.

Suffice it to say that we Marylanders can’t buy beer (or wine) in grocery stores, drug stores, warehouse club stores, or other chain stores thanks to our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad state legislature.

*     *     *     *     *

Maryland is home to a number of very good craft breweries.

The Whole Foods store in DC that is home to the H Street Lounge sells six-packs of beer from a number of those Maryland breweries – including Evolution, Jailbreak, Manor Hill, Monocacy, Oliver Brewing, and Union Craft.

Monocacy Brewing beers for sale
at the H Street Whole Foods
But once you cross the DC line and enter Maryland, you can’t buy those Maryland beers (or beers from anywhere else) at a Whole Foods store.  

Or, for that matter, at a Wegman’s or a Harris-Teeter or a Trader Joe’s or a CVS or a Walgreen’s or a Walmart or a Costco or a 7-Eleven.

That’s what I said – you can’t buy beer at a 7-Eleven in Maryland.  What exactly is the raison d’être of a 7-Eleven if you can’t buy beer there late on a Friday or Saturday night when the liquor stores are closed?

These Union Craft beers are also
available at the H Street Whole Foods
(Note: The statement that you can’t buy beer at a 7-Eleven is accurate in most, but not all Maryland counties.  Maryland’s alcohol laws vary significantly by county, which makes it almost impossible to make accurate generalizations about what is legal and what is not legal in Maryland.)

*     *     *     *     *

Millions of Marylanders live just a short drive from DC or Virginia, of course, which means it’s not all that hard for them to cross state lines and contribute to the economies of our neighboring states.

This popular DC liquor store is just
one block from the Maryland line
Have I ever crossed state lines to stock up on beer and wine – thereby depriving Maryland of the tax revenues it would have collected if I had done my shopping closer to home?  

I think I’ll plead the Fifth rather than answer that question.

*     *     *     *     *

Oklahoma native Bryan White was only 20 years when he released his eponymous debut album in 1994.

“Eugene You Genius,” the first single from that album, stalled at #48 on the Billboard “Hot Country Songs” chart, but two other singles from Bryan White made it all the way to #1, and the album eventually went platinum.


Two singles from his second album almost were #1 country hits, but his popularity waned over the next few years.

In 2012, White turned to Kickstarter to raise money to pay for a new album.  The $34,889 he received from contributors was enough to pay for only a six-song EP, Shine, which he released in 2014.  

Here’s “Eugene You Genius.”  It’s not the greatest song ever featured on 2 or 3 lines, but there are very few grocery store-themed songs out there.



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justin Timberlake (feat. Jay-Z) – "Suit & Tie" (2013)


And as long as I've got my suit and tie
I'ma leave it all on the floor tonight

Shinesty is an online clothing retailer that claims to be “the #1 online destination for attention-grabbing apparel.”  

The company, which freely acknowledges that it is “not J. Crew” (and how), guarantees to sell only  “clothing your mom would hate.” 

I promise that your wife will hate it, too.  (Most girlfriends, too.)

I recently received a copy of Shinesty’s Christmas catalog in the mail.  (I wonder what this post would have been about if I hadn’t gotten that catalog.  Do you wonder about that, too?) 

Here are photos of some of the suits and matching ties that you can find in the current Shinesty holiday collection for men:







For our Jewish friends, here’s the Shinesty “Rock Star of David” suit:



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Shinesty doesn’t just sell tacky Christmas suits and ties.

It also offers “Pit Vipers” sunglasses.  (Slogan: “They want to sit on your face.”)


And then there’s the “Jeado” swim brief – a/k/a the “Daytona Dong Sarong,” a/k/a the “Ding-a-ling Sling,” a/k/a the “Miami Meat Tent,” a/k/a the “Portuguese Pud Purse.”  (Shinesty’s headquarters are located in Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is 100% legal.  That probably explains “Portuguese Pud Purse” and most of the rest of the copy in Shinesty’s catalog.)


The company also sells a lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, bulge-enhancing boxer brief, which it calls the “Ball Hammock.”
  
The red-white-and-blue, bald eagle-themed “Ball Hammock” is perfect for us patriotic types:


But you Democrats may prefer your undies to feature a camel, horse, snow leopard, snake, zebra, lion, or golden retriever:



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Here’s how MTV described its reality show about Shinesty, which aired this summer:

Mix 10 mediocrely-good-looking twenty-somethings with a major TV network, add some melodrama, and boom  you get reality TV.  This six-episode “docu-comedy” is not appropriate for all ages and features casual nudity, kidnappings, bikini waxes, irreverent clothing, countless weiner shaped food jokes, and a variety of other very strange incidents that actually do happen in the Shinesty office every week.

Here’s the trailer for the show:


*     *     *     *     *

Right now, Shinesty’s stuff is selling like gangbusters.  But I don’t see the company being successful in the long run.  

I have to think that its typical customer is someone who orders after getting drunk at a Christmas party, and who will have a terrible case of buyer’s remorse when the clothing he orders arrives and he tries it on.  

The company’s investors include the Winklevoss twins (who co-founded Facebook), and they’re a lot smarter than I am, but I just don’t see guys ordering a Christmas suit from Shinesty more than once.  

Of course, most of the guys who will get drunk at a Christmas party this year will get drunk at a Christmas party next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.  So maybe Shinesty will do better than I think.

*     *     *     *     *

“Suit & Tie” was the lead single from Justin Timberlake’s 2013 album, The 20/20 Experience.  It made it all the way to #3 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”


The music video for “Suit & Tie” was directed by David Fincher, the director of The Social Network, which starred Timberlake as Sean Parker, the man who co-founded Napster and who was the first president of Facebook.

Here’s “Suit & Tie,” which features Jay-Z:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:





Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Kingsmen – "Jolly Green Giant" (1964)


He touched her once 
She slapped him silly

Hopefully the Jolly Green Giant learned his lesson and never, ever misbehaved again – unlike Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C. K., etc., etc.

*     *     *     *     *

The lyrics to “Jolly Green Giant” include references to a number of vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and artichoke hearts.

None of which my mother ever served at our family dinners when I was a kid.  

*     *     *     *     *

Our first course was usually a tossed salad with French dressing, cottage cheese with tomatoes, or canned pear halves covered with grated American cheese.  (I was not a fan of canned pear halves.)

Our main course consisted of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable.

The meat might be pan-fried chicken, meatloaf, or Salisbury steak – basically a glorified hamburger served without the bun or the American cheese or ketchup.

“Please pass the Salisbury steak!”
Every so often, my mother made creamed chipped beef, which was godawful.  We never had pork or lamb.

The starch was usually mashed potatoes – made from scratch.  On occasion we had potatoes in a different form – au gratin, or baked – or macaroni and cheese.  I don’t recall having rice or spaghetti.

The vegetable was often corn or green beans or peas or carrots – always canned, never frozen.  (I think frozen vegetables were a little pricey for my parents.)

Every so often we had canned diced beets.  GAG ME WITH A SPOON!  (I haven’t knowingly eaten a single bite of beets since leaving home for college.)


My father worked for a dairy, so I always drank milk with dinner.  (Also with breakfast and lunch.)    

Dessert was usually a dish of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup served just before bedtime.  (I remember using my spoon to squish the ice cream and chocolate into something approximating a very thick chocolate milk shake.)

*     *     *     *     *

As for breakfast, my mother usually made waffles on Sundays, using an enormous plug-in waffle iron.  

At some point in my childhood, Malt-O-Meal was my regular before-school breakfast.  I also ate my share of cold cereal – corn flakes, Cheerios, Rice Chex.


I don’t recall having eggs and bacon very often.  When my mother did make bacon, she cooked it super well done and crispy – I hated it that way.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was a kid – they lived only three blocks away, so I walked back and forth on an almost daily basis.  My grandmother made a truly bizarre breakfast called “syrup ’n’ bread,” which must have been invented during the Depression.  It consisted of two slices of white bread, each of which was cut up into nine little squares.  You then put a smear of margarine on each square and doused it with white Karo syrup.  

I always saved the middle square – the one with no crust – for last.

*     *     *     *     *

During the school year, of course, I got my lunch at school.  (I went to public schools, and had very few – if any – Catholic classmates, but we were always served fish sticks for lunch on Friday.) 

On weekends and during the summer, my lunch was often a bologna sandwich with a slice of American cheese on white bread.

We got unsliced five-pound loaves of American cheese from the dairy where my father worked.  I remember using a cheese slicer that had a roller and a thin, very taut wire to slice the cheese.  Later, the cheese came pre-sliced, but the slices weren’t individually wrapped.

Our cheese slicer was just like this one
The only thing I liked on my sandwiches were hamburger dill pickle slices – no mayo or mustard for me, thank you very much.  (My high school cafeteria put a ton of mustard on its bologna sandwiches – I scraped off as much as I could before eating it, but I could never get rid of all of it.)

My mother made great tuna salad sandwiches.  She would dice pickle slices and hard-boiled eggs and mix them with the tuna.  

Campbell’s chicken-noodle soup was also a staple.  Later I got into tomato soup.

*     *     *     *     *

The only Kingsmen record that most people remember is “Louie Louie.”

But “Jolly Green Giant” was almost as big a hit.  It made it all the way to #4 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in 1964.

The Minnesota Valley Canning Company started selling “Green Giant Great Big Tender Peas” in 1925, and introduced its Green Giant mascot a few years later.  

The “Jolly Green Giant” over the years
Originally, he was a scary, Incredible Hulk-like character who wore in a bearskin, but the company’s ad agency transformed him into a smiling and nonthreatening figure clad in leaves and added “Jolly” to his name.

In 1978, the citizens of Blue Earth, Minnesota installed a 55-foot statue of the Jolly Green Giant in their town.  (The original Green Giant canning plant was located about 70 miles north, in Le Sueur.)


When Advertising Age ranked the top ten advertising icons of the 20th century, the Jolly Green Giant was given the #3 spot – behind only the Marlboro Man and Ronald McDonald (and ahead of the Energizer Bunny, Aunt Jemima, Tony the Tiger, and the Michelin Man, among others).

Here’s “Jolly Green Giant”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Roxy Music – "All I Want Is You" (1974)


Somebody told me just the other day
That you're leaving me – we're through
Well, if you knew how it hurt me so
Then you'd change your mind, I’m sure

You’re wrong – that would not change her mind.  (You blew it, stupid.)

*     *     *     *     *

The fourth Roxy Music album, Country Life, was released in 1974, when I was a first-year law student.  I bought a copy at the “Coop” (the Harvard Cooperative Store) and proceeded to play it to death – especially “All I Want Is You” and the track that followed it, “Out of the Blue.”

I must have bought the album soon after it was released, because my copy has the original cover, which features two models (usually described as “scantily-clad,” which is accurate albeit a tad clichéd) who helped translate one verse of the song “Bitter-Sweet” into German:


The original cover was later replaced in the U.S., Spain, and there Netherlands with a more innocuous one:


The original album cover inspired dozens of parodies.  Here are just a few of them:










It was used on t-shirts and umbrellas:



*     *     *     *     *

The critics loved Country Life, which one reviewer said represented “the zenith of contemporary British art rock.”  

Robert Christgau described Roxy’s frontman and primary songwriter, Bryan Ferry, as an “oblique and ambitious” artist.  Ferry can be tiresome – his solo albums are too campy for my taste – but he’s rarely boring.

At heart, Ferry is a romantic  – or, at least, he plays one on Roxy Music’s records.  As he croons in today’s featured song, “L’amour, toujours l'amour.”

Here’s “All I Want Is You”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon: