Friday, October 20, 2006

North Carolina brewers win national competition honors

This is kind of a homer version of The Friday Fermentable (from Terra Sigillata), but I think that it has enough international interest that I am putting it here and on the oft-neglected local blog, Bull City Bully Pulpit.

Many themes will come together here that involve science blogging and this will be our first discussion of beer since this feature began. To be honest, when I began making my own wine some 15 years ago, I realized it took so long to enjoy the wine I had made (at least a year or more) that I began brewing beer, a fermentable that can and generally should be enjoyed within three to four weeks.

During my 11 years in Denver, I spent nearly ever final weekend of September at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), sampling the best offerings of this country's craftbrewing efforts. A small club gathering led by Boulder beer sage, Charlie Papazian, has grown in 25 years to become the major US craft brewing competition, now held at the city's new convention center (btw, the ageless Papazian is pictured at the bottom right of the six pix from this year's GABF seen here.)

The GABF was such a national event that my brother, John, a former chemical engineer for a major US pharmaceutical company, would fly to Denver every year for us to attend together. This was not an uncommon experience for many of my Denver/Boulder colleagues.

Moving back to the eastern US, I was excited to learn how the English/Scottish/Irish influence in North Carolina would manifest itself in craft brewing around the state. Unbeknownst to me, North Carolina had previously had a cap on beer at 6% alcohol by volume (ABV), limiting severely the types of beer that could be brewed or sold.

Thanks to the efforts of a lobbying group called Pop The Cap, legislation was passed on 13 August 2005 permitting beers to be brewed and sold in NC at up to 15% ABV. To give you an indication of my priorities, I donated more money to Pop The Cap than to any presidential candidate in 2004.

Well, in the past, NC brewers didn't fare so well at GABF, never winning more than one medal per year. But this year, the first full year that the new beer legislation was in effect, NC brewers won five GABF awards. Not all are strong beers, mind you, and only one of the five would not have been permissible before the new law. But I feel that the freedom offered brewers this year by Pop The Cap led to a rejuvenation of the creativity of the North Carolina craft brewing industry.

Julie Johnson Bradford, an editor of All About Beer magazine and beer writer for the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer wrote the following article about these triumphs:

Tar Heel brewers win honors

And the winning beers were:

1. Ham's Restaurant & Brewhouse, Greenville (GOLD - M√ľnchner-Style Helles) - Sunfest Lager

2. Carolina Brewery, Chapel Hill (GOLD - English-Style India Pale Ale) - Flagship IPA

3. Foothills Brewing Company, Winston-Salem (GOLD - Pro-Am Competition) - Baltic Porter

4. Natty Greene's Brewing Co., Greensboro (SILVER - English-Style Brown Ale) - Old Town Brown

5. The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville (BRONZE -
Sweet Stout) - Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout

The medal for which I have the greatest pride is that for the milk stout brewed by Duck-Rabbit Brewery in the bustling metropolis of Farmville, North Carolina. Duck-Rabbit gets a fair share of my discretionary income, split more often toward their excellent porter rather than their now-award-winning milk stout.

aab_27.5.jpgI also must make special note of the Carolina Brewery's fabulous gold medal for their Flagship IPA, for a number of reasons that also relate to this blog. As I am a semi-pro musician, it has not escaped my attention that the brewers at Carolina also have a rather accomplished rock band, The Imperial Stouts. Their guitarist is actually featured on the cover of the most recent issue of All About Beer magazine.

Moreover, Carolina Brewery will also be one of the post-conference dinner sites following the 2007 North Carolina Science Blogger Conference on 20 January (see current registrants here.). As a result of this convergence of science blogging, music, and fermented beverages, yours truly will be hosting the post-conference dinner gathering at the Carolina Brewery. So, if you want to find out who I really am, or if you just want to try some of the best beer that North Carolina has to offer, join us at the SBC '07 and tip a pint or three with the Pharmboy and bloggy friends.

The bottom line is that while winemaking is geographically restricted based on climate, beer can be made anywhere that one can ship barley, hops, and yeast. Most beer is meant to be drunk while young and the American craft brewing culture is a nicely inclusive group of folks who are already part of your communities.

So, while North Carolina beers are distributed throughout the US, you can give yourself an enriching experience regardless by patronizing your own local craft brewery.

Think Globally...Drink Locally.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A big boost for Duke-Durham from Robert King Steele

In a new feature on the Bully Pulpit, I'd like to reprint the best Op-Ed essays from our hometown, Durham Herald-Sun. Since the links expire quickly, within about 10-14 days, I'll put the link here, but will reproduce the text below for the sake of posterity:

A big boost for Duke-Durham
The Herald-Sun
Oct 1, 2006

As a former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs & Company, Robert King Steel has surely made important decisions about investing other people's money.

So we were gratified that when it comes to spending his own money, Steel, now chairman of the Duke University Board of Trustees, is banking on a town-gown partnership between Duke and Durham.

Steel, who teaches at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, was recently nominated by President Bush to serve as an undersecretary in the U.S. Treasury Department. The Durham native grew up near East Campus and graduated from Duke in 1973.

This week, Steel announced that he would give $500,000 to help fund the activities of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. It was a marvelous bequest that will reverberate through Durham for many years.

The Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership dates back to 1996, but 2006 has surely been a singular year for fundraising. Steel's gift brings the amount the Duke-Durham Partnership has raised this year to nearly $1.5 million. This summer, the Duke Endowment awarded the partnership $527,500, and a campaign before that raised $412,000.

When Steel was asked about his personal priorities for his gift, he sounded like an investor with a lot of confidence in the current management.

"I should just get out of their way and let them do what they are doing," he said.

The partnership focuses the impressive skills and talents of the university on problem areas in the community.

For example, Duke helps to close the achievement gap by sending students to volunteer at schools and churches near campus. One example is "Rites of Passage," a mentoring program for teens at Northside Baptist Church in Walltown.

The partnership also helps stabilize neighborhoods by working to increase the supply of affordable housing. For example, the partnership is engaged in a cooperative venture that will help to build 13 new homes for low-income families in Pauli Murray place.

It is also sponsoring a design workshop that will kick off a revitalization effort for the West Chapel Hill Street neighborhood.

And as an example of synergy that most communities can't duplicate, Duke experts from programs in business and economic development are working to teach and bolster local nonprofit community partners. More than 35 Duke departments and programs are engaged in working with the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership.

We predict that Robert King Steel's generous gift will turn out to be a wise investment, both for the university and for those who live in neighborhoods all around it.