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The Beerbag – April 8, 2016

In the spirit of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, and being fans of Drew Magary’s weekly Deadspin mailbag, “The Funbag,” Jake and I thought we would take a shot at a DCBeer mailbag. Every week or two, we’ll answer your questions, beer-related or otherwise, to the best of our ability. Have a question? Email us at editor@dcbeer.com and you could see your question here or maybe even on our podcast when it returns from its long hiatus.

Here are your burning missives:

@arlvabeerguy: Whatever happened to @sheltonbrothers — it's been years since I've seen Cantillon anywhere outside of @churchkeydc

The Shelton Brothers are alive and well. Locally they send a fair amount of beer, but not Cantillon, to Pipetown Traders, a beer store on Capitol Hill. Otherwise, yes, ChurchKey and The Sovereign, both NRG restaurants, get Shelton Brothers beer, though you can also find Cantillon at Pizzeria Paradiso, and at a few intentionally unnamed DC bottleshops that will charge you $40 for a 375mL bottle of Lou Pepe. Don’t shop at those latter places.

Now, the “why” of the question and the above paragraph. Somewhat famously in beer lore, the Shelton Brothers had cases upon cases of Cantillon in the 90s that just sat there, because who wanted to drink sour beer? Now they can afford to be picky with who they send their product to. They trust NRG’s Greg Engert with their beers. They know it will be well-treated and sold for a fair price at Churchkey and The Sovereign. See our very in-depth interview series with Engert for more on this. So that’s reason one.

Reason two has to do with with the volume of beer sold. The Sheltons don’t just distribute Cantillon. NRG restaurants sell a lot of what Shelton distributes, including Coniston’s Blue Bird Bitter, beers from Siren, Jolly Pumpkin, Anchorage, and more. If you want Kentucky Breakfast Stout, you need to move Founders’ other beers. Same thing with Bell’s and Hopslam, and so it goes with Shelton and Cantillon. If you want to sell the rare brands, you need to have a relationship. Beyond that, from what we understand, Shelton is at the moment only doing direct drops of product in the District (that is, they’re not shipping to a local distributor and having that local distributor put product on their truck to go out with their normal deliveries). Direct drops are expensive and only going to be worthwhile if you’re buying a critical mass of product. There are only so many accounts in DC with the combination of beer reputation, staff training, volume sold, and ability to sell that much Shelton beer, which explains why you’re not seeing it in every corner store.

Reason three gets at the relationship mentioned above. While The Sovereign isn’t a “tied house” to the beers that Shelton distributes, the restaurant frankly would not exist were it not for Shelton. Prior to opening, Engert and the NRG team needed to make sure they would have enough De Ranke, De La Senne, and yes, Cantillon, at that restaurant for it to be what they wanted it to be, and as mentioned above, the Sheltons trust NRG with the beer they distribute and respect that NRG wants many of their brands. On top of all of that, one of the Shelton’s sons is an assistant GM at The Sovereign (and longtime fixture from NRG), which certainly cannot hurt in terms of relationship-building.

Finally, if you want Cantillon, might I recommend Frank Boon’s Mariage Parfait? Though I know and respect the Cantillon brand, Mariage Parfait is just as good and is often available at better beer stores in the area, such as Rodman’s, Arrowine, and Franklin’s, among others. – Jake

@drinksthethings: would you drink one horse sized beer or 100 duck sized beers

100 duck-sized beers, and it’s not even close. Could be a fun power hour at Dacha. – Jake

Are the 100 duck sized beers different beers? Or it’s 100 of the same duck sized beer? Either way I would drink the horse-sized beer because I could climb into it like a bathtub with a giant straw and slowly drink my way out. What would that beer be, you ask? Probably Union Old Pro Gose with a Costco-sized TUMS container on the side. (Call me, TUMS, I’m the spokesman you need.) Yes, I am aware that by climbing into the horse-sized beer I would be drinking my own filth. We all have problems. Happy Friday.- Bill

‏@MrMeatnuggets: want to use some vanilla in a cream ale,10gal batch. Should I use vanilla extract or beans,when should I add it? How much? #beerbag

We consulted some homebrewers on staff to answer your query! They know things! Josh “JP” Perry, head brewer and managing member of the forthcoming Pulaski True American beer company, says, “1 bean, split,  in the primary. Let the yeast and krausen catch the fall out. It would give it a nice vanilla punch.” Nick agreed with JP but also suggested making your own vanilla extract by soaking a split bean in 4-6 oz vodka for a few days, straining it, and adding it at bottling to taste. Paul disagreed that one vanilla bean would be enough for 10 gallons. He suggests, “The trick will be how fresh the bean is, too.  If he gets some fresh ones, it'll be way too easy to go overboard and make vanilla soda. I gotta assume he's going for a pretty strong flavor though, so I think I'd probably make a tea like Nick suggested just to see how fresh the beans are. Also, I'd remind him to scrape the outside layer off before splitting it/them.” To round it out, Bill agreed with either method, and Mike suggested the “add to taste.”

John’s method is probably quickest though. 1) Add the vanilla bean to some decent Navy rum for a week; 2) Add ice; 3) Drink; 4) Chase with cream ale.

@joshkerton: when are you going to start your podcasts back up?

Hopefully soon. We really enjoy doing them and they’re a lot of fun, but they’re time-intensive to edit and we kind of fell off with them. I’ll go ahead and say we’ll do one in the next month. Hold me to it. If you want to check out our old podcasts, here they are. – Bill

@jessocnl: predict the action that will (finally, mercifully) kill the "fruit your beer!" trend. I'm putting a marker on Mandarin Yuengling

We live in a world in which Iron City Mango exists. There is no going back. Eat Arby’s. – Jake

I think it’s already ending, actually. Ballast Point will probably continue their line because they've put so much marketing into it, but I suspect we’ll see a lot of these beers from other breweries fall off the map, same as their white IPAs of yesteryear did. It was too many, too soon. You’re seeing some of these less nimble breweries (sorry, Uinta) come out with beers with “tangerine” IPA now because all of the other good citrus was taken and no one wants to do a Durian Double IPA. The next big thing is probably going to be coffee + (style here). If you want to impress people at your next beer nerd party, get the jump and listen to this Good Beer Hunting podcast around the intersection of craft beer and craft coffee. – Bill

@jhauganiii: should @realDonaldTrump start brewing out of the old post office once he's president?

Yes, only because this is the only conceivable angle through which I could interview a U.S. President or Donald Trump, and it checks off both at once. I’m cringing at the thought of what a Trump Wine or Trump Steak level of quality beer would taste like coming out of Trump Brewing Company. I’m guessing something just slightly less palatable than Tsingtao. “The hangovers are yuuuuuuuuuuuge,” etc. – Bill

@seanmcnally: In light of Nats Park discussions – Top 3 (style or label) ballpark beers. Doesn't have to be Nats Park – you're stocking a stand – what are we drinking with hot dogs and peanuts.

Sometimes I think that baseball gets lost in all the discussion of beer at baseball games. You’re there for the game, right? Otherwise you would just drink at home or a bar. As such, I want good beer, beer with some sense of place depending on which stadium I’m in, but I’m not going there for #whalezbro. I want beer that’s good enough, that has, per one large brewery, “drinkability.” A kolsch, a pale ale or hoppy wheat, a dark lager for those cooler days in April and hopefully October… that’s what I’m looking for. So there’s three. And the DMV has these options, Port City Optimal Wit, DC Brau’s Brau Pils, Mad Fox Kolsch, 3 Stars Ghost White IPA, and further afield Devils Backbone Schwartzbier and Vienna Lager, and Victory Summer Love… that’s what I’m about at a stadium. – Jake

Jake waxing poetic about chilly April and October nights is nice, but the answer here is: beers in large formats you can have tossed to you by surly vendors. Oskar Blues’ smokestack (19.2oz) cans of Mama’s Little Yella Pils and Dale’s Pale Ale fit the bill nicely here for me (especially if in my fantasyland they could be reasonably priced, like $8-11). Both are crushable styles, and with that much volume, you won’t have to get up every other inning for a refill (probably just to pee). Jake covered the local beers/options well, so I’ll round out my three with something in the gose style. If you’re drinking a beer over 7% at the park, ur doin it rong (and paying too much for it), those beers are for drinking before you enter the gate. – Bill

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