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Screaming Into the Void (7-17-07 edition)

Each we-- err, whenever he gets around to it,Tony Budny pens SCREAMING INTO THE VOID and looks at the best in writing and social media conversation around the biggest issues in beer. If you feel something should be included, have a tip, or just want to sound off, feel free to look him up on Twitter @DrinksTheThings or email DCBeer.

It’s time, once again, to fill the Void, for it is hungry. Sorry for the delay. Wandered into a tasting of a 500 year vert of Weihenstephan and just now came out of the hangover.

I guess I needed a universal hangover cure, but I’d prefer one that I make myself.

It’s been a month since the last Void, and we have enough content to fill a beer tower. If you haven’t already heard, and if you’re reading this I imagine you have, stalwart local beer purveyors RFD abruptly closed their doors on July 10th for good. This means that the time as beer bar owners for the Alexanders, some of the first people to show and represent craft beer to the nation’s capital through the Brickskeller, has come to an end. An auction for their merchandise and decor has already begun and will continue through the end of the month.

Many talked about their experiences in the 15 years RFD spent slinging suds in Chinatown:

Not to be outdone, Flying Dog announced they would be terminating their relationship with the Brewer's Association, citing the new decency standards for branding and marketing they implemented in April. This beer blogger believes these decency standards are an important reminder to brewers that insulting a large sect of the beer-drinking populace isn’t good business sense, but Flying Dog and their reputation for saucy beer names has grown in popularity. And, in the case of this example, they have rebranded and toned the new name down some, in an acknowledgement that maybe some things go too far. Flying Dog has always been transparent in their desire to remain fiercely independent and stand by their own standards while answering to no one. I would prefer, however, they took a more open stance on the obvious and overt sexist branding problem in the industry, without necessarily telling other breweries what to do. I feel this move will give tacit ammunition to future breweries’ defenses of overtly sexist branding, as right or wrong as they may be.This problem is neither new nor reserved to just the United States. Brewbound defends Flying Dog's decision.

To clean up after this mess, here are 18 women who you should follow on instagram who talk about and photograph beer. Stouts and Stilettos tells you how to drink like a girl.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you: For those of you following the ongoing Montgomery County, Maryland beer law saga, Naptown Pint is here again with two updates. The handout that compares beer laws with surrounding states looks pretty stark, which is the point, but it's a good illustration of why this group gathers with Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot to talk.

In other local news, a new brewpub is planned for Barracks row in DC. Take a look and see what you think. Also, get your July DC-area events here.

In a saga that surely will never end, Bardo has levied a protest of Dacha’s planned move nearby Nats Park. I don’t really know what more to say. Dacha has stirred its own controversy. No one is a champion or hero here. Please clap.

There was a lot of talk this week about dive bars. As I said on Twitter, I get kind of tired of this discussion using what a bar is and isn’t to call it a dive. Sure, the bar that just opened down the street isn’t going to be a dive unless it sticks around for many years, but when people define a dive, they define it by the experience and how the regulars want to see themselves. A dive is a bar that just doesn’t fit anywhere and it attracts people that generally don’t quite fit anywhere either. Patronizing a dive bar is cool because it’s considered authentically part of a city or area’s culture. But anything that relies on its authenticity for its identity is exclusionary by nature. I also think the obsession over what is and isn’t a dive in the US is made worse by zoning laws that don’t allow for neighborhood pubs to take hold such as in a place like Great Britain and gentrification that transforms a neighborhood from one thing into something completely different. There is a fear among dive patrons anytime the high-rises start to get built around it or the clientele that walks the street around it changes. But that feeling isn’t exclusive to the bar, it’s brought from outside. The dive is a respite in a changing world.
What I don’t think should define a dive is having too many draft beers or beers of a certain type. Dive bars are no different than other bars in that, despite the desire by its patrons to stay the same, some change is inevitable. Craft beer is part of almost any city culture now and dive bars having a draft or two of Sierra Nevada shouldn’t negate it’s dive credibility. Nor should updating the bathrooms so there isn’t, say, a hole in the stall door or a giant crack in a urinal. But I imagine that same in-group dynamic colors the perception that dives are holes in the wall with poor plumbing and no draft lines. Any update may attract new, unwanted people.

We should spend less time trying to define what a dive is and more time frequenting them. Because they may be gone soon, wherever they are. And that’s really what this is all about.

VCU is now offering a certificate in craft brewing. With programs like the Cicerone and BJCP, a college offering something like this seems a little redundant, but we’ll see how it works.

But anything leading to better beer education can’t necessarily be a bad thing to exist in an industry that needs more commitment to quality assurance. Because with more education in workers and in the populace, maybe we can talk about beer rationally again.

Maybe we can start to trust each other to find problems and report them the way they should be reported.

Maybe we can know when a beer is fresh without issue. Maybe we can stop making blanket statements about culture.

It isn't just a problem in the US, either.

And don’t even get started on what beer is independent versus what beer isn't. And never forget that if you drink craft, you're still in the minority.  But if you do, there hasn't been a better time to be alive.

Modern Times sold, but they chose the New Belgium/Harpoon path toward becoming solely employee-owned. The Void is also employee-owned. But I imagine these folks will make a ton more money.

I don’t know if you heard, but it was recently a major US holiday. You can still find the beers you could've drank that day and spend each day like it's the 4th or something. The story of beer is, after all, the story of America. Don't forget to pair those beers with your backyard barbecue classics.

Who doesn’t love a good smoke beer? Well judging from the comments on the DC Beer tweet, a lot of people. Too bad you’re all wrong, sorry if this offends.

Finally, beer and baseball. And religion. But mostly beer and baseball. And in your long read of the day, Jeff Alworth tells the tale of the last beer bubble that looms large in the heads of brewers and drinkers today.

I hope you enjoyed the Void for this week. The hunger never stops, the Void is never filled. Hope your Void is filled again soon. It may be Monday, but we’re ready for the weekend already.

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