Booze News, 7th Edition

man reading newspaper

Here in the D.C. area, August means summer vacations, lighter-than-usual traffic, and maximum weather discomfort.  The city’s ordinarily frenetic pace slows a bit until after Labor Day, after which the city returns to life to wrap up the government fiscal year – ending September 30, for you non-bureaucratic types.

So what’s better than some new Booze News to kick back with during these slow final summer days?

First off, a question: what state in America makes the best craft beer?  Colorado, Oregon, and California were my top guesses, but boy was I off.  Brad Tuttle, writing at, reports that it’s Delaware, home of Dogfish Head Brewery.

The Daily Meal’s new Top 25 List will cause plenty of arguments between craft beer aficionados.  Despite the fact it’s “based on the input of craft beer experts consulted by the site, as well as votes cast by thousands of readers and beer fans,” it’s certain the ranking will provide endless fodder for debate and disagreement.

Also of note: “craft beer sales were up 15% in terms of dollars and 13% by volume, while beer sales overall decreased by 2% compared to the same period a year ago.  Nearly 450 new breweries opened in the last 12 months, and while craft beer still represents a small fraction of overall beer sales, craft brewers now constitute 98% of all U.S. brewers.”

Read Tuttle’s article, “You’ll Never Guess Where the Nation’s Best Craft Beer is Brewed”

Yet it’s not only craft beer sales that are increasing – sales of non-alcoholic beer are also on the rise, according to the Economist.  While most drinkers quickly dismiss so-called near-beer, “it is growing in popularity around the world… [particularly] in the Middle East, which now accounts for almost a third of worldwide sales.”

There are two reasons for this regional increase.  First, “drinking beer, even the non-alcoholic variety, taps in a popular desire for a globalised lifestyle that neither fruit juice nor even Coca-Cola can offer.”  Second is the region’s dominant religious mores, the Mid-East “teetotal majority.”  “Some brewers are optimistic that the current wave of religiosity in the region will increase demand… prominent Saudi and Egyptian clerics have issued fatwas declaring it permissible for Muslims to drink zero-alcohol beer.”

Read The Economist article, “Brewers in the Middle East: Sin-free ale”

Next comes a pair of articles – well, an article and a book review – on why we love to read about writers and drinking.  Alexander Nazaryan, writing at the Atlantic Wire, identifies this intersection of booze and literature as the “drunk writer trope,” which helps explain why “we want to believe in the image of the hard-drinking writer, even as that persona falls out of favor.  Actually, precisely because that persona has fallen out of favor.”  The article is noteworthy not only for Nazaryan’s words, but also for his extensive linking to other sources and articles discussing the subject.

As recent evidence of the drunk writer trope, Nazaryan cites Olivia Laing’s new book, The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, which was also recently reviewed by The Economist.  Laing “traces ‘this most slippery of diseases'” and “weaves literary biography with travel and personal history as she follows these figures through America.”  These figures are six American writers – Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Raymond Chandler – men of letters known both for their prolific writing and their destructive drinking.

Read Nazaryan’s Atlantic Wire article, “Why We Love to Read About What Writers Drank”

Read The Economist book review, “Bottoms up: A compelling journey through literature and addiction”

And finally, a quick shout out goes to the folks at Brenne, who, in a bit of particularly obscure news, chose Classic Imports as their “exclusive importer for the United States.”

Although it was only slightly inconvenient to order my bottle of Brenne from a New York City liquor store – which you can read about here – it soon might be easier.  The rumor mill tells me D.C. is the next market where Brenne will be launched.

Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm  Comments Off on Booze News, 7th Edition  
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Iced Tea Cocktails

A follow-up to Crowdsourcing Cocktails: Iced Tea

iced tea ad 2

Last week I put a question to the crowd: what cocktails could I make with my leftover iced tea?  A few of you replied with excellent suggestions, which I took to my kitchen along with my barware.

Fellow bloggers G-Lo (It’s Just the Booze Dancing) and Susannah (What Tastes Good) both provided recommendations.  However, I didn’t follow their suggestions to the letter, but rather tweaked them slightly based on my personal tastes and what I had on hand.

First, G-Lo recommended the following:

How about one part homemade Limoncello, of which I have plenty, and three parts Sun Tea, shaken and poured over ice in a tall glass and then topped with a splash of San Pellegrino Blood Orange Soda? Garnish it with a wedge of lemon and BOOM! you’re done.

Thankfully, I still had some homemade limoncello (a little less than G-Lo, I believe) and was able to easily find San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa (Blood Orange) at the neighborhood grocery store.  (As an aside, I prefer Orangina to San Pellegrino, but that’s neither here nor there in this case.)  After mixing things up, I was surprised at how nicely it tasted.  Each ingredient was equally recognizable and the juice didn’t over-sweeten the drink and I thought it would.

I made a slight modification for my second helping, however: instead of shaking the three together, I stirred them in my glass over ice.  Stirring better separated the flavors a bit more and didn’t chill the drink as much, which I more preferred.  More importantly, I was able to use two homemade products – tea and limoncello – killing two birds with one cocktail, as it were.

The second recipe was sent by Susannah, who suggested:

Sweet iced tea (infused with fresh mint if you can) and bourbon. That’s pretty much the best I can do once the temperature gets above 90…

Here I must admit: I cut corners.  As the recipe called for sweet tea, I used my sun tea (not infused with mint) with a half tablespoon or so of sugar, along with the bourbon, in two-to-one proportions (two parts tea, one part bourbon).  This too wasn’t bad and definitely provided a boozier kick than G-Lo’s recipe.  Yet I preferred the former limoncello-based drink to the latter – perhaps it’s my penchant for malt-based whisky (rather than corn-based bourbon), or it could have been my preference for unsweetened tea over sweetened.

Nevertheless, both cocktails used the surplus tea as I had intended and taught me a couple of new cocktails in the process, which was why I had originally asked the question.  I spent a few moments in the kitchen with my cocktail shaker, which these days, is an exceedingly rare occurrence.

Thanks to you both for sharing the information, very much appreciated!

Published in: on August 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm  Comments (3)  
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Happy 3rd Birthday, Hip Flask

birthday candle

Three years old – The Hip Flask has officially reached blogging toddlerhood.  Over 200 posts and counting!  So let’s take a moment for a birthday celebration, to fondly look back over the past year.

Much of the last year was indeed spent looking backwards into history: into 1920s era writers and slang; into the history of American brewing; and into books reminiscing about drinking during a simpler time.

I’ve discussed modern topics as well, from workplace drinking (and its fallacy), to globalization, as well as several new beers (domestic and international), and even whisky.

It’s been a great third year for the blog – more of you are reading and subscribing than ever, from both the U.S. and around the world.  And it’s been great fun writing, although my posting frequency is less than I’d like. If only there were more hours in the day.

So what’s on tap in the coming months? Here are a few ideas you’ll likely soon see:

– Some words on Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, including a few nice memories of visiting Vienna some years ago.

– My thoughts on rum on the rocks as a simple, alternative, summer cocktail.

– New Recommended Reading entries, including Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, by David Wondrich, and The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, by Tilar Mazzeo.

– A special (non-drinking) piece remarking on two Polish heroes of World War II, based on two books I’ve recently read (but not discussed here).

– The completion of a couple of partially written posts on Krušovice Černé, a dark Czech beer as well as my thoughts on high-efficiency bartending.

– New installments of my recurring series, Booze News and A Drink With…  (Have a favorite celebrity or historical figure – fictional or not – you’d like to see? Let me know with a comment or by email.)

Most importantly, thanks to you all for liking, subscribing, commenting, and generally making The Hip Flask’s third year so enjoyable.  If you like what you read, be sure to tell your friends – maybe they will, too!  The more, the merrier!


New Bar Room Reads


Although I haven’t added to my Recommended Reading section in some time – I’ve been chewing through several non-drinking-related books this spring and summer* – a few new works on boozing may soon change that fact.

Over the last week or so, I’ve learned of three new books (two just published) that I’d like to add to the informally categorized “Food and Drink” section of my library.

According to Max Watman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, The Audacity of Hops, by Tom Acitelli, is an “exhaustive chronicle of the American beer revolution” beginning with Anchor Steam Beer’s creation during the summer of 1965. The book tells the grand story of American micro-brewing: “all of the major players are here—Sierra Nevada, Geary, Bell’s—and many readers will flip through in search of their favorite brews or their favorite anecdotes.”  Just as importantly, the book traces how Americans decided they wanted better beer, telling “the story of the maturation and increased sophistication of the American palate.”

Unfortunately maturation and sophistication can sometimes lead to excess. And the association between drinking and literature (i.e., sophistication) might not as be as rosy as we often think; so surmises Ian Crouch in a New Yorker blog entry discussing The Lost Weekend, by Charles Jackson. There are no jokes or clever comments to be made of alcoholism, and Crouch disconnects the allure of reading while drinking by mistakenly choosing to read Jackson’s novel over a pint.

“On this weekend, Don [Jackson’s protagonist] suffers cruel hangovers, tremors, hallucinations, and a terrible, maiming fall down the stairs that leaves him in the alcoholic ward for the night…As his body falls apart, the novel tightens into a frightening psychological claustrophobia, and the reader is faced with all the little lies that Don tells himself and all the disappointments that no amount of alcohol can blot out.”

Counterbalancing Jackson’s fictionalized account of his own tragic experience with the bottle is Dwight Garner’s New York Times review of The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey, by Lawrence Osborne. Tippling on multiple continents is Osborne’s clever method of considering “East and West, this supposed clash of civilizations…to think of them as ‘Wet and Dry, Alcoholic and Prohibited.'”

Based on Garner’s few quotations, Osborne’s British wit shines while conversing with locals over tea, chatting with Lebanese warlords who moonlight as wine makers, or mocking “certain lifestyle editors” (of which Garner appears to take gleeful delight in).

Yet humanity is the key to understanding both our non-drinking fellow man as well as those who struggle to drink within their limits. “Mr. Osborne is aware that it is possible to take drinking too far, and he has sympathy for those who have become its victims. He is grateful not to be among them, to mostly be able to regulate his desires…as a real human being indeed – a complicated man mixing complicated feelings into fizzy, adult, intoxicating prose.”


* For the curious, or those with an interest in history, I’ve recently enjoyed the following books:

K Blows Top, by Peter Carlson – A comedic look at Sergei Krushchev’s 1959 tour across the U.S.

The Crimean War: A History, by Orlando Figes – A deep look into the little-known mid-19th Century Eurasian conflict.

The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, by Mark Mazzetti – An overview of several notable counterterrorism operations of the past decade.

An Armenian Sketchbook, by Vassily Grossman – A short chronicle of the Soviet author’s few months in Central Asia.

Published in: on July 25, 2013 at 11:20 pm  Comments Off on New Bar Room Reads  
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Crowdsourcing Cocktails: Iced Tea

iced tea ad

Here is where I turn to you, dear readers – my fellow patrons of booze, the great unwashed drinking masses – for your guidance, inspiration, creativity, and advice.  I cannot, for the life of me, find a suitable cocktail recipe that makes good use of brewed iced tea.

I have tried and I have failed.  Thus, I submit a humble request: please enlighten me to your favorite cocktail that uses iced tea as an ingredient.

You see, I enjoy tea – naturally brewed and unsweetened – over ice. It makes a superbly refreshing non-alcoholic beverage, which I do choose from time to time.  So, on a recent sunny afternoon, I placed several tea bags in a half gallon mason jar (the same jars I use to make homemade brandy).  A fresh batch of sun tea was ready only a few hours later.

However, I now find myself with quite a surplus of tea.  Why not put it to good use in a cocktail, I thought.  But this is precisely my problem: I cannot find a recipe that doesn’t sound overwhelmingly sweet and sugary.

So here we are, you and I and a jar of tea.  I patiently await your suggestions, concoctions, or whatever you have enjoyed and wish to pass on.

Of course, thank you for your assistance.  I am forever indebted.  Please accept my sincerest gratitude.

Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 11:21 pm  Comments (6)  
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