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Ain’t the Beer Too Damn Cold?

Posted 6/1/2005

As the Baltimore columnist for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, I feel it necessary to decry your publication’s perpetuation of a cruel myth, namely that of beer’s intrinsic value being inversely proportional to its temperature (“For What Ales Ya,” Sizzlin’ Summer, May 25).

Having just returned from “But it’s a dry heat” Arizona, where the shade temperature at Phoenix’s airport hit 113 as I departed, I can well appreciate the temporary cooling effects of a cold beer. But the not-very-bitter reality (thanks to too few hops being used) of what beer geeks call “North American Industrial Lagers” is that the American public has been conditioned since the mid-20th century by the likes of Madison Avenue and Chuck Thompson to expect beer to be served as cold as possible. And why? So the cold beer numbs your taste buds, so you are unable to discern that said beer has no worthwhile flavors whatsoever! Said beers thus get away with a minimum of expensive quality ingredients (malt, hops) and a maximum of cheaper adjuncts (rice and corn).

Disregard for the moment that your testing technique is heavily dependent on how much beer has been flowing through the taps just before the test glasses were poured. Beer experts generally agree that the flavor of lagers is at its best when served between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, while ales (the vast majority of craft beers) are best served at cellar temperature, i.e., 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. The so-called “warm beer” may not be as good for rinsing the mouth of Old Bay or quenching the heat of jalapeño nachos, but for enjoying the excellent and often complex flavors of craft beers such as Oliver’s, DuClaw’s, Brewer’s Art’s, and Clipper City’s, coldness simply masks the quality within. It’s perhaps relevant that none of the pubs I frequent made the top 50 of your list.

I’ll never forget the time that I discovered an area bar that had a stash of vintage Thomas Hardy’s Ale, arguably one of the “holy grail” best beers of the world, with a flavor that could substitute for a sipping port in front of a ski-lodge fireplace, and after I picked up my jaw from the floor, I swiftly ordered a bottle, at less than said beer would have cost me retail. The bottle was placed before me—along with a heavily frosted mug. My reply was to offer to pay the staff never to make that mistake again, and to demand a wine glass instead.

In the interest of quality vs. quantity (or lack of degrees), perhaps we should seek out the hand-pump beer engines, cask-conditioned freshness, and bar-top firkins of the truly premium ales of Baltimore instead. After all, there’s a reason the British beer-snobbery Society for the Preservation of Beers From the Wood has only one chapter in North America—and it’s the Chesapeake Bay Branch, based in Baltimore and Washington.

I think I’ll go and crack open a room-temperature imperial stout now. (Was that Chuck Thompson rolling over in his grave I heard?)

Alexander D. Mitchell IV
Baltimore

He came, He Sawed, He Concurred

Your article concerning contractor ripoffs should sound an alarm to any homeowner anticipating remodeling or repairs (“Renovating Without a License,” Mobtown Beat, May 18). I am familiar with the case involving Vivian Lee-Carpenter; I testified for them in a lawsuit brought against the offending parties, Al Johnson and Wilbert Epps.

So many people dropped the ball in this matter. A cross-reference from Baltimore City building department would have identified the duo as not being properly licensed, yet they were able to pull a permit. The Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) lacks the personnel to police the industry and hardly ever prosecutes when it does catch someone red-handed. The financial institution requires a licensed contractor number to be on the contract, along with a certificate of insurance; this was not done. Insurance companies should have a responsibility in the issuance of certificates of insurance to check any applicant for a current license in good standing. But homeowners are left to do all of the research before they plunk down $70,000 to $100,000 for a remodel or rehab in Baltimore City.

Visit www.homerepair.org and click on the beware button. Remember, always ask for the contractors’ wallet ID, where the MHIC license number will be listed. Ask for a certificate of insurance made out to you and have it mailed or faxed, not hand-carried.

There are many honest and professional contractors operating in the city, people who know their trade and can make the intimidating experience of a major remodel a lot less stressful.

George Waldhauser
Fallston

Bigots? Who?

In 1960, Tom and Alice, my liberal, democrat, Catholic parents, fought vigorously against those who thought that John Kennedy shouldn’t be the first Catholic president because he’d “take orders from Rome.” They (and Kennedy) argued persuasively that Catholics could think for themselves, without religious influence. (Later, we knew Kennedy didn’t take orders from Rome after he broke his marriage vows made before a Catholic priest, bedding everyone from starlets to the girlfriend of a gangland mobster, then giving his brother Bobby the “high-five” to wire tap the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Now, 45 years later, Larnell Custis Butler revives the same anti-Kennedy argument when she states that a bigoted Pope John Paul II influenced church “gatekeepers” and conservative “white bigots” in the Catholic church to defeat the pro-choice John Kerry even when they knew “that Pope John Paul II was hiding corruption in the Vatican and the Catholic Church system” (The Mail, May 11).

I will not defend the church, which turned a blind eye on 6 million Jews and has its own modern scandal. But the notion that Catholics in America take their orders from the pope is specious. It’s well-documented that Sen. Kerry lost the 2004 presidential race in no small part because of his policies, his atrocious (and perhaps, treasonous) congressional testimony after he returned from Vietnam, and the gay ballot initiative in 12 states (opposed overwhelmingly by Christians, non-Christians, and, especially, African American churchgoers).

Liberal dogma is that elections are never lost because of the message, rather, they’re lost because of the messenger or some evil outside force like the Supreme Court, poorly designed ballots in Florida, 160,000 misguided Ohioans, or because white, bigoted, Catholics got a message on their secret Catholic decoder rings from an octogenarian pope clinging to life: “Vote for Bush.”

Shhhhhh, did you hear it? That was John, Alice, and Tom turning over in their graves.

Paul V. O’Connell
Baltimore

Reductio ad RESTARTum

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the comments made by Edward Ericson Jr. in his response to the letter to the editor by Jason Perkins-Cohen concerning project RESTART (“Project Redlight,” The Mail, May 4; “Prisoners of Bureaucracy,” April 13). Mr. Ericson states that in my talks with correctional officials I state that cognitive restructuring programs are not “proven effective.” This is not correct. Numerous studies have demonstrated that cognitive behavioral programming for offenders can be effective in reducing recidivism. If Mr. Ericson had attended any of my workshops on effective programming for offenders, he would know that what I say is that we should not rely on one study, but rather look at the body of research.

The study of mine that he refers to was a study that was examining one particular cognitive restructuring curriculum. The primary purpose of that study was to determine which type of individuals responded best to cognitive behavioral intervention (CBT). While we did not find any significant differences in the treatment and comparison groups in that particular study, we believe that the implementation and fidelity of the program was poorly done. In addition, we were comparing the CBT groups to other groups that also received treatment, albeit a different form of intervention. Furthermore, this study did help us identify barriers and other factors that effected outcome, and as such contributed to our understanding about the use of CBT. A more recent study of cognitive behavioral treatment conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University examined 79 studies of cognitive behavioral treatment and found that on average CBT reduced recidivism by 35 percent. Again, not every study that they reviewed showed that effect, but overall an average of that magnitude is substantial.

There are many components of an effective correctional program, but they all have at the core the use of effective treatment models, of which cognitive behavioral treatment would be near the top of the list.

Edward J. Latessa
Professor and division head, Division of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati

Edward Ericson Jr. responds: I never said that Dr. Latessa does not support cognitive behavioral programs, only that he acknowledges that they are not yet “proven,” as he does here once again, and did in a telephone conversation subsequent to this e-mail, in which he said that “‘proven’ isn’t a word used much in social science, but the weight of the evidence suggests strongly that good outcomes can be obtained through cognitive programs.”

Indeed, if these programs were already “proven effective,” as Mary Ann Saar said repeatedly and Latessa avoids saying, then he would not be making his living studying their effectiveness and advising correctional institutions on how best to design, implement, and evaluate them.

Latessa is among the most respected researchers in this field, and I’m sorry if he feels my story misrepresented his views or his research.

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