BEER-DRINKING in this country is about where wine-drinking was in the Fifties. Then a glass of wine with dinner was generally Gallo from a half-gallon jug.
By the Seventies, U.S. wine-drinkers progressed from domestic "chablis" to the real thing from France and began differentiating among white wines. Soon the more complicated reds came into their own. Now varietal California wines compete successfully with imports.
A similar pattern is evolving with beer. Small breweries producing specialty and high-quality beers are growing. Like so many phenomena, the crafting of beers to match Europe's best started in California. Now there is hardly a region without an oasis for those seeking something tastier than tincture of seltzer water.
There are 250 microbreweries and brewpubs in the U.S. Production rose 21 percent last year, to about 400,000 barrels. In lTC general, a microbrewery produces no more than 15,000 barrels a year (less than Anheuser-Busch spills in a day, as the micros like to say) and distributes fresh, unpasteurized beer in a limited area. A brewpub is permitted to sell its beer on the premises and is usually allowed only limited off-sales, if any.
At least three one-time microbreweries, Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada in California, and Samuel Adams in Massachusetts, have outgrown the boutique classification and are sold nationally.
For its size, Maryland fares pretty well. Baltimore has two brewpubs, Sisson's and Baltimore Brewing Co. Nearby are two microbreweries, Wild Goose in Cambridge and Oxford in Linthicum. Each of the four produces several different beers, usually specializing in a particular style, like English ales or German lagers. And the General Assembly has authorized more brewpub licenses in Frederick, Washington and Worcester counties and Gaithersburg.
Evidence they've found a market could be seen recently. As many as 1,300 beer lovers flocked to a festival last month near Reading, Pa., to sample the wares of 17 microbreweries and brewpubs from Vermont to Kentucky. A couple of weeks earlier about 1,500 jammed a similar sampling at a Washington hotel.
HAD Carrie Ramsay won that Seventh District election in 1962, Washington would have profited -- the Republican Party might have steered less rightward. But her absence from Baltimore would have meant an equal or greater blow to civic life here.
Tributes during services from her three children, June Wing and the Rev. Joseph Gallagher were downright fond -- recalling how Mayor Tommy D'Alesandro (the Elder) christened her Foghorn Ramsay.
Mrs. John B. Ramsay Jr. died three days short of her 88th birthday. What that stalwart SANE member really would have liked to be around for was the nuclear arms-limitation agreement, just afterward at the White House.