By Nancy Luse
Photographs by Anastasia Tantaros
Tongue splitting, branding, elfing and more – the world of body modification beyond tattoos
Earlobe stretching, scarification, tongue splitting and turning ears pointy and elf-like — these aren’t your grandpa’s tattoos from the Navy or even daddy’s pierced ear. Many of these newer trends in body art or modification are in vogue now more than ever, and they’re being seen more commonly in Frederick.
“Most people know me as a tattoo artist, but I look at myself as more of a body modification practitioner,” says Gordon Staub, owner of Timebomb Tattooing and Piercing. He’s been inking for 20 years, piercing for 17 and branding for 15. On occasion, he has split a tongue or performed subdermal implants, but he won’t do eyeball tattoos, sculpt elf ears or deal in teeth modification, even though he sports star etchings on two of his teeth.
“They had to be worked on anyway, so why not jazz them up?” Staub asks rhetorically as we chat in his Market Street shop one afternoon. “The dentist said, ‘What’s the aesthetics in doing that to your teeth?’” The artist shrugged. For him, aesthetics is simply in the eye of the beholder — even if that eye is dyed blood red.
“Body modification can mean many things,” he says, whether it’s hair coloring, bodybuilding, a sex change “or wearing high heels so the leg is stretched out.”
While the shop’s stock in trade are tattoos and piercings, requests for branding — a process that burns a design into skin resulting in a scar — have increased. “On Labor Day weekend, I did 26 people,” he notes. “I’ll only do large, flat areas. I won’t do the neck or anywhere near a joint.”
Although he knows people who have put implants into foreheads to give the appearance of horns, he hasn’t had any customers make such a devilish appeal. In addition to his tats and ear gauges, Staub has a magnet implanted in his finger that is tied to his heart meridian. “It gives me an energy boost” and also “a sixth sense.”
The shop owner also teaches a class on how spirituality plays into a person’s desire for body art and believes that spiritual quality is a large part in the unusual body art trend. “I think more and more people are trying to get in touch with the spiritual realm and the body is the best way to achieve that,” Staub comments. “We did a tattoo of a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order — that’s a spiritual request.” Pain associated with needles or branding tools is also an element of a spiritual journey, a process of discovering “they are greater than the flesh,” he states.
But Staub says there are always those who seek to modify their bodies for reasons that are not as mystical — such as the macho man who wants to prove his masculinity or the maverick who just wants to stand out from the crowd.
Julie Castillo, an anthropology professor at Frederick Community College who has pierced ears, says body modification is “one of those things that varies incredibly from one society to another … one of the dangers in studying culture is when you want to assume that everyone is doing it for the same reason.”
She relates a popular story in the anthropology community about a Papua New Guinea man who was shown a photo of a Western woman with earrings piercing her lobes. He thought it was the strangest thing, and yet he had a bone through his nose. “He said that’s different, that’s ceremonial; it’s religious!” And in the case of New Zealand’s Maori tribesmen, their tattoos and other body modifications are for two distinct purposes — to look fierce in battle yet, at the same time, appear attractive when they come home from war looking for romance.
Improved sex appeal (at least in self perception if not in reality) provides a major motivation for bifurcating the tongue, Staub says, apparently under the theory that two tongues are better than one. “And for some, it’s a way to tap into their spirit animal, maybe a snake,” he notes. Plus, if you’re planning on a career as “Lizard Man” in the circus, “you have to have it done,” he says.
If the time comes when speaking with a forked tongue no longer seems as great an idea as it once did and you want to have the procedure undone, there’s Dr. Donald Kress, the Frederick plastic surgeon with a seahorse tattoo on his arm. The tattoo was inked by his art school graduate daughter, who later trained as a tattoo artist in order to pay her bills.
Kress gets requests “all the time” to have tattoos removed (a bit of free medical advice: “yellow and green are very hard to get off”) as well as fixing nasal piercings and attending to “young guys who have had ear gauges. They want to join the military, and the military won’t take you if you have them,” he says. Gauges, a type of body jewelry ring that stretches the earlobe, cost about $10; Kress charges around $300 for the 20- to 30-minute reversal surgery. “But if it’s blown out to where you can drop a carrot through the hole, it’s not going to be $300,” he warns.
As for elf ears, the surgeon says “they occur naturally in a percentage of the population,” and has used his skills to remove points. But he’s never seen a “self-created elf,” nor has he ever been asked to perform such a procedure. “They would have been turned away by the receptionist,” he states emphatically.
According to Kress, reversing a scar design might involve cutting out the raised skin or giving injections of steroids or a mild chemotherapy drug. Putting a tongue back together likely means opening the edges up again to “make a fresh wound, matching raw edge to raw edge,” he explains.
Brandon Alton, a piercer at Black Label Tattoo Co. and Body Piercing in Frederick, has ear gauges and can’t recall his number of piercings. He also says that the body modification trade is well established in the community. “There are six tattoo shops and nobody’s starving,” he observes. He sees many of the new offerings as “a fad, it all comes and goes,” but the bottom line is a satisfaction in providing a service that people seek for whatever reason, including that “it’s helping ugly people look prettier.”
Body Modification Sources
Black Label Tattoo Co. and Body Piercing
126 E. Patrick St., Frederick
Timebomb Tattooing and Piercing
342 N. Market St., Frederick
By Jeffrey B. Roth
In the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, Cuba was synonymous with the best cigars. Following the Communist takeover by Fidel Castro, the importation of Cuban cigars became illegal. Many former Cuban cigar makers fled the country and moved to the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and other parts of South America that had similar soils, temperature, humidity and rainfall. Today, the most sought after brands of premium cigars are made from South American, Indonesian and Philippine tobacco.
Cigars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from parejo or corona to robusto, pantelo toro and more. Hand-rolled premium cigars are composed of a wrapper, binder and the filler. The wrapper is made from the widest part of a tobacco leaf. The selection of the wrapper is extremely important, according to brothers David and Steve Castro, owners of Davidus Cigars.
The external wrapper is not only responsible for holding the entire cigar together, but also for a large portion of its character and flavor. The color or shade of the wrapper is often used to describe the type of cigar. There are more than 100 shades used by manufacturers, the seven most common of which are: double claro is slightly greenish; claro, yellow or very light tan; Colorado claro, medium brown; Colorado, distinctive reddish-brown; Colorado maduro, darker brown, often grown in Honduras, Nicaragua or Africa; Maduro, very dark brown, grown in Connecticut, Mexico, Nicaragua and Brazil; and oscuro, very black, sometimes called double maduro, grown in Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico and Connecticut.
Fillers are composed of wrapped bunches of leaves rolled up within the wrapper. Generally speaking, wrappers are comprised of a blend of tobaccos, from mild to strong flavors. According to the Castro brothers, higher end or premium cigar filler is made up of whole leaves rolled into a tube. The ends are then cut to match the cigar size required. Different filler leaves are often blended together by cigar makers to create unique tastes and flavors, much the same way a brewer or winemaker would approach a beverage. Long filler leaves are a sign of better quality cigars.
The binders are made of “elastic leaves” that hold together the filler bunches. Binders are often made from the larger, coarser leaves found at the bottom of the tobacco plant and chosen as wrappers, but were rejected due to holes, discoloration, blemishes and other quality control considerations.
A well-made cigar is one that’s firm, but not tight, and allows you to draw the smoke easily and consistently. While there are many factors that go into selecting a cigar – the construction, the filler blend, the wrapper, the country of origin and the reputation of the cigar maker – it’s a subjective choice. All factors contribute to the unique taste of a given cigar, the Castro brothers note.
For more information on cigars, visit www.davidus.com.
By Jeffrey B. Roth
The Castro brothers offer the luxury experience of premium cigar smoking
Eating and sleeping are the only activities that should be allowed to interrupt a man’s enjoyment of his cigar. – Mark Twain
Smoking a fine, premium cigar is a luxury and a form of relaxation that often involves social interaction with other aficionados.
Since the 1990s, there has been a renewed interest in cigar smoking as evidenced by the number of cigar bars and cigar lounges that have returned to the cultural milieu of the United States. In 1994, for the first time in a quarter century, cigar sales in the U.S. increased by 9.3 percent and climbed by another 9 percent in 1995, according to the Cigar Association of America. While 90 percent of all cigars sold are cheap, factory-produced brands, it is the more expensive, hand-rolled, premium cigars that have experienced the most growth in sales, according to figures from the Cigar Association of America.
David and Steve Castro, brothers and owners of Davidus Cigars Ltd., opened the first of seven Maryland cigar retail stores and Diamond Crown Cigar Lounge operations in 1996 on West Patrick Street in Frederick, making them the largest retailers of hand-rolled, 100 percent pure tobacco cigars in Maryland. Recently, they moved the Frederick store to its current location at 529 W. South St.
“When I was in the military, in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert, that’s all we had to do in the evenings was smoke and play cards,” recalls Steve Castro, a former U.S. Marine Corps major who piloted helicopters during the First Persian Gulf War. His brother David is a former stockbroker with the New York Stock Exchange. Born in Montgomery County, both brothers developed a passion for cigars.
“We both loved cigars,” David says. “Steve and I kept driving down to D.C. and other places to get cigars. We saw a need for a store in the area and decided to open one in Frederick.”
He explains that people unfamiliar with the culture of smoking premium cigars mistakenly lump premium cigars into the same category with cigarettes — but a premium cigar is a luxury item that can range in price from $4 to $30 per cigar.
The average customer only smokes two to three cigars per week, Steve says. It has more to do with culture than habit: the pleasure of smoking a premium cigar in a relaxing setting. Most of their customers are men ages 40 and older from all professions, blue collar to white collar. Many are current or former members of the military; a number are from the law enforcement and fire service professions. (Active military, police and firefighters receive a discount for purchases.) Women comprise a small part of their customer base, but unlike the early and mid-20th century, it is not as unusual today for a woman to enjoy a fine cigar, he notes.
The types of blends are continually changing, a process that’s similar to the wine business in that respect, observes David. The Castros learned the business by educating themselves on every aspect, ranging from how to choose the right blend of tobacco to how to discern all the components of hand-rolled cigars.
“The biggest challenge when we first started was finding the product,” David says. “Everything in our industry is hand rolled. We wanted to deal with the best vendors, so we went on the road and formed partnerships with the best brands. We went to the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Ecuador to meet growers and vendors.”
Davidus Cigars features its own lines of specialty premium cigars created by the brothers. Castro Brothers brands include Gold, Vanilla, Corojo Especial and Blue Ridge Maduro. They also offer a line of Civil War-inspired cigars named after that conflict’s famous local sites, such as Antietam, Monocacy and Fredericktowne. Other lines include Isabella, Hobson’s Choice Sapphire, Hobson’s Choice Triple Wrapper and Hobson’s Choice Double Wrapper (named after Hobson’s Estate where Steve now lives).
Their latest product consists of Breakfast Bliss cigars. “Last summer, I went down to South America because I had an idea for a breakfast cigar,” Steve says. “A lot of guys like to start off the day with a cigar in the morning, but they want something that is mild, not too strong – a cigar which allows them to taste the cigar but still taste the coffee. We worked for three days trying out different blends of tobacco. We came up with a box and a label and started producing it.”
To enhance the cigar smoking experience, each Davidus Cigars store has its own lounge. The 2,500-square-foot Annapolis store has the largest lounge of all the locations. Each one offers a clubby atmosphere with comfortable chairs, couches and a large, flat screen TV. The Annapolis lounge also features a pool table.
The stores also host events on occasion, David notes. In the past, they’ve conducted a Cigar 101 educational program designed to instruct cigar novitiates on how to choose, cut and smoke a cigar. They also provided training on the optimal storage conditions, which, according to David, is 70 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent humidity.
Upon entering the controlled-atmosphere cigar stock rooms, the distinct smell of cedar, combined with the semisweet aroma of rich tobacco, greets customers. Of course, each store also sells a variety of humidors, including the classic cedar box style, cigar cutters and other accessories. All of the company’s 40 employees are themselves experts in premium cigars, Steve says.
For more information on Davidus Cigars, visit www.davidus.com.
By Michael Vyskocil
It used to be that Budweiser and Coors Light were names synonymously linked with the cold ones you knocked down in between innings at the ballpark or during your own at-home happy hour. Now there are Belgian-style ales and other types of craft beer attracting attention among beer enthusiasts. And thanks to the efforts of individuals like Brian Strumke, people are sitting up in their easy chairs and taking notice.
Strumke, the founder of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, is the equivalent of a musical conductor. Although he has a musical background, Strumke now spends his days dealing in barley and hops, rather than bass clefs and half notes. The 35-year-old brewmaster concocts hand-crafted, Belgian-inspired beers. He calls Baltimore his home, but you won’t find a Stillwater Ales production facility in Charm City. That’s because Strumke, a self-described “gypsy brewer,” prefers to work with some of the world’s renowned brewers to transform raw ingredients into ales that defy strict categorization. He’s worked with some 25 different breweries in the past 2 1/2 years he’s been in the beer business. This year, he was ranked 58th in the top 1,000 best brewers in the world by ratebeer.com.
A self-taught home brewer who stepped up to the big leagues of the beer industry, Strumke is in the process of opening his first Baltimore business venture, a market and tavern called Of Love & Regret, to showcase the best of artisanal, craft beers.
Contract brewing, or renting another individual’s tanks to produce beer, poses unique challenges for brewers. Because of the inability to keep watch over the product during its fermentation and conditioning, one has to rely on individuals to carefully monitor the investment. And that’s fine as far as Strumke is concerned. “I didn’t have a million dollars to build a brewery. I don’t know how to weld. I don’t know how to fix the glycol system,” he says, noting that he also didn’t want to brew someone else’s beer as an apprentice.
“Getting into brewing was kind of like scratching my creative itch,” he says. “I wanted to create original beers. I wanted them to be an expression of what’s going on with me.”
Strumke’s discerning eye for quality is evident in his selection of breweries he chooses to work with. Take his Of Love & Regret, for instance – a creation brewed at ’tHofboruwerijke in Beerzel, Belgium. He brews in the saison (farmhouse-style) tradition with the addition of unusual ingredients like lavender and chamomile, dandelion and violets. But don’t think these ales are like a dose of herbal tea. The subtle undertones of the ingredients contribute to the overall aromatic quality and hearty flavor of the ales.
The complexity of flavor, moderate alcohol content and a crisp finish are some of the distinctive features of Stillwater Ales products.
When Strumke is in the U.S. (he recently returned from a brewing expedition in France when he sat down for a discussion with the Frederick Gorilla at Frederick’s Volt Restaurant), his choices for breweries are also local. DOG Brewing Co. of Westminster, Maryland, brews his aptly-named Stateside series of beers.
Beers in a Rocky Market
The Brewers Association, an organization made up of more than 1,400 brewery members, reported that in 2010, beer sales were down in the U.S. by an estimated 1.2 percent and 1.3 percent in 2011. But during that same period, the craft brewing industry rose 13 percent by volume and 15 percent in dollar amounts in 2011.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that with the variety of styles and flavors to choose from, Americans are developing a strong taste for high quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers,” says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association.
Most beer introductory manuals will identify saison as a type or style of beer, but Strumke views his own beers as transcending a specific style. He also says that beer rankings, such as those by ratebeer.com, beeradvocate.com and others, are just that – rankings. “If you’re putting a product or something out there for the public, it’s going to be judged and you’re going to be open to criticism,” he says. “Not everybody is a proper judge, but that’s life. I’d still be doing what I’m doing with or without the rankings.”
A Sip of Saison
Stateside Saison was the first beer Strumke and Stillwater introduced to the market. It’s made with the finest European malts and incorporates hops from New Zealand. Saison is fermented using a traditional farmhouse style of ale yeast.
Then there’s A Saison Darkly, an ale that takes its cues from its deep, dark color. This beer contains slight hints of flavors imparted by the addition of rose hips, hibiscus and Schisandra berries.
Débutante resulted from collaboration between Stillwater Ales and The Brewer’s Art, a Baltimore-based institution that, according to Strumke, “helped to pioneer the Belgian beer movement in the States.” Brewed with both spelt and rye, it also incorporates flavors of the “h trio” – heather, honeysuckle and hyssop.
Strumke’s labels are also unique and an embodiment of his brewing style. His Existent label, for instance, bears an image of and a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Call it a social commentary on Strumke’s approach to the world of craft beers. “This is an ale for you to define,” he says.
Did You Know?
The Farm Brewery Manufacturer’s License Bill was introduced into the Maryland state legislature earlier this year. The bill will allow Maryland farmers to acquire a permit allowing them to brew and sell as much as 15,000 barrels of beer per year from their farm. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law on May 22. The bill goes into effect July 1. Learn more about the provisions of the bill here: http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/bills/hb/hb1126t.pdf
By Michael Vyskocil
Photography by Troy Dean
Hey, you. What’s your favorite vice? No, we’re not talking about reruns of Miami Vice. From beer and boats to shopping and sports, most of us indulge in at least one leisure activity subject to being labeled a “vice.” Beginning with this issue of the Frederick Gorilla, we’ll explore some aspect of popular vices through our Add’Vice department.
In this issue, we investigate the world of artisanal craft beers with Brian Strumke, founder of Stillwater Artisanal Ales. Strumke has been described as the “gypsy brewer” of the beer domain; his creations are crafted in breweries across the world — no small feat for this self-taught brewmaster. Strumke’s influence on beer and brewing has attracted the attention of individuals who have set aside their six packs of Bud, Coors and Miller in favor of ales laced with the flavors of chamomile, oak chips, violets, and, yes, even Old Bay Seasoning.
Strumke recently sat down with the Frederick Gorilla at Frederick’s Volt Restaurant to discuss his brewing philosophy at Stillwater Ales.
A caramel color rises in the glass, erupting in a sea of foam at the mouth. Beyond that malty flavor is something quite peculiar – a hint of rose hips, hibiscus and Schisandra berries. These
ingredients make up the alchemy that is A Saison Darkly, a craft beer formulated by master brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales. These craft beers are in a class of their own, elevated beyond the canned classics commonly available at liquor stores and the discount beer warehouses.
Described by some as the gypsy or vagabond brewer (he doesn’t own his own brewery) with a desire to work with brewers across the country and the world, Strumke, 35, of Baltimore, has produced beers that could rival ales produced by Belgian’s best breweries. In the span of 2 1/2 years, Strumke has created a virtual cult classic of sorts for those who seek to imbibe in a vice of luxury with a bottle of one of his brews.
While this might seem unusual given the recent economic recession that’s plagued the country for the past several years, Strumke feels that beer has become “the affordable luxury.”
“Wines became pricey. If you want the very best bottle of wine, you’re not going to get that for $20,” he says.
And the beer industry has capitalized on serving a growing market of craft beer. According to the Brewers Association, an organization
representing craft beer producers and distributors, craft brewing grew by 13 percent in volume and 15 percent in revenue in 2011. An estimated 11,468,152 barrels of craft brews flowed in 2011, the association reports.
Craft beers have also proven themselves worthy of making their way to the dinner table, says Graeme Ritche, Executive Sous Chef for Volt Restaurant. Ritchie notes that, much like wine pairings, the flavors of craft beers can be used to either complement or contrast the flavors in foods.
And Strumke, for that matter, approaches a beer much like a chef approaches a recipe – with careful consideration of the ingredients
being used. This connection has prompted a rise in beer and food pairings (see sidebar), a trend noted by Megan Krigbaum, an associate editor at Food & Wine. “Finally people are coming around
to this idea that beer has a place on the dining table,” Krigbaum notes.
Strumke’s Stillwater beers are complex creations of beermaking alchemy. While some, like his Existent – a dark ale redolent with the
bittersweet tones of earthy hops and a roasted coffee-like flavor – are brewed fairly locally (DOG Brewing in Westminster), others like his A Saison Darkly are brewed at places like the Huisbrouweij
Sint Canarus in Gottem, Belgium.
The idea, Strumke notes, is to make each beer its own art form, a unique expression from him. “I make beer for myself first, and then I share it with other people,” Strumke says of his products.
Take Strumke’s Premium, for example. Brewed with Pilsner malt, corn and rice with Cluster, Northern Brewer and Saaz hops, it’s fermented with a farmhouse strain of yeast and two strains of brettanomyces (a type of yeast strain) to yield a “post Prohibition” style of beer that weighs in at 4.5 percent ABV (alcohol by volume).
The mélange of flavors, colors and aromas creates a brew that is unlike any mass-produced beer on the market. Yet the acquired tastes of these craft beers can take some getting used to.
For those uninitiated to the styles of these craft style beers, Strumke suggests attending beer events and beer tasting venues.
“Find out where your palate is at and what you like. Even I have some I like more than others,” he says.
–The Frederick Gorilla’s Mike Beatty, Troy Dean and Matt Livelsberger contributed to this story.
Learn more about Brian Strumke and Stillwater Artisanal Ales in the Web Exclusives section of frederickgorilla.com.
Indulge Your Vice
The Gorilla asked Stillwater Artisanal Ales owner Brian Strumke and Volt Restaurant Executive Sous Chef Graeme Ritchie to create their ideal pairings of Stillwater brews and food.
Table Beer – 4.7 “Dry, hoppy, not too bitter”; pairs well with goat cheese,sashimi and ceviche
Cellar Door – boasts a base of German wheat and pale malt with accents of Sterling and Citra hops and white sage; pairs well with almost any dish, including salads and poultry
Stateside Saison – Stillwater’s flagship ale brewed with European malts and hops from the United States and New Zealand and fermented with classic farmhouse style strains of yeast; pairs well with creamier-based dishes such as foie gras
Existent – dark farmhouse beer that “looks like one thing, smells and tastes like another” and contains an earthy hops flavor with a mildly roasted aroma; pairs well with red meat dishes, particularly game
Folklore – big Belgian stout flavor with aromas of Belgian yeast and earthy-flavored hops; pairs well with decadent desserts like chocolate torte
Debutante – contains a combination of spelt rye with accents of honeysuckle, heather and hyssop; pairs well with desserts such as panna cotta
Chef and restaurateur Bryan Voltaggio is bringing another restaurant to Frederick. The diner will be called Family Meal and will offer a modern take on the classic diner. Located at 880 N. East St., the establishment is slated for opening in early June.
Check the Web Exclusives area of www.frederickgorilla.com for updates on the opening, dinner specials and the beer selection
on tap at the Family Meal.
Purchasing Stillwater Ales
Of Love & Regret
Stillwater Artisanal Ales
1028 S. Conkling St., Baltimore
Opening this summer
Frederick Wine House
Clemson Corner Shopping Center
7820 Wormans Mill Rd., Suite L, Frederick
Ye Olde Spirit Shop
1005 W. 7th St., Frederick
For more information on Stillwater or Brian Strumke, visit the Stillwater Artisanal Ales blog.