Thursday, August 25, 2016

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: August 25 - August 31

No doggin' it on the beer events calendar here as we try to kick the dog days of summer outta here. Ready for your next installment of beer events around Philly? Have at it!

As you review beer events, don't forget They host an impressive listing of beer event draft lists to help better inform your beer event planning.

Click through here for a look at the full monthly calendar of beer events around the Philadelphia region.

Ardmore, Pa.
Thu. 8/25; 5 p.m. — Summer Flavors Beer Series at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant [Join us as we release Paper Cut, a Blood Orange Berliner.  $PAYG]

Doylestown, Pa.
Sat. 8/27; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. — Fonthill Castle Beer Fest at Fonthill Castle [Sample high quality drafts from 25+ local and regional breweries pared with light fare and music in the beautiful outdoor setting of Fonthill Castle.  $25-$100]

Exton, Pa.
Fri. 8/26; 4 p.m.-6 p.m. — Lancaster Sampling at Exton Beverage Company [Tasting samples of beers from Lancaster Brewing.  $Free]

Huntingdon Valley, Pa.
Fri. 8/26; 5 p.m.-9 p.m. — Summer Crush Beer Release at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant [Say goodbye to summer with the release of Summer Crush, the delicious Grapefruit Hefeweizen. Our version of a German Radler, blended with Rio Red grapefruit juice for a refreshing summer treat.  $PAYG]

Lancaster, Pa.
Thu. 8/25; 5 p.m. — Highway Manor Launch Party at Hunger N Thirst [Head brewer Johnnie Compton will be in the house to discuss his process along with six of their beers on draft.  $PAYG]
Sat. 8/27; 3 p.m. — Diplomat Dunkel 2016 Beer Release at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant [Join us as we celebrate Franklin & Marshall’s move in weekend with the release of Diplomat Dunkel.  $PAYG]
Sat. 8/27; 3 p.m.-7:30 p.m. — Lancaster Craft Beerfest at Lancaster Square & Binns Park [We use the entire block surrounding Lancaster Square and Binns Park as the beer garden. You can drink, eat, and listen to music all in one place.  $12-$55]

North Wales, Pa.
Thu. 8/25; 5 p.m. — Summer Flavors Beer Series at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant [Join us as we release Paper Cut, a Blood Orange Berliner.  $PAYG]

Perkasie, Pa.
Sun. 8/28; 12 p.m.-7 p.m. — Sour Sunday at Free Will Brewing Company in Exton, Pa. [10+ sour and wild beers on tap. Fan favorite Taza Egyptian Cuisine will be here, serving up some stellar dishes. Plus, rumor has it we may even do a bottle release of something super awesome just because we can.  $PAYG]

Philadelphia, Pa.
Thu. 8/25 through Sun. 8/28; Times vary — Brooklyn-Philly Mash Tour at Various locations  in Philadelphia, Pa. [A beer dinner. A concert. A mansion event. A neighborhood community event.  $Varies]
Thu. 8/25; 7 p.m. — Ballast Point's 20th Anniversary at City Tap House-Logan Circle in Philadelphia, Pa. [Come out to enjoy 20 of Ballast Point's best draughts including never before distributed beers.  $PAYG]
Thu. 8/25; 5 p.m.-8 p.m. — Newport Storm Happy Hour at Taproom on 19th in Philadelphia, Pa. [Rhode Island's finest craft brewery is coming down our way and sharing three of their best beers with us for an extended Happy Hour.  $PAYG]
Thu. 8/25; 7 p.m. — Sole Draft Event at Jon's Bar & Grille in Philadelphia, Pa. [Featuring Euro Spliff, Kushy Clouds, Giant Juicebox, Muur, and Gypsy Tears.  $PAYG]
Fri. 8/26; 3 p.m.-6 p.m. — Harpoon Sampling at Bell Beverage [Tasting samples of beers from Harpoon.  $Free]
Sat. 8/27; 4 p.m.-7 p.m. — Craft Beer CarnivAle with Manayunk & Wyndridge at Hop Angel Brauhaus [Games and attractions including a fortune teller and more. No cover. Fun for the whole family.   $PAYG]
Sat. 8/27; 5 p.m.-11 p.m. — Brooklyn Brewery Beer Mansion at Mount Pleasant Museum [Come with us on an immersive multi-room journey through the gorgeous Mt. Pleasant Mansion in its first party in years and explore the foibles and oddities of the wide world of beer. Get ready for food, music and beer from Yards, Brooklyn, Forest & Main, Sly Fox, Evil Genius and St. Benjamin Brewing Company.  $20]
Mon. 8/29; 6 p.m.-8 p.m. — Bottle Shop Happy Hour at Local 44 [Tasting samples of beers from Manayunk Brewing.  $Free]
Wed. 8/31; 7 p.m.-9 p.m. — Keep the Glass Night with Double Nickel at Hop Angel Brauhaus [Located a stones throw from Tacony Palmyra Bridge, and named for its old nickname, Double Nickel is one of the Philly metro area's newest breweries.   $PAYG]

Phoenixville, Pa.
Fri. 8/19; All Day — Third Friday Firkin Fest at Sly Fox Brewing Company [Stop by the Brewhouse & Eatery to see which delicious brews will be on the hand pumps next to our stalwart Chester County Bitter.  $PAYG]

Quakertown, Pa.
Sat. 8/20; 12 p.m.-5 p.m. — Upper Bucks Brewfest at Quakertown Train Station [The Upper Bucks Brewfest was created by Quakertown Alive! in 2013 as a fundraising event to help support the revitalization efforts in downtown Quakertown.  $10-$70]

Reading, Pa.
Thu. 8/25; 5 p.m.-10 p.m. — New Belgium Sour Ales & Charcuterie Pairing at Liberty Taproom [We will have four sour ales on draft from New Belgium including: La Folie, Transatlantic Kriek, Tart Lychee and a very limited fourth offering.  $PAYG]

Voorhees, NJ
Thu. 8/25; 6 p.m.-8 p.m. — Summer Beer Month Series at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant [Start your weekend right with the release of a special one-off keg, the Mango Bedotter.  $PAYG]

Wilmington, Del.
Thu. 8/25; 5 p.m.-8 p.m. — Allagash Tap Takeover at Ulysses Gastropub [Come check out one of the country's finest and the pride of Maine, Allagash Brewing Company.  $PAYG]

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Writing This Ship: Part 6 - Beer Lover's Mid-Atlantic; update and more to come

It's now been over two years since I finalized the first draft of my book - Beer Lover's Mid-Atlantic - for submission to the editors at the publishing house. And fifteen months since it was released. Very hard to believe how long it's been. In the intervening months, I've had 56 appearances at book signing events in bookstores, bike shops, Beer Weeks, markets, festivals, breweries, and bars from Pittsburgh to Baltimore to Philly and small towns in between.

And while I'm certainly not pushing the book as hard as I had in the first year of its release, I'm looking at a few events in the next couple of months around the Philly/South Jersey area.

Next week, first up is a return visit to Open Book Bookstore in Elkins Park, Pa. This was the site of a very successful "after-hours" tasting, talking, and signing where a few dozen or so beer fans came out for the book and a beer tasting.

On Thursday, September 1, join me and the staff at Open Book. I'll bring some bottles/growlers of beer; you feel free to do the same.

Oh, and as a bit of BTW, one of my unabashed points of pride in the book project was the due diligence that I put into vetting the establishments to be included in the book. It was never set out to be an all-encompassing directory of every beer and brewing establishment. Rather, the more significant and interesting ones in PA, NJ, MD, and DE. The original list of roughly 500 places was whittled down to 379 in-person visits and just shy of 320 were ultimately included in the book.

I bring this up because book's of a nature like mine (i.e. guidebook-ish) can tend to be viewed as outdated after a period of time. But, after nearly two years since finalizing the manuscript (and in the spirit of full disclosure), the following is a list of closed establishments that were included in the book.

  - Twin Lakes (chapter 1; Northern Delaware) - Open. Maybe? Doing (have done?) decent stuff. Then some drama on the Dupont Farm Property leaves Twin Lakes closed and without a home. Reportedly are back up and running in Newport, Del. I need to follow-up on this.

  - Always Ron's (chapter 4; Other Maryland) - Very popular place doing great stuff as a proponent of "better beer" and they were also a "Raven's Nest". But, after ten years, ultimately sounds like it came down to the owners being ready to just go off and do something different.

  - Baying Hound (chapter 4; Other Maryland) - Even though I didn't have a 100% warm-and-fuzzy about them, their trajectory seemed strong enough and in the right direction that I was a bit surprised by the closure announcement. Sounded like a "time-to-get-out-of-it" decision sort of like Boaks in northern New Jersey - on the other hand, one that I did have a gut feeling would eventually run out of steam.

  - Gamble Mill (chapter 8; Central Pennsylvania) - They've been looking to sell as a turn key brewing establishment, but that time might be running short. Sounds like the locals were fans and disappointed to see them go. Such a beautiful historic property so I'm surprised a deal hasn't been done yet. But that's me on the outside looking in.

  - Barren Hill (chapter 9; Philadelphia suburbs) - Unfortunately, the collateral damage of a divorce. Apparently has been sold and a new brewing establishment is set to take over the property in 2017.

  - 34 East (chapter 9; Philadelphia suburbs) - This was just a short blurb included in the "Ambler Pub Crawl". Didn't have any real attachment to the place, but if any of the places on the list for Ambler could have been dropped without regret, it would have been this one.

  - Nodding Head (chapter 10; Philadelphia) - I included them if for no other reason than the role they, and owner Curt Decker, have played over more than 15 years even though I knew they were closing/relocating. Question is: are they still reopening? Thanks to Philly Brewing, you can still find select Nodding Head brews around town.

Finally, I'm very happy to report the following that are included in my book that since experienced setbacks and challenges have recovered.

  - Judge's Bench (chapter 4; Other Maryland) - Nothing catastrophic happened at this excellent bar in Ellicott City compared to the rest of the town during the epic flood, but they had their own issues and cleanup to deal with before reopening more than three weeks later (update: that'd be today, Aug. 24)

  - Quarry House Tavern (chapter 4; Other Maryland) - The wonderful subterranean dive bar was a victim of flooding from a fire in the upstairs Indian restaurant in March 2015. They've been operating a temporary "pop-up" type of QHT across the street since then and have had great support from their industry brethren and consumers alike. I need a local confirmation of their reopening status in the original location.

  - Blue Canoe (chapter 7; Western PA) - Another devastating fire in an adjoining property, this one also in March 2015. Took a while to re-open a year later in March 2016, but along the way, experienced the tremendous support from their fellow brewers in the NW PA brewing scene.

In a future posting, I'll look at some forward-looking statements that were made about brewery expansions, openings, etc and see how they panned out. We'll see which ones I concluded were legitimate enough to include and which ones I more/less got snookered into including.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Writing This Ship: Part 5 - Burgers, Beers, and Yards at Shake Shack

(Shake Shack in University City, Philadelphia from Drexel University across Chestnut Street.)

This Shake Shack model seems to be working, you think? Last week the company opened its 100th location (in Boston) and the same night in Philadelphia they worked with Doug Mashington from Yards Brewing Company to put on a beer dinner featuring some of both company's finest.

(Four courses of Yards beer and Shake Shack sandwiches.)

As a testament to both Yards' and Shake Shack's popularity and drawing power, around 60 pre-ticketed reservations had been made at the restaurant's University City location. Given the number of beer events that dot the calendar and landscape these days, that's quite an impressive showing without a doubt for a sticky Tuesday night in August?

First up was the High Heat Dog with cherry peppers, cheese sauce, and crinkle fries. The Yards IPA, a beer that's been inexcusably off my radar for some time, did a mighty fine job cutting through the cheese sauce.

The second course featured Yards' ESA, darker and more malty than I ever recall. Yet, in this way, was perfect aside the Bacon CheddarShack - an Angus Beer burger topped not just with Wisconsin aged Cheddar, but also smoked Niman Ranch bacon. This was my comfort food course. The fourth course was a beer float made with Yards Love Stout. It was fine, but maybe that was because I was still riding the high of the third course.

The third course pairing of the relatively new Chick'n Shack (with an herbed buttermilk mayo and generous layer of pickles) stole the night as it was paired perfectly with the Philadelphia Pale Ale. Mashington said something to the effect of "...what more do I need to say about Philly Pale?" On paper, the description read " more drinkable than bitter, more aromatic than aggressive". I couldn't agree more and only left me wondering which was superior - the tender chicken sandwich or "the city's" 4.6% ABV pale ale.

Oh, and for my Philadelphia locals, you might already be aware that the 101st location has landed inside the new addition to the King of Prussia Mall.

(Hot dog and IPA)

(Burger and ESA)

(Chicken and Philly Pale)

(Chicken and Philly Pale)

(Love Stout beer float)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Writing This Ship: Part 4 - The Grey Lodge turns 20

(New tile work at Grey Lodge Pub)

Six beer events and one concert in barely two weeks is sure a lot for an aging guy. An aging beer guy like me, though, knows no quit but getting caught up around here continues to be quite a challenge. There's still a lot of beer-y goodness out there, despite many cries of growing mediocrity. My job is to point you in the direction of quality new stuff happening as well as those that continue to do it well through the years.

(Panel discussion with, from left - Nancy Rigberg; Gene Muller; William Reed; Brian O'Reilly; Lew Bryson; and Scoats)

Grey Lodge Pub in Philadelphia falls into the latter grouping. Last Saturday, August 13, owner Mike "Scoats" Scotese and his team celebrated the legendary bar's 20th anniversary. The party began in the afternoon with a panel of folks that were part of the beer scene twenty years ago. In the video below, from left to right, you'll see Nancy Rigberg (Home Sweet Home Brew store), Gene Muller (founder of Flying Fish), William Reed (co-owner of Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda's restaurants, as well as President of Philly Beer Week), Brian O'Reilly (Brewmaster of Sly Fox Brewing Company), and Lew Bryson (renowned beer and whiskey writer). The panel discussion lasted for approximately 45 minutes and covered both the serious and the silly. The ten minutes I included below capture Scoats' introduction of each panelist.

(New tile work at Grey Lodge Pub featuring annual special events)

(New tile work at Grey Lodge Pub featuring annual special events)

For the oft-decorated bar ("Best bar" this, "Best bar" that) that has built a reputation of having some of the most uniquely themed events through the years (many coinciding with the calendar - 1/20 Day; Groundhog Day; 4/20 Day; Xmas in July; Beer/Deer Season; etc.), this 20th anniversary celebration was rather tame by comparison. A fun, but thoughtful, look back over the last 20 years by the panel. A gathering of familiar faces telling stories of firkinteenths and groundhog days past. A special (but special-as-always) draft beer list. Live music. And an extended kitchen out front on Frankford Avenue. No Hawaiian shirts, feats of strength bar games, or other hilarity that typically ensues. But, maybe just maybe that's another part of the secret to the success of the Grey Lodge - no need for a huge, over-the-top, attention-grabbing celebration event. They've already got the regional (and neighborhood) beer loving public's attention at the quintessential neighborhood Philly bar. Congratulations again to the whole Grey Lodge team and thanks for all the beers.

p.s. This could be the most useless post script to share with you. Though, if you should ever by chance again see the kitchen serving up a special deer sausage sandwich with mushrooms and onions (and presuming you're not giving the vegan lifestyle a try), do not turn it down. It was one of the menu items being cooked up by the chef on the front sidewalk and I took one along for the ride down the Boulevard. One of the most excellent things I've had to eat; a touch of irony that this came the day prior to the S.E.E.D. Vegan Food and Beer Festival that I shared with you yesterday.

(Brewing buds, Jon Defibaugh-Evil Genius and Ben Potts-Tired Hands)

(Slideshow memories. Casey Hughes, formerly of Flying Fish, now with Coppertail in Tampa, Fla.)

(Yours truly with Gene Muller, Flying Fish founder)

(Live music into the evening)

(Crowd swelling into the dinnertime hour at Grey Lodge's 20th Anniversary Party)

(No matter the attribution controversy, still a very nice sentiment)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Writing This Ship: Part 3 - Philly S.E.E.D. Festival, August 14, 2016 - Vegans can come to the party too

Attend a beer festival or beer pairing dinner lately? If so, you're no doubt familiar with the culinary tendency to pair beer (deservedly so, I might add) with all types of animal-related food items. If you, like me, resemble nothing of a 100% dedicated vegan lifestyle, then you have had the pleasures of beer paired with everything from beef to pork to fish and wild game to cheese, eggs, and on and on.

The point of this posting, however, is not to get into the political fray around animal-friendly practices. Rather to open our eyes a bit wider on the merits of pairing beer with non-animal based food and the potential for the satisfying experience that results.

Enter the Philly S.E.E.D. festival (Sustainable Everyday Edibles & Drinkables) that I was invited to on August 14 at the Sugarhouse Casino along Philadelphia's Delaware River waterfront. The invitation immediately piqued my curiosity because I couldn't recall hearing of such a thing in the Philly region in the past. Co-organizer Ryan Mullins-Hudak confirmed that there are "...some vegan festivals on the west coast...and one in NYC, but certainly nothing like it in the area". Not just as a curious food seeker, but also as a runner, I'm always open to new ideas for fueling my body with foods of any kind that yield optimal results. Particularly of interest to me are the ones that have positive impact on the environment, the animal kingdom, and, well, simply offer a different option than the tried and true.

As it turned out, on an oppressively hot and humid dog day of August, inside a casino with super-charged air conditioning at a beer festival was the perfect place to be. With the tasting tables and live music setup in the casino's event space far away from the gaming floor and with a sweeping view of the Delaware River and the Ben Franklin Bridge, one would be hard-pressed to remember that the festival was taking place inside a casino.

The organizers had an impressive lineup of beverage options from breweries (Allagash, Broken Goblet, Conshohocken, Evil Genius, Firestone Walker, Forgotten Boardwalk, Great Lakes, Neshaminy Creek, Oskar Blues, Peak Organic, Samuel Adams, St. Benjamin, Saranac, 2nd Story, Sly Fox, Stone, and Weyerbacher), wines from Breakthru Beverage, cideries like 1911 Hard Cider, kombucha brewers like Baba's Brew, and coffee roasters. Fortunately, our winnings at the casino downstairs were enough to cover our $50 of coffee-related purchases from the Bowie, Md.-based Brewing Good Coffee Company. Great backstory, coffee, and charitable business growth plan. So much so that we passed the story along to our niece in Seattle, where they send their coffee to exactly one location.

The beer, for many who have asked, is already technically vegan is it not? Well, at many breweries, yes, but not technically in certain cases. While not as prevalent a practice as it used to be, beers that are fined - or filtered - using Isinglass (aka fish guts), while not leaving animal matter behind to speak of, are not considered vegan by the most strict of those that practice. And there are beers considered maybe more experimental in nature, such as those adding roasted goat brains or rocky mountain oysters, that no doubt fall outside the vegan classification, but those are certainly more so the extreme exception rather than the rule.

So in that way, the S.E.E.D. festival to me was more about the creative food items being served (and finding beers to pair them with) rather than learning about a "vegan beer". This concept seemed to work well and the event appeared (judging from comments both overheard and directed to me) to be attended by a rather balanced amount of both strict vegans and non-vegans. It would seem to work better next year, however, to guide the attendees into suggested pairings where the food and beverage tables are positioned next to each other similar to the proven Brewer's Plate approach. In the first year of this festival, while laid out comfortably in the event space in addition to an outdoor patio overlooking the river, it was up to the attendees to hopscotch between beverage and food vendors to find the best pairings. I'm looking forward to even more pairing selections as they promise to learn from mistakes this year and grow larger and better next year.

I was able to find a handful of pairings that were satisfyingly flavorful and, served at a party, would not leave you hungry. Suzy Woods from Allagash was pouring the new year-round cage-and-cork bottled Sixteen Counties (the name refers to the brewery's ingredient sourcing practices from farms around the sixteen counties of Maine) and the herbaceous and hop-forward nature of the beer paired nicely with cups of curry from Shankara Vegan Restaurant. The Mushroom Crostini with Rosemary Lemon Cashew Cream also did well with the Allagash beer.

Over by the St. Benjamin table, the brewery's kitchen was serving up chips and salsa that complemented the easy-drinking Bayside Saison. They also brought a personal favorite, the Foul Weather Jack English Mild, whose light roasty malt notes went beautifully with Soy Cafe's potato-based mac 'n' cheese.

Desserts were not to be left out of the vegan options either. In this case, I was able to track down a chocolate and salted pistachio cookie from Love Chunk which went quite nicely with Broken Goblet's Yin Yang Oatmeal Stout. This was inexcusably my first taste of Broken Goblet's beers, which somehow have escaped me (and a visit to the Bristol location) since they opened nearly two years ago.

Going out a winner in more ways than one, Patty and I won $52 on the slot machines after the festival, had a credit for free food (we chose Taconelli's storied pizza, which I was surprised to learn had a spot inside the casino), and parked for free. What a day!

(Enter the casino and up to private event space to Philly's first vegan food and beer festival)

(A room spacious enough to hold a crowd of a few hundred)

(Broken Goblet, Conshohocken, Firestone Walker, and Evil Genius sharing their goods)

(Allagash and 1911 Hard Cider)

(Ivy Hunter traded in her Victory employee shirt for the day to help David Bronstein at Forgotten Boardwalk's table)

(Jackie Cusack representing St. Benjamin)

(Sly Fox - the first brewery seen through the event's entryway)

(S.E.E.D. - Sustainable Everyday Edibles & Drinkables)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: August 18 - August 24

Here comes the weekly calendar of beer events again. You ready?

As you review beer events, don't forget They host an impressive listing of beer event draft lists to help better inform your beer event planning.

Click through here for a look at the full monthly calendar of beer events around the Philadelphia region.

Croydon, Pa.
Fri. 8/19; 7 p.m.-10 p.m. — Run To The Pils / Scream For Me Dortmunder Release Party featuring Stainless Maiden at Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company [This 5.2% ABV straw yellow pale lager is crisp, dry, and dry hopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops giving it a ton of lemon zest and citrus aroma that’s absolutely crushable. The second beer is Scream for Me Dortmunder, a 5.4% pale lager brewed in the Export style.  $PAYG]
Sat. 8/20; 2 p.m.-6 p.m. — NCBC GABF Pro-Am Beer Release Party at Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company [Two weeks ago we brewed Joel’s hoppy red ale and to celebrate it’s release we’re throwing a party for all the local homebrew clubs to enjoy.  $PAYG]

Exton, Pa.
Thu. 8/18; 5 p.m. — Stone Tap Takeover at The Drafting Room in Exton, Pa. [Featuring Stone Mocha IPA, Stone RuinTen Triple IPA, Who You Callin' Wussie Pilsner, and Farking Wheaton W00tstout.  $PAYG]
Fri. 8/19; 4 p.m.-6 p.m. — Dark Horse Sampling at Exton Beverage Company [Tasting samples of beers from Dark Horse.  $Free]

Gettysburg, Pa.
Sat. 8/20; 2:30 p.m.-7 p.m. — Gettysburg Brew Fest at Lutheran Theological Seminary [Begin your experience with an impressive cannonade, then enjoy the finest craft beers and hard ciders ever assembled in Gettysburg– over 150 beers and ciders from 50 of the top brewers in the U.S.  $20-$70]

Lancaster, Pa.
Fri. 8/19; 5 p.m. — Columbia Kettle Works Tap Takeover at Isaac's Pickle Bar [All taps will be from Columbia Kettle Works, August's Featured Brewery.  $PAYG]

Media, Pa.
Thu. 8/18; 5 p.m.-7 p.m. — Rivertowne at Pinocchio's [Beers from Rivertowne.  $PAYG]

Perkasie, Pa.
Sat. 8/20; 12 p.m.-7 p.m. — Freshie Fresh Hopped IPA Release at Free Will Brewing Company [Featuring local hops from Sunny Brae Hops and local malt from Deer Creek Malthouse.  $PAYG]

Philadelphia, Pa.
Thu. 8/18; 3 p.m.-10 p.m. — PBW Presents: Beer Garden & Tailgate at Evil Genius Brewing Company in Philadelphia, Pa. [Philly Beer Week personalities will man the PAYG taps, serving as special guest bartenders and selling $10 grab bags filled with all the best beer swag and one-of-a-kind prizes we could gather. Plus, plenty of photo opportunities with the Hammer of Glory.  $PAYG]
Fri. 8/19; 3 p.m.-6 p.m. — Fat Head's Sampling at Bell Beverage [Tasting samples of beers from Fat Head's.  $Free]
Fri. 8/19 through Sun. 8/21; Hours vary — Pop-Up Brew Garden Strikes Back at Evil Genius Beer Company [Join Evil Genius Beer Company and Home Brewed Events as we host the third weekend of pop-up events at the new brewery opening soon in Philly! The Evil Genius Brew Garden is family and dog friendly.  $PAYG]
Sat. 8/20; 1 p.m.-4 p.m. — Crabfest 2016 at City Tap House-University City [Enjoy all-you-can-eat Maryland Blue Crab, while jammin' to live music by Ear Me Now. 2SP joins us.  $35]
Sun. 8/21; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. — Cider Sunday at McCrossen's Tavern [Four draft offerings from Austin EastCiders, including Original, Texas Honey Hopped, and Pineapple. We'll be making cider cocktails as well. Outside games and music from DJ Sideswipe are also on the menu.  $PAYG]
Mon. 8/22; 6 p.m.-8 p.m. — Bottle Shop Happy Hour at Local 44 [Tasting samples of beers from ShawneeCraft.  $Free]
Mon. 8/22 through Sat. 8/27; All night — Big Ass BBQ Week with Half Acre at Uptown Beer Garden [Chef will be serving BBQ specials from the grill all week, and Chicago's amazing Half Acre Brewing is taking over the taps at one of our two bars.  $PAYG]
Tue. 8/23; 4 p.m. — Wilderbru with Draai Laag at Brü Craft & Wurst [Get wild with the articulate wild/funky/sour ales from Pittsburgh's Draai Laag Brewing Company.  $PAYG]
Tue. 8/23; All Day — 5th Anniversary Celebration at Lucky's Last Chance [Stay tuned for details.  $PAYG]
Wed. 8/24; 5 p.m. — Beer School with Draai Laag at Local 44 [Free samples of each beer we will discuss are offered as our treat to you during the class. You can "pay what you wish", but you have to pay something.  $PAYG]
Wed. 8/24; 7 p.m.-9 p.m. — U Buy The Glass at The Abbaye [Ballast Point Brewing keepsake refillable pint glass, raffle prizes, and giveaways.  $PAYG]

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Writing This Ship: Part 2 - Eating and Drinking well in Northeast Philly

(John Primavera, co-owner, P² Lounge; Katie Tella, Jack's Abby; and Bruce Santino, Chef, P² Lounge)

(The four-course menu pairing Jack's Abby craft lagers from Framingham, Mass. with food from P_Square Lounge on August 10, 2016.)

Northeast Philly. What a fascinating place comprised of the Lower Northeast and the Greater (or Far?) Northeast. Depending upon how you draw the dividing lines, Northeast Philly stretches out along the always-maddening Roosevelt Boulevard and constitutes roughly a third of the city's land mass as well as population.

My first introduction to it was around 40 years ago as a kid visiting my great uncle and great aunt who lived just a couple of blocks from Cottman and Frankford Avenues. Who could have guessed that decades later, I'd cover the beer scene just a few blocks in one direction (Grey Lodge Pub - more on their 20th anniversary party in an upcoming post) and a few miles in the other direction at Macaroni's Restaurant and its new P² Lounge in the Bustleton neighborhood.

But what continues to, on the other hand, frustratingly fascinate me is how more quality beer hasn't shown up in NE Philly. Grey Lodge has had a long and well-earned monopoly on great beer with its classic Philly neighborhood-style bar for years. Anyone else come to mind? Even as you push closer to the city limits, toward the farther stretches of the Greater Northeast and the more affluent neighborhoods....anyone?

Well, how about I finally get to the point? I was invited to attend the first beer dinner at P² Lounge (or P Square, if you prefer) last week. They brought in Katie Tella from Jack's Abby, the Framingham, Mass.-based based brewery which continues to position itself for significant growth throughout the region. Did I mention that they are 100% lager-based brewery? And how well they do what they do?

As for the new P² Lounge, I could share with you the full back story that I learned of last week from co-owner John Primavera or I could point you to Danya Henninger's excellent portrayal of it in a column she wrote a little while back. She covers a lot in the Philly area and covers food and beverage quite well.

The nutshell version is that there's been a restaurant at this location since 1986 that the current owners have worked at. In 1993, they acquired it as Macaroni's and in recent years have completely rebuilt it and now, even more recently, used the space behind Macaroni's to open P² Lounge. But, save a few bits and bytes for me here and go read Danya's piece; it covers the restaurant's and brothers' full stories quite well.

I can't say anything about the Macaroni side of the business without having first dined there, but suffice to say from the decor and menu review, it's moved up significantly on the list of future places to dine.

The "backyard" P² Lounge, however, I can talk quite highly about as what has a leg up to be the most comfortable outdoor dining in the area. As you'll see in the pictures below, at the center of P² Lounge is a large enclosed and climate controlled bar with a high ceiling, full length glass windows, and accordion doors to open in nice weather. Around the bar's exterior is all manner of seating from a long hightop, bench seating, and standard table seating.

From inside the bar as well as from at most of the outdoor tables, customers have a view of the P² Lounge kitchen, which is headed by Chef Bruce Santino. Plenty of greenery and umbrellas shield the dining and bar area from direct sunlight as well as provide an extra level of privacy from the bustling neighborhood streets.

The visual greeting of P² Lounge as well as a couple of pre-dinner drinks set the stage for what then was a very well-conceived and executed dinner. Jack's Abby has been around for roughly five years but my first experience with the all-craft lager brewery wasn't until during Philly Beer Week 2015 at Bierstube during a co-event with my Beer Lover's Mid-Atlantic book promotion. I'd heard plenty of praise for their beers in advance and the tastings I'd done that evening validated the praise.

Katie Tella, regional sales rep for the brewery, was on hand to walk the dinner guests through each course along with Chef Santino. At this time, southeastern Pennsylvania is their most distant market. Her account of the beer hall at the brewery back in Massachusetts had me researching the brewery even more the following day.

She mentioned that the brewery output 19,000 barrels of beer last year and is on track for 35,000 in 2016. Currently in the Philly-area market, we can routinely find Hoponius Union IPL, Smoke & Dagger Black Lager, Calyptra Session IPL, House Lager Helles, Leisure Time Wheat Lager, and a limited supply of Cranberry Berliner Sour Wheat Lager (select bottle shops). Copper Legend Octoberfest will be here soon as well. As a result of this dinner, a Boston-area trip is a little higher on my travel list than it was just a couple weeks ago.

(First course: Jack's Abby Sunny Ridge Pilsner paired with Ahi tuna, melon, & heirloom tomato salad)

Back to Bustleton. The dinner began nicely with a light salad of melon, tomato and Ahi tuna that the Sunny Ridge Pilsner (5.1% ABV) played nicely with. Perfect beginning. Not too overwhelming. Not too filling. Nice array of flavors on the plate that went quite nicely with the clean and crisp pilsner.

(Second course: Jack's Abby Leisure Time Lager paired with charred fennel & crab raviolo)

The second course continued the theme of a variety of flavors on the plate. Crab, corn, and fennel with an excellent Leisure Time Lager (4.8% ABV) that brought its accompanying herbal flavors of lemongrass and orange peel.

(Third course: Jack's Abby Calyptra Session IPL paired with Grilled Wagyu Zabuton Steak and wild mushrooms)

The Calyptra (4.9% ABV) might be referred to as a "session" IPL, but it certainly had enough backbone to stand up to the rich and savory flavors in the Wagyu beef and mushrooms dish.

(Fourth course: Jack's Abby  Cranberry Berliner Weisse paired with Almond Pound Cake, mango sorbet, and vanilla rum crème anglaise)

The dinner was closed out with what I was calling the best pairing of the evening. Though, I thought I'd given that crown to each preceding course, the Cranberry Berliner Weisse (3.5% ABV) worked so well with the mango sorbet, sliced mangos and almonds, and the cranberries. While I often tout rich desserts with the big burly likes of imperial stouts and barleywines, this was such a refreshing and welcome departure, particularly at the tail end of a blistering hot and humid day.

I'm looking forward to a return visit soon at Macaroni/P² Lounge both to learn more about the Italian menu offering as well as to monitor as they grow their beer program and education on both sides of the bar in Northeast Philly.

(Jack's Abby on full display in the striking P2 Lounge in the Bustleton neighborhood of Northeast Philly.)

(Jack's Abby Sunny Ridge Pilsner getting things off to a great start at P2 Lounge.)

(Great attention to detail at the new P2 Lounge behind the Macaroni's Restaurant in Northeast Philly's Bustleton neighborhood.)

(The most comfortable outdoor dining in all of Northeast Philly?)

(The simple exterior of Macaroni's leads to a darkened and comfortable dining room and further to P² Lounge out back.)

(More comfy exterior environs at P2 Lounge)

(More comfy exterior environs at P2 Lounge)

(More comfy exterior environs at P2 Lounge)