Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Octoberfest Tasting September 28!!
Exton Beverage is in full swing working on details for the upcoming Octoberfest tasting this coming September 28th. Come on by Friday evening, Exton Beverage will be sampling 8 different Octoberfest beers! This sampling will give you a chance to try each brewery's interpretation of this style. We have also asked our friend Bryan from The Brew Lounge to be on hand to help with pouring, answer questions and give general knowledge of each brewery. Here is the tentative list of beers we will be sampling.
Weihenstephaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Hofbrau, Victory, Weyerbacher, Harpoon, and Stoudt's
We will be pouring 3 oz samples of all these different beers and will also have a complimentary bratwurst or knockwurst for you. This sampling will take place next to the beer store on our little grassy knoll. Best of all, it's free!! We're hoping this will be the first of many unique tastings for your future educated purchases! Hope to see you on the 28th of September!!!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Ah, those famous last words. One hour 'til the hops would be harvested, then maybe I could get on with some brewing later in the afternoon. Or so I told my wife before heading out to the backyard. Little did I know what we were getting ourselves into.
One bee sting between the toes, scratched arms, sandpaper hands, one bottle of New Glarus Raspberry Tart, one bottle of Rogue 10,000, two glasses of homebrew, one firepit, lots of music, and 4 1/2 hours later we were rewarded with 5.5 pounds of fresh hops. That should work itself into just a few batches of homebrew, eh?!
It was a fun day shared with Adam and his kids who stopped by occasionally to help and ask "are you done yet?" Check out more great pictures over at his site.
Now, off to dreams of a 20-mile run and My Old Kentucky Home.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Though I'm taxing my memory, the last time I was here I believe that it was called Mill Brewing. Now it's called 5 Points Grill. Instead of making their own beer, they're serving some fairly decent beer. It seems that they're in a bit of transition, trying to figure what to do next.
According to the bartender, there may be some interest from Sweetwater in Georgia to come over and have some type of brewing arrangement with 5 Points. After all, there's a full brewing operation locked up in the back of the restaurant, just waiting to be used. Not sure, though, how much credence to give to those comments. I'll need to ask someone in the know. Though, it may explain the full lineup of Sweetwater brews on tap.
I was disappointed not to be able to try the Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale, which had kicked a couple of days before I arrived. Apparently, it's on tap somewhat regularly (along with other Lazy Magnolia beers from Mississippi) and is a crowd pleaser. The home of Lazy Magnolia just happens to be the home of another local standout, an NFL quarterback that you may be familiar to you.
Since I was there on a Wednesday late evening before closing, it was tough to judge what type of business they're doing now. The outside tables were mostly filled and a handful of customers were inside at tables and at the bar. It definitely seems like the kind of place that feeds off of "location" and the outdoor seating too. The large windows overlooking the five points intersection add to the indoor atmosphere as well.
When I had been there a few years ago, the joint was packed the two times I was there on Thursday evenings. And, if I recall correctly there had been a band playing the one time as well.
I guess I should apologize for this somewhat atypical review. It's sort of short on information. But, maybe the one takeaway for you here is that, once again, if you're in the Five Points area of Birmingham and looking for a good brew, the 5 Points Grill may not be your first choice. But, it's not a bad one either.
Here's a quick rundown of what was on tap earlier in September during my visit.
Sweetwater (420, Blue, Hummer, Sweet Georgia Brown, IPA); Rogue Brutal Bitter
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I think that I'm a fairly good judge of character and quality. Of course, this can all be in the eye of the beholder, but at least in this case I believe that I'm on pretty solid ground.
Solid character and high quality are not always easy to detect within such a short period of time. But, at Ale Asylum in Madison, Wisconsin, it took mere minutes for me to discover that this relatively new brewery has both nailed down pretty well.
While the trip to Wisconsin did not get us the Eagles victory that we were looking for in Green Bay, the last 90 minutes of the trip in Madison almost made up for it. Our friend, Mark, took us to Ale Asylum for a quick libation (or 10) before dropping us at the airport to catch our flight home. We got so much more than that.
Ale Asylum was started in July 2006 after the brewing crew from Angelic Brewery in downtown Madison left to setup their own shop. They headed east on their way out of town and chose a location in an industrial park on the other side of the city's airport. When Mark described Ale Asylum and its location to me, I was expecting something along the lines of the former Heavyweight in New Jersey...or Weyerbacher in Easton...or East End in Pittsburgh...or any other brewery in a low-rent industrial neighborhood.
From the entrance, I almost believed it. After turning the corner at the front door and seeing the bar area, I thought that for a brewery these guys had a pretty nice front end, nicer than I expected. And, a healthy variety of styles on draft....and merchandise....and six packs to go....and a "basic needs" food menu. Not too shabby, I thought. Then, turning the corner again, I found a couple handfuls of dining tables....and comfy leather couches....and a right fine billiards table....and large windows looking into the brewing operations. Wow, I could hang out here all afternoon! (and night?)
After poking our noses around, we quickly ordered up a few sets of samples (a healthy 5 ounces, or so, per sample). Another nice touch from the bar are the trays that hold the samples. A nice wooden tray with decorative carrying handles holds 5 glasses with a spot to display the description card for each style.
So, how about those styles anyway? I had a chance to sample every style and can flat out say that these guys are doing them all quite well. For those of you who know these folks, you're probably not surprised...seeing also how they have won a combined 21 medals (5 gold, 7 silver, 9 bronze) at the GABF and WBC competitions over the years.
I was blown away by the Hopalicious (very hop friendly, but somehow not aggressive), the Big Slick (nice roasty, tasty stout), and the Happy Ending (uh, who wouldn't be?!). But, also done very well were the Mad Town, Diablo, Disporterly, and Gold Digger. And, just when I thought I would get out of there without trying the Hatha-Weizen (nice German style) or the Ambergeddon (hop forward amber), I had two more small samples shoved under my nose while a six-pack of the Amber was being gathered up for me as a last minute addition to my checked baggage. Unfortunately, they were a day away from having more bottled Hopalicious...Mark, please send a keg!
While we sipped on our samples, we played some pool and watched the brewing activity. If we had been hungry, the limited but well-chosen menu would have satisfied us with the likes of pizzas and salads. Like I said before, this is definitely a comfortable place that I could see whiling away many hours. On our next trip to Madison, we'll be sure to visit them before the last hours of our trip.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
What's old is new again! I'm happy to report that Dock Street is opened, alive and well. Though, I certainly won't get points for being the first to report this. The anticipation was high (rightfully so) for the second coming of Dock Street and its fans having been beating a regular path to its front door. By the way, they are still closed on Sundays, while the 4pm-11pm original hours have been expanded to 11am-11pm Monday through Saturday.
While many have come from the east, heading west through University City, I chose to come in through the back door. Coming from the Philadelphia Airport (up Island Ave. to Woodland Ave. to Baltimore Ave.), I got an eyeful and earful of neighborhoods that Philadelphia seems to have long ago forgot. It's been a while since I've been in areas that depressed and it was a good reminder that even the most advanced nations still have problems with poverty that need to be addressed. That's where I will stop this little diatribe.
It is a good way, though, to contrast the area around 50th and Baltimore, where the new Dock Street resides. Riding through the West and Southwest Philly neighborhoods from the airport makes the new Dock Street environs look like a veritable paradise! Though, just a few blocks in any direction will quickly change that.
The converted firehouse that Dock Street is housed in sits nicely angled just off the intersection 50th and Baltimore. Across the island in the middle of the intersection is a children's park, which adds a nice neighborhood feel to the area. Around the side of Dock Street is a coffee shop and a bicycle shop, further adding to the positive atmosphere that this transitional neighborhood is trying to build.
So, finally, inside we go. As reported elsewhere, the space is not large but certainly efficient. The bar extends across most of the utilitarian-designed room and faces the open-air kitchen area. The bar area also provides a view into the two-level brewing operations through large windows.
Between the front door and the bar seats is table seating to the right and leather couch seating to the left. Further to the left is a piled-high stack of wood for the pizza oven.
And, pizzas, boy oh boy, amazing pizzas do they make! I didn't bring a copy of the menu home with me, but trust me when I say that creative pizzas are the focal point of the menu. The one I opted for was a Pear, Gorgonzola, and Brie (I think that was the combination). That particular evening, they were substituting fig for pear and it was just as delicious, maybe more so than I would have imagined.
Also, soon to be on the menu will be the legendary Trio Fries. Folks, if you've not had the pleasure before (Victory's are very good, but alas do not count) then you need to make sure you order these at the next opportunity you get. The concept is simple...seasoned potato fries, sweet potato fries, and dried leeks and is a wonderful call back to the early days of Dock Street. The perfect beer snack food? Quite possibly!
As many of you know, the first batches of Dock Street Beer were crafted by free agent Scott Morrison, formerly of McKenzie Brew House. He has put together a solid lineup of Rye IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Golden Blonde, Wheat, and Red. Here's a quick rundown...The rye was subtle in the IPA as the hops stole the show. The stout was layered with rich sweetness. I skipped the golden and the wheat, but will make a point of trying them next time. The red was, I think, a red though I had some difficulty with all of the cascade getting in the way. Good thing? Bad thing? That's an individual call. But, it certainly is a decent beer with a boo-yah hop punch. Got me thinking about the cascade hops growing in the backyard! Time to make the beer.
Since Scott left his temporary gig in the Dock Street brewhouse, Julius Hummer has come in to man the mash paddle. He has an interesting lineage to Boulder Brewing in Colorado (his father was co-founder) and sounds anxious to set down roots in the Philly brewing scene. I was disappointed to miss his Sour Cherry Porter by only a couple of days. The cherries are something I've been considering for an imperial stout recipe. Once again, thinking homebrew!
What else can I tell you about the new Dock Street? Oh, right. There is some seating available outside at a few tables set up on the front sidewalk. Rosemarie, Renata, Julius, and the rest of the crew are off to a great start and seem destined to help breathe some much needed life into the neighborhoods just west of University City in Philadelphia.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
You've gotta get up pretty early to get ahead of Lew. Today was no exception. Before the early hour of 0700 hours, Lew had already put up a review of Tuesday night's Allagash dinner at Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia. And this from a guy who showed up nearly half way into the evening's festivities. This guy's amazing, I've got a lot of learning to do!
As Lew commented, my wife Patty and I attended this dinner on our 9th wedding anniversary. Oh, and by the way, the tzatziki was a nice touch with the first course, seeing as how our honeymoon was in Greece!
What have done right, I ask? First, a trip to the Eagles season opener in Green Bay the weekend before our anniversary, then a beer dinner on the night of our anniversary. Many thanks to Tom, Mark, Lew, Matt, and the many others that wished us well and bestowed upon us the tasty gifts of Malheur Brut and Gouden Carolus D'Or 2004. Hm, I'll need to let these guys know the date of my upcoming birthday.
So, with the quite-to-point and amazingly accurate review given his arrival time (hey, the guy's good, like I said), I will cede my usual rapacious longing for loquaciousness and state simply some tidbits from Rob Tod. (If I'm not going to write much, I might as well roll out my fifty cent words, right?!)
And, of course, as usual here follows a transcript of the event's food and beer pairing:
Allagash White (when the White is the session beer, you know you're in for a big night!)
- Amuse Buche; hummus/lamb with tzatziki/grilled chicken
Allagash Hugh Malone
- Vegetable Terrine
- Fried Clams with Smoked Tomato Ketchup
- Onion Tart
- Curieux Glazed Salmon Mole
Allagash Musette & Allagash Four
- BBQ Beef Brisket with Collard Greens & Mashed Yams
- Chocolate Fig Cake
On September 1st, the building that houses the General Lafayette Inn and Brewery was given a 275th anniversary party by its current occupants. The caretaker, brewer Chris Leonard, and family have been running a brewpub business inside of it for the better part of the last decade. During this span, Chris and assistant brewer Russ Czajka have put out some of the area's most interesting and well-done beers. You may recall me saying in the past that it's a blessing for the General Lafayette to be in such a beer-rich region, but that they sometimes get undeservedly overlooked. But, those of you who are in the know will say that the General Lafayette's reputation is well earned and deserved. I'll bet it's about to grow even larger.
As part of this 275th anniversary event, the General's brew crew has put together an anniversary ale that is available as a take-home purchase. Outside of growlers, this is the first bottled product that will be available to take home for enjoyment months, and in this beer's case, even years later. Provided they continue to make more of their other products available in bottles, better beer lovers across the country will be able to enjoy the fine offerings from General Lafayette.
This barleywine weighs in at just a tick over 13 percent alcohol. It abounds with malted sweetness and alcohol which should set it up nicely to be laid down for many months, possibly years, to come. At $1 an ounce (the 22 ounce bottle costs $22), it's priced out there on the upper end for retail bottled beer. I picked up a couple of bottles due in part to my curiosity about this very limited (8 bbl) batch and also my confidence that this will turn out to be a very fine brew worthy of a special anniversary.
In addition to debuting this new barleywine, Chris and company opened up the entire downstairs and back porch and rolled out the welcome mat for attendees with plenty of food and drink for all. There were multiple food stations serving everything from mussels to salad greens to meats and cheeses. An anniversary cake was served as dessert.
To complement the food (or is it the other way around?!), the usual offerings (Chocolate Thunder, Germantown Blonde, Pacific Pale, Sunset Red, etc.) were available at the bar. Also, a couple of interesting mixed concoctions were served. The ThunderClap was a blend of the Chocolate Thunder, Sunset Red, and 275th Barleywine. The Red Velvet was a blend of Chocolate Thunder and Sunset Red. And, the Muddy Waters was a blend of Bavarian Hefeweizen and Weizenbock. My favorite of the three blends may have been the third of these. (Thanks, Mark, for helping me fill in the gaps in my notes!)
As a nice added touch to this historic event, Rich Wagner was set up outside performing a demonstration of what the brewing process likely looked like 275 years ago. With General Lafayette continuing to pull off events like this, chances are very good that they will be around for quite a while to come.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
I think that it is safe to say that if I was not already sick of sanitation, by the time I reached the end of the bottling stage, I had certainly had enough of it. I was already looking forward to my next batch of homebrew, because I swore never to use bleach again for sanitation. I am looking forward to how much easier I perceive the sanitation aspect to be next time using something like Iodophor. Actually, this is something that made its way quickly to the top of my 'lessons learned' list here in my first homebrew experience....don't ever use bleach again! It's not worth, in my opinion, the aggravation.
Let's take it from the top. I arrived home from work determined to bottle since I was pretty comfortable that whatever wackiness occurred in the secondary had subsided (it had been 4-5 days since the last of the bubbling). Henceforth began the sanitation. The bottling bucket, the siphon, the bottling wand, the spoon, and my hands...ok, well, not really. Emptied the dishwasher, loaded it up with 2 cases of empty, pre-cleaned, and de-labeled bottles, and ran it on the heavy duty, hot cycle with heated dry. Oh yeah, and threw the caps into the sanitizing solution too. How happy was I that I take the time to rinse out bottles immediately after drinking the beer from them? It certainly made the cleaning/sanitizing of them much easier on bottling day.
Okay, with the sanitation thing out of the way (yeah, yeah, I know just how very important it is...still doesn't mean I have to like it!), I got started on moving the beer off of the sediment in the carboy and into the bottling bucket. That was after securely attaching the spigot, of course. I had the carboy set on top of the kitchen counter with the bottling bucket on the floor. Actually, it was on top of an old blanket which would protect the floor from spills, splashes, leaks, and other misfires.
I got the siphon action going in the same way as moving into the secondary, by filling the tube with water first, then submerging the racking cane below the beer level, then opening the siphon tube to allow the natural flow. The process of moving the beer didn't take more than 5-10 minutes or so. I got just about all of the liquid out. Some stayed behind with the sediment, but not enough to cry over.
With the beer in the bottling bucket, I first took a little over a cup of beer out of the spigot. A tiny portion was used for the final gravity reading (1.012, by the way...seemed about right), a cup was boiled with the priming sugar, and the remainder was tasted.
I hooked up the tube and the bottling wand to the bottling bucket while I was boiling the solution of fermented beer and priming sugar. It takes around 5 ounces of priming sugar for a 5-gallon batch of brew. After the solution reached a boil, I removed and allowed to set for just a few minutes. Then, using the sanitized spoon, I stirred (enough to mix it throughout, but not vigorously) the solution into the bottling bucket.
At this point, the bottling could commence. I sat on a stool below the bucket and had the prepared empty 12-ounce bottles next to me. Each bottled was filled by inserting the bottling wand into the bottle, touching the bottom to release the beer. I was able to fill the bottle to the top, because when the wand is removed the level goes down to approximately halfway on the neck, just perfect. Too much head space leaves too much room for oxygen to spoil the beer and too little head space leaves not enough room for the bottle conditioning and the carbon dioxide that's created as a result.
Filling one bottle at a time, then placing it on the counter with a cap perched on top, I had 41 bottles filled in less than 30 minutes. With all of the bottles lined up like rows of soldiers on the countertop, it was easy to pick one off at a time and use the capper to secure the bottlecap.
Each bottle was placed into an empty cardboard case of beer, which was then closed up and placed in the coolest place in the house, around 65F-72F. They sat there for about a week until I decided to crack one open to see how the bottle conditioning process was coming along.
p.s. No pictures of the bottling process since I was going at this alone and bottling is kinda a two-handed project.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Update: A nice collection of Tribute material is being gathered by Stan (& others?)
I dug out this picture from this year's Brooklyn/Garrett Oliver dinner at Monk's in Philly. Thought it would be decent for sharing.