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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What it takes to be a winner at TJs, California-style

Ballast Point. Bear Republic. That's how they list alphabetically. According to the first 50 ballots submitted at TJs in Paoli, PA this past Saturday night, it's the reverse of how these breweries are ranked, though by a slim enough margin to almost call it a draw. After tasting 4 samples of each brewery, guests were asked to rank them from 1-10. (There were 11 beers in total combined from both breweries.) Here you'll see one anonymous ballot. Southeastern Pennsylvania has been under a torrent of what almost seems like daily thunderstorms (the really, really bad kind) of late. Figures as I jumped into the car to check out this event at TJs, the skies unleashed their fury. It may have deterred some, as I was surprised the bar area wasn't packed in every square inch. Either the weather, or they heard that the Pittsburgh contingent of Woody Chandler and Brian Parker was taking up residence at the bar showing off their Penguins team colors. Congrats are in order, I suppose...though, that Crosby kid...grrr. And, yet another angle from which Mr. Chandler to rail against Philadelphia...boy, am I glad he doesn't write the Philadelphia column in the brewspapers. Still, there was barely an empty seat and it was a comfortable night for the IPAs that seemed to win over the crowd the most. I had the Navigator Dopplebock just a few days earlier and was surprised to see how lowly rated it was compared to the others. Maybe that's where I had the advantage of drinking it alone with a braised short ribs sandwich the day it was tapped. If you missed out, as of this posting there was still some Ballast Point (Calico Amber, Navigator Dopplebock, Wahoo Wheat, and Big Eye IPA) and Bear Republic (Heritage, Hop Rod Rye, NorCal Pale, Racer 5 Cask, and Racer X) to be found at TJs. Get thee to TJs and polish off those suckers. The cask, I understand, is very close to the end. Quizzo tomorrow would be a great excuse to stop in to make some new discoveries and acquaintances. Oh, and in case you're wondering, that truly was not my rating card pictured above. I didn't stick around long enough to taste them all on Saturday. I did, though, go back last night to finish off my tasting (would a "credible blogger" do otherwise?!). Here would be my complete ranking: Racer 5 cask (9); Big Eye (8); Sculpin (8); NorCal(8); Dorado (7); Hop Rod (7); Racer X (7); Heritage (6); Wahoo (6); Calico (6); Navigator (???)...all of which means that it appears that I give a whisker of an edge to Bear Republic as well. Biggest Surprise? Probably the NorCal. As far as my memory goes, I've not had the NorCal before and thought this came across as a real nice, pretty well-balanced, almost session-like, beer in its moderate hopping, English malts (can someone confirm?), and medium mouthfeel. Not necessarily a lawnmower beer, but definitely one I could have all night long hanging out at the pub. The Heritage, too, was a nice smoked Scottish malt delight that I'll be keeping my eye open for during my next trip to the Bay Area. (This follow-up added after original draft.) Okay, this deserves a WTF. As in...WTF happened to the Navigator? The day it was tapped it was a real nice and solid dopplebock. Not the kind that explodes with richness and malty flavors. In that case, maybe a bock-and-a-half, instead of double. It paired extremely well with the Braised Short Rib Sandwich. But, last night at my follow-up visit? It lacked virtually any carbonation, had a distinctive smoke aroma and flavor to it. Now, it wasn't necessarily undrinkable, but man did it change and wasn't nearly as good of an experience as I had just 5 days earlier with it. I liked the approach to this night and the format. Already looking forward to the similarly-structured Battle for Michigan on July 18th, but disappointed that Jolly Pumpkin won't be included in the mix...though, some might argue that would be a tad unfair, eh? From a posting at Beer Advocate by Jeff Miller, proprietor of TJs. Sculpin 236; Racer X 224; Dorado 218.5; Racer 5 Cask 206.5; Hop Rod Rye 205.50; Big Eye 181.50; Heritage 173; Navigator 157 Winner: Best Brewery of the Night--- Bear Republic with 809 points Winner: Best Beer of the Night--- Sculpin with 236 points Ballast Point's main deficit was the Navigator... most scores were 3-5 points out of 10 for this one.

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