Wednesday, September 30, 2009
How the Gold Was Won (or You haven't been to McKenzie Brew House lately, have you?)
If one can forgive and forget so quickly, maybe it's time to give McKenzie Brew House some of the respect that the brewhouse deserves. Is that a question or a statement? By the way, the 'forgive and forget' comment is directly related to a Philadelphia Football story that's gripped the region in controversy over the past couple of months. It's the closest brewpub to my house (the one in Malvern, that is), yet I stop in there so infrequently. For numerous reasons, but primarily it's usually not quite the beer-drinking atmosphere that I'm looking for. Though, on the other hand, the times I have stopped in, I am always treated to at least one beer that makes me happy that I made the stop. In fact, this now made the third stop in the past six weeks for me, so there must be a good reason, right? And, that's the whole point here. Ryan Michaels and his assistant are putting out some very decent beers. My question is: are we all taking notice? Like I said, I don't stop in nearly as often as I should, so I'm throwing daggers at myself here as well. Case in point, a few weeks back I had the Saison Vautour for the third time in a couple of years. A growler or two have been known to make their way home with me. The Abbeys six and eight, as well as the Grand Cru and Pumpkin Spice are also very nice glassfuls of beer. I can excuse you if you say that some of the "regular" lineup is not as interesting as you might hope for. But, there should always be at least one specialty beer on the menu that flips your beer fancy. It was only at this last visit, where we were cashing in on a gift card, that we took notice of the back porch area that looks perfect for some fall dining. The large patio contains a firepit, a decent sized bar, and an atmosphere that I'm betting gets a bit ruckus-y on a fair weather evening after work. Plus, it sits farther away than the rest of the deck and the restaurant from the hustle of business route 30 out front, so the seclusion is a welcome part of the visit to the back patio. Maybe I'll need to check out the back patio soon before the weather turns too cold. In the meantime, I headed back over there a couple of nights ago and ran into Ryan Michaels, head brewer. BB2 came along, as well, and it felt a bit like old beerwingman days. We chatted over a couple of beers, including Ryan's most decorated, the Saison Vautour. You have heard (may I presume?) that it just won Gold at the Great American Beer Festival this past weekend? Just so happens to be the second such GABF Gold for this beer in the last three years. Congratulations to Ryan and this most recent accomplishment. What I learned, though, is that it's not the same beer that was submitted two years ago (and won) and neither is it the same beer currently pouring from the taps. What it is, is a 25% rye-based saison with German Tradition hops and French Stisselspalt all in the boil which bring the final hop level to around 28 IBUs. For good measure, Michaels used the same bottling equipment that was used for a different Brett beer. It was originally brewed this past April, bottled in May and it took about three months until the Brett began to make its presence known and to help dry out the beer even more. While we're getting into the details of the recipe, Michaels also noted that they used "organic malt from Canada as the yeast seemed to really like it." As if this wasn't all enough, Ryan also let me in on some of the barrel-aging goodies that he's got doing their magic in the basement. "As for the barrels in the basement," Michaels commented, "we hope to bottle Dark Saison, Biere d'Hiver (winter biere de garde) and La Faute (strong dark lager) by the end of the year. They have all been aging for about 9 months at this point." So that I could write more knowledgeably on the topic of this special Saison Vautour, Ryan sent me home with a bottle of the "real stuff," the beer, that is, that was submitted for this year's GABF judging. He says that he's sitting on a fair amount of it, so you never quite know when some of it may make an appearance. Until then, you can find Ryan and his Gringalet ("weakling") at the Kennett Square Brewfest on Saturday, 10/10. He's bringing this 4.0% ABV beer for the Connoisseur Session Beer Tasting. Check it out if you're there; you shouldn't be disappointed. Now if Ryan could just get a hold of those old recipes, like Vuuve XXxXX and Baltic Porter, you might find me at McKenzie's even more often!! That back patio and its firepit is calling my name.