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Monday, November 02, 2009

Two Great Reasons to Visit Bethlehem this week

Nestled in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains and halfway between Philadelphia and New York City, Bethlehem has a lot of good stuff going for it. I won't turn this into a promotional advertisement for the city, but do want to point out two great reasons to stop in the city this or any upcoming week during the next month. Patty and I visited there this past weekend to see her brother Bernard McManus' art exhibit on display (and for sale) at a charming gallery called Ambre Studio, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump ('hop', ha, get it? hop? uh, sorry) from Bethelehem Brew Works in the city's North neighborhood. This coming Friday night would seem about the right night to visit. While the exhibit opened officially last month, torrential rains and closed roads may have kept some of the crowd away. So, there's a do-over on Friday, November 6th from 5:30pm-7:30pm. It's completely feasible to park once, maybe out back of the Brew Works, walk out to Ambre (roughly 1/4 mile), and then back to the Brew Works for dinner. At Ambre, you'll be able to check out approximately 40 pieces of my brother-in-law's work and perhaps pick up a piece to take home to grace one of your walls. Much of the inspiration for his beautiful art has come from his two primary residences as an adult, France's Côte d'Azur (French Riveria) and more recently the Philadelphia/Lehigh Valley area. If you go on the 6th or on certain other days, you'll likely run into Bernie and have a chance to talk with him about his work and his travels. On the 6th, they may have some wine and light refreshments to pass around as well. After some time spent with art of the oil paint and brush variety, you can head back down Broad Street to Bethlehem Brew Works for art of the liquid form. For the less adventurous beer drinker in your group, there are some good solid standards like the Oatmeal Stout, the E.S.B., a Golden, and a Belgian Wit. But, for the beer geek in you, dear reader, you'll find a modestly built and easy drinking Belgian ale called Devil's Hearth. There's one on the opposite end of the spectrum that goes by the name of Biere de Pharaoh that is billed as the strongest beer (13.8% ABV) ever brewed at BBW. (Being of the driving set that day, I had to turn this one down.) I anxiously tried the Sorachi Ace hop-based Karate Hop, which was milder in flavor than I anticipated yet still quite enjoyable. The Hop'solutely is a "triple IPA" that made its way home with me in 750ml bottle form, since my curiosity wouldn't leave it alone; more to report on that one when the time comes. And, finally, the Framboises---one from '03 and one from '08. Both were easy drinking (relatively speaking) lambics that weren't as "challenging" to drink as I might have expected, but were very nice just the same. The '03 went just perfectly with my bleu cheese and mushroom Kobe burger and I got a sample of the '08 just for comparison sake. I was surprised that the '03 seemed only just a bit funkier and tarter than the '08, but basically the two were pretty close to each other. Could've been the bleu cheese helping to throw off my palate? By the time you get there, the Rude Elf's Reserve (2009 Bronze medal winner at GABF) should be available. Also medaling in Colorado this year (a Silver) but not available at current time was the Bagpiper's Scotch. On top of that, growler fillups of the regular brews (I strongly suggest the oatmeal stout) are only eight dollars. In any case, enough of my analysis. With the holidays coming, there will be plenty of reasons to venture into Bethlehem for festive shopping and doings in "Christmas City USA." Let me suggest November 6th as a way of seeing some great art and tasting some great beer before the holiday crush on the city begins. Tell 'em I sent you (though, I can't promise any discounts).

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