Saturday, February 28, 2009

Escape with some Refreshing Thoughts from a Local Brewer

Brewers blogs are nice, sometimes quite useful. Sometimes, though, they tend to be a bit dry, fact-based, and not very insightful with regard to their deepest most honest opinions. Chris Leonard has a new blog that he snuck up on us; I haven't noticed anyone else linking to it. I found it somewhat buried on the tiedhouse's website when I was looking for more information about Lew Bryson's Session Beer event during Philly Beer Week. This blog has got some good stuff written by Chris that certainly provides food for thought. Speaking of food and thought, the post that caught my attention the most was the one related to birthday cakes. (not brewing related, surprised?) Anytime I've been out for a birthday meal for a co-worker, or such, I've always wondered about what the restaurant's real opinion of the cake was that we might happen to bring through the door with us. Hearing Chris' thoughts on this subject and others he raise are quite refreshing and revealing. He has the tone that suggests he might not stick with it long term. I hope he does.

Friday, February 27, 2009

San Francisco's Beer Week Joins the Club: Beers by the Bay, Part 2

For the Part 1 beginning of this San Francisco Beer Week story, click back here. Monday, A Quieter Day Just because I didn't run on Monday, doesn't mean I didn't get my exercise time in. There was a mid-afternoon "neighborhood walk" in the Haight beginning at Magnolia, so I figured that there was probably no better way to spend a Monday afternoon in San Francisco. Plus, afterall, it was Magnolia and I think if you've been reading here long enough, you know how I feel about Magnolia.
(Dave McLean in Magnolia's brewhouse)
Dave McLean, Magnolia's proprietor, was in charge of the walk and he kicked things off with a brewery tour of his own. I've tippled many a cask at Magnolia in the past, but have never wandered downstairs into what may be one of the tightest and most cramped breweries I've ever seen. Though, square foot for square foot, you've got to figure they're making the most out of their investment.
(It's obvious what music the Grain Mill does its work to)
Signs of the Grateful Dead are, of course, everywhere in the Haight/Ashbury District...even in the brewery. The Dead is a huge influence on McLean and he described some of this during our walk down Haight Street. He pointed out along the way a former residence of the Dead on Ashbury Street. Along the way, he also spoke of the struggle between those (including himself) who are trying to, while respecting the past, push the neighborhood into the future and others who refuse to step outside of it. Instead of relying on tired images and stereotypes of the neighborhood, McLean and other residents and businesspeople are trying to create a new neighborhood of self-reliance to ensure the uniqueness of itself well into the future.
(Just a tiny peak inside of where the famed Magnolia casks are housed)
So, the afternoon walk didn't really amount to much more than a brewery tour of Magnolia, a several block walk down the street, and conversation with a couple of complimentary brews at McLean's sibling establishment, Alembic. And, duh, no one complained. This time, I smartly chose to begin my session with the recreated New Albion Pale Ale, before biasing my palate toward other beers of various strengths and flavors. Now I could render my verdict. The New Albion Pale Ale is, in my book, an easy-drinking session type of beer that has a mildly noticeable hop profile. I have more notes on the recipe and the ABV if you're interested, drop an e-mail to me and I'll be glad to send it along to you. To me, it was somewhat reminiscent of a lightly hopped German Pilsener, which could be attributable to German malts that were used.
(Dave McLean regales the afternoon walkers with stories of The Haight, The Dead, The New Albion, and other stories to pass the time with good beer)
Alembic carries a mixed bag of both Magnolia brews and other beers from both near and far. Since I wasn't sure that I'd be making back to Magnolia again, I opted for The Other One and then a Cole Porter once we meandered back to Magnolia. When in Haight... When near Golden Gate Park and Haight/Ashbury, if you don't make a little time for Dave Keene's legendary Toronado bar in the Lower Haight district, well then you must have a time management or a prioritization issue. By this point on Monday, I was making a habit of running into Chaz from Alaska. After the Walk with McLean, Chaz and I headed down to Toronado (this is a short walk downhill, much more pleasing than the walk in the opposite direction). Rob Tod was doing a Meet the Brewer type of session and this helped me make up for missing him over at The Trappist on Saturday. His arm was still hung in a sling after an unfortunate keg accident, so I didn't twist it too hard to share a beer and light conversation with him.
(I haven't seen an Allagash lineup like this on the West Coast. Mighty impressive.)
I was planning to have dinner with Patty back in the East Bay, so it was just enough time to give the Fedelta a try, take in some chat time with Tod and Keene, and raise a toast led by Keene to Bill Brand. During the remainder of SF Beer Week and up until his death on 2/21, nightly toasts to Brand became a habit worth making.
(Rob Tod and Dave Keene discuss an alliance)
(One man's attempt to contrast and compare...and still stand at the end of the night)
Then, I was off, only a half hour or so behind schedule to catch the train and join Patty for a Spanish/Mexican dinner at Maria Maria in Walnut Creek. Not much to report on beer-wise at Maria Maria, but a very good dinner (and music) nonetheless. From what I understand, the Dogfish Head dinner at 21st Amendment was underway and everyone was bringing it just short of Biggie/Tupac style. But, seats were snatched up and distributed amongst a very select group long before I ever decided to head to the Bay Area for SFBW. Guess they didn't hear that I was coming to town ;-) An industry private party that I was, however, invited to was taking place at Alembic later in the evening, but based on my whole 'train and where I laid my head that night' scenario, joining the party people at Alembic just wasn't in the cards for me. From what I heard later in the week, they did just fine without me there too. A Day to Ourselves
(Murphy's Pub in the Financial District on Kearney Street)
Tuesday had a Barrel-aged festival thing going on at Triple Rock and Jupiter again in Berkeley, with a format much like the Sour Ale Festival on Sunday. There was another neighborhood walk based around Beach Chalet and the Golden Gate Park. Patty was able to get away and she joined me on our own walking tour that began in the Financial District. We purposely did not do any official events on Tuesday, but did manage to make a few stops for beers and food at establishments that participated in Beer Week. It was good to get to see them during some of their down time.
(A full complement of good beers at Murphy's watering hole)
We got off the train at Montgomery Street and wandered a few blocks over to Murphy's Pub. I'd never heard of Murphy's before, but sticking with one of my philosophies for how to approach these Beer Weeks, I wanted to search out places new to me. They were running a daily special focused on different breweries each night at the Pub...like Anchor and He'brew, for example. When we showed up for lunch, they were still pouring all of the Anchor drafts from the previous night so it seemed prudent to start with a Liberty Ale. But many taps are flowing at Murphy's, so any night after work in the Financial District would seem a good time to stop and enjoy something from Deschutes, Alaskan, Stone, or Avery. There's a pool room downstairs as well to keep the clientele entertained.
(The best lineup of Anchor outside of Anchor?)
San Francisco's Beer? They may carry the name, but I'll bet you'd name 5 other beers as being "San Francisco's Beer" before SF Brewing. I wonder even how many know that SFBC exists? Nonetheless, they live on Columbus Blvd. near the entrance to the North Beach neighborhood in a one hundred year old restored saloon building. They make a varying range of beer styles, some definitely better than others. When we stopped in mid-afternoon, we were attended to by a lovely bartender who was proud to sample her just-cut demo disk of jazz music (if I'd made a note of her name and band, I'd be more than happy to plug it right here). That, plus a bock, an anniversary ale, and a Holiday Cheer, made for a nice interlude on our way to Rogue Public Ale House.
(Enough beer for all of Rogue Nation at their Public Ale House)
Just a few more blocks up Columbus, past clubs of varying repute and Italian restaurants, we ducked into Rogue's Public Ale House. I've been there a few times before, but this was the first time with Patty. Also the first time for getting a "membership card" into Rogue Nation. While I believe my palate has moved on from the Hazelnut Brown Nectar of years past, I was particularly struck by the seasonal Mogul Madness for the perfect balance of "seasonal subtlety."
(The famed Coit Tower is only blocks away from La Trappe and Rogue, with a little speed bump in between)
(La Trappe was closed, but it's high on the list for the next visit to the North Beach neighborhood)
Cheryl, a longtime employee and formerly from Oregon, chatted us up at the bar and gave us recommendations for our next stops. Unfortunately, La Trappe didn't open until 6pm and would have been too tight of a jam based on our train back out to the East Bay. So, we took her next recommendation and stopped in instead at the barely two months old Church Key, a couple of blocks closer to Coit Tower, on Grant Avenue.
(Church Key on Grant Avenue, San Francisco)
Great find! Though I've heard varying degrees of opinion with regard to the nighttime crowd, we found Church Key the perfect place to put back a couple glasses of Unibroue (Maudite and La Fin du Monde) before heading back to the train. The owner and a new hire bartender were there to chat with us about Beer Week and their plans for the new bar.
(Church Key's beer list)
It was then a quick cab ride back to BART's Embarcadero station where we caught the train to our last dinner in the East Bay. Some backyard grilling of steaks, beer, and wine to unwind with the family before switching to our last night in the City. In the last installment of this three parter, I'll wrap things up with highlights from the Cask Ale Festival at Thirsty Bear and a few more notes from around town.

PBW 2009: Philly Knows (Is) Zythos

Zythos Comes to the University of Pennsylvania during Philly Beer Week. Is there any doubt that Belgian Beer Starts in Philadelphia? Always has? Brussels on the Schuylkill has never been a more appropriate moniker. The list is about as finalized as you can expect at this point. Folks, I believe the time has come to sell this event out. Unless, of course, you don't like Belgians (beer, not the people.) The list... Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont - Chimay Première (Red) Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont - Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont - Chimay Tripel (White) Abbaye de Leffe - Leffe Blonde Abbaye de Leffe - Leffe Brune Allagash - White Allagash - Black Allagash - Tripel Avery Brewing - Salvation Birrificio Italiano - Scires Birrificio Montegioco - Dolii Raptor (Demon Raptor) Birrificio Le Baladin - Super Sour (2005) Brasserie Fantome - Fantome Hiver Brasserie De La Senne - X-Mas Zinnebir Brasserie De La Senne - Taras Boulba Brasserie Dupont - Avec les bon Voeux Brasserie De Cazeau - Tournay Black Brasserie Duyck - Jenlain Biere De Noel Brasserie La Choulette - La Choulette De Noel Brasserie de Blaugies - La Moneuse Speciale Noel Brasserie d'Orval - Orval Brasserie d'Achouffe - McChouffe Brasserie d'Achouffe - Chouffe Houblon Brasserie d'Achouffe - La Chouffe Brasserie d'Achouffe - N'Ice Chouffe Brewery Ommegang - Biere de Mars Brewery Ommegang - Three Philosophiers Brewery Ommegang - Biere de Mars Brewery Ommegang - Biere de Mars Brewery Ommegang - Hennepin Brooklyn Brewery - Saison De Brooklyn Brooklyn Brewery - Local 2 Brooklyn Brewery - Local 1 Brouwerij Lindemans - Framboise Brouwerij Lindemans - Framboise Brouwerij De Ranke - De Ranke XX Bitter Brouwerij De Ranke - Pere Noel Brouwerij De Regenboog - 't Smisje Catherine the Great Brouwerij De Regenboog - 't Smisje Grande Reserva Brouwerij De Regenboog - 't Smisje Calva Reserva Brouwerij 't Gaverhopke - T'Gaverkopke Extra Brouwerij Contreras - Valeir Divers Brouwerij De Smedt - Affligem Noel Brouwerij Corsendonk - Corsendonk Noel Brouwerij Bosteels - Tripel Karmeliet Brouwerij van Hoegaarden - Hoegaarden White Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat - Maredsous 6 Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat - Maredsous 10 Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat - Duvel Brouwerij St. Bernardus - St. Bernardus Abt 12 Brouwerij St. Bernardus - St. Bernaruds Christmas Ale Brouwerij Huyghe - Delirium Noel Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers - Stille Nacht De Leyerth Brouwerijen - Urthel Samaranth De Leyerth Brouwerijen - Urthel Vlaemse Bock De Leyerth Brouwerijen - Urthel Hop-It! De Leyerth Brouwerijen - Urthel Hibernus Quentum De Proefbrouwerij - Signature Les Deux Brasseurs Ale De Proefbrouwerij - K-O Blond Beer De Proefbrouwerij - De Proef Flemish Primitive Surly Bird Dogfish Head - Red & White Hanssens Artisanaal - Young Kriek Hanssens Artisanaal - Cassis (experimental) Hanssens Artisanaal - Oude Kriek Huisbrouwerij Sint Canarus - Potteloereke KleinBrouwerij De Glazen Toren - Saison D’Erpe-Mere Lost Abbey - Lost and Found Picobrouwerij Alvinne - Kerasus Russian River - Damnation Sly Fox Brewery - Ichor St. Benedictus Abbey de Achel - Achel 8 Unibroue - Trois Pistoles Unibroue - Maudite Unibroue - La Fin du Monde Unibroue - Ephermere

Thursday, February 26, 2009

San Francisco's Beer Week Joins the Club: Beers by the Bay, Part 1

So, a Philly guy goes to San Francisco Beer Week...

The fine folks behind San Francisco Beer Week readily concede that it was the overwhelming response to Philly's 2008 Beer Week that provided the impetus for creating their own 10-day festival in a similar image.

Though, one could argue that they already had a bit of a leg up with a handful of cornerstone events around which to plan. The six annual events of Rogue's Cheese Pairing, The Bistro's Double IPA Festival, Strong Beer Month (21st Amendment & Magnolia), Toronado's Barleywine Festival, a Cathedral Hill dinner (with Bruce Paton), and Celebrator's Anniversary Festival have for years created a solid foundation on which to build out a strong Beer Week in the Bay Area.

It therefore made sense that the driving committee behind the formulation of SFBW included Toronado's Dave Keene, Magnolia's Dave McLean, 21A's Shaun O'Sullivan, chef Bruce Paton, Celebrator's Tom Dalldorf, and the omnipresent beer writer Jay Brooks.

Over the next couple of days, I'll present to you the sights and stories as I encountered them during my almost six days spent around the Bay Area during San Francisco Beer Week. While I was in the Bay Area strictly on personal time, SFBW wasn't the only reason I was there. So, while I did get to 6 official events and 7 establishments (not during an actual event), if I had been staying downtown with a solitary mission, I might have a better sampling of events to relay to you. Nevertheless......


Opening Night at Anchor I arrived in the Bay Area too late on Friday night to join the private party to which I'd been invited at Anchor. This definitely tore at me since I dropped the ball on rescheduling my flight until it was too late and the ticket price went up by over $300. As much as I would have loved to have been there for the kickoff (albeit, a private not a public kickoff) of SFBW, it wasn't worth the extra dough. Not even the special brew that Anchor did would have been worth it (that is, provided I can procure one of those magnums).

Anchor, if you haven't heard, did their first ever barrel-aged brew which was sampled during the Friday evening session and will be released in magnum bottles in mid- to late-February (for sale only at the brewery). Consensus says it turned out just fine and even Fritz Maytag (perennially against the idea of barrel-aging) agreed.


New Albion reappears Also scheduled too late for me to take advantage of on my itinerary was the New Albion pub crawl led by Don Barkley, one of the original brewers of New Albion Pale Ale back in the late 70s/early 80s. He led a multi-stop pub crawl through the Bay Area to unveil the beer for Beer Week. Don, now at Napa Smith, dug out the recipe and brought back a piece of the Bay Area's Brewing Past.

Approximately 30 kegs of the beer showed up during SFBW at various predictable establishments and were gone by the end of the week. (I actually was responsible for kicking one of the kegs; leave it to a guy from Philly, at City Beer Store on Wednesday.)

If you don't know the back story, here's a good place to find it. Word has it that there is one remaining keg that will be tapped in Napa sometime in April. More on my personal reaction to this beer later.


Hops? yes please, at the Double IPA Festival


(The Bistro in Hayward awaits)
With a solid night sleep (not bad, given the time zone jump), I got an early morning run under my belt in Walnut Creek where Patty and I were staying (with her sister's family) and then headed to Hayward on BART to take in my first SFBW event, the Double IPA Festival. The Bistro is an easy walk from the Hayward BART stop. Just a couple of blocks north and you can't miss it, particularly when a Festival is taking place. Apparently, I'm told this was the first year that they expanded the outdoor festival area down the cross street to give attendees more room to spread out at this ever-growing-more-popular event. Just in case you were wondering, hops are not merely a passing fad on the West Coast.
(Jay Brooks and Rick Sellers look relaxed as SFBW is underway on Day 2 at The Bistro)
Jay Brooks was manning the SFBW Information Booth, so naturally I stopped to congratulate him on the kickoff of Beer Week and toast their good fortune. Then, it was off to get some drink tickets, a sandwich, and some big IPAs. When in the Bay Area, where better to start than with a nice calibration beer called Pliny the Younger?! This new batch certainly didn't disappoint, as neither did its Elder. Imagine an afternoon of hearing debates of "Elder is better...no, Younger is way better." And, "Lou P. Lin is much better...nah, Hop 15 kicks butt." And, of course, "What's the highest alcohol beer you've got." To which the server replied smartly, "I don't go by alcohol, I go by flavor."
(Pliny the Younger for starters)
Now a wiser person might have begun with the New Albion Pale Ale, given that no one could predict how long it would be around and if happenstance might find me enjoying one down the road or not. Plus, more importantly, having this lighter bodied Pale Ale would be way more advisable first before my palate underwent a full-on assault from the big bad boys of hops and ABV. But, that wasn't the case, and therefore my first run-in with this beer got a very unenthusiastic 'eh' from me when I tasted it after the Younger and Elder Pliny and before Bear Republic Mach 10. Fortunately, there'd be two more opportunities for me to put my lips to this thirty year old recipe before the week was over.
(The crowd thickened by mid-afternoon at The Bistro's annual Double IPA Festival)
Back to the DIPAs. I could share with you a little bit of this, that, or the other about 15 of the 50-ish DIPAs that I sampled, but what would the point be? They were mostly big ABVs with varying flavors of citrus, pine, earthiness, and grassiness. Plus, I didn't write or record and notes, ha! Here's the final story, though, in my book. While there were no out-and-out dogs in the bunch, my top 3 and honorable mention were Pizza Port's Lou P. Lin, Triple Rock II Maxx, and Jupiter Quasar. Ballast Point Dorado and Auburn Alehouse Isotope PU240 earned honorable mentions. The official winners were: Pizza Port Poorman’s Double IPA, Triple Rock II Maxx, and Bear Republic Apex (which coincidentally is coming soon to a TJs Drinkery near you!).
(at The Bistro: Sam Calagione, Vinnie Cilurzo, xxx, yyy, Arne Johnson...can anyone help me with the other two?)
The beers were mixed and mingled with great music coming from the stage (good ol' fashioned rock, followed by r&b), conversations with a half dozen or so brewers (Calagione, Cilurzo, Johnson, Cowan, to name just a few) and media folk (Brooks, Sellers, The Brewing Network crew), and brilliant sunshine to warm up a generally cool day...relatively speaking, coming from my frigid East Coast home.
(Rockin' out at The Bistro)
More big beers or BBQ? Patty drove down to pick me up in Hayward. We had the expectation of making it to The Trappist for a meetup with Allagash's Rob Tod and a hopeful run-in with his Fedeltá (collaboration beer with De Struise Brouwers in Belgium). It was recommended that with the lack of dinner entree selections at The Trappist, we might like to check out Luka's as we come into Oakland from the south. But, fate had us instead going farther east into Lafayette, and hence closer to home, for the must-stop BBQ dinner and music at Bo's BBQ. With some Belgian-styled beer, blues, and barbecue it was the perfect ending to a day of double IPAs. Forget Hops, Give Me the Sours
(downtown Berkeley proudly announces two of their tenets)
What I understand from the crew I know that had showed up at The Trappist (which apparently was a solid who's-who showing of Bay Area beer) is that I was in shape to run Sunday morning largely because we did not stop in Oakland on the way back to Walnut Creek. Understandably. As Bill said, Sunday was about what not to do...So, I get another quality run under my belt and head off to Berkeley for a Sour Ale Festival that Triple Rock's Rodger Davis and sister brewpub, Jupiter, put on. And 'on' it was. Imagine my surprise when the first beer I had was poured from a bottle with a label that read 'Bethlehem Brew Works'! Rodger was pouring one of BBW's lambics that was flavored with raspberries and one flavored with cherries. It turns out that Rodger and BBW's Beau Baden used to brew together at the Berkeley location of Pyramid. How do you like that? BBW represented Pennsylvania well with these lambics whose reputation spread quickly by word-of-mouth across the room. Before you knew it, the five or six bottles that Rodger had were gone.
(Alaskan Chaz and Tom Dalldorf toast the switchover from Saturday Hops to Sunday Sours at Triple Rock)
But, no worries. There were around 30-35 other similarly soured beers, some from around the Bay Area but many from abroad like the occasional Jolly Pumpkin (some of the country's best), Cantillon (natch), Ithaca Brute, Monk's Flemish Sour, and several other goodies from Belgium. From Rodger's days at Drake's, he was serving up some six year old Cherry Port and Blueberry Port (referring to the barrels they were aged in). Some of the best of the day, I tell you. Other winners, in my book, included: Ballast Point Sour Wench; Moonlight Sourpuss; and the lightly done Berliner Weisse from The Bruery.
(And the crowd thickened at Triple Rock as well)
On to a grand dinner with Sean Paxton, Shaun O'Sullivan, and the 21st Amendment Patty and I stopped over at Jupiter for a few more sours (more correctly, I drank the sours...she had a couple of sips) before she headed home and I grabbed a BART train for downtown San Francisco.
(Stellar, not Stella, beer lineup at Jupiter)

(An amazing "backyard" area in which to enjoy beer at Jupiter)
Unfortunately, my walk from the Montgomery St. BART station to the 21st Amendment brewpub was a rain-soaked one. And, even more unfortunately, the night ended with fellow beer diner and writer, Bill Brand, being involved in a train accident...one that had him in critical condition for two weeks before he eventually succumbed. If you don't recall the story, you can check my notes back here...and stay up-to-date at Bill's Facebook Page, his website, and Jay Brooks' blog.
(a light noshing course to get things started at Monk's Blood Dinner with Sean Paxton and 21st Amendment)
In between, though, something very fortunate happened. Continuing the Bill Brand theme, I finally met Bill in person for the first time. What a journalist he is. I got to see where his information-filled beer journal entries come from. They come from a tireless drive to get the details from a beer, from the people, and from the event.
(Before the guests arrived at the 21st Amendment, Hop Crisis and Monk's Blood poised ready)
Sean Paxton's (The Homebrew Chef) dinner was a feast for kings and queens (I can only imagine what the Firestone Walker and Sean Paxton dinner was like on Thursday night in the Haight...gggrrr). As was the Monk's Blood beer that he co-brewed with the 21st Amendment brewing staff and all of the other beers served that Sunday evening. The dinner got started just a bit late as we all straggled in from the rain, dried off, socialized, and found our seats.
(Bill Brand reviews the evening's plans and preparations with chef Sean Paxton)
I was fortunate to sit with Sean's wife, Arlene, and daughter Olivia. Also at my table was Bill Brand, Jesse Friedman, Brian Yaeger with friends Kimberly and one whose name escapes me at the moment, and Chaz (ubiquitous beer lover and traveler from Alaska....y'know, right next to Russia!).
(Sean Paxton and Shaun O'Sullivan welcome their guests and get the night's dinner off to a fun start)
We all snacked on cheese, nuts, crusty bread, and fruit compote until Sean and Shaun (O'Sullivan of 21A) were ready to get the show underway. Each course was described by Sean, who will never be mistaken for a guy who leaves a stone unturned or left to chance. This is a guy who understands and appreciates the many facets of cooking and brewing...photography too. Check out his website and see what I mean. And, if you ever have the chance to have one of his beer and food pairing dinners, do not, I repeat, do not hesitate. Reservations will go fast. Come to think of it, he's announced an August 20th dinner at Ebenezer's Pub (check out their new site) in Lovell, Maine. Will you be there? Don't say I didn't warn you. Last year's was amazing and I'm still kicking myself for missing it. The Monk's Blood Beer Dinner Menu:
(Cheese and Beer, period.)
21A Hop Crisis paired with: Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk Cheese served with a dried fruit compote made with Monk's Blood Belgian Ale, toasted spiced nuts and local breads. 21A Diesel (Imperial Smoked Porter) paired with: Crepes filled with beer braised duck, house cured bacon, fennel, thyme, cinnamon and leeks and a Monk's Blood cream suace topped with toasted almonds. 21A Watermelon Funk paired with: Baby lollo rosso and curly endive with Humboldt Fog crostini, blood orange vinaigrette , candied pecans and shaved manchego cheese.
(the most perfectly done Lamb Shank I've ever had? quite possibly; seriously, that's one per person!)
21A Beer Hunter '08 paired with: Beer braised lamb shank slow cooked Colorado lamb shanks with carrots, celery and thyme, dried figs, and coriander served on a puree' of parsnips. Monk's Blood (Sean's collaboration beer, which was available throughout the dinner as well, but went no better with another course, in my opinion, than the dessert course...due in no small part, I believe, to the nuts and cherries) paired with: Chocolate and ale mousse tart, filled in a hazelnut crust in a pool of sour cherry coulis.
(Jesse Houck and Sean Paxton breath a sigh of contentment at the conclusion of their Monk's Blood dinner at 21st Amendment)
Is that enough for one installment here, or what? Let's call that a wrap for Part 1 and I'll be back to share Monday's and Tuesday's drinks and doings with you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

PBW 2009: The Schedule of Events...One More Time

We're now two weeks away from the kickoff of PBW 2009. This is (probably) the last update I'll be doing to the spreadsheet calendar (updated: 3/5/09). I'm figuring that nothing noteworthy has yet to be planned and announced....which is only setting me up to be surprised and, well, wrong (that's what happens when using a definitive like 'nothing'). I'm happy that so many of you (over 2200 at last count) have downloaded this spreadsheet, found it useful, and commented back to me as such. I hope that you all enjoy Philly Beer Week in your own way and that I stumble across at least a few of you along the way. Cheers to the Best Beer Drinking City/Region! There's a new column that I added to the spreadsheet. It's my attempt to categorize the types of events being undertaken during this year's Philly Beer Week. Keep in mind, that this is just my approach with no guidance from the PBW committee. Just a way to try and get my head around just exactly what PBW is all about and share with you. Here are some of the "rules" that I applied to come up with categorizations. In a few cases, it was strictly subjective and majority ruled ;-) > Almost anything that says "Meet the..." got tagged as a 'Tasting/Meeting' > Any description that contained "...Tasting..." where the details contained someone's name is tagged as a 'Tasting/Meeting' > All other tastings are labeled simply as 'Tastings' (though, keep in mind that 'tastings' can either be Free or PAYG) > All brunches are 'Food/Beer Pairings' since none are of the other dining type, which I labeled 'Timed, Sit-down Meals' if they had a fixed time and price > Anything that comes across as classroom-like, instructional, or otherwise educational, it has been tagged 'educational' > Now to get a bit controversial that I'm sure to take a little heat for...anything that isn't a festival, an obvious event (had to be obvious to me), a meet & greet with some level of rep from a brewery, a meal, featuring a brewery or beer that isn't overly difficult to come by, or anything along those lines was tagged as a 'Advertisement'. Once again, keep in mind that I'm thrilled to see so many places doing so many things...thing is, not everything is as "something" as the next thing. And according to Bryan's Rules, that'd be not much more than an advertisement. And, just one man's opinion at that. Here's what I found: 189 Tastings/Meetings; 96 Tastings; 77 Advertisements/Promotions; 61 Food/Beer Pairings; 34 Fun & Games; 28 Timed/Sit-Down Meals; 17 Educational; 10 Music; 7 Festivals; 1 Homebrewing

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beer Calendar: What To Do in March 2009

With Beer Week San Francisco Style out of the way, March can come in like a Philly Beer Week for your drinking and eating pleasure. Obviously, I won't list all Philly Beer Events below. You should already know that there's a whole spreadsheet full of them that you can download from over here. Or, you can go to the official Philly Beer Week calendar of events. For other March events around the area/country, check below. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. Enjoy! $20 and under, down to and including FREE...Pay As You Go (PAYG) also included here Philadelphia Fri. 2/27-Sat. 2/28 - Countdown to St. Patrick’s Day @McGillin's, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG) Thu. 3/5 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (Jolie Blonde)@Triumph, Philadelphia, PA (6pm; PAYG) Fri. 3/13 - Friday the Firkinteenth #20 @Grey Lodge, Philadelphia, PA (9am-???; PAYG) Sat. 3/14 - The Rise and Fall of Schmidt's of Philadelphia @Philadelphia Brewing Co., Philadelphia, PA (2pm; free) Philadelphia's close suburbs Fri. 3/7 - Friday Night Tasting (Southampton)@Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4pm-6pm; free) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Thu. 3/4 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (Barrel Aged Imperial Stout)@Triumph, Princeton, NJ (6pm; PAYG) Thu. 3/6 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (Belgian Dubbel)@Triumph, New Hope, PA (6pm; PAYG) Sat. 3/14 - Stone Brewing Extravaganza @Union Jack's, Boyertown, PA (2pm; PAYG) Thu. 3/26 - Thursday Night Tasting (Dock Street) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (7pm-9pm; free) Fri. 3/27 - Cask Ale Night (Oliver's Brewery) @General Sutter Inn, Lititz, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Elsewhere Wed. 3/4 - Rodenbach & Left Hand @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, NY (4pm; PAYG) Sat. 3/7-Sun. 3/8 - Split Thy Skull @Mugs Ale House, New York, NY (all day; PAYG) Tue. 3/10-Wed. 3/11 - Vermont Beer & Cheese Festival @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, NY (4pm; PAYG) Sun. 3/15 - 2nd Anniversary Gathering @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, NY (call for details) Wed. 3/18 - Bear Republic @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, NY (4pm; PAYG) Fri. 3/20-Sun. 3/22 - 3rd Annual Manhattan Cask Ale Festival @Chelsea Brewing Co., New York, NY (all day; PAYG) Wed. 3/25 - Great Divide @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York, NY (4pm; PAYG) Wed. 3/25-Sat. 3/28 - NERAX @George Dilboy Post, Somerville, MA (see website for details) Events Over $20 Philadelphia Philadelphia's close suburbs Wed. 3/18 - Stoudt's Beer Dinner @High Street Caffe, West Chester, PA (6:30pm; $45) Sun. 3/29 - 4th Annual Homebrewers Contest @High Street Grill, Mount Holly, NJ (12pm-3pm; $25) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Mon. 3/9 - Brewer's Winter Beer Festival @Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA (6pm; $TBD) Thu. 3/19 - For the Love of La Chouffe Tasting @The Farmhouse, Emmaus, PA (6:30pm; $40) Fri. 3/20 - Belgian Beer Dinner @The Farmhouse, Emmaus, PA (7pm; $80) Elsewhere Sat. 3/7 - Day & Night of the Living Ales @Goose Island/Wrigleyville, Chicago, IL (1pm-5pm, 6pm-10pm; $40) Sat. 3/21-Sun. 3/22 - 7th Annual Hard Liver Barleywine Festival @Brouwer's Cafe, Seattle, WA (11am-???; PAYG) Sat. 3/21-Sun. 3/22 - Atlantic City Beer Festival @Atlantic City Convention Center, Atlantic City, NJ (see website for details)

Double IPAs on Tap at Teresa's Next Door: The afternoon crowd didn't do it's job

Funny thing is, for as thick as the crowd was all afternoon, most people ordered the taster sizes and all beers on this list were still available as of 6pm. Dinner crowd, go get 'em.

Tonight, The Brewing Network pays Tribute to Bill Brand

If you've never listened to a Sunday Session at The Brewing Network, tonight could be a good time to begin. Start at 8pm eastern time with a moment of silence, a beer, and a toast before listening to an archived show with Bill from 2008. They will also interject Beer of the Week clips that Bill had done in the past. If you don't know of Bill and his passing, jump over here for some background. It's been a saddening couple of weeks since the accident on 2/8; this may help to begin the healing process.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Philly Beer Week 2009: Yards Brewing Profile

Last year I did a profile for each of most of the local breweries in the Philadelphia region. I've updated them, but instead of once again spilling them out across the page here, I'll simply point you over to where you can find and download the profile. Yards Brewing is getting its brew kettle footings firmly under itself as it comes up on its first year anniversary later this year. If you can't find a Yards beer or employee during this year's PBW, you're doing something way, way wrong. Click here for a 2009 updated Profile of Yards. An addition to the profiles this year will be an interview with a key "player" at each establishment. Only problem is, I'm still trying to determine exactly who it was at Yards that sent these responses to me. Kehoe, Mashington, or some combination thereof? The words are put together too well for it to be a random word generator.
The Brew Lounge: During last year's PBW, you guys were just getting your legs under you. Has the last year met expectations for the first year of operations? What level of capacity are you guys at by now? Tom Kehoe, maybe: We are just now hitting the 6 month mark for full production since the move and we couldn't be happier. We are about to re-open some of our old markets (NJ, Pitt, etc.) which is a great thing for some of our neighboring areas. We have increased our capacity from our previous facility and we have a lot more room to grow in our new facility. TBL: What's been the biggest surprise and, if any, disappointments? Yards: The Phillies winning the World Series and the Eagles losing to the Cardinals? We haven’t had too many surprises since construction. There are always unforeseen hiccups in production, but those are anticipated surprises (check Websters for that!). No disappointments that I can think of, unless you count when Mashington cut his hair into a mullet. TBL: Have you been getting mostly positive feedback? (i.e. seeing Yards again, cask ESA, etc.) Mashington, huh?: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We have had countless compliments on the improvements in the beer, especially the ESA. Our brewing staff has done a fantastic job and I’m really happy to see the firkins gaining popularity around town. TBL: The industry is full of characters. Name some of your favorite characters you encounter around town...owners, bartenders, reps, brewers, etc. Yards: Well, Fergie is always quite the character. His quick wit and humor are always appreciated. Wendy from Dogfish has an obsession with the quesadillas at the Bishops Collar which manifests itself rather comically. Tom Buonano from Muller might be the epitome of the word character. Just look at our brewery, that place is full of interesting characters. We’ve got a diverse crew who all share the same passion. The individuality of all the personas in this industry is what makes the craft beer segment so fun. TBL: How about back in the brew house? What gets you guys through the day? Who's keeping it loose and who needs to loosen up? Do you brew to music and who gets to choose the genre? The Night Watchman: Our guys love what they do and that is what keeps them motivated. Everyone who works at Yards has the same dedication and commitment. They all realize that everyone is responsible for the finished product and they all take it very seriously. Otis keeps it looser than anyone, that’s why we bought him suspenders. Sometimes I have to remind Andrew to loosen up a bit, but his love for death metal and German beers keeps him focused. We don’t brew to music, but we do make boxes and keg with a radio in the background. The guys choose their own music, which is funny. Half of our staff listens to jam bands (Grateful Dead, Phish, moe, etc) and the other half listens to metal. I listen to the 80’s. The running joke is that creates the balance. I know Tim used to wait until some of the metal guys were up on the scissor lift painting and then switch it to the Grateful Dead. TBL: Has the yeast bank project begun yet? What are your expectations in that regard and who will be in charge? Yards: It hasn't started yet, but it will sometime this year. Frank will be handling that and our entire lab related concerns. TBL: The Smoke 'Em event looks great as, of course, does the Real Ale celebration. Is there anything in particular you'd like to share regarding these events? And, is there anything else around town that you're especially looking forward to during this year's Philly Beer Week? Kehoe, probably: Smoke ‘Em is going to be a blast. I was a little apprehensive when Mashington came up with the idea, but it’s turning out to be a great event. We have something like 22 smoked beers! The Real Ale is going to be even better this year. We have nothing but impressive casks lined up and we’re limiting ticket sales again. I’m thrilled about it. With respect to all the other events, where do I begin? City Tavern is doing a great dinner feature every night. I’m not gonna lie to you Bryan; I can’t wait for the wrestling match with Jim Kirk. We have some of the IPA’s dressing up like Geishas and I’ve been in training for two months. He’s gonna get pained! We’re also doing a beer dinner at the Four Seasons that I think is going to be incredible. TBL: Will there be any Mini-Mash t-shirts this year? Or are we on to a new theme? Yards: God, I hope there are no more Mini-Mash shirts! One is more than enough! Mike Fava, Casey Hughes, and Mashington have been working on a shirt. Fava has a local artist doing some cool sketches and the shirt is going to look awesome. That is going to be one heck of a night; hopefully I can catch up with those guys at McGillin's.

William Brand, Reporter, Journalist, & Beer Writer, 1939-2009

Profanity doesn't find its way into The Brew Lounge very much at all, but if there was ever an appropriate use of the F-word, it'd be right about here and now. This is certainly sad news for Bill's family in the Bay Area and Beer World abroad. After what was a great San Francisco Beer Week, the area will be left a little worse off with Bill's passing. Rest in Peace, Bill; we'll have one more Toast to you, your life, and your boundless support of great beer tonight at 7pm.

PBW 2009: How do we measure success?

(There could be an instant reaction to label me a pessimistic, flame-fanning naysayer. That's not it all. Just some interesting conversations that I've been in recently where questions have been raised that I now raise to you.) Over the past month or so, I've had numerous one-off conversations on both Coasts with bartenders, owners, brewers, and consumers regarding the perceived size of Philly Beer Week (SF Beer Week, as well). Though, as beers went down, the number of answers that we had didn't necessarily go up. Perhaps there are no right answers to these questions? Take, for example... > Has success in 2009 been accomplished in that last year we (Philly) had in the neighborhood of 200 events and this year we've almost tripled that number? San Francisco's had close to 150 events in this, their freshman, year. Should they expect that they can at least double this number next year? And, if so, will it be considered a success as well? > Is success measured in the shear, raw number of "events" and who measures (and how) what constitutes an event? > Who's keeping score? In other words, did 10 people or 100 people attend last night's Meet The Brewer at XYZ Bar and how do we consider whether either number is acceptably successful? If 20 people attended the beer dinner at ABC Restaurant, but they were all well-seasoned beer connoisseurs, was the event a success? Or is success measured more in how many new craft beer enthusiasts are created out of Beer Week? > Speaking of new craft beer enthusiasts, I think that this may be the one question for which we came to a conclusion. The question of high-end beer dinners at venues without historically solid beer lists. Places like Scala's Bistro in San Francisco and The Four Seasons in Philly. I understand that a main objective is to introduce beer to a new clientele that may not be as savvy regarding better beer. But, wouldn't it be nice if these establishments already were dabbling a bit in the stuff at the bar? We can only hope that the turnout will encourage them to do so in the future. > If I go to 22 events as I did last during last year's PBW, does that count as 22 visitors to Philly Beer Week? Is average number of event visits per unique visitor a measurement of success? > If an establishment lists "burger week" on the PBW calendar, does that count as 10 events? In other words, when is something an event and when is it merely an advertisement? (sorry, I couldn't resist one peeve) Keep these questions in mind as you make your way through Philly Beer Week. Better yet, let me know now what you think of these questions; Comment Below. Do you care? Does it matter? Or is simply having access to this many "events" sign enough of success for you? Afterall, marketing is a lot of what this is about, right? As you head into Philly Beer Week with an "approach", my recommendation is two-fold and the same as last year: (1) Make sure to find some events that are off the beaten path where you're not as likely to run into the mass beer geekerie and (2) Take along at least one person with you whose experience with craft beer is significantly less than yours. Oh, and if the event you go to is not exactly teeming with beer event pomp, make sure to mention to the bartender, manager, brewer, or owner that you are there specifically for the event. Let's make this thing successful.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

PBW 2009: Real Ale Invitational at Yards Brewing

The list is almost finalized for this year's Real Ale Invitational at Yards (co-hosted by Triumph). My only question is, why isn't this sold out yet? (though, I've been told the VIP session is) 4 hours of Cask Goodness for $40. Last year there were close to 30 casks, so I'm hoping to see a few more added year in the next couple of weeks as brewers scramble to finalize their contributions. Allentown/Bethlehem Brew Works- Bourbon Barleywine Brooklyn Brewery- TBD Dock Street Brewing Company- Rye IPA Dogfish Head Brewery- TBD Flying Fish Brewing Company- Hopfish Fullers- ESB Fullers- London Pride Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant- Red Ale Manayunk Brewing Company- California Dreamin' IPA Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant- 3C (Double IPA) Philadelphia Brewing Co.- R.I.S. Sierra Nevada Brewing- Chico IPA Sly Fox Brewing Company- Phoenix Pale Southampton Brewing Company- Scotch Ale Stewart's Brewing Company- London/Brown/ESB Stoudt's Brewing Company- Smooth Hoperator Triumph Brewing Company of Philadelphia- Irish Dry Stout Tröegs Brewing Company- Barleywine Victory Brewing Company- Hop Devil Yards Brewing Company- Brawler

PBW 2009: How to Burn off the Calories

Well, I suppose I'm on a Press Release tear here. Though, I have a selfish motivation for this one. What's remarkable is that after some of the odd glances I got for hosting last year's only physical activity during PBW, this year there are no less than three others scheduled. Two bike rides and two runs will give participants a chance to burn off calories before putting them back on again. Hm, and those glances? Come to think of it, those are the glances I see most of the time.
CRAFT BEER + THE GREAT OUTDOORS = TWO BIKE RIDES AND TWO RUNS DURING PHILLY BEER WEEK 2009 PHILADELPHIA, PA – The second-annual Philly Beer Week (PBW) 2009 (Friday, March 6 through Sunday, March 15) will include beer runs and bike rides among its more than 500 events. Perfect for beer lovers who also like to get a little exercise, these events will combine running, biking and craft beer. The four active events are: Saturday, March 7 * Le Tour de Philly Brew, a scenic yet strenuous 60 mile ride starting at Yards Brewery (901 North Delaware Avenue) leaving at 10 am sharp with stops at General Lafayette Inn, Iron Hill North Wales for lunch and Manayunk Brewery before recovering back at Yards. Limited to 25 riders. For more information contact bicycleja@yahoo.com. * Dock Street to Dock Street - The Brew Lounge Scavenger Run, a five-mile scavenger run starting at 10 am at the Veterans Memorial Plaza at Dock and Front Streets, ending at Dock Street Brewery (701 50th Street), including a post-race buffet that is free for participants. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Bryan@BrewLounge.com. Monday, March 9 * Run and Drink with the Brewers, a 5k run through Philadelphia’s beautiful Fairmount Park starting and ending at the Bishops Collar (2349 Fairmount Avenue) with Adam Avery of Avery Brewing, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Brian O’Reilly of Sly Fox and Tom Kehoe of Yards Brewing on a “pace scooter” handing out beers. Refreshments from Avery Brewing at Bishops Collar after the run. Run is limited to 100 runners. To sign up, please visit The Bishops Collar Saturday, March 14 – Visit your Local Brewery Day * The Brewery Bike Ride, a leisurely 14-mile ride open to all skill levels that will visit five of the breweries within Philadelphia’s city limits. 11 am start at Nodding Head Brewery (1516 Sansom Street), then on to Dock Street, Yards, Philadelphia Brewing Company and ending up at Triumph Brewpub. To sign up, please contact jesseleekeenan@gmail.com. The second-annual Philly Beer Week (PBW) 2009 will kickoff on Friday, March 6 at 7 p.m., in the spectacular Comcast Center lobby and Winter Garden (17th street and JFK Boulevard) with the Opening Tap, a celebration honoring over 30 regional breweries whose beer help make Philadelphia "the best beer-drinking city in America." The Opening Tap will begin with a ceremonial 'first tap' using the official Philly Beer Week Keg Mallet, followed by a strolling beer tasting and a festive awards ceremony. Opening Tap tickets cost $40 and are available for purchase online. For general information, including the ever-expanding schedule of events and list of participants, please visit Philly Beer Week

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PBW 2009: Kickin' Off Philly Beer Week with Opening Tap on March 6th

You may have caught this on Philly Beer Week's homepage. In case not, here's the press release announcing the official kickoff on Friday evening March 6th. Of course, there are close to two dozen other events jockeying for position on the calendar beginning at 12:01am, but this one includes some clever awards and promises to showcase the industry's glitterati. You'll have to attend to see just how clever we really are!
PHILLY BEER WEEK 2009 ANNOUNCES DETAILS FOR 'OPENING TAP' – THE KICK-OFF EVENT FOR AMERICA’S LARGEST BEER CELEBRATION PHILADELPHIA, PA – The second-annual Philly Beer Week (PBW) 2009 will kickoff on Friday, March 6 at 7 p.m., in the spectacular Comcast Center lobby and Winter Garden (17th street and JFK Boulevard) with the Opening Tap, a celebration honoring over 30 regional breweries whose beer help make Philadelphia “the best beer-drinking city in America.” The Opening Tap will begin with a ceremonial ‘first tap’ using the official Philly Beer Week Keg Mallet, followed by a strolling beer tasting and a festive awards ceremony. Opening Tap tickets cost $40 and can be purchased online at www.phillybeerweek.org ($50 at the door.) "The Opening Tap is a one-of-a-kind event featuring our local breweries and their beers, as well as the men and women who create them," says Don Russell, who along with Tom Peters and Bruce Nichols are the founders of Philly Beer Week. Invited breweries for the Opening Tap include: Appalachian Brewing, Barley Creek Brewing Company, Brew Works, Dock Street, Dogfish Head, Earth + Bread, Erie Brewing Company, Flying Fish, General Lafayette, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Lancaster Brewing Company, Legacy, Lion, Manayunk Brewpub, McKenzie’s, Nodding Head, Penn Brewery, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Porterhouse, Reading Brewing Company, Riverhorse, Rock Bottom, Roy Pitz, Sly Fox, Triumph, Stewart’s, Stoudt's, Troegs, Twin Lakes, Victory, Weyerbacher, Yards and Yuengling. A group of local beer writers created the awards that will honor each brewery represented at the event. An emcee will announce each award and invite the brewery representative to join them, get their photo taken and receive their PBW award. "These are not your traditional 'Best Of' awards. They have a definite Philly attitude! In this town, we may take our beer seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously," says Russell who created the awards with fellow beer writers George Hummel, Bryan Kolesar, Lew Bryson, Jack Curtin, Suzanne Woods, Rich Wagner, Woody Chandler, and Carolyn Smagalski. Food will be available for purchase from the Market at the Comcast Center, and live music is also planned. Attendees must be at least 21 years of age, and no children will be admitted. Those wishing to take public transportation to Philly Beer Week, can purchase Sip Safely with SEPTA, an unlimited, all-day, bus-trolley-rail pass that will be sold for $9.00, valid any one day between March 6 and March 15. This pass is valid on SEPTA services, to encourage PBW participants to travel safely, rather than driving from event to event. Sip Safely with SEPTA passes are available for sale at most SEPTA locations. More information is available on the Travel section of the PBW site. To purchase tickets for the Opening Tap or find general information including the ever-expanding schedule of events and list of participants, please visit Philly Beer Week

Yo Brewers, Let's Get it On!

18

I found this a particularly hilarious way to begin my Hump Day. Even if the quiz itself was mildly entertaining, the Disclaimer is what had me chuckling and thinking of brewers I know and trying to envision a battle royale with people who "are typically stronger than they appear", heheh. So, I don't know if 18 is a lot or not. How many could you take? Note: This is all just a joke and this quiz was created purely in jest. Please don't try to fight any brewers! They are liable to cause you physical harm and they are typically stronger than they appear.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Run, Beer, and Brunch this coming Weekend?

This weekend, anyone interested in a 13.1 mile run, then brunch at the tiedhouse? (disclaimer: I'm not buying) Shoot an email to me and we can coordinate day and time. (p.s. at 138 non-space characters, this is the closest you'll see me to Twittering...well, except for the spaces and this parenthetical which pushes me over ;-) Maybe I'll put it on My Wall at Facebook? ha!

Philly Beer Week 2009: Flying Fish Profile

Last year I did a profile for each of most of the local breweries in the Philadelphia region. I've updated them, but instead of once again spilling them out across the page here, I'll simply point you over to where you can find and download the profile. Flying Fish continues to crank out some of the regions most dependable beers and this past year was awarded justly by its peers at the Great American Beer Festival. Click here for a 2009 updated Profile of Flying Fish. An addition to the profiles this year will be an interview with a key "player" at each establishment. Casey Hughes, lead brewing artist at Flying Fish, spent a few minutes for some questions with me.
The Brew Lounge: Let's start off with the obvious. How did it feel winning this year at GABF? And other than winning, what was your favorite part of this year's Festival? Casey Hughes: Winning is always nice, it's nice to be honored by your peers in brewing with a medal. The best part is seeing all of my fellow brewers in the area winning and showing people from the rest of the country that we have so many skilled brewers in this area that win medals in so many different styles. TBL: Did you have anyone searching you out at the Festival with a job offer? But, seriously, answer this one honestly. Given comparables and a relocation package, where would be the one region/country that you would take a brewing job other than in the Delaware Valley. CH: I've always wanted to go back to the Keys at some point and open a small production brewery where I can take my boat to work and enjoy summer all of the time. That said though, there is nowhere better than this area to brew beer; we have the best breweries, bars, brewers, and drinkers in the country. TBL: Speaking of job offers, brew news of late has John Fiorilli heading west. Do you have plans that you can share for replacing him? CH: Yup, John is heading out west to be Head Brewer at Mountain Sun Brewing in Colorado. He is going to be impossible to replace, Mountain Sun doesn't know how good of an employee they got, his personality, work ethic, and brewing knowledge are all top notch. I can't wait to go to Denver this year and see him on stage getting a medal from Papazian. TBL: Is there any other change in the works at Flying Fish that you care to share at this point? I know there have been some brewhouse modifications/additions that you and John have been working on, right? CH: We just installed a new brew kettle with an internal calandria that speeds up our brew days (and looks beautiful!) and I will be putting in a HMI (Human Mechanical Interface) to control all of our tanks and bottling line and it will give me the option of checking/changing tank temperatures from my phone where ever I'm at. TBL: That will be one valuable phone!...Last year's Philly Beer Week was, by most accounts, a smashing success. What stood out most for you last year and what are you looking forward to the most this year? CH: All of the events at Beer Week were great, I'm amazed that everything went off so well since it was the first year and this year is looking to be even better. There are so many great events but I always look forward to the Local Brewers Center City Bar Tour, with so many events going on during week this is the one event that a bunch of us brewers/brewery reps can get together and drink some beers together. I'm also looking forward to the Klash of the Kaisers event because Patrick Jones and I got to brew a beer to honor our great friend Jay Misson who we lost last year.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dock Street to Dock Street Scavenger Run - Philly Beer Week 2009: 3/7/2009

Have you seen this running event on the PBW schedule and wondered what the heck it's all about? Scavenger...what? I've gotten a decent response so far for the Run that I'll be conducting in conjunction with Dock Street on 3/7/09 during Philly Beer Week. All without mentioning it here. However, it was one of the earliest listings on PBW's calendar of events. In case you're not checking in over there, I wanted to make sure that you know about it. Afterall, last year almost 100 of you initially signed up to do it. (Unfortunately, we eventually lost some due to a date change to accommodate Mother Nature). I'll include a birds-eye scoop about the run on March 7th. If you'd like more information, drop me a note (drop a note, not me) and I'll forward the details along to you. 10:00am-10:30am: meet at Dock Street in Old City (Veterans Memorial Plaza) 10:30am: Scavenger Clues are unveiled 11:00am: Leave for Dock Street, West Philly After finishing at Dock Street, you will be scored based on two things: how many answers you get right and how quickly you get to Dock Street. This is not just a speed event. For more details, drop an e-mail to me. Can't wait to see you all and get this Philly Beer Week started! Oh, and pee ess, if you can't make it to my Philly Beer Week Run, don't forget that there's a much bigger celebrity Beer Run on Monday the 9th at 3pm at Bishop's Collar. Names like Calagione, O'Reilly, Avery, and Kehoe (yes, Kehoe) are rumored to be in attendance for this 5k run. There are a couple of bike rides too if that type of physical activity more suits you.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

PBW 2009: It's Truly a Marvel

That's correct, Mr. Sixpack, it truly is a Marvel. With another 50+ events added in the past 24 hours to the official calendar of events, PBW's website is bursting at the seams. I, of course, have also updated....the spreadsheet of events that you can easily download. Getting close to 500 events sprinkled around 90 establishments. How's your planning coming along?

Back from San Francisco, with a few friends in tow

If you could come home with only 3 bottles in your suitcase (to keep it under the 50 pound limit), would you be disappointed with this take? Neither would/was I :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Back from San Francisco, but first a note for Bill Brand

Over the next week, I'll share my thoughts of San Francisco's Beer Week. But, first and most importantly, for those who have not heard the reports, one of the industry's respected voices was critically injured last Sunday evening after leaving a beer dinner in San Francisco. William (Bill) Brand was hit by a San Francisco Muni Metro train after leaving the Homebrew Chef Beer Dinner at the 21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant. For me, this came as even sadder news the following morning as I had shared a table with Bill and six others at what was a tremendous dinner of fellowship, food, and beer. For someone with whom I'd only shared email correspondence in the past, Bill was quick to engage me as well as the others around the table. I was so pleased to finally meet him in person. He was an active part of everyone's dining experience at our table, even as he set about with his notepad to document the many facets of the evening. The beer was an equal part of the night, if not perhaps less so to him, with the food and the people and their stories. This was evident in the questions he asked as well as the frequent use of the "dump bucket" in the middle of the table. The picture above is of him discussing the components of the evening with Sean Paxton (aka The Homebrew Chef). After dinner, as he was leaving he made sure to turn back to me to say, "Bryan, I'll see you in Philly." I'm holding him to that and ask that we all keep him in our thoughts and prayers for a quick return to spreading the message of good beer. For more complete coverage of Bill's progress, be sure to follow the sites listed below. As you'll see mentioned in more than one place, nightly toasts have been held in Bill's honor since Sunday. I participated in Toronado's on Monday, which was led by proprietor Dave Keane. I encourage others in the Bay Area and beyond to continue to do the same. Cheers Bill! Bill Brand's and Jessica Yadegaran's Bottom's Up Bill's Facebook page (updated by his wife, from what I understand) Jay Brooks' Brookston Beer Bulletin Jesse Friedman's Beer and Nosh (with a great across-the-table picture of Bill at work)

Philly Beer Week 2009. Seriously? Seriously.

Somewhere in the ballpark of 500 daily events over 10 days at over 90 establishments in and outside of the city. You know where to find the updates. (UPDATED: 3/5/09) I've been fond of saying over these past weeks that this year's lineup is looking so solid that if you told me I could only go to one event and you'd spin the wheel to choose my event, there'd be little chance that I'd be disappointed in the outcome. Last year, there was a flurry of (sorry to say) "events" (term used quite loosely) at two-bit bars scheduled in the last minutes that probably didn't deserve to be riding the coattails of Philly Beer Week. I'm not seeing that this year and that's a very good thing in my estimation. But, still...how to choose? Party on...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Philly Beer Week 2009: Sly Fox Brewing Profile

Last year I did a profile for each of most of the local breweries in the Philadelphia region. I've updated them, but instead of once again spilling them out across the page here, I'll simply point you over to where you can find and download the profile. Sly Fox has two locations, the original in Phoenixville, PA and the other in Royersford, PA. They continue to grow production and distribution, in both bottles and now more than ever...cans. Click here for a 2009 updated Profile of Sly Fox. An addition to the profiles this year will be an interview with a key "player" at each establishment. Brian O'Reilly will be celebrating his 7 year anniversary with Sly Fox (hopefully no 7 year itch) and spent some time with me on a bit of Q&A.
The Brew Lounge: Going into our second year of showcasing the region in Philly Beer Week, do you think the region gets fair props from other parts of the country? Brian O'Reilly: I don't think people fully realize how great the beer scene is here in Philly. It is hard to explain our tavern culture to people that have not been here. When I try to explain it they seem to think I am talking about an old, corner bar. You have to experience the whole thing together to get it. This means sitting down, having some food and a conversation, not just looking at a beer list. TBL: What do you think is one part of the brewing/beer industry that is missing from the Delaware Valley? B.O.: Volume of local beer, but that is changing rapidly, all of the small production brewers are growing. TBL: Successfully expanding brewing and distribution, continuing awards, contract brewing, more goats than ever. Are you having as much fun as you've ever had at work? B.O.: My job is more complicated now, but I have much more help. It is a natural progression. My challenges are different, but it is rewarding working with such a great team of Owners, Brewers, and sales staff. I still have fun, but the stakes get bigger. There are a lot of people to think of every day. Our wholesalers, tavern owners, and direct customers are all partners in our growth. TBL: How do you see the success of the Goat Races & Bock Festival continuing to grow? B.O.: We hope it does not grow too much more too quick. We are still trying to work through parking and neighbor issues, but it is a great event! What more do you need? Goats, Bock Beer, food, family environment, and German oompah music? TBL: The IPA Project had a long run, but you're morphing it into a similar project. Do you have much emotion for the end of the IPA Project? B.O.: No, we were done. It had lost it's luster this last year. I'm really enjoying the Pale ales now. TBL: Goat races, Bock Beers, IPA Project, Cans...there have been some pretty clever ideas. Share an idea or two that didn't make it off the drawing board. B.O.: I have some ideas that have not come to fruition yet. We are looking at a couple collaboration brews, they may or may not happen. We are still experimenting with canning the O'Reilly's stout. I think I have it figured out, but the can manufacturer has such a big minimum order that the project would cost a small fortune. TBL: What's the most clever euphemism or usage of the word 'can' that you've used or has been used on you? B.O.: Cantacular Cantastic and Candemonium are old standbys in my pun repertoire. Have you seen this?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Philly Beer Week 2009: Victory Brewing Profile

Last year I did a profile for each of most of the local breweries in the Philadelphia region. I've updated them, but instead of once again spilling them out across the page here, I'll simply point you over to where you can find and download the profile. Victory Brewing is located in Downingtown, PA. They make an ever widening number of styles and brands and have been showcasing them in a recently-completed renovated restaurant. Click here for a 2009 updated Profile of Victory. An addition to the profiles this year will be an interview with a key "player" at each establishment. At Victory, Bill Covaleski is one of the founding partners. He sat down to answer a few questions.
The Brew Lounge: What is the most surprising thing to you about your school bus trip that got this big? Bill Covaleski: Our audience's capacity to appreciate and support the full flavored creations that good craftbrewers are putting out. When we opened in 1996 it was with three beers, a Dortmunder, our Festbier, and this really crazy beer that we were proud of but expected no one to like, maybe for many years, HopDevil Ale. HopDevil was radical at that time and it has become a 'must have' beer in area bars. This is quite an accomplishment in 13 years, for the audience's tastes to have expanded so greatly, and of course, so correctly. We really are thrilled to be serving this audience. It's rewarding and fulfilling for both parties. TBL: All told, you have what? 8, 10, 12 brewers? Is it difficult to manage a brewing staff of that size? Do egos get in the way? BC: I count 9 brewers. The complexity of scheduling them exists in that there are three departments: brewhouse, fermentation and packaging. Fortunately those scheduling duties are in the very capable hands of Scott Dietrich, our Director of Brewery Operations. Scott also has a team of 3 Mechanics and 1 Plant Manger at his disposal. It's actually a lean staff and a great climate of teamwork has been fostered since the days it was just Ron and I doing it all. As two, the challenge was to set the next brewer up so he had LESS to do in his shift. If everyone works to accomplish that, great efforts get done. There is no other way it will work because this is still very much a demanding business. TBL: What is the weekly Brewing Operations schedule? Do you foresee going 24x7 any time soon? BC: Brewhouse and fermentation typically work two shifts daily and 1 in packaging. 24 hour operations will come before 7 day a week operations as we have always cleared weekends as time off, except for the weekly brewer that gets to take tank gravities that weekend. That duty rotates on a long term schedule so no one is surprised. TBL: What's the next scheduled expansion (brewhouse, fermenters, etc.)? BC: We just signed off for 4 x 400 bbl. fermenters from Germany today! We look to install them here in July after some renovations to a new space. I'll bet our President claims that his 'stimulus' made this to happen. Yeah, right... TBL: At Victory, is it Bill & Ron, or Ron & Bill? Who's the more ambitious of the two of you? BC: When we compared SAT scores in high school it was apparent that we had different strengths, and so it continues. We rely on one another to handle the tasks that that person was built for. I think you'd have to spend some time with us to determine if one is more ambitious than the other. TBL: Is it time for a break yet? BC: Nope. Lunch is over so the nose goes back to the grindstone. There is light at the end of the tunnel (happy hour) and it looks like golden liquid capped with pristine foam! Fortunately, we have built a very, very good supporting team and so we accomplish a lot, and drink a lot, together.