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Monday, July 19, 2010
A Weekend in the Life of Philly Beer, Part 1
Wow! What an unexpectedly wonderful beer weekend in and around Philadelphia. This was a sleeper kind of weekend that just sort of snuck up on me. Of course, the calendar was always out there with great events on them, I just never expected to be a part of them. But, when the thermometer was flirting once again with the triple digits, it only make sense to stay indoors and hydrated, right?! Actually, the only event not officially on the calendar was one that broke out pretty much unexpectedly on Friday afternoon when I declared Friday night to be a night of beer and cheese cleanout at the Kolesar's. It'll take way many more thirsty folk to completely wipe out our beer supply, but taking a run at emptying the cheese drawer was a much more manageable task. Patty and I got started around 8pm with dinner and a couple of beers. We were joined by six neighbors and the table got quite crowded with beer, cheese, meats, and other snacks. Part of the motivation behind the beer side of this clean out was to dip into beers that have been gifted to me either by breweries, bars, or individuals. Some that could stay in the cooler in perfectly good condition for almost ever, and others that have unfortunately seen better days. I don't have as many beers sent to me as some writers do, but I have certainly built up enough over time and I should be doing a much better job at getting to them and writing about them as it seems appropriate. I'll have more to say about this in coming days. On to the lineup. There were nuts (not just the people kind ;-), pretzels, meats, and cheeses scattered around the table. I'd swear sometimes that I buy almost as much cheese as I do beer. Trying to clean out the cheese drawer on this night meant putting out Humboldt Fog (one of my no-brainer favorite cow's milk blue cheeses), an English Cheddar, Gourmandise Kirsch/Cherry, Apricot Stilton, a goat cheese Brie, and a French Sheep's cheese whose name escapes me...as does the wrapper that's since been tossed. No matter, it was a wide spectrum of cheese flavors to match the wide flavors and aromas of beers that we were pouring. And, boy were they pouring! Why don't we go through a little run down here of what we tasted? A few of us were in it to sample every beer; some only tried select ones. At the end of the night (aka early morning!), though, it seemed every one had a blast and this may become the basis/template for something I'd like to do on a more regular basis. (in order) Dogfish 60 Minute IPA - off the kegerator tap. A half of a glass while we pondered dinner and the night to come while watching the evening news (who does that any more?). Good and predictable standard.
(Lancaster Brewing's Kölsch: reminds me that I'm so anxious to visit Cologne in October)
Lancaster Brewing Kölsch - courtesy of Greg Ramirez at Exton Beverage, this is a new canned offering from Bill Moore and the good folks at Lancaster Brewing. We drank this with our salads for dinner and it fit in more nicely that I expected with the vinaigrette salad dressing. I'm thinking some of this may be coming along for a tailgate or two in the coming months, or perhaps for Ommegang BCTC campsite sipping.
Petrópolis Petra Premium Schwarzbier and Cuauhtémoc Bohemia Obscura - both from Brazil and both courteously gifted by a friend, Matt, who was there almost, gulp, two years ago. I say 'gulp' because it's my own fault that one of these was a dumper. I knew full well that neither of these beers should have stayed in the fridge that long and they suffered from being pushed further back one too many times. The schwarzbier held up fine enough to be a lightly roasted, easy drinking bock (as you might expect for the Brazilian climate and palates) but the other--the lager--not so much so. So, even though neither of these turned out to be highlights in the night, this is my humble and public mea culpa.
(Scratch my back; still tasty two years later)
Scratch's 10 & 11 from Tröegs - courtesy of Nick Johnson (sales) from Tröegs brewery, again, from almost two years ago. (Sensing a theme here?!) Are you familiar with the Scratch Series? Basically, each Scratch beer is a recipe from the brothers, either homebrew or pre-production experimental, that never quite made it into Tröegs production world of beers. They've been releasing these special one-offs (almost always as one-offs, with a few exceptions) on an almost regular basis now for the better part of 2-3 years. (They're currently up to Scratch Beer #32.) I had no idea which "styles" these two might have been close to, so we simply popped them open and played a little guessing game. Though, we didn't go online to try and research what these beers were intended to be, I did so later on and discovered that we were pretty close. We dubbed the Scratch #10 as "something Belgian", "kind of like a Tripel" and the Scratch #11 as a "nice, easy drinking ale", "kind of like a pale ale." Tröegs website says that #10 is a Grand Cru and that #11 is a Bitter. Not bad, boys, not bad at all.
Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale - courtesy of The NonconFERMist, Adam brought this over in his little goodie bag that he filled with various cans of beer. This Sly Fox beer tasted somewhat like a slightly hoppier version of the Scratch #11 and generally liked by more around the table.
(Yards Brawler, always fighting the good fight)
Yards Brawler - courtesy of TBL's Lancaster County correspondent, Dennis, who had just stuck this in my cooler bag when leaving work a few hours before this tasting. This is a beer from Philly's Yards Brewery which I know many swear by, but for my palate, I still haven't come to grips with. Its low ABV with solid malt backbone makes this a good beer for a wide cross-section of beer drinkers. I try it every couple of months or so, but have only really enjoyed it when served cask-conditioned. The journey continues...
(Newcastle Brown Ale, that's 5 liters in that thar keg...plus another 12 ounces that unfortunately, but maybe predictably tasted nothing like it does out of the keg)
Newcastle Brown - courtesy of Scottish & Newcastle in the UK and their US PR firm, Formula PR, this showed up on my doorstep during Philly Beer Week and has been held hostage by the beer cooler ever since. They sent along this 5 liter DraughtKeg, a 12-ounce bottle, and a piece of Geordie Schooner glassware. I'm pretty certain that it's the heaviest beer delivery I've ever received! What better venue than with a bunch of friends to share this and discuss? I remember drinking this around the turn of the 80s-to-90s at both Jekyll and Hyde in NYC and The Dicken's Inn in Philly (some legally, some not-so) and drinking this solid and dependable brown ale from the keg brought back those pleasant memories. Retailing for less than $15 for 5 liters (or, roughly, 10 pints) and advertised to stay fresh for 30 days after tapping, this semms like a smart investment--or gift--to make, particularly for a gathering of like-minded beer folks.
Unfortunately, drinking from the clear glass bottle did not. Though, thanks to Adam's suggestion, we turned that experience at the table into an instructional lesson for everyone around the table as to what packaging a beer into a clear glass bottle can potentially do to the beer. I haven't had a beer that was that skunked in a long time.
(Tom figured out the pouring mechanism; actually quite simple)
(Voila! A nice Newcastle with a foamy head)
Sly Fox Royal Weisse - Another canned offering courtesy of Adam. This one exemplified the virtues of beer with cheese. Not only did this German Wheat's flavors meld nicely with the apricot stilton, but the carbonation did a fine job scrubbing the creamy cheese from the tongue to marry the flavors and clean away the palate before another sip/bite.
(Unibroue siblings from Quebec)
Unibroue Trois Pistoles & Terrible - courtesy of Rick Suarez at Ommegang's BCTC a few years back..I'm thinking it was '07 when late in the festival, I spotted a miscreant take off with some bottles from Rick's table. Ever the good snitch :) I pointed him out to Rick. In the end, he chose to do nothing about it, but rewarded me with a case of mixed bottles from Unibroue that he didn't get around to pouring during the festival. Since then, we've made our way through the La Fin du Monde, the Maudite, the Chambly Noire, the Quelque Chose, the Éphemère (apple), and the 15th and 16th Anniversary beers. These were the last two from the case and weighing in at roughly 9% and 10.5% ABV, respectively, they were bound to hold up well over the years. Both were ripe with dark fruits, the Terrible coming through with a little extra pepper kick (or alcohol?).
(Meat, Cheese, Beer, and Santa...Christmas in July?!)
Port Brewing Wipeout IPA & Elysian Immortal IPA - courtesy of ......me! Finally, a couple of beers in this lineup that I paid for. Actually, had made a little Wegmans IPA run the other night and tracked down one each of these along with a couple of others. These two are quite reasonably priced. Being IPAs from the other coast, I figured these should be drunk asap. It was time to get a serious hop fix on in this tasting and these two could not have been more different. Wipeout seeming a bit more of a refreshing hop beer (loads of cascade helps) whereas the Immortal was more earthy (and, hence, a good pairing with both the French sheep's cheese the brie).
(Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, well worth seeking out)
Brooklyn Sorachi Ace - courtesy of Howard Weintraub at The Drafting Room, this beer has been on my radar and one of my favorite of the past 12 months, since last year's Ommegang BCTC. This Sorachi Ace hop with Japanese origins brings extra life (lemon rind/zest, a little bit of pepper) to an already stellar saison from these New York City brewers.
Ommegang Three Philosopher's - courtesy of BCTC in '07. I think that this was bought from the brewery, but it could've been handed to me, I don't know. In any case, this Quadrupel is further Belgian-ized by the blending of Kriek (cherry) lambic and as a result made for a nice pairing with the Gourmandise Kirsch cheese. This beer, at around 10% ABV and with its ever evolving nature, has held up well for being stored at underneath-staircase temperature for 3+ years.
(Gratitude from East End at the end of a five hour tasting session; job well done!)
East End Gratitude - courtesy of, hmmmm....I'd originally thought that this was our take-away thank you gift from Scott Smith at East End Brewery in Pittsburgh for the time that we'd helped to wrap the annual release of the stellar barleywine that he puts out each year. But, then I looked at the label (and the bottle cap wax color, too, is a giveaway) and it said it was the 2nd anniversary celebration barleywine...and we were there at the brewery in '08...so, this one must have been bought from somewhere--if I do the math correctly--it could have been during a visit in '07 to either D's or 3 Sons for western PA treats to bring home. If there was any doubt from the few of us still around the table, at 11.5% ABV and closing in on 2am, this was absolutely going to be the last beer. And a mighty fine last beer it was and one that has aged so very nicely.
What an absolutely great night of beer, cheese, and some of the best neighbors you could ask for. Tomorrow, I'll continue on with a great weekend of beer that continued outside of our four walls.