Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One More Reason to Meet Me on Saturday

I'd like you to run, but even if you only want to meet up with the runners afterward, here's a good reason. I've arranged for some special Dock Street brew that doesn't show up too often outside of West Philly to show up at TJs on Saturday (fret not: they're "PLCB-compliant"). One of them is an extra-special brew that you may not see for a while again. If you follow the Dock Street brewing news, you'll have a pretty good idea of what it is. If not, just show up at lunch on Saturday and check it out. Think Bubbly, think Creamy, think Rye not (well, that one's almost kicked). If you'd like to run with us, please RSVP to me at Or, if this is the first you're hearing of this and want more details, check back here for all the details, then drop a note to me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nebraska, makes me think of Bruce and Beer

(the Woodmen Building, as seen in About Schmidt, is a part of Omaha's prominent skyline)
Whaaaaat, you say? Springsteen is New Jersey/Northeast and Beer is "so" not the midwest/plain States, right? Mostly wrong on both accounts, but entirely wrong in the keen eyes of a beer hunter (lower case with deference to the one and only original and capitalized The Beer Hunter).
Heading to Omaha, Nebraska for the first time, there were several other things that also come immediately to mind. From Woodman's (y'know....Jack Nicholson--Dear Ndugu--About Schmidt....right?), Omaha Steaks, College World Series, to Warren Buffett, there are some icons in Omaha. Lately, George Clooney called Omaha home in the Oscar-nominated Up in the Air. But, as my noggin' is oft-oriented toward the barley and the hops, I recalled 2008 GABF days of wandering the Midwest/Plains region of breweries that I'd never drank from. One of my very first beers at the first session of the '08 GABF was Upstream Brewing Company's Grand Cru. I couldn't figure when and how I'd ever get to Omaha, so I drank many samples from Upstream (Gueuze and Grand Cru from Nebraska), Blind Tiger (Kansas), Gella's Diner (Kansas), Millstream (Iowa), and 23rd Street (Kansas) just to be sure I'd never forget what there is to find around those parts. My day job as taken me many places, mostly major metropolitan areas and mostly around the perimeter of the country---from Boston to Raleigh/Durham to Atlanta to Tampa to Birmingham to Dallas to Phoenix to San Francisco to Seattle to Chicago, just to name a very few around the edges (queue it up: I've been ever-y-where, Man). And, now it's taken me to Omaha, smack in the middle of the country and its "heartland". Come through TSA at the Omaha airport and you're greeted by an Omaha kiosk, perfect for taking/shipping Omaha Steaks products home. Taking the hotel shuttle from the airport downtown and you pass the future home of the soon-to-relocate baseball stadium for the College World Series. From many points downtown, the skyscaper marquee announces Woodman's and what I thought was a fictitious business name as it prominently greets visitors to the city skyline. Walking into the heart of the downtown business district (let's see, how to describe a brisk walk in 5 degree weather, the high for the day? 'refreshing' might be an exaggeration!), you pass the famous statues of bison and geese shown in Up in the Air. Never had my meeting with Warren Buffett, but I understand that his office is located a bit to the west of downtown near Beer Corner USA. Wonder how many times he wanders in for liquid refreshment?!
And, in the heart of the bustling Old Market district, you'll find Upstream Brewing Company. Admit it: You were beginning to wonder if this was a travel advertisment for Omaha, eh....and if I'd ever get to the beer matters at hand? I ventured across town (the temperature might have dropped to 3 or 4 degrees fahrenheit by the time I made the 5 block walk from my hotel, but it was actually feeling warmer, because the winds had died down).
Upstream Brewing is located inside a converted firehouse. As you might imagine, this makes for a pretty expansive footprint inside for both brewing and restaurant operations. And...they sure have made optimal use of each square foot. Feeling a bit like Denver's Wynkoop brewery, it's likely one of the largest brewpubs I've ever been inside of. Upstairs at Upstream, like at Wynkoop, you'll find exposed wooden rafters and a lineup of pool tables, seating area for both bar and restaurant, a bar, and an open floor looking through into the first floor space. Plus, plenty of windows to look out to the outdoor street life below. Back down on the street level, having a set of external and internal doors is a wise move to help keep out the nasty, blowing cold winter Nebraska winds. The to-go cooler is to the right, stocked full of goodies I'll tell you a little bit more about farther down below. The entry-level space opens up to both the left and right with a large square bar taking up most of the left third of the first floor space. With the naturally high ceilings of a firehouse combined with an opening into the second floor space, the presence of 'space' should be lost on no one at Upstream. After checking out the second floor, first floor, and all of the nooks and crannies, I settled in at the bar for a slow, progressive dinner. Okay, most progressive dinners wander from restaurant to restaurant...let's just say I did a slow progressive crawl through the menu sampling different foods and beers and pairings along the way. What does that mean? Well, it means that I began with an easy beer that I wanted to unwind with and enjoy the subtle flavors of without food getting in the way. Upstream has a full list of beers that spans the flavor spectrum from the typical to the atypical. I started my long session off with their cask-conditioned IPA. During happy hour, all beers were $2.00---so this made for an inexpensive way of getting into their menu of beers.
Nearing the end of the hand-drawn beer, I ordered a plate of lightly fried cheddar cheese curds. They were served with a dipping sauce which was described as blueberry and habanero, leading me to think spicy which, in turn, led me to think IPA. Well, the sauce was a bit disappointing as neither very sweet nor very spicy and actually the cheese was nice by itself. The Flagship IPA was pleasing as what I would call a solid straightahead IPA. I soon thereafter followed up with a small bowl of chili that promised a wallop of cumin flavor in the sour cream and it did, in fact, bring some decent flavor that went nicely alongside the remainder of my IPA. Though, there was a part of me that can't wait for a return visit so that I can try the much talked about Smoked Gouda and Beer Soup. I took a break from my food as I got into a Firehouse Red Vienna-style lager and watched two ice sports on two of the many TVs scattered around the bar area. Ice Hockey and Curling. Couldn't be more of a contrast in ice sports, now could there?! It was actually fun overhearing a guy next to me explain and defend to his group of friends the beauty of the sport of Curling. Seems he played it for a time as an intramural sport in college. Who knew... Anyways, as I got into Decimator Doppelbock, I put in an order for an 1/2 pound Omaha Brewer's Burger. It came out a little more well done than my preferred medium-rare, but I figured with a couple of toppings (mushrooms and bacon), I'd skip the lettuce, tomato, and ketchup and that the famed Omaha Steaks burger would measure up in terms of flavor and texture. Guess I'd say that while there was nothing particularly offputting in the sandwich, it certainly underwhelmed. Made me wish I'd gone with my second entree choice off the menu...either the Black Bean Veggie Burger or the Jackson Street Jambalaya...both highly-recommended by the bartender. So then to wrap things up--even though ordering dessert at a restaurant for me is usually an anomaly rather than the norm--how could I say 'no' to the Fruit Crisp? Knowing that there was a NED Flanders Red on the menu, this seemed like an obvious exception to make. Served a la mode, this was a dessert combination made in heaven. But, guess what? I'd only taken a sample size of the funky/tart/sour Belgian. Thing was, I really wanted to try their homemade root beer. Plus, just the night before was a four fest of sour beers and Tomme Arthur at Monk' could I forget?! (And, as if I hadn't already loaded up sugars/carbs by this point...but hey, I needed my energy for the following day!) The brewery-made root beer was real winner, marked by its distinctive bark flavors and so NOT cloyingly sweet. This helped to put the exclamation point on this very satisfying meal. Oh wait, perhaps the exclamation point was really the three friends that I was sent home with from the beer-to-go cooler. Remember?!?!? Earlier I told you we'd discuss this later....well, now it's later! Remember the Upstream beer I'd mentioned having at GABF 2008? Do you think I was happy to find it in the cooler? But, wait! Do you think I was even more excited to find vintage-dated bottles in the cooler!? betchya! Of course, I couldn't be satisfied to find one that I wanted to take. After all, isn't the checked bagged limit 50 pounds??? So, here's the take-home tally: (1) 2007 Tripel; (1) 2007 Grand Cru; and (1) 2006 Gueuze.
(I believe I should stay for the magic show next time to see how the magician makes the playing cards stick to the ceiling simply by flinging them up there)
I could save the rest of this for another story/posting, but I think I'm ready to dump and run on you here. So here come another couple of tidbits for your enjoyment. I think that somewhere in the past, I've mentioned to you the beauty of finding a Goose Island pub in Chicago's O'hare airport. And...that they (usually) serve one of the brewery's standout beers--Matilda. File this under 'Did You Know.' As in, Did You Know that the liquor license at O'Hare (and maybe all airports for all I know) applies to the entire airport property. This means that when you can't finish your beer in time--or when you'd simply like one to walk with through the airport-- that (at least at O'Hare) they'll put the beer into a plastic cup for you to go! Call me naive or simply uninformed, but I was totally surprised, impressed, and pleased to hear this during my last trip through Chicago. During this trip, I didn't require such service. With close to 3 hours to kill at the airport before catching my connection home, I was able to safely find a home for 3 Matildas and 1 Oatmeal Stout...oh, and an adequate sandwich as well. Alright then, for the last word here. Gas Station Convenience Stores in Omaha. Beer, of course, springs to mind immediately after (or during) pumping gas, right? And, Craft Beer at that, right? When I asked at the bar at Upstream if there was any decent place to go for takeout/retail beer, the best answer they could muster up was "maybe over at the gas station at 13th and Jackson streets. You might want to try them." Well, when the post-sundown temperature was again flirting with the big Zere-Oh, I was skeptical about making a 2 block walk out of my way to find Michelob Ultra and Blue Moon. But, it turned out be well worth it. The name is Cubby's and the worthy beer selection can come close to competing with the best supermarket selections in Pennsylvania. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but don't be fooled because we're talking about a gas station convenience store here. No pictures here to document the visit, but instead picture this: A rear beer aisle filled half with interesting/craft/micro/imported beer. Think along the lines of multiple Smokestack Series brands from Boulevard, all sorts of New Belgium beer including La Folie, a small lineup of Goose Island goodies including Matilda, Pere Jacques, Sofie, and Bourbon County Stout, as well as quite a few stellar Belgians from overseas. Knowing that my small checked bag would only hold so much, it turned out to be a La Folie that made the cut...until next time. Until next time indeed......
(the joys of flying during wintertime includes a de-icing in Chicago and a very rough landing in Philly)
(more icons of downtown Omaha)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Don Ho, it's off to Hawaii we search of Good Beer---Part 2

I was "moved" by my trip to Hawaii. Much like many of you, I'm sure, when you go to any place of extreme natural beauty and wonder. Well, maybe I wasn't as overwhelmingly moved during the first half of our trip to Oahu. After all, I was working most of the day long and only able to partake in a limited amount of nightlife during the week. Plus, the jetlag for the first couple of days had something to say about it too. Though, between Pearl Harbor, the drive up to the North Shore, and my invigorating--though, warm--run around Diamond Head, there was enough on Oahu to satisfy my soul during the first week in Hawaii.

(You need to arrive very early at Halaekala to get a parking spot to observe the sunrise; but, once at 10,000 feet there's absolutely no regret over lost sleep)

(A very early morning drive up Halaekala rewarded us with one of the most amazing experiences of my life...yes, it was that moving)

But, once the work was complete, Patty and I moved on to Maui where the unwinding could really begin. And, from the descent into the local airport through the entire week, I'm not sure there was a moment when I wasn't simply in awe of my surroundings. If you thought the beer on Oahu sounded just okay, then you're in for a treat on Maui. Granted, you're still not going to experience the level of good beer that you're likely accustomed to at home, but with solid Maui Brewing Company beer mixed in with a wide variety of tropical drinks, you're not likely to go thirsty for good beverage too long when on the island of Maui.

(We just might have found the best Mai Tai, and a Sazerac for good measure, at Halekulani on Oahu and Mama's Fish House on Maui)

(Coffee served any way you'd like it, another island treat)

Oh, but wait. I did say that I would pick up this segment with a quick recap of one other stop on Oahu...the Yard House in Honolulu...that I neglected to mention in the first half of this double-play posting. Oddly enough, I'd never been to a Yard House before...surprising given the amount of travelling that I tend to do. They have around 50 or so locations around the country, primarily in states west of the Mississippi. Like the Ginger Man, Flying Saucer, or other (massive) multi-tap beer houses, Yard House aims to serve up a bevy of brews by a peppy staff in a noisy atmosphere. I gather this from the pictures on their website in addition to the first-hand experience that we had in Honolulu. If it's not true at other of their locations, I'm sure that one of you may correct me here.

(You never know what you might run into on your drive to and from Hana)

I knew, too, that Maui would be filled with plenty of physical exercise as well. From swimming and snorkeling to running and climbing to walking and biking. (er, we never got around to biking.) It's no wonder that Hawaii was recently named the Healthiest Living State. It truly does seem that the locals do not take their place of living for granted. I can't tell you how many I spoke with who claimed to be too caught up in doing outdoor type of activities as opposed to something more vegetative like watching television. Ah, but that's another topic for another day.

Let's get into things of barley and hops here. It didn't take long after arriving in Maui for me to wander over from our resort to the neighboring ABC Store of ubiquitous Hawaiian lore to find some local brew. As on Oahu, there's absolutely no trouble in finding Kona beer. But, what I was really looking for was from Maui Brewing.

(Paradise? Quite seen from our hotel room in Kaanapali)

The resort that we stayed at in Kaanapali was equidistant between Maui's brewery facility and its brewpub operation. So, unlike on Oahu, where finding Maui beer was more difficult, there was little difficulty on Maui (are you keeping up here with the name of the island versus the name of the brewery?). The ABC store carries a variety 6-pack of cans from Maui, two each of their CoCoNut Porter, Big Swell IPA, and Bikini Blonde Lager. Of course, the Bikini Blonde would make for a perfect poolside companion and the Porter a nice cool evening beer. And, cans? Poolside drinking is an ideal location for toting this convenient package.

(Scenery at its best!)

(Taking a load off)

Other than the 6-pack pickup (one of which would later be escorted home in my suitcase to Philly) at the ABC store, our most significant beer excursion on Maui was, naturally, to the Maui Brewing Company. We started a few miles south of the brewpub at the brewery where they had just recently finished a new tasting room. We sampled a few and, don't call me cheap, were frankly a little disappointed by the tasting fee setup. The sample size related to the fee basically worked out to a standard barroom cost of a pint. So, we only had a couple figuring there'd be much to find at the brewpub for dinner. No one ever accused Hawaii of being inexpensive, eh?

(On approach to Maui Brewing Company in Lahaina)

(The recently completed tasting room at Maui Brewing Company in Lahaina)

(Inside Maui's brewhouse)

Not knowing when this visit would fit into our schedule, I didn't call ahead to arrange an introduction to owner, Garrett Marrero. That was somewhat disappointing because I would have loved to have some time to discuss island brewing and beer tastes in Hawaii, sustainability, and success over such a relatively short term.

Nonetheless, we took a tour of the brewery, with a fine young gentleman showing us all around. (I had to say fine young gentleman, because the danger in letting this posting go for so long is that I, unsurprisingly, have since misplaced my notes which included our brewer/tour guide's name.) At the time, he was recently new to the brewery. He came from southern California where it seems many locals have moved from...just getting closer to paradise I suppose. We crossed paths with a couple of honeymooners from the Pittsburgh area and wound up sharing a table with them at the brewpub, a few miles up the road toward Kapalua.

(Looks like big brewing plans at Maui Brewing)

(Hops aplenty at Maui Brewing)

(It's a canning's what Maui does)

(Are these rejects or consumed cans?!)

(Maui's version of a good-luck charm)

(Maui, like many, does barrel-aging too. This appears to be the Black Pearl, a beer being aged in various barrels to be blended for a 5th Anniversary Beer in 2010)

(The cold storage at Maui's brewery has a bunch of their own beer as well as plenty of other "market research!")

(You think of pineapples, not pumpkins, in Hawaii...but at Maui Brewing, they think of everything)

The brewpub is located in the elbow of a strip mall...not so glamorous, I suppose...but it's what's inside that counts. What's inside includes an extensive draft list of Maui's finest, close to 20 of them. In a sense, it reminds me of Victory here much closer to home. Folks outside the region won't get a whole lot more than Prima Pils, HopDevil, Helios, V-12, WildDevil, Golden Monkey, and Storm King Stout. But at Victory's pub, as at Maui's, there are at least a dozen or more outside of their core brands that give you a glimpse into the brewing prowess of the staff.

(Approaching the Maui Brewpub from the Kahana Gateway Center parking lot along Honoapiilani Highway (route 30))

(With this type of brewing at Maui BC, it's pretty safe to say that this is home to the Hawaiian Islands' most interesting and diverse brewing scene)

For example, the recently crowned bronze medal-winning Father Damien, the beer (in honor of the recently sainted Damien, the local priest who was canonized the Sunday before we arrived in Maui...for whatever it's worth) was available on draft as well as big, tasty beers like their Maui Coffee Stout, Hibiscus Trippel, and Red Cock Doppelbock (try ordering that one with a straight face) that might not ordinarily associate with island beer drinking. We spent a shorter-than-average time here, so getting into a sampling of the remainder never happened.

(Phillies Pride 5000 miles from home)

The food at Maui Brewing matches up well with the diversity of beers. Serving as our dinner, we dabbled in Chili and sandwiches. And, of course as any proper Phillies Phan would do, I brought my rally towel to add to the local color. Funny how no matter where we went from the airports to the resorts to the bars and restaurants and luau, local Phillies fans weren't difficult to spot.

Since this really wasn't a beer trip we were making to Hawaii, I didn't go out on much more beer exploration. And, that frankly is a good thing. There's way too much to do to get bogged down in bars in Hawaii. It's great to know that when you want a meal that you'll, at the very least, be able to find some very good local beer. According to some of my research, though, very near the airport in Kahului there are a few joints to find some good beer and interesting scenery like: Brigit & Bernard's Garden Cafe and Kahului Ale House.

After taking yet one last day on Oahu before flying home, we arrived home in time to take in the Phillies NLCS-clinching game at Citizens Bank Park in Philly...see, there's always a beer angle to each part of my stories. A couple of Sly Fox and Flying Fish drafts at the ballpark made the night all that much more sweeter. Funny how we went from watching the Phillies six time zones to the west and in the sun and weather 30 degrees warmer while sitting at the poolside bar to watching the game in the cool autumn nights of the East Coast while wearing jackets.

(As with all vacations, they must eventually come to an end. Our last night on Oahu brought us yet another spectacular sunset from our hotel room balcony)

(A very pleasant, and most appropriate, welcome home to Philadelphia)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beer Calendar: What To Do in April 2010

April Showers? Who knows this year. We had a wet fall last year followed by a pounding of 3 major snow storms here in the Philadelphia area during the course of the winter (which, might be, just might be coming to a close?!). So it's hard to tell whether this will be a "normal" spring or not. When it comes to beer events though, normal is as normal does around these parts. The calendar marches on with its seemingly neverending supply of interesting beer events covering the gamut from simple, free tastings to elaborate sit-down beer pairing dinners. AND...... If you'd like to go for a run with me to/from TJs in Paoli, you might want to check this out...then drop a note to me. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. $20 and under, down to and including FREE...Pay As You Go (PAYG) also included here Philadelphia Thu. 4/1 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (April's selection: Über Pils) @Triumph, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/1 - Java Head Stout debut @McGillins, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 4/2 - Monster Max @Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 4/2 - Friday Night Tasting (Otter Creek/Wolavers) @Bell Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Fri. 4/2 - First Friday Firkins (April's selection: Gritty's) @Prohibition Taproom, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 4/3 - 2nd Anniversary Party @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (2:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 4/3 - Split thy Skull @Sugar Mom's, Philadelphia, PA (1:00pm-6:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 4/3 - Stout Season Opens @Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (all day; PAYG) Wed. 4/7 - Anniversary Celebration @McGillins, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG) Wed. 4/7 - Tröegs Sampling @Hawthornes, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free) Thu. 4/8 - Keep the Pint Night (Berwick Brewing) @Earth Bread + Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 4/9 - Friday Night Tasting (Sierra Nevada) @Bell Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Sat. 4/10 - Beer Gone A-Rye @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA (2:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 4/10 - 2010 Stiftungsfest @Cannstatter Volksfest Verein, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm; $10/$12) Tue. 4/13 - Meet & Greet Happy Hour (Schneider Brewery) @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 4/13 - Meet & Greet (Hans Peter Drexler of Schneider Brewery with a wooden cask of Schneider Eisbock) @Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, PA (8:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 4/13 - Pinkus Organic Brewery Sampling @Hawthornes, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free) Tue. 4/13 - River Horse Sampling @Misconduct Tavern, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/15 - IPA and Firk the IRS, sponsored by Sierra Nevada @Bridgid's, Philadelphia, PA (7:30pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/15 - Keep the Pint Night (Victory) @Earth Bread + Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/15 - Free Tastings (Weyerbacher) @The Foodery, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free) Fri. 4/16 - Friday Night Tasting @Beer Yard, Wayne, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free) Fri. 4/16 - Friday Night Tasting (Steven's Point) @Bell Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Fri. 4/16 - Taste of Belgium with Global Imports @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 4/20 - Everybody must drink Stone @Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/22 - Earth Day with Long Trail Brewing @Bridgid's, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/22 - The Whole 9 Yards @London Grill, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/22 - Taste of Europe with Wetten Imports @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 4/23 - Friday Night Tasting (Belgian Ales with Joe Sixpack) @Bell Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Sun. 4/25 - Funk Fest @Triumph, Philadelphia, PA (12:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 4/28 - Left Hand Brewing Night @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 4/30 - Friday Night Tasting (Heavy Seas) @Bell Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Philadelphia's close suburbs Thu. 4/1 - Firkin of Flying Fish Farmhouse @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (PAYG) Fri. 4/2 - Incubus Friday @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA (all day; PAYG) Fri. 4/2 - Friday Night Tasting (Sierra Nevada) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Sun. 4/4 - Easter Brunch @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA (10:00am-2:00pm; $20/$10) Thu. 4/8 - Pin of Dock Street Sexy Beast @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/8 - Brewery Promo Night (Left Hand) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/8 - Craft Brew Night (Weyerbacher) @Pickering Creek Inn, Phoenixville, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 4/9 - Firkin of PBC Rowhouse Red @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/15 - Blues Brews 'n' BBQ @Ron's Original, Exton, PA (PAYG) Thu. 4/15 - Long Trail Brewing Night @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (6:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 4/17 - Hopfest @The Drafting Room, Spring House, PA (12:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 4/20 - Mead Tasting with Stonekeep Meadery @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA (PAYG) Thu. 4/22 - Craft Brew Night (Breckenridge) @Pickering Creek Inn, Phoenixville, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Thu. 4/1 - Fool for Firkins (Weyerbacher Double Simcoe) @Craft Ale House, Royersford, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 4/1 - Charity Cask Night (Strawberry Wit) @Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 4/2 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (April's selection: Barrel Aged Scotch Ale) @Triumph, New Hope, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 4/3 - Easter Hopfest @Union Jack's, Boyertown, PA (12:00pm; PAYG, reservations required) Sat. 4/3 - The Dark Side Release Party @Iron Hill, Wilmington, DE (12:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 4/7 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (April's selection: Honeymoon Braggot) @Triumph, Princeton, NJ (6:00pm; PAYG) Elsewhere Events Over $20 Philadelphia Sat. 4/3 & Sat. 4/17 - Craft Beer & Artisanal Cheese Tour @Old City, Philadelphia, PA (3:30pm-5:30pm; $45) Tue. 4/6 - Flying Fish Beer Dinner @Swift Half Pub, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-10:00pm; $55) Thu. 4/15 - Tax-Free Dogfish Head Beer Dinner @Chifa Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; $65) Fri. 4/16 - Everybody must get Stone @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $48) Sun. 4/18 - Belgian Bierfeesten @World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA (1:00pm-4:00pm; $20/$50/$65) Sat. 4/24 - Hopfest 2010 @Manayunk Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (1:00pm-5:00pm; $45) Philadelphia's close suburbs Thu. 4/9 - Roy Pitz Beer Dinner @Doc Magrogan's, West Chester, PA (7:00pm; $TBD) Sat. 4/17 - Spring Beer Festival @Blue Monkey Tavern, Merchantville, NJ (5:00pm-9:00pm; $30) Tue. 4/20 - Spring Beer Dinner @Iron Hill, Media, PA (7:00pm; $65) Wed. 4/21 - Dogfish Head Beer Dinner @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $50) Wed. 4/21 - Spring Beer Dinner @Iron Hill, Phoenixville, PA (6:30pm; $65) Fri. 4/23 - Spring Beer Dinner @Iron Hill, West Chester, PA (7:00pm; $75) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Tue. 4/6 - Cask Beer Dinner with Ron Fischer @Tap and Table, Emmaus, PA (7:00pm; $65) Wed. 4/7 - Meet The Brewer Series Presents… (Manayunk Brewery) @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, PA (7:00pm; $TBD) Tue. 4/27 - Beer Dinner @Union Barrel Works, Reamstown, PA (6:30pm; $40) Thu. 4/29 - Spring Beer Dinner @Iron Hill, Wilmington, DE (6:00pm; $50) Elsewhere Fri. 4/23 - The Fat Head's Saloon Brewer's Ball @Soldiers Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; $60/$65)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tasty Bits of News in the City and out of

Real quick newsy items to share with you here before we roll into Happy Hour.

- In the City: Just down the street from South Philadelphia Tap Room, Brew has been serving coffee and related such things for some time now. The "red tape" has finally been cleared allowing them to serve beer. If you stop in at Brew tomorrow and are one of the first 25 customers, you'll get a 25% Staff Discount on your next visit's purchase. Later in the evening, at 9pm, there'll be a complimentary toast with the neighborhood's namesake, Newbold IPA from Philadelphia Brewing Company.

- In the 'Burbs: Speaking of "red tape", I stopped in at the future home of Station Taproom in Downingtown today and found things as close to completion as they can possibly get. Sean, Mark, and Tim were busy in the middle of working their typical 18 hour day and used me as an excuse to take 5. The chalkboard is bare, but very soon (can't give an exact date yet) they'll be ready to welcome you, the neighboring residents, and the hundreds of train commuters (guys, you better get those train schedules synced up with staffing plans!). This will make yet another high quality beer bar directly across the street from an R5 train station. The focus here at this proudly local joint will be quality beverages and locally-sourced food. I'll have much more on this to come very soon; check back within the next week or so for more information.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: March 25th-March 31st

March Madness has ended on Villanova's campus but continues strong in this handful of events over the next week here in and around Philly beer-town.

**Here's comes the BIG DISCLAIMER. Given the recent and extraordinary regulatory environment in Pennsylvania, I can't vouch for what will be available at these various events and what will not. I made no effort to contact any or all of these establishments. Most of these events and their details, I've left in the original state. In some cases, I've taken some license and edited if anything seemed particularly and glaringly "out-of-place." Otherwise, there still may be some events that have their particulars modified in order to still put on an event, even if not as originally scheduled. If you're really all that concerned, you should contact the establishment personally before showing up with expectations that may fall short. END DISCLAIMER**

Check out the entire March 2010 calendar over here.

If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know.

Get your samples, get your tastings, there's some for all
@Craft Ale House, Limerick, PA--- Thu. 3/25 - Meet the Brewer and the Owner (6:00pm; PAYG for several Dock Street beers on tap, as well as a firkin of their Sexy Beast Imperial Stout)

@Earth Bread + Brewery, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 3/25 - Keep the Pint Night (6:30pm-8:30pm; PAYG for Tröegs and Tom and Nickfoolery)

@Exton Beverage, Exton, PA--- Fri. 3/26 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free Tasting Samples of Stoudt's Beer)

@For Pete's Sake Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 3/25 - Sly Fox Beer Tastings (6:00pm; PAYG as Suzy shows up with a bunch of Sly Fox Beers to talk, and drink, about)

@Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA--- Tue. 3/30 - Sly Fox Beer Tastings (6:00pm; PAYG as Suzy again does her thing up the road a piece in Hulmeville)

@Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 3/25 - Brewery Promo Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for Yards, Smashington, and all the typical frivolity you've come to expect from the Yards crew)

@Pickering Creek Inn, Phoenixville, PA--- Thu. 3/25 - RESCHEDULED from 2/11 Craft Brew Night (PAYG for Ommegang's solid standards like Rare Vos Amber, Hennepin Farmhouse, & Ommegang Abbey)

@The Foodery, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 3/25 - Free Tastings (6:00pm; Free Tasting Samples of Southampton Publick House beers)

A couple of beer events with a dash of creativity thrown in for good measure
@Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 3/25 - Munich in Mayfair: Optimator Night (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for some German food specials. The featured beer will be Spaten Optimator, a classic German doppelbock. The Spaten folks will have goodies.)

@Triumph, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 3/28 - Oyster & Stout Festival (details TBD)

And a little dinner to go with your beer
@Stoudt's Brewing Co., Adamstown, PA--- Fri. 3/26 - Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $35 for a 5-course meal paired with their beer.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rolling out the barrel at Yards Real Ale Invitational 2010

Don't cringe, this isn't sarcasm but, really, the Real Ale Invitational at Yards yesterday was one of the nicest festivals I've been to in a while. I could use my handy, dandy thesaurus and try to come up with loud superlatives to describe what a great time (oh, there's one..."great"!) it was. But, nice seems to fit quite, well, nicely. Now, all you brewdudes around the Yards house, don't go scrambling for your PR damage control; this is really a great compliment.

It was a nice weather day. Beers from breweries all across the city and suburbs were sitting nicely in their firkins around various nooks of the brewery and were pouring anywhere from 4% to 11% ABV and every notch in between. All told, there were around 25 beers available for the masses that showed up. And what a nice gathering of masses it was. The overall tone of the festival was civil and polite, but sure not stuffy. Family-oriented (lost count of the number of children), but yet still a beer festival at the heart of it.

And, with the spacious brewery floorspace and the doors to outside propped open, not to mention the closed-off street to provide even more space, festival-goers could breathe quite nicely and make it from the front of the brewery to the back with no problem. Approximately 250 passed through the doors over the 4+ hours, including the VIP session, and it felt like Yards could have hosted double that amount, though the fire marshal might have had something to say about that.

In addition to the 25 cask-conditioned beers, there was cheese from Sue Miller and her Birchrun Hills Farm, chocolates from Betty's, and a spread of more than just finger-picking food from Diverse Catering. The Jazz Horses kept every one's toes tapping throughout the afternoon

There were some big and crazy flavor beers, but the amped-up, over-the-top beer geekerie kept their usual fever pitched volume to an enjoyable level. In no particular order, here are some of the beers most talked about and that I tasted as well included:

~ RCH's Pitchfork Bitter from England, at 4.3%ABV with soft fruit flavors, was a real nice way to start the day...and to go back for a bit of a palate reset.
~ Wintercoat Mols Øl from Denmark had sprucey and slightly earthy notes (apparently strained through Juniper branches say the notes) to it and got even better when some Birchrun Hills cheese came along for the ride...particularly the blue cheese
~ Kalamazoo Stout from Bell's in Michigan screams out to be served from the cask, and deservedly does the Joe Coffee Porter from Philadelphia Brewing, Stewart's Highlander Stout, Iron Hill's Pig Iron Porter, and the George Washington Porter from Yards. Did I mention how much more "Expressive" many beers become when served sans forced carbonation and colder temperatures? The malt bills on these five are perfect examples.
~ On the other side, the hops become much more "Expressive" in beers like Flying Fish's Exit 16. This was my first run-in with this recently released beer that is being called a Double IPA. If you're concerned about hop levels, I'm not sure if this, by taste alone, would qualify as a DIPA. That Casey and company deftly packed a lot of hops into this beer without walloping us over the palate with them. Will be anxious to try this on CO2 somewhere down the maybe Varga next Monday. 4C from Nodding Head was another clear-cut winner in the 'hops on cask' category.
~ If time had permitted, I would have loved to try some Hopsolutely from the Lehigh Valley's Beer Works. I've recently had it from the bottle, and I'll just leave you with how this is a bottle that absolutely should not sit around for too long before enjoying.
~ Quaker City Stout from Manayunk would've been yet one more that I wished I'd seeked (seeken?) out. I'm hearing that Vince (sorry, Vince/Doug, they must sound the same! Doug is the one that moved to Manayunk, Vince is still, in fact, at North Wales) is doing nice things and raising the brewery's profile since moving down from Iron Hill/North Wales and I would've liked to gain some first-hand experience.
~ Oh, and a gratuitous shout-out to Elysian and its Prometheus IPA. Maybe because I've had this very decent northwestern IPA before, I passed on it. During the train ride home, I'd begun to regret it.

Let's see, how to wrap up? A nice day to have some nice beer and food around nice people listening to nice music. Yards---nicely done. I've never felt more comfortable using a simple word like nice as many times as I have here in the last 800 or so words. When I come away from a beer event like this with such a good feeling, I can't say it any more simply.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What else would you possibly want from a beautiful Saturday afternoon?

If you're within a day's drive of the Philadelphia area and you musthava, gottahava world's (allegedly) bestest beer, then you'll queue up outside of TJs in Paoli and then, after inside, watch NCAA basketball (way to completely blow the last month of basketball, Villanova) and wait on Pliny the Younger. Obviously.

I began my day with a dry-run (so-to-speak) of the run that I'll be conducting from TJs in two weeks (yeah, that one that I told you about a few days ago). After a six mile run, I returned to TJs to find about 30 people lined up to get their name on the list. At 12 noon, everyone filed all politely and such into their seats to begin the wait. I've had PtY enough in the past to not be there exclusively for it today. I was there more for the spectacle that is a PtY tapping party, or whatever you'd like to call it.

Brilliance on the part of TJs management to get folks to come and eat and drink for 4 hours prior to PtY being tapped. Once it was tapped, an even 70 glasses were poured from the sixtel and most everyone seemed at least mildly pleased to have had a sip of this beer. And, with TJs well-prepared organization, it all went off very civilly and like clockwork.

Truth be told, though, most any of the beers on the tap list for the day could have/should have commanded the kind of attention that PtY did. I said on a few occasions today that you could've told me that there was no PtY for me today (not a big deal, really...and I noticed at least a few people leave early because they had their fill of what they came for, non-PtY) and spun a random wheel to choose my beer for me, and I would've been happy enough.

Seriously, did you read the list of beers today? Tell me, how many beer bars in this country---how many markets---can put a keg of Pliny the Younger on tap next to a keg of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout? Yes, my friends, please never forget just how privileged we look around these parts to many others around the country. This is to say nothing of the many other beers that can stand very, very well on their own.

The beer geekerie, I'm here to report, is alive and apparently doing very well and thriving. There were many faces that I, and a few others that I ran into, didn't recognize. Presumably, some of these folks drove from quite some distance to TJs for the first time to attend this event. I've never run around quite the way some of the folks in attendance today do to find some sort of so-called greatest beers on the planet. It was, how shall I say, mildly bemusing to hear people pick apart PtY. "Oh, it's not as good as 'XYZ'." "It was better last week at such-and-such." "It's dropped off a bit...just a little bit...but a bit...of course, it's still good, but..." "We'll have to see how it's held up at 'ABC' next week."

It's helped me put a little more clarity into my thoughts about these such beer events and chasing of these type of, uh, "cult beers." I'll have something brewing on this subject to write about and share in the upcoming weeks.

It's really unfair to bury what I consider my most revealing and enjoyable moment of the day (and it had nothing to do with Russian River...oh wait, the Supplication was near perfection too!...but, now I'm rambling) way down here at the bottom of this posting. But, please take my advice from this observation. Brooklyn Monster Barleywine (a beer we see way too little of on tap around here). TJs Wild Mushroom and Smoked Mozzarella Burger. Medium Rare. Perfect Together.

Oh, and finally for my overheard quote of the day...

TJs staff (outside the front door): "Name please?"
Customers #14 & #15 in line: "Why are you taking names?"
TJs: "For a chance to drink Pliny the Younger today."
Customers: "Oh, we're not here for that!"

Imagine, when they pulled up for few bites. They must have thought that queuing up to get in to TJs for a Saturday lunch is they thing of typicality!