Tuesday, May 03, 2011

All Station Taproom. All Great.

This is my mondo Station Taproom review with a little bit of everything — Beer Dinner Event, Anniversary Party, Interview.

In a way, it's a huge make-up posting for all that I've missed writing about at Sean's place over the past year. Hope it all makes sense by the time I finish spilling it out here.

The Background
Station Taproom was opened in April 2010 by Sean McGettigan, formerly of The Drafting Room in Exton, and his business partner who has since left the partnership. Based on conversations with both Sean and some of his regular customers, most would argue that the Taproom has hit its stride and is turning out food, beer, and good times better than ever as it celebrates its first anniversary.

The Trois Enfants Beer Dinner
First up, the Trois Enfants Beer Dinner on March 27 featured beers from three rising stars on the Philadelphia brewing scene: Jean Broillet (currently of Iron Hill, soon to be opening his own Tired Hands Brewing Company); Ryan Michaels (numerous award-winning brewer at the growing McKenzie Brew House); and Jon Defibaugh (brewer at Earth Bread + Brewery).

They may call themselves the 'three children', but the beers they brew individually as well as collaboratively are anything but juvenile. All three demonstrate a deftness for skilled brewing, particularly the not-so-typical beers.

Defibaugh and his boss at Earth, Tom Baker, make a pointed effort to rarely brew the same beer, constantly incorporating combinations of hops, yeast, and assorted other ingredients for spicing the beer differently than most beer drinkers are accustomed to.

Michaels, in his 5+ years at McKenzie, has blossomed into a superbly-skilled head brewer soon to be overseeing production at three locations along the Route 202 corridor in Chester County. His Saison Vautour has won GABF gold in three of the past four years and his constantly rotating specialty menu of beers keeps regulars as well as newcomers to McKenzie interested and delighted in his very well-made beers.

Broillet's success has been well-documented from his early days at Weyerbacher to the past five or so years brewing at Iron Hill's West Chester location. He loves himself some hoppy beers and some farmhouse ales. Those will be two primary areas of focus at his Tired Hands Brewery coming soon to Ardmore, Pa.

The three brewed a beer called Trois Enfants, which can be loosely described as a dark saison. Upon arrival at Station Taproom for the beer dinner, guests mingled with a glass of this tasty beer with a generous dosage of malted rye, weighing in at just under 7% ABV.

The dinner was held on a Sunday, beginning at 4 p.m.— which, by the way, I consider a stroke of genius and a start time that I'd like to see others follow. After owner Sean McGettigan officially welcomed the sold-out room of dining guests, Jean described the concept for the dinner, described the first couple of beers, and we were off and running.

But, the dinner never felt like a sprint, nor like a snooze. Chef Tim Smith talked about each course along the way next to the brewer and his beer being served at each course. Smith proved that he can not only balance a busy, and small, kitchen while conducting a beer dinner for roughly 40 people, but he can adroitly work the crowd with ease as well. It's obvious that Chef Tim has made friends in the dining room during his time thus far at the Taproom.

Two of the most important aspects that many, and I, value in a beer dinner are pacing and interaction. The many individuals involved in this undertaking collectively nailed both. The interaction with the attendees, I already discussed. The pacing, though, was remarkable given that this was the first major beer dinner event undertaken by Sean, Tim, and the staff at Station Taproom. Each course was roughly separated by 20-30 minutes and the presentation and mood in the room was so perfectly relaxed to make for an enjoyable dinner all around.

But, yes, what about the food and beer you may ask? I'll bet you thought I'd never get to it. It's not a stretch, and maybe a bit easy to say, that each of the dishes and the beers in and of themselves were very well done. As for pairings, the first course of salad greens with a spicy chorizo went real nicely with the hop aroma and spiciness of Broillet's Hop Hands.

Yet, the beer and cheese pairing (a point in the beer dinner that can really shine) may have taken top honors for pairing at this dinner. For my palate, the Birchrun Hills Fat Cat and the McKenzie Irma created the most pair-worthy (or 'funk'-worthy?) combination. In northern Chester County, this farm and this brewery are two can't misses.

The party, even after the dinner was officially over, did not want to stop. The early start time allowed guests to stay for 1 or 3 or 5 or more beers to continue the casual celebration until it was time to finally head home. Sean, Tim, and staff hung around as well to the delight of all.

(see the end of this posting for a full dinner menu description)

>> The picture gallery gives you a glimpse into the people, the plates, and the beers of the evening.

The 1st Anniversary Party
On Saturday, April 23, Station Taproom hosted great beers for its great customer base developed over the past year. There's actually not much to say about the anniversary event since they basically did what they've done for the last 12 months — that is, serve great beer and locally-sourced plates of interesting food in a comfortable environment. Anything more, and I'd just be making up words for the sake of adding words.

Well, I do feel compelled to at least mention one of my favorite beers, hailing from Montreal, Dieu de Ciel's Péché Mortel, which made an appearance on tap and I'd like to thank everyone for complying with my wishes to leave some on tap for me when I arrived late in the afternoon. A draft rarity, to be sure, and a mighty tasty one at that.

>> Click over to Picasa for a gallery of some photos from the anniversary party.


The Interview — A Look Back
This is my first major foray into video. As many of you know, I'm quite enamored with the Kodak video recorder that I picked up last year prior to our European trip. It appeared to me to be a better value than the popular Flip camera, and thus far has not let me down.

I stopped by Station Taproom the day prior to the 1st Anniversary Party and took some time to interview owner Sean McGettigan. I was originally aiming for 5-7 minutes, but as things tend to go around here it stretched out — to the tune of around 12 minutes. For future interviews, I'll work to corral myself and the questions in order to keep the duration (and your attention spans) under control.

Plus, the audio may have been better served if I'd used an external microphone. You should be able to hear most of the interview, but there are times when ambient noise from the bar and kitchen can be heard in the background.

Enough apologies...

All in all, though, it was nice to sit down with McGettigan to pause for a look back on his last 12 months of operation in Downingtown, Pa. living out one of his long time dreams.




Trois Enfants Beer Dinner Menu
Welcome Beer — Trois Enfants

First Course — Winter Greens and Chorizo Salad
paired with Tired Hands Hop Hands

Second Course — Espresso & Chili Rubbed Pork Loin
paired with Earth Bread & Brewery Libertine Black Lager

Third Course — Cheese Plate (provided by Birchrun Hills Farm)
paired with McKenzie Brew House Irma Extra

Fourth Course — Sticky Toffee Pudding
paired with Tired Hands Desert

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