Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New York City Pub Tour : Stop #2; Heartland Brewery

So we left Stout NYC and moved onward to Heartland Brewery. From my experience, this was going to be the least anticipated stop on the tour. However, I felt a certain obligation (why?) to stop by and see if things and become any more interesting since I'd last been there. Plus, a couple of tipsters at BeerAdvocate.com recommended an Oak Aged Bourbon Stout that they were keeping off the menu on the downlow.....lowdown.....no doubt :)

We went to the Empire State Building location (34th st/5th ave) since it was on the way to Ginger Man. Given the location, the atmosphere was quite touristy with a bit of spillover from the ESB tours. The makeup of the crowd is probably what contributed to seemingly more food movement than beer movement. But, we were here for ourselves, not for the tourists :)

The friendliness of the staff was a bit higher than average, I thought, but lacking a bit in beer knowledge. Once again, this probably is a result of the typical crowd at the bar. Those that were drinking beers appeared to be favoring the lighter beers (e.g. pale ales and light lagers).

On tap for this Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend was: Empire Premium (lager); Indian River Light (pale ale); Summertime Apricot Ale; Matrimony Ale (saison); Smiling Pumpkin Ale; Cornhusker Lager; Harvest Wheat; IPA; and Red Rooster. Patty indulged in the Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout and I took the advice of my BA friends and asked for the "secret" Oak Aged Bourbon Stout. The bartender looked at me quizically, then said she'd check to see if there was any left. There was, though presumably it was near the end. This is what I figured must have contributed to the thinness of the beer. However, the oakiness was definitely coming through all around the beer, while I was getting very little hint of the bourbon flavor.

The oatmeal stout that Patty drank also was adequate, but not overly memorable. If we had stayed longer, I would have liked to try the Red Rooster Ale and the Smiling Pumpkin Ale. Also, if this had been a later stop on the tour, Matt would have benefited from a growler of the Matrimony Ale in honor of his wedding weekend......but, alas he was not so fortunate! Apparently, also according to my BA friends, the ESB location for Heartland is the best of several in Manhattan.

Therefore, my recommendation is to give it a shot while in Manhattan, but only if you're waiting on a tour or looking for some half-decent food with a "by-the-way" beer. p.s. even though these first two reviews were somewhat tepid, I promise that the bars and the reviews only get much better. Fortunately for us, the quality increased as the day went by. For example, next stop.....Ginger Man.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Southampton Publick House at Beer Yard

The boys from Southampton Publick House (Southampton, NY) came down to the Philly area to share some excellent brews. It isn't always the easiest to find their beers south of NYC, but they promised that is changing and that they expect to be seen again soon in the Philly area and with more availability on store shelves.

Actually, Monk's in Philly has a beer dinner scheduled with the head brewer from SPH on 10/11/05 but one of the guys said that may be up in the air at this point. So, anyway, they did a free tasting at Beer Yard in Wayne late afternoon on Saturday, then went on to Monk's for a dinner, and concluded the weekend with a setup at Sippin' by the River at Penn's Landing in Philly.

A quick summary of my tastings put their new Double White in the stratosphere.....simply awesome. Think of an excellent white ale, then double it.....basically, that's the concept and basically, it's twice as good! Big on the banana and coriander, but still clean and full of flavorful taste.

Practically in a tie for my second favorite was their Imperial Porter with delicious chocolate and espresso flavors coming strongly through. The Secret Ale, a German Alt, continued to impress and is a standard favorite of mine. I also tried the Saison, a nice beer, but didn't get to several others hiding in the ice....had to get home for dinner, for which I was already late :-o

I highly doubt that anyone who turned out for this event went home unhappy. We even had a little entertainment at the expense of those poor souls who were buying such things as MGD and refused to taste anything being offered to them. Oh well, their loss and.....more for us! I certainly hope that we'll be seeing more of SPH in the Philly area again soon. Of course, the Hamptons are always a nice place to visit :)

Firewaters in Glen Mills, PA

Quick post to let you all know that Firewaters looks like the real deal positioned nicely at Routes 1 & 202 (and nicely next to Hooters). Lloyd and I did a dry run (OK, not really so "dry"! :), but before I rave too much, I think it deserves another, longer look.

I stopped by Beer Advocate before I wrote this for a peek at what others might think. There were only two reviews, but I was surprised by the negativity in both of the reviews. The general idea is that Firewaters claims to have 50 beers on tap and 101 bottle varieties. The tap selection was varied, interesting, and difficult to find the Bud, Coors, or Miller amongst them. Taps included Avery, Pyramid, Stoudt's, Victory, just to name a very few. The bottles ranged from Chimay, to several Rogue varieties, St. Bernardus, and so on.

It was dead after the Eagles game and we only stayed 20 minutes, but we both left wanting to go back again soon and check it out. Stay tuned and I'll be back with more information as soon as we gather it!

p.s. There are two other locations; 1 in Hackensack, NJ and one in Atlantic City, NJ.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Philly Beer Events - Sept. 24-25

Quick ideas if you're bored this weekend and looking for a good beer event.

My friend and colleague, Mark, recommends the Sippin' by the River event, while I've been to Ludwig's Oktoberfest and highly recommend it for its quality German music, dancing, food, and beer drinking in the street. One of the very few quality German establishments in the area. (Good for them, bad for the rest of us. But, they are doing it right!)

Ludwig's 7th annual Oktoberfest - Sat. 9/24/05 - 12noon-8:30pm outside; all day and night 'til 2am inside- 1315 Sansom Street - 215.985.1525 - Pay as you go

Sippin' by the River - Sun. 9/25/05 - 1pm-5pm - Columbus Blvd. @ Spring Garden Street - 215.396.9100 - $30

Thursday, September 22, 2005

New York City Pub Tour : Stop #1; Stout NYC

Just a bit of background first. On Labor Day weekend, my good friends Matt and Kathleen married in the Queens/Long Island area. My wife, Patty, and I decided to take Friday off as a vacation day from work and do a pub tour through Manhattan. The list of beer bars was pared down to approximately 10-12 and we eventually made it to 7.

My next several posts will chronicle our beer tour through these Manhattan establishments. Of course, there are still places remaining on our list, but they will have to wait until the next pub tour. We started by checking into the hotel in Roslyn and taking the LIRR in from Port Washington. We started the adventure around 1:30-2:00 after arriving at Penn Station.

Anyone arriving into New York through Penn Station with a thirst for a good beer should walk less than a block to Stout on 33rd street between 6th and 7th avenues. Or, conversely, it's also a good place if you have some time to kill before catching a train leaving NYC. Of course, Penn Station is a big place with lots of exit points to the street.

But, if you come out to 6th avenue after walking the long concourse under Madison Square Garden, then you're practically there. So, on this Friday afternoon at Stout some tap highlights included Belhaven, Youngs, Brooklyn, and Blue Point. If I was ready for food at this point, I would have loved to try the special of Blue Point Oatmeal Stout and 1/2 dozen oysters for $9.99. I didn't see the quality of the oysters, but in any case it seemed like a good deal for midtown Manhattan. We started with a Brooklyn Brown Ale and a Boddington's. They were both served appropriately and up to standard.

The interior was both spacious and comfortable with a high ceiling. The decor carried both a beer and whiskey theme with Jameson, Blue Point, Brooklyn barrels, paintings, and murals. The crowd on this particular mid-Friday afternoon had a commuter feel to it. This was not too surprising given that it was a holiday weekend and the close proximity to Penn Station. But, judging by some pictures on its website, the bar looks like it attracts a decent local late-night crowd too. We'll have to explore that further on an overnight trip sometime :)

The waitstaff was pleasant without going out of their way. So, generally, I'd give Stout a solid B for decent brews on tap, pleasant decor and ambience, and average waitstaff and customers. This is a place that I was happy to go to once, will recommend it to others, but will not rush back to a second time unless I happen to be in the area.

(Perhaps I should also add that I'm a bigger fan of the more unique neighborhoods of NYC, rather than the more generic touristy midtown/Times Square area. So, that probably influences to a certain degree my opinion of Stout.)

p.s. the restrooms received an A+, for those who are interested in that kind of stuff!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

World Cafe Live : Hurricane Benefit 9/20/05 : Music & Beer (and plastic cups?!)

This is only partially about beer. But, I thought this space deserved a mention of a benefit for Habit for Humanity to directly support the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And, not to mention that World Cafe Live in Philadelphia serves great beer, with an emphasis on local brews. This Tuesday night concert was put together rather quickly, but the lineup was an impressive list of artists. Both stages were being used and each artist had approximately 20-25 minutes on stage to perform. For those familiar with some of these artists, you should agree that $15 admission for the entire evening was well worth every penny. Here's a quick listing of the artists performing. I must admit, though, that we did not stay for the entire evening, which ended close to midnight.

    -Lauren Hart, fabulous as usual, a "real" local sweetheart, daughter of Flyers legend Gene Hart
    -Ben Arnold, legendary Philly songwriter
    -Joseph Parsons
    -Lili AƱel, wow! where did she come from? she's been in Philly for a little over a year and making quite a splash as we learned
    -John Francis
    -Lelia Broussard, young up-and-coming with a beautiful voice
    -Patrick's Head, Irish rockers you've gotta see
    -Susan Cowsill, displaced from their New Orleans homes and playing with mostly borrowed instruments; she and her band ROCK, hope to see them sometime soon back in New Orleans; until then, it looks like they have a nice little tour going on around the country
    -The Brakes

    -Josh Komorowski
    -Adam Monaco
    -Amy Jarone
    -Susan Cowsill
    -Trisha O'Keefe
    -Leigh Goldstein

Now, to the beer. WCL has hosted an event in the past called Blues & Brews and has proved to be a respectable venue for beer as well as music. Case in point: last night on tap they were serving Lancaster Milk Stout, Flying Fish Oktoberfest, Yards Saison, Yuengling Lager, Victory Prima Pils, and Sly Fox IPA. The bottle list is extensive and offers variety ranging from Rogue to Chimay and quite a bit in between.

However, my one pet peeve which really tweaked me the wrong way was the glassware policy. Apparently, the policy is to serve draft beer in glassware at the bar but in plastic cups if you are not drinking right there at the bar. The policy, though, has its holes and appears to be enforced at each person's whim. What started me on this rant was the overwhelming plastic taste that the cup imparted on the beer. Imagine trying to drink a Milk Stout and tasting an overpowering flavor of burnt plastic. I'm not sure if this speaks to the quality of the plastic cup, or if any plastic cup would act the same way. In any case, the first bartender I mentioned it to said that he completely understood and immediately offered me a glass (his reaction made it sound like I wasn't nearly the first person to complain about the plastic cups). The next bartender seemed much more apprehensive when we ordered a beer to take away from the bar on to the floor in front of the stage. Now, I can understand that this policy makes sense if the mosh pit is in full session. However, for this benefit concert, the crowd was quite sedate and the main floor in front of the stage had no more than 25 people on it. Plus, there were a couple of martini glasses floating around in this area as well as several beer bottles (consistency of enforcement?). Finally, when I ordered another beer from a waitress in this general admission area, she was very sure that she would not be able to serve me a glass of beer, even after I pointed out the other glassware on the floor. She even mentioned how she just served wine in a plastic cup. I noticed the angst on her face and also of the bartender (a third one) that she discussed it with. I mentioned that I would be drinking water the rest of the evening if she wouldn't serve it to me in a glass. Fast forward to the end of the story....All's well that ends well, and I received my beers in a glass for the rest of the evening.

So, what's my point here?! I don't think you have to be a beer snob/geek to ask that beer be served in a manner that allows it to taste the way it's supposed to taste. And, I'm not even talking about one style of glass versus another. For that matter, I could be talking about wine, whiskey, food, or whatever. In my mind, this becomes a bigger issue as the quality increases. For all of the "sympathy" that I seemed to receive from the one bartender on this subject, WCL needs to review the plastic cups that they use and the way in which they enforce the policy. If I were any of the breweries with beer on tap at WCL, I would have a serious issue with the way in which my beer is being served. If WCL is as serious about the product that they serve as I think they are, then this is something that must be addressed.

Other than this little issue that I had, we enjoyed a great night of beer and music!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Monk's Beer Dinner 9/13/05 : St. Feuillien

Wow! Where to begin? For starters, my good friend Mark and his wife Susan centered an East Coast visit from Madison, WI around this beer dinner. So, that should tell you that this dinner was an event not to be missed. I've been procrastinating other posts regarding my "NYC pub tour," but last night's dinner at Monk's has spurred me to action. And, I promise to start posting some reviews from NYC within the next few days.

Anyway, back to last night. The owner, Dominique Firart, of Brasserie St. Feuillien in Belgium was in the States primarily for this beer dinner. She arrived last weekend and spent some time in NYC before coming to Philly. Suffice to say that she is a very pleasant and engaging woman who took the time to speak with everyone at every table.....and not just pleasantries. She was interested to meet each person, learn a little about their background and beer preferences, and share some of her own stories.

Her company brews two major lines of beer: St Feuillien and Grisette. Under the St Feuillien line, perhaps the most recognizable beer is the Cuvee de Noel. It was one of the 6 beers poured at the dinner. The food portion of the dinner consisted of 5 courses. Briefly, they were: 1) Crawfish Soup; 2) Truffled Capon Breast; 3) Curried Monkfish Salad; 4) Sage Pesto Encrusted Venison Loin; and 5) dessert similar to a peach tart (described on the menu as Blanche du Bois).

In a nutshell, the food was awesome and provided a perfect accompaniment to the beer. Also, the pacing of the evening was perfect....not rushed at all. The entire dinner spanned approximately 3 hours; I never felt rushed through the beer or the food. Mark, who has been to many beer dinners at Monk's, mentioned that this is the normal format for a beer dinner at Monk's. It's what I called great Beer Karma. The food was right, the beer was right, and maybe even more importantly the people were right.

Now, finally, to the beer. (Saved the best for last?!) Paired with the food in order were: 1) St Feuillien Triple (750ml bottled early '05); 2a) St Feuillien Triple (draft kegged 9/11/05; debut in North America) & 2b) St Feuillien Brune (750ml bottled early '05); 3) St Feuillien Triple (Salamanazar 9-liter bottled '04); 4) St Feuillien Noel (750ml bottled '05); and 5) Grisette Fruits des Bois (debut in North America).

To save space, my order of favorites of these beers was 2b; 2a; 1 & 4 (tie); 3; and 5 coming in last. While I didn't dislike the Grisette, it's much more like a lambic, and I'm not that big of a fan of this style. But, paired with the dessert, it was in no way bad. The flavors coming strongly through that Mark and I both agreed on were first, raspberries and second, strawberries.

The Triple was surprising in how differently each of the three versions presented themselves. The first bottle was a nice pleasant entrypoint to the dinner. Very smooth, very drinkable and went well with the cream-based soup. It set the tone nicely for the evening. The second, the draft, while carrying the same malt and hop notes was a bit more lively in the mouth. It seemed to be a good pairing (or offset) to the chicken/capon course. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I remember much of the third version of the Triple. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps there was other activity at the time or maybe I didn't get a second pour off that bottle to really leave a mark ;-).....not sure, but in any case, keep in mind that I don't have a bad thing to say about the evening, so it certainly was not a bad selection. In hindsight, now that I think of it, the opening of this bottle was a bit of a challenge and a comedy in getting the cork out. Tom Peters, part owner of Monk's almost had to resort to a sword for a lancing. I'm not schooled enough in the "science of brewing" to explain the hows and whys each of the three were so different, but maybe others could opine on the subject.

The Noel was also excellent and reminded of one week earlier at the Hop Devil Grille in NYC (off Tompkins Square Park) where my wife, Patty, and I shared a bottle during our pub tour. Very smooth, malty, and dark in color. The four times I've had this beer have always left me happy. And, last but not least, the Brune. This brown ale, to me, was the most interesting and complex and hence my favorite of the night. It had one of the more interesting "noses" that I've encountered and had a taste that made it hard to put a finger on the dominant flavor(s). We asked Dominique if the beer had been aged in anything special (e.g. oak) and she said "no." Although, she did seem to be a bit guarded with regard to certain details like that. Mark and I both had a difficult time dissecting the beer and left wanting more for a follow-up tasting.

By the way, at one point when Dominique stopped by and asked what our favorite beer was from the evening, she mentioned that from her point-of-view was most happy with the outcome of the draft version of the Triple followed by the Brune. Also in attendance were Fergie Carey (of Fergie's, of course) and George Hummel & Nancy Rigberg of Home Sweet HomeBrew at 21st/Sansom in Philly. So, there we go....my first posting. Took me a while to get started here, but as you can tell I don't have a problem once I get typing :) Prost!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

MNF: Yards, Victory & ahem..defeat

Bryan did it again! He hosted Monday Night Football. I won't mention too much about the game. I think we're all still a little sore about the defeat here in Eagles land. Despite that we enjoyed getting the guys together and I always look forward to Bryan's choice of beer. This week it was a Yards variety case. Which contained 6 bottles each of Extra Special Ale, Philadelphia Pale Ale, India Pale Ale and Saison. Pete also brought over bunch of Moonglow Weizenbock from Victory. How were they? Well, I would have to agree with Bryan on this one. He emailed me this morning...
"I think the order of my favorites were: Pale Ale, ESA, IPA, Saison. The PA seemed very drinkable and very well balanced. ESA was still good, but the last two were distant runner-ups."
I also tried the Moonglow. What can I say? It was um...not that appealing to me. I guess the nose had too much bananna and spice. The alchol was very present as well. For what it's worth I enjoy Victory's Golden Monkey much more than Moonglow. Bryan seemed to have a more favorable experience the last time he tasted Moonglow. Maybe he'll chime in on this one.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Time to Celebrate!

Hey it's my birthday! I am 36 on this fine day :-) I'm thinking Rochefort and a cigar will be on the list tonight. Here's a present for you on my birthday. Wikimedia Commons has a beer page with a couple pictures. Makes me want to hop on a plane to Germany or Ireland or Belgium...heheh! Wiktionary has an entry for beer as well. Not as exciting as the Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons pages, but, useful if you want to know the word for beer in other languages. Prost!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

ProMash: Home Brewing Software

Kevin Kelly has a great site called Cool Tools. I read the RSS feed about once a week. This time I was reminded about a software product called ProMash. I saw this years ago, but, I have yet to try it out. I thought I would add that Kevin is one of those people I learned about through Wired magazine. After looking at his "chronology" on his website I realized that he has a much richer history. If you are a human who is into computer tech Kevin is inspiring. -Adam

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Growler Time: Summit & Southampton

So my father was here to visit on Sunday. We lost track of time and before we knew it all the distributers were closed. So I could have picked up a six pack at a local bar, but, I had an idea. What about a growler? I remembered that The Drafting Room in Exton, PA always has a ton of good beer on tap and I know they fill growlers. So we made that our last ditch stop. They sold me two growlers and I chose to fill them with Summit Extra Pale Ale and Southampton Saison. Summit Extra Pale Ale is a great beer. Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to serve a beer to people who don't share your adventerous tastes in beer? This is the beer to serve. It isn't overly dark. It doesn't have a complex nose. It just tastes good. Honest to goodness clean flavorful beer. So how was the Southhampton Saison? I ejoyed it. I wouldn't say everybody did, but, that's why I bought two growlers ;-)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Beer Words: Hops

If you have tasted beer, you have tasted hops. The hops used in beer come from the hop plant. My favorite hoppy beer is Alpha King Pale Ale from Three Floyds Brewing. It has a hoppy nose that makes me feel like I'm sitting on a hop flower the size of a blimp!