Friday, November 25, 2005

McKenzie Brew House in Frazer, PA - Construction Update 11/25/05

Just a quick post here to update the progress on McKenzie Brew House in Frazer, PA. Looks like the parking lots are starting to take shape and windows have been installed. The fermenting tanks sit behind the larger windows in the front of the building to the right of the entrance.

Also, I wonder if I see the making of an outdoor patio to the left? So, with this progress, maybe this indicates that we have full steam ahead on the remaining interior development. Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday bring on the Christmas/winter ales! :)

p.s. Sorry about the tint in the picture from my car's windshield. 20 degrees at 7am made me too lazy to get out of the car!

Upcoming Beer Events

Here's a brief list of selected beer events over the next few weeks in the Philly Metro area. Not meant to be comprehensive, just a few that I'm gonna keep on my radar and might try to attend.

Fri. 11/25; 6pm-? - Grey Lodge - 2005 Mad Elf draft debut (pay as you go)
Fri. 11/25; 5pm-7pm - Beer Yard, Wayne - Clipper City/Heavy Seas, Baltimore tasting (free)
Fri. 12/2; 5pm-7pm - Beer Yard, Wayne - Victory tasting (free)
Sat. 12/3; 2pm-6pm - Yards, Philadelphia - Open House (free)
Sun. 12/4; 1pm-4pm - Heavyweight Brewing, NJ - Open House (free)
Wed. 12/7; 7pm-9pm - Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown - Meet Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing ($20 buffet + 4 beers)
Fri. 12/9; Union Jack's on the Manatawny, Boyertown - Dogfish Head Tasting (pay as you go)
Fri. 12/9; 10am-10pm - Sly Fox IPA Project Celebration, Phoenixville (pay as you go)
Fri. 12/16; 5pm-7pm - Beer Yard, Wayne - Legacy tasting (free)
Fri. 12/23; 5pm-7pm - Beer Yard, Wayne - Troegs tasting (free)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brewing: Barleywine ABV

Just a quick note. Now that I have my notes back I can calculate the ABV for the barleywine. Drumroll weighs in at more than 11.5%! ~:-)

Making Beer: Kegging the Kolsch

Just in time for Thanksgiving! I will stand by my original take on this beer. It is definately on the sweet side, but, in a good way. I also chilled it a bit to see how that affected it. All i can say is that I can't wait to share. Anybody want to come over and have a pint ;-)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Beer Bottle: Grolsch

I always thought the Grolsch bottles were cool. I was at The Beer Yard the other night for a Omegang tasting. While I was there I saw a case of the famous bottles and decided to buy it. I'm hoping to use them for my homebrew. The only thing that I was nervous about was the taste. I haven't had it in so long and the case wasn't cheap. Well my fears were laid to rest. It was delicious. Keep in mind that this is not an outrageous beer. It is smooth, slightly sweet, slightly bitter and very well balanced. Kinda nutty...almost biscuity. There's something about Grolsch Lager that tastes better than others in this style. Now I remember having this beer when it was skunky too. Some might attibute that to the green bottles. Who knows. All I know is that the case I have tastes great! :-) I would put it above Fosters, Yuengling, Victory Lager, and Heineken.

Brewing: Kolsch & Barleywine Sample

Bryan, Brian, Matt and I were hanging out after dinner last night. I thought it would be a great time to sample the Kolsch & Barleywine. I used the auto siphon to pull some out of the carboys. I'm always nervous when people taste beer that I brew, but, hey some of them helped with the barleywine wouldn't be all my fault!!! ;-) We tasted the Kolsch. Nobody was particularly impressed with it. There were comments like. "It's kinda syrupy." There were other references to its mouthfeel as well. We reminded ourselves that it was warm and not carbonated yet. I'm not sure how much that will make a difference, but, I think it will improve the drinkability of it somewhat. Afterall, how many beers have you bought poured, stirred the carbonation out while it was room temperature? The Kolsch's not thin, it has good balance, it isn't super dark like the alt we made and no nasty beer nose. it would probably fall into the ever so popular amber style of beer. We finished the keg of Alt last night so I might as well keg this since I'm gonna be cleaning the keg anyway. How was the barleywine? Well we were much more impressed with this one. Of course the style lends it self to being warmer and less carbonated. I don't have my notes here...AGAIN....but, its been in the secondary for a while now and is far from being finished. Well that's what all the books and sites say anyway. Honestly I like it a lot just the way it is. I do think that some of the harshness will fade as it ages. The barleywine is definately a barleywine, it seems well balanced...maybe a little too bitter, color is good, alcohol is present, but, not distracting. Hey there were lots of smiles and heads nodding arond the table ;-)

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Foodery in Philadelphia, PA

So, a funny thing happened on the way to watching the Eagles lose miserably in South Philly for Monday Night Football.........I had a GREAT beer afternoon in Center City Philadelphia (for anyone outside the Philly region, that's what most would call 'Downtown').

I made three stops after getting off the train at the Market East station. The second stop was The Foodery at 10th and Pine streets, which is in the 'Antiques Row' area of the city along Pine Street. Don't worry, you didn't miss the first stop, I'll get back to that later!

Many in inner beer circles know that The Foodery is a rarity in Philadelphia. Because of Pennsylvania's wonderful beer and liquor laws, it's quite rare to find beer (especially high-quality beer) in anything but a case (12 or 24 bottles, depending upon size). However, The Foodery has gone above and beyond the call of duty for satisfying a beer lover's hopes and desires :)

From the outside, you might almost miss this establishment. Even when inside, you're first confronted by a small grocery section. Basically, this looks like your typical bodega. What makes this different is that there are approximately 15 coolers full of beer that would make any beer lover salivate. (Sorry, the picture kind of sucks....nice Charmin, eh?)

And, to make matters even better, less than 2 coolers are dedicated to the generic swill. The remaining are filled with everything from local microbrews, to hard-to-find regionals from elsewhere in the country, to highly sought after foreign beers, especially Belgian.

To list individual beers is mostly impossible; so, instead I'll list the 6-pack of beers that I did purchase to take to the game with me. Rogue Chipotle Ale (22oz); La Trappe Quadrupel; Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter; Abita Turbo Dog; Brasserie d'Ecaussinnes Ultrabrune; and a 6th one that I can't remember for the life of me (ugh).

The selection is great, the prices average, and the service spotty. But, when you're in Philly for any occasion and need some good beer by the single bottle, make sure that you stop at The Foodery. Oh, and by the way, when you mix and match your 6-pack selections, if you get no more than 2 of any kind, they will take 10 percent off of your bill. p.s. The single bottle selection and variety gives me a bit of the feel that I've had at Bierkraft (Brooklyn, NY), Michael's Deli (King of Prussia, PA), and D's Six Pax & Dogz (Swissvale, PA)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Video: History Channel - Modern Marvels - Brewing

I was over at Jeremy's enjoying a Troegs Dreamweaver Wheat and a Hennepin Farmhouse Saison while watching a Modern Marvels episode about brewing. It was awesome. They even featured Dogfish Head! Whoohoo! I don't know how often they will run it. It's supposed to be on at 2 AM as well. Looks like you can buy the DVD as well. If you don't have it taped already that is ;-)

Upcoming Beer Events

Here's a brief list of selected beer events over the next few weeks in the Philly Metro area. Not meant to be comprehensive, just a few that I might try to attend.

Fri, Nov 18th; 5-7pm - Beer Yard - Ommegang tastings (free)
Fri. Nov 18th; 5pm-? - Sly Fox, Royersford - Firkin (pay as you go)
Wed. Nov 24th; 6pm-? - Grey Lodge - Last 2005 Dogfish Punkin (pay as you go)
Fri. Nov 25th; 6pm-? - Grey Lodge - 2005 Mad Elf draft debut (pay as you go)
Sun. Dec 4th; 1pm-4pm - Heavyweight Brewing, NJ - Open House (free)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New York City Pub Tour : Stop #6; Hop Devil Grill

OK, FINALLY.....I am going to finish this NYC Pub Tour series of postings. You would swear that it should not have taken me so long to post comments on 6 beer establishments in New York City. Afterall, it's been 10 weeks now since our trip to NYC for Matt and Kathleen's wedding.

Unfortunately, my note taking really died off by this time of the night, so I am relying mostly on my memory for this posting (don't worry I didn't drink that much ;-). Let's just start this off by saying that while Ginger Man and Burp Castle provided excellent competition on this pub tour, Hop Devil Grill ranked right there at the top of our experiences on this particular Friday.

I would probably give a nod to the neighborhood and the bar ambience, of course as well as the vast beer selection, as the factors pushing Hop Devil to the top of our list. Inside the bar is shaped like a 'U' (or a 'C', if you like!) with one side being devoted to a wide-ranging variety of beer that we skipped in favor of the "other side" comprised of mostly, if not all, Belgians. And, while we could have stayed inside, the weather was nice enough that we decided to take a sidewalk table in favor of the neighborhood street scene.

You may remember from a previous post that I mentioned Hop Devil Grill being located on Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Being very residential lends the neighborhood to a lot of foot traffic. It's a diverse neighborhood....more so than even NYC as a whole. We were getting hungry for a full meal at this point, so we opted for only one beer.

So, how better to accomplish this than to order a large bottle of St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel. Mm, Mm good. This is my simpleton's way of describing how perfect everything was from our server's friendliness, to our outdoor seats, to the smooth-drinking St. Feuillien. Refer to my tasting notes from the St. Feuillien dinner at Monk's Cafe in Philly later in September.

The experience with this beer was quite consistent between the two tastings. So, we reluctantly moved on from Hop Devil with every intention to return as soon as possible. It is not necessarily the easiest place to get to if you are taking the subway. You need to make an approximately 10 minute walk from the 6-train (Astor Place). But, come on now, everything in NYC is walkable, right?! Take a taxi if you wish, but if the weather is suitable, then make the walk and enjoy the scenery! Don't miss this stop when in New York City.

The Black Door in Philadelphia, PA

Listen up! We now have a beer destination in the South Street area of Philly! With all due respect to Dark Horse (nee Dickens), Artful Dodger, Mako's, Quincy's, Cheers to You, O'Neals, Bridget Foy's, Manny Browns, Abilene's, and others, The Black Door provides beer lovers a single reason to head to the South Street area. Sure, South Street has had its ups and downs and changes over the past decade. It's hard sometimes to tell whether South Street will continue to carry the "vibe" that it once used to. But, for the time being, head over to 2nd and Bainbridge, sit down and enjoy the scene, the TVs, and the beer. Hopefully, they have established a bar (no pun intended ;-) by which future businesses around South Street will measure themselves.

As a bit of history, according to an article in the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, The Black Door's inspiration comes from a black door that they unearthed during renovations that they believe may be a part of the original Underground Railroad. There's also a tower, which I thought may actually be something like a hearth's chimney for cooking. It seems like an interesting history to the location that I wouldn't mind discussing with the owner next time I'm there.

When you enter the establishment from the corner you can go up to a small bar upstairs or to the two bottom levels where there's an even smaller bar. Scattered around these three floors are tables at which to sit, eat, and drink. And, there's never a flatscreen plasma TV far from any table.

You might be able to tell from these comments that my only gripe about this place is the amount of space. Basically, if you don't have a seat at a bar or a table, it's a rather awkward place to just be standing around drinking because of the limited space. But, let's assume that you've secured a seat and now read on..... I've been here twice now and the beer list has basically not changed within the month. There are 5 draft beers and a plethora :) of bottled beers from which to choose. I didn't have the energy to either memorize or try to write down all of the quality beers from the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, and I took a picture.

This was the third time in the past month that I had Young's on tap, which makes me wonder if they've signed with a regional distributor and making are making a bigger marketing push in this region. In any case, their Oatmeal Stout, the Chimay, and the DeKoninck all lived up to expectations for pouring, presentation, and taste.

The staff is not extremely friendly or forward, but as long as the beer comes out in a timely fashion, tasting fresh, and presented appropriately, I won't complain. They also have a food menu specializing in reasonably-priced fare that satisfies your bar munchies.

As in past reviews, I'll mention that the restrooms are tasteful, clean, and ...... shall we say interesting? Basically, it's a unisex common sink area with individual male/female stalls. Nothing fancy, but it serves its purpose without offending. The message here is you're looking for an easy-going, quality beer drinking location south of Old City, check out The Black Door. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Beer Review: O'hara's Celtic Stout

O'hara's Celtic Stout from Carlow Brewing Company was given to me by a friend. It has been sitting in my beer fridge for a few weeks and was just begging to be opened. So, I decided to try it tonight. Sometimes I like the taste of a beer sometimes I like the nose. Sometimes a beer has both. This one has both. It has a wonderful roasty full nose. Not sure if its coffee or toffee...hmmm. It kinda reminds me of honey roasted cashews and toffee. How does it taste? Well I tend to compare to Guiness when drinking stouts. This is good, but, it isn't a Guiness type beer. It's well balanced between the hops tang and roasted malt. It's less creamy and more watery than Guiness and Murphy's. I like it as a clean tasting well balance big tasting stout.

Beer Review: Sam Adams Winter Lager

So I was on my way to Florida last Monday and I stopped at Olde Philadelphia Tavern - Concourse A East of Philadelphia International Airport. They had some good beer on tap besides the standard fare. I don't have my notes right now, but, I know Guiness, Sam Adams Lager, and Sam Adam Winter lager were on tap. I have tried Sam Adams Winter Lager before, but, it was a long time ago and I have expanded my tastes since then. Let's just say that it didn't disappoint. Sam Adam's sometimes comes off as a bit too filtered and complex, but, not so with this brew. Again I don't have my notes so I'll do my best to remember the details. Not much nose, kinda like an Alt in that respect. Boy I didn't expect the sweet finish of this one! It really balanced out the slight bitterness upfront. If you think Yeungling lager is sweet this "lager" does it one better. Kinda like a Scotch Ale. Hmmm...I drank too much Sam Adams way back so i don't drink it that often these days. This Winter Lager reminds me that there's more to their lineup. If you get a chance to try it and you like a slightly sweet beer give it a shot. Hey if you are flying into or out of Philly, you should stop by the Olde Philadelphia Tavern in Concourse A if you get a chance. Good beer and the burger I had was pretty tasty too. ;-)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I'm Back! Ybor Amber Lager & other Florida stuff

Last night we landed in Philly after a vacation in Ft. Myers, Florida. My family and I didn't go there for beer of course, however I did take notice of a few beer related items while on vacation there. Here's a store in Fort Myers where you can buy some good beer, A.B.C. Fine Wine & Spirits. I wouldn't say the beer is cheap, however they do have an awesome selection. From all the usuals to Rogue, St. Bernardus, Anchor Steam, Chimay and of course some Florida brew. Florida Brewing Company's, Ybor Amber Lager was pretty good. I would have to say it was very close to a Yeungling Lager, slightly sweet, but, more dry and nutty. I would have to say that they best beer I had on vacation was Guiness Stout and Sam Adams Winter at the airports. Other than that Heineken was about the only beer I could rely on that had any taste. I did buy some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at A.B.C as well. I wonder what I would turn up if I really looked for good beer in Florida?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Adam, where are you?

There's been some friends of your's asking when you'll be home. Oh, and hey, didn't you clean up the leaves before you left?!

Flying Pig Saloon in Malvern, PA

We travel far and wide in search of good beers and bars, but how often do we forget the "old reliables" in our own backyards?! We made our way over to the Flying Pig last night. It's no more than 2 miles from our home and it has one of Chester County's finest selections of both tap and bottled beer. Plus, as an added bonus, it's served in a very down-to-earth environment by friendly people.

It's definitely the kind of place where you can feel comfortable going in a suit after a wedding (we have done) or sweatshirt and jeans (like last night). And, a few nights a week, they feature live and local music. In the front window area are a couple of comfy sofas and chairs. The bar area is not huge with probably around 15 barstools. The remainder of the establishment is filled with tables for dining or drinking. Throughout there are TVs, with some type of sports action, usually local, to watch. To summarize the food selection in one sentence, I'd say that the food menu qualifies as average-to-above-average pub grub.

As for the beers, the rotating bottle and draft selections are posted on chalk boards around the bar, while the usual suspects are listed on a laminated paper menu. Just as a way of giving you an idea of the quality draft beers, I'll list the rotating specials that were on tap last night: Victory Moonglow Weizenbock; Unibroue Trois Pistoles Abbey Dubbel; Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale; Heavyweight Black Ocean Schwarzbier; Leffe Brown Ale; Legacy Euphoria; North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout; and Thirsty Dog Hoppus Maximus Amber Ale. These were in addition to almost 15 other draft beers including (among the better ones): Chimay Cinq Cents; Guinness; Hoegaarden; Sierra Nevada Pale Ale; and Victory Hop Devil. If you're still looking for a beer to suit your fancy, the bottled beers number approximately 50 from which to choose.

Last night, we enjoyed the Heavyweight and North Coast on tap, as well as a 25oz. Chimay Grande Reserve bottle. Also, we bumped into a friend of Patty's and had friendly conversation with a Malvern businessman and the owner of the Flying Pig. I'd say that this is fairly typical of the scene and experience that would normally be had at the Flying Pig.

So, the moral of the story here is...."Don't forget or take for granted your old friends. They still have a lot to offer." On that note, I think I'll make a point of visiting Flanigan's Boathouse in Malvern, Maddie's in Frazer, Appetites on Main, Winner's Circle, and Riverstone Cafe in Exton. While I don't expect any of these to quite measure up to the Flying Pig or the Drafting Room, what the heck? Variety is the spice of life, right.......?

p.s. Don't be frustrated by the lack of parking. If you look around, you'll see that there are street parking spaces as well as public lots to choose from just a stone's throw from the front door. Or, if you're lucky, you may find a spot in the very small lot of 5 spaces behind the bar. Oh, and if you're coming by train, it's an easy walk to the Malvern train station off the R5 SEPTA regional rail line (approx. 50 minutes from center city Philadelphia).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

McKenzie Brew House in Frazer, PA - Construction Update

No sooner did I post a construction update on Monday and the fermenting tanks have arrived and are being brought inside one at a time. I'll continue to update with pictures and comments as the events warrant. (Maybe this indicates that their brewing operations will be in full swing in time for their grand opening?!)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sly Fox Brewery in Royersford, PA

This posting has been a while in the making, considering that we made our first trip to Sly Fox's Royersford location over my birthday in early October. Now, we made our second trip last week for Patty's birthday. Although, it's actually the first trip that really made an impression on us. More about that in a minute. The new Sly Fox is a full-fledged restaurant, pub, and brewery (20-barrel). When we went in October, they were hosting a VIP party for initial investors and "friends" of Sly Fox. It was a kickoff party, of sorts, where they debuted the first bottles (all 25oz.) and gave them away as parting gifts for the guests. This was a private party complete with tours of the facility. We arrived at the tail end of the party, but when I discovered what was going on, I couldn't resist asking. And good thing I did (what do they say about "'ll never know if you don't ask....?!) because we were introduced to Nick who took us on a full tour of the back-of-the-house operations......the tanks, fermenters, cold storage room, etc. WOW! What a change from the cramped quarters of their Phoenixville location (10-barrel). Not only are the front restaurant and bar ample in size, but the brewing area in the back is a dream come true for anyone accustomed to brewing in a claustrophobic environment. (Brewmaster Brian O'Reilly was not around at the time, but Nick did a wonderful job filling in, giving us our own private tour, answering questions, and taking his time to show us around.) In addition to all I just mentioned, they even have a large game room with TVs, shuffleboard, pool tables, and arcade games. This is perfect for kids, and adults too (!), especially while waiting for a dining room table to become available. OK, back to the beer. Between our two visits to Sly Fox in Royersford, we sampled Kulmbacher Dark Lager, Santiam IPA, Saison Vos, and Pughtown Porter. None of the beers failed to impress, although to varying degrees. During our first trip, I was so impressed by the Saison (moderately hopped with a full, tasty, but not overwhelming flavor of fruitiness and spiciness) that I asked to take some home with me.....even if to buy it. Nick took it one step further and grabbed a newly bottled Saison for me to take home. It became a perfect opening accompaniment to our dinner at Birchrunville Store Cafe last week, mmm :) The Dark Lager was a moderately dark and very drinkable beer with solid malt characteristics to enhance the body the flavor. This earned a growler full to bring home with me to drink during the Eagles game the following day (Adam, why weren't you there to help? ;-) The Santiam IPA is part of the 2005 annual IPA "project", the 8th installment. This also is a very drinkable beer with a pleasant nose, moderately but not offensively hopped. I think this has all conveyed the general theme of Sly Fox. They create some very good, drinkable, but not offensive brews. They get adventurous, but not to the degree of someone like Dogfish Head (but, then again, who is?!) I recall that a few years ago, when O'Reilly first took over brewing duties at Sly Fox, that I was rather unimpressed with what he first had coming out of the tanks. However, as others can probably attest, the quality has grown steadily over the past couple of years, even garnering some awards at the Great American Beer Festival. He really has taken the brewpub from small and underperforming to respectable, recognizable, and high-quality. Now, the only thing I'd ask is that he get just a bit more creative and aggressive with some of his recipes. (mmm, I'm hoping that the Gang Aft Agley Wee Heavy is not far away?!) Hopefully, the opening of the Royersford location will allow him the space to do this. According to their website, there's a barleywine, an oatmeal stout, and a Christmas ale in the tanks now. According to their description, it may be a good beer to model our Christmas homebrew after. Sounds like another trip to Royersford in the works! Who's ready?

Monday, November 07, 2005

McKenzie's Brew House in Frazer, PA

How's construction coming along on the new McKenzie Brew House in Frazer, PA? Funny you should ask. I'll post back here regularly with pictures as construction nears completion. Sorry about the sun; I'll keep that in mind for future pictures :) p.s. I scraped the following from

"10/10/05: Construction has begun again on the second McKenzie Brewhouse in Frazer, PA; the brewhouse will come from the defunct Brü in Rochester, NY. Tentative opening date of February 1. AND.... 10/10/05: Brü is dead, long live McKenzie II!! Just got confirmation that the 15 bbl. Criveller system from Brü in Rochester (the former Empire brewpub) will soon be headed for Frazer, PA for installation in the second McKenzie Brewhouse, where construction has resumed and trusses are up. That's straight from Scott "Dude" Morrison, who said the roof goes on this week. The planned opening is February 1st, and Scott will be brewing at both pubs, aided by his new assistant, Ryan Michaels, who managed to escape the collapse of Valley Forge. Scott's training him up in the straight and narrow. Got this news from the Dude whilst sharing some of his Vuuve XXxXX "Belgian Imperial IPA" (very nice stuff) and Dark Saison (even nicer) at the Kennett Square Brewfest...but I gotta say: good as they were, beers like these ought to be in bottles. "Oh, I'm over that," the Dude said with his usual big grin, referring to the management decision to stop bottling. "I realized that the bottling was really cool, but it was a lot of work, and this left more time to make beer. So I'm pretty much okay with that!" Keep asking for bottles, folks."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Brewing Beer: Kolsch in the Secondary

Whoohoo the Kolsch is in the secondary! And mmmm...does it taste good :-) Used a yeast starter from the Altbier. That seemed to work out pretty well.