Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monk's Beer Dinner 1/24/06 : Pizza Port & Russian River

The first dinner of the new year at the near legendary Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia, PA brought west coast big boys Pizza Port Brewery (near San Diego) and Russian River Brewery (Santa Rosa, near Napa). These guys (Vinnie from RR and Tomme from PP) have gathered quite a bit of press recently, both in the level of activity, adventure, and curiosity that they have exhibited in brewing new and interesting beers as well as the number of awards that they have garnered on the national stage like the Great American Beer Festival.

The weather on this day was beautiful. So, Adam and I packed up a bit early from work and headed into Philadelphia on the train. We arrived early enough to divert to Ludwig's Garten for a pre-dinner dunkelweisse from Franziskaner and small treats like wurst, tart, and "wings." Excellent place to relax and prepare for the rest of the evening. For more details on Ludwig's, please see an earlier posting.

We arrived over at Monk's early enough to take some outdoor pictures and make a few introductions to some beer friends not met before in person. We made our way to Monk's back bar for a beer while waiting for the dinner to begin. Adam had the Urthel Samaranth (quadrupel) and I had the St. Feuillien Noel. Mmm, so far so good.

The dinner got started shortly after 7 p.m. At first, we were disappointed to be sat, literally, in the last seats in the house. But, we were in good company in the back room with our friend from Beer Yard and others. Plus, we got equal treatment from the hosts who made their rounds to the back room as well. And, we shuffled ourselves up to the front room a couple of times just to see how everyone else was doing. The saying of "the last shall be first" proved true as we were served most courses first in the room before anyone else. So, finally to the beers. Adam and I were both quite anxious for this dinner because, for both of us, this gave us the opportunity to experience beers that neither of us had sampled in the past. Plus, from our research at their websites and reputation in the industry, we knew that we would be tasting some unusual and experimental brews.

That being said, I'm going to cut right to the chase. For starters, by the end of the evening we were both a bit overwhelmed as a result of two breweries being profiled at this dinner. Also, I think that I can speak for both of us when I say that we were a bit disappointed in the limited scope of the beers offered for tastings. From the research we had done ahead of time, we were looking forward to trying some of the award-winning IPAs, stouts, porters, and barleywine....in addition to the sour lambic styles that were predominantly featured instead.

This may sound like sour grapes (no pun intended), but in my humble opinion the food stole the show on this night. I've listed below the beers featured from each brewery, but they were all so subtly the same/different that it's really hard for me to describe each one by itself.

I will admit that perhaps this is because of my inexperience with this style. My overall assessment would label these brews mostly as extremely sour, Belgian/lambic style with a heavy dosage of brettanomyces. Both Tomme and Vinnie discussed this during their "presentations" and they were not kidding!

The last thing to say about the beers is that while I was overwhelmed with them by themselves, the beers were expertly paired with the meal as they complemented each course nicely. The Le Woody and Cuvee de Tomme from Pizza Port and the Supplication from Russian River were excellent when paired with their respective foods. Perhaps if I had geeked out a bit more with my notepad during the dinner, this writeup on the beers would be more comprehensive, but it didn't feel right at the time.

1st Course: RR Beatification with Foie Gras Turchon
2nd Course: RR Temptation & PP Synergy with Clams & Andouille Sausage
3rd Course: RR Deification & PP Le Woody with Barley Tea Smoked Duck Breast
4th Course: RR Supplication & PP Mother Pucker with Tuna Wellington
5th Course: PP Cuvee de Tomme with Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

With all this beer on the table (and, there was quite a bit, yeow!), did I mention food?! Yes, I did. And, the food certainly held up its end of the night. Each course that I listed above was amazingly done, but perhaps none quite as much as the Tuna Wellington.

Have you ever had Beef Wellington? Think of it, now replace the meat with a perfectly cut brick of pacific big-eye tuna. Pure heaven on a plate. Though, the table next to us did not appear to appreciate the dish quite as much as we did. Wonder if they noticed my fork in their plate ;-)

So, how do I wrap this up neatly now? I'd say that this was a great dinner with good beers, shared in great company with Adam. We had the pleasure of finally meeting in person several people who we had only previously corresponded with through e-mail. We also made some new friends. Plus, keep in mind that a dinner at Monk's, particularly a beer dinner at Monk's, is never bad! The overall beer karma is always off the charts here and provides one of the best venues in the country.

But, strictly from a beer point-of-view, this was not my favorite event. While I was disappointed to miss the Urthel dinner in October, my standard for a while I'm sure will continue to be the St. Feuillien dinner of last September. Lastly, we moved on to Nodding Head for a pint of George's Fault while we waited for our train ride home. This, I believe, was a remake of last year's award-winning beer but not quite the original. It seemed to be lacking in the "wow factor." To complete the evening, the walk to the train station through thunder, lightning, rain, sleet, and snow was interesting to say the least.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Beer Calendar: What to do in February 2006

Here's a few interesting looking events coming up in the Philadelphia region over the next month (plus an end-of-January event, too)

Tue. 1/31 - Troegs event - Monk's Cafe, Philadelphia PA (5pm-??; pay as you go)
Wed. 2/1 - Troegs event - Drafting Room, both Exton and Spring House (5:30-??; pay as you go)
Thu. 2/2 - Groundhog Day/Lucky Cat Night - Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia PA (7am-??; pay as you go)
Sat. 2/4 - Intro to German Beer Styles - German Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA (3pm; $20/$30)
Sat. 2/18 - Beats, Brews, & BBQ - World Cafe Live, Philadelphia PA (1pm-5pm; $25/$30 at door)
Sun. 2/19 - Chili Challenge - Victory Brewing, Downingtown PA (your's truly may be an entrant, stay tuned :)
Sat. 2/25 - Vintage Barleywine Night - General Lafayette Brewery & Inn, Lafayette Hill PA (12pm-4pm; pay as you go)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Beer Tasting: Barley Creek Brewing Co. - Super Hop IPA

Barley Creek Brewing Co. - Super Hop IPA Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep it to as few as words as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Bryan: Holy frothy hophead! Just see the picture! Medium copper-colored over-charged beer that took forever to pour. Smell Bryan: mild citrus aroma Taste Bryan: moderate malt flavor with pleasant hop tastes without being overpowering Mouthfeel Bryan: moderate body Drinkability Bryan: moderate malt, moderate body, moderately higher level of hops. However, not a great beer. Missing what?........stronger malt backbone? maybe. Seconds? Bryan: Yes, slightly better-than-average IPA.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New York City: Spamalot on Broadway and Finding A Good Beer

** BEER READER ALERT** If you could not care less about Broadway musicals, then skip the next two paragraphs. (Just a public service announcement :)

This was a last minute trip to New York City as two tickets suddenly became available for the wildly popular Broadway show Spamalot. We couldn't refuse. What a rollicking good time. This isn't a Broadway review site, so I'll spare you all the details of the show. Suffice to say it is highly recommended to try and score tickets which are virtually sold out for close to a year in advance. After seeing the show, it is easy to see why it's already racking up theater awards.

Noteworthy actors include Hank Azaria, David Hyde Pierce, and Simon Russell Beale. Ok, now that these beer reviews have featured the panda cub at the National Zoo and Broadway musicals, I should move on to BEER, before a revolt ensues at brewlounge.com!

** BEER READERS RESUME HERE ** :) After the show, it was across Broadway on 43rd street to the Heartland Brewery Chophouse. You may remember my comments from our last trip to the Heartland Brewery in New York City. There are 5 locations of HB, plus one location (Spanky's BBQ) that exclusively serves HB brews. There is not much to change from last review. The brews continue to be at least mediocre and the service continues to be be less than mediocre. The beers I enjoyed on this evening were (in order of favorite): Red Rooster Ale; Oatmeal Stout; Barleywine.

Then, returning to Penn Station warranted a side trip to Stout NYC. The experience here again, like my previous review, was consistent. The service, atmosphere, and beer selection were all decent and respectable. First, I enjoyed a cask-conditioned Blue Point Imperial Stout followed by a bottle of North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Both beers were a perfect cap on our 8 hour trip to the "Big Apple."

Unfortunately, at this point, it was time to find our train ride home. Oh, to only have had a hotel room for the night.....the possibilities.......next time.

Beer Tasting: Middle Ages Wailing Wench Ale

Middle Ages Brewing Co. - Wailing Wench Ale Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep it to as few as words as possible for each of the following; appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel and drinkability. Appearance Bryan: settles down to a 1/2" (1.25 cm) head; dark coloring Adam: copper, persistent head Smell Bryan: sweet malty aroma at 50F; maintains the nose as it warms; not much in the way of hop aroma Adam: big nose, hoppy and sweet, better as it warms. I almost sucked up all that beer with my nose ;-) Taste Bryan: a trace of malt flavor upfront quickly turning to mouthful of hops, finishing with a bitter hop flavor Adam: cool = some malt & all hops, warmer = well balanced hops & malt Mouthfeel Bryan: smooth and full of both texture and taste Adam: felt like sand....OK...OK...it didn't. No note on mouthfeel. Drinkability Bryan: becomes even more balanced and drinkable as it warms after approximately 15 minutes Adam: Nothing offensive. Love that nose. Seconds? Bryan: Yes, and maybe even thirds. This beer makes me happy :) Adam: Yes, please.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Iron Hill - Mug Club Renewal Party!

On Tuesday, February 7th from 6pm till 10pm, Iron Hill Brewery in West Chester, PA has their annual Mug Club Renewal party... it is when you get to pick up your collectible mug from the last year and register for the new year. It is not just for mug club owners though... anyone can come and join the fun and register for the mug club! Myself and a few other friends joined last year and loved it. This year Jackie and a bunch more people are going to join... Brian, Adam!?!?! Here are the details of the party and what you get for joining the 2006 Mug Club/Loyalty Program... The party this year will feature a beer and chocolate pairing with creations from West Chester's own Eclat Chocolate. They'll kick off the pairings at 6 pm, get there early if you want to be sure to get some chocolate. If you can't make the party you'll be able to pick up your mug and renew your membership anytime during business hours through March. You may want to check out Eclat's website and accolades . Benefits of the Mug Club: *An exclusive 24 oz signature beer mug! *Any-time filling of the mug for the same price as our 16 oz pint(promotions included)! *Invitations to exclusive mug club events throughout the year! *Direct contact via e-mail with Head Brewer (Me, Chris LaPierre) regarding upcoming releases and events! *Points are accrued for each dollar spent excluding tax and tip and the purchase of gift cards. *Earn a $25 reward certificate for every 300 points accrued. *200 free points credited at time of sign-up. Party to include: *Distribution of 2005 Collectable Iron Hill Brewery Club Mug! *Registration for 2006 Iron Hill Brewery Mug Club! (Still only $25!) *Special Seasonal Beers (For Mug Clubbers Only!) *Beer and Chocolate Tasting! *$2 House Beers *$3 Special Seasonal Beers (Mug Clubbers only!)

Beer Site: Check this out at A Good Beer Blog.

Alan from A Good Beer Blog posted this great story and he's looking for some feedback.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Iron Hill Brewers' Reserve

I am a little late in posting this, but Jackie (my wife), myself, and a few friends, went to the Iron Hill Brewers Reserve in Media, PA (Sat Jan. 21st). It was my first trip to any of the other Iron Hill locations. As Brian has mentioned in his last post, I really like Iron Hill. Its a great bar, with good beer, good food, good service, and a nice atmosphere. I was not let down by this location either... except maybe that they only have one big bar instead of two medium sized ones like in West Chester.

Anyway, on to the details of the night... They were featuring their Strong Ales from each of the Iron Hill locations. 6 Beers in total. Here is the rundown of what was on tap and their descriptions: On tap from Media: 2004 GABF bronze medal winner Bourbon Russian Stout -- Russian Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels with whole vanilla beans (ABV 8.6%); and Barleywine -- aged for three years, with an intense, complex malt sweetness and a sherry-like quality (ABV 9.6%). On tap from Wilmington: -- A huge Belgian dark abbey ale Oak Aged Quad, aged in oak wine barrels (ABV 12.5!!!%); and Sasquatch -- a hopped-up American Barleywine (ABV 9.6%). On tap from West Chester: -- The ubiquitous Winter Warmer, sweet and warming, with toasted oats and winter spices (ABV 8.0%). On tap from North Wales: -- The traditional German strong lager Doppelbock, with a full-bodied and distinctly malty flavor and aroma (ABV 9.0%).

What I had: I had 3 22 oz. mugs (mug club owner's only).... one of the Media Barleywine, one of Wilmington's SasQuatch Barleywine, and then finished the night with my hometown's (West Chester) Winter Warmer. Each of the beers were excellently balanced and flavorful... and best of all... lots of alcohol! The Winter Warmer is my favorite due to its unique spicy, cinnamon and sugar flavor. It remind me of a cookie, but isn't too sweet.

To soak up all the alcohol, we had dinner too. We got a huge plate of their nachos and some buffalo wings for appetizers (Jackie's favorite). I had a crab and shrimp cake sandwich... which was pretty good... but I probably could have chosen something better... but I was trying to go lighter/cheaper since we were ordering appetizers. Since we were celebrating my friend Brian's Bday, Gabe passing his CCNA, and me completing my Masters Certification... we decided to do a shot of Soco and lime (Jackie's choice). Anyway, all in all, it was a great time! The food, beer and service were great. I highly recommend checking out any of the Iron Hill's if you get a chance.

Beer Dinner: Monk's Cafe...quick post

It may take us a day or two to post our opinions, so here's the skinny :-) Wow...that was fun! Thanks Bryan for you're encouragement. This was an experience that took me beyond the walls of beer tasting I've built up over the years. Whoohoo!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Web Site: Wiki Book - Brewing

What a great idea! I was searching for some beer pictures on the net and ran across this. Doesn't look like its finished, but, something to watch. Hey maybe one of you could contribute :-) Wiki Book on Brewing

Sunday, January 22, 2006

PA Beer: Penn Brewery Gourmet Selection Case

Yeah we tried them all! Bryan was kind enough to pickup a mixed case or as they say "gourmet selection" for the Steelers/Broncos game (Go Steelers!). So how were they? I liked them all. Very clean with a good solid taste. In fact, there really wasn't anything offensive about any of them. My pick of the case would be the Penn Pilsner. I can't wait for my Dad to taste this. He likes a good clean and crisp lager with some malt flavor. This is it kinda reminds me of the Kolsch I brewed recently. Second, would be Penn Dark, followed by the Gold and the Weizen.

Brewing Beer: Kegged - Imperial Stout, Wee Heavy

On Friday we kegged the Imperial Stout and Wee Heavy. Wow that stout is thick! I'm not sure if I like it or not. We'll see once it's carbonated. That might help a bit. Now, what the heck am I going to do with it if I don't like it. Eh...we'll cross that bridge when we get there. As for the Wee Heavy. It tastes great! Well it still needs to settle out a bit. It wasn't quite done so there's still some yeast in suspension. It should taste even better then :-) I'm thinking Imperial IPA next.

Iron Hill Brewery in Phoenixville, PA - Construction Update

While there does not seem as of yet to be an official opening date, I know that Jeremy and Jackie will be excited to see that construction is moving along, albeit slowly, in Phoenixville of the next Iron Hill brewpub in their expanding empire in the Delaware Valley. Current locations include Media, West Chester, North Wales in Pennsylvania and Newark and Wilmington, both in Delaware. Phoenixville has many indications of being a city on the turnaround from a former steel town on the river to a (I don't want to say trendy, because that would be quite a stretch!) town with a future. A movie theater, a coffee house, several new restaurants and pubs, soon-to-be three microbreweries. While there is still much work that needs to be done in the town, these are all positive signs.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Beer Dinner: Monks Cafe - Russian River & Pizza Port

I can't wait for the Beer Dinner at Monks next Tuesday. Here are some links to keep you informed. Has anybody out there tried beer from Russian River and/or Pizza Port? Leave us a comment. Monk's Cafe Events Official Sites - home page Pizza Port --- Russian River - styles of beer Pizza Port --- Russian River - awards Pizza Port --- Russian River Beer Advocate Links -Russian River -Pizza Port

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, PA

What can I say about Victory Brewing that hasn't already been said? Most of you have likely sampled one of their beers. And, it was most likely the Hop Devil or the Prima Pils, two of their most popular, right? But, how many of you have made a visit to their location in Downingtown, PA? It's where you'll want to go to get the freshest Victory available. This posting, like Independence, does not correspond to a specific visit. I've been there so many times that I took this most recent visit as the impetus to write a review. When visiting the brewery, the first thing that you'll notice is the difficulty in finding the place. They are located inside of a former Pepperidge Farm bakery production plant and tucked away between residential and industrial neighborhoods. Once you turn in off of Acorn Lane, you need to drive all the way through the parking lot to find the entrance to the brewery. And, a warning that there are no signs along the way. Once inside, there's ample room to enjoy yourself. Inside the entrance, you are greeted by a long narrow bar where you can sit with a clear view of sports action on the TVs and brewing action behind the large glass windows. To the right of the entrance you will find an area to throw darts. Walk further down the hallway to the retail shop where you will find all sorts of gear and paraphernalia with Victory logos tastefully adorning them. Back to the entrance, head left, and you'll find a couple of pool tables before leading into the dining room where there is probably seating for approximately 100 people. To quickly mention the food, there has been a marked improvement in the food menu over the past year. I am not sure if there's been a change in the kitchen, but I would now consider Victory to be a place I would have dinner. Don't misunderstand, though, it is not fancy.....paper napkins, no tablecloths, and very basic uncomfortable chairs. But, the food is certainly worthy of a decent dinner. As for the beer, you will always be certain to find the usual suspects on tap. This includes the Prima Pils, Hop Devil, and Golden Monkey. Occasionally thrown into the mix you might find the Lager, Festbier, or Storm King Stout. And it is always advisable to try or take home a bottle from the V-series. At this time, this includes the V-12 and the Saison. The V-12 is an excellent sipping beer with lots of full-bodied flavor. The Saison is good but not great, but my bar has been set higher (at least locally) by the Sly Fox Saison. And the first three that I mentioned in this paragraph are among the best in their respective categories of pilsner, ipa, and tripel. In short, other than finding the brewery and the sometimes lacking service (though, I don't want to bash them too hard on service), you should almost always find yourself happy and satisfied when you leave Victory. Plus, you are able to take home bottles and growlers full of Victory beer at very reasonable prices.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Robbie Burns Birthday Bash : Sly Fox in Phoenixville, PA : 1/14/06

The weather outside was frightful, but WOW the beer and entertainment inside were extremely delightful! This past Saturday, Sly Fox hosted their annual Robbie Burns birthday bash. Why wouldn't we go? After all, what else is there to do on a Saturday night in the middle of January? (actually, I think this is what they anticipate in scheduling this event :) This was the first of two events that Sly Fox holds every year to commemorate the Scottish poet Robert Burns. They will host a special Robbie Burns sit-down dinner and menu on this coming Thursday January 19th at their Royersford location. The event lived up to its billing as a night of Robbie Burns poetry reading, Haggis, Celtic music, dancing, bagpipes, and lots of kilts (on customers too)! The bar and the dining room areas were both full with revelers intent on honoring the man who wrote Auld Lang Syne. (Betcha didn't know that, eh?!) Noteworthy on the beer menu were the Robbie Burns Scottish Ale, the Gang Aft Agley Scotch Ale, a whisky barrel-aged version of the Scotch Ale, and the Prometheus smoked imperial porter. Unfortunately, the whisky-aged Scotch Ale was already kicked by the time I was ready for one :( However, I did have the pleasure of tasting it last year and at that time it instantly registered as one of the most memorable beers that I had ever tasted. I would say that the ranked order of my enjoyment for the beers that I had on this particular evening was as follows: Prometheus; Gang Aft Agley; Abbey Dubbel; and Robbie Burns. My displeasure with the Scottish Ale was surprising because I had really enjoyed it just two nights prior at Sly Fox's Royersford location. With the same brewmaster and the same recipes, Adam could only take a guess that perhaps the difference in taste and body had something to do with the draft lines. That's a little beyond my area of expertise, but it sounds plausible. Nonetheless, I brought home a growler of this beer for Adam and others to taste and we all agreed. It seemed to lack some of the "backbone" and the more fully well-rounded flavor that I had experienced earlier in the week. I'll be interested to try it again during my next trip to the Royersford location. But, on a brighter note, the Prometheus scored much higher and I was happy to end the night with this wonderfully smoky, malty, flavorful brew. Must......have........more :) Since this was my first Robbie Burns event, of course there were some lessons learned. For next year: - go for dinner and sample the haggis (Matt reports that it was good; though he says he's not experienced enough to differentiate good from bad haggis ;-) - arrive early to snag a table in the bar area to be more a part of the festivities - memorize the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Beer Tasting: Don't forget the food!

Here's a mistake that I make fairly often. And, I'll bet that many of you do too.

I find myself so anxious to have a beer that I overlook the food aspect of beer tasting. This especially happens when I'm trying a beer for the first time. Then, when the tasting doesn't match my expectations, I shrug and say 'Oh well, it wasn't what I expected.'

What I should do first instead is some homework to try and find a cheese, meat, or some other snack that might go well with the beer. I know, I know.....It seems like common knowledge that beer, like wine, can go perfectly together with certain foods. Some of you are probably even rolling your eyes saying, 'what does he know anyway?!' Though, I seem to often forget that when it comes time to sit down with a beer.

I wonder if it happens to you? So, what have I done? Am I taking my own advice? You bet. As a matter of fact, I'm writing this while sampling some Middle Ages Wailing Wench Ale from Syracuse and smoked gouda from Holland. And a bit of fresh-from-the-oven sourdough bread from Wegmans. Thanks to Melissa for the Wench and Joe Sixpack for the gouda suggestion!

In any case, I've attached a few links to follow below for some decent beer/food pairing and recipe thoughts and ideas.

http://www.allaboutbeer.com/food/ http://beeradvocate.com/cookbook/

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

McKenzie Brewhouse in Glen Mills, PA

I've been sitting on this for a while so before it gets too old I better post it. Here are a couple pictures of McKenzie Brewhouse in Glen Mills, PA. Not too long ago Bryan and I stopped by on our way to Total Wine in Delaware. We were impressed with the beer. I honestly wasn't expecting much. Some friends said it was OK when I asked them about it, but, no rave reviews. Bryan and I tasted the following... Raven Porter - Baltic Porter Goldings IPA - Double IPA VuuVe XXxXX - Hybrid Belgian IPA I would have to say that I enjoyed it. I would go back again. We especially enjoyed the VuuVe XXxXX :-) Now I'm even more excited about the new location less than a mile from my house. Not too sure how that will play out with the rest of my family though ;-) I'm sure glad my wife doesn't read this blog....at least I hope not....heheh. Honey? Are you out there?

Monday, January 09, 2006

McKenzie Brew House in Frazer, PA - Construction Update 1/9/06

According to a bartender in Glen Mills, the Frazer location is still on pace to open 2/1/06. Looks like the doors and windows have been in for a couple of weeks, some masonry work has been done out front, and the side patio is still being worked on. Hopefully, the recipes are being readied indoors for some brewing to begin soon!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Beer Calendar: What to do in January 2006

Here are a few things worth keeping your eye on for the remainder of January 2006 in the Philadelphia region......beer-related, of course!

Fri. 1/13/06- Friday the Firkinteenth - Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (2pm-??; pay as you go)
Sat. 1/14/06 - Robbie Burns Birthday Bash - Sly Fox Brewhouse, Phoenixville, PA
Thur. 1/19/06 - Joe Sixpack Toast to Ben Franklin - McGillin’s, Philadelphia, PA (6pm-8pm; $25)
Sat. 1/21/06 - Heavyweight Open House - Ocean Township, NJ (near Asbury Park) (free)
Sat. 1/21/06 - Imperial Stouts and Winter Warmers - Iron Hill Brewery, Media, PA (6pm; pay as you go)
Tue. 1/24/06 - Pizza Port / Russian River Dinner - Monk's Cafe, Philadelphia, PA (7pm-10pm; $75)
Tue. 1/24/06 - Dogfish Head Tasting - Firewaters, Glen Mills, PA (7pm-9pm; pay as you go)
Tue. 1/31/06 - Troegs Nugget Nectar Debut - Monk's Cafe, Philadelphia, PA (5pm; pay as you go)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Beer Tasting: Sly Fox Incubus (2002)

Incubus Friday at Sly Fox in Phoenixville took a different approach on this first Friday of January. The brewpub rolled out a 2002 vintage of their tripel-style Incubus. The consensus review goes something like this: Appearance: Medium copper color; Very little head; Poured entirely to the rim Smell: Aroma not very noticeable (perhaps glassware more "snifter-shaped" would help?) Taste: Moderate body; malty sweetness is obvious up front with just a bit of alcohol presence at the end that becomes more apparent with temperature Mouthfeel: Light, syrupy texture....though, not in a cloying way Drinkability: Quite drinkable, without blowing you away like some tripels. But, 10.3% ABV as their site claims....hm, not sure about that. Kind of makes you wonder if this vintage has peaked. Would be interesting to compare against more recent vintages. Seconds? You bet. But, what would we know? We went there on a business lunch and are only going on word-of-mouth. That's our story and we're sticking to it ;-)

Brewing Beer: Imperial Stout, Wee Heavy & Barley Wine

With all the holiday hoopla I forgot to check on the Stout & Wee Heavy! I guess it will wait until get home. :-( On another note, I have decided that I'm not going to open up all those bottles of barleywine. I really don't mind the low carbonation. OK what should I brew next? Any of you have suggestions? Matt you don't get to choose again. You chose the Wee Heavy ;-) Speaking of which we need to have a taste of that soon!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Upcoming Monk's Beer Dinner

Adam and I are looking forward to fulfilling the first of my beer year resolutions. Monk's is having their first beer dinner of 2006 on January 24th. They're featuring two west coast breweries: Russian River Brewing and Pizza Port. Both are highly acclaimed and should prove to be a rewarding night. Speaking of rewards, check out the list for each of the breweries. http://www.russianriverbrewing.com/awards/ http://www.pizzaport.com/brewing-awards.html Stay tuned at the end of the month for a complete review of our night at Monk's.

Good Morning! :-)

The sun seems to be breaking through here in Wayne, PA.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What to do....What to do.....in 2006

Call them resolutions, call them wishful thinking.....I just call them "things that I'm looking forward to in the Beer (Year) 2006'" (no particular order)

- more Monk's beer events/dinners
- opening of Triumph Brewpub in Philadelphia, PA (Old City)
- opening of Mckenzie Brew House in Frazer, PA
- Ommegang Belgian festival
- more homebrew experimentation with Adam
- new website development
- Flyers/Beer trip to Pittsburgh
- opening of Iron Hill in Phoenixville, PA
- read Sam Calagione's book about his experiences in brewing
- Oktoberfest at Stoudt's in Adamstown, PA
- support the local micro/craftbrew scene with all my might
- visit Dogfish Head with Chris
- support other beer website operators, bloggers, podcasters, etc.

How's that for a start? What about you? Any wish list items that Santa didn't bring or resolutions that you'd like to publicly state here?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Beer Tasting: Ramstein Winter Wheat

High Point Brewing Co. - Ramstein Winter Wheat Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep it to five words or less for each of the following; appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel and drinkability. Appearance Adam: quickly disappearing head Bryan: small head, dissipates quickly Smell Adam: almost none Bryan: a mild and dry grainy aroma Taste Adam: licorice, roasted barley, reminds me of Jagermeister ;-) Bryan: not a weak beer, but I don't quite get the full, well-rounded flavor that I expected Mouthfeel Adam: light, refreshing Bryan: moderate, not heavy Drinkability Adam: very drinkable are they sure it is 9.5%...no way! Bryan: easy drinking, pleasing flavor, not overwhelming in any way

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all those who celebrate it around this time. I decided it was a good time to break out a bottle of 120 Minute from Dogfish Head to celebrate. So it made the trip with me to our celebration and I shared it with my brother-in-law. Hey come to think of it, this is the first year I didn't have Champagne. I can't say I missed it. Next year it will probably be the barleywine I recently bottled. Am I getting ahead of myself? :-) What were you sipping this year when the clock struck midnight? Was it champange, wine, wiskey, rum & coke, martini, club soda, Pepsi, Red Bull or B to the E?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Ludwig's Garten in Philadelphia, PA

This review of Ludwig's does not necessarily correspond to a particular visit. There have been so many! However, it was my most recent stop there in November on my way to the Eagles game (American football for our non-U.S. readers) that I took these pictures and decided that it was time to "officially" write my opinions. You can find Ludwig's tucked just a bit out of the way on Sansom Street, just off the hustle and bustle of Broad Street (aka Avenue of the Arts). If you've been to the legendary (?) McGillin's in Philadelphia, then you'll be able to find Ludwig's because the two locations are almost back-to-back. Once inside, you can choose between the primary bar area and the dining room that, when open, also has its own bar area. From the waitresses in German outfits, to the tavern feel of the restaurant, to the steins and other decor behind the bar, Ludwig's oozes Gemutlichkeit. Then, comes the beer. It's always amazed me that in the Philadelphia region, replete with its German ancestry and influence, there has not been a greater presence of German restaurants and bars. Especially in Philadelphia, with its choice of many different nationalities and ethnic cuisines, Ludwig's stands out as the best when it comes to good German food and beer in an accessible neighborhood of the city (downtown, no less). In my experience, there are always around a dozen "real" German beers on tap along with a handful of Belgians and then even more bottles from which to choose. Additionally, I can't recall when I've ever been disappointed with the manner in which the bartenders approach the beer and the serving of it. Glassware has always been attended to and chosen properly and beers poured and presented in appropriate fashion. My sense has been that beer turns over quickly enough at Ludwig's that any beer I have ever drank was always fresh. Finally, the atmosphere I referred to earlier is further enhanced by the friendliness of the staff. From the owner, to the chef and kitchen help, to the food and bar servers, I've always encountered real people who are friendly, but not overbearing......knowledgeable, but not pretentious. This is the kind of establishment where you'll find locals and tourists, beer geeks and pub crawls, old and young, professional and punk. And, as if being the best German restaurant/bar in the region every day of the year was not enough, Ludwig's also throws quite an Oktoberfest party at the end of September. It's a daylong party starting in the street and moving indoors for the remainder of the evening. Of course, they have the beer and food covered well, in addition to providing authentic live music to further fuel the party. While I didn't really go into detail on the subject of food, suffice to say that the kitchen does a decent job of turning out good versions of wursts, potato pancakes, spatzle, hasenpfeffer, and wienerschnitzel. Hopefully, this review was not too nauseating in my endless praise. I obviously have had a great deal of experience at Ludwig's and have never been disappointed. So, give it a try for yourself and see if you do not agree.

Beer Tasting: Budweiser, Bee to the What?!

Eh-hem, listen up!

The first beer tasting of the new year is.....Budweiser's B-to-the-E (Beer plus Energy?)

No, I'm not off my rocker and this isn't the beginning of a new theme in 2006. I decided that this falls into the "Can't knock it 'til you try it" category.

Now, don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of other beers that fall into "one of the best" categories that I've enjoyed over the holidays. But, I thought this would be fun, without getting too heady, to try with our neighbors Scott and Kathleen. (Adam, we saved one for you!!)

I'm not sure the last time that I drank a beer with a "born on" date....but, here we go! After Patty and I returned from dinner on New Year's Eve, we went across the street and split 2 cans (10 oz.) between the four of us. We first had some sparkling wine. Then, I grabbed a notepad and served us each a glass of the "beverage." It's listed at 6.6% ABV.

The results were somewhat consistent. I'd say that our average response was that: it doesn't have much aroma; it barely has any beer taste components; it's not repulsive but not worth buying again.

Here are the quick notes that I scribbled as we were all tasting it.

Smell Kathleen: like Schlitz (though, I think she was joking :) Patty: extremely weak apple juice Scott: yeah, kind of like apple juice, but not very strong Bryan: not much distinctive aroma to shape your expectations for the taste (maybe apple juice)

Taste Kathleen: I like it. No, it doesn't taste like apple juice. Not bad for a hot day. Patty: It isn't bad. But, it really isn't beer. Yes, would probably be really good on a hot day. Scott: Really good. Kind of like a Stoli raspberry drink. Bryan: Not bad for a Bud product (good to see they're being "creative"). A bit sweet and tart. Can't drink more than one at a time. I also thought it was interesting that they're sold in 4-packs in 10 ounce cans ($7.50 at Michael's Deli in King of Prussia, PA; although, they are typically higher-priced than average).

For one last note, we saved one for Adam to taste. I thought it would be very interesting to try this Bud product up against one that Adam liked last week....the Unibroue Ephemere. Check back for notes. In the meantime, back to one of my favorite beers of the year, the Sly Fox Saison Vos!!