Sunday, April 30, 2006

Beer Tasting: Anchor Bock

This Anchor Bock is a spring seasonal beer brewed in San Francisco. It was purchased in 12oz. bottles from the Beer Yard in Wayne, PA and served at refrigerated temperature. This is one of Bryan's favorite beers of the past 3 months. He tasted on draft in the brewery in San Francisco and was almost, but not quite, as impressed by the bottled version. What will Adam, Matt, and Mark say???? Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think in the comments section and we'll move your comments up into the tasting notes. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Bryan: dark as night, with just a tinge of deep red color; light tan head that slowly fades to a thin ring Adam: dark, nice head, disappates to thin head with islands Matt: Thick pour, almost syrupy; Dense lingering head; Dark, almost ruby red when held up to light Mark: Reddish Dark Brown; Head 1/4" - quickly dissipated. Smell Bryan: rich, oak, molasses, alcohol, fig (?) Adam: light, licorice and finish is incredible and shrinks to bitter Matt: Roasted nutty goodness... a bit of hops, but not much Mark: No pronounced identified smell other than that of any typical beer. Taste Bryan: roasted grains definitely come through in the flavor along with a noticeable, but not huge, hop bitterness Adam: oh clean sweet fresh malted spring! mmm Matt: Some more hops, but the roasted barley comes through first; Sweet malty edge Mark: Clean, light but slightly astringent; Bit of an lingering after taste. Mouthfeel Bryan: bigger upfront, fades to something of a whimper as it finishes; a bit thinner than I recall on draft Adam: carbonated, not mouth coating, clean Matt: Coats the mouth with a decent amount of carbonation Mark: Light but not lacking in body; Slightly carbonated. Drinkability Bryan: yes, it is quite drinkable Adam: lighter than you would expect, yes it is drinkable Matt: This is a sippin beer for me, but much better when it's cooler (the beer that is) Mark: Goes down easy due to lightness and carbonation, but astringency lingers. Seconds? Bryan: at 5.5% ABV, I could afford to have a few of these and be happy! Adam: the nose makes you want to come back, the taste is light enought to allow that :-) Matt: Being a very dark full flavored style of bock... maybe just one more ;) Mark: One enough, not a bad beer - just not my personal preference.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Johnny Foley's Irish House in San Francisco, CA

Johnny Foley's Irish House is located just steps away from Union Square in downtown San Francisco, California. For when you are staying in a hotel downtown, especially near Union Square, this is an acceptable and extremely convenient Irish pub. It is also just around the corner from the end of the Powell Street cable car lines. JF's has served me well a couple of times when staying just a block down the street. When I needed a good meal and a pleasing beer menu to choose from, JF's meets those needs and provides it in a very Irish pub-like setting. If you are familiar with Fado, Tir Na Nog, and that sort of pub, then you get the idea. Small nooks to eat and drink in, perhaps some traditional music, a convivial atmosphere with a friendly crowd and service, and the requisite scotch, Murphy's, Harp, and Guinness. There seems to be an equal mix of locals, professionals, and tourists. In addition to some of the usual suspects on draft, there is also a sampling of good beer in Anchor, Sierra Nevada, and Chimay. There really is nothing to speak of on the bottle menu. So while you won't find 100 taps and 500 bottles, you will find a good meal and a handful of decent taps here at Johnny Foley's. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area and short on time.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Beer Tasting: Otto's Double D

This is a double IPA from Otto's in State College, PA. Poured from a growler the next day. This was one of six on tap. Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Adam: copper brown Bryan: solid amber with hints of red Smell Adam: faint nose, sweet, hoppy Bryan: citrus, pine; reminiscent of 120 min from DFH Taste Adam: tangy & bitter, rounded out with malt Bryan: big wonderful grapefruit, hoppy; light malt flavor Mouthfeel Adam: substantial coating, not watery Bryan: medium body; consistent texture throughout; lively without being overly carbonated Drinkability Adam: I love double IPAs and this is an awesome example Bryan: very good; even though it wreaked havoc on my allergies Seconds? Adam: uhuh...but the growler is empty....State College is too far away! Bryan: yes, for sure

Beer Tasting Tips: Temperature

Don't forget that the taste of beer changes as it changes temperature. You can help or hinder the taste of a beer by serving it cooler or warmer. It's amazing what even a small change in temperature will do for a beer's taste profile. Certain beers, especially some of those fuller-bodied and flavored stouts that we've been enjoying all winter long, will start to take on different, richer flavors as they approach room temperature. Other beers, like certain pale ales should be served as close to refrigerator temperature as possible. As these beer start to warm, some of them may tend to lose their clean, crisp, and aromatic floral aromas. When it comes to cask-conditioned, though, it's a whole new story. Try it sometime. Pour a beer and take a few sips. Think about how it tastes. Then let it sit for a while. Give it a chance to drop a few degrees. Now, when you taste it do you get a fuller flavor? Not all beer benefits from warmer temperatures. Sometimes colder temperatures help mask certain undesirable flavors. I like to think that some of the best beer is able to be served at warmer temperatures. Of course that's just us, we're learning about what we like. Just like you! ;-)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Blind Tiger Ale House in New York, NY : New Opening

This has been reported elsewhere, but it is worth repeating. The highly regarded Blind Tiger Ale House is relocating and reopening within Manhattan. Will be anxious to check out their new digs when they are due to open in late spring/early summer. Judging by the address, it will be in great neighborhood and just a stone's throw from the 1/2 subway line.

Happy 10th Year Birthday to Good Beer

Remember how small and cute they were?! We've watched them grow over the years with all the hope and promise that little ones have. Some of them have wandered astray, some of them have sadly (or not so sadly disappeared), and others have matured beautifully into model citizens. We've visited them, sent good wishes their way, and supported them however we could. It sure has been a heady ten years of growth for the craftbrewing industry. Sheesh, how time has flown. The mid-90s were quite busy in the craft/microbrewing industry with new ones popping up all around the country, probably no region much more than here in the northeast of the United States. I obviously will not recognize every brewery/brewpub celebrating ten years in the industry, so I hope that you all will contribute those that you know of in your area celebrating a decade in the business that deserve recognition. Here's to the next 10 years, and beyond, of great beer. Oh, and for all of you super-fanatical math majors, the 10th year anniversary here in my book is give or take, uh, a year! 10 years (2005, 2006) Alesmith, San Diego CA Allagash, Portland ME (just passed 11) Appalachian, Harrisburg PA Bar Harbor, Bar Harbor ME Bells, Kalamazoo MI Brooklyn, New York NY (10; in the current location/incarnation) Dogfish Head, Milton DE (almost 11) DuClaw, Bel Air MD Firestone Walker, Paso Robles CA Flying Fish, Cherry Hill NJ Fordham, Annapolis MD Geary's, Portland, ME General Lafayette, Lafayette Hill PA Great Divide, Denver CO (just passed 11) Harpoon, Boston MA Iron Hill, Wilmington DE (originally 1994, more in 1996) Lancaster, Lancaster PA (just passed 11) Middle Ages, Syracuse NY (almost 11) New Belgium, Fort Collins CO River Horse, Lambertville NJ Selin's Grove, Selinsgrove, PA Sly Fox, Phoenixville PA Southampton Publick House, Southampton NY Stone, Escondido CA Victory, Downingtown PA Weyerbacher, Easton PA And, a couple of geezers celebrating 20 years Penn, Pittsburgh PA Dock Street, Philadelphia PA

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Beer Word: Imperial

Imperial (adj.) 3.a. Having supreme authority; sovereign. b. Regal; majestic. 4. Outstanding in size or quality. source: Seems like the fourth definition at could be the closest in describing how the word 'imperial' is being used now to describe beers of unusually big, wild, and over-the-top beers. The word is most commonly being tossed in front of IPA and stout. I tend to think of it as meaning 'more', 'bigger', 'stronger', and/or 'fuller' (in flavor or body). So, what does it mean to you? Does it have a well-defined, structured meaning? Or is it more of a marketing term to entice you into wanting to taste the beer? It will be interesting to hear your thoughts. Hoppy trails....

San Francisco Brewing Co. in San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Brewing Company is located in the city's North Beach neighborhood, not far from the iconic Transamerica building and just a bit further from Coit Tower. The North Beach neighborhood has a bit of everything. And it maintains an urban edge to it that helps make it appealing to a wide variety of folks. From Italian restaurants, to shops, to history, and to strip clubs....oh yeah, and a brewpub too. Now the interesting thing about SF Brewing starts with the approach. Being in the glare of the Hustler club made me wonder about where I was really headed. Then, resisting the call of Larry's sirens, I was greeted by a sign that claims SF Brewing to be "Voted the best brewpub in SF." (kind of tough to read in the picture) Wow, if that is the case, I wonder why this place does not get more press? So I wander inside. Not much of a crowd for a Tuesday night...not that I was really expecting much of one. But the few interesting characters at the bar and the quiet couple at a table give me the feeling that this is very much of a local neighborhood bar (perhaps weekends are a different story?). When inside, I was definitely intrigued by the feeling the place gave me. It is an older building with a lot of oak and mahogany woodwork, stained glass and mirrors, charm, and uniqueness that only older establishments can provide. One of the most unique characteristics of the bar is the belt and paddle fan that runs along the ceiling the length of the bar. The vibe that I am getting, at first, both from the bartender and other patrons is that "outsiders" are not really welcome. In any case, the beers at least sound interesting. They had just wrapped up some kind of barleywine thing...a festival...I'm not quite sure. I decide to give the Alexander Gunn a try. Not too bad. Finally, Patrick the bartender starts to loosen up when he sees me with my camera, poking around the building, checking things out, and taking a greater-than-average interest in the beer. Patrick starts engaging me in conversation about beer, the brewer, the SF beer scene, and music. So, with the scene warming up a bit, especially the two lovely ladies next to me who were, in a manner of speaking, with each other (but, I digress ;-), Patrick is now passing me some short pours of the various other beers on tap for me to sample. The IPA, the Anniversary brew (ESB), the porter, and the all honesty, I just was not that impressed by any of them. They seemed to lack the oomph and creativity that I had found in many other bars and brewpubs of San Francisco. I had one more barleywine to round out the evening and this was a wise choice, the Oofty Goofty Barleywine packed a nice punch of barley, hops, and alcohol. A nice finish. In short, I would say that if you are doing a beer tour of San Francisco, SF Brewing should be on your list. Afterall, it's on your way to or from Rogue Ale House. If anything you should check out the building, its design, and a brew. But, if it should happen to slip from your list due to time, or whatever, know.....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beer Calendar: What to do in April/May 2006

Here's a list of upcoming events over the next several weeks mostly in the Philadelphia area that look interesting to check out. Let us know if you think you might be heading to one of these events or have been to one of them in the past.

Sat. 4/29 - 8th Annual Brew Fest Extravaganza @Manayunk Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (12pm-4pm; $25/$35)
Sun. 4/30 - Belgian Beer & Exotic Cheese Dinner @Ortino's Northside, Zieglersville, PA (6:30pm; $40)
Sun. 4/30 - Open House @ Heavyweight Brewing Co., Asbury Park, NJ (1pm-4pm; free)
Fri. 5/5 - Yards & Heavyweight Beer & Cheese Tasting @DiBruno's, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:30pm; $40)
Sat. 5/6 - Appalachian 9th Anniversary Party @Appalachian Brewery, Harrisburg, PA (2pm-???; pay as you go)
Sun. 5/7 - Annual Bock Fest & Goat Race @Sly Fox Brewery, Phoenixville, PA (all day; pay as you go)
Wed. 5/10 - Dogfish Head Wild Game Beer Dinner @The Black Door, Philadelphia, PA (7pm-9pm; $65)
Fri. 5/19 - Friday Night Beer Tasting (Weyerbacher) @Beer Yard, Wayne, PA (5pm-7pm; free)
Sat. 5/20 - Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers' Festival @Iron Hill, Media, PA (1pm-5pm; $25/$30)
Sun. 5/21 - Slow Food Pig Roast & BBQ @ Yards Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (2pm-5pm; $40)
Wed. 5/31-Sun. 6/4 - Mondial de la Biere @ Windsor Station & Courtyard, Montreal, Quebec (11:30am-10:30pm daily; pay as you go)

Brick Store Pub in Decatur, GA

One stop here at the Brick Store Pub outside of Atlanta is all it took for me to proclaim this wonderful beer bar as one of the best places I visited in quite some time. Now, you'll need to understand that this took the perfect storm of events for this to come true. First, a beautiful Tuesday evening in Atlanta in April, a successful day of business meetings, a gathering of good friends at BSP, and a bar that truly outdoes practically everyone else in their industry by serving some of the best beer known to planet Earth. OK, this might be a bit over-the-top, but do yourself a favor and stop by and see if do not agree.

If you are willing to put up with Atlanta traffic, then you can obviously drive to Decatur, which is 6 miles east of Atlanta. However, if you are already in downtown Atlanta as I was, then just simply hop (a pun!?) on the east-west MARTA train line and 20 minutes later you will be getting off at the Decatur stop just steps from the front door of Brick Store Pub.

Decatur, in what I saw on my brief walk from the train, has all the appearances of being a charming and bustling town with restaurants, shops, and galleries. This seems to be a very livable (and dog-friendly) town that also just so happens to have their own Great Decatur Beer Tasting Festival in October :) Being located on the "town square", which is not a through-street, allows the outside of the pub to be easily accessible but without feeling like the outside world is bearing down on you while you're enjoying your beer. There are a few tables with umbrellas outside. Of course, during the hot and humid months in the South, these are probably not the most sought-after seats!

Inside you will find a very comfortable atmosphere. Not only is the first floor bar and dining room seating viewable from a second floor seating area. But, once past the second floor balcony seating (from where the picture to the left was taken), the space opens up to the Belgian bar area and then another tucked room away in the back for eating and drinking. The building is a former feed mill with exposed wood beams, stone, and brick walls. There are no TVs, no smoking, and no attitude (at least not on this Tuesday evening). I'm not quite sure how to explain it any differently to convey just how comfortable I find the BSP ambiance.

Perhaps the final convincing fact for me that this is a cool place is that it was opened almost nine years ago by three college buddies who wanted to open a great beer bar. How many guys, including myself, would not mind doing something like this?! I got the chance to talk to Mike (the others are Dave and Tom) and really got the feeling that they are in the business for the love of beer and not just pushing a product like I have seen at other establishments. So, it may be hard to believe, but in the almost five hours that I was there I at least sampled each of the beers listed below. As you can see from the notation, there were several that I had never tried before that became instant recommendations.

Bob, kudos to you for getting me to come out to the Brick Store Pub. I owe you a Monk's trip. Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne (!) Urthel Hop-It (!) Terrapin Rye (!) Great Divide Hercules IPA (!) Brasserie Dupont Moinette Blond (!) Highland Oatmeal Porter Weihenstephaner Korbinian (!) Unibroue Trois Pistoles Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont

(!) Newly found beers to highly recommend

Monday, April 24, 2006

Beer Tasting: Bethlehem Brew Works Maibock

This is a Maibock style lager from Bethlehem Brew Works in Bethlehem, PA. The beer was purchased in a growler fresh from the brewery taps and tasted approximately 6 hours later. Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Adam: orangish and clear Bryan: pours with a nice-sized head, slow to disappear; nice pale, clean color Smell Adam: nice and light Bryan: kind of like a basic lager; nothing to appealing for me Taste Adam: Wow!!! flavor heaven, citrussy tang and just enough sweetness Bryan: sweet; lager yeast very obvious Mouthfeel Adam: Carbonated and light, but, not thin Bryan: smooth; slight carbonation, just enough; not biting Drinkability Adam: very, with light nose, good for the masses Bryan: seems like a decent beer for lager fans, not offensive; for me, I can drink it, but not that thrilled about it Seconds? Adam: yes sir...spring is here lets bring it in with this great May Bock! Bryan: No. Though, it reminds me that I want to try the Stoudt's Blonde Double Maibock very soon!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Beer Travels: Otto's Pub & Brewery

Whew! I had a great weekend with family. Now I'm home, but, on the way back from Carrolltown I made a detour to see one of my best friends, Jeff (who is incidentally from Carrolltown), in State College, PA. Of course I had a secondary motive as well, visiting Otto's. Aside from my car breaking down and then arriving home too late to put my kids to bed, it was a good day. Every beer I tasted at Otto's was awesome! Seriously, that is the first time I have ever experienced that. :-) It can happen! I'll post a full review with more pictures later. Bryan, thanks for sharing The Cannibal from Iron Hill. I added my tasting notes. I think it stood up well even after a few days in the growler. I hope you enjoyed the Double D IPA I brought back.

Gordon Biersch in San Francisco, CA

Run. Beer....Beer. Run....Pick an order....Well, maybe it should be run, then beer. (Although, the crazies at Hash House Harriers make a habit of mixing the two.)

That's how this happened to work out while in San Francisco. First, I punished myself with a 6-mile run through San Francisco that included the ubiquitous hills (including Lombard Street) and the scenery of Alcatraz, the bridges, and the Embarcadero. It was certainly one of the most diverse, interesting, and scenic runs that I have ever undertaken.

Oh wait, this is a beer writing, not running. (Note to self: update my running website!) So, I reached the end of my run near the bottom of the Embarcadero and, of course, I need to be replenished.


Oh wait, what is that? Yes, Gordon Biersch it is! Now, my experience with GB up until this point has left me with somewhat of an ambivalent feeling. From my first experience with them 8 years ago at Candlestick Park with their garlic fries to their brewpubs in San Francisco, Pasadena, Atlanta, and Memphis....the beers have always been respectable and decent, but not adventurous or great. Plus, they focus exclusively on lager-style beers, which for me are hit-or-miss.

There was something much different about this experience. Perhaps it was the runner's high that I was experiencing after a great run. Or maybe it was the friendly bar service that I received. Or maybe....just maybe it all started when I walked through the front door and was smacked righteously in the face with the sweet smell of barley.

Ah, the mashing was in full swing! I could practically taste the air.

While at the bar, I had a great jambalaya dish full of meats and starches. And it washed down alternately with water, the Schwarzbier, and the Pilsner. Both beers were very good representations of their styles. Once again, perhaps I was just overly thirsty and hungry, but I really do think that these were both good beers without being overly lager-ish (like that?!)

Maybe it was the hops. They were certainly present in both beers; but, I was on the West Coast, eh?! Then, perhaps the icing on the cake was my introduction to Rich who was busy formulating, calculating, and making the Vienna Lager, if I remember correctly, or was it the Blonde Bock.

He graciously took the time to ask about my website and my beer preferences and favorites. Even though he was busy in the process, he pointed out the pieces of the German-installed brewing operation which is easily viewed from the bar area.

I mentioned to him how I thought his beers were very good lagers and described other good representations of the lager style on the East Coast, like Penn, Victory, and Brooklyn. He stopped back at the bar a couple of times and also made sure that I was familiar with the San Francisco Brewers Guild.

All in all, this was a surprisingly pleasurable stop at Gordon Biersch. The space that they occupy has two levels with large bar and dining areas. And, if you check out the last picture here, you will probably agree that they have one of the most scenic locations of any bar or brewpub in the country.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Beer Travels: Johnstown Brewing Company & Otto's

I'm on the road this weekend to Carrolltown, PA helping my Dad with some home remodling. Stopped in Johnstown, PA (map) at Johnstown Brewing Company last night for dinner and I'm hoping to stop in State College at Otto's tomorrow. JBC was so much better than I expected! I even picked up one of their growlers full of their IPA, Incline Plane Ale ;-). I'll post a full account later.

Beer Tasting: Iron Hill The Cannibal

The Cannibal is described as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale style and is brewed at the West Chester, PA location of Iron Hill Brewery. It recently won a silver medal at the World Beer Cup event in Seattle, WA. This was purchased in a growler from the brewery and consumed roughly 4 hours later. Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think in the comments section and we'll move your comments up into the tasting notes. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Bryan: a perfectly cloudy, pale gold pour with a short head; leaves a thin swirl with a lacey, bubbly rim Adam: cloudy? nah...clear, straw colored (tasted a day later) Smell Bryan: a typical Belgian with a clean, crisp, fresh aroma Adam: hint of fuit, crisp Taste Bryan: just a small hint of cloves and spice and a mild hop flavor; basically a solid Belgian Adam: yeah some spice, sweet start sour finish Mouthfeel Bryan: a very solid, medium body throughout; spreads nice and even through the mouth and down the hatch; just a bit of carbonation to bring some life to the beer Adam: not thin, substantial, and still good even after a couple days in the growler Drinkability Bryan: definitely pleasing; not in any way offensive or over-the-top; not sure about the silver medal status as a "strong ale", but definitely easy drinking Adam: a little better than not offensive, nice for spring Seconds? Bryan: don't know the alcohol level, but what the heck, give me a few! Adam: only two for me thanks

Friday, April 21, 2006

Michael Jackson on Conan O'Brien

Did anyone happen to catch Michael Jackson on Conan O'Brien the other night? I missed it, but it apparently has created quite a stir in the beer community. Even MJ himself commented at his website on some of the criticisms that have been directed his way. If anyone knows how to point me to a copy of the segment, I'd appreciate it. (It's been taken down from Youtube for copyright reasons.....and no search results at iFilm either.)

Beer Tasting: St. Peter's Old-Style Porter

This is a porter style from St. Peter's Brewery, St. Peter's Hall, Nr. Bungay, Suffolk, UK. This 16.9 fluid ounce bottle was purchased from Total Wine & More in Cherry Hill, NJ. After our experience with this beer (and previously the ale) from St. Peter's we are anxious to try more. So far, if you're keeping score, we liked the ale and loved the porter! Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Adam: deep red birch beer, persisting thin head and ring Bryan: pours smoothly with a 1/2 inch head that hangs around for a while; fairly dark in color Smell Adam: raisins & brown sugar, malt Bryan: bitter dark chocolate for sure Taste Adam: like a bread pudding with persisting slight sweetness Bryan: not quite as big and complex as the nose might suggest; not as much up front but the dry bitterness at the end is noticeable Mouthfeel Adam: surprisingly not too heavy Bryan: not as heavy as you might expect Drinkability Adam: again surprisingly drinkable and delicious Bryan: oh yeah baby! (though, note, colder seems to be better in this case...approximately 50F) Seconds? Adam: I'll have another pint Bryan: Yes

Thursday, April 20, 2006

My favorite beers of the past 3 months

13 is not an unlucky number. Not for me. Here are 13 beers, in no particular order, that have made it to the top of my taste buds' memory during the last 3 months. What about your top list? How many of mine overlap your list? Great Divide Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (Colorado) Dogfish Head Burton Baton (Delaware) General Lafayette Chocolate Thunder Porter (Pennsylvania) Victory Ten Year's Alt (Pennsylvania) Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout (Ohio) North Country Friar's Porter (Pennsylvania) Weyerbacher Insanity (Pennsylvania) Anchor Bock (California) Russian River Pliny the Elder (California) Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (New York) McKenzie VuuVe XXxXX (Pennsylvania) Magnolia Proving Ground IPA (California) North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (California)

Beer Event: Split Thy Skull at Sugar Mom's in Philadelphia, PA : 4/15/06

What a great weekend!! Whouda thunk that a weekend already crowded with a hockey game, a 5K race, lawn and garden work, and a large family holiday dinner hosted at our house that there would still be time for the 11th annual barleywine/big beer tasting at Sugar Mom's on Church Street in Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood. (Well, truth be told, some other things suffered, like completing those dreaded tax returns....but all in a day's work :) I hereby consider thy skull splitten! I'm not gonna bother going into too much detail; I do that enough in other reviews. Suffice to say that copious amounts of good times and beverages were had by all. Even I, sans wingman, was graciously taken in by Tracy, Scoats, Karen, Mark, Ed, Everett, Woody and my life will never be the same ;-) Without them, I would have sampled my beers and stumbled along my merry way. But, seriously, thanks to all for a great afternoon. (Woody, I'll be waiting for you in Paoli.) In case you were wondering, here's a quick rundown of the beers they were pouring at Sugar Mom's. I'll bet after reading this, I will have plenty of "wingpeople" for next year, eh?! Climax Barleywine; 75 IBU; 10% ABV Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (aged one year); 90 IBU; 9.6% ABV Nodding Head George's Fault; 10% ABV Heavyweight Wee Whale; 9% ABV (!) Sly Fox Ichor; 10% ABV Great Divide Old Ruffian; 90 IBU; 10.2% ABV (!) Victory Old Horizontal; 10.5% ABV Legacy Euphoria; 11% ABV Weyerbacher Insanity; 11.1% ABV Flying Fish Bigfish; 80 IBU; 10.5% ABV (!) Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA; 120 IBU; 20% ABV General Lafayette The Phantom 2004; 80 IBU; 10.1% ABV (!) Best 3 beers I never had before this event p.s. I don't recommend shopping and cooking after a day of high-octane beers. I pulled it off, although in a bit of a blur ;-) p.p.s. Scoats, just remember, "Pimp My Pint" and "More Bling For Your Bock" were my promotional ideas ;-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Old Harbor Brewery in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Did you really think that I could go on vacation to Puerto Rico and get away from beer for a few days? Maybe drink some rum runners, lay by the pool, and only do some reading of Sam Calagione’s book, “Brewing Up A Business.” Perish the thought! Well, I did do all of that……and happen to find a decent brewpub along the way. During our vacation planning for Puerto Rico I, of course, did my due diligence and found that there was not much of a beer scene. Not that I expected to find much anyway. In the Caribbean, I was thinking I would mostly find Red Stripe, El Presidente, Corona, and Negra Modelo. There was also Medalla Light, but for the most part the beer scene was not all that appealing……mediocre lager and no ales. Then, came our trip into San Juan from our resort at Rio Mar. Apparently, according to Beer Advocate, there was a brewpub just outside of the old historic San Juan district. However, the reviews were far from enticing. But, in my efforts to bring to all of you the world of beer through my eyes, ears, and taste buds, I was determined to check it out. Small problem, the business had been closed. Oh well, I figured it was a few dollars saved for another poolside drink. After dinner and walking around the Old San Juan historic district, we turned the corner to find…..what? A fresh beacon of thirst-quenching hope….Old Harbor Brewery! Bryan’s back in action! The OHB is located on the first floor of the Steak and Lobster House, run by a family of successful doctors and lawyers. The spacious interior provides room for plenty of eating and drinking amongst the tanks of beer. Brewing operations typically take place during the off hours, so there was not much brewing action to see. However, from the first steps inside the door, we knew that this should be a decent beer experience. The first tipoff, though, that business might still not be where they expect it to be was the question of whether we were there for dinner. Our enthusiastic answer of “No, we’re here for the beer” was met with smiles all around and a personal escort to the bar. Once at the bar, we were attended to quite nicely by a couple of ladies who had an adequate knowledge of the beer they were serving. But, while not experts in beer (read: not a criticism) was certainly made up for in friendliness. Patty ordered the sampler of 5 beers that they had on tap at the time, while I opted for the Old Harbor Brew Pale Ale first and then the Kofresi Stout to finish. We both sampled all five brews and concluded that the pale ale and stout were certainly the best. Others on tap during this March vacation included Coqui Golden Lager and Santo Viejo Pilsner. I did a bit of poking around and snapping pictures of their German-installed brewery. Not long before we left, I asked about the brewing operations and the brewmaster. It came as a surprise to me that they said the brewmaster was from Virginia. Though, he was not at the brewery at the time, he would return the next afternoon. Ah ha, so what did that mean? Of course, a return visit! So, the next afternoon we returned for more of the same. This time we met the brewmaster whose name is……Brad Mortenson. (Why am I building this up so much???) I think this was all so intriguing to me partly because he was a brewer in the States. But, mostly because he was the former brewer at Legend in Richmond. I haven’t written about Legend before in this space. But, suffice to say that it is a decent brewpub on the banks of the James River in Richmond and they serve one of my favorite American brown ales of all time, the Legend Brown Ale. They have won awards in the past for this and other beers as well. Brad and Alex moved to Puerto Rico in 2005 after he took a job with Old Harbor. They had no real experience to speak of with Puerto Rico, but were looking to strike out and doing something new. It looks like they’re up to the challenge, as they both work in the brewery. They admit that it will not be an easy job to convert the palates of native Puerto Ricans. They are both extremely affable people who took the time to talk with us for a while. After more discussion about beer in the States, life on the island, and operations at the brewpub, we snapped a couple of pictures together and I thanked for their time as they went back to work. Ok, so I suppose I can not leave here without throwing in one gripe. I have paid more than I think is reasonable in the past for a growler. I have even purchased growlers from breweries that I most likely will never go to again and flown home with them on an airplane. But, in this case, I just could not see myself plunking down $28 for an empty growler or $36 filled (though, the $8 for 68 ounces did seem reasonable :-/ I mean, come on, while it was a swing-top ceramic growler and a nice one too, all I could do was say it was attractive and take a picture of it! So, I changed course and decided to buy a German beer mug. I couldn’t go wrong…..right?! Hm, $15. By this point, the transaction was already rung up and I went through with it. But, as you can tell from all the words I have dedicated here, I’m begging you at OHB, recalculate the prices on the merchandise. You have got to work extra specially hard just to get the locals in there, I’m sure lower prices will make them also want to take it home. Sheesh, I’m almost as passionate about this topic as craft beer in plastic cups, heheh! Anyway, the moral of this long-winded story (hey, whaddya expect?! ;-) is that good beer is alive and well in Puerto Rico. Even if at this time it is only at one brewpub in Old San Juan. Give them your support next time you are vacationing in Puerto Rico. You shouldn’t be sorry.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Beer Tasting: Dogfish Head Burton Baton

This is (DFH self-described) a blend of oak-aged strong ale and the 90 minute IPA from Dogfish Head of Delaware. This 12 ounce bottle was purchased from the Flying Pig Saloon in Malvern, PA. Reviews in general seem to be in sync with ours; this beer is a winner. It is just the type of beer that makes Dogfish Head who they are :) Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Adam: not quite shiny copper penny Bryan: pours smoothly a copper colored beer with little head Smell Adam: dark hoppy nose like a toasted marshmallow Bryan: reminds me of walking through the flower garden in the early morning of a cool spring day (said with a deep masculine voice ;-) Taste Adam: sweet toasted malty fallen apricot Bryan: nice and clean; strong but not overpowering; slight sweetness cuts through the hop bitterness Mouthfeel Adam: not thin, substantial Bryan: heftier body than the 90 min IPA, as you might expect Drinkability Adam: like a homemade turkey dinner...after a while you are stuffed ;-) Bryan: absolutely; this is complex and fascinating Seconds? Adam: and thirds :-) Bryan: sure, but watch out for the 10% ABV!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Beer Tasting: St. Peter's English Ale

This is an English-style ale from St. Peter's Brewery, St. Peter's Hall, Nr. Bungay, Suffolk, UK. This 16.9 fluid ounce bottle was graciously donated by co-worker Brodie, who hails from the UK. If I recall correctly, it was purchased in the Reading, Pennsylvania area. He has been anxious to hear our thoughts on the beer and we are happy to report, as you will soon hear, that we were impressed with this flavorful, drinkable English-style ale.

One unique aspect of this beer is the packaging. The bottle shape is reminiscent of medicine bottles from the period of the American Revolution. Apparently, according to the bottle label, it has local connections for us as they claim the bottle design was created for a Philadelphia-area brewer in the time period of the late 1700s.

Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Adam: slightly cloudy apricot, short head dissipates to thick ring Bryan: pours an inconsistent, thin, large bubble head; a cloudy light-bronze color beer Smell Adam: not much of a nose, hint of sweetness Bryan: faint aromas of fig newtons and light syrup Taste Adam: moderate malty mild & tea-like, slight tangy after taste Bryan: reminds me a bit of John Courage; not an overwhelming flavor and a bit of sourness that lingers afterward for a while Mouthfeel Adam: slight carbonation spreads the delicate flavor Bryan: light-to-medium; sticks a bit to the roof of mouth as it slides through Drinkability Adam: refined and pleasant Bryan: Yes, and don't let my sour comment dissuade you Seconds? Adam: all night without missing a beat ;-) Bryan: just one more for now; but, I could definitely see this being a good "session beer"

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Beer Tasting: Smaltz Brewing Company He'Brew Messiah Bold

This is a brown ale from Shmaltz Brewing Company of Saratoga Springs, New York. You can tell there are bunch of creative folks here coming up with names like Genesis Ale, Jewbelation Ale, and Messiah Bold. And, as they remind us: "Do not store fresh beer in saddle bags of white donkey. Store cold!" L'Chaim!! Have you tasted this beer? Let us know what you think. As a suggestion, try to keep the review as brief as possible for each of the following: appearance; smell; taste; mouthfeel; and drinkability. Appearance Adam: deep amber, quickly disapating head Bryan: deep dark brown/almost black with a tight, off-tan head Smell Adam: slightly sweet and yeasty Bryan: not much when cold; much more grainy as it warms Taste Adam: just what the nose hinted with nuttiness too Bryan: slightly sweet malt flavor with hints of hops and a mild carbonation Mouthfeel Adam: well carbonated and clean Bryan: a decent, even moutfeel throughout Drinkability Adam: clean and carbonated and interesting, very drinkable Bryan: drinkable, for sure, as it warms into the 50-55 degree range Seconds? Adam: sure maybe even thirds ;-) Bryan: yes, a few

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, CA

San Francisco. Anchor. Beer. Free Tour. Free Samples. Must Go. I could stop with these incomplete sentences and make it my shortest writing ever. But, you know me, heheh, I do not feel like I'm giving it an honest effort if I write less than 500 words. And, given that the topic here is Anchor, Fritz Maytag, and San Francisco, I may not be able to stop before 1000 words. Of course, I jest.....maybe... :) Anyone following closely enough will notice that my beer tour of San Francisco is being written out of order. I am sure no one really cares, but this was my second to last stop during my almost 90 hours in this great city. As you will soon be able to tell, it was certainly one of the highest of highlights. This was one stop that I was certainly hell-bent on making when in San Francisco. Considering Fritz Maytag's standing in the history of craft beer, not to mention my taste for several of their brews, I would have been disappointed not to make the visit. The trouble is that it's not quite walkable (though, flat by San Francisco standards!) therefore it would require a taxi or bus ride to get to the foot of the Potrero Hill neighborhood. Plus, you need to certainly allocate close to 3 hours from the time you leave your downtown hotel to the time you return from this excursion. I was barely able to squeeze this in before leaving to fly home. In addition, you must call ahead to reserve your spot in the tour (they recommend "as far in advance as possible") due to the overwhelming popularity of the guided tours. Dan was our friendly and knowledgeable host and tourguide through the history of Anchor. After checking in at the front desk and browsing the memorabilia at their makeshift bar, he led us off on a tour of the facility. He dealt many interesting tidbits of information to us during the tour. I will attempt to drop in as many as I can recall throughout this review. The first bit I was surprised by was that all of the Anchor available anywhere in the world is brewed, bottled, kegged, etc. from this single location in San Francisco. This surprises me partly because my experience is that Anchor is not particularly difficult to find. (I may be a bit biased, though, by living in a beer-rich region of the country.) So, to think that any Anchor beer originated from this decent-sized, but not large, facility is a bit amazing. Our tour followed the natural life cycle of a beer. While we did not go onto the roof of the building to see the grain towers (!), we could see from where the grain entered the building, to where the mash tuns continue the process, to the fermenting rooms (separate for ale and lager), to the fresh hops, to the filtering, to the chilling room, to the bottling and kegging lines, and to the packaging and pallets of beer. Since all of this talking about beer and observing the process should work up a thirst and hunger for the real thing, we logically concluded the tour back in the tasting room at the bar where we began. A fun sighting at the end of the tour was Fritz Maytag in what appeared to be a business meeting in his office. We could see him with a few other business-looking types conducting what looked like a planning meeting. I wondered how many other tour groups see Fritz while on site; but, I did not care because this was my tour! {evil laugh} Being poured from the taps in this particular March, in order, were: Summer Ale; Liberty Ale; Anchor Steam; Anchor Bock; Anchor Porter; Old Foghorn. Trying to place these beers in order by my preference was extremely difficult. This was a first experience for me with the Bock and I was quite impressed. It had been a while since I tasted the Old Foghorn barleywine, and I was treated to two samples; obviously, not disappointed at all by this big and tasty brew! The Liberty Ale (which was, by the way, the "original" of the annual Our Special/Christmas Ale) and Porter were both very good representations of their respective styles. The Summer Ale fit the profile and was an acceptable, but not favorite of mine. And, finally, what can I say about the Anchor Steam? This classic American beer, has always been one of my top ten favorite beers, albeit a lager. (For my preferences, it is a difficult feat for a lager to make my all-time top ten list!) This was one of the beers that helped turn me on to "real beer" approximately 15 years ago. Anyone hoping to get a peek or a taste at the whisky that they distill will be disappointed. The operations are across the street and must be legally kept separate from the beer brewing business. So, what have you learned from the time you just invested in reading this? (If the answer is "nothing" then you have my sincerest apologies! ;-) Hopefully, two things. First, if you somehow are a reader of this site and have never tried Anchor....what are you waiting for?! Second, if you find yourself in San Francisco you must do everything in your power to get to Anchor Brewing for a tour and tasting.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Which Brew in Easton, PA

Who, what, where, when, how, you can add which?? Sheesh, now I am confused. Oh wait, yeah, this is about the Which Brew bar and restaurant in Easton, Pennsylvania. Up until this past weekend, I thought the only good things that Easton as a city had going for it was the Crayola Factory for little kids and the Weyerbacher Brewery for big kids. Adam and I went to the Weyerbacher Open House which you learned in a previous posting. He had been through Easton before and discovered Pearly Baker's, which he recommends. From, I put Which Brew on the list too. The name, though, I will admit had me a bit skeptical. A serious bar with its name doing word play on witches and broomsticks?, I'm not sure. Those doubts were all quickly put to rest as soon as we walked through the front door...and as soon as our eyes adjusted to the inside's dim light. It was still "touch-and-go", though, as we made our way westward out from the downtown's center square through a somewhat sketchy neighborhood. Ok, back inside now. We were surprised to find practically every seat at the bar (and more than half of the dining room seats) occupied with a late-lunch, early-dinner crowd. Then, we figured this may be the beginning of the spillover from the Weyerbacher Open House revelry and it all made sense. Still, it would be interesting to go back and see what type of business they normally do on a Saturday afternoon. But, who cares right? Because we were there and found two seats against the wall with a nice view of the place. Anne (hope I got the name right) was more than helpful as she came from behind the bar to our table to help us with our beer and food selections. The first thing she was sure to tell us was about the 10 drafts and nicely-stocked bottle list of approximately 40 from around the world. Also well represented was local Weyerbacher, including the supposed last sixtel of the anniversary Decadence available I said, supposedly. You know how these things tend to show up out of the blue :) Then she went on to tell us about the food and how every item is made fresh, from scratch. And, how the breads and doughs are homemade by Tombler's Bakery right there in Easton. So, after some very pleasant conversation with Anne, we sent her off with our order for a spent-grain pizza and two beers (the Magic Hat #9 for Adam and the Weyerbacher Prophecy for me). Everything was served very promptly and appropriately and not to mention, delicious. The one thing that will probably strike you the most about the interior of Which Brew is the dim lighting, nice decorating touches, and the heavy use of brick and dark wood. It is surprising to see where they are located, which makes it an even better treat for when you are tucked nicely away inside enjoying some fine food and beverage. Also, just right is the music. While we were there, the genre seemed to be focused on eclectic jazz. It's loud enough to hear, but not too loud as to overwhelm your conversations. The crowd, at least on a Saturday afternoon, appeared to be a crowd of "real people" enjoying their afternoon. And, maybe because of the Open House I mentioned earlier, it seemed to be a crowd of people who knew their Dogfish Head from their Doggie-style Pale Ale. This place definitely has a very comfortable ambiance and, with its excellent list of beers, will make you want to stay twice as long as you were planning. Too bad our time was only long enough for one beer before heading back home for dinner with our neighbors....that was excellent too ;-) p.s. For those of you not familiar with the area, Easton is in Pennsylvania almost 75 miles (125km) west from New York City and 75 miles north from Philadelphia.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Beer Event: Weyerbacher Brewery Open House

Breweries tend to be located in some "interesting places." Yards is in, let's not mince words, the badlands of North Philly. Heavyweight is in a nondescript business park with a rollup garage door. Anchor is in a slowly turning neighborhood a few miles out of the more affluent areas of San Francisco. Brooklyn is similar too. You probably each have your own story about a brewery that you had a hard time finding. So, anyway, here Adam and I are traversing our way across Interstate 78 toward New Jersey. Stop, don't cross the Delaware River, and take the last exit before the state border into Easton, Pennsylvania. Make a couple of turns, pick the correct industrial park, drive and park around back of the structure, walk between two buildings, and enter through a rollup garage door. You are now at Weyerbacher Brewery. Phew! Adam and I stopped in for the annual open house of Weyerbacher Brewery. What a treat! 12 beers on tap, various cheeses, pates, and pretzels. Plus, beers to go, bourbon barrels (which their beers were aged in), merchandise, and fellow beer lovers. Who couldn't love this kind of atmosphere? This was our type of event and they sure lived up to expectations. Instead of discussing each individual beer and nuance of the event, below you will find a listing of all of the beers that Weyerbacher put on tap for us to sample during this open house. In addition, Adam and I each gave our own rankings to the 12 beers that they were serving up to us.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Brewing: Growing Hops - The rhizomes are here!

See what happened next -> Site cleared and soil prepared.
So we ordered some hop rhizomes about a week ago from Northern Brewer. The picture on the left is of the hop rhizomes. On the right a picture of what hop cones look like after the plant is full grown. Hopefully they have arrived in time for us to get them in the ground. I wonder if they will actually produce anything this year. Time to do some research and call upon my friends/family with green thumbs :-) Bryan has given me a head start by sending me a podcast from Basic Brewing about growing hops at home. Whoohoo...this is so cool! Here's a list of what we purchased.
  • Willamette
  • Hallertau
  • Chinook
  • Cascade
See what happened next -> Site cleared and soil prepared.