Sunday, September 30, 2007

Michael Jackson Toast at The Drafting Room in Exton, PA

I was honored to fill in tonight for the traveling Patrick Mullin at The Drafting Room to supply a toast to the work of Michael Jackson. The added twist was that I needed to fit the toast into the length of a commercial break during the Eagles/Giants game. Not that anyone told me to do that or that anyone in attendance would have really cared, but I figured that a 60 second toast was about right. So, we did it at the first quarter break. (In hindsight, the camera was in my pocket and never came out. So, unfortunately, there are no still pictures or video.)

The Drafting Room raised money for the Parkinson Foundation by putting out the pot for cash contributions and donated a portion of the day's sales. They also did a raffle for a mixed beer bottle basket, a Lindemans gift basket, and a Tröegs Mad Elf jeroboam bottle.

At the peak around 9pm, there were close to 40 people in attendance. My worst fear was that there would be a room full of people interested only in the Eagles game and a few beer folk at the bar. But, then again, this is The Drafting Room and, as such, during the toast I saw many head nods and hearty "cheers", "prosits", and "here-heres".

All in all, a successful night as far as I could tell at The Drafting Room. I'll be interested to hear from others and their experiences in toasting the Man who has played a large role in getting this industry to the point where it is today. It's up to all of us now to carry it on. Godspeed Michael!

Tap List at Flying Pig Saloon in Malvern, PA - 9/27/07

On an attempted regular basis, I'll post the tap list here to the Flying Pig Saloon in Malvern, PA. I have no affiliation with the establishment other than living within 2 miles of it and appreciating the usual quality tap and bottle list. If you like this idea, please drop me a note.

On Draft as of 9/27/07
Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale
Clipper City (Heavy Seas) Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock
Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen
Ayinger OktoberFest-Märzen
Anchor Liberty Ale
Breckenridge 471 Double IPA
Brouwerij Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale
Weyerbacher Scotch Ale
Dogfish Head Punkin

Saturday, September 29, 2007

If I had only Taken a Picture

While Mr. Sixpack did a nice job describing the scenery at Teresa's Next Door last Sunday morning, he failed to mention that while he was not only there but he, in fact, rode his bicycle from his home in Philadelphia to the Wayne breakfast. Now, I point this out not to bring attention specifically to Don, but rather to the extent that beer geeks will go to search out good beer. So, while I was feeling all proud to be stopping in after a 20+ mile run and two gents were decked out in robes and their fuzzy bunny slippers, one of the region's foremost beer prophets donned his Victory cycling jersey on a Sunday morning and pedaled roughly 40 miles roundtrip to get to the elusive Kentucky Breakfast Stout and the story. Preach on brutha :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Beer Calendar: What To Do In October 2007

As the fall swings into full gear, it was difficult to keep this month's calendar of events limited to just the Philadelphia area. Check out this list for a great set of selected events all across the region and the country. Though, it's just a sampling....I had to stop somewhere!

Sat. 9/22-Sun. 10/7 - Octoberfest @TJs Everyday, Paoli, PA (continuously; pay as you go)
Sat. 9/22-Sun. 10/7 - (the authentic, with a 'k') Oktoberfest @Munich Germany (see website for details)
Fri. 9/28 - Octoberfest Tastings @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (5pm-7pm; free)
Fri. 9/28-Sun. 9/30 (and 10/7, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28) - Octoberfest @Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA (see website for details)
Sat. 9/29 - Fall Fest @Victory Brewing, Downingtown, PA (2pm-9pm; pay as you go)
Sat. 9/29 - Lehigh Valley Brewfest 2007 @Ag Hall Allentown Fairgrounds, Allentown, PA (1pm-2pm (VIP), 2pm-5pm; $30/$35)
Sun. 9/30 - 35th Anniversary Fall Party @Zeno's, State College, PA (12pm-???; pay as you go)
Sun. 9/30 - National Toast for Michael Jackson @Monk's Cafe & Many Other Pubs Nationwide (9pm eastern time)
Tue. 10/2 - Beer Dinner @Union Barrel Works, Reamstown, PA (6:30pm; $35)
Thu. 10/4 - Oktoberfest Beers & DiBruno Bros. Cheeses @DiBruno Bros., Philadelphia, PA (6pm-8pm; $45)
Thu. 10/4 - Thursday Night Sampling (Victory) @The Foodery, Philadelphia, PA (5pm-7pm; free)
Sat. 10/6 - Kennett Brewfest @Downtown Kennett Square, PA (2pm-6pm; $30/$35)
Sat. 10/6 - Historic Bethlehem Harvest Festival @Main Street, Bethlehem, PA (1pm-5pm; $20/$25)
Sat. 10/6 - Wet Hop Beer Fest @The Bistro, Hayward, CA (see website for details)
Tue. 10/9 - Dogfish Head & Nøerrebro Bryghus Dinner @Monk's Cafe, Philadelphia, PA (7pm-10pm; $75)
Thu. 10/11-Sat. 10/13 - Great American Beer Festival @Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO (see website for details)
Thu. 10/11 - 3rd Anniversary Party @Barcade, Brooklyn, NY (pay as you go)
Sat. 10/13 - 15th Anniversary Party @Mugs Ale House, Brooklyn, NY (11am-???; pay as you go)
Sat. 10/13 - Microfest @Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA (12pm-4pm, 7pm-11pm; $27)
Fri. 10/19-Sat. 10/20 - Firkins, Pins & Handpumps, Zeno's Real Ale Fest @Zeno's, State College, PA (FRI 8pm-close; SAT 3pm-10pm)
Sat. 10/20 - One Final VICTORY For Heavyweight! @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA (12pm-???; pay as you go)
Sat. 10/20 - Newtown Brew Fest @Newtown Stocking Works, Newtown, PA (2:00pm-5:30pm; $30)
Tue. 10/23 - Allagash Beer Dinner @Birreria Paradiso, Washington, D.C. (call for more details)
Wed. 10/24 - Artisan Cheese Beer Dinner w/Jeff Roberts @Victory Brewing, Downingtown, PA (6pm; $50)
Thu. 10/25 - All-American Cheese & Beer Tasting @DiBruno Bros., Philadelphia, PA (TBA)
Thu. 10/25 - Third Thursday Beer Tasting @The Farmhouse, Emmaus, PA (TBA)
Fri. 10/26 - Night of the Funk @The Cyclorama, Boston, MA (6:00pm-9:30pm; $60)
Fri. 10/26-Sat. 10/27 - Brewtopia V @Pier 92, New York, NY (7pm-11pm, 12pm-4pm, 5pm-9pm; $40/$49.99)
Sat. 10/27 - The Return of the Belgian Beer Fest, Sessions I & II @The Cyclorama, Boston, MA (1:00pm-4:30pm, 6:00pm-9:30pm; $45)
Sat. 10/27 - Tröegs Tenth Anniversary Celebration @Tröegs, Harrisburg, PA (11:30am-8:00pm; $10/$20)
Sat. 10/27 - Odd-toberfest @Union Jack's On The Manatawny, Boyertown, PA (all day; pay as you go)
Sat. 10/27 - The Chesapeake Real Ale Festival @The Wharf Rat at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD (1pm-6pm)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Octoberfest Tasting at Exton Beverage on 9/28/07

Here's a nice little event for this Friday evening, if I do say so myself! Stop by Exton Beverage and check out some of these fall seasonals...and take some home too, of course. There will be food provided, and yours truly also has role as you can see from the event brochure below.

Octoberfest Tasting September 28!!

Exton Beverage is in full swing working on details for the upcoming Octoberfest tasting this coming September 28th. Come on by Friday evening, Exton Beverage will be sampling 8 different Octoberfest beers! This sampling will give you a chance to try each brewery's interpretation of this style. We have also asked our friend Bryan from The Brew Lounge to be on hand to help with pouring, answer questions and give general knowledge of each brewery. Here is the tentative list of beers we will be sampling.

Weihenstephaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Hofbrau, Victory, Weyerbacher, Harpoon, and Stoudt's

We will be pouring 3 oz samples of all these different beers and will also have a complimentary bratwurst or knockwurst for you. This sampling will take place next to the beer store on our little grassy knoll. Best of all, it's free!! We're hoping this will be the first of many unique tastings for your future educated purchases! Hope to see you on the 28th of September!!!

Cheers! Greg


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Brew Lounge Keeps on Running

My Contribution Website You may notice me going through the same pattern as last year at this time. My apologies for what has become sometimes sparse, sometimes sporadic, some might even say erratic or neurotic writing/posting. I've even resorted to just passing along links and content from other sites to save some time while still getting a little new content to you. See, it's all a result of my marathon training, which has 5 weeks to go. As many of you know, I'll be running in this year's Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in Washington, D.C. (Last year, I ran my first, the NYC marathon.) It's quite a thrill to compete in something of such magnitude and it's something that challenges the very core of my psychological and physical being. Here's where you come in. I've never asked you for a dime before for what I do here at The Brew Lounge. However, I have been raising money for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) in conjunction with my running of the MCM in October. I'm asking you that if you ever (even, just once ;-) have appreciated what I do here at The Brew Lounge to please drop a donation to the AICR using the link that I've provided at the top and bottom of this post. The contributions have nothing to do with me, except that it helps to honor those that I am running in memory of and those that have been touched by cancer in your life. You may use the link provided here to make a donation, or if you see me out and about you can simply hand to me a check or cash. However you do it you'll get a receipt for tax purposes. Also, keep in mind employer matching programs to increase your donation. Once the marathon is behind me, you should see me return to a more regular routine of posting along with some meatier (or maltier) content. Thanks very much, as always, for your support. My Contribution Website

Short bit from Magnolia Brewpub in San Francisco, CA

One of my favorite stops, Magnolia, in San Francisco, have an interesting new brew available commemorating owner/brewer Dave McLean's wedding. If you're in the area and have the chance to check it out, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ...The Rosebud Nuptual [sic] Ale, comprised of, among other things, rose petals and first run Syrah juice, has been on tap all weekend and is going fast. Catch it at the pub before it is gone forever, like Dave’s bachelor status!... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The future of craft beer pricing

Here's some recent interesting material from Weyerbacher's website that further details the situation Lew described last week at his site. Will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming months and years and to what degree it shapes the craft beer marketplace. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Malt & Hops Prices Facing Unfathomable Increases (9/20/07) We knew hops prices were going up 20 to 30 % already, but just found out this week that Malt prices will be going up anywhere from 40 to 90% in the next few weeks as the new crop is released. The situation is so bad that many farmers selling to Weyermann malt house in Germany are refusing to deliver barley at the price agreed upon and want to renegotiate. Most of the malt we use at Weyerbacher comes from Munton's in England and also from Weyermann. Munton's won't even commit to the new price yet, but the importer we buy through said it will be at least 40%. What this means is that, coupled with cardboard going up 6% next month and bottles going up 8% in November is that you the consumer, could be looking at price increases of anywhere from perhaps $1.00 to $3.00 a case, or more on some of the higher alcohol brews. None of this is absolute yet, but the word from all directions is that they have no choice. Too many farmers have switched to growing corn because its use in ethanol production has tightened the supply and raised the prices considerably. Unfortunately using corn to produce ethanol is not very efficient as compared with other sources, sugar for example. But the situation is what it is and many farmers are now growing corn as it is easier and more profitable than barley or wheat. All breweries are going to have to deal with significant price increases over the next several months perhaps as late as January or as early as November. We simply ask for your understanding in this matter, we will only increase what we absolutely have to, but we're not going to be any happier about it than you will. Just wanted to give everyone a head's up on this and I'm sure you'll be hearing about it from many other sources over the next few weeks. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, September 24, 2007

Raise A Glass to Toast Michael Jackson

It's been a while since I've mentioned it, but the National Toast to Michael Jackson has quickly come upon us. Remember to gather together this coming Sunday, 9/30/07, at 9pm eastern time with fellow beer lovers in appreciation of Michael Jackson and a life well lived. It will also be an opportunity to raise funds for the National Parkinson's Foundation. As no doubt you're aware, Michael Jackson passed away roughly a month ago and left a hole in the beer world, the size of which will never be completely refilled. His influence on the industry was noticeable around the world and the outpouring of gratitude for his work was immediate and substantial. The concept of the National Toast was born almost immediately and was set to 9/30 to allow establishments to prepare for the evening. Use the resources below to read more about the past month since Michael passed away and to discover what establishments near you are doing to mark the evening. If you don't see your favorite watering hole, it's not too late to encourage them to lead a toast and collectible funds on Sunday night. Raise a glass and be generous. It's the very least we can do. Michael Jackson Memorial Website Last Michael Jackson Interview (Preview) Recently Updated List of Participating Establishments

Tap List at Teresa's Next Door in Wayne, PA

For those who have not made their way to Teresa's Next Door, here's the tap list as of 9/23/07 and it's fairly typical of the quality and diversity that can be found there. Keep in mind, that these are the drafts. The bottle selection is just as good, but ten fold. I hate living in this region.

Allagash Curieux
Brouwerij Van Steenberge Atomium Grand Cru
Ayinger Oktoberfest Märzen
Brasserie Des Géants Goliath
Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont
Brooklyn Blanche
Cantillon Lou Pepe
Chimay White
Coniston Bluebird Bitter
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Founders Red Rye
Leffe Blonde
Leffe Bruin
Lindeman's Framboise
Russian River Pliny the Elder
Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale (2007)
Sly Fox O'Reilly Stout
St. Bernardus Abt 12
Stoudts American Pale Ale
Stoudts Gold
Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout
Tröegs Hopback Amber (hand)
Weyerbacher Slam Dunkel
Yards ESA (hand)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout at Teresa's Next Door in Wayne, PA

On Saturday night, the geek might get the girl, but Sunday mornings the geek gets the beer. Apparently, there were around 20 rabid beer lovers waiting for the doors to open at 11am. The KBS started flowing.
I arrived around 12:25 and most of the first guests had already headed out, presumably to get setup for the Eagles and Phillies games. But, there was still a long row of the dark bourbon stout lining the bartop.
When I left around 1:30, the best estimation was that there was still around 1/4 of the sixtel remaining. Nice to see that there may be some remaining for Eagles fans to (hopefully) celebrate after the game today. If that's the case, the beer won't remain 'til tomorrow, but everyone at least had a fair shot at it while it lasted.
Oh, how was it you ask? Smooth, bourbon sweet, at the same time dry and woodsy, and listed surprisingly at 10% ABV. Followed it up with a Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Imperial Stout, which is better in some ways, in my ever-so-humble opinion. Paired with the eggs, scrapple, potatoes, and toast it was a nice hearty breakfast. The dish was called Pennsyltucky, which I just enjoy saying for some reason.
Overall, very nice introduction to Teresa's Next Door's brunch menu. Prices are decent hovering around $10-ish and the lineup of beer was satisfying as usual. Will follow-up with tap list in separate posting later today.

Illin' for Alesmith

Why does this sound like something I need to get in touch with a California friend for?! From Alesmith newsletter... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ALESMITH BARREL-AGED BEER RELEASES (2005 VINTAGES) AleSmith was one of the first to present barrel-aged beers, and the tradition continues with the release of three more vintages from 2005. Barrel-aged Old Numbskull 2005, Barrel-aged Wee Heavy 2005, and Barrel-aged Decadence 2005 will be made available on Friday, September 28th from the brewery only. Each bottle is numbered and marked as vintage barrel-aged. Because of the limited number of bottles, sales will be restricted to (2) two bottles each of the Old Numbskull and Wee Heavy, and (1) one bottle of the Decadence 2005. This Barrel-aged Decadence is the English-style Old Ale brewed for our Tenth Anniversary and has been previously released. However, a partial barrel was hiding and we now are pleased to say that we have 10 more cases of the Barrel-aged Decadence 2005. The bottle sale will begin at 3:00PM on Friday, September 28th at the rear of the brewery from the 9366 suite. Please stick around for the party that follows, as we'll be tapping a cask of Decadence 2006 "Dead By Dawn". ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Honey, I'll be back in an hour

Ah, those famous last words. One hour 'til the hops would be harvested, then maybe I could get on with some brewing later in the afternoon. Or so I told my wife before heading out to the backyard. Little did I know what we were getting ourselves into.

One bee sting between the toes, scratched arms, sandpaper hands, one bottle of New Glarus Raspberry Tart, one bottle of Rogue 10,000, two glasses of homebrew, one firepit, lots of music, and 4 1/2 hours later we were rewarded with 5.5 pounds of fresh hops. That should work itself into just a few batches of homebrew, eh?!

It was a fun day shared with Adam and his kids who stopped by occasionally to help and ask "are you done yet?" Check out more great pictures over at his site.

Now, off to dreams of a 20-mile run and My Old Kentucky Home.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Five Points Grill in Birmingham, AL

Though I'm taxing my memory, the last time I was here I believe that it was called Mill Brewing. Now it's called 5 Points Grill. Instead of making their own beer, they're serving some fairly decent beer. It seems that they're in a bit of transition, trying to figure what to do next.

According to the bartender, there may be some interest from Sweetwater in Georgia to come over and have some type of brewing arrangement with 5 Points. After all, there's a full brewing operation locked up in the back of the restaurant, just waiting to be used. Not sure, though, how much credence to give to those comments. I'll need to ask someone in the know. Though, it may explain the full lineup of Sweetwater brews on tap.

I was disappointed not to be able to try the Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale, which had kicked a couple of days before I arrived. Apparently, it's on tap somewhat regularly (along with other Lazy Magnolia beers from Mississippi) and is a crowd pleaser. The home of Lazy Magnolia just happens to be the home of another local standout, an NFL quarterback that you may be familiar to you.

Since I was there on a Wednesday late evening before closing, it was tough to judge what type of business they're doing now. The outside tables were mostly filled and a handful of customers were inside at tables and at the bar. It definitely seems like the kind of place that feeds off of "location" and the outdoor seating too. The large windows overlooking the five points intersection add to the indoor atmosphere as well.

When I had been there a few years ago, the joint was packed the two times I was there on Thursday evenings. And, if I recall correctly there had been a band playing the one time as well.

I guess I should apologize for this somewhat atypical review. It's sort of short on information. But, maybe the one takeaway for you here is that, once again, if you're in the Five Points area of Birmingham and looking for a good brew, the 5 Points Grill may not be your first choice. But, it's not a bad one either.

Here's a quick rundown of what was on tap earlier in September during my visit.
Sweetwater (420, Blue, Hummer, Sweet Georgia Brown, IPA); Rogue Brutal Bitter

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Getting Started in Homebrewing - What I Learned

Lessons learned are the most valuable part to come out of the educational process of trying something new. From this experiment of My First Homebrew Journey, let's review some of what I have considered to be the most valuable lessons learned to improve upon the results next time. They are my experiences and things that I'll change to suit my preferences, recognizing that they may not suit yours. - Don't use bleach for sanitizing - Don't drop the spoon in the boiling wort - Use steeping grains in a pre-boil stage - Buy a floating thermometer - I'd like to make my own wort chiller - Use liquid yeast and Make a yeast starter ahead of time - Plan the brewing logistics more carefully in advance

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Getting Started in Homebrewing - The Process in Review

Here's a quick rundown of what I went through for my first homebrewing experience. A quick link to an index is at the top and bottom of this post. And, one last posting on the topic will be coming tomorrow, focused on 'lessons learned'...just in time for me to get started on my next batch! Bring 1.5 gallons to a boil - 20 minutes Boil, then reserve and allow to cool to room temperature; covered - 20 minutes Bring 3.5 gallons to a boil - 45 minutes Sanitize equipment with bleach - 30 minutes Kill flame, Add extract, Stir, Return to heat Bring back to rolling boil Add bittering hops Stir occasionally Add aroma hops - last 5 minutes Continue cooking over heat - 5 minutes Turn off heat Chill the wort with a wort chiller - 15 minutes Take hydrometer reading Pour wort into plastic fermenter Seal fermenter; add airlock Place primary fermenter in area where temperature is between 60F-75F Leave in plastic fermenter - 1 week Sanitize equipment Rack to secondary fermenter/glass carboy; add airlock Cover with blanket or paper bag Leave in area between 60F-75F - 2 weeks Sanitize equipment Move beer from secondary to bottling bucket (with spigot on bottom) Stir in priming sugar solution Bottle & Cap Store in cool, dark place for 1 week Taste one (for most styles, leave the sediment behind in bottle) Store at room or slightly cooler temperature for at least a couple more weeks Taste another one Optimal drinking for many styles may come as much as a month or two after bottling

A Home Team Victory Tonight at Blind Tiger in New York, NY

I know one person who will be in NYC today. Well, I know more than one, but this one happens to be visiting from out-of-town. Question is whether she'll be swinging by the Blind Tiger for my local home team, Victory, on tap. I'm not sure when even Victory itself had this many brands available at once. Though, NYC will have to wait at least another month before seeing the Baltic Thunder. ========================================================= Dear Tigerites, ... Enough of that nonsense, now to the important stuff... This Wednesday September 19th @ 4:00PM, the Blind Tiger will raise a glass to Victory Brewing Company. The List: Victory Saphire Bock Victory Abbey Single Victory Throwback Lager Victory Kolsch Victory Sunset Dunkleweizen Victory Sunrise Wheat Victory Festbier Victory Hop Wallop Victory Hop Devil (both draught and cask) Victory Golden Monkey Victory Prima Pilsner Victory Storm King Stout Victory Donnybrook Stout Victory Lager Victory Mad King Weiss So come join us and the gang from Victory Brewing at the Tiger this Wednesday!!! Alan =========================================================

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ale Asylum in Madison, WI

I think that I'm a fairly good judge of character and quality. Of course, this can all be in the eye of the beholder, but at least in this case I believe that I'm on pretty solid ground.

Solid character and high quality are not always easy to detect within such a short period of time. But, at Ale Asylum in Madison, Wisconsin, it took mere minutes for me to discover that this relatively new brewery has both nailed down pretty well.

While the trip to Wisconsin did not get us the Eagles victory that we were looking for in Green Bay, the last 90 minutes of the trip in Madison almost made up for it. Our friend, Mark, took us to Ale Asylum for a quick libation (or 10) before dropping us at the airport to catch our flight home. We got so much more than that.

Ale Asylum was started in July 2006 after the brewing crew from Angelic Brewery in downtown Madison left to setup their own shop. They headed east on their way out of town and chose a location in an industrial park on the other side of the city's airport. When Mark described Ale Asylum and its location to me, I was expecting something along the lines of the former Heavyweight in New Jersey...or Weyerbacher in Easton...or East End in Pittsburgh...or any other brewery in a low-rent industrial neighborhood.

From the entrance, I almost believed it. After turning the corner at the front door and seeing the bar area, I thought that for a brewery these guys had a pretty nice front end, nicer than I expected. And, a healthy variety of styles on draft....and merchandise....and six packs to go....and a "basic needs" food menu. Not too shabby, I thought. Then, turning the corner again, I found a couple handfuls of dining tables....and comfy leather couches....and a right fine billiards table....and large windows looking into the brewing operations. Wow, I could hang out here all afternoon! (and night?)

After poking our noses around, we quickly ordered up a few sets of samples (a healthy 5 ounces, or so, per sample). Another nice touch from the bar are the trays that hold the samples. A nice wooden tray with decorative carrying handles holds 5 glasses with a spot to display the description card for each style.

So, how about those styles anyway? I had a chance to sample every style and can flat out say that these guys are doing them all quite well. For those of you who know these folks, you're probably not surprised...seeing also how they have won a combined 21 medals (5 gold, 7 silver, 9 bronze) at the GABF and WBC competitions over the years.

I was blown away by the Hopalicious (very hop friendly, but somehow not aggressive), the Big Slick (nice roasty, tasty stout), and the Happy Ending (uh, who wouldn't be?!). But, also done very well were the Mad Town, Diablo, Disporterly, and Gold Digger. And, just when I thought I would get out of there without trying the Hatha-Weizen (nice German style) or the Ambergeddon (hop forward amber), I had two more small samples shoved under my nose while a six-pack of the Amber was being gathered up for me as a last minute addition to my checked baggage. Unfortunately, they were a day away from having more bottled Hopalicious...Mark, please send a keg!

While we sipped on our samples, we played some pool and watched the brewing activity. If we had been hungry, the limited but well-chosen menu would have satisfied us with the likes of pizzas and salads. Like I said before, this is definitely a comfortable place that I could see whiling away many hours. On our next trip to Madison, we'll be sure to visit them before the last hours of our trip.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tales from the Road, part 2

Fortunately, the remainder of Saturday night was looking up. We stopped in for a couple of hours at party #1 and wound up at party #2 around 10pm. Party #2 was hosted by friends Greg and Paula. If you get out to beer events around the Philadelphia area or especially a Dogfish bocce event, you likely have run into Greg. He and Paula are great people and huge beer fans. So, it's our loss (but their gain) that they're moving to Luxembourg for a couple of years. You know, it's that little country next to Belgium. And, yeah, Germany and France are nearby too! There'll be a lot of good beer (wine, too) in store for them over there. I'm looking forward to hearing about their travels into Belgium. In the meantime, though, they needed to empty out their beer cellar. That's a tall order. You've got to see it to believe it. Beers to cover the world map and vintages to cover the last ten years or so. What kind of friends would we be if we didn't stop by and do our part to help drain the likes of Russian River (various batches) Beatification, Supplication, and Depuration. Their 20th anniversary brew for the Toronado surfaced from the cellar as well! There's a beer I never figured I'd get a taste of. How about various vintages of New Belgium La Folie? Yup. A half dozen styles of Cantillon? Check! New Glarus fruit beers? Of course. And one of my favorite Southampton's...Cuvee de Fleurs, yee ha! Westvleteren, well it was there, but we didn't tap into it. Heavyweights, Surlys, Alesmiths, Stones Dogfishes, Achels, Orvals, Averys, Rocheforts, St. Bernarduses, Rogues, just to name a few (oh my!) were printed up on a tasting menu for the party people. And, you know what? Shh, don't tell anyone, there's still some left. Maybe Greg will take me up on my offer to play caretaker for the leftovers ;-) Thanks Greg and Paula....look forward to seeing you or in Europe!

Tales from the Road

Not quite as exciting as the title implies. After logging 19+ miles in my Saturday morning run (yeah, I know you're here for the beer updates, not running!), I made the obvious wise choice to spend more time on the Schuylkill Expressway than at Yards, The Foodery, and Monk's combined. So, what did I get out of the whole deal? A missed presentation from Rich Wagner, a couple samples of Yards Saison and ESA, a Yards variety case to go, a couple of Avery Fourteen bottles from The Foodery, a Cantillon at Monk's, and a whole lotta aggravation on the roads. Maybe I should have followed Jack's advice instead and headed up the road a piece to Iron Hill. Fortunately, I'd picked up a growler of the Forbidden Fruit earlier in the week, and he ain't wrong!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Getting Started in Homebrewing - The Final Step, Tasting!

With all of the cleaning, boiling, cleaning, fermenting, cleaning, bottling, and settling out of the way, it was finally time to taste my first homemade beer. I allowed for one week after bottling and sitting at room temperature (approx. 70F) before popping one bottle into the refrigerator. The tension grew as I took the bottle out of the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle opener. Would there be sufficient carbonation? That would be the first test. Pffft! Yes, we have carbonation! A careful pour from the bottle left the remaining sediment on the bottom of the bottle. The very dark-colored beer poured nicely with a medium-sized creamy, white head. (Did I tell you that the recipe was a 'Nut Brown Ale'?) Though, the head dissipated fairly fast, it could easily be worked up again with some agitation and left some draping on the walls of the glass. Not bad, so far...I could breathe. Next came the aroma. How would this pass the test? The aroma had a very basic roasted malt extract aroma with nothing off putting that I could detect. Then, the all important taste. It can look good and smell good, but if it doesn't taste good, then I'd have nothing. The taste, let's see how best to describe this. I'm not disappointed, but yet I'm not thrilled. Basically, I described the taste as diluted liquid malt extract. It reminded me of the extract that I poured into boiling water, just thinner and with a bit of hops in the finish. The carbonation is sufficient to carry the beer through the mouth and complement the flavor and texture of the beer. After two weeks in the bottle, I tried another one. My reaction was still the same as after the first week. I left a bottle with my friend, Mark, in Madison WI. I'll be anxious to get his honest opinion. Perhaps after week three or four, I'll sit down with Adam and sample another one and see how it's come along. Three down, thirty eight more to go over the next few months. I'll be anxious to see how much the beer changes over time in the bottle and how my impression of it changes too. Net result for my first, I'd give it a solid 'C'. I'm not disappointed, but I'm not impressed. The important thing, though, is that I got experience with the process and have a lot of excitement for my next attempt.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Upcoming Beer Dinner at Union Barrel Works in Reamstown, PA

Union Barrel Works has done well in its first several months since opening and have their legs firmly under them. So well, that they're ready to host their first beer dinner on Tuesday October 2nd. For the kindly sum of $35, this appears to be a well-conceived dinner for which I may have to make the drive. I have not yet taken the time to write a full review. This could be my best chance yet. Following is the menu that they've published on the flyer. Reservations for the 6:30pm dinner are required by calling 717-335-7837 and the price is $35/pp before tax and gratuity. Appetizer Mai Bock - Mini Kobe Burgers with stuffed plum tomato & maibock mustard Soup Pale Ale - Cheddar Ale Soup Pre-Entree Lager - Cod Tempura with steak fries & pea puree Interim Kolsch - Kolsch mandarin orange sorbet Entree Wobbly Bob Doppelbock - Pork Tenderloin with rosemary pan jus & double cream potatoes Pre-Dessert Hefeweizen with lemon foam Dessert Round Boy Stout - Chocolate lava cake with stout syrup Thanks to western suburb TBL correspondent, Dennis, for picking up a flyer for this fine looking beer dinner event in October.

First Visit to (the new) Dock Street in Philadelphia, PA

What's old is new again! I'm happy to report that Dock Street is opened, alive and well. Though, I certainly won't get points for being the first to report this. The anticipation was high (rightfully so) for the second coming of Dock Street and its fans having been beating a regular path to its front door. By the way, they are still closed on Sundays, while the 4pm-11pm original hours have been expanded to 11am-11pm Monday through Saturday.

While many have come from the east, heading west through University City, I chose to come in through the back door. Coming from the Philadelphia Airport (up Island Ave. to Woodland Ave. to Baltimore Ave.), I got an eyeful and earful of neighborhoods that Philadelphia seems to have long ago forgot. It's been a while since I've been in areas that depressed and it was a good reminder that even the most advanced nations still have problems with poverty that need to be addressed. That's where I will stop this little diatribe.

It is a good way, though, to contrast the area around 50th and Baltimore, where the new Dock Street resides. Riding through the West and Southwest Philly neighborhoods from the airport makes the new Dock Street environs look like a veritable paradise! Though, just a few blocks in any direction will quickly change that.

The converted firehouse that Dock Street is housed in sits nicely angled just off the intersection 50th and Baltimore. Across the island in the middle of the intersection is a children's park, which adds a nice neighborhood feel to the area. Around the side of Dock Street is a coffee shop and a bicycle shop, further adding to the positive atmosphere that this transitional neighborhood is trying to build.

So, finally, inside we go. As reported elsewhere, the space is not large but certainly efficient. The bar extends across most of the utilitarian-designed room and faces the open-air kitchen area. The bar area also provides a view into the two-level brewing operations through large windows.

Between the front door and the bar seats is table seating to the right and leather couch seating to the left. Further to the left is a piled-high stack of wood for the pizza oven.

And, pizzas, boy oh boy, amazing pizzas do they make! I didn't bring a copy of the menu home with me, but trust me when I say that creative pizzas are the focal point of the menu. The one I opted for was a Pear, Gorgonzola, and Brie (I think that was the combination). That particular evening, they were substituting fig for pear and it was just as delicious, maybe more so than I would have imagined.

Also, soon to be on the menu will be the legendary Trio Fries. Folks, if you've not had the pleasure before (Victory's are very good, but alas do not count) then you need to make sure you order these at the next opportunity you get. The concept is simple...seasoned potato fries, sweet potato fries, and dried leeks and is a wonderful call back to the early days of Dock Street. The perfect beer snack food? Quite possibly!

As many of you know, the first batches of Dock Street Beer were crafted by free agent Scott Morrison, formerly of McKenzie Brew House. He has put together a solid lineup of Rye IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Golden Blonde, Wheat, and Red. Here's a quick rundown...The rye was subtle in the IPA as the hops stole the show. The stout was layered with rich sweetness. I skipped the golden and the wheat, but will make a point of trying them next time. The red was, I think, a red though I had some difficulty with all of the cascade getting in the way. Good thing? Bad thing? That's an individual call. But, it certainly is a decent beer with a boo-yah hop punch. Got me thinking about the cascade hops growing in the backyard! Time to make the beer.

Since Scott left his temporary gig in the Dock Street brewhouse, Julius Hummer has come in to man the mash paddle. He has an interesting lineage to Boulder Brewing in Colorado (his father was co-founder) and sounds anxious to set down roots in the Philly brewing scene. I was disappointed to miss his Sour Cherry Porter by only a couple of days. The cherries are something I've been considering for an imperial stout recipe. Once again, thinking homebrew!

What else can I tell you about the new Dock Street? Oh, right. There is some seating available outside at a few tables set up on the front sidewalk. Rosemarie, Renata, Julius, and the rest of the crew are off to a great start and seem destined to help breathe some much needed life into the neighborhoods just west of University City in Philadelphia.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fresh Hops at Moonlight Brewing

Jay's put up some pictures of Brian Hunt and his volunteers out at Moonlight Brewery having fun with the fresh hop harvest last weekend. We had a chance to meet Brian earlier this summer when he made a trip to the East Coast. He's a great guy making great beers. Thanks, Jay for the great pictures about the harvest. Send beer!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Monk's Beer Dinner 9/11/07 : Allagash

(Rob gets things rolling with the first course)

You've gotta get up pretty early to get ahead of Lew. Today was no exception. Before the early hour of 0700 hours, Lew had already put up a review of Tuesday night's Allagash dinner at Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia. And this from a guy who showed up nearly half way into the evening's festivities. This guy's amazing, I've got a lot of learning to do!

As Lew commented, my wife Patty and I attended this dinner on our 9th wedding anniversary. Oh, and by the way, the tzatziki was a nice touch with the first course, seeing as how our honeymoon was in Greece!

What have done right, I ask? First, a trip to the Eagles season opener in Green Bay the weekend before our anniversary, then a beer dinner on the night of our anniversary. Many thanks to Tom, Mark, Lew, Matt, and the many others that wished us well and bestowed upon us the tasty gifts of Malheur Brut and Gouden Carolus D'Or 2004. Hm, I'll need to let these guys know the date of my upcoming birthday.

(a rather dim flashless photo of the Malheur wedding anniversary toast)

So, with the quite-to-point and amazingly accurate review given his arrival time (hey, the guy's good, like I said), I will cede my usual rapacious longing for loquaciousness and state simply some tidbits from Rob Tod. (If I'm not going to write much, I might as well roll out my fifty cent words, right?!)

  • Rob believes the brewery's strong growth will continue as they prepare to cross the 10,000 barrel production level

  • Hugh Malone first Allagash brew to use Simcoe (3 additions, in fact)

  • Hugh Malone brand name not inspired by a real person, but rather by humulone (as in the hop alpha acid compound)...tricky, eh?

  • All brews are keg-conditioned, like bottle conditioning

  • Interlude was "a mistake"; 8 months in french oak; then in stainless steel; hints of Brett

  • Two labs hold the Interlude saison yeast strain

  • Interlude brand name inspired by the "break" that the yeast takes between fermentations

  • Triple aged in Jim Beam barrels to make Curieux ("curious"); Rob once experienced a bung explosion...close up!

  • Jim Beam barrels are also used (once only) before being used subsequently for the Musette

  • Rob finds notes of Grappa in the Four

  • Four is fermented four times with four different yeast strains; a great beer that I believed paired even better with the dessert

  • (Triple, Interlude, Curiuex)

    And, of course, as usual here follows a transcript of the event's food and beer pairing:

    1st Course
    Allagash White (when the White is the session beer, you know you're in for a big night!)
    - Amuse Buche; hummus/lamb with tzatziki/grilled chicken

    2nd Course
    Allagash Hugh Malone
    - Vegetable Terrine

    3rd Course
    Allagash Triple
    - Fried Clams with Smoked Tomato Ketchup

    4th Course
    Allagash Interlude
    - Onion Tart

    5th Course
    Allagash Curieux
    - Curieux Glazed Salmon Mole

    6th Course
    Allagash Musette & Allagash Four
    - BBQ Beef Brisket with Collard Greens & Mashed Yams

    7th Course
    Allagash Double
    - Chocolate Fig Cake

    (would a Brew Lounge review of a Monk's dinner be complete without a dessert photo?!)

    275th Anniversary at General Lafayette Brewery

    (Chris introduces the 275th Anniversary Barleywine)

    On September 1st, the building that houses the General Lafayette Inn and Brewery was given a 275th anniversary party by its current occupants. The caretaker, brewer Chris Leonard, and family have been running a brewpub business inside of it for the better part of the last decade. During this span, Chris and assistant brewer Russ Czajka have put out some of the area's most interesting and well-done beers. You may recall me saying in the past that it's a blessing for the General Lafayette to be in such a beer-rich region, but that they sometimes get undeservedly overlooked. But, those of you who are in the know will say that the General Lafayette's reputation is well earned and deserved. I'll bet it's about to grow even larger.

    (Russ and Chris...who says this is hard work?!)

    As part of this 275th anniversary event, the General's brew crew has put together an anniversary ale that is available as a take-home purchase. Outside of growlers, this is the first bottled product that will be available to take home for enjoyment months, and in this beer's case, even years later. Provided they continue to make more of their other products available in bottles, better beer lovers across the country will be able to enjoy the fine offerings from General Lafayette.

    (Russ pouring the barleywine)

    This barleywine weighs in at just a tick over 13 percent alcohol. It abounds with malted sweetness and alcohol which should set it up nicely to be laid down for many months, possibly years, to come. At $1 an ounce (the 22 ounce bottle costs $22), it's priced out there on the upper end for retail bottled beer. I picked up a couple of bottles due in part to my curiosity about this very limited (8 bbl) batch and also my confidence that this will turn out to be a very fine brew worthy of a special anniversary.

    (The bottled Anniversary Barleywine)

    In addition to debuting this new barleywine, Chris and company opened up the entire downstairs and back porch and rolled out the welcome mat for attendees with plenty of food and drink for all. There were multiple food stations serving everything from mussels to salad greens to meats and cheeses. An anniversary cake was served as dessert.

    (Chris unveils the Anniversary Barleywine)

    To complement the food (or is it the other way around?!), the usual offerings (Chocolate Thunder, Germantown Blonde, Pacific Pale, Sunset Red, etc.) were available at the bar. Also, a couple of interesting mixed concoctions were served. The ThunderClap was a blend of the Chocolate Thunder, Sunset Red, and 275th Barleywine. The Red Velvet was a blend of Chocolate Thunder and Sunset Red. And, the Muddy Waters was a blend of Bavarian Hefeweizen and Weizenbock. My favorite of the three blends may have been the third of these. (Thanks, Mark, for helping me fill in the gaps in my notes!)

    (Mark Haynie, Don Russell, Woody Chandler, me)

    As a nice added touch to this historic event, Rich Wagner was set up outside performing a demonstration of what the brewing process likely looked like 275 years ago. With General Lafayette continuing to pull off events like this, chances are very good that they will be around for quite a while to come.

    (Rich Wagner demonstrating the use of fresh hops)

    (A vintage Reading Brewing wood barrel)

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Guest Writing over at Hop Talk

    I'm back in the saddle here after arriving home from our Wisconsin trip. We hung out with our friends for a few days in Madison and saw our Eagles fall apart at the hands of the Packers up in Green Bay. Two noteworthy beer events that you'll here more about here soon.....a fresh stash of New Glarus beers made its way home with me and a surprise discovery was made in Madison with less than 100 minutes to go before our flight left for I said, more later. While Al & Ron are on hiatus, they've invited a number of fellow beer lovers to post some commentary on their site. Today, my writing was featured and covered the D.C. metro beer scene as it overlays with the Marine Corps Marathon. My thanks to Al for inviting me as I thought this was a pretty nice idea, giving them a break and at the same time a chance to interconnect our web of beer sites on the, uh, Web.

    Saturday, September 08, 2007

    Tap List at South Philadelphia Tap Room in Philadelphia, PA

    Just a quick reminder here about the stellar tap list at South Philadelphia Tap Room at 15th/Mifflin in South Philly this past week. Certainly one of the better non-small beer tap lists I've seen in quite a while.

    Allagash Curieux
    Bell's Sparkling Ale
    Bell's Two Hearted Ale
    Brooklyn Blanche de Brooklyn
    Dogfish Head Festina Peche
    Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
    Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel
    Kasteel Kriek
    North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
    Smuttynose Old Brown Dog
    Stoudt's American Pale Ale
    Troegs Double Bock
    Unibroue Éphémère

    And, with specials like the following, it's always a good time to stop in at SPTR.

    M-F 4-6pm All craft & Belgian beer 1/2 price
    M-F 6pm-close Yards IPA $2
    Sat-Sun all day Yards IPA $2

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Getting Started in Homebrewing - Bottling Day

    I think that it is safe to say that if I was not already sick of sanitation, by the time I reached the end of the bottling stage, I had certainly had enough of it. I was already looking forward to my next batch of homebrew, because I swore never to use bleach again for sanitation. I am looking forward to how much easier I perceive the sanitation aspect to be next time using something like Iodophor. Actually, this is something that made its way quickly to the top of my 'lessons learned' list here in my first homebrew experience....don't ever use bleach again! It's not worth, in my opinion, the aggravation.

    Let's take it from the top. I arrived home from work determined to bottle since I was pretty comfortable that whatever wackiness occurred in the secondary had subsided (it had been 4-5 days since the last of the bubbling). Henceforth began the sanitation. The bottling bucket, the siphon, the bottling wand, the spoon, and my hands...ok, well, not really. Emptied the dishwasher, loaded it up with 2 cases of empty, pre-cleaned, and de-labeled bottles, and ran it on the heavy duty, hot cycle with heated dry. Oh yeah, and threw the caps into the sanitizing solution too. How happy was I that I take the time to rinse out bottles immediately after drinking the beer from them? It certainly made the cleaning/sanitizing of them much easier on bottling day.

    Okay, with the sanitation thing out of the way (yeah, yeah, I know just how very important it is...still doesn't mean I have to like it!), I got started on moving the beer off of the sediment in the carboy and into the bottling bucket. That was after securely attaching the spigot, of course. I had the carboy set on top of the kitchen counter with the bottling bucket on the floor. Actually, it was on top of an old blanket which would protect the floor from spills, splashes, leaks, and other misfires.

    I got the siphon action going in the same way as moving into the secondary, by filling the tube with water first, then submerging the racking cane below the beer level, then opening the siphon tube to allow the natural flow. The process of moving the beer didn't take more than 5-10 minutes or so. I got just about all of the liquid out. Some stayed behind with the sediment, but not enough to cry over.

    With the beer in the bottling bucket, I first took a little over a cup of beer out of the spigot. A tiny portion was used for the final gravity reading (1.012, by the way...seemed about right), a cup was boiled with the priming sugar, and the remainder was tasted.

    I hooked up the tube and the bottling wand to the bottling bucket while I was boiling the solution of fermented beer and priming sugar. It takes around 5 ounces of priming sugar for a 5-gallon batch of brew. After the solution reached a boil, I removed and allowed to set for just a few minutes. Then, using the sanitized spoon, I stirred (enough to mix it throughout, but not vigorously) the solution into the bottling bucket.

    At this point, the bottling could commence. I sat on a stool below the bucket and had the prepared empty 12-ounce bottles next to me. Each bottled was filled by inserting the bottling wand into the bottle, touching the bottom to release the beer. I was able to fill the bottle to the top, because when the wand is removed the level goes down to approximately halfway on the neck, just perfect. Too much head space leaves too much room for oxygen to spoil the beer and too little head space leaves not enough room for the bottle conditioning and the carbon dioxide that's created as a result.

    Filling one bottle at a time, then placing it on the counter with a cap perched on top, I had 41 bottles filled in less than 30 minutes. With all of the bottles lined up like rows of soldiers on the countertop, it was easy to pick one off at a time and use the capper to secure the bottlecap.

    Each bottle was placed into an empty cardboard case of beer, which was then closed up and placed in the coolest place in the house, around 65F-72F. They sat there for about a week until I decided to crack one open to see how the bottle conditioning process was coming along.

    p.s. No pictures of the bottling process since I was going at this alone and bottling is kinda a two-handed project.

    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    A National Toast to Michael Jackson

    It looks as if plans are underway to hold a Toast/Fundraiser on September 30th in honor of Michael Jackson. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up with participating establishments and the approach taken for the Toast.

    Update: A nice collection of Tribute material is being gathered by Stan (& others?)

    I dug out this picture from this year's Brooklyn/Garrett Oliver dinner at Monk's in Philly. Thought it would be decent for sharing.

    Beer Dates In History: September Anniversaries

    20 years Full Sail 15 years Moonlight Brewing 5 years Jack Curtin