Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just another day at TJs (Dark Horse, La Trappe, and Woody)

We apparently showed up between Wave 1 and Wave 2 of the Dark Horse day long celebration at TJs. We needed dinner, so this seemed like a natural fit. After convincing the dogs to "do their thing" in the torrential downpour, we headed up the road. Indeed, not a familiar face save for proprietors Jeff and Terri. Of course, it didn't take long for a few others to nudge in our hightop table. You probably recognize one of those guys, whose celebrity status just went up another 1/2 notch with his profile in the current Imbibe issue on magazine stands. Otherwise, what can I tell you about the brews from Dark Horse? One: that both the Scotty Karate scotch ale and Boffo brown ale (but particularly the scotch) went very, very well with the Pulled Pork sandwich. Two: Of the beers we sampled, though there were no clunkers, the black ale and brown ale stood out as two of the best of the day. Three: the "aphrodisiac" qualities of the Rod/Red ale will not be discussed here (!) other than to say the beer was smooth and tasty, but probably don't warrant more than two per session...which means I'll hope to be back later this week to try some more along with the oatmeal stout and raspberry ale that we never got around to trying....because.... ...because I switched over and gave the new, very drinkable, La Trappe Isid'or a try. It's been brewed to commemorate the brewery's 125th anniversary and its first brewmaster, Brother Isidorus. And, somehow I managed to stay away from the Racer 5 on the handpump. And, what else? (you're right, this posting may just meander and wander straight into dinner hour, hold on) A license application in the window (forgot to snap a picture, but you know what they look like), suggests that outdoor dining is coming just in time for some cool fall weather dining at TJs. And, speaking of dining, if you like their traditional mac & cheese, and if you like food with a bit of a "kick", then you absolutely must try the new Jalapeño-Green Onion Mac & Cheese...created with a nod to The Brew Lounge as a thank-you for the TJs Profile Picture, ahem. Just another day at TJs.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Belgium, a simple primer

This short article hit the news circuit a while back and it fell into my rainy day dustbin of content. If you're only vaguely familiar with New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO) only as far as Fat Tire goes, you'll want to check this out. And, if you find yourself in Colorado it's in meander too far without bumping into a quality brewery along the way. But, if you don't make it to Fort Collins to see the New Belgium story first hand, then you're really missing out on one of the country's best. Patty and I were there during last year's GABF and I never got around to telling the story of our visit to the brewery. One of these days, that will need to change. For the time being, enjoy the article.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Beer Calendar: What To Do in September 2009

September means Back to School, a few big holidays, one last blast of summer heat, and more beer events than you can shake a slide rule at. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. $20 and under, down to and including FREE...Pay As You Go (PAYG) also included here Philadelphia Tue. 9/1 - Dark Horse Brewing Company Comes to Philadelphia @The Khyber, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 9/1 - Yards Brewery @The P.O.P.E., Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 9/2 - Dark Horse Brewery Night @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/3 - Meet the Brewer, Keep the Pint Glass (McKenzie Brew House) @Earth Bread + Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:30pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/3 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (September's selection: Double Witbier) @Triumph, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 9/4-Sun. 9/6 - Mystery Beer Weekend @Memphis Taproom, Philadelphia, PA (all day/all night; PAYG) Sat. 9/5-Mon. 9/7 - Cannstatter's 137th Volksfest Oktoberfest @Academy & Frankford, Philadelphia, PA (see website for details) Wed. 9/9 - An Homage to Fromage (cheese) paired with Foamage (beer) @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - Arcadia Brewery Night @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - Southern Fried Hippie Hoedown (with Terrapin and Hippie Food) @The Sidecar Bar & Grille, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - 2nd Anniversary Party with Yards @The Belgian Cafe, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - Ballast Point Happy Hour @The Khyber, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - Tröegs ushers in a new football season @Jose Pistola's, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 9/11 - Wake and Bake Lunch with Terrapin Brewery @Jose Pistola's, Philadelphia, PA (11:30am; PAYG) Fri. 9/11 - Terrapin Release Party @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (8:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 9/12 - Pils Picnic @Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA (all day/all night; PAYG) Sat. 9/12 - Rich Wagner Presents: "Ortlieb's, Brewers by Birth Since 1869" @Philadelphia Brewing, Philadelphia, PA (2:00pm; free) Mon. 9/14 - A Firkin Two Hearted Ale @The Sidecar Bar & Grille, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 9/18 - The Sly Gang @Blue Ox Bistro, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/24 - Philly Brewing Pin Night (Joe Porter) @Old Eagle Tavern, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Philadelphia's close suburbs Fri. 9/4 - Incubus Friday @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA (11:30am 'til it kicks; PAYG) Wed. 9/9 - Firkin Night (SF's British Pale Ale and GLI's Griffin's Mild) @General Lafayette, Lafayette Hill, PA (7:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 9/9 - Victory Beer Dinner @Nectar, Berwyn, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - Lancaster Brewing Night @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 9/11 - Friday Night Tasting (Great Lakes) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; free) Fri. 9/11 - Hops Project 2009 Varietal Release: Argentine Cascade (a firkin, then CO2) @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA (11:30am 'til it kicks; PAYG) Sat. 9/12 - Sly Fox versus Tröegs Dueling Firkins @Canal Street Pub, Reading, PA (2:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 9/12 - HopFest @Drafting Room, Spring House, PA (12:00pm 'til they kick; PAYG) Thu. 9/17 - Follow the Liter @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 9/18 - Friday Night Tasting (Southern Tier) @Beer Yard, Wayne, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; free) Sun. 9/20 - Oktoberfest (as part of Radnor Fall Festival @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA (1:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/24 - Weyerbacher Brewing Promotional Night @Drafting Room, Exton, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 9/18 - Friday Night Tasting (Southern Tier) @Beer Yard, Wayne, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; free) Fri. 9/25 - Friday Night Tasting (Terrapin) @Beer Yard, Wayne, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; free) Fri. 9/25 - Firkins of Duck-Rabbit and Iron Hill @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA (PAYG) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Wed. 9/2 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (September's selection: Barrel Aged IPX) @Triumph, Princeton, NJ (6pm; PAYG) Fri. 9/4 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (September's selection: Altbier) @Triumph, New Hope, PA (6pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - Weyerbacher Riserva 2009 Debut @Tap and Table, Emmaus, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/10 - Sly Fox Sampling @Market Cross Pub, Carlisle, PA (PAYG) Wed. 9/16 - End of Summer Barbecue with Victory Brewing @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm) Wed. 9/16 - Specialty Keg Wednesdays (Moylan's Hopsickle) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (4:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/17-Thu. 10/1 - Homebrew Competition @Market Cross Pub, Carlisle, PA (see website for details) Wed. 9/23 - Turn to Stone @Craft Ale House, Royersford, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/24 - Tomme Arthur Tapping...and More?! @Tap and Table, Emmaus, PA (3:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 9/24 - Thursday Night Tastings (Stoudt's) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (7:30pm-9:30pm; free) Fri. 9/25 - Cask Ale Night (September selections: Lancaster Brewing Hop Hog, Amish Four Grain, Shoe Fly Porter) @General Sutter Inn, Lititz, PA (5:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 9/26 - Oktoberfest @Ortino's Northside, Zieglerville, PA (Details TBD) Elsewhere Wed. 9/2 - Brewery Night with Kuhnhenn @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York (4:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 9/9 - Brewery Night with Blue Point @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York (4:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 9/12 - Ommefest: Celebrating the Harvest @Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY (12:00pm-6:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 9/15 - Brewery Night with Dogfish Head @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York (4:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 9/16 - Brewery Night with Elysian @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York (4:00pm; PAYG) Events Over $20 Philadelphia Wed. 9/2 - Jamaican Food & We Tastin’ Craft Beer (Mon) @Philly Kitchen Share, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm; $45) Thu. 9/3 - Bring on the Belgians @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $45) Tue. 9/8 - Captain Lawrence Beer Dinner @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm) Fri. 9/18 - The Heart of Dark Chocolate @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $55) Sat. 9/19 - Philly Oktoberfest 2009 @23rd Street Armory, Philadelphia, PA (1:00pm-4:00pm, 6:00pm-9:00pm; $40/$50/$75) Sun. 9/20 - Farmhouse Ale Dinner (all you can eat/drink) @South Philadelphia Tap Room, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; $75) Wed. 9/23 - Victory Beer Dinner @Rembrandt's, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm) Philadelphia's close suburbs Sun. 9/13 - Jenkintown Jazz & Brewfest @West Avenue Grille & the Town Square, Jenkintown, PA (see website for time and price details) Sat. 9/19 - Oktoberfest @Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown, PA (5:30pm-9:00pm; $40/$45) Wed. 9/23 - Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner @The Buck Hotel, Feasterville, PA (7:00pm; $45) Sun. 9/27 - Bike Fresh, Bike Local (choose from 25, 50, 75 mile route beginning/ending @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA ($35/$40; see website for more details) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Wed. 9/2 - Meet The Brewer Series Presents…Flying Dog Crab Boil @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, PA ($42) Tue. 9/15 - Beer Dinner @Union Barrel Works, Reamstown, PA (details TBA) Wed. 9/16 - Beer Dinner with 12% Imports @Tap and Table, Emmaus, PA (7:00pm; $55) Sat. 9/19 - Capital City Invitational Beer Festival @Appalachian Brewing, Harrisburg, PA (12:00pm-3:00pm, 4:00pm-7:00pm, 8:00pm-11:00pm; $30/$35) Sun. 9/20-Fri. 10/9 - Oktoberfest @Appalachian Brewing, Harrisburg, PA (see website for details) Tue. 9/22 - Mamma Mia Italian-Style Beer Dinner @Union Barrel Works, Reamstown, PA (6:30pm; $40) Sat. 9/26 - Lunch with Lew Bryson @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (12:00pm-1:30pm; $30) Sat. 9/26-Sun. 9/27 - Oktoberfest @Stoudt's Brewery, Adamstown, PA (see website for details) Elsewhere Wed. 9/2 - Six-course Beer Dinner (with Moonlight Brewing) @Monk's Kettle, San Francisco, CA (5:30pm; $85) Sat. 9/5 - Ithaca Brewfest @Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY (3:00pm-7:00pm; $30/$40/$50/$75/$95) Sat. 9/12 - Steel City Big Pour @Meade Street, Pittsburgh, PA (12:00pm-3:00pm, 5:00pm-8:00pm; $45) Thu. 9/17 - Beer & Cheese Regional Pairing (Pacific NW) @Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Escondido, CA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $30) Thu. 9/24-Sat. 9/26 - Great American Beer Festival @Colorado Convention Center, Denver, PA (see website for details)

Want to join me for a Run and Food & Beers at TJs in Paoli, PA?

A 6 mile run and replenishment at TJs in Paoli. Anyone interested sometime in the next week or two? Here are some details. Email privately to me if you're interested and give me an idea of your preferences. Majority will rule. Date: Could be Tues. 9/1, Wed. 9/2, Thu. 9/3, or during Labor Day weekend...or the following week Time: 6:30pm during the week, or mid-afternoon on a weekend Distance: 6 miles of western Main Line country roads Payoff: Great beer and food at one of Philly's preeminent beer bars

Thursday, August 27, 2009

First official business of The Brew Lounge at Craft Ale House last night with Tröegs

Though I'd been there once before for a short visit after some outlet shopping in Limerick (call it a not-so-dry-run), this seemed to qualify as my first official business at the relatively new, but oh-so-successful Craft Ale House in Limerick/Royersford, PA. (Why have I used so many hyphenated adjectives in these 7 short paragraphs?)

With Nick Johnson running the show for Tröegs, or maybe the promised appearance of Meg and Tara, the word got out and thirsty patrons beat a proper path to the door and filled the joint. Well, all except for a few notable locals, X, Y, and Z.

Mr. Big Dan covered the beginning of the evening at Craft Ale House and has captured a few nice pictures that you can check out over at the CAH blog. I showed up a few minutes later and fortunately not any later. The bar-top firkin of GABF-prepared Nugget Nectar was kicked in 51 minutes. That beer, I'll tell ya, is one tasty treat that typically peaks in the bottle earlier in the summer. But, being freshly made for GABF next month and being firkin fresh on top of that, it was rockin' everyone's worlds best I could tell from chit-chattering with the Vox Hopuli. Some guy named Foley, though, is still not impressed.

The quick kicking of the firkin shouldn't have been surprising given the not-a-space-to-be-found parking lot and the packed house inside. (It was a crowd for CAH, not Ace Hardware, in case there was any confusion.) Along with the Nugget Nectar and the Naked Elf, the usual complement of Tröegs brands were flowing as were a bunch of other stellar goodies that Craft Ale House is known for stocking in the cooler.

I used the evening to give myself a preview of Dark Horse things to come this Saturday at TJs back closer to home in Paoli. The Crooked Tree was a nice drinking IPA that I probably would have dipped into for another one, maybe two, if it wasn't for the 25 minute ride back home.

Now I know why I don't see my old friends quite as often in the 'burbs closer to Philly. With stellar joints like Ortino's, Union Jack's, and now Craft Ale House dotting the farther hinterlands, there's less reason for them to venture as far from home as they used to.

By the way, some suspicious behavior by someone cavorting in an Exton Beverage t-shirt did not go unnoticed. Question is, who is this guy? The 'someone' is not Greg Ramirez, by the way. Any guesses?

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: August 27-September 2

The summer is coming to a close? Really? While this hasn't seemed like a "normal" summer here in the Philadelphia region, this is a weekly calendar that also doesn't feel "normal." Just a few events to share with you, albeit some very good looking ones. Dark Horse, yet another solid brewery hailing from Michigan, has landed and will make its mark felt quickly. That, and a handful of other goodies, should keep you interested well into the Labor Day holiday weekend. Check out the entire August 2009 calendar over here. No freebies this week, but here are some nice looking PAYG sampling events @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 8/27 - End of Summer Party with Franziskaner (7:00pm; PAYG with $1 off Franziskaner Drafts along with Franzisakner giveaways) @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 9/2 - Dark Horse Brewery Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for Draft versions of Scotty Karate, Raspberry Ale, One Oatmeal Stout, & Crooked Tree IPA) @General Sutter Inn, Lititz, PA--- Fri. 8/28 - Cask Ale Night (August selections: Pratt Street Ale House) (5:00pm; PAYG for a great session and 3 others: Summer Ale hopped with Bramling Cross; Pale Ale; Porter with Vanilla; and Golden Wheat with Root Ginger) @The Khyber, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 9/1 - Dark Horse Brewing Company Comes to Philadelphia (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG) @The P.O.P.E., Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 9/1 - Yards Brewery (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for several of their beers along with a Firkin of their newest creation, Cape of Good Hope IPA) @TJs, Paoli, PA--- Sat. 8/29 - Dark Horse Chesco Release Party (all day; PAYG for 8 draft brands including Rod; Sapient Triple; Crooked Tree IPA; Boffo Brown; One Oatmeal Stout; Scotty Karate; Raspberry Ale; Special Reserve Black) @Triumph, Princeton, NJ--- Wed. 9/2 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (6pm; PAYG for September's selection of Barrel Aged IPX) I take it back, there is something free, and it's tonight, 8/27 @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 8/27 - Palm/Steenbrugge Tasting (7:00pm-9:00pm; Free tasting samples of beers from the Palm & Steenbrugge lines, including the, giveaways) And, for a fun take on food and beer, head on up Route 309 to Spinnerstown @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, PA--- Wed. 9/2 - Meet The Brewer Series Presents…Flying Dog in a Crab Boil ($42) A great year-round style, made even better in the late summer will be featured @Tap and Table, Emmaus, PA--- Fri. 8/28-Sun. 8/30 - Saisons, Saisons, and more Saisons (all weekend; PAYG for a Saison List still TBA) There should still be some Belgian specialties left in Maine @Ebenezer's Pub, Lovell, ME--- Thu. 8/20-Sat. 8/29 - 5th Annual Belgian Beer Festival (see website for details)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blind Tiger and Sierra Nevada set to do it once again

Hard to believe that it's been a year since the last Blind Tiger/Sierra Nevada mashup. I'm bummed that I couldn't arrange to be there tomorrow when the taps start flowing. Tomorrow should be a great day to be in NYC. If you live or work in or around the city, it seems to be the wise move to stop in and share some Sierra with the Blind Tiger crew and the boys from Sierra Nevada.
I couldn't think of a better way to knock-out all those people who think Sierra Nevada only makes Pale Ale. So, join us this Wednesday August 26th @ 4:00PM, as the Tiger celebrates one of the cornerstones of the craft beer movement - Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. The List: Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Scotch Ale (Cask) Sierra Nevada Torpedo (Cask) Sierra Nevada Vienna Lager Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest Sierra Nevada Brown Sierra Nevada Belgian Triple Sierra Nevada Double Debockel Doppelbock Sierra Nevada Crystal Wheat Sierra Nevada Stout Sierra Nevada Blonde Sierra Nevada Brown Saison Sierra Nevada Vintage Bigfoot (2006) Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Sierra Nevada Bitter Sierra Nevada Porter Sierra Nevada Kölsch Sierra Nevada IPA Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Sierra Nevada Celebration 2008 Sierra Nevada Anniversary Sierra Nevada Summerfest Sierra Nevada ESB Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (you know, we had to do it) Twenty three? Not too bad, for only making pale ale.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Brew Lounge is Back at Home

What an amazingly unbelievable 5 day driving trip around New England, highlighted by a stupefying beer dinner to end all beer dinners. Hyperbole? We'll see about that. Check back over the next week as I begin to make sense of everything I heard and did (well, almost everything ;-) As I sift through my life back here in Pennsylvania, first things first. The garden continued to grow! y'think? Just a few tomatoes and peppers that need to be dealt with. Then, moving on to the inbox and RSS feeder. I tried to keep up with both when away, but that just isn't fair to everything that needed to be attended to while on the road. Here are just a few of the things that I've found since back at The Brew Lounge desk. Jack Curtin reports progress at Resurrection Ale House in Philly's Grays Ferry neighborhood is moving along. Lew Bryson reports that Penn Brewing may or may not be in its final days. Nick Johnson lets me know that Tröegs will be doing a promotion at Craft Ale House this coming Wednesday the 26th, complete with a firkin of Nectar. And, they have a redesigned website. Lew also shares a Victory beer dinner at the wonderful Nectar restaurant in Berwyn, PA coming up in a couple of short weeks. UPDATE: And, lookee what else I found in my inbox. Memphis Taproom is pouring some Adoration (literally and figuratively, I'm sure) this Wednesday night the 26th. I found a way to miss this beer while at BCTC last month, so it's nice to see it out and making its rounds already. The email was also a reminder about the Labor Day soon-to-be-a-tradition Beer Mystery Weekend. PLUS: Joel Armato of New Holland Brewing sent a link to a Fox Business News story (roughly 5 minutes in length) that includes his boss, Brett Vanderkamp, discussing the current beer brewing industry. That's just a taste. More to come, I'm sure. Next for me is a card full of pictures and book full of notes to transcribe and collate. This should be fun...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's New at Philadelphia Brewing?

I've always enjoyed brewer John Rehm's thoughtful prose and insights to his brewing doings at Philadelphia Brewing Company. Haven't heard from him in quite some time on his blog until just last week when he discussed the new 2,600 gallon fermentation tanks that they are working on. Hope to hear more from John in the coming months.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Andre the Drunkard?

Subject: Andre the Giant. This came across from one of Draft Magazine's blogs a little while back. It's a long article but so completely engrossing after just the first few paragraphs. If you enjoyed pro wrestling back in its heyday, enjoy the fine art of consumption, or just enjoy a good read about a quasi-fictional character, then you'll enjoy the 15-20 minutes that this might take you to read.

Draft Line Cleaning, how much is never enough?

I admittedly don't know much about draft line cleaning at bars; never done it myself. In PA, according to those who should know, it's mandated by the State to be done every week. I haven't done much research into who does what and how often. So when I came across this blurb from Rattle 'n' Hum in Manhattan (NY, not Kansas, in case you were unclear), I was impressed for two reasons. First in the fact that the topic was broached by the bar at all and, second, that, if true, the frequency in their draft line cleanings. It seems to be a topic not often discussed by proprietors and often one that consumers will bandy about when their beer just doesn't measure up to expectations. I'm sure there are scores of you out there who know more than I on this subject matter. What say you about constant/weekly/never line cleaning?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: August 20-August 26

I'm feeling pretty good about being in Maine right about now, ready to help kick off Ebenezer's annual Belgian Beer Festival with what I expect to be one of the most memorable beer dinners ever (or else, Sean!! no pressure). Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here are a few things that might catch my friends attentions back home and around and here and there or maybe over there. Seriously, does tonight give you enough pause to consider calling off work tomorrow, or what?! Enough rambling, go forth and imbibe! Check out the entire August 2009 calendar over here. Take a taste of something new, either for free or PAYG @Blind Tiger Ale House, New York--- Wed. 8/26 - Brewery Night with Sierra Nevada (4:00pm; PAYG for 22 Sierra Nevada drafts, plus Pale Ale!) @Craft Ale House, Royersford, PA--- Wed. 8/26 - A Tröegstacular Night (6:00pm; PAYG gets you Nugget Nectar on the Firkin (a small batch brewed for GABF this year), Troegenator Doublebock, Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale, Sunshine Pils, Dreamweaver Wheat, and a Mystery Keg of something special plus Pint Glass giveaways while supplies last) @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- Fri. 8/21 - Third Friday Firkin (August firkin: British Pale Ale) (11:30am 'til it kicks; PAYG) Food with Beer, The Choice is Clear @Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse Sports Bar, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 8/20 - Brew & Chew with Sierra Nevada (8:00pm-10:00pm; $20 for an Open Bar and Appetizers paired with each of the Sierra Nevada beers, Pale Ale, Stout, Kellerweis, and Anniversary Ale) @The Buck Hotel, Feasterville, PA--- Thu. 8/20 - Craft Beer Dinner with Philadelphia Brewing (7:00pm reception, 7:30pm dinner; $45 for a reception followed by 4 courses closed out with Shackamaximum and lots of chocolate) @Ron's Original, Exton, PA--- Thu. 8/20 - Blues, BBQ, & BIG Brews featuring Jimmy's BBQ (PAYG for lots of brewsy, bluesy, and barbecuey goodness) @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 8/20 - Beer & Cheese: A Victorious Summer (6:30pm-8:00pm; $50 for beer and cheese with Bill Covaleski from Victory and Erin McLean of Tria; currently sold out, but you know the drill...give 'em a call to hear for sure) Festivals of Froth and Fun @Stoudt's Brewery, Adamstown, PA--- Sat. 8/22 - 18th Annual Microfest (12:00pm-4:00pm, 7:00pm-11:00pm; $30 for one of the best festival deals around...includes a tasting glass, 4 hours of beer sampling, live entertainment, buffet from 12-3pm, and free shuttle bus service to local accommodations) @Cal State University, San Marcos, CA--- Sat. 8/22 - 13th Anniversary Party (11:00am-2:00pm, 3:00pm-6:00pm; $35/$40 gets you admission to one of the 3-hour sessions, a 13th Anniversary tasting glass, and 10 "tasters" of delicious craft brews) @Ebenezer's Pub, Lovell, ME--- Thu. 8/20-Sat. 8/29 - 5th Annual Belgian Beer Festival (see website for details) And, then there's some other stuff @Iron Hill Brewery, West Chester, PA--- Thu. 8/20 - Saison-a-thon (6:00pm; PAYG for what promises to be another interesting night in West Chester) @Union Jack's, Boyertown, PA--- Thu. 8/20 - Sierra Nevada Fest (5:00pm; PAYG for Sierra's drafts including: Brown Saison; Tripel; Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale; Pale Ale; Summerfest) Check out the entire August 2009 calendar over here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Eat and Drink of the Best at Ebenezer's Belgian Beer Festival 2009

Roughly about 24 hours from now, I'll be enjoying the beginning of what I hope to be calling the Beer Dinner of the Year 2009 at Ebenezer's Pub in Lovell, Maine. I got a sneak peek at it that I shared with you last week. Then I was given permission to share the entire menu with you all. With HomeBrewChef Sean Paxton brewing and cooking up a storm on both coasts, there's less reason than ever not to be able to partake in one of these gastronomically overwhelming events.

It's due to be a roughly 6 hour feast of food and fermentables that will culminate with an after party that I'm sure will be quite a surprise in many ways. Obviously, there will be much more on this to come next week when I return home and attempt to make sense of everything I've seen, heard, and tasted along the way during this week.

Until then, go and check out the menu. I know at least one person with whom I discussed this menu at the Craft Ale House last week that may need a few days to dry his eyes after reading this.

By the way, a gorgeous menu design, is it not? It was designed by artistically-gifted Damian Fagan, co-Bay Area resident with Sean Paxton. Need some beer-related artwork/design. He'd be a good guy to call.

What do you think Brewing at Russian River is like?

While I'm away, I've got some nice odds 'n' ends to share with you. This is one of them. Ever wonder what it's like to brew at one of the country's most talked about breweries, Russian River? The Brewing Network captured celebrated homebrewer Mike McDole's brewday activities and rehash with owner/brewer Vinnie Cilurzo on video and shared it via YouTube. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Saison for the people, by the people at Iron Hill in West Chester, PA

Is this Thursday the 20th a day for craft beer lovers in the Philadelphia region, or what? If you don't know of what I speak, you should probably check out the TBL calendar of events. Thirsty yet? If I wasn't in New England, let's see, what would I be doing? This would be a very tough call and I might even have opted in that case to try two events in one night (I know, ambitious for one weekday evening, but...y'know). Near the very top of my list, I must say, would have been the "Saison-a-Thon" at West Chester's location of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. The concept may work, it may not. But, I'll bet that it's gonna be fun nonetheless. And, really, there's not much that Iron Hill undertakes that doesn't have at least achieve a respectable level of success. I'll leave it to Larry Horwitz, head brewer in West Chester, to give you all of the details:
This Thursday, the 20th, we will be holding our first ever Saison-a-Thon here at Iron Hill, WC! We basically invited our staff to form teams (everyone from servers to chefs to management), formulate a "unique" saison utilizing any and all spices, fruit, hops, bacteria, yeast, additional fermentables, etc, etc that they could dream up, and then we brewed it. The resulting eight saisons will all be on draught next Thursday at 6:30 pm for your summer drinking pleasure. Five bucks gets you a taste of each, and after tasting, you will have the opportunity to pick your favorite. The best saison will be brewed again, only this time on a slightly larger scale! Oh, and did I mention that each team will have 3 minutes to pitch their saison to the crowd (I've heard rumors of interpretive dance). This should be a blast! In anticipation of this ground breaking event, we've been profiling a person or two from each team. [see the IH/WC blog for profiles already written]

The General Blogs Again

Lafayette's Escape is Back. I get a feeling that this will be a good thing. Which reminds me to remind you: Have you filled your General Lafayette growler lately? Stopped in for dinner? Bought a case of Chocolate Thunder? Better hurry, my case of Chocolate Thunder is almost finished and I'll be needing another one.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What happens when you cross a Tiger with a Fox?

Too bad that we'll be 24 hours too early passing through NYC on our way to New England. This event snuck up on me, not realizing it was scheduled (not on Blind Tiger's website) until the e-mail came through last night. After last year's two-fer with Arcadia at Blind Tiger and only 16 beers on tap, Sly Fox is being poured exclusively this Wednesday with 23, yes 23, of their finest. Because 16 is not nearly enough choice, right?! What Alan doesn't mention in the notes below is that the Sly Fox Crew will be impressively represented in the presence of John Giannopoulos, Brian O'Reilly, and Corey Reid on Wednesday night.
This Wednesday August 19th @ 4:00PM, we will be transforming the Tiger to the Fox, the Sly Fox that is... Come join us as we have a few of Sly Fox's best and rarest on draught, and by few I mean 23... The List: Sly Fox Helles Lager Sly Fox Pikeland Pilsner Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale Sly Fox O'Reilly's Stout Sly Fox Saison Vos Sly Fox Royal Weisse Sly Fox 113 IPA Sly Fox Incubus Triple Sly Fox Ichor Quad Sly Fox Odyssey Imperial IPA Sly Fox Oatmeal Stout Sly Fox Christmas Ale Sly Fox Instigator Doppel Bock Sly Fox Seamus Irish Red Sly Fox Prometheus Porter Sly Fox Gang Aft Agley Scotch Ale Sly Fox Oktoberfest Lager Sly Fox Grisette Farmhouse Sly Fox Dunkel Weisse Sly Fox Whitehorse Wit Sly Fox Abbey Xtra Sly Fox Hop Project WGV Sly Fox Burns Scottish Export Ale (Cask)

Ways to stay cool on a hot summer day in Philadelphia

Some times I know exactly where to begin, other times not so much so. Fortunately, this past Saturday began in South Philly at Devil's Den, innocently enough with a couple of nice and tidy 5 ounce sampler flights of sour beer. A little tart here, a little sour there, some fruit over there, and some funk back over here. If I had to begin this story on Frankford Avenue, my task here would have been just a bit more on, you might come to see what I mean by that. At Devil's Den, we ran into a healthy dosing of similarly-minded folks, including Dan from Left Hand, Megan from Duvel, Erin of Devil's Den (convenient, eh?), and Casey from across the river on the Jersey Side at Flying Fish. You know Casey's gonna be a big part of the story later on, right? Just wait for it. Believe it or not, yes, this was finally our first visit to Devil's Den. No, not a Philly Beer Week event (of the many they hosted) or any other of the regularly scheduled events that they host throughout the year have found me in a barseat at this tastefully appointed South Philly restaurant and watering hole, formerly Felicia's. I think I'll save a "formal" review for another time. This visit was about the sour beer festival ("Pucker Up!") that they were having (and continues all week with new beers being introduced every day) and hanging out with some good beer volk. We did nosh on some pulled pork and burger, both well done with some nice fries on the side. Megan's platter of quail, greens, and mashed potatoes was also a smartly crafted dish. But, then...oh yes, then...we wandered across into Northeast Philly. While Mike Scotese (Scoats), Phil ("intern") had been celebrating 13 years with 13 events in 13 hours, it became quite clear quite early in our visit that a fair number of others had joined in on the Grey Lodge party bus right from the get-go back in the hours when lunch is typically served. Uh, let's just say it was quite the scene of revelers doing their reveling and perhaps I'll leave it at that. It's a bit difficult to put in to words the scale and the efforts of the various events that went off like clockwork (believe it or not) at the top of each hour...well, except for Mr. Johnson from Tröegs who got a bit pre-empted by the band until 10:20.

Let's see if I can recap what we saw: Mr. Kehoe from Yards (at the tailend of his hour just before he sped away safely from the debauchery he left behind); Ms. Woods from Sly Fox (easter egg prize giveaways and chicken wings that I'm still trying to track down); Mr. Johnson of Tröegs fame (ah, what can we say about Nick that his reputation which always precedes him hasn't already said? good times, mate); and finally last but certainly not least Mr. Hughes from Flying Fish (the pictures below will tell you everything you need to know). For the sake of getting this all out there for you to see what you may have missed, I'm going to forego any other flowery descriptions to set up the pictures. I'm sure you're all relieved. You're only here for the pictures anyway, right? Just so you know, there were many, many pictures to wade through to depict for you here the good times that went down this weekend in Northeast Philly at Grey Lodge. Alone, the 4 hours that I was there for was one big photo op after another. The blood, the tears, but certainly the sweat people...just so you's all for you ;-) Alright, let's get some captions on these and move along...oh, er, and maybe I should say one last time a big congratulations to Scoats for continuing to do what he does so well for, getting to be, so long. Cheers!

(Scoats and Suzy get the 9 o'clock hour kicked off...has Scoats seen enough yet?)
(Any guesses who rode to the Anniversary Party? You might want to zoom in on the water bottle for your first hint)
(The band, Blue Bizness, played on for quite a few hours...hey they're not far in Berwyn from my home)
(A surreptitious picture of this guy, Steve, who always seems to looking at the camera or shooting from behind it. If you've ever seen him in action, you know how difficult surreptitious can be with him)
(Nick's Quizzo contest required some technology..these demanding reps, I'll tell ya!)
(Speaking of demanding, Casey's a demanding customer, making the staff sweat)
(Does anyone have the Greenman costume?)
("No Greenman, Mr. Johnson, but I do have a shot for you")
(Nick just can't do his promotion in peace)
(Phil the Intern, the real mastermind behind the festivities?)
(And now we've reached the call-in portion of the show that I like to call, Pin a Caption on that Photo)
(A couple of leading lasses of libations from Philly, Suzanne Woods of Sly Fox and Megan Maguire of Duvel USA)
(Renegades, Rebels, or Rogues?)
(The 11 o'clock hour required some prep for Casey Hughes and some pointers from Crafty Tracy)
(Those poor goldfish had no idea what was in store for them)
(See what I mean?)
(The Leaning Tower of Hughes)
( much bigger does Casey look than the front door?)
(This ain't like disc golf)
(Frankford Ave. had never seen anything like this, I'm sure)
(Miss Wendy from Dogfish Head)
(Those were some long-lasting batteries in that there beacon)
(Party People in the House; collect 'em all)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday morning with the Dead Tree Press bringing Craft Beer to the Driveway

Not a bad Sunday morning when the Virtues of Better Beer gets delivered to the driveway...on the Philadelphia Inquirer's Front Page, no less. Made the second cup of coffee better than the first. Check out Rick Nichols well-written take on what has been making the beer scene, particularly around the Philadelphia region, stronger in recent years. Dogfish Head, Victory, Sly Fox, and Yards are all mentioned prominently in the article. Plus, taste---local---small---independent---eco-friendly are all given extra emphasis as arguments for what is making the craft beer segment successful. Link to Philadelphia Inquirer [8/16/2009]

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: August 13-August 19

Here are a bunch of things that I'll miss while up in New England, destinating eventually to Ebenezer's Belgian Beer Festival in Maine. Do a friend a favor and fill in for me at a few of these events. Check out the entire August 2009 calendar over here. Take a taste of something new, either for free or PAYG @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 8/13 - Thursday Night Tasting (Magic Hat) (7pm-9pm; free tasting samples) @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- Fri. 8/14 - Hops Project 2009 Varietal Release: TBD (a firkin, then CO2) (11:30am 'til it kicks; PAYG) And some things are just a bit bigger, just a bit more special to warrant their own category this week @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 8/15 - Pucker Up!! Sour Fest (all day & night; PAYG for many bottles and on draft: Dogfish Head Festina Peche, Beersel Framboise, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Petrus Oud Bruin, Ommegang Rouge, Ballast Point Sour Wench, Bacchus, Dock Street Dunkel Berliner Weisse, Itchegems, St Loius Gueze, Cantillion Gueze, Russian River Consecration, Monk's Cafe Sour, Cuvee des Jacobins, Duchess de Bourgonge & Doc's Sour Cherry Cider) @Grey Lodge, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 8/15 - 13 Events in 13 Hours for the 13th Anniversary (11:00am-12:00am; PAYG for 13 hours of craziness that must be seen to be understood) @Toronado, San Francisco, CA--- Sat. 8/15 - 22nd Anniversary Party (all day & night; PAYG) @Union Jack's, Boyertown, PA--- Thu. 8/13 - Bear Republic vs. The East (5:00pm; PAYG for matchups including: Racer X vs. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA; Nor' Cal vs. Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale; Hop Rod Rye vs. Dock St. Rye IPA; Racer 5 vs. Smuttynose IPA; Big Bear Stout vs. Duck Rabbit Rabid Duck Imperial Stout) Of festivals "large" and "small" @Mercer Museum, Doylestown, PA--- Fri. 8/14 - Brewery Night (6:30pm; $27/$23 gets you Brewing historian Rich Wagner discussing brewing techniques across Philadelphia between the 17th and 19th centuries. A tutored beer tasting with Yards Brewing Company and Keystone Homebrew Supply follows the presentation.) @Philadelphia Navy Yard/Cruise Terminal, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 8/15 - Philadelphia International Great Beer Expo (12:30pm-4:00pm, 5:30pm-9:00pm; $45/$10 for a handful of domestic beers and a bunch from countries around the world) @Pizza Port, San Clemente, CA--- Sat. 8/15 - Session Ale Festival (12:00pm-10:00pm; $25 for 6 samples from 30+ beers all under 5% ABV...on the West Coast!! additional tastes are $1/each) And, then there's one of the country's pre-eminent music festivals, of which Yards is proud to be a major sponsor @Old Pool Farm, Schwenksville, PA--- Fri. 8/14-Sun. 8/16 - Philadelphia Folk Festival (Yards as a Lead Sponsor) (see website for details) Check out the entire August 2009 calendar over here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Barrel Full of Beer Memes, #2

If you've ever been to a Cricket Hill Friday night open house or run into Rick Reed at a beer festival then you're likely familiar with "THEY ARE LYING TO US!" or "THE NUMBER ONE SELLING WATER IN NEW JERSEY IS COORS LIGHT!" typically said with that kind of volume by Mr. Reed himself. Anyone ever stopping by a Cricket Hill table at a beer festival is sure to have heard others talking about the now legendary rants of Rick Reed, owner/brewmaster at Cricket Hill Brewery in Fairfield, NJ. Over a year ago, video surfaced on YouTube (of course) capturing one these rants during a Friday Night Open House and Tasting. From "Cricket Hill is the finest beer made on the planet earth" to "Drink what you want, not what you're told to drink" and ratcheting up to "You have been brainwashed since you were children" and "They think we are stupid", it's easy to see how quickly this viral video made it around the Internet and into Beer Meme status. And, remember, "They tell us that it's been frost-brewed; It means NOTHING!!" So, without further ado, here it is in all of its bellowing awesomeness!
Check back here for Beer Meme #1

Beer Dates in History: August Anniversaries

20 years Columbus Brewing (now in second location) 15 years Hair of the Dog 10 years Emmett's Tavern and Brewery (West Dundee) Minocqua Brewing Co. St. George Brewing Co.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

And on the seventh day....

....the Big Guy rested. But another 'big guy' plows right through and keeps on working for the rest of our enjoyments. Sean Paxton, Chris Lively, and their culinary cast are busy putting the final touches on their 2nd Beer Dinner collaboration in Lovell, Maine at Ebenezer's Pub in just a couple of short weeks. It's this dinner that kicks off Ebenezer's annual Belgian Beer Festival. This sold-out event now has a couple of open seats due to a reservation cancellation, so now's your chance to get in on this dinner if you missed the boat before the seats were all snatched up. This promises to be an all-star pairings menu with all-star guests both in the kitchen and in the dining room. To tease you just a bit, here below are two of the twelve courses expected on the menu the night of the 20th. Wanna get in on the fun? Call 207-925-3200 for a reservation.

Fifth Course

foie gras torchon

Rodenbach Grand Cru pickled sour cherries, brioche toast, Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise syrup

Deus 2006

Tenth Course

Sexy Time

Geuze Cuvée J&J (Jessie En Joost) Roos 2003 & Blauw 2003 sorbeto

Friday, August 07, 2009

Joe Sixpack likes Beer Runs

Now that Joe Sixpack has reminded me in today's column, I need to get around to planning some more of these Beer Runs. A good read, even without my quotes. And a great notice for those of you in and around the city of Philadelphia to join up on Thursday nights with the Fishtown Beer Runners (FBR) for great runs, great beer, and great camaraderie. Thanks, Mr. Sixpack, for bringing more attention to the subject of beer and fitness.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: August 6-August 12

You probably won't find me out and about doing much here in the first half of August. But, there's enough to choose from so I'll expect you all to uphold your end of the deal. Check out the entire August 2009 calendar over here. Free or PAYG is a great way to try new beers @Ortino's Northside, Zieglerville, PA--- Thu. 8/6 - Keep the Pint Night with Appalachian Brewing (PAYG) @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- Fri. 8/7 - Incubus Friday (11:30am 'til it kicks; PAYG for this every first Friday Tripel) @Triumph, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 8/6 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (August's selection: Snakebite) (6:00pm; PAYG) @Triumph, New Hope, PA--- Fri. 8/7 - Brewer's Reserve Barrel Tappings (August's selection: Apfelweizen) (6pm; PAYG) Chicken/Egg, Food/Beer @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 8/11 - An Homage to Fromage paired with Foamage (beer) (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for 5 ounce portions of selected beer paired with some of Tom's favorite cheese) @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 8/7 - Get Your Goat (Cheese) (6:30pm-8:00pm; $50 currently sold 'em, you know the drill) @Twin Brook Winery, Gap, PA--- Sat. 8/8 - Victory Brew B Que at Twin Brook Winery (12:00pm-4:00pm; free/PAYG for an afternoon of live music barbeque and Victory beer) Festivals, yeah we've got them too @Olin-Turville Park, Madison, WI--- Sat. 8/8 - Great Taste of the Midwest (1:00pm-6:00pm; $35, currently sold out...head to the grey market if you're interested) @The Bistro, Hayward, CA--- Sat. 8/8 - 12th Annual IPA Festival (11:00am-7:00pm; PAYG for some of the best west coast hopped beers around) Other Special Events @McGillin's Olde Ale House, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 8/11 - Book Signing with Lew Bryson (6:00pm; PAYG for 1860 IPA and other beer plus chatting with Lew about breweries & brewpubs) @Sly Fox, Royersford, PA--- Sat. 8/8 - AHA Rally (2:00pm-5:00pm; free/PAYG for light fare and beer samples available, along with brewery tours and $6 growler fills...must be an AHA member, sign up day of if not already) Check out the entire August 2009 calendar over here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ommegang BCTC 2009: The Best of What's Going Down

Ommegang BCTC 2009 (click to link to Picasa Photo Album)
Sit back, grab a brew, relax, and let yourself go...this is gonna be a long one. In just a moment, I'll get to sharing with you the multitude of reasons why Ommegang's BCTC continues to be one of the top beer events in the country each year. But first, try not to call me a negative's really not like that. There were approximately 10 less breweries this year compared to last year (and down roughly 40 beers). Roughly 20% decrease on both counts, while cost for Saturday's tasting event was up to $70 and for the VIP ticket, $185. The brewery could have setup part or all of their retail shop outside to alleviate the congestion and sweltering heat of the indoors. Ommegang's special-release beers could have had more attention drawn to the times when they were being poured. More camping could have been provided for Friday night thus, generating more revenue for the festival and alleviating the angst of some festival-goers who had to decide between paying premiums for gray-market tickets, camping "illegally", or missing out on Friday simply arriving Saturday instead. Maybe consider a Friday, camping-only option. Many did that anyway. Volunteers, while doing a wonderful job at pouring beer and keeping the short lines moving, would be more valuable if they were armed with just a few bits of information about the breweries for whom they were pouring. The volatile weather of July and August in this northeast part of the country makes you wonder if it's time for Ommegang to consider changing the date of the festival (more on this one later down below). Now that I've got some of what you might perceive as nit-picky complaints (or, alternatively, constructive criticisms) out of the way, I can move on to describing confidently to you why I still consider Ommegang's annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival a Top 10, possibly even Top 5, beer event in the United States. I reminded you that after last year's experience, I would never attend BCTC again if I could only arrive on Saturday. I've said it once if I've said it 100 times (I love that saying!), the best way to experience BCTC is to go for the entire, drink, camp, party, share, relax...all on the property of one of the country's most bucolic brewery settings. FRIDAY That said, we arrived around an hour later than we expected on Friday, partly due to a late shove-off from home and partly due to crazy weather and traffic along the way in upstate Pennsylvania and into New York State. Upon arriving, it didn't take long to start to see others arrive for what might have been called the Philly North festival. Every direction you'd turn, I'd swear there was another beer personality (of the employed and fan/geek alike) from the Philadelphia region. Case in point... After choosing a nice and flat perch half way up the hill behind the brewery for our campsite, we looked to our neighbor who turned out to be none other than William Reed, proprietor of two of Philly's A+ bars, Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda's. (They both get high marks for food and beer, while Johnny Brenda's gets an extra mark for regularly scheduled live music and entertainment.) William was holding down fort for the Sly Fox clan (the O'Reilly family as well as representative, Corey Reid, who was right at home in his New York sales territory). Not a bad start to stake out a campsite next door to one of Philly's finest that's about to make a move, have you heard? With pleasantries out of the way, I attempted to trade some 21st Amendment canned beer for some Sly Fox canned beer. A fun gesture, though not necessarily one to ingratiate me with my brewing neighbors. While Brian didn't take any 21A, we had more than enough Sly Fox beer, including this year's just bottled Oktoberfest, at our disposal to get us through the weekend. That's a big tip for anyone going to BCTC or an event like it. Of course you need to take some beer and food with you. But don't overdo it. From one campsite to another, there is so much sharing going on...between friends and strangers alike. The point is to always have something in your hand as you mosey around the campground, but there's certainly no need to take case upon case or even kegs, or large amounts of food...unless you plan to host a party at your camp. Sharing: The first reason Ommegang's BCTC is so great is the sharing and the free spirit component. The VIP dinner on Friday was quite the ordeal. We missed last year's, so we were anxious to discover how or if the dinner would be run differently than in the past. Since I wasn't keeping track of time, I can't say just how long it went, but suffice to say that it took long enough to have 5 courses of food and beer, interlaced by two trips back to the campsite (once to have a beer with the O'Reilly's and once just because), dancing, and table-hopping excursions to maniacally plan the rest of the weekend's debauchery. The meal itself was nice and included many things that we like pairing with beer, sans mussels that I remember fondly from a couple of years ago. Cheeses and meats of various variety dominated the menu. Topping off with pastries and chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert made for a nice meal. The sometimes long spacing between courses was a welcome way of avoiding that bloated feeling by the end of the meal. Plus, the walking around and dancing didn't hurt either. The beer with dinner? Fuhgettaboutit. There was more than enough to go around. A potluck of beers as a centerpiece to the table had all sorts of Ommegang and Duvel family of beers to choose from. Duvel, Blonde, Brune, Witte, Hennepin, Houblon Chouffe, Three Philosophers, and Chocolate Indulgence were just a few names that you might recognize. And if the table ran out, no worries. Table service was there to not only help clear away plates, but to find more liquid delights for our dining pleasure. In between the eating, drinking, and socializing came some time to recognize the organizers and guests of the festival. Michel Moortgat (CEO, Duvel Moorgat), Simon Thorpe (President/CEO, DuvelUSA), and Phil Leinhart (Ommegang Brewmaster) all spoke and shared their thoughts and gratitude with the attentive crowd. Tara Aitchison (Events Director) graciously accepted a floral arrangement presented to her for her tireless efforts in organizing what is an gigantic event with so many pieces. I'm not sure that there's much more to say about Friday night's partying that went on late into the wee hours. The brewery hosted a huge bonfire front and center, while smaller campfires broke out around the property. The brewery also ran a movie (you'd think I'd know which one, right? but I never stopped by long enough to figure it out....the schedule of events says it was 'Across the Universe') that people gathered to watch. I, on the other hand, wandered around with Patty after the VIP dinner stopping in to see friends who were camped out in various corners of the property. Like I've said in the past, at some point, brewers and reps deserve their privacy, so there are many stories and pictures that will stay in Cooperstown. Those that I've posted have each of their approvals. SATURDAY Saturday morning came bright and early (my body seems to know no difference after all these years of getting up with the roosters) and I awoke to a bright and rapidly increasing hot sun. Without any rain in the forecast (though, can one ever truly predict the summer's volatile weather in these parts?!), it seemed like it was going to be a steaming day. Even though the temperature barely broke 80F, the humidity level began high in the 90s and dropped only into the 60s by mid-day. Plus, with the saturated ground from the day before's soaking thunderstorms, hunkering under the tasting tent was almost as stifling as standing out in the direct sun. When the sun finally started to get short in the sky, some relief finally came. Though, if I complained about the torrential rain, do you think I should be complaining about a little heat and humidity? This is the point where I wonder if consideration has ever been given for holding this festival, say, in the fall or even April or May (since there's a little festival out West in the fall that brewers might be distracted by). Don't know, but it seems worth considering since 3 of the 4 years that I've been to BCTC, punishing rain storms have been a part of the festival. Though the weather can't totally crush the spirits of a great festival like BCTC, there's definitely plenty of frustration in camping in the rain and, even worse, breaking camp in the rain, when all you want to do is stay a few more hours. (come to think of it, though, by Sunday the brewery is probably happy to see all of the campers leave early!) Alright, then let's get to the tasting part of the festival. I never did see much enforcement of the drink tickets that were being doled out but the pourers did stick to the mandated volume. A couple of pouring volunteers did inform me that the "training facilitator" did warn them against volunteering infractions that would result in everything from fines to jail time to loss of home and personal freedoms. With the reduced number of breweries and beers this year came what I perceived to be a lack of a wow factor. As in, I never heard one person swear up and down that a particular beer(s) was the best they had all in best by a mile. Neither did I hear of a group of beers in that class, nor of a brewery that with its table antics created a buzz around it like, say, Dogfish would with its Randal display of years past, or De Struise pourings, or other such high times. There were definitely, oh, 120 out of 140 very good beers, just nothing I heard anyone saying was so geeky rare, or so geeky good beyond compare, or a you-must-drop-what-you're-doing type of beer to go hunt down before it was gone. Are we becoming spoiled with our access to great beer? Now apparently Ommegang was doing special pourings. I'd heard of these back in June when Brian the assistant brewer told me that there'd be a strong winter ale, a triple IPA, and a Belgian Scotch (or Scotch Belgian?!) available at the VIP and following day during the festival. Apparently, during the tasting festival, they were being poured at special times, but the volunteers were not armed with this information and I missed out on any of these beers. Volunteers tend to do a great job with the information they're given, but all too often I feel they're not given enough. And, with this year's restriction on brewers pouring beer, I found more often than not tables being staffed with no one who knew much of anything about the brewery and/or the beers being poured. Let's get passed that minor quibble and allow me to shout out to a few beers that left a mark on me. In no certain order: Sam Adams Kriek (a bit Brett/horsey in the aroma, smoother in the taste, pleasant summer kriek); Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs (one of my repeat faves, isn't it about that time of year to find some bottles for at home?); Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (is all this flavor really only from the Sorachi Ace hop and the yeast? I must find more of; Piraat (been a while, where have you been, you beaut?!); Duchesse de Bourgogne (perennial tart delight from Belgium); Brown's Belgian Raspberry (from Troy, NY, a subtle raspberry that was a real nice drinker); Ithaca Brute (a stellar sour powerhouse). WRAPPING UP (yes, finally) Like I said, just a few. Actually, if I had more than twice that, I'd be surprised. But, that was all part of the game plan and yet another tip for those of you reading this in 2010. Go light on the tasting at the festival, because, once again, the tasting is just one part of the festival and you want to make sure that you have staying power for the remainder of the evening. Oh, speaking of reading this later---Thanks to all of you that made the effort to recognize my t-shirt and let me know that you read material that I'd written about past BCTCs to get prepared for 2009. It is gratifying and humbling at the same time to know that the words (the many of them, at that) I put out there are read and useful. Once the tasting portion of the day ended, it was back to business as usual. In other words, gallivanting the property sharing beers, foods, and good times. I can't emphasize this aspect of the BCTC festival. I even heard several people say that, with no disrespect to the tasting portion, they could do without the 4 hour tasting and instead camp, eat, and drink around the campsites for the entire weekend. Not that the tasting showcases anything less than very good beers, it's just that the amount of very good commercial and homebrewed beer that shows up from one campsite to the next (save for the occasional Bud Light Lime case) is nothing less than very impressive. So with that it was off to another night of cooking, eating, frisbee toss, relaxing, partying, and fire hula hoops (you'll have to visit the picture link to see what I am referring to). A tethered hot air balloon went up to give post-festival revelers a new way to see the brewery. The bonfire and movie went off again. And late night debauchery ensued. At that point, the camera went away (sort of) and, yes, that was I at the Pong table playing with the strongest beer I ever played pong with! As hard as it is to bring closure to the BCTC weekend, it's equally difficult to bring closure to this review...did you think I'd ever get to this point?! As I eluded to earlier, we broke camp in the rain, fighting the need to leave. We never did get around to breakfast with the rain coming down, harder by the half hour. We pressed some coffee, kibitzed a while long with the O'Reilly's, Reid, and Reed...then hit the road. Our trip home was uneventful, unlike a certain Beer Lass who has her own story to tell. Did you feel like checking out what I had to say about previous years? Really?! Fine, go ahead and proceed at your own risk. Maybe it will help with your insomnia ;-) Here are some handy links. 2006 wrap-up 2007 wrap-up, pics 2007 wrap-up, words1 2007 wrap-up, words2 2008 Primer 2008 wrap-up 2008 Cycling wrap-up (Philly to Cooperstown)