Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bruce Nichols, RIP

(Out of many pictures of Bruce, this is one of my favorites--at the Philly Beer Week 2009 installment of Zythos America. Here he's pictured at right of Tom Peters from Monk's and Chris Bauweraerts from d'Achouffe.)
I was just commenting the other day how 2010 has been remarkably light of deaths within the craft brewing industry. Then, out of nowhere, today comes this absolutely devastating news of the passing of Bruce Nichols. I will add nothing more than a brief mention of my own personal experience. I find it so interesting the unique personalities of every one in the craft brewing industry. We are all so uniquely different. In every encounter and beer with Bruce, I found his trademark personality to be one of patience, kindness, and genteelness. And now, I'll pass you over to the Monk's Cafe website where Tom Peters nicely memorialized his dear friend. (Since it may not stay up there forever, I will also paste Peters' comments below.) Update: Jack Curtin has posted a more formal notice of Bruce's passing on the Beer Yard website. It, too, is worth your time.
I lost a good friend today and so did the entire Philadelphia beer community. Bruce Nichols lost his battle with leukemia. Bruce was president of Museum Catering Company and co-founder of Philly Beer Week. Bruce was a voice of reason, always calm and had an innate ability to bring people together. Bruce, myself and Don Russell organized the first Philly Beer Week with the help of many bars, restaurants, distributors, brewers, etc. Bruce was always a driving force behind the Philly beer movement. He was also adept at keeping us crazy beer people organized and on-point. Philly Beer Week would have never happen without his ideas and positive energy. Bruce is the person that brought famed beer writer, Michael Jackson, to Philly, way back in 1991. Bruce Nichols hosted Michael at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology for a "The Book & The Cook" event. That single beer event drew more people than any 10 food events combined. Thus began the real emergence on the Philadelphia beer culture. Bruce & Michael combined for seventeen annual beer events, each more challenging than the previous. Bruce really helped push the boundaries of beer culture in Philadelphia. We are all thankful and grateful to all that Bruce has done for us. Bruce will be missed by all who were close to him and the beer community has lost a good friend and champion. I raise a glass to your life. Goodbye, my friend. - Tom Peters, 11/30/10

Beer Dates in History: December Anniversaries

25 years Millstream 20 years Mad River 15 years Barley Creek Eel River Sly Fox 2 years Old Forge

Monday, November 29, 2010

Have one last celebratory toast to Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary

Tomorrow night (that'd be Tues. 11/30) at Teresa's Next Door in Wayne, Pa., Sierra Nevada is teaming up for one last celebration (unless someone corrects me) of the brewery's 30th anniversary. Plus, it may turn out to be one of the last times that all four anniversary beers are together on one stage. And, that too of the ExPorter (hey, look, another one!). Of course, we never say never because someone has probably squirreled away a bunch of bottles and/or kegs, but we'll only find out about that down the road. So tomorrow night here's what you'll find at the TND/Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary event: Sierra Nevada Drafts 30th Anniversary #2 (Charlie, Fred, & Ken's Bock) 30th Anniversary #3 (Jack & Ken's Ale) 30th Anniversary #4 (Grand Cru/Brewers Reserve) Beer Camp #25's ExPorter Celebration Estate Homegrown Pale Ale Sierra Nevada Bottles 30th Anniversary #1 (Fritz and Ken's Ale) Bigfoot Pale Torpedo A flight special, as TND is often wont, will feature all four anniversary beers for a nice $9 price tag.

Eastern Shore for beer, for dinner, for the Chesapeake Bay

A couple of weeks back, Patty and I made our way to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where I covered the Wild Game Beer Dinner and the annual Waterfowl Festival, in St. Michaels and Easton, respectively. There's not much more to add in this space, so I'll simply link you over to The Washington Times Communities section where I filed my columns. Though, I will add for anyone with earlier not-so-good notions of the brewery (just celebrated its 2nd anniversary), you might like to swing through the Eastern Shore again and have another run-in with these beers. At Eastern Shore Brewing, under the brewing hand of Jason Marquis, I throw the Knot So Pale Ale (75 ibu..simcoe, columbus, and cascade) the Duck Duck Goose Porter (chocolate malt, saaz hops) near the top of my recommended list. If you're there in the summer sweating it out, the Magic Hefe Weizen (60% wheat) and Lighthause Ale (4.7% abv) will suit the nicely. ~ Wild Game Beer Dinner in St. Michaels with Eastern Shore Brewing at Harbour Inn [link to TWTC] ~ 40th Annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton [link to TWTC]

Hanssens Kriek, you say? Sounds like a NYD game changer

Hm, very interesting and very sneaky of Leigh to throw in that tasty (and rare) delight at the bottom of their anniversary list. Hard to believe it's been almost 2 years since I stumbled from NYC to 30th Street Station through Drexel and Penn's campuses to 44th and Spruce. ....and what else do we have here?! Memphis Taproom is reporting another Hanssens tasty treat..the Oude Gueuze. This one on Boxing Day, December 26.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beer Photos for Prizes

It's the time of year when Alan McLeod of the excellent The Good Beer Blog hosts a photo contest. It's beer-related (no kidding) and the prizes that are donated to his contest are worth the time it will take you to dig out some pictures from your archives. You have until next Sunday, December 5 to submit pictures. It's a lot of fun to see how people like to feature beer in their photographic art. This year, Alan is asking for more beer and (in?) snow pictures. With the 80-ish inches that we had here in the Philadelphia area this past winter, I was easily able to dig out two pictures that I submitted. I'll bet you can probably do better. Link to the Contest Rules at The Good Beer Blog Enjoy!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Beer Calendar: What To Do in December 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas Beer Season around these parts, so remember, when in doubt, Give the Gift of Great Beer! That goes for selfish personal gifts as well as gifts for others :) 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 Thu. 11/25-Fri. 12/24 - Brauhaus Schmitz in the Christmas Village @City Hall, Philadelphia, PA (all day, every day; PAYG) Wed. 12/1 - Light our Fire @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 12/1 - Duvel Day @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 12/1 - Grand Opening @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA (11:00am-2:00am; PAYG) Thu. 12/2 - Tröegs Keep the Pint Night @Earth Bread + Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (4:30pm-8:30pm; PAYG) Thu. 12/2 - Russian River Night @Kite and Key, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG) Fri. 12/3 - Friday Night Sampling (Founders) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Fri. 12/3 - Lunch with Founders @Jose Pistolas, Philadelphia, PA (11:30am-2:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 12/7 - Exit 13 release party @P.O.P.E., Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 12/7 - Prisoner of Hell release and movie @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm; PAYG) Wed. 12/8 - Avery Brewing Night @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 12/10 - Christmas Spectacular @Kite and Key, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG) Fri. 12/10 - Mad Elf, Happy You Night @Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 12/10 - Friday Night Sampling (Holiday Spiced Beers) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Sat. 12/11 - Tripel 3 Ways @Nodding Head, Philadelphia, PA (3:00pm-6:00pm; PAYG) Tue. 12/14 - Barrel-aged Prince Myshkin release @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm; PAYG) Wed. 12/15 - Home Brew Holiday Swap @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG) Fri. 12/17 - Friday Night Sampling (Winter Warmer Beers) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Fri. 12/17 - Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Tapping @Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 12/23 - Christmas Kick the Keg Night @Local 44, Philadelphia, PA (9:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 12/24 & Sat. 12/25 - Celebrate Christmas with Tröegs @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG) Fri. 12/24 - It's A Charlie Brown Christmas @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-12:00am; PAYG) Philadelphia's close suburbs Wed. 12/1 - Bottled Reserves Tasting @Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ (5:00pm-8:00pm; Free) Thu. 12/2 & 12/9 & 12/16, Fri. 12/3 & 12/10 & 12/17 - Bottled Reserves Tasting @Iron Hill, North Wales, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free) Thu. 12/2 & 12/9 & 12/16, Fri. 12/3 & 12/10 & 12/17, Sat. 12/4 & 12/11 & 12/18 - Bottled Reserves Tasting @Iron Hill, West Chester, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free) Fri. 12/3 - Tröegs Holiday Tapping @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA (6:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 12/3 - Incubus Friday @Sly Fox, Phoenixville & Royersford, PA (all day; PAYG) Fri. 12/3 & 12/10 & 12/17 & 12/31, Sat. 12/4 & 12/11 & 12/18 - Bottled Reserves Tasting @Iron Hill, Wilmington, DE (5:00pm-9:00pm; Free) Sat. 12/4 - 7th Anniversary Party @TJs, Paoli, PA (12:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 12/9 - Ommegang Beer Sampling @Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free) Fri. 12/10 - 15th Anniversary Celebration @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA (all day; PAYG) Fri. 12/10, Sat. 12/18, Thu. 12/23 - Bottled Reserves Tasting @Iron Hill, Media, PA (with dinner; Free) Fri. 12/10 - Friday Night Tasting (Stoudt's Brewing) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Sat. 12/11 - Oy' to the World @Iron Hill, West Chester, PA (2:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG) Thu. 12/16 - Stone Beer Sampling @Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free) Thu. 12/16 - Blues Brews 'n' BBQ @Ron's Original, Exton, PA (PAYG) Thu. 12/16 - Brewery Promo Night (River Horse) @Issac Newton's, Newtown, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG) Fri. 12/17 - Friday Night Tasting (Svyturys and Grieskirchner) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free) Tue. 12/21 - The Grinch Drank Christmas @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA (4:00pm; PAYG) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Fri. 12/3 - Friday Night with Stoudt's Brewing @Blue Dog, Lansdale, PA (6:30pm; PAYG) Sat. 12/4 - Winter Warmers Tasting @Iron Hill, Lancaster, PA (12:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 12/11 - Back in Black 3.0 @Union Jack's, Boyertown, PA (12:00pm; PAYG) Sat. 12/18 - Bottled Reserves Tasting @Iron Hill, Newark, DE (3:00pm-7:00pm; Free) Sat. 12/18 - The 12 Bells of Christmas @Union Jack's, Boyertown, PA (1:00pm; PAYG) Wed. 12/22 - Brew Crew Holiday Party @Stewart's Brewing Company, Bear, DE (6:30pm; PAYG) Events Over $20 Philadelphia Thu. 12/2 - Dogfish Head @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $65) Tue. 12/7 - Haandbryggeriert Beer Dinner @Fork and Barrel, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; $60) Wed. 12/8 - Winter Beer Wonderland @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $55) Sat. 12/11 - Beers & Steers with Roy Pitz Brewing @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA (2:00pm-6:00pm; $40) Tue. 12/14 - Holiday Dinner @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-10:00pm; $75) Tue. 12/14 - Yards and Betty Bring it Home @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $48) Thu. 12/16 - Tröegs Beer Dinner @Chifa Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; $65) Philadelphia's close suburbs Tue. 12/7 - Brewmaster's Fall Beer Dinner @Iron Hill, Phoenixville, PA (6:30pm; $65) Thu. 12/9 - Dock Street Beer Dinner @French Quarter Bistro, Royersford, PA ($45) Fri. 12/10 - Brewmaster's Breakfast @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA (10:00am; $35) Sat. 12/11 - Yards Beer Lunch @High Street Grill, Mt. Holly, NJ (12:00pm; $45) Sun. 12/12 - Brunch with Santa @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA (10:00am-2:00pm; $20/$10) Tue. 12/14 - Holiday Beer Dinner @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; $50) Wed. 12/15 - 12 Beers of Christmas Dinner @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $60) Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania Thu. 12/2 - Meet the Brewer Series (Victory) @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, PA (7:00pm-10:00pm; $55) Tue. 12/7 - Wild Game Beer Dinner @Union Barrel Works, Reamstown, PA (6:30pm; $40)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Two beers you'll likely never have...at least not this time around

This is going to be awkward. This is a bit of a departure from my standard m.o. since I've never been much of one to tell of beer that I've been gifted that you may never have the chance to drink. Unless there's a compelling story (i.e. something in it for you) to share with you about a beer, I often err more on the side of humble. Could be the less-showy Mennonite side of my family (you didn't know that, did you?) coming through, could be the local Quaker influence, could be.... Maybe that's why the beer deliveries from breweries have slowed over the years. I simply won't take a beer that shows up on my doorstep and write about it just because it did. The marketers don't seem to like that approach. Unless, of course, there's useful news that I feel is shareworthy...and from what I hear, I believe that many of you appreciate this philosophy. You'll need to look elsewhere if you want to read about the shiny box and packaging, the cute bottle opener, geegaws, and glassware, etc. Anyway, to the point Bryan....please....right? Case in point, this week seemed to be all about the barrels...at least at two leading area breweries with long histories--Dock Street and Victory. Both decided to do a little pre-Thanksgiving dabbling in special one-off releases and both seemed to have created quite a stir in the market. And, yes, they do represent beers that many of you will never have the opportunity to taste, or at least not the first run of the beers, if they should indeed come to a second batch. But, that's certainly putting the cart before the so-called horse. The Dock Street release of its Saison was much more limited in production than that of Victory's Dark Intrigue. First, to Dock Street. I stopped in Tuesday night and met up with some friends to share a table for pizzas and beers. As much as I was looking forward to the Saison release, the Bohemian Pilsner recipe specs seem to be right back to where I like them and two glasses of this pleasantly-hopped pilsner is exactly what a dish of pizza screams for at Dock Street. If you go to Dock Street have the stout, the porter, a Belgian-styled ale, of course, but make sure you leave room (preferably to start) for at least one glass of the pilsner. I think you'll agree that it continues, after all of these years, to be one of the region's finest (on the right day, I may even argue it as a contender for top 10 in the country, by style). Oops, another tangent, sorry about that. The Saison, yes the Saison. Until a polite, but direct, letter came through from Belgium's Brasserie Dupont claiming Dock Street's naming of this very limited, one-time only, beer was too close to their own for comfort, it had been known as Saison DuPotts (an homage to its maker, Ben Potts, yet alas striken from the record). So for now it is known simply as Dock Street Saison. No matter, the beer was 100% brettanomyces-fermented from a single cell found in the remains of a Fantôme bottle before being bottle-conditioned for final packaging. Some bottles made it out to Grey Lodge, some to Hawthornes, and some to The Foodery. A few of the remaining 42 bottles (3 1/2 cases of bottles in total) and a pin remained at Dock Street for their unveiling of this beer. That's it. The night appears to have worked out fairly well. I say well in the sense that the amount of beer available for sale was known, the price was set clearly and simply, and limits were reasonable. In fact, I think it could even have been argued, given the extreme limited amount released, that a one bottle limit would have also been reasonable. The beer, ah yes let's get to the beer already. According to my notes: A bit thin, apple and pear fruit notes, slight hint of lemon zest, pronounced apple brandy from the barrel-aging, and subtle brettanomyces funk define this beer at the current age. From the pin, the beer was a bit undercarbonated but didn't bother me too greatly. I was promised that in the bottle given to me for later enjoyment, the carbonation would not be an issue. Aside from the carbonation, I will be greatly interested to see how this beer further develops in the bottle 6-12 months from now. For however many disappointed craft beer lovers left Philly without a taste of this beer, the real uproar came in suburban Downingtown, home to world-class Victory. Here, on the other hand, details were a bit fuzzy, at times contradictory, leading up to the highly-anticipated release of a beer six months in the making at this world-class brewery. The slightly-more-complicated pricing structure seemed to get lost a bit in translation between the bar, the retail shop, Facebook, and the press release and it created some bewilderment amongst customers. One of the seemingly more bizarre points of the pricing structure was the one that gave greater-than-usual discount for buying by the case, reducing the per bottle price by 33%-50%, depending upon if the single bottle was purchased from the bar or the retail store...yet, two other price points. With 80 cases available for sale at the brewery, it's not difficult to believe the reports that virtually no one walked out of the retail shop with anything less than a case. But then we get to the part of the story where we ask "who really needs that much beer"? Particularly in the world of craft beer and special one-off releases where, at least in beautiful memories of (long ago?) days gone by, it was not unusual to hear of good samaritan tales whereby beer lovers would sooner share the wealth with his/her fellow craft beer aficianado, lest they be accused of not respecting beer...or something to that effect. Now, granted, I can not say how many of the 80 cases that walked out the door were tagged for trading and secondary market selling of which I have very little patience for. On the other hand, I'm betting that there were a fair number of cases that went home with the designee in a group of friends who was later going to split up the case 2, 3, or 4 ways. Fine. But, if anyone walked by the long line of disappointed faces at the brewery and took all 12 bottles home to put on their shelf, simply because it made more economical sense and "the limit was 12, dude...I'm just playing by the rules; I didn't set the rules", then I say....seriously? Again, to the beer, ah yes, the beer. I arrived after my work day expecting to find a depleted amount of bottles available for sale, but still some on draft. I quickly learned that all 80 cases sold out in 45 minutes and that none had been put aside for the bar's draft service. Reportedly, the first person was in line just after 7:30am. Wait, did I say "to the beer"? Yes, what about the beer? Okay, here we go again. I was invited to stop by and have a taste of the Dark Intrigue with some other guests and the brewer/head barrel guy in charge, Frank Iosue. He got the go-ahead earlier this year to begin work with the barrels. What is Dark Intrigue? Simply, it's Victory's outstanding Storm King Stout aged for somewhere, I believe he said, around 97 days in Heaven Hill Kentucky Bourbon oak barrels. This beer is ready to drink now; if you are fortunate to have a taste or two, I would recommend taking the time. If you think the Storm King is too hoppy, you'll be pleased with how the barrel-aging has softened the Storm King's hop impact a bit. If you typically shy away from bourbon-influenced beers, don't worry, the Dark Intrigue features the wood and bourbon as a component of the beer, not a defining characteristic. Simply put, this is one of the more nicely balanced bourbon barrel-aged beers that I've tasted in a while. And, it's in the 10% ABV range, so you'll notice that warm, relaxing feeling in no time. That should come in handy as winter temperatures begin to creep in to the northeast. Great job to Frank Iosue, Clay Brackley, and the rest of the team responsible for putting this Dark Intrigue together. Trusting that Victory will iron out the sales and distribution issues related to this special one-off, this initial foray into the wood portends great things should they choose to include barrel-aged beers as part of their ongoing lineup of fine brews. So I said I'd only mention beers that I was fortunate enough to taste if I had a takeaway for you. Here they are: Takeaway #1: If you get a chance to try the Dock Street Saison some time next year from the bottle, you'll probably be in for a tasty delight. In the meantime, though, head to Dock Street...grab a pizza...a pilsner or two...and maybe a growler of something else to take home. Ben Potts, Justin Quinlan, and the whole crew are hitting on all cylinders as well as they ever have. Takeaway #2: With exclusive, special, one-off, super-duper releases, plan to be disappointed if you don't get the beer you were hoping for. Be disappointed, but don't be irrational. Remember, in this incredible age of craft brewing that we are currently enjoying, the next great beer is just around the corner. Patience, grasshopper! And, if you're one of the fortunate ones...share, don't hoard. Oh, and do call around...there is a limited amount of Dark Intrigue sure to show up on some of the better beer retail shelves. But, as "they" say, act quickly, supplies are limited. Happy Black Friday....which reminds me on one Final Takeaway (#3) of the day: The family of Memphis Taproom, Local 44, and Resurrection Ale House are all offering up a complimentary glass of whatever beer is currently on the beer engine when you go in to purchase a gift card during this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: November 25th-November 30th

December is going to be a pretty busy beer calendar. Plus, November was as crazy-busy a month for beer events around Philadelphia, particularly beer dinners, as I've seen since Philly Beer Week. So, this last week of November has just a few events, though I think you'll agree that it's hard to dismiss any of these as unworthy. Party on beerpeople. Check out the entire November 2010 calendar over here. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. Open for Thankgiving Night Decompression @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 11/25 - Thanksgiving Night (6:00pm; PAYG for a special Southern Tier Pumpking tapping) Tastings, Samplings, Promos, Characters, and just Plain ol' Fun @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 11/26 - Friday Night Sampling (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tastings of Long Trail Ale) @City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 11/26 - Black Friday with Avery Rumpkin (5:00pm; PAYG for some of Avery's best including: Rumpkin; White Rascal Wit; Ellie's Brown Ale; Hog Heaven Barleywine; DuganA Double IPA; and The Beast) And now for something a little, shall we say, more @Capone's Restaurant, Norristown, PA--- Fri. 11/26 - Black Friday Beers (9:00am; PAYG for more mind-blowing beers than you can probably handle...bring a driver) @Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 11/30 - St. Andrew Day (4:00pm; PAYG and choose from Scottish cuisine and a lot of Scottish beers and Scotch whiskys. Beers include: Brew Dog Dogma; Duck Rabbit Wee Heavy Scotch Ale; and Roy Pitz McKulick Scottish Red on tap. Brew Dog 5am Saint and Belhaven in bottles. More to come.) @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA--- Tue. 11/30 - Happy 30th Birthday to Sierra Nevada (PAYG as they pour all the Sierra Nevada products they can get their hands on) @Union Jack's Olde Congo Hotel, Barto, PA--- Sat. 11/27 - Hopsgiving (1:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for 11 taps of IPAs and Imperial IPAs including: Avery Maharajah ; Bear Republic Racer X; Blind Pig; Dogfish Head 90 Min; Great Divide Fresh Hop Ale; Green Flash Imperial; Nogne O; Pliny The Elder; Port High Tide; Port Hop 15; Rogue XS IPA; Southern Tier Unearthly; Stone Ruination; and Victory Hop Wallop)

Oh, so it isn't common knowledge that beer complements more foods than does wine?

I'd get into my own breakdown, but I've done that quite a bit in the past. And to be honest, I'm feeling a bit lazy today...not to mention heading over to Victory for a few nips of their new 'Dark Intrigue'. So it worked out quite nicely when I read the following piece that Iron Hill's Chris LaPierre put together this morning. His inclusion of quotes added a nice element to the argument. Go forth and read...then get those gueuzes and saisons chilled down for tomorrow's dinner. Your guests will thank you. "This Stuff Cracks Me Up!" by Chris LaPierre

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dock Street...pizza...saison...tonight

I'm going to the source tonight for some of their awesome hand-crafted and wood-fired pizzas and one of their very limited Brett-ed and Barrel-aged Dock Street Saison being released tonight. 50th and Baltimore in the Cedar Park neighborhood, the home of Dock Street Brewery to be precise. There's due to be a pin of it to serve on tap and a few take-home bottles available for sale. When the weather's nice, it's an enlivening walk from 30th Street Station to Dock Street Brewery. If you'd like to be dropped off at the front door without riding your bike, your longboard, or your car, you can take the '34' trolley across town from 13th/City Hall (or via a free transfer from the Market/Frankford El to the trolley at places like City Hall and 30th Street Station). There's a trolley stop immediately across Baltimore Avenue from the brewery. You say that you like the idea, but you don't want to go to the source? Three cases have made their way out to a few choice bars. Ben Potts, head brewer, provided the last of the series of clues that have been released via their website, Facebook ("dockstreetbeer"), and of course Twitter ("dockstreetbeer"). I tried singing this last clue to the tune of Downtown by Petula Clark, but it didn't quite work...and the dog covered his ears and ran away.
"One of our favorite beer spots Found in the city Head downtown OR to No Libs Where you'll find our bottles looking pretty."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dogfish Head & Discovery Channel's Brew Masters makes its TV debut

Last night on Discovery Channel, Brew Masters made its debut at 10pm eastern time. There will be four episodes in this inaugural season. From viewing the first episode on the topic of making the first batch of Bitches Brew (second batch released this month), signs are promising for more entertaining and informative material in the next three episodes. While the hardcore beer geek faction may claim that there's nothing new to learn from the show's first episode, having Sam Calagione speak first hand for his brewery and the industry is a very good thing for newcomers to craft beer...and I'm betting that even the beer curmudgeon can find some morsels of entertainment to be pulled from the show which runs one hour in duration. For the amount of storytelling and video, it's a good thing that the show is sixty minutes instead of thirty. It gives them a chance to tell the story without feeling rushed through it. If you can't find a re-run or DVR'ed version to watch, I can't seem to find a way to watch anything more than clips via Discovery Channel's website but do see it (obviously) floating around the file sharing universe for those more adventurous of you out there. Message: set your DVR.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sixpoint pops up more beer in Philly

(and then there were ten Sixpoint taps, all nicely lined up at your service)
I hear pop-up and, for some reason, MTV's pop-up videos of the 80s and 90s comes to mind...back when MTV actually played a role in musical pop culture. Yes, those were the days...but, I digress... Pop-up restaurants have become something of a recent novelty that seem to impress both restauranteurs and guests alike. Based on my unscientific and totally incomplete research, City Tap House is conducting the first known pop-up brewery this weekend in Philadelphia's University City neighoborhood. I stopped in last night for a media preview before heading off to Brauhaus Schmitz for an Aecht Schlenkerla beer dinner (which, by the way, was one of the most amazing beer events of the year here in Philadelphia...much more on this to come this weekend).
(from left: Dan, Sixpoint sales rep; Andy Farrell, City Tap House GM; Jeff Gorlechen, Sixpoint PR)
Andy Farrell, general manager, staged this preview event with Jeff Gorlechen and Dan (last name, please?) from Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery. During this upcoming weekend, brewery owner Shane Welch and at least another brewer will hang out in the private beer tasting room off to the side of the main bar area. That means that roughly half the brewery staff will be in Philadelphia at some point between last night and the next three days for this pop-up brewery event. Sunday sounds, perhaps, the most interesting when the Sixpoint guys will bridge the gap beteween commercial and home brewing with conversations that they will conduct with their homebrewing guests. As an added bennie, Sixpoint pints will be $4 on Sunday only. With the Beer 2.0 program up-and-running, the pop-up brewery concept getting underway this weekend, and routinely scheduled beer events, City Tap House appears to be settling into its flightplan for beer. Farrell's eventual plans include getting this popping up on a monthly basis. Tentatively planned upcoming pop-up brewery weekends include Stone, Dark Horse, and one more that's escaping me at the moment (maybe Andy will check in here and remind me. Suppose I could just call or email and avoid giving the impression that I'm losing my memory, but right now this seems easier!). By the way, if you do go, be sure to try one of the three exclusives, the Enterprise--a really tasty rye with cloves. Heck, try any or all ten beers if you'd like, but make sure that Enterprise is one of them.
(A variety of Sixpoint beers to please almost every palate)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Philly Beer Week Collaboration Raffle at McGillin's Olde Ale House

Pictures from the Philly Beer Week Collaboration at McGillin's

De Proef has brewed four Brewmaster's Collaboration Series beers in the past, one each with Tomme Arthur (Port), Jason Perkins (Allagash), John Mallett (Bell's), and Brian "Spike" Buckowski (Terrapin). For the 2011 version, Philly Beer Week Executive Director Don Russell took an idea to Alan Shapiro of SBS-Imports (the annual liaison between the brewery and the American brewers) and the planning of a PBW collaboration beer took off.

According to Russell, it only took a few beers worth of discussion with Alan and then pulling Tom Peters into the conversation to get the ball rolling on this very exciting idea for publicity and fundraising.

It's hard to tell if Mr. Curtin likes this idea or not, but I for one think it one of PBW's more ingenious ideas.

The idea seems to be a win for everyone. ~ De Proef is associated with the original and, arguably, most successful Beer Week ~ a local brewer gets his name attached to the beer and nationwide attention ~ a local beer drinker gets a free vacation and the chance to rub mash paddles with brewing celebrities (or do a lot of grunt work) ~ PBW raises money for its coffers ~ a good reason for a pre-PBW party in November at McGillin's.

Okay, so everything above was written prior to the PBW bash last night at McGillin's. We now know that the winning brewer was Brian O'Reilly from Sly Fox and he'll be accompanied to Belgium in February by Jason Kramer to brew their concept of a porter with Dirk Naudts of the famed De Proef Brouwerij near the town of Gent.

The crowd was almost wall-to-wall in the upstairs room of McGillin's last night and they came from near and far to party and for a chance to win the trip to Belgium.

Brewers were there. Owners, too. Reps, distributors, homebrewers, fans, and other hoperati were as well. "Regulars" from Hulmeville to Grey Lodge to Teresa's Next Door descended upon the historic McGillin's. An early estimate shows close to 1,000 ballots in the ballot box. Final counts and total dollars raised will be available by the end of the week.

Everyone was there, well, except for not only the winning brewer but the winning entrant too, which made for a bit of an anticlimatic ending to the event. Apparently Kramer submitted his absentee ballot via the mail and the system certainly worked out for him.
If you'd like to see a 4 minute clip of the drawing and announcement, check out the video and just picture the joy on Kramer's and O'Reilly's faces.

The competition was formidable amongst the eligible brewers listed below: - Ben Potts (Dock Street) - Bob Barrar (Iron Hill-Media) - Bill Covaleski (Victory) - Bill Moore (Lancaster) - Brett Kintzer (Stoudt’s) - Brian O’Reilly (Sly Fox) - Casey Hughes (Flying Fish) - Chris Wilson (Weyerbacher) - Doug Marchakitus (Manayunk) - Gordon Grubb (Nodding Head) - Jon Carpenter (Dogfish Head) - Rob Pfeiffer (Twin Lakes) - Tom Kehoe (Yards)

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: November 18th-November 24th

Right on up through Thanksgiving Eve, we've got some quality beer events happening on a nightly basis for the next week. But, then again, what else is new? Check out the entire November 2010 calendar over here. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. Tastings, Samplings, Promos, Characters, and just Plain ol' Fun

@Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 11/19 - Friday Night Sampling (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Tröegs)

@Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 11/18 - Victory Brewing Night (7:00pm; PAYG for Yakima Glory, Harvest Ale, and Golden Monkey on tap and Storm King Stout on cask)

@Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 11/23 - All-Brett Bottle-Conditioned Saison Release Party (6:30pm; PAYG for one of only 42 bottles to be released at the brewery)

@Iron Hill, Lancaster, PA--- Fri. 11/19 - Bottled Reserve Tasting and Book Signing (5:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for special bottle tastings and a book release and signing from special guest, Lew Bryson)

@Stewart's Brewing Company, Bear, DE--- Fri. 11/19 - Delaware Draft Release of Flying Fish Exit 6 (5:00pm; PAYG to hang with Gordon Grubb of Nodding Head, Casey Hughes of Flying Fish, and host Ric Hoffman of Stewart's as they introduce Delaware to Exit 6)

@Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA--- Thu. 11/18 - Duvel Beer Sampling (6:00pm; Free tasting samples of this Belgian standard)

Tastings bordering on the rare and esoteric

@Fork and Barrel, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 11/18 - Epic/Rare Beer and Cheese tasting (6:30pm; $65 for a structured sampling of approximately 10 beers, snacks will be served as well)

@Iron Hill, Media, PA--- Sat. 11/20 - Pucker Up! (2:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG for 8 rare sour beers from 6 Iron Hill locations like: Wee Funky, Framboise de Hill, and Raspberry Torte from Media; Blackberry Saison from Wilmington; Saison de Sorachi from Lancaster; Cherry Dubbel from West Chester; Brett Tripel from Maple Shade; Barrel Aged Dubbel from North Wales)

International Flavor

@Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 11/18 - Aecht Schlenkerla Beer Dinner (7:00pm-10:00pm; $65 for a four-course meal featuring 6 Schlenkerla beers including: Rauchbier Weizen; Helles Lagerbier; Rauchbier Märzen; Eiche (Oak Smoke) from both the bottle and a wood-clad gravity-poured keg; and Rauchbier Urbock)

@Fork and Barrel, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 11/24 - Rare Firkin from Italy (PAYG)

@Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 11/23 - Leifmans Returns to the U.S. (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for the classic Belgian Gouden Band, plus two additional beers)

@Tap and Table, Emmaus, PA--- Fri. 11/19 - Aecht Schlenkerla (7:00pm; $TBD for a four-course meal featuring 6 Schlenkerla beers including: Rauchbier Weizen; Helles Lagerbier; Rauchbier Märzen; Eiche (Oak Smoke) from both the bottle and a wood-clad gravity-poured keg; and Rauchbier Urbock)

Two more beer dinners

@Chifa Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 11/18 - Iron Hill Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $65 for a four-course meal paired with Rising Sun IPA, Victoria's Bitter, Pig Iron Porter, and Weizenbock)

@Ron's Original, Exton, PA--- Thu. 11/18 - Blues Brews 'n' BBQ (PAYG for beers at Ron's and BBQ from Ron's)

The beginning of a cool series?

@City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 11/19-Sun. 11/21 - Pop-Up Brewery (all weekend; PAYG for the kickoff of a new concept. This first installment includes a visit from Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery and seven of its brews plus three debut exclusives for Philadelphia. Sunday features a homebrewing Q&A with brewers and owner, Shane Welch.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Iron Hill beer dinners aplenty

(The empty dining room, with a quiet brew house as an appropriate backdrop, awaits close to 40 beer dinner guests)
Quail and its eggs must come cheap these days. For the fourth beer dinner in the past three weeks, quail has been featured on a plate in front of me. For three of these dinners, it was quail egg(s) sliced open and presented a few different ways as an opening course. But, no worries, my little bit of research says that these small wonders have a relatively decent pouch of nutrition that they pack and only "good" cholesterol, none of the "bad"....or, so they say.
(A brown ale and Rogue smoked blue cheese got things off to a smooth and tasty start)
(Gorgonzola and quail egg salad and its strong flavors went suitably with a dry-hopped German Pilsner)
(Iron Hill-North Wales brewer, Vince Desrosiers, and Sous Chef Tim Andrews)
Last night, I was a dinner guest of the Iron Hill North Wales location where Vince Desrosiers heads up the brew house. He formerly worked with Bob Barrar in Media; so, being the likable guy that he is, it wasn't surprising to see some current and former staff from Media show up in support of Vince and the North Wales crew. Former head beer guy at North Wales, Larry Horwitz (now at West Chester), and Paul Rutherford (Lancaster) were also in attendance. Quite a tight family, for sure. (Makes me wonder why I don't have people pictures of our table, maybe I'll link to one later over at Facebook where a lot of those sort of things seem to turn up.) I've been to a few Iron Hill beer dinners-slash-events and in keeping with the company standard, this one was excellent on most points as I expected going into the evening. Of course, the rush hour drive--not so excellent--is another story. In the spirit of keeping things short here and getting something out to you quickly--and sometimes, to be honest, I wonder how much beer dinner detail is really useful and meaningful to a majority of you--I'm going to hit on the main takeaways, followed by the complete menu. In a week where the acquisition news of brewpub "chains" Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch stole the headlines, our locally-based Iron Hill not-quite-a-chain of unique brew houses and kitchens churned out two high quality beer dinners on the same night...one with brewer Bob Barrar in Media and the one I attended in North Wales.
(Candle, barley...must be a beer dinner)
(The Scallop and Pancetta plate paired with the Oktoberfest brought a contented silence over the room)
(Squab, gnocchi, and chanterelles with an eye toward presentation)
To fill the time while awaiting the first course, we were treated to very nice brown ale that went with a standard bleu cheese from Rogue (the creamery, not the brewery). Then, any memories of the nicely dry-hopped German Pilsner and Gorgonzola/quail egg salad quickly gave way to the best food and beer pairing of the evening, that of the Oktoberfest and Scallops/Pancetta. The combination of flavors on the plate--sweet, salty, savory (umami)--worked magic on the palate and went very nicely with malty Oktoberfest. But, then...then, a couple of ounces of Vince's sorachi tripel was placed in front of me and the pairing went to the next level with hints of lemon being added to the mix. I missed the exact brand name of this beer, but it was still available on tap at the bar as of last night.
(Veal cheeks and Wee Heavy were way more than a wee awesome together)
(Vince tapping the cask of Coffee-infused Russian Imperial Stout)
I believe I'll stick with my initial assessment of the second course being the best pairing of the dinner, but during the ride home I couldn't stop thinking about the veal cheeks and the Wee Heavy. The veal had been cooking for close to 12 hours resulting in an ever-so-tender plate of meat paired with a delightfully not-too-peaty Wee Heavy. Vince mentioned the cherrywood smoking of the malt and how this beer has continued to change and improve since it was first served. Make a note: meat dish with slightly smoky, malty beer--perfection.
(The dessert course of mascarpone custard and Coffee Russian Imperial Stout served from the cask sent people home on a high note)
(Vince had an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his labor, too. He sat accompanied by, in the back of the picture, Tim and Steph Weber)
Chefs seem to have discovered that the dessert course is such an obvious place for beer to shine in beer dinners. With Executive Chef David Foster and Sous Chef Tim Andrews, this dinner was no exception. While at first glance I might have expected a smooth and slightly bitter barleywine to accompany the mascarpone custard, it was instead a coffee stout that brought the bitterness to the table. It was served cask-conditioned and with its low carbonation (but, just enough, in my opinion) the flavors were able to shine brighter than usual. The keg was not finished, so there's a chance if you find yourself along route 309 today or tonight, that you find it sitting atop the bar waiting for you to help finish it. While I'm not sure the pairing came off exactly as I might have hoped, both the custard and beer individually were wonderful finishing touches to just-my-typical-Tuesday-night-dinner.
(A curtain call for the kitchen staff)
(Vince worked the crowd like a pro)
1st Course Baby Arugula and Fennel Salad gorgonzola, candied walnuts, hard boiled quail egg, sweet onions and honey roasted beet vinaigrette Paired with German Pilsner 2nd Course Pan Seared Diver Scallops sweet carrot puree, pancetta, calimyrna fig-pistachio relish and port wine reduction Paired with Oktoberfest 3rd Course Tea Smoked Breast of Squab roasted pumpkin gnocchi, seasonal mushrooms, apple cider buerre blanc and red currant sauce Paired with Cannibal 4th Course Beer Braised Veal Cheeks cauliflower puree, sautéed chard, smoked cioppolini onion and natural jus Paired with Smoked Malt Wee Heavy 5th Course Mascarpone Custard In puff pastry with Russian Imperial Stout-molasses reduction and candied fennel Paired with Cask Russian Imperial Stout aged with coffee beans

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday to Sierra Nevada

Tonight's the night. Sierra Nevada blows out the candles on their 30th Anniversary cake. BeerAdvocate lists no less than 16 events taking place across the country--the list is likely much larger--tonight at bars celebrating one of the American craft brewing industry's older success stories. Locally, Fergie's Pub in Philly, Flanigan's Boathouse in Conshohocken, Hulmeville Inn in Hulmeville, the Iron Abbey in Horsham, and London Grill in Philly are all planning anniversary-themed events tonight. Also, recently around the area, The Drafting Room conducted a dinner two weeks ago and featured a whole lineup of beers, including three of the four anniversary beers. The fourth, Brewers Reserve or Grand Cru, showed up in time for TJs celebration this past weekend. The Estate and the Brewers Reserve have both since kicked; all other beers from the Saturday Night Special still remain as of this afternoon. Later this month, Teresa's Next Door in Wayne plans to do an event much in the same spirit as many of these others. Rattle 'n' Hum in NYC might, though, have the granddaddy of all Sierra events later this month on November 30th when they will reportedly feature at least 40 different Sierra beers...some, I'm betting that even the brewery has forgotten about. My challenge is still open for the SNBC distribution guys and local bars and distributors to try and match the Rattle 'n' Hum event. But, the real head on the celebration (like those two little word plays?) comes tonight in Chico at their home base where dining, drinking, and dancing will be the order of the night. If you need a little extra primer on Sierra Nevada, I've got two things for you: ~ Check out a longer piece that I wrote over in The Washington Times Communities section. ~ Check out a nice video compilation on the official Sierra30.com website. Complete with back stories and interviews with the guest brewers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: November 11th-November 17th

Why does the size of this list more resemble a monthly calendar of beer events? Come to think of it, it's probably larger than some states monthly complement of beer events. And, did someone go and proclaim 11/13 a beer holiday? At least six events are popping up on this calendar (sixteen, if you count every CBX stop), and I'm getting a feeling I'm probably missing one or two. 11/11 doesn't look too shabby of a day to go out and find a beer either. Many questions that can only be answered by getting out there and doing something. Go forth! Check out the entire November 2010 calendar over here. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. Tastings, Samplings, Promos, and just Plain ol' Fun @Capone's, Norristown, PA--- Thu. 11/11 - Fresh Hop Draft Promo (11:30am; PAYG for food specials and fresh, hoppy delights like Ballast Point Even Keel, Founders Harvest Ale (Firkin), Founders Harvest Ale, Philadelphia Brewing Harvest from the Hood, Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop, Prism Brewing Death March, Rogue Wet Hop IPA, Sierra Estate Harvest, Two Brothers Heavy Handed Fresh Hop IPA, Victory Harvest Ale, Victory Harvest Pils, and many more to follow) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA--- Fri. 11/12 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples from Lancaster Brewing) @Issac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 11/11 - Lew Bryson Book Signing (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for the book, the autograph, the laugh, and maybe a picture. They'll be putting many PA breweries on line in honor of Lew's PA Breweries book. Expect to see: Bethleham Rude Elf; Dock Street Hopgaarden; Erie Railbender; General Lafette Raspberry Mead; Lancaster Milk Stout; Philadelphia Brewing Company Newbold IPA; Sly Fox Rt 113 IPA; Tröegs Dreamweaver Wheat; Weyerbacher Merry Monks; Weyerbacher Mike; and Yards Bourbon Porter) @Issac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 11/11 - Brewery Promo Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for a night of Weyerbacher's best) @Jose Pistolas, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 11/15 - 10 Yards with Tom Kehoe (PAYG) @Nodding Head, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 11/13 - Wet Hop Cask Tasting (3:00pm; PAYG for Harvest Ale on the engine and Wet Chinook Double IPA, X, Hoppo Marx, BPA being poured via gravity) @The Belgian Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 11/17 - Get Lost with Lost Abbey and Port Brewing (PAYG for Lost Abbey's and Port Brewing's Avant Garde, Angel's Share, Carnevale, High Tide Fresh Hop, and Older Viscosity) @Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA--- Thu. 11/11 - Sierra Nevada Beer Sampling (6:00pm; Free tasting samples from Sierra Nevada) Festivals o' Fun @11 locations around Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 11/13 - Craft Beer Express (11:00am-9:00pm; $10 for the bus, then PAYG at 11 different establishments, each with their own themed events) @Canal Street Pub, Reading, PA--- Sat. 11/13 - Brewphoria (6:00pm-10:00pm; $35 covers beers from at least the following: Intercourse Brewing Company; Lancaster Brewing Company; Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery; Spring House Brewing Company; Stoudt's Brewery; Union Barrel Works; Weyerbacher Brewery; Yuengling Beer Company) @McGillin's, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 11/17 - Philly Beer Week Collaboration Reception (Win a Trip to Belgium) (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for beer and $5 raffle for a chance to win a trip with your favorite brewer to Belgium to create a collaboration beer at De Proef for PBW 2011) Not Quite big enough to be called a Festival, but still get their own category @2nd floor Cask Saloon at Fork and Barrel, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 11/17 - Stone Dogs! (7:00pm; $30) @High Street Grill, Mt. Holly, NJ--- Tue. 11/16 - Stump the Philly Beer Geek (7:00pm; PAYG for live music, $10 mussels, and the chance to win prizes for stumping the 2010 Philly Beer Geek, Steve Hawk) @Iron Hill, Newark, DE--- Sat. 11/13 - Cask and Ye Shall Receive-Cask Conditioned Hopfest (12:00pm; PAYG for "real ales" from Iron Hill, Yards, Flying Fish, Tröegs, Sly Fox, Stewart's, and Victory) @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA--- Sat. 11/13 - Harvest Beer Promotion (12:00pm; PAYG for beers of the fall harvest season like: Bear Republic Late Harvest Lager; Flying Dog Fresh Hop Ale; Founder's Harvest Ale; Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale; Harpoon 100 Barrel: Glacier Wet Hop; Philadelphia Brewing Harvest from the Hood; Port Brewing High Tide Fresh Hop; Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere; Southern Tier Harvest Ale; Terrapin So Fresh & So Green Green; Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA; Victory Harvest Ale; Weyerbacher Harvest Ale; and Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin (firkin)) @TJs, Paoli, PA--- Sat. 11/13 - Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary (4:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for Sierra Nevada's best including Sierra 30 #1 (Fritz & Ken's Imperial Stout), Sierra 30 #2 (Charlie, Fred & Ken's Bock), Sierra 30 #3 (Jack & Ken's Barleywine), Sierra 30 #4 (A blend of Oak Aged Bigfoot, Celebration & Pale), Northern Hemisphere Harvest, Estate Homegrown Ale, Celebration Ale, Tumbler Autumn Brown, and of course Pale Ale) Food meets Beer meets Food, Bon Appetit @Hawthornes, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 11/14 - Imperial Pumpkin Beer Dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $50 for a four-course meal paired with Southern Tier Pumpking, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, River Horse Hipp-O-Latern, and Dogfish Punkin) @Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 11/13 - Stout & Chowder Festival (5:00pm-8:00pm; $40 gets you a commemorative glass mug, access to over ten "Burly Beer Stations" featuring all local breweries, a special breakout session showcasing pumpkin beers, and numerous hearty soups, stews, and chowders. Proceeds will benefit the Independence Seaport Museum.) @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA--- Wed. 11/17 - Trappist Chimay Beer Dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $60 for three Chimay beers (Premiere, Cinq Cents, and Grande Reserve) paired across five courses) @Iron Hill, North Wales, PA--- Tue. 11/16 - Winter Brewmaster's Dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $65 for a five-course meal paired with German Pilsner, Oktoberfest, Cannibal, Smoked Malt Wee Heavy, and Cask Russian Imperial Stout aged with coffee beans) @Iron Hill, Media, PA--- Tue. 11/16 - Brewmaster's Dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $65 for five-course meal paired with Honey Do Wit, Smokin’ Blonde, Wee Funky, Cherry Cordial, and English Barleywine) @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA--- Tue. 11/16 - New Holland Epicurean Extravaganza (PAYG to hang out with New Holland's Beer Ambassador, Dr. Joel Armato. He and the kitchen have assembled a seasonal, creative, inventive, and perhaps some rather irreverent pairings.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Still catching up, with some nuggets to share

While getting through a bunch of dirty laundry (literally) from our Great European Trip last month, I've not surprisingly continued to accumulate beer material that I feel compelled to share with you. And, while still working at getting around to writing and sharing all about the Beers on the Rhine (seriously, I am), I'm compelled to get this recent week's worth of activity out for you rather than queuing it up behind everything else. For starters, no sooner had we been back on terra firma for a couple of time zone readjustment days, we were headed off to sit down as guests of The Drafting Room for their Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Dinner Party. At the risk of doing this dinner a disservice, I'm not sure there's much different to say from the last TDR/Sierra dinner that we attended in November '09. (Or, maybe you think I'm in a rush to get through this...now, now.) Let's see, how did I describe it back in November '09?
  • "50-55 guests...Slightly raucous..." This time around? 60-ish guests, definitely raucous. We debated the concept of courtesy and rudeness at beer dinners such as these.
  • I discussed a "liberal, free-pouring" approach at beer dinners hosted by restaurants. At this dinner, it was not necessary as all beers were above 8% ABV, except for the first course which came in just merely a tick or two under 7% ABV.
  • Last year, I mentioned a surprise, that of "the baby brother of Limb & Life". The only real surprise this time around was the unfortunate absence of the originally-planned Anniversary #4 beer, the Sierra blended and oak-aged beer which was not ready from the brewery in time for this dinner.
  • Of course, I also described the "grand-daddy of the dinner---the dessert course". This year was no exception as the Belgian Chocolate Flourless Torte paired with the Fritz & Ken Imperial Stout (anniversary beer #1) shone brightly. Fortunately, the lights were not so bright as to draw attention to this beer guy dunking forkfuls of his chocolate dessert in the stout. Sheesh, you can't take some people anywhere, eh?
  • Finally, last year I wondered if TDR could "continue to pull off strings of $70 beer dinners and pack the house each time". The house was still packed for this year's dinner, though at a lower price, $59, than for last year's. Somehow, I don't think price really matters when it comes to a beer dinner of this caliber.
  • (Click here for a full gallery of pictures from The Drafting Room's Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner on 10/28)
    The very next night (obviously, making up for 17 MIA days around here), we made our way to Swift Half Pub in Philly's Northern Liberties neighborhood for the first of a two-night 32nd birthday celebration for Flying Fish's brewer Casey Hughes. The event was called SuperFriends Beer Extravaganza and concluded the following night crosstown at Varga Bar. Casey was able to wrangle four sixtels of SuperFriends IPA away from his New York state brewing brethern. Earlier this year, you may recall me proclaiming this brett-laced IPA as one of my favorite of Ommegang's annual Belgium Comes To Cooperstown event. This was a beer that was brewed for New York City Beer Week by Hughes, Scott Vaccaro (Captain Lawrence), Jeff O'Neil & Eric Kugeman (Ithaca), Phil Leinhart (Ommegang), Phil Markowski (Southampton), and Steve Altimari (free agent, formerly of Valley Brewing in northern California). They took a portion of this batch and further aged it in French Oak (Chardonnay) barrels. Apparently, most has been dispersed and digested, save for a few bottles and sixtels here and there. In a remarkable feat of strength, Casey coerced these four sixtels (2 of each variety for each bar) into Pennsylvania for what will likely be the only ones of this initial batch of beer to make it to Pennsylvania for sale by legal means. (I say "initial"--not because I know anything, but--because we all know how these successful batches of beer tend to come around again somewhere down the road. In a side-by-side comparison, while I thought the additional barrel-aging added more flavors than was necessary, the original Superfriends was just as fabulously tasty as I'd remembered.
    (Click here for a full gallery of pictures from The SuperFriends event at Swift Half Pub on 10/29)
    The night at Swift Half was pleasantly attended and pleasantly enjoyed. From all unpublished accounts, the following night at Varga Bar was anything but tame. In keeping with my standards here, I will not name names simply for the sake of incrimination or embarrassment. If anyone else would like to, have at it :) Rounding out our first week back in the States, we had reservations at the famed Talula's Table in Kennett Square, Pa. While not necessarily a beer event, per se, it was a highly-anticipated dinner at this BYOB that is often called the toughest reservation in America. However, when dining with beer friends like Patrick & Tracy and Scott and Vickie, the night quickly becomes an event and the dinner, a beer dinner. The stash of beer we all supplied was impressive, of course not expecting to drink it all. So, while I won't turn this into a foodie review of Talula's with a course-by-course breakdown (zoom in on the picture at the gallery link below if you care to see each of the eight courses described in print), I will comment on the restaurant's reputation. Ever since this dining experience, I've been fond of saying to anyone that will listen something to the extent of "If you think customer service is dead or dying, then Talula's Table didn't get the notice." (Actually, I've also been saying that of the service aboard our riverboat cruise in Germany.) From the warm and easy welcome that we received, to the casual drinks and hors d'hoervres before dinner, to the friendly dinner banter between the restaurant staff and our table while we were dining in their kitchen, to the constant but unobtrusive plate and glassware service, to the unrushed farewell at the end of the evening, I can not imagine a more comfortable dining experience that I've had in recent memory. The dinner costs roughly $130 per person after all taxes and gratuities are added and it's not a stretch to say that dollar-for-course-for-service-for-dollar, this is a most reasonably-priced dining experience. The reservations must be made a year in advance. If you can...you should.
    (Click here for a full gallery of pictures from Talula's Table in Kennett Square)
    This last note almost did not make the cut. However, as my keen eye looks for little nuggets of beery goodness to share from almost every facet of life, I'm hard-pressed not to pass along this seemingly trivial piece of information. Almost everywhere I go these days, even if the restaurant/bar is not an acclaimed better beer bar, it seems that most everyone is catching on to the endless and wondrous sensory experience that beer can provide. Mercato was one of these places last Friday evening. It's a BYOB, but the staff took quite a liking interest in the beer that we brought. Though, when you realize that this Italian BYOB is a sister restaurant to Varga Bar just a couple of blocks down the street, it may lessen the surprise. That's it for now. Caught up? Not really, but more so than when I began this column.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    Saturday the Thirstless-teenth

    No one should go thirsty this Saturday the 13th. This coming Saturday will be a busy day across the Philadelphia region for beer events. As you'll see with tomorrow's weekly beer calendar that I publish, there are no less than eight beer events in and around the City on Saturday, 11/13. Really, it's eighteen when you add all of the individual events that comprise the Craft Beer Express. (And, there's probably another one or two that I'm missing that I'm sure you good readers will help to fill me in on, right?) >>> The big one is the Craft Beer Express in Philly. With 11 participating establishments and a steady flow of buses (was it 7 or 8 buses that I was told?) linking them all together, it should be a fine day. Plus, the weather should cooperate much more nicely than it did back in March during the first incarnation of this idea. Here's a quick rundown of who's doing what during the 10 hours of buses, beers, and bars. Ten dollars gets you on the bus; after that, it's PAYG at every bar along the way.
  • Kraftwork: 20 Beers from B.United and the sweet sounds Damon Bennett's Jazzsoul Experience
  • Johnny Brenda's: The Wet Hop Rodeo, A round up of local & national wet hoped beers
  • Standard Tap: Imperial Pageant, An orgy of excess and power in a glass.
  • The Institute: The Power Of The Darks Side, Stout & Porter event featuring Brewers & Owners
  • Bishop's Collar: Southern Tier Invades The North East
  • Kite & Key: A.A.A. (Almighty, Afternoon of Allagash)
  • Jose Pistolas: Big Bold Barleywine & Live Blues
  • Sidecar: Discoteque & Brothel, featuring Bell's Jazz series brews & The Sidecar Jazz Quartet
  • P.O.P.E.: Dogfish Head Dominates The P.O.P.E., featuring the Randell 3.0
  • Devil's Den: Stockertown Beverage Supplies Sudds, special tapping of Founders Nemesis
  • Brauhaus Schmitz: still T.B.A.
  • >>> Along the Delaware River at Penn's Landing's Independence Seaport Museum, Rolling Barrel Events is hosting its first annual Stout & Chowder Festival from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. For a $40 admission, in their words you can expect "over ten 'Burly Beer Stations' featuring all local breweries, a special breakout session showcasing pumpkin beers, and numerous hearty soups, stews and chowders. Proceeds will also benefit the Independence Seaport Museum." >>> Back in the heart of Center City, Nodding Head is throwing 4 of their wet-hopped beers on the bar and one on the beer engine at 3 p.m. Harvest Ale on the hand pump and Wet Chinook Double IPA, X, Hoppo Marx, and BPA all on the bar top served via the lovely forces of gravity. The tasting event is PAYG. >>> Moving out from the City, first up is TJs in Paoli where they will be helping Sierra Nevada with its ongoing 30th Anniversary Celebration. All four anniversary beers are due to be on tap. Plus the Northern Hemisphere Harvest. Plus the Estate Homegrown Ale. Plus the Celebration Ale. Plus the Tumbler Autumn Brown. And, plus the Pale Ale. How's that for an all-growed-up 30 year old brewing company? This is an all-day event (and, PAYG) with nothing necessarily special planned at any given time. Just a lot of great beer (and some rather rare ones, too) served until it kicks which will be sooner for some than others, I'm sure. >>> Just a keg's throw away in Exton, The Drafting Room is conducting a seasonally-appropriate Harvest Beer event. Expect such fresh and hoppy beers from Bear Republic, Flying Dog, Founders, Great Divide, Harpoon, Philadelphia Brewing, Port Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Southern Tier, Terrapin, Tröegs, Two Brothers, Victory, and Weyerbacher. This also is a PAYG all-day affair, so come and go as you please. >>> Stretching farther to the west, downtown Reading's Canal Street Pub is hosting the 8th Brewphoria festival. Admission is $35, the event runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and you can expect a beer tasting and exhibition featuring local and regional brewers with live music being provided by The Youngers. >>> Down "south", Iron Hill's Justin Sproul and his Newark location are throwing a delightful-looking cask ale festival. It begins at noon, is PAYG, and is expected to showcase "real ale" from Iron Hill, Yards, Flying Fish, Tröegs, Sly Fox, Stewart's, and Victory. >>> And, finally, stretching the Pennsylvania's Fertile Crescent of Beer to its outer limits in Harrisburg, Pa., the Expo Hall at The State Farm Show Arena is playing host to an event called PA Flavor: A Food & Beer Expo of which I know very little but have picked up some tidbits from the Web. It lasts from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and promises up to 40 Pennsylvania breweries, 60 Pennsylvania food producers, and 20 Pennsylvania restaurants. Attendees can expect two-ounce samples of close to 100 different beers. All proceeds from PA Flavor are reported to benefit the Pennsylvania Brewers Guild. You can't do them all. I promise you. Though, if you get a hired driver, there's the ever-so-slim chance that you could pull it off. If I dared you, I'm afraid someone might try it. So get out there....forget about the yardwork, ditch the wedding (unless it's yours), call off from your weekend job. Drink a few great beers, support your local economy, be safe, and enjoy!

    a Luca Brasi sighting in New Jersey

    I've learned my lesson trying to get to Iron Hill's New Jersey location one too many times. From where I begin, there's rarely a quick way through or around Philly to get to Maple Shade, NJ. Not for lack of wanting to be there, of course. The Iron Hill model is alive and well across the river. Fortunately, for me, I've got two close to me...one in Phoenixville and one West Chester. But, Luca Brasi's gonna be there tonight. How can an offer like that be refused?! No, not that Luca Brasi. This Luca Brasi. Iron Hill has a long track record of working with the homebrewing community. Chris LaPierre has been passing along wort and yeast to homebrewers in West Chester to bring the whole craft brewing industry full circle and now does the same in Maple Shade. He's taken the same philosophy to his New Jersey brewing outpost and is debuting the Luca Brasi beer tonight. It's a coffee stout "collaboration" beer brewed with local Maple Shade homebrewers Scott Davi and Jim Carruthers recent winners of the Iron Brewer competition. Check out the fun and informative video above (excellently produced by the BeerStainedLetter guy, Jeff Linkous); it'll give you all the details that you need. Then, head over to Iron Hill in Maple Shade to check out the beer tonight beginning at 7 p.m.

    Monday, November 08, 2010

    Whither The Khyber (Pass Pub)

    Ah, The Khyber. Just earlier this year I was finally teaching myself to fluently say, without stuttering or hesitation, The Khyber. Now, they've pulled a quickie on me and have reverted back, inserting Pass back on to their marquee again. For years, The Khyber Pass is how they were known and, for many, how they were continued to be called even after they later dropped Pass from their official name. In between all of this, ownership was preparing this summer to drop the live music venue and go 180° into a Japanese izakaya concept. Now comes The Khyber Pass Pub. Must admit, though, that this feels a lot more "right" than the izakaya idea. As an early Old City adopter of craft/micro beer and some of the city's more recognizable names passing behind the bar (see City Paper story for reference), it seems to make sense to see the return of what they are calling "first, finest and longest running beer bar...reasserting its claim to the throne of Philadelphia’s Best Beer Bar". 'Finest', 'throne', and 'best' are all their words and we shall see in the coming weeks and months. But, the early signs are good. They're talking about 20 rotating draft lines, a large selection of bottles, and two cask engines for beers available in glassware from a half pint to a pitcher. From the kitchen, the opening night menu will have some standard pub fare dotted with more interesting items like Cornmeal Crusted Gulf Oysters, Fried Green Tomatoes, Po-boys, and Memphis-style Fried Chicken. I was due to attend a preview party tonight as an invitee of the pub to discover the spruced up joint. However, unforeseen circumstances got in the way, so here I am at home sharing with you instead electronically without any first-hand evidence to offer. Unfortunately, unless they've squirreled away another more current website, it looks as if they haven't focused on this part of their marketing as of yet. Look for the doors to open for the public tomorrow night (Tuesday 11/9) and a grand opening celebration on Thursday, 11/18.

    Saturday, November 06, 2010

    Flying Fish, Next: the World

    Flying Fish took one great flying leap for Jersey-beerkind this week. Inking a deal with Total Wine, two tractor trailer loads headed out of Cherry Hill bound for VA, SC, GA, AZ, NV, & FL....with CA & NC to follow. Abbey Dubbel, Grand Cru, HopFish IPA, and the Exit Series to name the big ones. Or, in their words via Twitter: "VA, SC, GA, AZ, NV & FL: Flying Fish heading to you via Total Wines stores in those states. CA & NC to follow. http://bit.ly/cmHSiC" Find more info on their website.

    Friday, November 05, 2010

    While I was out, part 2.......

    My "local", TJs in Paoli, kept the home taps flowing while Patty and I were gallivanting abroad during the past month. Take, for example: - They've installed two new draft lines, bringing them to a total of 26. In an effort to keep up with the demanding thirsts of customers in search of great beer, they replaced a bottle cooler where they hid away such yellow water as Heineken, Amstel Light, Corona, and Miller High Life whose sales TJs has noticed dramatically drop over the last couple of years. In its place, they now have a direct-draw box that currently houses two new draft lines with the ability to add another four to ultimately bring them to a total of 30. Additionally, they're portable and can be wheeled outside should the need (e.g. the Paoli Blues Fest) arise. - They've invested (big time) in a draft (and message) board system that they have come to refer to as their "Digital Chalkboard". The board is hooked into their inventory system and displays plenty of information about each beer currently on tap including: name, description, location, price, and glassware. All of this on an easy-to-read chalkboard style display. In addition, promotional messages rotate through the boards as well. Terri's carpel tunnel symptoms should subside a bit now. See pictures below. - Randall Fridays continued. Last Friday, it was Ommegang's Three Philosopher's pushed through a Randall of cherries. Tonight, it will be Brooklyner Weisse with Banana Chips & Whole Cloves. TJs is preparing to celebrate its 7th anniversary (very hard to believe it's been seven years already) in December. By the way, have you not yet seen the tap list for the celebration? (Not much worthy there, you probably won't want to attend.) TJs began to put strong emphasis and dedication in to craft beer around five years ago. With constant attention to the industry and the marketplace and reinvesting in their business, it shouldn't be surprising to see them around seven years from now.
    (a view from afar)
    (a closer look)