Monday, January 31, 2011

Portland's Beer Scene has lost a legend

Don Younger, of Portland's Horse Brass Pub, passed away last night.

Though I've never met Don Younger, been to his pub, nor visited Portland, Oregon (one of my beer shortcomings), whenever a presence like his is lost, we all feel it. I've read of Don through the years and seen interviews with him. I'd always hoped the day would come when I'd be visiting Portland and get a chance to meet the man who helped create the fabric of the Portland Beer Scene and continue it thirty years on. For those of you who have, I'm sure you have special stories to share.

As much as it takes brewers to make the beer that fuels the industry, it takes publicans like Younger who help make it accessible to the masses. Hopefully, you are all fortunate enough to have your own Don Younger manning the taps in your neighborhood. We, like Portland, would all be better off if we did.

Cheers to Don's life and may he rest in peace. Observations also by Pete Brown,, via a BeerAdvocate forum posting, and earlier information from Jay Brooks. And, for additional reference, Imbibe Magazine has a nice profile of Don Younger on their site.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Belgium came to West Chester again this year to the delight of many

This year's installment went faster than ever, but faster does not always translate to better. Anyway, not much time for commentary, so I'll simply share a few random shots around the restaurant and brewery at this past weekend's Belgium Comes to West Chester event at Iron Hill. For more photos, check out West Chester Dish.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beer Calendar: What To Do in February 2011

If January's beer calendar even appeared a tick off the normal frenzied busyness of other months, then February and its 28 days is surely making up for it. In Philadelphia, it's all a warm-up for what is certain to be another Philly Beer Weekend bonanza in March. Oh, and get a load of all the PAYG, Free, and under $20 events--truly, something for everyone.

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

Tue. 2/1 - Movie Night (Fargo) @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (8:30pm; PAYG)
Tue. 2/1 - Stillwater Artisinal Ales Night @Eulogy Belgian Tavern, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/2 - Groundhog Day Hawaiian Shirt Beer Breakfast and Lucky Cat Beer Prognostication @The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (7:00am-12:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/3 - New Holland Night @Varga Bar, Philadelphia, PA (8:00pm-11:30pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/3 - Meet 'n' Eat (with New Holland's brewmaster John Haggerty) @Tria, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; $TBD)
Thu. 2/3 - Ballast Point Tower Takeover @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/4 - Friday Night Tasting (Ommegang) @Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 2/4 - Friday Night Tasting (Southern Tier) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Sat. 2/5 - Soul and Suds (with Fred & John from New Holland and Dr. Joel as DJ) @Kraftwork, Philadelphia, PA (9:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 2/5 - Vegan Wing Bowl 2011 & Cricket Hill Beer Special @The Abbaye, Philadelphia, PA (3:00pm-5:00pm; $10/$20)
Sun. 2/6 - New Holland Pre-Super Bowl Beer Brunch @South Philadelphia Tap Room, Philadelphia, PA (12:00pm-3:00pm; PAYG)
Sun. 2/6 - Super Bowl Sunday with foods and beers from Green Bay and Pittsburgh @Jose Pistolas, Philadelphia, PA (12:00pm; PAYG)
Mon. 2/7 - Mad Monday (with Jodi Stoudt and her beer) @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (11:30am; PAYG)
Tue. 2/8 - Movie Night (Sexy Beast) @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (8:30pm; PAYG)
Tue. 2/8 - Rock the Bells @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-12:00am; PAYG)
Wed. 2/9 - Ommegang Night @Old Eagle Tavern, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/9 - Odyssey Firkin @Standard Tap, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/9 - Bell's Tap Takeover Happy Hour @South Philadelphia Tap Room, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/10 - Jolly Pumpkin Night @Kite and Key, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG)
Fri. 2/11 - Friday Night Tasting (Sam Adams) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Fri. 2/11 - Keep the Glass Night (Yuengling Bock) @Hop Angel Brauhaus, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/11 - White Birch Brewery Night @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/11 - Friday Night Tasting (McSorley's) @Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Sat. 2/12 - The Kharma Factor (homebrew competition) @City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA (2:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 2/12 - Wood'ja @Nodding Head, Philadelphia, PA (3:00pm-6:00pm; PAYG)
Sun. 2/13 - Complimentary Yards Love Stout while you shop @Verde, Philadelphia, PA (12:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Mon. 2/14 - Valentine's with a Sexy Beast (special dinner and release event) @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (PAYG)
Wed. 2/16 - Victory Headwaters Pale Ale Release and Anniversary Party @Resurrection Ale House, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/16 - Ballast Point Night @McMenamin's, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Late Night with Joe Gunn, featuring Allagash's Rob Tod @Jose Pistolas, Philadelphia, PA (11:00pm-2:00am; PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Meet the brewer/owner: BFM's Jerome Rebetez @Fork & Barrel, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Weyerbacher Happy Hour @White Dog Café, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Kill the Cask Night (Yards) @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Ommegang and Chocolate Night @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Victory Headwaters Pale Ale Release and Anniversary Party @Kraftwork, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/18 - Shoot the Shit with Roy Pitz, Shoot Darts Too @The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (8:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (Sam Adams) @Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 2/18 - Lew Bryson Book Signing @Yards Brewing, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (Oskar Blues) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Mon. 2/21 - President's Day with The Founding Fathers @Old Eagle Tavern, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Mon. 2/21 - Monk's Mad Monday (with Sierra Nevada) @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (11:30am; PAYG)
Tue. 2/22 - Movie Night (Viewers Choice) @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (8:30pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/23 - Keep the Mug Night (Radeberger) @Hop Angel Brauhaus, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/23 - Beer and Cheese pairings (Sly Fox and Dogfish Head, Whole Foods) @Kite and Key, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/24 - Got an IPA itch? Let Tröegs Scratch You 4 Ways to Thursday @The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/24 - National Chili Day (featuring Bell's Brewery) @Jose Pistolas, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/25 - Friday Night Tasting (Victory) @Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 2/25 - Friday Night Tasting (Bear Republic) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Sat. 2/26 - Pinups and Porters (and Voodoo Brewery) @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-12:00am; PAYG)
Sun. 2/27 - Brunch with Lew @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (11:00am-2:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/25-Sun. 2/27 - Pop-Up Brewery: Fegley's Brew Works @City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; PAYG)
Sun. 2/27 - We're Getting Younger @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Mon. 2/28 - Monk's Mad Monday (with Russian River) @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (11:30am; PAYG)

Philadelphia's close suburbs
every Wednesday 1/12 through 3/16 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG)
every Thursday 1/13 through 3/17 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp @Sly Fox, Royersford, PA (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/2 - Sixpoint Brewery Night @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA (8:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/3 - Brewery Promo Night (Ballast Point) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (7:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/3 - First Thursday Beer Sampling @Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free)
Fri. 2/4 - Meet the Brewer (with New Holland Brewing's John Haggerty) @Iron Hill, West Chester, PA (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/4 - Polar Bear Party (on the patio with a cask of Winter Warmer) @Iron Hill, Media, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/4 - February Firkin Series (Imperial Red Ale) @Iron Hill, Media, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 2/5 - The Kharma Factor (homebrew competition) @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (2:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 2/9 - Chocolate Cherry Stout Release @Iron Hill, North Wales, PA (5:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/10 - Craft Ale Night (Bell's Brewery) @Pickering Creek Inn, Phoenixville, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/11 - Friday Night Sampling (Victory) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Fri. 2/11 - February Firkin Series (Bourbon Chocolate Pumpkin Ale) @Iron Hill, Media, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 2/12 - Bell's @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA (12:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 2/12 - British Invasion @Iron Hill, Phoenixville, PA (12:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG)
Tue. 2/15 - 15th Anniversary Party @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA (all day and night; PAYG)
Tue. 2/15 - Tasty Tuesday Tap Takeover with Tröegs @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA (PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Sierra Nevada Tapping @Capone's Restaurant, Norristown, PA (11:30am; PAYG)
Fri. 2/18 - February Firkin Series (Noel vs. Smokin' Blonde) @Iron Hill, Media, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (Victory Headwaters Pale Ale) @Beer Yard, Wayne, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (Flying Fish) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4:30pm-6:30pm; Free)
Sat. 2/19 - Saturday Afternoon Tasting (Boxcar Brewing) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (1:00pm-3:00pm; Free)
Sun. 2/20 - Kaldi Kreme release @Iron Hill, West Chester, PA (12:00pm-2:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/25 - February Firkin Series (Mocha Porter) @Iron Hill, Media, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/25 - Friday Night Tasting (Flying Fish) @Goshen Beverage, West Chester, PA (4:30pm-6:30pm; Free)
Sat. 2/26 - Barrels, Bourbons, and Bugs @Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ (12:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG)
Sun. 2/27 - Chili Challenge @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA (12:00pm-3:00pm; PAYG)

Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania
Wed. 2/2 - Opening Night @St. Boniface Craft Brewing Company, Ephrata, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/3 - Charity Cask Night (with St. Valentine's Altbier to benefit the Greater Lehigh Valley MDA) @Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/4 - Friday Night with Tröegs Brewery @Blue Dog, Lansdale, PA (6:30pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/4 - Meet the Brewery Night @Washington House, Sellersville, PA (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
RESCHEDULED TO Wed. 2/9 - Ground Dog Day @Craft Ale House, Limerick, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 2/10 - Tröegs Night @Canal Street Pub, Reading, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/11 - Chocolate Beer Craziness @Iron Hill, Lancaster, PA (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/11 - Bourbon Barrel-aged Insidious @all Fegley Brew Works locations, Allentown & Bethlehem, PA (PAYG)
Thu. 2/17 - Charity Cask Night (with Top o' the Mornin' breakfast stout) @Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 2/19 - Benefit Folk Festival @Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA (4:00pm-10:00pm; $10/$12/children under 12, free)
Mon. 2/21 - Hopslam Tapping @Craft Ale House, Limerick, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 2/25 - Polar Bear Party (on the patio with a cask of English Barleywine) @Iron Hill, Lancaster, PA (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 2/26 - Wood 2.0 Barrel-Aged Fest @Union Jack's on the Manatawny, Boyertown, PA (PAYG)
Sun. 2/27 - Under the Tuscan Sun: Bridal Fair and Event Extravaganza @Allentown Brew Works, Allentown, PA (11:00am-3:00pm; $5/$8)

Events Over $20

Tue. 2/1 - Glazen Toren Belgian Beer Dinner @Fork & Barrel, Philadelphia, PA ($65)
Mon. 2/7 - Yards Beer Dinner @Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-10:00pm; $50)
Tue. 2/8 - Lost Abbey Beer Dinner (with Tomme Arthur) @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; $75)
Wed. 2/9 - Brew Works Beer Dinner @White Dog Café, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm; $50)
Fri. 2/11 - Flying Fish Valentine's Beer Dinner @City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; $55)
Sat. 2/12 - Winter Beer Fest @Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA (1:00pm-5:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm; $10/$40/$50)
Mon. 2/14 - Love Day Monday Beer Dinner @Hawthorne Café, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $65)
Mon. 2/14 - Valentine's Day Cider Dinner @Fork & Barrel, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-10:00pm; $55)
Sat. 2/19 - Pork, Yards & Pints (PYP) @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA (2:00pm-6:00pm; $40)
Sun. 2/20 - Grilled Cheese and Beer Pairing @World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; $35)
Sat. 2/26 - Beats, Brews, and BBQ @World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA (12:00pm-5:00pm; $20/$45/$60)

Philadelphia's close suburbs
Sat. 2/5 - Main Line Beer, Wine & Food Festival @Desmond Hotel & Conference Center, Malvern, PA (12:00pm-3:30pm; $35/$40)
Wed. 2/16 - Wine versus Beer vertical dinner @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $60)
Wed. 2/16 & Thu. 2/17 - Five Course Beer Dinner @Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ (7:00pm; $65)
Wed. 2/23 - Victory 15th Anniversary Beer Dinner @Side Bar and Restaurant, West Chester, PA (6:45pm-10:00pm; $50)
Thu. 2/24 - Yards Beer Dinner @Wegmans, Malvern, PA (6:00pm-8:30pm; $35)

Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania
Wed. 2/9 - Chocolate and Beer Pairing @Iron Hill, Lancaster, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $25)
Sat. 2/19 - Friend Fest: A Beer and Wine Festival & Benefit @Beltzner Hall at the Kutztown Fairgrounds, Kutztown, PA (2:00pm-5:00pm, 6:00pm-9:00pm; $50/$35/$10)
Sat. 2/26 - Winter Beer Fest @Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA (7:00pm-11:00pm; $35)

Friday, January 28, 2011

SF Beer Week: the real San Francisco Treat

Mother Nature willing, I'll be in San Francisco three weeks from now getting ready to celebrate the kick-off of its Beer Week. Its schedule is shaping up quite nicely with nearly 300 events around the City and across to the East Bay in places like Hayward, Lafayette, Berkeley, and Oakland, to the north in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Healdsburg, and to the south in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and Santa Cruz.

On Sunday the 13th, I'll be co-hosting a 5-mile run with Brian Yaeger (Red, White, & Brew) and Derrick Peterman (Ramblings of a Beer Runner). We'll begin and end at one of the city's newest breweries, Social Kitchen & Brewery. SKB is operated by SFBW cohort, brewer, and Master Cicerone, Rich Higgins. At its location just off of Golden Gate Park, I'm quite anxious to see how they are ramping up after just a few quick months in business.

The run should be spectacular as it weaves its way through Golden Gate Park and in to the Haight/Ashbury District, with a peel-off point along the way for those looking for a shorter run, and back to SKB. Arrangements have been made for all runners to receive a $1 off each beer after returning from the run.

I'm already predicting that SKB's Kölsch will be my first post-run beer. Probably followed with some bites to eat and an IPA and an Altbier.

SFBW puts on a great display of Bay Area beer and bars and I'm expecting this year to be no different. Plus, the weather will be spectacular compared to what I leave behind on the East Coast.

I already hear that Rich from RichOnBeer will be there from Pennsylvania. Anyone else traveling from a significant distance to attend? Bay Area readers need not reply; you guys are gimmees :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: January 27 - January 31

January goes out with a bang on the beer event calendar in and around Philadelphia. Check out the entire January 2011 calendar over here. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. Tastings, samplings, parties, and festivals @Beer Heaven, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 1/28 - Beer Tasting (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free tasting samples of Philadelphia Brewing) @Kite & Key, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/27 - Firkin Jakes Birthday aka Birthday Celebration For Our Favorite Canadian (7:00pm; PAYG for Firkin of Love Stout, Bourbon Bart, and other tasty treats) Boot Camp, where only the strong survive @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- every Wednesday 1/12 through 3/16 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a night of beer, dinner, and live music) @Sly Fox, Royersford, PA--- every Thursday 1/13 through 3/17 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a night of beer, dinner, and live music) Beer and Food together, naturally @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 1/29 - 3rd Annualish Khyber Beer Chili Cook-off (1:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG) @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA--- Sun. 1/30 - Stout Beer Brunch (11:00am; $16.95 for a brunch buffet and a PAYG beer list including Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, Flying Fish Exit 13, Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, Nøgne Ø, Dark Horizon [first edition], Port Brewing Older Viscosity, Rogue Russian Imperial Stout ['09], Stoudt's Fat Dog, and Weyerbacher 15) @South Philadelphia Tap Room, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 1/30 - Beef and Beer 2011 (4:00pm-8:00pm; $50 for a gourmet menu by Chef Scott Schroeder featuring locally-raised beef and all the fixings along with firkins of beer like Dock Street's Dry-Hopped OMGPA, Dogfish Head's 75 Minute, Philadelphia Brewing's Shackamaximum, Sly Fox's Chester County Bitter and Robbie Burns, and Tröegs' Nugget Nectar) An event that stands alone @Iron Hill, West Chester, PA--- Sat. 1/29 - Belgium Comes to West Chester (12:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG for sour, funky, and otherwise interestingly strange Belgian-inspired brews from Iron Hill, Brooklyn Brewing, Cambridge Brewing, Devil’s Backbone, Dogfish Head, Flying Fish, Harpoon, Ithaca Beer Company, Manayunk Brewing, New Holland Brewing, Nodding Head, Sly Fox, Stewart’s, Stoudt’s, Tröegs, Victory, and Yards)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Brooklyn comes to Chifa

Chifa Restaurant in Philadelphia is leaving little doubt of its intention to serve up some of the Philadelphia region's most interesting and creative beer pairing dinners. Last week, Patty and I attended the Brooklyn Beer Dinner hosted by Iron Chef Jose Garces and Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. It was the largest and most ambitious beer dinner undertaking of Chifa's to date. After a delayed start, management and staff fell right into line and executed a nearly glitch-free dinner. Pictures and full menu follow below. My full review of the dinner can be found in The Communities section over at The Washington Times.
(dinner hosts: Jose Garces, left, and Garrett Oliver)
(The back dining room at Chifa's Brooklyn Beer Dinner on 1/20/11)
(180 glasses of Sorachi Aces on the wall)
(Garrett Oliver regaled the dinner guests between each of the courses)
(Jose Garces took time from the kitchen to meet with his dinner guests)
(Jose Garces with his dinner guests and Machu Picchu as a backdrop)
(Amuse-bouche Course: Hiramisa)
(First Course: Buffalo Tartare)
(Second Course: Quail and Chorizo)
(Third Course: Pork Ribs)
(Fourth Course: Venison)
(Dessert Course: Pound Cake)
(Dark beers and red hues were the order of the ambiance)
~Amuse~ Hiramisa with White Chocolate, persimmon, and red veined sorrel - paired with Sorachi Ace ~First Course~ Buffalo Tartare with Cacao Nibs, roasted baby beets, goat cheese, and beet chips - paired with Local 2 ~Second Course~ Quail with Chorizo, harissa mustard, potato and chantarelle escabeche, and dark chocolate demi - paired with East India Pale Ale ~Third Course~ Pork Ribs with Chocolate BBQ sauce, ginger-fennel orange slaw - paired with Dark Matter ~Fourth Course~ Venison, Chocolate-crusted with red chili tamale, mole, and macerated figs - paired with Black Chocolate Stout ['03] ~Dessert~ Pound Cake, beer-brushed with malted milk chocolate ice cream, chocolate coated frozen baby bananas, and waffle cone tuile - paired with Black Ops ['09]

My media invite must have been lost in the mail

"Can you do the two inside ones?" Boy, these guys were really milking it. And she sure looked super-thrilled to be there. This could actually be the Bud Light news of the year, y'think?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Know what else is great about Belgian beer in the Delaware Valley?

On the heels of a successful day at TJ's with a bevy of imported Belgian beer, several that many had never heard of from smaller less-known breweries, comes Iron Hill's regionally-inspired Belgian-style beer next Saturday. The eagerly-anticipated annual event in West Chester on 1/29 looks to probably be snow-free which virtually guarantees a packed house and beers that will kick even sooner than usual. I'd post the tap list here, but that'd be cheap. Especially considering that host brewer, Larry Horwitz, put all the effort into writing some insightful first-person descriptions for all the beers, arriving from Cambridge, Massachusetts (Cambridge Brewing) to Roseland, Virginia (Devil's Backbone) and most from our own backyards here in the Delaware Valley. Therefore, go check out the full list and writeup by Larry over on Iron Hill's site. I would try to tell you which I'm looking most forward to drinking next Saturday, but I'd likely be copying and pasting the entire list. I'm guessing you'll probably agree?

Run to stay warm...and drink Belgian beer at TJ's

It was cold, like 8 degrees wind-chill cold--fahrenheit, not celsius, for any of you unaware or not in the northeast this week. We ran, the five of us--two from Philly (Kevin and Eric, Fishtown Beer Runner superstars) and the two Steves from TJ's. The Belgians awaited. We ate, drank, laughed, and refueled some more. Best post-run beer on the tap list? Easily the 3.5% ABV Dupont Avril. The tastiest session beer and it maintains the distinctive Saison flavor. Jack would've been pleased. Big Dan showed up. We left. I watched the tap list throughout the evening to determine if we might make a second session trip back to TJ's Belgian Beer Paradise event for a De Dolles Oerbier or Dulle Teve. Not to be on this particular Saturday, though. Tomorrow, the weekday keg kicker special returns with spectacular $3 deals on the following (subject to availability, of course): Petrus Aged Pale; Sint Canarus Potteloereke; Brasserie de Cazeau Noel; TJ's 7th Anniversary Ale. Oh, and of what is left today according to TJ's real-time tap list, the following carry a consensus recommendation based on my own preferences as well as others that I heard around me. Gouden Carolus Grand Cru. Brasserie Ellezelloise Hercule Stout. Brasserie des Rocs Triple Imperiale. Brasserie Dupont Moinette Brune. Boon Kriek. La Rulles Tripel. De Dochter Finesse.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: January 20 - January 26

It's all beer all the time with at least one scheduled event somewhere in or around Philadelphia every day in the coming week. Check out the entire January 2011 calendar over here. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. Tastings, samplings, parties, and festivals @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 1/26 - Stillwater Night @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for Stateside Saison, Saison Darkly, and Existent) @Fork & Barrel's Cask Saloon, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/20 - Sly Fox Night (7:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for tastings from three different firkins of Sly Fox beer) @Island Pizza, Birdsboro, PA--- Fri. 1/21 - Meet the Brewer and Pint Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for two of Stoudt's beer on tap, five in the bottle, and Eddie Stoudt to talk shop) @Starlight Ballroom, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 1/22 - Winter Beer Fest (1:00pm-5:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm; $35/$40/$50 for unlimited free samples all session long from over 30 breweries) @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA--- Fri. 1/21 - Presenting Long Trail Brewing Co. (6:00pm; PAYG for a lineup due to include Brewmaster Coffee Stout, Brewmaster Imperial Porter, Brewmaster Imperial Red, Hibernator Scotch Ale, Pale Ale, Unfiltered IPA, Double Bag Strong Ale, and Long Trail Ale) Other big and fun tastings @Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 1/22 - The Trouble with Tripels II (11:00am; PAYG for a lineup due to include Allagash Tripel, Brew Works Triple, Dock Street Prisoner of Hell, Flying Fish Exit 4, River Horse Triplehorse, Stoudt's Abbey Tripel, Victory Golden Monkey, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, and more to be announced) @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- Fri. 1/21 - Bobbie Burns Birthday Bash (6:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a night of Gang Aft Agley Scotch Ale and Burns Scottish Ale, bagpiping, haggis, Celtic Rock, and more) @The Belgian Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 1/22 - Philadelphia Beer Experience – Fairmount Edition (11:30am-5:00pm; $35 and you'll get beers and snacks starting at The Belgian Café, then walking on to Jack’s Firehouse, London Grill, and Bridgid’s) @TJs, Paoli, PA--- Sat. 1/22 - Belgian Beer Paradise (12:00pm; PAYG for way too many fine Belgian beers to list) @Tria Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 1/21 - Beer 101 (6:30pm-8:00pm; $50 for a tasting, discussion with Jon Myerow, and cheese and light snacks) Boot Camp, where only the strong survive @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- every Wednesday 1/12 through 3/16 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a night of beer, dinner, and live music) @Sly Fox, Royersford, PA--- every Thursday 1/13 through 3/17 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a night of beer, dinner, and live music) Beer Dinners @Chifa Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/20 - Brooklyn Beer Dinner with Garrett Oliver (7:00pm; $85 for a six-course meal paired with Sorachi Ace, Local 2, East India Pale Ale, Dark Matter, Black Chocolate Stout ['03], and Black Ops ['09]) @Iron Hill, Wilmington, DE--- Wed. 1/26 - Brewmaster's Winter Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $60 for a five-course meal paired with Saison, Smokin' Blonde, Belgian Quadrupel, English Barleywine, and Afternoon Delight) @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 1/25 - Brooklyn Beer Dinner with Steve Hindy (7:00pm; $65 for a six-course meal paired with Local 1, Sorachi Ace, Local 2, Black Chocolate Stout, Monster ['01], and Black Ops)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Q&A with Jose Garces and Garrett Oliver

Ten years ago, Jose Garces was part of the growing Stephen Starr empire of Philadelphia restaurants. He was barely thirty years of age and was making a name for himself in the culinary world.

Not quite 40, Garces is now growing his own empire of restaurants in Philadelphia. In just the last five years, he has opened seven restaurants in the city and has been named Iron Chef on The Food Network, which he can count amongst numerous other accolades.

Ten years ago, Garrett Oliver was continuing to grow the Brooklyn Brewery reputation for well-crafted American beer and furthering his own reputation in the intersecting culinary world. He was in the midst of finalizing what many would come to call a hallmark book, The Brewmaster's Table, and traveling the world in search of great beer and food, spreading the message along the way.

Tomorrow night, January 20, 2011, these two larger-than-life figures in the world of food and beverage come together at Garces' Chifa Restaurant in Philadelphia to create a six-course, chocolate-themed dinner. This dinner was originally scheduled in August 2010. The postponement gave guests another five months to even more eagerly anticipate this dinner.

I recently had the opportunity to ask questions of both Garces and Oliver and the conversation follows below. Thanks to Jennie Hatton of Profile PR for facilitating this Q&A.

Check back next week for a full wrap-up of what promises to be a memorable dinner. Until then, you can check out the planned menu via this link. And, by the way, if you're thinking you'd like to still get in on this dinner, the restaurant has said that they began working a waiting list in light of a few cancellations--so, you may wish to call the restaurant.

Bryan Kolesar/The Brew Lounge: How much time did the two of you personally spend together constructing this dinner?
Jose Garces: I've wanted to collaborate with Brooklyn Brewery ever since we started our beer dinners at Chifa. In terms of menu planning and coordinating our schedules, it was a challenge to bring two such busy people together--it took several months to get everything lined up and settled on a date that worked for us both.

TBL: Do you have a history together or has this been the most you've worked together to-date? Where did the idea for this dinner event come from?
Jose: Philadelphia is a beer-loving town, and we've hosted a very successful series of beer dinners at Chifa, pairing our Latin-Asian cuisine with various craft beers, rather than wines, to introduce our guests to the delicious potential of artisanal beer and how beautifully it complements food. Brooklyn Brewery was a natural choice, both because they're located relatively nearby and because I've always been a fan of their beers. Garrett and I previously worked together on a successful, sold-out beer dinner at Amada, and I'm thrilled to work with him again.
Garrett Oliver: It happened pretty quickly by e-mail. Unusually, though, at our last beer dinner together at Amada, Jose spent almost the whole beer dinner at our table, which was nice.

TBL: Chocolate jumps out as an obvious theme in this dinner. Where did this particular inspiration come from?
Jose: Both Garrett and I use chocolate in unusual ways, and when we started conceptualizing the menu for this meal we found that we both had chocolate components in mind - so we ran with it as a theme from there.

TBL: Was there much taste-testing to prove out the concept?
Garrett: It wasn't necessary, because I've eaten at Chifa a number of times--I understand chef's approach to flavor.

TBL: Are there other inspirations/themes in the menu that we may not pick up on?
Jose: I think the driving influence behind the whole meal is coupling flavorful food with flavorful beer - exploring how they can highlight each others' tastes and make the meal more satisfying.

TBL: You've got quite a resume to your name and Garrett literally wrote the book on Beer and Food. There's quite an excitement leading up to this dinner. What are your expectations for the night as a whole? Is there a course that you expect to be a grand slam?
Jose: I think it's going to be a very special and delicious evening. It's always great to be able to interact with my guests and share interesting food and beverage pairings with them, and I think that having Garrett on hand will make it that much more exciting.

TBL: For you personally, where do your beverage tendencies fall or are you an equal opportunity imbiber?
Jose: As with food, I'm a fan of many different beverages, from craft beer to great wine to bourbon. What I drink on a given day depends on a lot of things, including what I'm having to eat (and what I need to get done that day!).

TBL: Garrett, regarding your book which is nearing ten years since its first printing, what gaps do you feel you've left in covering the subject and are you planning a follow-up?
Garrett: Right now I'm finishing up "The Oxford Companion to Beer" which will be published this year by Oxford University Press. It will cover 1,172 subjects, and I'm editor-in-chief. After that, I think I'll just make beer for a while.

TBL: Jose, you've begun building your own resume of beer dinners. Talk about the complexities of making a "collaborative" dinner like this happen. For example, challenges, lessons learned, etc.
Jose: I'm not always available to cook personally for our beer dinners, but my chef de cuisine, Natalie Maronski, and general manager, Marc Grika, are both beer lovers who do a tremendous job of facilitating these special meals. It can be tough logistically to coordinate with a brewer and select a particular date for their event, but it's always worth it to be able to bring in extraordinary products and create a menu that spotlights them. My team and I also put in extra time to make sure that each course pairs well with the beers that the brewer has chosen to share with us, but again--it's worth it to create a menu of fun, unusual dishes.

TBL: Can you name a beer that you find the most versatile in cooking?
Jose: It depends so much on what I'm cooking that I don't think I could name just one. I'd pair totally different beers with the tapas at Tinto than with the seasonal American plates at JG Domestic.

TBL: And, Garrett, you do numerous beer dinners every year around the country. How do you expect this one to be different than any in the past?
Garrett: I like the fact that we're doing almost tapas-like small plates. The chocolate theme is unique--I've never done that before, though I've done a lot of straight "beer and chocolate" tastings. And Jose's seasoning style is balanced, but really punchy.

TBL: Do you have a favorite, or most memorable, beer dinner to-date?
Garrett: After 700 beer dinners in 10 countries, that's pretty tough. Per Se was a highlight, as was Mathias Dahlgren (Grand Hotel, Stockholm) last year. Beer dinners can be hard to compare, though - we've done great beer dinners in small neighborhood restaurants too.

TBL: Along the same lines, do you have a can't-miss beer and food pairing recommendation for newbies?
Garrett: I wrote a 360-page book about that, and you want me to pick one?! Well, you're not going to go wrong with good smoked salmon, fresh cream cheese, good bread, and a nice Belgian-style witbier, I'll tell you that.

TBL: To what level of experience and/or interest do you have in the restaurant industry/commercial kitchens?
Garrett: I cook regularly in front of audiences, but I am not a trained chef and have never cooked for a living. Two of our brewers have, though, and we've started a series of dinners where three Brooklyn brewers cook a really serious meal for about 20 people, paired with our beers.

TBL: On the other hand, Jose, do you ever have conversations about a "house beer" brewed just for GRG restaurants?
Jose: Creating or collaborating on a "house beer" is something of a dream of mine, but it can be really tough, partly because the restaurants are all so different and the menus change seasonally.

It's definitely something I'd consider, and we've dipped our toes into that pool before, bringing in new or unusual beers that are only available in Philadelphia at our restaurants, such as Inedit, a Spanish beer that we debuted exclusively at Amada.

TBL: Where/how do you feel beer shines with food and stands apart from other beverages and where do you think beer comes up short?
Jose: The incredible diversity of beer styles and flavors means that there's almost always a spot-on pairing for any given dish. The challenge, as with wine, is finding the pairing that complements both the dish and the beverage and helps you to discover new aspects of them both, without overwhelming them.
Garrett: Beer does harmonious pairing better because it has a much wider range of flavor than other beverages, from light and lemony to heavily roasted. Beer can come up short against big concentrations of sugar and/or acid, which some wines can handle more easily.

TBL: Describe a major pet peeve of yours when it comes to matter of taste.
Jose: It drives me crazy when people insist that restaurants be hyper-formal places where fun is secondary to a thousand nit-picky steps of service.

We're serving food and drinks - effectively, we're throwing a party every night! - and it should be a fun, convivial affair that leaves people satisfied and happy. There's a time and a place for fine dining, but there's also a time and a place for simple, delicious food served by people who are happy to be doing so, and that's the kind of place where I'd like to eat. The kind of place where the substance of the meal (the food) isn't overshadowed by fussy details.

TBL: Are there other areas of creative dining where you feel either people in your own kitchen or guests in the dining room don't get it and you'd like to scream "why don't you get it?!"
Jose: I've been very fortunate in my career so far that my guests have pretty much always been willing to come along with me for the ride, so to speak, starting with tapas and small-plates-style dining at Amada and right up to our daily-changing menus and meticulous ingredient sourcing at JG Domestic.

Philadelphia is a terrific place to be a chef, because diners here are pretty well educated about food and very adventurous - they're eager to eat well, and that means they're generally eager to try new things and see if they'll like them.

TBL: Speaking of pet peeves, Garrett, how do you respond to something like "pairing beer and food is pretentious"?
Garrett: The very idea is of beer pairing being "pretentious" is absurd, because the purpose of pairing is pleasure. Pleasure is never pretentious--pleasure is elemental. And such a statement pre-supposes that all beer is supposed to be simple. I like my beer the way I like my food and my music--tailored to my mood at the time. Sometimes I want foie gras, sometimes I want a greasy slice of pizza. Beer is like that too--it's a human thing.

TBL: Has cooking with beer been a part of your training and, in turn, part of your tutelage of others? Or has it been more of a recent phenomenon that has made you and other restaurateurs and chefs take notice?
Jose: The current interest in craft beers has inspired me, but I've always looked at beer as a solid choice to complement a great meal.

There's such complexity of flavor there, and it's every bit as effective as wine in enhancing a dish and making different flavors come to the forefront.

TBL: Most beer dinners tend to showcase creative cuisine from the kitchen. Have you witnessed any beer dinners featuring, how shall we say, "everyday food for the common person" that helps people with how they can work with beer in their own home kitchen and food that they might normally prepare?
Garrett: That's exactly what we do when we cook dinner for people. We make some great dishes from scratch and really feature the ease of preparation. Sometimes the chef wants to show off his or her chops by making the beer dinner a fireworks display, but it doesn't have to be. There's a lot to be said for a perfectly cooked lamb chop.

TBL: Give us a glimpse into the last meal you ate.
Garrett: Last night was a beer dinner at Colicchio & Sons. Partridge, venison, turbot, scallops, Fosterkase cheese--it was pretty awesome!

TBL: And, Jose, what does a typical night look like in your home kitchen?
Jose: We love to cook at home, which people sometimes think is strange since I cook all day for a living. But it's a family affair in our house, and dinnertime is an opportunity for all of us to come together and create something delicious while spending time together, both preparing and eating the meal. Last night, my kids and I whipped up waffles for dinner - it's one of their favorite treats to have breakfast at night, and I love that they both enjoy preparing food with me, just as I did with my mother and grandmother growing up.

TBL: Thanks very much to both of you for taking time out for this in advance of the dinner. I probably speak for all your guests when I say that I'm looking forward to an enjoyable night.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Coming soon to Ambler...great beer at Forest & Main

The news is trickling around the webs, here's a link to their Facebook page where you can learn all about Gerard Olson's and Daniel Endicott's new endeavor, Forest & Main Brewing Company. See pictures, too. It's at the intersection, conveniently, by the same name and a couple of short blocks from the Ambler train station. You know what that means, right? Another stop on the R5 pub crawl from Doylestown to Downingtown.

Let's run this Saturday, then drink some great Belgian beer at TJs

Sitting here this morning under a blanket of snow, ice, sleet, and rain gets me to thinking of drier days like this coming Saturday. It might be short notice, but without even formally announcing it, I already have two other people interested in running up to 5 miles on Saturday around 10:30am in Paoli. We'd start and end at TJs, where close to 30 very good Belgian beers will be available on draft after 12 noon. So how about you? Sure, it'll be cold--maybe like around 20-25°F--but it looks to be a dry and invigorating run. so I know how many to expect.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: January 13 - January 19

And the beat goes on through this next week of frigid January here in the Philadelphia region. Grab a great beer and stay warm. Check out the entire January 2011 calendar over here. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. A tasting, a sampling, some freebies @Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/13 - GRID Magazine release and Yards Firkin Party (4:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for a firkin of Vanilla Love Stout and the new issue release of GRID Magazine) @Pickering Creek Inn, Phoenixville, PA--- Thu. 1/13 - Craft Beer Night (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for a selection of beers from California) @The Bottle Shop, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/13 - Beer Sampling (6:00pm; Free tasting samples from Victory) @The Irish Pol, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 1/19 - 2nd Annual Paul Bunyan Night (7:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a selection of beers from Maine) @Uno Chicago Grill, Exton, PA--- Tue. 1/18 - Pint Night/Keep the Glass (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for various beers from Victory) Beer and Food makes sense @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA--- Wed. 1/19 - Founders Beer Dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $50 for a five-course meal paired with Dry-Hopped Pale Ale, Centennial IPA, Breakfast Stout, Backwards Bastard, and Nemesis) @The Wishing Well, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 1/16 - Ommegang Beer Brunch (11:00am-3:30pm; $30 for four-course brunch paired with Hennepin, BPA, Three Philosophers, and Chocolate Indulgence) Boot Camp, where only the strong survive @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- every Wednesday 1/12 through 3/16 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a night of beer, dinner, and live music) @Sly Fox, Royersford, PA--- every Thursday 1/13 through 3/17 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for a night of beer, dinner, and live music) Big Fun with Big Specials @Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ--- Sat. 1/15 - Jersey's Finest Release Party (12:00pm; PAYG for a collaboration beer between Flying Fish and Iron Hill/Maple Shade made up of Luca Brasi, Exit 13, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, Flying Fish Grand Cru, and probably some other stuff from the kitchen sink) @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA--- Sat. 1/15 - Bottle Blowout (12:00pm; PAYG for 1/2 price bottles for much of their inventory. Plus a raffle drawing at 4pm for a salamanzar of Piraat) @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA--- Fri. 1/14-Sat. 1/15 - Presenting Stone Brewing Co. (6:00pm; PAYG for Lukcy Basartd, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Smoked Porter, and a firkin of Cali-Belgique paired with special food menu items from the kitchen) @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 1/15 - 2nd Annual Battle Royal (2:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for several brewery's beers from California including: North Coast, Ballast Point, Sierra Nevada, Stone, and Bear Republic) @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 1/17 - Yelp Movie Club (7:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for $3 pints from Fegley's Brew Works and a movie)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

San Francisco Beer Week 2011 countdown

It's back again and the schedule is finally up on the official website. Mother Nature willing, I'll be back there again this year. She interrupted my travel plans last year and I improvised here on the East Coast if you recall.

The 2nd Annual Run is due to take place on Sunday the 13th. I'll have a bit more to tell about this in coming days.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let it Snow, no worries, have a great beer

Some of my favorite memories of living in the City were from snow days. And beer. And, the two together. Like tonight, for example, where impromptu specials are popping up around town... City Tap House - Sam Adams Choc Bock tapping Monk's - Brooklyn Dinner reservation book opened this morning...maybe sold out by now, but worth a stop by just the same Resurrection Ale House - Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary beers, all $4 The Belgian Cafe - "Tuesday Festivus" Tria, Rittenhouse Sq. - "Drink and Eat Your Oatmeal", Terrapin Wake 'n' Bake (10oz) plus large cookie for $5.50 Tria, Washington Sq. - Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine, 5oz for $5 Though, World Cafe Live is closed. What? The bands are afraid to venture out in a little snow? Wonder what Rendell would say about that? Where else would I like to hang out in the City on a snowy day? Oh, I don't know. Places come to mind like Bridgid's, Standard Tap, Khyber Pass, Dock Street, For Pete's Sake, South Philly Tap Room, or trapped at the train station at Bridgewater's just to name a very few.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010: One guy's perspective

We're getting a bit late for 2010 retrospectives at this point. I'd put together a bunch of notes to share with Suzanne Woods for some of her year-end content that she was assembling for her various writing avenues.

She used a couple of snippets, but then I looked at my detailed wrapup of 2010 and figured it might be something worth sharing with all of you.

I hear many say that they maintain a blog first and foremost to serve as a journal for themselves. The writing I do is more for you, for the industry, and for the sake of documentation and communication as part of the so-called public record.

There's a lot here. Some of it was written quickly and concisely, but still it all adds up to a 10-15 minute read. Maybe you'll find interesting some of the things that stuck out to me over the course of the year. Maybe you'll have some of your own comments to add. It's not all-encompassing, but rather some of the more significant things that stood out to me.


>> Beer Dinners. Anymore, who's not doing one? They're doing them at breweries from Union Barrel Works in Lancaster County north to Brew Works in Allentown & Bethlehem south to Stewart's in Delaware east to New Jersey's Iron Hill and all around Philadelphia. Restaurants, particularly the high-end ones not traditionally known for their beer affinity, like Amada, Barclay Prime, Simon Pearce, La Terrasse, Chifa, Parc, Le Virtu, Savona, Alba, and georges' are getting in on the act as well. Whether the chefs are discovering the wonderful interplay between the beer and food menus or the owners are simply following the trends, a week doesn't go by anymore in or around Philadelphia where there are not at least a beer dinner or two to choose from. It's been interesting to note, by the way, how the "sweet spot" for these four-, five-, or six-course meals hovers right around $60 in the city and surrounding suburbs.

>> Beer Hunting. The more I travel, the less I seem to find to bring home. Or, maybe a better way to put this is...the more I travel, the harder that I need to search to find indigenous beers that I can't find at home. While buying local and eating local (locavoring, if you will) is a popular way to go, Pennsylvania has been a favorite place for breweries from afar, both large and small, to distribute to. In one way, it speaks to our region's wide palate appreciation for beers all across the beer spectrum. Take relative newcomers to brewing like St. Somewhere and The Bruery or older ones like Terrapin and Odell. These are breweries, particularly the first two, with output that should satisfy more of their immmediate region and beers that I would, in the past, enjoy picking up when I travel to bring home and share with friends. Sure, getting them fresh from the source is always preferred. But, when they get delivered to my store shelves instead and I can determine that they're not much worse for the travel, it takes a bit off luster off the hunting down of these beers when I travel.

>> An app for beer. More establishments are getting in on the online world. Old static websites, ha! Outdated "what's on tap" lists, phlooey! Rattle 'n' Hum in Manhattan was one of the first I noticed to have a mobile app that would serve up beer lists, directions, phone number, and events. Later in the year, my "local", TJs, went one step farther than anyone I've seen to-date. TJs has always been just a little farther out on the real-time information curve. Whether it was immediately changing chalkboards when a keg changed or constantly updating their website with food, beer, and other related information, they've always been just a bit obsessive about information and the communication of it. Now, they've integrated a "digital chalkboard" with all of the other technology that they've already got running. Now, the system automatically updates the various "chalkboards" around the bar with the click of a name, location, price, ABV, and even the preferred glassware is all listed clearly on the board. You'll have to see it to believe it. Yards and Dogfish are just two more that have recently got in on the web/mobile app bandwagon.

January Am still grinning at our decision to brave the road conditions for Iron Hill's annual Belgium Comes to West Chester. Two feet of snow didn't deter a largely local (and walking) crowd from turning out and drinking up all that was available during one of the Philly region's finest winter beer events. For several reasons, one of the most memorable.

February Mother Nature conspired with beer gods. My flight was delayed by four days, enough to keep me from San Francisco Beer Week. Not that they needed me, because the birthplace of American Craft Brewing puts on a mighty fine display of their regional beer....which makes it all the more disappointing to have missed. Good thing it's coming back around next month.

March I called it the "story of the year (to-date)" back in March. The Philly Beer Raids or some other such euphemism for what was one of the State's biggest (hm, how to describe with getting into expletives?) P.R. disasters in the world of alcohol regulation and enforcement in some time. The Memphis44Resurrection team got put through the ringer for a few months, but all seem to have come out fairly unscathed, if not a bit more perturbed with the system as-is today. Unfortunately, the "anonymous tipster" was never publicly identified and the system never really changed as a result. So, then, what was it all for? Perhaps, in light the timing of these raids and fallout, we can be glad that PBW was pushed back into June in 2010.

April Was in Omaha, Neb. and discovered that Upstream Brewing is not just a couple of people behind a table in Colorado at the GABF. They are a living, breathing full-fledged brewery/restaurant that pours a stable-full of good beer, included an amazing lineup of barrel-aged and vintage beer selections. All in one of the last places that a beer geek might think to look. Omaha for steaks, college baseball World Series, Warren Buffett..must also add Upstream Brewing.

May Discovered Meddlesome Moth in Dallas, Tx. Located in the coming-'round former swampland of the Market District and ownership ties to the Flying Saucer southern chain of beer bars, Meddlesome Moth was inspired by a visit to NYC's Spotted Pig. This trendy spot houses a lot of artwork from local artists, a menu of interesting food for both the foodie as well as the less-than-curious, and a beer lineup of roughly sixty very interesting beers from around the world with a very focused attention to the locals too. Speaking of new discoveries and mega/multi-tap houses, City Tap House opened with great fanfare in University City. Many wondered about their staying power. The tap lines still look good, the kitchen is doing fine, and the Beer 2.0 Tasting Notes hold a lot of promise for the über beer geek. Sly Fox debuted their new Phoenixville location in conjunction with the ever-more-popular Goat Races and Bock Festival. The weather was as uncomfortable (heat and humidity) as could be imagined for the first Sunday of May, both for the Broad Street Run and the Goat Races.

June Philly Beer Week, of course. The debate will rage on until at least June 2011 as to what constitutes the "right" calendaring, number of events, and rules for gaining entry. Nonetheless, PBW held up its end of the deal for the third straight year, positioning and showcasing the Philadelphia region as one of the best places in the country to make, sell, and drink beer.

July Had to wait until the end of July to proclaim the best of July. Though, in truth, it's a perennial claim as one of the best events of the year. Belgium Comes to Cooperstown. There's always a new find or two every year under the big top, but the real allure to this festival is how the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Then again, what is the "whole"? Sit around the campsite all weekend. Try to drink as many beers during the Saturday tasting event as possible. Dance the night away to live music. Watch the movies projected on the side of a brewery building. Go into town (Cooperstown) for the lake, the Baseball Hall of Fame, or a local bar or restaurant. Go campsite-wandering to taste and share beer amongst friends and strangers. Mingle with brewers from some of the country's best...a few Belgian brewers as well. Throw a disc, a football, a baseball. Play corn hole, washoes, horseshoes, or smashcan (is that what it's called?). The point is, the weekend could be fun enough to do one or two or all of these things. A world-class brewery being nestled in the foothills of the Adirondacks makes Ommegang a pretty special place to visit any time of the year. And, it's about to get a makeover, complete with a cafe.

August Stewart's in Delaware turned 15, yet another in a long list of local breweries turning 15 years old within a year or so of each other. Stewart's has a new chef and talked of a new menu to complement Ric Hoffman's excellent products coming from the brewhouse. Speaking of 15-year-olds, Victory got even bigger in 2010 with more and bigger fermenters to add to their growing brewhouse. In August, they unveiled Victory Village coffee porter, a beer that at the time I called "a contender for top 10 new beer of the year".

September On the topic of "where beer geeks might not think to look", if McKenzie Brew House is not getting (back) on the radars of regional beer hunters, then I think some compasses need to be adjusted. McKenzie Brew House wins again at GABF. Not to detract attention from other local breweries, but these wins (particularly 3 in 4 years for Saison Vautour) and my experiences at two beer dinners that they conducted this year prove that the brew house (Ryan Michaels and Gerard Olson) have something quite special going on.

October Took a riverboat cruise on the Rhine and Mosel rivers with Steve Beaumont who just so happened to be conducting a Beers on the Rhine program. The cruise lasted 13 days and went from Amsterdam, Holland to Basel, Switzerland. Drinking up the pub culture in beautiful Amsterdam was special. Finding a former abbey along the riverbank full of grapevines that now houses a brewery and restaurant, stealing away to a local brewery in lovely Heidelberg, sessioning it up in spectacular Cologne at a few of their amazing Kölsch houses were just a few of the many beery delights that we discovered along the way.

November The November 13th weekend beer calendar illustrates exactly what we around Philadelphia are referring to when we talk about it being such a rich place to make and drink great beer. Cask beers, wet hop beers, barleywines, stouts, beer and food pairings/dinners, special events/parties, brewer and owner events and festivals were designed to make this particular weekend one of the year's best.

December The holiday dinner at Monk's is usually a December highlight to look forward to every year. Tom Peters and staff generously put out a high-quality meal accentuated by some of the best beers his basement has to offer. I'll go out on an early limb and project it to be my favorite beer event of December. Though, the draft list for TJs 7th Anniversary event gave Monk's a good run for its money.

Looking forward to 2011. There's much to think of for this year, some of which will only reveal itself as the year progresses and some that will develop out of seemingly thin air. Here are a few random thoughts here in early January on things that I'll be looking forward to this year.

>> Speaking of beer dinners, Janaury will feature Garrett Oliver and Brooklyn Brewery at Chifa. A world-class chef with world-class beer and a guy who literally wrote the book (arguably, one of the most noteworthy on the topic) on beer and food pairings should make for a most memorable beer dinner.

>> Philly Beer Week. I won't exclude myself when I say that there was a fair amount of skepticism about the rescheduling (now, apparently permanent) of PBW from March to June after two highly successful March runs in '08 and '09. With breakout "Philly Beer Weekends" and 30 other Beer Weeks popping up around the country (not to mention that good beer is becoming more difficult NOT to find in some of the most unassuming places), it will be very interesting to see how PBW '10 plays out.

>> San Francisco Beer Week. Am planning to attend, hopefully atoning for missing last year's. Of course, I have a running/beer event planned as well. More on this later.

>> More 15th anniversary celebrations around the region. River Horse, Flying Fish, Climax, Basil T's, JJ Biting, and High Point in New Jersey. Iron Hill in Delaware. Victory, Bullfrog, Manayunk, Church Brew Works, and Selin's Grove in Pennsylvania. 1996 was also a good year for Southampton in New York and Brewer's Art, Brewer's Alley, and DuClaw in Maryland.

>> Continued evolution of laws regarding beer distribution in Pennsylvania. Break up the case law, it's just about the most sensible thing to do. Level the playing field for all retail beer sales.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Year-end Lost 'n' Found, part 4

Jay Brooks had, a few weeks back, linked to a Fox News Business report containing an interview with Sam Calagione about the Dogfish Head-based Brewmasters show on The Discovery Channel. Interviews with Calagione can be entertaining, but embedded within the confines of Fox News adds another interesting element as well. I recalled this little nugget that I had tucked away and not shared in December when I picked up on some online chatter about the status of the Brewmasters show which has not yet finished its first full season. Apparently, the last episode will air on some undisclosed date within the next few months. The status of any subsequent seasons is still undetermined, though Todd Alstrom at BeerAdvocate confirms the intended completion of the first season. The host seems quite taken with food, beer, and Sam so she makes it easy for him. Though, "It's becoming really cool to drink craft beer..." and "I think people prefer to drink craft beers than the Budweiser/Heineken..." seemed a bit odd to me, but that's just me nit-picking. The context and tone of the entire 9 minute video was more than appropriate and seemed to cast the industry, the brewery, and the show in a positive light. UPDATE: no sooner do I put this up and I see that Jack Curtin has linked to a Time Magazine profile of Dogfish and Sam Calagione. Guess we're all thinking DFH of late for some reason.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: January 6 - January 12

Unless I can't count my fingers correctly, it looks like 8 beer events going on throughout today in and around Philadelphia. Guess everyone's itching to throw their first beer event of the New Year? Check out the entire January 2011 calendar over here. If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know. How about we just say that there's a play-thora of stuff going on 1/6? (that'd be today) @Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - Charity Cask Night (5:00pm; PAYG to drink from the cask and support the Race for Adam Foundation) @Capone's Restaurant, Norristown, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - Hill Farmstead Draft Event #2 (11:30am; PAYG for five drafts from Hill Farmstead brewery all day long and Sales Rep Mike Ingrassia after 6pm) @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - The Dark Side of Duvel Moortgat (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for $1 off dark beers from Duvel Moortgat like Ommegang Adoration, Ommegang Cup O Kyndnes, Ommegang Three Philosophers, N'ice CHouffe, and Mardesous 8) @Earth Bread + Brewery, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - Presenting - des Trois Enfants (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for the Earth/Tired Hands/McKenzie collaboration beer along with other special brews) @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - Trubbel De Yards firkin (7:00pm-7:30pm; PAYG for a firkin that promises to go quickly) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - Brewery Promo Night (11:30am; PAYG for 2 to 3 Sixpoint brews on draft. Dan from Sixpoint will be on hand talking shop.) @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - Regional Spotlight: Colorado (6:00pm; PAYG for beers from Avery, Tommyknocker, Boulder, Oskar Blues, Great Divide, and more) @Ron's Original, Exton, PA--- Thu. 1/6 - Sam Adams Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $35 for four courses of food paired with Boston Lager, Black Lager, Noble Pils, and Cream Stout. Also, Old Fezziwig as an opener and Infinium as a post-dinner sampling.) And, here's everything else for the next week @Barbuzzo, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 1/12 - SlyDog Beer Dinner (seatings from 5:00pm-11:00pm; $55 for a five course meal paired with Sly Fox's Pikeland Pils and Saison Vos and Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA, Indian Brown, and Red & White) @Blue Dog, Lansdale, PA--- Fri. 1/7 - Friday Night with Dock Street Brewery (6:30pm; PAYG for a night with Dock Street beers) @Nodding Head, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 1/8 - Ice Capades (3:00pm-6:00pm; PAYG for three of our favorite brews done in an Eisbock style: Sledwrecker, BPA, and a barrel aged O'Tay) @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, PA--- every Wednesday 1/12 through 3/16 - St. Patrick's Day Boot Camp (5:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for the first of 10 weeks that culminates with a St. Patrick's Day celebration of music, food, and, of course, beer...and a raffle drawing for a trip to Ireland.)