Monday, February 28, 2011

Craft Beer Express '11, the itinerary

The Craft Beer Express on Saturday March 12.

This certainly has turned into quite "the thing". A bevy of bars banding together and putting on a day-long set of events all tied together with continually-running shuttle buses. I know quite a few people that will be using the bus and gunning to make all 12 establishments during the 10 hour span. I will employ our normal m.o. and pick 2-4 places that look most interesting and focus on a few quality hours instead.

That reminds me: shuttle buses. Something that I wish would be orchestrated during Philly Beer Week. I seem to recall that it was attempted in the first year, but was not successfully executed. I don't believe that it has been attempted since.

Buses can be expected out front of each bar roughly every 25 minutes and a bracelet for riding the bus costs $10 per person for unlimited rides from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The events below are listed in alphabetical order and bus riders will be able to begin their pub crawl at any location.

Bishop's Collar: Pouring some amazing beers from Unibroue. Tap list will include at least the following: Blanche de Chambly; Ephemere; Maudite; Terrible; and Trois Pistoles
Brauhaus Schmitz: "Operation Imitation." The best German beers that aren’t from Germany. At least 10 local craft German-style beers on draft.
Devil's Den: West Coast Extravaganza, featuring Russian River, Stone, Lagunitas, Lost Abbey, & Port Brewing
Johnny Brenda's: The 3rd Annual Stout Brunch & Smorgasbord
Jose Pistolas: Southern Tier Brewing & Live Music
Kite & Key: Barrels Of Bell's Brewing
Kraftwork: The Bella Vista Experience. Handpicked varieties from around the world.
P.O.P.E.: "Girls Day Out." Suzy from Sly Fox, Wendy from Dogfish Head, & Megan from Ommegang
Race Street Cafe: Great Lakes Brewing featuring Great Lakes Beers on draft, giveaways, and live music.
Sidecar: Annual IPAs Greatest Hits all weekend long. The top 30 IPAs available in the commonwealth
Standard Tap: Big Wood Weekend. All things Wood, Smoked & Barrel-aged
The Institute: The Beast Of Times The Wurst Of Times. Beastly Barelywines and kick-ass hotdogs and sausages for your eating and drinking enjoyment.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beer Calendar: What To Do in March 2011

Beer events in and around Philly during the month of February will be difficult to top. But, with the Craft Beer Express/Philly Beer Weekend jamming the second weekend of March full of events, it'll be a close call by the time the calendar hits 3/31.

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. 3/1 - Movie Night (Oscar Catch-Up) @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (8:30pm; PAYG)
Tue. 3/1 - Tapping Sixpoint Mad Scientist #2: Berseker Bock @The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 3/2 - Best Beer Day Ever @Local 44, Philadelphia, PA (10:30am; PAYG)
Thu. 3/3-Tue. 3/8 - Karneval @Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-11:00pm kick off on the 3/3/11; PAYG)
Fri. 3/4 - March Forth @The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/4 - Friday Night Tasting (Long Trail) @Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 3/4 - Friday Night Tasting (Beers of the Northwest) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Tue. 3/8 - Movie Night (Death Race 2000) @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA (8:30pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/11 - Friday Night Tasting (Unibroue) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Fri. 3/11 - Victory - 15 Beers for 15 Years @Hop Angel Brauhaus, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 3/12 - The Kharma Factor Finals (homebrew competition) @Yards Brewing, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 3/12 - Craft Beer Express @12 Participating Kick-Ass Beer Bars, Philadelphia, PA (11:00am-9:00pm; $10 bus ticket, then PAYG at each bar)
Rescheduled to Tue. 3/15 - Stone Brewing Night @Local 44, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/17 - Kill the Cask Night (Manayunk Brewing) @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/18 - Friday Night Tasting (Philadelphia Brewing) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Fri. 3/18 - Prism Night with a Side of Bacon @The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 3/19 - Tsar Power RIS Fest @Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA (11:00am-11:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/24 - Yards Promo @Earth Bread + Brewery, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/25 - Friday Night Tasting (Abita) @Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 3/25 - Friday Night Tasting (Springtime Beer) @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Sat. 3/26 - 2nd Annual Punk vs. Pop with PBC @The Institute, Philadelphia, PA (8:00pm-12:00am; PAYG)
Wed. 3/30 - Keep the Glass Night (Tucher) @Hop Angel Brauhaus, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 3/30 - Flying Fish Firkin @Standard Tap, Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)

Philadelphia's close suburbs (within 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
Tue. 3/1 - Tasty Tuesday is Hophead Day @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA (PAYG)
Wed. 3/2 - Sly Fox Brewery Night @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/3 - Sierra Nevada Night @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/3 - First Thursday Beer Sampling @Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free)
Fri. 3/4 - Firkin Friday (Imperial Red) @Iron Hill, Media, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Tue. 3/8 - Flying Fish Exit 9 Launch Party @PJ's Pour House, Westmont, NJ (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 3/9 - Tröegs Brewing Night @Fingers, Wings, and Other Things, Conshohocken, PA (6:30pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/10-Sun. 3/13 - Philadelphia Brewing Weekend @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA (PAYG)
Sat. 3/12 - 4th Annual Stone Brunch @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA (PAYG)
Thu. 3/24 - Flying Fish Beer Sampling @Pinocchio's, Media, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; Free & PAYG)

Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania (beyond 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
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)
Tue. 3/1 - Straight to the Point @Craft Ale House, Limerick, PA (6:00pm; PAYG)
Wed. 3/2 - Brewery Promo Night (Left Hand) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (7:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/3 - Charity Cask Night (with Hair O' The Dog Porter to benefit the Center for Animal Health & Welfare) @Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/4 - Friday Night Tasting (Victory) @Goshen Beverage, West Chester, PA (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 3/4 - Friday Night with River Horse Brewery @Blue Dog, Lansdale, PA (6:30pm; PAYG)
Sun. 3/6 - Nugget Nectar Beer Brunch @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA (11:00am; PAYG)
Wed. 3/9 - Founders Night @Station Taproom, Downingtown, PA (5:30pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/11 - Irish Invasion @Iron Hill, West Chester, PA (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/11 - Friday Night Sampling (Yards) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Fri. 3/11 - Friday Night Tasting (Philadelphia Brewing) @Goshen Beverage, West Chester, PA (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free)
Sat. 3/12 - HopFest @The Drafting Room, Exton, PA (12:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 3/12 - Bitter Rivalry: Clash of the IPAs @Iron Hill, North Wales, PA (1:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 3/12 - Phoenixville Pub Crawl @7 participating bars, Phoenixville, PA (12:00pm-6:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/17 - Charity Cask Night (with A Wee Bit O' Honey IPA to benefit the Center for Animal Health & Welfare) @Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA (5:00pm; PAYG)
Sat. 3/19 - Global Brewers Guild @TJ's, Paoli, PA (6:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG)
Fri. 3/25 - Friday Night Sampling (Stoudt's) @Exton Beverage, Exton, PA (4:00pm-7:00pm; Free)
Wed. 3/30 - Great Lakes and Sly Fox Throwdown @French Quarter Bistro, Royersford, PA (6:00-10:00pm; PAYG)
Thu. 3/31 - Brewery Promo Night (Harpoon) @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA (7:00pm; PAYG)

Events Over $20

Tue. 3/1 - Cheese, Beer, and Food Class (with Philadelphia Brewing and Jasper Hill Cheese) @Garces Trading Company, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-9:30pm; $65)
Sat. 3/5 - Philly Craft Beer Festival @Philadelphia Cruise Terminal, Philadelphia, PA (12:30pm-4:00pm, 6:00pm-9:30pm; $10/$46)
Wed. 3/9 - Blue Point Beer Dinner @White Dog, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm; $50)
Thu. 3/10 - Ommegang Beer Dinner @J.G. Domestic, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm; $75)
Sun. 3/13 - Brewer's Plate @Penn Museum, Philadelphia, PA (4:00pm-8:00pm; $45/$65/$125)
Thu. 3/17 - Beer and Cheese Celebration with Dock Street @DiBruno Bros., Philadelphia, PA (6:00pm-8:00pm; $30/$40)
Sun. 3/20 - Philadelphia Real Ale Invitational 2011 @Yards Brewing, Philadelphia, PA (1:00pm-5:00pm; $20/$50/$65)
Wed. 3/23 - Victory Beer Dinner @Barbuzzo, Philadelphia, PA (5:00pm-10:00pm; $TBD)
Thu. 3/24 - Stone Beer Dinner @Chifa Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:30pm; $75)
Thu. 3/24 - Beer Class: Monastic Beers @Trolley Car Diner, Deli, and Ice Cream Shoppe, Philadelphia, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $34)
Fri. 3/25 - Beer 101 (with Jon Myerow and Erin McLean) @Tria, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $50)
Wed. 3/30 - St. Feuillien (with Dominique Friart) @Tria, Philadelphia, PA (6:30pm-8:00pm; $55)

Philadelphia's close suburbs (within 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
Thu. 3/17 - 2nd Annual Celtic Beer Dinner @Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA (7:00pm-9:00pm; $50)

Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania (beyond 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
Fri. 3/4 - Celtic Beer Tasting @Washington House, Sellersville, PA ($59)
Tue. 3/8 - Fat Tuesday Beer Dinner @Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA (6:00pm; $50)
Thu. 3/24 - Samuel Smith Beer Dinner @Wegmans, Collegeville, PA (6:00pm-8:30pm; $35)
Sat. 3/26 - Great Allentown BrewWorks Festival @Allentown Brew Works, Allentown, PA (3:00pm-6:00pm; $10/$20+)
Sun. 3/27 - Beer Dinner @Station Taproom, Downingtown, PA (4:00pm; $TBD)
Tue. 3/29 - The Bruery Beer Dinner @Tap and Table, Emmaus, PA (7:00pm-11:00pm; $55)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stories of Victory at 15 years

Victory is pressing on into its 16th year quite nicely. And, they've become more "social" than ever, incorporating The Facebook, The Twitter, and all of that sort of stuff into its M.O.

I've particularly enjoyed some of the enlightening and informational videos that they've put together and hosted on its blog over the past year or so.

This most recent one is an entertaining look at the last fifteen years as told by a variety of "characters". I missed the anniversary party celebrations at Victory HQ in Downingtown while I was in San Francisco and am looking forward to catching up soon with some of the new Headwaters Pale Ale.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

By March 1, it will have been quite a string of 28 days.

It took until late in the month, but with the announcement of Monk's Mad Monday (and a pretty Mad one at that, considering the inclusion of a bunch of Russian River beer and the highly sought after Pliny the Younger) on this coming Monday the 28th, the Philadelphia region's beer calendar for the month of February had at least one scheduled event on every day of the month.

What this all means, who knows? But, as the keeper of these calendars, I thought it worth pointing out for some reason.

Well played, brewers and bar owners. Reps too; you all must be at least a little fatigued by this point.

Now let's march on to March. I hear the weekend of 3/11-3/13 is going to be pretty special. Remember last year?

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: February 24 - February 28

As February draws to a close and establishments gear up for Philly Beer Weekend in a couple of weeks (or Craft Beer Express, if you like), here is a listing of a mere 18 or so event listings in and around Philadelphia over the next 5 days.

Check out the entire February 2011 calendar over here.

If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know.

Tastings, samplings, and festivals
@Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/25 - Friday Night Tasting (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free tasting samples of Victory)

@Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/25 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Bear Republic)

@Goshen Beverage, West Chester, PA--- Fri. 2/25 - Friday Night Tasting (4:30pm-6:30pm; Free tasting samples of Flying Fish)

@The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/24 - Got an IPA itch? Let Tröegs Scratch You 4 Ways to Thursday (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for Scratches 37, 38, 39, & 40. Nugget Nectar too)

@Iron Hill, Lancaster, PA--- Fri. 2/25 - Polar Bear Party (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG to hang on the patio with a cask of English Barleywine)
@Iron Hill, Media, PA--- Fri. 2/25 - February Firkin Series (5:00pm; PAYG for a firkin of Mocha Porter goodness)

@Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA--- Sat. 2/26 - Winter Beer Fest (7:00pm-11:00pm; $35 for at least a dozen specialty aged beers and a dinner menu served from 7pm-9pm)

@World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 2/26 - Beats, Brews, and BBQ (12:00pm-5:00pm; $20/$45/$60 and currently sold out)

These seem to warrant its own category
@City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/25-Sun. 2/27 - Pop-Up Brewery: Fegley's Brew Works (7:00pm; PAYG to hang with brewers and staffers from the brewery, taste your favorite Brew Works beers and try some rarities, including Arctic Alchemy and Bourbon Barrel Aged Insidious)

@Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 2/27 - We're Getting Younger (5:00pm; PAYG for Pliny the Younger and other special treats; tickets must be paid for prior to 2/27)

@Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 2/28 - Monk's Mad Monday (11:30am-'til the beer runs dry; PAYG for Consecration, Damnation, Redemption, Sanctification, Temptation, Blind Pig, Pliny The Elder, and of course Pliny The Younger)

Now, for a little something different
@Allentown Brew Works, Allentown, PA--- Sun. 2/27 - Under the Tuscan Sun: Bridal Fair and Event Extravaganza (11:00am-3:00pm; $5/$8 to access bridal vendors and beer tastings on all three floors of ABW.)

@The Institute, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 2/26 - Pinups and Porters (and Voodoo Brewery) (6:00pm-12:00am; PAYG to hang out with tattoo artist, Staci Black, and Voodoo Brewer, Matt Allyn. At least six Voodoo beers will be available along with Pinup artwork (on paper) for sale)

@Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ--- Sat. 2/26 - Barrels, Bourbons, and Bugs (12:00pm-5:00pm; PAYG to drink with the critters on the other side of the Delaware River)

@Union Jack's on the Manatawny, Boyertown, PA--- Sat. 2/26 - Wood 2.0 Barrel-Aged Fest (PAYG for woody wonders like Allagash Confluence, Allagash Interlude, Allagash Odyssey, Avery Rumpkin (rum barrel), Bells Hell Hath No Fury (Bourbon Barrel), Dogfish Head Burton Baton, Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, Founders Nemesis, Laughing Dog The Dogfather (Bourbon Barrel), Lost Abbey Angels Share (Brandy barrel), Nebraska Hop God (Chardonnay barrel), Philadelphia Brewing Shackamaximum, and Port Brewing Older Viscosity)

The requisite beer and food category
@Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 2/27 - Brunch with Lew (11:00am-2:00pm; PAYG to talk beer with Lew and drink some specially-selected Pennsylvania-based beers)

@Jose Pistolas, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/24 - National Chili Day (5:00pm; PAYG to celebrate the Day of Chili and featuring Bell's Brewery)

@Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA--- Sun. 2/27 - Chili Challenge (12:00pm-3:00pm; PAYG to sample and help judge the internal staff chili cookoff)

@Wegmans, Malvern, PA--- Thu. 2/24 - Yards Beer Dinner (6:00pm-8:30pm; $35 for a four-course meal paired with Philadelphia Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Brawler, and George Washington Porter)

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)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

San Francisco Beer Week 2011 Wrap-Up

~ 169 Pictures from Days 1-5 of SFBW '11

~ 11 Videos from the 2nd Annual SF Beer Week Beer Run (try not to mind my heavy breathing from behind the camera!)

Words (too many to fit in Twitter)
~ Prelude and Day 1
~ Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4
~ Day 5 and Wrap-up

San Francisco Beer Week 2011, part 1

Five days in San Francisco would be enough to generate gobs of content for these Brew Lounge pages. Layer its third annual Beer Week into the mix, and I've got quite the dilemma with how and what to present back to you.

Writing, it turns out, is the relatively easier part — at least for me. After processing, editing, captioning, and uploading 11 videos and nearly 200 pictures, there are a few more grays in my beard and a few less last nerves.

Nonetheless, we persevere and move on. I've waffled on how to tell the story. Chronologically seems to make a lot of sense, not to mention easier. I could get creative with people and places, weaving stories in and out of each other. But, then I may never get this out to you. Plus, Philly's spring version of Philly Beer Weekend, aka Craft Beer Express et al, is coming up and I'm sure I'll spend some time around at least a few of those events.

Getting There
Let's jump right in to San Francisco Beer Week 2011. Mother Nature tried unsuccessfully to keep me from the Bay Area much like last year, but it turns out she just didn't have another 20 inch wallop in her this year. Any threat of a nor'easter coming up the coast didn't materialize. Patty and I were able to make it out of Philly to the West Coast with nary an incident.

So smooth was the trip that USAirways actually apologized for being almost an hour early to SFO and promised to "make up for it" on a future flight. Nothing could be closer to the truth, I'm sure, given their track record!

For anyone traveling to San Francisco for the first time, if you're heading downtown in the City and not renting a car, take heed. There's virtually no reason to take a cab from the airport. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) leaves the airport frequently and costs just a bit over $8 one-way per person. The trains do appear to have lost a little of their polish over the years, but it is still one of the more efficiently and intuitively run systems in the country. Sure, there could be better (read: any) service to Marin County and the North Bay, but what they do have to the other areas of the region seems to work quite well.

And, work very well it did for SF Beer Week and our plans. During our five days, we were able to go roundtrip from the airport to downtown and attend all of the events that I'll go on to describe here via BART trains, one bus, and two cabs for a total of $40 per person. But enough about public transportation. I believe that most of you "get it".

Friday 2/11
Upon landing, catching BART into the city, and getting checked in to our hotel (disclosure: Hotel Palomar was base camp for The Brew Lounge during this trip and for which I'll be doing some general travel writing about in an upcoming Washington Times Communities column), we headed off to lunch in the Mission District. This would be the trip to SF that would have us learn more about the Mission District than in previous trips. I've never done more in the Mission than simply head to the 16th Street BART station and walk the couple of blocks to Monk's Kettle.

Mission Pie, at 25th & Mission Streets just one long block from the 24th Street BART station, made Steak and Stout Pot Pies for SFBW. I envisioned some large vessel — a pin, a sixtel? — of beer being delivered to the restaurant. But, it only took two growlers of Thirsty Bear Koslov Stout to braise enough Niman Ranch beef for 90 pot pies. San Francisco's only organic brewery meets organic restaurant — perfect!

We ordered one of these SFBW pies and one chicken pot pie along with a couple of coffees to get us going. It turned out to be just what we needed to get through the afternoon. Excellent coffee and savory pot pies with tender meat and potatoes wrapped inside of firm pastry dough made for a satisfying lunch. Mission Pie is the kind of neighborhood gathering spot that will feed your stomach and your conscience. They practice all of the "good things" from sustainability, to organic, to locally-sourced, to recycling, to community outreach, and on and on.

When on vacation, how better to follow up a satisfying lunch than with a 10 minute walk for dessert?! Along our walk we passed the Mission Cultural Center and the second location of Rosamunde Sausage Grill (the first being next door to Toronado). We made our way to the well-regarded Humphrey Slocumbe ice cream parlor. They were embarking on their second annual project (or is it third, by now?) of incorporating beer into their already excellent ice cream. We met up with wanderin' Chaz. Anyone primarily in the western half of the States will likely recognize him simply by his first name. Hailing from Alaska, but working for an airline, he travels quite readily and easily in the name of good beer. He brought along a love interest this time around and we all shared some ice cream.

Not leaving any stone unturned, I ordered the four "beer varieties" that they had for the day: Unfermented Wort with Honey (very, very good; sweet like you'd expect); Coconut Sour Stave (interesting to be sure, with a bit of a lambic-like finish); Imperial Stout (not quite the richness that I expected); and Porter with Cocoa (nicely balanced). There would be additional flavors unveiled as the SF Beer Week went along.

Decadent and unnecessary, to be sure, but also worth the taste was what was in Patty's bowl. She ordered their year-round crowd favorite, the Secret Breakfast. What do you think might be in the Secret Breakfast? You'd be correct if you guessed Corn Flakes and Bourbon. You'd also be incorrect if you thought that this would somehow be wrong. This couldn't have been more right!

At this point, it was time to catch BART back to our very dog-friendly hotel at 4th and Market Streets, conveniently just above the Powell Street Station. After a short downtime and freshening-up, it was off to the Opening Gala, whose VIP session actually began at 3:30 p.m. I suppose in the "Original Craft Beer-Drinking City", they don't need to wait until the official end of the workday to get the party started.

The VIP line at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was long, but it moved quickly. It gave us time to catch up with some old friends while waiting in line. We learned later that during general admission, things outside the festival did not go so smoothly with some paying customers actually being turned away and for others who were admitted, not enough commemoritve tasting glassware to go around. For something so well planned, this all seemed odd to me, but not being a part of their day-to-day "local" beer scene, I'm not really equipped to opine any further on these topics.

But, I can say that from my own experience, by half way through the evening, it became obvious that the venue may not have been large enough to accommodate all of the ticket holding customers. Fortunately, there was an outdoor garden area where a few vendors were stationed. California in February, at least this year, was so pleasant that being outside presented absolutely no issue whatsoever. Plus, we counted ourselves extra fortunate considering the roughly 55 degree temperature difference between when we left home and when we touched down at SFO.

Inside the festival, three primary organizers, Jay Brooks, Meg Gill, and Rich Higgins kicked off the festival with introductions, toasted Don Younger's life contributions to the industry (recently deceased owner of Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Ore.), and introduced an all-star panel of California brewers to the stage.

In alphabetical order, Matt Brynildson (Firestone Walker), Mark Carpenter (Anchor), Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River), Brian Hunt (Moonlight), Shaun O'Sullivan (21st Amendment), Pete Slosberg (Pete's Wicked), and Terence Sullivan (Sierra Nevada) all took to the stage for a spirited conversation about what makes the Bay Area so strong in the world of craft brewing.

One easy observation to make from both the festival and the week's schedule of events — The small guys are taking over. Much like similar trends spotted around the country, nano, pico, and other such small brewers are popping up left and right.

Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan, for example, have only just recently brought Almanac Beer Company into local beer lover rolodexes. They were one of the most crowded tables at the Gala until they went through all of the barrel-aged beer that they brought to the festival. Their progress will certainly bear watching over the coming months as they pursue their philosophy of "farm-to-barrel" brewing in keeping with the four seasons of the year.

But, no table was more crowded than that of Russian River's. I found it fascinating that even on their home turf, they still need to beat back the crowds. I tweeted or facebooked something to this extent that Pliny the Younger is just as in demand in Northern California as it is in any other market that gets it each February. I passed on it here, knowing that there would be more opportunities to sample it in coming days.

The Opening Gala, as with Philadelphia's, seems to be pretty much mandatory in participation. Though, in Philadelphia this past year, there were more opening Friday events than ever before to compete with the official opening night festivities. In San Francisco, there were no other "non-everyday" scheduled festivities to compete with the Opening Gala during its timeslot. The couple of events that were scheduled were outside the city.

This, of course, didn't stop Toronado from throwing an after party for the Gala. If our bodies were not saying that we'd been up the equivalent of 21 hours at this point, we likely would have made our way into the Lower Haight for some late night debauchery with Firestone Walker, Ninkasi, and Speakeasy. But, prudence got the best of us and we called it a day — a very good day at that.

San Francisco Beer Week 2011, part 2

Saturday 2/12
Only a pleasant forty minute BART ride to Hayward came between us and the 11th annual Double IPA festival at The Bistro. The Double IPA festival is one of the precursor events to SF Beer Week. I don't understand the economics of this event so well, but I can imagine that the closure of a street, the renting of large band, the procurement of 60+ kegs of beer, the judging process, and all other associated overhead warrants a forty dollar ticket that gets paying customers a souvenir tasting glass and tickets for 5 five-ounce pours. With most beers beginning in the 8% ABV ballpark and only going significantly north from there, it shouldn't take long to feel the buzz from these strong IPAs, so not making this an all-you-can-drink affair is likely a very wise idea. (Disclosure: I paid a discounted media admission price.) Additional tasting tickets were available for $2 per five-ounce tasting and food was available for additional purchase.

I was last at this event two years ago and thought it was a fairly comfortable layout, but this year they acquired even more street space which made it all the more comfortable for watching the band, visiting beer tables, and mingling with friends. Vic and Cynthia Kralj play the role of gracious hosts and certainly go out of their way to ensure the best experience for everyone. Seventy degree weather also has a way of putting everyone in a great mood.

The official judging of roughly 40 breweries (only one beer per brewery would be judged, regardless if they had more available for public tasting) awarded the top three places to Firestone Walker (Double Jack), Moylans (Moylander), Drake's (Hopocalypse), respectively. The People's Choice Award went to Kern River Citra DIPA. This wouldn't be the last I heard of this new brewery during this trip. My personal favorites of the day included: Auburn Alehouse PU240; Bear Republic Racer 15; Fifty Fifty RyePA; Firestone Walker Double Jack; and Midnight Sun XXX Black Double IPA.

Frankly, I'm not sure if there are many other reasons to visit Hayward while in the Bay Area. But, if you have time for a BART train ride or have a car, visiting The Bistro for beers, live music, and the occasional beer festival that they throw throughout the year would be a worthwhile use of your time.

We bumped into Sierra Nevada's Steve Dressler (Brewmaster) and Terrell Lowe (Northern California On-premise Manager) once again after chatting with them at length during the previous night's Opening Gala. They convinced us to head to Pi Bar back in the Mission District where they were hosting an event with a cool dozen treats from Chico on tap. We never did see them at Pi Bar; I'm not sure what their official alibi was, but I think it might have included tequila. No matter, they still had other company representation at the event.

It sounded like we arrived at just the right time to score a table in the back of Pi Bar to hunker down for some pasta (the next day was my Beer Run), pizza, and beers. Pi Bar is a cool neighborhood place co-run by Bay Area craft beer veteran Jen Garris and the care taken to deliver quality beer and food in a comfortable neighborhood joint is evident. Of course, it's a little more difficult to tell when the place is overrun with SFBW beer hunters, but even with the throngs, the staff was still attentive, friendly, and composed.

After a few Sierra Nevadas, we jumped back on BART for one stop to 16th Street (didn't I tell you we were in the Mission District quite a bit?!) and walked approximately 10 minutes over to 15th and Market Streets and Lucky 13. They partnered with Pinups for Pitbulls, Chako Pitbull Rescue from Sacramento, Speakeasy and Ninkasi Breweries to throw a Pitty Party fundraiser.

What we learned was that this is a neighborhood favorite dive bar, the kind that is disappearing too quickly. Yet, they serve a respectable list of draft and bottled beer and are dog-friendly. Plus, they have a stripper pole which many would argue is seen at too very few craft beer bars ;-)

We were again on the verge of crashing from the time zone change, so we didn't stay long into the night to observe what kind of late night debauchery goes down at this not-your-typical-polished-craft-bar location on the edge of The Castro. Particularly, we didn't stay long enough to see who utilizes the stripper pole in the middle of the bar. But, we did stay to sample a Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA and a Speakeasy Double Daddy IPA on tap. I should have made a guess prior to the trip how long it would take to become "hopped-out" with palate fatigue from the aggressively-hopped West Coast beers. I love 'em, but in moderation of course. This day's events certainly pushed my limits. Fortunately, Sunday was just around the corner.

Sunday 2/13
Sunday morning meant taking it easy for a few hours before heading across town to the Inner Sunset neighborhood and their newest brewing tenet — Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone, and his Social Kitchen & Brewery.

This was the day that I would avenge Mother Nature for her screwing me out of a trip to SFBW '10 and helping to conduct a West Coast version of my Philly Beer Runs. Instead, I was left at home with 20+ inches of snow.

This year, I escaped and was able to help pull off a nearly 70 degree run through Golden Gate Park with nearly 60 like-minded runners/beer lovers. Turned out that not quite everyone went to Berkeley for the Sour/Barrel-aged Festival at Jupiter and Triple Rock. I surely would have been there if it wasn't for the run; between the two establishments, there were reportedly around 90 different beers to sample from.

Nonetheless, we pressed on with our run from the recently one-year-old Social Kitchen & Brewery just two blocks south of the Park. It's difficult to express just how perfect the weather was — cool in the shade of the Park's large eucalyptus, pines, redwoods, and cypress trees and warm in the direct sunlight from the cloudless sky.

At the midpoint, several runners stopped in at Magnolia Brewery on Haight Street and rewarded themselves (yours truly included) with a light Kölsch or a decidedly heavier Imperial Stout from the pub's participation in the annual Strong Beer Month.

After completing the five mile course, runners returned to Social and hung out for the better part of two hours eating and drinking from SKB's menu. The runners certainly made the bartenders earn their keep as our group exceeded the initial projections that were given to the bar; but, I didn't see anyone complaining.

Certainly a large motivation for hosting these bi-coastal Beer Runs, apart from the simple socialization of beer lovers and runners, is the doors that they open to introduce people to a bar or brewery that they may not otherwise find on their own. A theme in the comments I heard more than once revolved around "...I didn't know these guys were here...", "...I've heard of these guys, but had no idea where they were...", and "...I've always meant to come here, but never had a good reason..."

Pouring from the tap towers on this particular day at SKB were a Kölsch, an IPA, an Imperial Stout, an Espresso Stout, a Weizenbock, and my favorite of the day, an Imperial Belgian Golden Ale with Galangal and Lemongrass. Don't worry, I had to look up Galangal as well. It's apparently a close relative of ginger. A Belgian Golden with these two spices? Way okay in my book.

Amongst the many new people I became acquainted with, I also had the pleasure of traveling 3000 miles from home to meet Philadelphian and beer blogger, Rich Isaacs. We did the whole compare-your-Beer-Week-to-mine conversation. It's always interesting to get other perspectives on a beer region so vast as Northern California's and an event so wide-ranging as SFBW. Check out Rich's last several blog entries where he discusses everything from a Russian River visit in Santa Rosa to his travels around San Francisco.

Five miles. Several tasty beers. Good food. Great socializing. New brewery publicized. Mission accomplished. Thanks to Derrick Peterman and Brian Yaeger for their partnership in this successful event.

After my duties at SKB were fulfilled, Patty and I went off the SFBW grid for the remainder of the day. Her sister had joined us at SKB and now we went off the farthest point west in the three mile long Golden Gate Park. Just across the Pacific Ocean sits the historic building that houses the Beach Chalet and Park Chalet. I'd been there before, but Patty had not and I truly think that it's worth a visit, if not for the beer or the food, then at least for the setting and the views. Matter of fact, I wouldn't rule out somehow tying in this brewery to next year's SF Beer Week Beer Run.

The premise, if it seems confusing, is that Beach Chalet fronts the ocean while sister restaurant Park Chalet sits below and behind Beach Chalet and faces the entrance trails to the Park. Picture having a meal at Beach Chalet — perhaps watching the sun set over the ocean — and then retiring to an Adirondack chair behind the Park Chalet where servers will bring your beers to you while you listen to live music being performed inside. Like I said — location and ambiance.

After a criss-crossing tour back downtown, Joanne deposited us back at our hotel where we cleaned up before heading a few blocks over to Thirsty Bear. This is another location that I've been to several times and one that I thought Patty should experience. My last visit was an accidental one as I walked back to my hotel after dinner at 21st Amendment and I heard the pounding of Flamenco dance shoes and accompanying singing.

Each Sunday evening, Thirsty Bear hosts what amounts to a free dance and musical performance to go along with your beers, wines, and dinner. With a distinctively Spanish flair to its menu, San Francisco's only certified organic brewery provided us with some tapas style dining, perfectly just what we needed after a day of running around, literally.

Every bar and brewery should have their own distinct M.O. and these last two have such unique characteristics that they stand out so differently from their competition and have the ability to bring in unsuspecting non-beer lovers. While many beer geeks may not think first of Thirsty Bear and Beach Chalet for beer when visiting San Francisco, I think that would be an unfortunate mistake to make while downtown or anywhere near the western edge of the City.

Monday 2/14
Valentine's Day in San Francisco. Now that the weekend craziness was over, I figured it would be an opportunity to see what kind of Beer Week fight San Franciscans had in them on a weeknight during Beer Week. Seems that they know exactly what to do — keep the party going, in spite of the on-and-off again rain all day.

We took it easy in the morning before heading out yet again to the Mission District. This time, our intention was two-fold. The first may not really sound beer-related and I suppose it only was in the sense that it was a lunch that included my first Negra Modelo in many years. My first run-in with this beer was on a flight to Mexico, circa 1994. I recall thinking it was interesting...sorry that's way too far back to be interesting. Point is, it went perfectly with an epic burrito at La Cumbre at 16th and Valenica Streets. They've been doing the San Francisco Burrito thing since 1967 and I was reminded of them on Travel Channel's Man versus Food just before we had left for San Francisco.

When you walk in, the incredible smells....the visuals of watching meat simmer, then being chopped....the overwhelming menu of burritos, quesadillas, and tacos. I don't know quite what else to say about it than, if you're hungry and love burritos, you're doing yourself a grave injustice if you're in San Francisco and don't stop in at La Cumbre. (disclosure: I paid full price for my Puerco en Chile Verde Deluxe Burrito :)

Now that the "base" was established with a burrito, we were off to Pi Bar nine blocks away. It's the only establishment we visited more than once during this trip. The bar opens at 3:14 p.m. every day — get it? 3:14, right? We arrived all of 12 minutes after they opened and the staff was already busting butt to take care of the throngs that had lined up in the rain to get a taste of the twelve Russian River beers that were being poured on this "average" Monday afternoon.

As I've mentioned earlier and elsewhere, even Northern Californians can not get enough of their "local", Russian River. Funny thing was, for as packed as Pi Bar was, we were able to quickly snag some table space to sit just minutes before it became near intolerable to be in the bar. Anyone who had established their floor space was okay; but we watched a continual stream of people trying to get in and at the same time amazed that the bar was already filled by 3:45 p.m.

We proceeded to share a handful of Russian River beauts from Rejection (nice holiday theme!) to Sanctification to Supplication to Mortification to Perdition to...oh yeah, this new beer called Pliny the Younger, or something like that ;-)

It was meant to be a short stop at Pi Bar. We extended a bit to squeeze in one more Supplication and then headed back to BART to zip us over to Berkeley where Triple Rock's Rodger Davis was "taking on" Ballast Point in an "Imperial IPA cask-off" pitting his IIMAXX against Sculpin. It took me a little while — kind of dense by this point, I suppose? — to realize that this was the third "event" of the day at Triple Rock. Earlier, there was a Meet 'n' Greet with Ballast Point and there was a beer release where they unveiled the White Chocolate Milk Stout. It was served on nitrogen tap and completely surprised me how much I liked it. The name, though, I'll admit, did have me apprehensive.

The cask-off was billed to be a sort of competition to see which bar-top firkin would kick first. I never learned who was the "winner", but it was reportedly neck-and-neck while were there. I love me a hoppy beer served cask-conditioned and these two were no exception. For as wonderful of an Imperial IPA that Sculpin is, on this particular day IIMAXX, to my palate, won by half a stride.

After some catching up with Shaun O'Sullivan (can't believe this trip to San Francisco ended without a visit to his 21st Amendment, but alas...) over a second beer, we headed off to yet another new discovery — this one in Oakland.

And this one required a bit of extra ambition. Virtually no one will try to convince you that a visit to Oakland is a walk in the park. Literally, when walking the half mile from the BART station at 12th Street down Broadway to Beer Revolution on 3rd Street, there is a good chance that you will run into 80% of all the strange characters that Oakland has to offer. Particularly when walking under the freeway, there are certainly elements of feeling slightly less than safe. I don't think that Patty particularly appreciated my decision to walk — and, even more so, the decision to walk the return trip to BART as well — and actually we haven't discussed it since then.

With that bit of a public service announcement out of the way, I can report that once inside the recently one-year-old Beer Revolution, things are good. In fact, things are very, very good. They've got a rare license to sell beer for both on-site consumption as well as bottles to take home. Here is where we ran again in to the traveling Michael and Diane, the ones that I have picture sporting Philly Beer Week apparel.

At Beer Revolution, like at Pi Bar and Triple Rock, we discovered that SF Beer Week was alive and well in every nook and cranny of the Bay Area at every time of every day of the week. Alan Shapiro brought out some of his SBS-Imports portfolio treats like the many De Proef collaborations. But, with our late arrival and Alan's Valentine duties at home, we continued our history of "just missing" each other at beer events from coast-to-coast.

We were recommended some beers from the newish Kern River Brewing Company in Southern California in the town of Kernville. We were pleased with the appropriately-named Just Outstanding IPA. Actually, it was quite outstanding that we, on Day 4 of SFBW, had any palate appreciation left for hops at this point. But this, and the Class V Stout, gave us a pleasant introduction this brewery.

With that, we called it a night, made our trek back to BART and crashed yet again with just 24 hours left in our trip.

San Francisco Beer Week 2011, part 3

Tuesday 2/15
We knew that we didn't want to be "too" ambitious with our beer plans for the last day in San Francisco. But, we purposely scheduled a redeye flight home to Philly to maximize our last day, so maximize we did.

Patty's sister Joanne, came back out to meet us again. We first stopped in at City Beer Store where I made the decision that The Brew Lounge cooler at home has enough beer at this time. Plus, I frankly didn't feel like handing over more money to the airlines to check a piece of "luggage" and I also wanted to expedite our trip home through PHL. For anyone who has ever dealt with the logistics and baggage handling at Philly International, you know exactly what I mean.

Nice conversation with owners Craig and Beth about Beer Week and the general state of beer, then we made our way over to Magnolia in the Haight for their Oyster Lunch event. Dave McLean and Arne Johnson (Marin Brewing) made up some of the random brewer bump-ins that we had at Magnolia. Well, I suppose McLean was not so random given it's his place.

This turned out to be such a pleasant lunch. Every seat was filled at the bar and at the tables, but yet it wasn't uncomfortably crowded. The charcuterie and the variety of oysters that we picked over went perfectly with a Tweezer Tripel (a must during every Magnolia visit for me), Oysterhead Stout, and Promised Land Imperial IPA (as if Proving Ground IPA isn't nice enough!). Still wondering, though, why I did not give the Pork Lord a try. It was described as a Bacon-Infused Oysterhead Stout — yeah, why not?

At this point, we picked up Steve Shapiro, our Beer By BART buddy (well, not literally picked up), and headed off to our last SF Beer Week stop of the trip — Toronado.

Technically, this wasn't an event per se but rather one of those mandatory beer stops when visiting San Francisco. Believe it or not, in all of our travels we still to this point had not stopped in during this trip. Well, actually, if you've read all of my"diary" to this point, it's probably not too difficult to understand why we had not yet stopped here. Granted, it would have been fun to stop in late night after a day's worth of Beer Week events to hang with the cool kids, much like the way they do in Philly at Monk's Café during Philly Beer Week.

This turned out to be a pretty opportune time for us to stop in at Toronado. The crowd was extremely thin. Happy Hour prices were in effect. This meant easy access to seats and service. This meant $3 La Folie. $3 The Abyss. $3 Blind Pig. $3 Velvet Merkin. $3 Death and Taxes. You get the picture, I think. We had the table just inside the door with a perfect view of both the street and the bar. We were able to easily sneak over into neighboring Rosamunde Sausage Grill for some spot-on requisite Toronado companion grub.

Then things got awkward. We still needed to return to the hotel and get our bags from the concierge. Plus, we still needed to satisfy my sushi fix. On top of getting back to SFO in time for our flight.

We made the decision to duck away from Toronado less than an hour before they kicked off what many-a-beer geek will call one of the week's best: Russian River Night with reportedly 23 Russian River beers due to go on tap. Prime table, tons of "-tions" from one of the country's elite breweries, and a couple of hours to spare? But, nah, we turned away. Completely my decision — and one that many of you may cry beer foul over I suppose.

On the other hand, we paid it forward with a table for some very surprised customers that had just walked in the door.

Nothing really to report at our stop for sushi other than a plug for what I call my favorite and most reliable and accessible sushi joints in the city. Sakana is conveniently located a few blocks from Union Square, is very cozy, and serves up great sake, sushi, and service. It's on my must-do list for every visit of mine to the city and as you can tell, I recommend it for all sushi-lovers as well.

Wrapping up SF Beer Week '11
Unavoidably, and perhaps understandably, the one big question I get more than any other since being back East is "How does SFBW compare to Philly Beer Week?"

I try to answer this question in a few different ways.

First, I say something to the effect that it's not really fair to try and compare two deeply-rich beer regions and their respective Beer Weeks to each other. It only denigrates the hard work of so many that put on the various events during their respective Beer Weeks. That goes over somewhat flatly.

Then, I'll say something along the lines of how it's difficult to really compare two Beer Weeks that are organized on different models, yet with the same short- and long-term objectives.

Finally, I turn the tables and ask how would anyone compare them?

Number of events? Pointless and absolutely no indicator of best-ness.

Quality of events? Give me a metric to compare quality and then we'll talk, but I can't imagine a solid metric to use to measure the quality of events. Number of attendees? Variety of beer being served? Rarity of beer being served? All interesting, perhaps, but other than the number of attendees the others are somewhat arbitrary measurements.

Types of events? Both Beer Weeks feature strong beers, session beers, local beers, imported beers, beer dinners, sour beers, cask-conditioned beers, beer and fitness events, free events, pricey events, twenty minute events, repeating daily events, and on and on. Tell me which Beer Week is missing — significantly missing — what type of events and we can figure out if it's legitimate and what to do about it.

Number of participating establishments? Once again, not much of an indicator. And even if one region had more participating establishments than another, we'd still have to then go back and further break down the number and types of events that they conducted. Again, not such a meaningful use of time.

Basically, unless the organizing group or individual establishments are flat-out dropping the ball on delivering what they promise in a Beer Week full of varied events, it's a bit unfair to say that one Beer Week is better than another. Is there more? More of 'this' or 'that'? Maybe, but how much can any individual take in? It's about appealing to the widest part of the beer drinking and beer-curious public as possible. In the Northern California and Philadelphia regions, both organizations do amazing work to do just that.

Plus, like our individual tastes in beer, opinions in what makes a successful Beer Week will vary greatly. Sixty people thought that a Beer Run in San Francisco made perfect sense for celebrating Beer Week on a Sunday, while many others at the same time went to a Sour and Barrel-aged Festival in Berkeley and probably felt likewise.

Here might be one differentiating factor that I've seen. The Bay Area, and Northern California as a region, seems very proud of their indigenous products — both of the Earth and of man-made will. They are very into and geeked out by the dozen or so new nano- and pico- breweries coming on line over the past several months and upcoming year.

This is obviously not a trend contained to the West Coast. But, I will be looking forward and paying attention to how Philly Beer Week draws attention to all of the many new upstart breweries in the various stages of planning from northern Pennsylvania to the City of Philadelphia.

So I'll leave the topic somewhat judiciously by saying that I've participated in two major Beer Weeks and have found that they are the absolute best two that I've attended. Great people serving up interesting beer at wonderful establishments to create memorable events. I'm betting that there are at least another dozen Beer Weeks doing the same thing around the country.

To properly wrap things up, if you haven't already done so, you should really check out the pictures that I've linked to here. For all of the words that I can spill across your screen (my text editor tells me I'm currently nearing 6000 words), there are some things that are just better told with pictures. Plus, I've taken the care to add captions so, please, go and check them out. I think the picture editing, uploading, and captioning took longer than it did to pump all of these words out.

Additional Reading
In addition to being amazed at the number of people writing/blogging about the glorious beer in Northern California (see this impressive list), here following are some of those that attended SFBW that I've caught up with specifically while in San Francisco and since I've returned home.

~ Jay Hinman, Hedonist Beer Jive
~ Steve Shapiro/Gail Ann Williams, Beer By BART
~ Ashley Routson, Drink With The Wench
~ Chris and Meredith Nelson, The Beer Geek
~ Joe and Jasmine, Beer at Joe's

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world at Monk's on Mondays

I took off work today for Monk's Mad Monday the President's Day Holiday. Thought it was perfect timing to discover what goes on during these Mad Monday promotions that Tom Peters throws every third Monday of the month.

Turns out, Jodi and Tom hosted what seemed to be the entire East Coast sales team of Sierra Nevada. Well, not quite, but yet it was still an impressive corporate turnout for the SN team as Monk's poured all four 30th Anniversary beers, the new and well-received Hoptimum, Estate, and Life & Limb.

Of this Life & Limb, I may have overheard that this is making a re-collaboration comeback in the late summer timeframe. That'll be nice, though the original bottled version is holding up quite nicely and mellowing as best a strong beer like this can.

Met an affable guy, too, that claimed to be Tommy's neighbor — though, I'm not sure he wasn't an overzealous BA posing as a neighbor to watch for beer deliveries to the Gannon household. Of course, I jest.

Oh, and I really haven't found out if anything goes on during these Monday events. It seems that they just drink a lot of pretty good beer and you never know just who might show up. That works. All in all, a swell way to celebrate a day off from work and my freedom to pursue better beer.

(L-R: Tommy Gannon; Bill Rauner; Tom Peters; Patrick Mullin; Steve Olintz)

Fishtown sounds like a lovely place to do business

It's bad enough that the government makes it so difficult to do business in the City Proper. But, the people of Fishtown — not all of them, not even most of them, mind you — make it even more difficult with threats of violence and now this related to a proposed nanobrewery's aspirations to commercially brew on such a small-scale out of his existing structure.

Even 'Nanobrewery' is too big for Fishtown []

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Selling Craft Beer: A compelling argument

On the heels of this week's teasing news about 2010's craft beer growth numbers, comes a video also in my inbox when I returned from the West Coast.

This is delivered by Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Company in Southern California and hosted at, purportedly an extension of Brewers Association.

A great and reasoned case being made for bars carrying the beer that all we consumers love. I'm an analytically-driven numbers guy, so I catch on quickly to this proposition, and I suppose that most proprietors will as well.

I only quibbled a bit with what seemed like a low average cost per keg of craft beer: $124. I might have thought closer to, or even just north of, $200. But, I'm not in the business — plus, it's still directionally correct.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The beer is still fresh in the growler

The Super Bowl was two weeks ago. Iron Hill served us up two pizzas and a growler of Pig Iron Porter for $25. The pizza disappeared, the growler stayed in our fridge since then — unopened.

Now, we're back from SF Beer Week and looking for beers to empty out of the refrigerator.

How will this Pig Iron Porter have held up over the past two weeks? It got me to recalling one of the most, still to this day, referred topics from The Google — the freshness of a growler over time.

Adam, now of The NonconFermist, in August of 2006 summarized some of the most important factors to consider on this topic.

My growler from Iron Hill certainly met all 3 of these conditions, plus one.

- filled to the very top,
- never opened,
- kept cold — plus,
- the Iron Hill bartenders have a tendency to triple-check that they've tightened down the lid as hard as they can

Just as roasty-tasting, slightly-bittered, foamy-looking as I'd expect it to have been two weeks ago. In light of all of the wonderful beer from the various Iron Hill locations in the past 5-10 years, this Pig Iron Porter is still one of my all-time favorites.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Craft Sales numbers up again

Interesting news from the Brewers Association yesterday. (Thanks to Jack Curtin for heads-up.)

Market share for craft beer, based on dollars, has grown to 9.4% as of 2010 year-end. Pretty incredible growth considering five years ago, that statistic was nearly half at 5.4% of total sales. went live in the second half of 2005 -- not that I'm suggesting any correlation.

But, with distributor and retail costs rising (faster than raw material costs?), it makes me wonder if volume growth is nearly as steep as on a dollar basis.

It also makes me wonder if, with macro beer sales losing ground, on an equalized/normalized basis (does anyone attempt this?) how much different the share of market, both based on dollars as well as volume, would be?

Sorry, for asking more questions today than I've answered -- but maybe we can turn this into a conversation if some of you have the answers more readily available than I.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Does Oakland have its own Joe Sixpack?

On the heels of my return from the Bay Area, I find this in my inbox.

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: February 17 - February 23

February. Just a warmup for March, right? After the last two weeks of over 30 events each, we come to what looks like a "slow week". To think...

Check out the entire February 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 Yard, Wayne, PA--- Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free tasting samples of Victory's new Headwaters Pale Ale)

@Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Oskar Blues)

@Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free tasting samples of Sam Adams beer)

@Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Charity Cask Night (5:00pm; PAYG for Top o' the Mornin' breakfast stout to benefit Muscular Dystropy Association)

@Capone's Restaurant, Norristown, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Sierra Nevada Tapping (11:30am; PAYG for the Pale Ale, Hoptimum, Glissade, and all four 30th Anniversary Beers. Rep Patrick Mullin at 6pm)

@Craft Ale House, Limerick, PA--- Mon. 2/21 - Hopslam Tapping (6:00pm; PAYG for a pretty fresh glass of the tasty hop juice from Bell's in Michigan)

@Exton Beverage, Exton, PA--- Fri. 2/18 - Friday Night Tasting (4:30pm-6:30pm; Free tasting samples of Flying Fish and a free pint glass when you buy a case of Flying Fish beer)
@Exton Beverage, Exton, PA--- Sat. 2/19 - Saturday Afternoon Tasting (1:00pm-3:00pm; Free tasting samples of Boxcar Beer)

@Hop Angel Brauhaus, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 2/23 - Keep the Mug Night (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG to try a Radeberger, keep the mug)

@Iron Hill, Media, PA--- Fri. 2/18 - February Firkin Series (5:00pm; PAYG for a Noel vs. Smokin' Blonde face-off)
@Iron Hill, West Chester, PA--- Sun. 2/20 - Kaldi Kreme release (12:00pm-2:00pm; PAYG for this coffee stout based on the award winning recipe from Mike Hamara at Artisan Homebrew)

@Khyber Pass Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Kill the Cask Night (4:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for a special firkin of cask-conditioned Yards Chocolate Love Stout.)

@Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 2/21 - Mad Monday (11:30am; PAYG for Sierra Nevada's Jack & Ken Black Barleywine, Hoptimum, Brewer's Reserve Grand Cru, Charlie, Fred & Ken Imperial Helles Bock, Glissade Golden Bock, Life & Limb, Estate Homegrown Ale, and Fritz & Ken Imperial Stout)

@Old Eagle Tavern, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 2/21 - President's Day with The Founding Fathers (4:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for George Washington Porter, Thomas Jefferson Ale, & Ben Franklin Spruce all from Yards. Food and draft specials)

@The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/18 - Shoot the Shit with Roy Pitz, Shoot Darts Too (8:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG and get a free beer if you beat the Roy Pitz guys at darts)

@White Dog Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Weyerbacher Happy Hour (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for drink specials, samples, and give-a-ways from the Lehigh Valley's Weyerbacher Brewery)

Beer and Food events
@Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Ommegang and Chocolate Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for Hennepin, Witte, 3 Philosophers, & Chocolate Indulgence. Options for PAYG cheeses from DiBruno Bros. and a chef's tasting menu as well)

@Fork & Barrel, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Swiss Craft Beer Event (6:30pm-10:00pm; PAYG to meet owner/brewer Jerome Rebetez of The Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) and drink of his La Douze, Alex le Rouge, La Meule Abbey de St. Bon Chien, and the Abbey de St. Bon Chien Grand Cru Vin Jaune. Guests may also enjoy suggested food pairings.)

@Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ--- Wed. 2/16 & Thu. 2/17 - Brewmaster's Winter Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $65 for a five-course meal paired with Rising Sun, Vienna Red Lager, American Brown Ale, Abbey Dubbel, Russian Imperial Stout)

@Kite and Key, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 2/23 - Beer and Cheese pairings (6:00pm; PAYG for cheese from neighboring Whole Foods paired with Sly Fox's Ichor, Odyssey, Saison Vos, and Dunkel and Dogfish Head's Dogfish Midas Touch, Indian Brown, and 75 minute)

@The Institute, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 2/19 - Pork, Yards & Pints (PYP) (2:00pm-6:00pm; $40 for all the roast pork, mashed sweets, and bread pudding you can stuff your face with. Oh yea, its also all the Yards beer you can drink too. On tap for the day: Brawler, ESA, Philly Pale, IPA, and a Firkin of specially done for the event.)

@World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 2/20 - Grilled Cheese and Beer Pairing (5:00pm; $35 for four delectable cheese and beer courses, and then finish off with a dessert to die for.)

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)

Where to go where the party never stops
@Jose Pistolas, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Late Night with Joe Gunn, featuring Allagash's Rob Tod (11:00pm-2:00am; PAYG for late night debauchery at Jose Pistolas that is nearly unrivaled)

Victory's still Ours
@Kraftwork, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/17 - Victory Headwaters Pale Ale Release and Anniversary Party (7:00pm-11:00pm; PAYG for Baltic Thunder, Braumeister Pils - Schwarz Pils, Dark Intrigue (bottles), Donnybrook (Nitro), ESB, Golden Monkey, Headwaters Pale Ale, Helios, Hop Devil Cask), Hop Wallop, Lager, Mad King Weiss, Prima Pils, Pursuit Pale Ale El Dorado, Saison Du BUFF, Smokin' Oats Porter, Storm King, V-12, and Yakima Glory)

@Side Bar and Restaurant, West Chester, PA--- Wed. 2/23 - Victory 15th Anniversary Beer Dinner (6:45pm-10:00pm; $50 for a six-course dinner (small plates) and a possible surprise sevent. Each dish will be paired with a unique brew from Victory; some that have been made available on draft just for your enjoyment at this dinner.)

Movies, Books, Folk Music, and Friends
@Beltzner Hall at the Kutztown Fairgrounds, Kutztown, PA--- Sat. 2/19 - Friend Fest: A Beer and Wine Festival & Benefit (2:00pm-5:00pm, 6:00pm-9:00pm; $50/$35/$10 with all proceeds going to ending poverty in rural Northeastern Berks County)

@Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 2/22 - Movie Night (8:30pm; PAYG for beer and food specials while watching Viewer Choice between: The Jerk; Hear no evil, See no evil; This is Spinal Tap; and Coming to America)

@Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA--- Sat. 2/19 - Benefit Folk Festival (4:00pm-10:00pm; $10/$12/children under 12, free for a festival of a range of folk, jazz, rock, and alternative country music)

@Yards Brewing, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/18 - Lew Bryson Book Signing (5:00pm-7:00pm; A free beer if you purchase a copy of his book)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In preview of tomorrow's weekly Philly Beer Calendar

Right--I normally do these weekly calendar updates on Thursday morning. And, that's exactly what you'll see tomorrow morning. You're all good enough readers to pick up on what I'm about to point out.

Once again, the Philly area beer calendar is bursting at the seams and demonstrates how "in to" great beer the publicans are...the consumers are...the brewers are...the distributors are. We live Beer Week year-round 'round these parts.

Take for example Thursday February 17 and the 10 events that will be on my weekly calendar release tomorrow. Stand back and admire the tenacity of our beer region on an "average" Thursday night.

In the Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem Brew Works is doing a charity fundraiser with a special cask of beer to benefit the Muscular Dystropy Association.

In Philly, Jose Pistolas is throwing a party with Allagash's Rob Tod and in the suburbs, Capone's is throwing yet another Sierra 30th Anniversary Bash for one last taste of the special anniversary beers.

There'll be a cask of Yards Chocolate Love Stout at Khyber Pass Pub, a couple over at Kraftwork during its celebration of Victory's 15 years, and at least two at Fork & Barrel as they welcome BFM's Jerome Rebetez.

White Dog in University City is throwing a Happy Hour with Weyerbacher.

Devil's Den will be experimenting with beer and cheese in conjunction with DiBruno Bros., both always good moves.

Iron Hill has a sold-out five-course meal in Maple Shade with some pretty nice beers (call to check for cancellations).

And, finally, Sly Fox is continuing Boot Camp at its Royersford location as they march on toward St. Patrick's Day.

Happy Thursday. Not too shabby, eh? Get your rest.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Iiiiiiiiitttsss Baaaaack

The hub-bub has once again begun. Seems that after a few years, Pliny the Younger may not yet have jumped the shark. Again this year, the message boards are lighting up with crazed angst amongst the geekerie for the wheres, hows, whereforths, and howwiths....and whatnot.

It got me to remembering one very short year ago -- well, actually 11 months -- to when TJ's poured 70 glasses worth of this hoppy delight. It surprised me today, in hindsight, that I wrote so much about it.

But, then it got me salivating when I read way down in the fine print about the true highlight of the day for me....the Mushroom Burger with a glass of Brooklyn Monster Barleywine. Oh, and the Supplication wasn't too bad either.

This year, TJ's has announced that they will not announce when the PtY goes on tap. I've suggested 2:30pm on a Monday or Tuesday afternoon as a social experiment of sorts to see how many leave work and/or hurt any people or animals in their way to get to the beer before it kicks.

Oh, and if you do happen across some Pliny the Younger, please don't funnel it into any glass bottle for future resale. It's just not cool. It makes you look like a real tool. A sad tool. Without a life. Really.

But, of course, this hysteria has raised an interesting question.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Victory at 15

Victory Brewing is hidden away in Downingtown in a former bakery off a secondary street behind a school and residential neighborhood.

Over the years, though, they have become less able than ever to hide from the public -- not that they were ever really trying to hide, mind you.

They've grown to what they believe will be 100,000 barrels of craft beer production in 2011 and are distributing their beers in more than half of the states in the U.S.

This month they are officially celebrating their 15th anniversary and are kicking off a year's worth of celebratory events.

With the release of a new beer, Headwaters Pale Ale, they have around a half dozen or so related events remaining yet this month in and around Philadelphia.

Read more about Headwaters Pale Ale over here.

And, find an event near you, beginning with free tastings tonight at Exton Beverage.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: February 10 - February 16

February. At least 30 events in the next 7 days in and around Philly in a month with less days than events. Just another day (week) at the shop around here.

Check out the entire February 2011 calendar over here.

If I'm missing any that you feel should be on here, let me know.

Tastings, samplings, and parties
@Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Sam Adams)

@Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - Friday Night Tasting (5:00pm-7:00pm; Free tasting samples of McSorley's)

@Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - White Birch Brewery Night (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for a night of very intersting and tasty brews like Hooksett Ale, Indulgence, Triple, Barrel Aged Triple, and a special firkin of Hop Session from New Hampshire's relatively new White Birch. Owner/Brewer Bill Herlicka will also be in the house)

@Hop Angel Brauhaus, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - Keep the Glass Night (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for the return of the Yuengling Bock)

@Iron Hill, Media, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - February Firkin Series (5:00pm; PAYG for a firkin of Bourbon Chocolate Pumpkin Ale in celebration of Valentine's Day)
@Iron Hill, Lancaster, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - Chocolate Beer Craziness (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for 5 Chocolate Beers On Tap like Overload Stout (on nitro), Shokolad Stout (on cask), Oompa Loompa Stout (on nitro), Cowabunga Porter, Bourbon-aged Cowabunga, plus complimentary chocolate treats from our kitchen for mug club members)
@Iron Hill, Phoenixville, PA--- Sat. 2/12 - British Invasion (12:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for a bunch of English Style Beers such as Nut Brown Ale, Pig Iron Porter, Chocolate Stout, Bourbon Porter, Barleywine, India Pale Ale, ESB, and Cask Conditioned ESB. Also featuring traditional English fare)

@McMenamin's, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 2/16 - Ballast Point Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for a lineup for Ballast Point and the first 24 people to order a Ballast Point beer will receive a pint glass.)

@Pickering Creek Inn, Phoenixville, PA--- Thu. 2/10 - Craft Ale Night (6:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for Bell's Expedition Stout, Kalamazoo Pale, and Best Brown Ale specials all night)

@Verde, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 2/13 - Complimentary Yards Love Stout while you shop (12:00pm-6:00pm; Free Yards Love Stout while you shop for jewelry, flowers, and chocolate)

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)

Special Releases
@Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 2/14 - Valentine's with a Sexy Beast (PAYG for pizza and beer discounts during the movie, Sexy Beast)

@all Fegley Brew Works locations, Allentown & Bethlehem, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - Bourbon Barrel-aged Insidious (PAYG for this Russian Imperial Stout at Allentown Beer Works, Bethlehem Brew Works, and Brew Works on the Green)

@Nodding Head, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 2/12 - Wood'ja (3:00pm-6:00pm; PAYG for J.W. Lees Lagavulin cask w/Old Sot Barleywine and J.W. Lees Calvados cask w/Wee Heavier -- special guest Russian River Consecration, plus more surprises)

15 Years of Greatness
@Exton Beverage, Exton, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - Friday Night Sampling (Victory) (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Victory)

@Resurrection Ale House, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 2/16 - Victory Headwaters Pale Ale Release and Anniversary Party (6:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for gads of Victory favorites in addition to the first taste of their newest brand, Headwaters Pale Ale. The list includes Helios Ale, V-Twelve, Baltic Thunder, St. Victorious, Victory Lager, Hop Wallop on cask, and more! Expect an extra special firkin pouring off the edge of the bar)

@Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA--- Tue. 2/15 - 15th Anniversary Party (all day and night; PAYG as Victory kicks off a year of events nationwide, that celebrates the past 15 years together. Join us at Victory to witness the first screening of the 'Fifteen Years Of Character(s)' video)

Yards and Homebrewing
@City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 2/12 - The Kharma Factor (homebrew competition) (2:00pm; PAYG the second half of the homebrewing competition where you need to clone a Yards beer for a chance to brew for PBW '11. See the website for all the details)

Tap Takeovers are all the rage
@Canal Street Pub, Reading, PA--- Thu. 2/10 - Tröegs Night (6:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for a firkin of Nugget Nectar that will be tapped along with some year round beers and some other goodies)

@Kite and Key, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 2/10 - Jolly Pumpkin Night (PAYG to sample some truly unique beers)

@Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA--- Tue. 2/15 - Tasty Tuesday Tap Takeover with Tröegs (PAYG for at least 15 Tröegs beers on tap at one time. We will gravity pour a very fresh firkin of Nugget Nectar on the bar. Firkins of Scratch 39 and Scratch 40 on the handpump, Scratch 37, Scratch 38, Scratch 41, Scratch 42 (if it is ready in time), Flying Mouflan, Mad Elf, Nugget Nectar, Hopback Amber, Troegenator, Java Head, and Dreamweaver Wheat)

@The Drafting Room, Exton, PA--- Sat. 2/12 - Bell's (12:00pm; PAYG for HopSlam, Batch 10,000, Expedition Stout, Two Hearted Ale, Pale Ale, Third Coast Ale, Porter, and a firkin of Best Brown)

Beer Dinners and Festivals
@City Tap House, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 2/11 - Flying Fish Valentine's Beer Dinner (5:00pm; $55 for a four-course meal paired with Exit 13, Exit 4, Grand Cru, and Abbey Dubbel)

@Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 2/12 - Winter Beer Fest (1:00pm-5:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm; $10/$40/$50)

@Fork & Barrel, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 2/14 - Valentine's Day Cider Dinner (7:00pm-10:00pm; $55 for a four-course meal paired with four ciders)

@Hawthorne Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 2/14 - Love Day Monday Beer Dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $65 for a Valentine's dinner paired with love inspired beers)

@Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA--- Wed. 2/16 - Wine versus Beer vertical dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $60 for a six-course meal paired with 5 wines, 1 cordial, and 5 beers including Sylvestre 3 Monts, Estrella Damm Inedit, Schneider Aventinus, Stone Ruination IPA, oak-aged Panil Barriquée)

@Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ--- Wed. 2/16 & Thu. 2/17 - Five Course Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $65 for a five-course meal paired with Rising Sun, Vienna Red Lager, American Brown Ale, Abbey Dubbel, and Russian Imperial Stout)