Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Philly Beer Week 2011: A scheduling note

One last major posting here for May 2011.

I swore I wouldn't be as obsessive about updating my June calendar of events this year as I've been in past years during PBW. So, I waited until last week to take a first pass at it.

And now, I've made one more, and last, pass at it. At this point, as "they" say, it is what it is. Since the first draft I put out there, there have been around 100 modifications of either adds, edits, or deletes. You can find them easily by looking at column A's modification date.

You can find this spreadsheet thing at the same link you've become accustomed to using: [Link to Google Docs, home of "the spreadsheet"]

The counts on the big board, at least as best I can tell, show a whole lot of beer being poured at somewhere around 175 venues during 850 "events", give or take.

Fortunately, there are all those website/app/twitter goodies to keep you plugged in, should you need a "lifeline" as you navigate the phriendly streets of phrothy phun during Philly Beer Week (argh, what just came over me there?!). You can find them over at the official Philly Beer Week website, home to everything you need to know prior to getting started later this week.

Have it at and I'll see you somewhere along the way! (I'll be back later in the week with some attempt at letting you know where I may be found and what I may be doing.)

Philly Beer Week 2011: Sly Fox and Kan Jam at The Four Seasons

Thursday, June 9. Be afraid, be very afraid....we've been "practicing".

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fishtown Beer Runners go to Spain

After our meetup at Johnny Brenda's a couple of weeks ago, David April took his Fishtown Beer Runners to the source of his running group's inspiration: Spain.

Here's the back story.....


and Here's the story and pictures from the visit with "The Professor"

Also, fun pictures in the Spanish press, here..........and here.

Philly Beer Week 2011: Spreading the News in NYC

The weekly Beer Session Radio, based in NYC, were talking up Philly Beer Week during last week's episode.

Our beer-drinking buddies to the North were chatting up Don Russell (Joe Sixpack), Tom Kehoe (Yards), and Curt Decker (Nodding Head) as they tried to decipher what happens (and what they might try to do while visiting during PBW) during Philly Beer Week.

Here's a direct link to Beer Sessions, where you can listen to Episode 65.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Philly Beer Week 2011: Run for fun, Run for the beer


In two weeks and two days, on June 12, I'll be conducting the 4th Annual Philly Beer Run.

It's tied in with Dock Street.

There's beer. Pizza.



Check out all the details back here.

No signup fee is necessary, but an RSVP is required to Bryan at Brew Lounge dot com.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Philly Beer Week 2011: The Whole HOG

Holy HOG!

We're going HOG wild this year!

All in with the whole HOG!

Are you HOG-gin it?

That's enough. You do know what the HOG is, right?

Hammer Of Glory.

It's became of a bit of a legend around these Philly parts. It has a Facebook page. It's been kidnapped and ransomed. It's been photographed with and fondled by dignitaries and commoners alike. It's been passed around like a cheap.....

Don't mind those that try to game the schedule and put on events at midnight, or 12:01.

The Hammer of Glory "parade" and associated antics - now in its second year - have now become the official kickoff to Philly Beer Week and this year it's bigger and zanier than ever.

Check out below the just-published route for the 2011 Hammer of Glory tour which will conclude at 7 p.m. during Opening Tap at the hands of consummate Philly publican, Mike "Scoats" Scotese (The Grey Lodge Pub and Hop Angel Brauhaus), and Mayor Michael Nutter.

~ 8:00 a.m. Old City Bike Courier to Hop Angel Brauhaus (7980 Oxford Avenue)
~ 9:00 a.m. arrive at Hop Angel Brauhaus
~ 10:30 a.m. depart via Convertible, with Miss Hammer from Hop Angel Brauhaus to Grey Lodge Pub (6235 Frankford Avenue)
~ 10:50 a.m. arrive at Grey Lodge
~ 10:58 a.m. depart via Bicycle Convoy from Grey Lodge to Philly Brewing Company (2439 Amber Street)
~ 11:38 a.m. arrive at Philly Brewing Company
~ 11:46 a.m. depart via Kinetic Sculpture (a giant space shuttle known as The Kenzinger Fermanterprise) from Philly Brewing Company to Johnny Brenda’s (1201 Frankford Avenue)
~ 12:01 p.m. arrive at Johnny Brenda’s
~ 12:09 p.m. depart via Trophy Bike’s Bar Bike from Johnny Brenda’s to Yards Brewing Company (901 North Delaware Avenue)
~ 12:24 p.m. arrive at Yards
~ 12:32 p.m. depart via Marching Band and Mummers from Yards to Standard Tap (901 North 2nd Street)
~ 12:47 p.m. arrive at Standard Tap
~ 12:55 p.m. depart via William Reed and his Pogo Stick from Standard Tap to Foodery (837 North 2nd Street)
~ 12:57 p.m. arrive at Foodery
~ 1:05 p.m. depart via Beer Bicycle Brigade from Foodery to North 3rd (801 North 3rd Street)
~ 1:20 p.m. arrive at North 3rd
~ 1:28 p.m. depart via Hand Powered Two-Wheel Plumbing Contraption from North 3rd to Delilah's Den (100 Spring Garden Street)
~ 1:33 p.m. arrive at Delilah's
~ 1:41 p.m. depart via Delilah's Girls Convoy from Delilah's to Silk City (435 Spring Garden Street)
~ 1:56 p.m. arrive at Silk City
~ 2:04 p.m. depart via Hand Powered Two-Wheel Plumbing Contraption Take Two from Silk City to Institute Bar (549 North 12th Street)
~ 2:19 p.m. arrive at Institute
~ 2:27 p.m. depart via Wheelbarrow from Institute to The Belgian Café (601 North 21st Street)
~ 2:57 p.m. arrive at The Belgian Café
~ 3:05 p.m. depart via a Hammerhead Industry Motorcycle from The Belgian Café to Kite & Key (1836 Callowhill Street)
~ 3:20 p.m. arrive at Kite & Key
~ 3:28 p.m. depart via Row Boat (reenacting Washington's crossing of the Delaware) from Kite & Key to The Four Seasons Philadelphia (1 Logan Square)
~ 3:40 p.m. arrive at Four Seasons
~ 3:48 p.m. depart via Bellhop's Luggage Rack (napping in style with a custom bed, sleep mask, and chocolates on the pillow!) from Four Seasons to Nodding Head (1516 Sansom Street)
~ 4:08 p.m. arrive at Nodding Head
~ 4:16 p.m. depart via Tandem Bicycle from Nodding Head to Fergie's Pub (1214 Sansom Street)
~ 4:31 p.m. arrive at Fergie’s
~ 4:39 p.m. depart via Tricycle from Fergie's to TIME (1315 Sansom Street)
~ 4:49 p.m. arrive TIME
~ 4:57 p.m. depart via Vintage Cycle"cade" to Bella Vista Beer Distributor (755 South 11th Street)
~ 5:09 p.m. arrive at Bella Vista
~ 5:17 p.m. depart via Fork Lift (accompanied by visiting brewers from across the country!) from Bella Vista to 12 Steps Down (767 South 9th Street)
~ 5:22 p.m. arrive at 12 Steps Down
~ 5:30 p.m. depart via The Philly Roller Girls from 12 Steps Down to Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South Street)
~ 5:40 p.m. arrive at Brauhaus Schmitz
~ 5:48 p.m. depart via Horse-Drawn Carriage from Brauhaus Schmitz to Varga Bar (941 Spruce Street)
~ 6:03 p.m. arrive at Varga Bar
~ 6:11 p.m. depart via Taxi Bikes from Varga Bar to Opening Tap (Independence Visitor's Center, 6th and Market Streets)
~ 6:41 p.m. arrive at Opening Tap
~ 7:00 p.m. Scoats, owner of Hop Angel Brauhaus and Grey Lodge Pub, will hand off the HOG to Mayor Nutter on a stage outside of the Independence Visitor Center. Doors to Opening Tap will open following the official first tap of Philly Beer Week 2011.

For those who want to find out where the HOG is on June 3 and throughout PBW, follow its twitter hashtag #HOG and on Facebook at Facebook.com/hammerofglory. For a glimpse of what the relay is all about, click here for videos from the 2010 route.

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: May 26 - May 31

Yo Philly! Here we come into the home stretch toward Philly Beer Week 2011. How it defeats me to not be able to attend this Thursday's Schneider dinner at Brauhaus Schmitz. But, along the way, some sacrifice must be made.

As for you, though, there are a handful of opportunities to tune your liver once more before PBW kicks off (officially) on Friday, June 3.

Check out the entire May 2011 calendar over here.

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

@Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 5/27 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting of summer beers)

@Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 5/26 - Schneider Beer Dinner (7:00pm-11:00pm; $75 for a four-course meal paired with Schneiderweiss, Schneider Hopfen-Weiss, Wooden Cask Schneider Eisbock, and Schneider Aventinus)

@Chifa, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 5/26 - Sixpoint Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $65 for four-course meal paired with Sweet Action, Righteous Ale, Brownstone, and Jose Garces Riserva Coffee Stout)

@Goshen Beverage, West Chester, PA--- Fri. 5/27 - Friday Night Tasting (4:30pm-6:30pm; Free tasting samples of Dos Equis)

@Iron Hill Brewery, Lancaster, PA--- Fri. 5/27 - Hop Attack/Kryptonite Release Party (11:00am-8:00pm; PAYG for onslaught of 10 hoppy beers from Iron Hill Lancaster. Kryptonite will be tapped at 3:00. Also pouring will be Abby’s Fault, Big Red Wibby, Savage IPA, West Coast Wheat, Sweet Leaf, Dark Ritual, Hopslinger, Big Rye Wibby, Swagger IPA, and Kryptonite)

@Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 5/26 - Brewery Promo Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for a night of 6 Yards drafts, including Bourbon Barrel Aged Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale, and a cask pin of Brawler)

@Sly Fox, Phoenixville and Royersford locations, PA--- Thu. 5/26 - Business Person's Specials (PAYG for discounted dogs and beer for the Phillies afternoon game against the Reds)
@Sly Fox, Phoenixville and Royersford locations, PA--- Mon. 5/30 - Business Person's Specials (PAYG for discounted dogs and beer for the Phillies afternoon game against the Nationals)

@World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 5/26 - A Philadelphia Ale & Arts Adventure (5:30pm-8:00pm; $35 for a trolley tour of some of the city's world-renowned murals, Dock Street brewery, and some liquid refreshment)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PBW '11: Here comes Philly Beer Week

Sitting here drinking a clean and refreshing Victory Summer Love beer has me thinking Philly Beer Week. And, why not? After taking a second pass at the events lineup, I'm still shaking my head in awe at the sheer scale and scope of what the Philadelphia region offers for great beer, particularly during Philly Beer Week.

PBW '11 is the fourth annual iteration of the Philadelphia region's celebration of great beer. I published my monthly calendar of events for June and most of the PBW events are listed on there as well.

After mocking up a 10-day draft of what I may do during the PBW '11 celebration, I decided to do what I am often wont to do -- analyze it. Here's what I found, based on the calendar of PBW events as of 5/22/11. Keep in mind, of course, that the schedule will continue to change and that you should always visit the official site for PBW events, PhillyBeerWeek.org, for up-to-date detailed listings.

Nearly 175 establishments are listing over 750 events. Like I said, the events are constantly changing and we could be up over 800 events by now.

The least amount of scheduled events are scheduled for the first and the last day. Actually, a day-by-day chart shows that the number of events follows a typical bell curve, except that it is shifted towards Thursday where the greatest number of events is due to occur -- 106.

The most popular time slot is 5pm-7pm (6%), followed by 7pm-10pm(5.6%), 7pm-9pm (4.1%), 6pm-9pm (3.6%), 5pm-8pm (2.8%), and 6pm-8pm (2.7%).

More events are starting on the half hour. That seems good for my own personal scheduling and good for standing out a bit more on the schedule.

By neighborhood/zip Code, fueled by East Passyunk Avenue, 19147 blows out into the lead with 88 events, just nudging ahead of 19107 by 1 event, and 19106 with 80. By total count of participating establishments, 19147 has 18 establishments, 19106 has 17, and 19107 pulls in at third with 15 PBW-friendly venues.

Eight establishments are going all-in with more than a dozen listed events: The Uno Chicago Grill "family" (35); Doobies (21); Varga (19); Farmers' Cabinet (17); Good Dog (16); Jose Pistola's (16); P.O.P.E. (16); Philadelphia Bar (16); and Khyber Pass (13).

Surprised to see only two events with a remote tie-in to animals and fundraising -- one for SPCA at The Drafting Room and one for PAWS at London Grill.

Beer's gone mainstream? Well, maybe not quite mainstream, but all the big boys are certainly angling in on the party. As a conversation I had with a "co-conspirator" a couple of months back went: "Is there anyone who doesn't want a piece of craft beer these days?".....and....."Businesses are realizing that they are missing out/idiots if they don't make at least a few non-generic macro beers available to their bar customers."

In that spirit, local superstars Jose Garces, Stephen Starr, Derek Davis, and Marc Vetri are all getting in on the Philly Beer Week action. So is the Four Seasons hotel (a major and central role as "PBW headquarters") and the Tourism Bureau (major publicity and booster). I'm still waiting for the year the Franklin Institute, Rodin Museum, and Art Museum host PBW events (I didn't miss one in past years, did I?).

And there's a strip club, a cemetery, a gay bar, a wine bar, a martini bar, and a grocery store all with special event listings. If you have a passion, a proclivity, an interest, or what-not, there's bound to be a venue for you to enjoy great beer this year during Philly Beer Week.

This has a lot of longtime beer consumers/fanatics perplexed at just what to make of it. One thing is for sure, the proof is in what the year-round treatment of craft beer is at the establishments and not just during these ten days in June.

So there you have it. My first take of the 2011 Philly Beer Week calendar. Don't go getting overly critical of the numbers I've thrown out there. It's a point-in-time look at where PBW '11 is headed as of 5/23/11 and I, of course, realize the numbers are changing on an almost daily basis.

One thing is for sure (did I already use that phrase?!), the analysis is more than directionally correct and for that, beer lovers should be pretty happy during Philly Beer Week from June 3 - June 12.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Special Edition: The Brew Lounge's June 2011 Calendar

Let's face it; with Philly Beer Week occurring from June 3-June 12, there's not much else happening in the Philadelphia region during the month of June. Area bars, breweries, and distributors will put out everything they've got to attract a crowd during one of the country's most recognized and successful Beer Weeks.

For over five years, I've put out monthly and weekly calendars of "what to do" in and around the Philadelphia region.

Here in June 2011, I'm putting the whole month's worth of events into one big spreadsheet (including all of the events due to occur during Philly Beer Week) and posting it up for anyone to download for their own personal use.

Keep in mind that this spreadsheet "calendar" is not the official PBW '11 calendar of events. If you need something as current and accurate as possible, you should check with either Philly Beer Week's website (or mobile app) or, better yet, contact the event sponsor directly.

On to the spreadsheet. Let me know if you need any assistance with it or have constructive comments about it.

If you haven't begun planning yet, consider this your 10 day warning :)

Oh, and also...take in low doses. It can be overwhelming. For heart palpitations lasting longer than 4 minutes, please consult your doctor :)

Breaking Stereotypes: Runners love (and need) good beer too

Running, rain, then beer.

Last Thursday proved wildly successful for runners that love great beer.

(David April and Jean Broillet kicking off the night at Johnny Brenda's)

I teamed up with the Fishtown Beer Runners and Johnny Brenda's to provide a venue to introduce Jean Broillet's Tired Hands Brewery beer, which is not yet available for sale in Pennsylvania.

Later this year, that will change when Jean wields the mash paddle solo - commercially, at least - for the first time at his own brewery on Ardmore Avenue in Ardmore, Pa.

(Runners finish at Johnny Brenda's and obviously have their priorities in order)

During the planning of every Beer Run that I've conducted, I'll get at least a sideways glance or two when I mention that I'm conduct an event where runners head to the intersection of beer drinking. All of my runs conclude with beer at the end. These are not "party runs", though we do have plenty of fun (usually).

No, the sideways looks I get are likely leftover vestiges of the old beer drinker stereotype. But, many who cycle, run, or perform other physically draining activities know that there can be not much more nourishing of a post-workout beverage than a glass of low-alcohol beer - session beer, if you will.

(Dave Casmay takes a beer with him on his cooldown walk)

David April, founder of Fishtown Beer Runners, knows all about that too. In fact, he's leaving tomorrow for Spain to meet with the inspiration for his beer running club.

That's why when Jean asked to share some of his beer with me I said something to the effect of "sure, I'd love to try it and so would a bunch of my running friends".

(David April toasts the runners, the bar, Tired Hands, and The Professor, the "inspiration" for Fishtown Beer Runners)

Then William Reed and his crew at Johnny Brenda's offered up their place to host the post-run beer event. Given that they typically have a handful of local and tasty session beers on tap, this seemed like the right night and the right place.

Tired Hands for Tired Feet is what we called it.

Approximately 50 or so showed up to do the run and then promptly drained the keg of Tired Hands Tabel (a spicy saison at 3.6% ABV) easily in less than an hour after they returned to Johnny Brenda's. Doing a rough calculation, there was one glass available for each runner.

After a delightful taste of Jean's beer, we moved on to other appropriate post-run beers like Sly Fox O'Reilly's Stout, Tröegs Sunshine Pils, Victory Lager, Yards Brawler, Tröegs Dreamweaver, and Dock Street Summer Session - all at or below 5.0% ABV.

All around there were plenty of winners. Johnny Brenda's with a nice chunk of business for a couple of hours. Tired Hands that got a vehicle to show off its future beer. And, runners who scored both free beer and a night of friendship through a rain-soaked run and a few post-run beers.

Next time a runner asks for a beer, don't be so surprised.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Teresa's is Sweet on Sours

Around Philadelphia, this weekend began with so many possibilities, beer and otherwise. Some of you attempted to take full advantage of numerous events from the city to the far reaches of the 'burbs.

After much contemplation, we dialed it back both in intensity and in travel time. We stopped in mid-afternoon for some bites and sours at Teresa's Next Door.

As usual, the quality did not disappoint. Add to that the takeout bottle clearance sale (some ridiculous steals) and it made for a fine way to while away a perfectly beautiful day outdoors...indoors.

During special beer events at TND, there is typically a special food menu developed to pair with the special beers of the day.

One of the most memorable food and beer pairings in recent memory made a stop in front of me at the bar. Humboldt Fog grilled cheese sandwich.

If you stop by here often, you know that I've written recently about the joy I find in a block of Humboldt Fog cheese. Melt it, add some sliced strawberries doused in balsamic vinegar, pile on a handful of greens, and stick it all between two slices of a toasted roll and you've got a delicious lunch.

Wash it all down with a sour beer (pick any of them, and you're pretty sure to be delighted) and you've got a little slice of heaven at TND...a good thing particularly if the rapture was not to be.

If you happen to be heading into Wayne, Pa. tonight (Sunday), here's a bit of what you can still find on the (sour) beer menu. And, if you ask real nicely, you might get one of the last 4 or 5 Grilled Humboldts left in the kitchen. You shouldn't be sorry.

Allagash Interlude ['09] (very light, won't last the night)
Allagash Vrienden 'East' (very light, won't last the night)
Allagash Confluence
Boon Kriek
Fantôme hiver
Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo
Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada
Petrus Aged Pale
Rodenbach ['08]
Russian River Damnation
Russian River Sanctification
Russian River Supplication 5 (very light, won't last the night)
Russian River Supplication 6
't Gaverhopke Extra
Cantillon St. Lamvinus, on the hand pump (oops, sorry just kicked a few minutes ago)

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Session #51.5: Beer and Cheese, revisited

Did I tell you that we have a new puppy in the house? Either way, I can confirm that her love for cheese runs as deep as mine.

All I was trying to do was get the second half of the Great Beer and Cheese-off accomplished, and she kept interrupting. Fortunately, I never left her alone long enough in the room to get anything more than a large tongue-swipe of clothbound cheddar.

Her name is Callie. She's a rescue dog, of course, and pointer mix of some kind. She seems to be a beer and cheese buddy and hopefully she can become somewhat of a running buddy too. You'll, no doubt, be seeing more of her around here.

So, yes, moving along.

For those of you joining late, you may ask what this is all about .

I'll point you back to an article I posted two weeks ago on the first Friday of the month, where on a monthly basis beer bloggers/writer/enthusiasts "gather" on-line to discuss a common theme. One person plays host.

This month it was Jay Brooks and he created a two-parter for May 2011.

Two weeks ago, all participants individually selected beers to pair with specific cheese (or close approximations) that he recommended. Then we wrote about the experience. My experience that I created involved friends to get multiple perspectives and hopefully make the writing more interesting.

Now, for part two, he's asked us to try pairings based on other recommendations made two weeks ago.

In the past two weeks, I've gone from "tapering" into the marathon that I ran just this past weekend, to coming out of marathon-training mode and playing a lot of catch-up this week.

While I would have loved to get a group together again for the tasting, logistically I just couldn't pull it off. So, it was me by my lonesome plowing through beer and cheese tastings. I suffer for this "job".  ;-)

I chose North Coast's Old Stock ['06] to pair with the Cheddar, 21st Amendment's Monk's Blood ['11] to pair with the Humboldt Fog, and Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine ['07] to pair with the Maytag Blue.

I also poured a Yards Saison ['11] from the tap and pulled out a bottle of Dogfish Head Squall IPA ['11] to serve as alternatives on the table in case any of the pairings were resounding strikeouts.

Here's what I found.

Carr Valley Snow White Goat Cheddar, $16.60 per pound, La Valle, WI
A creamy white Goat Cheddar Cheese made in 38# wheels and cave aged for 6 months. Took 2nd Place at the 2007 American Cheese Society Competition and 2008 Best in Show at American Cheese Society.

~ My Original Beer Pairing: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale
~ New Beer Pairing: suggestion courtesy of 99 Pours, where they remarked on the nuttiness of the cheddar and the caramelliness (spell-check won't like this, I'm sure!) of the beer. The suggestion was a North Coast Old Stock and I had an '06 in the cooler and this seemed like the right time to find out how it has been doing in there.
~ Compare and Contrast: With my original, personal selection, I was counting on caramel maltiness and significant hop bitterness to work well with the strong cheddar. The Indian Brown Ale wasn't really up to the challenge and was too distinctive in its own right. The Old Stock, though, was near-perfect. The only thing missing (simply due to 5-year-old aging, I'm sure) was enough carbonation to clear the palate of the cheese. Flavor-wise, though, 99 Pours was right-on.
~ Other potential pairings: My runner-up in this pairing was a Yards Saison, which was just spicy enough, just ever-so-slightly snappy enough, and just carbonated enough to play really well as a complement to the mildly barnlike qualities in the cheddar. From the list of other beers tried two weeks ago with this cheese, I might imagine that the Speakeasy Payback Porter that Jay Brooks recommended would also go well with this cheese.

Cypress Grove Chevre Humboldt Fog, $22.99 per pound, Arcata, CA
Our signature offering, Humboldt Fog® is an elegant, soft, surface ripened cheese. The texture is creamy and luscious with a subtle tangy flavor. Each handcrafted wheel features a ribbon of edible vegetable ash along its center and a coating of ash under its exterior to give it a distinctive, cake-like appearance. An American Original!

~ My Original Beer Pairing: Saison Dupont
~ New Beer Pairing: suggestion courtesy of Derrick Peterman at Ramblings of a Beer Runner, where he (and his wife) praised the classic fruit and cheese combination of 21st Amendment's Monk's Blood. I had a few cans of Monk's Blood still sitting around and it's a beer that I've got to know well over the past three years, first at the brewery with Mr. Sean Paxton, and particularly more so since it was packaged and distributed in cans last year.
~ Compare and Contrast: I knew going into this cheese that Saison Dupont would be difficult to beat. My hunch held up. Unlike my beer running brother from California, I was not at all pleased with the figgy fruitiness in the beer that was not spritely enough to help lift off the creamy butteriness of this amazing cheese. It became too much of a mush of flavors and textures on the palate.
~ Other potential pairings: With this cheese, Yards Saison stepped up even more greatly and played spoiler. It went real nicely with the mild tanginess of the cheese and was up to the challenge of scraping away the creamy cheese. The Old Stock from North Coast also did a nice job with its strong flavors and alcohol presence (it is 11.7% ABV, afterall).

Maytag Dairy Farms Blue, $18.99 per pound, Newton, IA
Made from cow's milk. It has been produced since 1920's when the Maytag's founded their family farm and began producing cheeses. Maytag Blue has a crumbly texture and it reveals a very spicy flavor. The period of curing and maturing takes six months.

~ My Original Beer Pairing: Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Barleywine
~ New Beer Pairing: suggestion courtesy of Stan Hieronymous at Appellation Blog, where he thought the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine's deep, rich maltiness would stand up to the Maytag. I have several from 2007 remaining and it's been quite a while since I picked one of these out of the cooler to try. Another great opportunity.
~ Compare and Contrast: The first time around, none of my cohorts nor I seemed "up" for the challenge of the Maytag Blue cheese that particular evening. This time around, my palate was a bit more accepting and I was happy for that. I noted some of the sherry-like notes from oxidation, but maybe not as prevalent as by Stan. Nonetheless, Bigfoot fights big and extreme with big and extreme. I can imagine that this is one of the more difficult cheeses to pair any beverage with, but the Bigfoot does an admirable job.
~ Other potential pairings: From the list of suggested beer pairings from two weeks ago, I might think that Jay's suggestion of Russian River Temptation would work well with its Brettanomyces funk, mild fruitiness, and alcohol strength (7.25% ABV). Tom, at What We're Drinking, suggested Bam Biere from Jolly Pumpkin for the Humboldt Fog and I might imagine it also working well with the Maytag Blue.

What else did I learn? Well, I didn't necessarily learn anything so shockingly revelatory.

One thing, though, was that by reading through dozens of other suggested pairings from other respected beer folks, it reinforced the notion that beer and cheese is one of the most complimentary and enjoyable pairings in the world of food and beverage.

But, more so, that beer is so versatile and with the beauty and subjectivity of taste, there is nearly no wrong answer when it comes to perception of good and bad pairings.

And the other thing was that doing beer and cheese pairings solo is just plain boring. (But, thanks to Callie for trying to help in that regard.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: May 19 - May 25

Run tonight with The Brew Lounge and Fishtown Beer Runners. Then, plenty to do on Saturday, May 21. Go get 'em team!

Check out the entire May 2011 calendar over here.

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

Tastings, samplings, and brewery promos
@Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 5/20 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Southern Tier beer)

@Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA--- Thu. 5/19 - Charity Cask Night (5:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for "Can’t Remember Wit" where our brewer pulverized a bunch of fruit and squished it into a cask of our Steelgaarden Wit. Benefits LLS.)

@Devil's Den, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 5/19 - Sixpoint Mad Scientist Series #3 Release (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for this tawny, malt-forward, 8.2% ABV alt bier called The Big Sticke)

@Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 5/24 - Movie Night (9:00pm; PAYG for a night of discounted beers and pizza with Jaws on the projector)

@Good Dog, Philadelphia, PA--- Sun. 5/22 - Dark Humor Release Party (7:00pm; PAYG for the collaborative beer "Dark Humor", an all brett porter from Ithaca and Iron Hill. Also several rare drafts from both breweries)

@Goshen Beverage, West Chester, PA--- Fri. 5/20 - Friday Night Tasting (4:30pm-6:30pm; Free tasting samples of Sierra Nevada beer)

@Hawthornes, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 5/24 - Keep the Growler Night (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for New Holland's Full Circle Kölsch, Golden Cap Saison, Mad Hatter IPA, Poet Oatmeal Stout, and Sundog Amber)

@Iron Hill Brewery, Media, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Dark Humor Release Party (5:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for this 100% Brett fermented collaboration porter brewed with Ithaca Brewing and served with complimentary Good Humor Bars)

@Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Ballast Point Flights (1:00pm; PAYG for Wahoo Wheat, Big Eye IPA, Three Sheets Barley Wine-aged in French Oak Syrah Barrels, and Piper Down Scottish Ale-aged in Bourbon Barrels)

Beer for Charity
@Brauhaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Liters for Litters (11:00am; PAYG to donate to PAWS and be registered for prizes)

Beer and Food events
@Allentown Brew Works, Allentown, PA--- Fri. 5/20 - Beers of Spring Beer Dinner (6:30pm-9:00pm; $30 for three courses of food paired with plenty of beer like Maibock, Space Monkey, Monkey Wrench, Blueberry Belch, and maybe a cellar surprise)

@Old City, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Craft Beer and Artisanal Cheese Tour (3:30pm-5:30pm; $49 for 7 Craft Beers and 4 Artisanal Cheeses in one of the city's best microbreweries)

@Pinocchio's, Media, PA--- Tue. 5/24 - Cheese and Beer Tasting (7:30pm; $30 for cheese from DiBruno Bros. and 6 craft beers selected from the "beer garden")

@Twenty Manning, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 5/24 - Dock Street Bacon and Beer Dinner (5pm, 7pm, 9pm; $40 for a four-course meal paired with Royal Bohemian Pilsner, Summer Session, Rye IPA, and Man Full of Trouble Porter)

@Varga Bar, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - All-American BBQ (11:00am-5:00pm; PAYG for beer by Dogfish Head and hot food by Varga where 25% of all proceeds go to the USO)

@Wegmans, all PA store locations--- Sat. 5/21 - Summer Beer and Food Tasting (12:00pm; Free tasting samples of beer and complimenting food)

A few festivals and "bigger" tasting events
@A Big Tent, Yardley, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Yardley Beer Fest (1:00pm-5:00pm; $10/$30/$35 for 45+ breweries and 85+ beers. Live music by The Kennedys)

@Canal Street Pub, Reading, PA---Sat. 5/21 - S.I.P. Fest 2011 Real Ale Fest and Pig Roast (6:00pm-10:00pm; $40 for live music and the following casks: Sly Fox Ichor, Southern Tier 2x IPA, Southern Tier Hop Sun, Weyerbacher Double Simcoe, Sixpoint Gemini, Tröegs Hopback Amber, Tröegs Java Head Stout, Stoudt's Fat Dog, Stoudt's Scarlet Lady, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Pale Ale, Lancaster Milk Stout, Blue Point Hoptical Illusion, Blue Point Pale Ale, Dock Street Rye IPA, and Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA)

@Cannstatter Volksfest-Verein, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Greater Northeast Brewfest (1:00pm-5:00pm; $10/$26/$30 for food from Cannstatter, cigars from Santiago, whisky-making equipment, and "tons" of beer)

@Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Don't Block the Bocks (11:00am; PAYG for special foods like delicious German sausages from Illg's Meats and beers like Great Lakes Doppelrock Doppelbock, Lancaster Rumspringa Honey Maibock, Manayunk Brian's Bock, Ramstein Maibock, Sly Fox Helles Bock, Sly Fox Peggy Maibock, Sly Fox Slacker Bock, Stoudt's Double Maibock, Tröegs Troegenator Doppelbock, Victory Moonglow Weizenbock, Victory St. Boisterous Maibock, and Victory St. Victorious Doppelbock)

@South Philadelphia Tap Room, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - Wheat Beer Fest (12:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG for wheat-y libations from over 30 of your favorite breweries, including: Philadelphia Brewing Company, Sly Fox, Unibroue, Franziskaner, Great Lakes, Ithaca, Harpoon, Victory, and more)

@Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA--- Sat. 5/21 - April Showers Bring May Sours (11:30am; PAYG for no less than 12 sour beers on tap. Bottle blowout by The Beer Yard in the empty café next door, too)

@World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 5/19 - A Philadelphia Ale and Arts Adventure (5:30pm-8:00pm; $35 for a trolley tour of some of the city's world-renowned murals, Yards brewery, and some liquid refreshment)

Last, but not least, a swell-sounding a Beer Run event :)
@Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 5/19 - Tired Hands for Tired Feet: A Running Event (7:00pm-9:00pm; Free to run, Free Tired Hands beer, and PAYG for other beer at Johnny Brenda's after the run)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back from Pittsburgh

Many of you know that I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon last weekend. I won't inundate you with a runner's rundown of minutia and other such geekey detail. Suffice to say that I knew going in that I'd stand little chance of setting a new personal best time and that my primary goal would be to feel comfortable and enjoy the race from start to finish as much as possible. If you like the running geekerie, drop a private note to me or meet me on a barstool somewhere and we can discuss in more detail.

Success! It did turn out to be the third best time in the six marathon races that I've run. But, more importantly, I felt pretty damn good for much of the run. Of course, there were times of exhaustion and little pains here and there. Plus, the amount of electrolytes, carbs, whatever is in those Gu packets, Clif Shot Blocks, and Gatorade that was sloshing around my stomach made the post-race beer and food all the more welcome.

The week leading up to each marathon that I run is virtually beer-free, allowing a little room, of course, for some liquid carb-loading but not much. So getting back on the (beer) horse after the race is always memorable for me.

For example, I can tell you that after the NYC Marathon, the first beer I had was Brooklyn Pennant Ale.

After the Marine Corp Marathon in D.C.? Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

In Philly the first time, it was General Lafayette's Lafayette's Escape at The tiedhouse and the second time was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at Kite & Key.

After my first Pittsburgh Marathon, it was Church Brew Works Mad Brewer's Maibock and this year after the marathon, it was a short walk to the new (-ish) downtown location of Sharp Edge where I got things swinging again with a classic Duvel.

See? I said that my first post-marathon beer is always important and memorable.

What else can I tell you about Pittsburgh? Well, we stayed downtown at The Westin and didn't venture out of downtown during our stay, unless you count that my marathon went through 13 neighborhoods of Pittsburgh! Downtown has been, from my many visits over the years, one of the least-well-served neighborhoods for good-tasting, quality beer.

I found that judgement changed a bit this time around. For example...

- Lidia's on the edge of the Strip District, in all of its Italian goodness and accompanying (requisite?) wine selection, served up a perfect draft of Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale for me. Other beers on tap there included ones from Stoudt's, Penn, and Magic Hat to name a few that I could remember without the aid of photography.

- Sonoma Grille behind the convention center, to prove that better beer is being found in more places these days -- or shall I say, more places want a piece of the craft beer action?, can be found pouring Weyerbacher Merry Monks, Kasteel Cuvée Du Chateau, and East End Big Hop IPA. Another wine place that seems to get it.

- The restaurant in our hotel, Original Fish Market, gave me a small taste -- since that's all I really wanted or needed the night before the marathon -- of East End's pleasantly bitter Big Hop IPA. Not a huge selection of beer, but a right smart choice of the local East End product.

- I stopped in at the Pittsburgh Public Market to find that Scott Smith's East End Brewery has indeed begun giving out tasters and selling growlers of its beer to go as he has touted on his website and email newsletters. Amongst nearly 40 other stands of local food, beverage, and art, East End beers fit right in with locally-crafted goods. Seems to be quite popular as well. Also spotted Jeff Appletans' creativity on sale as well at the brewery's growler stand.

- And, finally, Sharp Edge has come downtown. Their fifth location, called Bistro 922 Penn, opened nearly a year ago between 9th and 10th Streets on Penn Avenue. They have a house beer called Over The Edge produced for them by Belgian brewer, Van Steenberge. It's a Belgian Triple IPA (Belgo-American, or something like that?) and went nicely with my Buffalo Burger. Prices are bit high at the Bistro and I chalked it up to both a higher cost of business downtown and capitalizing on (taking advantage of?) the business and tourist crowds in the Downtown District. But, I understand from locals that this is not unusual for the Sharp Edge family.

What else can I share with you? Oh yeah, I wrote an article over at The Washington Times looking at the Pittsburgh beer scene from a mile-by-mile perspective along the marathon course. Check it out and let me know what you think. I'll be updating it shortly with my newest findings.

Now tonight, I must get back to beer and cheese tastings :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We Run this Thursday, will you?

And drink free beer too. Well, some of it will be free, at least.

Here's the story.

I sort of snuck this story out on a Sunday over a week ago. Many of you noticed, but I'm guessing some may have missed this. You can link back to the original posting if you wish.

Basically, I'm teaming up with the Fishtown Beer Runners (FBR) on Thursday, May 19 for a run and some beers. FBR will conduct the run. It's a 6.5 mile run through the city ending at Johnny Brenda's.

At JB's, Jean Broillet will present a keg of Tired Hands beer to us as a complimentary gesture. Well, actually he's not yet permitted to sell the beer in the State, but you can have it as a preview taste of what he'll be making in his Ardmore brewery later this year once he opens shop. He'll be at JB's to talk about his beer, location, and plans with anyone who's interested.

He plans to bring for us a "spicy saison" weighing in at around 3.6% ABV. Perfect for what we'll need after the run. Other session-y type will also be on hand. Jean's beer will be complimentary; the rest (and food) will be pay-as-you-go.

By the way, we run rain or shine. Runners (esp. FBRs) are a hearty bunch.

So far, we've got around 50 runners expected. But, we can always use more. mailto:Bryan@BrewLounge.com?subj=BeerRunRSVP if this is something you'd like to join us for. The RSVP will help with proper planning at Johnny Brenda's.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Philly Beer Week 2011: Come join us for a Run (beer, pizza, and live music too)

I've already received RSVPs for my Philly Beer Week event, an event that I haven't even officially mentioned here at The Brew Lounge. To say that I've been quite a bit behind (and quite a bit of a behind!) is an understatement. It's on the official PBW calendar and Dock Street's marketing materials. So it's high time I get the word out around here, y'think?

For the 4th consecutive year, I'll be teaming up with Dock Street to conduct the Philly Beer Run.

This year, we're going back to the 2009 concept and beginning the run in Society Hill at the street named Dock Street and will be ending in West Philly at the brewery/restaurant also named Dock Street.

The date is Sunday, June 12 and we'll gather at 10:30 a.m. at the plaza by the intersection of Dock and Front streets across from Sheraton Hotel and Society Hill Towers.

Participants will need to find their own transportation to and from the beginning and finish points.

Runners will run either solo or in teams of two through the city from point to point collecting "clues" along the way. If you participated in 2009, you'll recall how this works. If not, as the day draws near, I'll share more details. These clues will become important in earning points that can win prizes for you or your team at the finish.

Best of all, there is no fee to participate and the prizes will be awarded at Dock Street just prior to the 2 p.m. kickoff of their annual Music Festival. Those who attended last year can attest to the great music and fun had by all after the run at Dock Street.

An RSVP is required so that proper planning can be made at Dock Street.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Weekly Beer Calendar Update: May 12 - May 18

From this next week's worth of events around the region, you might not realize that Philly Beer Week begins in just three short weeks.

Check out the entire May 2011 calendar over here.

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

Tastings, samplings, and brewery promos
@Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 5/13 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Stoudt's beer)

@Blue Dog, Lansdale, PA--- Fri. 5/13 - Friday Night with Bear Republic (6:30pm; PAYG for free samples and discounted drafts of Wine Country Wheat Bavarian Hefeweizen, Nor’Cal American Bitter, Heritage Scottish Wee Heavy, Ryevalry Rye Beer, and Racer 5 India Pale Ale)

@Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 5/10 - Movie Night (9:00pm; PAYG for a night of discounted beers and pizza with Total Recall on the projector)

@Goshen Beverage, West Chester, PA--- Fri. 5/13 - Friday Night Sampling (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Reading Premium)

@Iron Hill Brewery, North Wales, PA--- Wed. 5/18 - Wheat Beer Wednesdays (11:00am-12:00am; PAYG for Orange-peel Wheat on tap)

@Isaac Newton's, Newtown, PA--- Thu. 5/12 - Brewery Promo Night (21st Amendment) (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for Monk’s Blood Belgian Dark Ale, Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer, and Bitter American)

Beers. Dinners. Done.
@Di Bruno Bros., Philadelphia, PA--- Thu. 5/12 - 5-course Beer and Cheese Tasting (6:00pm; $45/$50 for five courses of Birchrun Hills cheese and Tired Hands beers including FarmHands: 4.8% abv four-grain saison, Guillemot: 7.3% abv Dense, contemplative ale, HopHands: 5.2% abv American Pale Ale, Desert: 7.5% abv dessert beer, and Vulpine: 7.0% abv Super saison)

@Iron Abbey, Horsham, PA--- Wed. 5/18 - Unibroue Beer Dinner (7:00pm-9:00pm; $50 for a five-course meal paired with Éphémère, Blanche de Chambly, Don de Dieu, Maudite, and Terrible)

It's Beer Festival season
@Clipper Stadium, Lancaster, PA--- Sun. 5/15 - May Day Beer Festival (1:30pm; $45 gets you a a game ticket, a two hour (12:30-2:30) bratwurst & festive food buffet, and a three hour (12:30-3:30) beer sampling in the Amelia's Picnic Area)

@Iron Hill, Media, PA--- Sat. 5/14 - Craft Brewers' Festival (1:00pm-5:00pm; $45/$50 for over 25 local breweries and live music)

@The Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 5/13 - Friday the Firkinteenth (new start time) (12:00pm; PAYG for for the one and the only Original Friday the Firkinteenth including casks of the following: Cigar City Humidor IPA; Cricket Hill Reserve Series Brown; Dock Street TBA; Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA; Flying Fish Farmhouse; Fullers London Pride; Lancaster Milk Stout; Manayunk Brewerytown Brown Ale; Manayunk Hop Phanatic; Nodding Head Marauder; Philly Fleur de Lehigh; Prism Bitto Honey; Sixpoint Modern Rye; Sly Fox 113 IPA; Sly Fox Chester County Bitter; Stouts Pils; Stouts special bourbon barrel aged Scarlet Lady ESB; Tröegs Hopback Amber; Tröegs Java Head; Victory Headwaters Pale Ale; Wells Banana Bread; Wells Bombadier; Weyerbacher Verboten with camomille tea; and Yards ESA)

@Washington Crossing Historic Park, Washington Crossing, PA--- Sat. 5/14 - Washington Crossing Brewfest (12:30pm-4:30pm; $10/$40 for over 50 breweries scheduled to be in attendance)

Mad Beers with Monk's, Homebrewers, Girls, and Identity Crisis beers
@High Street Grill, Mount Holly, NJ--- Sun. 5/15 - Spring Home Brew Contest (1:00pm-5:00pm; $25 includes Buffet Lunch and 2 Beer Tickets, plus tasting and voting for the "People's Choice Award")

@Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 5/16 - Mad Monday with Sly Fox (11:30am; PAYG for 4 different Sly Fox Belgian offerings from the Royersford brewery, including the elusive Incubus. Also tapped will be the only keg of Panacea barleywine in the city and a special offering from the brewing team of Lance & The Lass.)

@The Institute, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/14 - Brunch Party and Black IPA Event (10:00am-6:00pm; PAYG for a day of food, music, and "black IPA" beers like 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA, Coronado Black Hops, Laughing Dog Dogzilla, Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA, Rogue Mogul Madness, Southern Tier Inequity, Stone Hopstrike, and Tommyknocker Hopstrike)

@Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA--- Mon. 5/16 - Girls Just Wanna Have Suds (6:00pm-9:00pm; $35 for four beer/food tasting stations and to be among the first to taste Project Venus, the only one keg of the women-brewed beer is available in PA)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another change at Dogfish Head

Only have a couple of surface-level details on this one (though multiple confirmations, so...), but a well-placed source has informed me that Floris Delée is leaving his position as brewmaster of Dogfish Head and returning to consulting.

Expansion, TV Show "drama", Bryan Selders leaving, and now Floris' change. As for details, I do not have any word of who has stepped in to the official brewmaster title. Interesting times (growing pains?) for the big brewery in the small state.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Are bar owners/event planners losing the knack for creativity?

Trademarks, or lack of active ones, aside, I'm pretty sure that there's one and only one Friday the Firkinteenth — and it's in Philadelphia at the Grey Lodge Pub. Has been for over 13 years (coincidence).

J. Ryan's in Syracuse? Not so much. They opened just a little over a year ago.

I'd link to their site, but they don't have a website or Facebook page. Saw the event listed on BeerAdvocate.

Not that their competitive markets overlap (200 miles apart?), but the name is so unique I'd find it very difficult to believe they magically came up with this creative name for their upcoming event on 5/13 all by themselves.

Update: After a brief conversation with Scoats, I now see that a local (much more overlapping, fwiw) bar in Drexel Hill has named another similar event. 2312 Garrett. Scratch that, not similar, looks pretty much the same. Cask beer, Friday the 13th, need more evidence?

Poorly played, folks. Whether Friday the Firkinteenth is trademarked or not, how about we instead see some of your own creativity?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

"Tired Feet deserve Tired Hands" — another Beer Run brought to you by The Brew Lounge

Run with The Brew Lounge and Fishtown Beer Runners (FBR) on Thursday, May 19 in Philadelphia.

The run begins at 7:00pm sharp at 2346 East Susquehanna Avenue.

The run ends at Johnny Brenda's at 1201 Frankford Avenue.

You can choose from the FBR's 6.5 mile run or make your own shorter one.

As an added bonus, on this special evening, you will have the opportunity that very few others have had to try some preview beer from a new brewery due to open within the next 6-9 months.

Tired Hands Brewery and its owner/brewer, Jean Broillet, will be on hand to discuss the beer that he brings along to pour for you free of charge. Right now, we're discussing a 3.6% ABV spicy saison. He may run with us as well.

Alongside of his great beer, Johnny Brenda's will be serving up their typical great food and beer. Owner William Reed has arranged to put on as many session-like beers for our post-run as possible (pay as you go).

This should be as great a night as ever for running and beer drinking.

Will you join us? An RSVP will be helpful for us to ensure proper arrangements at Johnny Brenda's.

Please RSVP to Bryan@BrewLounge.com to confirm or with additional questions.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Session #51: Beer and Cheese

The monthly roundtable of beer writers/bloggers that is The Session is convened the first Friday of every month. A different host announces a theme of their choosing each month and plays the role of host and gatherer of submissions on the topic. (For a history of all Sessions, check out Jay's compilation of monthly wrap-ups.)

This month, May 2011, Jay Brooks took the helm. He announced the topic of 'Beer & Cheese: The Great Online Beer & Cheese-Off', which of itself is a worthy subject for sure. But, he went the one extra step (perhaps in an effort to lure the likes of me back in to the fold after many, many months of absence from The Session) and set out a few specific rules for playing along. See, I haven't participated in this monthly project since somewhere in the early months of year one or two. This topic, though, is one that I couldn't refuse given the two tasty subjects and the added degree of difficulty.

I chose to not only share with you the tasting results from the group of eager and willing participants I gathered, but to also use this as a sort of guide to running your own beer and cheese tasting. Hopefully, there are some points in here (both in my successes and oversights) that you can take away as learning points as did I.

(the tasting table prep)
The Session "rules"
Jay asked all who would participate to go out and buy three cheeses. He named three cheeses that should readily be found in most major markets across the States, thus ensuring a somewhat level playing field for all involved. The first two were no problem for me, Cypress Grove Chevre's Humboldt Fog and Maytag Dairy Farm's Blue. The third, Widmer one year-aged Cheddar, I've seen plenty of on store shelves, but when I went to the cheese display this particular time, I came up empty. In fact, finding a one-year old aged cheddar to my liking from Wisconsin proved to be way more difficult than I would have imagined. So, I opted for Carr Valley's Snow White Goat Cheddar (cloth-bound and cave-aged six months) as a close approximation. Next to this cheese on the shelf was another that caught my eye, the Apple-smoked Cheddar also from Carr Valley.

Here are short manufacturer descriptions for each:
Carr Valley Apple Smoked Cheddar, $10.50 per pound
La Valle, WI
Made in a 12# wheel. This white cheddar is apple smoked and then hand rubbed with paprika. It has a light smoky flavor that balances very well with the paprika. This cheese won 1st Place at the 2005 American Cheese Society in its category, 3rd Place at the 2006 World Cheese Competition, and 3rd Place at the 2006 American Cheese Society Competition.

Carr Valley Snow White Goat Cheddar, $16.60 per pound
La Valle, WI
A creamy white Goat Cheddar Cheese made in 38# wheels and cave aged for 6 months. Took 2nd Place at the 2007 American Cheese Society Competition and 2008 Best in Show at American Cheese Society.

Cypress Grove Chevre Humboldt Fog, $22.99 per pound
Arcata, CA
Our signature offering, Humboldt Fog® is an elegant, soft, surface ripened cheese. The texture is creamy and luscious with a subtle tangy flavor. Each handcrafted wheel features a ribbon of edible vegetable ash along its center and a coating of ash under its exterior to give it a distinctive, cake-like appearance. An American Original!

Maytag Dairy Farms Blue, $14.90 per pound
Newton, IA
Made from cow's milk. It has been produced since 1920's when the Maytag's founded their family farm and began producing cheeses. Maytag Blue has a crumbly texture and it reveals a very spicy flavor. The period of curing and maturing takes six months.

After procuring these cheeses from our local Wegmans store, the next step in the game was to taste the cheeses paired with beers of my choosing — ones that I thought might pair well with each cheese. I could do this tasting solo or get others to participate. I wanted to keep this somewhat under control so Patty and I invited over just a couple of neighbors.

Beer and Cheese tasting preparation
I put together a tasting notes page for each of our participants. On one hand, I wanted to get enough feedback that I would somehow incorporate into this writeup of the cheeses and beers. But, on the other hand, I didn't want the form to be so "geeky" and so overwhelming when what I really wanted was for people to sample and enjoy without feeling too stressed by what I was asking.

To prepare for the gathering and tasting, while it was all about the beer and cheese, obviously there were other things I needed to worry about as well. If you prepare your own beer and cheese tasting, here are some things that you may also find handy to keep in mind.

Things like:

  • sufficient tasting area around the table for beer, food, glassware, writing, etc.
  • small sampling glassware
  • water glasses, and extra water for rinsing, if desired (dump bucket also, if so)
  • napkins
  • tasting notes forms and pens
  • tools like knives, spoons, cheese spreaders, etc.
  • crackers with very little flavor as a palate neutralizer between beers/cheeses
  • small snacks of food that might include nuts and fruits

    The Session at The Brew Lounge
    It's also important to choose a good day and time to conduct the tasting. Many will say that the palate, like much of the rest of the body, is more receptive and perceptive earlier in the day. Weekends, for some, can be less stressful as opposed to weeknight scheduling. This, however, does not typically accommodate well when trying to schedule a group of people. We took the opposite approach and chose a Wednesday night around 9 p.m. to undertake this little project.

    Selecting the beers was fun. My goal, as you'll see on the tasting notes form, was to ask that each participant definitely drink the one beer that I suggested with each cheese. I also put a variety of other beers on the table so that any of them could be tried with any of the beers. I attempted, for the most part, to choose beers that I already had on hand in my cooler and that any of you readers — no matter your location — would have a good chance of finding either across the Philadelphia region or the country.

    Each person would then make notes on the following for each beer and cheese:

  • What does it smell like?
  • What does it taste like?
  • Comments about the pairing.
  • A ranking within the beer/cheese pairing category.
  • An overall pairing ranking.

    Like I said, I didn't want to get into an overly scientific analysis and therefore constructed the form to hopefully be as least intimidating as possible. Check it out the form below (click for larger view).

    (the Tasting Notes form)
    The Session, Lessons Learned
    As I might have expected, while I did get good feedback on all forms, we all reached a breaking point eventually. It could have been due to any of the following reasons that you might want to consider if you're throwing your own beer and cheese tasting party.

  • I was distracted by the Philadelphia Flyers playoff game that I had on the TV in the background. Music would have been the better choice, particularly given the final score!
  • There was too much clutter on the table. It was all necessary, but the table that we used on the sun porch was too small.
  • At the same time, I had too much beer and cheese on the table. In hindsight, I might instead have chosen to put a small hunk of each cheese on individual plates and maybe even pre-poured the recommended beers. That way, extra bottles and cheese could have been moved off to a side table for later additional servings.

    This was my first such structured tasting, with notes/forms and whatnot, so this was a learning experience for sure.

    (the chosen 4)
    The Session, Results
    To the results, beer-man! What you'll see in the following notes are a compilation from all of the tasting comments without identifying individual names (to protect the innocent?).

    Humboldt Fog: Paired with Brasserie Dupont Saison

    Pairing judgement: The beer had notes of citrus rind like lemon and grapefruit; other fruit notes like apple and pear. Some honeysuckle and pepperiness as well. The cheese was smooth and tangy, but not overwhelmingly so. Notes of grass, butter, mineral, and fresh milk house buttercream. The cheese was nearly the unanimous favorite and the pairing was fairly well-received with comments about the prickly carbonation that lifts the cheese's creaminess off the tongue...to the nice balance between the beer's fruitiness and the cheese's creaminess.

    Other pairing notes: The Orval did not have enough punch to stand up to the cheese. The Alaskan Smoked Porter was a pleasant surprise with its smokey creaminess blending nicely with the cheese's creaminess. The Sierra 30th Anniversary was a bit overpowering for the cheese as it muted some of the cheese's more dominant flavors. And, lastly, the Maui Bikini Blonde Lager also surprised with its Meyer Lemon-like and clean flavors that brought out even more of a French butter-like quality in the cheese.

    Maytag Blue: Paired with Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Barleywine

    Pairing judgement: It seemed that almost no one was up for the sharp tartness of the Maytag Blue. I was surprised by this as I am one that can really pack away mouthfuls of this cheese. But, not on this particular evening; I found the tartness too much for my liking. Others found the same tartness, the same acidity as I along with some flavors of peat moss and "spicy mud". The barleywine and its molasses, port, caramel, and cork characteristics made for a beer that all enjoyed, but the intended pairing was an afterthought. Though, one did comment that the mellowness of the beer provided a nice offset to the tangy sharpness of the cheese.

    Other pairing notes: No one attempted another pairing with the Blue, but I can imagine that a soured beer may provide a nice complement to the cheese.

    Apple-smoked Cheddar: Paired with Alaskan Smoked Porter

    Pairing judgement: I only picked up this cheese because I saw the word "apple-smoked" and thought, "hey, I have one last bottle of '05 Alaskan Smoked Porter...let's give this a try". Most enjoyed the cheese with its fire pit, cedar plank, paprika, sweet bologna, apple, smoked salmon, and burning leaves characteristics. And, most enjoyed the beer and how its mellowed a bit over the years while still retaining its pleasant leathery, wood, and also burning leaves flavors and aromas. All agreed that smoked next to smoked, though, did not do so well together.

    Other pairing notes: A recurring secondary pairing that pleased a few of us was the Dogfish Indian Brown which really did not go well with the other cheese from Carr Valley at all. Here it provided molasses, caramel, and bitter hoppiness that provided additional depth to the pairing that the Smoked Porter could not. Very pleasing.

    Snow White Goat Cheddar: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

    Pairing judgement: I realize that this cheddar did not really measure up to Jay's request for a one-year-old (or more) cheddar from Wisconsin. I got the Wisconsin right...but this one was aged six months. I thought it might add a couple of points for being cloth-wrapped and cave-aged, but nonetheless, the pairing did not work. The cheese was nice, and the beer is mighty fine and worked well with the apple-smoked. But, the grassy, earthy, burlap, somewhat gamy/goat-y properties of the cheese were overpowered by the hoppiness of the beer.

    Other pairing notes: The cheese only worked for a couple of us, therefore the only one alternative pairing that was attempted was with the Maui Bikini Blonde Lager. This one worked better than the DFH beer, but still not stellar. Even though it's a hoppy beer, the 21st Amendment Bitter American might be a combination I should have tried instead.

    Also on the table, but not tried, were: 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA; General Lafayette 275th Anniversary Barleywine; Ommegang Gnomegang; and Scaldis Noel.

    This was a lot of fun. I think I put the right amount of preparation into the tasting night and am anxious to work out a couple of the finer points where I came up short as I mentioned earlier.

    Thanks to Jay Brooks for facilitating this and I'll do my best to reconvene in two weeks for another go-round.

    (Humboldt Fog, far and away the most popular)
  • Thursday, May 05, 2011

    Weekly Beer Calendar Update: May 5 - May 11

    And May rolls along with a barrel full of great beer and events.

    Check out the entire May 2011 calendar over here.

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

    Tastings, samplings, and brewery promos
    @Bell's Beverage, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 5/6 - Friday Night Tasting (4:00pm-6:00pm; Free tasting samples of Michigan Beers)

    @Bethlehem Brew Works, Bethlehem, PA--- Thu. 5/5 - Charity Cask Night (5:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for a cask of special beer to benefit LLS)

    @Dock Street, Philadelphia, PA--- Tue. 5/10 - Movie Night (9:00pm; PAYG for a night of discounted beers and pizza with Wall-e on the projector)

    @Iron Hill Brewery, Phoenixville, PA--- Thu. 5/5-Sat. 5/7 - Cinco De Mayo Weekend Pairing (5:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for Three nights of Mexican celebration. Choose between a Pork Taco paired with a 10 oz. Lime Hefeweisen or Mini-nachos paired with a 10 oz. Vienna Lager for $7.50)
    @Iron Hill Brewery, North Wales, PA--- Thu. 5/5 - Ghost Chili Porter Release (11:00am-12:00am; PAYG for Pig Iron porter aged for 2 weeks with Bhut Jolokia peppers locally farmed by Mug Club member Ian Ashley)
    @Iron Hill Brewery, Maple Shade, NJ--- Fri. 5/6 - Cinco de Mayo (all day; PAYG for Oscura – a dark Mexican lager with a pronounced roasted malt aroma and flavor, and a crisp, clean finish)
    @Iron Hill Brewery, Newark, DE--- Fri. 5/6 - Beers of Summer Release Party (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for the release of 3 popular summer beers: Belgian White, West Coast Golden Ale, and German Pilsner)
    @Iron Hill Brewery, Phoenixville, PA--- Fri. 5/6 - Firkin Friday (5:00pm-7:00pm; PAYG for a cask still TBD)

    @Trolley Car Diner, Philadelphia, PA--- Fri. 5/6 - Philadelphia Brewing tasting (5:30pm-7:30pm)

    @Washington House, Sellersville, PA--- Fri. 5/6 - Friday Night Beer Tasting (Pretty Things) (PAYG)

    @Whole Foods, Plymouth Meeting, PA--- Thu. 5/5 - First Thursday Beer Sampling (6:00pm-8:00pm; Free tasting samples of Tröegs)

    A tasting and then some
    @Hawthornes, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/7 - 2nd Annual IPA Block Party (4:00pm-8:00pm; PAYG as they shut down part of 11th street to properly celebrate one of our favorite styles of beer and to welcome the much anticipated Spring Season with 24 different IPAs, live bands, and good vibes.)

    @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA--- Thu. 5/5 - Stone 10-tap Event (7:00pm-9:00pm; PAYG for one beer on gravity cask and the remaining nine on tap, including this years highly rated Stone Imperial Russian Stout)

    @Monk's Café, Philadelphia, PA--- Mon. 5/9 - Mad Monday with Flying Fish (11:30am; PAYG for Exit 1 (Bayshore Oyster Stout), Exit 6 (Wallonian Rye Ale with Brettanomyces), Exit 13 (Chocolate Stout), Exit 13 (Bourbon Barrel aged Chocolate Stout), Abbey Double (Bourbon Barrel-aged), and Big Fish Barleywine (2006 Vintage))

    @Teresa's Next Door, Wayne, PA--- Tue. 5/10 - Tuesday Morning Tappings (New Holland) (11:30am; PAYG for Sundog, Full Circle, Golden Cap, Dragons Milk '09 and '11, Black Tulip '09, Night Tripper '10, and Bottles of Dragon's Milk and 2008 Black Tulip alongside of wild, foraged, locally grown and/or raised/hunted foods)

    @TJ's, Paoli, PA--- Sat. 5/7 - SlyDogGang (6:00pm-10:00pm; PAYG for a boatload of beers from Dogfish Head (Aprihop, Black & Blue, Burton Baton, Hellhound, My Antonia, Palo Santo Marron, Raison D'Etre, Red & White, World Wide Stout, and a firkin of 75 Minute IPA), Ommegang (Abbey Ale, BPA, Chocolate Indulgence, Gnomegang, Hennepin, Rare Vos, Three Philosophers, and Witte), and Sly Fox (Belgian Dubbel, Black Raspberry Reserve, Incubus, Kimberton Coffee Porter, Oatmeal Stout, Odyssey, and Saison Vos))

    @Union Jack's on the Manatawny, Boyertown, PA--- Thu. 5/5 - Cinco de New Holland (4:00pm; PAYG for El Mole Ocho, Envious, Golden Cap, NHAS (New Holland Artisan Spirits) Rum Barrel-Night Tripper, Oak aged Charkoota Rye, Oak aged Imperial Hatter, and Dragons Milk from the firkin. Live music by the Good Lovin' Jam Band)

    Beer and Food events
    @Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 5/11 - Anchor Brew & Chew (6:00pm-8:00pm; $20 gets you a 2 hour open bar, pairing Anchor Brewing's Steam, Liberty Ale, Summer, and Porter with four different tapas style appetizers)

    @Old City, Philadelphia, PA--- Sat. 5/7 and Sat. 5/21 - Craft Beer and Artisanal Cheese Tour (3:30pm-5:30pm; $49 for 7 Craft Beers and 4 Artisanal Cheeses in one of the city's best microbreweries)

    @Vudu Lounge (formerly High Street Caffe), West Chester, PA--- Tue. 5/10 - Stoudt's Beer Dinner (7:00pm; $50 for a five-course meal paired with Pilsner, American Pale Ale, 1860 IPA, Belgian Tripel, and Heifer-in-Wheat)

    @White Dog, Philadelphia, PA--- Wed. 5/11 - Sly Fox Beer Dinner (6:30pm-9:30pm; $50 for a four-course meal paired with Pilsner, Saison Vos, IPA, Maibock, and Black Raspberry Reserve)

    Tuesday, May 03, 2011

    All Station Taproom. All Great.

    This is my mondo Station Taproom review with a little bit of everything — Beer Dinner Event, Anniversary Party, Interview.

    In a way, it's a huge make-up posting for all that I've missed writing about at Sean's place over the past year. Hope it all makes sense by the time I finish spilling it out here.

    The Background
    Station Taproom was opened in April 2010 by Sean McGettigan, formerly of The Drafting Room in Exton, and his business partner who has since left the partnership. Based on conversations with both Sean and some of his regular customers, most would argue that the Taproom has hit its stride and is turning out food, beer, and good times better than ever as it celebrates its first anniversary.

    The Trois Enfants Beer Dinner
    First up, the Trois Enfants Beer Dinner on March 27 featured beers from three rising stars on the Philadelphia brewing scene: Jean Broillet (currently of Iron Hill, soon to be opening his own Tired Hands Brewing Company); Ryan Michaels (numerous award-winning brewer at the growing McKenzie Brew House); and Jon Defibaugh (brewer at Earth Bread + Brewery).

    They may call themselves the 'three children', but the beers they brew individually as well as collaboratively are anything but juvenile. All three demonstrate a deftness for skilled brewing, particularly the not-so-typical beers.

    Defibaugh and his boss at Earth, Tom Baker, make a pointed effort to rarely brew the same beer, constantly incorporating combinations of hops, yeast, and assorted other ingredients for spicing the beer differently than most beer drinkers are accustomed to.

    Michaels, in his 5+ years at McKenzie, has blossomed into a superbly-skilled head brewer soon to be overseeing production at three locations along the Route 202 corridor in Chester County. His Saison Vautour has won GABF gold in three of the past four years and his constantly rotating specialty menu of beers keeps regulars as well as newcomers to McKenzie interested and delighted in his very well-made beers.

    Broillet's success has been well-documented from his early days at Weyerbacher to the past five or so years brewing at Iron Hill's West Chester location. He loves himself some hoppy beers and some farmhouse ales. Those will be two primary areas of focus at his Tired Hands Brewery coming soon to Ardmore, Pa.

    The three brewed a beer called Trois Enfants, which can be loosely described as a dark saison. Upon arrival at Station Taproom for the beer dinner, guests mingled with a glass of this tasty beer with a generous dosage of malted rye, weighing in at just under 7% ABV.

    The dinner was held on a Sunday, beginning at 4 p.m.— which, by the way, I consider a stroke of genius and a start time that I'd like to see others follow. After owner Sean McGettigan officially welcomed the sold-out room of dining guests, Jean described the concept for the dinner, described the first couple of beers, and we were off and running.

    But, the dinner never felt like a sprint, nor like a snooze. Chef Tim Smith talked about each course along the way next to the brewer and his beer being served at each course. Smith proved that he can not only balance a busy, and small, kitchen while conducting a beer dinner for roughly 40 people, but he can adroitly work the crowd with ease as well. It's obvious that Chef Tim has made friends in the dining room during his time thus far at the Taproom.

    Two of the most important aspects that many, and I, value in a beer dinner are pacing and interaction. The many individuals involved in this undertaking collectively nailed both. The interaction with the attendees, I already discussed. The pacing, though, was remarkable given that this was the first major beer dinner event undertaken by Sean, Tim, and the staff at Station Taproom. Each course was roughly separated by 20-30 minutes and the presentation and mood in the room was so perfectly relaxed to make for an enjoyable dinner all around.

    But, yes, what about the food and beer you may ask? I'll bet you thought I'd never get to it. It's not a stretch, and maybe a bit easy to say, that each of the dishes and the beers in and of themselves were very well done. As for pairings, the first course of salad greens with a spicy chorizo went real nicely with the hop aroma and spiciness of Broillet's Hop Hands.

    Yet, the beer and cheese pairing (a point in the beer dinner that can really shine) may have taken top honors for pairing at this dinner. For my palate, the Birchrun Hills Fat Cat and the McKenzie Irma created the most pair-worthy (or 'funk'-worthy?) combination. In northern Chester County, this farm and this brewery are two can't misses.

    The party, even after the dinner was officially over, did not want to stop. The early start time allowed guests to stay for 1 or 3 or 5 or more beers to continue the casual celebration until it was time to finally head home. Sean, Tim, and staff hung around as well to the delight of all.

    (see the end of this posting for a full dinner menu description)

    >> The picture gallery gives you a glimpse into the people, the plates, and the beers of the evening.

    The 1st Anniversary Party
    On Saturday, April 23, Station Taproom hosted great beers for its great customer base developed over the past year. There's actually not much to say about the anniversary event since they basically did what they've done for the last 12 months — that is, serve great beer and locally-sourced plates of interesting food in a comfortable environment. Anything more, and I'd just be making up words for the sake of adding words.

    Well, I do feel compelled to at least mention one of my favorite beers, hailing from Montreal, Dieu de Ciel's Péché Mortel, which made an appearance on tap and I'd like to thank everyone for complying with my wishes to leave some on tap for me when I arrived late in the afternoon. A draft rarity, to be sure, and a mighty tasty one at that.

    >> Click over to Picasa for a gallery of some photos from the anniversary party.

    The Interview — A Look Back
    This is my first major foray into video. As many of you know, I'm quite enamored with the Kodak video recorder that I picked up last year prior to our European trip. It appeared to me to be a better value than the popular Flip camera, and thus far has not let me down.

    I stopped by Station Taproom the day prior to the 1st Anniversary Party and took some time to interview owner Sean McGettigan. I was originally aiming for 5-7 minutes, but as things tend to go around here it stretched out — to the tune of around 12 minutes. For future interviews, I'll work to corral myself and the questions in order to keep the duration (and your attention spans) under control.

    Plus, the audio may have been better served if I'd used an external microphone. You should be able to hear most of the interview, but there are times when ambient noise from the bar and kitchen can be heard in the background.

    Enough apologies...

    All in all, though, it was nice to sit down with McGettigan to pause for a look back on his last 12 months of operation in Downingtown, Pa. living out one of his long time dreams.

    Trois Enfants Beer Dinner Menu
    Welcome Beer — Trois Enfants

    First Course — Winter Greens and Chorizo Salad
    paired with Tired Hands Hop Hands

    Second Course — Espresso & Chili Rubbed Pork Loin
    paired with Earth Bread & Brewery Libertine Black Lager

    Third Course — Cheese Plate (provided by Birchrun Hills Farm)
    paired with McKenzie Brew House Irma Extra

    Fourth Course — Sticky Toffee Pudding
    paired with Tired Hands Desert