Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oktoberfest starts right.....about.....now at Sly Fox

(get up close and personal with a can of Oktoberfest from Sly Fox; you likely should not be disappointed)

And, increasingly too, at many craft breweries across the country.

Heck, the card shops have not only Halloween gifts and decorations on the shelves already, but Jolly Ol' St. Nick is making an appearance as well.

So, by comparison, these Oktoberfest beers are only around 6 weeks early and that makes it sound not so unreasonable. Plus, why get so hung up on "drinking seasonally" anyway. Good beer is good beer no matter the time of year, yes?

Sly Fox's hit the distributors yesterday and a fresh can was a parting gift for me from regional brewery rep Corey Reid at Rino's last week when he stopped by to conduct a free tasting event.

This is one of the Philadelphia region's finest Oktoberfest offerings in my opinion. It's got everything you want going on in an Oktoberfest-"styled" beer. Sturdy enough but not too full-bodied, just bitter-hopped enough to be noticable but not overwhelming, and weighing in under 6% ABV so you can put a few of these back (as long as you also are sturdy and full-bodied) without feeling dramatic effects.

I'm looking forward to quite of few of these in the coming weeks. Get some and spread the gemuchlichkeit.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Beer Calendar: What To Do in August 2012

Thanks for those of you who expressed strong feelings for the monthly calendar (and weekly updates) here at The Brew Lounge. I had little doubt that it was one of the most popular features. As much as I love to write and convey thoughts through personal stories and informational articles, I realize that this is an invaluable service to many of you who have no other way of comprehensively finding out what is going on around the always very busy Philadelphia calendar of beer events.

Let's keep it going here with the August calendar.

As always, 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

All summer long - Twin Peaks on the Big Screen @Memphis Taproom, Philadelphia, Pa. (9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Wed. 8/1 - Game of Tröegs @Pub on Passyunk East, Philadelphia, Pa. (8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Wed. 8/1 - Monthly Beer School (The Beers of Jolly Pumpkin) @Memphis Taproom, Philadelphia, Pa. (12:00 p.m.; $Free)
Thu. 8/2 - CH7 is Peachy Keen @Chestnut 7, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - First Friday After Party w/ Victory Brewing @Barcade, Philadelphia, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - National Watermelon Day Celebration @City Tap House, Philadelphia, Pa. (4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - First Friday Free Beer Tasting @Trolley Car Diner, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.; $Free)
Fri. 8/3 - Friday Night Sampling (Yards) @Craft Beer Outlet, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $Free)
Sat. 8/4 - Charlie & The Sausage Factory @The Institute, Philadelphia, Pa. (2:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sun. 8/5 - Good Old War, Good Old Beer @Dock Street Brewery, Philadelphia, Pa. (6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Tue. 8/7 - Movie Night (The Sandlot) @Dock Street Brewery, Philadelphia, Pa. (8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Wed. 8/8 - Monthly Beer School @Resurrection Ale House, Philadelphia, Pa. (4:00 p.m.; $Free)
Thu. 8/9 - Pineapple Express Beer Release @Iron Hill, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00pm-8:00pm; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/10 - Friday Night Sampling (Philadelphia Brewing Company) @Craft Beer Outlet, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $Free)
Sat. 8/11 - Grey Lodge's Sweet (and Sour) Sixteen @Grey Lodge Pub, Philadelphia, Pa. (4:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/11 - Pot Luck @Nodding Head, Philadelphia, Pa. (3:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Mon. 8/13 - Social Pass Beer & Burger Dinner @Lucky's Last Chance, Philadelphia, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $20)
Wed. 8/15 - Monthly Beer School @Local 44 Bottle Shop, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.; $Free)
Thu. 8/16 - Prism Brewing Night @Barcade, Philadelphia, Pa. (4:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/16 - Night Market @Germantown Avenue (Mt. Airy), Philadelphia, Pa. (6:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/17 - Friday Night Sampling (Lancaster Brewing Company) @Craft Beer Outlet, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $Free)
Sat. 8/18-Fri. 8/24 - Pucker Up Sour Festival @Devil's Den, Philadelphia, Pa. ($PAYG)
Sat. 8/18 - Evil Genius Tap Takeover @Chestnut 7, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/18 - Cask Event @Triumph Brewing Company, Philadelphia, Pa. (TBA)
Fri. 8/24 - Flying Fish Happy Hour @Rittenhouse Tavern, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/24 - Friday Night Sampling (Neshaminy Creek) @Craft Beer Outlet, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $Free)
Sat. 8/25 - Bring Your Dog To Brunch (PSPCA fundraiser) @City Tap House, Philadelphia, Pa. (11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/25 - Founders Ice Cream Experiment 2.0 @The Institute, Philadelphia, Pa. (2:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Wed. 8/29 - Suds 'n' Sliders with Victory Tap Takeover @For Pete's Sake Pub, Philadelphia, Pa. (6:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/30 - Germany Comes from Jeremy: Neshaminy Creek Brewing @Hop Angel Brauhaus, Philadelphia, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/30 - Ballast Point Brewing Night @Barcade, Philadelphia, Pa. (4:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/31 - Friday Night Sampling (Elysian & Uinta) @Craft Beer Outlet, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $Free)
Fri. 8/31 - Friday Night Sampling (Flying Fish) @Bella Vista Beverage, Philadelphia, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $Free)

Philadelphia's close suburbs (within 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
Fri. 8/3 - First Friday's Cask (Aka-Oni (The Red Devil)) @Iron Hill, North Wales, Pa. (5:00pm-9:00pm; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - Staropramen Sampling @Pinocchio's, Media, Pa. (6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - Boozin' For Boobies @Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - First Friday's Cask (Rising Sun IPA) @Iron Hill, Media, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/4 - Assistant Brewers Royal Rumble @Iron Hill, North Wales, Pa. (5:00pm-10:00pm; $PAYG)
Tue. 8/7 - Battle of the Beverages Dinner @Pinocchio's, Media, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Wed. 8/8 - Christmas in August @Iron Hill, Media, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Tue. 8/14 - National Creamsicle Day @Iron Hill, Media, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/18 - Beer & BBQ @Iron Hill, North Wales, Pa. (2:00pm-6:00pm; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/23 - Beer and Cheese Pairing @Iron Hill, Media, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/25 - Bitter Rivalry @Iron Hill, North Wales, Pa. (5:00pm-10:00pm; $PAYG)
Wed. 8/29 - 2 Logan TJ Release Party @Iron Hill, Maple Shade, NJ (5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)

Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania / Other (beyond 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
Wed. 8/1 - Charity Cask Night ("Black Hop Explosion dry hopped with extra Citra Hops" to benefit Allentown Art Museum) @Fegley's Brew Works, Allentown, Pa. (5:00pm; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/2 - Rising Sun Release @Iron Hill, Lancaster, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/2 - Charity Cask Night (to benefit Godfrey Daniels – the Lehigh Valley’s premier live music listening room) @Fegley's Brew Works, Bethlehem, Pa. (5:00pm-9:00pm; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - First Friday's Cask (Hoppopotamus, a full-bodied red ale and Full Nelson, a single-hopped American IPA) @Iron Hill, Phoenixville, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - Incubus Friday @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, Pa. (11:30am; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - Friday Night Tasting (Sixpoint) @Goshen Beverage, West Chester, Pa. (4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.; $Free)
Fri. 8/3 - Dogfish Head Festina Lente @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, Pa. (6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/3 - Family Owned Craft Beers From Europe @Washington House, Sellersville, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/4 - Turtle Stone Brewing Company Beer and Food Night Out @Double Eagle Saloon, Vineland, NJ (7:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Tue. 8/7 - Big Ass Ballast Point Night @Side Bar, West Chester, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/9 - Weyerbacher Fundraiser @Ron's Original, Exton, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $Free + donations and PAYG)
Sat. 8/11 - Books and Brushes Beef and Beer II @Ballroom on High, Pottstown, Pa. (6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $20)
Sat. 8/11 - Beer and Bocce @Iron Hill, Wilmington, Del. (12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/11 - Cape May Craft Beer & Crab Festival @Emlen Physick Estate, Cape May, NJ (11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; $Free admission, then PAYG)
Sat. 8/11 - American Homebrewers Association Rally @Tröegs Brewery, Hershey, Pa. (2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.; $Free for Members Only)
Fri. 8/17-Sat. 8/18 - Victory Total Tap Takeover @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, Pa. ($PAYG)
Fri. 8/17 - The Big Chill @Iron Hill, Phoenixville, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Fri. 8/17 - Third Friday Firkin Fest (Chester County Bitter and Standard Pils) @Sly Fox, Phoenixville, Pa. (11:30 a.m.; $PAYG)
Thu. 8/23 - Evil Twin Tap Takeover @Isaac Newton's, Newtown, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.;$PAYG)
Thu. 8/23 - Meet The Brewers from Manayunk @Craft Ale House, Limerick, Pa. ($PAYG)
Fri. 8/24 - Beat The Heat With Wheat @Iron Hill, Lancaster, Pa. (5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.; $PAYG)
Sat. 8/25 - Heffes and Horseshoes @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, Pa. ($PAYG)
Fri. 8/31 - Dogfish Head Burton Baton @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, Pa. (6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $PAYG)

Events Over $20

Tue. 8/7 - Social Pass Beer Tasting @Triumph Brewery, Philadelphia, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; $25)
Sat. 8/18 - Crabfest 2012 @City Tap House, Philadelphia, Pa. (1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.; $30)
Tue. 8/21 - Brewmaster’s Summer Dinner Menu @Iron Hill, Philadelphia, Pa. (7:00pm; $TBD)
Tue. 8/21 - Oskar Blues BBQ, Blues, and Firkins @Lemon Hill, Philadelphia, Pa. ($65)
Wed. 8/22 - Around The World in 80 Beers @World Café Live, Philadelphia, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m.; $55)
Sat. 8/25 - Bell's Beer Dinner @JG Domestic, Philadelphia, Pa. (6:30 p.m.; $55)
Sun. 8/26 - Brasserie Des Franches-Mantagnes Tasting @Lemon Hill, Philadelphia, Pa. (4:30 p.m.; $52)

Philadelphia's close suburbs (within 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
Tue. 8/7 - Gretz Beer Dinner @Big Fish Grill, Conshohocken, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $55)
Sat. 8/11 - Rock Hops: American Music and Craft Beer Tasting @Mercer County Park, West Windsor, NJ (1:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.; $35/$65)
Wed. 8/15 - Bell's Beer Dinner @Iron Abbey, Horsham, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $60)
Fri. 8/17 - Eat and Drink Local: A World of Beer @Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle, Doylestown, Pa. (7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; $28/$35)
Fri. 8/24 - Firestone Walker Beer Dinner @High Street Grill, Mount Holly, NJ (7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; $75)

Greater Philadelphia Metro / Eastern Pennsylvania / Other (beyond 20 mile radius of Philadelphia)
Sat. 8/4 - SPCA Victory BrewBQ @Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown, Pa. (12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.; $TBD)
Tue. 8/7 - Spanish Theme Beer Dinner @Union Barrel Works, Reamstown, Pa. (6:30 p.m.; $40)
Wed. 8/8 - Meet the Brewery Dinner with Deschutes @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $TBD)
Wed. 8/15 - Dogfish Head Beer Dinner @St. James Gate at PA Sands Casino, Bethlehem, Pa. (6:00 p.m.; $50)
Sat. 8/18 - Smokin' Blues and Brews Fest @Lancaster Liederkranz, Lancaster, Pa. (12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m; 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; $15/$35)
Tue. 8/21 - Hot Off The Grill Brewmaster's Dinner @Iron Hill, Lancaster, Pa. (6:00 p.m.; $65)
Wed. 8/22 - Chouffe Beer Dinner @Spinnerstown Hotel, Spinnerstown, Pa. (7:00 p.m.; $TBD)
Sat. 8/25 - Microfest @Stoudt's, Adamstown, Pa. (12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.; $35/$40)
Sat. 8/25 - 2nd Annual Summer Brewfest @Chameleon Club, Lancaster, Pa. (2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.; $35/$50)

Weekly Brew Bits Update: 7/30/12

Back in the saddle here with some fresh bits of brewing news.

~ An inadvertent combo posting of Curtin and Foobooz voices brings us a rundown of the Philadelphia-area Best of Philly winners that have a beer-centric theme.
~ Speaking of "best of", great to see friend of TBL, The Smoke Truck, take home 2012 Vendy Award as they truly do, in their words, serve up world-class BBQ from a truck.
~ Did you notice that The Industry bar on Moyamensing (one of my favorite street names) has opened?

~ Sly Fox has announced what I believe could be the makings of the East Coast's next destination festival. As if they didn't already have a stake in one of those: the annual Goat Races & Bock Festival.
~ One more thing from Sly Fox, though you'd pretty much have to be sleeping to not know that their Tasting Room has officially opened. I attended a sneak preview tasting event and was duly impressed. Though, can't figure out what a Circle of Progress is. Why wouldn't the street in a corporate center instead be named Continuum of Progress?
~ Down in Baltimore, Alexander Mitchell believes he might have found a sign of craft beer entering the mainstream. Hooters sure is a step in that direction.
~ I don't recall if I'd mentioned Iron Hill's plans to open its 10th location (and 2nd in NJ) in Voorhees. Here's a link to the official word, if I declined to do so.

~ Here's a beer tasting that appears to have gone very well. Plus, a pretty damn good example of social media used right by a company to interact with its customer base. I know quite a few businesses that could take a note or two from this experiment.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Survey and Moving Along

Thanks to the many of you that spent the few minutes it took to complete the survey.

What have I learned from the survey? It certainly wasn't meant to be an exercise in soliciting platitudes. Yet, many of you did say some very nice things that did make me feel quite good about what have done with this Brew Lounge thing here and more resolute than ever about making the future even better than the past. Some also dropped private e-mails and commented to me in person which were equally appreciated.

Here are some additional quick notes that I took away from the 100+ responses that you took the time to submit. And, once again, I thank you very much for participating.

- Some of you don't give a rat's patootie about social media. This warms a little corner of my soul and reminds me that I can't always be playing to the Facebook and Twitter crowd.
- Yet, from recently published numbers, Facebook boasts 1.7 billion visits for the week ending 7/21/12. That's roughly 3 times the number of visits to YouTube and 30 times the number of visits to Twitter. And together, these top 3 comprise roughly 85% of the social media space. So, in this realm, you can expect that I'll be cleaning up my approach to "discussing" and advertising my work and becoming more consistent. If you're not on one of them, it's really not that scary. Still, if you're anti-social media, that's cool. It's certainly not the end-all...and definitely not the be-all.
- I should do a better a job of organizing content at the site. Particularly in the form of a guide to worthy beer destinations (both in real life and on the Web).
- Nearly half of the respondents simply make it a regular habit to check in at TBL without any prodding. No email, feed reader, social media, etc. A good portion also visits via links from other websites. That underscores my desire to do a better roll-call on TBL (as I mentioned in last bullet) of the worthy places on the Web to stop by.
- Combing the usage logs from the past month at The Brew Lounge, it's interesting to see a not-totally-surprising finding in that the sum of traffic from Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York is just a few ticks greater than the percentage of visitors coming from California. That continues to support my years-long argument that I may be based out of the Philadelphia area (and certainly, area-related articles comprise a majority of The Brew Lounge), but that does not necessarily pigeonhole me as a Philly Beer Blogger.
- The calendar, as I've mentioned in the past, is extremely popular. But also, not too surprisingly to me, was the popularity of and desire for more, beer, brewery, and bar reviews. This used to be a bigger part of the TBL m.o. that has certainly dropped off in recent years. I definitely see me splitting some of this content in the future between TBL and my column at The Washington Times. But, for now, I hear you. You definitely got my attention.
- I'm going to stop getting so hung up on my independent voice. I've always known that I've had good judgement when it comes to conflict of interest. But, with all the noise out there in recent years about writers/bloggers and the "benefits" that we receive, it had me second-guessing how clearly my independent voice was coming across. Unless you're all just trying to make me feel good, the message I take here is that I'm going a nearly perfect job in protecting my independence.
- With the recent HopChef event, I experimented with someone else providing the words and pictures. More than a third of the respondents would like TBL to remain singular voice, but enough of you sound like it wouldn't be bad thing if I occasionally let another credible voice join the party from time to time.
- Gotta say I was a bit shocked that "Pictures Only" was a distant 4th place in terms of your style of content preference at TBL. Perhaps even more surprising was the first-place choice of "Short Story" and "In-Depth Articles" not far behind. Here I thought in the Twitter age that no one reads anymore.
- I knew this but most of you made it perfectly clear: I don't do a very good job at all of pimping my column over at The Washington Times.

One more thing as I wrap up all this behind the scenes talk. I've always realized that TBL is not exactly the prettiest place to hang out. Most of you probably know that I have very, very little interest in becoming any more conversant in templates, html code, etc. than I need to be just in order to put out decent content. All I want to do is generate solid content.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future (hopefully), I'm going to take a stab at creating a more visually-pleasing layout here at TBL. I may put out feelers for someone to help me with it if it comes to that. But, after 7 years and many advances at Google, I figure I should do a little housecleaning and maybe apply a new coat of paint.

Did you want or need to know any or all of this? Don't know. I erred on the side of I-thought-you-might-find-it-interesting and give you a peek into my thought process as we push on.

Back to your regular programming.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anyone still looking for Ommegang BCTC '12 tickets?

I'm holding two VIP tickets for sale at $200 each ("convenience charge" waived for your convenience!).

Every year, there seems to be a flurry of folks looking for tickets at the last minute. If this year, you're one of those people or know someone who is, drop an e-mail to me via this link.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Weekly Brew Bits Update: July 2012 catch-up, installment #4

With this update, this clears out my notebook of interesting tidbits of brewing news (or at least most of them) going on around Philadelphia and beyond. Beginning this weekend and heading into next week, let's try to get things humming around here again.

~ The day that Foobooz reported a tearing down of the Brauhaus Schmitz wall was the same day that I received an invitation from the restaurant which was also the same day as my third day in San Francisco which was also the last time that I thought about it. Regrettably, the invitation was to a sneak preview of the new space, called Brauers Bund, last week. The new bar opened to the public last night and I'm already anxious to follow up soon at Philadelphia's favorite German restaurant/bar.

~ The Porch has received some favorable reviews since its opening last fall on the southern apron of 30th Street Station in Philly. The Daily Pennsylvanian talked a bit about its popularity and growth, which included a beer garden and miniature golf earlier in July.

~ Some tasty details from farther down the mid-Atlantic as New Belgium Brewery talks about the big design plans it has on North Carolina.

~ And, back up north, Tod Mott discusses his plans for his new brewery (and famed Kate The Great) now that Portsmouth is fading into his past.

~ uh-oh. Here comes my grump/cynic side again. Growth is good. Some of the numbers I've seen bandied about lately, though, should begin to prompt questions of "why?" and "is too much ever enough?"

~ Here's a fun story come from the good folks at Vanberg & DeWulf and the recent annual release of their Lambickx and Lambrucha.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Weekly Brew Bits Update: July 2012 catch-up, installment #3

Part 3 of my attempt to catch you up with some of the things that I and/or you may have missed over the past couple of months.

~ Philly Tap Finder continues to grow and be the best local source for finding your favorite beers on tap at your favorite watering holes. Jared and Kristy recently undertook a major upgrade and share all the changes with you.
~ I mentioned the other day about a favorite son of the city moving on to Maine. Jack Curtin reported another gem in the Philly brewing scene, award-winning John Rehm and his plans to move to Connecticut. Rehm was most recently at Philadelphia Brewing Company for the past five years or so.
~ Call me a grump or a cynic, but here we go again with another beer garden concept.

~ As usual, Lew Bryson digs in to the ugliness that is government's role in alcohol control. If it hasn't been, particularly if you're a resident of Pennsylvania, this should certainly be on your regular reading list.
~ Speaking of "the Man", they somehow got wind of uber-popular (and quite reasonably-priced and run) Iron Hill Mug Club and forced a restructure. Iron Hill seems to be rolling with it quite well, engaging their customers, and rebuilding it. Here's the scoop from them.

~ I have many fond memmoris of Maui beer when in Hawaii back in 2009, so this story figured to be worth sharing with you.
~ Of course beer is about having fun too, right? Here's a quick break for you to head over to YouTube and check out the Canadian National Anthem...and Molson, seriously. It's only 1:14, go and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Weekly Brew Bits Update: July 2012 catch-up, installment #2

More goodies from the last couple of months here to continue sharing with you. Probably expect one or two more of these by the week's end. Hopefully, you're enjoying these and learning a little something or more that you hadn't heard before.

~ Carolyn Smagalski wrote an interesting article touching on Philadelphia history, Rich Wagner, and homebrewing at where of all places? The Fairmount Water Works behind the Art Museum along the Schuylkill River. Very interesting reading indeed.
~ And, this happened during Philly Beer Week. I was on the fence about heading to this event. Actually, still haven't been to Frankford Hall. Sorta tough getting past Johnny Brenda's and Barcade.
~ Yesterday, I mentioned the Philly Beer Run 5-K. Promise this will be the last time I mention it until next year (or at least a few months). Here's a link over to Facebook, where Dock Street loaded up a bunch of pictures from the day of music, beer, food, and running.

~ Susquehanna Brewing Company of Pittston, Pa. has announced that two of their brands are now available in bottles across their markets. They say: "Our Sixth Generation Stock Ale and Goldencold Lager are now available by the case at local distributors and by the bottle at bars. It’s the kind of beer you can enjoy all day long, if you're so inclined." SBC, you may recall, is where Shiner brewer, Jaime Jurado, wound up after moving from Texas.
~ Jack took a little heat for picking on this "low-hanging fruit". Really? Rotten fruit, perhaps. Okay, now I'm guilty as well. Er, wait; one of my new beer resolutions was to stay away from the negative. I've been praised for focusing on the positive and leaving the negative to others. Well, I'm gonna jump on this bandwagon first and then point you over to Mr. Bengel for his thoughts. And, Part 2.
~ Now, for more positive. Victory has (oops, had) a contest to give a few lucky homebrewers the ability to harvest and use wet/fresh hops from Victory's sources. Since the contest has already passed, I'm trusting there'll be more of a story after the lucky winners have their day in the next few weeks or so.

~ This is just plain wrong and a public service announcement for the next time you're looking for a place to (not) drink in Austin.
~ I actually tasted this beard beer when at Rogue Ales Public House in San Francisco and, not surprisingly, it did NOT taste like Maier's, or anyone's, beard. It's really just New Crustacean (Old Crustacean barleywine with an obvious twist).
~ Jay Brooks posted up some great pictures from the reportedly great Firestone Walker Invitational beer festival.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Weekly Brew Bits Update: July 2012 catch-up, installment #1

Life has regained some sense of normalcy since we've put Philly Beer Week 2012 to bed. I've had my breather/hiatus and am refreshed. Funny how it took a trip to the Bay Area to rejuvenate me. I'm still determining what exactly to take away from that. I'll tell you one thing that I'm fond of saying, visits to northern California have an impact on me that gets me thinking differently, acting differently, and even breathing differently. I hung around a lot of good people, ate and drank well, and took care of my day job responsibilities and am now back to begin somewhat anew with you all here at The Brew Lounge.

I'll tell you some more about it in days to come. In the meantime, I trust that you saw the wrap-up I did for the way-awesome Breastfest charity beer festival in San Francisco. No? Go check it out. Remember, we need all the beer readers we can get over at that place called The Washington Times.

To help ease me back in the saddle around here, I'll begin with a few days worth of sharing with you some odds and some ends from around the Webs. As I've come across things in the past couple of months, I've stuck the links in a file to eventually share. So here goes round one.

~ Don't think I've included a link to this video in the past that explains Brotherly Suds 3 for Philly Beer Week 2012.
~ Also during Philly Beer Week, we learned that one of the brewing scene's favorite sons, Mike Fava, chose to move north and join the Oxbow brewing team about an hour north of Portland, Maine. We understand he's pretty familiar with the brewing equipment they purchased last year.
~ The Philadelphia Eagles might finally be stepping up their beer game (as their football game remains in question). Grub Street has more details.

~ While I was conducting my Philly Beer Week 5-K Beer Run at Dock Street on June 10 (catch all the wrap-up via this link), Victory was conducting its Hoods in the Woods 5-K run farther west in Chester County. So, let's get this straight. Nearly 1,000 runners showed up on one of the hottest days of the year to a) run and b) drink great local craft beer? Think about it.
~ Jeff Linkous over at Beer-Stained Letter has shared a solid interview with Mark Edelson about his Iron Hill family in the present and the future
~ The Iron Hill Twilight Criterium has already passed. It sounds like a huge hit every year in West Chester, Pa. and one of these years, I'll get there to experience it for myself.
~ Up at Boston Beer, they've got an interesting promotion going on in two days (Thursday, July 26). Something about wedding plans, free beer, and more. Go check out the details and stop by on Thursday if you're in the market for a wedding and want to get Sam Adams involved.

~ Pints for Prostates and Rick Lyke continue to come up with unique ways in which to raise money for the relentless health issue that he had been afflicted with. At the upcoming Oregon Brewers' Festival, tomorrow that is, check out how the first >Portland Pale Ale Invitational is bringing out the best in BridgePort Brewing, Caldera Brewing,Cascade Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, Fire Mountain Brew House, Firestone Walker Brewing, Full Sail Brewing, Lompoc Brewing, MacTarnahan's Brewing, Moa Brewing, New Holland Brewing, Ninkasi Brewing, NoDa Brewing, Odell Brewing, Oregon Brew Crew (Portland homebrewers), Rogue Ales, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Silver City Brewery, Snake River Brewery, Southern Oregon Brewing, Stone Brewing, Tree Brewing, 21st Amendment Brewery, and Wells & Young’s out .
~ More beer drinkers are being exposed to what Brettanomyces can do to beer. Here's a fun project where you can learn more.
~ Speaking of "Brett", the highly-anticipated collaboration beer, Brux, from Russian River and Sierra Nevada has been released. I've tried it twice and, if you like this type of beer, you'll probably dig this one too.
~ Finally, the HUGE Great American Beer Festival is fast-approaching. Tickets go on sale to members of the Brewers Association on July 31 and to the general public on August 2nd.
~ While you're at the last link to GABF at Brewers' Association, you may also like to check out their Zymurgy Best Beers in America as voted on by American Homebrewer Association (AHA) members with 16,445 votes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

12th Annual Breastfest Beer Festival & Charity Fundraiser: July 14, 2012

12th Annual Breastfest Beer Festival

(click the picture for a full gallery of pictures from the event)

At the conclusion of my recent week of work in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had the privilege to stick around an extra day and attend a festival that I've heard many great things about in the past: Breastfest.

It's a festival that has been around since 2000 and gets high marks, particularly since its move to the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason in San Francisco three years ago. This has provided much more space to grow the festival which features primarily northern California breweries, both large and small, as well as some wine and food purveyors and live music.

For a more complete review, check out my article in the Communities section of The Washington Times.

And a full picture gallery over at Picasa.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Please take The Brew Lounge simple ten-question survey, July 2012

Some of you were perplexed by my hand-wringing, introspective post the other day. Here's a survey that I'd like you to take less than 5 minutes to complete.

10 quick questions about your interaction with The Brew Lounge. This will help me as I continue to search for the best path in to the future.

Thanks in advance for helping to make The Brew Lounge the best it can be.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hop Chef Came To Philadelphia: July 10, 2012

(Click the picture for a full gallery of event pictures)

I was in northern California last week. Sonoma, Sebastopol, San Ramon, Oakland, and of course, San Francisco. Much more on that to come.

But, while I was away...

It was a shame to have missed the highly-anticipated Philadelphia version of Ommegang's Hop Chef held at World Café Live in Philly last Tuesday July 10. The Chefs had been to Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY, baited and berated each other on Twitter, and showed up ready to prove they were the best at incorporating an Ommegang beer into their kitchen creations.

A celebrity panel of judges including Mat Falco (Philly Beer Scene), Arthur Etchells (Foobooz), Drew Lazor (City Paper, Saveur, among others), Emilio Mignucci (DiBruno Bros.), and Jen Carroll ("Top Chef" and hot chef about town and, reportedly, NYC) would have the final say. And, so would the people as they cast their vote for People's Choice.

I would have been there in a heartbeat with my media pass. But, since I was a few thousand miles away, I enlisted trusty Brew Lounge foot soldier, Mike Rizzo to file his report on the event. You should probably see an immediate improvement in the food pictures over what I might have otherwise submitted for your review. I knew he was good with a camera and that he's got some of that foodie thing going on too, so I figured it would be a winning combination.

Just hours after the event, I received the quickly-filed words and pictures from Rizzo. I've finally had a chance to pour through the results, so let's see what he's uncovered for us.

"The food was some of the best that I have eaten in Philly and I have been to many of the top restaurants in and around the city. There was plenty of Ommegang to be had as they had a table setup on the dining floor and all the Taps on the elevated bar were tapped with Ommegang beers. I never had to wait more than a few minutes to get topped off."

Sounds like a great way to open an event review. From the opening sentences, I knew the disappointment that I could not attend was real. Let's see how the pairings worked out.

"I think it would of worked much better had they been pouring the paired beers at each chef's table so that as you picked up the food, you received the correct beer. To me and others that I saw, it became more of a 'get what you can food-wise and hope that you have the correct beer on hand'. I found myself many times either having an empty beer or the wrong paired beer when I got to the table. There was usually a wait for the food and you did not want to get out of line to get beer while you were waiting for the food in fear of the food running out. They should have had people pouring the beers at each station for people tasting the food, to ensure you knew you were tasting it as it was meant to be."

This is an interesting coincidence because it reminds me of how at last summer's Belgium Comes To Cooperstown event at Ommegang, I found myself sipping on a beer intended for a bowl of mussels that was still be completed by the chef. Granted, they're busting their tails to keep up with the line and demand, but at a pairing contest, you surely do want the benefit of beer (and enough of it) to consider with the plate of food. Not a show stopper, but interesting to note from an organizational perspective.

"I did not see many people from Ommegang there offering advise or explaining the beers that they brought. It seemed that they were just pouring them and keeping the lines moving."

I wonder if there wasn't an Ommegang informational-type table where attendees could learn more about, maybe take home some product sheets of, Ommegang's family of beers. That would seem to have made sense. I know regional representative, Megan Maguire, loves to talk about their beers and I'm sure she was doing a bunch of that as she circulated. In a crowded event, you can't catch everything that's happening, so maybe Mike missed the Ommegang representation.

"As for how the beers were paired, Three Philosophers was the runaway chef's favorite, being paired with four dishes, all desserts. Witte, Abbey, and BPA were used in two dishes each and Rare Vos and Hennepin were both used in one."

That makes sense. Three Philosophers has got the maltiness going on as well as the cherry addition which makes this great for both drinking by itself and incorporating into food dishes.

Next, Mike provides a chef-by-chef rundown along with some brief notes.

Judges' Winner: George Sabatino of Stateside — 1536 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-551-2500, [website link]
~ Smoked Beef Cheek with Watermelon Rind, Pickle, and Beer-Boiled Peanuts — paired with Abbey Ale
~ Three Philosophers with Head-To-Tail Cherries — paired with Three Philosophers

  • No beef cheek; I overheard it was short rib instead cooked for 3 days, and it tasted like it. My 2nd best plate
  • They had 2 simple pairings, but you had to know this before getting to the table which had lines
  • Dessert was very good too

    People's Choice Winner: Scott Schroeder of South Philadelphia Tap Room — 1509 Mifflin Street, 215-271-7787, [website link]
    ~ Line-caught Blue Fin Tuna Crudo, Crispy Pancetta, Frozen BPA-soaked Melon — paired with BPA
    ~ Chef Nicholas Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern and formerly Le Bec Fin's Hot Roast Beef Sandwich — paired with Abbey Ale

  • No desserts, only chef that didn’t do one
  • My favorite food was the hot roast beef sandwich - foie gras, etc...mustard seeds, went back for seconds on this one
  • Tuna has BPA melon frozen balls, may have been too cold not much flavor off of it
  • Overly salted
  • No one told a story about the Abbey Ale which was the pairing rule for the roast beef sandwich

    Jonathon Cichon of Lacroix — 210 West Rittenhouse Square, 215-790-2533, [website link]
    ~ Blue Crab & Watermelon — paired with BPA
    ~ Cherry Beignet — paired with Three Philosophers

  • I love both blue crab and watermelon alone, so I thought I would like this one together. But, the flavor was lacking
  • Beignet was great with homemade ice cream

    Jason Cichonski of Ela — 627 South Third Street, 267-687-8512, [website link]
    ~ Liquid Corn Diver Scallop with Chanterelle Mushroom, Crunch Mustard, and Pickled Corn — paired with Hennepin
    ~ Aged Cheddar Panna Cotta with Sour Cherry, Chocolate, and Candied Rye — paired with Rare Vos

  • Great scallop, liquid corn in the middle of it
  • Ran out of scallops less than hour into event. Many people heard how good/different it was, but I was lucky enough to get in early and get to try one of everything before the crowds came in
  • Very balanced with the Hennepin

    Joe Cicala of Le Virtu — 1927 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-5626, [website link]
    ~ Line-caught Blue Fin Tuna Crudo, Crispy Pancetta, Frozen BPA-soaked Melon — paired with BPA
    ~ Chef Nicholas Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern and formerly Le Bec Fin's Hot Roast Beef Sandwich — paired with Abbey Ale

  • Ravioli was great
  • Check out the pictures and you can see how much butter they use to start a cream sauce. I always wondered why it was so tasty dining out and never tasted quite so good at home
  • Cooked in Witte, I think he was only chef I saw cooking with beer, other than SPTR who had beer in the mushroom broth that the beef was topped with
  • Dessert was with Three Philosophers; very tasty as well

    Nick Elmi of Rittenhouse Tavern — 251 South 18th Street, 215-732-2412, [website link]
    ~ Hamachi and Sea Urchin with Wheatgrass, Citrus, and Coriander — paired with Witte
    ~ Cheese and Cherry Pie, Pistachio, and Lardo — paired with Three Philosophers

  • Witte with Hamachi and sea urchin; had some foam on it as well
  • Thought there was too much going on
  • Also was not easy to eat for a small plate meal
  • Dessert was good and paired well with Three Philosophers

    What do you think? Did you like this format? I did and may use it occasionally in the future. Many thanks to Mike Rizzo for stepping in to provide coverage from this tasty and fun event.

    Have you been somewhere, are going somewhere, or would like to volunteer to provide coverage to a beer-related event that could make for good content here in the pages of The Brew Lounge? Drop a note to me.

    Mike's picture gallery can be found over at Google Albums

    Additional Coverage from:
    In Search Of Beer: http://insearchofbeer.org/2012/07/12/statesides-sabatino-takes-philly-hop-chef-title
    City Paper: http://www.citypaper.net/blogs/mealticket/And-the-Hop-Chef-winner-is.html
    Grub Street: http://philadelphia.grubstreet.com/2012/07/what-you-missed-at-hop-chef.html and http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/2012/07/11/about-last-night-hop-chef
    PhillyBurbs: http://www.phillyburbs.com/lifestyle/food/brewery-ommegang-crowns-stateside-s-sabatino-philly-hop-chef/article_01fe99e2-cb98-11e1-8433-001a4bcf6878.html
    Philly Eater: http://philly.eater.com/archives/2012/07/11/george-sabatino-scott-schroeder-win-hop-chef.php
    Philadelphia Magazine: http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/07/12/hughe-dillon-ommegang-hop-chef/

  • Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    What does the future of The Brew Lounge look like? Your thoughts are requested.

    The Brew Lounge will return in a few weeks; maybe later in July, maybe August. Let's just say around the time of Ommegang's annual awesomeness of Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC), give or take. Why the hiatus?

    This note has been stewing for quite a few weeks and I finally decided to pull the trigger and put it out there for your consideration.

    I've had the shop open here for almost 7 years and, to be honest, there's never been much of a game plan other than continually sharing the (mostly) good of the craft beer scene beginning with the Philadelphia region with frequent stops in the Northern California and New York City and wherever else in the world of good beer I may find myself. Often somewhat haphazard, sometimes seemingly random.

    Now, more than ever though, I feel that I need a game plan for how to continue this thing in the face of changing times. In some ways, I have the same lament as my old buddy (and by old, I obviously mean old), Jack Curtin. Not quite as drastic/dire as he makes it sound, but there certainly is a risk in becoming too dependent upon these social media devices. Social, yes. Media, not so much. Read on to see what I mean.

    Sure, my "schedule" has called for giving you frequent calendar updates (prior to each month as well as weekly on Thursdays). This has consistently been some of the most sought-after content going at TBL. And, it makes sense. Beer is great. But, much better is beer when paired with friends in social settings. Finding the right beer event on a crowded beer calendar makes sense as one of my readers' top priorities. No one else compiles a beer event calendar in the Philadelphia region as comprehensive as here in the TBL pages. Many of you have thanked me in public for this service and that has been tremendously satisfying and appreciated feedback.

    In the past year, I've added "weekly updates" because there's been an explosion of activity over the past couple of years in the industry that I would love to write about and share with you, but there's not enough time in the day to do so. These updates have also generated significant traffic as well as goodwill within the beer and bar community.

    But let's stop and think about how much has changed in seven years. How many of you were on Facebook seven years ago? Oh, you were? How about Twitter? BeerAdvcoate (okay, maybe a lot of you were on there back then)? Instagram? StumbleUpon? Tumblr? Pinterest? Google+? LinkedIn? Untappd? FourSquare?

    I'll stop. I think you get the message. There are countless new outlets for what passes as writing (or shall we call it, communicating) in the 2010s. Take a look, for example, how Untappd in all of its frustrating brilliance gets people to, with the tap of their phone, say "I'm drinking XX beer". Or Instagram can take a picture along with a small caption. The message automatically trickles over in to Twitter. And, guess what many breweries do? They re-tweet the message that says "Hey, someone is drinking my beer". Whoa, really? How wonderful. {oozing sarcasm, of course} In turn, it has the potential to reach many more eyeballs than me writing an aritcle about said brewery. And that passes for writing/communication/marketing? Frustrating, y'think?

    I need to make some sense of what it all means and how I should/might change my approach to best benefit the real reason I do what I do: all of you.

    I want to write. I love maintaining the popular calendar for you. But, I want to write. And I want it to matter. I realize that's kind of pie-in-the-sky thinking. But I want it to matter.

    Plus, as many of you know, this is no where near close to being eligible for a full-time day job for me. God bless those souls who attempt to make a job out of beer writing, or any food and beverage writing — heck, any writing nowadays for that matter.

    Just take this piece of writing as an illustration of the state of food writing as a case in point.

    I suppose at the end of the day what it boils down to is figuring out how best to supply the world with great information and get a few more coins in my pocket for it along the way. My nook over in the Communities section of The Washington Times wants to pay me for writing about beer, food, travel, etc. That's a great place to start. I've been doing that for almost two years and I know that I should and could be doing that better — much better. Money won't drive me to write more often or differently, but with the industry bursting at the seams, it seems only responsible to myself that I make sure I get a little for what is mine in return for what I do.

    But, what about this here bliggedy-blog thing? Sheesh, I hate that word as much as I did seven years ago. Honestly, I hear myself or anyone else introduced as a blogger — even a "respected blogger"; seriously, I've even been called "one of the best out there", more than once by unrelated parties! — and I cringe — want to flee the scene immediately.

    Respected writer, Andy Crouch, has posed the question recently as well. In fact, he poses the question at least once a year or so it seems. And, that's fine. The question "Is the beer blog dead?" has always been a provoking one to ask and I welcome the conversation.

    What did all this mean? My writing tends to be more on the, shall we way, comprehensive or full story side. I like to explain thoughts without leaving much to the imagination. So I never really know how many of you make it to the end of these pages. And the feedback is rarely, how shall we say, overflowing. I realize that my writing style doesn't often provoke comments. But I truly would like to hear your comments and opinions here about what you would like to see most here in the pages of The Brew Lounge.

    That's enough. As is oft the case, I've rambled on. But, it speaks to where my head's been at this summer as I attempt to become more disciplined in my approach to beer writing/communicating.

    Leave a comment below or drop a private email to me if you'd rather.

    I do want feedback from as many of you as possible about how to make the future of The Brew Lounge (wherever it may be "located" online) something that means as much of something, whatever that is, that it can be. You all mean a lot to me and I aim to please.

    I think I'll also put one of those poll/feedback/survey thing-ies together. That seems to be a good and popular step to take as well.