Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer at the White House: it's the glass, stupid


What the hell does it matter?

I'm sure you've all heard about the Race and Beer Summit to be held at the White House today: the President invited the Cambridge cop and the Harvard professor to hash things out over beers at the White House. If you don't know the details, Google it (and get a life, will you?).

And now there's a lot of silly-season nonsense about what beers are being served. They're not craft, they're not American-made, they're elitist, they're too common, they're stereotyped...

Has anyone noticed the calendar? It's that time of year when bullshit creeps onto the front page. It doesn't matter what beer it is: it's beer. Pete Brown nailed this last week, noting that this acknowledges that "beer is the most sociable drink in the world," then going on to say, quite correctly:
I don't give a damn whether he serves them Bud Light or Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, Corona or Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout. In one sentence, he's said everything I tried to say in Three Sheets to the Wind, and said it with a gazillion times more impact.

Bingo. Which is why I have had nothing to say about this, about what beer I think they should serve (here's a thought: how about some beers the participants like to drink), and only decided to say this when I read this blather in the WSJ today (thanks to Sam K, who sent the link). Go read it; I'd quote from it, but everyone sounds so dopey I'd hate to slight someone by not exposing their ass.

Actually, I will quote White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who was one of two people who made sense (the second was Harpoon prez Dan Kenary, who tried to get his beer in, failed, and gave up, noting "I think just showing up at the gate with a case of Harpoon would make them look at us funny."):
"As I understand it -- I have not heard this, I've read this, so I'll just repeat what I've read, that Professor Gates said he liked Red Stripe, and I believe Sergeant Crowley mentioned to the president that he liked Blue Moon. So we'll have the gamut covered tomorrow afternoon. I think we're still thinking, weather permitting, the picnic table out back. All right?"

Sounds good to me. Beer is at the White House. Again. That should have been enough. Crying that it's not your beer, or the right beer, or an American beer is silly.

But...August is only two days away. "Man bites dog," anyone?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gary Bredbenner memorial 8/18

For those of you who could not make it up to Danville for Gary Bredbenner's funeral on Monday, Scoats has very graciously agreed to host a memorial evening at the Grey Lodge on August 18, beginning at 6:30 PM. There will be a buffet, plenty of beers, and lots of talk about our missing friend. Come on down; I'll see you there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Farewell to Gary

Gary Bredbenner died last week. Uncle Jack did a very nice post on it here, and there was a wonderful obituary in the Daily News yesterday.

I don't know if you knew Gary, but if you've been in the Philly beer scene for any amount of time, I know you've seen him. Short, round, always smiling, Gary was hard to miss: he was the guy with a beer in his hand (at least one beer, sometimes two) and usually had the best food in the place in his other hand. He had a nose for it. He was a very generous guy with beer and food, too, a real embodiment of the best of the craft beer community. If he knew about a great place to get good beer, he let you know about it. A very friendly guy, even if he did describe himself as "An Evil Fat Man," grinning all the while, referring to his way of tempting people to indulge themselves.

But you can read about Gary in those places up top. I wanted to tell you about how we buried him yesterday, on a sunny green hill above his hometown, and about how we said good-bye to him in just the way I think he would have wanted.

The news came last week from mutual friend Dan Cosper, and shortly after Dan sent out information about the funeral plans for Monday in Danville, I got a call from Rich Pawlak. "Got the news on Gary. We goin'?" I had to stall him off, because I knew I had work, and would have to re-arrange my schedule, but I also knew that I was going to do it. Sunday afternoon I called to confirm, and we arranged to meet early Monday morning to drive up.

Rich came by a bit before 8 and we left. It's about 2.5 hours to Danville from my house, and we talked about Gary for most of it. We got to the funeral home about 10:30 and paid our respects to his dad, Gary's only surviving immediate family, a sad and tragic thing. Gary was laid out in jeans and a Phillies World Series champs t-shirt, with Eagles and Phillies clothes about him (and a Grey Lodge t-shirt; Gary was a regular), a homebrewed bottle of "Batch #1" from "Big G Brewing" tucked in at his feet. It was only the second time I've ever seen him that he wasn't smiling.

We sat down with some of Gary's friends, and talked. Some sad stories about his last day, and some happier stories about his life and our friendships with him; like any good funeral. Rich and I were glad to see a good turnout, including people from Gary's work, neighborhood, and family. The minister from St. Peter's United Methodist spoke, and talked about Gary's loves: beer, food, the Phillies and the Eagles, Metallica, science fiction films, Transformers. He talked about how he was well-regarded at work, traveling around the world to fix computer problems. He quoted John Lennon and Jim Morrison. (He looked like a tall Jerry Garcia, which provoked some stifled giggles in the back of the room.)

Then it was time to go. We said good-bye, one last time; I prayed that Gary could always be smiling. They closed the coffin. Rich and I volunteered to be pallbearers, and eight of us picked up the shiny gray casket and carried it carefully out into the bright sunshine and placed it into the hearse. We got in our cars, and drove about half a mile to the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

The cemetery occupies the side of a hill facing away from the East Branch of the Susquehanna River, looking north to tree-covered ridges. The sun was high enough that the grass around the graves gleamed green. White clouds slowly passed overhead, billows and wisps, streams and towers. Helicopters from nearby Geisinger hospital buzzed overhead, and we joked that the Philly news stations had sent them for coverage. I silently wished to myself that I would have as good a day when I go. There was a short service, a lot of hugs, and we left for the church.

The church ladies had a small luncheon prepared. Gary would have been disappointed in that there was no barbecue, but I know he would have been happy about the sides: two delicious salads (potato and macaroni, with big chunks of hard-boiled egg and olives) and calico beans. There was also chocolate cake with peanut butter icing that never came out of a box; moist, solid, not too sweet, just toothsome stuff. We talked a bit more, I thanked the church ladies for the macaroni salad, and we left, in the midst of a short, cool summer shower.

We had one more memorial to make. We drove over to One Guy Brewing; it was closed on Monday, but not for friends of Gary. Guy Hagner had been at the funeral, too: Gary loved his place. The picture below is Gary at the One Guy opening (note: two beers!). Guy left from the funeral home and went back to heat up his pizza oven. Eventually a dozen of us made it. Guy brought out some poignantly delicious pizzas -- thin-crust, but chewy, lightly-sauced, just-picked basil, thick-cut local pepperoni...my God, when will the PLCB relent and let this man serve his public?! -- made sure everyone had a beer (with help from his quite competent son, Matt), and we toasted Gary. Not with sips, either!

And we went home. My good friends: if you have the funeral Gary Bredbenner did, with the genuine love and emotion his friends had for him, you will be well-dispatched from this world. Gary leaves behind scarcely any family, no great achievements, no lasting monuments. But his smile made him known to everyone, his enjoyment of life's simpler pleasures was an inspiration, and his passing was a cause for a celebration of his life. I know he'd much rather have stayed around for another beer, and another rack of ribs. But if it was time to go, it must be nice to see how the wake went. Go with God, Gary.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Goodnoe's Ice Cream -- Bucks County Style

This may not mean much to most of you, but it meant a lot to my family. When we arrived here in PA in 1991, Cathy and I missed only two things about Connecticut, besides our friends: the Old Corner Cafe, a fantastic little bar in Naugatuck; and the Big Dipper ice cream parlor. I've never forgotten the Old Corner, but I have to admit, once we found Goodnoe's Dairy Bar in Newtown...it made losing the Big Dipper a lot easier to bear. Delicious ice cream, real fountain service, and great half-gallon containers (really: they raised the price rather than cut the size) that we re-used for years as frozen food containers.

We were just bereft when Goodnoe's decided to close after 50 years. Arrgh! Where would we find such great ice cream? What would we do for family parties with no ice cream cakes? What was I going to freeze chili in?

Well...the next generation of the Goodnoe family, and his dad, have re-opened in Newtown as of Friday, in a much smaller shop, but supposedly with the old recipes. Nora and I saw the sign and stopped in yesterday. We got a container of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, brought it home gleefully, and put it in the freezer. I called Cathy, we told Thomas; we were all excited. And last night we had some. Oh, yum. The dough needs some work, and there needs to be a bit more of it -- not lots, but more -- but the ice cream itself is excellent. This made my summer.

Nora just called down the stairs. "It's really weird to see a Goodnoe's container in the freezer and know it doesn't have soup in it!" Yeah, I told her, but I think I can get used to it.

New Jersey Breweries is now officially out of date

That's right, New Jersey Breweries is now officially out of date, and Mark and I could not be happier. It's out of date because Iron Hill Maple Shade officially opened last night (there was a soft opening over the weekend, Iron Hill's usual gig), and it was a pretty solid success. Mark and I joined the pre-opening throng for a couple beers and dinner (India Black Ale, an IPA with roasted malt; Kellerbound, an unfiltered Ironbound ale on nitro (!); and my go-to Iron Hill tap choice, Pig Iron Porter; I had a simple, delish bowl of pasta bolognese (that's our waitress, Nancy, at top middle of the picture below, flanked by drinking co-founder Mark Edelson and hard-working Maple Shade brewer Chris LaPierre)).

But hey, there was a lot more to this than just drinking and eating and saying congratulations. This, as I mentioned to IH co-founder Kevin Finn, was epochal: this is a solidly financed, experienced brewpub opening in South Jersey, in a beer wasteland so sparsely dotted with good beerspots that it is legend in southern PA. I have no doubt that this will affect the business at Philly beer bars, because there will be a lot of NJ beervolk who will no longer feel the need to cross the Delaware as often. Iron Hill Maple Shade was hopping last night, and I'm sure they're going to do very well.

I am also convinced that this will change the rules in this area entirely, those rules being "stick to what sells, don't get that fancy micro-shit beer." Iron Hill is going to show South Jersey bar owners and restaurateurs that craft beer not only sells, it sells well at a higher price; Iron Hill is going to rub their noses in that. And those rules will change, and there are going to be new bars, and new beer selections. You bet there are. This is very big, and will affect Philly bars, will affect Flying Fish, Yards, and Philadelphia Brewing (and every other packaging brewer who's ready to capitalize on it).

If you live in South Jersey, and you've been waiting for this for years...welcome home. Your brewpub just arrived.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Flying Fish Exit 11, Swift Half, Goat Burritos, and all that

So much has been happening, I've fallen behind. I won't apologize, but I will try to get caught up!

I went to the launch party -- two of them, actually -- for Flying Fish's new special release, Exit 11 Hoppy American Wheat, last Tuesday. I first went to Standard Tap, parking right outside Cantina dos Segundos on 2nd St. (foreshadowing alert...). Went in, ran into PR ace Jennie Hatton and FF brewer/genius/loonie Casey Hughes, who jointly directed me upstairs, where I got into a round-the-room how-are-you pattern that took me five minutes to get through to the bar. I was early for the launch, so I got a Farmhouse Ale, and it was (according to my notes) "just perfect fresh, cold, and clean." I love the taps at Standard.

Then it was time for the Exit 11, an American wheat, on the big side at 6.2% (50/50 pale malt/wheat), hopped with Columbus, Palisades, and Amarillo, and then two whacking great lumps of Amarillos in dry-hopping.

How is it? Buzzing with Amarillo, buster: peppery citrus with some sweet malt under it, and that slicey-acidic cut from well-done wheat. Why wheat, I asked Casey, because if there's one craft beer style I just cannot figure out the reason for its continued existence, it's American wheat. "Because I wanted to make a wheat I liked," he said, confirming my judgment of both American wheat and Casey Hughes.

There were some other food/beer press folks there -- Felicia D'Ambrosio, Kirsten Henri (who'd just fired up Grub Street Philadelphia, congrats) -- and bloggers (yeah, I mean you, Bryan), and some folks who looked suspiciously mainstream. When we moved over to Swift Half (more on that shortly) CBS 3 showed up. Whatdahell?

Well, it's all about the free publicity the whackos at MADD New Jersey gave Flying Fish by fulminating that the Exit Series was somehow insulting to them. "The combination of a roadway and advertising for any kind of a beer doesn't make any kind of sense," executive director Mindy Lazar was quoted in a wide-spread AP story. "This is almost a mockery." Almost? Honey, you are a mockery...of your own crazy self. Happily, there has been an almost universal reaction to this: MADD is over the top, silly, and taking itself way too seriously. Hey, MADD: go back to what you do best, raising awareness about drunk driving.

Ah, me. Anyway, as I said, after a while, a lot of us trooped over to Swift Half, the new bar at the Piazza at Schmidt's. The Piazza is quite pleasing, and will lure even more folks to this area (hopefully not more drug dealers and murderers...), a space that should be emulated elsewhere. Swift Half is very nice, especially the relatively large outdoor space on the piazza. Good beer selection, but I wanted a stout, and they had none at the time. So I got a Dark and Stormy, and it was good.

Sipped that for a while, then had some of the new (recipe) Yards Saison (Okay, what happened was that Steve Mashington asked me how come I never wrote about Yards beers, and I asked him how come everyone else sent me samples...and he bought me a half of Saison (which, by the way, is the great freakin' thing about Swift Half, you can get a pint, or half a pint, something more beer bars should do -- like every one of them, hmm?)). It's ballsier than the old Saison, which always seemed more like a slightly gutsier witbier to me...but I'd like it to be a bit more attenuated, this is almost more like a spicy biere de garde. Note to brewers: Lew's a pain in the butt. (Yes, I know, it's not really news.)

I finally decided it was time to get home, but I was hungry. Mashington suggested Paesano's and I was all for it, but when I got to the Jetta (not too far to walk to Paesano's, but I wanted to be able to hop in it and go home when I was done)...there was dos Segundos, and I was hungry now, and I saw the word "goat." Long story short, I went in, sat at the bar, and had a goat burrito with a side of refried black beans and a Sunshine Pils. Good? The burrito was good, plenty of goat in it, the beans were good. Beer was okay, and cold. Bad? Took forever to get the bartender to understand that yes, I knew that there were beans in the burrito, but yes, I did indeed want a side of refries. I finally had to say, "Look, I like beans, okay?" And the side of beans was 3 bucks, which seems a bit stiff to me (beans? Cheap like dirt, brother). So a goat burrito, beans, and one beer was $17, in a place that was dark, noisy, and very detached in service. I think I should have listened to Mashington.

Anyway, that was my day last week. All in all, a good evening.

Parker's Golden Anniversary

In advance of more detailed tasting notes, I do want to make you aware of the next release in the Parker's Heritage Collection line from Heaven Hill. This one is called Parker's Golden Anniversary, and celebrates Parker Beam's 50 years at Heaven Hill. Parker created this 50% ABV bottling by taking whiskey distilled in each decade he was at Heaven Hill -- and yes, that means there is a very small amount of 40 year old bourbon in here. Not to worry, it was taken from the bottom floor of a relatively cool warehouse, and like I said, a very small amount. There are 4,500 bottles, selling at $150 each (retail, God knows what it will be once it hits eBay).

But you want to know how it tastes. Well, I had a bit at the Malt Advocate staff party Friday night, an annual event I usually say nothing about, because it's just our party. But this whiskey was exceptional, and I'm looking forward to tasting it with a clean, fresh palate. Just to give you an idea of how good it is, Cathy's never shown any interest in bourbon before. She sipped some Friday night, and the next morning, when she saw my sample bottle that had arrived in the mail, asked me if we could take it along with us to the Selinsgrove Fest. She liked it. Life-changing stuff.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Turkish fish and such

Forgot to put this up last Friday. We were going to go down to the Grey Lodge for Christmas in July, and I figured when Cathy got home, we'd head down into Philly for a quick dinner, just the two of us, and then get beers at the G-Lodge. (Not that I don't like the food there, it's great, but I wanted a chance for Cathy and I to spend some time alone.) I started free-associating a little on Yelp and Chowhound and Google, checking reviews on the local food blogs, and came up with Kilyos Fish & Grill, in Bustleton, a Turkish seafood place. I was intrigued.

I was also wicked pleased. The place itself was nothing to look at: a storefront in a small strip-plaza on Bustleton Ave. But Riza Canca, the owner, greeted us at the door, a very soft-spoken and gently friendly man (he greeted everyone at the door; we were just diners, not reviewers (or drinkers: Kilyos is BYOB, and we didn't BYO, figuring we'd save room for the Christmas treats at the Lodge)), and showed us to a table in the simple, quiet dining room. He explained that the restaurant specialized in simple grilled fish, very fresh, but also had meat and salads.

It smelled wonderful, and we quickly ordered: zucchini pancakes with garlic yogurt sauce (the remnants of which you see above; creamy-rich, with a cool but punchy sauce), eggplant with tomato sauce (if only we knew how to get such a concentration of flavor in eggplant, and what a smooth, melting texture; it could have been less cold, though), and for our meals, St. Peter's Fish (tilapia, filleted and grilled, simple and excellent, without the plastic flakiness I've found in so much tilapia) and grilled lamb patties (juicy, tender, and knock-out aromatic; real lamb what weren't afraid to taste like lamb). We wanted the baklava, but we were both gorged, and promised to come back another time.

God bless the Internet. A storefront in Bustleton, called "Fish & Grill"? (The 'Kilyos' part was hard to find on the sign.) We'd never have found it. So...keep posting reviews on sites like Yelp. It helps. Thanks to everyone who did so for Fish & Grill. It made our Friday.

(Wait, a small rant. Keep posting reviews, but don't be one of those people who bitches about "this waitress" or "the mean bartender." That's not really helpful. If you go back, and service persistently sucks? Okay, mention it, but separate it from the food. I'm willing to put up with crap service if the food's good. Besides...maybe it's you.)

Oh, Christmas in July? Excellent. The Mad Elf alone was worth it, though I went off-topic and got a New Holland Golden Cap Saison, and that was pretty damned good, too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More on Beer Cocktails

We talked about beer cocktails back in Session #27, and I mentioned I had written a piece on them for a cooking magazine. The magazine is Fine Cooking, and the piece is up on their website; have a look. I wouldn't point it out -- I don't point out all my stuff to you, after all! -- except that it's my first piece in a food magazine, and that since it came out less than a week ago I've already had four people mention it to me. Guess I need to pitch more food magazines.

And yes, Stephen, I've sold out to beer cocktails. And you know? Not only is the money pretty good, but they don't taste bad, either.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Full Sail Session Black Lager

You folks know I love the session beers, mm-hmm. So when Full Sail put out word that they were making a Dark version of their successful Session Lager, I got in touch and asked 'em for a sample. They sent three 11 oz. stubbies, and I'm getting into them tonight.

Lemme tell you a little story first, about why Full Sail decided to brew Session Lager -- about as "macro" a beer as you'll find from a "micro" -- in the first place. Got this from Jamie Emmerson at Full Sail (from an article I did for American Brewer).
“We had some guys working on the house,” Jamie recalled, “and Friday afternoon we brought some Full Sail out for them. But they said ‘No thanks, no thanks.’ Then we see them a few weeks later, and they’re drinking Tecate. So it’s not that they’re cheap. We asked them, ‘Why not Full Sail,’ and they tell us that it’s too heavy, it’s too bitter.

“So I said to Irene,” he said, as the light went on, “we could make a craft lager that could go up against those beers, and it’s the thing to put in that bottle. We worked up a pre-Prohibition pilsner. It’s 5.1% ABV, mostly pale malt, a little bit of wheat, 20 IBU. That took a lot to get dialed in. It was a fine line on how dry the beer had to finish. If you think Heineken is dry, but Corona is sweet, that’s a fine line. It’s all attenuation and mashing.”

Best of all, it’s working. “The response has been great,” he said. “My dad, an old school beer drinker, says it’s just good beer. If you enjoy micro, there’s enough flavor and character; if you don’t, you’re not put off by the color or flavor. The Germans have a saying that the first beer calls for the third. That’s what this beer is about.”
Yeah, it is. A little on the large side for my session beer definition -- 4.5% and under, and this is 5.4% (or 5.3...accounts vary) -- but definitely drink-o-matic. The dark malt actually gives it a slightly tart/burnt edge that cleans it up, a little smoke/roast thing, but not much. With the stubby bottle -- 11 oz., weird, but that's the old Olympia size -- it reminds me of Yuengling Porter.

Great little bottle, I miss steinies. I'd drink quite a few of these. I'm really curious to find out what market they land in. Will local-homer macro-lovers drink a dark beer with this much flavor? Time will tell. I'm going to have another, myself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

BeerAdvocate down...North Koreans again?

BeerAdvocate is down for the second time in a week. Last time was a Denial of Service attack, now the stated reason is emergency maintenance.

Is it North Korean beer geeks? The coincidence is too much to ignore!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Montgomery Pie

I was snooping around, looking for material for the PA Breweries update's Regional Foods section (definitely getting expanded), when someone mentioned Montgomery Pie. What the heck's that, I asked my mom, and she went looking. Not only did she find it -- a kind of lighter, lemony version of a shoo-fly pie without the crumb topping -- she made one while we were in Virginia. When we stopped in yesterday to pick up the Corgis (Pen and Maud had been walked a lot, and were very happy, but tired!), she gave me the rest of it...she'd had to try it, of course.

I just had a piece with a glass of milk. It's mildly lemon-flavored, just enough, and nicely gooey; sweet, but not teeth-hurting. Better with cold milk than with coffee, I think. One more PA thing for the book. Anyone know a restaurant that serves it, or a bakeshop that sells it? Or why it's called Montgomery Pie?

Slap the PLCB today

I just posted in my PLCB blog about a poll running in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I'd like to encourage you to go vote NO on the poll, saying you oppose the PLCB's automated wine kiosk and "boutique" wine store schemes. The reasons are here. This agency is out of its mind, and must be stopped. FREE THE BOOZE!

Update: YES! Results came in at 73% NO, 22% yes. I don't know -- or care -- how many "No" votes came from anti-alcohol types; we won this one. Wine kiosks and mini-wine boutiques...as if.

The Khyber, getting back into the swing

Back in the day, before the beer bar explosion in Philly, there were a only few places to find beer other than the usual. Irish bars had Guinness (back then, all of them did...), German beers at the Blue Ox and Austrian Village, Bridgid's had Belgian beers (which was astonishing to me when I arrived from Connecticut in 1991 (um...I'm a native Pennsylvanian, but between 1984 and 1991 I moved all over the country thanks to grad school and a civilian job with the US Army)), there was a growing variety at Copa, Too!...and there was the Khyber.

The Khyber was really old -- Khyber or McGillin's as the oldest Philly bar? McGillin's has the better claim -- really weird -- just look at it from the street -- and really funky -- the 'other side' had some amazing bands. They also had a great selection of drafts, bottles, and spirits, and that amazing 1876 backbar, originally built for the Philadelphia Centennial that year. I drank there fairly often, it was the place I'd meet people in the city, until Old City parking got just stupid nuts expensive. They did events -- I did a booksigning there, got on TV, and "One" Guy Hagner showed up with a case of beer from his first brewery, Franconia.

Then things kind of went downhill, got pretty average, and I didn't go in for years. Then I got an e-mail a few months ago about an event at the Khyber -- meant to blog on it, but didn't. Well, I got another one today for an event coming up that beerguy Stephen Simons calls HOPSCOTCH!

It's going to be on Monday, July 27th, from 5:00PM - 9:00PM, a competition between 12 beers are in contention, and one will win. "Will it be hopped up IPAs/APAs/DIPAs or the malty deliciousness of Scotch Ales/Wee Heavies? Hop heads & Malt Maniacs delight! Some very special brews will be on hand including, Bear Republic Racer X, Founders Backwoods Bastard, Smuttynose Scotch Style Ale." That Racer X is some shit, too.

So welcome back to the Khyber! Might have to get my fat butt back on the bike and get down to Old City again. The Khyber, Brownie's, Cuba Libre, Society Hill Hotel, Race Street Cafe, Plough and the Stars, Triumph, Eulogy, City Tavern...definitely worth it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Kim Jong Ale?

Reuters reports that North Korea has run what appears to be its first ever television ad: for Taedonggang beer. Here's the story:

In what is reportedly the first television advertisement ever run in North Korea, the Taedong River brewery got nearly two and a half minutes of airtime after a "news" show on Thursday. The spot is about as weird as you might expect: The commercial informs viewers that Taedonggang beer can relieve stress, improve health, and even lengthen your life. The brewer may be making a feint toward Western capitalism here, but it didn't go so far as to claim that drinking beer would get you laid. Too American?
The North Koreans purchased an old Ushers brewery in England in 2000 and moved the whole thing to be reassembled in Pyonyang. Some commenters on the BBC News Web site say the brew tastes pretty good.

Well...what's this mean? Nothing surprising: even the wacky rulers in North Korea know that what Queen Victoria said is true: "Give my people plenty of beer, good beer, and cheap beer, and you will have no revolution among them."
The commercial follows.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Whole Lot Of Lager

I've been pretty much off the air for five days. Hey, it was a holiday weekend! We dropped off the Corgis at a nice kennel and drove south to bro-in-law Carl's house south of Richmond for a family celebration: Carl's son Matthew graduated from high school this year, the first of the next generation of Cathy's family. He'd done very well in high school and was accepted as an Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia.

So we celebrated: way too much food, loud music (world music, Matt's studying a variety of languages and makes the cultures part of his study), and a 50 liter keg of Blue & Gray Classic Lager. Which was quite tasty, particularly since with the brewery's recent move, the only way they could sell Carl a keg -- Carl being a fairly regular customer -- was to give him unfiltered beer. Very tasty indeed, although when we had to move the last three gallons or so last night, it got real cloudy; lots of yeast in those last glasses!

We had some cans of Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale, too, and a Pike Place Monk's Uncle Triple (very nice golden color, pleasantly dry malt presentation (too many sappy tripels out there), with some great spicy notes -- quite a good beer, and I recommend it to you), and I got a bit sappy myself drinking some Old Charter 101, but mostly...we drank Lager. Mostly Carl and I drank Lager, although his brothers Chris and Curt helped. (Don't anyone's parents come to graduation parties any more?) We worked some of it off with a hike around the pond at Pocahontas State Park (that's Carl in the hat and Curt in the...skin).

Most of the family went home Sunday morning. We had breakfast with them before they left, then went to 11 AM mass, and took the rest of the day pretty darned easy as it rained almost all day. More Lager, of course.

Monday Cathy and Thomas and I toured University of Richmond and William & Mary, part of the reason for the trip. We're doing college visits this month. It was not as grueling as we'd feared: the weather was simply wonderful, high 80s with hardly any humidity. Of course, we were touring two beautiful campuses, which didn't hurt. We took the Johnstown-Scotland ferry back across the James River on the way back from Williamsburg, which was smooth, cool, and very pretty, then joined Carl and family for one last dinner (pizza and salad...and Lager).

Today was grueling. We left Carl's at 8:30, drove down I-85 and had breakfast at Brian's Steakhouse in South Hills, VA (excellent), then struck west on VA Rt. 58, a fun and gorgeous drive I've done in the past, and enjoyed again today. But...it was 1:15 by the time we made Wake Forest, and today was hotter (thank God for the breeze). After the talk and the tour (another nice campus, Thomas pulls a face when he notices me taking a picture), we toddled down to Little Richard's Bar-B-Que on Country Club Road.

Holy crap, it was good. I got the coarse-chopped tray with slaw, hush puppies, and fries (why do these places insist on deep-frying 'krinkle-kut' "fries"? Make some damned fresh-cuts, willya?), and tossed the meat up with Little Richard's "dip," the Lexington-style sauce that is just hypnotic to the tongue. Yum-damnit-yum, and the hushpuppies were plentiful and crisp, the slaw diced with dip, and the meat...well, I'm very glad that Little Richard's actually smokes their 'que. 'Nuff said. The side of beans was disappointing: if they weren't lightly doctored canned beans, they were putting too much effort into making something that tasted just like lightly doctored canned beans.

Somehow we managed to realize that dessert -- banana pudding! -- would just not have been -- chocolate pie! -- a good idea, and hit the road at 5:15...for Charlottesville. Argh. The Jetta's nice, don't get me wrong, but four people in it for eight hours? We got a little snarky at times. The driving was fabulous (once we got off I-40 onto Rt. 29 North); hills, practically deserted four lane highway, beautiful vistas of forests, even the waves of kudzu looked good. We got to Ch'ville at 9, and dossed down in our hotel room. Know how grueling all that driving was? I didn't have the energy to drive into town to take in the excellent beers at South Street. I feel like I've let you down, but I was just not getting back in that car again till tomorrow morning!

Tomorrow we tour UVA, probably grab lunch at either Michael's or the Mellow Mushroom (fast good pizza, one pint for the road), then drop in to take a look at the Dickinson College campus before picking up the Corgis and going home. In other words...we're looking at another six and a half hours in the car. Although the last hour and a half will be in both cars, with the Corgis, which will be much better. Talk to you later!

Friday, July 3, 2009

ANOTHER Leigh and Brendan operation!

That's right...a third operation from Leigh Maida and Brendan Hartranft after Memphis and Local 44: Resurrection Taproom, at the current location of Yello! Bar. Here's the story, from Leigh, earlier today:
Brendan and I are poised to sign a lease on the space known as (up until last night) Yello Bar, at Grays Ferry Ave and Catharine Street. (The fry oil might not even be cooled down yet... This is new for us, no years of decay to wade through. Well, I hope!)
We'll be renovating and redecorating the innards and (if all goes right) plan to be open by the first week of September. This is kind of break neck speed, even for us, but I think we've got the team assembled that can pull it off.
The name will be Resurrection Ale House, and we're hammering out a menu now that we think fills a gap in the neighborhood, casual, beer-centric, someplace you can feel like a grown up, and be catered to with care, but not have to spend a ton of money to feel like you got some real value out of your experience. We're focused (as always) on a stellar craft beer list, but we're equally focused this time on the dining side of things too. For now we're sort of working under the term "beer bistro" as a guiding principle, for the menu, the decor, the over all vibe of the place. We're hoping for the same kinds of laid back, food and beer savvy, mixed-bag of cool guests that we get to meet at Memphis and Local 44.
Brendan's planning a drive down to Baltimore to (hopefully) pick up a keg of Resurrection Ale from Brewers Art for the opening. (yay!)
There's a website (naturellement) and people can sign up for the mailing list to check up on the status of the opening and get invited to the big opening night bash.

Well...some people are thriving in the economy. Craft beer continues to rock. Rock on!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Joe Under Glass

Just got news from Philadelphia Brewing Company: their Joe Porter, laced with coffee, is going to make a short appearance in bottles, sometime in September, in their assortment cases. This is excellent news; PBC's everyday year-round beers -- Kenzinger, Newbold, Rowhouse, and Walt Wit -- are good, but their limited release beers like Joe, Fleur de Lehigh, and Shackamaximum Imperial Stout have been outstanding. Getting more Joe is a good, good thing. Thanks, PBC!

American whiskey for July 4th

I just got this on Facebook from Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail will be open for the holiday weekend: a great chance to tour the places where Americans make America's whiskey. (Er, the workers are American, that is...some of the owners of the companies are not: Wild Turkey's owned by Italians, Four Roses is owned by Japanese. But the distilleries are right there in Kentucky.)

Anyway, here are the schedules for tours; all times are Eastern.

Buffalo Trace, Frankfort – open Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., closed Sunday.

Four Roses, Lawrenceburg – open Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., last tour at 3:00 p.m., closed Sunday.

Heaven Hill, Bardstown – open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

Jim Beam, Clermont – open Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Maker’s Mark, Loretto – open Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sunday tours 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg – Tours Friday at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Gift shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Woodford Reserve, Versailles – Tours Friday at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Closed Saturday. Tours on Sunday at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Visit www.kybourbontrail.com for more information on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.