Monday, March 28, 2011

The PLCB's False Dawn Initiative

I was on WHYY's Radio Times show this morning, talking privatization with PLCB chairman PJ Stapleton. He was laying out what I'm calling the PLCB False Dawn Initiative, their alternative to privatization (wow, what great ideas! wow, what coincidental timing! Wow, where was this stuff 20 years ago?!); then Marty and her crew brought me on to lay it waste.

Okay, maybe "lay it waste" is exaggerating a bit, but I did give him a run for it. Details are here; enjoy.

Greg Hall doesn't keep us waiting

Check out this interview with Goose Island brewmaster (and hellaciously good guy) Greg Hall. There's a man who's grabbing the brass ring, and good for him. Greg delivered a ton of great beer, put up with a lot of crap, and kept smiling. I'll miss talking to him for work; hope to keep talking to him for pleasure.

Thanks to STAG regular Steven Herberger for the link!

Goose Island to be Acquired by AB InBev

Just got this. Goose Island has agreed to be acquired by AB InBev. Important points: John Hall stays on as CEO (no word of Greg Hall's status - update: it's been announced that Greg will be stepping down as brewmaster); this is a 100% acquisition; the two Goose Island brewpubs are NOT part of the deal; ABIB will invest in a brewery expansion immediately; and wholesalers will not be affected. Read on:

GOOSE ISLAND SELECTS CURRENT PARTNER ANHEUSER-BUSCH FOR GROWTH STRATEGY
Chicago Small Brewer, Craft Brewers Alliance to Sell Stakes in Goose Island;
Expansion of Chicago Brewery Planned
CHICAGO (March 28, 2011) – Chicago-based Goose Island, one of the nation’s most‑respected and fastest-growing small brewers with sales concentrated throughout the Midwest, today announced it had agreed to be acquired by Anheuser‑Busch, its current distribution partner, in a move that will bring additional capital into Goose Island’s operations to meet growing consumer demand for its brands and deepen its Chicago and Midwest distribution.
Goose Island’s legal name is Fulton Street Brewery LLC (FSB).  Anheuser-Busch reached an agreement to purchase the majority (58 percent) equity stake in FSB from its founders and investors, held in Goose Holdings Inc. (GHI), for $22.5 million.  Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. (CBA), an independent, publicly traded brewer based in Portland, Ore., that operates Widmer Brothers, Redhook and Kona breweries, owns the remaining 42 percent of FSB and reached an agreement in principle to sell its stake in FSB to Anheuser-Busch for $16.3 million in cash.  Anheuser‑Busch holds a minority stake (32.25 percent) in CBA.
Goose Island sold approximately 127,000 barrels of Honkers Ale, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Matilda and other brands in 2010.  To help meet immediate demand, an additional $1.3 million will be invested to increase Goose Island’s Chicago Fulton Street brewery’s production as early as this summer.
“Demand for our beers has grown beyond our capacity to serve our wholesale partners, retailers, and beer lovers,” said Goose Island founder and president John Hall, who will continue as Goose Island chief executive officer.  “This partnership between our extraordinary artisanal brewing team and one of the best brewers in the world in Anheuser-Busch will bring resources to brew more beer here in Chicago to reach more beer drinkers, while continuing our development of new beer styles.  This agreement helps us achieve our goals with an ideal partner who helped fuel our growth, appreciates our products and supports their success.”
Hall will continue to be responsible for Goose Island beer production and the expansion of Goose Island’s Chicago brewery, where production will continue and its business will still be based.
“The new structure will preserve the qualities that make Goose Island’s beers unique, strictly maintain our recipes and brewing processes,” Hall said.  “We had several options, but we decided to go with Anheuser‑Busch because it was the best.  The transaction is good for our stakeholders, employees and customers.”
Anheuser-Busch has distributed Goose Island brands since 2006 as part of an agreement with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. of Portland, Ore., a co-founder of CBA, that provides Goose Island access to the network of independent wholesalers that distribute Anheuser-Busch beers.  Anheuser‑Busch also provides logistical support to all Anheuser‑Busch wholesalers distributing Goose Island and CBA beers as part of that agreement. 
Wholesalers currently servicing retailers with Goose Island beers will continue to do so with no disruption in service.
“These critically acclaimed beers are the hometown pride of Chicagoans,” said Dave Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch, Inc.  “We are very committed to expanding in the high‑end beer segment, and this deal expands our portfolio of brands with high-quality, regional beers.  As we share ideas and bring our different strengths and experiences together, we can accelerate the growth of these brands.” 
Anheuser-Busch’s purchase of FSB is subject to customary closing conditions, including obtaining required regulatory approvals.  The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2011.
The two Goose Island brew pubs are not part of the deal, but will continue in operation, offering consumers an opportunity to sample Goose Island’s award-winning specialty beers and food selections.
As part of CBA’s agreement to sell its 42 percent block in FSB to Anheuser-Busch, in addition to cash, Anheuser-Busch will provide enhanced retail selling support for CBA brands, will reduce distribution fees payable by CBA to Anheuser‑Busch and will provide CBA additional flexibility with respect to future acquisitions and divestitures.

So...if you're a diehard craft beer type, and you love Goose Island...do you keep drinking it? Or do you immediately stop, and start bitching about how it doesn't taste the same anymore? Or do you just...wait and see and try to stay impartial?

Family Fun in old Quebec

I'll admit, I left you hanging after talking about the times Thomas and I had in Montreal. Let's get caught up.

The next morning I woke up about 8:15 (very comfortable bed, quiet room), puttered about a bit, and checked my email -- holy crap, I had a response on my request for a tour at Unibroue! How soon could I be there? Quick think: raining, major metro area at rush hour (but going opposite to traffic), get Thomas up and packed...10 AM! We quickly threw things together, we'd already paid for the room; grabbed a croissant and a banana from the breakfast area, stuffed everything in the Jetta (thankful for that great parking spot!), and took off for Chambly. Gray, wet weather, and grunting-slow traffic, but the GPS took us directly to the brewery, and shortly we were in the capable hands of master brewer Jerry Vietz (portrait of whom you see pouring us samples of Raftman).
 
I'll give you the short version, since I'll be selling this story elsewhere: they are obsessed with quality and consistency. We washed our shoes, there were a number of areas where we could only look in through windows, no admittance (micro lab, open fermenters). They're doing a lot of lager brewing for Sleeman (Sleeman bought Unibroue, and was shortly thereafter bought by Sapporo), but Jerry intimated that the plan was to heavily ramp up sales and production of Unibroue, to the point where the whole plant would be dedicated to the refermented ales of Unibroue.

And we drank. The Raftman was delish: much more smoke in the nose than in the palate (Jerry also gave me a fresh-bottled Raftman: keep it warm, he warned me, and so we took it in the hotel every night). We tried the Blonde as well, and it was wonderful, flowery, spicy, lively. He loaded us down with samples: Ephemere, Blonde, Eau Benite, Maudite, a big three year old magnum of Maudite, a special brewery-only Christmas beer, and a sixpack of 1837, a Quebec-release strong ale that I'm looking forward to trying. Great time, great tour: Thomas was impressed and interested on a scientific level (as was I: Vietz is juggling several major projects with skill and aplomb). And...we took off for Quebec City.
 We stopped for lunch in Trois-Rivières along the way, at a brewpub the GPS happened to come up with: Gambrinus. I had to start with coffee; I was kind of dozey. But then it was time for beer; I had a stout. It was good with my smoked meat sandwich (also good), and the place had a nice feel to it. Worth a repeat, if we're in the area.

Onward! We rolled on down the St. Lawrence (largely frozen, and awesomely large), and came to Quebec City. The outer, modern city reminded me oddly of Pittsburgh. We stayed on the edge of the old city in a very nice Best Western (hello, Priceline), with a school group full of tarted up little hotties...yeah, whatever, get out of the way, we're going sightseeing!

We headed up the hill to the Citadelle, hoping to get some view of the city, but it was misty, rainy, and...we were too late in the day. On top of that...it's an active Canadian Defence site! Who knew? We were braced at the door, told there was no admittance. Well...okay! We walked back to the Jetta, and drove into the walled part of the old city. We got up to the point, and there was a Red Bull Crashed Ice track! They were running a race that weekend...which would have been fun, but as it was, it just kind of screwed up the parking. We drove around some more, and finally stuck the Jetta in an underground lot, and went walking. We went in a medieval store (I got Cathy silver and amber earrings, Thomas looked at swords), a clothing store, didn't go in the Hello Kitty store (well, it was closed, what are you going to do), and I finally said, look, we have to get a drink!

And this is where we wound up, at the St. Alexandre Pub, where they had an astounding selection of bottled beer -- huge Belgian selection -- and good taps too. I got a St. Ambroise stout (predictable, but it was so good fresh), Thomas took my advice and got a Guinness/Smithwick's black and tan. He'd never had, and that was a good intro. He liked it. We were starting to get peckish, though, and didn't necessarily want to eat here. I pulled out the Frommer's, and we saw that one of their recommended places was a short walk from there: Ristorante il Teatro.

We had a good time, and an excellent repast: a Tuscan (meaty!) antipasto, a funghi risotto for me, and smoked duck ravioli for him. Delish, and really not a bad price. Afterwards...well, we walked back to the car (along which walk I took the picture of Thomas to the left here, hunched against the damp cold, and looking downright European), drove back to the hotel and stashed the car, and fell asleep in quite short order. We'd walked quite a bit, and it had been a short night.




The next morning, Thomas was still dozey, so I got up, showered, got dressed, and walked about two blocks to a bakery, La Boîte à Pain. The girl behind the counter spoke no English, so we smiled, pointed, and nodded: I picked out two loaves to take home, a spinach and feta roll, and a chocolate croissant (for Thomas). And I left my wallet at the room! Crap. I finally got it across to her, and promised to be back. Ran to the hotel, got the wallet, ran back, and collected my breadstuffs. And that spinach thang was good!
 
Anyway, we left town and drove on through flat open (wet!) country, but the day eventually cleared up, although it was still pretty damned flat! I was thinking about how to spend my Canadian money, when I saw a sign for a Fromagerie. Cool! I got off the Autoroute, and THEN the sign admitted that the cheese place was 14 klicks north. Oh well, we weren't in a rush. See that picture with the Jetta? That's what it was, miles and miles of flat muddy fields, covered in snow. Impressive. We got some cheese curds and a big block of excellent 3 year old cheddar, and cross-countried to the border on two lane roads. Fun drive, and there were these big hills that reared up out of the flat, stark and sudden; all rather enjoyable, in a scenic sense. The border crossing was quite intrusive; apparently the guy was convinced that we were coming across at this tiny post because we had something to hide. All we were doing was driving down through the Champlain islands, but no big: we had nothing to hide. He finally opened the trunk and saw the beer, and things got downright jovial after that.

We rolled on down into Burlington and had lunch at the Vermont Pub & Brewery...which is about where I left you in the post from Burlington. That was about it for the trip. We drove home on Friday, and that was that. Good trip, good time with Thomas, and some great food and beer.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Massively Increased Beer Choice: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

Way back, around 1996/7, craft beer growth in the U.S. flatlined. It had long been predicted -- which seems weird and self-fulfilling, in retrospect -- as "the coming shakeout," and it arrived with force. When it did...we started looking for why. (Funny thing is, not many people talked about why before there was a shakeout (or why everyone referred to it as a 'shakeout') but they seemed certain there would be one...and there was! Amazing, what we do to ourselves.)

There were a multiplicity of factors -- under-capitalization, lack of brewing skill, market manipulation, industry in-fighting among them -- but one that got a lot of play was the thought that consumers were flummoxed by too much choice, and were standing in front of craft beer shelves in a fibrillating logic loop, like some Star Trek-era computer that had just received some verbal bullshitsku from Kirk and Spock (Kirk, out-thinking a computer, now there's quality plotting)...and then turning, zombie-like, to go back to Good Old Bud Light.
 
We were told this had happened -- you know, by marketers -- but I remember thinking at the time that it sounded crazy, that it was something the big brewery marketers had come up with to help the executives sleep better at night. Wine had that many choices, and more, and that was extolled as a great thing. There were more Scotch whiskies all the time: sales were going up. I remember getting too many bad beers -- lot of quality control issues back then -- but more choices was a good thing.

At least, I thought so. Then Barry Schwartz came out with his book The Paradox of Choice: why more is less in 2004, and that seemed to ice it. It was in a book, you nerds; more choice paralyzes consumers! End of speculation.

I like books, but...this is something that's always bugged me, and I just saw two pieces about it (thanks to Our Girl Tara Nurin at CitySearch.com Philly for that!), so here goes. The first piece, from February, is a short one from the always curious Harry Schuhmacher at Beer Business Daily. Harry notes that he'd heard Jim Koch speak about the phenomenon in today's market, about
"the great proliferation of choices in the beer aisle today, giving Americans the most choices and a wider variety of beer in any time in history. But he also warned that there is a law of diminishing returns, as too many choices can actually paralyze the consumer into buying less, or even buying none, because no matter what he/she chooses, the consumer is left with an unsatisfied feeling that they may have not chosen the best beer."
Classic Schwartz, right out of Paradox: choice paralysis comes from the 'fear' of not making the best choice, and Harry quotes Schwartz to back it up...on the subject of picking mutual funds. And Harry follows with examples of people paralyzed at the craft beer selection...and also inspired by it, and ends with "What do you think?"

Mostly, I thought, picking a good beer is not as hard or as crucial as picking the best mutual fund. I mean, what's the downside? You're out $15, as opposed to maybe $50,000 if you pick the wrong fund? Screw it, let's double down and get two sixpacks!

Then I read Jeff Linkous's Beer-Stained Letter blog post about it. After he speculates a bit, and notes the great 2010 numbers from the Brewers Association...he talks to Barry Schwartz, who, it turns out, "by and large gives the beer industry a pass from his premise that a plethora of choices turns consumers off..." Ha!
The reason beer gets an exemption: choosing a brew – sixpack or single bottle – from the wall of eye-popping labels, and picking one you're ultimately unhappy with, is an error that's easily [sic] to correct, easy to move beyond given the lower price than a car, computer or clothes. Plus, with those latter items there's the expectation of keeping them for a while.
Yeah, well...you look at my garage, fridge, and basement, you'll see I apparently have that expectation about beer, too! Anyway, Schwartz adds that the difficulty of making a choice may come out in ways other than walking away:
the hyper array of beer choices could end up favoring well-known or familiar brands (or beers that have the most engaging packaging or labels for that matter). Opting for the familiar is a way of dealing with a problem that seemingly can't be solved, steering away from a random choice. "Nothing will bring brand loyalty back faster than a proliferation of options," he says.
So...where's that leave us 14 years ago? I think Schwartz is eminently pragmatic about the price of the product making the "paradox" less pressing, and I believe that puts an unstoppable hole in the "overwhelmed by options" theory of The Shakeout. I put my money on the number of sub-quality beers in the day (packaging problems, largely), the angry quarreling among craft brewers and a couple of vicious smacks from the big brewers that had an outsized effect, and a rush into the market by people with more money than brewing passion.

Today's threat of choice paralysis is, I believe, greatly overstated by Jim Koch, and I can't help feeling that he knows that: after all, Boston Beer is cranking out a lot of new beers lately, hey? We're seeing more and more beers every year -- more beers and more breweries and more kinds of beers -- and yet the sales just keep going up and up along with it.

Hmmm...quality of beer is WAY up, there's next to no in-fighting (we have to make up squabbles about extreme vs. session beer just to keep from getting bored, apparently), and the rush of "stupid money" into the craft industry that I was concerned about four years ago never really materialized. I'm thinking there are much better ways to explain The Shakeout, and much more important things -- malt prices, tax increases, Four Loko lapover effects, price of capital for expansion, wholesaler consolidation -- to worry about...than too much choice. Give us all the choice you got, brewers; bring it on!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ABC taking a New Road to Collegeville

Uncle Jack is reporting on the Beer Yard site (here) that Appalachian Brewing Company hopes to be opening their third satellite operation this May at the former site of the New Road brewpub in Collegeville (that would be the brewpub where Brian O'Reilly began his local career). According to what Artie Tafoya told Jack, the plan will be like that in the Camp Hill ABC brewpub: small (5.5 bbl.) system to do specialties, main beers coming down from the massive mothership in Harrisburg, total of about 15 beers available.

Ah....karma. It will be good to have that building cleansed of the dopey crap that took place (outside the brewhouse!) there under the New Road regime. Kick ass, ABC.

A Yuengling brewery...in Harlem?

Well...yeah. Thanks to my eagle-eyed, beer-loving brother-in-law Carl (who works in the Archives at the Library of Virginia in Richmond), I found out some stuff I didn't know about Yuengling today. Take a look at this entry in "Out of the Box," the Archives blog. It's a letter to Virginia governor James L. Kemper from David G. Yuengling Jr. -- yes, he's that Yuengling, the founder -- dated Sept. 28th, 1874. In it, Yuengling says he is sending the governor 
“one bbl. of old stout in bottles this has been brewed three years ago and considered the Best. Should you find it to [sic] strong[,] add water to suit your taste, and it will be a delicious stimulant. Hope it will do you good.”
Pleasantries out of the way, Yuengling moves on to business; the progress of the C&O Railroad. 

But the interesting thing is the letterhead: the Ryerson and Yuengling Champagne Ale Brewery, Harlem, NY. The archives blog says: "It was the junior Yuengling [David's son] who oversaw the construction of a new brewery in Richmond in 1866. Located at 912 East Main Street, the brewery became known as the James River Steam Brewery and was later sold to the Richmond Cedar Works in 1878. Yuengling’s letter does not originate from Richmond, but instead from Harlem, on Ryerson & Yuengling, Champagne Ale Brewery stationary."

Pretty interesting. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"What Dad really wants is whiskey"

I know...the following is simply a press release from Buffalo Trace. I should do better in a blog post. But that opening line caught me, and the rest of it, well, yeah, it's about selling whiskey, but you know, I never knew there were 8 different Blanton's stoppers.

There's nothing wrong with buying your dad bourbon -- okay, unless he's a drunk, or a Mormon, or something -- it's downright manly. It's something I've been giving as gifts for a while now. I'm stocking up, actually: the dopey PLCB has Four Roses Yellow Label on clearance for $11.99 a bottle (and there's plenty left). I've been buying Christmas presents in March...because, you know...what Dad really wants...


What Dad Really Wants Is Whiskey
Tired of buying dad boring neck ties for Father’s Day? This year, go with an American classic – bourbon whiskey! Buffalo Trace Distillery offers three distinct bourbons to fit any budget and any taste. Our recommendations:
                For the rugged adventurer dad: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon, a whiskey for men who blaze their own trail. Herds of ancient buffalo carved a pathway that was followed by America’s first pioneers and explorers. This bourbon is named for those buffalo and the rugged pioneers who followed them westward.  Acclaimed as “one of the world’s great whiskies” by world renowned whiskey reviewer Jim Murray, Buffalo Trace is a small-batch bourbon aged 8-11 years with a vanilla aroma, rich taste and dry finish. Priced at just $25, this San Francisco World Spirits Competition double gold medal winner will please dad’s palate without putting a dent in your wallet.
                For the sophisticated dad: You can’t go wrong with Blanton’s – the world’s first single barrel bourbon.  Perfect for dads that have elegant taste and want everyone else to know it. This distinctively shaped bottle is adorned with a stopper depicting Kentucky’s other famous pastime, horse racing. Little known fact that will impress dad – each stopper is imprinted with a small letter in the lower left corner that when complete, spells out “BLANTONS.” The depiction represents the running of the Kentucky Derby, with the jockey on each stopper captured in various poses until his quest ends in victory.  This bourbon classic has won countless gold medals in the International Wine and Spirits Competition. This one of a kind gift will set you back around $50.
                For the dad who has everything: Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old – it oozes old money and prestige.  The label portrays Pappy himself smoking a stogie – there is no better gift to give to your old man. Priced at $100, this may be at the top of your budget, but it’s also guaranteed to stay on the top shelf of his liquor cabinet. This wheated recipe bourbon has received a “99” rating from Wine Enthusiast Magazine for its rich, smooth, creamy flavor. The finish of this 20 year old whiskey is long and elegant, and it even comes in a nifty red velvet bag – who can resist? 
Don’t forget Father’s Day is June 19th!  No matter which bottle you choose, you can be assured that it will be enjoyed by a man with good taste. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Magic Hat Demo

Demo is Magic Hat's latest IPA, a dark one (don't know what the music/LP theme's about; they've got a new lager out too: Vinyl), and I liked it. Nice and malty, without the huskiness some of the dark IPAs have, and solid hop bitterness and aroma. 6%, sweet enough to go down easy. Nice job. Might look for more of this.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hello, Burlington!

I'm in Burlington, VT for the first time in about 14 years, and this is STILL a great beer town. Funny, it's still real New England-car, too: saw a Saab 900 and a Volvo 240. Anyway, the boy and I did Vermont Pub & Brewery for lunch -- Bombay Grab IPA -- nice, not crazy -- Dogbiter Bitter -- too strong, but good -- and Cream Ale -- good iteration -- then walked down to the lake, had some laughs with the gulls. We were looking for Irish music, but on St. Pat's Day that's a fool's errand; Ri Ra was flowing out into College Street. So I went to Three Needs -- Thomas got carded out and went window-shopping while I had one beer: Session Sour, which is good: maybe a bit over session, maybe not too sour, but it's a good drink. Whew. What a week!

Happy St. Patrick's Day with a surprise in a green can

Hey, I know bock is no traditional St. Pat's Day drink. But I figure everyone's drinking stout and whiskey anyway, so here's a change-up for you...and it is a green can. The real reason I brought it up, though?

Narragansett Bock is good shit. Seriously.

I figured this was going to be booze-o in a can-a-rama, to be honest; some slightly higher ABV suds that didn't really taste all that bocky. I would like to publicly apologize to Mark and the gang at Gansett for that, because I should have known better after the porter and Fest.

Here's the story. This is a blonde bock, well-made, beautifully clean and balanced, and the kind of beer that will make a lager-lover out of you if you have but an ounce of sense (not to get too far off the topic here, but if you're lucky enough to find some Shiner Fröst...that sweet little rendition of a Dortmunder will do it too; excellent beer, one of their best, IMO). I took a can to a Malt Advocate staff party recently, and we were all real impressed; best beer we had that day. So get out there and find some, if you're lucky enough to live in the Northeast! (Sadly, although we get 'Gansett in PA, we didn't get any Bock. Better get some next year, and we want draft, too!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Family Fun in Montreal

My son Thomas is home from Boston University on Spring Break. He and I decided to go to Quebec to get away. I'll be honest; I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm all for it.

We drove up yesterday: stopped at Brown's Brewing in Troy (formerly the Troy Brewpub, same owners), where I enjoyed my usual -- Porter! -- and Thomas had...iced tea. Quebec's only hours away, fella! We had a beautiful run up through the Adirondacks, no worries, and scooted into Plattsburgh to view the deep blue waters of Champlain (and fill up on relatively cheap diesel before entering The Dominion of Canada). The border crossing was, for a change, uneventful, and we drove north across the plains to Montreal.


We checked into Le Cartier B-and-B, a neat little place, and got the restaurant lecture for our host, Richard. The man eats out 365 days a year, he said, so we listened. Which is how we wound up going to Au Petit Extra, and had a great meal, and a great experience for the young man. Pretty Quebecois waitresses who all looked like they could be Cathy's cousins: dark hair, light complexion, slightly elfin features. We got the prix fixe dinner, which came with 6-8 choices for the first and second courses, five dessert choices/or a cheese plate, and plentiful delicious slices of baguette. The menu was all in French -- no kiddy English version -- but we managed to figure out what we wanted between Thomas's 1.5 semesters and my smattering of eating French.

We've had some glass-holding lessons since...
We ordered: for him, soup de poisson, duck confit and salad, creme brulee; for me, veal terrine in gelee, bouillabaisse, and the cheese plate, and a half liter of house red (the waitress approved of the choice of red; I felt smart for a moment). I waited to see what he'd think. Duck confit, creme brulee, the bread: thumbs up. Fish soup (a wonderful, smoky, thick thing), house red wine? Okay, but maybe not so much. My veal terrine? Definitely not for him. Not cheap, but a great experience. (My bouillabaisse and the cheese plate were very nice as well, BTW.) And we called it a day.

This morning I got some work done, as did he, and then took a cab to the Brasserie McAuslan, where master brewer Dave Brophy -- one of the original five employees -- showed me an almost fanatical devotion to quality and consistency. No wonder I've never had a disappointing McAuslan Oatmeal Stout. Fascinating comment: they contract brew Moosehead for Quebec, and Dave said that they did an extensive diacetyl rest for the lager. Then he referred to the McAuslan beers -- done in open fermentation tanks with Ringwood yeast -- and said that, of course, they have a different character; i.e., diacetyl is expected there. Well, there you are.

Thomas contemplates the menu at Saint-Bock; brewery is in the far background
Back to the room (cabbing it so as not to lose our parking space), and Thomas was about ready to go. We walked to Le Saint-Bock for lunch. I ordered an Encensoir, which was a nice 5% smoked lager; Thomas got an iced tea. About two minutes later it hits him: DOH! He could have had a beer! At which point he grabs my rauchbier, sips it, and says he'll have one of those. Good man! And he finished it, too.

After that, we slipped down into "The Underground City." Not really an attraction, much as it sounds it. Came up and headed up St. Laurent. There are lots of hipster clothing stores there, I told Thomas (and I can get to Schwartz's, I told myself). And you know, it worked out. We walked all the way up, he got to shop, and then we went to Schwartz's and got smoked meat sammiches and Cott's black cherry soda, a weirdly wonderful combo. Then we walked over to St. Denis, stopped in a Converse/Doc Marten store, and then had a great time in a Quebec artisanal store, talking bear teeth and gypsy swing with the owner while the "annual" anti-police protest marched loudly by outside.

And...that's when I realized I'd left my debit card in the ATM that morning. So we walked down to L'amère à boire to regroup and get info to cancel the card. I had the current Projet Elephant beer, a 3.6% Tmavé dark lager, wonderfully session. Thomas had a pilsner. I got the info I needed, canceled the card...and Thomas realized he'd left a shirt he'd bought at Schwartz's. So back up St. Laurent, and whattayaknow, they had it for him! Bravo, Schwartz's!

Dinnertime. Okay, beer time. Reservoir is practically around the corner, so we went, and I got a big glass of Noire, the dry stout that I swear is the best thing they make. We also had grilled cheese: raclette and sweated onions on grilled baguette. Nummy.

We were beat. Yes, beer geekerie: no Dieu du Ciel. I've been; it's great, but it's a long way off, and to be honest, I'd rather have spent much of the day drinking the Elephant beer, or even going to Benelux. Or maybe I'm just ornery. Anyway, we split a poutine, one more Montreal thing for the boy to experience, and called it a day. And now I'm going to bed. Good night!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Iron Hill North Wales brings the bitter

A reminder to you Philly area folks: Iron Hill North Wales will be hosting an IPA event this Saturday, from 1-5, a pay-as-you-go sampling of Iron Hill hop monsters pitted against the bitterest offerings from local brewers. Check out the list for this Bitter Rivalry:

On Tap From the HOME TEAM:English Pale Ale (IHB Newark)
Gerardus Maximus (IHB West Chester)
English IPA (IHB Media)
Hopfection IPA (IHB Wilmington)
Ramrod (IHB North Wales)
Hoppopotamus (IHB Phoenixville)
Swagger (IHB Lancaster)
Black IPA (IHB Maple Shade)

On Tap From the AWAY TEAM:
75 Minute IPA On Cask (Dogfish Head)
IPA (Yards)
California Dreamin' (Manayunk Brewing Co.)
Flower Power (Ithaca Brewing Co.)
Prussia's Pride (Rock Bottom KOP)
Summit IPA (Stewart's)
Rt. 113 (Sly Fox)
HopFish (Flying Fish)

Should be fun.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pineville Tavern on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives!

Another lost week...

But I'm back, with cool news: Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives visited Memphis Taproom, we all know about that, and it was very cool...but they also stopped in a Bucks County beloved, the Pineville Tavern, just up the road from my home, and a place where I've dropped anchor for a good jar of Guinness on occasion (because the beer pickin's are admittedly fairly slim, but the food's excellent). Here's the scoop: the show's tomorrow night!
Pineville Tavern (est. 1989) will be featured on The Food Network’s, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on March 7th at 9PM (re-running on March 14th)Executive chef (and 2nd generation owner), Drew Abruzzese will be showing host Guy Fieri what goes into making some of the most popular items on the menu – like the P.V.T. Snapper Soup (or as Guy refers to it on the episode – “Snapping Turtle Soup”).  Drew will also revel the secret recipe for the Abruzzese family’s 4th generation meat ravioli and marinara sauce. 
Drew has worked side-by-side with some of the most well-respected chefs in the area – Danny Meyer (New York Restaurateur, Union Square Hospitality), Jeffrey Chodorow (New York Restaurateur, owner of China Grill Management), and Matt Levin (owner of local Philly restaurant, Adsum).  
I'll be away, but I'll catch that re-run. Go, local heroes!