Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Philly Beer Week 2011: I'm All In

Here we are, only three days from opening tap...and I've finally nailed down my Philly Beer Week events. Sigh. I was ready to publicize these last week, then Blogger went down (I did throw them up on Facebook, but...it's like writing on water), and then it was the holiday weekend and I had no computer access, then the volcano erupted and the dogs ate my homework...

Anyway... here we go! (No, no Bud Light at my events. I promise.)

FRIDAY, June 3, I'll be signing books at Opening Tap: see you there!

SATURDAY, June 4: The popular Wheat Beer Breakfast -- which was ridiculed as far away as Texas last year, I'm so proud -- moves to Hop Angel this year, 10-2. We've got great wheats of all types lined up, and beer-appropriate breakfast and brunch chow. Wheat beer: Breakfast o' Champions, and an awesome way to start your big First Saturday of Philly Beer Week!

SUNDAY, June 5: I bring Pennsylvania Breweries home to the Grey Lodge for the UPstate PA Beer Trek, 7-9. We've got SEVEN kegs from far-flung and tiny PA breweries: Otto's, Elk Creek, Old Forge, Marley's, Benny Brew, Breaker, and Kutztown Tavern, of which I'm pretty sure two of them are making their Philly debut; Benny Brew and Marley's are less than a year old. Why drive 470 miles, like Scoats and I did? Just come to the G-Lodge!

MONDAY, June 6: Actually, I'm not doing anything Monday night. A guy's gotta recharge!

TUESDAY, June 7: Do you like smoked beer? Do you like it a lot? Join me at Hop Angel, starting at 7:00 for an all-smoked beer/all-smoked food dinner! (PAYG option, too) SEVEN smoked beers (including the return of Unibroue Raftman!), smoked meat (including Rieker's awesome triple-smoked bacon), smoked fish, smoked cheese -- I am not blowing smoke up your ass, this is gonna be SMOKIN'!!! (Rare sideways plug: If you don't like smoked beer -- and I don't get that, but I know you're out there -- consider the event I'd be at if I weren't here: a B.United Importers dinner at Resurrection Ale House. I don't know if the name rings a bell, but Matthias Niedhart has been bringing in amazing beers for years, and does crazy things to keep them fresh on the way. You should come to my dinner! ...but if you don't, you should go here.)

WEDNESDAY, June 8: I'll be co-hosting a non-Philly Beer Week event on Long Island with Marnie Old (standing in for Sam Calagione...better bring my A game).

THURSDAY, June 9: Not all of Philly BeerWeek is in Philly! Join me for a PAYG pub crawl in Doylestown, starting at 7:00 (more info on which bars, but you can be sure that Stephanie's and Mesquito Grille will be on the list) and get to know this town's burgeoning bar scene; bet it's bigger than you knew! Brewers, reps, PA Breweries signings, and great times, Bucks County-style!

FRIDAY, June 10: Bonus day: I'm doing two events! First, blow off Friday afternoon -- like you're working hard during Philly Beer Week anyway -- and join me at City Tap House for a Pennsylvania Breweries tap takeover lunch, 11:30-1:30. A ton of PA beers, PA Local food, and plenty of the latest dope on what's happening in the PA beer scene.

After we've recovered, join me at the Old Eagle Tavern for a bourbon and beer dinner. Good bourbons -- you can bet Eagle Rare will be there! -- good bourbon-aged beers, and the cozy confines of the Old Eagle...and the booming laugh of yours truly. Ask anyone who was at my Percy Street bourbon dinner: this is going to be so much fun you'll barely notice how much you learn about bourbon.


SATURDAY, June 11: My final event is at Devil's Den, and it's called Big Wood with Lew Bryson. We'll be sampling wood-aged beers of many types, enjoying the many ways wood brings flavor to beer. Be careful; you just might learn something as I bring my whiskey-led beer knowledge to bear!

More details available at the Philly Beer Week page, on the Philly Beer Week app (iPhone and Android), and at the individual venue websites. I do hope to see you at one of these, at least!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Upstate Beer Run 2011

Scoats and I did our annual "Upstate Beer Run" yesterday, as folks who follow either of us on Twitter might already know (check #pabeerrun). This is for our event at the Grey Lodge Pub on Sunday, June 5th, 7-9 PM*, when we'll put seven kegs of rarely/never-seen Pennsylvania beers on at the Grey Lodge, and regale you with our tales of the great places to find beer in the busiest brewing area in Pennsylvania: the curve from State College to Wilke-Barre that I call The Appalachian Front in Pennsylvania Breweries 4. Things are popping along here, and two of the beers come from breweries that have been open for less than six months.

We made the run yesterday, and it was quite productive. Scoats showed up in Langhorne at 7:30, we jumped in the Jetta and took off down the Turnpike. Just about the time I was feeling the need for a bit more caffeine, I saw a sign that the totally re-built rest stop at Lawn (just east of Harrisburg) was re-opening that day! How exciting! A rest stop grand opening! We were shocked to find neither flags nor brass bands, but I did park the Jetta in one of the new low-emissions vehicle slots...how silly.

Onward! Up the river, past the Susquehanna Statue of Liberty, through the narrows, and then through State College because of a detour, and finally to Otto's. We were greeted in the parking lot by owners Charlie Schnable and Roger Garthwaite, and by my good friend (and Malt Advocate copy editor) Sam Komlenic. (Unfortunately, brewer Chris Brugger was not there...thwarting my intention to greet him with greetings from a substantial number of Philadelphians.) Charlie showed us an impressively stocked coldbox, told us of plans for expansion (a new bottling line, more tanks, actual larger building) and of how the beer's selling in State College and beyond -- well-deserved success. We picked up a sixtel of Double D and hit the road.
Owly Images
Next on the agenda was Elk Creek, but...we had some extra time, so we slipped up to Bellefonte to visit Mike Smith at Gamble Mill Tavern. The bar wasn't open, but the hostess cheerfully located Mike, and we were soon sampling his beers. The first, HB48 Session Ale, was a hit: light but flavorful, quite nicely done. We had the Lame Devil Farmhouse (great body, a middleweight saison, with a nice peppery note), J. Rose Pale (nice, maybe a bit on the light side), Monte Weizen (not overly-clovey, well-done), Bush House Brown (good but...I'm just not big on brown ales), and Pig Iron IPA (solid stuff, great hop flavor and aroma). All beers were clean, pretty much flawless, and the place was quite cool. Nice to have somewhere to go for beer in Bellefonte again!

We were now late (and it's clearly Mike's fault, you know...), so we scooted down to Elk Creek. Loved the run, new roads for me, and some great PA scenery. Elk Creek wasn't open, but brewer Tim Yarrington knew we were coming and we met him out back at the brewhouse. We talked about how he was seeing the same thing as Otto's: everyone in the area wants Elk Creek beer, even the Millheim Hotel four doors down, even the firehall across the street. There are places around here, he said (and for the record, "around here" is mighty damned pleasant, but definitely in the sticks), that are putting an impressive small selection of craft on tap, mostly focused on local stuff. He's even hooked up with a wholesaler to get beer into the Wyoming Valley, which blew my mind. We grabbed a sixtel of Poe Paddy Porter, had a sample of Tim's MFA Ale ("F*** style!" he told us he said when he formulated this one, and a tip for brewers: the "MF" in the name stands for what you might think, and Tim reports that beers with profanity in the name sell like...a MF'er), which was brown, hoppy, a little bit of biscuit, and kickass refreshing. ON the road again!

Owly Images
We zipped over the hills, remarked on the quaint beauty of Mifflinburg, crawled through Lewisburg, and slid into Danville to have lunch -- and naturally pick up a keg -- at Old Forge Brewing. I finally met long-time reader Rev. Bob Van Deusen at the bar, too: a real pleasure to meet you, Bob! We also met Tim Egan (the fellow with the awesome moustache in the picture to the left) for whom the beer we picked up -- Loadmaster ESB -- was named; similarly a pleasure, Tim was a good guy to talk beer with. So was our host, Damien, and lunch was excellent (jalapeno soft pretzel, brewer's chili, and the chicken-apple quesadilla for me, Scoats had a turkey cheese sandwich he tore into). I got alt and kölsch, and while the alt was as good as always, the kölsch was a bit sulfury and a bit sharp; Damien said he'd tried a different fermentation regime on this batch...and was going back to his old one. Thus we learn! His new production facility -- a few-score yards away -- is sitting ready for construction to begin, waiting only on -- stop me if you've heard this before -- PLCB paperwork approval. With luck, they hope to be brewing by -- I think he said -- September. More beer in this hottest of PA beer areas.

Off we went, to another brand-new place, Marley's in Bloomsburg. We sampled Mark Braunwarth's dunkelweizen and Belgian Pale, and decided that while both were good, the dunkelweizen was a style we didn't see enough of, and loaded a half into the back of the Jetta. We toured the brewery -- whew, is it hot down there in the basement! -- and got a tank-sample of his upcoming chocolate stout (real cocoa, and it tasted chocolatey indeed). Marley's is rolling, and I've heard good things from several friends about it.

We were rolling too, the short run to Berwick Brewing. Always a pleasure to stop in, but we'd screwed things up by being so late (I'd actually planned to be there about noon, but turned the trip around by starting at Otto's; it was now just before 5!), and it wasn't clear what kegs were spoken for. Tom Clark was going to be back in about 20 minutes, but...we'd hosed ourselves, and had to get moving. We made our apologies and rolled on.

Traffic was getting a little thick, but only in Shickshinny (happy 150th anniversary!), and as we crossed the bridge into Nanticoke, we were catching up to schedule a bit. Minerva, my long-suffering and well-abused GPS, was leading us to Marty's Blue Room and Benny Brew, and the more turns we took, the less-likely it seemed...but she was dead on the money. Nice small-town bar with what looked like a great menu, and the nanobrewery you see in the picture to the right. Benny -- Ben Schonfeld -- and his dad Jim ("Marty" was the former owner) showed us the brewery and we tasted the Amber Lager (juicy and malty), Wit (I'm witted-out right now, but this was still quite good), Summer Ale (light and hoppy, pretty nice too), and Hopenstein IPA (good, though a bit too sweet: Benny said it was lacking the usual dry-hopping -- there was a long, involved, and at times amusing story to go with that -- which usually balanced out that sweet, and he was planning to go back to that). Our general impression: for a one-man operation in a bar on a half-barrel system, these were pretty damned good beers, and clean as a whistle. Nice work!

Whew. One more stop, and a relaxed one: Breaker Brewing. Chris and Mark are like old buddies now, and we just rolled up, settled in, and all grabbed glasses of Lunchbucket Pale. Mighty nice, too. I'm very appreciative of a good pale ale lately. They're days away from setting on a new place, and it's a huge step up: acres of land, a solid brick production building, and...lots of parking. For the planned pub. Really. It's the former St. Joseph's Monastery -- again, really -- in nearby Georgetown (not far from Krugel's Deli). According to the guys, the Church is real touchy about breweries in churches after the Church Brew Works -- apparently, the diocese didn't take enough out of there, and it looks too...churchy, which is a source of embarrassment. They're taking out the altar, the stained glass, even requiring that the steeple be removed (or maybe just the cross on top of the steeple, they seemed unsure). Well, okay. But when the diocese is closing about 100 churches (according to Mark), it seems like they might have other things to be worried about. Anyway, they have their zoning variance, they're close to having the property, and then...well, then things get crazy. Looking forward to this, because I know I'm far from the only person who's said, over and over and over, that the Wyoming Valley needs a proper, well-run brewpub. These are the guys to do it.

We picked up our last sixtel -- Goldies Summer, their usual blonde with an addition of citrus peel and coriander, light and refreshing -- and headed down the PA TP Extension to home with a butt-load of great, small-brewery beer. See you on June 5th!

* I've got three PBW events with Scoats:
  • The Wheat Beer Brunch is at HopAngel this year, Saturday June 4th, from 10-2, supplying you with all of those wonderful breakfast beers made with wheat, and beer-soaked breakfast/brunch food. 
  • The Upstate Beer Run event is at the Grey Lodge, Sunday, June 5th, 7-9 PM.
  • And on Tuesday, June 7th, 7-10 back at HopAngel, we're doing the Smoked Stuff Dinner, a dinner with ALL smoked beers and at least one smoked food in each course. With the great smoked stuff right across the street at Rieker's, and the great local smoked beers...how can we lose?

More on ABC Collegeville

Uncle Jack made it out to the new ABC Collegeville; he posted here. I am jealous of his proximity to so many good places...looks like ABC really took advantage of the potential of the space like New Road never did.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stephen Starr auf Deutsch

Stephen Starr steals ideas from NYC again...his beer garden, Frankford Hall, opens today (saw it at FooBooz, so go read it there).

It's about time we got a beer garden, dammit. (Ummm...as Craig pointed out in comments, there's a beer garden at Memphis Taproom now. And I've been there, and you should go too. I feel dopey. Sorry, Brendan!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

ABC Collegeville is open

The fourth Appalachian Brewing has opened in Collegeville (in the old New Road space, for those of you gray enough to remember (I'm looking at you, O'Reilly)). If only I had some spare time this week...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Session Beer explodes: you really did hear it here first

Check out some links on the SBP blog here. "Session beer" has exploded in the past two months, and yesterday was a big day. Narragansett has a 4.2% Summer Ale coming out, The Notch continues to do well (and is expanding distribution to western Mass), and of course, Philly's quiet session beer success continues unabated. I do love it when a plan comes together.

Scott Smith is all in; you gonna see him?

I know you Pennsylvanians -- and some others -- know about Scott Smith at East End Brewing. I've certainly written enough about him. I mentioned recently that plans were underway for an expansion -- only because he really really needs it -- and the building's been found (a much bigger building at 6580 Frankstown Ave., not far away, a former telecom warehouse). You can read more about it here in Bob Batz's -- as always -- nicely detailed article in the Post-Gazette.

Two things leap out, besides the greatly increased capacity and the proximity to the current plant (had to stay close, Scott acknowledges, or he'd have to change the name). First, Scott and his wife Julie are mortgaging their home to raise most of the money, laying it on the line. (I just saw on his Facebook feed that he's off to sign the papers this morning.) Second, he's looking for small investors -- friends of good beer -- to help make the nut.

Here's the deal. They need about $250,000 more to cover the expansion (the $500K in the article is the whole thing; Scott has about half of that). They're hoping to get $100K from you, the drinkers, in what Scott calls a 3-year microloan. You won't make any money; you get paid back in beer. Or t-shirts, or cake mixes, or growlers, or whatever other stuff Scott's fertile mind has dreamed up (me, I'd get one of those Big Hop bike jerseys), because you'll get $10 vouchers to use at the brewery (or the growler store in the Strip). Details are all here, investing goes live next week, I believe.

Look, I'm not advising you to "invest." I wouldn't advise you to put money in one small brewery over another. But I would advise you to invest in a small, local brewery if you get the chance. I would, if there weren't obvious ethical issues preventing me. This is your local community, your local beer, and you get to be part of it. Will you make money? Well, no, not on this "investment," though you might on others; similarly, you might lose money. How much you stake is up to you, after due diligence. But the point is...you can be part of this. Which is pretty damned cool. So open your eyes (and your ears) and think about it. That's small brewing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Will you feel lucky this Friday?

What can it mean?
  • Cigar City Humidor IPA
  • Cricket Hill Reserve Series Brown
  • Dock Street TBA
  • Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
  • Flying Fish Farmhouse
  • Fullers London Pride
  • Lancaster Milk Stout
  • Manayunk Brewerytown Brown Ale
  • Manayunk Hop Phanatic
  • Nodding Head Marauder
  • Philly Fleur de Lehigh
  • Prism Bitto Honey
  • Sixpoint Modern Rye
  • Sly Fox 113 IPA
  • Sly Fox Chester County Bitter
  • Stouts Pils
  • Stouts special bourbon barrel aged Scarlet Lady ESB
  • Troegs Hopback Amber
  • Troegs Javahead
  • Victory Headwaters Pale Ale
  • Wells Banana Bread
  • Wells Bombadier
  • Weyerbacher Verboten with camomille tea
  • Yards ESA 

It can only mean one thing: Friday the Firkinteenth. Starts at noon, this Friday.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys coming

I just spent three days in Ireland, courtesy of Midleton distillers and Pernod Ricard, to taste two new single post still Irish whiskeys, Powers John's Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy. I had my Malt Advocate Managing Editor hat firmly on my head, so accordingly, my notes on the whiskey are on our magazine blog, here. I'll probably have the rest of the trip up here soon. In the meantime, for those of you who are jealous of the whiskey (and beer) samples I get...I did stop at Travel Retail in the new T2 terminal at Dublin Airport to buy a bottle of Green Spot. Because I've been waiting too damned long to have my own bottle, and I thought 28 Euro was a pretty good price. Slainte!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New York Breweries update nudges closer

I went to TAPNY over the weekend, had a LOT of great beers from some excellent new New York breweries (the top two awards went to breweries under a year old, Crossroads and Barrier (and well-deserved), and I enjoyed the hell out of the beers from Greenport, too), and saw a phenomenal level of support for the state's brewers. So I'm in final negotiations on a long-overdue update of New York Breweries. There are over 60 breweries in the state now, with the Finger Lakes region and Long Island leading the growth, and again, some truly excellent beers being made. Going to be a lot of travel, a lot of work, but I think this is going to happen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Zythos in America

This may or may not happen at this event.
There are -- there will be -- a ton of Philly Beer Week events. It starts in 32 days. I have my own events, and I'll let you know about them soon. But I wanted to get this one out there, because it's really the kind of event that could almost only be done in Philly, because of our huge love for Belgian beers (and when, fergodssake, is someone gonna get smart and open a Brewer's Art-style brewpub in this town?!), and because of Tom Peters.
Zythos America      Saturday, June 11, 2011     Noon-3PM     $60
BELGIUM'S PREMIER BEER FESTIVAL COMES TO PHILLY! This is our third annual Zythos America and will be the best one yet. Stellar beer selection and lots of space for your comfort. We will offer over 75 Belgian and Belgian-style beers. The preliminary selection is now posted online. Do expect some changes and additions. These beers will all be top quality with NO CRAP to fill out the list.
Saturday afternoon from Noon-3PM. Doors open at 11:45. This will  be held at the Starlight Ballroom, 460 N. 9th Street. This venue has a capacity of 1,200 people, but we are limiting ticket sales to only 600 to ensure plenty of room to wander, sample and talk. Dozens of comfortable booths in which to relax and enjoy these amazing beers. The Starlight Ballroom has its own kitchen and will be offering food for sale.
Go to phillybeerfests.com for more information, beer list, and tickets. Tickets are on sale through the Starlight Ballroom's ticketing company, Ticket Fly. Tickets are very limited, so don't delay.
You've been warned. Get to it!