Cathy gives me a pubcrawl for my birthday, and we finally got around to it on Saturday. I wanted to hit some places I'd been hearing about but had not been able to visit yet. We got to all four, and it was a great day...for a while.
First stop was Capone's in Norristown. There's been a huge buzz building about this place, a restaurant along Germantown Pike in northern Norristown. The buzz is right: very impressive beer list! For one thing, there were about five Great Lakes beers on tap, left over from a Great Lakes event earlier in the week. That's devotion: Great Lakes isn't available from wholesalers in eastern PA, so Matt Capone drove out to western PA to get these kegs. My Edmund Fitzgerald Porter was excellent -- as it always is -- and the sample of Blackout Stout was great: big, but very drinkable.
After we finished our lunch (nice cup of chili and a fine, fresh Caesar salad for me) we went back to the bottleshop, and wow, what a selection of bottled Belgians. Cathy picked out one bottle, I picked another (Lost Abbey Red Barn), and then we gave in and got a third for fun. Very nice stop, and Matt Capone was fun to talk to. We'll certainly have to be back.
We drove further out into the country to get to Brother Paul's in Eagleville. This is the old Eagleville Hotel, and from what I've heard, they've put a lot of money into restoring it. The place was classic PA hotel bar, brought up to modern standards: big and relaxed barroom, some smaller dining rooms out front, and a loose crowd enjoying the afternoon. The beer selection was a letdown after Capone's, but Lord, most places would be. As it was, I got a nice glass of Stella Artois, mainly because the glassware looked so cool. Cathy got a Pilsner Urquell, and also got some fancy glassware.
We were surprised to find that the Stella was tasting better than the PU. The big Czech tasted kind of husky, dusty, and astringent, while the Stella was smoothly malty with a well-balanced hoppy character. I did talk to someone the next day at Ortino's who said they'd tasted some odd stuff on Brother Paul's draftlines, but not what I was describing in the PU (and the Stella tasted plenty fresh). Not sure what's up there. Anyway, I'd stop in again if I were passing by.
Next was down to Paoli, where Uncle Jack had recently rapturated about TJ's Everyday. Well, folks, Uncle Jack was right on the money. TJ's, just a joint in a strip plaza by the Paoli train station, was every bit of all right. A real nice beer selection (I had a Caracole Nostradamus that tasted beautifully estery and rich), an excellent bartender (wish I'd gotten her name, she was probably the best we had all day), and comfortable surroundings: TJ's won big on the major counts.
We moved on to our next stop, the Flying Pig in Malvern, only about a mile away. The Flying Pig is a place Bill Covaleski at Victory's been telling me about for years, and I was happy to finally get there. It's not much to look at, a bit rough, but friendly and unassuming. I can't complain about the beer at all. I started with a big pint of Russian River Pliny The Younger which was just rippingly hoppy and tasty and wow and such...and that's when things started to unwind. The alcohol was catching up with me.
Someone else caught up with me about this time: Bryan Kolesar, of the Brew Lounge blog. You may have seen his name wrapped up with an apparent death threat on Uncle Jack's page, so I welcomed him and the two female assassins with him to our table, figured we'd hash things out, or at least make an offer to outbid Jack on the contract. All went well, except for the Lenny's RIPA (dashingly hopped and crisp with the rye), Saranac Imperial IPA (yes, very big, but with a distinctively British cant to the hops, the first IIPA I've had with that earthy/nutty thing going, and I liked it), North Coast Old Stock (2004, I think, and beautiful with it), and...well, Bryan says there was a bottle of Allagash 11th Anniversary involved. My uncertainty about whether or not he was right should tell you about my condition.
Folks, I had too much to drink. I apologize to anyone I may have offended, most sincerely. All I can say in my defense is that I did have a driver (Cathy had gone to club soda after Brother Paul's). I just wish we hadn't gone on to stop in at my good friend Matt Guyer's Beer Yard, because now Matt has plenty of gossip to tell Uncle Jack. On the other hand, the case of Tupper's Keller Pils we bought should go a long way towards making me feel better.
Not that I felt that bad, physically. I drank a bunch of water, hit the sack, got up the next morning, and sang 10:30 mass. In good voice, too. And then went out and did our first Seasonal Session at Ortino's Northside...but we'll talk about that somewhere else. Later.