I had no business whatsoever going to the IPA Project at Sly Fox today. Work, a concert to sing tonight, family issues that I don't want to go into...I should have stayed home. But I didn't, and it's all worked out. I should worry less.
I did go, and immediately ran into Matt "Beer Yard" Guyer, who confirmed my thought about the best way to go at the IPA Project: eschew the flights and just pick something to get a real size of. I grabbed a flight attendant (the ever-popular and brilliant Corey Reid (portrait of whom you see to the left...) and ordered up a 12 oz. Aurora.
Quick explanation: the IPA Project is a series of single-hop IPAs. In December, at the Sly Fox's anniversary, they pull out kegs of all the IPAs and offer them all at once. Brilliant. Except this year...Well, the Aurora was okay. The Fuggles was okay. The 2008 Odyssey (DIPA, multi-hopped, cask) was okay. The Mt. Rainier? A bit better, but in a crisp refreshing way, not a knock-out way. By this time, I'm starting to think, what the hell, the hops shortage has made all hoppy beer boring? Hate to dis Sly Fox IPAs this way, but damn, my socks were not being knocked off! (Kinda cool when former Sly Fox (and Independence and Stoudt's and Sunnybrook) brewer Bill Moore showed up, though; and yeah, Uncle Jack was there, looking pretty good after his brush with severe abdominal discomfort last month: that's Guyer, Jack, and Bill in the pic.)
Then Uncle Jack kind of talked me into getting one more 12 oz. glass, and I got the Galena. Now, Galena is generally considered to be an industrial-grade hop, a bitterness source, and that's about it. But...I remember back in the 1990s, Great Lakes (before Andy Tveekrem left there to become the wizard behind the curtain at Dogfish Head) had a barleywine they called Steamroller that was never offered for sale (as far as I know), just an "under the table" beer at festivals: huge, hi-alcohol, bitter, and dry-hopped on a bed of Galenas. And it was brilliant, as I recall. And so was this. The Galena was easily the best IPA of the day. Well, at Sly Fox, anyway.
Because when I left Sly Fox, I realized, I've got just time enough to stop at Victory and get maybe a growler or two of the great beers I've been hearing they had on tap right now. So I did. And it was good. Although it did take too long to get a beer, because two bartenders had a long talk about boyfriends, and Oh MY God!, and school, and NO WAY! right in front of me, and then walked off in opposite directions...till the guy sitting next to me at the bar called out to the one and said, "Hey, this guy's thirsty, you know?" Bless him. Bartenders at Victory; what's it take?
Anyway, I got me a pint of Uncle Teddy's Bitter (great, as always), and two growlers: St. Vic (which I'm polishing off right now, although I planned on saving it till Sunday, but I caught the bail on the flip-top when I was setting it down, and I had to drink it...really) and Yakima Twilight, a dark DIPA that tasted just fantastic when a guy at the bar offered me a sip. The St. Vic is great, smooth, malty, just a tad raunchy/smoky/chewy, and I love that. More about the YT when we drink up that one.
All in all: hell of a good beer day. And the concert went well, BTW, thanks for asking.
Memphis Taproom had Yakima Twilight on tap a couple of weeks ago, and about halfway through the glass, I was wondering if I wasn't drinking Victory's absolute best beer. At least to my mind, it's right up there with them.
Because when I left Sly Fox, I realized, I've got just time enough to stop at Victory and get maybe a growler or two of the great beers I've been hearing they had on tap right now. So I did. And it was good. Although it did take too long to get a beer, because two bartenders had a long talk about boyfriends, and Oh MY God!, and school, and NO WAY! right in front of me, and then walked off in opposite directions...till the guy sitting next to me at the bar called out to the one and said, "Hey, this guy's thirsty, you know?" Bless him. Bartenders at Victory; what's it take?"
You were lucky you only got mildly screwed at Victory. I will never spend another penny at the Victory Brewpub regardless of how good their beers are. Customer service is lacking and it starts at the top in my opinion. If you walked out, wrote a condemning blog and advocated a boycott maybe things would change.
Victory: really good-to-great beer, really lousy-to-horrible brewpub (food and service). 'Nuff said.
We're not going to turn this into a 'slag Victory' party, but...
Couple things. First, the experience I had was pretty annoying, but it was only about two minutes. I've waited longer. Second, I think the new bar is great (the growler filler's awesome), and the food's never disappointed; some of it's been excellent.
But...you know? The service at Victory has been a continuing issue. It's been up, it's been down. But I've almost always had the impression that the bartenders were busy with their own agenda, walking up and down the backbar, and every now and then they'd notice me. Guys, just acknowledge I'm there, and let me know you'll be getting to me. Means a lot to the customer. And no customer should have to wait for more than sixty seconds for that.
Boycott? Nah. Complain? Yup. We'll see what happens. I've got my fingers crossed. And in the meantime, I'm looking forward to that Yakima Twilight.
I have found dismal service at just about every bar I visit recently; actually just about every retail store also. Sign of the times - spoiled kids don't understand how to give service, just get it.
I'm disappointed to hear you were unexcited by the IPA project stuff. I haven't yet made it to Sly Fox (living in VA), but the IPA project sounds really neat.
The IPA Project was great (it's over, BTW: been replaced by a Pale Ale project, which I think is a good idea), and last year's was, IMO, a better round of beers. I don't really blame this on Sly Fox or the brewers. You only have to look at the news about hops over the past year to suspect that the problem may have been there. And I did like that Galena.
Lew, I guess you think good beer overcomes bad service? How bad would you need to be treated before you walked out?
I think that Victory is a victim of their success and don't care about the individual, there will be another sucker to take the seat. The whole experience seemed to be about extracting as much money as possible from your wallet. Hopefully someone from Victory is reading your blog and will do something meaningful to change their attitude.
Well, as I said, it wasn't that bad, mostly annoying. And once she did pay attention to me, I got my Uncle Teddy's and my two growlers in very short order, and got my check quickly once I asked for it (a real pet peeve, waiting for the check). I don't walk out on bad service, though: I write about it.
I disagree on your characterization of Victory, too: the service has always been like this -- sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse -- so I don't think you can say it's about being too successful. I don't really buy that at all. I see Victory putting a lot into a very nice new bar, and keeping even more beers on, and spending a lot of money on keeping beer quality up. That's all places I like to see money spent.
I'd just like to see them take their bartenders aside and give them a damned good talking to. Really. That would help a lot.
I'm of the opinion that far too many bars, hire people who are strictly working their jobs for the money. That's part of what I like about EB+B and the Memphis Taproom, the Grey Lodge, and few others: the people seem to enjoy their jobs. For me, it makes a huge difference.
Because Philly is such a great beer town, I can get most beers in 2 or 3 or more places, and for almost the same price. Because of that, I'll spend my money in the places that treat their customers well, and not as an inconvenience.
That said, even though I don't frequent Victory, I can't remember ever having any notable service experiences, whether positive or negative. I don't often go there, frankly, because it's way out of my way, and I think the food has been, too often, subpar.
Not to go too far off topic, but I can relate with a BP close to me. The Gilded Otter, the beer's good but the service and food are more marginal than not.
I've occasionally seen inattentive service at Victory but I can't recall ever being offended by any of their staff's behavior. I've always enjoyed the beer and the food is also generally very good.
So what does dry hopped Galena smell like?
(I realize that's a very hard question.)
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