Thursday, December 31, 2009
And yeah, I was there and drank myself some of the Old Bart (as did my two bros-in-law, Carl & Chris Childs). That's Emily pouring our glasses from the cask on the bar. How was it? Dangerously firkin drinkable, was the general evaluation. Not wicked hoppy, not wicked sweet, not at all the heavy hit to the chops you'd expect from a 10.3% ABV barleywine. Woof. We also popped a traditional glass of Snow Goose, the big goose-head tap just drew us on with memories of the good old days...and it was not disappointing. Nutty, tasty, malty...Goosey.
A great evening drinking beer, and a few great hours of 2009 yet to come.
Cheers! Happy New Year!
You know what I really like about this video? It's not like the tongue-in-cheek silliness of some brewery vids, or the chest-pounding you might see from others -- no, not naming names -- and it's not overdone. It's a lot like Victory: it's about the basics, and the people, and the beer. It's about delivering more beer, made to the same high standards they've had since the first time I dropped by, in February 1996. Cheers, Bill and Ron, and Scott Dietrich, and the whole crew at Victory Brewing!
Friday, December 25, 2009
Okay, more than that. Hop'solutely is 11.5% and doesn't really feel like it; more like about 8%, but there you are. It's sweet and bitter, light and solid. The bitterness is intense, but enhanced by equally intense fizz. My only issue here is that it's maybe too too much...but that's the west coast IPA thing. West coasters would not like how sweet it it, but that's how it goes: vive la difference!!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
One alcoholic-beverage company has made celebrity-oriented drinks the focus of its business model. Drinks Americas Holdings Ltd., Wilton, Conn., has signed joint ventures or other agreements with such celebrities as musicians Dr. Dre and Kid Rock and real-estate magnate and TV personality Donald Trump. Trump Super Premium Vodka, in which Mr. Trump has a 50% stake, sells for about $35 a bottle.Wonder if Kid Rock knows the meaning of schadenfreude?
But Drinks Americas, created in 2002, has struggled. In an SEC filing Monday, it said it faces a shortage of working capital and may be unable to continue operations without additional financing. The company posted a $3.5 million loss for the six months ended Oct. 31.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
It's tart, not sour, and the nose is tart cherry, a bit of almond, some fizzy sweetness, and some wood. The taste is all that, dialed back a bit. In fact, it's gulpable. There's the tart, there's a bit of astringency -- not unpleasant -- and a thickness that doesn't get to be too much. This is a Flanders red smoothed and sanded to an easily grasped glass. Well. Relatively easily grasped. It's enjoyable, but for someone who's been drinking this kind of thing, good and bad, for years, it's kind of easily grasped.
I'm trying to think of a metaphor and none's coming. I mean, for the price -- $9 for a 750 ml bottle (and an odd-looking bottle, looks like a butter churn) -- it's pretty decent value. But what the hell is a 9% Flanders Red, and how much are you paying for the 9% part? I'm not clear on this one. I'll have to try the other two.
Monday, December 21, 2009
And now they're all grown up. Wish they'd been able to pull off that production facility they were talking about a few years ago, but Nodding Head's done just fine; pretty damned well, after all. Congratulations to current brewer Gordon Grubb, and to the man who drives the bus, Curt Decker. Wish I coulda made it to tell you in person.
It's back! Ten Days of Old Bart starts New Years Eve at the ancestral home of Yards Brewing taps: the Dawson Street Pub. Here's the schedule. Hope to see you at one -- at least! -- of these.
Thursday 12/31/09 - Dawson St Pub 5pm - Firkin
Friday 1/1/10 - Devils Den 1pm - Firkin
Saturday 1/2/10 - Varga Bar 5pm - Frikin (on the handpump!)
Sunday 1/3/10 - Swift Half Pub 1pm - Firkin (plus the Eagles vs the Cowgirls on the bigscreen)
Monday 1/4/10 - Local 44 5pm - Firkin
Tuesday 1/5/10 - Hulmeville Inn 7pm - Firkin
Wednesday 1/6/10 - Standard Tap 6pm - Firkin
Thursday 1/7/10 - Kite and Key 7pm - Firkin
Friday 1/8/10 - Pub & Kitchen 5pm - Pin
Friday 1/8/10 - The London Grill 8pm - Pin
Saturday 1/9/10 - Pub on Passyunk East (POPE) 12pm - Firkin
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Just a short note about this Saranac Rye IPA I'm enjoying...frankly, it's short because I'm whupped. I've been up since 5:30 AM, shopping, running errands, cooking, shoveling snow (we've got about 10-11" right now, and it's finally starting to slack off)...and I'm about done.
So, the Rye IPA. It's quite brisk, almost light for an IPA, and it definitely has that rye feel to it: spicy/minty, a touch astringent, and yet ... 'oily' in a way on the finish. The hops are there to cut and carry -- Saaz and Hallertau in an IPA; how...Victorious -- and I think this would probably be a great beer with bluefish...I do love bluefish, and it's so hard to find a beer that's good with it.
For now, though...I'm drinking this beer with snow. And that's working, too.
I'm just sayin'...
And as of 12:32 PM on Monday...there are only two (and one bottle of Eagle Rare 17, too, but no other Antique Collection whiskeys). Doubt not the power of the blog, or the depth of desire for Stagg!
Snowy Day Specials Today Only at Tria!The Craft Ale House out in Limerick left a tempting post on Facebook: "Have you ever dreamed of being snowed in at a bar? Todays your chance, come on in." Indeed!
Tria Rittenhouse: Give & Sip Gift Card Special -- For each $50 in Gift Cards purchased at Tria Rittenhouse today, you get a $15 Gift Card for you! And you can use your reward right then and there. That's what we call instant gratification - buy a gift, drink some wine (or beer).
Tria Wash West: Special 5 for 5 Happy Hour -- We're offering our new and wildly popular Tria-style happy hour all day and night at Tria Wash West. (This is usually available Monday through Thursday from 5 - 7 pm). 5 great fermented specialties (2 wines, 2 beers and a cheese plate) for $5 each. That leaves more money in your wallet for holiday shopping.
Bars in the Philly area: got more stuff going on today because of the weather? SEND IT!
FOR CATS & DOGS!
We will continue in our effort to help PAWS help our furry friends today despite the weather.
YES, we will be open.
YES, the fundraiser will still be held.
And YES, we will be pouring delicious brews & rockin' & rollin' all day!
This is our mission. We will not falter, we will not fail.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Toast the end of the work week with 12% Fridays in December – a tapping of limited Belgian keg 12% imports, starting at 7P.M. Featured imports include: Eerwaarde Pater Oak Aged Belgian Brown Ale on December 18 and Valier Extra Belgian Pale Ale on December 25. On CHRISTMAS NIGHT (DECEMBER 25th), starting at 7p.m., Devil’s Den will be celebrating by tapping a keg of Mad Elf.Now that is something else. Yards is making Old Barts again after ten years of hiatus -- hurray! -- and they're celebrating with ten days of tappings, starting at their old 'house tap', the Dawson Street Pub, on New Year's Eve at 5 PM.
Join Devil’s Den NEW YEAR’S DAY at 1P.M. for their New Year – New Beer event featuring Yard’s Brewing. Tap a firkin of Old Bartholomew Barleywine. There will be a selection of Yard's beers on draft, along with Yard's food specials.
And I hope you all know that New Year's Day marks the beginning of McGillin's 150th Anniversary celebrations. The doors open at 9 AM, and you'll have to contend with their usual Mummer's Parade crowd, though it's bound to be worth it. I'm trying really hard to talk Cathy into this...
It's an annoying day in Mobile-land.
Old news, right? Wrong. Here's the little bit of relevance that makes this a year-story rather than a week-story. Blogger Dan Mitchell says this about the description of BLGW:
The campaign, like so many campaigns aimed at drinkers of mass-produced American beer, emphasizes the brew's "drinkability," which can be translated as "wateriness."Now...can you imagine seeing that kind of flippancy in the news ten years ago? I couldn't, so I checked (thanks, Google): Bud Light and watery. The only hits I got were three: a taste test of Bud vs. Budvar in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a piece by my good buddy and fellow beer writer Ron "The King" Givens in the Daily News where he says old-time ballpark suds were "the cheapest, most watery stuff that could be poured into a cup" but doesn't actually tag Bud Light as that, and, well, a piece by St. Michael Jackson about how not all American beers are watery.
Sea change time. The whole paradigm has shifted. Smart, bright journalists now say mainstream beer is "watery." Do we call this the "Arrogant Bastard Effect," or the "Sam Adams Shuffle"? How about The Great Awakening? How about Truth Setting You Free?
American mainstream beer. I still do drink it, if only from regional brewers: I'll definitely still drink a Lager or a Straub, and I've said here I enjoyed slamming a 16 oz. Narragansett. But...is it flavorful? No. Is it something I drink regularly? No. Is it refreshing? Yeah, for the most part, it is. And is it sweet to hear a mainstream journalist casually refer to it in terms of 'wateriness?' Yeah. Definitely. One more indication that we've hit that tipping point.
Firkins for our Furry FriendsAnd might I remind you: the Sly Fox is a great drinkable session beer, the Fat Dog is an eye-opener, Tavern Porter has that lovely licorice bite...but the Shackamaximum on cask is the absolute shit. 'Nuff said.
Looks like it may be snowing cats & dogs tomorrow, but at the Khyber we've got something special planned. Saturday December 19th -- 1:00pm-8:00pm
A special fundraiser for our friends at P.A.W.S. (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, who care for abandoned and unwanted animals) featuring an array of cask conditioned bartop kegs of quality craft brews. $20 at the door gets you a bottomless cup of these delicious beers: Sly Fox Chester County Bitter, Stoudt's Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Yards General Washington's Tavern Porter, and a vintage PBC Shackamaximum Imperial Stout.
All proceeds go directly to P.A.W.S. to help them in their efforts to save Philadelphia’s homeless, abandoned, and unwanted animals. So come in, get warm, and help us help PAWS!
Brews graciously donated by Yards, Philly Brewing, Sly Fox and Stoudt's.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
You know there are a lot of perks to this crazy life I lead, but one of the very best is the Christmas dinner at Monk's Cafe. I've been going since before it was at Monk's: Tom Peters started doing these crazy dinners when he was managing Copa, Too!. There's always great beer, and there's always...the Buche de Noel.
Tonight's was no exception. I was at the bar, hobnobbing with UPenn Museum's Bruce Nichols, Uncle Jack, Carolyn Smagalski, and Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, as well as Home Sweet Homebrew's George and Nancy, and Philly beer historian Rich Wagner. I could wax enthusiastic, but to be truthful, my waxing is waning right now: I'm exhausted. I'll just list the menu.
Sly Fox Christmas Ale 2007 with mussels and chorizo steamed in more Sly Fox Christmas.
Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza with spinach salad with hearts of palm, strawberries, and toasted pine nuts (this one worked well for me, cutting the sour of the beer).
La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux, & St. Germain Page 24 Biere de Noel with a beautiful pan seared scallop, topped with grated beet, sitting atop sauteed beet greens and a beet risotto (it could not be beat).
Abbaye de St. Martin Cuvee de Noel & de Struise Tjeeses with elk loin, brussel sprouts, and a sweet potato stoempf. Tjeeses was good, very good, but the St. Martin really grew on me.
Scaldis Prestige 2007 with three marvelous cheeses: Molierno (sheep milk from Sardinia), Balyey Hazen Bleu (crumbly blue from VT), and Quadrello di Bufala (a hard buffalo milk cheese, packed with flavor).
Particularly poignant, because this was chef Adam Glickman's last night, after steering the kitchen for 9 years. He got a bit choked up, and it's understandable. Great run, Adam. Fantastic food, that did honor to the beer.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
GROCERIES AT THE BREWERY? OH, THE HUMANITY!I do like a brewer with a sense of humor, and Scott's all that and a bag of crisps. Pretty damned good beer, too.
We've already sold through our batch of Rachel Carson Blend Coffee from LaPrima at the brewery, as well as (the beer that we can't call) Eye Opener Coffee Porter. And now our further encroachment into the "Fine Groceries" category continues with our Holiday Season release of our much anticipated Black Strap Stout Cake Mixes. Finally, the return of the best solution for that leftover cup of Black Strap Stout at the bottom of your Growler - make a cake with it! Or maybe that's not a problem for you, and you just need to pick up a second jug?
So, there. Take THAT grocery stores! Now we'll really see if civilization can crumble. I know the cake is nice and moist.
Now...how about you make more than enough, and give us a 15 year old at some point?
Friday, December 11, 2009
Whew. Liveblogging is interfering with my enjoyment here. Have fun, folks!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
He's back. I can see work is going to be more difficult for me as I will be spending more time reading his blog again. You should too, Stan's one of the best.
Monday, December 7, 2009
The following is a condensed composite of actual news articles from the Bloomberg news service, BusinessWire, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.I never could figure out why the Inquirer always swallowed Jim Bell's press releases whole, no matter how many times they were burned.
March 24: Shares of Red Bell Brewing of Philadelphia will begin trading on March 27th. Red Bell had about $11.5 million in sales last year and the company will generate $12.5 million to $14 million in revenue this year, said Chief Executive Jim Bell. Red Bell owns breweries at several area stadiums and arenas, including Veterans Stadium, and plans to open a brewpub at Penn State University in July.
April 9: Red Bell announced today that certain inaccuracies were contained in a March 24th article. Red Bell had gross revenues of $514,720 in 2000, not $11.5 million. The article also incorrectly stated that Red Bell would generate $12.5 million to $14 million in revenues this year. Subject to completing, opening and operating its proposed [Short Sips TruthItalics added] Penn State brewpub as well as acquiring and operating at least 2 existing brew pubs, Red Bell could generate $11.5 to $12.5 million in revenues per year. Also, at the present time, Red Bell does not own or operate any brewpub locations [in stadiums or anywhere]. Finally, while Red Bell has applied for the listing of its common stock, Red Bell is still waiting for final approval of the application.
Well, well, well. Some days the news is so damned bizarre we don’t even have to say a word.
Doubters? Believers? John's a pretty stand-up guy, based on the impressions he's made on me on this day and at the MBAA meeting we attended last year. I buy it.
This Christmas season, Resurrection Ale House will be celebrating what's great about seasonal beer AND spreading the holiday spirit among those in need. Make no plans for Saturday, December 19, except of course to spend the day drinking excellent Christmas and Winter beers. The lineup includes Scaldis Noel, DuPont Avec Les Bons Voeux, SlyFox Christmas Beer, Ridgeway Reindeer Droppings, Troegs Mad Elf, and many more. All day, $1 from every draft beer you drink goes to Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to making sure that no kid in America grows up hungry.Good times, good cause. great beers. I know there are more out there: send 'em in!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I wish there were more schwarzbiers. You may remember how much I loved Moonlight's Death & Taxes (drinking it repeatedly when the west coast's bounty lay open and willing before me). This stuff's 4.6% and I could drink it all night. Get on the lager beam, my friends, enjoy your beer!
*Call me a philistine, but that poem's crap; I'd parody it for the review --
Beer! Beer! Nightmare of Beer! Beer the wineless! Mental Beer! Beer the heavy judger of men!
-- but who needs it?
Friday, December 4, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The numbers: 6.4% ABV, lager yeast, 15.5°P, hopped with Magnum & Perle for bittering, Spalter, Slovenian Aurora and Styrian (other hops are all German) finishing, 42 BU.
The tease: no beer yet, just announcement. But here's a tease of my own: there are some amazing projects coming down the pike from SN, and they'll be talking about them real soon. They've got quite the beer-release party planned for next year's 30th anniversary.
Now, the tanks Victory put in are somewhat bigger: four 400-bbl. tanks. I remember my shock when I first saw 200 bbl. tanks at a microbrewery (Blue Ridge, in Frederick), and thought, Wow, I guess you've made it when you need 200 bbl. tanks. Victory's put four of 'em in, in a structure that's built to take twelve. Craft beer just keeps growing...and I don't see that stopping any time soon.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The day started with horrible traffic under weeping, cloudy skies, as I struggled to get from my hotel by the airport to the Hot Metal Diner in West Mifflin. Well, I got there, and I was running late for my Rock Bottom appointment with brewer Steve Panos, and a good person would have said, you know, I can't really get breakfast here and still make that appointment, so just get a McMuffin and keep moving.
I'm not a good person. And I'm glad: the breakfast burrito at HMD is deliriously, stupidly good and big, and it easily kept me going through what would be a semi-grueling day. Smart decision, in the end, and I wasn't terribly late, either; traffic finally cleared up. The only down side: finally seeing the Walgreen's where Chiodo's used to stand. Damn.
Rock Bottom Homestead is chugging along. Steve was brewing while I was there talking to him, and we talked biz -- good, volume is going to be a bit more than it was last year -- Portland -- Steve is coming in from brewing there, and misses it, a little, kind of -- and what sells: seasonals, and the Velvet Pale (pale ale on nitro with a dose of oats in the mash). Sorry I don't have a picture of Steve; he was moving too fast. Good lineup of beers, and man, they sell them at a reasonable price. Don't overlook this one!
It had cleared up a lot when I walked out, and I was cheerful: cross-country drive to Marzoni's! Yeah, well, forget that. The weather quickly went to hell, and I was boring through mist and drizzle across the roll and dip of the PA Highlands. Some truly stupid drivers out there. Marzoni's was good, and as brewer Bill Kroft told me, other than the Allison Park location closing last year, things were okay. The concept's not dead, he said, though he admitted that it wasn't likely that Hoss's would try another in this dark economy. I did notice that besides the beers still tasting good (Bill had a Belgian IPA on; no, really, and it was good), the place smelled good, that delicious good-pizza-place smell. If I weren't still cruising on my breakfast burrito, I might have had to get me some. But I was, so I took off for Otto's.
More nasty driving later, I pulled into Otto's, just in time for Sam Komlenic (who was there to get some gift whiskeys that had somehow arrived from Kentucky...I heard...) to take Charlie Schnable and I down to what's going to be the new Otto's, the former State College Quaker Steak & Lube. Yeah, the one that crashed and burned. QSL's loss is Otto's gain: this place will be great as Otto's new digs. Plenty of parking, a very big and capable kitchen (once they take some of the seven oversized deep-fryers out), three bars, and lots of bizarre automobilia that they'll be removing (an intact top-fuel dragster, an intact Corvette (and another missing only the engine), a QSL custom chopper, a sprint car, and a ton of other miscellaneous crap that is, as Sam put it, evidence of the incredible hubris of the original owners). Anyway, much needs to be done before Otto's can move in, not least of which is a major redecorating, but the kitchen essentially just needs to be cleaned.
Back up to the current joint, where I ran the taps (real good, especially the Old Fugget barleywine on cask) and had a delish-type meatball sandwich (so not Sysco), and, finally, bid Sam farewell and aimed the Jetta homeward. I got there just in time to unload and go to a capella rehearsal, and then finally went home and relaxed with the family, little dogs and all. A very good four day trip.
Here's the thing. There's a brewing 'supply' called porterine. It's like Weyermann's Sinamar: a dark cereal extract that is used to change the color of beer. I've been told (always mistrust those words; I do) that many Bavarian "dunkel" beers are simply a brewer's helles + Sinamar. Similarly, "I've been told" that Yuengling uses porterine to change the color of Traditional Lager, and that Yuengling Porter is mostly dark thanks to the use of porterine. Both of the sources of the "I've been told" are brewing industry insiders; this doesn't mean I trust them 100%, but it does add some credence.
So...when I went to Pottsville three weeks ago to interview Dick Yuengling and Dave Casinelli, and to finally tour the big 'new' brewery, I had my eyes open for evidence of porterine. I didn't see any, but that's not proof positive it ain't there, even though John Callahan -- lead brewer for the facility -- gave me a thorough tour, let me take pix of anything I wanted, and answered any question I asked (and no, I didn't think to simply ask him about the porterine...color me dopey).
What I did see, and what this whole thing is about, was "supersacks" of the dark, roasted malts that go into Yuengling Porter: caramel and black patent. It's real. Callahan said the porter is still made with the original recipe. Buy that or not, but Callahan's not any kind of marketeer: he's the real deal, pure brewer, and I first met him at a MBAA meeting at The Lion last year. If he says it, he believes it to be true.
Callahan also said, with a lot of feeling, "Thank God for Lager." Traditional Lager is about 90% of the company's output, and if it hadn't been for Lager's success, Callahan (who's been with the company for 28 years) seemed pretty sure the company would have gone under.
Instead, the company is closing in on 2,000,000 barrels in annual sales, a wholly attainable goal for 2009, according to Casinelli, who began to laugh as we both recalled something industry analyst Robert Weinberg said back when Yuengling bought the Tampa brewery in 1999, to the effect that Yuengling was doing well, but the brewery selling 2,000,000 barrels in a year was about as likely as Weinberg getting a date with Sharon Stone. "We should buy them dinner," Casinelli said with a big shark's grin, and I think it would be a fantastic publicity coup.
Anyway, that's the news from Pottsville. Sorry if I oversold it. It was a fantastic interview; you'll get more of it in Pennsylvania Breweries 4.
American Badass has been out since July. It's in Michigan, and will roll out nationally over the next 12 months. Has anyone seen it?
Look, no slant on Michigan Brewing, which is doing the contract brewing for Kid Rock; more power to them, and after all, they get paid on the loading dock, so they're not going to be taking the bath along with him. And read this description:
Crisp, refreshing and smooth as a traditional lager can be. Delivers a nice hit of carbonation at first and finishes with a slight citrus note. This is a highly approachable beer that delivers a bright lager flavor without even a hint of aftertaste. Cascade hops light up the aroma while balancing the brew. Brewed for maximum appeal and slamability. Midwestern malted barley and hard, red winter wheat from Michigan, transform water from the Saginaw Aquifer into a beer that's a true American lager and truly Badass.Doesn't sound like they went totally sell-out, right? Okay, "slamability" is out there, but I think I may have praised slamability once or twice myself.
But...someone's going to lose their shirt. Projects like this have a very, very bad track record. (Speaking of which...Donnie, Donnie, Donnie...) Only one I can think of working is Land Shark Lager, and it's not tied as strongly to Jimmy Buffett as this is to Kid Rock; and, of course, Land Shark is ABIB, who have a pretty damned good idea of how these things work, and the deep pockets to sustain them.
I'll be watching for this stuff at a bar near me.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Anyway, we're home now, so it's blog-biz as usual. Miss me?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Then a month ago I got an e-mail: Affligem Noël was available from a new importer, Total Beverage Solution (Mount Pleasant, SC). Would I like a sample? Hell yes, I would. (Interesting that it's not coming in through Heineken USA, which makes me wonder if it is still a Heineken brand; I'm working on that.)
So here I am, finishing up a beer that has just gotten better and better as it warms up. 9%, and my lips agree: this is a big boy beer. The nose is full of a pleasantly sweet-tart mix of pit fruit -- plum, sour cherry -- and a dark chocolate background. The beer itself matches that, with an intensely fizzy carbonation that is not unpleasant at all. What surprises me is the degree of attenuation; if you don't like Chimay Red/Blue for their sweet thickness, this is your beer. The Noël has a very light and drinkable body for that 9% ABV, and the fruit really cleans up the end.
Welcome back, Affligem. I guess I didn't realize how much I missed you until you came back.
2 cups cooked/mashed sweet potatoes/yams
4 tbsp. butter
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. mace
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup bourbon (I used J.T.S. Brown 100 proof, and that may have been too strong; try an 80 proof bottling)
Boil, peel, and mash the sweet potatoes, and then measure two cups of the mash. Place in a bowl, and mix in the other ingredients. Place in an unbaked pie shell (I use the pre-made Pillsbury ones). Place in a 400° oven and immediately turn the oven down to 325°. Bake for 45 minutes (I wound up baking these for more like 85 minutes, and I think it was because of the 100 proof bourbon; the filling stayed goopy-wet for a long time).
This was quite bourbony; you might want to cut that to 1/3 cup bourbon. Or not. I liked it, Cathy thought it a bit overpowering. But this is not pumpkin pie; the spices and flavors are different. Very good, but different. I'm liking it.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone: there's room for every drink at your table -- beer, wine, spirits, cider, even mead -- and room for every friendly heart. Cheers!
The first time I wrote about Narragansett was back in February. They sent me some samples of the Lager for a story I was writing (for American Brewer, about how they were reviving the brand, and doing a nice job of it). I wanted Porter then, because Narragansett Porter was the last 'Gansett beer I'd had, waaaaay back in the dawn of my beer-drinking days, and I wanted the cyclical part of it. They didn't have any. Humph.
Then I got an e-mail about a bit launch of Porter, so I said yes, I'd like some. And a sixer showed up. Well, as I'd posted on Facebook, my tasting table's kinda full, so it took a week or so to get around to chilling one, which I did Monday night.
Wow! This is great stuff! Cottrell Brewing's doing it for them under contract, and they're doing a nice job. It's plenty dark, with a great tan cap of foam, a chocolatey aroma that follows through in the mouth, with just enough roasty cut at the end to clean things up for the next swallow. I had it with our pork and onions favorite (recipe here, simple and delicious), and it was awesome. So I wanted another, and I had one, just now. Still great stuff. Wonder if I can get it here?
(Speaking of great stuff...I picked up Nora early at school today, and took her to lunch at the General Lafayette. I had a cask Pacific Pale Ale that was great, dry and hoppy, with a rare Steak Frites that was probably the very best food I've ever had at the General; great fries (salt and pepper'd fresh-cuts) and a very toothsome piece of beef, done just to my order. Nice work on the kitchen recovery, Chris!)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Well...ya don't have to. Here's some Black Friday beer events I've heard about.
Up in the Lehigh Valley, the Brew Works brewpubs are celebrating with two great-sounding beer releases:
Allentown Brew Works - This Friday we're putting on the very hoppy West End Red. A West Coast Style Red with loads of Chinook and Cascade hops and a toasty malt backbone to it. At 5.8% ABV this is a great addition to our full lineup.Out in Pittsburgh, my friends at Bocktown Beer & Grill are starting early -- like the shopping does -- with an 8 AM Eggs & Kegs event and going till noon with special prices and menus (and Bocktown items on sale: you can shop!).
Bethlehem Brew Works - Black Friday we release BLACK FRIDAY, a bourbon barrel-aged Wee Heavy which comes in at a big 7.5%! Rich maltiness, and full-bodied. A solid beer that smooths out with the oaky vanilla nose from the barrel aging.
And there's Resurrection Ale House:
As way to say "Thanks" that you'll truly appreciate, on Wednesday November 25, Resurrection Ale House is offering the whole draft list for just $2 from Noon-2pm followed by $4 draft beers from 2pm-2am. (They're closed on Thanksgiving.) We're continuing the warm and fuzzy holiday mood on Friday, November 27, with BRUNCH from Noon-3pm and more $4 draft beers (all day and night). Consider it our version of a Black Friday Sale.I was surprised to see the Grey Lodge does not have an event planned for Black Friday. They do, however, have a bountiful supply of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale for Wednesday and Thursday nights. (The night before Thanksgiving is traditionally -- surprisingly -- the busiest night in the bar business after New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day.)
Feel free to add more in the comments.
The hop's definitely, firmly there, especially in the finish, and if I had to fault the beer at all, it's that the bitterness is maybe a bit on the harsh side... But the malt floats it pretty well. Is this an odd choice for a "holiday beer"? Well, have a glass of Sierra Nevada Celebration, and then tell me. A holiday beer doesn't have to be a spiced beer, or a malt-bomb winter warmer. It can be just a special beer. A really likable hoppy red ale, for instance. If you see this one, I'd get some.
“We were in there over the weekend, painting and cleaning out some tanks,” Pastorius said Monday evening. “And I think we’ll be brewing beer within two weeks, maybe as soon as next week.” (from the Times)Get the draft rolling and the restaurant back in business, and a lot will be forgiven and forgotten. Questions remain -- are the staff still available and willing to jump back in? How soon will bottling begin? What's the wholesaler situation? -- but the big one is answered: will Penn survive? Yeah. Yeah, they will.
"It's going to be a rough few months while we repair the damage done to the brands and replace the bottling equipment that was sold. We ask for the patience and support of our many loyal fans." (from the Post-Gazette)
Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you, Tom Pastorius, for coming back and not letting this die. I doubted that this would happen, said so to people in Pittsburgh just last week. I should have known better. Hats off to one very determined German-American.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Well...turned out he just had 80-year-old man digestive troubles. They treated him, and I got a call from my mother about 15 minutes ago: he's home, and cutting up potatoes for soup.
Thanks for all your support this month, by the way. It really does help.
Bob Batz is reporting on the Post-Gazette website that:
Bob promises more tomorrow. Until then..."finalized a deal" would imply that the brewery being at Troy Hill & Vinial is set (and that's an update in my story to clarify the situation). That would be a major accomplishment, and would put Penn Brewery -- and Pastorius's group of investors -- right where they ought to be: where Tom started the brewery over 20 years ago. Where it belongs. Cross your fingers, folks, and if you believe in breweries, clap your hands.
Tom Pastorius and a group of investors have finalized a deal to buy Penn Brewery on the North Side, which he founded. The group plans to resume brewing beer there and reopen the restaurant, which closed in August.
Since the beginning of this year, Penn beers have been brewed at the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre.
On Friday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved a $300,000 loan to Mr. Pastorius' group, who'd made buying the business from Birchmere Capital contingent on the property having a new owner, not E&O Partners. (Note: this last line was updated in the online story to clarify the situation, i.e., Pastorius and co. have purchased the business named Penn Brewery; the site is still owned by E&O but it will be sold; the new owner of the building may or may not be Pastorius and his investors. Got all that?)
Guess I'll have to work on that Penn Brewing entry in the new book after all. Hot damn.
There's more here, now. Thanks to another alert reader!
Mackay is one of the brightest people in the business, a business that is filled with very bright people, especially at the top. I found the interview -- including a casually tossed-off T.S. Eliot quote -- fascinating.
Especially this, about the global consolidation of the beer market. I've marked the parts I find particularly interesting.
Two decades later the globalised market now looks like a two-horse race, with Anheuser-Busch Inbev leading SAB Miller, and Heineken and Carlsberg trailing behind. Many have made fortunes - the only real doubt is whether consumers have benefited.That said, Mackay politely refused significant comment on whether SABMiller was interested in buying FEMSA, which is clearly up for acquisition. A guy's got to keep his hand in, after all.
Mackay is adamant they have. "It's resulted in better-quality products and more choice. People talk about the dead hand of globalised brand uniformity, but I don't think that's true in beer. Stonking great global brands haven't worked. Heineken is the most global brand and that's under 25% of its owner's volumes." [Bear in mind: despite having a number of large brands, neither SABMiller nor ABIB have a single dominant brand.]
And now, he predicts, consolidation will slow as the key players circle each other. "What stops the biggest groups consolidating is the desire of their owners. Most are in family hands. We are unusual in having an open share register."
What's it mean? Is Mackay right, is global consolidation about over? Not quite, with substantial pieces like FEMSA and Grupo Modelo still on the board and likely available, but close. As he says, major players like Carlsberg and Heineken are not very likely to be bought because of their ownership. Where to go from here?
Sorry about that huge sentence; I had a lot to say. The release is calling DISCUS out for their claims for the advent of Sunday sales in Colorado liquor stores. DISCUS, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., is the industry group for American distillers and spirits marketers, and they've been doing a lot of work, successfully, on prying the dead hand of 'blue laws' off American spirits sales. They're claiming that an increase of $2 million in booze tax revenues in Colorado is related to that state allowing Sunday sales at liquor stores.
The TPSA is saying that it's just not so, and gives several responses: it's not really spirits taxes, they can't say that it's due to Sunday sales, taxes are actually down, taxes overall are up, it's up less than DISCUS said it would be...they really loaded up the blunderbuss and let fly with everything they had.
I'm not here to comment on whether DISCUS is right or not.* I'd just like to look at why the TPSA is so dead-set against what would appear to be something they'd want; the ability to open on Sundays, to get out from under a law that requires them to close their stores one day a week. Would Target be in favor of such a law? Would supermarkets or convenience stores? Gas stations, restaurants, shopping malls: would any business be in favor of such a law? Hard to believe, but liquor stores are. At least, some of them, and not just in Texas.
What's up with that? Well, folks, it's because liquor stores get to be closed for a day -- no expenses, no employees to pay, none of those annoying customers to worry about -- without having to worry about their competitors being open and doing the business they could, because all liquor stores are required to be closed. Whew. Lock it up, let's go fishing (but first, let's buy sammiches at the Acme store, gas up at Wawa, and pick up some new lures at Bass Pro; they're all open on Sunday).
They'll wrap it up in "think of the children" bullshit, like they're somehow doing God's work by not making alcohol more available (and then usually turn around and also say that being open an extra day makes no difference in sales; not long on logic, these groups, they depend more on firing out everything they can think of regardless of how internally contradictory it may be). That's when they really make me nuts: if you're doing such a wonderful thing by making alcohol less available, why don't you just close your damned store and do the community a real service?
Sunday sale restrictions, control state rules, the case law, ABV beer caps, even licensing laws are all anti-consumer laws. They are either about money, or paternalistic state control. I'd like to put them all in one big pile and dynamite them to hell.
*DISCUS chief economist David Ozgo challenged their math: "The TPSA should get a new economist. Purposefully or not, TPSA looked at a single month of liquor sales in July 2008 and compared it to a different single month - August 2009 - and subtracted the difference. They conveniently failed to take into account the effect from a full year of sales." From Wine & Spirits Daily
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The festivities will be from 2 o'clock - 5 o'clock on Saturday November 28th. Santa will be here along with Delco Nightingale playing classic Christmas favorites and DJ DNA. We will also be debuting our new Winter Ale! In the spirit of the season we will be asking for donations for Flat Iron Wildcats - $$, cat food, fleece blankets, etc.
Good times, folks.
I stopped and stared at the big, silent Iron City brewery Wednesday morning when I was visiting Church Brew Works: the huge graphics coming off the walls, the little sign still saying "Beer Gear Shop." The silence. The cold breeze with none of the huge smell of malt.
When I came off I-279 onto E. Ohio Street Tuesday afternoon, I looked over to Penn, saw the tower, and it hurt to know there was no point in driving over there. No more gleaming brewery, no more schnitzel (no more turkey sandwiches, Sir), no more aromatic glassfuls of Dark. No more gemütlichkeit.
I talked it with a knowledgeable insider who requested anonymity. "You tell me," he said. "How do you kill a successful business, a successful brand, that fast?" Indeed, I said; with Iron City it took repeated cycles of criminal management -- literally (pretty good summation of the whole story, only a couple small errors) -- to do it. We laughed softly, ruefully.
Iron City is being brewed at Latrobe, Penn is being brewed at The Lion. I haven't had any of the 'new' Penn, but I did have a bottle of Latrobe-brewed Iron City. I drink Iron every time I visit Pittsburgh, just something I do, and to me, this tasted just like it always has. But in both cases, it doesn't really matter whether the beers are accurate renditions of what the beers used to be. What matters is what their regular drinkers think, and it's already clear that they are not pre-disposed to think they're the same.
Will something be worked out to return Penn to the brewery, or to a new brewery in Pittsburgh? There was an article in the Tribune while I was out, how Tom Pastorius was trying to round up money and investors to put a deal together...but I don't give it much of a chance. Don't get me wrong: I hope for the best, my fingers are crossed, and if it were to be done -- and done right -- it would have to be with Tom. I cannot imagine his despair in watching the crowning accomplishment of his life crumble and fail, just as I cannot imagine anyone else being able to successfully revive Penn. But there are just too many things against it right now.
If the brewing of Penn does not return to Pittsburgh soon -- and I have no idea how that might happen -- the brand will disappear. Iron City? I'm afraid there is nothing that can save the brand at this point. A terrible waste of heritage -- in both cases -- a terrible waste of years of hard work, a terrible waste of potential.
Hard thoughts on a Saturday morning. I grieve, truly.
Maybe I'm burying Penn too soon. Thanks to a reader for this link to a story in today's Trib; the Urban Redevelopment Authority has authorized a $300,000 loan to Pastorius and his partners. Good news, and while the bottling line is gone, the brewhouse is still intact (I'd thought it was gone, and that's a big plus). But...they still have to buy the business back from Birchmere Capital, and then successfully buy or lease the building again, and that's not going to be easy at all. My fingers are still crossed.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday morning I had another great breakfast at Pamela's (what can I say; it was close, it was delicious, it was reasonable, and it was served quickly) and made the short drive to Church Brew Works. Sean Casey was up on the roof -- literally, they're having the roof repaired, and he was up taking pix, some great ones of him sipping tripel with the skyline behind him -- while I was running the taps with brewer Brandt Dubovick. Excellent overall quality.
Then they took me downstairs: Church is seriously gearing up for production: more and bigger tanks (Sean seems to be collecting tanks), new bottling line, new six-pack holders (not sure why they're not buying kegs; "Draft drives bottles" is an industry truism). As Sean said when I left, "Thanks for visiting Pittsburgh's biggest production brewery!" Kind of shocking thought, but as of right now, he's right.
After that, I took it up the hill and down through my old Shadyside neighborhood to East End Brewing, where Scott and Brendan were hustling to get ready for some bottling. Scott showed me the new tasting area -- right inside the door! How's that for convenient? -- and we tasted some beers, and talked about what a hard worker Brendan was. Beer tasted pretty damned good, BTW.
Running about an hour behind, now, as I kept missing the turns my GPS advised (a combination of really loud music -- it was too nice a day not to -- and the GPS being terribly confused by Pittsburgh streets -- nice to know it affects machines, too), but I did finally make it to Rivertowne Pourhouse, where I was soon drinking samples with a very relaxed crew of brewers: Barrett Goddard, Andrew Maxwell, and Sean Hallisey, along with Mark Kegg, their partner (along with North Country brewer Sean McIntyre) in Full Pint Brewing. We worked our way through the lineup -- real good, even the damned fruit beers -- and started playing around, like the world's smallest black'n'tan you see to the right (note the sugar packet for scale). Full Pint is just waiting on a Dec. 1st zoning meeting, and they're so ready to go they might just head over after the meeting -- assuming it goes well, and they think it will -- and start brewing. Four of their own beers, and two each from Rivertowne and North Country, and yes, they're talking about doing a variety case with 8 beers from each of the three different breweries. How's that?
I finally walked out into the drizzle that was now falling lightly, and headed down to Hofbräuhaus. It wasn't an official visit, I just wanted to go again, in the daylight. Got a half-liter of Dunkel -- very nice -- and a bowl of cabbage and hax'n soup -- also nice, thick, if a bit salty -- and the oft-recommended sauerkraut balls, which were actually a big disappointment: mostly just doughy. Great place, great beer, amazing view of the river, but...where does one park, particularly when 'one' is the 600+ people this place can seat? There is no garage, there is no lot. I honestly can't believe this was approved. I'm all for the place, it's done well, but who planned this parking? No transit either, other than buses over on Carson Street and the rare Pittsburgh taxi. I don't get it...
Anyway, then I went to Bocktown Beer & Grill, where I had an event. Bocktown's a great little place; Chris gets some seriously rare and delicious beers in, and her new chef is just rocking it, we had excellent pairings for the barrel-aged beers we tasted. I got to talk a lot about whiskey, which is always a pleasure, and then we talked far into the evening. I finally, reluctantly, dragged my carcass down the hill to the hotel, and pretty much collapsed, exhausted, into bed.
Whew. That was a lot. I'll wrap up Thursday -- Rock Bottom Homestead, Marzoni's, and Otto's -- in a final post.
Monday -- Visited Roy-Pitz Brewing in Chambersburg. Ryan and Jesse's brewery looks like something from the early 1990s -- in a basement, lots of used equipment, hand-written signs -- but the beer's better than that. Everything but the Gobbler Lager was pretty good stuff (the Lager had suffered from a production problem and was borderline). Not crazed hopheads, and having more success in Chambersburg -- a craft black hole almost as bad as south Jersey -- than the last hometown brewer, the late lamented Arrowhead (please, don't anyone tell the state how far out of date their tourism website is; Arrowhead closed in 1997!).
Up over the mountains on Rt. 30 (whee!), then on into Greensburg to visit Red Star, now the Red Star Agave Grill (which was a bear to get to, thanks to downtown construction). Whatever. It looked pretty much the same as ever, and the menu, while sporting a few Mexicanish items, seemed pretty eclectic overall. The beer showed no agave influence, thank God, and I'm here to tell you that the Canvasback nitro pale ale still rocks, and Jeff Guidos definitely knows how to make a barleywine.
Stopped at a Primanti Bros. for a sweet sausage sammich to get something in my belly: believe me, that's a great way to do it. On to Latrobe to City Brewing, the old Latrobe Brewing. A few changes here -- the offices and Rolling Rock Museum are closed, it's not quite as busy, some of the cheesier automation has been removed -- but it looked largely the same as before. Except, of course, no more fleets of green silk-screened bottles. They're making Iron City here now (and Southampton's 12 oz. beers, and they taste fine).
Down into Pittsburgh for a presentation on the North Side at the Teutonia Männerchor hall for Vecenie Distributing. I talked to a bunch of bar and distributor owners about craft beers -- told them how craft is missing a great opportunity by not making more helles/kölsch-type beers for the mainstreamers who want to buy local -- and answered questions, then went to my hotel for the night.
Up early the next morning for breakfast at Pamela's P&G in the Strip, then I headed north at high speed. Stopped at Voodoo Brewing (not open; Matt Allyn had told me the night before he wouldn't be able to meet me, but I wanted to see the place; looked much the same) then buzzed over the hills to Blue Canoe, the old Four Sons, where Justin Dudek was brewing and took me through the taps. Pretty much uniformly good, and I was pleased and surprised to see "Dead Tony's Trippel" still on the menu, an old Four Sons' standard. Menu looked fantastic, by the way. I'll be back to this at some point.
Another "I'll be back" is Sprague Farm & Brew Works, where I went next. Brian and Minnie's beers were at least good -- the Hellbender Porter is still very good -- and the "pub" they've made out of the property's barn is just fantastic. Brian told me this is where the cool folks in the county hang out, and I have no reason to think he's kidding; I'd hang out there if I could. Awesome, all the way from the high bowed roof and the "beer hall" (which is just that; a hall where you can drink beer) to the milk bottle beer glasses. I'm thinking about celebrating here when I finish the manuscript.
Back in the Jetta and down to Pittsburgh, where I was "teaching" Craft Beer School with Tony Knipling of Vecenie Distributing and Scott Smith of East End Brewing: the topic was Session Beers. I realized I had just time enough to pick off one bar on my list to visit, and I picked brillobox; glad I did, too. Pretty little place, and I had a nice glass of Bell's Two Hearted, always a good choice.
Craft Beer School went great; something around 190 people, all very interested and having a lot of fun, and asking some good questions. Tony and Scott and I went to Six Penn for a beer after; nice place, an upscale eatery from the Eat'n'Park people. Then I caught a gypsy cab over to Hofbräuhaus to hook up with Brian O'Reilly, as semi-detailed here. Kind of. I was really tired and a bit over-served when I wrote that, and I fell asleep during the last paragraph. Glad you can edit in Blogger.
Gotta get back to work; I'll get you the rest of the trip shortly, and I still want to post about my recent trip to Yuengling.