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Saturday, February 28, 2009

"A Temple to Breakfast"

We walked across the parking lot of our motel to Walker Brothers' Original House of Pancakes. Wow. I can't say much about this place because it just blew us away. We like going out for breakfast, and we're not easily impressed. These were the best pancakes I've had since the late, lamented Lena's Lunch of White River Junction, VT. Cathy had an apple pancake, which looked like an egg foo yung pancake the size of a metal plate cover, only steaming with fresh apple and Sinkiang cinnamon. It's a signature dish, along with the Dutch Baby. I had the 49ers Flapjacks, three thin, custardy, egg-heavy pancakes that were just crazy delicious. The coffee was excellent, the bacon meaty and delish, and the service perfectly on-pitch.

The building itself? Our host for the weekend, the father of the bride, the renowned Dr. J. George Sarmiento, asked me if we'd got to Walker Brothers, and what did we think? "George, it's a temple to breakfast, the place is a freakin' temple to breakfast!" It was fantastic. I love this area. Chicago still does so many things the east coast has stopped doing out of stupid self-conciousness. Sad. And well worth an annual pilgrimage to Chicagoland. Great to be here, sorry we're leaving tomorrow.

Yard House: first visit

Look, you guys probably know by now that I don't like chain restaurants. I just don't. They take up space and money and share of mind/belly/wallet that could be used by unique local places that are the vision of individuals. I could go on, and I really believe it. But...

I visited a Yard House in Glenview, Illinois today. And I enjoyed it. I had a glass of Goose Island Honker's Ale that was perhaps the best, cleanest glass of Honker's I've ever had, and I loved it. Cathy got a pint of Guinness, and it was as good as in any Irish pub -- as in, Irish pub in Ireland or here. And the service was good, and the music wasn't too loud, was good.
(I've got an article on draft maintenance coming out soon in Nightclub & Bar magazine -- my first piece for them -- that talks quite a bit about Yard House's draft line cleaning processes. Can't go into details before publication, but I was not surprised by the quality of the draft beers we got in Glenview.)

Penn Stays Open!

Good news first: Penn Brewery has signed a five year lease to stay in their current building. As reported in the Post-Gazette today, that much is sure. More details are promised tomorrow. The details I'm sure everyone is interested in? What about the actual brewery, which is currently listed for sale? (The bottling line's already been sold.)

Until I know about that, I'm reserving judgment.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Chicagoland afternoon: Flatlander's and The Firkin

I had made plans to meet up with Steve Herberger -- a long-time commenter here, a long-time supporter of non-mainstream beer -- this afternoon at Flatlander's. It was an easy run up Milwaukee Avenue, maybe four minutes from our hotel. As you can maybe tell from Cathy's face, it was quite cold, and breezy. We hustled inside.

Steve was easy to find: the only guy at the bar. We got right to work on the beers as we got caught up for the first time -- this was one of those 'met on the Internet, now meet face-to-face' moments -- and I got the Bitter, Cathy got the Winter Warmer.

Well, they were disappointing. The Winter Warmer had a very disagreeable odor/flavor that reminded me of the smell in a tire warehouse: musty rubber. My bitter was okay, but maybe a bit over-attenuated, maybe a bit tannic, maybe a little astringent...and maybe I'm going easy on it because I really wanted to like it. Then I got a Belgian Golden, and it was thin, and a bit edgy/tart. (As Steve has since pointed out, the pale ale, an American-style, was good, with no issues.) And to be honest, the service wasn't great, particularly for being the only folks at the bar.

So we left. I talked Steve into heading up the road into Libertyville to visit The Firkin. It didn't take much to convince him, and once we got there, I could see why. We weren't there five minutes before Cathy and I started our perennial complaint: "Why isn't this bar near us?"

Don't get me wrong: we have good bars nearby. Well, actually, we have two: Isaac Newton's and the Hulmeville Inn. But The Firkin isn't just the 25 taps and 2 hand-pumps of good beers (click on the last photo to get a look). It's a great-looking place, with character, it's some damned good food that doesn't taste like everybody else's, and snappy servers who know the beer (although the first guy we got didn't know squat; still, he was friendly, and quick to hand out a sample).

Cathy played it safe with a Beamish, I went local and funky with a Goose Island Matilda (delicious), and Steve went even localer (?) with the Emmett's McCarthy's Red, a cask red from a small local brewpub chain. It was damned near the pick of the litter: just tasting fresh as bejayzus, hoppy but not crazy. The sip Steve gave me convinced me to get a full one. Steve, on the other hand, got a Dynamo Copper Lager. Never heard of it? Neither had we. It's from Metropolitan Brewing, a new all-lager production brewery in Chicago.

That's right, I said "all-lager production brewery." Steve and I were geeking out: a new brewery! A new craft brewery that makes all lagers! And the beer wasn't bad. Needs to be cleaned up a little, but it had a good full body, some hop to it, and tasted pretty good. So that was pretty cool. That was about it for us, though: we had to get back in time to get dressed for the rehearsal dinner.

Except we didn't go. We got all dressed up, but Cathy didn't look good. By the time we got to the parking lot of Pete Miller's, she was sweating and shaking. I took her home and put her to bed, and I've been reading a new Spenser book ever since. And blogging. She's feeling better already, so I think we'll be okay tomorrow.

Down on the Ground in Chicagoland

Just checked into our hotel, about to head out for beers at Flatlander's. After that, headed for the rehearsal dinner. Nice room, beers for sale in the lobby -- we're not in PA anymore!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday Thoughts

Maybe it's just the fast talking but...
  • Do any of you other Catholics start thinking, "Man, my forehead's itchy..." and reach up and scratch most of their ashes off before they realize what they're doing?
  • Does how much you're "allowed" to eat vary between dioceses?
  • If the diocese across the river lets me have half a sammich for lunch, can I go there?
  • Beer doesn't count, right?
  • Where can I get more doublebock real quick?
  • I actually feel smarter without eating. If I put one of those Breathe-Right strips on my nose and start getting more oxygen, too, maybe I can solve this mortgage problem.
  • Do dog biscuits count?
  • I really love fish. I do. I love it like a brother. A brother that I'm going to grill up and eat with fingerling potatoes and mixed greens tonight.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pittsburgh Hofbräuhaus: or, maybe not

The Pittsburgh Hofbräuhaus has pushed back their opening date again, now calling for a soft opening on March 10. This is from the WPXI website (thanks to a reader for the link):
A German-style beer hall set to open on Tuesday will once again delay its opening. The Hofbrauhaus at the South Side Works was originally scheduled to open a month ago. However, beer lovers will have to continue to be patient. A soft opening for the new $4 million beer hall is scheduled for March 10.
The beer hall is just one of three locations throughout the United States. It will seat 450 people indoors, and another 600 outside. A grand opening for the Hofbrauhaus has not yet been set.
You weren't holding your breath, were you?

Meantime, Penn Brewery will probably -- almost certainly -- shut down at the end of the week (the actual brewery operation; the beer will continue to be made under contract at The Lion). Dammit. Thank God for the Church.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Southern Tier Unearthly IIPA

Picked up a bomber of this a few weeks ago for a project I'm working on. Did that earlier tonight -- a mixing thing -- and now I'm drinking the rest of the bottle straight. When I first poured it -- and again, if I swirl it up for a fresh airing -- there's a crisp, clean dairy smell; not milk, or cream, but that clean smell of scrubbed concrete and rock of the collection room. That fades into a smell of fruit, pine, and resiny plastic.

The beer itself seems underattenuated, thick and sweet, and the bitterness, surprisingly, isn't enough to clean up the end, which is a bit sticky. There's not that much bitterness here, really, a hot flash of it up front, and some stringing through the middle, but not that lingering bitterness you get from some much smaller IPAs. Plenty of hop flavor, but it's struggling to punch through that clog of sweetness.

I like some IIPA/DIPAs (don't tell the Session Beer Project). I don't like them all. This one ranges too high on the ABV scale and doesn't pull it off. If you're going to go this big, you've got to get a yeast that's big enough to eat it. This is reminding me of 120 Minute IPA, and not in a good way. If I want this kind of big malty sweetness, I'd rather have it without the half-hearted hopping: what we used to call barleywine.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bill Brand Died This Morning

San Francisco-area beer writer -- and journalist, and father, and husband -- Bill Brand died this morning from injuries in an accident two weeks ago. I never met Bill, though we had corresponded, but his writing was a mixture of passion and professionalism -- tempered with an adamantine intolerance for bullshit -- that shone through the midden of "beer writing" like a streak of gold. We'll miss him. My deep sympathies to his family, and commiseration with the beer community. Raise a glass tonight, folks.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pittsburgh Hofbräuhaus: the latest

The Pittsburgh Hofbräuhaus opening continues to be the most common search term that leads people to STAG, after my own name, and I've been trying to keep up to date on it. That led me to call Nick Ellison, managing member of the franchise team at Pittsbugh HB, and talk to him today. It turned out to be a fortuitous choice of schedule: Today marked the first brew at Pittsburgh HB! (That's brewer Eckhart Kurbjuhn starting things up.)

I did a short interview with him, but I'll tell you the important thing right now: Nick said they're now setting March 3rd as the soft opening date. Here's the rest of what we talked about.

When are you opening?

We’re doing our soft opening on March 3rd, unless something bad happens. Last week we had a control box burn out on the boiler, or as the Germans put it, the steam generator. That soft opening’s just opening the doors, turning on the lights. We’ll have an invitational grand opening celebration, which will also be the keg-tapping of our Maibock, on April 29th.

Why all the delays?

It took a long time for the developer to work out arrangements with the City of Pittsburgh. We also had problems with the ability of HB to issue us a franchise – the franchise rules had changed, that kind of stuff, paperwork. I tend to forget that kind of stuff happened, now I’m worried about control boxes burning out!

Why did you decide to build there?

It’s got a lot going on around it. It’s a first-class development, great tenants: Cheesecake Factory, McCormick & Schmick's, Ann Taylor. That’s where we wanted to be. We’re in walking distance of eight universities, too, and we sell beer, you know.

When does brewing actually start?

We started today, our first beer. We’re brewing the Lager. (See more about the beers here.) That won’t be finished for the opening, of course, we’re bringing in beer from Germany.

How much of the beer will be brewed on-site?

Most of the beer will be brewed on site. We will have four beers all the time: Lager, Hefeweizen, Light, and Dunkel. We will import the Maibock and Oktoberfest. The Oktoberfest will be the same beer served in the Hofbräuhaus tent at Oktoberfest. There are regulations that the Oktoberfest can only be brewed in Munich. Of course, the rules don’t really apply here, but we wanted to do it right, so we’re bringing that in. We’ll have twelve seasonals all together.

I saw you’re going to do a tapping of the seasonal on the first Wednesday of every month, is that right?

Yes, and the Oktoberfest won’t be in October. You tap Oktoberfest in September.

Outstanding! I’ve heard a number of different numbers on seating: how many can you seat?

About 1,100 seating, about half of it inside. The beer garden seats 376, and a vorgarten that seats 46. That’s where you go for vorplay!

It’s all very much outside, the gartens, if it rains you get wet?

Oh, yeah! An indoor beer garden wouldn’t be right.

Your menu’s online, right?

Menu’s up online (PDF warning), there may be a few changes. We’ll have pretzels served tableside by pretzel girls, the rest of the food will be waitress-order. It’s pretty traditional Bavarian. We’ve strived to make about a third of the menu traditional Bavarian food: schweinshaxe, sauerbraten, those kind of things. One-third German-American stuff: bratwurst, mettwurst, schnitzel. And about one-third is right out of Applebee’s, American food. You can get what you want; just because it’s German, you don’t have to eat German. We want everyone to feel comfortable.

Thanks to Bob Batz of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for graciously providing Nick's contact info. First beer's on me, Bob...I think I owe you a couple!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Philly Beer Week/Session Beer Project events

We've got session beer going during Philly Beer Week. The events are up over at the Session Beer Project blog; have a look at this Tiedhouse event and this unofficial under-the-radar happening at Earth Bread + Brewery.

Come out and have a few with us. Support Session Beer!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Letter on Beer Taxes

I saw a letter to the editor in the Inquirer a few days ago about increasing beer taxes. Here's what he said, in part: "In the interest of increasing state revenues, Gov. Rendell should substantially increase taxes on alcoholic beverages, especially beer. Most politicians are afraid to tackle this issue, because of the "macho man" ripple it may cause..."

I hate beer taxes (and liquor taxes, and wine taxes, and all such excise taxes that tax narrow groups based on consumption), especially when they lean on the whole "sin tax" thing, which this guy did: "...the state also would be helping to save lives." Really? The numbers are -- surprise! -- pretty damned vague on that, though they are pretty clear that to "save lives," beer taxes would have to go up by a lot more than the PA legislature is likely to raise them.

So I wrote a response, and they printed it today. Here's the conclusion, the real heart of the argument: "Push the state income or sales tax up half a percentage point, or cut spending, but don't balance your problematic budget on my beer-drinking back. It's not about being macho. It's about fairness, and not asking beer drinkers to pay your share."

Always nice to be heard.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Case Law is Stupid

Pennsylvanians: you've been waiting for this one. Here's my take on why we have "the case law," the uniquely stupid law that forces us to buy beer by the case -- nothing smaller! -- at off-premise retail.

Wouldn't it be nice to buy in any amount you wanted? Mixing sixes, picking sixes? Isn't it ridiculous that we can only dream about it, in 2009 AD?

Go. Read. Get incensed (and then write your legislator!).

New poll on the case law at the PLCB blog

I've got a new poll up at my blog Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished. It's about one of Pennsylvania beer drinkers' favorite topics: the case law.

Specifically: Polls show that over 80% of Pennsylvanians are opposed to the case law -- even MADD doesn't support it -- yet a six-pack sales bill still languishes in the Legislature after over a year. Why do your elected representatives continue to thwart your wishes?

I hope you find the answer choices, as always, entertaining and enlightening.

My weekend weren't too bad

So...I was able to finish up my story on Friday in time to pick up Nora at school, get her home, and head down to the Grey Lodge for Friday the Firkinteenth. Wow. Things were moving fast! Out of 20 casks, begun at noon, there were only 7 still on, with three in the wings...and within five minutes of my arrival, two more kicked (including the Stoudt's Scrawny Dog, which I really wanted to try). Things went incredibly fast; the last cask looked to be kicking by 7, a new record, I think. Everyone kept telling me how great the beers I missed were; luckily, the Sly Fox Seamus was pretty damned good, beautifully conditioned. It was a great time...but I decided to haul back home. We cued up a DVD of Silverado I'd picked up at the grocery store for six bucks, and drank a couple Nugget Nectars.

Saturday was my birthday. Had coffee and the morning paper with Cathy, and after we settled Nora in with the dogs -- she wasn't feeling too well (pronounced "would rather be on Facebook") -- Cathy and I went out for lunch (Thomas is away at a forensics meet). We went to Earth Bread + Brewery, where I got an Ed Bear Stout (nice, drinkable, burnt grain bitter) and Cathy got a glass of wine. I finally got the Seed Flatbread, and it was as good as everyone's said, which I can't believe I'm saying. Get one. I had it with a glass of Schlenkerla Helles, and it was perfect.

After we were done, we walked down to McMenamin's for a beer, kind of for old time's sake -- we spent a...different kind of evening there on my birthday about ten years ago. Glass of ESA, and then off we went to Weaver's Way Co-op, because I wanted to see what the big deal was. It was not a big deal. The prices were okay, the selection was okay -- just okay -- and while some of the people in the store were very nice, there were some annoyingly impatient regulars who just didn't want anyone to get between them and their tofu because they had to have it right now! I was also kind of jarred by the big "Buy Local" sign and all the Mexican produce. Nice idea overall, but I'll pass.

We went home and hit the Newtown Farmer's Market, looking for an idea for a birthday dinner. We wound up with some great double-smoked bacon and hydroponic tomatoes and made BLTs (which rocked) on Le Bus bread (which we got at Weaver's Way), smoked salmon, some triple cream Delice de Bourgogne and Bucheron, and finished up with baklava. Then I gave Cathy her Valentine's Day present: a case of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (she was very happy, and yeah, I do know how lucky that makes me). And we drank some and watched some of the first season of Buffy (got it for the kids for Christmas).

Sunday? I woke up feeling crappy, didn't sing, and spent the afternoon cleaning the house and playing with the dogs. Had some more Nugget Nectar with dinner -- "beefy soba noodles," which looked like something a Klingon would eat, but tasted pretty good -- and then read some.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Feel Lucky Today

Just a well-deserved tip of the hat to Scoats, the main man, the event genius, the number-crunching funster, the Coyote of Bar Promotions. Thanks to him, I got up this morning, Friday the Thirteenth, and had no ominous thoughts of bad luck or bad things happening (even after I saw the airplane tragedy in New York) because of the date.

Instead, all I could think of in connection to the calendar was cask ale, pouring from bar-stacked firkins, because today is, and has become, Friday the Firkinteenth. It's a much better tradition overall. Thanks, Scoats!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

All Session Beer at the Kennett Brewfest Connoisseur Session!

That's right, people: the Kennett Brewfest just announced that their acclaimed Connoisseur Session, the extra session before this great beer festival starts that is usually non-stop BIG beerBig BeerBIG going to be a Conn-o-session. Get the whole story here (where it should be).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Famous Narragansett Beer

Look, I'm cooking dinner, so this is going to be quick. I did a story for...someone, can't remember right now -- American Brewer! That's it. Anyway, I did a pretty extensive sidebar on the revival of Narragansett. These guys are doing the revival of a retro brand better than anyone I know, and I told them so. I remember 'Gansett, just barely; it was way in the early days of my drinking, and they were already being brewed elsewhere.

Anyway, like I said, quick, cuz I gotta slice mushrooms. They sent me a sample sixer of 16 oz. cans of Narragansett Lager, canned in Rochester under their supervision. Whatever. I had it in the garage, and even though it's 66 outside right now, the garage is still nice and cool. And when I opened the door to get a dinner-making beer, that was the first thing I saw. Mmmm, cool can of lager? Mainstream, American, lager? Swill, yellow fizzy beer, pisswater, as so many of the geekerie say, so very very nicely?

Yeah. And it's tasting okay. Light, a hint of bitterness (I think they said it's about 15 BU), and some body, and an edginess to it that's feeling good as I hoist and slosh it. Retro? Yeah, the beer and me. I can drink some of these, or this one, anyway. Backsliding? Maybe. Hey, it's beer. It's a quick night. And right now, this is hitting me in a good place.

Abolish that PLCB, I Said!

Two new posts up over at Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished.

First one is a new Reason, #14. It's simple: we put up with all this crap in the name of controlling the horrible damage of alcohol...and it doesn't work!

The second is a great local issue: the PLCB is closing the State Store in downtown Phoenixville -- without any regard to how that's going to affect the revitalization attempt, and without the consultation they effectively promised the borough government. PLCB to Phoenixville: Drop Dead.

Rise up, Pennsylvanians: throw off the -- no, just tell your state reps that the PLCB is an ineffective dinosaur that should be taken out back of the State Capitol and beaten to death with an empty whiskey bottle, at which point they could sell off everything it owns, and auction off shiny new liquor store licenses for lots and lots of cash -- er, I mean, state revenues, and put a serious plug in their budget hole.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kentucky Beats up Bourbon Again

The state of Kentucky is a wonderful place. I lived there for a year in the 1980s, and I loved it, even through the heat. The people are friendly and gracious, the men generous and the women handsome, the fishing is good, the scenery is breathtaking above and below ground. The whiskey and the people who make it made my life a happier time.

But the Kentucky legislature sure can be log-headed. They have raised the tax on booze again, and Kentucky already had the third highest booze taxes in the nation. I could go on, but Eric Gregory, the President of the Kentucky Distillers Association, says it all pretty well here. Some excerpts:

Our state leaders should evaluate the entire revenue base and propose solutions that will stabilize our economy for years to come, not derail an industry that's on a roll. Raising alcohol taxes is a short-term fix with long-term consequences -- lost jobs, higher prices for consumers and yet another competitive disadvantage for one of Kentucky's signature industries.

Is there any other industry with a product that's taxed at least five times before it reaches the consumer? Has the legislature considered the long-term damage to small businesses and our hospitality industry in this grab for new revenue? And finally, is this any way to treat a thriving signature industry that's been so good to Kentucky? The answer is an absolute "no."

In Kentucky, the bourbon industry provides more than 3,200 jobs, pays more than $115 million in state and local taxes, and has planned capital investment of more than $100 million that will benefit the commonwealth for decades.

The bourbon industry understands that the state and country are facing a fiscal crisis. Many other industries are asking for bailouts and government help. But bourbon is not. We're just asking legislators to do no harm during these difficult times.

Be reasonable: leave bourbon alone. Hasn't it done enough?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Max's Belgian Fest

If you've never been to the Belgian Fest at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore, you really should consider it. It's this weekend. Here are many (draft) reasons to go:

Abbaye Des Rocs Blonde
Allagash Fedelte
Alvinne Bathazaar
Alvinne Extra
Alvinne Gaspar
Alvinne Kerasus
Alvinne Melchior
Alvinne Podge
Bavik Petrus Winter
Bel Pils
Benelux Archangel Ale
Brewers Art casks (TBA)
Cantillon Fou Foune
Cantillon Iris
Chimay Cinq Cents
Chouffe N' Ice 2007
De Dolle Dulle Teve
De Dolle Stille Nacht 2007
De Dolle Stille Nacht 2008
De Glazen Toren Canaster
De Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte
De Glazen Toren Ondineke
De Glazen Toren Saison De Epre Mere
De Glazen Toren Special Eindejaar
De Koninck 175th Anniversary Ale
De Proef La Grande Blanche
De Proef Les Deux Brasseurs
De Ranke Guldenberg
De Regenboog BBBourgondier
De Regenboog Catherine The Great
De Regenboog Guido
De Regenboog Plus
De Regenboog T ' Smisje Dubbel
De Regenboog T' Smisje Calva Reserve
De Regenboog T' Smisje Grand Reserve
De Regenboog T' Smisje Kerst
De Regenboog Vuuve
De Regenboog Wostijnte
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Dupont Avril
Duvel Draft(Green)
Ellezolloise Quintine Blonde
Fantome De Noel
Geants Goliath
Geants Saison Vosin
Hanssens Old Kriek (Cask)
Hanssens Young Lambic (Cask)
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Cuvee De Keizer Blauw
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Cuvee De Keizer Rood
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Noel
Huyghe Delirium Nocturnum
Huyghe Delirium Noel
Huyghe Delirium Tremens
La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux
La Rulles Estivale
La Rulles Triple
Lefebvre Barbar
Lefebvre Barbar Winterbok
Lefebvre Floreffe Triple
Leifmans Kriek
Leifmans Oud Bruin
Lindemans Framboise
Mardesous 6
Ommegang Special
Ommegang Wes' Triple
Point Bruges
Silly Pink Killer
Slaapmutske Triple Night Cap
St Bernardus Christmas
St Feuillien Brune
St Feuillien Cuvee De Noel
St Feuillien Printemps
Strubbe Itchgems Grand Cru
Strubbe Itchgems Pils
Strubbe Keyte Double Triple
Van Honsebrouck Kasteel Rouge
Van Steenberge Kloekke Roeland
Witkap Pater Dubbel

...and that's just the first round. Oh, and there are about 175 Belgians in bottle, too. So...this weekend, Friday to Sunday. If I could, I'd go, believe me.

Say a prayer for Bill Brand

One of our own, long-time Bay Area reporter and beer writer Bill Brand, is in a coma and listed as critical after being hit by a commuter train. Here's the story, reported on his own blog (shared with a wine writer). It would be a terrible thing at any time, but it's particularly stunning during San Francisco Beer Week.

I've never met Bill, but we've corresponded and I'm a regular reader of his blog. He is one of the best of us, thoughtful, realistic, and sharp-eyed, and just damned enthusiastic and unabashed about the beers he likes. Think good thoughts, wish him luck, pray: whatever it is you do to influence fate, do it. I want to meet Bill Brand.

Tuesday at 1:26: Just read on Jay's blog that Bill's been upgraded to stable. Very good news.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Pubcrawling w/Fuzzy and Eric

Whew. We're at McGlinchey's, and it's the first place with wifi. I got to Bridgewaters about 1:10, and there were Fuzzy and Eric, friends I went to college with 20 years ago. Years dropped away under the wash of beer: Hofbrau pils, Sly Fox dunkel, and we et, too. Delicious stuff: elk sausage and spatzel, mussels in white wine and garlic, wild boar burger, a black angus burger, and Fuzzy's...portabella sliders, that apparently the kitchen had forgotten how to make, it had been so long since someone had ordered them. And who walked in? Suzanne, Lappy, and Colin Flatt (er, and some others who didn't intro themselves) on their OWN pubcrawl. Sweet. And then Paul Rutherford, brewmaster at Iron Hill Lancaster, walked in, and that was cool, because Fuzzy works for F&M, right next to IH.

Across the street we went, to Slainte. Had Guinness and Jameson 18 Year Old. Damn nice. On to the subway to Center City, where we walked to McGillin's, for a round in the madness of Syracuse and a Flyers game. Then over to Time -- they weren't open yet -- and on to Fergies'. We had cask Grog, shots of Powers, and some unknown woman bought me a Philly Pale. Fuzz and Eric still won't tell me who she was.

Back to Time, where I got a Weyerbacher Fireside -- nice, quite smoky -- and hung out, pleasant. Then it was down Sansom to Nodding Head, where we got more Powers and The Jangler and Grog. Damn, that was good.

Now we're in McGlinchey's, like I said. We're drinking Radeberger's, and the guys are giving me shit for blogging. Screw 'em.

Good times.

Good times at Jose Pistolas afterwards, too: we're eating good, and drinking good. Casey came through with a Left Hand Widdershins Barleywine: damn it's tasty. Woo. Don't know where we go from here...

We went to Monk's, and had Ephemere, Two Hearted, and Damnation. Whew. Good day. Except me missing the 9:40 R3 by two minutes, and having to wait for another 90 minutes... Eat me, SEPTA!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Philly Beer Week 1 month away

I've cut back my involvement in Philly Beer Week this year -- for family reasons, not business -- but I'm still in a few things. Like two events at the Grey Lodge: the Wheat Beer Breakfast on March 7 (9-1, pay as you go, a great prelim to the big Craft Beer Festival) and our Upstate Beer Tasting on March 8 (5-8, also pay as you go). (Scoats and I will be headed upstate to gather the beers that week, and wouldn't you love to be a fly in the car for that one?)

I'm also hosting another event right after the Wheat Beer Breakfast (so if you couldn't get (or didn't want) tickets to the Craft Beer Festival, this is perfect for you), also in the Northeast, but it's not official yet so, I can't talk about it (except to say that it's a German and German-style beer event at the Blue Ox Bistro featuring some great German food and goodies from right across the street at Rieker's Prime Meats (if you've never been there, you're crazy nuts), 2-5, also pay as you go (and the smoked beer and smoked meat is gonna rock).

Which is a great Team Superfleisch lead-in to the other event I'm participating in, The Klash of the Kaisers at Triumph Old City, a no-holds-barred pilsner competition and tasting. This is the best Philly Beer Week memorial to Triumph brewer and craft lager pioneer Jay Misson that we could think of, and the line-up will include a pilsner from Jay's hand-written recipe, brewed at Triumph by Patrick Jones and Flying Fish brewer Casey Hughes. Any kind of pilsner -- Bohemian, German, Frisian, imperial -- is welcome, and we'll have a "pro" judging in the afternoon and a people's choice in the evening; both straight-up "do you like this" judging, not "strict to style" fascism. Pay as you go, 6-9, Thursday March 12.

And that's about it for me this year. I'll probably see some of you at some other events, and I would urge you to check things out thoroughly this year: there are some that are very different and sure to be entertaining.

Gratuitous Corgis

Two Corgis. Good day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


So...I got an e-mail from a friend who will remain nameless, taunting me that Isaac Newton's was tapping a keg of Bell's HopSlam today at 11:30. He was taunting me because I'd mentioned how ridiculous the hype on this beer has become over on BeerAdvocate.

Okay, I think to myself, I'm going to go try some of this stuff. No way I was going to drive all the way to Media, or Norristown, or Limerick to try it, or drive up to Shangy's to buy a $60+ case of it, but Isaac's? A 10 minute jaunt? Sure.

I got my glass, and a cloudy thing it was. Big wafts of sweet hop, pine, citrus, the whole thing blowing up in my nose. Big sweet/bitter mouth, a massive mainline of malt electrified by hops. Yup. Double IPA.

Big deal. Look, guys, this is a good DIPA. No argument there: if you like that kind of thing, this is a good one. But it's just good. It's not awesome, it's not Pliny. Stop squealing and peeing yourself. It's hype, and you're propagating it.

I left Isaac's and bought a case of Nugget Nectar for Cathy, kind of a 'you're back at work, and you're pretty damned great' present for her new job. Besides, she'd finished off a case of SNCA and a case of Hop Wallop since December, I gotta keep her away from my work beer. I had a bit of the bottle she had with dinner. Damn good, real hoppy, great beer. But I'm not twitching about it.

It's funny. The same people who bitch about how much craft beer costs, and how outrageous the prices are, are the ones who will drive all over hell's half-acre to get one particular beer, scream about it on-line, and buy it up whenever they see it. Do you get it? You're the real reason the price is so high. Ironic, ain't it?

No knock on Bell's; love their beers, and this is a good one. But phenomenal, outstanding, extra-terrestrial? No.


I wrote this facetiousness in a comment not long ago, in the New Year's Day post where I first suggested that 2009 might be the Year of Session Beer:
"Your 22% tobacco-infused rye-wine (Rye-wine! Has anyone done one of those?) is great, man, but this bitter is bone-crushingly authentic ("authentic" is a real good word to use, I hear...), and I'm going to have five of them! WooHoo, now that's extreme beer!"
I've since learned that Drake's does a ryewine, and a couple other brewers have done one-offs. But when I saw this short blurb on MyBeerBuzz about #18 in the Tröegs Scratch Beer series, I was...intrigued. #18 is billed as a "Triple Rye Ale." Ryewine?

Not exactly. I got in touch with John Trogner, who told me it's actually "Triple Rye Pale Ale," or maybe 'Triple RyePA.' One of their brewers has been wanting to make a rye beer, any kind of rye beer, and John's been thinking about doubling up on double IPAs to make a triple IPA. As John put it, one day after work they're all sitting around, having a few beers, and after a couple, the two ideas collided. A Triple RyePA!

"It's not a Belgian kind of tripel," John said. "And it's fun, you know, we have fun with the names of the Scratch beers, even if no one else gets the joke. [Flying Mouflan, anyone?]"

The beer's already been brewed, with about 30% malted rye in the mash. "And a ridiculous amount of hops," said John. "Why not? Lots of Warrior, lots of Mt. Hood. The main flavor is Chinook, that stinky citrus." Sounds so appealing, but who am I to talk?

John said it should be out in about two weeks, depending on other work. But I gotta tell you, I wonder how much will be left: sounds like they've been hitting the zwickel pretty regular on this one: "The rye’s got a nice subtle spiciness," John said, drool practically coming over the phoneline, "and it’s got a rounded, creamy mouthfeel."

Might have to get in the Passat and go try this one.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Now brewing: Pils Jay's Way

I see on Facebook that Patrick Jones and Flying Fish brewer Casey Hughes are currently brewing a special batch of pilsner at the Triumph brewpub in Old City Philadelphia. It's "Pils Jay's Way." After I wrote a eulogy for Jay Misson here on the blog, I met and corresponded with a lot of his friends. As often happens, I learned a lot about a good friend after he died. I hate that, but I loved it, too.

One of those friends of Jay was Peter Kruse, who interned with Jay at Gordon Biersch back in 1996. He got in touch with me through the blog, and wound up mailing me a copy of a handwritten recipe Jay had given him: "Pils -- Jay's Way." I got it into Patrick and Casey's hands, and today they're brewing it. It's got just a touch of smoked malt in it, and I'm very curious to see how it comes out. It should be ready for a pilsner night Triumph is putting on Thursday March 12th of Philly Beer Week, the "Klash of the Kaisers"; more about that here. (And more about today's brew here; thanks for the note, Felicia!)

Tough to be at home while this is going on, but all I'd do is watch and take pictures. Drinking it is what I'm good at.

Thanks to Peter, and Patrick and Casey. Cheers, Jay!

Yes, the Super Bowl. Oh, and drinking with Ron Pattinson, too.

I did manage to catch the last quarter and a half of the Super Bowl. I drove up to far northern NJ Sunday evening to meet Ron "I Love Dusty Brewing Archives" Pattinson, who was in the country for work. His real work, that is. Where's the man find the time?

I'd loaded the entire database into Minerva (my Garmin GPS), and I was checking as I approached Ron's hotel. So when he walked into the lobby, and we shook hands and exclaimed over finding each other, I got right to business. "Don't know where you want to go, but Defiant Brewing is only about four miles away, and they're open for about an hour yet." Yes, he said (well, what else was he going to say?), and away we went.

I'd never been in Pearl River in the dark before, and I was a bit disoriented, but Minerva found the place. Neill Acer wasn't there -- hell, the man's gotta have a life, right? -- but the woman behind the bar took good care of us, tapping beers right off the tanks with those neat little clip-on taps Neill found. I had a Highland Stout (good, more body than I expected), a Little Thumper (nice, malty, a bit sweet), and a Muddy Creek Lager (darker and hoppier than expected, also good). 10 oz. mugs, so I was okay.

She was very good about letting us continue right up till closing time, cleaning around us, but we had to go. I aimed us for Andy's Corner Bar in Bogota, and Minerva whirled us there. We chatted about beer styles and beer writers (why can't they be bothered to do any research, Ron asked), and about Ron's history with the area -- he lived in NYC in the 1980s -- but when we got there, and crunched up the frosty sidewalk...Andy's is apparently closed on Sundays, which I didn't know. Damn.

I was going to head back to the hotel, figured we'd drink some of the bourbon I'd brought for Ron (he returned the favor with a a nice bottle of genever and a sweet little bottle of korenwijn), but then I remembered a place I'd come across when writing the New Jersey book, the Railroad Cafe in East Rutherford. It was old and a bit battered, and quite comfortable, and not far, so we went.

Surprisingly empty for Super Bowl night, but open! We grabbed space at the bar, I got a Guinness, and talked Ron into a Railbender -- I was surprised to find Erie Brewing's flagship at a bar in East Rutherford, but it was sufficiently different that I thought he'd like it. And he did, smacking his lips.

And...the game was on. The score was 20-7, Pittsburgh, which was just about exactly where I thought it would be: I was banking on Pittsburgh's defense, but didn't think their offense would explode. Then, of course, things quickly went into the crapper as Kurt Warner and the Arizona defense combined to completely upset the applecart. I think Ron was amused as I kept apologizing for focusing on the game, but I was completely wrapped up, and woo-hooed quite a a bit when Holmes pulled in that amazing toe-dragger to win the game.

That's when we found out that the fellow next to us wasn't just a fellow Brit ex-pat, he was a partner in Erie Brewing (or said he was, anyway: you never know in a bar), and was drinking a bottle of Presque Isle. He bought Ron a couple more Railbenders (I was on Diet Coke by this time), and we talked till 10:30. At which point...I had to call time. I'd been up since 5 AM, and still had a 100 minute drive home. So I took Ron back to the hotel, wished him a fond farewell -- he's really a hell of a nice, entertaining guy -- and drove home. I had the windows open, singing loudly by the time I got there to stay awake, but I made it. Nice to meet you, Ron!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Super Bowl for you!

I'm leaving for north NJ in a few minutes to meet up with Ron "Overturning Beer Dogma Daily" Pattinson. He's flying into the States for work this afternoon, and tonight was the only night we could get together, so I'm skipping the Super Bowl and, well, here's how Ron put it.

"I've a flight of eight and a half hours and then I'm getting pissed with Lew Bryson. Doesn't leave much time for blogging."

Short, precise. And maybe we'll find a place with Wi-Fi and do a joint blog. Look for something on bourbon. As for missing the Super guys ever drive during SB? I'm gonna have the roads to myself, which in NJ, is kind of a mystic experience.