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Thursday, September 30, 2010


So when the word started to percolate about Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (I tweeted about that back on the 22nd, and I apologize for not blogging...gotta stop that), I got right back to the Diageo people and asked if it were true. Sure, they said, and would you like a sample? Yes!

This is a bit of a grail for me; I've kind of purposely kept myself away from it till I could get it legit. Worth the wait, and really not at all what I expected. First, it's not heavy and thick (like some other "Caribbean" stouts); it's actually quite light for 7.5%. Second, it has a great aroma of boozy burnt malt. Third, it's properly I remember "regular" Guinness being, though that could be a trick of memory. Finally, it's not sweet! It's quite bitter, burnt bitter and hop-bitter, but smooth as a swoop. Intriguing stuff, and easy to understand why it's so popular: it's 45% of total Guinness sales!

What's not so easy to understand is why it's taken Diageo so long to bring it to the positively beer-crazy U.S. market. Was it because Guinness stout was so damned popular, they were afraid of cannibalizing it? Yeah, that strategy worked so well with Guinness Extra Stout...and Smithwick's... Should have sent this ten years ago!

Roseisle: huge new Scottish distillery about to come on-line

Diageo is about to start pumping out 10-12 million liters of spirit a year out of their new, huge distillery at Roseisle. Take a look at this BBC report (and spot Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson nosing a dram at the end).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Larry Mellisen: Go With God

Just found out yesterday that Larry Mellisen, an incredibly talented chef who worked wonders in the tiny kitchen at McMenamin's Tavern in Mt. Airy, died back in August from complications stemming from diabetes. I immediately e-mailed Rich Pawlak; Rich and I had hung out with Larry at the bar, and marveled over the dishes he put out of that little space.

I remember the first time I ate at McMenamin's. It was on my birthday, and Cathy and I had dressed up, barhopping around Philly: Manayunk Brewing, Michel Notredame's place, London Grill, and then I told her I wanted to go to McMenamin's for dinner, because PJ was now serving food. Okay, and we went, and...ate ham sandwiches with chips from a carving board at the end of the bar. They were damned good sandwiches, but I heard about that for a while: why did we get all get dressed up to go eat sandwiches in a damned bar?!

Two years later, I took her back, for my birthday. We had seafood risotto and squash blossom beggar's purses, and some kind of Golden Monkey bread pudding. Larry waved from the kitchen. And I said, so, how about that? We can come back here any time, she said. I wish we'd come back more often.

Rich has a great memory of Larry up at his blog. Have a look, and think of Larry the next time you have a great meal at a bar. Rich is right: he was ahead of his time.

Porterhouse is just a steak

Heard through the hopvine that Porterhouse, the brewpub in Lahaska, is decommissioning their brewhouse and going full restaurant. The brewery's been down for over a year with a failed boiler.

Too bad, though it's understandable: the partners who bought the place (the former Buckingham Mountain brewpub of unlamented memory) were really looking for a restaurant. The brewpub set-up was on fire sale, so they took it all. There was a connection with River Horse, then Philadelphia Brewing, which led to my friend Dean Browne brewing there for a while (made a good porter, too). And, of course, I included it in the new Pennsylvania Breweries, so that's a word of warning: no brewery there any more! If you're one of the people who like to get signatures of brewers in your book, though, Dean's often available at Philadelphia Brewing, and he's real friendly; he's Canadian, you know.

I don't know if they'll still have a good selection of beer available; they'd be fools not to, in this area.

Clearly, the fracking near Williamsport has had an effect on the populace already...

GOTHIKA. A collaborative brewing of thick, black beer from two breweries in the nether hillcountry; where pagan rituals still occur, and have since time immemorial.

GOTHIKA. Terry and Mike have lost it. Cool.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Official Book Launch tickets now on sale

The launch event for Pennsylvania Breweries4th edition is at Victory Brewing, Tuesday October 5th, starting at 6:00. We're going to start with some convivial drinking, then have an hour-long panel discussion about Pennsylvania brewing and beer, featuring brewers from Victory, Nodding Head, Tröegs, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher, and Stoudt's (with me doing Ted Koppel moderation duties); that will include a Q&A session with the audience (that's you, right?). Then at 7:30 I'll start signing books till my hand falls off (and we'll probably wind up having another beer or two in the bar).

It's a ticketed event: $35 gets you a copy of the book, two beers, and a big old hors d'oeuvre selection. And the pleasure of each other's company, of course, hob-nobbing with Ron Barchet, Carol Stoudt, the Trogners, Curt Decker, Brian O'Reilly, and my stunningly personable self. Come on out to Downingtown and join us!

Monday, September 27, 2010

General Lafayette closed, to change hands; brewing continues

Just got this press release direct from Chris Leonard at the General Lafayette Inn:
The General Lafayette Inn & Brewery in Lafayette Hill, PA is ceasing its restaurant and guest house operations effective immediately. A sale has been pending for close to a year. During the continued sale negotiations, the current brewers will continue to operate the brewing facilities to produce craft beer for wholesale distribution. Once the buyer is able to complete the purchase, the current brewers will retain operating rights to the brewery and resume providing General Lafayette beer for on-site consumption via the Copper Crow Beer Company (Crow). The Crow shall also begin wholesale production at an alternate site in North Wales, sometime in October. (emphases added)

After rumors of the General closing over the past months, rumors that intensified over the past week, it's good to get some kind of resolution, even if only a confirmation of the intentions. I hope things work out the way Chris lays them out here. Never had a problem with his beer at the General at all.

Uncle Jack has more here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Signings: Saturday the 25th

Come on out and get your copy of Pennsylvania Breweries 4th edition tomorrow. I'll be at Weyerbacher Brewing from noon to 2:45 for their regular open hours at their visitor center (tours, samples, Lew...), then I'll be at the Bulls Head Public House in Lititz from 4:30 to 6:00. Hope to see you there!

Pick-up and delivery

Yesterday was the day. I drove up to Stackpole Books in Mechanicsburg and met with my editor, Kyle Weaver...and took delivery of Pennsylvania Breweries, 4th Edition. A lot of books. We went to lunch at Grandpa's Growler (Guinness and chili; always a fave lunch), and then I hit the road. I drove down to my mother's, and delivered a signed copy, a tradition we've been following through the Breweries book. It was tough not having my father there. This edition is dedicated to him:

To Lewis M. Bryson II
Always at my side

Yeah. Anyway, I left, picked up Nora at school, and got home in time to tidy up, change shirts, and head down to the Hulmeville Inn for the first signing for the book. It was fun -- it always is there -- and we had some great beers from Philadelphia Brewing: three firkins pouring Newbold IPA, Pennsylvania Pale Ale (my first beer of the night; seemed appropriate, and even more so once I got that razory hoppiness in me), and Joe Coffee Porter, which was awesome out of the firkin: smooth, round, a really good porter and a really good coffee beer.

It was a good night. And Pennsylvania Breweries is on the road. See you soon: Weyerbacher and the Bulls Head tomorrow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Little Fun in Philly

I rolled down to Philadelphia yesterday evening for two fun things. First, I went to Resurrection Alehouse for their one-year anniversary. As noted earlier, it's been a busy year, what with raids and national praise of their fried chicken, but the celebration was typically low-key. Brendan Hartranft greeted me with a pint of Bombardier (that dry, slightly hair-tonic English malt character kept the interest up through the glass), and indulged me with a look at the new Randall the Enamel Animal V.3.0, the fabled beer infuser that Sam Calagione keeps messing with.

The new iteration (filled with JW Lees-infused prunes...) retains that picked-from-a-plumbing-warehouse look: that is PVC pipe at the base, and that's some kind of clear plastic thing on the can just make out the prunes in there (and they were all swoll' up with the Lees, too; tasty-looking). It wasn't going to get hooked up until 8 PM, for a 'simul-tap' with 8 other bars; Sam, Sam, Sam, you are nuts and we love ya.

Anyway, I was going to leave, but I didn't. I talked myself into having a pint of Victory Festbier since it was now officially Fall, and didn't it just taste grand? A tray of mussel skewers came around -- brilliantly fresh and zesty with lemon -- and I talked to Leigh Maida and Valentine Bandit, Leigh and Brendan's beautiful little boy. Things are good at Resurrection: good vibe, good beers, good food. Nice neighborhood, too; hope the South Street Bridge re-opens before Valentine graduates from high school...

I had to run up to London Grill then. See, when I went to Beer Camp at Sierra Nevada back in April with all the Philly beervolk that went, we got to brew a beer, and Terry McNally, who owns London Grill, was agitating for an almond beer (Chico grows a lot of almonds). Pshaw, we said (and other things), and steamrollered her. Didn't the very next Beer Camp brew an almond märzen? And didn't Terry get a keg?! Yes, she did, and it went on last night, along with Tumbler, XXX, our own ExPorter, and the perpetual SNPA tap, it was a Sierra Nevada lovefest. The beer? Not much nut character; none, really. Terry happily agreed that the ExPorter was better. But Tumbler was great, a dry brown ale with a nice bitter pull at the end. Good stuff.

And then I went back to Newtown, and went to choir practice. It was a good night, especially when the thunderstorms hit during practice!

Good stuff from Uncle Jack

Jack Curtin has two newsy notes of great interest to Philly-area beer fans (and if they aren't of great interest to you, I have to question your depth of fandom...). Here he has the word on Scoats's latest, the opening of Hop Angel Brauhaus (the old Blue Ox, across from Rieker's Deli, and you will love that, my friends); and here, a less-happy note, is a quote from ex-Triumph brewer Patrick Jones on why he's an ex-Triumph brewer, what he's planning (or not), and a tip of the hat to another well-regarded ex-brewer.

Word to people with money and brains: a well-trained, multiple-medal winning brewer like Jones will not be on the sidewalk forever. Get your brewery plan together and snap this guy up. Or maybe...Gordon Biersch will finally get their heads out of their collective butt and come to Philly, and Patrick can re-enter that fold. Or even better, my grand Yuengling Philadelphia Brewpub scheme could come to fruition... Dreaming, I'm dreaming. I should go back to bed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BIPA: enough, already

Belgian IPA.

It wasn't until I got the Samuel Adams Longshot announcement today, where they listed the winners of this year's America's Got Homebrewing Talent competition (not their name, of course), that I realized how bloody tired I'm getting of seeing, hearing, and -- mostly -- tasting this classification of beer. (The winners, for the record, and congratulations to them: Richard Roper (Georgia), Friar Hop Ale (the probably just-fine BIPA that set me off), Rodney Kibzey (Illinois) Blackened Hops (a dark IPA...which I still like, for now), and Caitlin DeClerq, the Boston Beer Employee winner, with Honey Bee’s Lavender Wheat.)

It's just so freakin' American craft brewing. Take a familiar category of beer -- maibocks, brown ale, porter, or in this case, Belgian pale strong ales (a beautifully, broadly, Belgian category, admittedly, in which few are just like another) -- and hop the shit out of it, then proudly hold it up as A New Beer! Ta-daaaa! Never mind if it's freakishly sweet, or that the hop flavor clashes with the yeast character, or that every other brewer is going, 'Yeah, I gotta make me one of them' and the "style" becomes a glut (crap-ass sour beers, anyone?). Not to mention that American craft-brewing has become so influential -- a GREAT thing, overall, and very satisfying -- that Belgian brewers are doing it, with very varied results.

Yeah, I like some, like Poperings, De Ranke XX, The Bruery Mischief. Others -- like Green Flash Le Freak, Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor, and the one-shot (thank you!) Duvel Tripel Hop -- really verge into that Frankenstein's monster territory for me. I understand that this is how we progress, that the good succeed and the bad simply suck, and that every beer is not meant for me, but...

The aspect that most bothers me, about BIPA and other herd beers, is just that: the herd. Someone does a new beer, a really new thing -- Vinnie Cilurzo does Blind Pig, for instance. A couple other brewers taste it -- at the brewery, at GABF -- get inspired, and they try it. Then one of them breaks big -- it happens faster these days, thanks to the beerwebs and the competitive "yeah, I've had that...a YEAR ago!" nature they've fostered -- and literally a hundred brewers make them, not so much inspired by the art as by the buck. I'm all for the buck, it keeps craft beer alive, but guys...have your own idea. It may or may not get you the attention. But you can't do this kind of thing, and still complain about Blue Moon and Shocktop, 'kay?

Example: Weyerbacher. I've been a fan from Day One, largely because of two things. First, Dan Weirback's a scrapper; he's hung in there when other people would have quit, and he keeps trying things. Second, he's been -- except for some exceptions -- a contrarian. When everyone else was making wheaty fruities, he made a beautiful raz imperial stout; when everyone else made sweet tripels, his was dry and spicy. The exception? Dan did some following in the years around 2000. It got a little boring. Then he found his way again (with the help of an excellent brewhouse crew, led by Chris Wilson; kind of like what's happening at Flying Fish with Casey Hughes), and Weyerbacher is not a follower any more. And we are the richer for it.

It's not really BIPA I'm tired of. I'm tired of seeing so many new ones. Either innovate, truly and wildly and brilliantly, or give me something beautiful and solid, like the gorgeously classic Saison Vautour from McKenzie Brewhouse, or the unimpeachable quality of Troegenator, or the simple lines of Geary's London Porter. Stop chasing flags (a little Dante reference for you there). Make beer. Find your heart first, and then follow it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

LaBan Torches City Tap House

Ouch. Just when you were starting to think that great beer was the key to a great review from Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant reviewer Craig LaBan (I'm kidding; but he has loved the gastropubs), he launches this flaming load of thisplacesucked at City Tap House. Wow.

Hey, I'll admit; I had my doubts about the place before it opened. But I really thought it was pretty good, pretty squared away. LaBan experienced dirty glassware (soapy, lipstick, and "with bread crumbs floating on top"), a mouse (admitted, running around outside where they have a grassy roof), and bland pizza. He didn't really find much good to say except about the fried oysters and the burger...and, of course, the beers.

Too bad. Guess I'll have to head back and see if things really do suck that bad.

A note on comments to this post, and any post on a particular place: I'm not going to publish your reviews of service/food/beer here. If it's a general comment and you have a short illustrative point, okay, but otherwise, I'll reject those comments. It's not because I don't agree with you, or think your review is too gushing or mean-spirited, or because I don't like you. It's because I don't want this turning into Yelp. Yelp is there for that; post there. Seriously, I do, and I read those reviews when I'm looking for new places. It's a much more appropriate place. Okay? No hard feelings, I hope.  

GABF results: great for some, not-so-great overall

And yes, that's a homer's title: I'm talking about Pennsylvania. We've done better, though Bob Barrar continues the harvest, and Saison Vautour continues an incredible job on scavenging gold. Go see it all here (Uncle Jack at the Beer Yard) and here (where Bryan "Brew Lounge" Kolesar lets the Patrick Jones/Triumph break-up out of the bag). Congratulations to all the PA brewers (no NJ brewers won), and congrats to New England, where they finally broke through and won a bag of medals: 'bout time.

Happy birthday, Resurrection!

Resurrection Ale House celebrates their one-year anniversary this Wednesday (Sept. 22, beginning at 5 PM). What a year it's been, with national recognition, local infamy (er...temporary infamy that turned into near-sainthood!), and, well, just one hell of a lot of good beer and food (and a proximity to some other great emerging places that turned this unlikely Gray's Ferry corner into a beer/food destination). How do you celebrate something like that?

How about stewed prunes?

Oh, sure, they'll have the usual Maida/Hartranft anniversary celebration stuff; complimentary butlered snackies, and some really neat drafts -- ho-hum, right? HA! -- but they'll also be participating in a simultaneous unveiling of Dogfish Head's new generation Randall the Enamel Animal, Sam Calagione's insanely-engineered beer infuser, and they're going to be packing theirs with prunes...that were soaked in 1997 JW Lees barleywine, and then running Dogfish Head Olde School (made with figs, I'd remind you) through it. Nummy.

The kids are more than all right, The Who and Annette Benning be damned. These kids rock.

Rare 'Poonage at Misconduct Tavern next week

I think I told you my son's now attending Boston University which, among other changes in my life, has occasioned a convenient reason to renew my pleasant relations with Boston bars, brewpubs and Boston-based Harpoon. I've been a Harpoon fan for years, always happy to run into it, and the folks from the brewery are great, including the president, Rich Doyle, who has served both Harpoon and the larger craft-brewing community for years with insightful leadership.

That's why I'll be at Misconduct Tavern next Tuesday (6-8 PM) to join Rich Doyle for a tasting of some rare Harpoon beers that often don't get outside of Boston Metro. It's an open event, with flights of smaller glasses, so you can try more than a couple without staggering home.

The lineup, on draft first:
Harpoon Leviathan Triticus
Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Glacier Wet Hop
Harpoon Octoberfest
Harpoon Belgian Pale Ale

And in Bottles:
Harpoon IPA
Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Island Creek Oyster Stout
I'm really looking forward to the oyster stout, it sounds like a very special beer. So maybe I'll see you there? Come on down, taste beers from one of the oldest, largest craft brewers on the East Coast.

Saturdays at Village Whiskey

I was out last week, bourbonating, but I got a note from Jennie Hatton about a new Saturday schedule at my favorite Jose Garces spot in Philly, Village Whiskey. (If you don't know why it's my fave Garces spot...jeez, hello, the name?) They're calling the two hours between 2 and 4 PM "Five O'Clock Somewhere" and offering drink and eat specials.

What kind of drink/eat specials, you ask? Different every week, hon. There's a $7 special 2 oz. pour of whiskey, and it's not dopey, either: (ri)1, Ransom Whippersnapper, Dalmore 12, Suntory Hibiki (you know many places in Philly pouring Hibiki?). There are also $6 cocktails coming: Aviation, Brooklyn, the Martinez. They'll also have $5 wine specials and $4 draft specials (and the draft selection was good enough to get them into Pennsylvania Breweries). Check the website for this Saturday's drink reductions.

Eats? How about (in Jennie's own words) "$3 Snacks, including VW Burger Sliders, BBQ Pork Sliders and Pickle Canapes, featuring different house-made pickles each week." The house-made pickles, by the way, really are made in-house, and frickin' rock. recap: discounted booze and Garces food. Two hours. Saturdays (at least through the end of October), 2-4. My reaction? It's about time someone started having fun with whiskey in this town. (And if we could get rid of the PLCBosaurus, more folks would probably join in!)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blogging from the Kentucky Bourbon Festival

I've been going to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival for years, and yet I almost never blog about it. This has been a disappointment to some of you (sorry, Sam); probably a blessing to you beer-lovers, but that's all by the board. I'm blogging this year.

I'm at the Bourbon Festival waving the Malt Advocate flag. I'm the managing editor, I write the 'American Spirit' column, and I do love this industry -- er, and I have a small fondness for the product, too -- so I go, happily. That's by way of a sort of negative disclosure: I'm not here as the guest of any distillery (I have been once or twice in the past). Okay, onward.

Before I talk about the trip and what I've been doing, let's talk about the Festival. There's a common question, one I was just asked this morning, that needs to be addressed: "Where is the actual festival?" Yeah, well, you're standing in it. "The Kentucky Bourbon Festival" is kind of like "Philly Beer Week"; more to the point, it's not like Malt Advocate's WhiskyFest. There's not a single event where you go from one distiller's table to another, sampling whiskeys...

No, wait, there is. That's the Gala, a black-tie dinner on Saturday night, that begins with a tasting hour when you do go from one distiller's "booth" to another, sampling whiskeys (and cocktails, and cigars, and there's nibble foods, and free glasses, and lots of pretty women and handsomely dressed men). But the Gala's a pricey ticket, and as black-tie, it's not your usual "drinks festival" kind of thing.

So what is the "actual festival?" It starts on Wednesday and goes through Sunday, and there's a whole calendar of different events. The distilleries have tours, both open to the general public and some longer, 'hard-hat' type tours for industry people and the real aficionados who put groups together and reserve them months in advance. (Speaking of months in advance: that's when you'd better make your reservations. Bardstown fills up fast.) And there's the Lawn in front of Spalding Hall, home of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. The Lawn has arts and crafts on sale (plenty of Kentucky-made stuff; I usually get Cathy some trinkets here), distiller tents (no samples...but you can get them in the Spirits Garden), coopering demos, and other shtuff. That's where I send people when they ask about where the "actual festival" is.

My trip started at 7 AM Thursday morning. I drove the Saab down to the Philadelphia airport, a fine drive with the windows down and the new stereo booming. No big problems with traffic or security, and I was on my Delta plane on-time, relaxing for a flight to Detroit and a connector to Louisville scheduled to arrive at 1:44; plenty of time for my usual visit to New Albanian Brewing Company before heading down to Bardstown.

KLUNK! Eh? What the hell was that, just as we were backing around from the jetway? That was the end of my good day. The captain told us that a shear pin had broken on the towbar of the little truck pushing the plane back from the terminal. FAA regs required that the plane be inspected, and that paperwork had to be logged... Hell. I actually fell asleep. We finally took off about 75 minutes later, and arrived in Detroit about 20 minutes after my Louisville flight left. Damn.

Worse than damn; there had been a succession of storms rolling through the area, disrupting schedules, and even thought there was a flight to Louisville every two hours, the next two were full. I was stuck for seven hours. Lord. It got worse: no free WiFi, and something was screwing with the reception on my iPhone. It took me three hours till I could find a spot where I could even get a text message through to Cathy. Crap. All I had to read was a new book by Charlie MacLean, Whiskypedia, which was good, but not really the kind of book you sit down and cover-to-cover. I got a newspaper, had lunch, and sat down to charge my electronics at a handy outlet. That was good for about three hours. Now what?

I went to "Thee Irish Pub" in Terminal C. Had a coffee, had a conversation with an older guy, Bud drinker ("I hate Guinness," he told me. His world was going to hell, he hated people who drank too much, he drank too much, football is fixed, people are jerks, and I was really sorry I struck up that conversation.), got a Guinness (after he left...), talked to the guy on the other side about the screwed-up WiFi, had another Guinness and a double of Tullamore Dew (like the Yelp reviews say, the place was way overpriced; I mean, I know it's an airport bar, but $31 for two beers and a double of Tullamore?), and asked the bartender where the men's room was. He told me, and as he did, he cleared my whiskey glass...which still had 1/4 oz. of whiskey in it. I looked at him, he looked at me, and I went to the men's room. Another beautiful day at Detroit Metro airport. Jackass.

I finally flew to Louisville, a magical flight, visually: the sun was setting way out across a solid field of low clouds that looked like miles and miles of low, rolling, snow-covered hills. I almost expected to see wolves chasing a sleigh, with some villain poised to toss out a helpless damsel to lighten the load...look, I was really bored by this point.

It wasn't over. When I got to Louisville, about 7 hours late, Thrifty had given away my rental car. Really. Because there was a gospel quartet convention in town. After a wait, he did manage to scare up a Hyundai Sonata for me, and I made it down to Bardstown at about 10:15. I checked into the Old Jailer's Inn, and joined some other bourbon lovers out on the front porch, drinking Four Roses Single Barrel and Buffalo Trace White Dog. And I felt alllllll better.

The next day, Friday, I got up and had breakfast. Dixie, the woman who keeps the place, had made a bunch of pastries (I had a small muffin), fresh fruit (I had a clementine and some blueberries), and strawberry french toast. Very good indeed. I walked up to the cleaners and dropped off my tux to be pressed for the Gala, then did some work while having coffee at the Java Joint, a cool place I've been going to for years (I'm there now). Like every other place, there were people there talking about the Bourbon Festival, including some of the gospel quartet people. I didn't ask them if they stole my rental car.

After that, I went out to Liquor World and got a bottle of Weller Antique to share on the porch that night. The folks there let me sample some Willett cask strength they had: very cinnamon-spicy, brightly sweet, quite tasty and fresh. Then I went to the Bourbon Hall of Fame induction at Spalding Hall. Buffalo Trace's ace warehouse manager, Ronnie Eddins was getting in (a richly-deserved honor for this man who was the originator of both the ongoing Experimental Collection and the upcoming oak experiments), as was Eddie Russell, Jimmy Russell's son and a master distiller in his own right. I reconnected with some old friends, and then went back to my room for a quick nap before going out to the Bourbon, Cigars and Jazz event.

More later; I'm going to head over to the Bourbon Auction.

I finally figured out how to add the Amazon you like them? Hate them? Do you care?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Updated -- updating -- Calendar for PA Breweries 4 events

Check the links at the top of the page: Home, and Pennsylvania Breweries 4 Events. They're navigation links to take you back and forth between this blog page and an automatically updated calendar of all the PA Breweries 4 events I currently have scheduled.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pennsylvania Breweries Release and Events!

At last, at last...Pennsylvania Breweries 4th edition is about to hit the streets. The newest edition of my travelguide to the state's breweries -- from Yuengling to The Brewerie, and all points in between -- comes out on September 21st (approximately...Amazon lists it as coming available on the 15th, so what do I know?). The price went up a bit -- $19.95, and I will be packing nickels -- but it's a lot thicker: 73 breweries this time!

Accordingly, I've been scheduling events. Here's what's up so far; hope you can join me for one of them!

September 23 -- The first signing is right down the road from my home, 6:00 at the Hulmeville Inn, where we'll tapping into some Pennsylvania-brewed firkins to give the book a proper baptism.

September 25 --  At noon, I'll be at the Weyerbacher visitor center, signing books and drinking up the latest Brewers Reserve special, Lima. Can't have too much, though, because I'll be leaving at 2:45 to head down to the Bulls Head Public House in Lititz for a 5:00 event, where we'll be quaffing some fine cask-conditioned ale (and I'll be happy to talk up session beers!).

October 2 -- Another two-a-day: I start at noon in the tasting room at Tröegs, where I'll be talking up their wildly independent Scratch and Splinter series till about 1:30. At that time, I'll be ready for rehab; no, I mean ReHAB, the Regional Harrisburg Area Brewers homebrew club! I'll be at their Oktoberfest, having some seriously local PA beers. (Not open to the public, but if you're in Harrisburg and love beer, this would be a great time to join this club!)

October 4 -- Two days later, I'm close to home with a 7:00 signing at the Richboro Public Library; count on some lecture at this one, a little edification...but no sampling: sorry!

October 5 -- The Official Pennsylvania Breweries 4 Launch Event at Victory Brewing! Ron and Bill wrote the foreword to this edition, and they're hosting this big launch, which starts at 6:00 PM. What's going down? How about a special deal book/beer/app combo package, a star-studded panel of Pennsylvania brewers, a Q&A session, and all that great Victory beer -- can't beat it! Watch for this to come open on the Victory website: a limited number of places are available. See you there!

October 14 -- It's not a Lew Bryson Breweries book without a Grey Lodge Pub event: I'm joining up with the first homebrewers' night for this one, and we'll be going from 7:00 to 9:00. Come on down to the bar I call "my local."

October 21 -- Hungry? Join me for a delicious Pennsylvania beer dinner at The Farmhouse in Emmaus at 6:30. This will be an emotional evening for me: The Farmhouse was where I first participated in a professional beer event, a 1994 tasting with John Hansell, Ed and Carol Stoudt, Nick Funnell, and Bill Moeller. Quite a night, and it's led directly to this.

November 3 -- In my former life, I was a librarian, and I still like to do signings at libraries: like the Spring City Library, near Royersford. We're doing a signing this evening, but the location hasn't been set yet; the library's too small for one, so they're going to get a place. I'll update when they do.

November 4-6 -- I'm headed to the Wyoming Valley for a number of events, including taping a show with Chip The Beer Guy for his Friday morning program on Rock 107, a Berwick Bulldogs football game Friday night (just for fun, but followed by some beers at Berwick Brewing, also just for fun, but...), and a signing at Berwick Brewing on Saturday Nov. 6, noon to 2. Watch for more: we're working on expanding this schedule with maybe a beer dinner and a guest bartending spot or two.

November 13 -- Another work in progress: I'm still filling in the blanks, but this is going to be a western swing that starts at noon at Otto's: this one's going to be fun, and with luck, we should be at the big new location down the hill! I'll be leaving Otto's at 2:00 sharp and sailing west on I-80 for a 5:00 event at North Country Brewing Company in Slippery Rock, which I have to admit is one of my favorite brewpubs anywhere: amazing look, fantastic beer. Worth a trip if you haven't been.

Watch for more events in western PA on the following days, I'm just getting started...

November 15 -- I'm back at Bocktown Beer & Grill, hanging out with Chris and Tera and the crew for a big-ass beer dinner. We're gonna pack the place!

November 16 -- I'll be dropping in on the local brewers night at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Beer School with Tony "Beer Man" Knipling and brewers from Voodoo, Erie, East End, and Rock Bottom: that's going to be a fun night. I'm just going to be hanging out in the back, signing books (we put this together too late to make me part of it), but I'll be happy to answer your questions, sign your books, kiss your babies, all that jazz.

That's it for now, but there will be more (if you want to do an event at your brewery, bar, or library, let's talk). Craft beer in Pennsylvania is hot, and we're gonna celebrate!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Do most craft whiskeys suck?

Great guest post at John Hansell's What Does John Know? blog (John's on vacation, and brought in guest bloggers to fill the gap, and they've been doing a great job!) by Steve Ury of the SKU's Recent Eats blog. Steve contends that most craft whiskeys suck, and -- as you might expect -- the comments go wild. Go read it, comment, and you beer guys, come on back here and let's have a discussion on how the early craft distilling industry is similar and different compared to the early craft brewing industry. I think they're apples and oranges; what do you think?

Brown Hangs Tough

Brilliant bit of cross-market analysis at by Chris Mercer (subscription-only, sorry) on Pernod's situation vis-a-vis the market analysts' slapping of them for their positions on debt and portfolio. The analysts want them more in "white goods" (vodka, light rum, and to a lesser extent, gin) which, the conventional wisdom goes, are more recession-resistant.

Mercer points out that Pernod's actually doing just fine with brown goods, thank you.

"In Jameson and Martell, the drinks giant has found two brands that have expanded its reach and made a mockery of weak consumer confidence. Asia's thirst for premium Cognac drove a 12% rise in net sales for Martell Cognac during Pernod's fiscal year, to the end of June. At the same time, the firm managed to round up enough consumer spending power in the US to achieve a 12% increase in global value sales of Jameson Irish whiskey... No wonder the firm is planning to expand storage capacity for Jameson in its native Ireland."

Suck on that, vodka. In fact...

"Its final dividend proposal is also the biggest for five years, at EUR1.34 per share. In short, early market jitters have hidden several reasons for Pernod to be cautiously cheerful."

...suck on that, analysts. I really wonder sometimes if the market analysts know anything about the actual industry they follow.

(Yeah, I realize that I know nothing about EBITDA and ROI and P/L ratios; I figure that makes us even. What they need is someone who knows both...or a team. Ahem...I'm available.)

Underage not the problem

Here's a blog post from New Zealand that repeats what I've been saying, and what other (smart) Kiwis* have been saying: underage drinking is not the problem.The problem is how we, as a society, choose to drink, and that's something you and I have to face: not those Bud drinkers, or those drunks, or those frat boys: it's all of us. Not least because if we don't face it, and frame the problem and solution in a way that we find right, the New Drys are going to do it to us -- I mean, for us.

This is a serious problem. Look, MADD is right about one thing: drunk driving kills people, and it's preventable. Drunkenness and alcohol abuse are terrible problems, and if you can't acknowledge that, you've got your head in the sand up to your navel. Addressing parts of it -- underage drinking seems to be catching a lot of the hysteria, but there's energy booze drinks, there's cheap booze, there's high-ABV beer and wine: take your pick -- fails miserably because the demand for alcohol is hydraulic: push it down in one category, and it will simply pop us in another.

What we need to have a serious national discussion about why so many Americans drink solely to get drunk; not lightly buzzed, or socially lubricated, or blissed, but loose-limbed nasty drunk. We need to talk about why we do it, about how dangerous that is in the short and long term, and about how we can stop. We need to change the drinking culture in this country...and no one has a clue on how to do that without Prohibition-type thinking.

*Here's something I posted on my old website five years ago, when the hand-wringers were first trying to jack up the drinking age: "I give you the comments of a police area commander in New Zealand, Pat Handcock, who says that "raising the age will not curb underage drinking...and that 'our generation' has to take responsibility for setting the drinking culture of today's young people. 'What we have to do is actually encourage a community culture that really lives the slogan that we've got to be careful with alcohol, because it can cause a lot of problems,' Inspector Handcock says. 'I don't think our generation and generations before mine have actually educated our children very well in terms of personal safety and alcohol. We've set the culture that binge-drinking is okay.'" Bingo.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big American Whiskey Article

Once again, I wrote the annual American Whiskey piece for Massachusetts Beverage Business magazine, and it's up here. Have a look, let's talk about what I got right, and what I missed, and what I screwed up!

Hey, quick note: Coronado at Devil's Den tonight!

Overlooked this e-mail: Devil's Den is hosting a Coronado night. This west coast brewery, just across the causeway from San Diego, just arrived in PA not long ago, and I got a shot at their beers: eye-popping.

Here's what they're bringing, courtesy of the folks at Devil's Den. 
·         Coronado Idiot IPA  - Double IPA, deep golden color, sweet toasted malt body huge citrus & pine hop bite.
·         Coronado Black Pearl  - limited— German style schwarz, smooth sweet roasted body, notes of coffee & molasses with smoky, woody finish.
·         Coronado Little Brown Lager  - limited - dark brown, big rich malty body notes of sweet chocolate & roasted nuts.
·         Coronado Pacific Pilsner  - limited  - a Czech style pilsner, deep golden, smooth bready malt body with a crisp hop finish.

Worth a stop, trust me. 

Pils picnic at Johnny Brenda's

Tomorrow is the 2nd annual Pils Picnic at Johnny Brenda's in Fishtown. TEN pilsners on tap, starting at noon:
Dock Street Bohemian Pils
Manayunk Bill's Pils
Troeg's Sunshine Pils
Southampton Keller Pils
Stoudt's Pils
Victory Prima Pils
Sly Fox Pikeland Pils
Sly Fox Keller Pils- FIRKIN!
Victory Braumeister Pils- Saaz
Victory Braumeister Pils- Spalt

And it's a picnic, right? So here's the menu: fried chicken, deviled eggs, ham salad on a biscuit, house-made potato chips, and watermelon salad. Yes, indeedy: everything but the ants.