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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take a deep breath...

Whoever did this? Thank you. This was something that was needed. Because I suspect Tyl Eulenspiegl was a craft brewer, and his contributions were being overlooked.

Craft brewing has always been about fun, too. This brings that back.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"When is this over?"

Cathy asked me that tonight when I pointed out that I had another Pennsylvania Breweries signing Sunday afternoon. I've got a lot coming up; let me get you up to date.

October 30, 4-6 PM: Sly Fox Book Signing with Andy Crouch at Sly Fox Phoenixville.

October 31 (Halloween), 1-4: I'll be at the Bulls Head (Lititz) cask ale festival.

November 3, 7-8:30 PM: We're doing a signing for the Spring City Library at the French Quarter Bistro, 213 Main St., Royersford (hey, no beer in the library, but we can have a couple at the Bistro!). Reservations suggested: 610-698-4130.

Then begins the NEPA Tour...

Thursday, November 4th
  • I'll be on Chip the Beer Guy's show on Rock 107, three times between 8:20 AM to 9:30 AM.
  • Then I'll be at the Barnes & Noble at the Arena Hub in Wilkes Barre, 11 AM to 1 PM.
  • I've got a couple hours to get some great NEPA grub, then I'll be hosting The Big and Small Tasting at the Lion Brewery tasting room, with beers from Lion and Breaker Brewing. Get it? Big and Small? We'll be there from 5:00 to 7:00 PM!
  • Then we'll be relaxing at the Anthracite Cafe, one seriously comfy neighborhood tappie (7:30 to 9:30 PM).
Friday, November 5th
  • Early morning? Not likely. So the first event is Lunch with Lew, at Sabatini's Pizza, 11:30 to 1:30.
  • I'll probably get some Sabatini's great take-out beer, then head for Elmer Sudds (3:00 to 5:00) to hang out in Wilkes-Barre's classic beer bar.
  • After that, I'll be heading for the Berwick High football game that night, but I'll probably drop in at Krugel's Deli on the way out of town, just to say hi (and maybe sign some books).
  • I'll be at Berwick Brewing after the game, but the official event is the next day...

Saturday, November 6th
Noon to 3 I'll be at Berwick Brewing, signing books in the best beer garden in NEPA!

There's another string starting November 11th, and I'll be heading for western PA on November 13th...but I'll be back to tell you about that. On the road again...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Idea That Doesn't Hold Water

What is the purpose of a beer glass?

First, I would submit, it is to hold beer and make it available to drink. Beer, that is, this stuff we enjoy, we write about, talk about, argue about, occasionally sing about, and make in huge lots -- even a small batch is about five gallons. A beer glass holds beer.

Second, it should be comfortable in the hand. A beer glass that is awkward to hold can lead to spilled beer, discomfort, and a subtle displeasure. It doesn't hurt if the glass also looks good, because that's more of that subtle pleasure/displeasure thing.

Third, I'd add, it should be relatively easy to clean -- glass cleanliness demonstrably makes beer taste better (or perhaps more accurately, uncleanliness demonstrably makes beer taste worse) -- reasonably sturdy -- I'd like to grip the glass and not worry about breaking it, which I have seen happen; not pretty -- and not wicked expensive.

Fourth? I hear a lot of fourth things about beer glasses. They should be "the right glass for the beer." Some beers, apparently, need a glass that opens up to release their aroma, while others need a glass that tapers in at the top to hold their more delicate aromas in. Some beers need thin walls to...well, I'm not real clear on that reason, though I do like a thin-walled glass, as long as I don't have to clean or replace them. Some beers need small glasses because they're high-alcohol -- I approve! -- and some deserve big glasses because they're lower in alcohol -- makes sense. And when I'm buying draft beer in unspecified amounts, I don't want to see "cheater" glasses with optically-deceptive thick walls and thick bottoms that look like glasses that hold more.

But...possibly the most common beer glass out there right now is the one on the left in the picture above, the ubiquitous Libbey shaker glass, known variously as a "shaker," a "shaker pint" (it's not a pint, and Libbey doesn't specify a volume), a "sleeve pint," or just a "pint glass." It's sturdy, it stacks well, it's cheap, and it leaves plenty of plain area for logo application. It cleans well, and yes, it's reasonably comfortable in the hand.

As you can probably guess, ubiquity has bred contempt*.The shaker glass is ugly, we're told, it's too thick, it 'cheats' the consumer because it's not really a pint, and beer just doesn't taste as good in it. Besides, the Belgians have different glasses for every beer, and the English have 20 oz. pints, and the Germans have...small glasses for kölsch!

'Ugly' is subjective. I find the stacked rows of shakers in my cupboard quite pretty, alternating up and down, colorful logos, and they fit. Some are thick, some are not (the thickest is a "Michelob Ales and Lagers" glass, but I'm not judging...).

The glass doesn't cheat the consumer: it's never been officially a 'pint glass,' we just call it that because we want to be like the English -- God help us -- and they have true pint glasses, with a fill line, because they actually care about what they're getting in a glass. If the bar advertises a "pint" and serves your beer in a shaker glass...well, you can either bitch about it, or you can realize that you saw the damned glasses before you ordered, and should have bitched then. (I bitched about the incredibly thick-walled/based and tapered shaker I got that you see to the right...and got nowhere. I didn't buy another, though, and haven't been back since, despite very good food.)

The beer doesn't taste as good? Please. The beer tastes at least as good, and if you're concentrating enough to think you notice a difference, you're a geek, so use any damned glass you want. We should have a different glass for every beer? Sure, and you'll pay for it when the ignoropulace starts stealing those cool-looking glasses. Shakers are so ubiquitous and cheap that they don't get stolen. Bonus.

I can be just as subjective as the next beer geeker. I love the willibecker glass (like the Harpoon IPA glass above). It's thin-walled, feels great in my hand, and the ones I have all have fill lines at either 0.5 or 0.3 liters. Good to go.

But I really love that Mönchshof mug of mine. It's stylish, it keeps the beer cold, it feels great in my hand, and makes an emphatic point when I pound it on the table. But mugs like it are rejected by so many beer cognoscenti. Too heavy, you can't see your beer, old-fashioned. To which I respond: so what? Too heavy? Give me a second, I'll make it lighter for ya. Can't see my beer? Shit, man, don't you know what it looks like by now? ( keeps the sunlight off your hops, eh?) And...old-fashioned? Damn right it is! So's beer!

Do you hate shaker glasses? Sweet. It's a big world, and your shaker-hating shows me it's a pretty good one: we've gotten past being pissed about frosted glasses, and dirty glasses, and chipped glasses, and a dearth of variety of beer to put in them, and we've progressed to getting pissy about which glass we're enjoying our beer from.That's great!

Time for a beer. Out of any damned glass you want.

*Andy, not picking on you in particular: there are plenty of shaker-haters out there. But I'm in a rush to get this finished, and yours was the first link that came up. When I get a moment, I'll add some links to Jeff Alworth and The Good Doctor Beaumont, who I know feel the same way you do. See you tomorrow.

You know how I feel about pumpkin beers...

I've made my feelings about pumpkin beers pretty damned clear:  "pumpkin beers mostly suck." But I also admitted that I liked some of them, and there are a couple I absolutely adore, like the amazing ShawneeCraft Pumpkin Saison. It's getting creative and crazy and genius..ish with pumpkin beers that I like. Which is why I'm telling you about this event at Hawthornes Beer Cafe that I'm gonna miss because I'll be in Pittsburgh signing books.
Join us for our 1st Annual Pumpkin Beer Dinner! 7-9 PM Sunday November 14th. We will be serving 4 savory courses paired beautifully with 4 different pumpkin beers. Southern Tier Pumking, Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, River Horse Hipp-O-Lantern and Dogfish Head Punkin'.

Amuse Bouche: Pumpkin Seed Brittle w/ cranberry and mint
1st: Pan seared Pumpkin Gnocchi, shitake mushrooms, mascarpone pancetta sage butter, pumpkin seed pesto
2nd: Coconut Curry Pumpkin Bisque w/autumn pear creme fraiche
3rd: Oven Roasted Pork Tenderloin stuffed w/spinach and sharp cheddar served over sweet bourbon walnut mash and blackberry gastrique
4th: Pumpkin Mousse w/toffee gingersnap cookie crumble
Reservations are required for this event. $50 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Sounds good to me!

Just got an e-mail not a minute after I posted this: Devil's Den is doing a pumpkin event Thursday, Oct. 28th, with 7 draft gourd brews and 6 bottled pumpkineers, and a squash-based menu: Pumpkin Soup topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, Pumpkin Ravioli with a sage brown butter, Stuffed Pork Chop with Pumpkin Stuffing, and Pumpkin Mousse. Holy gastropumpkinpub!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Session beer event in Brooklyn tomorrow!

You know I love the session beers, so I want to make sure the max people know about this. There's a "session obsession" event at The Diamond in Brooklyn tomorrow, and I'm double-posting it here and at the SBP blog. Check this out:
10/23, Saturday, 3pm, Session Obsession
  • 10 killer beers all under 4.5% abv
  • Many beers making their NYC debut
  • Stuffed cabbage, spaetzle, and pretzels
  • Real Pennsylvania ring toss tourney for free bar tab (yeah!)
We’re obsessed and possessed to find fantastic beers with relatively moderate alcoholic content.  It seems an ironic thing to promote in a craft brewing world that often equates quality with strength.  But, look closely at these Diamond featured brews and you will find some of the most challenging, exciting, and rewarding beer being made.  As a matter of fact, if you are in for the long haul playing quoits in our yard all day, they might be just the ticket to keep you going!
Rockin', eh? I can't be there: hop on a train, get on over, and drink all afternoon!

The Bookstore: I can't shut up

I'm going to miss the big grand opening event at Fork and Barrel tonight -- I'm headed to Boston for Parents' Weekend -- but it brings to mind the owners' other place, The Bookstore speakeasy in Bethlehem, which I visited back in August. I've been wanting to tell you about it -- I've been telling everyone else about it in person, I mean...I can't shut up about the place. Here's why.

I was leaving the (I gotta say it) Bourbon, Beer and Bryson Festival at Allentown Brew Works, and I'd been too busy to get a drink -- it's a tough life -- so I thought, hey, I've been meaning to check out that Bookstore speakeasy place; why not stop in? I tooled on over to Bethlehem, and dropped down onto 3rd Street, parked on 4th and cut back to Adams on foot. It is, to say the least, unpromising, a totally blank streetblock, except for a hand-done sandwich sign on the sidewalk with the Bookstore's specials. Sandwich sign? For a speakeasy?

Yeah, that was one of the things I liked about the Bookstore. They do the speakeasy thing, atmosphere, cocktails, menu, period dress, and -- wait, I'll get to the other thing, which is awesome -- but they aren't stupidly precious about it, no "you have to know someone to get in" and "we're not really here" crap like you'll see in the big city. It's more about the experience once you're inside, not the view (or lack thereof) from outside.

The doorway was a few steps down, just a blank door with "The Bookstore" on the lintel. Go in, and there are a few display counters with books, a podium, and black curtains. And an attractive young woman in 1920s dress at the podium, who will either let you in or not, depending on whether there is space. It was just me, and there were seats at the bar, so she took me right in. And that's when The Bookstore dropped my jaw.

First, before she even opened the curtain, the music was amazing. Drew Nugent and The Midnight Society  were playing their hot 20s jazz: piano, sax, trumpet, tuba, banjo, and Drew singing -- no mike, a megaphone -- and it made it so damned real right from the start. They're not there every week, but when they are... wow.

Then she opened the curtain, and that other thing I mentioned hit me: fire. There are maybe four electric lights in the whole place, and they're all for the bartenders and musicians. The rest of the light in the place comes from candles and oil lamps, which was magical. And a bit scary at first -- I'm thinking, booze and oil lamps? We're all gonna die! -- until I saw that the oil lamps were new, and had thick plastic oil reservoirs. But it was so exciting, and gorgeous, and atmospheric. The band was hot, the ceiling was low, and the vibe was electric.

I sat at the bar. There's a great beer selection -- a bit of a surprise, I figured it was all-cocktail -- but I decided to get a cocktail, because the liquor selection was excellent, the bartenders were intense, and the ice was incredible. Long drinks -- collinses and such -- got long cylinders of ice, cocktails being shaken got hand-cracked ice, so cold that a fresh block that came out frosted over immediately when they unwrapped it. I ordered a Sazerac, and it was beautiful.

Time to enjoy. Great drink. Hot jazz; which is really the first time I understood that term. This was hot jazz, musicians pushing it, pounding it, transported by the joy of their music. The people in the bar were all enjoying themselves: foodies, cocktail junkies, jazz lovers.

I thought I'd push it a bit. I looked up a cocktail recipe on my iPhone, and asked the bartender if he could make me one. He looked, smiled, and started mixing. Okay, it's an easy one: the Frisco, bourbon and Benedictine, but he took it in stride and made it happen. Beautifully stirred, which is an underrated cocktail skill, IMO.

I didn't eat -- already ate at the Brew Works -- so I can't speak to that. But this was the best bar experience I've had in months, and I cannot wait to go back. The Bookstore is one cool place; get to Bethlehem and check it out.

Craft Ale House, Tuesday: I believe you have to consider this

Just got an e-mail from Gary at the Craft Ale House in Limerick about the tap line-up for our Pennsylvania Breweries event next Tuesday the 26th, and I think you ought to take a look and give serious thought to joining us. Here's what he's got so far:

That's what he's got lined up so far. That's beer from all over the state. That's what I like to see at a PA Breweries signing!

Next Tuesday, 7 PM, at the Craft Ale House, deep in Uncle Jack territory. See you there.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dick Yuengling: "another rich cheapskate"

I've only ever seen Dick Yuengling wearing something besides jeans once. Last time I interviewed him, he chain-smoked Marlboros and stubbed them out in a used keg tap cover. So this doesn't surprise me at all. Buying the big ex-Coors plant in Memphis? That surprises me!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

PA Beer Dinner at The Farmhouse TOMORROW night!

Sorry to get this out so late...I'm hosting a three-course Pennsylvania beer dinner at The Farmhouse in Emmaus, Penna. tomorrow night at 6:30. Here's the deal:

Lew Bryson brings his newest book to the Farmhouse, celebrating the beers of Pennsylvania on Thursday, October 21st. Join us at 6:30 for a three-course dinner, prepared by Chef Javan Small, expertly paired with Lew’s picks from his exploration of Pennsylvania’s finest offerings.  Hosted by Lew Bryson. Books will be available for purchase and signing by the author. Make your reservation now: 610.967.6225
Beer Dinner Menu
Grilled Salmon
Tomatillos, daikon relish and beurre blanc
Sly Fox Pilsner  4.9% abv
Farmhouse BLT
Painted Hills burger BLT on country white
Misery Bay IPA   6.5% abv
Flourless Chocolate Cake
With butterscotch sauce
Weyerbacher Heresy   8.0% abv

This is a significant evening for me, hosting an event at The Farmhouse. I participated in my first pro tasting there back in 1993, tasting a wide assortment of lambics with Ed and Carol Stoudt, Nick Funnel (then the brewer at Dock Street, now at Sweetwater Tavern in Virginia), Bill Moeller, and -- of course -- John Hansell, who I had just started working with at Malt Advocate. I would participate in a series of tastings there; they had one hell of a beer program for the early 1990s. And now...I'm back. Come join me!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Philly Brewing keeps it local with Harvest From The Hood

Philly Brewing has done it again: another batch of Harvest From The Hood is on the streets, featuring a retro cheesecake-lite label (I can see the tops of her hose!) and righteous hops aroma from locally-grown hops. Yeah, locally-grown, as in "inside Philadelphia County." This video, with its Red Army Choir soundtrack and a narrator who sounds like John Facenda after a few shots of Powers, is something I'd love to see more of. Celebrate your beer!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Major Yuengling expansion on the table

Just got a press release from Yuengling about the purchase of the Hardy Bottling Facility in Memphis. They are in negotiations for the purchase, and have signed a letter of intent. Here's the first paragraph:
Dick Yuengling, Jr., president and owner of D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., today announced the company has signed a letter of intent and is in serious discussions for the purchase of the Hardy Bottling Facility in Memphis, Tennessee, which will allow them to distribute Yuengling lager, their flagship brand and Yuengling's much sought after portfolio of brands in select new markets in the United States.

The "Hardy Bottling Facility" is the former Coors brewery in Memphis, where they made Zima at one time. Carolyn Hardy, the former plant manager, led an employee buyout of the facility in 2006. Apparently, things have not gone quite as well as they might have hoped. Unfortunate for the company, but if Yuengling does make the purchase, they have a track record of saving jobs. I don't know if the workers at Hardy are unionized or not; Yuengling took on the union workers in Tampa, and they later voted to de-certify. The release did say that no plants will be closing, and no jobs will be lost: great news.

So why did Yuengling decide to buy yet another facility, not long after expanding the newer Pottsville brewery? I thought they had capacity to spare. Apparently not:
Our three existing plants, two in Pennsylvania and one in Tampa, FL are limited in their production capabilities. In addition, the cost of freight and logistics challenges our ability to market our products at the competitive prices to our loyal consumers.
Good news for the people who've been hankering for Yuengling. The release made no promises on timing: "We can not put a specific timeline on this yet, only to say our company is working very hard to manage our growth in our usual slow and methodical manner." 

Okay. What's this mean? Well, first, it means New England should finally see Yuengling, along with other parts of the country that are jonesing for an American-made, American-owned light lager beer, a beer with a real history behind it, from America's oldest brewery. Sounds hokey, but I think it's real; it's certainly worked for them in Pennsylvania.

Maybe more importantly, it puts Yuengling on the national radar. Up till now, the big boys could call it a regional brewery. Now they're going national, in their "slow and methodical manner." Will they continue to do things "the Yuengling way," feet on the street, not a lot of reliance on marketing and laptops, leaning on the beer and the story? I believe that's the way to bet.

The joker in the deck is Dick Yuengling. He's getting older, his daughters are in the business, things are it time to retire? My guess is no. I think Dick wants to take his shot at a national market, and judging from how he sounded when I interviewed him last November, I think he's ready for it. I really wonder what will happen when the torch passes, and the daughters are, inevitably, offered a buyout deal from a much, much bigger brewer. Impossible to predict the result. We'll just have to wait and see.

More here from the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ronnie Eddins: see you later on, fella

I just learned the long-time Buffalo Trace warehouseman Ronnie Eddins died this afternoon after a fight with cancer. Ronnie was a great guy, quick with a big smile, and always patient. I only got to talk to him at length about bourbon whiskey one time, and I'm still learning from that interview; I'll be thinking about something, and I'll think of something Ronnie said, and things will suddenly fit into place and make sense.

Ronnie was behind a lot of Trace's current Experimental Collection. He'd been at the warehouse over 30 years, and he would follow barrels, and areas in the different warehouses (and Trace has a lot of different warehouse types), and keep track of what worked, what was interesting, and what didn't work. I still remember him telling me that he'd learned that the fog off the nearby Kentucky River had an effect on the barrels in open warehouses.

I remember something else Ronnie told me. "You know, in your life, you only get about two chances to learn from a 15 year old bourbon. There's your first one, and you learn from it all along the time, and you put all that into the second one. By the time the second one's done, you're usually about done too." It was a profound statement about whiskey making, and about a man's life. You don't get many chances to do things right, or to learn something worth passing on. You have to take them, and make the most of them.

Ronnie was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame last month, a well-deserved honor, and the first warehouseman to be inducted; a long-overdue honor. We gave him a Malt Advocate Lifetime Achievement award in 2008, and I'm very glad we did. A mutual friend told me Ronnie was just amazed that people would honor him, or even know who he was. I'll honor him, and I'll never forget him. Go with God, Ronnie Eddins.

Looking for "The Drink That Satisfies"

I'm not huge on sweet drinks; I'm a beer and whiskey man, and generally a lush bourbon or a Speyside, a good barleywine is about as sweet as I go. But when I do want a little sweet something, usually late on a winter's evening, as often as not the bottle I reach for is Drambuie, the Scottish liqueur. The herbs and honey and whisky make a wonderful warming sensation (and it's great in a hot cup of Earl Grey tea, too).

That's why when I was asked if I wanted to be a judge in a Drambuie cocktail competition, I said "Sure!" Best of all, you can join me. It's called "Nail or Fail," a reference to the classic Rusty Nail cocktail, it's at Ladder 15 on Sansom St., and it starts at 7 PM on Monday the 18th. The winner will be announced at 10 PM.

If you've never had Drambuie -- or any drink like it -- you ought to take the opportunity. I've developed a new appreciation for the sweet drinks, as in, you don't need to just drink them as is -- wow, they're sweet! -- or in coffee/tea -- though that is good -- you can drink them in cocktails (I've been enjoying the hell out of the Frisco cocktail: 2 oz. of good bourbon, 1/4 oz. of Benedictine, stirred with ice, strained, and a twist of lemon peel) or cut/contrast them (I was on a Kahlua press trip in Mexico in February (story coming in January in Massachusetts Beverage Business) and learned that Kahlua on ice with a big wedge of lime is awesome). So I'm looking forward to seeing what some pros can do with Drambuie.

Happy to see Zitner's succeed

Cheering story in the Inquirer this morning about the Zitner Candy company. The local (North Philly) company is 90 years old, and was a family business for the first 70 years, under Sam and Annie Zitner, and then their nephew Leon Sherman. Sidney Rosenblatt bought the company after Sherman's death in 1990, then sold it last August to partners Evan Prochniak, Kenneth Schuster, and Sam Sherman...90 years, only four owners. That's almost as good as Yuengling!

The story just made me smile. Zitner's is locally famed for their Easter candies: chocolate 'eggs' filled with peanut butter (yum!), coconut and marshmallow (I guess you have to make those, but I don't know why), and their signature Butter Krak eggs. I get one Butter Krak egg a year, simply because if I got more than one, I'd buy a case a week and weigh 450 pounds. Seriously, folks, they're not called "krak" for nothing.

It's great to see a local candy company surviving -- excelling! -- and selling candy in every convenience store in the area, not just specialty places. It's good stuff. Are there better chocolates? Of course. But Zitner's is solidly local, and like Peeps, they're doing well against the nationals. I always love to see that. Don't forget to get your Butter Krak on when spring rolls around!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beer & Cheese at Dawson Street always

I've told you about the Thursday beer and cheese pairings at the Dawson Street Pub. They've been sending the menus pretty regularly, but this one caught my eye as worth your notice:

Beer and Cheese Pairing featuring Brews from Belukus Marketing
Thursday, October 14

Timmermans Bourgogne des Flandres Brune and Aged Gouda, Netherlands
This Ale is very similar to the Flemish Brown Ales with the exception of its initial sour taste. The slight sourness soon opens to a brown taste and mild finish. Aged Gouda is a semi-firm, yet supple, Cheese that holds minute crystals that give it a fun texture. The Cheese is fairly mild in flavor, but has just the right touch of saltiness and sweetness to work well with the Brew.(Timmermans? Oud Brune? Really?)

Wells Banana Bread Ale and Farmhouse Cheddar, England
This is an elemental Pairing. The Brew follows a traditional Ale recipe, but has a unique “fair trade” Banana flavor that is abundant in the aroma and body. The earthy nose of the Cheese will balance the sweetness and slight toffee characteristics of the Beer. The tangy and sharp flavor of the natural Farmhouse Cheddar will cut through the creamy head and lead you to the smooth body of the Ale.

Belhaven Wee Heavy and Manchego, La Mancha Region of Spain
Wee Heavy is a classic style Ale taken from Scottish brewing recipes of the 1800s. It starts sweet and finishes dry. In between there is a rich and complex character that incorporates a delicately smokey taste. The mildness of the Sheep’s Milk Cheese, seeping with hints of Lanolin, will allow the complexity of the Ale to really come through. This Manchego is Curado, or cured, and aged about 13 weeks. The slightly briny and nutty flavor of the Cheese will balance with the malty aroma of the Ale.

As always The Cheese selections are available from our Friends at The Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, 8509 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, 215.242.2211 

Monday, October 11, 2010

"...this state's very first brewery-operated Growler Shop."

Pennsylvania's wineries get all the breaks. They get those nice roadside signs telling tourists where they are, they get to be the only wines sold outside the State Store System (although the State Store System repays the favor by largely ignoring them (of course they do: they're not part of the monopoly, so they must be punished!)), and they get to have winery stores, off-premise stores where they can sell their wines without the PLCB running the show. Up until now, Pennsylvania's brewers didn't do anything like that. Up until now, Pennsylvania's brewers were just selling at the brewery.

Up until now...or rather, up until last Friday, when East End Brewing opened their Growler Shop at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip. They're filling growlers Fridays 12-6, Saturdays 9-5, and Sundays 12-4, from four taps: three of the year-round beers -- Big Hop, Monkey Boy, Black Strap Stout, Fat Gary, or the Session series -- and a seasonal. There may be more taps coming in the future, but for now, it's just those four; no bottles, no kegs. They also have East End shtuff: caps, shirts, glasses, and yes, Black Strap cake mix (how about some more of that coffee?). (Yes, if you've seen this post before...that's a new picture, and that really is the Growler Shop; thanks to Douglas "Father Spoon" Derda of Should I Drink That? for the pic!)

I like this idea. Local beer at the local market. What could be better? Well...local beer and your favorite beer writer at the local market! It looks like I'll be doing a signing at the Growler Shop on Sunday afternoon, November 14th. Hope to see you there!

Gamble Pays Off

I hate putting unopened breweries in my books. I've been burned in the past when brewers swore they were in great shape, 'Yeah, you bet, we're gonna open!", only to have the whole plan collapse in a heap, leaving a ghost entry in my nice new book. So I was apprehensive when I did up an entry for Gamble Mills, a restaurant in Bellefonte, Penn., that was adding a house brewery. I wasn't optimistic, but I did it because I have a weak spot for this beautiful little town.

My optimism is rewarded: According to the Centre Daily Times yesterday, Gamble Mills' beers are just about ready to start pouring. The only thing holding them up -- tell me if you're surprised -- is a "minor licensing issue" that they hope to have cleared up by this Friday. That's when brewer Mike Smith -- late of Dogfish Head and Ithaca Brewing -- hopes to open the taps on HB 48, a golden session-strength ale named for the bill the restaurant's owners (Dave Fonash and Paul Kendeffy) had to hire a lawyer to shepherd through the state legislature to overcome their other problem. According to the article, "An old Pennsylvania law prohibited existing restaurants from converting into breweries." News to me, but given the crap that fills The Almighty Liquor Code, I'm not surprised. 
That's all taken care of now, though, and Smith will have HB 48, a saison, and a pale ale ready to roll on the 15th...assuming the PLCB manages to get their act together and get the licensing cleared (actually, that's not fair -- I don't know that it's a PLCB issue; it might be local). Best of luck...and thanks for making the book look good!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Back in San Francisco

It's WhiskyFest season again, and I've been running around the Bay Area since Wednesday evening. The Malt Advocate staff, all six of us, landed around 5 local, just in time to get the news of Doc Halladay's epochal postseason no-hitter. We were pumped for the evening. The women headed out to dinner, John and Jamie and I headed for Toronado and a rendezvous with beers and Dave "Big Daddy" Keene.

We found 'em. I got stuck into a Moonlight Death and Taxes schwarz right quick, then Brian's Twist of Fate and Bombay by Boat, both on cask. We got sausages from Rosamunde next door (got my usual Merguez, awesome, and had a bite of a "spare" Thai chicken with slaw and satay; outstanding), then moved into the back room to try four vintages of Cable Car (sigh...), and dove into the big Duvel you see Dave holding up here (that's Jamie in the background). We wound up heading out to the Pi Bar (more Death & Taxes and a couple slices), then closed the hotel bar (Trumer Pils, always welcome).

Dang. I thought I'd get more written -- about lunch with Jay Brooks at Triple Rock, Beer Revolution,  vegan soul food (really), Angel's Envy, a beautiful mojito at Zuni Cafe, and a dram of 35 year old Ardbeg this morning with Rachel Barrie...but I've been watching the Blue Angels roar through the amazingly blue sky over the city, and Thomas called to let me know he got part of his birthday present (a fog gun, because 19 year old guys need toys too), and, well...I'll write more later. Gotta go to WhiskyFest right now!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10 - 10 - 10 at the Hulmeville Inn

We're setting up another Pennsylvania Breweries event at the Hulmeville Inn this Sunday, which is 10/10/10; kind of auspicious. I'll be signing books, and we'll be doing another charity keg (on Steve Hawk's back!) to benefit pancreatic cancer research. I'll also be donating $2 from each book to pancreatic cancer research, so come on out and get some Christmas presents! (We need to do a lot of books this time; Jeff  at the Hulmeville has competition issues, and he heard that the most books I ever signed at one event was 46; he aims to beat that!) We'll get underway at about 1:00. I'll be there shortly after that (I'm singing noon mass at St. Andrew's and will be headed down just after).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pennsylvania Breweries launches at Victory tomorrow!

Tomorrow -- Tuesday, October 5th --is the official launch party for Pennsylvania Breweries 4th edition at Victory Brewing in Downingtown. If you haven't made plans, join us -- and if you've made other plans, you might want to break them!

Because this is more than just a book signing and Bryson Blabfest! We're going to start at 6:00 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!