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Monday, January 31, 2011

Hawbaker to Philly and a Center City brewpub

Following up on the earlier post, I got this from Terry Hawbaker:
The new place is called The Grainery. It will be located in center city Philly and is being put together by the Fork and Barrel folks. Think Fork and Barrel meets the Bookstore Speakeasy with a small artisanal brewery on premise.Very small brewery focusing on farmhouse ales, barrel-aged wild beers and all the freaky fun stuff... in addition there will be several more beers on tap and in bottle from all over the world with a bent towards the small, artisan producers from Scandinavia, Belgium, Italy, Germany and so forth. 
Which sounds exactly like the kind of place Philly's beer scene needs. Because like I said beforePhiladelphia needs more brewpubs to truly be a great beer town. This would be one more. I know of at maybe two others that are coming. Look, I love the ones we have, truly, I do, but Portland is laughing at us. You want to put up with that? I don't. I want more brewpubs. We can support them, God knows.

The problem I keep hearing is that it's so expensive, and we're not talking about real estate. We're talking about licenses, and inspections, and taxes, and labor costs... Hey, the city may need a government finance enema, but you know? There are still restaurants opening! Sell a brewpub to Starr, for God's sake, or to our man Garces, let's GO!

Folks: Terry's coming to town. He's gonna need competition to get his game tuned up proper.

PA Breweries 4 heads to Reading!

Hello, Reading! I'm headed up for a signing next week, Tuesday, February 8th. I'll be at the Canal Street Pub from 5 Pm to 7 PM, celebrating a Pennsylvania tap dance with them: at least ten different Pennsylvania beers on draft, come out and get your tasting on!

After 7 PM, I'll be talking to the Berks County Homebrew Club there at the pub; it's their monthly meeting, and a great opportunity to stop in and find out more about homebrewing (and Pennsylvania brewing!).

Hope to see you in Reading next week.

Terry Hawbaker to leave the Bullfrog

Me and Terry in the barrel basement at Bullfrog.
The rumors are true: Terry Hawbaker is leaving the Bullfrog in Williamsport. The search for his replacement has begun. Terry is leaving for reasons of personal development; not a euphemism for anything else at all, he's just done all he can do in that arena. Williamsport, despite the Marcellus Shale boom and the galaxy of small breweries that have popped up in the area, is still Williamsport, and Terry's talents could get a better display, and perhaps more latitude for development, elsewhere.

What's he have lined up? Sworn to secrecy, I'm afraid, though I believe Uncle Jack has a piece to the puzzle (and I hope I get the nod to blab when it's time!). Should be good; trust me on that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Burns Day!

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Happy Burns Day, everyone! Much like they'll tell us we're all Irish on St. Patrick's Day, surely with a poet of the people like Robbie Burns we are all Scottish today. I'm taking a wee dram throughout the day and will be updating this post as I go.

The first: Tomintoul 12 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish. Picked this up after WhiskyFest last year (we do get some 'gleanings,' cuz the whiskyfolks just love us), and I've been enjoying it. Here's why: The sherry finish adds a dark gold to this 12 year old, and a somewhat impertinent sweet edge to the nose, which sports fresh malt, spring-fresh grass, and a hint of grape. It rolls in the mouth quite nicely: balanced, joyously young and vibrant, while the sherry notes back off considerably from the nose -- which works well for me -- and there's a nice malty dryness on the very tail end of the finish.

While you're waiting on the next dram, here's a Burns song to entertain you.

Onward! It's 1 PM, and time for the next dram. Scots wha hae! (Wha hae uisge, that is...) Shocker: it's a blend. Islay Mist 8 Years Old, and it's good and peaty, so don't blow a single malt gasket. I'm not kidding about that peat, either: the reek's plenty stiff in the nose, and it's not bad on the palate, either. It runs a bit thin, maybe, but that does help make it a good afternoon-at-work whisky! There's a nice sweetness here, some fudge and honey notes, and it doesn't taste 8 years young, either; skillful blending (remember: "8 Years Old" is just the age of the youngest whisky used). Whoops -- it's all gone!

Here's some video fun to hold you to the next dram.

A quickie: I had a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask that the good people at Beam Global sent me last month -- apparently just for fun at Christmas, God bless 'em -- and took it along last Friday when I headed up to speak at the MBAA New England winter meeting. I stopped at a brewpub in the boston area that will remain nameless (for legal reasons), and after shaking hands with old friends, asked if it would be okay if I opened up the whisky. Well...just a bit, and then put it away -- licensing issues, completely understandable -- so we got a few glasses and did that...and the cork broke. Huh. I poured some drams, and managed to put the stub of the cork back in; I had an idea. (The whisky, BTW, was excellent: roaring with peat smoke, but with a solid sweet malt basement that was just lip-smacking.) I carefully tucked it in my backpack and headed for the MBAA meeting. The first thing I said when it was time for my talk: "I have a problem with a bottle of Laphroaig: the cork's busted, can't take it home. Can you guys help me drink it?" No problem! Everyone got some delicious Laphroaig, and I sounded much, much better to them...

Another video: things get strange around 5:55.

More! Time for the Glenfarclas 12 Year Old malt. Wow: sherry really comes through in the nose, a big juicy shot of deep-profiled fruit. But it's just a big old boy of a malt in the mouth, curling a hint of smoke and some of that sherry wood in the finish. I do like Glenfarclas for its muscle, its body, and we're getting into bigger drams as the day gets older. What next?

A cute news item on Gung Haggis Fat Choy next...

Next dram! It's the Jura 21 Year Old. 21 years of dark amber wood, and some sherry and sweet orange notes in this big knocker of a nose. Time to sip. Hoo, that's got some dry wood to it, and some of that good sherry, and some sweet malt. It's a bit prickly, though, with more heat than I'd expect from 43% ABV. Still might go back for more.

More drams to come; till then, enjoy this one.

Last dram? Yeah, probably. I got caught up in reading a new (to me) Gettysburg book and got a wee bit sidetracked. But I saved a good one: Glenfarclas 25 Year Old. It's oaky and herbal in the nose, some hints of wine and honey. Oh. The way this flows and evolves across the tongue is beautiful. At first there's an almost bitter hit of wood that quickly blooms into toffee sweetness and a pleasingly coarse grassiness; not the sweet innocence of spring grass, but the more challenging grass of early fall; herbal, still sweet, but broader. The sweetness increases into the finish as the malt builds, but the wood returns at the end to put a finish to things. A smoothly dynamic dram. Yes, a good end to the day.  

Slainte! And a good Burns Day to us all, for the man knits us up, a seamless cloth of humanity.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MGD 64 Lemonade: I'm not kidding

"MillerCoors Plans Lemonade Beer"

That's an actual headline from the Wall Street Journal. I'm not making this up. Let's get a couple relevant quotes, and then shred this. Here's a  beauty from the Chicago Tribune:
The company expects the brew to attract new consumers to the beer category and to capitalize “on the growing consumer interest in flavored beers,” Andy England, chief marketing officer for Chicago-based MillerCoors, said in a memo to employees Friday.
They better hope something works, because:
Miller Genuine Draft 64, named for the number of calories it contains, got off to an auspicious start after its national rollout in 2008. But sales have cooled. The brand’s unit sales to retailers fell by a double-digit rate in the third quarter, the company said in November, while MillerCoors’s overall sales to retailers declined 4 percent. 
Does that sound familiar? Chillingly familiar? That's right!
MillerCoors, a joint venture of U.K. beer giant SABMiller PLC and U.S.-Canadian brewer Molson Coors Brewing Co., has struggled with another fruit-flavored brand: Miller Chill. The lime-infused light lager enjoyed a strong debut in 2007, but its sales slid after larger rival Anheuser-Busch Inc. unveiled Bud Light Lime the next year.
Hey, if ABIB 'steals' lime (i.e., does it better, which Bud Light Lime did: Chill was poorly executed), just go to lemon! They'll never think of copying that! 

The two/three (your call: is "MillerCoors" one big brewer, or two?) big brewers are having a bad time of it. The economy is clobbering their main consumers, and craft beer has apparently reached a tipping point that has consumers across the spectrum interested, despite higher prices. Mainstream beer is taking an ass-whipping, even light beer sales are down (they're actually up over the last two quarters, I believe...but only because the previous year's numbers were so bad), and the mainstream imports are having their damned lunch eaten (and getting kicked around the schoolyard to boot). 

No, wait...Yuengling is pretty much mainstream -- a bit out of it, but it's essentially a light lager made with a substantial amount of corn, and they do have a light beer -- and they're kicking ass and looking for a new production plant. Could it be that it's actually...the big brewers' marketing that sucks? Oh, man, if the marketing fails...

Here's what happens when the marketing fails. ABIB's sales dropped 3.1% last year (MillerCoors fell 3.4% over that period). But things are not unhappy at the big brewers. Why?
The two brewers, which together account for nearly four out of every five beers sold in the U.S., still have managed to record steady profit growth, offsetting their weaker sales volumes by raising prices and cutting costs. 
Sound business practice, leading to expansion...well, no. What this really leads to is retiring debt, and then going to look for other breweries to buy and ravage -- sorry, lead to new heights of world domination. Rumors are rife that Diageo may finally be ready to unload Guinness (there are even some rumors that ABIB might be ready to just eat Diageo whole), and Grupo Modelo is a likely target. Carlsberg and Heineken are probably safe from takeover because of their ownership structure, but analysts are predicting that the final round of consolidation may at last be upon us, as the signs from the Book of Revelations appear. (It's getting tighter in spirits, too: Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, LVMH (who seems more interested in buying up more luxury goods than booze lately), United, and Gruppo Campari are circling like wrasslers in a huge cage match, while Brown-Forman and Fortune hang out in the corners. That one's gonna get bloody.)

Who will win? I guarantee it won't be the consumer, and government anti-monopoly agencies seem to be nowhere in sight.

Meanwhile, that "growing consumer interest in flavored beers"? Like the smartass fish used to tell Charlie the Tuna, consumers aren't interested in flavored beer, they're interested in beer with flavor.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More snowy fun in Philly...sigh...

From the Tria/Biba family. This is getting annoying. If it snows out here, all I can do is pop open fantastic beers and whiskeys and watch the Corgis romp; fun, but not real social!

Snow 1

Michael's Got a Case of... Sexy Sparkling Sekt
Sekt is what Austrians call their méthode champenoise (Champagne-style) sparkling wines.  Tonight's rendition, crafted from Chardonnay blended with trendy Grüner Veltliner, comes from Terry Theise, the eccentric importer who put Austrian wines in American minds.  Our special price is worthy of celebration.  But remember: Sparkling wine is not just for special occasions.

The Case Sekt, Nigl, '07 (Kremstal, Austria)  $15   $7½
Location Biba Wine Bar
Date Tuesday, January 11 TONIGHT!

Snow 2

Drink and Eat Your Oatmeal!
We generally pair beer with cheese, but tonight we're pairing Terrapin Wake 'N' Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout with oatmeal raisin cookies from The Famous 4th Street Cookie Co.  A delicious combo for your inner child and a special price.

The Combo Terrapin Wake 'N' Bake (10oz) plus large cookie   $5½
Location Tria Rittenhouse Square
Date Tuesday, January 11 TONIGHT!
Starts at 4pm

Snow 3

Big Weather Calls for Big Beer
We're tapping Dogfish Head's legendary Olde School Barleywine today at 4pm.  If this monster of a brew doesn't keep you warm, you'd better check your pulse.  Plus enjoy our 5 for 5. 5 to 7 happy hour - from 5 to 7, of course.

The Beer Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine (5oz)   $5
Location Tria Wash West
Date Tuesday, January 11 TONIGHT!
Starts at 4pm

Snow in/from the Sierras at Resurrection

Look...I know I've been gone. More about that later. I'm healthy, just busy. And I'm sorry.

But back to work. And that's letting Philadelphians know that once again I'm going to miss the snowy beer fun, but you don't have to. I'm sure there are numerous snowy fun things planned, but Resurrection Ale House got this to me, and it looks really good (I'm gritting my teeth at not going), so here you are:
Shovel? Check.
Salt? Check.
Day off of work tomorrow? Looking ever more likely.
We've got a plan to help you make the most of tomorrow's impending snow day! Join us all day (1/11/11) for a Sierra Nevada tap take over...ALL DRAFTS are just $4 from 4-6pm!

Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale
30th Anniversary - Fritz And Ken's Ale
30th Anniversary - Charlie, Fred And Ken's Ale
30th Anniversary - Jack & Ken's Ale
Estate Brewers Harvest Ale
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Hoptimum (a Beer Camp Imperial IPA)

2425 Grays Ferry Avenue (Corner of Catharine + Grays Ferry)

Other snow treks are welcome to pile on in the comments. Be safe out there, folks: don't leave anyone behind. Have fun!