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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Great Pig Dinner next Tuesday: join me!

I'm hosting a special pig dinner at The Farm and Fisherman next Tuesday, December 6, and  talking about beer and food pairing. The Farm and Fisherman is a BYOB, so chef/owner Josh Lawler and I are going to drive up to Lancaster the day before and pick up growlers of Spring House beer...which we will then pour for free out of the goodness of our hearts. Josh is the little brother of an old friend of mine, Tom Lawler, and we've all been doing this kind of road trip for years...we'll be sure to regale you with tales of the trip, because I doubt it's going to be as simple as drive up, get beer, drive back...
Now, when I said "pig dinner," I didn't mean it's a meal with pork. Josh opened this little place in Philly (which has the foodies peeing themselves, BTW) after serving as chef de cuisine at Blue Hill at Stone Barn,which is rewriting the book on locally-raised food for the east coast. I have to be honest with you: Tom's been telling me for years how brilliant Josh is, and I figured he was full of brotherly pride (crap, that is), but it turns out Josh really is freakin' brilliant. So, that "pig dinner?" He's making it out of a whole pig. He's getting the pig from Wyebrook Farm in Honey Brook, and then he's going to get busy, working three courses of pig (and locally-raised produce, and let me tell you...if this dude ever wanted to go vegan, he could open one of the best vegan joints in Philly immediately; he's got a way with root veggies) out of that purchase. The dessert is not pig-based, but he will be using beer to make it. 
Me? I'll be talking about how and why the beers pair with the meal, why we paired those particular beers with the courses, telling tales of Spring House and brewer Matt Keasey, telling stories about Tom and Josh, and generally keeping you entertained and enlightened. For those of you lucky enough to have been at my private tastings, you know that I always bring some surprises, too, so...this is going to be a fun night. The Farm and Fisherman may not be on your beery, boozy radar, but it's clearly on some folks'; check out this review at PhillyMag. My God, except for the inevitable cranks, they even love it on Yelp.
The pig dinner is $75, very limited space (about 36), so get on the ball and nail down your spot. This is one of the hot dining spots in Philly right now; join me for some great food and fun (and those surprises, too!). Call 'em and get it done: 267 687 1555

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shiner Oktoberfest...a little late, but still

Got some samples of this one, and, know what my blogging's been like lately. But I had one today, and remembered what the others were like, and I gotta say: if you see any of this award-winning (European awards; up against German ofests...really) festbier, you ought to get some. Solid malt, that elusive Munich dry malt character, full and tasty, great with food...keep an eye out for it next year. (And keep an eye out for the Shiner Export, too: fantastic Dortmunder, and I really hope it's back.)

Shake your Tailgate feathers, win some cool shwag

My good friend Kerry Byrne, the Potentate of Pigskin, and the Kingpin of the Coldest, Hardest Football Facts in the business -- seriously, I didn't know diddley about football until Kerry asked me to write about beer for the site for two years*, and now I know way too much -- wants you to fire up your grills, pickup trucks, deep-fryers, and portable refrigerators for the Tailgate Recipe of The Year contest, sponsored by Football Nation, Whole Foods, and our mutually-admired buddies at Harpoon Brewery.

What's that sponsorship mean? It's not just advertising bucks, it's prizes. If your recipe for tailgating greatness wins, you're up for the big prize package, delivered to your home for Super Bowl:
  • Brand New 46-inch Flat Screen Television
  • Tailgate Meal for 10 From Whole Foods Market, Delivered by Football Nation
  • Harpoon Brewery “Everything But the Beer” Tailgate Package (and no, I don't know what that means either, but you can bet it's for legal reasons!)
  • Mr. Bar-B-Q Tailgate Package Including Collegiate Grill Mat and Grill Cover, 30 Piece Barbecue Tool Set and Grill Accessories

Cool, right? So start cooking.

Just keep in mind: bring your A game, because you're going up against stuff -- and I use that term specifically -- like Kerry's own Deep-Fried Stuffing Balls. They're not Schweddy, they're stuffing, and I have it on good authority that they are "the best part of the stuffing." So get to work: you've got till December 12!

*Did some of my best stuff for them, too: check out this piece about getting blitzed, and this piece about malt liquor, and this one about vodka.

The Hulmeville Inn RULES

Thanks to the Hulmeville Inn, Jeff Lavin, and ALL the folks who gave so generously Sunday afternoon: we raised almost $1200 for pancreatic cancer research...WITH BEER!! You folks are beautiful! My thanks also to the folks who came to the Hulmeville for the first time just for this event (okay, and the six Russian River drafts they were pouring), including members of my church choir!
It was a great day. My dad never went to the Hulmeville, but twice the folks there have turned out their pockets in his memory, and to help smack down this swift, vicious killer. If Jeff will keep offering, I'll keep doing this; help me make this a big annual event. And bars/brewers: I'll be happy to come host a pancreatic cancer fundraiser at YOUR place of business. Just drop me a line and we'll talk. Thanks again!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hell's Bells...

I understand that Bell's will be bringing the dark to Devil's Den on December 21st: appropriate, as the winter solstice is a dark day indeed. "Bringing the dark" is, of course, all about stouts, which has been an obsession of Larry Bell's since the earliest days. The goodies at Devil's Den will include the rare and wonderful Black Note, for only the second time in Philly; we're told that the first time it showed, the keg kicked in minutes ten. Be forewarned!

If I can't manage to get to Selin's Grove for the anniversary celebrations...might just have to get down with the blackness at Devil's Den.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Susquehanna Brewing: very serious

Just got a press release from the not-open-yet Susquehanna Brewing Company (a Facebook page...don't nobody do websites no more?): they've hired Jaime Jurado as their master brewer and "operations partner."

Well...I've wondered for quite a while if SBC is serious. They've got a ton of money, and beer sales experience, and links to PA brewing (partner Fred Maier is a descendant of Charles Stegmaier), but they're leaping into this big, with a 50 bbl. BrauKon system at the get-go -- which has, I gotta say, been a harbinger of failure in the past (not BrauKon, of course, but huge start-up equipment) -- and talk of banking on what sound like cross-over, gateway beers. A risky strategy.

Stole this from Jay Brooks, and will give it back if he asks!
But I have to tell you, this is a strong move. I've known Jaime for almost 20 years, and the man's one of the strongest technical brewers I know. He's brewed all over the world -- including a stint at The Lion! -- and has strong family ties to the Wyoming Valley. He's leaving a position he's held since 1997 as director of brewing operations for Gambrinus: that's Shiner, BridgePort, and Trumer, all excellent breweries (and if you're laughing at me for including Shiner in that, first off, get over your geeky self, and second, have a couple of their recent Ofests and get some of their excellent Export before you say another word...geek). The improvements he made at Shiner (funded in large part by Gambrinus's position as importer for Corona in the eastern US and Texas until recently ("Banco de Corona," as Jaime put it when we toured the eye-poppingly modern and well-equipped brewery)) alone are impressive, but the man's a published brewing chemist with references out the ying-yang. I'm very much taking Susquehanna Brewing seriously this morning.

That said, I still have concerns. I saw Independence ("Get it while it lasts!") buy big, get a good brewer, and fail with mainstreamy beers and no clue on how to sell beer. I also worry about a press release that has WTF paragraphs like this in it:
SBC represents a new direction in the exciting trajectory of American craft brewing. Founded by the former beer distributors of United Beverage in Pittston, PA, with a rich history of significant regional breweries in one family, as well as a multi-generation beer distribution enterprise in the other, this is the first successful beer distribution company to take up brewing… but being from brewing across generations, there already exists hand’s-on experience from running a regional brewery in the organization in its President.
I'm sure the beer will be better, I'm dead certain of it. The question is, with The Lion already making some pretty good crossover stuff that no one in the Wyoming Valley seems to want to buy, where's the market, especially when you've got 50 bbls. at a time? I guess we'll see. Best of luck, truly, because I'd like to see this succeed. NEPA deserves it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hey, let's put on a show!

Hello, Faithful Readers! Time to finally let this cat out of the bag. Back in May, I was approached about being involved in a television show on beer. The idea was "American Beer Blogger," and it would be a blogger who went and visited places, talked beer, asked questions, and did things...and I was the blogger. They'd looked at my blog and liked it (as I recall, the guy (John Wright) said he'd looked at the blog and in one screen laughed out loud twice and saw a Star Trek reference, which was good enough for him.)

I thought about it for a while -- it's silly to think about at first, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at my picture -- and said sure, might as well take a shot. So not long afterwards I was up at Stoudt's at 7:30 AM, getting ready to do a day of shooting with Ed, Carol, and Eddie, and the incredibly friendly and engaging (and professional) crew from Green Leaf Productions in Easton. The guy who came up with the idea, Laz Melan (who owns the Pickled Egg bar in Easton), was there too.

We'd discussed some general ideas about what we wanted to do, but really? No script, not even a plan beyond we were going to talk at the bottling line -- not my first choice, but what the hell -- talk to Carol, and have something to eat. We made the rest of it up as we went along, and you know, it came out pretty well. I'm at my best in front of a camera when I'm not trying to do something from memory, so it rolled out pretty naturally.

Well, what then? Then we did a little more stuff, some wind-up stuff (which we later augmented at my Philly Beer Week event at Devil's Den, out of which you may yet see Christine Gumpper on the TV), and wrapped it, and the Green Leaf guys went back to Easton to edit, assuring me that we had some good stuff in the can. And then, except for the Devil's Den stuff, and a little more taping at the recent bourbon thing at Allentown Brew Works...nothing happened.

Well, not quite. They did show me the clip you see above -- hope you've watched it! -- and I thought, damn, that's pretty cool, and so did my family, but I didn't really show it to anyone else. Not sure why, but I didn't.

And then yesterday, about two minutes before Green Leaf's Kickstarter went up, I got an email from them asking if it was okay to put all those rewards that banked on my autograph to motivate people (HA!) up on the proposal. Sure, I said, why not? And away we went, and yesterday was a wild, wild ride.

So I'm coming to you to ask for help; specifically, I'm asking for money. Please pledge to the Kickstarter. The money's not going to me -- it's not really my Kickstarter -- it's going to Green Leaf to fund the full editing and marketing the idea to a channel. There are rewards, sure, and although some of them do get kind of interesting up towards the high end -- I'd like to come do a screening in your hometown! -- do it for beer. Seriously. And here's why.

I promise you that this is going to be the real thing, not infomercial, or silly-scripted, or "oh, look who I just happened upon today!" It's going to be me, calling a brewer, or bar owner, or beer store owner/manager, and setting up a visit -- just like I do all the time -- going to their place and looking around and asking questions and tasting some beers and having some fun -- like I always do. The only thing I may do differently is some of the stuff they had me doing in the teaser: actually working, if only for a little bit, because that's fun, and it's something I'd like to do anyway. But we'll talk beer, we'll get our facts straight, and it won't be boring.

So think about it, and if you have any questions, ask. I'll be updating this as we go, and keeping my fingers crossed. In the meantime, please spread the word!

Wish me luck! And pledge!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Not about drinks...but still local

We joined a new CSA this year, Anchor Run, just outside of Wrightstown, here in Bucks County. It actually grew out of a conversation I struck up with a guy at Watch City Brewing in Waltham, Mass., of all places. I was having dinner there (I was in the area to do an event), and just started talking to the guy next to me about local beer, and local food, and local produce, and how I belonged to a CSA...and not only is Derek McGeehan a farmer running a CSA, he runs the CSA that's nearest to my home in Bucks County...and he loves craft beer!

Well, who am I to kick Fate in the balls? We joined Anchor Run, and we've been enjoying it, all through the heavy rains, and the four hours of weeding green beans. We got a lot of eggplant and hot peppers, which I've loved, and I finally found a way to cook celeriac that I liked. Lots and lots of greens -- mustard, kale, Italian dandelion, bok choy, and some others I never heard of (tat soy?) -- that cook up nice, and plenty of lettuce and tomatoes, and lots of spuds and onions.

We also got some beef through them from another CSA (Tussock Sedge Farm, in northern Bucks), and last night, a day after our final harvest pick-up at Anchor Run, I decided to do an all-CSA dinner. I marinated a nice piece of London broil from Tussock Sedge (used Anchor Run garlic in the marinade), cooked up a mess of varied greens with sesame oil and chili paste and more garlic, grilled the beef with a foil pack of CSA potatoes, and steamed a pot of CSA broccoli. Add in a big CSA lettuce salad...and we had quite a meal. The beef was delicious, spuds were perfect...the broccoli had a worm in it, but hey, it's all organic, so you toss the worm and keep eating. Great meal!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Next Tuesday, 11/15: Let's Toast, Coast-to-Coast!

Vanberg & DeWulf, the pioneering importers (and good friends of mine, the awesomely cultured and intelligent (it's not their fault they're so good-looking, too) Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield), are celebrating their 30th anniversary next Tuesday, November 15th, with a Coast To Coast Toast. In 30 years they've imported or brewed (they were the original folks at Ommegang, y'know) a fantastic number of beers, and influenced any number of others. My first Belgian beer was Duvel, at that time imported by Don and Wendy. Saison Dupont is on the "desert island beers" list of an incredible number of brewers.

Take part in the Toast at one of these places, join us in celebrating a truly influential couple that helped bring the Beer Revolution to you in a very big way, even if you don't realize it. Here's the list of "official" beers, but if you grab a Duvel or an Ommegang, you're in the spirit, too. If you just hoist a glass of Saison Dupont, well, you're good to go, and you'll be better for it. And if you're in Philly, there are celebrations at Monk's, Eulogy, and at Tria Washington Square West, where I'll be. Come on out and join me from 6 to 9: we'll have a VBDW quiz for you to win some pretty cool prizes, and excellent beers on tap (including two new VBDW imports).


Finger Lakes Distilling goes Irish

Very interesting: in what I think is a first (which probably means it isn't, but you try keeping up with every new craft distiller!), Finger Lakes Distilling is releasing a "pure pot still whiskey" on Black Friday. I checked, and yes, they mean a whiskey with a mashbill of malted and unmalted barley, like Midleton uses in Redbreast and blends into Jameson.

This whiskey is made predominately from local unmalted barley and is aged in our used Bourbon and Rye barrels giving it a smooth, sweet flavor profile (much like an Irish Whiskey).  McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey is bottled at 80 proof.   
How about that? American craft distillers continue to try new things, put their twist on them. Gotta like that. Check these guys out, and say hi.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bud Light Platinum -- and I thought Miller Clear was dopey

It's like Bud Light doing a pole dance...
Go read this, and come back. We need to talk.

All up to speed? Okay. The quote that stands out there (other than "higher-alcoholic beer," what the hell, fella, was there something too tame (and accurate) about "higher-alcohol"?) for me is this one: "Bud Light Platinum is a trendy blue-bottle line extension that appeals to a key group of beer drinkers and expands consumer occasions.”

  • Blue bottles are trendy?
  • Blue bottles are a type of beer?
  • Blue bottles appeal to a key group of beer drinkers? WHO?
You guys should know by now that I don't slap AB around just for fun, but this idea's got "cognitive disaster" stamped all over it. A 137 calorie "light beer" with 6% ABV? Right, pound these like 4.2% 105 calorie Bud Light (because it does say BUD LIGHT right on it), and you'll be knee-walking -- knee-walking and fat -- in no time.

I'm seeing a lot of people -- beer geeks -- saying this is a shot at the craft market. I'm sorry: you're stoned. You guys think everything is about craft beer: it's not. Craft beer is still under 6% of the market. It's growing, it's profitable, and you've got Dark Lord in your cellar, but 7 out of 8 beer drinkers are still pounding mainstream suds, okay?

What we have here is yet another attempt to get people to pay more for light beer. I'm not sure how making "Bud Light" stronger than Bud (at 5.0%) and only 8 calories "lighter" per 12 oz. can is gonna do that, but that's what they're doing. It's crazy, and it's going to fail. Everyone in the media knows it's going to fail, you know it's going to fail. This is going to be another Bud Select, a big fat expensive FAIL. Why are they doing this? Did all the smart people quit or get laid off?

Ah, well. Sit back and watch the follies.

An addition that was too good to pass up. Convenience Store News notes in their story on Bud Light Platinum that it "...has the chance to be a trailblazer in the light beer market. Most beers in that category deliver fewer calories and carbohydrates than standard beers, while providing a lower alcohol content." Oh, CSN, if I didn't know better, I'd think you having some fun with these guys! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tip to you, mixologists: the backlash has arrived

Saw two things today that lead me to believe that the inevitable brute-stupid journalistic backlash against the cocktail revival has begun. First, this sidebar of duh-obvious "you cocktail drinkers think you're so smart" horseshit in PhillyMag's best bars cover story. this Lillet-and-Aperol-soaked age, it seems we’ve forgotten the delight of drinking simple cocktails. Of drinking the way our grandparents drank. Grandpa wouldn’t just have looked down on the lavender-hued Aviation, with its whiff of Granny’s soap. He would have done so only after smashing it on the ground in a profanity-laden tirade. Too fussy. Too frilly. Now bring me a CC and soda, kid, and don’t skimp on the pour.

Nice. Grandpa the barbarian.Whatsamatter, buddy, bartender cut you off after one too many Ketel and tonics?

Second, I saw the Michael Imperioli 1800 tequila ad in Wine Spectator. You know the ads: douchey-looking guy in an expensive plain black suit, white shirt, skinny black tie, with a glass of 1800, and the caption "DO I LOOK LIKE I WANT TO SEE THE COCKTAIL MENU?" No, you look like I'm going to be calling you a cab in about five more shots, actually.

Sigh. Why do we have to kill everything when we're done with it? Why do we have to race off to the next thing, or cling to the old thing? Cocktails are good. Sure, we got carried away, but there's some good in the carried-away part, too. If you can't appreciate a properly made Manhattan, or a French 75, or a Sazerac, and would rather have a shot of tequila, or a CC and soda...what da hell, buster? Go drink that, but don't convince yourself that you're "right" by crap-bombing something good.

No, we get all caught up in the nastiness of it all, and we can't just enjoy something else. So we tell each other that's so over, and done, and how could anyone be dumb enough to like that. You know what? That's what people told me about non-mainstream beer back in the 1990s. That's what they told me about Scotch in the 1980s. That's what they told me about steak, for Christ's sake, in the 1990s! Idiots. You don't want what I'm drinking, fine. Drink something else. But it's like gay marriage: how's it hurting you?

Lose the attitude. Grow beyond having to piss on someone else's parade to make yours convincing. Walk away from people like that. And let's all have a drink...whatever you want.

Fifteen Years of Iron Hill

Iron Hill, our local/regional kick-ass chain of brewpubs, is celebrating 15 years this month with two events at their original location in Newark, Delaware. (Unfortunately, sounds like their first Philadelphia location in Chestnut Hill won't be open in time for the anniversary...but that just means another fun party.) Take it away, Iron Hill!
First, Monday, November 14, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.Fe15 Release Party at Iron Hill Newark, an exciting first taste of Iron Hill’s exclusive anniversary beer, named for the periodic table symbol for Iron (Fe) and 15, the number of years they’ve been brewing in Delaware and beyond.  The beer is very strong and hoppy, brewed with only American hops and pilsner malt with an ABV of 15%.  Guests can purchase 8 oz. draughts of Fe15, and enjoy complimentary Iron Hill Birthday Cake, baked exclusively for the event by Sweet Somethings Desserts.  Fe15 is the latest in Iron Hill’s Bottled Reserve Series, so 750 mL bottles of the beer will be available for $24.50 each.  A raffle will be held, as well, with the winner receiving one bottle of Fe15 and a commemorative t-shirt.
Bobby Douglas (Newark ass't brewer), Mark Edelson (partner, director of brewing), Kevin Davies (partner, director of culinary), Justin Sproul, (Newark head brewer), Kevin Finn (partner and president)

Next, Saturday, November 19, from 12 noon until 5 p.m.Fifteen Firkins for Fifteen Years at Iron Hill Newark, a party celebrating Iron Hill’s official 15th anniversary.  This fun and festive event will feature firkins from all eight Iron Hill locations and other local brewers, including Dogfish Head, Evolution, Flying Fish, Stewart’s and Yards, as well as retro menu items from the original Iron Hill menu such as Black & Tan Hummus and Chocolate Porter Cake.  Guests will enjoy special pricing on a variety of unusual beers, including Hoppopotamus, Cerebus IPA and Vanilla-Coffee Oatmeal Stout, available in three sizes: 4 oz. for $2, 10 oz. for $4.25 and 20 oz. for $6.25.  Two $16 Beer Samplers will also be offered, spanning all 15 beers.
These folks do know how to throw a party. I made it to the Fe10 release five years ago, and it was a damned good time! Hope I can make one of these. 

(I apologize for the font sizes...if I had more time, I'd wrassle 'em.)

Movember and Angel's Envy

The closest I've come to clean-shaven in 22 years.
I am hirsute. I have facial fungus. I am lazy in the morning. I grew up next to an Amishman. I have a full beard...for a variety of reasons, but mostly, the last time I shaved was the morning I got married to Catherine Childs, December 9, 1989. My kids have never seen me without a beard.

So when this whole "Movember" thing came along, well, I was nonplussed. Good cause -- research into male cancers -- but I'm already there: what am I going to do, shave it off and grow it back? Not happening, pilgrim!

Then I got an email from the folks at Angel's Envy, the new bourbon sourced and blended by legendary bourbon man Lincoln Henderson, a man who I deeply respect (and always enjoy the company of), pointing out that Lincoln has a very snazzy 'stache and that they're into Movember, so how about it? Well, you know? I liked that reasoning. They told me far as they were concerned, I could just keep bearding along. Besides, Lincoln is kicking cancer's ass (not surprising to anyone who knows him), and that's an even better reason.

So folks of the man-type persuasion, the time's come. Check the links above, determine yourself to get hairy, and put down that razor. I dare ya. You can do the fancy dan stuff, get the wax and all that, or you can just go full mountain man like me -- it's all good. And if someone asks you why, tell 'em: charity, bro, want to make a donation to a great cause?

Besides, you might just find that you like it. And your SO might like it too. Mine did.

Great beer, great cause, you, me, Hulmeville Inn, 11/20...what's not to like?

Jeff Lavin, the big-hearted beer-loving owner of the Hulmeville Inn (and congrats to him for pegging #36 on the FooBooz 50 Best Bars list!) is gonna help me memorialize my father again on November 20, and you're gonna want to be there: it's a Russian River-Sierra Nevada-Lew Bryson Collaboration, as I give up one of my two kegs of Sierra Nevada Exportation, the beer I helped design and make with the Philly Pholks at Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp last year...that we double-batched, half of it being sent to Russian River to age in wine barrels there for a year. I tasted some during Philly Beer Week, and it's a wonderful, lightly sour, very drinkable Baltic porter (you'll see by the huge variances in the BA tasting notes that it's a beer that takes some thought).

The last time we did this...that's Mike, The Hawk, and Jeff!
It is, of course, extremely rare at this point, as are Russian River beers outside of California, and you've got a chance to have all that as Jeff puts on the Exportation and at least two other RR drafts. Proceeds from the sales of Exportation will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for research into this terribly swift killer. We'll be accepting direct donations as well (I'll be throwing in a hunk of cash, I urge, beg, cajole you to do the same), and will send it all in; please be generous. This is the disease that took Steve Jobs, and -- last June -- my father. It means a lot to me. Thanks, Jeff.

Hope to see you out there at the Hulmeville on November 20, starting at noon! 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Half Acre Gossamer

Just finished lunch: a bowl of soup I made using CSA late fall harvest (kohlrabi, cabbage, celeriac, hot pepper, turnips, can of diced tomatoes, plenty of spices), crusty dense wheat bread, smoked cheese, and a 16 oz. can of 4.2% Gossamer, from Half Acre Beer Company. (Thanks to regular reader (and buddy!) Steve Herberger for the trade; I sent him 'Gansett Fest and Sixpoints.)

First time I've had Half Acre in a while, and this was clean, crisply bitter, and refreshing. Great with the soup; flavorful enough to stand up to the celeriac earthiness, not so bitter as to twist the flavors. I could go another couple rounds with this one happily...but I gotta start warming up to sing tonight. Cheers!