Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Again, 30 Years Later AC/DC Rocks Wilkes-Barre

AC/DC bore down on the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township last night to play an energtic set before a packed house of about 12000 faithful to open their 2008-2009 Black Ice world tour.

Their last raid on the city was a full 30 years ago when they opened for Rainbow at the Paramount Theater on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, during the summer of `78, and this show brought some of the same tunes and energy of that show (and a new lead singer), along with a handful of new songs from the Black Ice album.

The show opened to an animated short-movie projected to a screen on the wall behind the stage, of a pounding run away steam train, tastefully done in gritty comic-book style (and in some respects similar to some of the scenes from ``The Wall'' movie [phallic symbol]), that basically tells the story of the rock n roll train. There's not much story to it, the song basically being about giving her all you got and taking it to the spot (you fill in the blanks here), but the editing and visuals did serve to get the mob pumped for when the band lit into the opening chords of Rock `n' Roll Train.

The lighting was excellent and there were visuals galore during the show: a bell which Brian Johnson swung on to the stage for the opening of Hells Bells, the steam train again which had explosions emanating from it on T.N.T., and of course cannon fire during For Those About to Rock. And lest I forget 42-39-56 Rosie during Whole Lotta Rosie? Let's just say there is at least one woman with those vital stats.

Most of the focus during the concert was on Brian and Angus, and secondarily Malcom and the drummer. The bassist presumably late to the party, lurked in the shadows throughout but did a fine job of holding the band to the beat. You know, Angus played his Gibson SG the whole show except for one song when he brought out, I think, a Les Paul. It struck me by the wall of sound coming from the SG just how much AC/DC can sound like the Who, especially during the period when Pete Townshend was playing his SG. I'm thinking Isle of Wight concert era here. Both guitarists were evidently searching for this sound and let me tell you both found it.

The highlight of the show for me was during Let There Be Rock when Angus soloed out on the runway to the center of the arena and was lifted like a sacrifice to the preceding mortal Rock Gods of the Ages high into the air, as he soloed, guitar overhead, on his back, rising again, in homage. Then running back and onto a catwalk behind the drumkit, soloing like it was his last. Magnificent!

The new songs, Rock 'n' Roll Train, War Machine, and a couple of others I'm not familiar with, are in a similar style to their late `80s, `90s work. Hey Man! If you like AC/DC these songs just keep the adrenaline rush surging until the next wave of guitar euphoria hits.

This band is still evergreen and skull-splittingly vibrant as ever as evidenced by their running, strutting, and duckwalking, and judging by the ages of the faithful which ranged from teenagers through at least 55. Once again, AC/DC, for one snowy night, proved the truth of their and our being: that we're all in this journey together and rock is the glue.

Set List
Rock 'n' Roll Train
Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Dirty Deeds
The Jack
Hells Bells
War Machine
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock

Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock

Opening Band
The Answer--I don't know too much about this band, they rocked for maybe 30 minutes in the style of Zep.

This blog is about beer, isn't it? Before the show I picked up a couple cups of creamy Stegmaier Oktoberfest's from one of the beer stands in the outer ring of the arena. I figured, this is probably my last taste of this brew this Fall, so why not? It was cool, the cup ran over, but it tasted great.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Patron Saints of the Brewing Arts

Did you know there were patron saints of the Brewing arts? But, I suppose there would be given the monks love of the craft over the past centuries.

Here's a good article about religion, God, and brewing, in context of the GABF held earlier this month in Denver.

Victory Prima Pils -- Favorite of German Brewery Technicians

A rather blah rainy Saturday was enlivened considerably when S and I decided to go down to Wegmans for the Harvest Season Beer and food Pairing event.

Wegmans chefs, food experts, and brewery representatives from Victory, the Lion Brewery and others, were on hand to display how delightful beer and food can be when paired.

When we arrived around 1:30, hundreds of like-minded beer enthusiasts of all persuasions were already winding their way around the Market Cafe area from station to station sampling various food and beer pairings. The food was presented in bite-sized portions along with a small plastic cup of beer. The pairings were either complimentary or juxtaposed to the dish's dominant flavors.

At the first station Victory Golden Monkey (Belgian style) was paired with a Columbus Finocchiona Salame on Baguette (basically a small hors de vours). To me, the primal strength and creaminess of the Golden Monkey was a nice compliment to the saltiness of the salami.

At the next station, Wegmans mini-pretzels with various condiments like dijon and horseradish mustard were paired with Victory Prima Pils (Pilsner style). Now this was the first time I had ever tasted Prima Pils and I'm here to tell you that it's one excellent beer refreshingly crisp and light with citrus notes prominent. The Victory rep expressed that when the German brewery techs come to work on the equipment in Downingtown, that this is the beer they like and the only beer they drink while there. Coincident with this station, the Lion Brewery rep was providing samples of their Oktoberfest. The maltiness of this beer was exactly a compliment to the bready pretzels.

Moving on to the next station there was a pairing of Troegs Trogenator Double Bock (Bavarian style) paired with brats braised in Bass Ale served on Wegmans chef- developed beer bread with Whole Grain Dijon mustard. I have had the Trogenator before and I love this beer due to its stalwart resolve. I could definitely see myself serving this pairing at a tailgate party.

The next station had Weyerbacher Hops Infusion (IPA style) with smokey, spicy, pulled pork served inside a hollowed-out pretzel, topped with cole-slaw. The punch of the Hops Infusion tasted great along with the pulled-pork sandwich. Something else that would have them raving at my next party. Oh. The hollowed-out pretzel was really a pretzel-dough roll that was baked and scooped out. Also at this station was a cheddar ale soup that has a bottle of dark beer and sharp cheddar as their main ingredients. This was pretty good but the small sample wasn't enough for me!

After that, we took a break and went to the seating area next to the tasting area to finish the pulled pork sandwiches. When we finished we were able to pick up and cut the line (sorry for cutting) when we came back and start afresh at a wine and cheese table. Wait a minute, it wasn't wine and cheese but it was close! This pairing had a crumbly, salty, yellowed, three year aged Gouda paired with Chimay Grand Reserve (the one with the champagne cork-cage on top). I had never tasted this ale and it turned out to be very fizzy, almost wine-like essence that did not have an overpowering bearing. Paired with the delicate cheese, I thought it went well.

Finally, Weyerbacher Pumpkin Ale was served with vanilla ice cream and a spiced wafer. How? Think of root beer float; now think of replacing the root beer with beer; now think pumpkin pie.... Put it all together and taste. Mmm, mmm, good. Now this was something I don't think I'd ever thought of doing myself, but let me tell you, it was excellent!

This was fun and eye-opening for me as I hadn't really thought too much about what can be done when beer and food are paired (and not just with `wings). Everyone involved from Wegman's that I spoke to at each station, was knowledgable about the beer styles and how they mesh with the particular dish or flavors. Thanks Wegmans.

Footnote: I was surprised by the turnout and how much people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Overall I believe a few more eyes were opened to the wide-world of beer we live in.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Zipfer Urtyp -- Direct from Austria

Joe's wife's relatives came over from Austria for a visit last week and brought a suitcase stuffed with cash--no wait, stuffed with Zipfer and cash, the pride of ZIPF Austria. Now isn't this just the best way to kill two birds with one stone? Bring beer to the US for Joe and make space in the suitcase to take back Tiffany, Cartier, and who knows what else at half price?

As you can see, this is a delightful looking beer having a beautiful straw golden color and a bright-white lingering head (take my word for it--in this picture it does look gray but it's really white). It looks in the glass much like Bud and with carbonation about the same. As I stuff my large size 12 nose deep into the Pilsener glass, my cilia are excited by a faint but sharp hop essence.

On first sip, honey comes to mind followed by bitterness. To me, it is a mouth-full and feels much larger than the nose would lead me to believe.

This is my first taste of this beer and with 5.4% ABV, I am impressed. While I find myself enjoying American craft beers more these days, there's nothing like keeping your options open for a bit of Austrian beer every now and again.

Joe, next time, can you ask for more of the same and while you're at it, a suitcase of Linzer torte?

Christmas Brew Plans

I have been pondering what sort of beer to brew this Christmas for family, friends, and various FAs. I totally lost track of time this year and I think it's a little late for a proper lager. So.... I'm seriously considering a variation of the Harpoon IPA adding dry-hopping using my home-grown Cascade hops in the secondary fermentation. Oh! I finally picked up a wort chiller at the Beer Solution down in Wilkes-Barre, growing weary of always having to plan ahead far enough to have ice available for chilling. Stay tuned.

It ain't over `til it's over

On Thursday we took a couple of colleagues, M and F, out for a farewell lunch at Juanito's, an excellent Mexican place in Red Bank. This place has authentic Mexican fare that's not that expensive and always muy bueno. Juanito's is a BYOB so J and I hit a package store a few minutes before noon and were lucky enough to find a nice cuisine-complimenting beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, holding court amongst a wall of cowering and insipid lagers in the reach-in. With package in hand we walked over to Juanito's and went in.

(Total attention deficit sidebar here: You know, I wish I could get my home-brew's to have the hop finish of the Sierra Nevada. That's the cool thing about homebrewing--if at first you don't succeed, hop, hop, and hop again. I'm going to dry-hop next time and see if I can't get my beer to finish hoppier.)

After lunch and three Ales (whoever said the liquid lunch is dead should be shot!), I got up and started to preach from my chair about how F and M were models for me in terms of energy and committment they brought to their jobs. Further, all that I learned from them that has made me a better developer. My sermon ended just after I was able to blurt out that I wished them the best in their future endeavors. After seconding these sentiments all around, we toasted the two into the future.

The plan after, was to meet at the Lincroft Inn to give M a going away he wouldn't soon forget. J and I arrived early and this still being strong Lager country, we proceeded to quickly down a mug of that which is the elixir of a coal-country man such as myself, Yuengling Lager. The first led to the second which led to the 3rd and after we gave up and started to head back, and as we were going out the door, figuring we had been stood up, our crew arrived consisting of M, R, and J. We went back in, sat down and ordered another round to toast M once again. Are you keeping count?

A little later, J came in, down from RB, ordered some wings all around and we dug in. At this point having been going for a good three hours we had thirsted up an awful hunger. J, being a long-time colleague of M's, ordered a magnum of Dom at this point, saying that it's an old custom coming from the areas they worked previously (part of a large, no-longer-viable, telecommunication equipment manufacturer headquartered in New Jersey that shall remain nameless).

Dom all around!

(Just before this, M arrived and being in training for the NYC Marathon [Good Luck M!]), was in the middle of tapering and would only sip.) We toasted M and reminisced for the rest of the afternoon. Having a 2.5 hour drive to get home, J and I left the crew at about five.

I'm gonna miss these guys. They were survivors who got off the island before the coming hurricane. I wish them all the best and thanks for the memories.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

1st Annual Oktoberfest at One Guy Brewing

Beer from stichfass tap burbled into glass to the strains of oom-pah music; `kraut-laced Brats burst hot from the grill adorning plates of fresh hot German potato salad; old friends greeted each other bilingually in German and English; new friendships were forged over glasses of Oktoberfest beer; good conversation and laughter filled the air. Today at One Guy Brewing's 1st Oktoberfest, everything great about Oktoberfest was on display in the tap-room in Berwick.

One Guy Brewing opened their doors in celebration of Oktoberfest to the delight of hundreds of like-minded fellow Oktoberfesters, on a bright, warm, mid-October day in Eastern PA.

Three beers were featured today. On-tap was the Oktoberfest beer, a malty thirst quencher that serves as the ultimate transitional brew that gently takes the drinker from breezy summer days to the brisk Winter days soon to follow; Seasons Wheatings, the dark, mysterious stranger that tantalizes the senses with exotic spiciness and punch, and the Peach Wheat, with its hint of peaches that reminds us of the lazy, hazy, fun-filled summer days just passed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What does it all Mean?

Read this for a pretty picture of where we may be headed as a country.

The way I see it, things aren't gonna be the way they were for a long time--this is why we need to appreciate what we have and how to make do with what we don't, who we are and how we act. Things like family, friends, nature, and good times, are gonna be the coin of the realm going forward.

It's gonna be hard, but we can do it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Lion Brewery Oktoberfest

S and I and a cast of epic proportions thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the Lion Brewery's Oktoberfest Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre.

We drove down from Mountain Top, parked at Mohegan Sun and took the shuttle bus over to the brewery about 10 minutes away. We got there around five and walked out of the bus to the accompaniment the mid-Autumn Sun's fanfare and the first thing I noticed different from last year was the layout of the grounds that were rearranged in a more open and spacious manner. There was a huge tent in the center of the grounds to the east of the brewery that was packed with people enjoying Brats, Clams, Pulled Pork sandwiches, pizza, felafel's, potato cakes, haluski, and of course beer. Around the perimeter of the grounds were the beer tents and the food stands. At the southernmost end was the band shell where the bands were performing, and in front of that was a large open area where the mob could gather to enjoy the music. There was a strolling accordion player resplendent in his authentic alpine German entertainer's garb, enchanting and delighting the crowd, adults included. It's nice to see that the Accordian is still getting its due! To the northeast were the carnival rides which included a ferris wheel, swinging chairs, and more, making this an Oktoberfest like the one in Munchen and one that everyone could enjoy. Last year, everything seemed to be crammed into half the space, and everyone I ran into seemed to enjoy the extra space and thoughtful layout changes.

Most of the beer tents were serving the Stegmaier Oktoberfest and the Stegmaier Midsummer White. But down at the Northern end, was another tent serving some of the Pocono beers of which I had never tried any. When I saw the Pocono Pale Ale, I had to try it, and let me tell you that that was my go-to brew for the night. She was a wonderfully balanced malt-hop beauty, a bit top-heavy if you know what I mean, and with a copper-toned blush about her once the wind blew her dirty blond hair aside. To my nose she smelled of the mountains and to my taste, sweet goodness with a nice bit of Cascade hop. An excellent beer that I'll be going back to again.

As late afternoon made way to crisp early-evening, a four-piece band that goes by the name of The Five Percent was on stage. They played a lot of covers well and did a nice version of Wonderwall. I may be wrong but I seem to remember them closing Friday night last year. Later, I discovered that they also create original music but I didn't detect anything original in their set on Saturday. They were followed by 40 lb Head who, let me tell you, can ignite a crowd. They got my attention when the lead singer urged the crowd to join in as the band launched into Blitzkrieg Bop and I Wanna be Sedated. I joined in with the Hey, Ho, Let's Go chorus and started to hop around a bit--it was the beer hopping at this point, I here to tell ya. Sadly, they didn't play the songs fast enough or with enough chain saw edginess--I guess there will only ever be one Ramones. Sigh.

When we arrived there were maybe a thousand revelers enjoying themselves. There were singles, couples, families, throngs hourdes and groups of friends of all persuasions partaking in this most German of celebrations. When we left there were proably twice that and a long queue of partiers waiting to get in.

We missed C, L, and D who got there just as we were leaving, but we did manage to bump into a former coworker of S's, Kathy and her husband Joe from Hometown, and we caught up with them all the while enjoying the atmospherics.

Kudos to whomever arranged the shuttle buses, as the bus stop was easy to find on the Mohegan Sun property due to the profuse signage, the buses were running very regularly (probably every 15 minutes), and the bus left us off right at the brewery entrance.

The thing that strikes me about Oktoberfest is that there's nothing quite like it. That is, there's no similar event I know of, where families and friends can get together, have fun, and enjoy good food, fun, music, and beer. Thank you Lion Brewery!

How much beer do you drink?

I recently read here that Poland was #18 in terms of per-capita beer consumption at 69.1 liter per person. The US comes in #12 at 81.6 liters per person, and the #1 beer drinking country is the Czech Republic at something like 151 liters per person. I figure that I drink just about the US average, and I think I drink quite a lot. It makes me wonder given there are a lot of non-drinkers out there, just how much the real beer-lovers consume?

So 81.6 liters is about 86 quarts which is 21.5 gallons. Thats equivalent to about 229 12 oz bottles. Not much is it? On second thought, maybe I do enjoy more than an average amount.

Na zdrowie!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oktoberfest Marzen Beers

Here's a good article in Beers of the Times where they taste 20 or so beers in the Oktoberfest Marzen style.

Where am I?

What day is it? Did I sleep through yesterday?