Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Old Belsnickel Delivers

S and I made it over to the Ice House Pub this week for dinner and the chance to try Breaker Brewing Company's Belsnickler Ale.

First, let's get one thing as clear as a December eve: This place does not serve run-of-the-mill, deep-fried pub-grub--even IF it has Pub in it's name! They have a real chef and the food's served on really clean plates and silverware.

It happened to be Italian night when we went and there were enough inspired Italian dishes on the menu to make even a South Philly native feel right at home.

Now don't get the wrong idea, I do have a major porcine obsession but I prefer mine in the form of kielbasa. But I have been know to make quick work of a sopressata.

The salads were fresh--large and overflowing a salad bowl. Not skimpily strewn across a small plate like so much straw on freshly seeded grass.

I chose the lasagna which came in a large portion, bathed in fresh home-made tomato sauce. As I've said again and again (and once more for the ladies): I like to taste the tomato unmasked by salt, sugar, peppers, and the whole shebang of other stuff that gets thrown in there from time to time when real taste can't be trusted. Well, in this sauce I found what I always look for and it was deeeelicous!

If you ask anyone, you'll get the same answer: Tazio has been a really good boy this year--maybe the most well-behaved in a long time.

All I can say to that is that is my brainwashing plan is working. Eggsalenttttt!

No. It just requires beer, constant work and attention to detail.

And it doesn't come easy. Po mo wu!

That being put out there, I guess someone has been watching `cause Old Belsnickle brought me something really nice--so nice in fact that he left it in a shaker glass instead of a stocking! This year he brought me amongst other things, a 22 oz. bomber of Belsnickler Ale.

Now this seasonal Quad/Winter Warmer available in draught at certain locations and bottles in others (methinks) so it can be found in a lot of places. Even bad boys and girls can get some, I hear. This beer is mighty tasty but at 8.1 ABV it seems a bit low for a Quad to me but I'm in it for the taste so what's with a name? I'm not Saint Michael by any stretch, but, and here's the thing: the taste, plus the eight dot one, added to prit-near perfection to me. This has a nice and complex malty backbone like some of their other beers and was unmistakably a Breaker Brewing beer. Perfect for a December Winter's Eve. The head was a bit weak but then again, I like to pour softly and carry a big keg. ClockworkOrange (gotta love that, huh?) had two fingers so it may have been the soft pour. (I'm wondering if this was Breaker's first go at a distributed bottle-conditioned beer? That could explain it. Note to self: I'm working on these, well, demons is too strong a word, let's say gremlins myself--some of my bottles come out great-others low carb. [Sheesh how many levels of indirection can you stand at this point?]).

The place was hopping at around 6 pm with kids, parents, dates, the after-work crowd and all sorts, so don't be afraid to bring anyone along. Oh, did I tell you about our waitress? She was so nice and pleasant--she went down the entire beer list from memory, was patient with us and knew the details about each dish on the menu, and seemed to be happy to be here waiting on us. Don't you just love when people are like that?

It's been a while since we've been here and I had forgotten how nice it is and how great the food tastes. They had a number of craft brews available and their inclusion on the taps site Mybeerbuzz, bodes well for this becoming a favorite haunt for the beer drinkers of Mountain Top.

The guys over that Breaker Brewing are quickly becoming this millennium's version of Sierra Nevada. Keep an eye on them--there are great things happening with their beers and expect more to come in `10.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dalwhinnie Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

My buddy T-Bone gave me a bottle of Scotch from the Dalwhinnie Distillery tonight as a surprise Christmas present--he had been saving it for me since our trip to Savannah went awry earlier this year. His plan was for us to stop somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway, crack it open, and enjoy it along with the view from the Highlands.

Kids: Don't drink and drive! Become a pop-star blogger and you'll be able to drink and have someone drive YOU around.

Instead, we enjoyed it next to a roaring fire in the club room, reminiscing about the improper uses of Drambuie.

Thanks T-Bone, I hope you have a Merry Christmas too.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a great and Merry Christmas and can have the time to enjoy the important things life has to offer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hmm, I really like turkey

I just happened to be looking outside and saw this encounter between my neighbors.

BrewDog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin--World's Strongest Beer. Ever

Read about it and see what it took these guys to make this beast here.

Style: Uber-Imperial Stout
ABV: 32%
OG: 1092
Malts: Marris Otter, Dark Crystal, Caramalt, Chocolate Malt, Roast Barley
Hops: Galena, Bramling Cross

I just had to order two bottles. One to try now and one for my FMP day.

One of my few Beer Collectibles

Here are some photos of an intact four-pack of Casey's Lager From the Valley Forge Brewing Company. Circa 1980s I think. The pull tabs are undisturbed.

They have illustrations depicting Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Monte Irvin of the New York Giants, Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees. There's a little blurb about each player on the other side of the can.

New Beer Tower

I'm upgrading to a three-handle beer tower as part of my bar project.

Here are some photos of just the base. It attaches to the counter top via two 1/4" threaded rods running up through the counter, inside the tower, to a yoke welded to the inside of a brass faucet collar that rides atop the base. Atop that will sit a decorative ceramic cap--it also attaches to the yoke via a single 1/4" threaded rod.

Now I know why Thomas Jefferson was so enamored of constantly tinkering with Monticello.

He needed something to do while drinking his home brew!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Be Afraid

With the state of the economy causing fear and confusion in some quarters, it's not difficult to see why people call for a return to an economy where we ``make stuff''. We had an economy up until the 1980s where we largely ``made stuff''. We remember that times weren't ``that bad'' before then, and yearn for a return to that sort of economy as a solution to our problems.

People: That sort of an economy is over and probably won't ever come back until our country's arc bends back in the direction of earth. The United States is inexorably marching into a ``make ideas'' or Ideas economy.

Our can-do, never-say-die, strive-for-improvement, try-something-else-if this-doesn't-work culture--comprise the individual fibers that make us American. This is what makes the Ideas economy something we should be reaching for and not turning away from--we are well suited to this!

It is this very Ideas sort of mindset that has given us the chutzpah to invent, create, and explore new flavors and tastes in beer. Do you think that it's just a coincidence that the craft beer movement began in the very 1980s when the ``make stuff'' economy began to dwindle in favor of the Ideas economy?

Germany has an economy that is still a ``make stuff'' economy, but it too has some of its people yearning to unleash good ideas. While they have a significant number of ``make ideas'' enterprises there, they still excel at making stuff: Machinery, tools, automobiles, suitcases and scientific instruments come to mind. In 1993 the German Beer Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot , was relaxed to allow adding a few other ingredients. Still, their beer recipes are quite traditional, hence they have not fully embraced an Ideas economy.

And if you look around beyond our shores, you will see that many other countries are still making stuff and not ideas. When's the last time you were sitting in front of your LG flat-screen enjoying a really flavorful and interesting Chinese beer?

What am I trying to say: Don't be afraid. Put your thinking cap on and embrace change. We are Americans. We have a culture that embraces the varied flavors of new ideas. We will survive and grow stronger through this.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Top 20 Albums of the Decade

As I sit here watching the snow fly and sipping on a Zonker Stout from Snake River Brewing out of Jackson Hole Wyoming, I initially thought I'd have a hard time coming up with 20 really good albums spanning the first decade of the new century.

But it really wasn't that hard. These came to me pretty quick.

The three at the top are very close in my mind, but I have to put Wilco's YHF first due the band's ability to meld so many styles, along with great songwriting, into a unique sound. U2's All that ... while a great album, seemed to me covering familiar ground--another Joshua Tree. Killing Joke: What can I say? They continually find ways to stay fresh and relevant in a post-punk, post hardcore, post industrial-punk way.

1) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2) U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
3) Killing Joke - 2003
4) Foo Fighters - One by One
5) Zwan - Mary Star of the Sea
6) Milemarker - Anesthetic
7) System of A Down - Toxicity
8) Bad Astronaut - Houston We Have a Drinking Problem
9) Dave Gahan - Paper Monsters
10) Zero 7 - Simple Things
11) Trey Anastasio - Shine
12) Dream Theater - Train of Thought
13) Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel
14) Phish - Undermind
15) Beastie Boys - To The 5 Boroughs
16) Radiohead - Kid A
17) Depeche Mode - Exciter
18) Audioslave - Audioslave
19) White Stripes - Elephant
20) The Libertines - Up the Bracket
21) Hot Hot Heat - Make Up the Breakdown

Honorable mention goes to the boys from Manchester: Oasis and Heathen Chemistry. I sometimes wonder how it is that an artist can go on from great heights early achieved. Robert Plant found a way. Orson Welles never did. Oasis found a way with this album that was commendable coming off their early mega-popularity.

Bars Like You've Never Seen Before at the Architectural Antiques Exchange

The Architectural Antiques Exchange on 2nd Street in North Liberties, Philadelphia, just beyond faux hipster heaven, aka Philly Vespa, is really something to see.

The bars have been disassembled and removed from drinking establishments across Europe (primarily France and Belgium) and America and are complete and ready for installation in your house, club, bar or saloon.

My guess is that they range in age from the mid-19th century through the veneered, art deco `30s.

The are in fantastic shape--most original, some with refinished bar tops.

Prices range from perhaps $3K and the most costly one I saw was $22.5K.

But, here's the thing: You would be hard-pressed to recreate these at close to these prices today. The lumber would cost you a fortune--many are Cherry. The craftsmanship is unlike almost anything you see today. Granted you could find someone to take their time and come up with something akin to these bars, but at labor of probably $75 to $100 an hour, these bars are a bargain.

I got a bunch of ideas for my gantry.

There's a lot more than bars here, too: Wrought iron, furniture, stained glass, signage, and architectural elements and objets d` art of all sorts.

Worth a trip just for the marvel factor.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Gift Giving Idea

This year, for the discerning beer consumers in your life, here's a gift giving idea that I think makes a whole lotta sense.

Pick seven different beers--all brewed in your state. Take two bottles from your choice of five of the beers and one of the remainder of the beers to complete a 12 pack.

One of the beers--if you can, make it a homebrew. It's easy to spend money and buy beer and give it away, but crafting and giving--shows you mean it. The antithesis of the here's a fifth of Scotch for you and oh thank you for the fifth of Grey Goose and the Cohiba.

Make one of the beers a local beer--brewed within 25 miles or so, or as close as you can, of where you live. Support your local brewer for the economic domino effect buying their beers creates.

Why so many different beers? Someone wise once told me: There is spice in life, through the hops.

Why seven: Because it's Christmas and the whole number seven (7) denotes completeness and perfection. Six is not that special--a very meager number in my mind. Take six x 2 on the other hand and now your talking about a long-lasting tribute, for the most ardent beer drinker, at least seven days.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Shopping for the Beer Drinker's Beer Drinker

Here's liddabit o' something that will make the beer drinker in your life very happy.

Almost as happy as a case of Victory Yakima Twilight, or a tri-tap beer tower...Over a tri-key beer meister of course.

These treats are made with Brooklyn Brown Ale and East India Pale Ale, and organic barley malt syrup. On tap here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Spaulding

You've seen him: The guy that hangs around in crowded bars--first over there, then on the other side of the bar.

Always with a half-finished or empty pint glass.

Usually standing--the quicker to move on?

If you get close enough, you'll see the eyes darting furtively. Always scanning, never tiring, always watching.

Schmoozing when necessary to keep his cover.

Ever see him open his wallet? No.

You always thought he was trolling for fresh meat.

Well, it's not fresh meat he's after--it's the floaters that drift across bartops across the world...

You know, the half-empty warm beer glasses that are abandoned.

Well, spaulding is the guy who drains these glasses.

He drinks for free and loves it!

I'm not saying you should support your local spaulding on a regular basis.

For obvious reasons.

But this Christmas, in the spirit of the season, leave a little in the bottom of your glass.

Do it.

Show you care.

For Spaulding.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Simply Homebrew

This past week I had the good fortune to get back to Simply Homebrew in Drums for some brewing supplies.

I met Pete and I'm happy to report that Pete is now running the shop on a day to day basis with help from Jerry.

The shelves are well-stocked and new stuff is coming in every day for both vintners and homebrewers.

It was time to get a keg for my home brewing excursions and I snagged one along with a handful of hop bags, some DME, bottle caps, and a pound of dark Belgian candi sugar. I wonder what that might be for...

Holiday hours are: 3-8 pm Tuesday through Friday, 10-6 pm Saturday and Sundays 12-4 pm.

The shop is located at 861 Saint John's Rd., Drums, PA 18222 and the phone number is 570-788-2311.

We talked about starting a homebrew club and I think there is willingness on Pete's part (as well as my own). I know there are homebrewers out there--if you're interested, let me or Pete know!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Repeal Day!

Now, go out and take on that brew you're been wanting to try for 76 years.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Taproom at the Somerset Hills Hotel

Today I had the great honor to join, J, J, and R for lunch at the Taproom inside the Somerset Hills Hotel in Warren NJ.

This place is really convenient to I-78 in northern NJ and once you get off exit 33 you can be there in a few minutes.

This place has typical lunch-time hotel/casual restaurant fare but is atypical in its choice of beers.

11 taps and 50 bottles--check out the current Christmassy tap list:

Our waiter informed me that the draught list changes often as the head guy here loves beer.

I started with the 35th Annual Anchor Steam Christmas Ale which was spicy, fragrant and delicious coming in at a light 5.5% ABV. According to Anchor, they have a different recipe and label each year. The labels are evocative of new life as you can see by the Christmas tree on the tap handle that's decorated with the 2009 version of the label artwork. These releases are a meant to be a celebration of new life.

After that, I wanted to try something a bit warmer: The Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Winter Solstice was as good if not better that the Anchor--it reminded me a bit of Bell's HopSlam at the start but without the strong hop finish. This is a warming 6.9% ABV that would be great to find and bring to a holiday party. IMHO: I think you will enjoy this one.

I peeked into the taproom on the way out and it looks good but I'll need a return visit to check the bar and gantry. It does have a nice tin ceiling--certainly not original but in keeping with the taproom style.

There is almost nothing as good as friends and beer this time of year. Don't ya think?

2009 Christmas Variation IPA--Update

Well, transfer to secondary over another four ounces of wet Cascade and Wilamette hops is done with nary a drop wasted.

The specific gravity was 1.026 at that time, and lest you think I drained this sample, I did--into my stomache.

So I think it has a bit of fermenting to go yet before it's finished. Original gravity was 1.066.

I need a better name for this brew.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

3rd or 40th?

This year, of all the years, was a most important year on many levels.

Important enough to have some fresh liquidity injected into our accounts if you will. And other stuff.

So with that in mind the 3rd Annual J&T Holiday Pub Crawl took place, yet again, in NYC on November 23rd.

This time our plan was scantily brilliant: To imbibe rarely but start early.

Wait a minute. That's the plan every year.

Shorty's behind Port Authority was the first place we visited. Decent cheese steaks but not up to Philly snuff. A nice set of tap handles. A couple of pints of Brooklyn Lager later started festivities off on the left foot. What is really great about this place is that it's just a few steps from the Port Authority. So, you get off work and need to catch a buzz home but you have a few minutes to spare--knowing that it's only a minute from here to your bus makes it a dream! But, easy does it.

Bohemian Beer Garden (Astoria Queens): Long wanted to visit--still haven't. Closed when we got there after lunch.

McSorley's (East Village): Need I say more? Multiple small mugs of light and dark later, a cheese plate to take the edge off (and who knows how many [mugs that is]), and I was seeing Abe Lincoln behind the bar--sittn' on his chair and imploring me to give Obama another chance. What looked to be a cat (the size of a rat) was sipping a brew (the size of a gnat) beside the pot belly, and assorted young children were running around.

I fully support bringing your young children with you when you go to a public house.

Hop Devil Grill (St. Marks Place @ Avenue A): Hoppy Hour 4-8 1/2 price drafts weekdays! Yeah. Really, does it get any better than that? Mendocino Red Tail Ale caught me by the tail and wouldn't let go. Utopia was up there and some at the bar were trying it--but at what cost to their brain cells?

East Village Tavern (let's just say further East): Met up with someone from Shickshinny! Graduated my HS in `64. Actually he's the Mayor of this bar or is it the deposed Monarch? I don't remember. Or his name.

Needless to say we had a great time.

Hits: Hop Devil Grill
Misses: Bohemian Beer Garden :O(

A fitting 191st post

Hmm. This is a milestone of sorts: My 191st blog entry here.

I'm usually not at a loss for words, only the time with which to arrange them into incoherence.

I could do 12 things 4000 times or 4000 things 12 times.

Which do you think I choose?

Promise: My 1,921st will be better.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Going home

Ah, Nanticoke.

The PA one that is.

Maybe the only place where the denizens love their kielbasa and dill pickles as much as I do!

And the only town in the US where over half of its citizens claim Polish ancestry.

Where at the former Lazarus department store you could stand in awe of the precursor to the internet--running over a network of pulleys and wires--sending cash and receipts from the register to the office and back.

And at Carrols probably the last place you could fork over a buck and get a hamburger, fries, a soda, and some change back.

Ah, Nanticoke: The city of my birth and home to Madison's Vodka Bar and Steakhouse on 396 E. Washington Street.

Last night the ever-intrepid S and I met up with J, H, and D to enjoy and partake in some holiday revelry and I'm here to tell you we had a blast reminiscing about bike racing and all things with two wheels, simple systems that could be retrofitted to our cars to create and burn hydrogen (stand clear, please), the Federal Reserve, and the Rothschild family.

You know: Just the usual save the world BS.

Oh, and J and H introduced me to the exotic Absinthe which sounds just ritualistic, and intriguing-of-taste enough for me to want to try. Soon.

The details in this establishment make it a standout: The decorative coving around the bar and dining rooms' high ceilings that draw the eye up to what looks to be original tin ceiling tiles; the expansive (read wide) bar top giving ample room to eat and drink (with two hands and elbows) and supported by a bar base with vertical planks spaced so as to give ample shadow lines which are echoed in the dining room; a simple thin vertical bar rail--still, graced by a routed edge of a unique sort I've not seen used in other bar rails.

Over the back bar is a contemporary bookcase-style shelving system holding what looks to be an extensive selection of cocktail liquors.

The wall over the back bar also sports six handles with the Breaker Brewing Company's handle towering above the rest.

Dude: We've gotta talk about the Breaker Brewing Company one of these days.

The Malty Maguire was great and seemed just about like when we had it over at Elmer Sudds when it debuted. There was another unidentified handle on the end, which no longer poured as the keg had kicked earlier in the day. The `keep said it was a stout: Olde King Cole Stout perhaps? I wish it had been on, but hey, now I've got a reason to go back!

S & yours truly went for the the white chowder to start--the clam bits were velvety soft and tender unlike many other examples. No steak tonight for us but the seafood platter special caught our eyes and was just right and consisted of clam, shrimp, orange roughy, scallop, and crab cake components. Did I mention that I like cole slaw? This was an interesting take on the side, with small minces and dices and that was creamy and a bit tangy.

As is wont to be on occasions such as these (or any occasion really when friends share in thought and opinion), the seafood platter stimulated a communal lamentation of the loss of VicMar's. Sigh.

Our party had a lot of fun as did everyone else there that night.

H: Did that Gibson taste good?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bottle Conditioning

I'm having intermittent good luck with bottle conditioning.

Some batches turn out great while others have no carbonation or very little.

Could it be the high gravities depressing yeast activity at this late stage?

Could it be the technique I use to add a bit more sweet wort prior to bottling (basically adding a few ounces periodically during the transfer from fermenter to bottling bucket)? If that was the case, I would expect to have some bottles with plenty and others with none, but all have almost none. And I have used this technique with success in the past so it's probably not this.

Gotta research this.

2009 Christmas Variation IPA

Monday I brewed a very special beer: One containing only homegrown hops.

I may have gone a bit overboard on the exhilaration quotient when I used a total of 14 ounces of whole flower Cascade and Willamette. And I have dry hopping yet to go.

This is gonna be good.

As I stood there with a few extra ounces of Simcoe® and Amarillo pellets as the wort was boiling, I was faced with a decision. Should I toss them in too or save them for a rainy day? One of life's real quandaries, no? I decided against for the sake of science.

I have no idea how strong these hops are: They were harvested by my Dad in September and immediately vacuum sealed and frozen. They are basically fresh hops.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Old Ebbitt Grill

Sunday we grabbed lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill just east of the White House.

Now this is a bar. The photo does not do justice to the nicely turned columns, the big-game trophies, the back-bar. A real man-cave.


S and I just got back from our secret mission to DC.

I don't usually tell anybody about these secret trips, but this time, I'll make an exception.

Psst. This one's for the Ladies. But fella's: Listen close.

Friday and Saturday were Ida-ugly but made delightful by side-trips to Pizzeria Paradiso where we had some really tasty pizza and some great beers too. We went to the Georgetown location which was a nice walk from where we stayed. Alas as local as I could get, as I always try, was Baltimore: I ordered up aClipper City Winter Storm Warning Imperial ESB from a cask. I'm not much of an ESB, ESP, EXP, or ELP man myself, but this one was pretty good--a nice balance of malt and hops and a very drinkable 7.5% ABV winter warmer. By the way: Where are the DC breweries?

S had the Hitachino Nest White Ale witbier (on draught), from the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan. Her taste is developing nicely, don't you think?

After we settled in with our bowl of olives, I tried to convince her, about that time, that it was called Nest White due to it's use of birds, ala Ace Ventura, in its manufacture.

She wasn't buy'n it.

Pizza here, by the way, is superb. We had the Paradiso with fresh Muttsarella and one extra bit of Porkaliciousness: Sausage. I'm here to tell you, if you care to listen, that the sauce was par excellence! Real tomato, and not salty. Crust: medium thickness, charred perfectly, a bit chewy. Cheese: Real. Fresh. Not your NY style pizza but YummyLicious in it's own Capitol way. There is a small bar downstairs which we didn't but pass by on the way to the restroom. I will come back here in a heart-skip.

Saturday was S's day to shine or be shined as it came to be. The Capitol Oasis, in all it's majestic splendor, awaits the patient. And by heaven's S has patience. S: you're the best and you deserve it.

And I deserve beer. (For having you.)

Saturday night we lived it up at Brasserie Beck downtown. This is a Belgian/French bistro with some really high-end Belgian waffles.

Oops I mean beers.

There's a nice bar as you go in on the right and there's an open kitchen as you walk to the rear of the space. The ceiling is high and there are old clocks high up on the walls around the place reminiscent of what you would see in a Eurpoean train station. It can be a little noisy in there.

Of some note was the Pauwel Kwak from Brouwerij Bosteels. Interesting glass--nice tasting malty beer. The glass was more interesting than the beer, I have to say. :O(

The food here was fabulous: The Belgian Frites are not to be missed. For my main, I had the special which was prawns in a tomoato/anchovy base. S had a crispy critter that they call a Skate. The waiters there are good at what they do and their beer knowledge is pretty good. As was the barkeep's btw.

Mission Accomplished!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Uncle Kazek Porter done

Uncle Kazek Porter is done, and in the bottle aging.

Labels are done! Thanks J!

The better of the two came in at an ultralight 9.7% ABV. But who's counting?

Hey Tazio, what's in the Beer Meister?

I just got done rake'n (but are you ever really done), and had a hellacious hanker'n for Lager. So...to make a long story wet, I have a fresh 1/4 of Yuengling Lager rapidly emptying.

And one for the real men: A fresh 1/6 of Troegs Troegenator Double Bock.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Octoberfest at Old Forge

S and I and a lotta like-minded volk made the hike down to Octoberfest at Old Forge Brewing Company to have some fun, sample some of the seasonal beers, and try some delicious Germanic dishes from the special menu prepared for the occasion.

This visit found us taking the stairway to the 2nd floor to experience the bar and dining room up there. Empty malt sacks hung like curtains from a set of windows and waved their welcome as we climbed the last few steps. Passing by the door leading to the deck, we sincerely considered sitting out there on this quickly-becoming-sunny Saturday afternoon, but, decided that there would be time for that on our next visit. This time, we picked a very nice pine booth across from the bar and settled in for what would become another memorable afternoon.

S wasn't very hungry and just picked a simple pretzel with a spicy beer-mustard sauce. Simple may it be, still served with a distinct flair that I've come to see as normal for OFBC.

I was curious to see how the roast pork crowing the menu might fair, since I've been doing a lot more pork grilling myself lately, so I picked that and chose potato soup for a starter. Well, the soup arrived hot, was chock full of fresh potato, onion, and carrots, and, just like our last visit, freshness ruled.

The roast pork arrived like a prince upon a throne of red cabbage and apple slices. It was out of this world and quite obviously prepared with a lot of care as it was fork-tender and seasoned perfectly with a mustard-based glaze.

And get this: Two potato pancakes on the side! Yeow! Due to the hazy nature of silly things like borders and such, it's no surprise at all to see now that the Poles and Germans really knew how to enjoy and share good food amongst themselves! They were a bit thicker than Babcia's potato pancakes, but still right up there.

Ahhh. Memories.

For desert: Apple Strudel which at the mere mention, a sudden ravenously hungry S poked her little head up and exclaimed: For two, please! Yummy!

As for the good stuff, I started with Petey's Porter--you know, to get a feel for what my own Uncle Kazek Porter should aspire to. It turned out to be very good and very quickly all I had left to show for my effort was a tan mustache!

Old Trafford Pale Ale turned out to be a pure delight. I feel English Pale Ales sometimes can be a little on the bland side. Well, I'm here to tell you this one's a bulls eye on my taste profile!

This one, as advertised, has a hint of bitterness that I found superbly attractive. Not a knock-your-socks off bitterness by any means, but a subtle bitterness just poking its head above the maltiness. A wonderful twinge on the style and I ended up bringing home a growler. Once again the brewers at Old Forge have come up with a winner.

So what's with the name Old Trafford?

Well, one might say that Danville was to iron rail as Old Trafford was to the aeroplane engine.

Sort of.

Old Trafford is an area just south of the city of Manchester England with a gate that leads right next door to Trafford Park which was home to much industrial activity in the period from the end of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. It was home to a Roll-Royce engine manufacturing facility that produced the engines for the Spitfire and Lancaster airplanes used so successfully during the 2nd world war.

Different century, different manufacturing, same import.

Old Forge continues to delight and encourage forays into the world of food, beer, and even history. They have become in my estimation, a credit to the restaurant and craft-beer scene in central PA. Their beers are tasty, the service friendly and competent, their meals: top-notch. I see in their newsletter presence at the GABF this year. I predict there may be glints of gold soon hanging alongside those malt sacks!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Herr Stiegl, what Goodness Have You Shaped!

J just got back from visiting a brother in Milwaukee and brought back this luscious Austrian babe.

He informed me that this beauty was imported directly to a Barley field in Skokie Illinois--according to him one of the few places in the US you can find one like this.

She sported a tan, golden really, the color of straw, with bulging, billowing, pillows of white foam up top, Pils'n from the cup which almost overfloweth.

1492 the label declares--I declare Long Live Austria!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Back-bar Design

I'm starting to get excited about finishing my bar. And, it's only been three years in the making!

L gave me an idea: Why not decorate the capitals on the columns containing the back-bar area? She mentioned the White House and the interesting capitals decorated with ears of corn, used in that design.

So I got to thinking, wheat oops what would make interesting capitals in this bar devoted to beer?

The first thing that came to mind was barley. That's a possibility.

Then I thought: Why not build Solomonic columns? Representative of the life-giving grain that makes all beer go down: Barley?

Hmmmmm, I'm not sure my woodworking skills are ready for Solomonic columns--let me ponder this development.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Schneider Weisse Wheat Beer Lexicon

I stumbled on this interesting and often funny dictionary of Wheat beer, Schneider Weisse, and all things beer and brewing generally, at the top-notch G. Schneider & Sohn brewery site.

I sort of intuited the health benefits of beer, but now it's official:

Hildegard of Bingen
famous doctor and abbess (1098 - 1179) advised in favor of beer drinking due to health reasons. She was a renowned brewmaster and opinioned: "If you are thirsty, you drink beer but no water , because water has no strength. Water will bring more damage than help to your body"

Now this is sanctioned beer quality if I ever saw it:
A beertasting was supposedly run as follows: the mayor and two members of the cityhall appeared at the brewery , demanded a stein of beer, poured the beer on a wooden bench and sat with their leatherpants on it. So they remained sitting for an hour. When they rose and the bench stuck to your "bud" , then the beer was considered good.

It's been said that no German engineer could ever learn anything from an American. Hmmmm:
Crown cork
is the hygienically proven cap on the returnable bottle. The crown cork was invented by William Painter from Baltimore, Maryland, and has been used since 1892.

Universallay true, no?
Rolling pin or Nudelwoigler
Traditional Bavarian hitting tool to discipline drunk ("b´suffane") husbands. To be blue.

I've learned a few things over there and think you'll enjoy it too.

See you at Octoberfest!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green Beer

Did you happen to catch the story about 5 Seasons Brewing Company in Georgia and their 5 Seasons Westside location that uses a rainwater catchment system to obtain the water used in their beer? Great idea. I wonder though, if a lot of filtering is necessary, if it's really that green if you step back and look at the big picture. It's a step in the right direction though.

Right now, I'm sipping a Limited from Buzzards Bay Brewing. I was curious about this brewery and I've found out that they're very green. Carbon neutral, responsible production, using daylight to illuminate the interior of the brewery when possible and plans for a community wind generator. They use water from the spring on their farm, which is probably as green if not greener than rainwater. In the non-literal sense that is.

Kudos to both 5 Seasons and Buzzards Bay.

By Request of Uncle Kazek

In the fermenter since Sunday, I have a special request of Uncle Kazek: A Baltic Porter.

This is my first try at this style so we will have to see how it comes along.

Also, my first attempt at using a starter wort. Once it got going, it sure went to town, but I was holding my breath for the first 24 hours or so!

It's a long story, but I would have had two batches if I hadn't ran out of water.

Rye Beer

I just saw this article on Rye beers over at the Washington Post. I did not know that a rye beer, using only malted rye, would produce a pale golden beer. I was thinking dark like rye bread. Yummy!

Friday, September 25, 2009

How many American Beers are there?

I'm guessing 8K which is a lot of beer! Does anyone have this information anywhere?

NYC Craft Beer Week

Props go to Pubcrawlin for sowing the idea in her enticing post, so S and I decided to try to make it to the Big Barrel last weekend for the very tail end of NYC Craft Beer Week.

Who'd a thunk that just a short walk from Broadway are a plethora of places to savor a great beer?

Great beer enough to take the edge off the maddening melody of the Music of the Night floating through your head?

And I'm not talking about the faux Irish pubs or the cookie-cutter chains around Times Square proffering a token Guinness or micro brew.

I'm talk'n bout places like the House of Brews, Valhalla, The Pony Bar, and the Delta Grill. All less than a 10 minute stroll from Times Square and all offering up wonderful beer in all styles from the bottle or tap.

House of Brews: What can I say? 2nd trip here--the one on 46th. Picked up a beer week passport (for me, not S--she'd be an illegal alien on this trip), a quick plate of nachos with pulled port, sorry I mean pork, I have beer on the brain, Chelsea's Hop Angel [NY], a Magic Hat's Lucky Kat [VT], and Harpoon's [MA] Munich Dunkel to lubricate the `ol nacho libre passage. This stop was sort of a prep workout to get through the next 2 and a half hours if you know what I mean? Our `keep Noel was helpful and knowledgeable about the beers.

After being ravished or appalled, you decide, by a Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber over-the-top spectacle, we descended, passport in had, into Hell's Kitchen to find the Pony Bar.

The Pony Bar serves American craft beers exclusively (nice) and is someplace that appeared up on our beer radars sometime earlier this year. And since we were in the area we thought this was a perfect opportunity to drop in and see what was up, so we did. This is a smallish western-themed place with a bar seating perhaps 20 and with tables for perhaps another 20.
This being a Saturday afternoon, in late-summer, the place was packed when we rode in, but we were able to wedge ourselves at the far end of the bar to try out a couple of treats from Empire [NY]: Black Magic Stout and Fresh Hops. I like the slate beer menus for their at-a-glance beauty announcing what's on. Northwest corner of 10th Ave and 45th.

Heading north to 9th Ave and 54th, we found Valhalla. You know the place where all beer drinkers go before they die? 48 or was it 49 tap handles, my vision was blurring. Beer week selections for us were Tire Bite Golden Ale from Flying Dog [MD] in the Kolsch style. I'm not too big a fan of Kolsch--it's a bit too sweet for my taste, and this one seemed to be just like all the rest I've tried. The next was a Lagunitas [CA] IPA. Plain. Simple. Refreshing. Perfect. This place claims to be only four years old but by the looks of things it will be around when all of us get to Valhalla.

We were getting hungry for some solid food about this time and departed for our last stop of the evening at the Delta Grill at 9th Ave. and 48th St. This grill specializes in creole and cajun. It's notable for a nice atmosphere evocative of someplace you might visit down in crawdad country. What better beer than Abita's [LA] Purple Haze Raspberry Wheat to wash down a half Muffuletta (shared it was SO big)? Actually, so big that it cried out to be followed up by a Blue Point [NY] toasted lager which was not too exceptional but different and tasty enough to stand out in a very crowded field. The atmosphere was fun and the service was great. I would go back for an encore.

Sunday found us driving into Brooklyn Heights to search out Grimaldi's in DUMBO on Old Fulton Street. J had told me about this being one of the top pizza places in New York and after a 45 minute wait we got in for the 1st seating when it opened at 11:30. Not before, however, a pizza tour bus dropped a load of pizza aficionados who whisked themselves in, before the waiting queue of 100s of like-minded but less fortunate and just as hungry souls. I was surprised that there wasn't any rumbling. Inside is perhaps a 30 by 20 foot square dining room in the front with family-style seating offering great opportunities to strike up conversations with neighboring diners. To the back is the visible prep area and oven. We opted for a large 18" pie (no slices) with mushrooms, pepperoni, and sausage. The crust: Supremely thin and the underside baked to a slightly mottled black perfection. The mozzarella: White, fresh and thinly applied. The sauce: Home made tomato sauce just as it oughta be without any taste of anything but ripe tomato. The fuel: Coal of course. This is the real deal folks. This pizza was awesome. I put it up there with John's and Lombardi's.

Afterwards we headed to Atlantic Ave for a quick one before the long trip home. Passport in hand we revisited the Brazen Head on Atlantic Avenue near Court Street and the Downtown Bar and Grill just off Atlantic Avenue on Court Street. At the Brazen Head, The Summer Solstice Wheat and Gotham Cream Stout from Chelsea were mighty fine and quenching on a quickly turning warm late summer day. At Downtown Bar and Grill, the Manhattan Project from Brooklyn [NY] exploded in my mouth for the first time. Frankly, these rye ales are becoming some of my favorite beers. After that, the Festbier from Victory [PA] (yeah) served as a nice finish. Inside was mobbed and so we sat outside at a table, to enjoy the day and watch the world go by. This is a family-oriented section of Brooklyn and there were plenty of babies in strollers and shoppers carrying their groceries home! As a matter of fact, people here seem to think nothing of bringing their children to these beer havens. I fully support this.

This seems to me to have been a well thought out beer week. It was my first, I have to admit, never having been to any others including the local one in Philly. I liked that you could look in the passport and find directions to any of the participating venues of which there were 80 some-odd all over the five boros. I liked that you could index venues by the neighborhood you were in or by beer style. Or for that favorite brewery of yours, sorted by state, you could find the beers being served, the style, and all the places serving the beer. I wish Mr. Mybeerbuzz would do something like this for our own local beer venues! There is becoming enough of them to make it useful.

Now. All we need is a digital passport linked to a database, interfacing to a map application like the beer mapping project, subway maps, venue's web site, web cam to check out how busy they are in real time etc. Then we'd really be cooking with gas.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Altitude Chophouse and Brewery--Laramie Wyoming

You know, it's hard work watching the snow drift fences swirl by alongside I-80 in Wyoming. Countless numbers of them, mile after mile, arrayed like regiments of soldiers guarding I-80. You build a ferocious thirst. You might not think so, but you do--and hunger for that matter.

I can't honestly say that I didn't mean it to happen this way, but just about lunch time we got within a stone's throw of Laramie which I knew had a brewery/restaurant. So we stopped in for a bite and a pint, just to make things interesting on this milestone journey.

The milestone of not having kids at home anymore. It feels like what walking across the billowy tan head resting atop a pint of Hop Devil might feel like. Or passing through a doorway opening to a new, spicy, flavor of life, that lifts with each unencumbered taste. I love kids. And anyone who has kids knows you never stop being a parent. But for a change, for the first time in 20 years, no kids equals freedom. At least I like to think so. But I digress.

The Altitude Chophouse and Brewery is easy to find and the townspeople are mighty friendly. Just ask and they'll point you to the colorful side of town where the exotic brewery and tempting grill smells come from.

The mirrored windows facing the street are an interesting touch. Although unnecessary as this isn't your ordinary dive bar where you don't wish to be seen. Inside we found a very nice rustic themed restaurant and bar with the brewery off in the distance. It's nice to see rustic--something about the interior reminds me of the hemlock in Rickett's Glen SP. It must be the log bar stools. There was a nice crowd for a weekday lunch.

Our waitress S (I'll call her S-squared) was shadowing a new employee. Didn't get his name but with S-squared as his guide, he'll turn out alright.

Altitude has a wonderful selection of every-day beers as well as a bank of seasonals on draught. Just as it oughta be and ever should be. We perused the beer menu to see what tasty treat we might find to accompany our meals--my eyes settled on the Grizzly Whisperer IPA. Think about that one for a minute. What comes to mind: Dangerous? Powerful? Grizzly Man? Would you whisper to a Grizzly? Well, S-prime does, every morning and she lives to tell about it. So I tried one and I'm here to tell you that it was worth it. A nice balanced IPA with just enough kick and freshness to take the growl outta me after the aforementioned drive across southern Wyoming. S the real deal, I'll call S-prime, ordered up a Tumbleweed Wheat, one sip of which I was allowed to enjoy. This is their best-selling beer and I can see why. If I was in the mood for something lighter today, this would be the beer for me!

For dinner, I ordered a Brew Burger, medium rare, with waffle fries. Excellent on all counts and as S-squared reminded me, it's buffalo and healthier than beef. S-prime, ordered a bowl of bacon corn chowder which she let me try a bit of and pronounced excellent. With that she had a prime rib sandwich with waffle fries. Natch.

This place has a lot of variety in their beers and they fill growlers and sell kegs to boot. I'm a bit surprised how their keg prices can be so low. At least by the standard of what we pay in NEPA. And pitchers? Hmmm. Does One Guy offer pitchers? I don't think so but I could be wrong. I do think it's a good idea though. My place would.

Altitude Brewery and Chophouse serves some mighty fine meals and beer from their own on-premises brewery. Very reasonably priced too. Service was friendly. Unfortunately I only had a chance to try one of their beers--I was driving after all. It is well-worth a visit if you're in town.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Booming, Brash Craft Brews

As I sit here, I happened upon this article in the Chicago Tribune relative the craft beer industry in general is doing this year and specifically their local Goose Island.

And here is an article suggesting that there's 1525 US breweries this year. This is the first time I've seen it go over 1500 so that's saying something. I think this puts the US over DE now.

And I just saw a short piece on craft beer on ABC. So even morass-media is getting into the act.

It's a good time to drink good beer and support your good local brewer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Looking out the side window

Sign seen in Colorado:

Warning, state prison nearby. Do not stop for hitchhikers.

and one in Oklahoma:
When raining, burn headlights.

and another in Arizona:
Elk crossing next 25 miles.

and a billboard in Texas:
Free 72 oz. steak.

somehwere near Saint Louis:
Foot High Pie at Blue Springs Restaurant

Closest terrain to that of NEPA: Ozarks in Missouri
Hottest Temp: 108 degrees fahrenheit, Tempe, AZ.
Coldest Temp: 48 degrees fahrenheit, somewhere in Wyoming.
Most Wind Generation Facilities: a tie between Wyoming and Iowa.
Best Beer: a tie between Colorado and Illinois

Old Town Social

The City of Broad Shoulders has much to offer even a casual visitor. For the walker, there's glorius people-watching along the Navy Pier. For the shopper, there's the Magnificent Mile. For the builder and architect, there's the delight of the castle-like splendor of the enduring Water Works and the other buildings that were turn-of-the century monoliths to the preeminent superpower to be: The United States.

Adding to that the Second City offers an almost infinite variety of places to eat, drink and be merry: Your friendly Irish Pub, the dank dive bar, or the lively outdoor cafe packed with partying and unlaboring proles.

After trying all of the above on for style, when you've built a thirst like no other and want to try to someplace new, look no further than Old Town Social. Old Town Social recently opened and is located in the section of the city with the moniker Old Town and is short walk north and west of the Water Tower area.

On our recent visit to Chicago, we begain in the Gold Coast section and decided to try to find and experience Old Town Social for ourselves. While walking down North Avenue, we spotted Second City. You know: Birthplace to the comic genii: Eugene Levy, John Candy, John Belushi, et al? S and I didn't know when we might get back, so with just a few minutes to go before the 7:00 p.m. show, we decided to try to get tickets--No luck. So we continued down along North Avenue, forlorn yet still walking toward the light, searching as always for beervana. Finally, near um, the cross street of N. Cleveland I think it was, we spotted Old Town Social in an unassuming plain storefront--access via side entrance, please.

In the vestibule just inside the door on the wall hang a group of what I immediately assumed were clerical collars (!)--it was only after I queried the pleasant hostess, that I discovered that they were pin-on collars worn early last century by poor people as a means to make-do with a limited amount of clothing.

Walking inside and turning to the right opens to a long marble-topped central bar going down the middle of the space with a dining area on both sides. High original exposed-truss ceilings and strong brick walls lead me to believe this was some sort of industrial space in an earlier incarnation. The overall scene is old-school: antique roll-top arrival station; turn-of-the-century framed photos on the walls; light-colored leather-seated bar stools, dark marble bartop and back bar, dining booths set into one wall with curtain tails to each side, a shoe-shine station--A showpiece really, but still evocative of the overall old-time spirit.

We seated ourselves at the bar and now it gets good, really good. Check out their beer menu. Local beers? Natch. Imported Belgium beauties en draught? Certainly. PA beers? Got that covered too!

What else? Specific glassware for 23 of their beers. Slavering now: Hmmm....Must...Taste....Indeed.

From Two Brothers Brewing Company, their Prairie Path, Belgian Pale Ale started me along the path to beervana. This is a new beer and brewery for me. They're located in Warrenville, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. Check them out over here along with an interesting story about their new oaken Foudres. For S, she gave the beer menu a three times over and made a great choice if I don't say so myself: drum-roll please: Victory Prima Pils from draught. Need I say more?

Quickly downing my pint (we had walked a mile or so after all), the geese who usually flock, followed me next onto Goose Island - Matilda, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. This brewery's situated in Chicago and is also one I've not sampled beers from before. Matilda's from their Reserve collection and sports a racy and spicy treat of wonderful light amber that kicked it just right.

Look Mommy there's a goose up in the sky...

Matilda paired perfectly with with my dinner choice: the B.L.T. As is well known, there is no finer food on God's green Earth than the majestic B.L.T. And when paired with the finest beer on God's great Earth, well, can you say Heaven? The bacon between toasted bread was perfectly done and thick, even after frying--as it should be. The tomatoes: End of summer sweet, sweet, Heirlooms. Aioli slathered on, was a different and unique twist (for me) adding just a bit of garlic flavor to the proceedings. Yummeee!

The final piece of the puzzle slipped into place when the barmaid brought me a housemade dill pickle. Now: You know there's just one other thing that a Polish boy is never separated from by more than an arm's length. Right? His sausage? Well yes, but... His dill pickle!

I am something of a pickle connoisseur as I make my own too and am always looking to other examples for points of comparison and ideas. Well let me tell you, this was one humdinger of a dill pickle. It was crisp, spicy, zippy, and had some flavor component I don't often taste--I'm wondering if these were aged in an oak barrel?

After these treats(the whole menu looks just as sensational), I took to the beer menu again, this time aiming for something a little more familiar. I found it in Bell's Two Hearted Ale, an ale in the American IPA style. This beer brought me a few hundred miles closer to home. Frankly speaking, Bell's is becoming one of my favorite breweries and in a ship's hold worth of IPAs sailing about the world, this single IPA is just different enough to stand out in a very crowded harbor.

About this time I finished my meal and S had just finished an exquisite chopped salad, and for my night-cap, in correct glassware please, I ordered up a farmhouse ale from the brewery Dupont, their Saison Dupont seasonal beer. Prior to this beer I had been an avowed Farmhouse Ale anti-devotee, but perhaps I had been showing my naivete? I humbly sit before you and admit I was wrong. Saison Dupont has turned me into a believer. A more exquisite beer I have not tasted--refreshing, fruity, spicy, dry in the finish.

Restrooms: Spotless.

Service: Eye-popping.

Beers: Excellent selection for all tastes from the lightest to some heavyweight stouts and all SRMs in-between.

Any place that has housemade dill pickles, an interesting overall food menu, and great beers, is home indeed. I will be back. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Upstream Brewing Company

We got to Omaha on Saturday afternoon with an intense craving for bloody good, barely cooked, red meat.

Luckily, we were obliged by a visit to the Old Market section of the city--otherwise we might have had to make due with the stray McNougat or two.

The Old Market is about a 20-some-odd block rectangle that is as it was perhaps 100 years ago, except there's air conditioning now--and beautiful people.

The buildings have been restored to their original grandeur and reoccupied by all sorts of new businesses from gourmet ice cream shoppes (pronounced: shop-pays), to trinket shops (pronounced: shops), to a brewery (pronounced: Beer).

Which brings us to Upstream Brewing Company. This is a brewery/restaurant located in a restored firehouse. Don't worry, the sliding pole has been taken away for safety sake.

This is a very cool two-story place where the second story looks down over a balcony to the first floor bar, and the dining room on the second story, itself spans the space above the brewery at the back of the building on the first floor. Stalwart brick walls. Massive oaken beams. Fine oak trim and handrails. You will only find construction like this in old buildings--as it was and no longer made this way to be. Sigh.

I ordered up the Rye Pale Ale for a change up and delighted in it's refreshing zest. A slightly hoppy treat, it is brewed using locally grown Hops which is very unusual for Nebraska. S, becoming a noted beer connoisseur in her own mind, without any needling picked the O! Gold Light Beer as her first--this is an easy drinking light American Lager beer--I had a sip and can tell you that it tastes a lot fuller than the 3.8% ABV it was sporting!

S and I knew what we were after in terms of dinner and without much drama ordered and savored the grilled ribeyes that were perfectly prepared to our liking and excellent in flavor and texture. Accompanying baby carrots and broccoli were spot on and complemented the steak perfectly.

It occurred to S and I as we were eating our dinner and sipping our beer that there's no place like this in NEPA. Some place where a brewery and food are paired in an interesting and/or historical place--a place where you'd want to bring friends from out of town. It is startling to me that no one has done anything like this. Yes, we've had Black Rock Brewing Company--but there wasn't anything historicial about that structure althought the beer was good. Yes we have Cooper's, but the same goes for that in terms of the structure and it's not a brewery either.

An old firehouse, an old bank (there are plenty sitting empty or about to become so), an old library, an old department store (when they were downtown). An old train station for heaven's sake! Any of these places could work with some creativity and investment and could become the centerpiece of the downtowns of say Wilkes-Barre, Bloomsburg, or Scranton. I'm not complaining, just thinking out loud.

I would definitely stop here again if I was passing through Omaha. It's a very nice place. And just remember, the distance between beef and beer is separated by 11 letters and Upstream Brewing Company is on 11th street in Omaha.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Boulder Beer Company

So, with the cool air portending coming snow we saddled up in Laramie Friday afternoon, rounded up the herd and headed south on 287 to graze some new pasture and try to catch more of the late summer warmth.

I've always wanted to saddle up in Laramie.

On the way south, a bonus stop just a bit off the trail was the Boulder Beer Company in of all places Boulder Colorado. The full parking lot told us the place was obviously popular with the regular folk blowing off some foam after a hard week scaling peaks, skiing slopes, or just pushing dead pixels around on a screen. Anticipating a cold one or three, we quickly shook off the dust from the hard ride and went inside.

Entering we discovered a nice tap room with an ell-bar in the corner serving all of the Boulder Beers' brews. With perhaps 12 of their beers on draught, it was hard to choose where to start, but I opted for the Flashback Anniversary Ale--a beer I was familiar with from the BOTM club and celebratory of Boulder Beer Company's 30th anniversary.

Speaking of 30th anniversary, this is the real thing folks: Boulder Beer is not some johnny-come-lately to craft beers--they've been here from the beginning. Or just about. It shows in the size of their brewery, their branching out into bottling and the breadth and maturity of their beer lineup. They're obviously doing something right.

Behind the bar are a set of windows looking out into the brewery. There wasn't any activity going on when we were in, but at times I can imagine that this sort of arrangement would provide plenty of interesting beer-making observation.

That's ice Holmes!

S went for the Sweaty Betty of which I had a sip: It was a servicable wheat and tasted fine what with the 85 degree temps and all. After these two beers went down oh so quickly, we went to the beer menu and had a look around.

I quickly settled on the Hazed and Infused which I hadn't tasted before. This hop shot is beer as I try to make it myself: Unfiltered, fresh, quenching. Quickly becoming dazed and confused, as we departed, I pled with S to drive the final leg into Denver and she obliged.

The beers are cold, the tap tenders are funny, personable, and helpful.

If you are in this area and enjoy beer, by all means drop in for a taste.

In Denver: Falling Rock Tap House

Ya gotta love a place with over 2200 bottles of beer on the wall.

And a digital timer on the wall too, measuring the countdown to the 2009 GABF kickoff party on October 6th.

These people really love their beer over here: There are over 75 beers always on draught with a good showing of Colorado micros ande from all over the US. Belgium, Germany, and Czech Republic are represented too, just goes to show you this truly is a league of nations. What about bottles you say? Over a 100 always available.

You know how once you have an idea in yer `ed it's hard to get rid of it? Well I've had the Odell Brewing Company's 5 Barrel Pale Ale in me `ed since March. Seeing it on draught here made me want it for my first brew of the night. And now I've got it in me belly, too. This one is specially brewed up in Fort Collins, CO using multiple (five maybe?) barrels, four hop additions during the boil, and hop additions in the hop back and during fermentation--hence the totally oblique naming reference. Strangely, it's a very mellow PA at only 36 IBUs and not too crazy at all.

The night was still young, and a new beer on draught will always catch my attention. One in particular captured my heart: Avatar Jasmine IPA. This beer from the Elysian Brewing Company of Seattle, has a faint fragrance of Jasmine flowers which are added to the boil and whirlpool during brewing. The subtle hints of Jasmine are in the taste, too, along with the essential hop bitterness being an IPA after all. To me, there is a definite clover honey aspect on the tongue as well--like a mellower version of Bell's Hopslam Ale. Now this is one great tasting IPA. I'm here to tell you, try it if you have the chance.

Barkeeps attentive and sweet like the beer.

On Blake Street a very, and I mean very short walk from Coors Field.

Highly recommended.

A quick peek at Four Peaks

On our way to visit L in Chandler, we returned to Four Peaks Brewing Company for a quick one--just to squelch the heat, you know?

The brewery is in a converted dairy. As you can see this is a large operation--they bottle Kiltlifter® Scotish-Style Ale, Hot Knot IPA®, and 8th Street Ale® for purchase around the state but not beyond. The bar is absolutely huge with perhaps seating for 100 beer lovers.

This time, I opted for the Hop Knot which was great with just the right amount of slightly off-center hop madness: Citrusy and refreshing. Oatmeal Stout not tried before ended my afternoon. Not oily, hints of chocolate that lingered long after the liquid faded away.

Alas, my camera croaked an ``I'm done.'' in here.

Four Peaks and their beers have won multiple medals and it's not hard to see why.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Papago Brewing

Moving Z into his dorm room yesterday felt like working in a salt mine where fortunes are measured in teaspoons with payscales graduated in grains.

Dare I say this made S and I way more than ready, in fact downright giddy, over the notion of sitting down and relaxing over a cold beer or two.

The astute reader of this blog may recall that on our last trip to the Phoenix area, there just wasn't enough time to check out all the cool beer bars, brewpubs, and such that we knew about and ended up as sad Misses.

This time we wanted to fill in the blanks so to speak, and Papago Brewing, while being a bit away from our locus in Tempe, was in our beer sights for a visit. So it was with our beer goggles firmly set, that we lashed out to Scottsdale to seek our beer fortunes.

Papago rests its laurels in a nondescript adobe plaza not unlike any other you might see all over this area of Arizona.

Passing through industrial strength double doors leads you inside to the inviting tap room.

As you can see by the tap list, Papago pours their own beers and draws others predominantly from the veins of domestic microbreweries--beers that are rarely if ever seen in our parts of NEPA.

Keen eyes may see a handle with a scrawled label, there were several, labeled BJs IPL. Yep, you guessed right: BJ's India Pale Lager. Now isn't that something? I just had to try it as my first beer and let me tell you it is no slouching compromise in an attempt to meld a lager and an ale. It brings the attributes of a lager that I love, namely a smooth mouthfeel and bright coloring and all the attibutes of a IPA like essential hop aroma and zesty flavor. Coupled with that, in this beer, was a freshness of taste like no other, that was confirmed by a new beer buddy at the bar Chuck.

Chuck, of Hop Disciples of Denver fame and long-time homebrewer (from 1966--way before it was legal!) informed me that BJ's in Chandler (a chain brewpub) brews the IPL for distribution right here in Phoenix and for nowhere else as it's not on the ``approved recipe list'' from the Mothership. This beer alone is worth a side trip to try if you're in the area. I don't know how long it's on for so you better get up there.

Along with this impressive array of draught beers goes a bottle collection of perhaps 200. Again, many imported selections were evident but the true love here is la microbrew domestica. Frankly, this is how it should be in my estimation. I'm all for diversity in beer styles, but anything under the sun that's produced anywhere in the world these days, has and is being produced right here in the good old US of A and probably better!

And laurels there are indeed as evidenced by the two GABF medals hanging over the backbar. One for Papago El Robusto Porter and another for the Papago Brewing Hop Dog IPA.

The barmaid Ashton was sympathetic to S and her choice of a beer and was very accomodating allowing her to taste various (read: at least ten) of the various draughts before settling on a Pilsner.

This is a place where quick friends can be made over a beer and old friends can come to catch up. I highly recommend it for the atmosphere, beer, and overall feel. They do serve food as well but we didn't try anthing from the kitchen on this visit. They offer free Wi-Fi access.

With Z certain to be in Tempe for another year or two, coming back to Papago Brewing is as sure a thing as the Sun greeting us this morning.

Monday, August 31, 2009


It's supposed to peak at 107 today, which they tell me is the temperature taken under a shade tree somewhere. I'm not certain what the temperature would be in the direct sunlight, but I'm certain it would feel interesting.

Did you ever feel the waft of heat gently across your face when you opened an oven after baking? Well that's what it feels like.

But still infinitely bearable (it's a dry heat after all) with some chilly refreshment at hand.

These may be the warmest temperatures I've ever experienced.

What do do? Well we have some move-in, thirst-building, bidness to attend to and after that we'll just see what occurs naturally.

There was some thought of rock-climbing but a peek at the thermometer makes that unlikely for the next few days.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's 108, but it's a dry heat

I rolled into Tempe a few hours ago after a breathtaking run down from Oklahoma City. Met up with my lovely S, who greated me with open arms and a Four Peaks Kilt Lifter® Scotish Ale from the bar which she served personally in the pool! It really doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Path to Somewhere and Nowhere in Particular

Here's a rough idea of the route I'll be following beginning today.

The main point of this trip is to take Z off to AZ for college. (Yeah! No more kids to send to college!)

Secondarily, it will be a chance to relax and clear my noodle of the year's pressures.

And at the same time try out some of the beers I've had a chance to savor at their source.

I have a new birthday toy (or two) that I'm gonna be using to blog along the way, so stay tuned. The fun is about to commence!

View Larger Map

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Road Trip

I've prayed to the beer gods for some modicum of relief from the place I've found myself recently. A new direction perhaps?

I had a dream, and a slurred voice from somewhere awoke me at dawn: Son, pull your boots on and get in your car. Travel West, to the end of the Road.

What you seek, there you will find.

This is not what the voice said but just a tribute.

Hey Tazio, what's in the Beer Meister?

Dude. The void has been filled. Finally.

The picture is complete. The Fat Lady has sung her Beer Aria.

Today, I cleaned my beer lines and beer line, and filled my beer miser and beer belly with two of my most favorite of beers: Victory Hop Devil and Weyerbacher Autmnfest Ale. One for the men. And another one for the man-cave.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Craft Beer doing well this Recession

I tend to agree with these experts: As long as craft brewers stay innovative and creative, they'll always be able to keep their products fresh and enjoy the cult followings like indie bands have long had.

Check out the foam on the news anchor: I wonder what kind of beer flows from her cans?

Home Bar Construction

What have I been doing lately?

Three years and 10,000, wait maybe 20,000 excuses later, the man-cave is finally nearing habitation. Or is it hibernation.

It's at least ready enough to serve beer. As long as you can stand and drink at the same time that is.

Photographic evidence you say? Hang on.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hop Crop

There's still about a month before harvest. Ok you hopheads what variety of hops are these?

Corney Sankey Eye

Saturday, July 18, 2009

There May Be Hope for the English Pub Yet!

Here's a good article by Henry Shukman that paints a fairly upbeat picture about the survival of the English Pub.

He make makes me feel like I should go and visit.

I wonder why there aren't there any pubs like these in NEPA?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Hiatus

Drink in May and go away.

Well I've got the go away part down pat, but I'm still sipping the fine brews on into the Summer!

Actually, most summers, it seems with the barbecues, vacations, et al, this space gets dusty mitey.

I'll try to post some interesting tid-bits as I discover them, though.

Hey Tazio, what's in the Beer Meister?

Well, let's see...Realizing that the Bavarian Barbarian Hammerin' Ale was in it's death throes after we had to tag-team to ax and broadsword it to its knees last week, I anticipated this revolting development quite nicely and procured a backup keg of Victory Prima Pils. Just in case expiration came at an inconvenient time and all...

Well when the Hammerin' Ale honorably kicked over the weekend (may ye rest in peace, valiant warrior), it was a simple matter to switch to the Prima Pils. And what a primo delight that was!

Still on tap two is ITHACA Beer Co.&trade Apricot Wheat--it's going as fast as a hound dog passing Apricot pits. But really, it's going steadily, but subject to a foaming issue. My pressure only shows 8 lbs--I'll dial it back a wee bit to see if that helps!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rerun of Citizens Yuengling

If you didn't catch it the first time around, catch this week's episode of WVIA's Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal.

This week's episode airs Wednesday, July 1 at 7 p.m. and will feature in-depth interviews with Citizens Dick and Wendy Yeungling. His fifth generation name is on a beer once brewed and enjoyed only in Pennsylvania Coal Country. Today his is a respected boutique beer sold in 12 states along the East Coast. Dick Yuengling is now teaching the business to his four daughters to preserve the 180 year legacy. Meet Wendy Yuengling and her father and learn the fascinating business history of the Yuengling brewery.

I saw it the first time it showed and it was very interesting.