Monday, April 27, 2009

New King of Beers

A tongue-in-cheek take on who will be the new King of Beers

Thursday, April 23, 2009

100 Bottles of Beer at The Beer Stop, 100 Bottles of Beer

Stopped by The Beer Stop when I was in Hazleton last, and picked up a tasty quartet of domestic craft beers. Bell's Hopslam, Bear Republic's Racer 5 I.P.A, Stone Ruination I.P.A., and Founders Centennial I.P.A.


They are now featuring something new that will ensure many return visits: the Top 100 beers. In the coolers, representatives of the top century of beers, as rated by a well-known beer advocacy organization, are labeled and briefly described.

If that's not enough to get you interested, the fellow in there, is very knowledgeable and can, in detail, describe each of the tasty fermented treats. In fact, it's a requirement for the job!

If you don't know exactly what you want, or want to take that first step into the craft beer world, this is the place to try in southern Luzerne County.

And if you've partaken but not lately, it's worth a stop.

Citizens Yuengling

I was lucky enough to catch WVIA's NEPA Business Journal last weekend and just happened to tune in to a rebroadcast of their profile of Dick Yuengling and his daughter Wendy, telling their story about leading the oldest brewery in America, the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville PA.

Dick seems to be a funny, sincere, and fiscally conservative guy who displays what it takes to run a successful business. His daughters, of which there are four, work in the business and will be taking over from him someday to carry on the tradition.

It's an interesting story of a seven generation family owned business and I'd urge you to try to see it on reruns if you can.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Beer Wars Movie

Beer Wars is screening nationwide Thursday April 16. It's a documentary about what the big macro brewers are doing/have done and why they are trying to thwart the small craft beer brewers.

Locally it's playing at the Cinemark in Moosic, 8:00 p.m.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sometimes the area you grew up in doesn't reveal all its secrets until after you've matured, moved away and come back. Bringing along a new perspective and appreciation for things you may have missed the first time passing through. Sometimes you even achieve focus and the proverbial Aha! moment.

This happened to S and I this weekend on our trip to Danville, Pa for our first visit to Old Forge Brewing Company.

I didn't grow up in Danville but my HS team played them in sports. And I never really gave their name: the Danville Ironmen, much thought. I just thought it was another metaphorical sports team name meant to evoke the image of tough as steel ballplayers. Wait a minute. Am I that out of touch?

But once we went inside the narrow storefront of the Old Forge Brewing Company, it all clicked. And it became clear that there was something really historic and special about this town, relating to iron, manufacturing, and railroads. And now, again, about something else: great food and beer.

I'm a student of bar design and never pass on the opportunity to check out a neat bar. Let me tell you, Old Forge Brewing Company has a very cool bar. As you enter, to the left are some brewing tanks--a mash/lauter tun perhaps and behind that a floor to ceiling brick wall running perpendicular to the street. Original brick perhaps? Straight-ahead is a long flight of stairs leading to the second floor taproom and seating area. As you advance into the room to the left is thee bar, constructed of what appears to be maple. The bar top is a one inch thin maple laminated ell about 18' by 6' with an approximately ten inch overhang at the front supported by black wrought iron brackets. The bar's base cabinet is a horizontally-paneled maple piece with the corners adorned by black angle iron with diamond rivet detailing. Rimming the edge of the bar at the belt line is a distinctive thin, red rubber bumper. But the foot rest is the pièce de résistance. A clever yet totally functional foot rest the likes of which I've never seen before. It's an ell-shaped iron rail, a T-Rail, enabler of the Industrial Revolution, originally developed and manufactured in Danville, originally painted red but now on the friction surface, rubbed away to reveal its silver essence not unlike the rail you see on a well-used railroad. Closing the ell at the far end of the bar is the eight or ten tap system, the tap handles a homage to iron in the form of the tools that built Danville and this great country.

Maybe 12 light wooden-seated ladder back stools at the bar, almost all taken at 3 on a Saturday afternoon, face the bar. Along the right wall are three or four bi-seating pub tables with two mirrors on the wall over the tables. Beyond the bar at the back is another area of low tables.

Given that the room is narrow, to conserve space another neat feature was implemented behind the bar to store glassware: single-pint-depth shelves running what appears to be the length of the bar and perhaps three or four rows high, maybe more. And at a bit over bar-top height above the shelves, a regiment of mugs hanging in silent attention for that moment when they're asked to perform their duty--a most honorable duty, to bring the cool, fresh beer to the mouths of eager mug club members. Alas the mug club is full and the waiting list is over 128 names deep!

We settled into a couple of stools to peruse the beer menu. I wanted to try something a bit different and chose the Slack Tub Stout (on Nitro). S decided she needed an adventure and picked the Irish Draught Ale, also on nitrogen. My Slack Tub Stout arrived a deep dark color with some nice foam, and not at all tasting like it had been fermenting in a blacksmith shop all week. This was an excellent stout of the highest order and not overwhelming in roast, chocolate or coffee flavors as others are want to sometimes. It had just a bit of molasses flavor, contributing just that little bit of sweetness. I had a sip of S's red Irish Draught Ale and this was a real surprise to me. One, there is something wholly unique in this recipe that I could not put my finger on that gave it a superior enticing attitude that murmured drink-me. Sort of like that surprise when you first taste Prima Pils. I can't explain it as I only had a sip, but WOW! (If anyone can tell me this mystery ingredient I speak of, please do. If not: I'm going back to find out asap.) And two, it didn't have an alcohol finish like some other beers in this style. Very good and very tasty.

S always checks out the food menu and this time was no different. Her conclusion: everything on it's interesting, and begging to be ordered! But we didn't want to eat a big meal so instead opted for something from the appetizer menu: an order of two sausage skewers which arrived in no time flat accompanied by sides of grainy mustard and ale-infused cheese annointments. The red and green peppers and onions were sublime in their freshness and doneness. The sausage: grilled to perfection and soft in texture--not hard--that had me singing Na Zadrowie in no time. (This happens sometimes when I get my hands on good sausage.)

With our food, I ordered a T-Rail Pale Ale which was the perfect complement to the sausage and spicy mustard. This beer is not a hop-bomb, but a very easy drinking, bright and crisp American Pale Ale that I would think would be a great introduction to Pale Ales for new craft beer drinkers, but with just enough of an attitude for anyone. Really. It was so good in fact that I had to get a growler of it to bring home, which I did and which I'm enjoying at this very minute!

This is a fantastic place to experience the joy of well-made craft-beer. They have a very nice selection--maybe five or six or eight, so there's something for everyone, running the gamut from Pilsner to Stout. Bring a bit of an appetite as their food menu is inventive and tantalizing. Everyone was friendly and all the patrons were enjoying themselves. The barmaids: attentive. The beer: bright, fresh, crisp, excellent. I'll be going back soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grodzisk Wielkopolski--Birthplace of Grodziskie Beer

Recently I saw a mention by Joe Sixpack about Grodziski-style ale which a collaboraton between Iron Hill Brewery and Yards tried to recreate.

I was curious, being Polish myself, and I wanted to try to find out something about this beer. At the Grodzisk Wielkopolsi city website I discovered a very interesting story behind this beer...

The thing that chiefly made Grodzisk Wielkopolski Poland famous, was the Grodziskie beer.

During the Middle Ages the beer was not produced here but there was a breakthrough in the second half of the 16th century which began a period of brewing glory in the city, with the first brewery opening in 1601.

At the end of the 18th century there were 53 breweries in the city!

The unique taste of the beer was based not only on the special ingredients and fermenting techniques but also on the rich tasting water.

The special water used in the Grodziskie beer is legendary and the story goes something like this. The Blessed Father Bernard of the Benedictine monastery in Lublin went to Grodziska and saw that the townspeople were suffering greatly because the well from which they drew water for the city brewery and its hospital had run dry. It didn't help that the brewery was also the only source of income for the city. Since the situation was unfortunate and the townspeople were deeply religious, Father Bernard blessed the well. The well soon started to produce water and the townspeople found to their amazement, wonder, and joy that the water made the beer taste better than it had ever tasted before! Residents of Grodziska form a memorial procession every year to Lublin and there on the grave of Father Bernard at the monastery they lay a gift of a barrel of beer.

Over time, the Grodziskie beer grew in popularity and high opinion, and eventually commanded a price three times ordinary beer. The only beer that could call itself traditional Grodziskie beer came from Grodzisk Wielkopolski, Poland.

Near as I could tell, the Grodziskie beer used top fermenting yeast and oak and/or beech smoked wheat malt.

The 2nd world war contributed to a decline in interest in Grodziskie beer. At the end of 1993 the brewery ended production of the golden Grodziskie beer.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A new Belgian Cafe Opens in NYC

I just found out about BXL East in Midtown. The bar looks great, the beers menu is great with most if not all Belgians on tap and bottle. The mussels on the menu sound like perfect complements to the beer--Sunday and Monday nights are mussels $20 all you can eat with one Stella Artois. Mmmm.