My new best friends at Ninkasi made sure I will be a welcome guest this day of thanks. And therefore thanks to them.


These arrived on my doorstep in a big, big box yesterday afternoon (accompanied by, I should note, a smaller box carrying two 12oz bottles of Widmer Brothers Brrr, a seasonal red ale, which I enjoyed with dinner last night).

The little guy in the bottom right of the photo is The Family Goat, a bottle opener that is older than pretty much everybody (including me, which makes it really old); it was used extensively by my father, but his record has long since been eclipsed by yours truly.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Something I did not know.

This blog has made a healthy living off of making fun of Victory-lovin’, corner bar stool sittin’, ever promotin’, email spammin’ Richard Ruch over the past decade or more, but today it’s all hat tips and high praise as his morning electronic missive, posted in its entirely below, provided me with what the headline above says.

I don’t know if my fellow PA beer lovers are aware of a very significant craft-related beer event that happened over the summer. Our illustrious PLCB with the very strong input from the PA Craft Brewers Guild help “craft” new PCLB rules allowing a brewer with at least one (1) on-premise brewing operation to open two (2) additional “satellite” tasting rooms without another form of license from the PCLB. There some other minimal requirements concerning the operation of these satellite tasting rooms, but they should not hinder the likely proliferation of these types of operations in the future. I have attached a brief write-up of the important aspects of the new rules.
So, for example, Victory, which now has three (3) separate on-premise brewpub operations in PA, could open up to six (6) satellite tasting rooms operations throughout any location in PA serving only Victory beer, which would be self-distributed to the new tasting room. Obviously, the built-out of these establishments would have to meet local ordinances.
Anyway, another remarkable positive benefit for the craft brewers of PA and us lovers of good craft beer. You may need to only walk down the street to find one of these establishments in the future.
Posted in Beer Laws, Breweries, Brewpubs, Who Knew? | Leave a comment

Victory opens its Parkesburg pub and you should open a Victory Java Cask Coffee Stout as soon as the opportunity arises.

victoryjavacask I wrote on Facebook last week about my visit to the new Victory brewery in Parkesburg for a press event just prior to the official opening of the pub there…

Spent most of the day at the press event marking the opening of Victory Brewing’s Parkesburg restaurant at its new brewery there. Impressive all around, it is, and the gathering gave me a chance to catch up with some friends old and new. Only bad thing about the day was the damned rain, which meant driving behind the constant and non-ending fleet of huge trucks which run both directions on Rt. 30 every day once you get west of the near ‘burbs. Those babies do throw a lot of ground water at the cars which share the road with them. Maybe the weather will be nicer Monday when the place officially opens to the public. Let’s hope and you should go check it out.

I added this the following day…

One of the little tidbits picked at yesterday’s visit Victory came in Bill Covaleski’s remarks about the new Vital IPA (which I have really enjoyed a couple of times now) during which he noted that they were looking to do an IPA with the clean crisp finish of a Lager and achieve that, in part, by using Kolsch yeast. I think I got that right..if not, you can be assured that I will be corrected, and firmly.

And also chipped in with this comment in the reply portion of a Richard Ruch email touting the official opening of the pub today…

Parkesburg  is a beautiful place indeed (A press gathering was held there the day before Richard’s visit) and Crowler availability is something I have been eager to see in these parts for a long time now. Hope others jump on that bandwagon and also the very reasonable price level. I also suggest you grab a bottle or two (25oz, corked and caged) of the new Java Cask Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee Stout as soon as you can. It’s 14.3% and incredibly smooth, a collaboration with Standard Tap/Johnny Brenda’s, brewed with the latter’s hand-roasted coffee. 

All of which is my long-winded way of telling those who still hang around these 0h-so-last-decade parts (first they came for our emails and then our blogs and then there was no one left to complain) about all that and to suggest strongly that if you see a bottle on the shelf looking at all like the one shown above, grab it.

And if you head out to Parkesburg, do it on a clear, sunny day and if you use your GPS to find the place, be aware it will take you about 500 yards beyond the actual driveway. Be smart and turn where you see the Victory sign on the right.

Posted in Beer Styles, Breweries, Brewers, News, Passing on the Word | 4 Comments

Riddle me a riddle, riddler please.

What rough beast, its hour come round at last again,
Slouches towards Bethlehem Philadelphia to be born re-born?

There is a secret blowing in the wind and one day soon everything new will be old again. The past is always with us, the philosophers say, and at times we must take them literally.

Enjoy the peace and quiet while you can, my friends. You may not see its like again.

Posted in Deep Thoughts | 5 Comments

One long ago day at Monk’s.

I just posted a quite good story about Russian River’s Vinnie & Natalie Cilurzo on the Facebook page of The Beer Yard. You can go read it there or go to it directly here. In so doing, I was reminded of one of my favorite afternoons as a beer writer, roughly a decade or so ago.

It feels like a Friday in memory, so let’s go with that. I was sitting in Monk’s Cafe with co-founder Tom Peters in mid-afternoon. We were seating the long narrow middle room of the place, last table on the right just in front of the kitchen (There were no other customers in the room), discussing a book project which never came to fruition.  Both of us with a pint, of course. A waitress came back, apologized for interrupting and said something along the lines of “there’s a guy named Vinnie up at the front bar who says he came see you” to Tom. He jumped up and was gone in a flash; I collected my notepad, tape recorder and whatever else and followed.

I joined Tom and “some guy,” who was indeed the Vinnie we both expected him to be. He’d come east to look at some used equipment Russian River was buying from Dogfish Head for its brewpub.  The grapevine, it is powerful. Within–honestly–five to ten minutes, co-founder  Fergie Carey arrived, as did Curt Decker. George Hummel surely must have been there as well, along with others I might not remember.

Vinnie brought a growler, of course, and soon we were all sampling its contents. I have no recollection after all these years what beer it was (likely one of the Plineys). That doesn’t matter, honestly. It was the unexpected moment, the gathering of the clan, the sense of all being part of something bigger, that makes it stick in memory.

I am not a “bucket list” sort of guy, but if I had one, a visit to Russian River’s in Santa Rosa would surely be on it. In fact, if I could somehow put together the money and time, an extensive West Coast visit would be right up there near or at the top of said list.

Posted in Beer Buddies, Beer Yard, Breweries, Brewers, Brewpubs, Good Old Days, Nostalgia, Publicans | 1 Comment

Victory times two for me. Plus news.

a couple of small boxes from the fine folks at Victory Brewing Co. victorycansarrived on my doorstep yesterday, each containing one of these two beers. You will recognize the highly regarded Headwaters Pale Ale, if not the can. And Vital IPA, although the accompanying news release indicates that it is currently in distribution, has not shown up as let at the places I shop.

Maybe it’s me. It usually is.

In any case, both are very much worth your attention. The new Headwaters package is, I am told, part of re-emphasis of Victory’s commitment to the environment, particular the water used in brewing all its brands. The IPA is excellent, a 6.5% treat that has the hops you want as part of a balanced overall brew (I drank an 8.1% IPA from a West Coast brewery shortly thereafter and the differences in overall presentation were remarkable and every one of them favored the guys in Downingtown/Parkesburg).

Speaking of Parkesburg, I am also told that the official grand opening of the brewpub there will occur the Thursday before Thanksgiving.* If you head out for that, do watch out for turkeys running for their lives and/or Richard Ruch running toward the taps on the way.

* This could be a press event and the actual opening date a bit later.

Posted in Breweries, Brewers, News | 1 Comment

Beer Business Daily broke this unexpected news and I posted it over at The Beer Yard because that’s how we roll.

September 29, 2015 – Beer Business Daily: Dogfish Head Gives NY Investment Firm 15% Ownership


Yesterday Dogfish chief Sam Calagione shared the following news with employees. They’ll give New York-based LNK “a modest 15% ownership position.” One more for the private equity succession plan camp.

“Today, I am excited to announce that Mariah and I added a new asset as external support to Dogfish Head – LNK Partners,” he wrote. “You are likely thinking, who or what is that? Well, they are an incredibly smart and experienced group of people who have worked with companies of all sizes and styles like Levi’s, Performance Bicycle, Gatorade and Calvin Klein [and Panera] to help those guys achieve their goals in their respective industries. LNK is making an investment to own 15% percent of our company.” As we reported via large news outlets earlier this year, Dogfish has “accepted a number of meetings over many years in order to better understand the plays that other craft breweries could or would be making.

“But while these conversations happened, our talks have always been prefaced by our steadfast desire to remain a family-controlled and family-led company. We remained firm in that position no matter who was sitting at the other side of the table pitching us their deal and we still do today. We went into our introductory meeting with LNK as if it would be our only, but rather found that the result was a robust and thoughtful dialogue about Dogfish’s solid and unique position in the craft beer industry. We walked out of the meeting thinking perhaps we should rethink those original assumptions. …”

“THREE DEAL BREAKERS”: “During the process of getting to know each other, the value in partnering with LNK became clearer, for while we have been approaching our world through the lens of craft, they could bring different exposures and experiences to help adjust that focus,” Sam wrote. “In so doing they could provide the food for thought we had yet to sample. As the possibility of a partnership continued to crystallize for us, all that remained was their agreement around our three deal-breakers. 1.) acceptance that this would not be a path toward IPO, majority ownership or any other position that would be counter to our commitment to remain a family-controlled and family-led company, 2.) alignment in holding holy to our off-centered culture as an ideal to be treasured, and 3.) acceptance that we will always choose smart growth over fast growth. End of story. Not only did LNK get on board with our priorities, but they respected them; they were energized around them.”

Bottom line, this means that at the “Dogfish Board of Directors level there will be one representative joining who will bring some diversity of thought and experience to that group. Additionally, they will be acting as thought partners for Mariah, Nick and I to challenge us, provide sounding board and offer other best practice advice. We contemplated whether filling our voids could be just as easily achieved through the work of a rock solid consultant but in the end Mariah and I agreed that allowing LNK to take a modest 15% ownership position would provide the skin in the game that would align us to winning.”

David Landau, Managing Partner at LNK, said Dogfish is a “rare combination of a great management team and a great brand.”


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GABF 2015

This is my report as posted on the Beer Yard site late Saturday afternoon:

Saucony Creek Gold Medal Tops List of Local GABF Medal Winners for 2015
Seven breweries in the tri-county market served by The Beer Yard won medals during the 2015 Great American Beer Festival Awards Ceremonies in Denver this afternoon, including a Gold for Saucony Creek Brewing’s X-Reserve Ale 05-15 Peach and Ginger in the Fruit Beer category. That Gold keeps alive a three year streak in which new breweries in the area have brought home a medal in its first time at GABF (following Neshaminy Creek in 2013 and Barren Hill Tavern in 2014).

Three other Eastern PA breweries brought home a total of four Silver Medals, including two for Iron Hill from its Lancaster location (Russian Imperial Stout, the IH beer that seems to attract them like a magnet) and its Philadelphia location (The Cannibal, the Belgian Strong Ale Speciality category). Those wins kept alive Iron Hill’s perfect streak of winning at least one GABF medal every year since it opened its doors in 1994. A Silver for Sly Fox Grisette kept another streak alive; that beer has won Silver, Gold and now Silver again in the last three years. The fourth Silver went to Stoudts Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest.

A Bronze went to Susquehanna Brewing Co., a first time winner, for its Goldencold Lager. New Jersey’s Flying Fish Brewing won a Bronze for its Red Fish Bitter (which took Gold in 2014) and to bring the region’s total to seven medals in all, a far cry from the 15 won at GABF 2014 or the 13 in 2013.

Other tri-state medals were won by New Jersey’s Spellbound Brewing in Mt. Holly (Silver), Delaware’s Mispillion River Brewing in Milford (Bronze), and two other Pennsylvania brewers, Bronzes by Pittsburgh’s Church Brew Works and Bloomsburg’s Marley’s Brewery & Grill (beers from those breweries are not currently available in this market). Those wins make the overall tri-state record 1 Gold, 5 silver and 5 Bronze, a total of 11 in all. In 2014, breweries from the region came home with 18 medals in all.

Recent recurring GABF medalists which are missing among this year’s crop include such familiar names as Troegs, Dogfish Head, Fegley’s Brew Works and Yards.

Posted in GABF | 4 Comments

A-B will acquire LA’s Golden Road Brewing by the end of the year (Updated: video added)

Beer Business Daily just reported the deal. I have a brief excerpt from their article up over at The Beer Yard site and will add more there–and here– when other news sources check in.

Here’s the promised followup: a video on the deal from A-B.

And more: BBD’s Harry Schuhmacher interviews Golden Road’s Meg Gill.

Posted in Acquisitions, Breweries, Brewers | Leave a comment

From the distant past: my first Celebrator Beer News story ever

While doing some online research for a story I am writing this weekend for Ale Street News (one of two due Monday; the first is finished except for a bit of last minute editing where I always find Something), a search brought up the below as a source–a good one, since it has the info I needed. Since the retrospective posts I’ve made in recently weeks were well received, I decided this was worthy of  second-time-around treatment as well. If you like this sort of thing and this is the sort of thing you like, let me know and I’ll dig up more old posts. Or maybe I’ll just do int anyway because I can.


Baste Gently, Do Not Stir, Do Not Bruise

By Jack Curtin

        They came to praise Caesar, not to bury him. About as impressive a list of beer industry luminaries as you’re ever likely to see except inside any Denver bar during GABF gathered in Philadelphia March 3 to ostensibly “roast” Michael Jackson, but more pointed remarks have been expressed at a typical Quaker meeting than were hurled at the world’s foremost beer writer during a three-hour banquet at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.

Oh, there were the expected jokes about excessive beer consumption and the sometimes less than perfect mental state that such admirable activity can result in at the end of a long working day, plus a bit of gentle chiding about a wardrobe that even he acknowledges is somewhat eccentric, but most roasters understandable inclinations to express their affection and appreciation for all that Jackson has done for the brewing industry around the world turned the evening into a lovefest rather than full-scale ribbing. “I expected this to be more of an ordeal than it turned out to be,” said the Great Man with characteristic understatement at evening’s end.

The Michael Jackson Roast marked the tenth anniversary of Jackson’s participation in The Book & the Cook, Philadelphia’s annual celebration of food and drink. Jackson hosts a Friday night dinner at the Museum and a day-long series of tutored tastings there the following day during the final weekend of B&C each year. Recently, he’s also added a Sunday evening dinner at the city’s best beer bar, Monk’s Cafe, to his schedule and this year’s event was an historic all-lambic feast. The Museum, an extraordinary setting for a celebration of extraordinary beers, holds some of the oldest references to beer in the world, written in Sumerian on cuneiform tablets (proceeds from the Friday dinner benefit the Museum’s Sumerian Dictionary Project), and houses a variety of beer-related artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia.

Celebrator Beer News publisher/editor Tom Dalldorf served as master of ceremonies for the event and got in some of the evening’s best shots, at both the guest of honor (“We have carefully chosen the order of speakers according to who works best sober, slightly buzzed or totally blotto. Michael, of course, will speak last.”) and the roasters themselves (American Brewer publisher Bill Owens was introduced as “The Andy Warhol of beer.”). He also obligingly wore a kilt, thus making himself the, you should excuse the expression, butt of as many jokes as was Jackson.

Most speakers’ comments centered around a first meeting with Jackson or his impact on their brewing lives. Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag recalled the early days “when I thought my brewery was the only interesting small brewery in the country and how wonderful it was when I found out Michael thought that as well.” And All About Beer’s Dan Bradford noted that “beer writers can only follow Michael Jackson, there is no other model. He created the vocabulary and the content of what we do.”

Oliver Hughes of Dublin’s Porter House Brewing Company, Ireland’s first brewpub, remember how local journalists, no matter what they were told, regularly reported only that his Oyster Stout “made you good between the sheets” and how he and his staff groaned one afternoon when told a journalist was on the line, until informed “he says his name is Michael Jackson.” “I have never seen our brewer move so fast before or since,” laughed Hughes. Ale Street News’ Tony Forder remembered when Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium was blessed by a Cardinal in New York and “Michael suddenly became less digressional, more coherent, even remembered names,” before presenting him with a pair of Saint Michael undershorts flown in from England.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation by Sam Calagione of Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery, who offered a short story in the style of Raymond Carver (“Michael told me last year that Carver was his favorite American writer”) about Jackson’s life in an alternate universe wherein he passes a sobriety test in very impressive and very funny fashion.

Other roasters included freelance beer writer Stephen Beaumont; Vanburg and Dewulf’s Don Feinberg; Merchant du Vin’s Charlie Finkel; Anthony Fuller of Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery in London; Malt Advocate’s John Hansell, Brooklyn Brewery’s Steve Hindy; Beers International’s Richie Stolarz; Dr. F. G. Hoepfner of Germany’s Privatbrauerei Hoepfner; Carol Stoudt of Stoudt’s Brewery and the aforementioned Owens.

Copyright (c) 2000 Jack Curtin (originally published in Celebrator Beer News, April-May 2000)


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