Iron Hill goes nova at World Cup 2014.

 Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant locations won five medals at the 2014 World Cup in Denver last night, including three Golds and two Bronze, and Iron Hill Media was named Champion Brewery in the Small Brewpub Category.

Other local winners were Bronze Medals awarded to Stoudt’s Brewing Co. and Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, a return to the winner’s circle for the Pennsylvania’s oldest modern day brewpub and a first step into the limelight for one the region’s newest brewpubs.

There’s a more extensive report on the World Cup at the Beer Yard website.

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More beers, because there are always more beers, plus an idea whose time has come, maybe.

beers10apr14These beers appeared at my front door yesterday and it seemed best to drink them as soon as possible, mostly because I felt like having a beer or two. The heart has its reasons, you know?

You may recall from this post  that the Kona folks don’t just send beer, they send a package. This one involved a sliced open volleyball  for cushioning with the suggestion that it could re-purposed as a mini-cooler. Um…no. Kona is part of Craft Brew Alliance with Widmer Bros. and Redhook and Anheuser-Busch owns about one-third of CBA s it is therefore officially evil and also has the money to send clever packing, which is nice. Castaway IPA is apparently a big seller in the Islands, because IPA (about which more, albeit tangentially, momentarily) and is making its Mainland debut this month.  It’s a pleasant 6%, clean and balanced. Those are good things.

Stone Saison (also 6%) employs lemon zest and lemon thyme from its own 19-acre organic farm, along with grains of paradise, to complement the banana and clove characteristics of its Belgian yeast strain for an interesting twist on the style. Tasty it is.  This is a new summer seasonal and we should see it on local shelves shortly.

So, anyway, I put the following up at the Book of Face an hour or so ago  just because I  could:

The craft beer world does love itself some “weeks” and “days” to celebrate whatever hobby horse is the current obsession. Seems there’s a “day” every week and “week” every month. So I hereby propose one of my own….

No IPA Day.

Nobody is allowed to drink, mention or otherwise promote/proclaim or bring to public attention IPAs in any fashion whatsoever. Order and drink whatever else you choose to celebrate the day (this may require passing by several bars and brewpubs entirely).

Who’s with me?

I’m only kidding, I think, but maybe not. I figured I’d give you folks a chance to help me decide.

Posted in Breweries, Brewers, Deep Thoughts, Entirely Too Much Time on my Hands, New Releases | 5 Comments

Enjoying good drinkin’ while drinkin’ good.


I had three very good, very new beers of late and I have the empties to prove it as you can see above.

I bought the Ommegang Game of Thrones Fire And Blood, a 6.8% Red Ale, on Saturday and saved it, of course, for the debut of Season Four (I think, not inspired to go look to be sure) of the HBO hit. Very nice indeed, with a great attractive pour, spicy goodness throughout and evidence (without being obtrusive) of the rye and chilies promised on the label. I really need to devote a post to Ommegang one day real soon.

Allagash Saison was my choice for April when selecting my monthly case (sans a 4-pack “tax” exacted by management when he arrived at just the wrong time) from The Beer Yard. Not a difficult decision, admittedly. It’s Allagash, and it’s a Saison. Is there something I missed? 6.1%, perfectly balanced, big and full-bodied with a great finish. This one (by which I mean one of those surviving 4-packs) took me through the great NCAA Basketball Championship game Monday night.

No TV for you, Victory 1337 Ale. Your assignment, whether you chose to accept it or not, was to accompany me through the opening chapters of the new Loren D. Estleman novel, Don’t Look For Me, with the NCAA Women’s title game on the tube (because I am and therefore I multitask), something that is still happening although the game is going to outlast the beer. I really like this one, which is based on an old homebrew recipe by Covaleski and Barchet when they were young(er) and (way more) innocent, It is, the label tells me,

“a salute to the legislation that legalized homebrewing. Signed into law in 1979, H.R. 1337 made home-brewed beer for personal or family use exempt from taxation and ignited a movement that led to the birth of a now thriving craft beer industry.”

That’s a heavy load to carry, but 1337 is up to the task, a malty, spicy, earthy beauty. All the cool kids at the review sites have termed ii an IPA (okay, management at both sites so designated it) but I’m not entirely comfortable with that. Great hops presence, but not so prominent as the style would demand, IMO.

Don’t know what to call it aside from “better than an IPA.”

Whoops. Am I allowed to say that out loud?

Posted in Beer Is Good, Breweries, Brewers, Passing on the Word | 2 Comments

Push Pin Wisdom–08 April 2014

“Not to have knowledge of what happened before you were born is to live forever as a child.”


[This is an occasional series of snippets of wisdom, humor or dismay about the state of the world in which we live, the sorts of things we used to stick on our desk-side bulletin boards with push pins in ancient times.]

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Push Pin Wisdom–07 April 2014 (special “advice for social media users” edition)

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”


[This is an occasional series of snippets of wisdom, humor or dismay about the state of the world in which we live, the sorts of things we used to stick on our desk-side bulletin boards with push pins in ancient times.]

Posted in Personal, Push Pin Wisdom | 1 Comment

Lace on the glass.

Newly minted craft brewery Yuengling is having its usual really strong roll out in Massachusetts and distributors not in the game and competing brands are feeling the affect. According to this morning’s Beer Business Daily, America’s oldest family owned brewery has gotten distribution in 6,000 accounts, which means other brands have lost a lot of taps at all levels, ranging from session beer specialist Notch Brewing to craft icon Brooklyn (at least one bar owner report that Yuengling is outselling everything else on tap by 3 to 1). This too shall pass, trust me, but Yuengling will remain a major player as it always does wherever it’s an option. My opinion is that it becomes the classic “cross-over” option, the beer that gets those guys and gals who are not quite ready to dive into high ABV, way hoppy beers to take their first nervous steps in that direction.

Dave Bronstein, who was a mainstay on the Sly Fox brewing team from 2007 until recently and lead brewer there for the last four of years, is the new head brewer at the Cherry Hill start-up, Boardwalk Brewing, which is located in the former home of Flying Fish (where Dave once worked on the bottling line). Says Dave: “it’s a dream come true. I am excited for the freedom to experiment and make some great beers that showcase the passion and curiosity that were sparked during my first batch of homebrew.” Boardwalk will open in May if things go as planned but will be hosting series of “pop-up” openings along the way.

As noted at the Beer Yard website (a place where beer stuff is noted and which you should be visiting with dedicated regularity), craft beer is becoming an if-flight staple for many airlines. According to the ABC News story, “Reasons for the surge include the craft beer industry’s new preference for cans over bottles — which are lighter and easier to store on drink carts — as well as greater availability of the beers.” You know, many flights have long had better beers (and liquor) on board that what is rolled out on the carts, but they never tell anybody. Whether this is because the airline itself dictates that or the crew is saving it for themselves isn’t clear. Alerted by the folks at Fuller’s just before I flew home from London a few years back, I asked for and enjoy London Pride all the way home.

Anent the above, when Oscar Blues canned Dale’s Pale for the first time, one of the reasons given was that this enable them to get their beer onto planes. I know I wrote about that several places back in the day, but it seems to have disappeared from the brewery’s history (or I’ve just missed seeing it); I’ll have to check next time I’m talking with those guys.

The “all the things that have to be done right now if not sooner” pile had been steadily worked down to where my reading copy of The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of  Microbrewers Is Transforming the World’s Favorite Drink by Brooklyn Brewing co-founder Steve Hindy is now at the top. I’ll try to get a review up no later than this week because the official release date is a little less that three weeks away.

Posted in Beer Is Good, Beer Yard, Books on Beer, Breweries, Brewers, Media, Observations | 6 Comments

First Visit: Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery

Before our joining in the pre-opening party at Conshohocken Brewing on Saturday past, my traveling companions and I swung by Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery in Lafayette Hill , my first visit since they opened. That historic old building is really weirdly set up for a restaurant/bar, but I love the place and am happy to see it back on the social scene.

Fine bartender Michael Sky

Fine bartender Michael Sky

There were 17, count ‘em, 17 of Scott Morrison’s beers on draught (they’ve got 30 taps) and a few guest brews as well. I immediately asked for a pint of Grisette, one of my favorite styles, and it was as solid and perfect as you’d expect from a brewer renowned for his farmhouse brews. So pleased was I, and because I had brought along a Hydroflask growler and thus had no concern about its contents getting warm, I had fine bartender Michael Sky fill it with Grisette before I was halfway through the pint. Probably just as well because I moved on to the Spring Saison from there and would hate to have spent the rest of the visit debating with myself about which should come home with me. I don’t recall which beers Rubeo and Foley had but they too were more than happy. We also shared an excellent small plate of spicy hummus and grilled pita.

Mr. Sky (that’s his stage name) is a singer/songwriter and one of the founders of Sys2matik Ovrl0ad, a Goth pop, Electro Industrial, EBM band (I am most old and have no idea what many of those terms mean, just sayin’). When I tried to quiz him about his life when he’s not behind the bar, he demurred, saying that when he was worked at Barren Hill his job is to serve the customers, not promote his band. Of course, I came home and used the internets to find out more anyway but it was kinda nice to talk with such an idealist employee. I’m sure his employer appreciates it.

And speaking of the boss (segueing here because that’s what us clever writer do), I had a chance to chat with Erin Wallace, who also owns Devil’s Den in South Philly and the Old Eagle Tavern in Manayunk (where Morrison’s beers are also featured), for the first time. She said things are going well but the weather made it a rough winter, admitting that she has the skewed viewpoint of a city publican. There is nothing as much fun as wandering the city streets in a big snowstorm and popping into neighborhood bars, most of which are hopping with locals of a similar mindset.

Posted in Brewpubs, Cafes, Restaurants, Taverns, First Taste, Fun Stuff | 3 Comments

For some things, you just gotta Bear down.

Reality often sucks because it is, you know, real. Plus also, reality has a well known liberal bias, which totally pisses off our conservative brethren and, man, can they be noisy and annoying when they get noisy and annoying. For real.

In the “sucks” category is the sad fact that, wonderful as the Philadelphia regional beer scene is, one of its saddest aspects is that the fine human being Ric Hoffman and his guys (if he has guys) at Stewart’s Brewing down in Bear (Where?), Delaware have neither the equipment nor the space to package and distribute some of the finest beers being made in the area up here to the civilized world. It just ain’t right.

Thus it is that this just arrived e-missive from Stewart’s is at once exciting and painful:

Due to the immense popularity of our single-hop IPA’s and building on the momentum of our GABF 2012 Silver Medal for Oyster Stout, we are proud to announce the second in a series of single-mollusk beers: Mussel Maibock!  Celebrate spring with the traditional German lager, augmented by crisp, briny freshness of shellfish from Canada’s Maritime Provinces!  Also in the works are Razor Clam Red, Limpet Lager and Smoked Slug Porter (we didn’t want to leave out the land-dwelling molluscs).

We haven’t forgotten about the cephalopods, either: look for some Cuttlefish Kolsch and Giant Squid Barleywine toward autumn!

Mussel Maibock? Damn.

Posted in Brewers, Brewpubs, New Releases, News | 3 Comments

Conshohocken Brewing Co. opens today.

conshyjohnandfoleyI visited the pre-opening party at the region’s newest brewery Saturday afternoon along with Steve Rubeo and Tom Foley (the latter pictured here either listening raptly or paying no attention at all to John Remington) and I was impressed by both the beers and the facility itself.  The brewery, with its a shiny new 15-barrel brewhouse and very nice tap room, is located at 739 East Elm St., about five minutes from the Schuylkill Expressway exit and just off the Valley Forge Bicycle Trail.

Co-founders Remington and Ken Buonoco are working with a large group of investors (one of whom is WIP radio personality Glen Macnow and the sports station was well represented Saturday) In addition to the “friends of Glen,” as we termed them, a notable presence was Johnny Della Pella, managing partner at Kennett, the much-praised South Philadelphia restaurant, who was helping organize things and, from what I gathered in a brief conversation, has been involved in the whole start-up process.

conshybeerboardAndrew Horne, who some of you might remember from his days at Yards Brewing, has come back home from gigs at Avery, Oscar Blues and Breakside (Portland) to man the kettles. There were seven beers on tap, all but one under 5.1% so the focus appears to be on more session-friendly styles and I tried most of them but took no specific notes. Each one was well done and full of flavor and the 4.9% Oatmeal Stout was where I started and ended so I guess that was my favorite. Check out the blackboard photo at left for the full list.

You might need your GPS to find CBC the first time you drive there but, within a few weeks and the rumored but still uncertain arrival of spring, I’m pretty sure bike trail riders will be talking it up and sending friends to visit. There’s a big window area and appealing rear deck where less active drinkers can wave to riders going by (assuming any do just go by; I’d be inclined to stop and have a brew).

The doors open to the public today at 5. Here’s the website, complete with hours of operation and a map (beer page not yet updated as this is posted). Definitely worth a visit.

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Mark this date on your calendar because there’s some amazing beer news breaking today. [Update Twice (so far) ]

Great minds think alike division.

Posted in Breweries, Brewers, Seriously? | 8 Comments