The Age of Innocence is over.

Anheuser-Busch is buying Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Co, it was announced today.

This is an edited sentence from a story I’ve written for the upcoming issue of Ale Street News (out in early February) about what happened in 2014 and what that might portend for the future:

Three well known and respected breweries—Founders, Blue Point and 10 Barrel—were bought out entirely or in part this past year… [and] Southern Tier, Sweetwater and Uinta all sold partial stakes in their businesses to private equity firms.

We are entering the decade when a lot of the original craft brewery founders will be making major business decisions for the future, whether as part of an exit strategy or to find a way to continue to compete and grow successfully in a rapidly changing market. They have every right to do these things–indeed, it might be considered a dereliction of duty not to consider all the options–but a lot of true believers are not going to be happy or accept it well.

We’re all growed up now.

 

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Would that I could get there.

My last post (scroll down), which reprinted a “Best of” list I did a decade and a half ago and in which I named Yards Old Ale as my Beer of the Year, brought this response from the brewery’s Deputy of Art and Marketing Gina Marie Vasoli:

Hope the new year is faring well for you so far. I saw your nostalgic post on Liquid Diet and wanted to let you know that Old Ale just so happens to be on cask at Kite & Key right now. Tom and Jon got together a couple months back to brew it for fun. Good timing for you!

I can’t get there for several reasons, not least of which are a plethora of deadlines, but some of you reading this might want to try. The fact that this batch was brewed by brewery founders Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit makes it especially cool.

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Posted in Beer Buddies, Breweries, Brewers, Cask Ale, Good Old Days, Nostalgia, Passing on the Word, Publicans, Way Back When, Well Done | 1 Comment

Remember what I said back in 1999?

Yeah, me neither, but I when ran across this year’s end awards list from those ancient times, I figured it might be fun reading for those of you who kept visiting these environs over my nearly month-long silence. I’ll try not to let that happen again. I have resisted the urge to edit out any of the embarrassing parts of what follows (you’ll know them when you see them) and ask you to be as merciful as you can.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

BREWER(S) OF THE YEAR/BREWERY OF YEAR: Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski/Downingtown’s Victory Brewing Company. A repeat win for the pride of Downingtown and first time individual honors for Ron and Bill, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. Victory is best known for its signature HopDevil Ale, which gets raves from experts across the nation, but Storm King Imperial Stout and Prima Pils are my personal favorites among the dozen or so world-class Victory brews. And I hereby admit to anticipating a mutually beneficial relationship with the wonderful new Belgian Tripel-style Golden Monkey this coming winter. The most serious criticism you can mount against Victory is that the brewpub suffers a bit of ambiance-deficiency. We can live with that. The best we’ve got and lucky to have ‘em.

BEER OF THE YEAR: Yards Old Ale. Okay, Yards ESA is the sine qua non of Philly brews, ground zero for the craft beer revolution of the past half decade, but when I had to make a choice, I gave my heart to this tasty and extraordinary ale during the winter past. It was the first quarter keg I put on my home dispensing system in January and I haven’t regretted that for a minute. Old Ale is already penciled in for a return engagement this year…unless brewmaster Tom Kehoe decides to treat the world to a batch of his superb Entire Porter to celebrate the Millennium. In that case, I’ll have to make a tough choice or double the taps here at Liquid Diet Central. Decisions, decisions.

STEALTH BREWERY AWARD: Flying Fish Brewing Company. The Fish slides along smoothly through the increasingly troubled waters of local craft brewing, moving confidently just below the surface while beer fanciers concentrate on the latest Big Beer or wait for the local houses of cards to fall. Owner Gene Muller, head brewer Rick Atkins and their crew just keep on doing what they do well and increasing sales. Flying Fish is the first local brewery (and one of only 20 from the U.S.) invited to pour at the famous Great British Beer Festival in London this very week, so somebody’s taking notice.

THE HAND OF GOD AWARD: Sam Calagione. After we made Dogfish Head’s Main Man our Brewer of the Year last August, you’d think he’d have reached the apex of his profession, wouldn’t you? But Sam goes Really Big Time this month with a two-page accolade from international Beer Maven Michael Jackson in the September issue of All About Beer. Jackson recounts a visit to Dogfish Head’s Rehoboth Beach brewpub and along the way gives the world a striking portrait of Sam the Poet, Sam the Philosopher, Sam the Hunk and, oh yeah, Sam the Brewer. Trust me, when Jackson speaks, it’s gospel for geeks. A star is born.

BUSINESSMAN OF THE YEAR: Henry Ortlieb. There are those who think they can succeed with blather rather than beer. They are convinced that promising phantom brewpubs and talking IPOs rather than IPAs will somehow bring them success. Henry Ortlieb, on the other hand, keeps his mouth shut until the deal’s done. In recent months, he’s purchased the Dock Street label and product line, gotten back the right to use his own name on his beers and put both Dock Street Amber and the new Henry Ortlieb’s Select Lager in cans as well as bottles, the first local micro to open that potentially profitable door. Poor Henry’s Brewpub has hosted everything from Golden Gloves boxing to a massive beer festival and collectibles show. Running a business like a business. What a concept.

BEER EVENT OF THE YEAR: Manayunk Brew Fest. Yeah, yeah, in the end festivals are supposed to be all about the beer. Beers you’ve never had before. Beers served just the way they were in the Good Old Days. Beers….hey, in the beer festival crazy Spring, the events all ultimately run together into visions of a thousand little two-ounce tasting cups. But an afternoon outdoors on the Manayunk Brewpub deck overlooking the Schuylkill on the most beautiful day of the whole year? If they can come up with that kind of weather every year, count me in.

PUB OF THE YEAR: Monk’s Café. No contest. Monk’s is increasingly mentioned as one of the best beer bars in the country and who are we to argue? Heck, we said it first. The usual selection is mind-blowing, often featuring brews available nowhere else. The food is as good as the beer (I have so far resisted the urge to dab the addictive bourbon mayonnaise on the exquisite chocolate cake, but I figure it’s just a matter of time.) Owners Tom Peters and Fergus Carey are generous, gregarious and just a little bit wacky. The only tough part is deciding whether to sit at the up front bar and watch the world go by or head for the rear room where inviting tap handles sing their siren call. I figure, why not do both?

PUB OF THE YEAR (SUBURBS): The Drafting Room (Exton). I used to have this improbable vision of a top-notch bar and restaurant out here in the ‘burbs where lucky folks could readily quaff pints of the finest micros and imports. Then I discovered that just such a place already exists, an oasis nestled in the Colonial 100 shopping strip along Route 100 North. Kudos to owners Howard and Drew Weintraub and manager Patrick Mullin, who even list the date of each keg’s tapping so customers know just how fresh the beers are. A bit of paradise in a strip mall.

BREWPUB OF THE YEAR: Dock Street Brasserie. Brasserie? They’re not calling a brewpub any longer? Is that a good sign? Not to worry, friends. What is now the city’s oldest surviving brewpub is still turning out as broad and tasty a selection of on-site brews as you’ll find anywhere and the food is better than ever. If you haven’t been back in a while, you’re missing out on a Good Thing.

DISTRIBUTOR OF THE YEAR: The Beverage Store (Wayne). It’s not quite the same as Cheers, but chances are this is the distributorship where everybody will know your name. Of course, “everybody” is pretty much just owner Matt Guyer and trusty sidekick Matt Sauerbrey, but that’s enough. These guys know beer, they like beer, and they promote beer. A great selection, including some brands you won’t find elsewhere. If there’s a better place to grab a case or a keg, they must be giving it away for free.

RISING STAR (Brewer): Dan Weirback. Is it something in the water once you get past city limits? Victory out in Downingtown, Dogfish Head down in Delaware and Weyerbacher Brewing up north in Easton all seem to have thrived out in the wilderness. Now Weyerbacher’s Dan Weirback, I swear, brews more different beers than any one man should attempt and pulls it off. From Raspberry Stout to the recently introduced Hops Infusion, it all works. The Weyerbacher Brewpub, next to the brewery, makes you wish you lived in the neighborhood. Keep an eye on this boy.

RISING STAR (Pub): O’neal’s Saloon. Tom Mooney made no secret of his intentions for his family’s South Philadelphia bar when he took it over a while back. He wanted O’neal’s to be a “good beer bar.” He added taps, expanded to the second floor and doubled the bottled beers available. Mooney constantly promotes local brews with tastings and other events and has some of the neighborhood folks drinking Belgians these days. There’s good beer on South Street again. Okay, half a block off. Close enough for gummint work.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: Savage Beer. With the Dock Street brand name and logo sold off to Henry Ortlieb’s Original Philadelphia Brewing Company, Dock Street Brasserie head brewer Eric Savage decided to come up with a new beer he’d market under his own name. Good thing he wasn’t named “Lousy,” eh? Savage Beer has been an instant hit and its distinctive tap handle in the shape of an ancient spiked battle mace has become a familiar sight at better bars since Spring. A bottled version (brewed at Yards) should be hitting the shelves about now.

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND: Grey Lodge Pub. The clever li’l publican known as Scoats has done the seemingly impossible over the past five years, turning a former neighborhood tappie on Frankford Avenue into a good beer oasis in, of all places, the Northeast. Firkin Fridays, featuring fresh casks gravity tapped atop the bar, have become a Grey Lodge institution, along with the Tomato Pie, a pizza with the cheese beneath the sauce long before the Big Boys thought of it. Well worth a visit. Okay, nobody goes to the Northeast just for a beer, but if you’re ever in the area….

HAIL AND FAREWELL: Sam Adams Brewhouse. The city’s first modern brewpub (1989) did more with extract brewing than anybody thought possible, but the taps went dry in June. Who knows what might rise in its place? Well, just about everybody, but nobody’s talking….

ICONOCLAST OF THE YEAR: Jim Anderson, Beer Philadelphia. In an area where the regular press seems not care at all about the brewing community and at a time when regional beer publications are dying out, Beau James is, aside from a few frustrated columnists, the only game in town. His idiosyncratic and entirely opinionated beer magazine informs and inveighs, amuses and angers. He sets his own standards, marches to his own different drum, takes his shots and keeps on ticking. Admit it, you read every page.

WORLD’S GREATEST BAR: Dawson Street Pub. I told you last year: Just Because. Don’t make me have to say it again.

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Yes.

mcf141203The original cartoon is here.

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Looking to score a bottle of Victory/Earth Bread + Brewery Earth & Flame? Run, do not walk…

I dragged my tired old body out Downingtown way today and, instead of taking all the shortcuts and workarounds I usually do, just went out to Rt. 100 and took it all the way down to 113, arriving at Victory in half-an-hour, my fastest time ever. Granted, Rt. 100 of a late Sunday morning is a different creature entirely in terms of traffic than is it most of the time, but that was still impressive. We all love those convoluted routes we develop to miss potential slowdowns or more serious problems, but at least part of that is the good feeling of being one of the cool kids with inside knowledge. Sometimes the obvious way is the best way.

It was great fun whipping up and down the road as ii curved this way and that way, bringing back memories of another me in another time and long Sunday afternoons zipping along on 100 with motorcycling friends, wind in our faces and lovely ladies with arms around our waists holding on for dear life. Those afternoons generally ended at the historic Eagle Tavern for sandwiches and beers and slower, safer trip back to our cars. Memories are made of this…

I wanted to grab a couple of bottles of the collaborative brew, one for me and another to serve as a Christmas gift. I had originally planned to do this last Wednesday at the official release party  before the weather discouraged me. That delay cost me $20 extra since all the regular bottles were gone and only the signed collector’s ones remained. They cost $25 each compared to the standard $15, but the extra $10 per bottle goes to charity so that’s good. Here’s the point:  is that very little of this beer has gone out into distribution and the ones at the brewpub are in very short supply. If’ you plan to get one or more, realize that the window will be closing very rapidly.

At the bar I got myself a growler of Biere de Mars, one of the D’town Draft series recently introduced to allow the brewers to have some fun and experiment a bit. It is quite good and I am sipping my first glass as I write this. I did ask for a sample of the draft version of Earth & Flame just assure myself my $50 investment was a good one. It definitely was. Now the decision comes as to whether to open that second bottle and enjoy it or hold it for a special occasion.  I think I will do the latter because, if it is really as good as that first taste indicates, I don’t want to have to debate with myself about keeping the second one and replacing it on my Christmas gift list with a pair of socks. Yeah, sometimes I am That Guy.

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Posted in Beer Styles, Breweries, Brewpubs, First Taste, New Releases, Personal | Leave a comment

And just like that…

…all is well again. The internets is weird, Firefox often  be a bit strange its ownself and WordPress is a mysterious land where one does not want to dig too deep into the mysteries. Also, this forced me to try and use Chrome and IE, always an adventure.

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Weird things are happening…

This site has gone somewhat haywire for reasons I cannot so far determine. I have to log in as administrator on every visit, some comments are posting, others are not, and some seem to come and go. Hopefully all this will pass.

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Whither the Dude? (an ongoing tale, posted in installments as they happen) [THE INEVITABLE UPDATE]

The peripatetic Mr. Morrison told me late last night that he is delighted to have won a Bronze at both the World Beer Cup and GABF for Barren Hill in its first year but, with them up and running strong and his work done, he is going back to consulting and, more importantly, “looking for a full time gig at a production facility.”

I would presume that, if he finds what he’s looking for, he will want to reward whoever  (me) made his desire  general knowledge so…

Find This Man the Job of His Dreams.

Thank you.

Original Post Nov. 10:

From Free Will Brewing’s Facebook page:

We would like to announce that our lead brewer, David Wood, is leaving us to become the new brewmaster at Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery!!! This is an exciting next step for him and we look forward to stellar beers and fun collaborations in his future. Cheers!!

Where have you gone, Scott Morrison? Again.

(Much appreciation to Jeff Norman for the head’s up)

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Posted in Brewers, Brewpubs, News, Philly | 10 Comments

Dock Street Is Going Home… For a Visit, That Is (the coolest beer event of the year)

DOCK STREET NEWS RELEASE:

Let’s rewind about three decades and go grab a beer. Let’s find a good beer. Let’s find a great beer. Forget local, we’ll settle for domestic. In 1985, as Rosemarie Certo was co-founding Dock Street Brewery, the country was getting pretty damn thirsty. Amidst a proverbial sea of watered down and adjunct plagued lagers, Dock Street was born. As the country slowly started embracing these full bodied, full flavored brews, the company grew. A lot. Fast forward a decade to the 90’s and Dock Street would become the 26th largest microbrewery in the country, producing over 28,000 barrels of beer a year, distributing to 26 states, exporting to France and earning medals in the world’s most prestigious beer competitions. In the late eighties, Dock Street opened Philadelphia’s first all-grain brewpub at Two Logan Square. We’re pleased to announce that Dock Street is going home… for a visit, that is.

The year is now 2014, number signs are now called hash tags, craft beer is still on the up-and-up, and there are over 2,700 licensed breweries in the country putting out some truly beautiful beer. Dock Street is now crafting its award winning and iconic brews in its West Philly Brewpub, but something very pleasing is happening in her old home; Two Logan Square will once again become a destination for great craft beer. On November 3rd, City Tap House, known for their expansive and well-rounded beer lists, took residence at the old Dock Street Brewery…and now we’re bringing some kegs to celebrate.

Some former Dock Street brewers, including Chris La Pierre from Iron Hill; Tim Roberts, Head Brewer from Yards; and Eric Savage, former Dock Street brewer and present owner of Helix Motorsports, have come together to share their skills and expertise. Helping staff a ‘reunion’ brew day, these distinguished alumni, over a couple pints and still-not-so-funny-inside-jokes, helped craft recipes both new and old.

On Monday, November 10 from 6-8pm, join these Dock Street graduates and the current Dock Street troupe, including Rosemarie Certo, Marilyn Candeloro, Sasha Certo-Ware and new Head Brewer Vince DesRosiers, for the grand opening of City Tap House Logan Square. Look for an array of Dock Street classics as well as new recipes, including Rye IPA, Man Full of Trouble Porter, Helles and Back, Belgian IPA, Brown Bomber Ale, and No Exit, a face-melting, 104 IBU Double IPA with our biggest hop-bill yet. We’re happy that decades later, the taps will once again flow with Dock Street beer. Also take the opportunity to taste Vicio Mezcal brought to you by Dock Street Spirits, an offshoot of Dock Street Brewery.

Let’s raise a glass and toast this concert between City Tap House and Dock Street Brewery. Here’s to heritage, new ventures, continuity, friendship and folly. We’ll drink to that.

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SawTown Tavern: the tentacles of Scoats expand their reach.

A post this evening on The Book of Face by a guy named Troy Everwine about who I know diddly-squat:

Now that the public notice has been posted, I’m thrilled to announce that my good friend Scoats Mike Scotese (owner – with Patrick McGinley – of the Grey Lodge Pub and Hop Angel Brauhaus) and I have become business partners in a new venture.
We are purchasing the Prince Cafe (Prince Cafee on FB) on Princeton Avenue and Vandike Street in our own neighborhood of Tacony!

We’ve got big plans for the space once we make settlement! (The actual settlement date will be determined by the LCB process of transferring the license, but this will hopefully happen before the end of this year. Stay tuned!)

We plan to remain OPEN for business through a series of renovations, and we absolutely want (and hope) to keep the current bar tenders; A M, Linda, and Marcelle.

Renovations will open up the first floor with large windows, fresh paint and an epic new sign.

We plan to renovate the existing kitchen to include a wood-fired oven and we’ll be offering “craft” pizza to complement a selection of local craft beers. We want to open the kitchen as soon as possible!

The second floor will get a facelift to become a dining room for additional seating, events, and entertainment and there will be a bar and game room that will house the pool table, darts and video games.

Yes, there’s a new name coming once the building is ready: in honor of the company that built Tacony, Disston Saw Works, we will bring you the SawTown Tavern.

We’ll soon be updating you on our progress with photos and blog posts on SawTown.com. We’ll let everyone know when we take possession, and there will be Grand Opening festivities galore once the building is ready. Stay tuned!!!

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Posted in Cafes, Restaurants, Taverns, News, Passing on the Word, Philly | Leave a comment