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25 April 04
The Iron Hill beer trail.
As I said I would last week, I spent Tuesday on a nine-hour tour of all five Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant locations. Since my car was in the shop at the time for $900-plus worth of repairs and adjustments, most of them necessary to pass state inspection, this was a fine way to drown my sorrows.

Fortuitously enough, I have a volunteer driver from among the ranks of the posse/tasting group, a man who shall remain nameless as he is currently seeking anonymity at all costs. Please do not scroll down to last week's announcement to see who this might have been. If you do, though, be advised that The Shill was more talk than action and dropped out early in the morning with some flimsy excuse. You very likely saw him at either Drafting Room Exton or Victory during the day.

Since the purpose of the trip was to gather information and anecdotes for the Iron Hill story I'm writing for the issue of Celebrator Beer News which is due out in June, I won't have much to say about it here for the moment. Them as sends the check gets the good stuff; you know how it goes.

I will offer a couple of insights, one of them not so new. My suggestion of this story to fine editor and human being Tom Dalldorf was inspired by a realization that those of us who write about craft beers in these parts have, for whatever reasons, often overlooked Iron Hill and its accomplishments. I include me in that criticism, of course. And I found that I was pretty much on target. The more you know about Iron Hill and its people, the more you appreciate what they've accomplished. And the way they've done it.

Also, as I suspected but had never had verified, the Wilmington pub is freakin' fantastic. My anonymous driver, his pinky quivering ever so slightly, even opened negotiations to move a Monday Tasting there one evening. "There" being the deck overlooking the Christiana River, with the city skyline across the river from one viewpoint, massive and impressive cranes from another. One can imagine sitting there, sipping world class beers, and watching the sun go down. I'm in.

Finally, one of the reasons the mystery man offered himself as my chauffeur was that he wanted to make a point. His contention was that the basic Iron Hill beers, Lodestone Lager, Anvil Ale et al are not consistent from location to location, that they do differ. Our original plan was to try the same beers from pub to pub and see what we determined. That changed right at the start, in West Chester, where Chris LaPierre insisted that we try his current seasonals and special brews. This seemed an eminently reasonable request upon brief, very brief, consideration and set our standard for the day.

As it turned out, in Newark, the original pub, and North Wales, the newest pub, no special brews were currently on tap. so there we tried the Lodestone and sampled the Raspberry Wheat, but otherwise...oh, brother!

At West Chester, we had Cask Conditioned American Brown Ale. Vienna Lager and a small taste of the British Mild (that may not be the exact name, but it was a, y'know, session beer). In Wilmington, we had the Bourbon Porter, Irish Red and Dry Stout. In Media, it was Hopalicious IPA (based on a West Coast recipe but you'll have to wait for Celebrator to find out whose) and Tripel. Brewer Bob Barrar also gave me a bottle of his Kriek which just may turn up at one of the Monday Tastings real soon now. Real soon.

Take me out to the ball game.
There's been a lot of excitement among beer geeks about the new Phillies ballpark. I got a chance to check it out on Thursday.

First off, the park itself is amazing. Real grass, the game visible from just about anywhere in the place, players so close in some instances that you can almost reach out and touch them. A tremendous venue, fit for a pennant contender. We can only hope this team starts playing like one.

The beer scene? Right nice. You have to know that something other than the Big National Blands is available, and maybe move from kiosk to kiosk to find your preference, but that's no big deal. As I said, you can see the game virtually everywhere in the place. Heck, I could see buying the cheapest seats in the highest and most distant part of the park and never bothering to go to me seat.

Not everything is up and running yet, but our small but beer-intensive party found several desirable options. The beer of choice for the day, certainly my beer of choice, was Yards ESA, as fresh and tasty as I've ever tasted it on regular draft and a wonderful way to ignore the home team's performance.

Before the game, we wandered into McFadden's, which is connected to, but not quite in, the park itself, where someone decided we should waste valuable drinking time consuming Smithwicks Ale. After the game, and a horrendous cab ride down Delaware Avenue in the midst of a world-class traffic mess, we supped (always wanted to use that word) at Standard Tap, where I feasted on the Smelts and drank McKenzie Saison, Stoudt Pils and, oh what the hell, O'Reilly's Stout, from some place called Sly Fox.

Monday fun.
Another Monday. More beer. The group was smaller than usual. The tasting took place out on the terrace. It was good.

He Whose Name Dare Not Be Spoken contributed Ayinger Jahrhundert, a beer commemorating the brewery's 100th anniversary in 1978, and Burgerbrau Wolznacher Hell. Ruch, fresh from a week in Key West and severely Victory-deprived, offered up Dominion Spring Brew, which turned out to be a high-octane Imperial Pilsner hiding behind a bland name.

Lori Limper presented her eight-year old Peach Lambic, a big, intense brew made with 8 lbs. of peaches back in the days when peaches were peaches. It was a interesting counterpoint to the Mort Subite ("Sudden Death") which I brought along, a straight, traditional Lambic. Together they represented much of what is so intriguing and challenging about the lambic style.

Hubby Tom Foley tried to charm us with his big and tasty IPA, a 7% abv brew he made in late February. It was tasty, as his beers almost always are, and very much a classic interpretation of the style, but, truth to tell, we like her better than him so charm is wasted on us. His charm for sure.

Wandering Joe Meloney brought Sonora Brewing Company's Old Saguaro, a barleywine we'd tasted before in a large bottle and now had a chance to try in the 12oz size. Hey, it's 10% abv, who can tell the difference?

In my 'frig.
Peter LaFrance, who does a weekly email newsletter for professionals in the beer industry, offered this challenge in a recent issue:

I am going out on a limb and admit that I have a 16 oz. can of Budweiser, a presentation bottle of Ninkassa brew, and a very old bottle of Bass Ale in my refrigerator.

Now, I want all of you to go to your refrigerator and tell me, honestly, what beer you have in there.

Sounded like fun to me and I thought you all might be interested in what I found: Heavyweight Baltus, Heavyweight Cinderbock (2), Sierra Nevada Big Foot Ale, Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout (2), Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout, Weyerbacher Black Hole Ale, Monk's Cafe Flemish Red Ale (3), Echte Kriek (3), Mort Subite (2), Lindemans Framboise and a bottle of Samichlaus 1997!

As I noted in my email to LaFrance, I can't figure out whether this makes me cool or weird.

Dogfish stuff.
I admit that when I heard about Liquor de Malt, I was leery of being set up for a belated April Fool's joke. I had an announcement ready to post here last week and deleted it at the last minute. Shame on me. It's apparently real.

Meanwhile, Sam Calagione, along with his effusive and oh-too-kind acknowledgement of my contributions toward dramatically improving 120 IPA (well, okay, maybe said acknowledgement was missing), sent me some background this week on how the brewery has been working with the beer:

As you know, [WorldWide Stout] actually tastes best in the 18 - 20% range and the one we made at 23% was more cloying. The bigger beers (16% plus) just have more unfermentable sugars and that's the nature of the beast.

We haven't changed the hopping regiment (one pound per day for one month during primary fermentation) but we have gotten better with pushing our yeast to further attenuate the beer which adds to a dryer beer and brings the hop profile further forward. It is amazing how well this beer is aging though. Thanks for the feedback...

Well, I guess that leaves Whatzisname as the last surviving soul who thought 23% abv WWS was a good thing. There's just no accounting for taste.

Finally, Sam also forwarded an email from a guy in Illinois who's apparently had the same reaction to 120 as I have over the past several months. Here's a bit of what he had to say:

Your 120 Minute IPA is aging wonderfully in the 12 oz bottles. A former detractor from this brew, I have seen the error of my ways and look forward to watching my case mature over the next several years.
It is just so heartwarming, I could almost plotz.

The Slow Pour.
I missed the sixth annual Manayunk Brewfest yesterday due to family and professional commitments. This is one of my favorite events every year, not only for the beer but also for the ambiance, which usually comes scantily clad. Such is life.

Matt Guyer wants me to remind you (hey, it's better than having him go door to door, trust me) about this. I really think you should be there. Show a little love, folks.

Another place you should definitely be, come this Sunday, is here. Good lord, people. Beer. Food. Music. Sunshine. Goats. What the hell else could you possibly want?

[Posted 7:00 pm est]


18 April 04
Today Phoenixville, tomorrow the world?
There has been talk of late (can you say "Brian O'Reilly," boys and girls?) that our Monday Tastings at Sly Fox have become, or at least have the potential to become, something far beyond our meager aspirations. Those aspirations were, you will recall, merely to cheer up a despondent and near suicidal Richard Ruch on the one day a week that his beloved Victory has the temerity to not be open for his imbibing pleasure.

We're coming up on a year's anniversary now, although no one knows the exact date it all started. We do know it started when the lonely Ruch plaintively offered to share a bottle of the first release ever of Victory V 10 to anyone who would be willing to join him at his solitary table. Many of us saw his need and decided to reciprocate the following week. Others saw a chance for more free beer. Whatever.

The current argument goes that the admittedly extraordinary range of beers we sample week after week, many of them unavailable in this country and a few of late unavailable outside the very pubs in which they are brewed unless carried across the seas by wandering miscreants, is something we should share with others.

Share in terms of information, for example. Rick Mayberry, the man known as Pinky, is developing a database for that very purpose and we all have been asked to search our addled minds to recall and list whatever we can remember. In a grander concept of sharing, there's loose talk of finding a crazed beer geek or two in other sections of the country (calling Dr. Bill) and arranging a live, online joint tasting of the same beers, possibly with streaming video, on a national scale.

Okay, this may be a bit presumptuous and pulling any of it off will require actual work, so it well could turn out to be nothing more than a "blue sky" concept. On the other hand, if a shaky looking character with video camera in hand comes up to you at a bar one day down the road and asks if you'd like to be on television, don't just pull up your shirt and/or smack him right off. Hear him out. Then smack him.

Yeah, yeah. Tell us about the beer.
This Monday past's tasting was conducted in a Ruch-free zone (off to Key West yet again), allowing for a sweetness and innocence that were a pleasant change. It was also marked by an announcement by bartender-to-the-stars Corey Reid that he's giving up his day job to formally join the group instead of having to spend his time supplying us with dozens of tasting glasses and stealing his own share of each new bottle when nobody's looking. Actually, all Corey's done is switch his bartending duties from Monday to Tuesday, a move which leaves us all to the tender mercies of lovable Jimmy Wasko. We'll see how that goes.

The beers this time were an interesting and tasty mixture of mostly high octane and difficult-if-not-impossible-to-get brews from halfway across the world and some old favorites from a pair of local breweries.

We started off with a pair of Belgians that The Beer Yard's Matt Guyer paid for, cheerful Beer Yard ambassador of good will Mark Sauerbrey lugged back from Europe and I, filling my role in the grand scheme of things, absconded with to share with the gang.

Le Fruit Defendu (Forbidden Fruit) is a bottle-conditioned specialty beer from Hoegaarden, brewed with "a secret blend of dark malts, dried orange peel and coriander." The website lists it at 9% abv, our bottled said 8.5%. One of the best beers of the night and one not sold in the U.S. Our esteemed homebrewer Tom Foley says that it once was and, by coincidence, he'd just recently brewed a batch using the same yeast as in Le Fruit Defendu. Foley always knows stuff like that. He's so smart it's hard to imagine that he was one of the people fooled by this.

Leffe Radieuse, an 8.2% abv Abbey style ale, was equally impressive, although you had to let it warm up (it had been on ice behind the bar for a week after I decided not to pour it the Monday previous) in order to get the full flavor impact. This one isn't available in the U.S. either to my knowledge. It should be.

We followed that with the beer we should have started out with but forgot we had, a Pilsner from Brauerei au der Thomaskirche in Leipzing, Germany, part of the stash Corey and partner-in-crime Dave Boston smuggled back from Germany. Very nice and easy drinking, I'd guess it somewhere this side of 5% abv. Even better, from Corey's viewpoint, this growler was free, given to him at the brewery because everyone felt bad that an ATM machine had just eaten his credit card.

Next up was my personal pick for the best beer of the night, a growler of 8.5 % abv Victory St. Victorious Doppelbock, from Rick Mayberry ("Richard the Shill paid for it and made me bring it," he said). "The best St. Vic in years," somebody suggest, and I'd have to agree. Maybe it's because bock beers are not my favorite style, so that when I get a good one I am particularly pleased, but this baby was wonderful. What I should have done but didn't think of, was order a glass of O'Reilly's just released 2004 Instigator Doppelbock, which is also delicious, and compare and contrast.

Joe Meloney (I think) then served up McNeil's Imperial Stout from a brewpub of the same name in Brattleboro, Vermont. Surprisingly smoky flavor in this one, and I think it went over well (my notes say nothing, clear indication that all that high-octane brew was having its effect). I could find no website for McNeil's but there was some fascinating commentary at one site, with one guy talking about its "scruffy down-and-out types drinking a bit more than they could hold while several dirty infants wearing only t-shirts were crawling around on the floor" and another replying that it was "astonishing one can fault such an atmospheric, eccentric,neo-hippie place. Of course, we have those beer snobs who find fault with everything not sterile. McNeill's is perhaps the finest brewpub in the U.S. and it's a privilege journeying there twice annually. Incidentally, my kids love the place and the people who frequent it."

Big Dan the Man was on hand for one of his rare tasting appearances and he brought along two brews from his mostest favorite brewery in the whole world, Dogfish Head. These included what was (to our knowledge) the first-ever bottle of Randallized 90-Minute IPA. Okay, it was more a mini-growler ("I had to slam down a Grolsh for the bottle," said Dan), but leave us our fantasies, will ya? This batch was from the Rehoboth brewpub, where Dan and Steve the Other One and their sweeties spend every Easter, and was run through Amarillo hops, as has been every batch I've ever tasted, come to think of it. No matter. It was, well, a spectacular hops experience, having lost none of the fresh hop kick you get from a newly poured pint of Randallized beer despite its 24 hours or so in the bottle.

Dan's final contribution, and the last beer of the night, was a half-growler of 120 Minute IPA, the beer I love to hate. Except...well, dammit, I liked it. The overwhelming sweetness, which was my greatest complaint about the last batch I tried, was subdued and subtle and the result was entirely too smooth (hoppy smooth, but smooth) and all too easy to drink. "This should be outlawed," said one happy imbiber while another, of the older variety, noted that "back in the drug years, we used to keep a pipe by the bed so we could take a hit first thing in the morning and not face the day too straight. This would work."

I'd been alerted by both Foley and Reid, who had this 120 batch at Split Thy Skull, that this beer was much improved, but I didn't believe it until I tasted it myself. Now I have. So this one's for you, Sam. You kept telling me you'd eventually win me over and finally you have. Then again, who knows what might have happened if I weren't around to bug you?

Hey, I saved 120 IPA. Yeah! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

If Sam were Fuzzy.
Check this out. Now picture Fuzzy the cat as Calagione, the "Inter-Species Intelligence Indication Cylinder" as an "Organoleptic Hops Transducer Module" and the guy getting whacked in the head as symbolic of beer geeks everywhere. Makes perfect sense, no?

Cartoonist Darby Conley once had a character in his strip ask for a Corsendonk with his lunch, by the way, so I suspect he's one of us.

The Slow Pour.
Not much else to talk about this week, what with most of the brewers in captivity out in San Diego most of the week for the Craft Brewers Conference. We're told that, for the first time in years, the National Ego Meter arrow swung from Washington, DC out to the West Coast...The increasingly peripatetic Matt Guyer has a favor to ask of our loyal readers, especially the few, the brave, the ones who couldn't avoid being designated part of the LDO Posse. Matt will be doing this and he wants lots of us to turn out so he's not embarrassed. I know, I know, Matt being embarrassed is not such a bad thing, but there's actually a chance that a charity can benefit out of this, so give it some consideration. You can find the particulars here...

In case any of you missed it, my teaser last week about who was buying the old Victory brewhouse was revealed here as soon as I confirmed it. I was astonished, by the way, to see on this thread at BeerAdvocate.com that a lot of people were unaware of Victory's impending installation of a new 50-barrel brewhouse. Methinks sometimes that those of us who are supposed to be reporting this stuff don't do as good a job as we think we do (and won't Bill Covaleski love reading that)...

I have an interesting week coming up. On Tuesday, as part of my research for a feature story in the next Celebrator Beer News, I'll be visiting all five Iron Hill Brewpubs, driven safely from location to location by Pinky & The Shill, together again for the first time. Then, on Thursday, with that lovable pair and some personalities both familiar and new, I'm off to the Business Person's Special at Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies (hopefully) pound on the Florida Marlins, see one of Billy Wagner's 100-plus miles per hour fastballs and, oh yeah, check out as much of the beer scene as is up and running. A full report next week...

Finally, Celebrator, Ale Street News and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News all made their bimonthly appearances over the last week or so. You'll still find copies of Celebrator at the Beer Yard and, if you're quick, at these places. The other two should be generally available at pubs and bars all over the area.

[Posted 2:00 pm est]


11 April 04
Dude Fest.
"Unca Dude! Unca Dude!" The children's happy voices filled the room while they ran about cheerfully, screeching out the name of the Man of the Moment. They were much like Donald Duck's Huey, Dewey & Louie except they were, y'know, wearing pants. My heart swelled and ancient memories welled and an old familiar refrain ran through my mind: Lord, I could use another beer. Maybe two.

Scott (The Dude) Morrison turned 40 on Friday night and a passel of beer geeks gathered at his place of employment to offer natal felicitations with a surprise celebration.

Brian O'Reilly was behind it all, showing his cuddlier side, and also arranged for the cake. He told the bakers at Genuardi's Supermarket to "make it as cheesy as you can." "Maybe I should have said 'gaudy,'" he wondered later. No way. What he got was a square cake covered with yellow icing with "holes" allowing the chocolate interior to peak through. It looked like a huge hunk of Swiss cheese. A marvelous piece of work...and I forgot the damned camera.

One of the Dude's brewing aides tricked him into coming to dinner with him and his family in McKenzie's upstairs restaurant, while the surprise group (O'Reilly, new assistant Tim Ohst, Rick Mayberry and wife, Rick & Jeanne Smiledge, Richard Ruch, Joe Meloney, peripatetic Larry Horwitz and Your Humble Servant) gathered in the underground pub. In the "coals to Newcastle" department, we all showered him with bottles of beer when he finally came down.

During my stay, I sampled the Dude's highly touted Baltic Porter and saw what the fuss is all about and enjoyed drafts of his O'Reilly's Irish Red Ale and absolutely grand Rogue Pale Ale. That boy do have a problem with coming up with original names, don't he? Call the lawyers.

Smuggled Beers.
As indicated last week, the centerpieces of Monday's regular Tasting Session at Sly Fox were a couple of beers in growlers, smuggled into the country from Germany and the Czech Republic by world-travelers Corey Reid and Dave Boston. These beers are not bottled and rarely tasted by anyone who has not visited their breweries.

Actually they had three beers for us, starting off with a bottle of the crisp and very drinkable Flensburger Pilsner (Javer-like, I'd say) from the Flensburger brewery in the German town of the same name (according to the internet; the bottle said Brauerie Abfullung). The website is in Flash animation and can't be linked directly, but you can find it at http://www.flens.de/).

And we finished up their trio of beers with U Fleku, from the U Fleku Brewery and Pub, one of the most famous in Prague. The place is 500 years old and, as is pretty much the tradition in the Czech Republic, it's sole brews are a light and dark lager. This was the light (light in the sense of not dark, not the watered-down stuff we get in the States), 4.6% and very drinkable.

In between? Ah, let me tell you about that one. The beer was Poparschekunel from Quedlinbur, Germany. The brewery, our travelers told us, is Ludde Brau and its founding date, according to a coaster, an impressive 1499, but I found nothing about it on the web. The beer was terribly sweet but otherwise might have been the perfect session beer ever, with an abv of 1%, if that, by all estimations.

Historic but terrible was my description. Why historic? Because behind that sweetness lies a story and here, lightly paraphrased, is the way it was told to us by Reid and Boston

This is the only brewery in Germany allowed to add sugar to their beer.

Back when this beer was first brewed, it used to be sold to takeout customers in a half-filled bottle with instructions to fill the bottle with water and add a teaspoon full of sugar.

Most people just tended to go ahead and drink it as it was which apparently caused terrible diarrhea. In fact, the name "Poparschekunel" translates to "ass explosion."

Why do I have this vision of people at the brewery in the back room laughing their, um, asses off at pulling one over on the two American tourists?

Other beers for the day: Hooker Imperial Porter from, of all places, Connecticut; Lake Superior Split Rock Bock from, of all places, Minnesota; the quite lemony New Belgium Bier de Mars and Tommynocker Butt Head Doppelbock. This one was 8.2% abv and has won a slew of awards according to the website, but most of us thought it overly sweet.

Homebrewer Ron Daubel, who joins us occasionally when the stars are aligned properly, contributed two beers of his own, a nice Ginger Beer and a beer which he and Mike Murphy made from a Murphy recipe, using the yeast from O'Reilly's Rt.. 113 IPA, which we dubbed Daubel/Murphy/O'Reilly Strong British Ale and found quite good.

Drinking at the bar when we arrived were Nodding Head's ace barman Spanky and his brother, out for an afternoon in the sticks. They were eventually joined by NH assistant brewer Gordon Grubb and his sweetie, giving the laid-back old Fox a bit of a cutting downtown edge. So we treated them as satellite tasting unit and made them taste our beers too. That'll teach 'em.

RealBeer April Fool-ed.
So there I am, wandering the web this past week seeking out nuggets of beer information to pass on to you eager readers, when I run across this. Nice little plug for The Beer Yard, innit? Except that, when I first saw the story shortly after it went up, it was credited to "a news release from Dogfish Head!"

This could not be allowed to stand. I fired off a correction immediately, and they fixed in the next morning. I also sent them this, which is the cached copy of the page as it appeared on April 1 (if you missed it all and want to read the stories themselves, just scroll down a bit to last week's posting), in hope that they might include that with the article. No luck.

One wag suggested they were only interested in the first place because the story mentioned Sam, but that's just too cynical for me. Barely.

Skull Free.
For years, whenever I've walked out of Split Thy Skull, the annual barleywine bash held annually on the day before Easter at Sugar Mom's Church Street Lounge, I've cursed, not the darkness, but the light. The light of the bright, warming spring sun, that is, while wondering what the hell I was doing spending such a glorious day in a dark, underground room killing more brain cells with alcohol. This year, I finally kept the vow I made each of those past Easter Saturdays and stayed home.

It was colder than all the Saturdays past, of course, but I made productive use of the time, walking the dogs around the property, cleaning things up here and there and working on my websites (see below). And I did it all secure in the knowledge that my guys on the scene would clue me it about the Skull and this year's beers.

Security, thy name is Joe Meloney, since no one else has checked in as yet with a report. Here's what he had to say (slightly altered and expanded for clarification):

I found the Heavyweight Salty's Hammer, Sly Fox Eisbock and Dogfish Head 120 IPA to be showstoppers!

Iron Hill had the best Barleywine and Nodding Head Rudy Kung-Fu Grip was the best...???

Salty's Hammer? Oy!

South Africa Market?
This was passed along to Matt Guyer by Rogue's Sebbie Buhler and a few minutes later by Don (Joe Sixpack) Russell (with whom we'll pick a bone or two a bit further down) and he, fittingly verklempt, forwarded it to me in all due haste.

The story appeared in Business Report, a column which appears in four (count 'em, four) South African newspapers. Writer Ann Crotty was in New Orleans for a meeting of SABMiller officials with their distributors and somehow or other ended up on the Main Line. Here are the relevant passages (uncorrected but emphasis added):

And for anyone who's interested, there's an amazing store in Wayne, Philadelphia, that carries 800 different beers.

It has beer from every part of the world. It has chocolate-flavoured beer, strawberry stout and tofu pale ale. It has a beer called Blitherin Idiot and Sly Fox. It even has Budweiser, Millers and Coors....

I'm backing South Africa. I'm taking the support for the Proudly South African campaign beyond our borders. If SAB was producing Blitherin Idiot in America, that's what I'd be backing.

Seems to me that two of our breweries have a potential new market. Somebody call Eddie Friedland.

Changes.
You have undoubtedly, beer-addled minds notwithstanding, noticed a somewhat new look to this page. I spent yesterday developing it, with an eye toward easier readability and a more attractive presentation. It's all part of what has become my (apparently) annual site update and is also the first step toward the return of The Great Disconnect, LDO's on-again, off-again sister Blog which has been moribund since late last year.

The new version will be more personal, less political and give me an outlet for things I have to say about matters other than beer. Not too many will care or even note the return, I fear, but at least my man inside the gummint, Carl P. of an undisclosed location on the West Coast, will be delighted. Hey, one reader at a time...

The change will soon include a revised Home Page, which means that one of these Sundays soon now you may find yourself arriving there when you try go to come here. Never fear, it will be just a one-time situation to show you've what I've done there and hopefully entice you ro return. You'll be able to jump right here when it happens and be able to arrive directly here thereafter.

Humor me, it's a small enough price to pay.

The Slow Pour.
I had a VIP invite to the grand opening of McFadden's at the new Citizen's Bank Park but couldn't go and passed it on to Guyer. He says the place is very nice, with some drinkable beers on tap. I'll be at the Businessman's Special on April 22 to check it out, plus the entire beer scene in the stadium. And, oh yeah, to also check out The Phillies, who so far are making me very nervous...

Lots and lots of beer stuff in the local mainstream press this week. Let's start with Friday's Joe Sixpack column, which, you will notice, manages to find room to talk up the Stone Brewing April Fool's Joke but makes nary a mention of the one at the Beer Yard. For shame...Meanwhile, in that same edition of the Philadelphia Daily News, restaurant reviewer Soma Motoyama gives us her take on Johnny Brenda's...Which reminds me, way back when, Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan also wrote about Brenda's, but the story never appear online. Now it does... Today's Inquirer has a syndicated travel piece about Belgium and its beers. Worth a look, if only for a couple of, presumably unintentional, laugh lines...

Beer Geek Question of the Week: what local brewery is on the verge of committing to buy the current and soon to be replaced Victory brewhouse once the guys in Downingtown get their big new plant in place next Fall?

[Posted 2:10 pm est]


4 April 04
April Fool.
Just in case you missed the big April Fool's joke at the Beer Yard site on Thursday, I've invented a little cyberspace time machine that can rectify your oversight. Just click here to see the BY Home Page as it appeared for 24 hours on April 1 (NOTE: this is a static image captured at the time, so none of the links work and you can't go anywhere from it except back here; just close the window).

We decided to have some fun for ourselves, we did, and replaced all the News, Store Notes and Events Listings with some very special, one-day-only items. Yeah, I put it all together but I'm not taking all the blame. I can't even recall if the original idea was mine or Matt Guyer's; I do know he contributed several ideas, most notably the Bryson-Alstrom event. And Dan (The Big One) Bengel, who I wasn't even aware knew about our plans, emailed me a list of several new beers which I tweaked and edited a bit and turned into a Store Note.

Partly because this was a lot of work for a very short shelf life, and partly because many of you did in fact miss it while it was there, I saved the image linked to above. Further, below you'll find the the text of the four News Stories, three Store Notes and two Events Listings, pretty much as they appeared to anyone who clicked on any of the links that day (I've added some color and included the brief subheads from the main page). Enjoy.

NEWS

Guyer Sells Beer Yard & Flees the Country

Beloved owner cashes in and disappears

Matt Guyer, a familiar figure to those few customers of the Beer Yard who happened to catch him in the store during one of his increasingly infrequent visits, has sold the business to the Mississippi based beer and tobacco retailing chain, Big Brands & Nothin' Butt, long time employee Mark Sauerbrey told customers today, reading from a note he found on the door in the morning when he arrived to open up.

"With the money they gave me, I should be able to survive for several years," Guyer's note read, "especially since I plan to stay for free with all those people I've been sucking up to every time I've gone over there."

The new owners have asked him to stay on, Sauerbrey said. "Not that I'll have to do anything. Big Brands & Nothin' Butt will be ordering all the beer directly from their headquarters, using the standard beer lists they've developed for convenience stores all across Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia."

U.S. Government Bans Belgian Beers

"Weapons of Mass Drunkenness" inappropriate in these troubled times, says Homeland Security directive; Tom Peters accepts new post as Anti-Trappist Ambassador

In a move which startled beer drinkers both at home and abroad, the Department of Homeland Security today abruptly banned the importing of all Belgian beers into the United States.

"These high quality, high taste beers are nothing more than Weapons of Mass Drunkenness," said Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, "and we're pretty sure we know where to find them and destroy them." Even as he spoke, government agents throughout the country were stripping Belgian beers already in the U.S. from retail shelves. Ridge stressed that a new provision added to the Patriot Act requires all good citizens to immediately turn in their Belgian stashes at "security sites" which are being set up in every major population area.

Philadelphia's Tom Peters, the co-founder of Monk's Café, was announced as the nation's Anti-Trappist Ambassador and will head up the fight to keep destructive and dangerous foreign beers out of the hands of the American public. "I have seen the light," Peters told the Washington press corps, "and I will do whatever I have to do to win this battle for our country, even if it means I have to go directly to Belgium and consume all the beer slated for export to the U.S. by myself."

Peters' holdings in Monk's will be put into blind trust, he said. Partner Fergus Carey will continue managing the bar and restaurant, which will be renamed Fergie's Too!

Dogfish Head Announces 100% ABV,
Continually-Hopped Beer

Only eight kegs of high octane Raison C'est Fini will be brewed, to be released one at a time; brewer Bryan Selders comes with each keg

Declaring his brewery the final winner in the ongoing competition with Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) to brew the world's strongest beer, Dogfish Head founder, CEO and former Hagar Slacks model Sam Calagione announced today the release of Raison C'est Fini, a 100% abv brew which is also "hopped continuously with a blend of every hop variety grown on every continent in the world during the year 2003, plus some stuff that looks an awful lot like hops which I found out behind our Milton brewery."

Boston Beer's Jim Koch was not available for comment. Some reports have him retiring in disgrace to Costa Rica. Calagione noted that Dogfish Head's high end, high octane beers "have always been designed to draw wine and cognac drinkers into the craft beer market, but we realized recently that we were focusing on only one segment of the wine market. With the flavor and character of grain alcohol, Raison C'est Fini will attract those consumers at the other end of the spectrum who favor brands such as Thunderbird.. Not that we're ignoring our established base, of course. With all that alcohol and all those hops, I think we can safely say this beer will be very highly rated by the online beer groups, even by those members who never get to taste it."

In order to constantly hop the beer, Dogfish Head engineers took a set of Barbie and Ken dolls and paired them in a manner which Calagione described as "very, very friendly but not `family' friendly, if you know what I mean," to create a unique hopping mechanism. "This is so far beyond Randall the Enamel Animal that I get giddy just thinking about it," he admitted.

The invention, Barbie & Ken Hop Climax, is proprietary and being held in strict security at the brewery. Thus, in order to insure that Raison C'est Fini is being hopped right up until the last pint is drawn, brewer Bryan Selders will be packaged with each keg as it is released. His job is to force hop pellets into the top of the keg as rapidly as he can until it is tapped, then throw fresh hop flowers into each glass as it is poured. Each keg will be priced at $250.00 plus room and board for Selders.

Standard Tap Adjusts Beer Focus
To Be True To Its Name

Serving only draft local beers at Standard Tap was "intellectually dishonest," says co-owner William Reed; a new approach will attract a different breed of customer and fend off an incipient law suit

Budweiser, Miller and Coors drinkers who felt left out of the fun as The Standard Tap became established as one of the city's hippest pubs-dissatisfied to the point where there was talk of a class action lawsuit charging that the Tap unfairly discriminated against consumers who choose their beers based upon multi-million dollar advertising campaigns-can breath easier today. The Northern Liberties hotspot is changing its tune.

"I was lying in bed last night trying to think of the next rundown and financially deprived section of the city that Paul (partner Paul Kimport) and I could help be rediscovered if we created yet another cool bar, when I had an epiphany," co-owner William Reed said, talking loudly in order to be heard over the sound of workmen removing the draft systems from the Tap's two bars. "If we call ourselves the 'Standard' Tap, then shouldn't we adhere to the accepted standard? Shouldn't we be selling only the standard beers that can be found almost everywhere else? Otherwise, our name is nothing but a lie and we're being intellectually dishonest, not to mention disingenuous."

Kimport was doubtful at first, Reed admitted, "but when I pointed out that we could also get rid of all this fancy-shmancy food and stop running around looking for fresh and unusual ingredients and just whip up tubs and tubs of wings and stuff like that instead, I could almost see the light bulb go on over his head."

All the taps will have been removed and bottles and cans of big name domestic beers and top selling imports, including "the finest selection of light and low carb beers on the market today," will be the only beers available when Standard Tap opens this evening. Reed said that a similar change is in store at the recently opened Johnny Brenda's. "In fact, over there I think we'll rip out the kitchen entirely and put in a big six-pack cooler in that area. We'll just serve beer nuts and maybe a couple of pre-packaged sandwiches we can warm up in a toaster oven or something. It's gonna be great."


STORE NOTES

Today's New Beers

These beers arrived today. Will you be drinking them tomorrow?

Due to computer problems, we are presently unable to update our New Arrivals list of beers you've been waiting for. We'll catch up with complete listings, labels and other information as soon as things are fixed. Meanwhile, this is what's being unloaded from the trucks this very morning:

Victory Ultra
Weyerbacher Green Strawberry Stout
Heavyweight Cask Tofu Pale Ale
General Lafayette Double Imperial Nada
(draft only)
Flying Fish Fish Kill Ale
Moore's Select Hop Death Fest
(draft only)

If you want a case or sixtel set aside from you, e-mail Mark right away.

Friday Night Tasting:
The Beers of Red Bell & Independence

The founders of two legendary breweries will be here to ply their wares and tell sad stories of the death of kings

This Friday's regular tasting at the Beer Yard will feature bottles of the cult favorite Red Bell Philadelphia Lager and a recently discovered growler of Independence Blonde. Company founders Jim Bell and Bob Connor will be on hand (separately) to discuss their industry leadership during the glory days of their legendary Philadelphia breweries. Join us, 5-7 pm

Coming Next Week: Yards Millard Fillmore Ale

Stone Horizontal Epic Ale Arrives Soon

Vertical Epic is just so yesterday, y'know?

The ever-creative brewers at Stone Brewing have taken their Vertical Epic brewing program to the next level. Horizontal Epic Ale will be released one bottle at a time, one day at a time, for the entire year. Each bottle will be a totally different beer made from a totally different recipe. No information about hops, malt, abv or anything else is either available or applicable.

In PA, this beer will be sold in case lots, with a yellow stick-it note on each bottle to indicate the day of its release. We have April cases scheduled to arrive in early May. Supply limited. If you want to reserve your case now, e-mail us immediately. Or real soon, anyway.


EVENTS

Bryson vs. Alstrom Brothers Mud Wrestling
July 17, 2004 Nodding Head, Philadelphia

Replacing the popular Royal Stumble on the Nodding Head schedule is this "by popular demand" mano-a-mano between beer writer Lew Bryson and the Alstrom brothers, founders of the Beer Advocate website. "First Lew's on Beer Advocate, then he's kicked off it, then he's back on again," says Nodding Head's Curt Decker. "It's just too confusing for everybody. We're going to let them go at it, head to head to head, and settle things once and for all."

The Alstroms, Todd and Jason, will wear traditional wrestling garb, according to Decker, while, curiously enough, Bryson has opted for a fencing outfit. "Hey, whatever works," said Decker. "The only thing that can mess this up now is if Lew can't find a place to park."

Nodding Head brewer Brandon Greenwood has created a special beer for the afternoon event, which he has named Mighty Wet Dirt Slap. It is an Imperial Berlinerweisse, which will be served through a Dogfish Head Randall the Enamel Animal which has been packed with fresh Woodruff.

Curtin's Last Beer
June 12, 2004 Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery, Phoenixville

In July, the man many suspect of being the world's oldest semi-working beer writer, Jack Curtin, will consume the final pint of his life as a small and generally disinterested group of hangers-on observe. While Curtin's exact age remains a mystery, he has been informed by the National Statistical Institute that he is nearing the ultimate limit for beer consumption by an individual during a lifetime. Based on his current consumption rate, he will arrive at his final pint on the afternoon of July 23. He has chosen to have that pint at Sly Fox and will be driven to the event by Mr. Steven Rubeo. Mr. Dan Bengel will help him to his chair when he arrives. Both will expect free beers in return.

Sly Fox brewer Brian O'Reilly will create a special, one-time-only beer in order to make the last one a memorable one. "I'm honored to do this for Jack and am looking forward to finally pouring a beer for him and not having him ask for another one," O'Reilly said. He noted that the rest of the special batch would then be destroyed so no one else would ever taste it, "unless, of course, I can sell it to the Standard Tap, Grey Lodge or some place like that."

An Imported Beer Never Before Poured in the U.S.
That's what I promised I'd be bringing to this past Monday's Sly Fox Tasting and bring it I did. When I announced that this beer had been sent across the Atlantic by the brewer with specific instructions that "Richard (Ruch) and Carl (Shoemaker)get to try it," everybody in the place, including Carl, knew exactly where it was from...except Ruch. "Um...something Bill Covaleski brewed while he was over there?" he suggested, then fell into embarrassed silence.

The brewer, as those of you who have been with us a long time will likely have figured out, was former Tasting regular Mike Murphy of Starbess/Rome Brewing Company, who sent over a bottle of his Starbess Strong Ale via BeerAdvocate and sometimes Tasting attendee Sherri.

This was most good drinking (and, to be totally accurate, an earlier version of this, if not this exact beer, was poured at the Fox on the first day Murphy appeared on the scene last summer, along with five other Starbess beers) and, at 12+% abv, perhaps not the wisest beer to start the evening off. How good is "most good?" Let's let Tom Foley sum it up: "Age this is an oak barrel cask and it would be amazing!"

Beers from across the pond were the order of the day this time. Vying with Murphy ale for top brew of the week was Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier. We also tried Duchy Originals Organic Ale, which is produced by Wychwood for The Prince of Wales' Charity Foundation (this one was living proof that no good deed goes unpunished, I'm afraid) and Marston's Oyster Stout, from the Marston, Thompson & Evershed Brewery located in Burton-on-Trent. This latter is, interestingly enough, made without any contact at all with actual oysters and is a strong argument for buying American.

Okay, I'm getting bitchy here, aren't I? Hard to imagine. Anyway, Foley hissownself contributed his two-nearly-three-year-old Belgian Strong Ale, a 10% beer that nearly everybody agreed had a nice, agreeable Scotch Ale character,and Drafting Room - Exton's Patrick Mullen contributed a Tripel from Grand Rapids Brewing Company (geez, last week Duluth, this week Grand Rapids; I'm beginning to get the urge to throw on some coveralls and go husk corn). It was fruity and pleasant and my notes here indicate that somebody called it "mead-like." Whatever.

Okay, here's probably why I'm grumpy. My second contribution of the evening was Alesmith Old Numbskull Barley Wine 2000, part of my ongoing beer exchange with that fine and near-legendary California beer geek, Dr. Bill. Sadly, this bottle at least, had not been served well by the passing years and long distance traveled. I am so ashamed.

Or maybe not.

The Slow Pour.
A couple of weeks back, I ran a teaser in this section about a local brewpub dreaming of an appearance on Broadway's Great White Way. Well, this review in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer will give you a clue as to what that was all about. Sly Fox owner Pete Giannopoulos was in negotiations for a couple of weeks there to make one of O'Reilly's brews the "official beer" of the play, complete with pouring several Sly Fox beers at the Opening Night Party at Tavern on the Green. The New York publicist who came up with the idea and contacted him had her heart in the right place, but the arrangement eventually foundered on the fact that Sly Fox is not legally permitted to sell beer in New York at this time and Tavern management, not unexpectedly, was not all that intrigued about having the beer given away on its premises that night. Ah, fame is so fleeting (as, if you believe the review, will be the play)...

I keep, probably unnecessarily, making the point that our Monday Tasting sessions have turned into an "event." Quite a leap for something that started out as a way to give Richard (the Shill) Ruch something to do on Monday afternoons other than sit around at the Fox in lonely depression, smiling only when he found a chance to surreptitiously paste a random Victory label on something when nobody was looking (which was a considerable amount of the time). Tomorrow night promises yet another breakthrough to a higher level: bartender to the stars Corey Reid is back from a ten-day sojourn in Germany and the Czech Republic and he's back with...growlers! What a guy, even if this does mean we have to let Dave Boston, who accompanied Corey to Europe, join us. Fortunately, he's got a growler too...

There's really good interview with O'Reilly up on Lew Bryson's site, along with the newest "Buzz" and other stuff. Brian talks about the new brewery and long range plans for the current Brewhouse. Check it out...Have I mentioned here yet that Brian Hollinger, who was at Kutztown Tavern/Golden Avalanche Bewery a while back, has signed on at Victory to work with Ron Barchet in getting the new brewhouse and ancilliary equipment installed and operational, coordinating the servicing and maintance of the brewery's mechanical and electrical/electronic processing systems? No? Well, consider it done as of now.

[Posted 2:00 pm est]

Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

--A. E. Houseman

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