I drink no cider,
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in a letter to his wife Abigail



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"It's McKenzie, right?" Those were the first words out of Joe Meloney's mouth when he arrived on the terrace at Sly Fox Brewhouse this past week for the usual Monday night beer tasting. I'd hoped to get a week or two of fun out of it after I teased last week that "a successful area brewpub is planning a second site in the western Philadelphia suburbs, on the Main Line to be exact," but the folks at McKenzie Brew House went ahead and put up a sign that very day. You'd think they'd have checked with me first, wouldn't you? Ah well, here's the complete story.

All Malt? Helles, No. Actually, it's "Hell(es), yes." Victory Brewing Company has reformulated All Malt Lager as Helles Lager. Why, you ask? These guys certainly did. Well, in his own inimitable style, Bill Covaleski explains, and then some, right here.

Doc's having a party. A recurring character in this chronicles is "Dr. Bill," the not-so-secret identity of Bill Sysak, a Southern California beer nut (no other description works) with whom Matt Guyer and I shared all too many brews on our trip to San Francisco last February (you can read all the sordid details, complete with photos, here; Bill and his friends show up on Day Two).

Dr. Bill is also our West Coast Connection for many of the beers which have been part of our Monday Night Tasting Sessions (mentioned above and again below). This month, the good Doc is throwing what, in his words, "may be the largest private beer fest, at least on the west coast (it's definitely the most expensive, LOL). I know I even impressed myself this time." This is the seventh straight year for the event.

I was going to put up the details onsite for you to check out, but Doc saved me the trouble by posting them himself. And he sent a follow-up email with heart-breaking news to boot:

"On a sadder note, a moment of silence please, a case of Sly Fox Ichor broke enroute from N.Y...[and] two more mixed cases (Heavyweight Old Salty, 3 yrs. old, etc.,) are now prisoners of war. So when you tip your next pint please remember our fallen comrades."

Go ahead. I'll wait here until you've done the right thing.

Hey, what about Massachusetts? Not to mention Vermont. The hat pictured here was a gift from Tom and Laurie Foley, a pair of posse hangers-on notable for their extremely discriminating taste in television viewing, among other things. They bought it on a recent sojourn to New England, and noted that "we thought of you as soon as we saw it" as they placed it atop my head during Incubus Friday at the Fox the other night. There was much laughter and joy spread about as a result, which I was pleased to have contributed to, of course, but I must admit to some confusion as well.

All About Maine (Me.)? What's up with that? I acknowledge that I am fond of, though a rare visitor to, the state. But I'm pretty keen on all of New England, comes to that. Okay, Connecticut can be a bit of a problem and Rhode Island is, well, Rhode Island, but for an old unreconstructed liberal such as I, Massachusetts is damned near the Holy Land, you know? Why single out Maine?

That said, since I have learned the hard way that there is a vast army of literalists out there in the internet community, I 'fess up that I do get the joke. I'll even plead (slightly) guilty to the implications. Indeed, this fine gift has inspired me. I think I might just buy a whole bunch of similar hats, emblazoned "Its All About JACK" and hand them out to the posse. The only thing that's holding me back is that I know those guys. Somebody might actually wear one.

Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. So I figured, what the hell, I'd tweak Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell about this story (not written by him), which appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News a week ago Friday. Go read it and you'll see why. The headline talks about "bonding" over a beer at Stoudt's when in fact the pub was closed and the writer and friend never got inside. Where they did finally bond was at Victory, but you'd never know that if you didn't figure it out for yourself. The only time the word "victory" even appears in the piece is in this sentence: "Jose Mesa closed out the victory...". It was a truly awful example of copy editing, I noted.

Don took it all in stride and then closed out his email ever so sweetly with this: "Oh well, we all make mistakes. (Andy Musser, I think, is working for Anchor, not Rogue.)" ARRRGGHH! I did indeed misidentify Andy's employer last week (apologies, big guy). It's fixed now, of course, and I'll never again acknowledge that it happened. And I've learned my lesson. If I get the urge to poke a contemporary with a stick in the future, I'll stick to my favorite target, America's most beloved beer writer.

Tasting Notes. We taste guest beers at the Fox every Monday now, as noted above, and I'll keep posting the results as often as I can. First off, here's The Monday Guy, Richard Ruch, (edited as I saw fit, 'cause it's my site) on a quartet of brews we sampled way back on July 21 (the first three beers were courtesy of bartender Corey Reid):

"We started with two Belgian style brews: Salvation Strong Ale (9% abv) from Avery Brewing in Boulder, CO and St. Martin Blonde Ale (7% abv) from Brasserie de Brunehaut. The Salvation had a huge hoppy bouquet with a noticeable spicy fragrance. The taste was dominated by the big hop content; it was hopped to the point of being slightly astringent in the finish....We all needed some water to cleanse the palate before our next selection. The Saint Martin had a very crisp, refreshing flavor with decent carbonation. It had a delicate fruity, peppery taste with a malty finish. Quite a quaffable brew....the third selection was Prohibition Ale from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers in San Francisco... Boy, those west coast brewers like to understate the obvious when it comes to aggressively hopped brews. [This was] definitely an atypical red ale. The flavors start with a bold hoppiness with a noticeable caramel malt in the background. Not a perfectly balanced brew, but it a pleasing smooth malty & hoppy finish. The last selection of the evening was Moylan's Brewery & Restaurant's Moylander Double IPA, brought by Joe Meloney...an incredibly hopped beer.The aroma was loaded with hop, very herbal and slightly citrusy... but there was still a good malt background to balance it out."

This past Monday, I brought New Style Old Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company, one of the beers sent east by the aforementioned Doc. "New Style" apparently translates as "not an" because an Old Ale this wasn't, starting with the modest 5.2% abv, clearly low for a strong ale. What it was, best as I can describe it, was a malty brown ale. It was somewhat disappointing on first taste and notably lacking in aroma, but things did pick up as the beer warmed. A pleasantly quaffable beer, I'd guess, when served at proper temperatures and with no grand expectations. It appears to have been a one-off, since there is no mention of it on the Lagunitas website. Our second beer, offered up by our very own Brian O'Reilly (who was in a lousy mood because his boiler wouldn't boil and, boy, don't ya hate it when that happens?), was 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale from Stone Brewing, the second in the brewery's dozen-year long series of annual brews, each released one day, one month, one year apart. A very nice strong Belgian-style ale, even better than when I tasted it at New York's Blind Tiger Ale House a couple of month's back. Likely that's because this was bottled rather than draft, a more desirable presentation of big bold ales. For those interested in such things, the brewery has posted the Stone Vertical Epic 03.03.03 Homebrew Recipe.

Quickies. Turns out there was voting for the most popular beers at the State College MicroBrewers & Importers Exposition last week. You could have fooled me. Anyway, you can read the results here....Tickets are now on sale for the Kennett Brew Fest Connoisseur Tasting. Check out the beers and sign up soon if you're interested. Only 100 tickets will be sold for this pre-festival event and I'm told they're going quickly. Ticket price includes both the tasting and the festival proper; tickets for only the latter are also available at the site...The latest Celebrator Beer News is, or will be this coming week, available at several of our finest local beer purveyors. My regular Atlantic Ale Trail column appears; the story about Mike Murphy and the Starbess (The Rome Brewing Company) does not. Presumably this is due to a lack of space, which means it should turn up next issue. We shall see.

[Posted 3:00 pm edt]

10 AUGUST 03
The power of the press is real. But which press? I tell the story, perhaps more often than I need to, about how, after I had written this, my first ever major beer story, as the cover feature for a July 1995 issue of Philadelphia Weekly, hoards of new customers descended upon the Dawson Street Pub (the world's greatest bar and one which seriously needs to update its website), in search of Yards ESA pulled from a handpump. As I recall, the crowds continued for some weeks (I know I couldn't pay for a beer as long as owner Dave Wilby was on the premises for a long, long time to follow, and Dawson Street was my Local in those days, or as close to a Local as it got). Heck, a friend of mine who was cursed to live in Texas in those days was at the Houston Airport and mentioned in passing something about Philadelphia while sitting at the bar and the guy next to him whipped a copy of PW out of his briefcase and opened it to the story and told him he had to go to Dawson Street.

Having sneakily managed to repeat the story yet again, I will now cover my tracks by showing that there was actually a point to the retelling. Okay, cover my ass. Whatever.

Heavenly Hops, by Philadelphia Inquirer Restaurant Critic Craig LeBan, ran in the Food Section of this Thursday's paper. The focus is Belgian beers and it's the kind of story those of us who care about good beers should be delighted to see, a serious look at the subject by someone outside the anointed, a relative newcomer who brings with him his own credentials. LeBan offers up none of the usual cliches and "amazement" that such beers exist, none of the cheap jokes that too many writers bring to the occasional beer piece, but instead takes the reader along with him as he learns about good beers. And when he writes that

compared with wine prices, which have crept above $25 in restaurants for some of the most ordinary bottles, these world-class beers are suddenly the beverage deal of the day,
you have to figure he catches the attention of a whole strata of people that craft breweries, beer bars and good distributors would love to have a shot at. Go read it, if you haven't already. I'll wait.

If you did go look, you may have noticed three sidebars which ran with the main story. This one is LeBan's list of ten favorite Belgian-style beers he's come to love in recent months (including Victory Golden Monkey); this one recounts LeBan's visit to Shangy's in Emmaus, and this one is a list of excellent sources for Belgians, and included this:

The Beer Yard, 218 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-688-3431
Behind, and hidden down the hill from, Starbucks in Wayne, this surprising little distributor is second only to Shangy's in selection, but prices are slightly higher. If you're looking for a special tripel or Flemish sour ale, the Beer Yard has it. The store's Web site is a superb resource.
It is here that we finally get to the point. The same sort of public reaction to a newspaper story that occurred with that PW piece happened in Wayne this weekend. The Beer Yard was slammed, starting Thursday, as throngs of people who'd seen the articles were either reminded of what a damned good distributorship it is or, better yet from the perspective of owner and bon vivant Matt Guyer, discovered the place for the first time, arrived at its doors.

My initial inkling of what was happening came Friday night around 9 p.m., when Guyer called and asked if I could come in for a couple of hours on Saturday. As noted before in these chronicles, in addition to maintaining the Beer Yard website (you did note that "superb resource" thing in the LeBan recommendation, didn't you?), I generally go in there on Monday for three or four hours and do some work on the computer and bitch about the condition of the office, so how could I say no? Well, I could have, but the poor man was begging...

In I went, around 10:30 yesterday morning and it was, as it turned out, great fun. A significant number of people who came through the door during my three-plus hours mentioned the article right away and many of them were indeed first-timers. It's always kind of neat to see people who've heard about the Beer Yard walk in for the first time. You can tell from their faces that, right off the bat, they're somewhat taken aback. Could this be the fabulous beer place they've heard about? This little store? Then their eyes stray to the wall of Belgians to the left of the doorway or the stack of microbrews right in front of them. When they begin walking down the aisles and absorbing what is there, they're ours. Or Matt's.

For me the two high spots were responding, ever so nonchalantly, "of course," to the guy who came in looking for Quilmes from Argentina with a skeptical look on his face and selling cases of Belgian and German high-end beers to another guy who'd lived around the corner from the Beer Yard for years and never knew it was there.

I know I'm sort of biting the hand that feeds me here, but the fact is that stories which appear in the mainstream (or, as science-fiction fandom used to refer to it, "mundane") press and which are written by someone not readily identified with the beer community are infinitely more valuable to our cause than those produced by even the best known of identifiable "beer writers." I suspect that Matt would have been turning cartwheels if a highly favorable story about the Beer Yard appeared in one of the brewnews papers or online this past week with a "Michael Jackson" byline. But I have to wonder if it would have been as effective in terms of expanding his business as was a brief, passing mention under the byline "Craig LeBan."

Attack of the killer worm. I started the above entry over three hours ago and have spent much of the intervening time, not on polishing that deathless prose, but trying to work my will on an invasive worm which has invaded my system and which seems impossible to destroy. This is an ongoing battle as it seems to be a manifestation of the same problem that has occurred with weekly regularity since mid-July. Anybody have any information on an effective way to remove Worm.Win32.Ladex, which has, among its other annoying traits, the ability to hide itself from view in the Registry whenever regedit is run? It's a bitch.

In any case, that, and the fact that not much happened this week, is why today's update has come to its end. I've got a few tasting notes in hand I'll save for next time, along with an announcement that I may be able to make about what I'll be doing in September. It is not what you (and I, until yesterday) expected.

[Posted 3:00 pm edt]

17 AUGUST 03
Sorry 'bout that. The site has been down since around noon on Sunday, when today's entry was posted or--more accurately-- when an attempt was made to post today's entry. No bad, no viruses or like that, just some issues with the site itself that turned pure evil on us. Sincere apologies from the management, such as it is. But now we're back, or else you're not reading this.

Where I was Friday night: McKenzie Brew House. When Heavyweight Brewing's Tom Baker emailed the news that he and wife Peggy Zwerver, along with a couple of friends, would be visiting Scott "The Dude" Morrison at McKenzie Brew House on Friday night and asked if I wanted to come down and hang with them a while, of course I did. And so, with loyal posse member Steve (The Other One) Rubeo by my side to fend off any strange creatures which might wander across the Delaware state line and attack us during the evening, that's exactly what I did.

The Dude was in fine form, pouring beers freely (an admirable personality trait). He also used his position of power and authority at the pub to wrangle us all a table for dinner after a mere three-plus hour wait, so we had sufficient time to enjoy those brews. There was a marvelous Saison and a couple of swell Belgian ales poured from bottles, and an excellent IPA, Scotch Ale and Summer Wheat, all freshly tapped only an hour or so before we arrived, on draft. I also enjoyed a nutty, quaffable Unicorn Amber Ale which we were served in error when we ordered a pitcher of the Scotch after we (finally) sat down to dinner. "I can only tell them what to serve, I can't pour it for them," said the Dude, accompanying it with what I call the "brewer's shrug," a gesture brewpub guys use in lieu of throwing up their hands in despair.

After an hour or so at the bar in the Underground Pub, a downstairs level devoted to fun and games, where we got acquainted with the aforementioned friends, Jay and Carrie, and found them to be good folks, Peggy suggested we try our hands at shuffleboard. Much as Dan (The Big One) Bengel and I had wiped up the pits with The Other One's entire family at horseshoes a couple of weeks back, Steve and I ruled the table, winning every match against all comers in whatever combination they chose to come at us. The impressive athletic skills of the posse has been a revelation to me.

A disgruntled Peggy suggested afterwards that, were the game horseshoes, the outcome would have been dramatically different and was backed up by her husband. "She's really good." We'll have to see about that, of course. I see a horseshoe tournament at Heavyweight or some other appropriate site. Maybe we can even raise a few bucks for a good cause.

Yesterday, the traveling quartet stopped in for lunch at Sly Fox and I joined them there for a while as well. The Dude was supposed to show up too but he'd apparently been taken captive by a traveling band of wild-eyed BeerAdvocates at his pub. I don't have any concrete evidence but based on some of the circumstantial sort (remarks I overheard at the Fox Monday night during the weekly tasting), I see the evil hand of Richard Ruch in all this.

With the Dude absent and O'Reilly on the road again to California, where he was seeking a way to embrace ahimsa and to determine whether knowing about this place or this place would more impress the lovely Therese, there was an absence of "brewer talk" (these guys are a lot like golfers or people who own boats when you get them together), but we survived.

Before leaving, we utilized the renowned photographic skills of ace bartender Jimmy Wasko to take the photo below as a record of, well, whatever. In order, from left, that's me, Peggy, Jay, Carrie and Tom.

Where I'll be in two hours. Continuing his march into the pantheon of local beer gods, fine human being Matt Guyer of The Beer Yard has used his website beyond compare to put together a gathering of as many of his closest friends who have $20 to spare he can muster for a 2:00 p.m. sampling Eulogy Belgian Tavern, the new hot spot in Old City Philadelphia. Having not yet been there, I'm taking advantage of the opportunity. Come on down if you see this in time.

Where I'll be in September: Germany & England. So this email from Tom Dalldorf, my esteemed editor at Celebrator Beer News, arrived a week ago Friday. He'd been "invited to take a trip to visit some breweries in Germany and Fuller's in England." A press junket, every scribe's dream, but Tom can't go, nor can general manager Jay Brooks, since they'll be on deadline, putting together the next issue from the marvelous material provided them by their loyal staff. Tom naturally turned to his best writer to offer him the trip...and when that guy turned it down, I assume he kept working his way down the line until he got to me.

Mission accomplished. I accept.

We'll be leaving Thursday, September 4. Over the course of five days in Germany, we'll visit Erdinger Weissbraeu and Veltins for sure, with a trip to Augustiner also likely (although there's some mention of an alternative "river trip" in the sketchy itinerary I've received so far), then fly to London for a day and a half at Fuller's. We get back home on Friday, September 12.

Beer writing doesn't pay very well, but now and again things do work out right nicely.

Where I won't be in September: Kennett Square. While loyal readers of these ramblings may consider the great tragedy of it all to be that there will not be an LDO posting on Sunday, September 7 (unless I find a way to post at least a brief entry from Germany, which I'll do if it's possible and affordable, just because it would be cool), the big impact of this windfall is that I won't be able to attend the Kennett Beer Festival. That's sad enough by itself but even more so this year because I've been so involved in setting up the Connoisseur Tasting which is in many ways the centerpiece of the whole event. If nothing else, a couple of brewers who I enticed into participating in that might want to slap me around a bit.

Seriously, while it pains me to say it, I suspect my absence will be of little note and less consequence. Disturbing a thought though it might be, there will be those who may find that absence an improvement. You'll recognize them by their big smiles. The thing is, I grew up in Kennett Square and was looking forward to this return in, if not triumph and splendor, at least as a supporting character in a great beer drama. Of course, I could have turned down the trip abroad....yeah, right.

Jeffrey Norman, the Kennett Revitalization Task Force guy who got me into this in the first place, will easily fill my role as MC for the tasting and take all responsibility for anything that goes awry. He doesn't know it, but that latter was part of my plan in any case.

As for me, I figure I'll find a way to taste all the special beers either before I go or after I get back, with the possible exception of the Mushroom Stout from Dogfish Head, which is regretful. For one thing, when Jeff first asked me if I knew "a brewer crazy enough to make a beer with mushrooms," I just laughed and telephoned Sam Calagione. I feel a certain kinship to this one. And, while I understand this beer is likely to be more fun gimmick than a world-class brew, I did after all spend those childhood years living with the smell of manure in the air. I may have certain psychological needs here.

Methinks I'll perhaps need to dragoon someone into saving me a growler.

Where you can still get your LDO fix. the first installment of "Atlantic Ale Trail," the East Coast column I write for Celebrator Beer News is now available online. It's not as free-form or irreverent as what you get here, but any port in a storm, right? This column was an introductory one which ran last spring and summed up the state of Philadelphia area craft brewing. I also named my choice as the next "hot" brewer from the region. Saw the guy just recently, as it turns out.

What you should keep an eye out for. Look for a major announcement any day now--maybe a couple of announcements--from a local brewery. It'll be a surprise. As they say in the comic books, everything you thought you knew is wrong.

[Posted 12:00 p.m. edt]

24 AUGUST 03
Sly Fox changes direction. Obviously, the "major announcement... from a local brewery" that I told you to watch out for in last week's entry was the withdrawal of Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery from negotiations to create a brewery and restaurant in Phoenixville's historic Foundry building. That story first broke on the internet Thursday right here (or you can read the complete news release from Sly Fox here).

Since I am presumed to be "on the inside" of this story, I'm being asked questions about it, from both the curious and the cynical. Here are my answers.

Yes, an addition to the main building would be necessary for Sly Fox to put in its bottling line (which they are in he process of buying from another local brewery) and that addition could not be built. My understanding at this point is that the impervious nature of the site upon which the Foundry sits was perhaps even more of an issue than the building's historical status. There were also financial considerations which came into play as negotiations proceeded. The cost of the outside restoration was higher than expected, leaving less money available for the inside work, which meant that it would have been unlikely the pub and restaurant could have been built as originally envisioned.

Yes, the parting was amicable. The Phoenixville Area Economic Development Corporation really was eager to have Sly Fox in the building but understood the brewery's reasons for withdrawing, and Sly Fox went out of its way to do everything possible to avoid causing any problems for PAEDCO in both its announcement and plans for removing the brewery equipment from the building by mid-September. And the parting was as reluctant as it was friendly. "We may hate ourselves ten years from now when we look back at this," Brian O'Reilly told me, "but we really had no choice."

Yes, there is another potential site being negotiated right now. The brewery and a new pub will be built in an existing building near Phoenixville. I was standing in front of that building less than 24 hours ago and it has, if not the grandeur and significance of the Foundry, certainly the size and visibility to be an excellent location. There are, for example, four loading docks already in place for deliveries to the prospective pub and to and from the new brewery. The impression I have is that the only thing holding up an announcement at present is the size of the space that Sly Fox will be renting.

And yes, I know a little something about what is planned for the pub and I suspect that it will turn out to be a very popular spot and a nice complement to the existing pub. But more about that later.

Hanging with the foodies. I think I've mentioned before that the October/November issue of Celebrator Beer News will be a "Food & Beer" issue. My column for that issue is due end of this week so I spent a good part of last week gathering the story. That meant hanging out at some of the area's better beer spots but spending my time with the folks from the kitchens rather than the ones behind the bar. Well, okay, maybe a little bit of time at the bar... The bulk of what I learned has to be saved for the column, of course, but I did pick up a few bits of news along the way.

Tuesday I spent an hour or so with chef Adam Glickman (and some fella named Peters) at Monk's Cafe, where a new draft system was being put in for the front bar. Next time you visit, you'll find six brews on tap up front rather than four, one of them a free-standing dedicated tap for Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale. This beer is supposed to be exclusively available on draft at Monk's, but it appears a few kegs have slipped out to other venues due to inattention on the part of two distributors (no, not the Beer Yard). I didn't talk with Tom about this since I didn't learn it until late in the week, but I am led to believe he is Not Pleased.

Later that day, I went down to talk to "resident foodie" and co-founder Paul Kimport at The Standard Tap. The new kitchen is pretty much complete and the added dining area and upper deck are almost finished and ready to open. Both Paul and partner William Reed say mid-September. The floors in the new area had just been varnished and I couldn't get in there to see what's been accomplished in the two or three months since I first saw it, but the deck is looking good and will undoubtedly be a popular addition. Kimport and Reed have another project underway as well, but they're not ready to talk about that yet.

Wednesday, I got to a bar I don't visit nearly often enough, McMenamin’s Tavern in Mt. Airy. I remember first meeting P.J. McMenamin at the Dawson Street Pub seven or eight years ago. He'd just taken over the family pub and told me how much he wanted to turn it into a good beer venue similar to Dawson Street. Maybe a year later, as he was in the process of doing just that, I spent an afternoon doing a story about McMenamin's and had a great time listening to the loud and funny complaints of an old time regular who swore he would never set foot in the place again once Budweiser was removed from the beer menu, which was imminent. McMenamin's today has one of the better tap lineups in the region and P.J. went Dawson Street one better and also put in a good kitchen and made his tavern a popular dining destination too. Chef Larry Melissen and I talked food and then bartender Lori and I talked about other beer bars, a conversation which we'll get to in the next item down.

Thursday morning I went to my last interview, with Bruce and Beatrice Nichols, the folks who run Museum Catering Company at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The annual Michael Jackson Beer Dinner they do as part of Philadelphia's The Book & the Cook food and drink celebration will reach its 14th year in 2004 and is, as far as I know, the longest running Jackson beer dinner in the world. An interesting tidbit I picked up during the interview is that Dr. Patrick McGovern, the Museum molecular archaeologist who analyzed the residue in an ancient vessel which eventually led to the creation of Dogfish Head's Midas Touch Ancient Ale, has been to China to do much the same with a 2000 year old goblet which is thought to have contained an early rice wine. Somehow, some way, you gotta figure Sam Calagione will be on the case.

A place where everybody knows your name. Okay, Eulogy Belgian Tavern is not quite that, but it seemed damned close last Sunday when the Beer Yard's Matt Guyer organized his "field trip" to the relatively new Philadelphia bar and restaurant for 20 or so of his closest friends (here is a brief report on afternoon and listing of the food and beer served). We took over the entire upstairs room for a couple of hours; it was like a Main Line invasion of Old City, which is a pretty scary concept. The result was that most everybody knew most everybody else, or so it seemed.

The Cheers-like nature of the afternoon was evidenced by one of those neat little coincidences you'd be hard pressed to get away with in fiction. Tracy, a young lady sitting at our table, told us she'd recently moved to Wayne and was still trying to meet people and make friends. Somewhere in there, she told us where she was living and her apartment number, at which point Guyer, who was moving between our two long tables being the imperfect host, perked up and quickly moved to the other table and said something to a woman sitting there. She in turn waved to Tracy and called out (essentially) "hi there, I'm your neighbor in the apartment next door."

There's more--hey, isn't this supposed to be about beer?--as I hinted at above. When I was talking to bartender Lori at McMenamin's whilst sipping on a pint of Mad River Jamaica Red Ale, she asked if I'd yet been to Eulogy. When I said I'd been there Sunday for the first time, she said she had too. No, she wasn't part of the Beer Yard entourage, but she and her fiancee came in as Guyer and much of the upstairs crowd was now gathering at the bar. Turns out that Lori's guy and Matt had been bag boys together at the Wayne Acme back in the day. Not only did that reinforce the whole Cheers thing, it gave me this lovely mental picture of a gangly teen-age Guyer packing groceries. That's the sort of image that a man can call up for a chuckle on a bad day.

Speaking of the Dawson Street Pub... ...as we were a few paragraphs back, I got a chance to swing by there during my travels and catch up with Dave Wilby, the guy who served me my first pint of Yards ESA on a handpump and got me into this mess nearly a decade ago. After talking about it for a long time now, Dave is finally putting the outside terrace adjacent to the pub. Most of the work is done, a lattice fence is in place and he says the area will be open in September. Damn, there are a lot of things happening in September.

A poor beggar in the land of the Ruch. I went out to Victory Brewing Company Thursday to sit down with Jeffrey Norman and talk about the Kennett Brew Fest. Ensconced at the bar, of course, was Richard (Sly Fox Mondays, Victory forever) Ruch, whose photograph I captured for posterity and an internet project I have in mind for--when else?--September. I managed to erase that photo, however, while doing some other maintenance work on the camera. I guess this means another trip to Victory is called for--the sacrifices I have to make for LDO are almost too much to bear sometimes.

In any case, having fallen hopelessly behind in the tasting notes for our Monday night sessions, and knowing that Richard rushes to his computer to record that sort of information religiously for his BeerAdvocate.com buddies, I've asked him to send me links to his posts or copies or whatever and I'll make those available here in the future. I'll even see if I can get him to cover some of the very interesting beers we've had in recent week's that I let slip by. The incentive? Tomorrow night's beer. I got a good one for the gang this week.

[Posted 3:00 p.m. edt]

31 AUGUST 03
The Lew Bryson Book Party. Thursday evening was one of those hellish traffic occasions where overturned trucks, smashed up cars and all the nitwits who should not be allowed to have licenses combined to create your standard "you can't get there from here" kind of fun. Figures it would be the night Lew Bryson scheduled a book signing party at The Grey Lodge Pub. I swear, the man will do anything just to irritate me.

Nonetheless, The Big One, The Other One and I fought our way over hill and dale to the wilds of Frankford to see the big fella bask in the adulation of the multitudes and slap his soon-to-be-collectible autograph on copy after copy of New York Breweries. We also had a chance to check out the refurbishing of the Grey Lodge. The old booths which cluttered up the place are gone, replaced by tables, there's a new front door and a swell "New Orleans style" tile floor is in, or almost in. Nice.

The special New York beers brought in for the occasion were something of a disappointment, at least the draft ones. Saison de Brooklyn from, where else?, Brooklyn Brewery, was fine but Clarke's Armory Ale, which is brewed for Clark's Ale House in Syracuse by Middle Ages Brewing Company and purported to be "an overstrength ESB," had clearly gone south (and I don't mean from New York to Philadelphia). Olde Saratoga Lager, from Mendocino Brewing Company's Albany plant, was fine, but you gotta be more than that to ring any bells in this part of the country.

On the other hand, three bottled brews from Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, NY (a new microbrewery Lew assures me we're going to hear a lot more about) were considerably better. The IPA seemed to be the favorite of the trio among the hordes of Lewbies, but I was more taken with both the Mild (which ran out early) and the Porter. Bryson was with me on the latter, I know, but Sly Fox's Brian O'Reilly mumbled something about it in brewer-talk that may mean it has faults I'm not smart enough to discern. Or maybe not.

The good news was that Lew improved the beer situation with a pair of growlers. One was Sled Dog Reserve Triple Bock from Wagner Valley Brewing Company, a micro which is on the same site as a winery. Man, talk about your ideal location... By coincidence, I'd tasted this beer earlier in the week. (see next item), although that didn't strike me until I got home. The second growler was Tommy Keegan's Mother's Milk Stout from the brand new Keegan Ales in Kingston, NY.

By the way, I sent off my review of New York Breweries to Celebrator Beer News this past week, along with the "food & wine" installment of "Atlantic Ale Trail." Both those, plus my delayed story about Mike Murphy and Rome Brewing Company, are slated for the October/November issue, due in a month or so. As we have learned, of course, whether all that actually happens is an open question.

Richard's Ramblings. As promised (threatened?) last week, I put the indefatigable Richard Ruch to the task of reviewing the beers from our Monday evening tastings at Sly Fox for a while. He had a helluva week to officially begin with, probably the best selection of brews yet, augmented more than a little by the contributions of our beer guest, Dave Rodriguez, one of Ruch's fellow Beer Advocates. Here (slightly edited) is what Richard had to say:

As usual, the normal suspects held an informal Monday sampling/tasting session at Sly Fox Brew House in Phoenixville, which started over five months ago. It has gotten better thanks not only to the beautiful weather we have enjoyed on the outdoor patio at the Fox, but also to the great brews that each of the attendees have brought. Attendance varies, but yours truly, Joe Meloney, Brian O'Reilly (except when he is attending weddings in CA) and Jack Curtin are usually there, as well as other local beer guys and girls. We usually have six to eight people on hand, but on occasions have had nearly 15 attendees. Fortunately, the Sly Fox management is cool about our sessions because we always buy some Brian brews and Fox food.

This week we were blessed by a visit by Beer Advocate's Ambassador of Good Will and Good Beer, BA's Beerfly Extraordinaire, Davo. He brought not one, not two, but three terrific brews. Brian brought two fresh brews back from the "Land of Fruit and Nuts" and one from the "Heartland of America" and Mr. Curtin added a truly fine Belgian brew. Here's the list (with the name of the person who contributed it in parentheses) and a brief critique:

Anderson Valley Poleeko Gold Pale Ale – 5.5% abv - a hoppy, flavorful brew (Brian O'Reilly)

Full Sail Pale Ale – 5.4% - a more maltier, but tasty brew (Brian O'Reilly)

Southampton Publick House Biere De Garde – 6.7% - Fruity sweetness with a delicate herbal flavor. Another fine creation by Mr. Markowski. (Davo)

Wagner Valley Brewing Sled Dog Trippel Bock – 10% - noticeably malty, with juicy dark fruit (sugared plums, dates, raisins, figs, and hints of apple/pear sneaking in), caramel-like decoction; a little thin on the body and the finish(Davo)

Buckeye Brewing Dopplebock – abv (?) – a truly bold, big brew. Malty, but stunningly beautiful balanced flavor with a refreshingly dry finish. (Brian O'Reilly)

Two Brothers Brewing Bare Tree Weiss Wine Vintage – 11% - This is one hell of a unique brew. It’s labeled a Barley Wine Style Weiss Beer!?!? The beer is simply striking in appearance. The pure white head of this creamy peach colored brew is impressive, leaving a thick lace in its wake. Champagne like carbonation keeps it fed. Milky, creamy mouthfeel of caramel, bananas and vanilla. Truly magnificent!! (Davo)

Brouwerij der St.Benedictusabdij de Achelse Trappist Achel Extra Brune – 9.5% - A very special, strong dark ale. It had a noticeably dark fruity flavor with a very pleasant, but not overly sweet, malty finish. An exceptional Belgian brew. (Jack Curtin)

It truly was a sensational selection of diverse, quality brews. After over 3 hours of some serious sampling and enjoyable conversation, there was some very happy souls that left to go home.

And this is the way he recounted the same gathering at the BeerAdvocate site, along with responses from other members.

One step at a time. I've been holding on to this panel from "Get Fuzzy," a comic strip by Darby Conley for quite a while now. "Get Fuzzy" debuted in 1999 and now appears in more than 200 newspapers. To be honest, I found it a somewhat difficult to acquire taste for this strip for a long time, but it's grown on me. The strip is about Rob Wilco, a single, mild-mannered advertising executive who lives with two anthropomorphic "pets," Bucky and Satchel. Bucky, a temperamental cat who carries a boom box and goes on spending sprees, is the star--and the victim--of most of the gags, while Satchel, a kindly canine with a sensitive soul who tries to remain neutral, bears the brunt of the feline companion mischief. You know, just like in the real world. Anyway, when a guy in a comic strip orders a Belgian beer as a matter of course, I figure we're just a little bit closer to winning the war.

Spicy beers through the ages. Loyal reader Dixon Teter sent me this excerpt from the "Hot, Spicy & Meatless" cookbook a while back and I thought I'd pass it along for the scholars out there to debate, challenge or embrace. The section is titled "Spicy Beers in History":

Happy hour is not exactly a new concept. In fact, it has been a mainstay of mankind for 10,000 years. Well, maybe not in its current form - no pretzel fossils have been found - but partaking of few spicy brews has held an important place in human history.

The earliest known beer drinkers were Pleistocene hunter-gatherers, who became cooperative farmers in order to harvest wheat to make - yep, that's right - beer. These folks liked to add a little zip to their beers by putting pepper-like plants in their village vats.

The Egyptians brewed no fewer than eight varieties of hot beers, though they did not use Capsicum peppers to spice things up. Cumin and the equivalent of modern-day horseradish were their condiments of choice. During the Greco-Roman period, beer suffered from a bit of bad PR. Known as zythos, beer was thought to be a cause of leprosy.

Luckily, things took a turn for the better with the Vikings, who introduced ale-style beer. They did use black pepper in their beer to tantalize the tastebuds, but the Norse spice of choice was garlic.

From the Aztecs (who were allowed to get as drunk as they wished after age 52 - but not many of them lived that long) to Columbus, to the fathers of the early church in Europe who brewed a hot and spicy beer, thought to be hallucinogenic (served at fundraising functions only), hot and spicy suds have made their mark on history.

Come Back Next Week, You Never Know.... Just because I'll be gallivanting around Germany instead of slaving away here in front of the computer, don't pass up your weekly visit to LDO next Sunday or Monday. I'm taking my notebook along and maybe I'll do a live cam feed from Munich or....well, something. There's always something.

[Posted 2:45 p.m. edt]

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

--A. E. Houseman


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