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


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31 August 2004
The Slow Pour.
Here's a bit of clarification by Heavyweight's Tom Baker on what we poured at Drafting Room Exton last Thursday night and what the next one-off he's dreamed up will be. This was first published at BeerAdvocate.com and is reprinted here with Tom's permission. Well, okay, Peggy's permission, but she assures me Tom approves.

Just for the record, the wooden keg on the bar contained a mix of Perkuno's Hammer and B.O.R.I.S. (around 80/20, I think). That wasn't a cask and it didn't mature in that vessel. The German keg just looks good up on the bar and I merely use it for dispense. The Black Ocean on the hand pull was a cask version of our Swartzbier. The Pegalina (we called AllFuggles) was a 7% pale ale with 10% rye and 100% English Fuggle hops (that was a one-off).

For the interested, the next one-off is loosely planned to be a big-ish ale-ish beer with a large amount of adjuncts (flaked corn, flaked rye, flaked wheat and flaked barley), tentatively called either Boom or Old Flakey. And just in case you were going to ask, it's not gonna be a malt liquor.

I vote for Old Flakey myself, for whatever it turns out to be.

And here's some news in a promotional email from Troegs which will probably set some geek boys hearts a-fluttering:

This year Tröegs Oatmeal Stout will be available predominantly in 12 ounce bottles. The beer will also be kegged, but will be available only on a pre-order basis. “For our customers who look forward to the Oatmeal Stout on draft, it will be available,” says Chris Trogner. “However, this year we may also be adding some draft-only beers that will force us to limit draft production for the stout.”
Hot dog! Another Autumn of hard to find beers that will have everybody scrambling. On the other hand, we're told that there'll be enough Victory Hop Wallop this year to slow that frenzy down to just a moderately mad scamble.

The latest issue of The Gotham Imbiber is now online. It includes description of a beer tour of Philadelphia (with photos) and a nice reminiscence of the recently closed Sparky's Ale House in Brooklyn. It's a pdf file so you'll need Acrobat Reader. If you don't have it, there's a link down at the bottom of the listings column to the left where you can go get it, free.

[Posted 8:45 pm edt]

29 August 2004
LeBan on Tria.
In the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning, Craig LeBan reviews Tria and finds the beer list just swell while deciding that the cheese list still needs some work. This caught my eye because I have Tria in mind for a feature coming up, but it sticks with me as I wonder if, even a year ago, we'd have seen comments like this is a Philadelphia food critic's column:

Philadelphia's beer revolution barged into uncharted territory - the upscale cafe - when it entered the paper-lantern-lit confines of Tria.

Until now, most local quaffing of Belgian abbey ales, German wheat beers, and turbo-hopped American microbrews has gone on in taverns. Think Monk's Cafe, that shrine to an encyclopedic beer selection and mussels; unpretentious but surprising neighborhood grills such as McMenamin's in Mount Airy; and decidedly edgier spots such as Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda's, where devotion to local brews goes draft-in-hand with the grungy raw energy of neighborhoods like Fishtown and Northern Liberties.

[...]

The beer list isn't as comprehensive as Monk's, but the selections are well-chosen to showcase a broad swath of the world's finest brews, which, at no more than $10 (for a bottle of rich Rochefort Trappist ale), are an amazing value. Other highlights include offerings from Belgian brewers Dupont, Cantillon and De Dolle; German beers from Weihenstephaner and Schneider; and American brews from Allagash, Victory, Dogfish Head, and Heavyweight of Ocean Township, N.J.

[...]

Perhaps Tria is simply proof that the cheese revolution in Philadelphia's restaurants is still a few strides behind the city's movements in wine and especially beer. But it's a baby step in the right direction.

Man, when are those foodies ever gonna catch up to us hip beer types?

My Days with Mrs. Foley & Mr. Madden.
Below is a slightly edited Fusco Brothers cartoon which ran this past week and gave me a chuckle.

It reminded me of my time in Lismore, Ireland, several years back. Here's what I wrote about it at the time:

Lismore turned out to be a wonderful town, with a great old cathedral and some delightful pubs (Mr. Madden and Mrs. Foley both seemed more than willing to adopt me and since their establishments were side by side, I was able to accommodate both)...
I wandered in Mrs. Foley's place my visit to town from the castle where we were staying. It was pleasant enough, but not a lively place at all. The next day, I visited Mr. Madden's pub which was right next door. More to my liking, but I felt somewhat stricken when I saw Mrs. Madden staring sadly at me from her window when I left the neighboring pub.

Thereafter (we were around for a week), I would visit each, ordered a pint at the first and then going next door and ordering another. While I didn't really do so, it struck me that, with proper timing, I could order the first pint and go next door while it was going through the various stages of "The Pour," then come back and drink it while the second pint was in process.

Never happened, but when I tell the story these days, it most certainly did. As I put in the sub-headline in the piece on my Ireland trip which is quoted above:

The Truth As I Remember It (With Certain Events Enhanced To Make Them Better Stories, Because That Is The Irish Way).

Speaking of cartoons...
Last Wednesday's strip from the great Pearls Before Swine has a message for us all.

Beer is too the answer.

Now, what was the question?

[Posted 2:05 pm edt]

28 August 2004
Something is up in Phoenixville. No, really.
I think. Maybe.

Trouble is--and I'm beginning to feel like the kid who cried wolf here--I can't tell you about it in any detail.

I've got all the stories, though parts of them make no sense, but I haven't been able to get official confirmation so far.

Someone who seems to be a really good fit is going into the wonderful Foundry building just off Bridge Street.

Unless, of course, the deal is dead, which is what I was told Thursday night.

The prospective tenant has not returned my call, so, y'know, what do I know?

The financial stuff I've been quoted doesn't seem at all right, nor does the site indicated in a related rumor about another familiar beer name signing on to a different location just a little bit farther down Bridge Street.

Given the word on the street, it seems that, a year or two from now, the unexplored potential of what is potentially the hottest strip in the western 'burbs will have finally been exploited.

Or maybe not.

I'm sworn to secrecy on the second part of that equation and I've been distracted by paying work most of this week (and into the early part of next), but I promise to get something definitive on the Foundry situation as soon as I can.

Or they break ground, whichever comes first.

Knight time.
This story, which I put up at the Beer Yard website last night, will shake the foundations of all your childhood fantasies.

I mean, weren't knights supposed to be, like, tall, cool guys in shining armor and all that?

And what's Eddie doing stopping in Amsterdam first?

Oh wait, I think I get it...

[Posted 8:50 am edt]

27 August 2004
Thursday with Tom.
Tom Baker brought his Heavyweight beers to Drafting Room Exton last night. He was about 45 minutes late but nobody minded too much since there were, you know, other beers to taste while we waited.

Most seemed to be opting for the Rogue IPA or Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, but I took the opportunity to have my first pint of Brooklyn Brewery Sustainable Organic Porter. It was marvelous, a really fine porter.

When Tom eventually showed up, I had more first tastes: Juhlia, the fifth anniversary beer made with rye malt, juniper berries and "a secret bread yeast imported from the local bakery" ("I can't call it baker's yeast," laughed Tom, "because then it would sound like I made it myself"), and Pegalina Pale Ale, malty, Fuggles-hopped, and a surprising 8% abv. Both, the Juhlia in particular, are intriguing, want-to-try-some-more brews.

Black Ocean was on the handpump and was absolutely marvelous, the best beer of the evening. Or, wait, was that best pint actually the Black Ocean mixed with B.O.R.I.S.? Or maybe Black Ocean blended with Perkuno's Hammer?

Hey, like they say, it was all good. And that's good.

Meloney. Raw. Uncensored. And on the case.
I missed this week's Monday Night Tasting at Sly Fox. So did most of the regulars, some because they were off to Victory for the big "surprise event" (Hop Wallop, as most had guessed), others, who knows why. Me, I was working.

Never fear, however. Ramblin' Joe Meloney was the regular-on-hand (he went to Victory afterwards) and he took copious notes. Or notes anyway, and we've got 'em.

Normally, I edit and polish up the notes I'm given but I'm still under the gun on deadlines, so today, one time only, we give you Meloney Unleashed:

Greetings Jack

Monday 8/23/04 tasting

Beer geeks in attendance were: Dave Boston, Brother Huber (Bill), Lee Marren, Eric Gajdzis (new guy), Tim (barkeep,brewer and quizmaster) Ohst and myself.

Pinky & The Shill were AWOL. Rumor has it they were "Hop Walloped."

Beers went like this:

1-Huber---Reissdorf Kolsch...very smooth/tasty session ale

2-Eric---Harpoon Scotch Style Ale (100 barrel seriEs)...choco/malty with surprising dry finish---crowd fave

3-Huber---Cadillac Mtn. Stout...always a classic

4-Meloney---Ballast Point Big Eye IPA...all centennial hop with good malt balance

5-Ohst---2002 Sam Smith Winter Welcome...tasty...maybe a little past it's prime.

[Posted 1:30 pm edt]

24 August 2004
Thank God for HopDevil.
The story for American Brewer that I'm working on has turned into a bit of bitch, mostly because it's the end of August and the world, except for you and me, of course, has gone on vacation. Plus, since I can't get anybody on the telephone at the corporate level at what the industry calls "casual dining restaurants" and you and I call "chains," I've had to go out and actually visit places like Applebee's, Bennigan's et all.

I've been to three such so far and, thank the stars, two of them had Victory HopDevil on tap, giving me something I could drink while being charming and witty and winning over the bartender or manager for information. Lord help us, most of these places don't even have PBR on tap so a guy can at least look cool while drinking bad beer.

On the other hand, I did find one chain operation which seems to have a grasp of the concept that I'm exploring...but, of course, I can't tell you yet.

Things should get better on the morrow when I switch over to investigating the brewery side of things and two of the best known names in the industry will be phoning me up in an attempt to bail me out.

Who? Jim Koch and Garrett Oliver.

What, you thought I was gonna say O'Reilly and The Dude?

Rumor mill.
There's a thread up at BeerAdvocate in which our pal Scoats, of Grey Lodge fame, reports that
I believe Flying Fish will be landing in Mt. Holly NJ, just down the road from Burlington, NJ.

He's talking about the location of the long-discussed new brewery and, in truth, this is probably more fact than rumor, since Scoats, bless his lovable self, is plugged in on this stuff.

I'll be on the case to get something official when time permits.

[Posted 4:55 pm edt]

23 August 2004
Two Quick News Notes.
Still working hard to pay the bills, but I did post this and this on the Beer Yard website news page just now.

If you want to know about Chris Leonard's plans to bottle General Lafayette beers or the final fate of Ortlieb's Brewery & Grille, go thee thither with all due haste.

[Posted 3:20 pm edt]

21 August 2004
Neck deep in the Big Muddy.
By the end of this month, less than ten days from right now, I have a major story for American Brewer and both my column and a slightly revised (and four months delayed, which is why the revision) feature story on Iron Hill due for Celebrator Beer News (these two may end being combined into one weird entity just to make sure they get into print).

The revised Sly Fox website, which will have to be rewritten top to bottom as soon as the design guys at Virtual Farm get it to me, looms out there like an avalanche ready to sweep me away when I least need that to happen.

Then there are the three other stories I'm currently trying to peddle and my preparations for GABF and all that entails.

And, just to make sure I don't have any annoying free time, I intend, once I finally get Guyer's attention, to vastly expand and rework the Beer Yard news section into a daily update with more feature stories and photos and such.

Did I mention that I've always been just a little bit nuts?

I'd suggest you print out the above and stick it someplace when you'll see it and refrain from ragging my sorry ass should postings around here drop off significantly over the next few weeks.

On the other hand, if the posting rate picks up to a frantic pace, be advised that I'm functioning within my oldest and bestest state of being: the more I write, the more I write.

Kennett Square update.
Come to think of it, I need to add my efforts to assist Jeff Norman and his team in my old hometown with October 9 Kennett Square Microbrew Festival to the above list.

The highlight of this event, as of last year anyway, is the Connoisseur Tasting which starts at noon. Click on the link and you'll see that intriguing beers from McKenzie, Weyerbacher, Lancaster, Troegs, Bethlehem Brew Works, Victory and Legacy are already committed.

Not up at the site yet are some beers Jeff emailed me about this morning.

Iron Hill is on board with an as-yet undetermined beer, and Dogfish Head has committed to bring their eagerly awaited new Burton Ale ("the blend with the 90 Minute, not the one they served in New England a few weeks ago"). And Ommegang will be sending a keg of Three Philosophers.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on getting Jeff a keg of a beer from far, far away (which he knows about) and another beer from equally far, far away (which he doesn't know about). I might not be able to pull either of these off--not least because of the damned PLCB and its label registration labyrinth--so nothing gets revealed until and unless...

Speaking of Ommegang...
...as I just was, if life were fair, I'd be here today instead of plopped in front of the 'puter. But life isn't fair, is it?

Anyone out there who has notes and photos when it's all over, I'm your man for widespread internet fame and fortune.

Okay, probably just fame.

A heartfelt Thank You?

And speaking of life being fair...
...if it were, I'd have been smart enough not to have been put off by the $45 price tag and missed this event.

The General Lafayette folks, by whom I guess mean Chris Leonard these days, are partially to blame, though, because the promotion, such as it was, didn't make clear that this was a lot more extensive than "Beer and Cheese Tasting" would indicate. I'll chastise him for all of us first chance I get.

Tom Foley and Lori Limper did attend, thankfully, and so we do have the handout sheet from August 11 in hand to show what we missed. I haven't the time to type it all out, but here are some highlights:

Homemade Mozzarella with Germantown Blonde Ale...French Saint Nectaire with grilled shrimp and Wunderbar Pils...Spanish Mahon with Cask Conditioned Sunset Red Ale...

Italian Tallegio on grilled pizza with shaved Portabello mushrooms and McGlynn's Ghost Barleywine...Irish Cahill Porter and a chocolate chip Ricotta tart topped with fresh strawberries with Double Thunder Porter...

Just to make it clear, that's not even half what was served. There were 11 cheese-related courses in all, plus a lemon sorbet in demitasse Intermezzo.

Oh hell, here's one more that might just get the saliva glands going: French Roquefort with grilled filet, Roquefort & red onion marmalade Bruschetta and Copper Crow IPA.

Chris told the lucky folks in attendance that he's also been bottling and cellaring some of his bigger beers and will be selling them at the pub. I'll look into that and let you know more as soon as I can.

[Posted 12:20 pm edt]

20 August 2004
The Friday Morning Monday Night Tasting thing.
When the opening beer for one of these Tasting things is Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, you have to figure that the evening is going to go well. This, one of my favorite beers extant, was provided by the man we came to know and love as Bill's Brother Bob's Friend Tony, or, as we whispered among ourselves, "the Third Huber Brother."

The official plan (who knew we had one of those?) was to present Barleywines or similar Big Beers, but Richard Ruch couldn't control himself, not having brought any Victory beers in some time, so he offered up bottles of Hop Wallop, one from each bottling. The 11 December dated bottle wasn't dryhopped; the 30 December bottle was. The consensus? Bottle Number Two, smoother and easy drinking.

I had brought a 750ml bottle of 2002 Dogfish head Olde School Barleywine and didn't have much faith in it, given the sticky and stained bottle, indicative of leaking, so I wanted to pour it early on. My lack of faith was justified: sour beer.

Another special guest, not nearly so lovable as Bill's Brother Bob's etc. but with an offbeat charm all his own, was Dave Rodriquez from North Jersey, who turns up every now and again in Ruch's company. Knowing that such a record was going to hard to get out from under, he wisely brought along a pair of interesting beers.

The first was a 1995 bottle of Grim Reaper Barleywine from the Olde Wyndham Brewery in Willimantic, Connecticut. It was okay but nothing special. I don't believe this beer, which apparently was contract brewed for an entity called Netherworld Beverages (with which I am unfamiliar), is being produced any longer. It also appears to have been an early entry in the "let's do a funny beer label" genre:

The Grim reaper appeared like a vapor, sucking breath from all who crossed his path. To the traveler he held out a cruet of draught. "I am the bridge to beyond," hissed the apparition, as he pointed a bony finger to the horizon. "Only I know the taste from the other side." The traveler's eyes told the story of his wonder. "My world must know the unearthly tastes of the Netherworld." He carefully retraced his steps. Passing the still-silent guard, he turned to look once more through the gate, then vanished. There are those who swear he never heard the Gatekeeper's whispered farewell: "you'll be back."
Dave's second beer was more familiar, a 2001 Rogue Imperial Stout XS. This one's always fun and at 10.5% abv or so, do have its effects.

Rick Mayberry followed up with the most unusual and one of the most popular beers of the evening, Two Brothers Bare Tree Weiss Wine Vintage 2002. They call it a wheat barleywine on the label, some might argue it's more clearly a Weizenbock. Either way, it was tasty stuff.

Things were going along quite pleasantly--Bob (Bill's brother) Huber opened bottles of Victory Old Horizontal '98, for example, and what could be more pleasant than that--when a disruptive force arrived. Beer purveyor Matthew J. Guyer strode into our midst, plopped down a bottle of Rogue Phred's Black Soba Ale (the tenth beer in their 15th Anniversary Series) and insisted that we drink it right then and there, never mind our plans. Some guys, y'know? At under 5% abv, Phred's was, shall we say, a bit overwhelmed.

Bill (Bob's brother) Huber then put matters back in order and reclaimed Rogue's reputation with ten-year old bottles of 11%-plus Old Crustacean '94, setting the stage for Joe Meloney's beer offering, Gordon's IPA from Oskar Blues Restaurant & Brewery in Lyons, Colorado. Oskar's is the place that also produces the very successful Dale's Pale Ale in a can, somewhat to the horror of hidebound craft brewing types. Dry-hopped and coming in at 9.2% abv, Gordon's was another of the evening's favorites.

The Brothers Huber then poured delightfully refreshing Girardin Gueuze to cleanse our taste buds and prepare for Tom Foley's grand finale. You've been reading along and thinking this was very clearly a "Rogue Night," haven't you? Even though I mention week after week that Foley is sneaky and lying in wait? Will you ever learn? Foley pulled Thomas Hardy Ale '96, '97, '98, '99 out of his bag. What a showoff!

Okay, I better 'fess up. Tom and I talked about his doing this last week, based on the fun we all had with a similar, three-year vertical tasting of Samichlaus a couple of weeks ago. With different vintages of the same beer, we figured we would actually come to some defensible judgement and select a favorite.

Or maybe not.

While the '98 vintage had but one admirer, Ruch, the other three each received three votes as best of the batch. An argument can be made for eliminating the '96 from that tie in that one of it's votes came from Ruch, who was asked to now choose between the other three in hopes of breaking a then-existing tie between '99 and '97. I'm game if you are.

As the evening ended, Foley and the Hubers were working out who had which years of Thomas Hardy still in his cellar and making plans. We will undoubtedly walk this path again.

[Posted 10:25 am edt]

19 August 2004
Dog days.
Our entire staff is tied up with the pesky "paying work" thing at present, but, as part of that, I did get to put up this news item at the Beer Yard. You might find it amusing enough to take your mind off the disappointment of having to wait for this week's Monday Tasting Notes to be posted (when else?) on Friday.

With regard to that news item, the guys down in the mail room say I needs must acknowledge local beer guy Rich Pawlak for sending us the German beer river story and would-be Far Northwest beer geek Carl P. for the Cheers item. Consider it done.

The Big Book O' Beer...
...turns out to be a great deal of fun. Here's an where you can find out more about it.

Author Duane Swierczynski is a Philadelphia guy and I've gotten his permission to use funny or thought-provoking excerpts from the contents here on the site whenever I'm too busy to ramble on or at a loss for words (yeah, right, like that'll ever happen).

And so, from The Big Book of Beers, chew on this bit of esoteric information until we get things back on track on the morrow:

BOOZE. A certain style of Egyptian beer was know as boosa, a word that soon warped into "booze." Ironically, booze came to describe all forms of liquor that were not beer.
Need I point out that you just don't get this sort of thing at whatzizname's site. I didn't think so.

[Posted 1:20 pm edt]

18 August 2004
Not only did the Phillies drive for fourth place continue apace, but the beer selection at Citizens Bank Park was nothing to crow about either.
No sport has more potential for being crushingly boring than baseball (well, maybe soccer) and last night at Citizens Bank Park that potential reached its apex. The Phillies lost, 5-0, in one of the worst baseball games ever played. Trust me.

And that wasn't even the worst part of the evening.

I was there with my son-in-law and two grandkids (the good part) and our last-minute tickets were way up in the 400 level. Great seats to see the city skyline (except for that awful and obstructive team logo stanchion that a more intelligent organization would have long ago ripped down) and the entire field, including the scoreboard (my seats previously have put the scoreboard out of my line of view). I mention this because it was a long way back down to where the good beer was and that might, I say might, but only out of caution and not because I really believe it, have colored my experience.

When we arrived, I dragged my companions along a goodly portion of the first level in search of a beer I felt like drinking at one of the several Brewerytown kiosks. As anyone who's been to the new park knows, there are no brand signs on these kiosks and the only way to know what's on tap is to get close enough to read the tap markers. Plus, unless I'm mistaken, there is no permanent pattern as to what is on draft where, so that process of squinting at tap markers from a distance is an ongoing adventure even if you're a regular at the park. When the kids got tired, we all went up to the seats and then I traipsed all the way back down and tried again, this time hitting Ashburn Alley, the "action" spot on the lower concourse.

This is what I found on those two expeditions, having gone by and peered at least a dozen Brewerytowns, probably more than that. There were at least two taps, sometimes four, per kiosk so we're talking maybe 30 taps conservatively.

I saw one Sierra Nevada tap. One Red Hook tap. One Victory HopDevil tap. One tap I couldn't identify from afar. Every other tap was either Flying Fish or Yuengling.

Every...single...one.

Sometimes they were side by side. Sometimes both taps were one or the other. But those same two beers over and over (the Fish presumably being Farmhouse Summer Ale, of which I am not fond).

There was no Yards. No Iron Hill. No Manayunk. No Dock Street.

Now, given that I was constricted somewhat by wanting to stick with the family, it may be that I somehow always stopped just short of the Holy Grail. On the other hand, I have never seen an Iron Hill tap at Citizens Bank although I'm assured there is at least one someplace.

It was disconcerting to say the least. I know that Mayberry and Ruch are leading a back of crazed beeradvocates to the park in a week or so. I'll be interested to hear how that goes.

Eventually, I gave up, after making a cursory search to find the Victory tap again and failing. I went and had one of the famous Schmitters, the signature sandwich from McNally's Tavern. It was my first ever. Eh... I bought a bottle of Coors Light from a traveling vendor for my son-in-law, feeling a bit dirty about it all. And I went back to my seat, beerless for the night.

Did I mention I had to go up to the 400 level? Did I mention that the escalator broke down?

O'Flaherty's Pub.
Up at Heavyweight on Saturday, Rich Ruch did as Richard Ruch does and struck up a conversation with a hapless stranger, who turned out to be Jim Young of O'Flaherty's Pub in Bristol ((if you click on that link at work, note that it's, um, noisy), not an area generally thought of as a good beer mecca.

Because Jim Young deserves some compensation for his pain, but mostly because O'Flaherty's appears to be serious about the beer and a fun spot, we've added a link to our listings in the lefthand column and we'll check it out in person one day soon.

That Wall Street Journal article.
I've heard a lot of talk in recent days about last Friday's article in the Wall Street Journal by staff writer and sometimes beer writer Ken Wells (keep an eye out for Travels with Barley: a Journey Through Beer Culture in America in October).

The title of the article was The Pursuit of Hoppiness and the subject was "bigger brewing" and, specifically, IPAs. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Victory HopDevil Ale were named the best of 11 tasted by Wells and a small group of admitted amateurs. They were the only beers listed in the For Committed Hopheads top ranking. The IPA Project at Sly Fox also received a passing mention.

Since WSJ content isn't available on the internet unless you pay for it, many of you probably haven't seen this piece. I have, thanks again to Ruch (who's becoming an invaluable resource of late), I'm reprinting a few pertinent excerpts below:

America's best-selling lagers -- the likes of Budweiser, Miller and Coors -- can be satisfying enough on a hot day at the ballpark or the beach. But they do little to satisfy the cravings of Hopheads, given their modest to puny hop levels. We know these levels because there's a beer-industry index -- International Bittering Units, or IBUs -- that measures an acidic component of a beer's hop profile, and in theory, the higher the number the hoppier the taste. Michelob Ultra, a recent low-carb Anheuser-Busch offering, has an IBU rating of only four. The IBU ratings for most middle-of-the-road commercial lagers range from eight to 22. Contrast that with the hoppiest India Pale Ales that can register 125 on the IBU meter.

[...]

"It's the 'starving man' syndrome," says Chicago home-brewer and beer historian Randy Mosher, who explains that American beer, between the end of Prohibition and the beginning of the craft-beer revolution in the 1980s, declined in hoppiness as big brewers moved toward lighter and smoother styles that they hoped would have wider appeal. "We beer consumers were deprived of hops for a long time," Mr. Mosher says. "Now that we can wallow in hoppiness, well, wallow we do."

IPAs also are popular for the same reason Barolo wines and extremely peaty single-malt scotches are popular these days. "They're big," says Lew Bryson, who has written guides to Pennsylvania and New York breweries. "Big is in, big is a sign of being one of the cognoscenti. There's a definite element of 'I know beer well enough that I can enjoy beer this big while you probably aren't up to something this hoppy.' And big is fun."

[...]

During the next 90 minutes, we strolled through the 11 beers -- pace being important considering that IPAs also are typically strong, commonly 6% to 9% alcohol by volume, compared with 4% to 5% for commercial lagers. Our tasting summary appears in the accompanying chart, but the group decided that in a field in which there were no bad beers, two bubbled to the top as Hophead delights: The Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Victory HopDevil IPA brewed by Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, Pa. Both not only gave us the hoppy pop and fruity aromas we were expecting, but both also seemed wonderfully robust and balanced. While undeniably big beers, they were remarkably smooth to drink.

I've just posted this story at the Beer Yard site which lists some of the other beers tasted.

[Posted 9:00 am edt]

17 August 2004
More Murphy. And photos to prove it.
Here's an update on Sunday's Mike Murphy update. It appears the brewpub in Perugia is moving up in the Where Next? sweepstakes:

I think this Brewery in Perugia will let me maintain the beers I have created and I think Elisabetta will buy the beer from me, kinda like a contract brewery which is under contract from another. At least until I get the new brewery up. Elisabetta seems happy about that. Its a shame to throw away 4 hard years of work and progress over a stupid husband, if you know what I mean.
I definitely know what he means about stupid husbands. Been one, done that.

The above got through with those photos of the Great British Beer Festival I've been waiting for. The first one shows USA stand where, says Mike,

on tap was Victory HopDevil and Storm King, Paper City Hop Monster, Smuttynose IPA (voted best US cask), and Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA on the Randall

Here's his ID of the folks in the shot below:

Left to right: Ian Garett, Organizer of the BSF Beirs Sans Frontiers for CAMRA; Derek Moore a friendly Scotsman brewer owner of Kelburn Brewing Co.; A Czech Beer writer; American beer writer Fred Eckhardt; Me (the best brewer in my family); A journalist from Calgary, Canada; Dave Sanders From Eastwood and Sanders Brewery; Italian beer writer and Lorenzo DeBove (Kuaska), and - Alberto, an Italian beer lover.

To acclimate you, that's Mike in the rear with the red shirt and Fred Eckhardt (a colleague of mine at Celebrator Beer News) in the front with the white goatee.

And this is Mike sucking up to the writers, always a good thing

And finally, you knew it had to happen, Mike and Randall, plus a really big guy.

What the hell. Let's make it an all-photo edition.
Ruch showed up at last night's Tasting with a guest in tow, Dave Rodriquez (Davo at BeerAdvocate), who had apparently crawled into his car at the Heavyweight Open House on Saturday.

Dave brought a camera along and wanted to record his moment in the big leagues, although he never figured out that the best way to do that would have been to have someone else shoot the photo and get in it himself. One step at a time, I guess...

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, here's the gang

Left to right: Lori Limper, Tom Foley, Karl Shoemaker (rear), Your Humble Correspondent, Ramblin' Joe Meloney, Don Wintjen (a process engineer who's been helping with the process flow instrumentation and wiring at Royersford and who once brought a bottle of Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel to one of our tastings and earned my undying gratitude), Bill Huber's brother Bob, Bill's brother Bob's friend Tony (don't ask), Bob Huber's brother Bill, Richard Ruch and special guest Matt Guyer.

Does anybody else think Guyer's doing what I think it looks like he's doing?

Tasting Notes, some stuff on the General Lafayette Beer and Cheese thing (which we probably shouldn't have missed), a Kennett Square Fest update, Ruch's discovery of a good beer bar in an unexpected section of Philadelphia, a book we're gonna have some fun with and whatever else I can scrounge up will be forthcoming over the next couple of days.

[Posted 4:10 pm edt]

15 August 2004
Mike Murphy. Italy. "The wheels are turning."
So there I am at Trader Joe's, stocking up on hummus and pita bread and good cheeses, when this familiar figure pops up in front of me and says Hi, Jack (you know, the kind of thing you don't dare say in an airport these days).

Then, as I'm effusively responding to the greeting and trying to drag up out of my fading memory this person's identity, he presses on with Mike is now in... and I don't even hear the end of the sentence.

It's Mike Murphy's father.

We talked. He told me lots of interesting things.

Based on what I learned, I figured Mike's friends around here and over at BeerAdvocate might like an update, so I emailed him and asked some questions and got his permission to put up the long letter below (with corrections in structure, grammar and punctuation made, at Mike's request).

As I said yesterday, you can find the gist of the story here. Since then, as reported here in bits and pieces, and amid the turmoil of a failed romance, Mike, while here in this country, got Elisabetta, who had since married, to commit to the purchase of a new brewery, bought it and arranged for it to be shipped to Italy.

The first thing I asked him was whether she had actually taken possession of the equipment, which his father had told me was still sitting on the docks:

Hi Jack. She did buy the brewery, at least thats what Elisabetta said to me today.

I will brew the rest of the malt out, six more batches, and leave. The husband isn't as passionate about beer as I am, nor does he like me around. I'm looking into the possibility to buy the equipment off her, At a discounted price... hee hee.

I have at the moment two possibilities. One Brian O would love, to brew in the Italian Alps near all the ski resorts. Chaminix is only a 20 minute drive and if it's not cloudy, the Matterhorn is visible. They are very serious and excited if I come to brew with them.

Another opportunity popped up while I was at the Great British Beer Festival. I was talking to an Italian friend who happens to be my biggest beer fan and he mentioned that he has a large warehouse in Mantova (parma). I could stick the brewery in there and brew. I like that idea the best for now.

As far as Roma Brewing co. goes, the beer is always getting better and more people are coming to try it. It's a shame, but I think once I'm out of this situation and brewing elsewhere, I will look back and laugh.

There are also some micros already in operation interested in having me as well. Here I'm a big fish in the small pond. The opposite in America.

I have made some great contacts here, throughout Europe and Belgian Breweries. I was in Belgium on Monday and stopped by Brasserie du Vapure. I had met them in July at La Baladin. Maybe I could go work there for a while. That would be an experience and a half, working in the only existing steam operated brewery.

I stopped in at Dupont I had met the Marketing Director in February. Great brewery, not modern at all, except for the centrifuge filter. And Bush Brewery was bottling while when I stopped there. They are having trouble from Anheuser Bush--the bastards.

I spent the last week at the GBBF. What a bunch of strange people. Good beer though. I enjoyed the American beers a lot, we even had the 90 minute IPA in the Randall. My beer was sold in the Beir Sans Fronteirs section, right next to the Rochefort and Orval. We sold out 15 cases in 3 days, not bad for an Italian beer.

I met Fred Eckhardt and he sampled my beers. So did Dan Shelton (Shelton Bros), I told him to give me another year to get back on my feet if he was interested (he is looking for an Italian beer to add to his list). Garret Oliver was stuck with me on the underground. He's a nice guy and remembered me from two years ago at Slow food in Torino.

I met Michael Jackson at the White Horse Pub. He seems to be getting old. I asked if he enjoyed Brian's Beers when he was at the Sly Fox, He did. [From a later message]

Today I had a call from a new brewery in Scilly who would like a hand getting started, as well as another from a brewpub in Perugia who asked if I would like to use their equipment to brew beer for resale in my name as well as make their beers.

The wheels are turning.

I think I'm going to stay in Italy for a while longer. I like it here.

Mike has also been trying to send me some photos from GBBF featuring some local beers. So far, no luck.

[Posted 9:35 am edt]

14 August 2004
Firkinteenth fun.
One of the neat things about Friday the Firkinteenth is all the stories that have grown up around this unique event over the years. Chief among these are the overwhelming crowd stories, the unusual beer raves and the unexpected arrival of people from faraway places stories (I wrote one of those myself, way back in 1999 when the world was still in the process of discovering Scoats' genius).

A story which I think will join the ranks of Firkinteenth tales to be told with longing around the campfires after the collapse of civilization is how an unannounced and unexpected brew appeared on the scene last night, bringing the number of cask-conditioned beauties to 14.

Scoats was bustling around the bar late yesterday morning, doing whatever it is that Scoats does, when the phone rang. When he answered, a voice said something like this:

Hi. I'm Charlie Schnable from Otto's Pub & Brewery. I'm in town today and I have a cask of beer here if you're interested.
.Scoats, Northeast homeboy that he is, and thus a guy to whom State College is alien territory, responded in the only reasonable way.
Sure. Bring it over. What's Otto's?
And that's how Otto's Black Mo Stout showed up. Appropriately enough, it was one of the best beers there.

There was a stretch early on last night, for roughly an hour, when it looked like things were gonna go south. Only two or three beers were up on the bar, there were problems with a couple of the casks and the night were dragging. I told Scoats I was gonna have to rip him a new one here tidat if things stayed that way.

He just laughed, secure, and rightly so, in his belief that Friday the Firkinteenth is on the side of the angels and things would work themselves out. So they did and the new system of about half the beers up and tapped and a new one being added as a cask kicked was efficient enough that I had a chance to taste almost every beer in the lineup, even though I was there only from just before 5 pm (every seat at the bar was already taken) until 8:30 or so.

With the crowd (legally) allowed to spill out on the front sidewalk and (illegally) into the back alley, conditions were about as comfortable as they've ever been at one of these nights, although it was still hot inside. It was all good, in other words, and set the scene for next year's one and only such evening, the 13th Firkinteenth, which ought to be madness. By then, the upstairs area should be open and all 13 casks (could there be any other number that night?) can be on at once.

My favorite beers of the night were Heavyweight Black Ocean, Iron Hill 2003 Oud Bruin (which was an unblended version of the Chris LaPierre-brewed beer of the same name which currently on tap in the West Chester pub), Flying Fish Coffee Porter (thanks, Tracy), Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale and Nodding Head 700 Level Ale.

The only two beers I missed tasting were the General Lafayette Sunset Red (much to my regret) and Lancaster Saison.

Oh yeah, there was one more thing that happened last night that may become part of the Firkinteenth legend: the attempt to pour PBR through Randall was a disaster. Cheap beer done did in the enamel animal.

News: Jon Zangwill leaves Flying Fish.
Lord knows, I'm a bit over-cautious these days, given the Three Floyds mess I started last week, but I've had this story given me by so many sources over the past 14 hours, it has to be true.

Jon apparently resigned from his position as head brewer in an email to Flying Fish president Gene Muller either just before, during or upon returning from a vacation in Belgium (the stories differ). The message, most everybody agrees, said essentially I won't be coming back. He meant to the Fish, I'd assume, not to the U.S.

Rumors Update.
I've pretty much confirmed that the stories I've heard about a brewery looking at setting up business the historic Foundry building in Phoenixville, once destined to be home to the Sly Fox brewery which is now nearing readiness in Royersford, were true.

I say "were" because the confirmation comes in the form of a third source (I have two now for the original story) telling me that said brewery has "withdrawn," which I take to mean, based on the other information, has decided not to exercise an option it has held on the space.

Now here's the thing. Since the withdrawal makes this, for all practical purposes, a non-story, I feel somewhat uncomfortable about revealing which brewery is involved. I'm going to try to get something official from the parties involved before I do that...if I do that.

So, why are you reading this item? There's no damned news here. Sorry.

Beer update.
You will recall (or can scroll down and see) that, in yesterday's Monday Tasting report, there was a question raised about the bottles of Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale that I had contributed to the evening. I still wasn't entirely convinced that issue was anything more than just over-carbonation, but I talked to sales guy Chris Morris at the Grey Lodge last night and he said that there apparently is one small batch of cases out there which has been infected. The cases carry a June date.

Morris didn't mention it, but I hear from other sources that Yards is having a hard time getting enough Simcoe hops to keep up with the production demand on the suddenly wildly popular Philly Pale. A lot of breweries have had problems getting the hops they need and want this year, due in part to some poor crop yields and also, I'd assume, to increased demand. The trend now is for hops brokers and producers to require breweries to sign annual contracts for the quantities they expect to need.

Finally, it's true that Bill Moore has indeed joined the Legacy Brewing team, but not in a brewing capacity. He's in sales.

One door shuts, another opens.
For those, like me, who were unable to attend today's Open House at Heavyweight Brewing, a beckoning light shines just down at the path a bit.

Here's the skinny.

It's true what they say:

If the mountain doesn’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed will come to the mountain.
If that is in fact what they say.

Tomorrow: the Mike Murphy Saga, Part Two.
Can an adventuresome young lad from suburban Philadelphia find love, happiness and success as a brewer in Italy?

We got the facts right here. But not until Sunday.

Meanwhile, you can brush up on the Murphy backstory in this article I wrote for Celebrator Beer News last year.

[Posted 4:15 pm edt]

13 August 2004
Lots of beer, maybe even more rain.
It looks so far like the weather is holding as just miserable rather than jumping to the catastrophic levels that are being predicted. That means I expect to be at Friday the Firkinteenth tonight as planned. I tell you, I was about 15 miles west of here in Chester County yesterday and got caught in a storm more like they said we'd be having today and it was no fun. Not something I'd want to deal with, as a driver or passenger, after a night at the Grey Lodge.

Tomorrow there's an Open House at Heavyweight. We'll see how the chances of attending that go, in terms of both weather and stamina.

It's Friday, so it must be Monday.
You know what I mean. The posting of the Monday Tasting Notes has become a Friday thing of late. I must be busier than I look. And, in truth, we'll be moving fast today as, well, I really am that busy at present. Time is precious. I wish it were money, but precious is the best I got.

Ten beers poured this week. a lot of them familiar and couple outstanding. A nice, laid-back session it was.

We started with Bluebird Bitter from Coniston Brewing Company in England, courtesy of Tom Foley. The was followed by Hacker-Pschorr Weisse, brought by Ted Johnston. Hey, what was up with that? Could our two crazed homebrewers be trying to sandbag us, waiting to whack us with a big beer when we weren't looking? I'm not sure I could believe that of Ted, but Foley...that's a whole 'nother smoke.

Bob Huber had a bottled of Dogfish Head Au Currant, the beer that made me ask what's the point? the only other time I tasted it. I'm still seeking an answer. I brought a couple of bottles of the much talked-about Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale, on the theory that most the high praise has been about the draft version and we should see how it held up in the bottle. It's still an open matter, I guess. The beer tasted okay but the carbonation was entirely too high (while that's still an issue, bottles I've since poured at home into full-sized pints rather than small sample glasses have come across better). I'll be doing another test soon with the Tasting Group's resident but generally absent brewer to see what input he can provide. Meanwhile, I'll be drinking draft Philly Pale at the ballpark this Tuesday (missing this (scroll down), unfortunately) to reaffirm my faith.

Joe Meloney then poured a bottle of McKenzie Grand Cru 2003 which I'd have to say was past its prime, before Rick Mayberry brought out the first bottle from the gazillion or so he shipped back from his Midwestern sojourn, New Glarus Brewing Wisconsin Belgian Red, or as New Glarus likes to call it, the marriage of wine and beer. Wonderful flavor and bouquet and one of the two favorite beers of the night.

That was followed by Richard Ruch's contribution of Legend Brewery's Hop Fest, a beer of which brewmaster Brad Mortensen says: In the new American brewing tradition, we have brewed a beer that stands up to any Pale Ale or IPA brewed anywhere in the world. In other words, I guess they're not quite sure which style it best fits. A couple of our tasters noted that its freshness was very similar to that of a Harvest Ale (it was just released at the end of June), which I thought was dead on. This is a very good beer was right behind the two favorites when we voted, as we are wont to do some weeks, at the end of the evening.

Bill Huber had the February 2000 bottling of Weyerbacher Raspberry Stout to offer us next. Very good. I've somewhat gotten off this beer of late and this bottle reminded me why that's not a wise course to follow. Bill's brother Bob--see, I finally found a place where that's actually a correct usage (inside joke for them as is paying all too much attention)--then poured what was the second favorite in the voting (and my personal favorite), Weyerbacher Quad. The bottle was from the initial release of this historic beer (the first bottled quadruple in the U.S. as far as I know) in 2000. Marvelous.

Cementing the evening as something of a Weyerbacher tribute, we finished things off with (from the sneaky Foley) Heresy, the first time I've had it in bottled form. Very nice and I can't wait to see how it ages.

Well, we didn't really finish things off like we thought. Sometime attendee Lee Marren showed up midway through the tasting and had with him a bottle of Ayinger Brau Weisse which didn't really fit into the scheme of things as we moved into all those big beers toward the end. We decided he could save it until next time. Then we finished all the beers we had. Then we looked at him...You know how these things go, right?

As I said, a good night, except that it disturbs me that Karl's Choice was the Quad, same as mine. This is a worrisome thing.

Meloney on the Loose (Stoudt's edition)
I suppose that, were I to suddenly go insane and never drink another beer, I could still fill this space with the notes of Ramblin' Joe Meloney as he wanders over hill and dale in search of one more beer he hasn't yet tried. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun, but I could do it. I offer in evidence the following notes he has submitted on beers poured at Stoudt's Great Eastern Microbrew Festival, second 2004 session, a week ago tomorrow.

His mostest favorite brew were Bullfrog Brewery Smoked Amber and Legacy Brewing Euphoria, two beers he's raved about before. Both 3 1/2 stars.

Three stars went to to Otto's Pub & Brewery Double D IPA (gotta try to get some of that), Marzoni's Brick Oven & Brewing Dortmunder and two beers from Stewart' Brewing Company, Highland Stout and Weizen. He even added a note with this last: underappreciated brewery. I've heard enough of that kind of thing lately to make a visit to Bear, Delaware a prime item for the near future.

Joe had some 2 star recommendations as well, but that precious time I was talking about just ran out...and now so must I.

But not before I offer a little teaser...

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward LDO to be born?
Excuse the mangled literary heading, but the entire staff is in a tizzy because a former denizen of this little corner of cyberspace will return this weekend with a story to recount. Soon we we tell sad tales of the death of...breweries.

Whoops, goin' all literary again. Better stop right now.

[Posted 3:45 pm edt]

12 August 2004
Wherein a good time was had by all and we discover that there are worse places to finish than last. [Updated 4:30 pm]
Beer Quiz night at the Grey Lodge Pub was good fun, with a nice mix of questions offered by the beeradvocate known as PopeDX and impressive performances by the top two or three teams.

Team Sly Fox (brewers Brian O'Reilly & Tim Ohst, man-about-beer Joe Meloney and Your Humble Correspondent) finished in a tie for fourth, which sounds okay but a humiliating last place might have been less discomforting. You see, the prize for fourth place is a "pat on the back from Scoats." You're already downcast by the loss and then this little publican comes over and touches you. Ewww!

Seriously, there was a nice-sized crowd present and Pope kept things moving smoothly so that the whole event ran just a touch over an hour-and-a-half. There were other things happening in-between the question periods, including a 50-50 drawing which, neatly, was won by one of the non-beer geek Grey Lodge "regulars," who proceeded to double his win by correctly identifying 1516 as the year the Reinheitsgebot was decreed. In another moment of "regulars" glory, as Pope was rattling off a list of malt liquors and asking competitors to name the style of beer, one of them yelled out "Delicious!"

There were a dozen competing teams, more or less, including one (from Yards, I think) which came in late and thus had no chance of winning but which might well have done so. Many had hilarious names, none of which I wrote down, unfortunately, including that of the winning team who missed only one or two possible points the whole evening.

There were four rounds of ten questions each, a couple with bonus points added (name this movie and bonus points for the director's name; name three American hops which begin with letter "C," bonus if you can name all six). The first three rounds were worth a point per question, the final round two points, so 50 points was a perfect score (assuming no bonus points). I think that's how it went anyway. The winners got a 50, maybe 51 points, it was hard to hear. We missed four questions and had a final score of 44 points.

UPDATE: Pope has just informed me via email that The winning team had 48 points out of a possible 53, and the second place team had 47. The difference maker was the winning team knowing that Michael Moore directed Canadian Bacon. How could you have never heard of that movie? To which I can only say thanks and I have no idea..

We screwed on up on naming the Prohibition Amendment, saying it was 19 rather than 18, and that was just dumb. To the question of who discovered the existence of yeast in the brewing process, we ignored the obvious, and correct, Louis Pasteur and went with somebody named LeClerc, who was his associate apparently. We misidentified the Swedish Bikini Team as an advertising campaign by Miller Light. And we were blown away, as was most of the room, by trying to identify the name of a movie in which tuned out not to be Slapshot but one I'd never heard of, Canadian Bacon.

Also, we should have surely gotten points for naming that sixth "C" hop, but couldn't come up with, nor could most if not all of the room, Cluster, the most commonly used hop of all.

A cruel man might note that, aside from the movie and advertising questions, the ones we missed were in the area of knowledge of, you know, brewers, and we had two and no other team had any (though Tom Kehoe, who really knows his stuff, was advising the Yards entry), but I'm not a cruel man. More's the shame.

Congratulations to Pope on a well-conceived quiz and for keeping things rolling along and for having the wisdom to, in a couple of instances where there might have been some caveats, accepting a variety of appropriate answers or just crediting the point to every team.

Bryson was on hand and while he did not compete, he distinguished himself by being maybe the only person in the room who knew that the Swedish Bikini Team was pushing Old Milwaukee. Not liking to be out of the spotlight, Lew brought along a growler of Selin's Grove Kriek which, as Egullet.com beer maven Rich Pawlak said, tasted like cherry pie, crust and all. In case you're wondering, that's a good thing.

Finally, and historically, the evening marked the first visit ever to Northeast Philadelphia by our well-travelled beer man, Meloney. Who'd a-thunk it?

"Hey, Steiny, let's throw a party at your place and invite 100 or so of my dearest friends."
Most of the characters who float through these chronicles, certainly including the author, have occasional delusions of pulling off some grand beer extravaganza which will be remembered with reverence. Then there's our California pal, Bill (Drbill) Sysak who, while clearly delusional, is so in a different way.

Drbill envisions grand schemes and then, more often than not, brings them to fruition. Nor is he in any way shy about recognizing what he achieves. In evidence, I offer the body of an email received from him this morning (slightly edited and severely punctuated for clarity):

It's that time of year and it's Bigger and Better than ever. Can anyone tell me where you can find a line up like this?! I've been to most of the great beer bars in the world: none have 180 beers like this: the best that Belgium and the U.S. have to offer along with a few select classics from the rest of the world! Not the GABF, GBBF, 24 uur or any other fest can match the selection either for that matter.

For one day, Saturday August 28th, come and enjoy the finest group of beers ever assembled for one tasting. I could have said the same about last years fest and probably did! This year will eclipse it, next year may be even better but who wants to wait 364 days.

By the way I have 10 unannounced beers that I'll be pouring throughout the day, that will make you drool just seeing them. Last year we had 130 festival goers, this year we will break that number, I hope to see you there.

What he's talking about is this 8th annual beer bash in Orange, California. "Steiny" is Steve Steinbergs, the doc's long-suffering pal at whose residence all of this unfolds. I've been told by someone very close to the scene that the whole thing is a madhouse and doc gets more manic as the day wears on. There's a shocker.

As noted, $30 gets you in the door for unlimited drinking and eating. I'd do it in a minute if I had the time. Then again, I'd get a helluva story out of it so my motives could be suspect.

There are, by my quick count, ten East Coast beers on the list of brews to be served, Southampton Publick House "Mystery Beer" and Allagash Triple Reserve and eight from the Philadelphia region: Victory Grand Cru, V-12, Old Horizontal; Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, Immort Ale; Heavyweight Biere d'Art; Sly Fox Ichor and McKenzie "Mystery Beer".

I suspect a number of that batch came from the shipments I've sent out to doc over the past several months, with the help of the invaluable Matt Guyer in filling the boxes (and by that I don't mean he actually did any physical labor, if you know what I mean). Certainly the McKenzie bottle is mine, I think, as I sent an unlabeled bottle from a selection of same I gotten from the Dude. So I guess I feel like I'll be there in spirit, at least.

Small comfort.

Web stuff.
I've posted an updated and final list of the 13 beers to be poured at Friday the Firkinteenth on the Beer Yard Events Calendar this morning. And there's a downloadable version of the handout sheet, more up to date than the one that will actually be handed out, at the Grey Lodge site you might want to go get.

If you're one of those folks who likes to be au courant, go change your Sly Fox link in your Favorites list to http:www.slyfoxbeer.com instead of the current "slyfoxBREW.com." The website has been moved to a new server. Of course, the old address has a pointer which will take you automatically the new site without your even realizing it's happened unless you look up in the Address Box of your browser, all the cool kids will be making this change once word gets out. And you know you want to do it now and stay on the cutting edge. Admit it.

[Posted 1:10 pm edt]

10 August 2004
No luck.
For them as still cares: I still haven't caught up with Nick Floyd of Three Floyds by phone or via email. I'll try to give it another shot tomorrow or Thursday.

Whether I manage that or not, I'd say this new posting at BeerAdvocate is clear proof that what I posted on Saturday was based on erroneous information from a confused traveler:

I may be jumping on this bandwagon a day too late, but I had the pleasure of visiting the Three Floyds brewery this past Saturday, and found this discussion topic somewhat ironic. Upon entering my friend and I were immediately greeted by Nick Floyd. "Need a beer?" he asked. "You bet!" we replied. We stayed a couple hours and enjoyed pints of their current offerings. Nick's brother (whose name escapes me, sorry) gave us an impromptu tour and overview of the brewery, and told us about their plans for the brewpub addition. Throughout the day there was a steady stream of customers, both regulars and newbies, coming in to refill a growler, drop off/pick up a keg, or just hang out and have a pint or two. In fact, as we left, the occupants of a tour bus were lining up to get some of that delicious brew from Nick...

Coming up...
I have in hand the latest Joe Meloney Report, based on his visit to the Stoudt's Microbrew Fest on Saturday and my own notes on last night's Monday Tasting session. Those will be posted soon.

Plus there is this thing at Grey Lodge Pub tomorrow night to which I appear to have been committed, and then this other thing, also at Grey Lodge, which is seductively drawing me back to the Northeast on Friday on its own merits.

The Northeast twice in a single week. My standards have gone all to hell.

[Posted 8:40 pm edt]

9 August 2004
The All Dead-Tree Edition.
Since I got myself into trouble Friday with the Three Floyds story (or non-story), I figured I'd play it safe today and focus on beer stories written by others.

Cautious or lazy? Your call.

Read This story. You won't believe it. A guy loses his driver's license because he tells his doctor he drinks what someone has decided is too much beer? The doctor turns him in solely on those grounds because of some obscure law most of us have ever heard of? There's a major erosion of civil rights and privacy going in this country since 9/11, but the potential for this sort of foolishness seems to be have around a lot longer than that, at least in Pennsylvania and five other states, including Delaware and New Jersey. These are scary, scary times.

On a lighter note, here's a joint review of the Victory and Triumph brewpubs from yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer. It seems a strange juxtaposition, although the writer did cleverly tie them together by the nature of their names. I figure it was done this way to make the review appealing to a broader range of the suburban readership. And I also figure that the Victory folks are more than pleased with the favorable comments on the restaurant and the efforts of manager Matt Krueger, who seems to have righted that long floundering ship.

I'm beginning to worry about our pal Joe Sixpack. Two weeks ago, he told us more than anybody could want to know about malt liquor in a column about Dogfish Head's Liquor de Malt and this Friday he turned his attention to, of all things, Pittsburgh Brewing's Hop 'n Gator, which has apparently returned, who knows why. Malt liquor and malternatives? Somebody get that man a beer.

[Posted 9:00 am edt]

8 August 2004
Three Floyds says I've been misinformed. [Updated 9:10 am]
The following was posted at BeerAdvocate last night in response to a thread on the item which I posted here yesterday about Three Floyds possibly having financial difficulties:

We have been open since 1996 and are expanding in capacity and adding a brewpub by the end of the year! I'd dont know who stated this crap-our front part of our building is under construction for THREE FLOYDS BREWPUB and if some one was stupid enough to go to our old location-it is and old abandoned garage warehouse in Hammond Indiana.I welcome all to come by for a tasting we our open t the public Thursdays 4-7 Fridays 4-7 & 12-5 Saturdays Three Floyds Brewing co 9750 Indiana Pkwy Munster Indiana 46321

Cheers, Nick Floyd

First off, it would make me nothing but happy if what I reported was entirely incorrect. And my tendency is to believe that is the case at this point.

I acknowledge that I should have, as I usually do, found a second source before posting the story. Chalk it up to this being a weekend and sources are therefore hard to come by, but also understand that's just an explanation and not an excuse.

It was shoddy reporting and I apologize.

UPDATE: I've been in contact with Nick Floyd and will be talking with him tomorrow or Tuesday to get the story. I can't fix the original mistake, but I can at least try to offset its impact.

A survivor survives.
In the email from Bryson I mentioned yesterday, he told me he had news he wasn't gonna reveal until he could get it up on his site. I can appreciate that. It meant the news didn't get out as fast as it could have, of course, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

In any case, here's the skinny he posted late yesterday:

From Dave Gemmell at Legacy: the reborn Reading brewery has a new (but familiar) face in the brewery. Bill Moore has joined the Legacy team, presumably because of the shaky situation at Ortlieb's at Sunny brook. Pottstown's loss is certainly Reading's gain, and Bill has a great rep around this town. What will this mean for Legacy? Hard to say. Admittedly, Bill's beers didn't always set things on fire during his tenure at Sly Fox, and his lager-love is well-known, a predilection that doesn't really jive with Legacy's current direction. Wait and see, but remember: you heard it here first.
Good for Bill, a survivor and a great guy.

This, as Lew hints at, probably confirms the rumors that Ortlieb's at Sunnybrook is over. It also reminds me of the day a couple of years back when I walked into Sly Fox right about the time that Independence was falling apart because I heard the rumors and found Bill behind the bar. He just laughed and said Busted!, then handed me a beer.

That's Bill Moore.

[Posted 12:01 am edt]

7 August 2004
Three Floyds woes, Lew's hot new pubs.
My beer news this morning was passed on to me by a couple of guys who've wandered far and wide in recent days and consumed considerable brew in the process. And one of them, lucky dog, was working all the while.

The guy who just wanted to have fun was Rick Mayberry, whose injured foot and collapsed kitchen have forced him to drop to the ignominious rank of Monday Beer Tasting Irregular. He just got back from a visit to Wisconsin and Chicago and reports that the flow of rumors and stories about financial troubles at Three Floyds are likely indicative of a crisis. When Rick went visit the brewery, he found it closed with a rope tied across the front door and another Midwestern brewer told him, when asked,

I don't know how much longer they'll be around.

Losing 3F would decidedly not be a good thing, so let's hope things work out.

On a more positive note, Mayberry 'fessed up during Incubus Friday at Sly Fox last night that he shipped 82 lbs. of beer back home from his travels. Hey, to sample that kind of booty, we'll move the damned Tasting to his place if he wants.

Meanwhile, Big Lew, the workin' man, checks in this morning with some tidbits from his wanderings this past week for the forthcoming third edition of Pennsylvania Breweries (read the rave customers reviews while you're there). He's really high on the not-yet-open North Country brewpub in Slippery Rock (has the potential to be another Selin's Grove) and Four Sons in Titusville, a couple of places you have to want to go to to go to (it makes sense, read it slow). Lew also stopped in at Selin's Grove and says the first batch has been brewed on the new system (Oktoberfest) and that the place will be expanding seating capacity over the next year.

You do know he adds a lot of this sort of information to his update page on his site, don't you?

The Dude fund.
Some outraged BeerAdvocates have reacted to my note Thursday about Scott Morrison of McKenzie Brew House having to pay out of his own pocket to enter beers at GABF. I of course called The Dude and alerted him. His response, offered with a laugh:

They really don't have to do that,but it makes my day just hearing about it.
This is another one of those stories that backs up the perception that beer folks are good folks. I rag on the BAs often enough, heaven knows, but this one's a shout out. Good show, guys.

[Posted 3:20 pm edt]

5 August 2004
Thursday's Monday Tasting Notes.
Almost as many beers were poured at this past Monday Tasting Session as were poured at the previous week's, but these brews, if not the participants, were somewhat more restrained. Of note during the evening was the flagrant disregard for our one-beer-one-person rules by the Smiledges (revealing a lawless streak one would never expect of them), the return of the matched set of Hubers and some issues with our new touchstone, Karl's Choice. Well, I guess it was issues with Karl hisownself, but it's the same thing, innit?

We gathered as usual on the Sly Fox patio and began with a growler of Rock Art Brewery American Red Ale from Morrisville, Vermont, courtesy of the Beer Yard's Matt Guyer, who gave it to me to bring along. It was the second growler I've seen recently which had a tight plastic seal wrapped around the cap, a great idea. The beer wasn't very flavorful, sad to say, and given its obvious loss of carbonation, the seal wasn't much help.

Ted Johnston got us back on track with his homebrewed Wit, a good brew which was, in a perverted way, especially enjoyable because of the plastic bottled which housed it. And it was nice lead-in to Richard Ruch's contribution of a most drinkable Legend Pilsner from Virginia.

Bill Huber, unabashed by Joe Meloney's dismay the previous week at his having the temerity to bring beers from Maine, then offered Atlantic Brewing Company's Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale 2004 which turned out not to be at all what it should be or the way anyone who'd had it remembered it. This resulted Meloney's noting that he'd heard that Atlantic was now contract brewing some of its beers. Indeed, he promise to go to Maine and learn the truth in early September and find out. What a guy.

Bob (the original) Huber tried to take our minds off his brother's misfortune with a brew from Der Hirschbrau Privatbrauerel Hoss of Sonthofen, Bavaria (go ahead, say that real fast three times), Doppel Hirsh, a 7.2% abv doppelbock. His ploy worked just fine. A very good beer, this. Rick and Jeanne, the evil Smiledges, figured this was a good time to slip in one of the three (!) beers they'd brought and pulled out a bottle of Lagunitas Decimator, the 10th anniversary beer from the California brewery. Same abv, same good.

Lori Limper then opened a bottle of Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale, made from a 16th century recipe and the subject of the rapidly-getting-tiresome but obligatory sweet gale comments from the assembled. At least that was over and done with for the evening, y'know. A guy would have to have a real evil streak to somehow sneak it in again... As for the beer, it's one of those I could drink a pint but I'd definitely never buy a case things.

Joe Meloney had an almost filled growler of Lancaster Brewing's Gueuze, which didn't seem encouraging, but pour it he did. Not horrible, said someone cautiously, before Rick Smiledge nailed it: the world's first session gueuze. It seems likely this was not a pure gueuze at all, but blended with something else, who knows what?

Bob Huber again pulled us out of the doldrums with Brooklyn Monster 2002, smooth and oh so nice and a big jump-up at 11.8% abv, before Tom Foley, an evil (say, didn't we just use that word?) grin on his face, poured his homebrewed Foley's LaRouche Ale next, three weeks old, 7.5% abv and named after the town in Belgium which inspired him to brew it. And, as you likely have guessed, one of the spicing ingredients is...sweet gale. What else? In Tom's honor, I think we'll refer to this in the future by its generic and more fitting identity, swamp shrub.

Foley wasn't done. He pulled forth a bottle of Lagunitas Sirius, a 7.8% cream ale. This is apparently the brewery's spring beer, and what's the point, I ask? It's too hoppy and has too much alcohol to be a true cream ale, and not much flavor. I read a review somewhere that said it tastes a lot like a malt liquor. Now, that's cruel.

No longer even pretending to follow the rules, the Smiledges now brought out both Avery Hog Heaven (1998 vintage) and Heavyweight Old Salty (2000 vintage). Apparently last week's barleywine extravaganza wasn't enough for them. Both were damned fine. What did you expect?

In for a penny, in for a dollar, so we finished up with a Bill Huber contribution (and yes, I realize the Hubers brought even more beers than the Smiledges, but we kinda expect them to be like that, y'know?), Atlantic Brewing's Brother Adam's Honey Braggot Ale, one of my personal favorites and a brew that Meloney has a habit of gifting me every so often. It's the barleywine that isn't a barleywine and, at 11.2% abv, leaves you not caring much either way.

Oh yeah, about Karl's Choice. As soon as Shoemaker learned that he's this feature's new Anybody Can Be a Beer Geek mascot, he's gone rogue on me. First he decided that the Rock Art American Red was his beer choice, because this is the only growler handle I've ever found big enough to get my fingers into. Then he changed to the Doppel Hirsh and started making the, on the face of it, reasonable argument how do I know which one I like best until I've had them all? After all these months, he's suddenly giving me logic? I don't think so.

Anyway, he chose the Braggot in the end, so all is forgiven.

What's that strange sound?
Well shucks, it's just Bryson Buzzin' again over on his website. Picture him flitting through the air like a bumblebee and...on second thought, kill that image. Now!

This month, Big Lew says lagers are good. He's right. He says too many beer geeks dismiss them out of hand and, worse yet, don't understand the complexity and pleasure of a well-made lager. Right again. And he even suggests that a good lager or pils shouldn't have to be hopped up in order to be appreciated. Right yet again, for a new personal record.

I'm in so much awe right now, I think I'll have to stop and go lie down...

[Posted 2:40 pm edt]

4 August 2004
Dude update.
Last night, Loyal Reader Joe F. emailed me an interesting question:

"Haven't heard anything about this in ages. Last I remember, [McKenzie's Brew House] had discovered that the restaurant was sitting on solid rock and they were stymied. Since then, all mention of McKenzie have vanished from the signs in the front. Any idea what's going on with this?"
I had no answer so first thing this morning, I assigned the inquiry to our crack research staff and...Wait a minute! I don't have a research staff. Hmmm. As Hagar the Horrible replied when told that God might be a woman, that would explain a lot..

Anyway, since I can't just sit around and wait for Bryson's next edition, I called brewer Scott The Dude Morrison. He says No Sweat.

They expect to start construction in roughly two months. Since they are tearing down and moving the existing structure, they're going through some zoning wrangles at present, and since the entrance and exit at the site will also be changed, they've go to satisfy the PA Dept. of Transportation as well. Such fun.

The Dude says he may have some other McKenzie news real soon now but all he'd tell me at present is that he's busy brewing and bottling and has entered (paying out of his own pocket, which is criminal and another sign of how the McKenzie folks don't know what they've got in him) six Belgian styles at GABF.

Cheesy stuff at the General. [Updated: 1:30 pm]
I was saying to someone just the other day that August, which used to be a pretty slow month, is filling up with new beer events almost daily it seems. This one is the latest as Chris Leonard enters the fray.

Damned if I'm not tempted to take the long and winding journey to Lafayette Hill and that's something because I have bad vibes in that area because a couple of bad incidents with my car a couple of years back. One time it ran away from me, the next I was driving lightless and damned near powerless as fast as I could down Germantown Avenue with a police car chasing me. I'll tell you about it sometime.

UPDATE: Loyal Reader B. Huber (you guess which one) brings to my attention that this event is priced at $45, gratuity not included, information which was not available when I originally posted.

Ramblin' Joe at State College.
Even though I missed the State College BrewExpo this year, I did promise to record here the beer impressions of our Monday Tasting's travelin' fool, Joe Meloney. I apologize to him, and to you, for taking so long to get around to it.

The beer that stood out above all others in Joe's eyes (and I've heard similar things from other attendees) was Otto's Pub & Brewery's Double D IPA. He gave this 9.2% abv brew 3.5 stars out a possible 4 in his rating system, the only beer at the festival he so honored.

Several beers came in at 3 stars: Bullfrog Brewery's Smoked Amber, Randallized Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA, Heavyweight BORIS, McKenzie Stout and Westmalle Tripel, Stoudt's Weizen, Unibroue Terrible and Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

He gave 2.5 stars to Anchor Brewing's Liberty Ale, Flying Fish Belgian Abbey Dubble, Brewery Ommegang's Three Philosophers and Yard's IPA. And finally, 2 stars each to Johnstown Brewing Company's White Hat Pale Ale, Kalamazoo Brewing's Bell's Java Stout, Marzoni's Avalanche IPA and Troegs Hopback Amber.

And after that, he went out for an evening of eating and drinking. Scary, innit?

[Posted 11:40 am edt]

3 August 2004
Rumor update.
This has been a great couple of days for late night calls from people wanting to tell me things or convince me of things. Which means I have an update on the rumor I wrote about on Saturday, which I reprint below so you won't have to rush off to the archives, although I heartily recommend that in most instances:

It was almost 11 months ago to the day when Sly Fox announced it was withdrawing from negotiations to create a new brewery and pub in Phoenixville's historic Foundry building. The Fox has moved on these days, with a new brewery set to begin making beer in Royersford late next month and an adjacent pub opening there around October. But what about the Foundry?

Reliable sources tell me that another brewery is now in negotiations for that site and that news of a deal could break soon. If it's true and if it happens, I think most everybody reading this will be shocked. Stay tuned.

Those sources now suggest that the information, if it is "information," may have been garbled as it moved along the chain. There is definitely somebody sniffing around Phoenixville but the Foundry Building may not be involved in their search. I can't see how it wouldn't be, but maybe that's just me. Also, I've been told, we are definitely talking brewpub and not full-scale brewery.

I don't know if I made it clear enough in that first posting that, while I have great faith in the sources, I also have great doubts about the story itself. We'll see.

Manayunk & Weyerbacher news.
All those worrying about the effect of the weekend flooding on Manayunk Brewery can relax. I'm told the waters came right up to the foot of the deck but no farther. Whew!

Further north, Weyerbacher Brewing's Heresy is a smash success. "We already sold through every drop we've brewed to date and have a new batch in the works. That won't be released until around mid-September, though," a very happy Dan Weirback told me yesterday.

Dan also confessed that even though he's due to acquire the current Victory 25-barrel brewhouse some time this fall (as soon as Victory has its new plant in place), he won't really have the time to get it set up and operating before January 2005. Fortunately, Weyerbacher has completed the new lease which doubles their space and has plenty of room to store the equipment. And, of course, that new space means they won't have to shut down brewing on the current 12-barrel system while making the changeover.

The plan is still to eventually sell the old system, Dan says, but he may keep it in operating through 2005 in order to brew "a big, big beer, in the 15-20% range" to celebrate Weyerbacher's tenth anniversary.

And he had one additional piece of information that should be welcome news to the ears of beer geeks...

New beer festival in Easton; Drafting Room gets the jump on Sly Fox.
The first annual Lehigh Valley Brewfest will be held in Easton on October 23. Details here.

A little earlier than that, one week from tomorrow, Patrick Mullin at Drafting Room Exton is doing this.

You'll note that both of those listings appear at Beeryard.com but neither has as yet worked its way up to the front page (though the Drafting Room event will soon). Take this as an object lesson that, while the current news will always be there staring you in the face when stop in for a visit, you should dig around in the Events listings every now and then as well. Updates and new postings go on there all the time.

And, yeah, if this comes across as pimping for the Beer yard site, I can live with it. Guyer's enthusiasm for having visitors crawling around the site is at a level just short of obsession, and you folks really need to show him some love now and then for all the things he makes possible...

Archived.
the complete July postings have been archived here.

[Posted 9:40 am edt]


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

--A. E. Houseman

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