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31 August 2006
Girls just wanna have fun.
Lori Limper, more Beer Geek than she knows, sent me this just now:

I've declared it the "Chester County 120 hours of Beer Weekend", whether or not anyone else buys it. Starting right.....now!
As I noted to her, that takes us right through Tuesday for all practical purposes.

She's the one with the bottle of water in the hand not holding a beer. If you see her, buy her a cuppa coffee, will ya?

[Posted 6:15 pm edt]

30 August 2006
If you can make it there...
Maybe Sly Fox has figured out how to cut down on those periodic attacks on our area by ravaging BA hordes from New York: take the beer to their own backyard.

I've put the story up here. We'll see if it works.

Todd comes home.
Remember Todd Ashman, a great brewer who kinda wandered away from the fold? Well, he's back and that's good news for beer lovers near Lake Tahoe.

This is from Probrewer.com this morning:

The new Truckee Craft Brewing Co., located at 6000 feet in Truckee, California near Lake Tahoe, should be up and running by late this year or early next. What most of you will consider news is not that another brewpub is opening, or that brewing is returning to Truckee (which has a long brewing history).

The news is Todd Ashman is returning to brewing.

Take a minute to think about that, and perhaps say a blessing to the beer gods...

That thing about a prayer to the beer gods? What they said.

[Posted 12:35 pm edt]

29 August 2006
The other day I stumbled across the Falstaff Beer Fan Site and was duly and properly impressed. Great reading and great nostalgia for those of us of a certain age. I mean, it's just plain fun over there. So much so that I've added this link as the first entry in the new Beer History category on the links list at left. What else goes in there I haven't yet figured out. Maybe some currently links from other sections, certainly some new links as I run across them.

Another new link added is one for The Farmhouse in Emmaus in the Beer Places links. Seems to me I went searching for a website for this very good beer and dining establishment some time ago and couldn't find one, so I never looked again. Thanks to homebrewer extraordinaire Tom Foley for giving me a clue. Further proof for the old saw about the blind squirrel, the acorn and all that...

All of this got me to scrolling down through the LDO links to check out what's going on, something I don't do often enough. Here are a couple of things that caught my eye:

Fal Allen tells the story of The Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore on his site...

And there's an interesting oldie but goodie about a beer tasting for wine drinkers in Santa Fe over on Stan Hieronymus's site.

Finally, since we're talking links here, harried husband, father and brewer Brian O'Reilly would surely never forgive me if I didn't call attention to this story in the current Philadelphia Magazine (you have to scroll down to read it, there's a whole buncha crap up top of the page).

Speaking of a whole buncha crap, just because I do their website postings and receive minor compensation for same, and because I don't want to deal with that from the sort of people who deal in crap, I tend to not say nearly enough about what I think about Sly Fox beers, but today I'm in a screw it mood.

Therefore, let it be recorded that, in my opinion, the recently released (and, in bottle form, almost gone) Oktoberfest 2006 is a really marvelous example of the style, one of the best versions I've had in quite a while. I can't put it any better than did one respected local beer guy, roughly quoted anonymously here because I got this second hand:

Damn! This is what Oktoberfests are supposed to taste like, the way they did 10 or 15 years ago. Real Oktoberfest, clean and crisp and perfect.
And, what hell, since I've opened the gates to the barbarians allow me to announce that Incubus in the bottle is as exceptional an American-brewed Tripel as I've ever tasted. Unfortunately, it's pretty much gone too, for this year, although it will still be pouring on draft every First Friday at Phoenixville (such as this upcoming Friday, come to think of it, which will also mark the release of 750ml bottles of Black Raspberry Reserve). If you see a bottle of either of the first two, I recommended grabbing it while you can.

And now the stone throwing may commence. Let me see what you got...

Dumbest. Beer. Comment. Ever.
You knew it had to happen, and it did, in this BeerAdvocate thread. The guy who started it all with a silly contention, having been battered about by one and all, came back with this (it's the 37th post in the thread):

...craft breweries have a shitload of money to spend on innovation. Have no misconseptions about that fact.
We can only hope that, whatever he does in real life is, well, relatively simple and doesn't impact on anyone else's existence to any serious extend.

[Posted 11:40 am edt]

22 August 2006
The early days of American craft brewing, plus how the money guys almost screwed it all up in Philadelphia. Now on line.
The fine publishers of American Brewer, Messrs. Dorsch, Metzger and Magee, and I have worked out my posting copies of my stories written for the magazine in an Archive here. It has just added to the Links column at left in the "On Site" section.

AmBrew is an industry trade magazine concentrating on the business of the business, so not all the content will appear to a general audience, but large portions of each quarterly issue surely do. I think the two stories I've just posted definitely fit that mold.

Different Strokes, Different Coasts is a quick and dirty look at how craft brewing was born on the West Coast and its early development there, and about what happened in the East not too long afterwards. I had to leave a lot out and skim over some pretty important things but, overall, I think it's not a bad overview of what happened and the way it happened.

Stockbrokers Gone Wild is a less than reverential look at what was happening in Philadelphia in the late '90s when the likes of Jim Bell and Red Bell, Bob Conner and Independence and, later, Henry Ortlieb and Poor Henry's were, as the story says, "spending other people's money at rate that would give a congressman pause." It was a time, oh, what a time it was...

Note that these are the original versions of the stories and vary slightly, but not to an appreciable degree, from the versions which appeared in print. And they are relatively long for online postings (a not uncommon failing right here, come to think of it), but that's why the gods invented the "print" button.


Or not.

Whatever works for you.

Big Fat Lew Online & Other Beer Tales.
Once again, not a personal attack; once again, a public service. Fine human being and Ale Street News editor Tony Forder has put Big Fat Lew Online, well, online, for your reading pleasure. Good stuff, must read. When you've finished reading my stories linked above, go read this one. Or else.

New Weyerbacher beer to debut at Kennett Square.
Word in from Jeffrey Norman that, among the many beers featured at the (sorry!) sold-out Connoisseur Session during the Kennett Brewfest will be Weyerbacher Raspberry Beret. Not that we wouldn't trust Jeff, of course, but just in case, he passes on the official work from Dan Weirback his own self:

For the connoisseur tasting, we will have a very special experimental beer to serve: Raspberry Beret. This is an American Wild Ale made with Brettanomyces yeast and red raspberries. Weyerbacher’s first dabbling with the so-called “Brett Beers” and I think you’re gonna love it, its fantastic! Aged in Oak casks for many moons, this beer is a superb treat, and we think Kennett Square is definitely worthy of it! Cheers!
Sigh. We miss the golden days when Dan used to tell us this stuff directly.

Beer. Lots of beer. Draught.
As it turns out, I've had several beers since last we talked and, given the putative purpose of this little corner of the internet, maybe I should tell you about them. I'll try not to be too effusive or positive since, the last time I did that, it gave The Incredible Shrinking Man a touch of the vapors.

Let's start with the draught stuff this past weekend. Friday afternoon I hied myself out to Victory to get some photos and make some contacts at a Schmidt's Brewing alumni luncheon for a story--make the stories, I guess--that I'm working on. While there, I had a chance to enjoy a pint of the 2006 Kolsch, which was just as good as I remembered it. That means Very Good indeed.

Then, on the way home, I stopped at Drafting Room Exton to re-sample the Troegs-brewed 12th Anniversary Ale. I'd had, and enjoyed, this one when it was first introduced in June and could have sworn I'd written about it, but apparently not. In any case, nicely drinkable (I had a pint and half), lots of hops and malt and, while I suspect the brewers and "contributing brewer" Patrick Mullin, might object, I'd call it a ramped up version of Nugget Nectar. For what it's worth, I think the original, big, spicy 10th Anniversary Ale still rules the roost and wouldn't mind seeing that become the permanent annual anniversary release. Maybe I'm going stodgy in my declining years.

Figuring, what the hell, in for a pint, in for a gallon, I stopped by Sly Fox Phoenixville on the way home and, because I fell in with bad companions, had more pints that I should have of the just-released, second-time-around IPA Project Simcoe IPA from the usual Third Friday firkin and one of the relatively new Pub Ale, an easy-drinking nitro-poured session beer. I grabbed a couple of bottles of the fast-disappearing Oktoberfest to bring home (there are only a few cases left between the two pubs, the distributors gobbled this one up real fast). Incubus bottles are all gone at the pubs and most distributors.

Saturday was for recovery and then Sunday, with the same bad companions (think "big" and "other"), I ventured over to Union Jack's Inn on the Manatawny to sit on the deck and enjoy pints of Southampton Publick House Double White, Union Jack's own house brew, Hoptimus Prime, made for them by Legacy and (you don't see these many places other than the brewery) the current release in the Victory Braumeister series, Spalter Varietal Pilsner. All were, this is gonna shock you, excellent. Mentioning the Braumeister series reminds me--let there be great rejoicing, because Victory will again be making their Braumeister Harvest Pils, brewed with wet hops rushed down from New York (probably in September). The plans call for three 50bbl batches this year. I, for one, can't wait.

Beer. Lots of beer. Bottles.
I've noted here before, I believe, that the BeerAdvocate known as Afatty ("Glenn" in the real world which he presumably visits on occasion) is my favorite North Carolinian ever, a position in the pantheon he further cemented a week or so back by sending me a carefully packed selection of four NC beers, two each. The cement weakened a bit when he instructed me to give one of each to old and decrepit Richard Ruch for his 60th birthday celebration, but what can you do.

Since I'd already been very impressed with the Porter from Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, which he'd given me when he was in the area as part of the ravaging horde of BAs that Ruch inflicts on the area each spring, I was pleased to find Rabid Duck Russian Imperial Stout and a Wee Heavy from the same brewery in the package. Both were quite good, the latter especially so. Also interesting was the Anniversary Imperial IPA from Carolina Brewing Co., a beer which reminded me very much of Sly Fox Rt. 113 IPA, which is definitely not a bad thing. The fourth beer in the mix was from Carolina Beer & Beverage Co., Cottonwood Frostbite, an 8.5% "hoppy Winter ale." For whatever reason, this one left me somewhat bemused, meaning I never could decide whether I liked it or not.

When I ran into Jeff Slick, formerly of The Beer Yard while brunching at Standard Tap a couple of Sundays back and followed him over to the new Foodery Northern Liberties across the street, where he's now one of the managers, I picked up a few beers I'd been looking for and then noticed that Jeff had himself snatched a bottle of He'Brew Genesis 10:10, the 10th Anniversary Ale from Schmaltz Brewing, I quickly followed suit. Schmaltz makes really fine beers and I love the humorous approach, employing Jewish history, tradition and icons, which they employ for naming and marketing.. This very good brew was made even better by the explication of why Pomegranate juice is used in the brew which is in very small type on the side of the label.

Having decided that Saison is my favorite current beer style, I tried a pair from the West Coast in recent weeks, Saison Elyse´e and Rogue FestiveAle. Both were okay, the former more so than the latter, but neither could hold a candle to Victory Saison or Sly Fox Saison Vos, which are the two which keep rotating through my frig these days.

The brewpub that wasn't apparently soon will become the brewpub that isn't.
What appear to be reliable sources are confirming that the long rumored end of the Red Bell facility in the Wachovia Center is about to become fact...not that the place has been a "brewpub" for a long while now, although, to be fair, small batches have been made there to support the beer trucked in from F X Matt, but not for several months. Attempts to get some other brewery to take over have gone to naught (from what I'm told, you have to go in believing it was worth the exposure 'cause you sure weren't going to make any money) and the brewhouse is up for sale.

Will the location become just another macro-brew arena watering hole or will a new operator follow the lead of the Phillies across the street and pour a selection of good local brews? For now, at least, the more preferable latter option is apparently the course management is pursuing.

[Posted 12:15 pm edt]

14 August 2006
Photo Phun.
You were kicking and stamping your feet and demanding Bryson the Lesser in his "beersucker suit" (copyright Joe Meloney, 2006 if he has any sense at all)?

You got it.

Here are Lew and me posing on either side of a large free-standing cardboard Tom 'n' Peggy cutout at the Farewell Bash at Drafting Room Exton a week ago yesterday:

Okay, that's really them. And us. But it does look like what I described, dunnit?

Turns out Ms. Cathy Bryson ain't so bad with the camera after all and, after her new, smaller, more convenient size hubby's PhotoShopping for a half hour or so (about which more down below), we have something usable. I get the honors because, as a professional beer writer, he's too busy to do the fun stuff. Fortunately, us starving semi-pros, we got time. That's what we got.

The original idea was that both Lew and I would run the photo, but I'd crop it like it is below left and he'd crop it like it is below right and then we'd do some hilariously funny riff about it all for the amusement of the folks in the cheap seats:


Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Now, about that PhotoShop thing. As you probably suspect, famous folks like Mr. B (formerly known as "Mr.B XXX") and I are often the target of, well, stalkers. Got me one a-them working these days, but fortunately he's sorta big and goofy and easy to spot. Plus I got, in the original version of the photo, evidence that he's on my tail wherever I go:

Here's a promise: I'll see that sucker in jail before week's end.

[Posted 1:10 pm edt]

Iron Hill Phoenixville update.
The Phoenix's Karin Williams reported on Thursday that Iron Hill Phoenixville is now really coming along:

Iron Hill Brewery brought in copper brewing tanks Wednesday, the first step toward preparing for the popular pub's September opening....

Although a specific date has not been solidified, Iron Hill, which takes its name from an historic Revolutionary War landmark in Delaware with the same name, will be open by the end of September. "The target date to do dry runs is the 25th (of September) and open the doors on the 27th, but that is still a moving target," [Co-owner Kevin] Finn said.

The restaurant and brewery will hold several "practice" dinners in the days before a soft opening. Within eight weeks of the soft opening, Finn said, Iron Hill in Phoenixville will hold its grand opening....

I hope they can speed that up a bit, for Mark Edelson's sake. He told me a few weeks ago that, if the opening is that last weekend in September, he'll probably have to forego his trip to GABF this year. That would be a shame; good thing usually happen for Iron Hill at GABF.

I note this comment from later in the news story, for the amusement of Mr. Shrinking Violet, with whom I had a bit of a contretemps in his annual BeerAdvocate thread taking Philadelphia Magazine to task for not meeting his standards for beer coverage (emphasis added):

With five other breweries already established in places like Media, West Chester and Delaware, Iron Hill has become a well-known brand in the Philadelphia area and beyond. In 2005, Iron Hill captured "Large Brew Pub of the Year" at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.

In addition, they have taken home 19 medals over the years, and have been named "Best Of" by Philadelphia Magazine 82 times since they opened 10 years ago.

Well, I guess I can rest my case now. Unless maybe, just maybe, she misheard somewhat?

Crouch on the case.
Elsewhere, New England beer scribe Andy Crouch is first in print with news of the breakdown of the sale of Old Dominion to two employees. Good story but...damn. I had heard about this several weeks ago, but when attempts to contact Jerry Bailey went unanswered, it slipped right off the radar.

This story is right beneath another very interesting one which Andy's the first to report (to my knowledge), overtures by Anheuser-Busch toward Vermont's Long Trail.

Kudos, Andy.

And they called it...Ruch-a-Palooza.
Finally, yesterday was the long-planned, deeply secret "roast" of our own Richard Ruch at (where else?) Victory Brewing, where friends, family and some of the rest of us gathered to mark his recent 60th natal celebration by saying mean things about him, making fun of him unmercifully and otherwise trying to set the universe right.

I had a whole jumble of ideas in my head for what I'd say, figuring to use whatever someone else already hadn't, and was struck by how many people had picked up on some of his, um, idiosyncrasies over the years, such as the perpetual baseball style Victory cap which suddenly disappeared and his habit of spamming the universe with "funny" emails each day.

The email thing started out as sending links to stories about Victory which he'd found anywhere on web with a search each morning. After composing himself, he'd forward these to a somewhat smaller group, but his efforts have now grown into a huge ethernet blast to a defenseless mass of humanity several times that original number or recipients, and the mailings have multiplied to several times a day more often than not. Ron Barchet, speaking for the brewery, presented him with a $5,000 invoice for the time lost by employees opening and reading theirs on an annual basis.

The original search terms Richard used for his email task, I would presume, were "Victory" and "Beer." These days, they seem to be "Old Age" and "Sexual Dysfunction." Go figure.

The day went very well all in all. The only issue, I learned later, was that several servers behind the bar out in the pub (the party was held in the brewery) either fainted or were totally disoriented upon seeing the Ruch Stool empty for an entire afternoon, an historic, unprecedented event.

[Posted 10:25 am edt]

11 August 2006
Tom Steigelmann of Union Jack's thinks like I do. Now that's scary.
Tom Steigelmann of Union Jack's Inn on the Manatawny got up at 4am this morning (no slacker he...oh wait, make that "was still up") to respond to my rant of last evening about the spate of Russian River Pliny promos suddenly happening and give us some breaking news (capitalization erratic because...well, you'll see):

my apologies for, as you said keeping you in the dark, but

i work too much

i drink too much

we just bought a 4th union jacks in barto, pa., closing date august 31st.

so, i cant even remember what county i'm in half the time(or remember to use CAPITAL letters)

by the way, our RR river nite is planned for after everybody else runs out.......since, to answer your thoughts, ed friedland let me know exactly how much of the stuff came in.

besides, i went on a keg buying spree and have to sell all this other stuff before we can tap anything else.

I'll try to catch up with Tom later today (he needs some time to sleep) and get more details for a news story at, where else, The Beer Yard.

Nice to see that both Tom and Eddie Friedland think like I do, though I don't know how comfortable that makes them.

By the way, another non-slacker has finally revealed the facts about that new Pennsylvania brewery he was teasing us about a week or two back. Go see.

As long as you're over there slumming, keep on reading down to the article following the brewery story, titled "A Pleasant Sort of Weekend." If any of the Now-Tastefully-Reduced-For-Your-Viewing-Pleasure Guy's WeightWatchers handlers get a load of that stretch of consumption, they're gonna smack him upside the head come next meeting.

Sounds like the trip was definitely worth that risk, I have to say.

UPDATE: Beer Yard story now posted.

[Posted 10:50 am edt UPDATED 3:00 pm edt]

10 August 2006
Here's where it's all gone to hell: a personal rant.
I hope that Bryson hasn't copyrighted "Rant" or I'm in deep doo-doo. Not that I couldn't take him now that's he's all weak and shaky from weight loss, understand.

Join me, if you will, by looking at the Beer Yard Calendar for the rest of August. Note in particular events scheduled on August 18, 21 and 25. Click on each to read. I'll wait.

It's Russian River Pliny the Both (kudos to Scoats, not a guy you'd ever want to get into a Clever Competition with) run amuck. Allow me inform you that, despite their efforts to keep me completely in the dark, I am aware that Union Jack's Inn on the Manatawny is also trying to fit a similar night into its schedule.


These are great beers. They come and go in this market, because Russian River is a really small operation. But do we really need four Oh! My! God! Pliny! nights in a single week? Seriously.

Yes, Frankford is a long way from Boyertown and different audiences are surely being served, and, yes, a beer bar in Conshohocken and one in Exton pretty much can make the same argument. But it leaves me cold...and a little nervous. It's just all too damned easy.

I have no idea for sure, obviously, but I like to think that, were I a bar owner or manager and learned that a hard-to-get beer was available again, I'd at least ask how much of it had come into the market and maybe plan accordingly. I'd certainly let people know I had it, but if I had nothing close to exclusivity in the market, I'd be damned if I'd spend my time and effort trying to make it seem like that was special. Hell, I ought to be expected to have it if my bar has any sort of beer rep at all.

Maybe it's just me riding my same old hobbyhorse, but I see things slowly sliding completely toward the trying to keep up with the expectations of the Bigger-the Better Beer Geeks scenario, catering to the people who are always screaming for the Next Big Thing and the Beer They Can't Get...and who then move on to the next Next Big Thing without a backward glance.

Spending time and money to scream Look at me! Look at me! I got it! I got it! when everybody else is doing the same damned thing is nothing but a chump's game in the end. And it's boring.

[Posted 7:00 pm edt]

"I was misinformed."
That famous quote works here because, while I didn't exactly "come...for the waters" the way Humphrey Bogart claimed in Casablanca, I did describe my bottle of Heavyweight Doug's Colonial Ale yesterday based on information on the Drafting Room Exton menu for the Heavyweight Farewell bash on Saturday. I mean, if I can't trust Patrick Mullin, who can I trust?

Don't answer that.

In any case, thank the beer gods for Eric G., even though he is a BeerAdvocate. As a loyal follower of these sometimes coherent ramblings, he was right on the case as soon as he saw me describe Doug's this way in my last posting:

an 8.5% Wee Heavy made with 30 lbs. of Mexican sugar and 10 lbs. of raisins which I haven't tried yet
likely snickering to himself as he emailed me the facts:
I was just reading your latest update on your site. The program at TDR seems to have had the wrong info. Doug's is actually only a 5% (I forget what Tom said at the last OH) Brown ale. But its a great beer. The description they gave was actually for HW Wee Whale, which was a 8.5% Wee Heavy.
Thanks, Eric, and you're right. On both counts. The description was screwed up and Doug's is, in fact, a very nice beer. Surprisingly, a couple of people who shall remain nameless were steering me off it on Saturday.

I should have picked this up myself, admitted, have quoted Tom Baker thusly, when I broke the story of Heavyweight's closing over at The Beer Yard on May 22:

"Doug's Colonial Ale [is] a beer I made with Doug Duschell, a North Jersey homebrewer, using his recipe of 50% Brumalt and 50% Pale malt. The Brumalt really gives it an interesting flavor."
I opened one of my bottles last night and agree completely, right down to the "interesting flavor" part. Chocolatey, malty, just good drinkin' stuff.

For what it's worth, this beer was also cited as one of his favorites last Saturday by Sly Fox's Brian O'Reilly yesterday afternoon when I saw him at the Royersford brewery shortly after they finished up the first-ever bottling of Sly Fox Oktoberfest, which will become available at both Fox locations, draught and in 22oz bottles, on Friday (see the story I just posted this morning on the Sly Fox website.

[Posted 8:50 am edt]

9 August 2006
'Til we meet again.
The Heavyweight Farewell at Drafting Room Exton on Saturday was a great affair. The place was packed when I arrived around 1:30, got even more so when Tom and Peggy pulled in just shy of 2 and was still going strong when I left at 4. Fifteen beers, a couple hundred beer geeks and reason to party--need I say more?

The best beer of the afternoon, one I'd not had before, was the BockBock ("double Bock," get it?), big (8%) and deliciously malty, so I had two. Also had two Biere d'Arts because that's my all-time favorite Tom Baker concoction.

I also sampled the Baltus O.V.S., another personal favorite; Slice of Bread, made with bread yeast, flaked and malted rye and caraway seeds, and cask-conditioned Jakeldricka, the most controversial brew of the day. Anyone I talked to about this Gotland, or Viking, style was confused, it seemed. Sour? Hoppy? Both? What's up with that? And what are those other strange flavors? Personally, I was intrigued and though it kind of refreshing, though I'm not sure I'd want to be faced with more than a pint at a time. It's made with "Smoked, pale, rye, wheat and sour malts, Juniper, German hops, Blessed Thistle, Bog Myrtle, bread yeast and birch bark" (I think I saw Peggy have a salad just like that once) and then aged in whiskey wood.

I'd asked Tom and Peggy to put together a case for me and bring it along, since I missed their final Open House, saying that I wanted at least half of it Biere d'Art and the rest bottles of their choice. One of those choices, along with Black Ocean Dark Lager and Doug's Colonial Ale (an 8.5% Wee Heavy made with 30 lbs. of Mexican sugar and 10 lbs. of raisins which I haven't tried yet), was a bottle of the Jakeldricka, so I may have further comments about it somewhere down the road.

Just as we'll all see Tom and Peggy again somewhere, someplace, somewhen. Can't wait...

Besides, I owe them a beer or three.

BIG FAT LEW Not So Fat Any More.
No, that's not a gratuitous attack--those are more subtle--but the title of a marvelous "First Person" piece by Wasting-Away Lew in the latest Ale Street News. It's not available on line or I'd link to it immediately, because in addition to being well-written, amusing and even touching, this is an important story that a lot of people need to read. You know who you are.

Lew talks about coming to grips with the fact that he was "morbidly obese" and that he was killing himself and how he turned things around after a late night talk with his wife, the wonderful Cathy, and the help of Weight Watchers. He's lost more than 60 lbs. and his new, trimmer self was resplendent at the Heavyweight Farewell in a brand new seersucker suit, which Wanderin' Joe Meloney, his brains cells not yet all destroyed, ingeniously dubbed a beersucker suit. We'd show you a photo of same, but the photos didn't turn out. Wonderful Cathy? Not so wonderful behind the lens.

It is a great story. Seek out the latest ASNRight now. Go on. Don't make me have to come over there.

One little thing, though (you knew there'd be something, didn't you?)...

Bryson writes:

I knew that I was dying on my trip to the Czech Republic last year. My friend Jack Curtin noticed it: "...a tour of the Castle Ceske Krumlov involved a strenuous walk up a very long and very steep hill, during which it appeared that we might kill Bryson. I was very worried...because if he went down, he was likely to take me with him."
Yes, I wrote those very words right here (it's under "Day Two") last year. The ellipses that Mr. Bryson employs above removed these rather significant words:
Not because I love him like a brother but because I was walking behind him and...
There I am, acknowledging that he is, figuratively, my brother, and he takes it out, Now, why would he do that, especially with my having called attention to the issue and thus helped save his life and all? Why? So he could take a shot at me two paragraphs later:
Then one night my wife. who is a more sensitive person than Jack on her worst day, asked me why I was unhappy...
Now, that's gratuitous.

Seriously, go read Lew's story. You'll laugh, you'll cry and maybe you'll go look in the mirror. Like I said, you know who you are. Maybe it's not just his own life that Lew's saving here.

Good on you, Big (while I can still use that appellation) Guy.

I will have to get even, however.

Czeching out.
Speaking of the Czech Republic, this week's Sunday New York Times had a great travel piece by Prague native Evan Rail called The Ultimate Beer Run in the Czech Republic. Here are the opening paragraphs:

In the jagged Jizera Mountains of the northern Czech Republic, the village of Stary Harcov seems an unlikely place for an epicurean pilgrimage. Driving through a dark forest on a linden-lined lane barely wide enough for a single Skoda, I approached a row of timber-framed houses that felt as idyllic and lazy as a Sierra Nevada ski town in midsummer. The only sound was the buzzing of insects from a nearby meadow.

But as the sun set, a crowd formed outside a barnlike family house, taking seats at three roughhewn picnic tables in the front yard. Dressed in T-shirts and plumbers’ coveralls, they lined up at a small window, fetching half-liters of Vendelin, a honey-colored lager, as if it were liquid gold, even though the price of 15 koruna (roughly $.70) was only about half the usual rate for a Czech beer.

Why travel all this way, near the borders of Poland and Germany, for a cold one? For starters, the beer is outstanding, with an unusually complex aroma: a bouquet of apricot blossoms with a note of fresh-baked bread, like fruit jam on sourdough toast. In the mouth, the taste is rich and sugary followed by a long, crisp finish. But more importantly, this is the only place where you can sip this particular Czech lager. Brewed in small batches in a tumbledown shed by the owner and namesake, Vendelin Krkoska, the beer has a distribution zone of about two mountain meadows. It is available nowhere else, and nothing else I’ve ever tasted is quite like it.

Man, reading this has me dreaming of going back. Not only the descriptions of the outstanding beers, but that thing about $29 hotel rooms which comes later on...

As I mentioned two days ago, my own story on visiting brewpubs in Prague is in the new Celebrator Beer News and available onsite. What I didn't do then, and should have, was link to the original story of our visit the Czech Republic, which ran in CBN last year at this time. Bad me. Here's that link.

It would be cruel to point out that the The Slim(mer)One is, um, really stringing out the suspense in his report on that same adventure, wouldn't it? When last we left Lew's account, he was farting in the night, showing photographs of his kids to disgruntled British women and making us all a promise: Expect me to pick up the pace on this one! I remember the very first time I read that line, because I had to go out and clear the snow off the car right afterwards. Like I said, bringing that up now would be cruel.

But, like they say, payback is a bitch.

Finally, in one of those wonderful synchronistic moments, I got an email from Honza Kocka this very morning. He's the Czech beer guy who arranged our brewpub tour that Sunday in Prague. Turns out he'll be at GABF this year and is looking to have the favor returned with intros to some East Coast brewers. If I can find any of those who are still talking to me, I'm his man.

[Posted 2:05 pm edt]

7 August 2006
Dead tree report.
As of yesterday, the August/September issue of Celebrator Beer News (as long as copies last) was available at The Beer Yard ('cause that nice Mr. Guyer makes this distribution possible by paying the freight--literally) at Monk's Cafe´, Nodding Head, Standard Tap and (new to our distribution route) South Philadelphia Taproom in the city and Sly Fox Phoenixville, Drafting Room Exton and Victory Brewing Company in the western suburbs.

That's all we got. Sorry.

However, as is my practice, I've put up my own contributions to the issue onsite for your reading convenience (and my ego boost).

The every-issue Atlantic Ale Trail is here; the focus this time is on the 20th anniversary for the oldest microbrewery East of the Mississippi, Maine's D.L. Geary, and the closing of New Jersey's Heavyweight Brewing (to be reborn as something quite different).

Over here is Morse Road, a look at the career of Tim Morse, who got into the brewing game at Anchor Brewing in 1977 and eventually became the founding brewer for the John Harvard's chain. The story ends with Morse still at Harvard's and saying "I'm just waiting for the next big thing to happen." Well, for him, it has; I received this email from Tim on July 22, long after the CBN issue had gone to bed...

I start as the Brewery Project Specialist at Hanna Instruments in August. We will be developing a line of parameter specific instruments for beer analysis
followed by this on July 25 when I asked for more details:
This is an opportunity I could not let pass. These guys are making a line of small lab instruments that will make life easier for brewers, from the micro to macro. They already have a line of wine equipment ["Wineline"], and now they are going into beer analytical/single parameter instruments.

No, JH isn't changing, or going under, just banging along with the contract project and other recreation side endeavors.

Finally, there's a story titled Light Lager or Dark Lager?, which is a revamped, somewhat extended version of a never-printed sidebar to my story on visiting the Czech Republic and Budvar which ran in CBN last Fall. I've been trying to find a home for this since it was cut for lack-of-space and it finally happened right back where it started from, because this was the annual Travel issue.

One of my favorite writers of fantasy fiction, Harlan Ellison, taught me, when I was following him around for my first-ever national magazine piece many, many years ago (and, okay, it was this less-than-classy magazine, but a national sale is a national sale, y'know?) that you never let anything go to waste and sell every story as many times and places as you can. In actual fact, this was the second article of mine they used, having asking me revamp and update a story what had originally run in Philadelphia Magazine which I'd send in as an example of my work with the Ellison query and using it the month before. But I count the Ellison profile as my first since it was the first one explicitly written for a national magazine. Sadly, they screwed up the editing so badly that I called the editor in a screaming rage and that was the end of that market. Or maybe, not so sadly.

That's it. At ease. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

The complete July 2006 postings have been archived here.

[Posted 5:30 pm edt]

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

--A. E. Houseman


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