I drink no cider,
but feast on
Philadelphia beer.

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in a letter to his wife Abigail



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29 January 2006
Did you hear about Kunda and Friedland?
I've just posted the longest story in Beer Yard history over there, about the Kunda acquisition of Friedland, a story which, as far as I know, nobody's written about to any extent previously. It's exclusive stuff. Go read.

This sort of in-depth reporting is something I plan to do a lot more on Matt's site, treating it as my local news outlet (just as Celebrator Beer News is my national outlet, American Brewer my beer trade outlet and, if things go well, Beers of the World my international one). One of the things that's frustrated me since I gave up the Eastern PA column in Mid-Atlantic Brewing News has been that my appearances in its pages, or those of Ale Street News, are infrequent and generally consist of second level features (the lot of the freelancer) and I have so much more to say.

So I've decided to do something about it.

This is the result of my promise of some forthcoming changes here at LDO, made here back in December. Those changes aren't quite as dramatic as originally planned, which is probably a good thing, but they will mean more of a focus on day-to-day news coverage at the Beer Yard and something of a closer tie-in between its news section and LDO, where I'll continue to be annoyingly opinionated and, y'know, personal. For example, I have lots of information and inside Kunda/Friedland stuff I couldn't work into today's news story and I'll be rolling that material out right here as time and situations warrant.

We'll also be expanding the Beer Yard Events listings to cover a wider area--assuming I get the cooperation of brewers and publicans everywhere, not necessarily a safe assumption. The overall plan is to get bigger and better and, between both sites and the immediacy of the web, to provide you guys with as much up-to-the-minute beer news and talk as you can handle ("talk" may even involve the addition of an interactive message board here onsite, though that's still in the embryonic stage).

Stay tuned.

[Posted 5:00 pm edt]

We are all sisters beneath the skin.
So there I was as the Dabback party Thursday night (scroll down), watching middle-aged suburban white people try to dance--never a pretty sight--when I noticed something that struck a familiar chord.

There were sweet, gentle, ungrammatical Steve (The Other One) Rubeo and sarcastic, cynical Bob Riker pushing through the crowd, on their way to get another beer.

You know what it reminded me of?

Chicks, you should excuse the expression, going to the ladies' room.

You've seen it. Hell, you've done it.

Two guys are standing around talking, drinking their brews. One of 'em says I have to go get another. Invariably, the second guy says Me too.

Chicks going to the ladies'.

Now I gotta think getting a beer is, y'know, a more pleasant shared experience than going to pee.

Together or alone.

But since I haven't been in a ladies's room (that I can recall), it might be, for all I know, a really fun place to experience with a friend.

Right.

Damn, this has been insightful. I shoulda been a sociologist or an urban archeologist or something.

What about the children? For God's sake, what about the children?

I mean, if we can't protect children from unseemly art on cases in beer distributorships (where they are apparently known to flock in large numbers daily in some areas), however can we maintain a civilized society?

In the spirit of the name subject to change, depending on how it polls, although, of course this White House never, I say never, makes judgements based upon the polls Terrorist Surveillance Program, I say we stamp out this indecency now.

The image above is the artwork on cases of Legacy Brewing Hedonism, just the way you'll see them now being sold in beer stores all over the state.

Except for some.

Here's the story.

And here's the way the "censored" boxes are being sold by people with high moral standards and equally high levels of greed which preclude their just not carrying the offensive stuff:

Can this country become any more repressed and stupid?

That's a rhetorical question.

[Posted 8:08 am edt]

28 January 2006
Lots of chalk and a really big gun.
I discovered a couple of pretty impressive things Thursday night, involving striking artistic expression in a most unusual medium and, of all things, a spectacularly booming cannon.

First off, since I don't think it's been mentioned here before, Sly Fox brewer Brian Paul O'Reilly will wed Ms. Whitney Patience Dabback on February 25 and the Dabback family used what I believe is an annual winter bash at their Phoenixville digs (an old schoolhouse) to celebrate the occasion.

Lots of food and lots of beer (Sly Fox, of course, and Gang Aft Agley proved to be a fine warmer for a very cold evening), plus music by local guy Charlie Zahn. A goodly sampling of O'Reilly's pals made the scene, as did his parents, all mingling with the (I assume) regular crowd, many of them schoolteachers since Pete Dabback is one himself. Many of said teachers seemed to be eyeing Steve (The Other One) Rubeo throughout the evening, clearly wondering if it would be appropriate to send him to detention once last once.

The rear wall of the main room for the event is an old blackboard, maybe 30 feet in length. You wouldn't know that a first glance, because it appears to be a giant framed watercolor of a wintery scene. Up close, though, or when somebody points it out to you, you discover that the artwork is all done on the blackboard itself--in chalk (!)--by local artist Pat Young, who is a jewelry designer at the well known and respected Calhoun Jewelers in Royersford and will soon be opening his art gallery in nearby Spring City. Young, who signs his work with his middle name, Murray, does one of these chalkboard pieces annually for the Dabbacks and photos of previous year's work are displayed around the room.

I was blown away, though I have to admit that the nasty little boy locked away deep inside of me was intrigued about how much fun it would be to attend one of these parties with an eraser in your pocket and periodically go up and wipe away bite of the drawing to see how long before people began to notice. Which, of course, is exactly why he is locked away.

The evening's other major event, the usual centerpiece of this gathering each year as best I can determine, is the firing of a large cannon out behind the building. That was noted on the invitation and those who had been there before made a point of telling us new folks that it was really loud.

What nobody warned about was that the cannon is set on a small hill overlooking the road which runs in front of the house and is fired right down and across its width. Anybody driving up there as it happens would have to be scared out of their wits. And loud? Loud doesn't begin to cover it. Even forewarned, I, and most everybody around me, literally jumped in shock when the blast went off. I'd assume it could be heard for miles.

The blast must have been even louder as it went higher, because one really tall guy in the crowd splashed beer all over himself in his reaction. Not all tall people were so affected. Dan (The Big One) Bengel remained as dry as his often subtle wit. Then again, Big Dan never, ever spills beer. It's just not in his genetic makeup.

Questions, we get questions.
I get email questions here about one aspect or another of the beer world with some regularity, as you might expect, and they're not always about rare and sought-after craft beers. Here's one from this week that reflects the old adage that everything is somebody's favorite:

I was looking at an old website of yours and was wondering if you could answer a question about the old malt beverage Hop'n Gator. It used to be a favorite of ours in our younger drinking days. Did it ever make a comeback or is there anything close to it in flavor? Any help you can give would be appreciated.
Best I could do for him, after an internet search, was to determine that Hop 'N Gator, which was originally produced in the '70s, was reintroduced by Pittsburgh Brewing Co. in the spring of 2004. Whether it's still in production was unclear, but given that Pittsburgh (brewers of Iron City) filed from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy last month, I suspect they have other things on their minds.

[Posted 9:58 am edt]

27 January 2006
Infuriating statements (one of a series, collect 'em all).
I just came across this story at CNNMoney.com. It's about the forthcoming campaign to "revamp" beer's image which Anheuser-Busch and the other Big Bland producers will introduce next month.

This, believe it or not, is a conclusion offer therein by David Ozgo, chief economist for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS):

"The big difference between beer and spirits is that spirits like vodka and Scotch offer consumers a wide range of flavors and mixable options and you can buy them in a range of price points."
Don't ya wanna just smack "experts" sometimes? Really, don't ya?

[Posted 9:20 am edt]

26 January 2006
What's in a name?
Following up on the NYT story on barleywines I linked to in my 24 January posting, I was struck by this:

[M]any barley wines come equipped with gnarly sorts of names, like Horn Dog, Old Numbskull, Bigfoot, Blithering Idiot and even Old Howling Bastard. Perhaps they see Hobbits as a target audience, but one thing is clear.

"Obviously, these aren't being marketed for women," Ms. Fabricant noted.

The fraternity of brewers might well consider whether they are missing out on a significant market. Who wouldn't like Anchor's Old Foghorn, one of the first American barley wines, with its bright, balanced flavors, or even the entry from the Netherlands, the Nieuw Ligt Grand Cru 2003, from De Hemel, a complex, unusual brew in which Ms. Fabricant found an intriguing bitter orange quality?

"Ms. Fabricant" is Florence Fabricant, a Times food writer who usually participates in Eric Asimov's periodic beer tastings (they were joined this time by Brooklyn Brewing's Garrett Oliver and Southampton Publick House's Phil Markowski).

Are some craft brewers, in a manner similar to, and yet vastly differently from, the way the Big Blands offend many discriminating consumers with their sophomoric and sexist advertising, perhaps turning off an important and slowly growing segment of the market with "cool guy stuff" such as the names cited above (which I admittedly like a lot)?

It's an interesting question. I wonder how Golden Showers will play with...oh wait, I forgot. That's Dogfish. Sam, god bless him, can get away with anything.

Beatification, Synergy and Gnomettes.
The West Coast Beer Dinner at Monk's Cafe Tuesday night (which I also referenced in the 24 January posting) was the usual fun evening, good food and good beer. The traditional big honkin' piece of meat entree this time around was Tuna Wellington, an amazingly moist and tasty variation of Beef Wellington. Cheers to chef Adam Glickman and the gang in the kitchen.

The beers from Pizza Port and Russian River were, of course, excellent, although I agree with The Guy Who Will Never Learn (he posted his comments at BeerAdvocate.com and was immediately under siege for...well, it wasn't quite clear what) that a bit more variety might have been nice. Among those poured, I was particularly taken with two which had never been served before according to the brewers.

Beatification, another "tion" beer from Russian River, was aged in a La Folie barrel from New Belgium, the barrel in fact which New Belgium felt made the best La Folie ever, according to Vinnie Cilurzo. Synergy, from Pizza Port, was the only beer Tomme Arthur brought which did not involve the use of sour cherries, and that alone could be why it stood out (not really, it was just a very good beer).

I got to Monk's a couple of hours early to interview Tom Peters for a story I'm writing about him and Monk's for the new London-base beer magazine, Beers of the World, and to spend some time with Tomme and Vinnie. Because of that, and my impeccable timing, I became the first person to taste La Gnomette, an experimental beer created by Les Trois Fourquets, a tiny brewpub owned by Brasserie d'Achouffe.

This was an unfiltered beer brewed with Pilsner Malt and Tomahawk Hops and no spices whatsoever and it was incredibly sweet, too much so for my tastes, but certainly interesting to try, especially since so few people ever will. Apparently, Les Trois Fourquets does an "experimental" every six to eight weeks, pretty much just because they can. These are pure one-offs, something for the brewers to have fun with.

Only nine kegs came to the U.S. and Monk's got four of them....an oh-so-typical situation which is a really good example of why, whenever the silly bleating of the misinformed which periodically arises to deride the reality of Monk's is heard in the land, those who understand and appreciate what a treasure this "neighborhood pub" is for the city and the region can only shake their heads in bemusement and sorrow.

Consider that a public service announcement.

[Posted 4:55 pm edt]

24 January 2006
Around the web.
Hie thyselves over to the Beer Yard site. I just posted news from Iron Hill about their Phoenixville pub opening and those Kennett Square rumors here and more news about Port Brewing and new news from Russian River Brewing here.

Eric Asimov and a tasting panel explore Barleywines, as reported in this New York Times story this morning.

And, finally, here's Sam Calagione, being prudent and circumspect so as not to hurt anyone's feelings in Entrepreneur Magazine:

"We make our beer for the minority who care more about what's happening inside the bottle than all the marketing bullshit happening outside the bottle."

[Posted 12:00 pm edt]

21 January 2006
Name that fermenter.
Want to make a name for yourself in craft brewing without having to break a sweat? All you need is a checkbook...and a nice big bank account to back it up.

Fame and beer immortality await you at this eBay auction.

This link, I should acknowledge, was brought to my attention by someone those of you who hang on every word around here will recognize, the former Emperor of Laredo, the guy who flew across country to help me move from there to here and who apparently wastes away mindless hours prowling through eBay when he doesn't have me around to give something to do (although you'd think his wife would take care of that, wouldn't you?).

Thanks, buddy.

Maybe God doesn't love us after all.
I've seen absolutely no reaction in the beer world to the story from the most recent Mid-Atlantic Brewing News which I discuss in the latter part of this posting I added yesterday to I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing, my blog-that-isn't-a-beer-blog.

If this guy is right, one of our most beloved quotes and a passel of tee-shirts and bar signs needs must be junked.

[Posted 3:00 pm edt]

19 January 2006
Just when you think it can't get any stupider...
...Alabama* comes through.. The way to stop pending keg registration laws? Agree to do away with keg sales, period.

I'm reminded of the famous Vietnam War copout:

We had to destroy this village in order to save it.
*Editorial Note: the link above previously read "Georgia" rather than "Alabama" 'cause I made a stupid error; this astute observer took great pleasure in catching it and letting me know, which means I have to thank him, dammit).

More on Port Brewing.
Following up on the Port Brewing purchase of the old Stone Brewing facility which I mentioned a couple of days ago (scroll down to Things I'm Hearing).

The Pizza Port folks are not buying everything. Stone is taking/has taken its bottling line and all the larger fermenters, so Port is starting out essentially in the same place Stone was in the beginning, with the orginal 30 barrel brewhouse and several 30-barrel fermenters (plus a Maheen bottling line they already own).

And here's an interesting factoid, courtesy of Stone's Greg Koch:

Pizza Port was the very first place that ever put on a keg of Stone beer, back in 1996.

More link stuff.
I've done further housekeeping and cleaning up to the link list to the left, rearranged things so that online beer pages are at the top, adding a few headline breakers to clarify what's what and otherwise making valuable use of my time rather than sitting here and staring at a blank computer screen which should be teeming with sparkling sentences in a story which is nearly two weeks' overdue.

Whatever gets ya through, ya know?

[Posted 5:25 pm edt; Revised (grimacing) 22 January 4:05 pm edt]

15 January 2006
Well I'll be googled.
Not me exactly. Beer. Check this out. Very cool.

I've clued them in on a couple of omissions I caught right away (Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda's are not shown on the Philly map) and I've added the URL to the links listed on the left side of this page.

Everybody's getting into the act.
Courtesy of the ever-vigilant Rick Mayberry, I direct your attention, such as it is, to this Wharton School overview of efforts being undertaken to try and upgrade beer's image among consumers, with emphasis of mine added to this nugget paragraph:

Anheuser-Busch, based in St. Louis, Mo., and its competitors are developing an industry-wide marketing campaign aimed at overhauling the image of the humble beer and staunching its declining share of the alcoholic beverage market. But Wharton faculty members say the campaign won't be easy. Tweaking a product's image is one thing, but revamping an image in such an all-encompassing manner is a big stretch. Yet they also suggest that the Anheuser-spearheaded effort stands a good chance of enhancing the appeal of microbreweries and perhaps some mass-market beers, like Michelob, that have already carved out a higher-end image. In addition, it may be possible to change the overall image of beer slowly over time if the industry gives the effort years to take hold.
There's a lot in this piece which is wrong-headed at best, and some of it just plain stupid, but it's worth a read. One hopes, for example, that execs at A-B, Coors and the other biggies whose declining sales and profits have dragged them, kicking and screaming, to where the craft folks have been trying to take them all along, will note comments such as this one:
[Wharton School Associate Professor of Marketing Patricia] Williams agrees, noting that an industry campaign focused on the finer points of beer can be readily undercut by the kind of sophomoric TV ads that breweries have relied on for years. "If the individual manufacturers don't change their advertising, what kind of impact is an industry campaign going to have?" she asks. "If one of the major manufacturers has a Super Bowl ad where two people are on a sled on a romantic night and the horse pulling the sled passes wind in their faces [the theme of a Bud Light ad during the 2004 Super Bowl], what kind of help is the industry campaign going to be?"
Hey, as I've been saying all along and as the emphasized comment in the first paragraph suggests, regardless of the reasons why or even their unspoken intentions, when the Buds of the world start talking our kind of talk (and creating their own "craft" beers and trying to prop up their house distributorships through distribution agreements with craft breweries), it's all good.

More new bookmarks.
I've added Appellation Beer a relatively new beer blog by Stan Hieronymus, and Beer Therapy, a new blog at realbeer.com, to the links listings this morning, as well as the map link noted above. There are probably some others in there I've put up and forgot to mention, so scroll around and explore. That's what it's there for. That, and to allow me to have a ready source of beer links I find valuable. See, self-serving isn't always bad.

Things I'm hearing.
I spent an hour chatting with Stone Brewing's Greg Koch yesterday for a story (and I'll have to subject the poor man to the same thing again tomorrow because my tape recorder malfunctioned) and he told that he expects to have the restaurant and beer garden at Stone's just-moved-into new brewery up and running by late April or early May and that (I think this is breaking news, but I may have missed any earlier stories) Port Brewing Company, the umbrella entity which is the three Pizza Port locations, will sign an agreement tomorrow to purchase the old Stone brewery and will begin bottling its products.

Also due to be completed this week, I'm told, is the purchase of Frederick Brewing Co. by Colorado's Flying Dog Brewery. My call to my contact at Flying Dog has so far gone unanswered.

Somebody is looking for a brewery site in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties section (and, no, it's not Nodding Head this time). This one is one of those everything old is new again stories.

And, oh yeah. Sam Calagione continues his increasingly aggressive effort to take over the world. I wrote about it on the Beer Yard site yesterday. I just wonder what he does in his spare time.

[Posted 12:45 pm edt]

12 January 2006
The beer revolution in Calabria is on hold.
I spent a half hour on the phone the other day with Heavyweight Brewing's Tom Baker to get this story.

He also updated me on a story I wrote for Ale Street News last year about two brothers from Calabria, Italy, who learned to brew from Tom and Gretchen Schmidhausler, the brewer at Basil T's Restaurant & Italian Grill in Red Bank, NJ and went back home to start their own brewery. That story has now been posted here, to bring you up to speed.

All caught up? Good. Here's what Tom had to say:

[Frank and Pat] never really things got off the ground in 2005. They never got all the licensing and permits they needed in order to open. They did all the equipment installed, though, and did a test brew. Frank is back in the U.S.--he came and helped me with a brew last week--and he brought me some of their beer, which was fairly good. And Pat's coming over next week.

They've revised the concept of their brewery and decided it will be a seasonal business, operating from April through October, the tourist season, then spend the winter with their family in this country. So I guess they'll go back to Italy this March and be ready to open in April.

They do things a little differently in Italy, y'know?

The little brewery that cried Wolf?
I also, of course, asked Tom Baker about the usual January rumors that he's shutting down his brewery and moving on. He laughed and answered, as he has before,
We're still here, doing what we do.
So where do these stories come from? Another laugh.
We start them. It's fun. The only regret I have this year is that one story we floated, that we were going to leave New Jersey and move over to Kensington to share space with Yards, never got off the ground. That was a good one.
Okay, beer geeks, breath easy.

Until next January.

[Posted 8:30 pm edt]

11 January 2006
A homebrewer's tale.
Ted Johnston, LDO regular, soccer dad, homebrewer and, scarily, one of the men on ramparts at the nearby Limerick nuclear plant who protect us from going all glowing and radioactive, checks in today with a fun story:

Just saw your comment about [construction progress on] the forthcoming Iron Hill in Phoenixville and thought that I'd let you know that there are already three beers from Iron Hill fermenting in Phoenixville and one is a joint venture with Sly Fox.

OK, it's just kind of true, but here are the facts.

Chris LaPierre at IH West Chester brewed his golden barleywine on December 30. This is a delicious pale barleywine brewed with 100% German pilsner malt and lots of hops. I think he was inspired a couple of years ago by the pale barleywine from Elysian brewing in Seattle. To get the high gravity (10.5%), Chris needs to do two mashes and only puts the first runnings from both into the brew kettle. He doesn't have a place to store the second runnings, so last year, a couple of homebrews got some buckets filled with some of the second runnings but the rest got dumped down the drain.

This year, twelve homebrews showed up and each got a bucket or two of the second runnings with which to make their own beers. I ended up with 12 gallons, which I split into three different batches the next day. Each brewer could make any style of beer by adding speciality grains and hops and up to one additional pound of fermentables. The idea was to make beers in which the character of the original Iron Hill base malt can still be detected but to see what else can be done with the same base. Upon completion, we will give Chris a portion of our beers and he will select the best/most interesting beers, which will then be served at a beer dinner at Iron Hill.

So I have three "Iron Hill" beers fermenting in my cellar in Phoenixville. The joint venture with Sly Fox came about because I needed a Belgian yeast for one batch and almost every Belgian yeast in the local stores were sold out over the holidays. However, Tom Foley had just started a batch with a Belgian yeast that he got from Sly Fox. So Tom let me siphon off a pint of yeast from his fermenter and I made a beer with grain from Iron Hill and yeast from Sly Fox.

The main point of all this is actually about Chris making his golden barleywine again. It was their 1000th batch and so he used 1000 ounces of hops this time around. I'm looking forward to having this beer again and will keep you posted about its release.

If you want to know more about Iron Hill'a 1000th beer, I wrote about it over here as last year drew to a close.

Pesky facts get in the way of a good story.
Mr. Bryson backs off (just a bit) his breweries-run-rampant-in-Kennett Square reporting with a correction posted here the other day. Also, either in a BeerAdvocate posting or a note to me, I forget which, he acknowledged that some information about the supposed suitors for brewpub sites in my old home town which he posted at BA was a bit of misdirection to mess with minds.

Otherwise, he stands completely behind the story. Or not.

Seriously, as Lew writes, there are two breweries reportedly looking at a Kennett site. The identity of one should be obvious (I mean, who would you expect?), but the other one, I admit, shocked me.

In looking into this, I've discovered that, for some inexplicable reason, the powers-that-be in KS get their panties all in a twist when anybody brings the topic up (man, I thought they were anal out there when I a kid prowling the town's mean streets), so I'm not going to talk about this any more unless one of the breweries wants to go on the record. And, yes, I'll ask.

[Posted 9:10 am edt]

8 January 2006
I'll believe it when I see it. And maybe not even then.
Wha's-ziz-name is reporting this today:

Kennett Square: the new brewpub capital? Fairly solid rumors coming out of Kennett Square indicate the possibility of two brewpubs coming to town, perhaps as early as late 2006. One, still in the exploration stage, would be a branch of a local chain (Hmmm, wonder who?), but the other, further along in negotiations, would be a brewpub expansion for an area production brewery.
The clues given, plus further posting by the Big Guy at BeerAdvocate.com (will he ever learn?), would seem to indicate that the invaders would be coming north from Delaware and east from Harrisburg, but that's pure conjecture.

Hey, I got nuttin' here. It's all news to me. And, in a strange way, that's kinda nice. All the secrets in this business seem, of late, to come rushing out into the streets, all flirtatious and flashing their undies and taking away the mystery and fun.

Here's the thing, though. If this comes true and Phoenixville will have three brewpubs (that promised January opening for Iron Hill there seems improbable, but construction is proceeded rapidly at this point) and Kennett Square will have three brewpubs, tying Philadelphia (If you count Manayunk as part of the city and, while it is, most people think of the town as a separate entity altogether) and surpassing everyplace else in the Commonwealth, well...

End Times may be upon us--things falling apart, center not holding and a rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouching toward us from Newtown and all that....

Hey, I've lived in and around Phoenixville for eight years now and it's one of my favorite places. And I grew up in Kennett Square (although we were just a way station for wagon trains in those days), so I'm all in for this if it's gonna happen.

Shucks, maybe I'll move back to the old home town, get me a high-paying job with some architectural firm or other and give up this gig to live in luxury into my decline years.

I mean, anything can happen.

Apparently.

[Posted 3:55 pm edt]

3 January 2006
Showin' a little righteous love.
That nice Mr. Bryson's Best of 2005 is up at his website and it's all good.

I might quibble here and there, of course, 'cause that's what I do, especially with Lew, just to keep him on his toes (and see how long he can stand there like that).

For example, as much as I loved the Sly Fox St. Charles Pilsner and am still baffled at how it didn't earn a GABF medal, I'd have probably chosen Victory Braumeister Harvest Pils as Best New Beer of the Year. I was really taken with that beer. On the other hand, that choice might also have been a consequence of the ambivalence I feel whenever discussing Sly Fox here, or in print. Because of my (relatively minor but real) working relationship with them, I'm forever leery of seeming to favor the company or good buddy Brian O'Reilly and, really, that's just as unfair to them as unwarranted praise would be to my readers.

Let me say on the record, then (and, yes, go ahead and accuse me of using Lew for a bit of protective cover), that Sly Fox is clearly more than deserving of selection as Best Local Brewery 2005. Heck, it would be difficult not to pick 'em, the way he lays out the case.

I also heartily endorse his comments on the excellence of Urthel beers. As I wrote here the day after the Beer Dinner at Monk's Cafe Lew references, I cannot remember ever before being so impressed with a presentation of beers, top to bottom, in a single sitting.

So here's the thing. The Big Guy has skillfully rendered any consideration I had of doing a "Best Of" to the land of afterthought. Just go read what he has to say and figure I'm on board.

Oh, and one more thing. Although I realize that it would surely have been great fun, I did not wrestle with the lovely Mrs. Bryson for days, no matter what Lew says.

UPDATE: Lew has gone back and changed a bit of awkward phrasing in his original so that the previous paragraph no longer makes any sense, but I think I'll leave it anyway. Use your imaginations...

[Posted 4:10 pm edt, Updated 4:55 pm edt]

"Drinking beer in Australia produced by Japanese or New Zealand-owned companies is like going to Paris and eating kangaroo meat."
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to direct your attention to The Pub with No Beer Brewery.

If this guy can start a Good Beer Culture Down Under, God bless him.

Not exactly clear what this is all about? join the crowd.

It's Australian for "WTF?" mate.

[Posted 3:25 pm edt]

2 January 2006
Hey, it's still a holiday!
I awakened fresh and lively his morning, all ready to get back to work, which at the moment mainly involves calling and interviewing lots of people to put a couple of stories I'm working on, only to discover that most of the world is apparently still kicking back and enjoying the birth of 2006. Damn, I gotta start paying more attention. I could have stayed home today. Oh, wait...

For me, the New Year's celebration began, and ended, at the annual New Year's Eve Brunch and Mass Beer Consumption gathering at the humble abode of Big Dan and Affable Kelly Saturday afternoon. The first few times I attended this event, which I learned to my astonishment has been going on for 25 years, I got hopelessly lost on the way home (something I used to refer to as the Pottstown Curse), but now that I'm a neighbor (of sorts) I went, ate, drank and left with confidence. Kinda took all the adventure out of it, to tell you the truth.

Dan's theme was Mexican this year (food-wise, that is; if that had also been the case for the beer, it would have been a pretty short celebration) and the high spot of the brunch part of the day (there is a dinner eventually prepared as well, I'm told, but I always leave by late afternoon) was a sweet potato Quesadilla which he made with, obviously, sweet potatoes (of which I am minimally fond), two cheeses and four or five very hot peppers. Marvelous, truly marvelous.

Like anybody who visits here cares about food, right? So on to the beer...

The first beer proffered was Southampton Publick House Cuvee des Fleurs, which is a fine way to start a morning, trust me. A bottle of Victory V-12 was next, definitely changing the tone, but not the quality. It gets a bit fuzzy after that, as I didn't take notes and can't go down the list or order of everything that was poured during my three-plus hours on the scene.

I most certainly recall bottles of Vuuve and Belle Dock Barleywine, both brewed by Scott "The Dude" Morrison at McKenzie Brew House (the latter was first done at the now closed New Haven Brewing Company in the early '90s--one batch only, if I'm remembering correctly--and the Dude had a hand in formulating the original recipe) and a Stone Double Bastard, plus a couple of big Allagash bottles. Brother Adam's Braggot Honey Ale from Maine's Atlantic Brewing was being opened as I was leaving.

And then there were the two bottles I brought. BIG bottles.

One was the 3-Liter Troegs Mad Elf that I wrote about last month and it was downed, no surprise, Real Fast. Great beer, and I managed to remember to bring the bottle home as well. Numbered (004 of 500) and signed by Chris and John Trogner, it's a definite keeper.

The other bottle I added to the day's mix was a swing-top magnum of Budweiser Brew Master's Private Reserve, which A-B says is "based on the time-honored Budweiser brewmaster holiday tradition of collecting the richest first part of the brew as it is tapped to the kettles" and was available to the public for the first time in 2005.

Private Reserve was certainly different from, and an improvement on, regular Bud, but disappointing overall. Listed at 8.5% abv, it did offer just the faintest note of alcohol but there was no such concession with regard to hops, of which there was nary a hint. Having been somewhat impressed by A-B's GABF medal-winning Marzen and Pale Ale, I'd hoped for something with a bit more character. Only a "bit more," though, because I tried the 10% abv Michelob Celebrate a few night's earlier and was overwhelmed, not in a good way, by its intense vanilla presence and had to pour out half the (very nice) 24oz bottle. It weren't subtle, my friends.

My original plan was to bring both those A-B beers, certainly the Private Reserve, to one of the Monday Night Tastings and pour them/it secretly, not allowing anyone to know who'd made them. I wish I had, because the reaction to the Private Reserve on Saturday was pretty obvious and rote and I'd guess most minds were made up before the first sip.

The rest of New Year's Eve? I got home by 4 pm to watch #3 Villanova beat up on Temple (since I have degrees from both universities, this was theoretically a perfect situation for me, but I'd have been severely bummed if Villanova had lost), cracking open a bottle of Sly Fox Saison for the second half. Thank the gods for college basketball, especially after the disastrous NFL season we just went through hereabouts.

I nibbled on left-overs and cookies in lieu of dinner, worked a bit, read a bit and opened a small bottle of Dogfish Head Raison d'Extra (their very good Raison d'Etre on steroids) to toast the passing of what had been, in sum, a pretty bad year for the U.S. and the world. As I'd feared, the beer, unlike the 2005 memories, was entirely too sweet.

I was asleep by midnight, my own personal, and treasured, New Year's tradition. It's amateur night, after all.

[Posted 11:55 am edt]

1 January 2006
"The beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad..."
Sitting here relishing the first day of the newest year yet, which is--at least here in the effete East--20 hours in and sinking fast, it strikes me that many of my readers might have identified with that evocative line from one of my favorite songs this smorning:

Well I woke up Sunday morning
With no way to hold my head, that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast
Wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert...
That's the opening to Kris Kristofferson's Grammy-winning Sunday Morning Comin' Down, an minor example of why he's probably the greatest lyricist in modern Folk/Country music ("probably" is an acknowledgement that John Prine and Billy Joe Shaver can make a case for the top spot, and maybe Guy Clark as well--and Dylan doesn't count because...well, just because).

Kristofferson's "breakthrough" song, of course, was Me and Bobby McGee, with its oft-quoted and surely bound-for-Bartlett's coda:

Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose.
And, what the heck, since I'm on a Kris Kick, I'll note that it was the secret, don't-tell-him recording of that (also Grammy-winning) song by Janis Joplin (with whom he'd shacked up for several months during that stretch of his life) which put him on the books for good.

Personally, I'm a Silver-Tongued Devil kinda guy, Kristofferson song-wise. At least one lady of my acquaintance, long ago, even suggested that the song ought to be played at my funeral. It seemed like a compliment at the time.

Hey, if everybody's nice and the dish don't run away with the spoon (anybody old enough to catch that reference?), someday I'll tell you about one of the memorable days in my wayward youth when an elderly lady (why, she must have been at least 30) approached me on a sun-dappled restaurant deck in Sonoma to ask, ever so suggestively, "Pardon me, but are you Kris Kristofferson?"

Or maybe not.

Rejoice. It's Day One. The whole year stretches out before us, a banquet to be savored, endured and, we hope, survived...

Archived.
The complete December 2005 postings have been archived here.

[Posted 8:40 pm edt]



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

--A. E. Houseman

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