I drink no cider,
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31 July 2005
The all-Sly Fox edition (just because we can).
As all but the newest newcomers hereabouts are aware, in addition to beer and other freelance writing for print media; maintaining the beer, news and events listings at the Beer Yard site; writing my other blog; creating a weekly political cartoon with cartoonist Rob Davis; producing an occasional short story, and running this online mail order service, I also post news stories and maintain the beer listings at Sly Fox Beer.
My house has many mansions, yes it does.
It's that latter task that inspires me today, as I've accumulated some Sly Fox news that many of you will be interested in and a Brian O'Reilly anecdote (provided by O'Reilly hisownself, so caveat emptor, you know what I mean?).
The invaluable Tim Ohst--assistant brewer/proofreader/ego-deflater and oft frustrated organizer (I do believe the lad is slightly anal retentive)-- is usually the one to keep me updated on changes in the draft lists at both Phoenixville and Royersford, so when he emailed me later Friday that
Helles Bock is done at Phoenixville.On in its place, albeit temporarily, is Boathouse Anniversary Wheat. That will probably change quickly I knew what I had to do. I hied me over to Phoenixville shortly after noon yesterday to grab a growler of the Boathouse brew before it disappeared.
This beer was contract brewed for Flanagan's Boathouse, with locations in Conshohocken and Malvern, each of which was conveniently celebrating a major anniversary this year, 15th and 10th respectively. The plan, I was told back during the brew, was to give both locations as much as they wanted and then hold back the rest to see how sales went, then possibly putting it on at the two Fox pubs as well. Telling me that will probably change quickly suggested that Boathouse sales were going very well indeed, an assumption confirmed at Phoenixville when I got there.
This is a damned nice Wheat beer, friends. Bright, refreshing and very quaffable at an abv just shy of 5%. In fact, in the heat of this torrid mid-summer, it seemed about as perfect as any I've ever had. I consumed most of the growler under my big shade tree late yesterday afternoon, saving a pint to have, in lieu of my usual second Cappuccino, with this morning's breakfast of grilled sausages and fresh-cut Basil scrambled eggs with Salsa Verde.
Hey, living well is the best revenge and all that, plus the only way you know it's the weekend sometimes is having a beer with, or before, breakfast. Really.
So this is heads up to the Beer Geeks (you know who you are). Get yourselves to one of the Boathouse locations and give the Anniversary Wheat a try; you won't be sorry. You might find it at one or the other Sly Fox pub as well, of course, but that's likely to be more of a moving target (not that you'll suffer much if you have to make do with Royal Weisse instead), so check out those online tap lists before you go. Tim'll keep me informed.
The other Sly Fox tidbit which is probably okay to reveal at this point because so many people are aware of it already is that Saison Vos will be the first brew released in bottles, possibly as early as September. There's a batch in the tanks right now which will go on draft at the pubs in August and second batch for bottling will be tanked soon.
The label has been created, sent off for approval by the PLCB and (of course) returned for corrections (they didn't know what Vos means and also said part of the art exceeded some arbitrary border or other, as best I can figure out from O'Reilly's rant). This first bottling will likely be done by hand, as poor Karl Shoemaker is still struggling with bottling line (like, you know, making it work).
750ml only, but we all knew that, right?
Left coast lambaste.
Again, this is O'Reilly's story. As you may be aware, he was one of six brewers selected to present his beers and speak at the prestigious 2005 Beer Gazetteer lecture series, held at Washington's famed Brickskeller Restaurant this summer. that happened this past Monday and this is his account of a memorable moment near the end of the evening.
I'd just finished and was answering questions from the crowd when somebody asked me about Philadelphia. So I told that this was the best beer city in the country by far no matter what they kept hearing from the West Coast people and got this big ovation. Then a guy raised his hand and said something like "I'm from Oregon and this seems the perfect time to ask the question I always ask: if you were trapped on a deserted island and could take only one West Coast beer, which one would it be?"Another ovation followed, sayeth Mr. O'Reilly. Hey, I would have joined in.
I answered "You'll have to give me a little time to research that one. You see, I already have a deserted island beer list, but I don't think there are any West Coast beers on it at all."
[Posted 11:00 am edt]
29 July 2005
An old pal comes through.
A tip of the cap here to Rick Mayberry, who used to be a regular character in these chronicles but turned down his 2005 contract to sit out the year in hopes of getting a better deal in 2006 at this site, where he figures he won't have to work as hard.
Rick put us onto a great story which I just posted a report on and a link to at
the Beer Yard (where else?).
It's about an online article which sings the praises of the Philadelphia area beer scene and does so about as well as any mainstream piece I've read in quite a while. Definitely worth your checking it out. Really.
An, what the heck, another kudo to Mayberry for sending this link to a cute story about the world's smallest brewery earlier this week. Fun stuff, although that outdoor toilet thing is a bit skeevy, I think.
Finally I've just added the link to another old pal's beer site to the listings to the left, rectifying a long-overdue oversight. Now, everybody go visit Mark Haynie and point out to him that the extreme left side of his page is completely unreadable.
[Posted 10:25 am edt]
23 July 2005
I heard good things about the Stout on the handpump at Phoenixville's new Destiny brewpub all week and, being a fan of good things, hied myself over there last night to see how accurate my informants were. HIghly accurate, as it turned out; this is a good 'un.
I also tried the Pale Ale in both filtered and unfiltered versions and was further impressed. And I finally met brewer/founder Emerson Haines, who was working on a new batch of Strong Ale. Apparently, the first batch was the most popular pour during the soft opening last weekend and was gone in two days.
The place is looking good too, having made quantum leaps from my initial visit two weeks ago. Two pool tables are in place, TVs up, the bar is finished and the walls are handsomely decorated with memorabilia from Haines' 20 years of collecting. Destiny has all the makings of a solid neighborhood pub and will also likely end up on the Beer Geek map for Phoenixville visits.
Meanwhile, just around the corner on Bridge Street, an onsite sign is finally up announcing the impending Iron Hill pub to be constructed there. That, and the ubiquitous orange liquor notice the state requires to be posted.
Now, I'm not so arrogant as to believe that my harping here last week on the fact that nothing was going on at the site had anything to do with this, but just in case...thanks, guys.
It was off to Sly Fox after my encounter with Destiny, where I had a couple of pints at the bar with the Shoemaker's son, a Karl thankfully not named Rove. And got to see posters all 'round announcing this intriguing beer dinner, where this new beer will make its debut.
A Smoked Imperial Porter (8.3% abv)? My first question when Brian O'Reilly told me about this beer a while back was whether it had ever been done before. He didn't know and internet searches have so far not turned up the term. O'Reilly suggested maybe this famous West Coast brew fit the bill, but I don't think so.
The floor is now open for suggestions, challenges and discussion. Please try to keep your voices down and be civil. You know how the neighbors get.
One more thing. Prometheus was the "fire-bringer" in the Greek pantheon, the one who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, so the new beer's name fits in nicely with the "smoked" character it presumably will present. I'm not gonna say who came up with that name but somebody definitely owes me a couple of beers. Just sayin'...
Breaking the law?
I was chatting with Tom Baker of Heavyweight yesterday in conjunction with a story I'm writing for the Fall issue of American Brewer about how craft brewers, um, craft their images with logos and labels (a story I should be writing at this very minute, come to think of it), and he told me something I didn't know and which I find kinda neat.
The painting by Canadian artist Christine Haley which graces the labels of Tom's Biere d'Art? Monk's Tom Peters bought the original from Haley and it now hangs in his New Jersey digs. I wonder, would this be considered a "tied label" infraction by the PLCB?
"Open source" beer?
I have absolutely no idea what to make of this.
[Posted 1:35 pm edt]
19 July 2005
Brightest day, darkest night.
One last note from the Royal Stumble. At some point during the proceedings, Dan Berger of The Dan & John Beer Site waved his hand in front of me, flashing a Green Lantern Power Ring before my eyes, suggesting, if not saying outright (I can't remember), that I wouldn't know what it was.
I smashed that silly illusion immediately by reciting the Green Lantern oath:
In brightest day, in darkest nightI mean, he thought I didn't know? Geez. Is he unaware of this?
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!
Then again, if I'm so smart, how come it turns out that the guy I dubbed as Shazam! Boy in my Stumble photographs (scroll down) is actually wearing a Flash tee-shirt? 'Cause I had a brainlock, tha's why. Thanks to the ever-alert Carl P., West Coast defender of "truth, justice and the American way" (is that famed trinity still an operative phrase under the current administration?), for pointing out the error.
Speaking of photographs...
I gots more, these from the big Ommegang Belgian Weekend. Another loyal reader, whom I'll identify only as Dan Y. of Harrisburg in hopes that people will figure out his identity, has provided them for me after extensive negotiations. And a shout-out to, of all people, Lew "Deep Throat" Bryson, for putting me on the case instead of grabbing this for, well, you know, here.
Look for The Great Reindeer Sacrifice, coming soon to a web page near you.
Monk's. Wretched excess? But of course.
Tom Peters' annual July beer dinner featuring local beers in celebration of American Beer Month (has there ever before been a yearly national celebration so few people are actually aware of?) was just another simple affair on July 12, five courses and a Digestif, featuring a mere 13 beers from 12 local breweries.
Here's how she went:
Nodding Head Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse and Iron Hill Framboise as pre-dinner beers;
Stewart's Pilsner and Sly Fox Renard D'Or (the beer of the night, I thought), served with an astonishingly good Local Micro Greens Salad;
Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale and Dogfish Head Aprihop (bottle), served with Littleneck Clams steamed in an Aprihop Fumé;
Nodding Head 3C and Heavyweight Biere de Art (bottle) with spicy Moroccan Chicken (the spices seemed more Indian than Moroccan to my palate);
Flying Fish Porter and Stoudt's Scarlet Lady ESB with BBQ ribs and local bleu cheese potato salad (this was the traditional "big honkin' piece of meat" that has of late been missing from Monk's dinners, artfully disguised by being served on the largest "plates" I've yet seen and earning me a post-dinner "are you happy now, Curtin" both Peters and chef Adam Glickman because of my constant ragging on the subject);
General Lafayette John Doe Oat Stout and Victory V12 (aged bottles) with a Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Tarte and a Mixed Fruit Tarte (both extraordinary),
and Weyerbacher Decadence with chocolate-dipped Biscotti from the wonderful Miel Patisserie.
[Posted 1:30 pm edt]
17 July 2005
Sorry it's taken so long to get around to posting photos and comments on last week's Royal Stumble. It's not the heat, it's the humidity, y' know? And then there was this, which kept me away from my usual hours-long perch in front of the computer day after day after day...
Given this year's superhero them, though, it seems highly appropriate that I finally get down to business just as the country's largest celebration of comical superheroes and other folk has come to a close. Yeah, this was planned all along. That's my story, take it or leave it.
And now let us, as they say on TV, go to the tape (or film in this case).
It's all about the beer. Or is it the girls?
As reported here last week, the only thing reported here last week, come to think of it, Iron Hill emerged triumphant at the Stumble, where the idea is to empty your keg before any of the other brewers. They did so with the tried-and-true tactic of sending a bevy of pitcher-carrying lovelies out among the huddled masses, pouring Belgian Wit for anyone who asked, and several who didn't. This left West Chester brewer Chris LaPierre to stand around in his tux and look pleased as punch (which, with all the fruit slices in their pitchers, is what it looked like the ladies were pouring, come to think of it).
Iron Hill won so rapidly, or so it seemed, that several conspiracy theorists (read "Beer Advocates") were convinced they'd not brought a full keg. No, really. I was asked what I thought by one of them. I held my tongue.
Anyway, hail to the champs and the super-heroine they seem to have created.
The Bird Girl Fan Club.
I wouldn't call it an overwhelming wave that's gonna crash my server or anything, but there's no doubt that last week's photo of Iron Hill's Bird Girl holding the empty keg over her head in triumph (scroll down to 10 July posting) has created a minor following for her, whatever her superpowers might be.
As it turns out, our photography staff just happens to have caught her on film several times and so, for the pleasure of all those who care (not Tom Foley), here she be, once again:
Good Lord! Choke! My bad.
That's not Bird Girl, that's Woody. Who's Woody? Let me put it this way: you know how they say about some people, if he didn't exist, we'd have to invent him? That's not Woody.
But this is (I hope) Bird Girl, in all her glory:
Whew! Now stop pestering me and let's get down to serious business.
Superheroes galore. And Stumbling.
It was a spectacle for sure, the Freedom League of Brewers gathered, the greatest assemblage of power and wisdom at Nodding Head since Brandon Greenwood dined there alone (points to any history buff who knows where that came from).
In awe, and with shaking hands, I present for your viewing pleasure:
Hopman & The Caustic Crusader. Another photo of this indomitable duo can be seen here, of all places.
The Six-Pack Avenger. His stalwart companions, Water Treatment Man and Maltous Raven were present as well, but they seemed not to hang together; superhero jealousy, perhaps?
Although, come to think of it, Maltous Raven pretty much shunned all the other heroes. Here he disdainfully turns his back on Super Cowgirl and Shazam! Boy:
Sadly, there were some heroes present who were not kiddie-friendly (we all know superheroes are just for kids, right?) with their suggestive and inappropriate demeanor. Consider Captain Bondage and El Spankador:
Captain Bondage? Seriously. While it is against all the rules to reveal the civilian identities of all these heroes, I believe I can safely report that he represented Troegs. And that his sidekick was somebody known as Tickle Man. Those with complete collections of Amazing Royal Stumble Adventures (wherein the Freedom League of Brewers has its monthly adventures) will recall that last year, this brewery was represented by some sort of awful, nightmare-inducing Geisha Girl/Man Thing.
There's something definitely kinky going on in Harrisburg, there's no other way to explain it.
And El Spankador? That's just wrong. I mean, all this guy needs is a boy sidekick named, oh I dunno, Spanky, and Rick Santorum might would collapse in a foaming fit (granted, I'd pay to see that).
This one might cause Sen. Rick some agita as well. Bethlehem Father brought along an innocent Catholic School Girl as his sidekick (sorry, guys, it was too crowded to get far enough away to get the plaid skirt and all; the pigtails will have to do).
I suggested to him that if he had any cojones, he'd have brought an altar boy. He countered by asking me which I'd rather look at. I then said he got points anyway for not bringing his chocolate/peanut-butter stout. He didn't take that nearly as well as I'd expected.
You know, when you gots superheroes, chances are supervillains ain't that far behind, especially bald ones. And one of them walked right into the midst of last Saturday's celebration with impunity (and, apparently, immunity):
While Shazam! Boy manifested the same meticulous disinterest as he did in a photo above, Larry "Lex" Horwitz, snuck behind the Yards table and began memorizing the ESA recipe. Evil is as evil does.
Speaking of Yards, some guys never do get the message. Tom Kehoe, who was rumored to be painting himself green and making an appearance as The Incredible Hulk, didn't even bother to wear a costume, coming as himself. Personally, I thought he pulled it off very well and I would never, I say never (and I mean never), poke fun at him or in any way want to suggest that, well, I'm not scared to death of him when he's angry (Tom once yelled at me over the phone (justifiably) and the earpiece melted). Besides, Bryson made me do it.
This is a superheroine I had to name myself and, after hearing her sad story, I've christened her Dogfish Kati:
I chose that name to symbolize her close relationship with Kati Muleh, Dogfish Head assistant brewer and distiller at the Rehoboth Beach pub, where she tells me her namesake is required to wear an Afro wig and give a power salute whenever Sam is on the premises. At least, I think that's what she said. Something like that. I think.
You know, it strikes me that all this is making much too light of the Stumble. These guys come to win and it's like a dagger in the side when it's clear someone else has taken the crown. Consider if you will, Hopman's steely-eyed stare at right, captured at the exact moment Bird Girl was dancing on the table shaking that empty keg. It looks like he wants to go smite somebody, no? And, truth to tell, a few minutes later, he clocked that lady in the lower right hand corner.
Okay, even as I been slaving away on this report all afternoon, the emails have continued pouring in. More Bird Girl! More Bird Girl!, I swear, everybody but Tom Foley is demanding them. So, one more once, and this time in her civilian identity, here she is:
I cannot reveal that secret identity, of course, but rumors are that it will soon be leaked to Robert Novak and, as we've learned in recent days, Novak will cave readily if you just threaten him a little bit, so keep an eye out.
The real story in this photo, though, is the guy with her, Enrique Oliva, the assistant brewer at Nodding Head. Why? Because I'd suggest that his life is something of a metaphor for the way life goes. Consider: he has to work with head brewer Gordon Grubb (what we in the trade call the "Gordo Dilemma"), but pretty girls come up and insist on having their photos taken with him. I'd call it a wash.
I was gonna end on that semi-philosophical note, but this seems even more appropriate:
El Spankador. Woody. The Alpha and The Omega...and The End.
[Posted 4:53 pm edt]
10 July 2005
Royal Stumble 2005: Iron Hill wins again!
And, as you can see, Bird Girl has the championship belt to prove it.
Comments and more photos to follow this week.
[Posted 11:50 am edt]
6 July 2005
I could tell you, but...
Working on a news item I'll be putting up later today (at the Beer Yard site, of course) and laying the groundwork for a bigger, feature story for one-a them paying markets a bit farther down the line, I had an interesting electronic conversation with Dave Alexander, the man behind the incredible Brickskeller in Washington, DC.
I asked Dave for some background information on an annual event at the Brick and he sent me a incredible Master List of events held there over the years, replete will all sorts of cool data and information. And with it came this:
We now have something in common. We are the only two people on earth with this list. I respectfully ask that you not share this list with others...We tend to be a bit proprietary in regard to our data complications.Hey, no problem. The secret's safe with me...though I encourage everyone reading this to try and bribe me with beer and other enticements every chance you get, just so I can...um, show off how strong and reliable I am. Yeah, that's the ticket.
There's more. In a later message, Dave whetted my appetite with this:
The REALLY cool list is my master tasting list, 33+ pages of very small type with all the similar data regarding the 20+ years of Brickskeller tastings. THAT one is cool, I look thru it now and then for a few flashbacks.Now that's the list I wanna be one of the two people in the world to see. Along with a key to the Brick's beer cellar, if possible...
Dude, I am so in.
Even Lew Bryson, albeit inadvertently, does a good deed now and then.
The Big Guy (I think of him as the man with the web page as wide as he is) mistakenly says that I've taken down my own report on our Czech Republic trip in his so-far-partial account of same and then makes fun of my life-threatening accident a couple of weeks back over here ((scroll down to "Weyerbacher's Tenth Anniversary Beer;" apologies for all the mouse work, but the man do ramble on and on).
Hey, whatever keeps hims off the streets, and the first of those two items (which he's since corrected, lord love his industrious soul...and now will have to correct yet again) reminded me of something I've been planning to do (the second one was just mean and crushed my spirits) and now I've gone and done it.
You'll find a new category added near the top of the incomparable list of beer links to the left, LDO On The Road. On that page you'll find direct links to stories of LDO's adventures in England, Germany, Ireland, the Czech Republic and San Francisco, all of which have been recorded here in past columns. Such convenience. Such fun. Who loves ya, Baby?
This step, long overdue, may be the catalyst I need for another thing I keep putting off: getting up copies of columns and stories which have run in Celebrator Beer News, things which a lot of you have apparently never seen nor read. That's gonna take a little more work, but it's on the To Do List as of this very moment.
[Posted 1:00 pm edt]
5 July 2005
The Stealth beer event.
Saturday, July 16, is a busy beer day indeed. Up north, there's the
Vermont Beer Festival, one of the perennials. A bit further south, we got Belgium comes to Cooperstown, which was apparently a freakin' blast in its first go-round last year. Out West, there are several beer gatherings, including the three-day Portland International Beer Fest.
And, guess what? There's a beer festival in Philadelphia that date as well, one that looks right nice to me but which, so far, appears to be flying well beneath the radar. You can read about Good Food, Good Beer & The Rest is History (hey, I don't name 'em) at the Beer Yard site, where I updated the information yesterday. And, if all has gone as planned, kindly old Mr. Ruch has also added it to the BeerAdvocate July Calendar, or soon will.
I missed The Brewer's Plate event at Reading Terminal Market in April, which also matched great restaurants with great beers, because I was in the Czech Republic (yeah, I know, you feel really sorry for me), so I'm looking forward to this a great deal and I hope the word gets out so that it's a big success.
At least part of the appeal is the historical setting. The Shambles was the first public market place in Philadelphia. The brick colonnaded structure was built by the mayor of Philadelphia in 1745--with his own money (there's a concept)--and he collected market rent from the farmers who used it on Tuesday and Friday market days (arriving the night before). The Headhouse at the Pine Street end was built in 1805 to house volunteer fire companies and the bell used both as a fire signal and to mark the beginning of each market day.
[Posted 7:41 am edt]
3 July 2005
On my way to Victory, I discovered Destiny.
Sounds profound, even historic, dunnit? In truth, though, it's all about, well, brewpubs.
On my way out to Downingtown yesterday afternoon to fill up a couple of growlers with fine beer at astonishingly affordable prices (not that I'm complaining), I took a left turn off of Bridge Street in Phoenixville and up Main to the site of Destiny Brewing & the Old Moose Grill to see if the doors were open as of June 30, as promised. Sure enough. A big and colorful OPEN flag was hoisted out front. I had found my Destiny.
Well, it's only "my" Destiny in that it is now the closest brewery to where I live and will remain so until the new Iron Hill opens on Bridge Street (which is late this year, assuming construction on their building ever gets started).
Speaking of Iron Hill, I'm told by somebody who was told by somebody that they've already chosen the brewer for this sixth location and are promoting from within. Damn, and I was hoping they were going to just shift Horwitz over to where it would be more convenient for me to harass him. Just imagine: I could walk to the pub, drink to excess and viciously attack Larry on a regular basis. Talk about your dream scenarios...
But I digress.
Inside the old Moose building on Main and downstairs in the pub, I found Guy, who is the assistant manager, assistant brewer and "assistant everything," he told me, laughing. He said they'd thrown a very successful and crowded friends & family soft opening party the night before and were now open for business, "mostly because the Grill upstairs is ready to go and they were eager to starting serving customers." In other words, the pub is open but it's not completely "ready," with construction still going on. But beer they got, and if I understood him correctly, I was, unofficially at least, the first customer to walk in off the street. Hey, whatever distinction I can earn, I take.
Four beers were on tap and I sampled the IPA (one of a whole roster of seasonals that Destiny plans to alternate, three at a time, on seven taps) and the Dry Stout, one of four planned year-round brews. Both were clearly the product of someone who knows how to brew (15-year homebrewer and founder Emerson Haines) but were rather bland. Each would have benefited significantly from a stronger hops profile and the stout cried out for more roasty malt character. "We're not really satisfied with the first beers," Guy admitted, "and we'll be improving them in the next batches."
That'll be good, 'cause this place has some potential. There's a small room by the entrance which will have some games and a pinball machine, I was told, and there will be a pool table right inside the entrance. The rectangular bar against the back wall, in front of the brewhouse, has seats for 15, maybe 20 (I forgot to count), seven taps and (drum roll here) a spanking new beer engine imported from the UK. The pub will offer a few select food items from the upstairs restaurant once it's fully operative (and three or four beers from the pub will conversely be available upstairs).
I'd have to think they'll get substantial support from the neighborhood (parking will be an issue at times for out-of-town visitors) and beer geeks, being beer geeks, will seek it out. They already come to Phoenixville to hit Sly Fox and the influx will sure grow once Iron Hill opens. Say, did I mention I keep wondering when construction is going to start on their site?
I'll stop in at Destiny again in the next week or so, catch up with Haines and let you know whatever else I can find out. Meanwhile, you can get some additional information here.
At Victory, I had a refreshing big glass of Sunrise Weissbier, a pint of Uncle Teddy's Bitter from the handpump, a slow-pour Prima Pils and tastings of the V-12 and Old Horizontal 2002 on draft (which I'd never done before, being all stubborn and such about the fact that such beers really deserve to be poured from bottles). I acquired but one standard growler (Mad King Weiss) to bring home, having forgotten to grab my large German Victory growler on the way out of the house. All the beers were, y'know, great, so that's what I call a good afternoon's work.
A few of those drafts were courtesy of the ever-present Ruch, by the way. He'd moved, or been moved to avoid stagnation, to a seat or two over from his Permanent Place and as a result was a bit difficult to identify when I first walked in. When he started buying, though, damned if I didn't recognize him immediately.
[Posted 11:25 am edt]
The complete June 2005 postings have been archived here.
[Posted 10:20 am edt]
Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
--A. E. Houseman
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