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31 July 2007
Breaking up. Maybe it's contagious.
You say the Yards split-up came as a shocker? How about this one?

And they were such a cute couple.

Not to mention guys who can keep a secret. I spent an hour or so drinking with Bryan at Drafting Room Exton late yesterday afternoon and he breathed not a word. He did send a cryptic email later last night about "big news" coming from the Beer Lounge today, but that was it.

This all brings to mind the line from Willie Nelson's Pancho & Lefty

Say a prayer for [Adam] too, he only did what he had to do...
Seriously, thanks for the ride, Adam. You done good. Bryan will soldier on, 'cause that's what he does.


[Posted 3:14pm edt]

30 July 2007
First batch at Dock Street.
A reliable source has informed me that, even as I post this and you read it, the first batch of beer is being brewed at the new Dock Street Brewpub in West Philly. With Scott "The Dude" Morrison at the tanks, as reported here a while back. I also hear that The Dude has been in "discussions" about another gig. More when somebody, anybody, is willing to go on the record.


[Posted 9:54am edt]

Philadelphia Brewing Co.
I've just updated the Beer Yard story about the split-up at Yards Brewing to include news of Philadelphia Brewing Co., Bill and Nancy Barton's new venture.

Rich Wagner, local beer writer and beer historian, apparently sent out an email with the information. I didn't receive a copy but Lew did and I found it there.

To me, as I hint at in the BY report, the story here is that we have Kehoe on one hand saying he's has a lease on the brewery until the end of the year and the Bartons reportedly saying that they will begin making beer there as soon as their permits come through. I'll try to find out more about that when the clock hits a decent hour today.


[Posted 7:42am edt]

29 July 2007
"Strange, small world."
Those are the words of Stan Hieronymus, a fellow toiler in this beer writing vineyard, whose name you should know and, if you don't, should do something about your failings.

Stan jumps in over on the Comments Page to add a bit of information and a Very Neat Coincidence to the story of that wine book Lew Bryson told me to read. Check it out 'cause it's good stuff.

Ain't it nice how all us beer scribes bond together? Kinda brings a tear to the eye, it does.

And, I'll tell ya, you should see the bonding and love going on in a current email exchange among local writer about this. Some among us are apparently receiving emails about their "crude" behavior and they ain't nice emails.

Wasn't there that particular evening myself, but I stand with my brothers in their obnoxiousness. I just hope the delicate ears of the surrounding folks didn't pick up any of George Hummel's jokes. I mean, those are offensive.


[Posted 5:30pm edt]

What Vinnie said.
When Vinnie Cilurzo showed up unexpectedly at Monk's on Wednesday, he brought with him two bottles of the latest beers from his Russian River brewpub as a gift for Tom Peters: Toronado 20th Anniversary Ale and Damnation Batch 23.

The former will be introduced at the big anniversary celebration at San Francisco's most famous beer bar on Saturday, July 11. The big 10.4% Tripel was brewed with the help of legendary Toronado owner David Keene.

"We made five different beers, brewed them separately and aged them in barrels, then blended them," said Vinnie. "Dave told me he wanted a darkish Belgian Ale that was aged in a barrel, sour but not too sour. The mixed component part was my idea. Here was there for all three stages of producing the beers and I particularly wanted him there for the blending because it's his beer. Ultimately it was his decision on how the final beer turned out."

20th Anniversary is primarily draught, with what 750ml corked & caged bottles there are to be sold only at the Toronado. Vinnie said that Russian River did a keg each of the two base component beers for serving at the brewpub.

Batch 23 (11%) is a ramped-up version of Damnation. "We pumped it up to a Tripel and added oak chips, changed the malt and hops, but used the same yeast," Vinnie explained. "The name has nothing to do with the movie, although I do talk about Jim Carey on the back label. We're obsessed with the number and put `23' somewhere on all our labels. It celebrates a friend of mine from San Diego, Steve, who passed away."

The tiny type on that back label was much too small for these ancient eyes to read; when and if Vinnie sends me the jpgs of same that he promised, I'll perhaps be able to add more about the mystery number. And the striking photo of the two bottles of these beers on Monk's bar remains, as far as I know, locked away on Tom's iPhone.

I of course asked Vinnie about the new brewery Russian Hill is building and this is what he told me" "It's about two miles from the current brewpub, in Santa Rosa. We have option to buy the building within five years--that was Natalie's one stipulation. Right now the place looks more like a winery because of about 200 wine barrels we bought. They are everywhere because we don't have a forklift over there yet to stack them up. We expect to have 350-400 barrels by the time we open."

That opening, he said, is scheduled for January 2008 and if they pull it off, "you can count on a good flow of Russian River beer into Philadelphia by March." The new facility will have a "real" bottling line rather than the semi-hand, semi-automated one-bottle-at-a-time gravity bottler they use currently. Everything will be big bottles. "We will never do 12oz bottles," he adamantly.


Philly Beer Week stuff.
I managed to pick up some info about Philly Beer Week 2008 (March 7-16) by standing very quietly and listening on Wednesday afternoon. Nothing particularly new, I guess, but everything is still in flux from all indications. Here are some specific events which appear to be on the schedule at present, in no particular order:

A "Real Ale" event of some sort (This is supposed to be at Yards," said Tom, "and Tom Kehoe told me it will be at Yards, wherever that may be"); a Black Tie Beer Dinner at the Museum with Michael Jackson (which will be a fund-raiser for Parkinson's Disease); the Museum Tasting Session on Saturday; The Brewers Plate; a Monk's Dinner with MJ, and the second Philadelphia Craft Beer Fest. Between and among all these will be a series of Meet & Greets at various beer locations in the city with a trolley which runs a route between them and, presumably, others in the 'burbs.

If I have deciphered a rather noisy tape correct, 8,000 tasting glasses will be in circulation that week and there was something about 3 Liter glass I can't figure out at all.

We may get some official news on all this soon. Tom told me that the secret cabal behind the event has hired a publicist.

Finally, when Vinnie asked Tom how the second location on Green Street was progressing, the response was "maybe three weeks until we open." That would put it right at mid-August.


Great minds?
This is probably going to come as a shock to some of you, but that semi-big, loud Mr. Bryson and I quite often disagree on things. At times, it feels like we disagree across the board about everything. But that's okay and I forgive him, both because I am just a swell guy overall and because there's always that "blind squirrel/acorn" factor to consider.

That said, I had to giggle when I saw his latest Portfolio column after he touted it on his blog. CF Bryson column about history of wine and beer and his Portfolio column and how I mentioned it when talking to Vinnie about blending the day before he brought column to my attention.

Lew has been touting American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine, by Paul Lukacs, to me for well over a year and I finally picked up a used copy a few months back and have been reading through it in bits and starts.

I was more familiar with the wine world than Lew going in. Wway more; back when he was wine-hatin' and probably even before, I was deeply into vino and at one time had a pretty impressive small wine cellar. so the information in these pages is often old news, but the parallels between how American wines moved into the mainstream and the way craft beer is developing are obvious and, seen in this organized context, striking.

In the early days of modern American winegrowing, the emphasis was on single varietal wines rather than the blended style popular in Europe. That was the case in the '70 and '80s when I was serious about wine. Today the big, important US wines appear to be primarily blends, but there is a trend back toward wines that are at least primarily one varietal at the mid-level and lower price ranges (this contention is based on a relatively cursory recent exploration of field. so I could be talking through my hat and I'm sure somebody will let me know if that's the case). I'd say craft beer is moving into that middle stage, which is where wine really came of age.

Why the chuckle? Because only hours before I clicked the link to the column, I'd been talking about those very parallels with Vinnie Cilurzo as part of a discussion about blending beers.

Anyway, Mr. Lew and I were on the same page for a bit. On the other hand...


Different pages.
One of the back-and-forths Bryson and I periodically slip into is about the beer coverage, or lack there of, in Philadelphia Magazine, usually centering around the annual "Best of Philly" issue every August. He says they barely give enough coverage and often get it wrong; I say their overall record isn't that bad but, yeah, they often get it wrong.

Based on the latest, just-out "Best of" issue, he wins for 2007.

There are no beer categories whatsoever in these pages. As close as it comes is a "BEST" to the Grey Lodge Pub for its Fries

The oversized triceps on workers at Grey Lodge Pub promise one thing: Hand. Cut. Fries. Even better, the fresh russets are fried twice, giving the crisp spears a pillow-soft inside....Best washed down with one of the haute brews at this jewel-of-the-Northeast pub.
Haute? Bleh.

There was passing mention of the beer list at Chester County's Whip Tavern and the forthcoming Beer courses at the Tria Fermentation School, but that was all she wrote (that I found in a quick read-through). Beer Absence may have been a side-effect of editor Larry Platt's announcement that this was a "back to basics" in terms of categories for the 34th (!) annual list, but all that shows is that they were as clueless as Lew thinks they are back in the day.

In any case, a tip of the hat to Mr. Lew, without our having bothered to exchange a word on the topic this year. This is his acorn for 2007.


[Posted 11:50am edt]

27 July 2007
Vinnie in the house.
So there I am around 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, sitting at a table back near the kitchen at Monk's Cafe, chatting with a semi-subdued Tom Peters on antibiotics, which meant I was drinking and he wasn't, a situation which has probably never before occurred within those walls.

I was sipping the wonderful Urthel Viamese Bock (a Monk's draught exclusive in the US) for which I'd whetted my appetite with a Rodenbach Grand Cru at the front bar, while I waited for Tom to show up. He was off to attend the Naturalization Ceremony for his old pal and co-partner in Grace Tavern, James Fernandez. "It's a dark day for America," laughed bartender John when I told him where his boss was. Hey, a guy with a Spanish surname who was born in England and calls himself Irish? I say he's a multi-cultural bargain and welcome aboard.

And then one of the waitstaff comes over and says "the guy from Russian River is here."

Yes, Vinnie Cilurzo his very ownself was sitting at the corner stool up front, smiling happily with a beer in front of him. He'd just spent three days down at Dogfish Head, disassembling the 50bbl brewhouse which he bought from them and getting it into storage until it could be shipped west, and was celebrating that and the fact that it was his 37th birthday.

Nothing would do, of course, but that we join him. What are friends for? A quick phone call and Nodding Head's Curt Decker joined the party. Along with our beers (I switched back to the Rodenbach, figuring a 9%, too-easy-drinking Belgian was not something I should be doing multiples of on a workday afternoon--yes, guys, this was work, getting the straight skinny just for you), sampling Veal de Kriek, one of the items being developed for the menu at Monk's on Green which Evan Seplaw, who will be the chef there, brought out from the kitchen. It was pretty damned good and is likely to be even better when it finally is available to the public come August. "Brown the veal just a bit more, cut down some on the cherries and maybe add a touch of cherry puree to the sauce," was Peters' advice and it sounded dead on perfect.

Vinnie had two special bottles of beer with him as gifts for Tom, news about plans for the Toronado 20th Anniversary Party in San Francisco a week from tomorrow and the special beer he brewed for it (that was one of the ones he brought) and addiitonal details about the new Russian River brewery for which that 50bbl brewhouse will be the centerpiece.

All that, plus some bits and pieces I picked up about Philly Beer Week 2008 and other matters I can't quite recall off the top of my head, will be posted here soon, along with some photos. I add the latter promise with some hesitation, since my photographer was Tom and some images I need are coming from Vinnie, and I'm not quite sure those guys totally grasp the "deadline" concept. Rank amateurs, they are; they'd not survive a day in this dog-eat-dog beerwriting game. I can only hope they'll find honest work somewhere else.

And, oh yeah, there is the fact that I haven't gotten around to transcribing my tape of the afternoon as yet.

While you're waiting for me, though, there's Stan Hieronymus, who has done some of my work for me re: Russian River. Go read.


Pub closing hours in Britain?
BeerAdvocate.com regular Roan22 has some questions about whether or not Brit pubs are still required to shut down at 11pm every night over on the "Comments" page. I've given her what answer I could and ('cause it's what I do) prattled on a bit about other stuff, but she deserves more. If you have anything to add to the conversation, please come and join us.


[Posted 11:25am edt]

25 July 2007
On the streets of Phoenixville..
A little later than promised, but here are some photos of the new tanks being put in at Iron HIll Phoenixville yesterday morning. Not as dramatic as we might have hoped--I wanted to see roofs being lifted, walls crumbling, large metal objects and frustrated brewers stuck in doorways, dammit!

But no such luck. This was Iron Hill, after all, the best organized, plan-ahead, git-'er-done operation we have around here, so no such luck. They had the doorway they needed, a clear passageway through the bar and dining area and just enough space inside the brewhouse. These guys are no fun at all.

Director of Brewing Operations Mark Edelson was there. he's the boss.

Phoenixville Head Brewer Tim Stumpf was there. It's his plant.

Paul Rutherford was there. He's currently an assistant brewer at Iron Hill North Wales and will be the new Head Brewer at Iron Hill Lancaster and this was good practice for when they start putting things together there.

NEWS FLASH! Lancaster will open November 1, Edelson says.
And North Wales Head Brewer Larry Horwitz was there. Larry is, well, everywhere, the most ubiquitous, short, bald, former Elvis-impersonator you ever did meet. Plus he was the one who knew how to work the mini-crane they employed.

More blather below. You want the pics...

They replaced three 5bbl fermenters (you can see those standing on the sidewalk in the fifth photo above) with three 10bbl ones, giving them five 10bbl and, if all went well, two 5bbl tanks in the reconstituted brewery, bringing it up to 60bbl capacity with the other locations. Given that Phoenixville is the smallest of the pubs, they'd figured they could get by with a move comfortable configuration in the also smaller brewhouse, but that under-estimated the beer-drinking capacity of a true beer-drinking town.

I'll drop by soon and see if they managed to make that second 5bbl tank fit. Oh, I could just call and ask, but there's no way I get a beer out of that, now is there?


[Posted 7:42am edt]

24 July 2007
And now, the official story...
This is the text of a News Release being put out today by Profile Public Relations on behalf of Tom Kehoe and Yards Brewing. I received an advance copy yesterday evening:

PHILADELPHIA, PA --Tom Kehoe, founder of Yards Brewing Company, one of the region's premier craft breweries, will move his brewing operations to a new location this Fall. Kehoe, who is parting ways with partners Bill and Nancy Barton, maintains that Yards' ever-popular and award-winning beers will remain the same as he moves production to a new facility.

"We're currently considering a couple of different locations for the new brewery," says Kehoe, who founded Yards Brewing Company in 1994. "Yards lovers can rest assured that our beer will maintain the same quality and taste that they've come to love over the years."

Kehoe began brewing beer when he was a student at Western Maryland University, in Westminster, MD, in the '80s. His knack for creating delicious British-style ales led to an apprenticeship at a microbrewery in nearby Linthicum. Within a few years he was ready to launch his own enterprise. With a meager $20,000, much of which he borrowed from family and friends, Kehoe launched Yards Brewing Company in the city's Manayunk neighborhood. Dubbed the "little brewery that could," for its shoestring budget and modest 900 square foot space, Yards fast became the pride of the city with its extraordinary flagship product Extra Special Ale, which debuted at the Philadelphia Craft Brewers Festival in 1995. Word spread quickly about the fantastic locally made brew, and tavern owners throughout the city were literally lining up outside the brewery to get their hands on the beer.

When Kehoe began brewing operations at Yards in 1995, it was the city's only brewery and the first to open since Schmidt's demise in 1987. In his first years in business Kehoe is credited with re-introducing the concept of cask conditioned ales along with the hand-drawn beer engine to the region.

With rave reviews pouring in from local media and an overwhelming demand for their extraordinary beer, Kehoe and his staff quickly outgrew their cozy confines and began work on a bigger brewery in nearby Roxborough. The new facility was capable of producing 3,500 barrels of beer per year. With its increased output, Yards was also able to expand its product line to include popular beers Philadelphia Pale Ale, IPA, a Belgian abbey-style Saison, and the seasonal Love Stout, which is brewed with whole oysters. In addition to these highly regarded handcrafted beers, Kehoe was commissioned by Philadelphia's City Tavern to brew the private label "Ales of the Revolution," a porter and ale based on original recipes developed for America's founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson during the turbulent revolutionary era. Due to their popularity, he partnered with the historic landmark in 2003 to brew and bottle the ales for retail sale everywhere.

The response to Yards beers was overwhelming and within a few short years Yards once again had outgrown its home. In 2002 Kehoe moved the company to a 35,000 square foot former brewery in the city's Kensington neighborhood that had been shuttered since 1939.

Recognized as a driving force behind the region's thriving craft brewing movement, Kehoe and Yards have received numerous awards and accolades for their world class beers. On two separate occasions Philadelphia Magazine named Yards "Best Local Beer" in its annual Best of Philly issue (1998 and 2001). Other awards include two bronze medals from Chicago's Real Ale Festival, and the distinction of "One of The Top Five Pale Ales in the United States," according to the New York Times. Yards' Saison was featured in Gourmet magazine.

There's a lot of useful data there, but I find it...unfortunate...that founding partner Jon Bovit has been written out of the official history, as have, for that matter, the Bartons. There is entirely too much of that sort of revisionism going on these days.

As noted in my update to the Beer Yard story last evening and in a story in this morning's Philadelphia Daily News by Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell (who was the first one to break the news publicly in a brief note on his website yesterday about 15 minutes before I posted my story), Bill Barton has declined comment until a final agreement is signed next Thursday.


[Posted 5:55am edt]

23 July 2007
Did I say "Wow!"? Tom Kehoe regains control of Yards Brewing.
Just posted at the Beer Yard, news of a split-up at Yards Brewing, the "Wow!" story I promised last Tuesday. More to come--I'm waiting for a press release and a phone call from Kehoe. Stay tuned...



[Posted 4:14pm edt]

23 July 2007
Say What?
Our Comments Page, while not exactly what you might call bustling with activity, is showing some signs of life. Check it out and join in.

I've set things up so that you can add your thoughts in any existing conversation right from that page and you can, of course, comment on any posting on this page with the link provided under each and every one. I'll make every effort to keep up with you and get all acceptable comments online within a reasonable time.


[Posted 1:45pm edt]

Iron Hill Phoenixville upgrade.
Mark Edelson just emailed me that the new, larger fermenters for Iron Hill Phoenixville that I mentioned back on June 10 will be going into place early tomorrow morning. They are replacing four (I think) 5bbl tanks with four 10bbl ones to try and keep up with incredible customer demand for their beers. I intend to swing by on my way to the ever-lovin' Beer Yard and try to get some photos. If I do, they'll be up here tomorrow evening. If I don't, well, all I can say is it's Larry Horwitz's fault. I find that usually works.


Beer Fox ♥'s Sly Fox.
Carolyn Smagalski, the "Beer Fox" at Bellaonline's Beer & Brewing site was more than a bit smitten with Mr. O'Reilly's Sly Fox beers at the Iron Hill North Wales' Brewers' Reserve Big Bottle Event on July 14:

At times, I feel like the woman in the mural, gathering secrets from brewers as I taste each reserve beer. I want to sample every dewdrop of apple, pear, leather or citrus--allowing them to splash over my lips with Bohemian pleasure, indulging my olfactory senses, and experiencing their exquisite fullness on my tongue.

Sly Fox Brewer Brian O'Reilly shares this exuberance as he pours me a glass of Saison Vos. This beauty seems to breathe golden light from within, displaying a thick, rich, dense head on its surface. It portrays the complexity of the Dupont yeast strain--champagne-like character, with earth and leather,--the true mark of a well-designed Saison.

He pours Instigator Doppelbock, walnut hued, with garnet edges. Dark, fruity aromas of juicy figs and succulent plums rise in the caramel maltiness. The flavors are reflected on the tongue, while secondary flavors of wood and ash add interest to the mellow middle. A nice bitterness defines the edges, making it rich, yet clean.

Route 113 IPA gleams like a copper pot in the moonlight. The name itself is a Sly Fox "response" to a passionate hophead who requested a beer that was 113 IBU's, just like the road (Route 113) that led him to Sly Fox "beer Mecca." In good spirit, it was crafted as the ultimate satisfaction for just such hop-lovers. German pale malts and British crystal malts serve as the foundation. Merged within this firm body, US Centennial and Cascade hops layer with East Kent Goldings from Great Britain and Northern Brewer from Germany, clocking-in at 85 IBU's. Grapefruit notes merge with flowery essences. It tastes so spot-on that the requestor petitioned the state to change the Route number to 85!

O'Reilly reveals that the devil has a history in Phoenixville. According to fantasy, Incubus was the devil who would have his way with women in their sleep. On the first Friday of every month, this Incubus Tripel is released from the barrel, (in Phoenixville only) where he seduces the palate, sweet and velvety on the tongue. He glows lightly golden and clear, supporting a thick, persistent head. Apples, sugar-dipped grapes, apricots, and tropical fruits, touched with honey, linger in the flavor. Accents of peppery spiciness display a complexity borne of the Trappist yeast strain from which it springs.

That O'Reilly, what a charmer.


[Posted 12:25pm edt]

Why you should never listen to a Talk Radio host.
In his column in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, local Talk Radio star Michael Smerconish, who's a pretty smart guy but a bit too conservative and faux libertarian for my taste and given to the "shout-down" conversational mode which is Talk Radio's calling card, says some dumb things about beer in an otherwise interesting, if somewhat smarmy, commentary about the removal of Winston Churchill as someone "children must learn about" in the nation's secondary schools:

There is some good news from across the pond. The beer is colder and less bitter, and the pubs stay open late.
Yeah, that's delightful. Okay, I guess I can go along with the pubs open late thing as good news. Otherwise, is this a man you want to talk political advice from?

Then there's this, which also set my teeth grinding:

The isle that withstood assault from the Third Reich has nevertheless succumbed to smoking Nazis. Lighting up has been banned virtually everywhere. To smoke in one's hotel room is to run the risk of being billed 50 British pounds for "specialist cleaning...to remove tobacco odours."

That "Third Reich" and "Nazis" reference is really classy, innit?


[Posted 6:40am edt]

21 July 2007
Word from the unemployed.
Tom Baker, who some of you may remember, writes this morning:

I know you already have a bunch of links on your site, but my friend Mary has a new blog and she would be grateful if you added her to your site. She's at My Life in Craft. It's fairly sparse at the moment but it's good to have another female perspective. Let me know what you think.
His friend Mary definitely knows her beer and I've added the link to the left.

Am I the only one picturing Peggy standing sternly over Mr. Baker as he types that "female perspective" line? I didn't think so.


[Posted 12:20pm edt]

Tall, ungainly and unleashed.
The Beer Geeks have all fled for Ommegang, Bryson's out of town with the family and Big Dan Bengel is free at last, free at last!

No silly session beers for the Big Fella at Ortino's Northside today, no siree!

The bar opens at 1pm, BBQ starts around 4pm and specials are available on Stone Ruination, Stone Pale Ale, Stone Arrogant Bastard and Stone IPA (for consumption on premises only).

Are we having fun yet?


[Posted 11:10am edt]

20 July 2007
One (more) small step for mankind.
Well, this very tiny little piece of mankind anyway. The "See All Comments" link is now active. I will gather comments worth the time and effort (which means any that are on topic, not clearly meant for me personally and not, in my eyes, offensive--and it takes a lot to offend me--) under the topic to which they refer. Ideally, the "See All Comments" link would then take you directly to those, but that may turn out to be more work than I'm willing to take on so, for now, the link will always take you to the top of the page and the most recent comment(s) posted. We'll see how it goes.

I wonder if I have enough energy and time to take on the RSS challenge this weekend? I am totally (as all the cool kids say) having a good time with this and think I've worked it out so that it's not all that much work overall than just doing the site without comments, direct links and (we hope) RSS was before I started.


[Posted 12:55pm edt]

17 July 2007
There is a BLOCKBUSTER story brewing in Philadelphia beer circles which will not break until the end of the month (if everybody stays silent). I've been pledged to secrecy until and unless it leaks out, but I can promise you it's Big. Keep an eye on The Beer Yard site, because that's where I'll post it as soon as it becomes public.

Trust me. BIG.


A Belgian session beer. Is that a contradiction in terms?
Yesterday afternoon at (where else?) Monk's Cafe, I had my first taste of Taras Boulba, splitting a 750ml bottle with that nice Mr. Tom Peters.

This is one fine brew, a "very hoppy [Golden] ale" as the label says, tasty with complex yeast flavors and just downright delicious. Best of all, it's only 4.5% abv, a true session beer in every sense of the word. I put up a listing for it at the Beer Yard this morning (it just came in) and will probably grab a case when the opportunity presents itself.


On the other hand...
...the new Sly Fox Imperial Red Ale comes in at 7% abv and is a non-session delight. Tim Ohst concocted this one for the annual BlobFest celebration and it was poured as Blob Ale Friday through Sunday, emerging in its real identity on Monday. "Blob Ale" will likely be a regular July draught release at Phoenixville from here on out, but no decision yet on whether it will be the same beer each time. You can count on seeing the Imperial Red again in any case, I'd think, given that most public reaction appears to match my own.

I'd check this one out while it lasts. Me, I have a half-growler in the 'fridge which I'll be getting back to once I finish this posting and few other matters. Come to think of it, it's the Third Friday Firkin Fest beer on the handpump at Phoenixville tomorrow night. I will be there.


[Posted 4:12pm edt]

17 July 2007
Quick hits.
I suppose everyone has heard about the new Samuel Adams Boston Lager Glass, am I right? Well, a set arrived on my doorstep this afternoon (thank you, Mr. Koch, sir) and they are tres cool. I didn't have any Sam Adams Lager on hand but I filled one with Stegmaier 150 and it was purty and the beer done taste good. Then again, ain't that always the way?

Ric Hoffman, who brews bare...er, in Bear, which is, in turn, in Delaware, sends along a note that his assistant brewer, John Fiorilli (who always laughed when I made fun of Ric, which I always did, which always made me like him) has moved on:

[A]pparently things have gotten so bad in Bear that our assistants would rather work in New Jersey. John Fiorilli has come to his senses and moved on to Flying Fish to be Casey's whipping boy. I wish him a LOT of luck.
From Ric to Casey, huh? That boy may have been laughing all that time 'cause he's a bit slow on the take.

I just finished off a story on Organic Beers for Ale Street News earlier this afternoon and I have mucho info left over that I couldn't use. I'll see if I can't whip up a story or two to post here so as not to have wasted my interviewees' time or mine. Or just because I can.

I'll be in the city doing interviews most of tomorrow and then come home to devote a hour or two to doing the Jacey Services comics subscription orders that are my regular late Wednesday afternoon gig, so doubt I will be posting. I definitely won't if Adam gets me that RSS template he promised, 'cause I'll be working on that. "Add a Comment" and "Create a Link" both work now, by the way; "See All Comments" is probably a non-starter until Friday or Saturday.


[ 5:59m edt]

16 July 2007
Only a rumor, but...
...this story I just posted at the Beer Yard site does have some legs. Sources tell me that nothing has been signed and it's still something of a long shot because of the way the LCB interprets "ownership" of establishments, among other things, but I've known about it since last February and figured a second newspaper report, with zoning documents and other verification, deserves being reported.

Good news for Easton, I'd think, if it happens. Victory and Weyerbacher in the same town? I can hear BeerAdvocate hearts beating madly from here...

UPDATE: The Beer Yard story linked above has now been revised to include a statement from Victory reconfirming the basics of the story.


[Updated 10:15am edt]

Speaking of hearts beating madly...
...don't let yours be one of them if you've noticed that some of the new links below recent posts aren't working for you. They aren't for anybody. Still a work in (very slow) progress.

And since I'm busy writing for money today and tomorrow and devoting most of Wednesday to an important interview (how crass and selfish of me, I know), it'll be a while before they are.


[Posted 9:35am edt]

14 July 2007
Today was supposed to have been a good time.
Not in the "Hey, Sailor, want to have...?" sense (what kind of life do you think I lead?) but in the "go drink some beer with lots of people and have fun" sense. My options were the Royal Stumble at Nodding Head or the Big Bottle Extravaganza at Iron Hill North Wales, both great events, the former one of my favorites each year and the one I intended to go with once I decided it was impossible to do both.

Enter Option Three: hang around the house popping pain-killers.

A man of my age, especially one with a bad leg and a back which, on an MRI looks like someone took a sledgehammer to it, should not be tossing around 40lb bags of ice, it seems, but that's what I did Thursday at the Beer Yard. While I was completing my weekly three to four hour penance there, the rest of the staff (Mark and the Chipmonks) went out for a quick lunch. Over the next 30 minutes, everybody in Wayne who ever dreamed of buying one, two, three big bags of ice poured through the door.

Not a good thing, that.

What I have going on with my left leg is basically pain and weakness. This leg was in such bad shape from spinal stenosis that I had a serious back operation in 1992. All of this was aggrevated as the result of playing basketball weekly during the summer on an asphalt outdoor court and indoors on regular hardwood floors for a two year period after I joined an Over-35 League following three years away from the game. So when some similar things started happening to the same leg a while back, you can bet I was alarmed. You do not want to have one back operation in your life if you can help it, never mind two.

Well, there's a nerve or two being pinched again and more damage back there (I've lost two inches in height since the Air Force measured me way back when), but it can be handled with a daily dose of aspirin or muscle relaxants. When I do anything that might put pressure on it, though, I apparently unconsciously compensate and throw all the effort onto my right side. That meant some annoying, make-me-walk-funny pain on that side yesterday, a pain that was considerable worse this morning.

Thus here I sit.

Not such a bad thing in the big picture. I was able to polish up a story for American Brewer that was due yesterday this morning, so I can send it off on Monday after the editor agrees or disagrees with some alternatives I've given him, and I'll get to organize my notes for a story on Organic Beers that's due Ale Street News on Tuesday as the weekend proceeds. Plus that nice Mr. Guyer just sent me a passel of beers to add to the "Just In" list at the Beer Yard site and I really, really need to update the news postings there as well. And there's the usual weekend attention that must be paid to updating The Dubya Chronicles cartoon for tomorrow morning.

This will also give me time to effect the Comments Final Solution, which is going to be a separate page for same, available via clicking a new link that will appear next to "Add a Comment" at the end of each posting. This goes even further toward creating a somewhat similar experience to that available on most standard blogs. I've also, thanks to a suggestion from one commenter which reminded me of stuff I already knew, found away to make each post linkable as a separate item, another of the changes I am determined to make around here.

I'm not entirely saying "no" to WordPress just yet, but I do have this perverse need to see if I can work this out on my own first. I mean, I like it here and am downright comfortable, know where ever squeaking board in the floor is, which cushion is the softest. This little corner of the web is home.

Definitely want to get an RSS feed in place, though, 'cause that's the way to build traffic. Anybody who has any experience or advice in that area, I'm all ears.

Except for this sore spot in my lower back...


[Posted 6:46pm edt]

For your reading pleasure...
While I'm fiddling around writing HTML code the old-fashioned way and like that, there are a few non-beer new items up on site for those among you who enjoy my babbling in any form or format. Both are fiction: Chapter Five of Truth Is the Perfect Disguise was posted this past week (and it may be the last one for a while as I decide just how much of this I can put online without compromising any possibility of its ever appearing in print) and The Family Business is a new short story, written as an entry for a contest on a food-writing website (you can find a few more details about that here if you're interested).

Enjoy. Or not. Whatever.


[Posted 3:15pm edt]

12 July 2007
Your Comments.
I still be figuring out how to best make this comments stuff work. Here's my first attempt.

JAY writes (RE: "Comments added") -- Am I really "adding a comment" or am I "sending an email"? Also, the subject did not seem to pick up for some reason.

JACK replies -- Yes, technically you are sending an email. Like I said, "jerry-rigged." As for the subject, there's no real way I can fill that in in advance for each topic. I'm hoping people will add some reference in the header as they see fit.


DAN writes (RE: "Comments added") -- Good job sir, we all love giving you comments!

JACK replies -- That's just crazy talk.


BRYAN writes (RE: "New Openings") -- Wonder what the deal is with incorporating the name of the street??? Tavern on Green, Monk's on Green, St. Stephan's Green ....I kinda like the earlier name they threw around for St. Stephan's Green--Tabhairne.

JACK repies -- Dunno. Maybe it's something in that Fairmount water.


STAN writes (RE: "Comments added") -- Jump off the cliff. Trust the force. Go with WordPress. You can set comments to approve if you want, but Akismet really works well. Which lets you leave comments open and people can chatter without you around to approve things.

JACK replies -- It's not controlling comments that's got me bugged, it's the design limitations and the lack of freedom to completely break the boundaries and rules if I want. Besides, this is kinda fun, at least for now.


It would be nice, I suppose, to post the comments right under the original item as is the case with your basic blog, but I don't always find myself going back to read them under that system and it would be a lot more work. Once I have an RSS feed, I will be able to link each comment to the original posting it is responding too (I think). Any thoughts, anybody?


Cheese trail. Synchronicity.
I wrote this yesterday in my report on the Tuesday night dinner at Monk's:

...a wonderful locally-produced Bleu Cheese (made by a lady in Chester Springs, I was told; I'm trying to track it down).
Well, I had no idea how I was going to do that and, after checking with one source I thought might be a help and drawing a blank, I was stumped.

So what should arrive in last night's e-mail but the irregular newsletter from Virtual Farm Creative, the advertising and design group with whom I work on the Sly Fox website et al. And who should one of their featured clients be in this issue? Birchrun Hills Farm, that's who.

These are almost surely the people. Yeah, yeah, I could just call Monk's and ask, or call Birchrun Hills Farm itself and ask, but where's the fun in that? Anyway, at a online cheese review site I found, Birchrun Blue is described as "a natural rind blue cheese, a bit of a rarity in a realm dominated by foil casings," and that fits the cheese we had. That same review said the farm has been producing cheese since August of 2006 but currently only produces two cheeses; a Gruyere-style one called Highland being the second.

Best of all, this place is totally local, less than ten miles from here right off a road I pick up almost daily about a mile from my doorstep, and it's a straight run to right about where the farm sits along the Horseshoe Trail. Cool.


[Posted 12:01am edt]

11 July 2007
Site Update: Comments Added.
I've been exploring the advantages and disadvantages of shifting LDO over to a straight and official blog, using WordPress. I've gone so far as to actually create the working model using the software, but, when it gets right down to it, however, I continue to be hung up on the control aspects. I like having complete control of my own thing, you know?

So we're moving into experimental mode. As of this posting, I've jerry-rigged a "comment" capability, something many of you have been asking for. As explained in the new, fixed-in-place "How Things Work" note above, clicking the "add a comment" link (which I've gone back and added to every posting for this month) will enable you to send me an direct email. I will collect these and post this as noted on a regular basis. My spam filter will blow out all that sort of thing and I will toss out without response inappropriate and obscene material so don't waste your time, spammers.

We'll see how that goes.

Next up, I hope to create an RSS feed for this page, which will solve the other thing people are asking for, the ability to link to a specific post rather than the site itself, which may have scrolled on significantly by the time someone uses the link, thus rendering it mostly ineffective. This will benefit LDO itself as well, of course, as will the ability to draw in more traffic through more exposure.

It's all good, in other words...if I can make it work.

You can offer up your first comment in answer to this very posting if so inclined. I'd be interested in hearing what people think. I suppose this is clear proof I'm downright nuts, but you all pretty much suspected that by now, right?

(NOTE:The above, in slightly different form, has been cross-posted at my "Mermaids Singing" page, which is also activating a comments capability.)

Local Beer/Local Food.
That was the theme of the latest (last until September) monthly beer dinner at Monk's Cafe last night and it was the usual good time. An excellent menu, unusual in that the only meat course was as Local Lamb & Beef "Belgian" Meatballs (which were fantastic) served with General Lafayette Alt Who Goes There as a pre-dinner treat.

That was followed by Local Vegetable & Clam Chowder, accompanied by Stoudt's American Pale Ale and Iron Hill West Chester The Cannibal. A Micro Greens Salad with fruit and came with Nodding Head O-Tay, and Flying Fish Puckerfish accompanied Corn Meal Crusted Seitan with a cherry glaze. Heirloom Tomato, Fennel & Herb Sauced Bluefish (Adam and the kitchen crew turned out the best Bluefish I've ever tasted) came with Triumph Helles and Victory Saphir Bock.

Dessert was Fruit Biscuits (spelled "Buscuits" on the menu, providing the night's typographical high point (there's always at least one), along with Sprague Farm Hellbender Robust Porter and Yards Thomas Jefferson Ale.

A few notes on the beers, 'cause I know you care.

The Nodding Head O-Tay was new to me, a Belgian-style Buckwheat Ale, and I was all-ears when brewer Gordon Grubb was pulled to the microphone to explain it. His comments went roughly like this: "I was at Nodding Head pretending to work on a Sunday morning when Tom Peters came it get some beer for the Eagles game. He had this beer with him and we drank it and it was good. So a few weeks later, this came out..." I really love it when brewers get all technical like that.

The big, sour Puckerfish (it is So Hard to avoid the temptation of adding a strategic second "h" to that name) was also a new one for me, and most of us, and general agreement was that it was fine stuff and the edgiest ever Flying Fish. Brewer Casey Hughes offered up some comments but someone forgot to tell him how to turn on the mike and he went unheard by me.

Pairing the Triumph Helles with the Saphir Bock was cruel. Yes, the Helles did go quite well with the Bluefish as the menu notes explained, but the latter beer, originally brewed by Victory under a commission from the Hop Growers Guild to showcase the hybrid Saphir hop (a new Saaz variety) just blew it away. And I never knew about that commission thing until I read it in the menu notes last night. If there was a news release (and there should have been), I apparently never got it.

Sprague Farm & Brew Works is out near Erie, Penna. The Robust Porter was quite good and would have been showcased even better by the usual chocolate-fest that is a Monk's dinner dessert. With the biscuit and accompanying fruit, however, the Jefferson Ale was just perfect.

I also picked up some news during the evening....


Monk's On Green Update, New Openings.
Fergus Carey, the one who isn't Tom Peters, told me last night that they expect to be open by mid-August and that they've plowed a lot of additional money into the site at 21st and Green, formerly home to Tavern on Green. A big issue has been fixing the basement up right because tthey apparently struck water as they excavated. I'm not sure "Monk's on Green" will be the official name, by the way, I've seen several alternatives but forgot to ask.

Fergie says local residents are very interested and eager for the opening. "This neighborhood is single-dom and young people are walking by all the time asking when we'll be open. And families are asking about weekend brunches and dinners." A lot of people were saying that the lack of parking in the area might be a problem for the new venture, but I think--and Fergie seemed to agree--that the neighborhood itself can supply more than enough of a customer base to offset that.

Which is also good news for these guys...

The new Irish-themed bar on the site of the former Cuvee Notre Dame at 17th and Green is named St. Stephen"s Green and is open, man-about-town George Hummel told me during dinner. He says they've moved the bar to the rear of the main floor (it's now longer, a good thing) and at 11 on a weekday night the place was reasonably packed. More evidence that there is definitely a market for both these new entities.

I seem to have missed the arrival of Yello'bar in Grays Ferry at 2425 Grays Ferry Avenue way back in April as well. I am properly abashed. Word is that they have a decent beer list, draught and bottle. I shall determine if that's true at the earliest opportunity.

And let's hope this is the last post in a while where "forget" and "missed" seem to be major themes.


[Posted 12:45pm edt]

9 July 2007
This just in from Dude-ville.
I suppose everybody knows that Scott "The Dude" Morrison, the region's official Brewer in Exile (Tom Baker don't count, 'cause he went willingly and happily) has been busy setting up the new Dock Street for several weeks now and that (not sure this has been said outright in print here on anywhere before but, what the hell, I'm tired of waiting) that he will be doing at least the first round brews for the new West Philadelphia brewpub.

Scott checked in this morning (a man of his word, he is) with this update:

I'm progressing well here and we should be up and brewing late next week. If you're in Philly, let me know, and stop by. All else is going well, as I hope to finish here soon and start my own project as I'm anxious to get out on my own and make the beers I really want to make.
Good news, huh? That would seem to indicate a late summer opening for the once and future Dock Street.

Scott my man, Pottstown. Seriously. This once vital city, conveniently located but a mile or so from where I live, would be a great site for a brewpub following the Wynkoop (and Dock Street) pattern of helping revitalize a neighborhood. I'd bet there might even be some gummint money available in some fashion. And it's a reasonable commute from your new digs.

I'm here to help...or stay the hell out of the way. Whatever works.

And, beer geeks, I'm pretty sure that "if you're in Philly...stop by" thing is not a general invite. Be cool.


[Posted 9:22am edt]

7 July 2007
You will never, ever guess...
...who wrote this:

The question is how do you most enjoy drinking beers? I find for me, that without fail my favorite way to drink beer is to allow beer to come to me. It's an easy thing to do. The only thing it requires is an open mind and someone who is willing to share the possibilities of an open mind with you. A few months ago, I had a two Pabst Blue Ribbon and pizza experience that was amazing. The beer was cold, the pizza was hot and the conversation better. That is beer for me. It wasn't a bottle of 1969 Thomas Hardy's. Nope, it was industrial lager and pepperoni pizza.
Told ya.

The entire piece is well worth reading. Consider the possibilities, friends. You have nothing to lose but your BeerAdvocate t-shirts.


Strange bedfellow.
Not at all happy that the biofuel boom will affect beer prices because farmers can get higher prices from crops other than barley? You may have a point: the price of beer is up 3 percent from this time last year, according to the National Labor Department. Well, if you'd like to see the trend stopped in its tracks, guess who is your new best buddy?


[Posted 9:10am edt]

6 July 2007
Ten beers That Changed Philadelphia.
As I feared, I've been caught up in the aura Stan Hieronymus' posting of "Ten Beers That Changed America."

My take on that: the one beer he's picked that I've never tasted is the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout so I have to remove that. I'll also cut New Belgium Fat Tire for reasons I and others mention in the "comments." To replace them, I'll go with Alaskan Smoked Porter and Arrogant Bastard, both mentioned in the same comments section by others, whose reasoning I can buy into.

I'd also take out Dale's Pale Ale on the grounds that it's more about the package than the beer, which is different from everything else on the list. Replacing it? Tentatively, Geary's Pale Ale, both because of its important to the East Coast good beer scene and because it introduced Alan Pugsley and Ringwood yeast into the picture.

And, lord help me, I've come up with a Philadelphia area version of the list, as the heading above testifies. Actually, it's a 12-beer list, nine of them forming the core choices and the others serving as bookends 'cause I can't decide as yet. It also contains a couple of interesting anomalies in terms of brewers.

And here we go:

Front-end Bookends: STOUDT'S PILS / YUENGLING LAGER.. My first inclination was to go with the Stoudt's, the outstanding beer among the original four from the first modern-day microbrewery in the state. But it's hard to discount the beer which turned "lager" from a style into a brand. I'll take both as a single entry and they make the list if we want to start back in the '80s. The core of the list is from the heyday of 1995-2000, which is, I think, where it should be. They are listed, roughly, in order of their appearance.

YARDS ESA. No question here, this is the one beer that started it all by raising the consciousness of a developing beer culture and inspiring the return of beer engines and cask ale, not mention setting Eddie Friedland down the path toward making his little distributorship, with all its problems, a key player in making a whole slew of great American and import beers available when no one else would.

INDEPENDENCE ALE. Long forgotten in the sorry mess that Independence Brewing soon became, the first batch of this big, hoppy ale was a real eye-opener. Anomaly #1: it was created by consummate Lager Guy Bill Moore.

VICTORY HOPDEVIL. The opening of Victory Brewing in early 1996 clearly marked the beginning of a world-class enterprise to anyone who was paying attention. HopDevil, cleverly not designated an IPA by the brewery (to this very day) to avoid limiting expectations, immediately became, and remains, Victory's flagship beer, but the real crown jewel was...

VICTORY PRIMA PILS. One of the world's great pilsners, this one, and still the standard bearer in a region which Produces a couple of others near that level and several more which would be stand-outs anywhere.

DOGFISH HEAD RAISON D'ETRE. The first of the DFH "off-center ales," and my first sip of this is still one of those moments that marked my recognition of just how many doors this new approach to brewing was going to open. A small shout-out to DFH's Chicory Stout, as well, for being another harbinger brew.

YARDS ENTIRE PORTER. This beer made no commercial sense at all, which was part of its charm. A true original style porter, made by blending a 9.0% Imperial Stout and a 3.8% Mild. Crazy. Wonderful. One of my favorite-ever local beers.

RED BELL WEE HEAVY. Call this one our first "extreme" beer. A truly great interpretation and another favorite-ever. Anomaly #2: it was created by Brandon Greenwood, a classically trained brewer who never bought into the extreme beer thing and will probably slap me upside the head for shoehorning him in anyway.

VICTORY GOLDEN MONKEY. The very first batch, meant to be a one-off, was an unfiltered delight. I've never really bought into the production version--not that there's anything wrong with it, but my vision is forever clouded by that one night when we had the original. This marks three Victory beers on the list, which is pretty impressive. As is this final core beer for a similar achievement...

INDEPENDENCE FRANKLINFEST. Another Bill Moore creation and his most beloved one. You could get Bill to come and brew for you tomorrow if you'd let him brew Franklinfest and take some home with him every night. Really.

Rear-end Bookend: O'REILLY'S STOUT. This beer didn't appear until very late 1999 at the ill-fated New Road Brewhouse and did not bear the O'Reilly name at the time. I include it (depending on whether you choose to front or back load this list) because it has now become a flagship beer for Sly Fox Brewing, has driven Guinness off many a pump in this area and is a true session beer.

Let the argument begin.

Sixpack shines.
I took my gentle poke at him yesterday ("a once-a-week man") 'cause that's the sort of thing I do, so lets offer props as an apology this time around, as our favorite mainstream columnist turns his attention to beer distribution issues in Pennsylvania. This is where this invaluable weekly column shines, in my opinion, whenever reporter Don Russell/beer columnist Joe Sixpack merge into one, a newsman-cum-beer geek who tells it like it is.

The only problem I have with Scott Smith is...
...he's brewing at the other side of the state and that makes his beers difficult to come by. The latest release is East End Smokestack Heritage Porter, a rauch porter which he was just getting ready to crack open for the first time when I talked with him a few days ago. I really, really have to get out west and visit this place on a "growler day."

[Posted 8:35am edt]

5 July 2007
Lettin' the other guys do the work.
Today, as a public service and because I'm feeling kinda lazy, I offer up the fine work of several other beer writers who inhabit the net:

Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer, who is my new website guru (a very scary situation, that), offers us his list of "Ten Beers That Changed America."

Lew Bryson reveals over at Talking Through His...er...Glass (something like that) that he's giving us a break.

Jay Brooks' Brookston Beer Bulletin continues to provide context and background as well as commentary, thus ruining the curve for the rest of us.

The guys over at The Beer Lounge keep rolling along, posting photos and tap lists, talking homebrewing, visiting bars around the clock by all the evidence and, I'd guess, sleeping the sleep of the innocent. Or not.

And Mr. Sixpack? He be a once-a-week man, something that happens as you grow older, I'm told.

Play among yourselves. I'm outta here...

[Posted 1:15pm edt]

4 July 2007
If you're reading this, you deserve a slap upside the head.
Seriously, what are you doing here? Go out and sit in the sun, jump in an ocean, canoe on the lake, at very worst (or best, depending on your perspective), go sit in a friendly bar--dark and dingy or bright and modern according to your needs--and chat with strangers. Better yet, call a friend. Plan to go see some fireworks tonight. Seize the day, dammit.

Get out of here. Really.

And, oh yeah, happy Fourth.

[Posted 12:30pm edt]

3 July 2007
All that needs to be said.
It struck me on Sunday morning that these two panels from the very strange Pearls Before Swine comic strip pretty much summed up the essential meaning of life perfectly:



Where no brewery has gone before.
Dan Weirback emailed me at 6:18 this morning, so excited about his new anniversary beer that he couldn't sleep, even though he made up some story about being up early to brew when I called him. This exclusive news story was the result of our conversation.


[Posted 8:00am edt]

The complete June 2007 postings have been archived here.

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

--A. E. Houseman

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