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1 July 03
"The mother of all beer festivals." That's the way Weyerbacher Brewing main man Dan Weirback described the Old Dominion Beer Festival this past weekend. More than once. Trust me, a lot more than once.

"Here is what I discovered at the Old Dominion Annual Beer Festival in Ashburn, Va. at the end of June: this three-day event may be the best beer festival in all of North America." That's the first sentence of the column I sent off to Celebrator Beer News late yesterday afternoon.

If you're starting to get the idea that this is one fine beer event, rest assured you're right.

Friday. There were good omens from the start. You'll recall that, in addition to getting the story for CBN, I was off to Ashburn, Va., home of Old Dominion, to man the Sly Fox booth. Eight half kegs were already down there after being picked up by OD brewer Bernie Van Order earlier in the week. I was bring the cold box, promotional material and a new 10 X 10 EasyUp tent which Brian O'Reilly, whose newly lively social schedule left him with more important things to do for the weekend, assured me would be a piece of cake to set up.

Bernie and all the internet map sites had told me to figure on about a 3 1/2 hour trip so I was more than pleased to be pulling into the Beaumeade Corporate Center, where the brewery is located, just short of three hours after I left Sly Fox. then I discovered what the extra half hour is for: trying to find the damned brewery. No signs or other outward manifestations of its existence are apparently permitted at the corporate center and, trust me, if you don't know where you're going (i.e., have at least a street address), you really don't know where you're going.

It wasn't until I happened to see the Weyerbacher truck in a parking area on my third run-through that I found Old Dominion. Sort of. A few hours later when I sought out the brewpub while taking a break, it wasn't evident where it was until I was standing in front of the door and could read the name on the glass. Just so you know this wasn't a matter of my tired old mind betraying me: I met two different people at the festival on Saturday who told me, in effect, "I've been coming to this festival for three, four years now, and I still don't know where the brewery is." We were standing right behind the brewery in one instance. Amazing.

With Dan as my guide, a role he played a lot over the weekend, I found my spot in the left rear of the large field behind the brewery where the event is held. It took me, Bernie and two other guys to get our tent up and in place, but that was mostly due to its being the first time the thing was ever put together. I was right next to the Troegs EazyUp, which was nice for both social reasons (sales guy Ed Yashinsky and brewery guy Chris Brugger were on hand until Sunday, when the Brothers Trogner made an appearance) and aesthetic ones (Troegs owns the coolest EazyUp and beer truck in all of brewerdom). My neighbor on the other side was Capitol City Brewing Company, which gave me a chance to chat with head brewer Bill Madden and sample his fine 2001 Wee Heavy. I was pouring Sly Fox Pale Ale and White Horse Wit.

The doors opened at 5 PM and some 2000 people wandered among the 36 brewery tables present over the next four hours. At this festival, you pay $8.00 to get in the door and then buy $1.00 pogs with which to buy beers in your 6oz festival glass. There were volunteers assigned to each table (I think Virginia laws preclude us pouring our own beer, but that was never enforced), freeing me up to wander about and try beer. This is a good thing.

I haven't had chance yet to sort through all my notes but here's what I have so far deciphered. I enjoyed a very nice Summer Bock while talking with brewer Taylor Smack of Charlottesville's South Street Brewery and an inventive Smokin' Scottish Ale from Calhoun's Restaurant & Brewery in Harrisonburg. I had a couple of beers while talking with head brewer Tom Flores at the Brewer's Alley (Frederick, Md.) booth and it must have been a great conversation because I appear to have not written down which beers they were. Bill Spence of The St. George Brewing Company in Hampton told me about the traditional Tavern Ale his pub is brewing for Colonial Williamsburg.

In truth, dedicated guy that I am, I actually spent a lot of time in the booth, charming the crowd and otherwise advancing the cause. And I was there at shutdown time, which was 9 PM (the evening ran until 10 but Virginia requires you to shut down the taps an hour beforehand). There is no messing around with that shutdown time. At exactly 9, someone rushed into our space from behind, literally pushed me aside, untapped the kegs and pulled therm to the rear of the tent. This was going on with equal fervor all down the line. Very weird.

Since I didn't know how to get to our lodgings (supplied by Old Dominion) or even the name of the hotel, I followed Weirback when we left. Our plan was to let me check in and then join the guys from Troegs at Sweetwater Tavern, located across the road from our hotel in Sterling and offering, in addition to the beers of brewmaster Nick Funnel, the ambiance of an outdoor deck overlooking a lake. Off we went, including a two or three mile stretch of unpaved roadway. I was caught at a light when Dan made his last turn and lost him. I was now in the vicinity of my hotel but, unbelievably, I didn't know its name. I finally found it by process of elimination but never did connect again with Dan or find Sweetwater so it was (relatively) early to bed.

Saturday. I hitched a ride over on the Weyerbacher truck Saturday morning. since I still wasn't really clear where the hell I was. It was a beautiful day and the crowd poured in when the doors opened at noon for a nine-hour run before the taps shut down. In the neighborhood of 10,000 people showed up and the beer flowed as fast as we could pull the taps. The first two Sly Fox halves kicked around 1 o'clock, within minutes of each other. This pattern would follow throughout the weekend even though, had you asked me, I'd have been sure White Horse Wit was being served at a much faster rate. It turned out to be one of the festival favorites, with people showing up regularly because they'd been directed to the booth by friends and more than a few people showing up over and over again.

The next "kick" came at 6 PM, the height of activity it seemed, and it was almost simultaneous. Both beers went out within 30 seconds of each other. At that point I'd sent the two volunteers I had out to have some fun for a bit and was there alone...alone and facing a line about 15 to 20 deep and with no beer to offer. The Old Dominion folks were very efficient and working like mad throughout the day to keep us iced and bring beer as needed, but with 36 breweries and kegs kicking one after another, there was only so much they could do, so it took nearly half an hour before we could pour again. Both beers kicked again shortly after 8:30 pm, too late to put on the final two kegs.

Think about it for a minute. Over the course of roughly eight hours, the Sly Fox booth had gone through approximately four halves of beer, all of it served in 6oz glasses. The 35 other breweries were pouring at about the same rates, some more, some less. That's one helluva lot of beer.

That's a quick overview of the day. The highlight for attendees was likely a new Saturday-only feature added this year. At 2 PM, a special cask beer tent opened for business. The former featured Old Dominion Vanilla Bean Oak Barrel Stout, Capitol City 2003 Wee Heavy (winner in the Scotch Ale category at the Real Ale Festival in Chicago in February), Brewer's Alley Pale Ale, Shenandoah Dremo Ale (recreating the flagship beer of a defunct Arlington brewpub which was once the largest in the U.S.) and Nick Funnel's High Desert Imperial Stout. Funnel, as noted above, is the brewer at Sweetwater Tavern; the beer was entered under his name because of a battle going on between the tavern and an Atlanta brewery over the name "Sweetwater."

Oak Barrel Stout is the king of Old Dominion beers. I was told by one insider that it accounts for a full 25% of the beer sold at the brewpub (which has 54 draft lines carrying 32 different beers, by the way). This special version was created by Bernie Van Order using three different vanilla beans and was the beer everybody wanted. Unless my eyes deceived me, the line in front of that keg stretched all the way across the field and came near to blending with the all-day line of people pouring into the festival.

A second special tent opened next to the cask one, also at 2 PM. It featured both European beers (Young's, Chimay, DeKonninck, Maradsous) and additional American ones (DeGroen, Abita, Rogue).

As usual, this meandering account is running longer than it should. As Mark Twain once famously said, I'd write shorter if I had more time. So let me wrap up the Saturday report with the visit I finally made to Sweetwater Tavern.

Dan and I got back to the hotel fairly quickly after the festival shut down, went to our rooms and showered and then walked over. I decided, having been conditioned by over 24 hours drinking beers out of small glasses, that a sampler would be in order. Five beers arrived: American Light, which had a pleasant malty flavor and was more than drinkable (one day soon we have to discuss here the issue of whether a brewpub ought to do a light beer or not; I've changed my position on that in recent months); Great American Pale Ale, which I thought need more hop character; Barking Frog Ale, a nice, malty wheat beer which had a rewarding tart finish; Wit's End, which suffered, fairly or not, because I was comparing it to White Horse Wit, and Straight-Shooter Stout, probably the best of the bunch in a technical sense.

We managed a table out on the deck for dinner, which consisted of a marvelous Tex-Mex Egg Roll and Caesar Salad for me. Somewhere in there, I casually mentioned margaritas and nothing would do but that Dan have one. I resisted until I saw his, then caved. It was the right decision. Rumor had it that Bernie would be conducting a midnight cookout in the parking lot of the hotel so we went back to see if we could find it and managed, cleverly enough, to look everywhere except where it was actually taking place. Not that we needed it.

Sunday. The Sunday agenda was pretty clear, once we'd driven 15 miles or so to get gas and a real breakfast of sausage and eggs and the like in a restaurant which was armed and dangerous. This was "get out of Dodge" day and all attention had to be paid to kicking whatever beer supply remained. I had two halves and, based on what I'd seen Friday and Saturday, figured it would take about four hours to empty them, even with more than few of the tents already shut down by attending breweries which had not brought nearly enough brew. I'd guess another couple thousand people were there. Old Dominion founder Jerry Bailey told me that they'd run through the 12,000 glasses they'd purchased for the event so the overall crowd was somewhere in excess of that, the largest one so far.

Not only were most of us who were serving pushing to finish up and head homeward, the crowd knew that many of the beers would run out before the afternoon was done. The result was, if you had a favorite beer, you kept on it, so the same familiar faces kept showing up on the other side of the taps. Dan, meanwhile, continued his happy wandering from booth to booth to sample beers and chat. The photo above is included here since it captures an historic moment in time. In this one, he is actually in his own tent area. You are seeing what few in attendance at the festival ever saw.

I was almost dead correct about the kick time. The White Horse went out almost exactly at 4 and the Pale Ale not long after. John and Chris Trogner had arrived in the morning, bringing with them more beer, and Chris helped me with the EazyUp shutdown. I was in the car by 5 and on the road. It was smooth sailing until just this side of Baltimore, at which point I95 suddenly turned into an endless traffic jam, for no reason that I ever saw, and I was slowed down to about 20 mph. I'd figured on that for a Sunday afternoon, however, and planned to get off where I could pick up Rt. 1 just above Oxford so I only had to endure the crawl for about 15 miles or so. I was back at the pub by 8:30. Man, I love it when I figure things out right.

That's the story for now. But before we go, let's give a shoutout to Jephy the Beer Dog, who spent a day at the Cap City booth and was part of the pouring team for the cask session. I'm led to understand that she has attended all seven of the Old Dominion Festivals (lucky..er..dog) and that's something to be proud of. I promised her a moment in the internet spotlight. This is it.

This just in: BeerAdvocate.com voters select Victory Storm King best U.S. beer, Sly Fox third best American brewpub. The internet beer site released its Top 50 Beers, Breweries, Brewpubs and Places to Drink lists today as part of the American Beer Month Celebration and several local and regional places and brews are mentioned. Read the story here and read the lists here. And, oh what the heck, since I put it up, you can get the Sly Fox angle on the story over here.

Take one Iron Chef, add a pinch of Brooklyn brewer, simmer and serve. Last Thursday night was a food 'n' beer two-fer downtown. Rogue Ales officially introduced their two new Signature Ales, Morimoto Hazelnut and Morimoto Soba, named in honor of famed "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto at a blowout at the Ritz-Carlton. It brought out all the beer glitterati, including The Beer Yard's Matt Guyer and Mark Sauerbrey, who showed up dressed in traditional Main Line preppie garb to pose with the chef. I had a chance to catch up briefly with old friend Priscilla Estes, who's been suffering in Belgium for the past two years; the inimitable Ed Friedland, beer distributor extraordinaire, and the ineffable Lew Bryson, who pops up in these pages almost as often as Dan and Steve (Don't know? Don't ask), before Rouge founder Jack Joyce greeted the throng and Morimoto opened bottles for the ceremonial pour in, um, unusual fashion (see photo to right). The relationship between chef and brewery is part of the rapidly developing effort by craft brewers to get the attention of higher end restaurants and try and establish an equal footing with wine as an accompaniment for fine dining.

Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver was also in town, for a book signing of his recently released The Brewmaster's Table and Tom Peters, game as always despite still limping a bit from that dropped-keg-on-my-foot thing a few weeks back, put together a small food and beer menu in the back room at Monk's Cafe for a post-signing party. Bryson and I left the Ritz-Carlton and stopped by Nodding Head for a couple of pints on our way over. I considered it my good deed for the day, actually, as it gave ace bartender Spanky Hartranft another chance to make his usual ribald and obscene comments about what he perceives to be my untoward affection for O'Reilly (Spanky clearly doesn't read LDO, does he?). We fended off all efforts to get us to allow any Woodruff to be added to our beers and had a fine time, despite the somewhat unsettling manner in which Curt Decker and the staff formed a semi-circle around us and began pointing at Lew while chanting "he found a place to park...he found a place to park..." Lord only knows what that was all about.

The "nibble menu" at Monk's paired six 5oz beers with a variety of foods suggested by Oliver. Grilled Octopus was matched with Brooklyn Weisse, Billat-Savarin Cheese with 3 Monts Biere de Garde, Chicken & Apple Sausage with DeKonninck Cuvee, Orval Trappiste Cheese with (what else?) Orval Trappiste Ale, Sottocenere Truffled Cheese with Spaten Optimator Double Bock and Stilton Cheese with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. The last two pairings were particularly striking, I thought. I'd never have thought of the stout with stilton. But will now. Hell, I do now. This very minute...

By golly, this Prescription Pils is growing on me. The featured beer at the Monday Tasting which is becoming something of a regular event on the Sly Fox patio was a growler of Dogfish Head Prescription Pils brought by Richard Ruch. Ruch is the driving force behind this weekly gathering, since he needs someplace to go on the one evening when Victory is closed. This was my fourth try at this new brew. The first was a tiny warm sample from the tanks, pre-release, which brewer Bryan Selders gave a group of us at the Milton, De. brewery back in April. I thought it showed real promise. The second was at Penn Fest in Pittsburgh, where I was disappointed. The most recent was during the Pain Relievaz coming-out party at Monk's a couple of weeks back. I was ambivalent. This time, though, I became convinced that my early impression was the right one. Not bad at all.

Archives. Stories in chronological order. What a concept. Beginning today, I am putting all entries in chronological order when I archive a month's worth of LDO (check out June to see what I mean). This startling new approach means that readers can follow the story from beginning to end rather than in reverse. It will probably get me in trouble with the blog gods, but whatcha gonna do?

[Posted 7:15 pm edt]

6 July 03
About those BeerAdvocate "50 Best" lists... Just about everybody in the beer community I ran into over the past couple of days wanted to talk about the Best of BeerAdvocate.com Top Fifty Lists. How seriously should the lists be taken? How could Victory Brewing Company have the top beer in one list, be the number five brewer on another and not even be mentioned among the top 50 brewpubs? And Nodding Head at #49 in the brewpub list, two spots below Valley Forge Brewing Company? What's up with that?

Here's what I think.

All polls are suspect and, while these results are not, in strictest sense, taken from a poll, there is enough similarity to make that relevant. So, even though the BeerAdvocate guys calculated the results, as noted in their email announcing the posting of the lists, " using a sophisticated blend of Bayesian formula and consumer opinion," these findings are perhaps not as reliable as a professional poll.

Bayesian? Glad you asked. That's a "philosophical tenet that the mathematical theory of probability applies to the degree of plausibility of statements, or to the degree of belief of rational agents in the truth of statements," according to this site.

On the other hand, since there is a "control" factor in play--the results are all based upon the choices and evaluations of people interested in craft beers--the BeerAdvocate results are almost surely more reliable than those of a random internet poll.

On the most basic level, these lists reflect the accumulated personal opinions of people of various knowledge, interest and experience. This ain't gospel, gang, but it's not just off-the-wall either.

My feeling is that the top section of each list, the first 10 to 15 listings, are probably pretty reliable, the middle segment is more open to personal judgement and analysis and the final 10 or so are not to be taken seriously except perhaps for the purposes of ragging on friends.

I'd suggest that the most reliable category is the Beer list. Some votes for Breweries, for example, might be based upon a single beer, and both the Brewpub and Places to Have a Pint judgments, presumably, deal with food, ambiance, service and other mitigating factors. Since you have to have tasted a beer to comment on it (one hopes), this should be the "purest" choice.

When I put up the story about this at The Beer Yard last Tuesday, I noted the presence of five beers from Stone Brewing Co. in the top 15 choices (seven on the list overall), which was surely a contributing factor in the selection of Stone as number one brewery. Rogue Ales also had seven beers on the list. Very impressive as well.

Call it local pride, but I was equally impressed that Victory had four beers listed, especially given the beers: #1 Storm King Stout, #4 HopDevil Ale, #21 Old Horizontal Barleywine and #36 Prima Pils. Four very distinct and different beers and styles. Now that's brewing, my friends.

Why was Victory not on the brewpub list? That one still baffles me and, truth to tell, since that absence seems at such variance with the data from the Beer and Brewery listings, makes me just a bit nervous about the validity of the data overall. But, hey, that's what keeps the discussions going.

"I've never been a regular." Our pal Lew Bryson makes that confession here, leading into what I think is a damned good piece about how zoning restrictions and the "Not In My Back Yard" (NIMBY) syndrome are wiping out the neighborhood pub. at least in the suburbs. I think it's great but Lew tells me that it "desperately needs rewriting" because he did it so quickly. Writers, ya know?

In any case, he makes the argument that the disappearance of local pubs marks a decline in both lifestyle and public discourse:

Do you ever get together with neighbors and talk politics? Have you met your state legislators, your township supervisors, your school board? Your parents did, your great-grandparents did, the country's founders did: at the local tavern. Air-conditioning, television, and "get 'em in, get 'em out" fast food joints have cost us dearly in terms of political discourse, and we don't even realize it. That's why people go to talk radio so much, they've nowhere else to go! A neighborhood tavern would be a public good.

Despite my overall agreement with Lew's thinking, however, I do need to point out that, if you choose to live in a suburban sub-division, you should understand up front what you're giving up as well as what you're getting. I've only lived in a development twice and the first time, my first house ever, I was less than a quarter mile from the center of town and three watering holes. The second was a true, late 20th Century development and its most overwhelming characteristic was the absence of community or a sense of neighborhood. Got out of there right quick.

On a related note, Joe Sixpack used the Fourth holiday to look at the importance of taverns in the early days our nation and listed local pubs which are a part of our history.

Come to think of it, My Favorite Beer Writer used that same idea to lead off this internet article which he sold to an online travel site several years back. The information is more than a little outdated at this point.

Fourth at the Fox. Incubus Friday started a little early this week, with the posse and affiliated regulars gathering on the patio at Sly Fox Brewhouse shortly after 2 PM. In addition to Incubus, the 10.3% abv tripel served only on the first Friday of each month, pitchers of Rt. 113 IPA and Pikeland Keller Pils flowed freely and often.

Other beers made their appearance as well. Steve (the Other One) brought back big bottles of Weeping Radish Weizen, Kolsch and Corolla Gold from his week-long sojourn on the Outer Banks. Not to be outdone, Dan (the Big One) served up small bottles of Heavyweight Brewing's Perkuno's Hammer and Lunacy, Unibroue Don De Dieu and (uh-oh!) Dogfish Head WorldWide Stout.

Mike Murphy, our new best friend in Rome, was on hand and presented me with the fine Starbess pint glass in the photo at right. It looks even better filled with beer.

Many interesting things surely happened and much wisdom was undoubtedly imparted. Or maybe not. I don't recall a bit of it.

Sometimes things just work out. Brian O'Reilly, brewer and bon vivant, was absent from the Fourth celebration, of course. I mean, it was the weekend. He did stop into the pub for a few hours during the week, though, and one of those incredible coincidences that brighten our lives occurred in that brief time span.

One of the people I met when the Beer Yard's Matt Guyer and I traveled to San Francisco for the Celebrator Beer News 15th Anniversary Party last February was Chris Black from Colorado's famous Falling Rock Tap House. One of the things we talked about over that weekend was the possibility of getting one or two of O'Reilly's beers out to Colorado during the Great American Beer Festival in September. Chris was amenable to the idea and I promised to contact him when I got back here.

It turned out, though, when I went to email him about that and to send along a photo taken Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, the world's greatest tequila bar to which he had introduced us, his website and email were down. And down. And still down, months later. I learned this week that Chris "arrived back to Denver to find that our dsl line was severed and what ensued was a 4 month nightmare trying to get it all straightened out between the reseller that I use and the local phone company."

Yeah, yeah, I know I could have picked up the phone at any point and avoided the long delay, but I gets stubborn some times. I did decide recently that I would finally but the bullet this coming week. Then the whole situation resolved itself.

While O'Reilly was brewing one day last week (at least, that's his story), a guy from Texas walked into the Fox. had a couple of drafts, bought a few bottles of Ichor and otherwise distinguished himself enough so that a greeting from the brewer hisownself was in order.

Somehow the conversation turned to one of those "who do you know?" things and the visitor pulls out his cel phone and dials up Falling Rock and an O'Reilly-Black conversation ensues. So I end up a working email address for Chris Black and discussions are in place to have Sly Fox beer served at the Brewers' Reception the day before GABF kicks off. I don't have to do anything but sit here and bask in the accomplishment. Am I good, or what?

Beers we drank. Lord, no, not a complete list, but a couple of brews that were sampled during the Monday evening, "keep Richard Ruch from having to go home too early" parties on the Fox patio the last couple of weeks were lost in the shuffle and deserve at least a mention here.

Rick Mayberry, a friend of Ruch's, has joined up a few times of late and he brought along his Kona Knock-out Stout two weeks ago. He and four friends brewed this one at The Brewer's Apprentice, a Brew-on-Premises (BOP) shop in Freehold, NJ last April and bottled in May. It was brewed with "a variety of hops and malt extracts" and then Kona coffee was added to the boil at the end. Obviously a homebrew, I'd say, but a drinkable and somewhat intriguing beer. It would be interesting to try it again down the road after more time in the bottle.

Joe Meloney, another irregular, was down at the Old Dominion Beer Festival last Saturday, heckling me. When he got tired of that, he went out and purchased a large bottle of Hot Rod Rye (Bear Republic Brewing Company, Healdsburg, Ca.) and, probably feeling guilty, brought to our tasting this past week. Tasty brew. It is a dark, 7.5% American IPA made with 20% rye malt and has won medals at 2002 Real Ale Fest in Chicago (Gold) , Chicago Silver Medal and 2001 Real Ale Fest in San Diego (Silver).

[Posted 11:45 am edt]

13 July 03
A spirit of independence. the annual Royal Stumble at Nodding Head is, in one sense, the anti-beer-festival beer festival, the one that breaks all the rules and doesn't take itself at all seriously. At the Stumble, the brewers all dress up in pro wrestling costumes (at least, they used to; each year the number of costumes sadly dwindles and even those, for the most part, lack the bawdiness and verve of the television spawned genre) and the idea is to empty your keg first. ABV of participating beers is limited to 7% or less.

The result? Instead of attendees fighting their way from table to table in a desperate attempt to try everything and get their money's worth, they become the prey, confronted at nearly every step by someone holding a pitcher and offering to fill a glass.

Even that approach was clearly tamer in this fourth year for the event and it was evident that most breweries on hand didn't have a master plan for victory as many did in past years. The fact that the Stumble was sold out before the doors opened contributed to this year's calmer atmosphere, since many brewers used to arrive with a entourage in tow which would work the floor. Chris Leonard of General Lafayette, who won the first two Stumbles and created Stumble Swill, a blend of Dark Mild and ESB, for this year's go-round, confessed that he'd had to leave about 15 friends (and potential beer shills) outside because of the sellout.

The first keg to kick was the Kolsch from Independence Brew Pub, an easily drinkable 4.5% brew. That's Independence keg being waved about in triumph in this photo, courtesy of my crack emergency photographic team, by which I mean Peggy Zwerver's camera in the hands of Cornelia Corey. They had to step in and bail me out because my camera's battery gave out at the crucial moment, probably because Lew Bryson, who came in the guise of the sort of 1930s newshound (complete with Fedora and cigar) you might see at an actual wrestling event, kept asking me to take his picture. Or maybe not.

There were 13 breweries represented and wide range of beers. I had my first taste ever of Nodding Head's Monkey Knife Fight, followed by several more. I caught brewer Brandon Greenwood with a pitcher of same in hand but he (see photo) quickly demonstrated that it was for personal consumption only. Dogfish Head created Hefe Wit for the event, a unique beer with the "clove character of a Hefeweizen with sweetness coriander [to] piss off German and Belgian purists equally." Those oh-so-clever Nodding Head guys listed it in the program at 28% ABV, thus preserving Sam Calagione's hard-earned reputation as the king of Big Beers. It worked, 'cause I saw at least one guy fighting his way to the Dogfish table to get "that 28% beer." Beer geeks, ya gotta love 'em.

Some of the other beers I tasted: 2002 champion Weyerbacher's new and just released Mild Ale, Flying Fish Farmhouse Hop Slam, a great dry-hopped version of the popular Farmhouse Ale, served by the team of Jim ("you thought I looked like a skeleton before...") Brennan and newlyweds Deirdre and Jon Zangwill (see photo) and Sly Fox's renamed-for-the-day Blob Pale Ale, acknowledging the weekend-long BlobFest 2003 in Phoenixville.

Afterwards, Bryson, Sly Fox's Brian O'Reilly, his gal pal Therese and I hustled over to Monk's, where we scarfed down pommes frites with bourbon mayonnaise, one of the city's great food treats, and glasses of the first-ever draft version of O'Reilly's Belgian-style quadruple, Ichor, which he'd sold to Tom Peters for Monk's American Beer Dinner last Tuesday. A great way to end a very pleasant Saturday, right? Well, not quite. There was more to come...

Partying at O'Reilly's place. We have noted here in recent weeks the transformation of Brian O'Reilly into a much-traveled, high-living party animal now that he's found an emotional attachment which does not, so far as we know or want to know, involve anything to do with goats or hops. It will surely come as no surprise, then, when I tell you he decided to hold a small gathering of his nearest and dearest friends Saturday evening, depending on his roommate's skill and training as a chef and the availability of whatever free beer he could slip out the back door at Sly Fox (in this case, sixtelles of Keller Pils and Pale Ale) to insure attendance.

Thus it was that after a quick trip out to the Fox to get my car and have a beer with Bryson, who had wormed his way into a party invitation and then somehow charmed long-suffering wife Cathy into driving down from Newtown with their kids, followed by a quick shower, I joined the event-in progress. The Usual Gang of Suspects was on hand, including Big One and The Other One, which was, I admit, comforting. Their absence from the Stumble, an event where beer was literally forced on the patrons, seemed in such conflict with the normal order of things that I worried that they were either injured in a ditch somewhere or dead. Late arrivals (see photo) were Ann and John Giannopoulos, celebrating their wedding anniversary and, as midnight struck, his birthday. Their photo was provided by The Big One, who uses his new camera to reenforce his status as Primary Posse Person every chance he gets. That, and spreading nasty stories about The Other One...

Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to give you beer.......or whatever it was that Robert Frost said. Home for me, back in the Victorian Era, was Kennett Square, Pa., about 20 miles west of here, the putative "Mushroom capital of the world." So I've always taken a particular interest in the Kennett Brew Fest, which is held every September in conjunction with the Annual Mushroom Festival and this year I managed to ingratiate myself with the folks in charge so that I get to be a little bit involved too.

After much emailing back and forth, I finally had lunch Friday at the Fox with architect Jeff Norman and attorney Scudder Stevens from the Kennett Square Revitalization Task Force, which is the beneficiary of the festival. They have some big plans this year, not least of which involve dealing with the major problems of overcrowding which plagued the 2002 festival. Those including more than doubling the space provided for the 20 or so breweries in attendance, limiting ticket sales, providing an individual tasting glass with each ticket to cut down on patrons asking for five, six or more beers at a time and banning humongous, multi-child carriages from inside the tents. Trust me, this will make a major difference.

Even more exciting, from the perspective of the beer fan in search of new and different beers, is going to be a Speciality Beer Tasting held at noon on September 6, an hour before the opening of the Festival. It's not for me to spill the beans here about what that will involve before it's finalized and up on their site, of course. Well, okay, I will reveal that the centerpiece of this special hour will be Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Red Ale, available on draft for the first time ever outside the friendly confines of Monk's famed back room, and that another of the "specials" has been named elsewhere in this very column.

Admit it. You've been sitting there through the last couple of sentences while the Big Question buzzes at the back of your brain. You're asking yourself "how the hell did he ever ingratiate himself with anybody?" Here's the secret.

First you bring over O'Reilly during lunch, all hassled and brewer-at-work looking so he seems momentarily cool, and he comes up with, right off the top of his head, the answer to exactly how to schedule and play this special tasting that we'd been wrestling with. As good as the boy is as a brewer, he's almost as good as a promoter and planner. His idea, but I get some points, right? Then, after lunch, I casually suggest, "hey, how about I buy us a bottle of Ichor so you can try it?" Just as the Shadow had the power to cloud men's minds so they couldn't see him, the pleasant after-buzz of Ichor hopefully enhanced the vague impression that I had been, or might be, useful. Whatever works, ya know?

The BeerAdvocate lists, one last once. It has been pointed out to me by more than a few people, including co-founder Todd Alstrom, that the absence of Victory Brewing Company from BeerAdvocate.com's list of Top 50 American Brewpubs is no big mystery at all. As it says right there at the top of the page: "...ratings for each qualifying brewpub [are] based on establishments that are solely brewpubs." Gotcha. Let's move on....

More tasting notes. Ever so slowly, not necessarily so surely, I'm making sense of the various crumpled pieces of paper with beer tasting notes on them which are scattered in various pockets and all over the top of my desk. For example, Richard (the Monday guy) Ruch showed up at the Fox a couple of weeks back with a growler of Red Ale from Pizzeria Uno Chicago Grill & Brewery in Metuchen, N.J. It was another very nice beer from the always reliable Mike Sella. Amazingly, the growler, one of the big ceramic-topped ones from Victory, had been sitting in Ruch's refrigerator since early last March! It still poured with a fine head, as I recall, and was still well carbonated. Impressive beer, more impressive growler.

Another beer we poured, perhaps the same Monday night, was probably the most intriguing of the California beers shipped me several weeks back by the Burgundian Babble Belt's near legendary "Dr. Bill," Bill Sysak: Hoptown: DUIPA, a 10% ABV double IPA which was part of a special private bottling of a beer usually available only on draft. This too was a very good, hoppy and scarily drinkable beer, the best so far of the California bottles.

[Posted 3:00 pm edt]

20 July 03
"Bring us more Rubeos!" That was the battle cry yesterday as Dan (The Big One) Bengel and I administered unrelenting and unforgettable pain upon every male member of the extended family of Steve (The Other One) Rubeo who dared cross our path. The venue was that bastion of masculinity, the horseshoe pit, and the slaughter was indeed ugly to behold.

But let me start at the beginning. Using the last sixelle in existence of the recent batch of Sly Fox Rt. 113 IPA as bait, The Other One lured a small band of Fox Irregulars to a Saturday afternoon gathering which he billed as something along the lines of "the annual party for our old bowling team." Apparently, the family that bowls together stays together, because what it was turned out to be a gathering of the Rubeo clan and friends. Which was nice, because The Other One is the kind of guy who truly enjoys his family. In fact, whenever he has a party of any sort, he holds it at his sister-in-law's place in Harleysville, just so she can enjoy it too. It's really a sweet gesture on his part.

So there we were, pawns in the game, standing together in a group where The Other One could point at us and tell his family we would follow him anywhere. It wasn't a bad gig, what with the beer and a plentiful supply of amazingly good steamed clams and mussels and other foodstuff. Still, having all vowed to be "nice" as a result of our putative host's desperate pleas, tension was building. How could we assert ourselves? The answer came from across the yard. "Hey," somebody yelled, "let's play horseshoes."

Allow me to digress briefly and tell you about horseshoes and me. I fell in love with the game many years ago. I think it began during a stretch where a friend owned a cabin on a lake in the Poconos and several of us used to go up there most summer weekends. Between drinking beer, frolicking on the lake, drinking beer, leaping on motorcycles and speeding pell-mell across fields knee-deep in growth and filled with hidden tree trunks and rocks and somehow coming back unscathed and drinking beer, we needed to find something to keep us from actually having to talk about anything and came up with horseshoes. Which we played while drinking beer, of course.

For a stretch there, I'd immediately build pits at each place I lived. And I mean immediately. In the most classic instance, I was already at work even as the moving van was still unloading furniture. As I went to pound the second stake into the ground, I noted that it was slightly bent at one end, which meant the stake itself would not be upright and leaning slightly forward as it should unless I held the stake just right as I whacked it with a sledge hammer (these were long, long stakes). With no one available to help, I was left to my own devices, which consisted of holding the stake in place with one leg outstretched to keep it aligned and then balancing on the other while I raised the sledge hammer above my head, swung....and ended up toppling over, screaming, having experienced the first ever spasm in a back problem which would plague me for more than two decades until, the condition exacerbated by a summer of basketball on outdoor asphalt courts in an Over-40 League, I ended up on the operating table.

Enough about me (yeah, right), except to note that I've drifted away from the game and the few times I've tried to throw shoes in recent years have been terribly, terribly embarrassing. Yesterday, however, was different. I'd regained, if not my touch, at least enough competence to compete, even toss a ringer or two. Better yet, I had done the one thing that has always been the key to success: choose the right partner. The Big One.

He was a revelation. We played, I believe, five matches, and he started off at least three of them with a ringer on his first toss. In every game we had a five to eight point lead before the other side even scored. We took on The Other One, his father, his brother, his uncle, his cousin, whoever, in combinations of their choosing, and smote them all equally. Life was good again.

Hard to believe, but during our team meeting at the close of competition, I was voted our team's Most Valuable Player, despite the Big One's heroics. Then again, I suppose it could be because I forgot to invite him to the meeting and the vote.

Black Raspberries and Steam. The night previous to our amazing athletic achievement, the same regulars plus assorted reprobates gathered at the Fox to try the just-released Black Raspberry Wheat Ale and the brand-new Gold Rush Lager, a steam beer (are we allowed to say that or do I have to worry that I'll find Fritz Maytag on my front stoop with a baseball bat in hand?).

I'm not a fruit beer guy for the most part, but the Black Raspberry is one of my favorite beers and this year's version, tarter and with the abv upped to 8.0%, is a real killer. The world in general seems to agree and, if last summer was any indication, it would be instructive for those who lament that the reason you can't sell craft beers is because they are too expensive to sit at the Fox bar for the rest of the summer and watch folks come in and, without complaint, pay top dollar for growlers of this big, expensive-to-make brew. Since caution has been the order of the day on the Fox patio as a result of the barely remembered July 4 marathon, I spent most of my time with the less powerful and smooth drinking Gold Rush and Pikeland Keller Pils.

The highlight of the evening, though, was being handed a copy of the just released New York Breweries, the long-awaited tome from our pal and America's Sweetheart, Lew Bryson, who'd left it there for me earlier in the day. If he'd been thinking clearly, of course, and remembered that I will be reviewing his work for one or more outlets in the near future, he'd have called me to come over so he could ply me with beer in addition to the book. No matter, I suppose. My simple review(s), the first of which will turn up at The Beer Yard website in the next week or so, will be but passing moments in what Lew's PR guru Rich Pawlak assures him will be a march toward national celebrity. While we wait for that to happen, you can get a bargain-priced, autographed copy of New York Breweries and the earlier Pennsylvania Breweries right here.

Beer geek speak. You don't get hardly enough of that stuff around here, I know, so I've got a special treat this week, guest commentator Richard (The Monday Guy) Ruch, his geek vocabulary nicely honed during hours and hours patrolling the labyrinthian byways of BeerAdvocate.com in search of his dream.

The past week began, as usual, with the Monday night tasting session on the patio at Sly Fox. Let me say first that this thing has gotten a bit out of hand, in my opinion. What started as a nice addition to a Monday night Let-The-Week-Begin gathering for a few beers, i.e., one or two of us bringing along a special or rare bottle for everyone to taste, is all too rapidly becoming almost a competition. Some folks arrive with two or more bottles, almost everybody walks in with one, and the whole thing becomes an Event. I also think we're beginning to ask more than is reasonable of the bar and wait staff. I'm going to try and see if we can put some reasonable limits into play when we get together tomorrow evening, at least for subsequent sessions. Be forewarned, those who will attend. Mr. Fun Guy, that's me.

Meanwhile, since I was distracted for a variety of reasons last week, I early on asked Richard if he would do me the favor of sending me a brief email reminding me what we'd tasted over the course of the evening. However, in the great tradition of The Big One's report on Le Mondial de la Bire last month, what he provided was a full tasting report. In the similarly great tradition of my allowing as many others as I can con into it to do all the work around here, I herewith present that report, barely edited and all Ruch:

[T] he tasting started off with three hefeweizens, actually four if we include Brian's Royal Weiss. I brought bottles of Stoudt's Hefe, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen and Ayinger Bru Weisse. They were all quite tasty and refreshing on the warm, summer late afternoon day, but if remember, the Paulaner got the nod with its banana/clove aroma and spicy, sweet finish.

Next, was a growler of Hippie IPA brought by Jennie and Rick [Smiledge] from Buckeye Brewing Company in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Those folks do like to travel and seek out some new and interesting brews. The aroma was overwhelmingly citrusy (fruity) hops. The taste wasn't too surprisingly dominated by the citrusy hops, but a pale malt provided some balance and flavor. I think Patrick Mullen (see below)called this one "Ruination's Little Brother". It truly was one very nice, heavy-hopped IPA.

Next offering was from our bartender, Corey. It was a very delightful lager by the name of Zywiec Beer from the brewery with same name from the country of Poland. The flavor was of hops, grain and citrus with a touch of sweetness; slightly hinting of caramel in the finish. I believe this brew to be a pilsner rather than a lager, but it was enjoyed by all.

The last brew of this session was brought by a new member of the Monday Merriment, Patrick, who is General Manager of the Exton Drafting Room (another Monday choice of Mr. Ruch). He bestowed upon us a year-old bottle of Abbey Dubbel from New Belgium Brewing Company of Ft. Collins, CO. What I remembered was the smooth, silky taste (probably a benefit of the aging process). The flavor was malty sweet with a touch of spiciness and hints of yeast and fruits. The finish was long and sweet with full malt flavors and a hint of banana and caramel. I know it was my favorite of the afternoon and the majority that were present. Another great session!!

Off to State College......and the State College MicroBrewers & Importers Exposition. that's the plan for next weekend, traveling in the company of the self-same Ruch and the amazingly unflappable Joe Meloney. A good time is expected to be had by all. This feature will therefore undoubtedly be updated much later than usual, Sunday evening if we don't get in too much trouble on the way home, Monday evening otherwise. It may or may not be worth the wait. We post, you decide.

[Posted 1:00 pm edt]

27 July 03
A fine time smack dab in the middle of Pennsyl-tucky. You know what they say about Pennsylvania, right? It's two major east coast cities (Philadelphia & Pittsburgh) separated by Kentucky. Or maybe Alabama. It's a whole new world out there. Fortunately, the good folks who created a state agricultural college back in 1855 decided to locate it right in the center of the state (hey, some rich guy gave 'em 200 acres). It became Pennsylvania State College in 1882 and Joe Paterno University sometime shortly thereafter. In any case, it is a welcome, off-the-beaten-track oasis out there in the hills which turn into mountains when you're not paying attention which has been the site for the past five years of the annual State College MicroBrewers & Importers Exposition. And that's where you could have found me yesterday had you but looked.

Comes this time of year, I begin to get a bit of festival burnout, with tiny sipping glasses of beer whirling through a crowd of too eager geeks in my nightmares. The one saving grace is, as it always will be, the opportunity to try new beers from brewers both familiar and new (to me, at least). The Expo more than lived up to that requirement: Heavyweight Regal Pale Ale; Selin's Grove IPA; Bullfrog Brewery Biere de Garde; Jack's Mountain Restaurant and Brewery Potlicker Flats Porter; Utenos Porter from Lithuania, by way of Chicago's Stawski Distributing Co. These were a few of my favorite things during the four-hour afternoon session.

I went to Penn State with Richard Ruch and Joe Meloney, Richard driving, Joe navigating and me providing the witty banter. It was a quick and easy trip, about two and a half hours. Getting from here to there has become a lot simpler since I last made the trek over a decade ago. We were a bit early and got to wander around a bit and chat with Mid-Atlantic Brewing News columnist Dale Van Wieren and avid beer fan, occasional writer and guy-who's-everywhere Mark Haynie. Let me tell you about Haynie. He and his wife set out for Penn State from their home at the Jersey shore (Mark's a locksmith in one of the big AC casinos) last Tuesday! Their trip began with beers and dinner at Sly Fox Brewhouse and even more beer at Victory. Either later that night or the next day, they hit Harrisburg and Appalachian. They then moved on to Selin's Grove and lord knows where else before finally arrived at State College in time to participate in and contribute lots of beer to what is apparently a regular Friday night pre-gathering of brewers. He was there, in theory at least, as part of the Heavyweight team but I swear he was secretly in charge of the entire event.

As soon as the doors and taps opened, I headed for the Selin's Grove Brewing table. It's a place I've been meaning to get to but never quite have. The word on the street about the beers and the pub has never been anything but unwaveringly favorable, which just makes me all the more annoyed with myself. I got to chat briefly with co-founder and co-brewer (along with hubby Steve Leason) Heather McNabb and her father and start off my afternoon with a sample of their outstanding IPA. It had dead-on hop aroma, flavor and bitterness and I've been told it's even better on cask at the pub. I stopped back later and also tried the Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout, which was good but not outstanding.

Next stop was Bullfrog Brewery. Haynie had told me they'd brought nine or ten beers along and would be rotating them on the taps and that they were all very good. Then again, I'm not sure he's ever had a beer he didn't like, so I needed to see for myself. What I found, instead of beer, was bartender Beth Armanda (that's her in the center of the photo below, between assistant brewer Michael Eck and head brewer Carl Melissas), who was drawing a crowd all by herself as she struggled to put up the Bullfrog banner and waited for the kegs to arrive (several brewers were still setting up as the session started). The beer and the beer guys eventually showed up and I had a pleasant Belgian Wit on that first visit and made a point to get back later when the rotation switched to Biere de Garde and Saison. The former was one of my favorites of the afternoon, perhaps hoppier than you might expect from the style but very fine drinking. Nothing wrong with the Saison, but it paled in comparison. Bullfrog has always been a hit or miss situation whenever I've tasted their beers and Melissas is the third brewer they've had since the Willamsport pub opened in 1996. He came there from Dogwood Brewing in Atlanta and seems to have gotten it right.

With Biere de Garde on my mind, I hustled across the room to the familiar comfort of the Heavyweight table (not too comfortable, since they were located right next to Nodding Head, which meant I was subject to the barbs and jabs of Kurt Decker and Brandon "the Happy Brewer" Greenwood until I tried their high-powered 3C Extreme Amber IPA and assured them it was okay). As I suspected, Heavyweight's Tom Baker had some Biere d'Art hidden away under the table and I sampled that, plus Stickenjab Alt and Two Druids' Gruit Ale and then had to go away and wait until 2 PM when they too would rotate their taps and I could get my first taste of their initial OneTimeOnePlace one-offs, Regal Pale Ale. It was worth the wait, my favorite beer of the day, an English style pale ale made with all Magnum hops and then dry-hopped with lots of Fuggles and English Goldings, the result being a smooth and drinkable beer whose 8.0% abv is thoroughly masked. Its creation also involved 30 pounds of oyster shells added to the two hour boil, which means Tom's partner and wife Peggy Zwerver, a very strict vegetarian, won't drink it, although she admits to having a taste or two. It's a sad situation, she points out, noting that this is Baker's first ever big hoppy brew. "And I just love hops." Man, principles are bitch, which reminds me again how nice it is not to have any.

This trend of bringing along special beers or additional beers appears to be just that, a trend, because I've seen a lot of it this year. Over at the Sly Fox booth, where owner Pete Giannopoulos and wife Mary, who's lugging around a broken leg, were doing the pouring, an enticing tub of chilled Ichor had the geeks circling in anticipation as the designated 3:00 pm pouring time approached (Pete, it should be noted, is not bound by the normal laws of time and space and so a few people managed to get their sample a bit early). For the evening session, they had a sixelle of Black Raspberry Wheat that was scheduled to go on as soon as the rapidly disappearing Royal Weisse ran out. I'll have to see how that went.

Adjacent to the Sly Fox booth was that of Stawski Distributing Company of Chicago, importer of a whole slew of East European brews and a most pleasant surprise: people behind the table who knew the beers inside and out. I chatted with one of them, the daughter of the company's owner, and found her not only knowledgable but pleasantly surprised that most of the people in attendance knew their beers and weren't asking dumb questions such as "what do you have that's like Coors Light?" I didn't have the heart to tell her that the evening session would likely break her heart. At her suggestion, I tried Utenos Porter, a Lithuanian import which turned out to be very nicely balanced and sweet, but not overly so, with a toffee and caramel nose and finish. Thus inspired, mostly by Ruch tugged on my sleeve. I proceeded to the Jack's Mountain Brewery table and tried the Potlicker Flats Porter, a grand brew which was just this side of being over-powering with its coffee notes. Not sure I could drink it all night, but I surely could drink it every night.

What else? I didn't get to any of the seminars (Baker, beer writer Stephen Beaumont and baseball-announcer-turned-Anchor-guy Andy Musser were the featured speakers), the buffet lunch which is part of the ticket price is one of the best I've seen at any beer event and I was highly disappointed that the folks from Great Lakes Brewing Company had to cancel at the last moment, as I'd have loved to add their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter to my porter log described above. Dogfish Head Aprihop is as good as ever; Railbender Ale from Erie Brewing is a very nice Scottish ale, a sneaky 6.8% abv killer. The far left corner of the room featured booths manned by Tom Kehoe of Yards (that's he, with wife Linda, at left) and Scott "The Dude" Morrison of McKenzie Brew House, side by side. If any space on earth ever contained as much pure joy and happiness at being brewers, I'd not sure I could stand it. These guys make you happy just because they're so damned happy. Not only that, but Kehoe told me a shocking secret about something that will be happening this week (but I'll save that until the very last paragraph of today's entry).

After the session, we headed off to Schnitzel's Tavern, located on the lower level of the Bush House Hotel in nearby Bellefonte, where we drank German beers and enjoyed the great weather on a terrace overlooking Spring Creek. A great find, this one, courtesy of peripatetic Lew Bryson (see below for the requisite weekly Bryson update). Then a quick shower at the motel and off for dinner to Otto's Pub, which turned out to be a great place. We each had a malty, pleasantly sweet Helles Lager at the bar while awaiting a table. The bartender kept enticing us with samples of the Apricot Wheat and big dark Weizenbock, but we had other plans when we finally took our seats. The food was exceptionally good. We split a Caesar Salad and misnamed but tasty Portobella Bruschetta (the bread wasn't toasted), to start, then Joe and I opted for the "Abruzzi," a deli-style roast beef sandwich with red peppers, cheese and other good stuff, while Richard went for the Spicy Seafood Linguine, about which he raved. I'm leery of pasta in a brewpub on general principles, but I have to say this one looked very appetizing. Those other plans I mentioned? Arthur's Robust Porter, from the beer engine, with the meal and nitro-poured Black Mo Stout afterwards. Both were excellent. Ott's apparently had some problems early on (they just opened in the past year or so), but things are sure under control now.

The evening ended with a stop at Zeno's Pub, State College's best known beer bar. There was a cover charge because there was music. Loud music. And a crowd. A big crowd. We drank beer. And then we left.

Lew Bryson, pride of the Empire State. Okay, maybe not, or not yet anyway, but the big guy's march toward immortality took a quantum leap this past week with the release (finally!) of New York Breweries. I've put up a brief review at The Beer Yard site, positioning myself for a cushy editorial spot when the Bryson Guides library becomes an independent operation somewhere down the line. A man's gotta dream. A more extensive review will appear, God and Dalldorf willing, in the pages of Celebrator Beer News this fall.

The brewpubs are coming, the brewpubs are coming. I am told that Sly Fox is thisclose to finalizing the lease on the Foundry building in Phoenixville and getting started with construction of the new brewery and brewpub. A nuisance law suit that slowed things up was tossed out of court recently and things are at the "show us the money" stage (i.e., financial data has been provided). Logically, things could be wrapped up in a couple of weeks but, since I have little faith in anything getting done by anybody in August, let's figure on a September signing. If the contract, and the state, allow the brewery to start up before the entire pub is built and ready for use, that means an outside chance that beer could be in the tanks by year's end, with the pub ready next spring or earlier. If everything has to be completed before anything is done, then it's spring 2004 for the entire project.

Meanwhile, while I've promised not to reveal just who as yet, a successful area brewpub is planning a second site in the western Philadelphia suburbs, on the Main Line to be exact. Here's a hint: they already own the existing building and the business operating there closed this weekend. Watch for the walls to come tumbling down soon.

Clearing the record and other fun things. Steve (The Other One) checked in with an outraged email early this week pointing out that, no matter how badly Dan (The Big One) and I wiped up the pits with various Rubeos in our horseshoe match as reported last week, at no time did we do so with him involved as he never played against us. My bad. All Rubeos look alike or something like that. In any case, he challenged me to a head-to-head match, perhaps unaware of the posse bridges he was burning. I agreed, of course, and pointed out that I had the right to select The Big One, as reigning Prime Posse Person, to stand in for me. And added that, conversely, Steve held the same right as past Prime Posse Person. The result? We've agreed that the match will go on and we will happily drink beer while Dan plays with himself.

On another front, the magnificent Matt Guyer also sent a corrective email. I'd said that the "last sixelle in existence" of Rt. 113 IPA had been poured at the Rubeo family gathering. "You badly underestimate me," said Guyer, or something like that, subtly indicating that at least one more sixelle is stocked away in The Beer Yard cold box. And I've also learned that two, count 'em, two half kegs rest in the cellar at The Drafting Room - Exton, squirreled away by Patrick Mullin. I am properly chastened, chagrined and ever so contrite.

Finally, Tom Kehoe wants one and all to know that new brewer Joe Beddia (recently arrived from Fancy Pants in Reading) will guest on the Howard Stern program Tuesday morning and attempt to shave himself while blindfolded. "Shave himself where?" I asked, assuming, given the Stern show's usual tendencies, that I probably knew. "Exactly," laughed Kehoe. Geez, Joe seemed like such a sweet innocent young guy before Yards lured him away to the big city...

[Posted 8:00 pm edt]

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

--A. E. Houseman


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