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Liquid Diet Online

by Jack Curtin

I drink no cider,
but feast on Philadelphia beer.

--John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail

I'VE SEEN SOME STRANGE SIGHTS AT BEER FESTIVALS, BUT...GARO YEPREMIAN? Sure enough, there he was, the legendary place-kicker for several NFL teams from 1966-1981, most notably a nine-year stint with the Miami Dolphins, for whom he was a key player on the 1972 "perfect season" team. The Hall of Fame Armenian immigrant, all 5'7" of him, was seated at a table in the middle of the Main Line Brew Fest at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern yesterday, peddling his book I Keek a Touchdown. It was so totally whack, so completely incongruous, that for a moment there I thought the beer was finally going to my head (and I hadn't even had one yet). I don't know how sales went, but Yepremian's presence turned out to be a personal highlight for the mysterious woman known only as "Amy's friend," for whom, unlikely as this seems even as I type it, he was a childhood hero. She immediately accosted the poor man and began rattling off the names of his former teammates and asking about them (see photo). I'm telling you, folks, even in my strange world, you just don't see this sort of thing every day.

As it turned out, unexpected sights were the order of the day at the Fest. No sooner had I walked in the door than I found Heavyweight Brewing's Peggy Zwerver, fetching as always in what hubby Tom Baker calls her "Farmer Jones" overalls and (uh oh!) a blue leg cast. "I fell in the snow and broke my leg in three places," she told me. "I've been out of work for three weeks and go back on Monday." Terrible enough, of course, but made even worse, Tom told me later, in that it happened on the Friday that Ichor debuted at Sly Fox and they had been planning to attend. I did pry some good news out of him too: he will be brewing his marvelous Biere d'Art at least once more, despite have threatened originally to make it a one-off. I had a sample of Baltus, another Heavyweight favorite, and moved on.

My next stop was at the Iron Hill booth to try the Pig Iron Porter, which was dead on perfect. For whatever reason, I've often found Iron Hill's beers never quite as good off premises as they are at the pubs, but no complaints this time. As I was leaving, I ran into the past and present of Manayunk Brewing, former head brewer Jim Brennan (left,) and new guy Larry Horwitz (see photo). Brennan, you will recall, quit his post at Manayunk last May over a dispute about production. He'd held the job for six years. As you can see, though, there are no hard feelings between the two brewers. Jim had started making a name for himself with some outstanding beers in his final few months on the job and I've heard a lot of good things about Larry's beers as well. It appears that it's more than past time for me to hie myself on down to Main Street and find out for myself.

I talked with General Lafayette's Chris Leonard, whose Loch Ness Monster, an 8.9% ABV Scotch ale, was big enough to keep me rooted to the spot for a bit. He told me that the popular and award-winning Alt! Who Goes There? would be returning in a week or so and that he has a new, "super strong ale," Lafayette's Revenge, in the tanks.

Across from the General Lafayette booth was eternally optimistic survivor Bill Moore, making his first festival appearance with brews from the recently opened Ortlieb's Brewery and Grille at the Sunnybrook Ballroom. Bill's one of the nicest guys in the business and it was a delight to sip a glass of his 69 Lager (named in honor of the founding of the original Ortlieb's in 1869; get your minds out of the gutter) and get his assurances that the pub would move to a full-time schedule with a Grand Opening on March 14 and hold its first "annual" beer festival, "Brews, Blues & Bar-B-Que," on May 17. Bill has about half a dozen breweries signed up already and is working on more. I understand that there is a degree of antipathy toward owner Henry Ortlieb in the beer community at this point, but I hope that a couple of the big guys get behind this event, if only for Bill's sake.

One of the things I find most interesting at beer festivals, aside from a chance to try so many different beers and be pleasantly entertained by all the pretty girls who turn out, is the opportunity to see who's getting the "buzz," who's being talked about. Yesterday that was Scott Morrison of McKenzie Brew House in Glen Mills (on Route 202, just shy of the Delaware border). He had a tasty Steam Beer and a thirst-quenching, 3% ABV Belgian White on draft (the latter not to be confused with his big and powerful White Tripel, a beer served only in bottles). What caught most people's interest, it seemed, was Morrison's Abbey 11, in bottles. You'll find mentions of this beer here and there in the Liquid Diet Archives, mostly tales of Scott's struggles to get it properly carbonated. "I finally took it home, put it in my cellar and put a space heater next to it at about 70 degrees," he told me, "and then bottled it. That did the trick." It sure did.

Jon Zangwill, who's settled in comfortably enough at Flying Fish to be growing a beard and getting hisself engaged to the lovely Deirdre Murphy (see photo) was so taken with Abbey 11 that he made a point of having me provide him with detailed directions to McKenzie's from America's Sweethearts' digs in Media. And speaking of getting comfortable, one of the things beer folks rag Zangwill about, based on the wild and over-the-top beers he produced at Neversink in Reading during an earlier incarnation, has been when he was going to push the envelope a bit at Flying Fish, which is notable for its well-made and traditional brews. Jon tells me there's a barley wine in the tanks aging for release next winter, draft only. Can't wait.

I got to meet Alex Haff of Isaac Newton's in Newtown, a very good beer bar which has been closed for months due to a fire. He told me they'll be re-opening soon and that the place is going to be more of a beer-lover's paradise than ever, with over 200 beers in a glass-fronted cold case behind the bar and 20 taps, at least three of them devoted to Belgians all the time. Given the location, Lew Bryson is of course one of the regulars and I commiserated with Alex about that before promising to stop by myself and improve the ambiance.

The hot spot for the last hour of the Festival was the Sly Fox booth, where a sign had been posted all afternoon, building anticipation. "Ichor Poured at 3 PM" it said. With brewer Brian O'Reilly off skiing in Germany, owners Pete and John Giannopoulos and head bartender Corey Reid were manning the booth and rapidly went through the case of 12 large bottles while fending off the thirsty throng.

After things shut down at 4 PM, a lot of the brewers who were staying for the evening's beer dinner and taking advantage of the Desmond Hotel's generous offer of an overnight stay repaired to their rooms (for all who are wondering why there was no photo of Peggy and her cast several paragraphs back, it's because she, logically enough, headed back to the room to rest before I returned to the Heavyweight booth, camera in hand). Others, including the Beer Yard's Matt Guyer, who apparently found his way home from California, headed to the Flying Pig Saloon in downtown Malvern for, yes, more beer. I had a La Chouffe and then settled in with pints of Dogfish Head Chicory Stout.

Things got a bit fuzzy at this point as I was kicking back and relaxing, but several people, including three or four outright strangers, came up to me over the course of the evening to inquire about a rumor that our pals Dan and Steve (or, as they like to say, Steve and Dan) had experienced a falling-out which resulted in fisticuffs. "Fighting is forbidden in the posse," I assured one and all, but I have to admit that the whole matter is very disturbing. Picturing the Big One and the Other One squaring off is enough to turn the mind to jelly. And then there's the evidence, equally upsetting. In any case, we've turned this photo over to the proper authorities for an investigation.
[posted Sunday, March 2, 2003 12:30 pm est]

ANOTHER WEEK, MORE BEER. I REALLY THINK MY LIFE IS BEGINNING TO WORK THE WAY IT SHOULD. A relatively slow week this past one, sort of a lull before the storm given what's on the horizon.

Wednesday I'll be in New York for the official kick-off of Stone Brewing's entry into that market. That event bears the impressive name of "12 Stone Brews at 12 Noon on March 12" and will be held at the Blind Tiger Ale House, a pub I've been aching to visit. You can find the impressive list of beers on the Beer Yard Events List, (one of the better sources for beer-related activities both local and far-flung, if I do say so myself). Scroll up on that page a bit and you'll see that the annual Feast of St. Victorious dinner will be held at Victory Brewing the same night (damn, there go the ratings for "The West Wing" this week).

Friday night marks the official opening of Ortlieb's Brewery & Grill. The posse and a better class of folks who sometimes hang around in our vicinity will be in attendance to show some support for Good Guy Bill Moore. Personally, I've looking forward to finding out if Henry Ortlieb really does now introduce himself as "Hank," which is what somebody told me on Friday night at the March Incubus Friday gathering at Sly Fox. Of course, anything I think I remember on an Incubus Friday is suspect.

The following week will bring a Steven Beaumont Beer Dinner and Monk's and the annual Michael Jackson Beer Dinner at the same venue.

Like I said, this has been the lull before the (most welcome) storm.

Back to the Fox. It was, as it usually is for Incubus Friday, packed. It is a concept that has worked very well. Given the credit to brewer Brian O'Reilly, who was just back from a vacation in Germany and used the evening to tell skiing stories to anyone who would listen. He's come up with a series of promotions and beer-centric events that have all proven successful. The upcoming schedule includes an April 24 German Beer Dinner and, on Sunday, May 4, the eagerly anticipated Bock Festival and Goat Race. It will be an all-day bash this year, starting at Noon with beer and sausages on the patio and featuring a five-piece German band and, of course, the introduction and naming (after the winning goat in the race) of the 2003 Maibock. Plus some other very special beers, as is O'Reilly's wont.

You'll be able to find all the details on those get-togethers (and several other special evenings just added to the pub's schedule) at the Sly Fox web site as soon as they guy who's supposed to post them gets his act together. Damned layabout...

I received a rare email this week from Nodding Head's Brandon Greenwood, letting me know that his Grog had won a Silver Medal at last weekend's Real Ale Festival in Chicago and about some forthcoming beers at the center city pub: "Wee Heavy goes on next week. Old Willy's Ghost is to be brewed next week. Also, rumor has it that I will attempt a Tripple (with a twist in the pike position) if I can source proper yeast.' Of course, being the up-to-the-minute news source we are, the Beer Yard already had the news about Grog and other local winners online here. Congratulations to all.

Speaking of the Beer Yard, as much as I have fun with the, um, eccentricities of boy entrepreneur Matt Guyer in this space, he gets full credit this week for scouring the Real Ale winner's list to come up with the data that allowed us to post this note as well as the story about our local winners. Like it says, there are more reasons than just great Belgian beer to be thankful we have Monk's.

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something (I shudder at what that might be), but I experienced a second Brandon Greenwood contact (of sorts) a few hours after getting that email. It seems that extra copies of Philadelphia Business Journal showed up at the local Post Office and my pal Debbie slipped a copy into my box. There beaming out at my from a small photo on the front cover was our pal Brandon. Beaming? Weird, man. It was tied in to a story about the local brewpub industry which you can read here.

It was interesting to see some accurate and pointed commentary about why the Independences and Red Bells of the world crashed and burned (and damned near took some good smaller breweries with them) appearing in the more mainstream press. A similarly welcome note about the "hubris and overreaching" of "upstarts" appeared in this nice feature on Yard's Brewing which ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine a week ago today (Tom Kehoe was smiling in his photo as well; hard to believe, innit?). In fact, forget the thing about mainstream writers commenting on the dark underbelly of local brewing; just be grateful that they are writing more and more often about our favorite beverage and the people who make it.

I've finished and will send off to Ale Street News this week stories on the Toronado Barley Wine Festival and "Wicked Pete" Slosburg's new high-end chocolate enterprise; look for those in the next issue (and one on Anderson Valley Brewing in the issue after that). All this, of course, presumes things go as they should. This past week I sent off my first column to Celebrator Beer News, which is also scheduled for the next issue. In that one, I predict the next local brewer who will have the rest of the country clamoring for his beers. Any guesses on who that is?

I don't usually do tasting notes since I'm not thoroughly convinced of the efficacy of my palate, but I did have three beers this week I wanted to at least note. I downed Bottle #0382 (of a reputed 1680 total) of Rarer Rare Vos, one of the cave-aged beers from Ommegang. I've had similar bottles of both Ommegang and Hennepin and didn't really notice any difference from the regular bottlings, but there was a noticeable smoothness and clarity to this one. I hope they do more of this under the new ownership so that valuable research continue.

Just last night I finally got around to the bottle of Brother Adam's Bragget Ale, a honey-based beer similar to a barley wine, brewed by Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor, Maine (location, location, location, as the real estate folks like to say). This one was a gift from Joe Meloney, a sometime fellow traveler with the posse, and let me say loud and clear that I am most grateful. The bottle was marked "aged since November 2000" and, according to the Atlantic Brewing website, carries an 11.8% ABV kick. Seems right. They use equal portions of wildflower honey (2000 lbs. of it) and barley in the brew, along with small amounts of pale malt and hops. The result is a sweetish, very drinkable beer which would be ideal to share after a fine meal. I'd like to try this matched with Dogfish Head's Olde School Barleywine sometime since I found the latter beer to also be pleasantly sweet.

Earlier in the week I opened a bottle of Southampton Imperial Russian Stout from the estimable Phil Markowski at Southampton Publick House on Long Island. This is one I'd really like to try again, preferably in the company of someone with a better palate than my own. Chances are I can work that out, since this bottle came from O'Reilly and I figure he's got at least one more squirreled away. It was an interesting and enjoyable beer, especially at the end when it had warmed considerably (at 10.2% ABV, it was consumed slowly and carefully), but I was a bit confused by what seemed a heavier dose of malt than anticipated, overwhelming any of the expected hop character.

Finally, the long awaited revelation of the story behind the Jim Anderson rumors that we've touched on here a few times appears due the end of this month. I've had (and by "had" I mean "other people who wish to remain nameless have given to me") what I believe to be the accurate story for several weeks now but decided, since I couldn't source it openly, to wait and let things unfold. When they do, you may be surprised about the involvement of a notable local publican. Stay tuned.
[posted Sunday, March 9, 2003 11:55 am est]

SHOCKER! DOLLAR BEERS AND FREE FOOD DRAW THRONGS TO ORTLIEB'S GRAND OPENING IN POTTSTOWN. The frantic message from Dan (the big one) last Thursday should have been fair warning. "Henry O has proclaim Fridays grand opening at 4 o'clock sharp, with 1 dollar drafts! At least to seven, maybe all day!," he emailed Steve (the other one). "Oh no!!!!!! Could this be trouble? (YES) See you Friday at 3:58 at Henrys!" Still, a sense of propriety prevailed and I didn't arrive until nearly 5, following Steve there from his Collegeville digs (as I've admitted before, I have some weird psychological block about Pottstown, getting hopelessly lost every time I try to find something there on my own). I mean, how bad could it be?

This bad: the place was already packed. Doesn't anybody in Pottstown have a job? We found Dan ensconced on a stool at the far rear corner of the bar (conveniently, his head sort of bobs up over most crowds), chatting with Libby, the poor soul who had been conned into being our bus driver on the posse's infamous trip into the hinterlands. The bar was jammed when he arrived at 4, he told us, pointing to the man on the adjoining stool and claiming "this guy had eight beers before I even got here." "This guy" paused long enough to give us a bleary smile and then turned back to his glass.

I ordered a Bock, one of ten beers on tap for the grand opening. I had been assured that morning by the inestimable Corey Reid at Sly Fox, who had apparently sampled it often during a poker game with brewer Bill Moore the evening before, that it would be an excellent choice. Indeed it was, rich and satisfying....EXCEPT that the damned thing came in a plastic cup. Allow me to repeat that: on the night of its grand opening, the night when the beers and the bar would be introduced to many people who were there for the first time, Ortlieb's Brewery & Grille was serving beer in plastic cups!

Okay, not entirely. Most everybody who had a beer when we walked in seemed to have a regular pint glass in hand, but they'd clearly run out of those glasses (and from the stacks of plastic cups I saw being lugged to the bar, they'd run way) out. This is so mind-bogglingly stupid I can't fathom the thinking. Yo, guys! Rent some damned glasses! It's easy, it's cheap, it keeps you from looking like a schlock operation.

While we're at it I got me another rant here. Let's just get it out of the way. I like Bill Moore. Bill Moore is a friend of mine. I'd like to have been able to commend him on his beers Friday night. But Bill Moore was not there. He'd apparently left at 4 (you know, just when the Grand Opening was officially beginning) and gone off to a brewers' meeting somewhere or other, saying he'd return around 10. On the night the brewpub opened (and this is not your basic "can't miss" project, trust me), the brewmaster thought it was more important to go hang with his peers than mingle with his potential customer base. Can you say "clueless," boys and girls?

That's it, I'll play nice now, not even mentioning that, when the live musical entertainment came on, I had to go over to the first person in authority I could find, the woman handling seating in the dining area, and point out that it would be both economically and aesthetically wise to turn off the canned music that was drowning him out over the loudspeakers. As we sipped our beers, the sweet and charming Kelly showed up to yell at Dan and take over his stool, which was not unusual and somewhat entertaining. She then used her feminine wiles to charm the bartender into giving me a real glass with my second beer, which was truly doing God's work. That beer was the Winter Warmer, good but not in the class of the Bock. Henry Ortlieb wandered by to say hello and did not introduce himself as "Hank" as I'd been told he would. I won't say it ruined the night, but it did take the edge off.

I opted for the Awesome Ale next, just because I thought I oughta, then went back, happily, to the Bock for my departure beer. Our group had grown with the arrival of Bob and Bob's Wife and eventually our irregulars, Bob and Amy. That gave us pretty much the full roster of the posse traveling team, absent only a little Joy, another Bob and O'Reilly, who'd somehow worked out a way to head north for a final skiing weekend and get paid for it to boot. With almost a full complement on hand, it seemed only right to create a local version of the Toronado "Lucy Sandwich" photo. The only difference between this and the original is that we were in Pennsylvania and not California. Oh yeah, and there's nobody named Lucy in it. Hey, we do what we can with what we got.

I've saved the best for last. Check out the photo below, which is the section of the pub's beer listing chalkboard which shows the description of Ortlieb's Brewery & Grille's "stout." Oh wait... Hmmm. A Freudian slip by our pal Bill or a clue to the beer knowledge of the staff? I leave it for you to decide. And yes, the beer's name was also listed as "Stoudt." Thanks to Steve (requisite reminder: the other one) for this record of surreal absurdity; he had photo responsibilities for the night since the semi-official Liquid Diet camera is off skiing in Wyoming.

ANTI-SHOCKER! GREAT STONE BEERS ATTRACT MULTITUDES TO THE BLIND TIGER. The guy on the train to Trenton as I made my way to New York City for the debut of Stone Brewery in that market was 35-years old, spaced and, despite my best efforts to ignore him, told me tales of getting ripped off for $50 on his failed early morning drug buy in Philadelphia, how his "Moms" was gonna be angry because he'd stolen $20 of that total from her wallet ("but Moms smokes a little too") and how his uncle blew his head off with a shotgun. I was more than ready for a beer or three when I finally made it down to the Blind Tiger in the West Village.

As I walked in the door I immediately was greeted by the ever-so-famous Lew Bryson, the increasingly infamous Matt Guyer and the wounded (bad leg) Rich Pawlak, who had come up together a few hours earlier. I could see the desperation already building Bryson's eyes and he'd only had to travel with Guyer for a few hours. Maybe that guy on the train wasn't so bad after all.

Or perhapsI misread the situation. This disturbing moment at Oktoberfest, which Bryson reveals on his own website (scroll down to the section titled "They Follow Me Everywhere") in what is otherwise a very readable, interesting and informative piece, reveals how he and Matt have quaffed beers together on foriegn shores in, um, rather unusual environs. Let's face it, the man can write, and I guess where he chooses to drink, no matter how strange, is his business. But still...

Back to the Blind Tiger. One of the few benefits of arriving late is that you can turn to your fellow geeks for advice. Following that advice I started off with a pint of Arrogant Bastard 2001 (from one of only six kegs in existence) and followed that up with the one beer I had no intention of missing, 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale, one of 11 planned Epic ales to be released one year, one month and one day apart. This was the first time it had ever been served on draught. Both were, no surprise, excellent. Thus refreshed, I chatted with Stone's head guy Greg Koch (he's the one with the "arrogant bastard" smile in the photo at right) and Blind Tiger proprietor David Brodrick while sipping a Oak-Aged Arrogant Bastard.

With the "official" Stone reception not scheduled until 5 PM, we then set out for quick visits to other desirable locales. First stop was Chumley's, which turned out to be closed (though the doors were open and we got to wander through), had a couple of pizzas for lunch at the famous John's Pizza on Bleeker Street (when you travel with a foodie like Pawlak, you find these kinds of places) and then, taking the great circle route to get there, discovered the wonderful Vol De Nuit about a block away. This "Belgian beer lounge," hidden away behind a gated, very short alleyway which opens onto a courtyard with the bar in the rear, was not yet open but, perhaps noting the desperation in our eyes after an hour without beer, the owner graciously opened it for us. It is a long room, dimly lit with a window at rear which looks out over a series of handball courts, with sofas and a few tables around and a small bar seating maybe eight comfortably. Great taps--Leffe, De Koninck, Corsendonk, Chimay and the like--and excellent frites with various mayonnaises and mustards. For me, it was the highlight of the day.

Nothing much changed when the official hour arrived as we got back to the Blind Tiger, which meant we were left with nothing but more good talk and good beer. Turns out we could all live with that. I was quite taken with the Cask IPA (specially kegged for the Tiger event) and even more so with the excellent Imperial Stout 2002. Michael Jackson was supposed to show up and we thought we'd hang around for that, but there was also a consensus that we should not leave the city without a visit to Mugs Ale House so we eventually left (Jackson, of course, showed up right thereafter). At Mugs, for reasons that were never made clear to me, we fell in with a group of homebrewers and I watched, with a mixture of horror and evil satisfaction, as they quickly trapped Lew and Matt in a booth, placed a keg on the table and everyone watched in awe as some guy tapped it. It was filled with...water. Don't ask. I didn't, just dragged them out of there to the train, pointing out that Rich, who had soldiered through the day on his bad wheels, deserved a better fate.

JIM ANDERSON, SCOTTISH PUB KEEPER. The story we've had some fun with around here about Jim Anderson moving to Scotland to run a pub there finally broke with an email he sent out on Thursday. Here's what I then wrote in the Beer Yard News Section Friday. There is still more to this (unless I have been terribly misinformed), but I remain reluctant to report the other Philadelphia connection until I can be certain there is not some good and necessary reason for the secrecy. You can get a look at the place here, in a link provided in the email. The clever among you may be able to deduce what I keep hinting at by deconstructing the name of the copyright owner.
[posted Sunday, March 16, 2003 5:00 pm est]

AND LO, THERE CAME WORD OF A VAST HOARD OF THIRSTY BEER GEEKS ARRIVING IN APRIL.There are weeks when, most likely for reasons which hint at some deep and disturbing psychological disorder, if you've chosen to write about beer rather than trying to make an honest living, everything falls into place and there are grand stories to be told about an ongoing panorama of great brews and memorable events, maybe even a news tidbit or two to reveal. The trick is to survive it all.

Monday, of course, was St. Patrick's Day, an over-hyped bacchanal which brings out the amateurs and poseurs (am I still allowed to use French words these days?) and which I usually celebrate by locking the doors, staying below window levels and trying to decide just how offended my Irish ancestors would be at all the foolishness. This year, however, I ventured over to Sly Fox in the late afternoon to hear a bit of music and down a pint or three with regulars Karl and George and our Monday pal, Richard.

Richard is a devotee of the fine beers at Victory Brewing Company (surely a sign of good judgment and wisdom), perhaps the worst single pool player in captivity and a creature of habit. Each Monday when he arrives at Victory to find the pub closed for the day, he is immediately inspired to drive off to the Drafting Room in Exton and spend a while at the taps there contemplating his options, following which he proceeds apace to Sly Fox where the likes of us can commiserate with him about this weekly breach of faith by Barchet and Covaleski.

He is also a regular poster at BeerAdvocate and the local group leader in that site's regular gatherings of members for regional beer events out in the Real World. The next one will unfold on Saturday, April 5, involving at last count more than 250 attendees in 17 locations around the country. The local group will meet at Victory at 11:30 am for lunch of beer, proceed to the Drafting Room for more beer and then to Sly Fox for dinner and...well, you know. If anyone thinks that route sounds somewhat familiar, I direct you to the paragraph prior to this one.

All three sites will roll out the red carpet for the BA gang. Victory will pour St. Victorious Doublebock, St. Boisterious Hellerbock & the just-released V-12, as well as two cask-conditioned beers and a firkin. The Drafting Room has indicated that they will make at least three or four specially requested draft brews available at “happy hour rates." Sly Fox will put on "a significant selection" of their Belgian brews (since this is the day after the April "Incubus Friday," one might surmise that at least some of those will be on the night before as well). Nearly 40 BA members have already signed up for the adventure and Richard feels the final count, including friends, spouses et al, could go as high as 60.

You know, extend the parameters a bit to include a swing down to McKenzie's Brew House on Route 202 and the Iron Hill pub in West Chester, and you'd have the makings of a "Route 113 Tour" which could arguably be presented as offering a chance to sample a high percentage of the best beers being produced locally. Somebody ought to give that a shot.

MOLE? WE DON'T NEED NO STEEKIN' MOLE. Okay, chances are you read that as a reference to a dirt-burrowing rodent. Wrong. Think "Moh-lay." As in a Mexican chili and chocolate sauce. There now, doesn't that feel better?

And that brings us to Tuesday night's bit of frivolity, the Stephen Beaumont-hosted Chocolate, Cheese & Beer Dinner at Monk's Cafe. The way the story goes, Tom Peters and chef Adam Glickman ran into Canadian beer writer Beaumont at the 24 Hours of Beer Festival in Antwerp last November and then began discussing his annual appearance during (but not part of, not this year) The Book & The Cook to host a meal at Monk's. The Monk's pair say they were in "a deep state of refreshment" when Stephen proposed the chocolate-cheese-beer concept; Stephen says it's exactly the sort of wild idea Tom and Adam would embrace, "refreshed" or not. Those of us in attendance didn't much care either way, we were just glad they all got together and worked it out.

"No matter what we throw at him, Adam does an incredible job putting it all together," Tom told me."The only thing I insisted on was that we would not serve anything cooked in a mole sauce. That would have been just too easy and it was exactly what everybody expected to see on the menu." What they did serve began with an intriguing pre-dinner cocktail which was a blend of Hanssen's Kriek and Rogue Chocolate Stout, a mixture of tart and chocolate flavors that was as pleasant an opening gambit as you could want. As it happened, Rouge's East Coast representative, Sebbie Buehler, was seated at our table--as many of you probably know, her picture graces the Rogue Chocolate Stout label. I took the opportunity to get another in the series that our pal Lew Bryson calls "pictures of Jack with wimmins," and it appears to the right. (This series, begun by accident and continued because of a fortuitous juxtaposition of me and said wimmins when a camera was present, will come to a shocking and horrifying end next week. Please don't allow the children to watch.)

Next course was one of the highlights, Monk's inspired and very tasty version of a BLT Club Sandwich, consisting of Bittersweet Chocolate Spicy Mayonnaise, Lobster Mousseline and Truffled Cheese. This was served with Buckeye Vanilla Stout, one of those beers you'd never expect to see around here which Peters prides himself on delivering. Buckeye, I am told, is a brew-on-premises place in Ohio with a small pub in the rear and which produces limited amounts of its own beers as well. I'm a big fan of vanilla and of stout; I'd have to have more of this one to decide if I think they go well together.

That course was followed by a Chocolate Risotto topped with Seared Marinated Pork Loin and Goat Gouda Cheese, another offbeat winner. The beer was Bosco Stout from the Tennessee/Memphis mini-chain. This was one very fine beer. The main course was Roasted Pheasant served over Smoked Mozzarella & Baby Spinach in a Savory Chocolate Vinaigrette, accompanied by Wild Rice and Root Vegetable Puree. Two smoked beers were served: Rachenfelser Steinbrau and Spezial Rauchbier. Both were pleasant, if perhaps less smoky than I might have expected. This is a style of beer which I am becoming more and more interested in exploring.

That Bosco Stout might have earned my nod as the finest beer of the evening if it had not been for dessert, which was a Chocolate Porter Cheesecake accompanied by Rochefort 8 (but of course) and an astounding Cask-Conditioned Victory Storm King. Wow! The Rochefort is considered by many to be the perfect chocolate dessert beer, of course, but I have to tell you, I'd have hated to have to make a choice that night.

AND SO HE'S OFF TO BE A BONNIE LAD IN THE HIGHLANDS. Wednesday night there was a small gathering at Fergie's Pub to have a final beer with Jim Anderson before his departure for Scotland, including the entire Yards crew (Tom Kehoe, Bill & Nancy Barton), Bill Covaleski, Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, George Hummel, Sebbie Buehler, Tom Baker, and William Reed. After I finally received official confirmation, I updated my story about all this at theBeer Yard news page last Monday to indicated that Tom Peters and Fergus Carey of Monk's are the financial backers behind the Royal Hotel in Fortrose, Scotland that Jim and Anne will be running. Tom told me at the farewell party that his hope is to turn the place the premier Scotch bar in that country, acknowledging that it will be a long and difficult process.

While the April 19 "Split Thy Skull" event remains up on the Beer Philadelphia site, I got the distinct impression from Jim that it won't be happening. "Hey, I'm moving to Scotland on April 1," were his exact words when I asked him about it. Another Philadelphia beer personality has expressed some interest in running the event, but his answer to a question about that was non-committal. In any case, I've removed it from the Beer Yard Events listing.

Jim told us he'd like to continue to do beer events in his new locale, perhaps even some involving American beers, so of course a few of us immediately began conceiving concepts such "40s Festival," "American Malternatives" and "Corn-Brewed Lagers." Okay, maybe you had to be there.

SATURDAY IN THE ROTUNDA: THE BEER TASTING THAT NEVER ENDS. I've been to one of the Michael Jackson Tutored Tasting sessions at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology every year for the last five or six, but never for the whole thing, beginning to end the way the brewers experience it. The day consists of three hour-long Tastings each followed by a two-hour general tasting. Brewers have to get there by mid-morning in order to set up and everybody trying to leave at once at the end is a madhouse of epic proportions.

I got the big picture this year by going in as an aide to Brian O'Reilly, working at the Sly Fox table with him--although not nearly as much as he might have expected. Or maybe he did. To cover up my tendency to wander away and visit with other brewers, Brian wisely increased our team by adding Steve, now official Captain of the Posse, and Dan, who's been dropping down in the ranks precipitously of late. They are otherwise known to you all, of course, as--in reverse order--The Big One and The Other One, and their excitement at finding themselves behind the taps with all that beer at their disposal was truly wondrous to see. A selected few appear at the end of this report.

We arrived around 10:30 am and got things set up, then went off to the wonderful White Dog Cafe for a great lunch, accompanied by Scott "The Dude" Morrison of McKenzie Brew House and his pal and aide, John. Scott returned only a few days earlier from a beer tour in Belgium with Phil Markowski of Southampton Publick House and had a Michael Jackson visit at his pub on Thursday, so he was full of good stories. We followed that up with a leisurely walk about the Penn campus before returning to the Museum around 1:30. We wouldn't leave again for eight hours.

I'm tempted to go off here on the way brewers get treated at a lot of these events where they give freely of both their brews and their time, but I'm not sure it's my place to do so. I know that Flying Fish has never participated at Penn and that Yards no longer does so. Others have raised complaints but so far continue to show up. One of these days, when things are slow, maybe I'll do an in-depth look at the whole culture of beer festivals, the good and bad.

Because of helping out at the booth and, eventually, damned sore legs and feet, I didn't get to try as many beers as I might normally. I did get my first taste of Victory V-12, which was scheduled to be poured for the last half hour of each session but broke out early. I'll be putting several bottles of this away for aging, I think. It ships this week to distributors. Victory's Steve German will be pouring it at a Beer Yard tasting from 5-7 pm on April 11 if you're interested. I also enjoyed both the 3 Cs Extreme (a highly hopped American Pale Ale) and Wee Heavy (a long time favorite) from Nodding Head, as well as Unibroue 11 and the Troegenator Double Bock.

Let me see what else. The Dude's Abbey 11 and Double White, La Chouffe Golden Ale at the Shangy table and Orval at Merchant Du Vin. Another hit of General Lafayette's Loch Ness Monster Scotch Ale. Bier d'Arte and an interesting three-year old bottle of Lunacy from Heavyweight. Thelatter item was the result of an equipment failure that put too much of everything into the mix (most notably coriander), with the result of a beer than now has many of the characteristics of a barley wine.

At the Dogfish Head table, Sam Calagione was pouring his new 120 Minute IPA with an apologetic smile. "It's still fermenting," he said, "and green." Yes it was. And about 21-22% ABV as well.

I also tried a few of the homebrews that were featured at the Friday night Jackson beer dinner at the Museum (a concept, he told me when I managed to a brief chat between his book signings, that was both enjoyable and enlightening), but not as many as I would have liked. Four or five different homebrews were on at each session and in all the confusion, it was hard to get a firm grip on what was being served. For me, anyway.

During the last hour or so of the final session, we had a remarkably civil and controlled series of "discussions" about the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration in general among Brian O'Reilly, Tom Peters, William Reed, Dan Weirback and myself,arriving at no consensus or conclusion whatsoever, which may not be a surprise, eh? Why doesn't everyone just agree with me, I wonder?

Tom Peters also let it be known that he had closed the back room at Monk's as of 9 PM and all the brewers were invited back for a "coming down" gathering. We tried to hell to get there but after about 45 minutes of unsuccessfully finding a parking space or a lot that would take our truck at any price this side of usury, we gave up the ghost and came on home.

Tonight it's off to Monk's for sure, the annual Jackson Dinner (not to be confused with the Friday annual Jackson Dinner). The beer theme of the night is apparently cave-aged beers. Man, will this suffering never end?
[posted Sunday, March 23, 2003 3:00 pm est]

IF IT'S MONK'S, AND SUNDAY, AND MARCH, THEN HISTORY MUST BE MADE. IT'S A TRADITION, AFTER ALL. 'Twas a fine dinner at Monk's last Sunday evening, maybe the best I've had, marred only by an uncharacteristic slowness between courses, most notably the first and second (possibly a consequence of the second course being Foie Gras & Orval Trappiste Cheese baked in phyllo, which is not exactly a fast food course). Michael Jackson was also at his very best; he spoke twice, digressed enough to be Michael and amusing but not so often as to lose his way, and actually commented on every beer in the process. Historic? Perhaps.

What was definitely a bit of beer history was the introduction of a new beer to these shores, an event that has become a tradition at these annual meals. As many of us suspected beforehand, that beer this year was Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale, which accompanied the first course, Mussels steamed in that very beer, along with leeks, tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs de provence, garlic & fume. It's a right nice beer, although perhaps not as sour as it might, or should be (Tom Peters, I told agrees, and says the next batch will lean more in that direction). The beer will be available at Monk's and a few select outlets (among them, of course, my pals at The Beer Yard ). Our good pal Fergie displays a bottle for your perusal in the photo just above and to the right.

The theme of the evening was "cave aged beers" (beers matured underground and periodically turned in the same fashion as champagne is), so it was only right that things started off (during the "milling about" period) with glasses of Veuve Cliquot Brut, and they didn't even rename it "Freedom Champagne," (shhh, don't tell John Ashcroft). The beer which accompanied the aforementioned Foie Gras/cheese course was the first of these, the absolutely wonderful Grottenbier from Pierre Celis. As things turned out, I had a Grottenbier tragedy late this past week (which will be described further on); had I but known, I'd have surely pressed for more on Sunday.

The third course was Grilled Deep Sea Scallops, accompanied by cave-aged Malheur Brut Reserve and Duvel poured from Jeroboams (3 liter bottles). Duvel doesn't need me to sing its praises, of course, and I've been an admirer of the champagne-like Malheur Brut even since I received bottles of it last year from the Michael Jackson Beer Club. This was followed by what may have been the best course of the evening, Organic Greens with Fresh Fruit in Framboise Vinaigrette, served with warm Goat Cheese Toast. The salad was perfect and the toast sent the whole course right over the top. The accompanying beer was cave-aged Deus Brut de Flandres, another superb beer which, conveniently enough, you can read about in Joe Sixpack's story in this Friday past's Philadelphia Daily News, thus sparing you more of my verbiage.

The main course was almost as fine, perfectly cooked Roasted Lamb Loin with Truffled Stoemp and asparagus. The beers were Ommegang and Cave Aged Ommegang, which might have offered a grand opportunity to compare the two had it not been for the unfortunate fact that the former was already in the early stages of turning sour. I thought at first that this might only be the case with the bottle poured at our table, but later heard similar impressions from others seated in the back room (I don't want to mention any names, but those happy guys to the left are at the Beer Yard table located in said back room).

Dessert was Dark Chocolate Mousse, made with and served with St. Bernardus Abt 12, yet another great beer I first tasted in a Jackson Beer Club mailing and which is now available at your better beer distributors in the area (you know who I mean...). St. Bernardus was, for over 40 years, the brewer of Westvleteren, and I hope someday, somehow, to compare beers from both, side by side. Sure, and while we're at it, I'd like to have my eyesight and my jump shot back too...

WOULD YOU LIKE TO BUY A SUBSCRIPTION TO TIME MAGAZINE? NO. WELL, WOULD YOU DRINK SOME BEER FOR US THEN? Speaking of the Beer Yard, which I appear to be doing with distressing regularity this week, there came a call from that fine enterprise last Tuesday (actually, there come calls daily, not to mention emails at all hours, but that's another story. "We're going to taste spring beers for Time," said owner Matt Guyer. Proving that bread cast upon the waters does sometimes work, this came about because Matt, when he saw a short piece in Time last fall in which a New York beer specialty store owner, two bartenders and an "amateur" tasted and commented on Oktoberfest beers, fired off an email to the writer of the piece offering his services should they want to do the same thing again. No flies on that boy, you know? And damned if it didn't work. I happily agreed to participate on Thursday evening.

I'm not going to reveal our conclusions until we see if Time uses what we provided and how it's presented, but I'll tell you that the beers we tasted (chosen by Matt) were Sam Adams Spring Ale, Frankenheim Alt, Stoudt's Blonde Double Maibock, Troeg's Troegenator and Ayinger Celebrator. The sixth beer we'd hoped to have (and the one that would, in my opinion, have tied the whole thing neatly together) was Einbecker Ur-Maibock, but it didn't arrive in time.

We started out with only three tasters, me, Matt and the ever-joyous Mark Sauerbrey, who does most of the heavy lifting around the Beer Yard when he hasn't broken a body part. Since he's been known to have an opinion or two in these areas, we tried getting the ineffable Lew Bryson as a fourth, but he was off drinking bourbon someplace. We also failed with Sly Fox's Brian O'Reilly, who was so exhausted from his recent vacation in Germany that he had to take off for California for a week. Fortuitously enough, Bob Rodgers, the former Stoudt's sales rep for this area who is now selling for a Harrisburg spirits and wine distributor, walked into the store as we were finishing up our first tastes and we dragooned him into joining us for a second go-round (not that he put up a fight). We had him taste blind because of the presence of a Stoudt beer (he recognized it right off anyway).

When our "work" was done, that swell Guyer lad broke out some of his special goodies he usually keeps hidden from the staff and his loyal web writer. We shared a large bottle of Uitzet Kriekbier from Paeleman Brewery in Flanders which Tom Peters had given him, then sipped Chouffe Coffee, an exquisite liqueur which is made with a base of Esprit d'Auchouffe ("beer brandy" created by distilling Chouffe), to which is added grain alcohol, natural coffee extracts and "a strong dash of McChouffe." After our first sip. Rodgers and I looked at one another and said, in unison, "over vanilla ice cream, yes!" That was followed with small glasses of Dogfish Head Honey Brown Rum, the first I'd tasted from the new, wax-corked big bottles and apparently available in at least some Pennsylvania State Stores. Sam Calagione sent me a small bottle of the very first batch of this when it was still, shall we say, a bit rough. I have to say it's grown up right nice.

SOME BEERS I'VE TASTED OF LATE. O'Reilly, who stops in at Sly Fox between skiing trips these days, brought back a couple of bottles from Augustiner following his recent jaunt to Germany and invited me over a week ago to join him and bartender-to-the-stars Corey Reid in sampling them. We had Augustinerbrau Munchen Lagerbier Hell and Augustinerbrau Munchen Edelstoff, the former the brewery's world class Helles, the latter its export lager. The good news is that both were excellent, light, refreshing and eminently drinkable. The bad news? O'Reilly is now convinced he has to "fix" his own French Creek Helles, which is only one of Sly Fox's most popular brews and a GABF medal winner. Brewers, man. They're a strange breed.

The Beer Yard's Sauerbrey was the one who took the semi-official Liquid Diet camera skiing two weeks back, preparatory to his taking it along to Belgium a couple of weeks from now. Both of these trips are, in one way or another, direct results of his employment, which means nobody need feel sorry for him any longer no matter what he says. Mark returned from Jackson Hole, Wyoming with beer in hand and was kind enough to send me home with two bottles. Sweetgrass IPA from Grand Teton Brewing Company turned out to be a solid, straight-forward interpretation, hoppy and drinkable. Years ago, when I spent a few days on a ranch in Jackson Hole, we used to up in the morning and slip a bottle of tequila into one of the small underground springs there to get it icy cold for consuming around the fire that night. Sweetgrass would have been well suited to that as well were it available back then (and if we had a helluva lot more springs). The second beer, Zonker Stout from Snake River Brewery (located right in Jackson Hole), was about as black a stout as I've seen, mellow and drinkable. I'd really like to try this one on draft. And I'd be willing to go to Jackson Hole in order to do so. Matt...?

I am exceedingly fond of porters and of scotch ales, so my reaction to Steelhead Scotch Porter from Mad River Brewing was probably foreordained. An interesting combination of styles, this, nicely complex and surprisingly smooth drinking. On the other hand, Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing was really heavy on caramel flavors. I happen to like caramel so I wasn't really put off, but I do wonder if there aren't those who would find this a bit overwhelming.

This is the time of year when the days are just warm enough around here to convince us that spring might actually be upon us and the nights turn colder than seems reasonable (hell, they're talking snow today) to remind us that Mother Nature is a fickle mistress indeed. I find my solace in this confusing set of circumstances by enjoying a bottle or two of big beers in the evening, either one of the single bottles of winter brews I've accumulated over the past three months or one last sample of something I'm laying down for next year. That solace this week past included bottles of Malheur 12, Kerst Pater Winter Ale and Gouden Carolus Triple, All from the Jackson Beer Club. The first of those is a strong, dark brew from the Belgian brewery whose champagne-style beer was part of the Monk's beer dinner mentioned above. Kerst Pater is a Christmas brew, also from Belgium, which is spicy, fruity and an all too drinkable 9% ABV. Gouden Carolus, likely the best known of the three, takes its name from a coin used during the time of Charlemagne and is one of the best triples available.

Had I but known while drinking these fine strong beers that I would receive word Friday night that six large bottles of Grottenbier which were due to arrive that afternoon and which I had been really looking forward to receiving were instead accidentally crushed and destroyed by UPS earlier in the day, I might have had one or two more to assuage my sorrow. Ah well....
[posted Sunday, March 30, 2003 2:00 pm est]

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

--A. E. Houseman

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