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30 May 04
The sun is shinin', oh happy day...
What I was desperately hoping for was that yesterday's computer disaster (see below and here) was merely a minor power unit problem and not, oh let us pray, not a motherboard failure.

What I did not dare hope or pray was that the local Micro Center would actually check it out and repair it this weekend.

But they did. And the issue was as I had hoped.

I am so happy I'm going to actually sit here and post some items rather than pouring a beer and going outside and sitting in the sunshine. Greater love hath no man.

Or maybe I'm just nuts. Whatever.

Goats. One more once.
Granted I'm running the risk of becoming a man obsessed with somebody else's obsession, but this Edward Albee play about a woman who finds out her husband is having an affair with a--drum roll please--goat just seems like a wake-up call from the brewing gods for you-know-who.

Speaking of you-know-who, he'll be having his own moment on stage in June in one of those touching, back-to-the-future reunion things. More details on that real soon now.

Matt Guyer and Lee Marren will really be happy with this.
To clarify: Mr. Guyer, the proprietor and creator of the incredibly wonderful, amazing efficient Beer Yard, the man who has helped turn Flanigan's Boathouse Conshohocken into a really fine beer destination, and Mr. Marren, who is one of the manager types there, will like what follows.

Guyer's name comes first because he writes me a check each month for helping to make him look good. There is not enough money in all God's creation to cover this achievement, understand, but I appreciate the gesture.

One more caveat (will I ever get to the point?). I mention somewhere below that this is a tale of the Huber brothers, of Monday Tasting fame. As it turns out, that's not true. This is Bob's Big Adventure. Bill stayed home and did something constructive.

As if there's anything more constructive than drinking beer.

In any case, here's Bob's report, which managed to squeeze in amidst the ongoing MotherRucker spam (also edited, 'cause I used to teach English and I'm very frustrated with you people):

I was in the Conshohocken area on Friday night with some friends, we sampled a few of the beers on tap at various establishments. Here's a snapshot of what caught our attention.

The Gypsy Saloon (formerly Harlan's): Stoudt's Scarlet Lady, Stoudt's Fat Dog Stout, Dock St. Bohemian Pils (newer softer version).

Billy Cunningham's Court:

     Victory HopDevil, Yards ESA, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

Toad's Tavern: Yard's Saison, Fuller's London Pride Pale ale, Yard's Philadelphia Pale Ale.

The Great American Pub: Pilsner Urquell, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bass Ale.

Flanigan's Boathouse: Troegs Sunshine Pils, Magic Hat #9, Hoegaarden White, Smithwicks, Reissdorf Kolsch (bottle) and really, too many more to mention.

The Boathouse is obviously the place for variety of brewery and styles (36 taps). All beers were fresh, tasted as you'd expect and showed no signs of degradation. All places had at least 12 beers on tap.

Cool.

Four or five years ago, I lived for a while in West Conshohocken, high on the hill above Billy Cunningham's Court. J.P. Boles, who now owns and runs The Ugly Moose and the adjacent The Garage in Manayunk, was the manager there in those days, and I was his de facto beer advisor. It was great fun and he pulled off an incredible balance between just enough really good beers to satisfy us geeks and all the Big Blands you need to attract the waves of Don't Know Betters to fill the place night after night.

I might be there still if my landlady didn't call from Paris to announce that her boyfriend had dumped her and she was coming home. Thing was, she didn't see living with me as a viable option.

This was a terrible tragedy. You should have seen my landlady.

Cousin Jeremiah.
So I get this forwarded email from Covaleski. It's pretty funny and Bill's not even scolding me. Now George W. Bush would likely take this as a sign that the End Times are imminent, but I'm cooler than that. I figure the universe is back in synch.

The email was sent to Victory by guy named Jeremiah Curtin, who is currently in San Diego. Bill figured he had to be my long-lost cousin. I chuckled to myself, since one of the few things I know at all about my grandfather, who emigrated to this country from Ireland on, according to all the papers he ever signed of which there are records, on three distinctly different dates, is that he had a brother named, wait for the drum roll, Jeremiah.

In any case, I emailed the author, who responded thusly:

cousin jack,

you should feel free to reproduce, in part, my e-mail to victory, assuming it is not connected to some sort of an admonishment against drunken e-mailing.

On second thought, if I be not part of the solution, as the fella says.

Hey, if we're not related, we're still family.

The original message (slightly edited for readability and some semblance of punctuation and grammar, stuff like capital letters and all that) :

Time it was...and what a time it was, it was, a shame when I encountered the notice of embargo on your website, and to that (less) golden state that needs you now, and more than ever.

I first incorporated victory beer as a young man of many figurative talents, slouching as one would, toward Syracuse. after a rigouring junior campaign at Bucknell University (Lewisburg, Pa.), the taste of HopDevil a dark-grey untraceable, yet irrepressible olfactory memory (that one, of all the senses, being the summit of persistence), I took a job keeping the bar and sandwich counter at Clark's Ale House. It was at Clark's where your hopeful pilgrim was Formally reintroduced to that beer yet unmatched, nay, unapproachabled.

Knowing there was a smushy city job with friends of mine on the immediate earth crest that summer, I took for granted my proximity to your kegs, and was not reacquainted until much later, at the Highlands Pub, back in Lewisburg.

the date is not important, nor is it retrievable, I graduated after only one more pint of that mesistophelean tempter, and, now, wanting to end your suffering swiftly (while mine does linger), I implore to your brewery that, though it be a desert, the devil has already taken root.

I dunno what he's sayin', but I know what he's sayin', you know what I'm sayin'?

[Posted 6:40 pm est]

Two weeks out of date on Windows '98.
That's where I found myself yesterday when I awakened to find my main computer down for the count. If you want the whole sordid story, I wrote about it over here.

If this was just a power unit failure as I hope, things should be back to normal by Tuesday or Wednesday. On the off chance that it's more serious, though, I have to spend most of my time this weekend trying to recreate all the missing data since my last backup, so there'll likely be a minimum of posting here.

Too bad, too, 'cause I had wonderful stories about those wild and whacky Huber boys roaming the streets of Conshohocken and a mind-boggling missive sent to Bill Covaleski from my long lost "cousin," plus yet another goat-ish harbinger of...well, something. They'll have to wait.

There is, sadly, one story that can't wait and needs must be revealed now so that I can move on with my shattered life...

What goes around...
...yesterday, at least, was a mind-boggling number of horseshoes thrown by Steve (the Other One) Rubeo and what they went around was the stake he was happily driving through my heart.

Steve was celebrating yet another birthday in a life happily lived. He married well, for example, finding a wife who would put up with him, albeit with just an edge of nasty beneath an aura of sweetness. In the bargain, he gained a sister-in-law with a fine home in the Skippack countryside, complete with swimming pool. It is here that Steve entertains, gathering friends and acquaintances and Jake the wonder dog to frolic there several times a year.

One of his annual affairs is a party for hie entire family. He asks several of us to attend as well so he can show his mother that, after all those lonely childhood days, he now has friends. He feeds us and gives us beer, so it's a worthwhile, if somewhat uncomfortable, bit of fiction in which we participate.

Last year, they broke out the horseshoes and Dan (the Big One) Bengel and I wiped up the court with as many Rubeos as they could run at us. We went undefeated, due in no small part to Dan's dropping ringer after ringer, especially at the beginning of each match, thus demoralizing the opposition. He was the star, but I was at least competent.

Yesterday, things changed. Dan stunk and I was far worse. Far, far worse. Here's an example. At one point, Dan unleashed a shoe which stuck the back frame of the horseshoe pit and came spinning out directly at my face where I stood about ten feet further back. Were it not for my lightning fast reflexes...

And, no, he wasn't throwing at me. He was that bad. But not nearly so awful as I.

Steve, meanwhile, took up the mantle of excellence that my partner had lost and carried some guy named Jim to victory after victory. They didn't quite match our undefeated record, losing one game along the way, but we were humiliated.

Not that the day was a total loss. Sixtels of Pikeland Keller Pils and Jake's ESB from Sly Fox were tapped--and killed--and Dan tried to redeem himself by tending to the grill, turning out fine sausages, hot dogs and burgers.

There, it's been said, as it needed to be (this is the punishment I get for having the foresight to have a back-up computer) and now I'm done. I've quit the game forever, even though Steve's insists we have to return next month so that his family can see him beat us. But there are some things that no man should be made to endure twice.

[Posted 3:35 pm est]

28 May 04
The Slow Pour.
Ever since the day Victory first opened its doors, thus fulfilling the childhood dreams of two little boys who were apparently into beer much earlier than most, the brewpub has been closed on Mondays. No longer. Starting June 1, Victory will be open seven days a week. The details are right here, where you'll also learn about some fast women who sometimes hang with Bill and Ron...By the way, I met Bill Covaleski's sister this week, in a post office of all places. She was nice and pleasant and didn't whack me upside my head with a bumbershoot or anything. I understand Bill is now trying to have her drummed out of the family...

The guys at Troegs, being stuck in Harrisburg and all, used their free time to come up with an interesting (and potentially profitable) way you can use old bottle caps. Like I said, they're stuck in Harrisburg and, you know, bored. Here's the scoop...

There will be a mass gathering on the Sly Fox terrace on Monday in lieu of our regular Tasting. Instead we'll drink lots of Fox brews, chow down and wait for The O'Reilly to come through on a promise to wow us with some beers from his private collection, included a few vintage Sly Fox bottles. It's possible, albeit always a long shot, that the Dude will also be on hand. With beer. This is gonna be great unless it rains, in which case it will still be great, but we'll be all wet.

Insert your own juvenile joke here. I'll wait...

[Posted 11:15 am est]

27 May 04
Kellerlicious!
Dudes! What an emotional ride I've taken over the past 20 hours or so.

Kicked the quarter of Heavyweight Biere d'Art which has brightened my life for the last few weeks.

Sad. So sad.

Just now replaced it with a sixtel of Sly Fox Pikeland Keller Pils.

Happy. Most happy.

And you can be happy too, 'cause Pikeland Keller went on draught at the Fox today. Let there be rejoicing and, yes, even a bit of manly weeping. We've waited long for this treasure to return to our midst.

Click on that link and check out the Fox list, by the way, and note that O'Reilly's got 12, count 'em 12, brews on tap. Plus, about 20 minutes down the road (if that), the fine lads at Victory have at least that many beers pouring, plus a couple of cask offerings to boot.

The Route 113 Beer Corridor is in terrific condition as we move into the holiday weekend.

Life is good.

[Posted 4:35 pm est]

Just Another MotherRucker Report.
The complete text of a email spamming through cyberspace today:

The local general manger [sic] of the Friday's restaurant in Exton at Route 100 and Swedesford Road has made a major commitment to local brews. He has 15 taps and except for the three usual bad beers, he has 12 local and regional brews including 4 from Victory (HD, GM, Fest and the seasonal Porter) on tap. In fact, he removed the Guiness and put on the Porter just recently. The Guiness cost him $125 for 1/2!!

I plan to give it try, especially on a Monday or Friday when all pints are priced at $2.50!!

I'll just bet he does.

[Posted 11:55 am est]

Ruminant dreams.
Rookie pitcher Elizardo Ramirez, from the Dominican Republic, made his Major League debut last night for the Philadelphia Phillies in a victory over the New York Mets.

From the Philadelphia Daily News:

He celebrated his debut by calling his mother. And his goat.
We are more than certain that this news sent the heart of a goat-infatuated brewer of our acquaintance a-pounding and his spirits soaring.

You know why.

[Posted 9:35 am est]

26 May 04
IPAs of the Times.
In this morning's New York Times, writer Eric Asimov sings the praises of IPAs in a lengthy piece which includes a list of the top ten choices (out of 20 tasted) of a panel which consisted of him, Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver and two colleagues.

Smutty Nose Big A IPA was the consensus favorite. Dogfish Head 60 Minute & 90 Minute, Victory HopDevil and Weyerbacher Hops Infusion all made the list. You may or may not agree with their placements.

Kudos to Asimov for beginning his piece with a tribute to the classic Ballantine India Pale Ale, the beer which, as I've written here before, convinced me of what great beer could be, and for a subtle poke at Oliver over the fact that he alone liked Brooklyn's East India Pale Ale, a beer which missed the cut.

[Posted 7:15 am est]

25 May 04
Wasted away again in Phoenixville.
Last night's weekly tasting at Sly Fox Brewhouse was held on the terrace in the late afternoon heat and was marked by the attendance of the O'Reilly Himself, deigning to mix with the masses for the first time in several weeks. Another rare face at the table was that of Steve, the Other One, bringing with him a beer unlike any we'd tried before.

The rest of us were, you know, the rest of us: MotherRucker (our reason d'etre); the Huber boys (Bob and his brother Bill, Bill and his brother Bob); Rambling Joe Meloney; Foley the Mad Brewer (sans Lori, not a good look for him); Your Humble Correspondent and, of course, the Shoemaker's Son, who is always there, except when he isn't.

Mayberry was ill. The Smiledges remain Someplace Else, hopefully purchasing beer to bring back.

Jimmy (I'm not Corey, learn to live with it) Wasko attended to our needs and Tim (Dammit, they told me I was gonna be a brewer) Ohst was behind the bar. Nine beers were poured and tasted, judgments were made and notes were taken. This is the way it went, as best those notes can be deciphered (with help filling the blanks from O'Reilly and Foley, each of them a much more reliable source than, say, Ahmad Chalabi).

Meloney showed up with three beers in hand and we opened with a pair of them, Pure Fire Pale Ale & Big Wave Golden Ale from Hawaii's Kona Brewing. Fine brews, nothing outstanding, but they'd be marvelous on the beaches of Maui or Kauai. But then, what the hell wouldn't?

Steve's contribution was the first that any of us had tasted of Dogfish Head Liquor de Malt, the latest "off center ale" from Sam Calagione and his team. Not a bad malt liquor, I suppose, but that's pretty much like being the best modern Swiss novelist. Not much competition. My reaction? This beer is not nearly as annoying as it should be.

Bob's brother Bill then pour Brasserie à Vapeur Cochonette, a strong Belgian ale that I'd like to try again sometime, with food that might suit its sweet and "bready" flavor. This bottle was from 1998 and listed at 9% abv. I usually search out beers I'm not familiar with on the web and could find precious little I could make sense out of about this one. I will note that it is not Cochonne, the brewery's better known (though I'm not familiar with it either) spiced ale. There was a note I saw someplace out there in cyberspace that Cochonette is brewed by brewmaster's daughter, but who knows if that was the case in 1998? All and all, an interesting and intriguing offering.

Next up was my own Alesmith Stumblin' Monk 2002, which I poured with some trepidation. The last Alesmith beer I'd brought, Old Numbskull Barleywine, had been well past its prime. Both came out of the same "beer exchange" shipment from Dr. Bill, Southern California Beer Geek Extraordinaire. I need not have worried. Lots of fun stuff going on here, with flavors of pepper and licorice and anise, one or all of which might be a result of the "three secret spices" used in the brew. Very nice, unusual and 9.7% abv.

Foley, of course, had to top me ever before the flop sweat had dried on my brow. What we shall call Tom's Terrific Tripel, brewed with Westmalle yeast and hopped bittered with Hallertau and Styrian, then topped off with Saaz for flavor and aroma, was marvelous. He made this in August 03 and figures it's about 8.5% abv. The scary thing is that neither Tom nor wife Lori have yet been to Belgium, but that condition will be rectified by the end of this week. Who knows what they'll produce once they've been inspired in the motherland?

Time for Bill's brother Bob to do his thing, which turned out to be Oud Beersel Gueuze from, well, Brouwerij Oud Beersel. This was listed at 6% abv and was wonderfully tart and refreshing. Most of us thought it fairly young, Foley noting that "it doesn't have that oily feel that gueuze tends to get as it ages." We all thought that was just showing off, of course. No vintage on the bottle and the only indicator we had was something that might have said, but probably didn't, that it was "best drunk before 13-03-2022." Somehow, that just didn't seem right.

Rolling right along to what was the last beer of the night, except that it wasn't, we opened Meloney's Gouden Carolus Grand Cru 2003 from Het Anker. This 8.5% abv annual brew is the one they call the "Grand Cru of the Emperor," brewed always on February 24, the birthday of Charles the Fifth. "Impeccable," someone said, and once I got over the shock of anyone at that table using such language, I had to agree.

And so we were finished...until Wasko stepped from the shadows, a truly scary sight, let me assure you. Except that he was waving about a bottle of Fohrenburger Jubiläum , a beer O'Reilly had carried home from his last skiing trip to Germany. It turned out to be a nice, spicy lager, 5.5% abv and easy drinking. In a sense, it made for a neatly closed circle back to the lighter Kona beers with which we had begun.

I do so like neat.

A final note. Over the course of the evening, one of our tasters termed several of the beers as "oxidized," "slight oxidized" or, dare I say it, "oxidized." We've learned to live with this sort of thing. If it keeps him out of trouble with goats, it can't be all bad.

[Posted 2:30 pm est]

23 May 04
Hey, who moved all the furniture around?
Just in case you haven't been around lately (for shame!) or really didn't either pay attention or believe me last week (double shame!), Liquid Diet Online is no longer a weekly blog.

Gasp!

No fear. We haven't gone away, just gone, although this sounds kinda creepy, "irregular." Postings are now made throughout the week. Scroll down and bit and you'll find everything since last Sunday, the last weekly post.

This doesn't mean you have to change your habit of coming here once a week (though, of course, getting you to do so is part of the plan). You can read LDO just the way you used to and the only real difference you'll find is the occasional date showing up between items. Oh yeah, the sometimes strikingly clever working of a theme or concept through a single long post will likely also disappear.

What? You never noticed those?

So relax. Enjoy. Come back when you want. And if you choose to enter now and then through the front door and take a moment to glance at some of the other offerings available on this little corner of the internet...well, that wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

The Mother Rucher Report.
So you fancy yourself a hot shot beer writer and figure you can easily find all sorts of things to talk about throughout the week and all of a sudden local beer news screeches to a halt. What to do? What to do?

You do what print columnists, especially gossip columnists (and that's sorta what this is, innit, a gossip column?), do. You turn to publicity releases and the like to find an angle. More importantly, you seek out tipsters who will feed the beast.

Put simply, you look for a shill.

Enter Richard Ruch, who has been here before. Richard begins every day, it would seem, with an extensive search of the internet, primarily searching for any use or reference to the words "victory" and/or "beer." If he finds both together, he...well, he has to take a break for a bit.

Once he has garnered all useful information, Richard emails same to a select list of internet pals and posts at BeerAdvocate.com

This week, for example, Ron Barchet pulled Richard a taste of "an unfiltered, 6-week old, lagered version" of the the soon-to-arrive Victory Vienna Lager from the fermentation tank. He really liked it a lot.

Richard also received and send around the Summer Newsletter from Selin's Grove Brewery. He really likes their beers a lot.

Earlier this week, I posted a note from Richard about his visit to Iron Hill North Wales, where he tried two seasonals...and really liked them a lot.

Beginning to see a pattern here?

It strikes me that this enthusiast has become the beer geek's "mother hen," an identity I was sorta stumbling toward in the original Iron Hill post, since his visit came on Mother's Day.

Anyway, I like the concept and we today award Richard his own recurring section here on LDO. Look for it regularly under its own title (see headline above).

Stayin' home.
My original plan for today was to drive into the irredeemably unattractive bowels of New Jersey to attend the Open House at Heavyweight Brewing, but--unless I change my mind in the next hour or so--I'm gonna bag it.

I love Tom & Peggy like they were, well, Tom & Peggy, but it's just too beautiful out there to cram myself into a car for an hour and a half each way. Better to sit under the tree and sip beer. Fortuitously enough, I have Heavyweight Bier d'Arte on tap...

See you whenever. Or maybe sooner.

[Posted 10:30 am est]

21 May 04
Andechs Redux.
Two, count 'em two new readers have asked to hear more about my visit to Andechs Monastery last September. Who am I to deny them?

This link will take you directly to the archived report on that Sunday afternoon. If you'd rather have the whole story, this link will give everything, from leaving New York through visits to Erdinger Weissbräu, Veltins and Fuller's and coming home again.

A somewhat modified version of that same trip is underway right now (with Czechvar replacing Veltins), by the way, only my esteemed editor Tom Dalldorf got to go this time. That's only fair, I guess, since I went in his place last September.

To whet your appetite, here's a brief excerpt about how our arrival at Andechs looked for a while like it was going to be a big disappointment:

Finally all together again (even our two Munich explorers showed up), we now faced a terrible tragedy: there was no Doppelbock! Dave and I had already been told this at our first stop but figured for sure that would not be the case up in the main drinking area. Wrong again, preserving our perfect record for the day. There was certainly nothing wrong with the beers that were available (I can attest to the quality of both the Dunkel and the Spezial Hell), nor were the surroundings anything less that beautiful. Still, not having the one beer we'd come for was definitely a downer.

I figured it had something to do with the fact that it was Sunday and the monks might not want to make such a strong beer available on such a heavy tourist day. The place, after all, is a destination for religious pilgrimages as well as more self-serving ones such as ours...

Things got better, a lot better, soon thereafter.

Enjoy.

[Posted 11:50 am est]

20 May 04
The Slow Pour.
This just in from Richard Ruch (not really, he told me Monday at the Tasting): Larry Horwitz has caught up to the "opening slam" at Iron Hill North Wales and is starting to add additional beers to the menu. Richard was up that way on Mother's Day (I've heard lots of people refer to him as a "mother," but this is the first I've heard that he actually celebrates the fact) and enjoyed both a Dry Stout and a Hefeweizen...I'm never quite sure whether these things are supposed to be public events or not, but since it's all over BeerAdvocate, it's not like I'm giving away any secrets. There will be an "Open House" at Heavyweight this Sunday from 1-4 pm, featuring Stickenjab Alt. It has now been made a standard item on Tom Baker's beer menu, with Baltus O.V.S. dropping down to a spring seasonal...a local brewer will be reliving his college dreams for one night in June. Whatever could that mean? The secret is out there on the web if you can find it. Otherwise, keep watching this space...

[Posted 1:30 pm est]

18 May 04
An evening with the Saint.
It has been suggested by one worried reader that shifting this blog's schedule to more frequent postings could have a deleterious effect upon my health. Posting only on Sundays, he argued, allowed me a whole week of "beer confrontations" (love that one!) from which to garner something to say; posting several times a week may force me to more frequent and perhaps even excessive consumption in order to keep up the pace.

I think he's a worry-wart. I mean, I am a responsible adult.

So there I was last night, sitting alone on the pseudo-terrace outside my porch door with a big Victory growler filled with St. Boisterous Hellerbock, the brew which, I am told by somewhat disreputable sources, the departed Jim Anderson once called "liquid heroin"...

Hey, blame it all on Mayberry.

For his big Radnor Hunt party followed by an even bigger After Party on Saturday, he went a little over the top. Even though, he reported Monday night, a crowd of about 40 guests went through nearly four sixtels at the race grounds (St. Boisterous, Storm King Imperial Stout, Sly Fox Helles and Pale Ale), there was still more draught beer than available taps left at his place when the last straggled was tossed out into the street around 2:30 am Sunday. Well, that's his story anyway.

I poured a glass. The beer had lost most of its carbonation and poured flat. Not as aesthetically pleasing as it should be, then, but still tasting mighty fine. Still, the lack of a head was pretty strong evidence that there was no turning back, no returning the growler to the 'frig for another night. What to do?

Drinking the entire growler by myself was out of the question. The way these evenings sitting outside work, I let the dogs back in when we're finished, not vice-versa. Like I said, I have responsibilities. A solution had to be found.

Which is why, I suppose, God created landlords. Especially landlords with two hunting buddies who show up at appropriate moments.

These guys are, you should excuse the expression, Coors drinkers, but otherwise intelligent enough. which is to say, free beer is not to be refused, no matter how "weird" it might seem. I poured each a pint and added a second for myself. The lack of carbonation threw them a bit, but they soldiered through and managed to give St. B, if not enthusiastic praise, at last accommodating shrugs of the shoulder. I'd call it an "okay, I guess."

When they'd left, there was perhaps half a pint still in the growler. I poured it. Drank it. Life was good.

Although the dogs did have to help with the door latch...

A cruel and hurtful slur.
Bengel, The Big One, sent out a mass email "thank you" to attendees at his birthday bash at the Fox on Incubus Friday, May 7. And it began with what I consider a base canard, an attempt to wax humorous at my expense. To wit:

Dear fine friends, I believe it was the great 19th century writer Jack Curtin who said, "I am not surprised by the number of people who are here on a beautiful Friday night, but what they have brought." I too share in that wisdom....
Excuse me? Shouldn't that read "greatEST 19th century writer?" Sheesh.

[Posted 9:35 am est]

17 May 04
As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
Not long after we had settled in for our regular Monday Night Beer Tasting at Sly Fox last night, the skies opened, thunder rumbled and we were forced inside by the storm.

Only a churlish oaf would dare to suggest that such was the universe's bitter response to our being blown off, yet again, by erstwhile mega-star brewer Brian O'Reilly, who found better things to do over at the forthcoming Royersford brewery than hang with the likes of us.

On the other hand, the self-chosen absence of O'Reilly on a night when what he once termed "the best doppelbock in the world" was poured might instead be interpreted as a gentle reminder from the Powers That Be to him and to us that even the simplest choices have consequences.

Whatever.

A few of the regulars were missing (the Hubers, the Smiledges), but new to our number was another "Monday refugee" from Victory, Don Wintjen, and he made a fine debut with a pair of brews fresh from Germany. Also back in the ranks for the second week in a row was Karl Shoemaker, enthusiastically returned from his mental health break or snit or whatever it was that had sent him wandering in the wilderness. If this return marked yet another signal from the universe, I can't imagine what it could be.

As we chatted and awaited the signal to begin (the arrival of Joe Meloney is our semi-official starting gun), I had my first pint of Cascade Anniversary Ale, the fifth in O'Reilly's series of varietal IPAs. Pretty intense stuff. Friday, December 10, when this entire series and Sly Fox's first Imperial IPA are all going to be on tap is going to be one very hoppy evening indeed.

Okay, so we started with the wrong beer.
Speaking of intense, we started the evening's tasting with a small bottle of Cassis de Hill, brewed by Bob Barrar at Iron Hill's Media pub. This is a sister brew to the Framboise de Hill which won a Bronze Medal in the recent Gold Cup competitions. A lovely lambic, with as powerful a fruit presence and aroma as any I've tasted. Too powerful to open a tasting with under normal circumstances, but I'd had the bottle on ice at the Fox for nearly a month waiting from the right moment and figured to hell with it, we're drinking it now.

I also brought, and got us back on track with, a 750ml bottle of Stoudt's Fat Dog Stout. This bottle was at least two, maybe three, years old and had mellowed out wonderfully. I brought it as a nod to the fact that Stoudt is phasing out the big bottles and to honor the now deceased "fat dog" himself, with whom I once had dinner. Tasting how wonderfully this beer had aged, I have to hope that phase-out is but a passing thing as has sometimes been hinted by Mark Worona.

Next up was Legend Pilsner, a very fine representation of the Bohemian style from the Virginia brewery, courtesy of Rick Mayberry. I don't know much about Legend; this beer makes me want to know more.

Richard Ruch reached back into the depths of his apparently very deep refrigerator and arrived with a two-month old growler of Ramstein Maibock from New Jersey's respected High Point Wheat Beer Company. This had lost most of its carbonation (too much, I thought) but was well received by the gathering.

Then things got interesting.

Bink this, pal.
Lori Limper moved us into unexplored territory with a bottle of Bloesem Bink from Belgium's Brouwerij Kerkom. A fascinating fruit beer, this, stronger than it seemed (7.1% abv) and redolent with flavors of honey and pear. Locally grown pears and honey, as it turns out, and released by this little farmhouse brewery as a celebration of the annual harvest.

So, why did the very beer-knowledgable Ms. Limper choose this fine brew? On the basis of its history? Because of her fondness for Kerkom brews? Not at all. She chose it because of the cute little bee and pretty flowers on the label (see photo). Hey, feel free to insert your very own sexist joke here; I'm not that crazy.

Now it was Wintjen's turn. He started us off with Krautheimer Urtyp-Dunkel, a very nice dark beer, perhaps a bit lighter than the style usually offers but with a marvelous malt and slightly sweet caramel flavor. And then he poured...

Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel.

Whoa!

O'Reilly was right, of course. This is arguably the very best Doppelbock in the world. Those who have been reading these ramblings since the early days will recall that, prior to my trip to German and England with Distinguished Brands International, he spent most of his waking hours urging me to visit the monastery and try this beer. Which, of course, I did. It was wonderful then in Germany overlooking the Bavaria mountains; it was wonderful last evening in Phoenixville overlooking a table filled with empty tasting glasses.

Hopefully, those among our gathering who giggled nervously and began making Massachusetts jokes when I expressed my strong affection for Mr. Wintjen as soon as he revealed the treasure he had brought now understand the emotion.

Into the stretch.
Two beers remained to complete our evening's work. Tom Foley, as is usually the case, offered up a brew of his own creation, Yet Another Belgian Strong Ale. And, as is also usually the case, this one was well made and quite tasty, notable for its intriguing hints of licorice. Last up, from Meloney, was Allagash Four, the Maine brewery's excellent new Quadrupel which is made with "four malts, four varieties of hops, four natural sugars, and is fermented four times." Gee, I wonder how they came up with the name?

[Posted 11:15 am est]

16 May 04
Lo, there shall come a mystery guest.
Yep, he finally arrived on Monday, surprising even me. Aside from that, everything was pretty normal at Sly Fox: there was lots of good beer and conversation and O'Reilly was missing in action.

His beer wasn't, however, not only the pints we bought from the bar, but a growler of Abbey Xtra which our founder and icon Richard Ruch found in the back of his 'frig which might have been almost two years old. Everybody thought it held up pretty damned well.

Next up, irregular (in every sense of the word) David Boston poured Rogue Dead Guy Ale and Magic Hat Humble Patience. The latter, an Irish Red Ale, had a pleasant malty finish, a surprise to me, far from a Magic Hat fan.

Tom Foley was back from London with Wychwood White Wytch, perhaps most kindly described as a British effort to find a middle ground between session beers and big beers (ah, those whacky Brits). Fortunately, wife Lori Limper was on hand to save the family rep with Éphémère, the wonderful apple beer from Unibroue.

By wonderful coincidence, both irregular Lee Marren, from Flanigan's Boathouse Conshohocken, and our rambling retirees, Rick and Jeanne Smiledge, showed up with brews from Harpoon Brewery's new "100 Barrel Series." Marren brought the Alt and the Smiledges' the Abbey. Both were tasty and impressive. Good show, Harpoon.

Bob Huber thereupon upped the ante with Urthel Tonicum Finabulous, the very good, 7.5% Belgian Strong Pale Ale. As we were working on that...

Tom Baker showed up.

Yes, our long-awaited Mystery Guest was none other than Heavyweight Brewing's very own master of the kettle. Much joy and excitement ensued, although when it was clear that Peggy wasn't with him, Ruch took to mumbling to himself and drinking more rapidly.

Tom brought beers, of course, but we decided to finish off what was already on the schedule before moving to those. While Tom had a bit of the Tonicum and whatever else we still had available, we opened Joe Meloney's Brouwerij Sint-Bernardus Prior 8, a fine beer indeed, and followed that with what was to have been our "closing" beer, provided by Bill Huber: George Gale's Prize Old Ale 1996. I say again, "1996!" Wonderful, wonderful.

As a side note, does it strike anyone out there that the entire Tasting Group should be hauling me around on their shoulders and shouting "Huzzah! Huzzah!" because I invited the Huber brothers into our little group? Just askin'.

At last, the Heavyweight beers. Tom brought growlers of Black Ocean, the new Schwartzbier made from Perkuno's Hammer second runnings which he's adding to the brewery regular lineup (for this and other Heavyweight news, see the news story I posted here on Thursday) and Golden Idol, a Belgian Pale Ale made with reconstituted Orval yeast. The former--nobody is going to believe this, are they?--is a 4.4% abv beer. Both were more than worth the wait.

But Baker wasn't done, or maybe we just loosened him up with beer. He went out to his car and brought back a beer he called "one of the best I've discovered in the last few years." It was Rapscallion, a 15-month old, 8% abv Belgian Strong Ale from Concord Brewing in Massachusetts (NOTE: this has been corrected from Cambridge Brewing in the original posting, based upon information from a reader).

This one was brewed with Westmalle yeast, Tom said, by Dann Paquette, who is no longer at Concord. I'm pretty sure it was worthy of his praise, but memory has faded and my notes are, y'know, incomprehensi-bobble.

In fact, I'm nursing this vague and uncomfortable feeling that I've screwed some of this report up. If so, rest assured, I'll be told about it and fix it.

Somewhere in all this, by the way, a guy named Carter Banzsall showed up with what he believes to be an antique brewery aerator pump circa 1885. It was made by McCambridge & Co. in Philadelphia and patented 12/8/1885. I told him I'd ask you all to help me figure out if he's correct.

If whoever it was who took a photograph of it and then didn't send it to me (Boston?) ever does so, we'll get right on that case.

The beer festival I didn't attend...
...but kinda wish I had, yesterday's Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers Festival. My regrets are based upon reports kindly emailed me this morning.

First, here's Bob Huber:

It was pretty hot standing on the freshly laid (within the last week) black top parking lot. There was even a sprinkler set up near the Comcast area so people could cool down. The heat wasn't much of a deterrence though, the place was jammin'... I think this is one of the best local fests around. Beers that stood out:

Bethlehem Brew Works: Valley Golden ale, 4.7%, Cluster / Hallertau (great beer for this day)

Dogfish Head: Liquor de Malt (great to try it - wouldn't buy it)

General Lafayette: Double Thunder (Imperial Porter?), 9% (great balanced chocolate throughout with a slight bitter finish)

McKenzie Brew House: Super Wit, 8% (everything you'd expect from a great wit - only more)

Lancaster Brewing: Gold Star Pils, 5.2% (nice Bohemian Pils, really hit the spot with the heat) also, I believe their Strawberry Wheat was the only fruit beer at the event

Weyerbacher: Blithering Idiot, 11.2% (people were lined up to try this beer - could it have been heat stroke setting in..?)

Victory: the usual, Hop Devil & Whirlwind, but - they later tapped Golden Monkey. No shortage of big beers here!

Stewart's Brewing: McBride's Bourbon Strong Ale, 8.2%, (this may have been the standout beer of the fest, aged 99 days in Jim Beam barrels, oaky nose, sweet)

Nodding Head: Grog

Sly Fox: Anniversary IPA (Cascade) & Instigator Doppelbock (yes, Brian was working the booth)

Heavyweight: Stickenjab & Black Ocean

Bullfrog Brewery: Belgium Double

Rock Bottom: Violator 7% Double Bock

And here is the less loquacious but alway reliable Travelin' Joe Meloney:
Best weather in the last three years, and the layout was better than in the past. However, attendance seemed to be down. Best beers:

Stewart’s Brewing----Bourbon Strong Ale (wonderful brew)

Legacy Brewing----Euphoria Tripel (wanted more)

McKenzie Brewing----Maibock (classic flavor)

General Lafayette----Double Thunder (great imp porter)

Nodding Head----3 C’s Imp IPA (stop the madness)

Yards Brewing----Philadelphia Pale Ale (tweaked formula…Simcoe hops added)

Heavyweight Brewing---- Black Ocean (large taste—small abv)

And of course: Sly Fox----Cascade IPA (can they just keep getting better??)

It appears to have been a fine event. Ah well, I really did have to blow it off, not only it, but also two (count 'em) two, parties thrown by He Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned. Sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

And what did I gotta do? Read below.

Things change. Change is good.
If you come here through a direct link, as my site stats indicate many of you do, you probably are unaware that I have revamped the home page.

The idea is to provide an easy and, he said ever so hopefully, appealing entranceway to all of the other features which can be found at here in addition to LDO:

The Great Disconnect, my political/social/entertainment blog

The Dubya Chronicles, a political cartoon by Rob Davis and me which is actually located on its own sister site but is still part of the family

Other Visions, where I spin stories and tell tales and keep promising to write Chapter Four of my novel, and

Jacey Services, where you can sign up to buy new comics online and read a selection of online comic strips.

As part of all this, LDO, as of today, will cease being a "weekly" blog and become an "irregular" blog. By "irregular," I mean at least a couple of times a week. Daily would be optimum, but I'm not sure I have something to say about beer every day. We'll see.

Check out the new Home Page, if you'd be so kind, and let me know what you think. Note that LDO, Great Disconnect and the Fiction segments all contain a brief (and linked) snippet from something current on those pages. At least one of these will change daily, all three when I'm on my game. To perhaps entice you to take a look, I've made today's fiction offering a bit, um, erotic.

So, is all this an ego trip run amuck? A plaintive cry for help? Or just a guy committed to driving himself crazy trying to keep up?

I post, you decide.

[Posted 1:20 pm est]


09 May 04
Weird Beard?
That was the name of the winning goat in this year's Sly Fox Bock Festival Goat Race, finally giving O'Reilly a proper name for his Maibock after four years of "Ernie," "George" and the like. You'll find the story of the race and photos here, if you're so inclined.

The weather, predicted to be god-awful, started out like it was going to be exactly that way but then broke into a warm, sunny afternoon. More goats than ever showed up, 17 in all, and there would have been an additional two or three if the morning had not been as threatening. A slightly smaller crowd that last year, but since Sly Fox owner Pete Giannopoulos keeps estimated it at 1000 and the local paper keeps printing that number, that's what history will record.

Weird Beard Maibock, which was slightly tweaked this year we were told by O'Reilly during one of his infrequent visits to the area, is the best he's done yet, I'd say, an eminently drinkable brew. People seemed to be enjoying the food--I managed to go eight hours without any, I realized with some horror when I got home--and the German band does grow on you. My favorite moment came when its leader, granted with a few brews under his belt, announced to one and all that this was "the best Oktoberfest I've ever been to."

O'Reilly, damn his hide, managed to rush off at race's end and conduct the formal tapping so quickly that we never did get any photos of it. He'll be sorry someday when he wants to show his grandchildren or his team of goat herders what he did back in the day. I dunno what the problem was. It was almost as if he had something else on his mind for the rest of the afternoon.

The not-so-mystery guest.
There were several new faces at the regular Sly Fox Monday Night Tasting, none of them our previously announced "mystery guest." Said guest had to cancel and may or may not be here tomorrow night, depending on what effect the absence of O'Reilly (yeah, he's gone again) has on things. Suddenly ubiquitous Larry Horwitz of Iron Hill North Wales, who many people suspected was going to be the mystery guest, did show up. But his face is hardly new, now is it?

The newbies were Bob and Bill Huber. I've known Bob, although I keep forgetting his last name, for a couple of years now, met him at Victory one night when this attractive woman came up and started talking to me (something that doesn't happen nearly as often as it should--or used to). She was my dental hygienist, unrecognizable without her white lab coat. Bob was one of the people there with her. Our pal Joanne has moved on to marriage and family, but Bob and I still run across one another at beer festivals and now he's a Tasting guy. Welcome.

Our other new participant was Ted Johnston, a Sly Fox regular and homebrewer with whom I apparently had spoken before (notice how my failing memory is a theme here this week). He came over to the table when he heard me talking about tearing around the hills above Santa Barbara, Cal. many years ago in one of the first Mazdas imported into this country (ironically, I was there to write a story about "safety" cars). He said that he had a classic old Mazda of his own and, oh yeah, he also had this Tripel at home that he'd like us to try sometime. Ted lives but a mile from the pub so we told him to go thither and bring back beer. I mean, wouldn't you?

These were the beers of the evening, in the order sampled:

Southampton Publick House Bier de Mars, from our very own O'Reilly, 6.2% abv and truly amazing. It's not often we start off with the best beer of the night, but this time we did. That was followed by a "do you recognize this"" growler brought by Rick Mayberry. A quick taste revealed that it was Sly Fox Robbie Burns Scottish Ale, a few months old and ever-so-slightly oxidized. Most seemed to think it held up fine; I thought it was solid evidence that, if you're going to squirrel away one of O'Reilly's Scottish styles for an extended period, make it the Gang Aft Agley Scotch. Or maybe I was still grumpy from having missed the Weird Beard tapping.

Joe "on the road again" Meloney brought Unibroue 10, a fine beer which I, for one, sipped with a twinge of sadness, recognizing that the Unibroue we know is likely to soon be no more (based on this news). Next was De Dolle Special Brousel, a strong dark Belgian ale dated 2000. Wonderful beer, probably the second best of the night. Although there was another contender...

That contender was Johnston's Tripel, a magnificent interpretation of the style, its roughly 8.5% abv nicely camouflaged in the drinking and warmingly apparent thereafter. He easily upheld the banner of our resident homebrewers, Tom Foley and Lori Limper, who were absent, Tom in England on business, Lori enjoying a beer-geek free week. Horwitz, running late, which is evidently part of his persona, arrived somewhere in there and we tried his Morningstar Barleywine (I hope I have that right, my notes are rather messy at this point--hey, look at what we were drinking), a 2003 vintage which was brewed while he was at Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant and aged in Jack Daniels barrels. Good stuff, probably gonna get even better.

The final beer of the night was Malheur Brut Noir, the champagne-style "black chocolate" 12% abv strong Belgian ale from the De Landtsheer Brewery. Bob Huber brought this, as he had promised to when we ran into each other at the Main Line Brew Fest, a week after I had mentioned it right here in this tiny corner of cyberspace. The biggest, maybe most intriguing beer of the night, and a great way to finish what was, ho-hum, just another tasting.

Like there is any such thing anymore.

Quick Witte and a Monkey beer.
Tuesday night, the fine folks from Brewery Ommegang were in town to introduce Ommegang Witte in the back bar at Monk's Cafe. The small room was, as you might imagine, crammed full. Witte is the first Ommegang brew to be offered on draught as well as in bottles. I found the two glasses I had tasty and certainly drinkable, but not overwhelmingly superior to several other white beers I've enjoyed (Allagash White leaps to mind). I want to try Witte in the bottle first chance I get to form a final opinion on its place in the great scheme of things.

This was the first Monk's event I ever attended where neither principal was on the scene (admittedly, I didn't stay until the very end). Fergie had more than enough excuse for being absent: Mrs. Fergie gave birth to their first child, a boy, that very morning. Congratulations and good health to the whole family. As for Tom, he got some 'splainin' to do.

I was traveling with He-Whose-Name-Dare-Not-Be-Used and we walked up to Nodding Head after an hour or so for a spot of dinner and some of Brandon Greenwood's beers, not to mention the sparkling presence of the irrepressible Spanky behind the bar.

You don't care much what we ate, but mine was a very good turkey wrap (the center filled, to my surprise, with what appeared to be a whole rasher of bacon). We also had a plate of the fries with special mayo. The debate about whether these are better than those offered at Monk's goes on.

My first, and favorite, beer was the Spring Ale, described on the menu as "what a Kolsh might taste like if it were dry hopped with American hops." I could easily see spending the night with this baby. As it turned out, Greenwood called me with a question two nights later (from Johnny Brenda's, where he was drinking with brewer Tim Roberts of Independence) and I told him how I'd enjoyed his Spring Ale. His response was pure Brandon: "What? You didn't like Monkey Knife Fight?" You gotta love him.

Yes, I did like it. This is an unusual, very drinkable lager particularly suited to Asian food and summer evenings. It's spiced with ginger and lemongrass and is arguably the most distinctive beer being turned out locally.

My final beer was Rudy's Kung Fu Grip (named after a bird, if I recall correctly), a Belgian strong ale (9.5% abv) which was okay. Brandon keeps telling me he doesn't have a knack for brewing Belgians and he's never gonna try again. We'll see.

Natal felicitations, young man.
The flotsam and jetsam set, better know as the friends and acquaintances of Big Dan, gathered on the terrace at Sly Fox Friday night for a surprise birthday party to acknowledge the Big One's advancing years. He showed up, looked around and sweetly and sentimentally expressed his appreciation. "Oh yeah," he said, "I'm really surprised that everybody would be here on Incubus Friday." He had a point there.

The get-together was set up by Kelly, Dan's ill-tempered other, via a series of 40 or 50 emails funneled through Steve (the Other One) reminding us roughly on the hour what time we were supposed to be there. She bought lots of appetizers and beer, so all that spam was a small price to pay in the end.

Everyone scrambled to get a glass or two of Incubus before it kicked and then consumed copious pitchers of Styrian IPA, Weird Beard Maibock and Gold Rush Lager while Dan basked in the love of the crowd and the universal admiration for his new Spike-style haircut. Much beer and related items were laid at his feet and he unwisely but generously opened and poured for us a 750ml bottle of Southampton Publick House Bier de Garde and a growler of Victory St. Boisterous Hellerbock.

The Slow Pour.
It's a new month and Bryson is Buzzin' again over on his website. Lew zeroes in on a really important issue, the possible end of the three-tiered distribution system, and points out that this is probably not only not a Good Thing, it could be a truly Bad Thing. It's an excellent and well-thought out analysis with several good suggestions, definitely something each and every one of you needs to read and think about. Plus, this month's Buzz even contains this historic phrase (in bold face no less): "I may be wrong." Nice to see that in print, but this time he definitely isn't (wrong)...

The Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers Festival is at Iron Hill Media Saturday. I'll probably miss it for a Radnor Hunt party, but I'm sure somebody will fill me in on what happens. Hope so, or it's gonna be a very short column next week. You didn't think that was possible, did you?

[Posted 11:15 am est]

2 May 04
Madness in Media, with a lambic twist.
I wrote last week about visiting all five Iron Hill pubs in a single day. In addition to the reasons for that venture which I gave then, I also wanted to make sure I had a photograph of each brewer. My plan to try and get them together at one location for a group shot was clearly not going to work out. This week, fate intervened. Or maybe luck.

I went back to the Wilmington pub this past Tuesday to interview the three Iron Hill partners, Mark Edelson, Kevin Finn and Kevin Davies. Over lunch, Mark said that all the brewers would be getting together for a dinner Friday night in Media prior to the Brewers Reserve Belgian Madness event and asked if I'd like to join them. A free meal. Beer. All the brewers. Hey, momma didn't raise no fool. I was all over that before he'd even finished asking.

I arrived at the pub just before the designated 6 pm and found Mark and Home Sweet Homebrew's George Hummel at the bar. I ordered up a Lodestone Lager to ease my troubled mind and joined them. Not a brewer in sight, by the way. After a bit, we moved with Mark to a long table in the rear by the brewery and settled in for dinner. Media's Bob Barrar and his wife joined us. One brewer down. Then West Chester's Chris LaPierre showed up, toting bright orange bicycle team shirts with the Iron Hill logo prominent on the front, which he kept assuring Mark the company wouldn't have to pay for entirely on its own. Two brewers in hand. Midway through dinner, North Wales' lovable Larry Horwitz came rushing in, demanding food. Three brewers, with Pennsylvania fully accounted for.

Let's back up and talk about dinner. Once we all had beers (I switched over to Hopalicious IPA) and two complete samplers of all the beers on tap were in front of us to taste as we chose, Mark said "let's get some appetizers." He then proceeded, as best I can tell, to order the entire appetizer menu, including the evening's special, which was Calamari and should be added to the regular menu immediately. Like most of the guys, I ordered the rib-eye steak special, a big honkin' Monk's Cafe sized piece of delectable, medium rare steak with caramelized onions, bacon wrapped home fries (or something like that) and crisp green beans. A week's worth of dieting slipped away and I didn't care a whit.

With neither Delaware brewer having arrived by dinner's end and everybody wandering among the crowd, I figured my photo op had been lost. I ordered a glass of Cassis de Hill and began wondering if I should give it up. But then Wilmington's Brian Finn showed up and assistant Newark brewer Mike Girardi followed shortly thereafter, with word that head guy Justin Sproul had blown us off for a woman. Imagine that. Everybody but Barrer ended up in the brewery and I went out and grabbed him. They posed. I photographed. Mission accomplished.

Unlike our war president, however, when I say "mission accomplished," that means good things are happening.

Joe Sixpack arrived, neither a good nor a bad thing in and of itself, but since it gave me an opportunity to bust him a bit about various stuff, chalk it up as a definite positive this time. Clicking on his name above, by the way, will take you to his latest column wherein he details the return of Dock Street Bohemian Pilsner in rather, um, careful terms and answers the question "who's doing this?" which everybody keeps asking me and which I almost, but not exactly, had correct.

Sixpack's presence turned out to be merely the icing on an impending cake. Along came Mark with glasses and an unlabeled bottle in hand. Unlabeled bottles in a brewery, especially in a brewer where they don't bottle, are usually a indicator of Something Special. Something Special it was, the Barrar-brewed, GABF Gold Medal-winning Lambic de Hill, a beer I had never tasted.

If you've been around here long enough, you might remember that, just before the medals were awarded at GABF 2003, my crazy but knowledgable Southern California pal, Dr. Bill, said to me "[Lambic de Hill] is the best American interpretation of the lambic style I've ever tasted," so let's give him kudos again here. This is a marvelous beer, with that young lambic sourness having diminished and a pleasant carmel bittersweetness now prevalent. I've never tasted a lambic quite like it. Be assured, I raised nary a protest when Mark went back and brought out another bottle from what is apparently an almost depleted supply.

I pretty much stopped drinking at that point, depending on my "sciatica alarm system" to tell me when it was okay to drive home (once you can feel the pain shooting down your leg again, you're pretty much sober). I did sample the Tripel when Mark brought it around and Bob's feelings would have been hurt if I didn't at least sip his version of the Bourbon Porter, which my mystery driver and I had first tasted in Wilmington the week previous, but that was just to be polite.

Or maybe not.

The sordid secret history of Monday night.
We now have an exact date for the very first, you had to be there, Monday Night Tasting at Sly Fox, courtesy of Richard Ruch, the man for whom it happened and who made it happen.

It all began on April 25, 2003.

Ruch pointed out that it was not Victory V-10 but actually Victory Grand Cru that he used to draw us into his evil web. Remember, this was back in Ruch's period of loneliness and despair, at least on Mondays, when his beloved Victory was closed. This is the story.

On that afternoon he had stopped, as was and is his wont, at the Drafting Room Exton to have a beer or two before coming to the Fox to, y'know, have a beer or two. The Grand Cru had just been released for the first time and Victory Sales Manager Steve German showed up at the Drafting Room with gift bottles for owner Howard Weintraub and manager Patrick Mullen. Ruch smiled contentedly, having been gifted with his own bottle at the brewery a few days earlier.

After German left, Weintraub offered his bottle to Ruch. "I don't really like Belgian beers," he said, "and I'll never drink this." Amazingly, Ruch demurred, saying he already had a bottle. "Give it to a friend," said Weintraub, putting down the bottle and walking away.

Ruch spent the ride to Sly Fox turning it all over in his mind. Give to a friend? Did he like anybody that much? Did anybody like him that much? It was not until he was at his lonely table, an outcast in a room of revelers, that inspiration struck. He looked around. These clowns, he said to himself, can easily be bought for free beer.

And this did this great adventure begin. this fabled Tasting, this historic gathering, was born out the desperation of a cynical man using beer that was not even his.

So, what did we sample this past week?

Bartender Jimmy Wasko, still trying to worm his way into our hearts, brought a growler of Lancaster Brewing Strawberry Wheat; Joe Meloney arrived with McNeil's Slop Bucket Double Brown from the Brattleboro, Vermont brewpub; Sly Fox regular and first-time participant Wayne had bottles of Leikeim X Lager and, somewhere in there, homebrewer Ron Daubel offered up his Wit and Smoked Bitter. Daubel was in and out so fast one guy said "it was like a visit from the Lone Ranger. Who was that masked man?"

As we worked our way into the bigger beers, Brian ("I just came back from skiing again") O'Reilly presented the special beer of the 2004 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, Symposium Ale. It was created by Peter Zien of AleSmith Brewing Company, Tomme Arthur of Pizza Port and Lee Chase of Stone Brewing and brewed at Stone. It was a 7.5% abv Belgian Golden Ale and, by gosh by golly, the best beer of the day. Our resident homebrewer, Tom Foley, had a nicely done Cherry Dubbel, brewed with the same yeast strain used in the Hoegaarden Forbidden Fruit which we had earlier in the month.

There was a growler of fine Victory V-10 from Ruch and Rick Mayberry came up big with a bottle of the fruity and delicious Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne. The night's festivities ended, just in time, with a growler of Ohio's Buckeye Brewing's Imperial Porter from Rick and Jeanne Smiledge, who travel to Ohio the way the rest of us go to the corner store. Come to think of it, are there corner stores anymore?

Matt Guyer, bartender.
Matt's big night at Flanigan's Boathouse went quite well, a good thing if it wins him lots of money for charity, a bad thing for those who will now have to deal with elevated self-esteem. Myself, I usually go into The Beer Yard on Mondays to do what I do, but I switched to Thursday this week. I figure Cheerful Mark will have him beaten down to normal levels by then.

I'm sure he'd want me to add his appreciation to my own for those members of the Sly Fox Posse and Tasting Group who not only talked the talk, but also managed to show up. They were rewarded by the challenge of downing 20-ouncers of good beer and knowing that every sip was for a good cause.

I do have to say one thing that might be interpreted as negative but, honestly, I'm just trying to be helpful. Really.

Matt, don't give up your day job.

The Slow Pour.
I'm off to the goat races later this morning. If you're going to be there, step up and say hello...Or catch me at the Ommegang Witte Release Party at Monk's on Tuesday night...Karl Melissa, who left the brewer's position at Williamsport's Bullfrog Brewery would like the world to know that Bullfrog's Gold Medal Unhommage À La Vallée d'Or and the Silver Medal Trois Pain Triple at the recent World Cup in San Diego were his. Melissa has found a gig at Jack of the Wood/Green Man Brewing in Ashville, NC...There will be, if all goes as it should, a Very Special Mystery Guest at the May 10 Sly Fox Tasting. He will come bearing beer, of course, but with a bit of a difference. All will be revealed...but not yet.

Beer Geek Question of the Week.
What local brewer once found fame and fortune as a professional imitator of a world-class rock star? Well, okay, it wasn't fame and fortune, but it helped pay the rent for a while. Hint: he had one of those separated-at-birth advantages--and still does.

[Posted 9:45 am est]

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

--A. E. Houseman

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