I drink no cider,
but feast on
Philadelphia beer.

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

Email Jack

_____________________

Immediately below are links to
Jack Curtin's other web pages.
Scroll down beyond those for
the complete LDO archives,
more onsite beer stories and
over 100 links to breweries, brewpubs and various
beer venues, websites
and publications.


MERMAIDS SINGING
Updated 08 Apr 07


OTHER VISIONS
Updated 17 Dec 06


DUBYA CHRONICLES
Updated 27 May 07


GREAT DISCONNECT
Updated 28 May 07


JACEY SERVICES
Updated 25 Apr 07

_____________________


NEWS, EVENTS, BEERS



LDO ARCHIVES

Complete Archives

Homeboy Brews
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LDO on the Road

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American Brewer

Beers of the World

Mid-Atlantic Brewing News

Other Beer Writing





BEER WEBSITES

Fal Allen

Eric Asimov

Stephen Beaumont

Beer Activist

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eGullet Beer Forum

Global Beer Network

Gotham Imbiber
(Cask-Ale.Co UK)


Mark Haynie

Here's To Beer

Stan Hieronymus

Michael Jackson

Lyke 2 Drink

Master Brewers
Association


Merchant du Vin

PubCrawler

RateBeer.com

Real Beer Man

Seen Through a Glass

Joe Sixpack





BEER PLACES

Appalachian Brewery

Barley Creek Brewing

Bethlehem BrewWorks

The Black Sheep

Brickskeller/RFD

Dawson Street Pub

Dock Street Beer

Dogfish Head Brewery

Drafting Room

East End Brewing

Eulogy

The Farmhouse

Fergie's Pub

Flanigan's Boathouse

Flying Fish Brewing Co.

The Foodery

General Lafayette Inn
& Brewery


Grey Lodge Pub

Half Moon Saloon

Home Sweet Homebrew

Independence Brew Pub

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

Isaac Newton's

John Harvard's

Johnny Brenda's

Lancaster Brewing Co.

Legacy Brewing Co.

The Lion Brewery

Ludwig's Garten

McGillin's Olde Ale House

Manayunk Brewery Co.

Monk's Cafe

Nodding Head Brewery

N. 3rd

O'Neals Pub

Ortino's Northside

Penn Brewery

River Horse Brewing

Rock Bottom

Ron's School House Grill

Selin's Grove Brewing

Sly Fox Brewery

South Philadelphia Taproom

Spinnerstown Hotel

Standard Tap

Stewart's Brewing Company

Stoudt's Brewing Co.

Ten Stone

TJ's Everyday

Tria

Triumph Brewing Co.

Troegs Brewing Co.

Twin Lakes Brewing Co.

Union Barrel Works

Victory Brewing Co.

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.

Yards Brewing Co.

Yuengling Brewery Zot





BEER IN PRINT

Ale Street News

All About Beer

American Brewer

Beers of the World

Celebrator Beer News

Joe Sixpack

Malt Advocate

Mid-Atlantic Brewing News

Modern Brewery Age


BEER HISTORY

Ambitious Brew

Kaier's Brewery

Pennslvania Brewery Historians

Robert Christgau Beer Guide 1975

Falstaff Brewing


PERSONAL FAVORITES

Kelley Kreations

Kimberton Coffee

Kimberton Whole Foods





What's New Onsite.
New postings or changes elsewhere on this site are indicated by the date shown beneath the appropriate link in the left-hand column.

27 May 2007
Love Session.
I finally made my way to Big Dan's Summer Session of Love at Ortino's Northside yesterday afternoon, albeit only for a couple of hours in the early going due to other commitments. In fact, it looked as if the party was just getting ramped up as I was leaving shortly after four. I don't think this was cause and effect, but who knows?

Many of the Usual Suspects were on hand (one wonders if they ever bother to go home), sitting at a table front and center by the outside bar and looking like any typical Monday Tasting Session at Sly Fox Phoenixville.

Big Dan was bustling about, to the extent that he's capable of bustling (having to move all that length in the same direction simultaneously ain't easy), John Ortino was at one of the big grills to the rear of the bar, Sara was behind the bar and nobody appeared to be messing with Scott Baver's grill (which he had set up the previous night), so all appeared to be right with the world...especially since a few of the casks from Friday night were still available, so I could start off with a small pour of Nodding Head Prudence Pale Ale, a beer I praised here highly when I tried it at the pub and which was downright spectacular on cask. This one came courtesy of Mr. Ortino, but kudos as well to Victory's Tracy Mulligan, who tried to buy it for me but also ended up a beneficiary of management's generosity.

As the afternoon wore on, I had an East End Wheat Hop (interesting enough, but left me with no particular impression), Reading Pils (surprisingly sweet, but I'm told so was the original, so it is what it's supposed to be) and Flying Fish Farmhouse Ale (which a lot of people have been recommending this year and I can see why).

I got to meet and chat with brewer Guy Hagner, who's in the process of creating One Guy Brewing Co. in Berwick, PA (about 30 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre off of Rt. 80) and got him to spill all of his secrets, which were first spilled here by his pal, Lew. A charming fellow (doesn't hurt that he's a fan of both LDO and this weekly graphic commentary on the state of things), Guy brewed at both the short-lived Franconia and The Lion, an interesting combination, and is now going to set up his own very small place out in the hinterlands, making him my kinda, um, guy.

The Shrinking Man and Cathy showed up about 45 minutes before I hit the road (she, at least, seemed glad to see me) and we got to banter a bit and do that stuff that we do. Then I was gone as the outside deck started filling up. I suspect last evening was great fun. For me, it was a pleasant interlude to begin the long weekend.

Catching up to the Brits.
Way back in simpler times (2003), I wrote about my first meeting with the head of the British Parliament's All Party Beer Group (did it again in 2005, with the second-in-command) and asked plaintively "Why doesn't the U.S. gummint have important committees like this?" Well, now they do.

Talk about your dubious distinctions.
I've always thought that many of my fellow citizens making fun of Canada at every opportunity was a bit unseemly, and said so, but given this....

The renaissance in craft beer making that is taking place throughout the United States and in some Canadian provinces -- British Columbia and Quebec, in particular -- has been virtually ignored in Ontario. In fact, for beer aficionados, Ontario may sport the dubious distinction of having the largest selection of bland beer in North America.
...I'd have to now say "right on, eh?"

[Posted 12:45pm edt]

25 May 2007
Coming attractions.
Mr. Sixpack, undoubtedly reinvigorated by his recent vicious attack on yours truly, has a right fine column today, about the rich getting richer (i.e. the Philadelphia beer market) with the advent of several new Belgian outlets in the region. Go read.

The thing sounds, in fact, eerily like the second half of my "Atlantic Ale Trail" column which is in the forthcoming issue of Celebrator Beer News (should be here next week, the mailing gods willing).

He's got a couple of things I didn't, the big one being the inclusion of Zot, the new Belgian restaurant in Olde City near Headhouse Square. I did have it in my first draft of the column, but decided to cut it when I realized I was way over my specific column length (can't push kindly editor Tom Dalldorf too far, now can we?) and could give it only a passing mention at most. Besides, I've not yet been there, having had to pass up an invite to the "friends and family" opening in February due to a conflict. I figure I'll get my shot to do a more extensive write-up down the road. If you're interested, I did report on the opening when it happened over in my usual beer news venue (scroll down to the last entry).

The Sixpack column also has the name of the new quasi-Belgian spot which is supposed to open in Wayne this coming weekend: Teresa's Next Door, a name chosen because it is, you know, next door to this place. The name had yet to be decided upon when I was doing the column at the end of April.

The good news is that, with Don Russell (in case, hard to believe, anybody doesn't know who "Joe Sixpack" really is, or vice-versa) blowing its cover, maybe I can now use all the information I've had embargoed by Beer Yard management for months and do a proper story about it all. "Management" has been advising them on their beer selection and I guess he didn't want to take the rap for letting out any secrets. Too late now.

Speaking of coming attractions...
...it would appear that the new Dock Street operation is on track to open this summer. They brought in the brewhouse early this month and the online advert for a brewer (the posting of which undercuts assurances given earlier that they had loads of applicants and would choose their man/woman soon) specifies mid-June as the starting date. We'll keep an eye on this as it progresses. Or doesn't.

Dereliction of duty.
It strikes me that I have been remiss this week in not using my immense power here to promote The Summer Session of Love extensively. After all, having released this monster on an unsuspecting world, the least I can do is support his sorry ass.

Not so sorry, actually. I mean, the Big One managed to get his three-day party a mention in the New York Times due to his clever naming of the thing, and that's a lot more than many long-time event promoters ever achieve. And the whole idea is cool and appears to be well thought-out, even the "talent."

I hope to get over to Ortino's Northside on the morrow to participate, at least briefly, in the celebration. For lots of reasons, none of them I'm enjoying, I'm not very sociable at present. Then again, when am I ever?

[Posted 11:45am edt]

24 May 2007
One man's ceiling is another man's floor.
Our li'l buddy from the West Coast checks in with an argument in favor (!) of "cold positioning" (a topic brought up the posting below this one). While I can't officially support his position, I do feel his (long ago) pain:

Read the latest LDO and though I understand where you are coming from, I feel I must defend Cold Positioning in one respect...

When I was a young trainee in the Border Patrol, stationed in Laredo, Texas, I was, fresh from the academy, so incredibly broke that the only beer I could afford in any kind of quantity over one can was Texas Pride. This is, or was, a singularly bad beer produced somewhere in Texas and in fact was if I recall correctly, beer that was rejected from being called Lone Star or Pearl. Both are very lousy.

The only way I could stand to drink said beer was to chill it until ice crystals formed, and then sneak up on it while my palate was not looking until it was too late and had been numbed by the icy brew.

Pretty bad stuff, but Cold Positioning made it possible for even a poverty stricken Border Patrol Trainee to get to drink beer in Texas.

I do have to say though that I don't think that the Cold Positioning of Texas Pride was intentional in their marketing. It was just crappy beer.

Thank God I am now not a trainee and never have to drink that incredibly bad stuff again. Let's also hear it for Van Lauter's Bavarian Lager Beer of Phoenix, Arizona. But that's another story altogether....

Damned if I could figure from that last sentence if "Van Lauter's Bavarian Lager Beer" was something awful or something that saved the day, so I asked and got this reply:
Van Lauter's beer was a real beer that when I was a young fellow, I would buy, as well as all my other poverty stricken friends (all aged 19 or so) by the case at the local cheapo drug store on special for 89 cents a six pack. More to tell about that, USC football games and the great Peter Frampton Concert tour, but more about that later on sometime...
Hey, as I acknowledged in the final paragraph of my first craft beer story ever, there was such a time in my life...
...those halcyon days when a keg was keg regardless of the contents and two cases of Piel's Real Draft in the back seat and a car pointed toward the shore or the Poconos was about as good as it got.
See, here's the thing: we go to war, as it were, with the beer we can get/afford, not the beer we wish we had. Weep for what we had to do to make it through into the light.

Dammit. When will I learn?
Looks like this story was all wrong. Scroll down to the last post in the thread. My apologies, never should have gone with something from an internet thread without checking it out, but enough serious people like Big Lew and Scoats had commented in the thread and seemed to accept its veracity that I was lax. Not their fault, of course. All mine. Won't happen again.

[Posted 11:55 am edt]

23 May 2007
If we can only get this beer down to 22 degrees, maybe nobody will notice that it tastes like crap. Yeah, that's the ticket.
I try and try to take the Big Blands seriously, I really do. I admire the quality of many of the "craft" beers being turned out by the likes of Anheuser-Busch and express that admiration when I have the opportunity. I want to think the beer world is changing, and for the better.

Then I read something like this Brand Week story which appeared on line Monday...

A big chill is moving into the summer beer market as Anheuser-Busch readies It's Flippin' Cold, an integrated, multimedia initiative.

One element of the campaign breaking this week will call out aluminum bottles of Bud Light served from the Chill Chamber, a refrigerator that can cool brew to as low as 22 degrees without freezing. At that temperature, a 16-oz. bottle stays colder an average of 17 minutes longer than a bottle pulled from conventional coolers. Cannonball, St. Louis, leads the print, radio, outdoor and Internet effort, which runs through July.

This is a different way to communicate a cold message in a unique touch point, observed Ned Flanagan, svp-marketing at The Marketing Store, Chicago. They're not just doing it through advertising.

The strategy intends to deliver an immediate benefit--coldness--amid a drinking culture in which coveted 21-28-year-old consumers increasingly are favoring mixed drinks. Brewers' share of absolute alcohol dipped in 2006 to 54.8%--its lowest level since the late 1980s--while spirits and wine have gained for five consecutive years, per the Distilled Spirits Council. Liquor's share increased 0.4% to a 31.1% of the market; wine grew 0.2% to a 14% share.

Flippin' Cold primarily butts heads against Coors Brewing, which has embraced a cold positioning for Coors since 2004, primarily in the off-premise retail landscape through packaging innovations.

The world's most refreshing beer campaign, via Draftfcb, Chicago, currently flags the Coors Lite Cold Activated Bottle. Thermochromatic ink on the label turns blue, signaling that the beer inside has reached optimal drinking temperature. The Golden, Colo., brewer outperformed A-B and Miller last year, with Coors Light shipments increasing 1.5% and posting single-digit growth during the first quarter, per Beer Marketer's Insights.

Although Coors is introducing a sub-freezing tap system that can pour beer at a temperature just below freezing, it hasn't staked out the cold positioning in the on-premise market....

...and I get singularly depressed.

"Cold positioning." Lord help us all.

[Posted 12:45pm edt]

20 May 2007
Bringing on the rain.
As of yesterday morning, I was going to pass on the Craft Brewers Festival at Iron Hill Media due a physical problem which has been developing over the past couple of weeks, but the weather was so nice by early afternoon that I hopped in the car and took the one-hour journey over to Media.

Whereupon it began to rain.

Not a serious rain, understand, but a spitting, semi-threatening effort that led me to cut my stay to just over an hour and a half, if only for the benefit of the rest of the crowd. I had chance to try the excellent Saison from Iron Hill North Wales brewer Larry Horwitz, a very good Maibock from Killer Ric Hoffman and the gang at Stewart's Brewing, a quick hit of Muse, the new Farmhouse Ale from Weyerbacher (I was disappointed in this one on draught at the Drafting Room a week or so ago, found this sample from a bottle more to my liking and will have to sit down with a full bottle and some time to come to a definite opinion) and also tastes of Triumph Pils, Sly Fox Instigator and, inside the pub, Bob Barrar's killer Russian Imperial Stout.

I was in the pub with Iron Hill West Chester brewer Chris LaPierre, who kindly offered to score me a bottle of the recently released Fe10 Anniversary Ale, which I have never tasted (that's in my beer closet right now, awaiting the ideal moment). Thanks, Lappy.

A nice afternoon all in all, and under two-hours attendance, I'm starting to think, is just about right for a beer festival, especially one where you are familiar with most of the beers. Granted, I don't always pay the entrance fee and that do potentially skewer my viewpoint.

On the way home, I got to stop in at the Beer Yard to check on the increasingly recalcitrant computers, finding the office one, which provides my access to the internet, now working just fine after roughly a week of non-connect time (I got that worked out when I was in on Tuesday), and the database computer, the one which runs the whole operation and which has all the records going back for years and years and which I wouldn't dare mess with except on a cursory level, still functioning weirdly and not allowing full access to the system.

After chatting with Matt, who's all bright and cheery after a few days off, I grabbed a bottle of beer to take to that evening's annual Rick Mayberry Radnor Hunt Party (more about the beer and that party in the next section) and scurried on home.

It never did rain seriously, at least not anyplace I was, until late in the evening.

What I've been drinking.
Beer, actually. And I've promised for a while now to report on some of them. What better time than a Sunday morning, since, as we all know, good beer is something of a religious experience? Here we go:

Dogfish Head Red & White, sent to me by the brewery (thanks, gang). A very good, very interesting Witbier, fermented with Pinot Noir juice and split to be aged in Pinot Noir barrels and oaks staves, then blended. This is definitely going to be on a lot of Beer of the Year lists. Right up there with the best beers DFH has ever produced.

Stoudt's Smooth Hoperator. The brewery says it.s a Doppelbock and so does he, so who am I to argue. It's an aggressively hopped beer, for sure, overwhelmingly so, and the point of doing that will a beer whose primary characteristic is understood to be its malt character (not to be a style Nazi or anything, but there are some basics I think needs must be adhered to) escapes me, aside from the novelty of it. A well made beer, but confusing. Then again, I'm kinda hopped-out these days. This was a gift from Ramblin' Joe Meloney, working as always to keep me current. Thanks, pal.

Stewart's Bourbon Barrel Aged McBride's Ale, another gift, can you believe it? This was given to me by Ric Hoffman during the Bock Fest at Sly Fox Phoenixville two weeks ago, with the admonition that it was still too young to drink. I'd had a sample, more than one now that I think of it, at the big beer event at General Lafayette a few months ago and been very impressed, so I told him I was likely to open this all too soon. With that, Ric whipped out another bottle (given that he'd tried to kill me his car outside Monk's a while back, I admit I jumped back nervously at his sudden movement) and handed it over. Drink that one and age this one, he ordered. I brought if for Bryson but since he didn't show up, it's yours. All you have to do is say something nasty about him in your column as payment. Gee, do I? Can I? Okay: I'm Jack and you're Lew, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you. Done and done. As for the bottle I opened, it is indeed much too soon but, damn, this is gonna be worth the wait.

Farnum Hill Farmhouse Cider & Farnum Hill Semi-Dry Cider, part of a four-bottle sampler sent from the cidery in New Hampshire, which I have tentative plans to visit this summer (that physical issue mentioned in the first paragraph permitting), and welcome indeed. The Semi-Dry is the sweeter and stronger (7.4% abv) of the two, golden in color and offering lots of fruit notes and aromas, and went perfectly with grilled salmon and a fresh salad one night recently. The Farmhouse (6.5%) was my favorite, paler in color and with the tartness I expect from cider (a touch of sweetness as well); I had it with a cheese and fruit plate while dinner was slowly cooking in the oven. Two more bottles to go and I'm not sure one of them will survive this afternoon since writing about these two has made me real thirsty.

Stegmaier Midsummer White, a six-pack sampler from the brewery. First off, my raving about the DFH brew above aside, I'm not in much of a Witbier mood these days, a carry over from last summer when I realized I'd been unconsciously avoiding the style. That was a big change from the previous two years, when I'd actively sought out Weyerbacher Blanche and Victory Whirlwind Wit to compare them, one against the other, to see which I would glom onto for the summer. Neatly enough, they each won out once (though I can't recall which years). Secondly, a Witbier from The Lion? How cool is that and how far we have come. And, getting to the point, this was a disappointment, a touch too big/heavy for the style, I thought, and somewhat overspiced. Hey, given the quality of this new seasonal line to day, a clinker is okay.

Nodding Head Prudence Pale Ale, on draught at the brewpub and, finally, a beer I paid for (I know at least one of you was waiting for that; he knows who he is). A great example of the style and a perfect session beer (3.75%), which is surely why it is part of the impressive lineup for next Saturday at Ortino's. Definitely a beer I could drink all day long and there's no better setting than Nodding Head for just that sort of afternoon.

Sly Fox Sundae Maibock, a growler from Phoenixville and, yes, paid for this one too. A awfully good version of the style (O'Reilly tweaks the brew each year so that every winning goat can feel special), and enjoyable with dinner or just watching TV during the warm weather earlier last week.

Middle Ages Kilt Tilter Scotch Ale, the beer I grabbed from the Beer Yard yesterday afternoon and, yes, paid for, but with blood, sweat and tears in this case. Once I dealt with the dogs and settled in at home it was well after 6PM and I decided partying was not in order (keeping alive my streak of never having made a Mayberry Radnor Hunt party, no matter how good my intentions), so I popped the cap while a pasta dinner was cooking and watched a tape of Friday's night's Law and Order season final. Quite good, and the 10% abv was just what I needed to make sure it was an early evening. Lots to do today and posting this is just the beginning.

Oops, just checked the email, so one more thing...

Sixpack Iratus.
Don Russell, who you all know better as the Daily News columnist, Joe Sixpack, begs to differ with what I wrote yesterday:

For my money, the Times does, by far, the best job of any mainstream publication writing about and acknowledging the good beer world, especially through the work of Eric Asimov and his periodic beer-tasting panels.
Here's what he said in an email received this morning:
By far???

I ran a quick search on Nexis. In the last 3 years, the Times has published exactly 25 columns with the phrase of either Ales of the Times or Beers of the Times (about half of them by Asimov). Throw in another 5-6 brewery profiles and the occasional travel piece. That works out to about one per month.

Jack, I never took you for one of those self-loathing Philadelphians awed by the magnificence of New York. Might I remind you that our own city has some pretty decent writing that acknowledges the good beer world? Some of it, I've heard, actually makes it into the mainstream press. Every Friday.

A reasonable argument, especially if you perceive yourself as the ox being gored, although that self-loathing Philadelphians bit is more than over the top and entirely inappropriate.

I could respond in several ways, contending, for instance, that there is a difference between coverage in the traditional sections of a newspaper and that in a dedicated column which, presumably, appeals to only a segment of the audience, but that doesn't really hold up as an argument. I could suggest that the Philadelphia Daily News ain't hardly mainstream, but that would be as silly and non-productive as that self-loathing crack.

So, how about this? Add the words "major" and "influential" in front of "mainstream" in my original post and I'll happily stand by it.

Not that Mr. Sixpack don't do a fine and important job; he didn't win all those beer writing awards by accident.

[Posted 12:32 pm edt]

19 May 2007
Wall Street Analyst suggests A-B buy a major craft brewer.
From a story on the AP wire late yesterday afternoon by Lauren Shepherd (significant point underlined by me):

As breweries increasingly look for growth to come from new acquisitions, Wall Street is starting to get nervous that the domestic core brands that once made up the bulk of a brewer's portfolio are being ignored.

The situation is particularly problematic, analysts say, at Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. following their first quarter earnings release in April. The company's volume was up 0.5 percent, including the 1.2 percent contribution from their recently-acquired brands, like Stella Artois and Hoegaarden - brands the company imports in a partnership with Belgium brewer InBev NV SA.

Citigroup analyst Bonnie Herzog said in a note to investors Thursday that Anheuser-Busch is trying to implement too many new brands, packages and partnerships at the same time which is likely resulting in less focus/investment on the brewer's core brands like Budweiser and Bud Light....

[ ... ]

Coors has been taking share away from Anheuser-Busch in the domestic market from its clear marketing message 'refreshment as cold as the Rockies' and focus on its core three brands: Coors Light, Blue Moon, and Keystone Light, [Herzog] said.

In Molson Coors' first quarter, sales to retail grew 2.9 percent driven by a low-single-digit growth by Coors Light and double-digit increases by Keystone Light and Blue Moon.

Goldman Sachs analyst Judy E. Hong, meanwhile, wrote in an analyst note earlier this week that Anheuser-Busch's problems began in 2004 when volume share began a downward slide.

Attempts to turn the business have fallen short, and U.S. beer profits have declined 1 percent on average over the past four years, Hong said.

To really turn the situation around now, Hong said, Anheuser-Busch should either purchase a large craft brewer or work with distiller Fortune Brands Inc. to buy the Swedish state-owned liquor group that makes Absolut vodka, V&S Vin & Spirit AB, to gain access to the growing spirits market....

[Posted 5:05pm edt]

We hardly knew ye.
This online thread about New Jersey's River Horse Brewing has gone on long enough without somebody jumping in with a correction or conflicting information that I suspect it's accurate.

The most telling statement in all the postings is this, from crazed publican Scoats: If indeed they are closing, it could be that they have always been the Invisible Men (and Women?) of the Philadelphia beer scene. In my 11 years I have never meet anyone associated with River Horse. Soon as I read that, I tried to think back and recall if I had ever seen or spoken with anybody there and, best I can recall, there might have been a phone call or two early on. For what it's worth, I agree with the evaluation of their beers expressed throughout the thread.

RIP.

On a German beer trail, one more for the road.
That's the headline on a must-read travel piece in tomorrow's New York Times. I love the fact that writer Evan Rail opens with an anecdote that reflects his preference for Berlinerweisse without sweet syrup, which told me that I was in good hands from the start, and that he closes with another anecdote about discovering his affection for Rauchbier, which pretty much cemented his beer credentials. And I regret, for him, that his journey didn't take him here , but, hey, nobody gets it all in this life.

For my money, the Times does, by far, the best job of any mainstream publication writing about and acknowledging the good beer world, especially through the work of Eric Asimov and his periodic beer-tasting panels. I only wish the paper had done as good a job covering the current White House and maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we're in, with a lawless administration run amuck.

Kudos to the li'l guy on the West Coast for bringing the Sunday story to my attention.

[Posted 12:10pm edt]

16 May 2007
The can can.
No, I don't mean the dance, that's just my oh-so-clever way of leading in to last night's beer dinner at Monk's. Lucy Saunders was in town promoting her new book, Grilling with Beer, and Tom, Fergie and Chef Adam figured that nothing would do but that they prepare the meal using recipes from the book and serve it all with the ideal BBQ quaff, beer in cans.

Hey, it's not quite an all-Lambic dinner or one with beers from all the Trappist breweries, two historic events which have occurred at Monk's, but it was still ground-breaking and unique. Ain't nobody else done this, I suspect.

Amazingly, Lucy 'fessed up to me that she hadn't been in Philadelphia for 25 years (!) prior to this week and was abjectly apologetic. She also asked me not to reveal this sordid bit of her resume but I told her I had to 'cause it was so extraordinary. I did offer to explain that the reason was because she was afraid of running into old whatzizname but she quickly protested no, no, you can't do that, so I won't. I do note, however, that she didn't deny it, just asked me not to say it out loud. In case you haven't figured it out, that's she and that's me in the photo, courtesy of fine human being and beer historian to the stars Rich Wagner.

Shaun O'Sullivan, owner of the beautiful San Francisco brewpub, 21st Amendment, was also on hand, and his Watermelon Wheat turned out to be a very interesting beer, very refreshing and not overwhelmingly watermelon-y as I feared. The flavor more like the fruity aspect you get when you get down to the rind than that sweet, water-y hit that comes with the first bite. Granted, a pint or two of this one might be more than enough, but it's definitely a beer I'd partake of on a warm summer day or bring along on a picnic. Sean also brought along cans of his very good 21st Amendment IPA for all of us to sample at dinner's end and told me that he's planning to bring both into the Philadelphia market by year's end. And that is, of course, a double-shot of Sean, real and mirror image, in the photo at left.

The other beer which was new to me was Butternuts Heinneweisse from this place, about which I know nothing. It's a pleasant enough hefe, drinkable and straight-forward.

Those two beers were presented with the evening's opening course, Skewered Apricot Chicken and Malt Monster Shrimp, getting things off to a good start. The second course, Asparagus Salad, came with Brooklyn Lager, which has been available in cans far longer than any of the other beers of the night but loses beer-geek points for being a contract brew. A damned good contract brew, of course. Slowly, ever so slowly, these Monk's dinners are forcing me to consider asparagus an edible item, something I never thought would happen.

Dale's Pale Ale (served with Porter/Ginger Salmon and also on a skewer) and Sly Fox Phoenix Pale and Royal Weisse (served with Apple Ale Ribs), were the entree´ beers and were exactly as good as they always are. Unfortunately, through what was apparently a wholesaler screw-up, Monk's was unable to get Sly Fox Dark Lager rather than the weisse to go with the ribs, a match-up which would have been fantastic, but that's the way it goes. I'm not a ribs guy normally, but these were spectacular. Lucy told me twice whose recipe it was but I just can remember. It's in the book, though.

Dessert, accompanied by Oscar Blues Old Chub, the evening's big beer and a personal favorite, was Adult S'Mores, an Adam Glickman creation involving chocolate (but of course), graham crackers and marshmallow made with St. Bernardus. How do you make marshmallow with a Belgian beer? Say it with me now...it's in the book.

[Posted 12:10pm edt]

14 May 2007
Bachelors and beers.
Steve Rubeo, once The Other One, and now just, I guess, One, what with Dan The Big One Bengel having moved on to become a professional Beer Guru with no time for the, um, little people, apparently spends the lonely, empty hours scouring the web for the stuff that Richard The Spamming One Ruch hasn't already distributed around the globe. He herewith offers this dream case listing as his contribution to LDO's celebration of Craft Beer Week, an event which commences as of today and continues, conveniently enough, for seven days.

This surely delights the folks at both Dogfish Head and Victory, the latter making us wonder aloud how come Ruch has not already been all over it.

As always, the Comments are the most fun...although anybody who can "out" the anonymous beer writer involved would certainly be welcome to do so here. It do kinda feel like it was a combination of an East Coast guy and a West Coast guy who put this together, but I'm guessing the mystery guest is definitely not Mr. Session Beer.

This concludes LDO's celebration of Craft Beer Week. Play among yourselves.

[Posted 8:00am edt]

13 May 2007
Out beyond the light of the campfires.
More amusing, sometimes thought-provoking beer commentary on the web, albeit not in the usual, comfortable places (some of you may have seen this; I've been trying to find time to put it up here since mid-week).

It starts with Matthew Yglesias blogging at the Atlantic Monthly site and calling himself a former beer snob while linking to this lengthy post by a guy from overseas, a Welshman, I believe. In the course of his prolonged argument, with footnotes no lease, he cites Maureen Ogle's Ambitious Brew and links to Ogle guest-blogging at Powell's Books, wherein she has her own thoughts about folks like you and me...well, like you anyway.

Lots of fun, especially the lengthly comments sections on all three. If you want to kill the rest of the afternoon or find a good way to goof off at work tomorrow when nobody's listening, there are worse ways.

Into the hinterlands.
I finally hauled my sorry ass up to Union Barrel Works yesterday afternoon, a trip of some adventurous explorations because MapQuest, which usually tells you entirely too much in the way of directions, now and then tells you just not quite enough. Had I followed my instincts, I'd have been fine, but deciding to follow directions for once, I ended up on Business 222 out of Reading and then exited a stop too early from the 222 expressway after I got back on (the one for Stoudt's rather than UBW).

when I say ended up on Business 222, I could zctually have meant that in a more definitive way had things gone just a touch worse than they did. On the far side of Reading, where the traffic on the road eases up a bit but is still relatively heavy, I was going maybe 40mph on the inside lane as we went under an overpass just before a traffic signal which was green all the way. I was about two car-lengths in front of the guy to my left, which may have accounted for what happened. Out of nowhere, some jackass coming the other way turned left right in front of me.

Seriously. Right. Smack. In. Front. Of. Me.

Way back in Driver's Ed class, when we used to drive horse and wagons to take the test, I was told that, despite all my other failings, tests showed I had amazingly fast reaction times in unexpected situations. I guess they were right because, screaming out the lord's name in serious vain, I literally stood up on the brakes. I could see the frightened face of the woman in the car's front seat right in front of me.There was no time to glance into the rear mirror to see if I was going to get rear-ended (fortunately, the lane behind me was empty).

The car stopped on a dime (new brakes were part of the deal when I bought it a few weeks back). And I swear was justthiscloseormaybecloser to the side of the other car before it passed through the intersection.

How close was it? As soon as I could, I had to pull over to the side and just breathe for a while to regain my composure. I tell you, I definitely needed a beer.

When I got to UBW, I dealt with that need with one of their samplers, six two-ounce pours of Kolsch, Lager, Pale Ale, Maibock, Doppelbock and Stout. As published reviews elsewhere have indicated, all were solid. I found the Kolsch and Doppelbock especially enjoyable.

It was about 1pm when I arrived and there were ten people or so at the bar, a few others at the seating area opposite and one or two larger groups in the dining room. The elusive Tom Rupp wasn't on the premises, but I got to chat with his wife Amy and Nick the bartender and leave them a few copies of the latest Celebrator Beer News, in which UBW is featured in my latest Atlantic Ale Trail column.

For lunch, I ordered up a pint of the former to go with the very good, and universally recommended by everyone I asked, Crab Cheesecake (crabmeat with cream cheese, red peppers, onions and Gouda cheese, baked and served with flat bread), accompanied by a pint of the Kolsch.

AS I chowed down, Amy substantiated what seemed likely from all the things I've been hearing. The place was already scheduled to be filled that night, she said, "and it's been booming since opening. The most amazing thing was what happened the day we opened. The afternoon we got approval, we just opened the doors and before we closed that night, there must have been more than 200 people through here. We didn't do a thing except open the doors and the word spread like wildfire."

The only patron I chatted with was a guy named Frank, who was sipping a pint of stout a few stools down from where I planted myself and who immediately requested a copy of CBN. He also, god love him, recognized me from this website but, god love him even more, didn't start bitching at me for not posting more often like some people are wont to do (you know who you are). He lives a five minute walk away, is definitely a regular and was waiting for a larger version of the aforementioned Crab Cheesecake as a takeout item with which he planned to impress his family at a get-together later that evening. Eventually, he and Nick the bartender got into a discussion about who spent more time onsite. "Hey," offered Frank in his defense, "I didn't get here until noon today."

You understand what I'm saying here?

Union Barrel Works already has its very own Richard Ruch. There is just no way to spin that favorably.

Doesn't matter. I liked the place anyway.

And I got home alive.

[Posted 2:50pm edt]

8 May 2007
I think she was trying to be amusing. Didn't happen.
I just received the May 8 edition of Nat Decants, a free internet wine newsletter by Natalie MacLean, a Canadian wine writer whose work I have admired for some time.

She's funny, informative and the author of Red, White and Drunk All Over, a well-reviewed tome on wines which was published last Fall.

This is her website.

I was intrigued by the subject line of the email this time--Beer Vs. Wine.

Reading her opening--Dear Jack, Here's a topic to start a pub brawl: is wine better than beer? You know my bias, but I had fun with this tongue-in-cheek topic recently. So bring on the beer advocates: provoking debate is the writer's job (when not drinking).--I figured she was going to do something cutesy about the arguments between beer and wine folks.

Scrolling down to the piece itself, which was titled Story of the Week: Beer is What Ales Me, I remained under that illusion.

Then I read it.

And was appalled.

This thing is so ham-handed, so ill-informed, so juvenile, I was literally stunned.

See what you think:

The fact that wine is infinitely better than beer is obvious to those of us who drink it. But apparently, beer drinkers need this explained to them. (Did I mention that the health benefits of wine include cognitive ones?)

Beer is the fuel for hockey brawls, an inspiration for buxom-babe commercials, and a source of enduring flatulence. By contrast, wine partners with haute cuisine in fine restaurants, is served at tony gallery openings, and toasts special occasions from birthdays to marriages. Omar Khayyam's lyrical poem describes paradise as a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou--no mention of a six-pack.

The knowledge of wine's superiority has finally made itself clear to most Americans: studies show that wine has now surpassed beer as the most frequently consumed tipple. Back in 1992, a Gallop poll found that 47 percent of drinkers usually drank beer and only 27 percent wine.

A similar poll in 2005 found that wine had nosed ahead of beer: 39 percent versus 36 percent. The future looks even brighter according the research company International Wine and Spirit Record. It predicts that America will become the largest wine-consuming country in the world by 2009. (France, the traditional leader, will fall to third place, with Italy hanging on at number two.)

The heart of this liquid matter is that wine doesn't just taste better than beer, but it also has a greater range of flavors. Oh sure, you can talk about your craft ales and your artisanal brews, but most beer is marketed like breakfast cereal--and it's made from essentially the same grains: barley or wheat.

Wine, though, can be made from thousands of grapes, blends, styles, and methods by dozens of countries divided into sub-regions and appellations. This results in aromas that range from wet violets to toasty oak, and evolve as the wine ages. Anyone caught swirling and sniffing their beer stein would be laughed out of a pub.

Worldwide, there are more than a million wineries, and most don't have even a 1 percent share of the U.S. market. The beer category is much more concentrated: the top ten light brands own more than 95 percent of the market.

Even the beer companies recognize the profit potential of wine as a more differentiated and faster growing product. In 2005, for example, Australian beer giant Foster's Brewing bought the wine group Southcorp and its brands, such as Beringer, Penfolds, and Wolf Blass.

Some people try to tell me that beer is the democratic drink of Everyman. To this I simply say, Tosh, poppycock! That's just reverse snobbery and a transparent attempt to bolster the image of a drink that doesn't measure up, just like the cooperation awards that they used to give everyone in kindergarten.

And while we're at it, let's explode that tired myth of the wine snob. This bow-tied breed now exists mostly in our imaginations, along with the crusty old sommelier. These days, you're more likely to be served by a twenty-something wine gal or dude. Wine's greater accessibility today is even reflected in its packaging, with Tetrapaks, screwcaps, and all those cute critter labels. Would you like a fluffy squirrel or a cuddly kangaroo?

There's a good reason why there are so many wine clubs, wine courses, wine country vacation planners, and wine writers: wine is bottled poetry; beer is a canned cliche´.

cliche´? Did she actually say cliche´ as her summing up of a mindless rant that pretty much defines that term?

Pathetic.

Funny?

Not.

[Posted 5:10pm edt]

The running of the goats.
I'm back, just a few steps ahead of the irate Beer Advocates who've been chastising me for having the temerity to not update things here around the clock. As I've said before, if it weren't for the fame and fortune, I'd get all spiteful on their asses and give this gig up entirely (that "...and fortune" comment will, by the way, inspire yet another angry email--from my accountant, who is painfully aware of the pay scale here at LDO--not to mention bitter laughter from my creditors).

In any case, Sunday's Bock Festival and Goat Race at Sly Fox Phoenixville was probably the best one yet, certainly the largest (the Phoenix reporter's estimate was 2500 in attendance, which is beyond the pale, but I wouldn't argue if told the crowd approached 2000) and a great deal of fun. The beer and food were good as usual, the races went off without a hitch and each heat had its own drama, the weather cooperated yet again. You can't ask for much more than that.

Rather than repeat myself with new comments here, I'll just post the below excerpt from a message I posted at BA as part of this thread in answer to some questions and minor complaints:

Last year there were four portapottys and at the end of the day, they were barely used, so they cut back this time. A mistake, it seems, and it will be rectified. For what it's worth, my personal experience, using the inside johns a couple of times, was that I never waited more than five minutes or so to reach the men's room and the women's line next to us was also moving at a good pace.

Tentative plans are to move the food tables to the far side of the parking lot next year to cut congestion around the pub itself. All beer must be sold on the property by law, which means right there at the pub, so no beer sales can be transferred over with the food. Another beer station will likely be added, but it may be restricted to only can sales. One of the issues is getting kegs to the outside bars through the crowds once things get going. Personal experience again: I found the inside bar not too difficult to get to and get a beer when I wanted one.

More souvenir glasses will be for sale next year; they doubled last year's order this time but it wasn't enough. For the record, I am told that they did not sell out of glasses before 1pm as reported elsewhere in this thread. The idea, though, is to always sell out of the glasses or come damned close during the course of the day.

The fact that the car dealership next door was out of business made parking much less of an issue than it surely would have been given the increase in attendance. Should that not be the case next time around, I foresee off-site parking and shuttle buses to meet the need.

Not mentioned by anybody here so far, and one of the coolest things about the whole affair, I thought, was how clearly it became a real family thing this year, with lots of kids and toddlers, dogs and goats roaming about, giving it all a real sense of a classic German beer garden of a Sunday afternoon. That atmosphere was a very pleasant change from the norm, beer event-wise.

If you want more, I have coverage of the races up at the Sly Fox website. And you can read the additional reporting from the Phoenix to become the best informed goat fancier on your block.

The selection above has been slightly edited, by the way, switching the last two paragraphs so that my final point about the family atmosphere is, in fact, my final point. I really think that's something to be noted and I would have written it that way in the original post if I'd been paying more attention and it hadn't been midnight already.

This whole posting, I note with some pride, is an example of what we professionals call multi-tasking, one definition of which is using the same material for different purposes. Well, it's one of my definitions, anyway.

More soon. Really. I needs must inform you of my latest encounter with crazed brewer Ric Hoffman and how he bribed me to say something mean about one of my cohorts, plus I have a whole slew of beer and cider bottles lined up on my desk from the last couple of weeks to remind me to offer some comments about them.

Meanwhile, you do remember, right, that although I might wander off this particular reservation for stretches every now and then, I always keep posting the latest news over here?

[Posted 8:30am edt]

Archived.
The complete April 2007 postings have been archived here.


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

--A. E. Houseman

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