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2 November 03
The week that wasn't.
Whatever microbe or virus it was that tried to bring me down last weekend was still at work early this week. The result? I missed the regular Monday tasting session at Sly Fox Brewhouse and the Tuesday official Grand Opening of the new Wilmington Iron Hill site, which I was really looking forward to.That was just the beginning of a very bad week, however. Things got worse.

But first let me tell you about what I did do.

Weekends with Bernie.
Okay, it wasn't a weekend, just a single evening. Well, not even a full evening, just an hour or so. Clever little headings which play on pop cultural references are part of our stock in trade around here, so you gotta give me some leeway. Or not.

Old Dominion Brewing"s Bernie Van Order was at the Drafting Room in Exton on Wednesday night for the second straight "Meet the Brewer" event. This one appeared to have drawn a slightly larger crowd that the one for Brian O'Reilly the previous week (not surprisingly, since any Drafting Room devotee who really wants to meet Brian can just drive a couple of miles up Rt. 113 to Sly Fox and do so). But there was still, to my mind at least, that same strange dichotomy in the room that I mentioned last time. Over here were the folks clearly there to see Bernie (many of them the same people who'd come for Brian the week before) and over there were the, for want of a better description, "customers," who seemed oblivious to it all. Very strange.

The first thing I did after saying hello to Bernie was order a pint of Oak Barrel Stout, the marvelous Old Dominion dry stout which is aged in bourbon oak barrels for two weeks. This is one of the most mellow, easy drinking beers I know of (love than vanilla) and I could happily have spent my brief time having another and yet another. But duty called, not to mention the lure of Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale on the hand-pump. Had to try that, yes I did. My third and final sample of the evening (and was it ever hard to pass up on a shot at Oak Barrel Millennium Barleywine, which was also on tap) was the Old Dominion Winter Lager, which this year is actually a Baltic Porter of sorts and therefore not really a lager at all, except that it's fermented with Old Dominion's lager yeast and so maybe it is, except that it's brewed in the traditional Porter style and so...well, who really gives a damn but the style nazis? It was damn fine drinking.

How I didn't help brew Bier d'Art.
I've been kvetching at Heavyweight's Tom Baker about brewing a second batch of Biere d/Art for months now, even going so far as to offer to go over to the brewery in Nowhere, New Jersey and help him brew it. Okay, it's doubtful I'd be much help, but my heart was in the right place.

Anyway, Tom calls early in the week and says Friday would be the day, apologizing for the short notice. No problem. I rearranged my schedule at The Beer Yard (where I go in once a week for a few hours to give the place a bit of cachet) and got that nice Tom Dalldorf, for whom I spent most of this week writing my column and stories for the December/January Celebrator Beer News, to extend my deadline from Friday until tomorrow and made similar adjustments to other aspects of my life to free up Friday.

Did I mention I even went in Thursday and had some necessary work done on my car just to make sure I wouldn't have any problems in that area and was pleasantly surprised, nay shocked, to learn that what they had estimated would cost me over $500 came in at $185? How sweet. It appeared the dark cloud had passed.

Not quite.

I had to hit the bank Friday morning before leaving for Jersey and was taking the back road out of Collegeville toward the 422 Expressway when, crossing a little country bridge over the Perkiomen River, I saw, too late to avoid it, a small but obviously sharp and pointed rock directly in my path. I hit it dead on and blew out the right front tire. On the other side of the bridge I pulled off in the only spot available, a slanted, muddy space by the side of the road. None too happy, but recognizing that it does a man good to change a tire every now and then, I pulled all the paraphernalia out of the trunk and set to work.

It quickly became clear it wasn't gonna happen that way. After I'd loosened the lug nuts on the damaged tire and begun jacking up the car, I realized that the wimpy little jack they give you these days had no chance of being safely used in the conditions I found myself. There was no real purchase for it to grasp and it began sinking into the mud as I cranked it up to take on the weight of the car. Well, this is why I pay the Amaco Motor Club their small monthly stipend, now innit? I called, they came (with a proper sized jack) but not for well over a hour, and there was naught to do but telephone Tom and wish him well on his own.

Did I mention that, by the time all this was resolved, I ended up purchasing four new tires and spending that $300 in "found" money from the day before, and then some, in the process? Well, let's not, so I won't have to think on it any longer.

Living well is the best revenge.
Enough bitching. Rather than curse the darkness, I decided to light a candle. And then I used the light from that candle to prowl through the Secret Beer Stash and find me one of my few remaining bottles of Bier d'Art and opened it for dinner last evening. Yeah, I'd probably have thought longer about this if I hadn't known that a new batch was now in the tanks, but I did know, didn't I?

This beer is aging wonderfully. There's a more noticeable malt presence up front now than I recall from before, but that only enhances the great spicy follow through. Smooth and delicious, it was a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken, stuffing, rice and salad. It truly soothed my battered soul.

If all farmhouse beers were like this one, ain't no way anybody'd ever have been drawn away by those big city lights.

The week that will be.
Maintaining my new found optimism, I expect that all the past week's disasters will be redeemed by two great events coming up over the next few days.

Tuesday night is the Elysian Beer Dinner at Monk's, offering a chance to sample the wares of the GABF Large Brewpub of the Year without having to go all the way to Seattle. Which beers are going to be served appears to be a deep dark secret, but I've never been disappointed yet in one of these things.

Then, on Friday, there's the Belgian Beer Blowout at Sly Fox at which O'Reilly will debut Incubus 2003, put Ichor on draft at the pub for the first time and serve up vintage versions of Saison Vos, C-Quest Dubbel and Renard d'Or. Whoa, baby!

Meanwhile, here's something a week further down the road you might want to start thinking about. Iron Hill's GABF Celebration (scroll down the page a little over halfway) is not to be missed, especially for those who didn't get out to GABF or fools such as I, who somehow missed out on Lambic de Hill.

F. Scott, my man, you were dead wrong when you said there are no second acts in American lives. Be a fountain, not a drain...

[Posted 1:20 pm est]

9 November 03
Mood swing.
Last week I bitched and moaned. This week, I'm downright ecstatic. My psyche is a moveable feast, ya know? The thing is, the week past was a very good one here at LDO headquarters, with much work done, new assignments accepted and fine beers sampled (perhaps a few of those to a greater extent than was truly wise).

The Europe trip story and photos are finally in the hands of my fine editors at Celebrator Beer News, a short piece on Yard Brewing's just-released Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale and George Washington Tavern Porter in 12oz bottles (scroll down) will be sent off to Ale Street News on the morrow, and I've just signed up to do a feature piece for American Brewer about importing beers into the U.S. (much of it based on that Europe trip, which is turning out to have been, aside from the pure fun of it all, a most worthwhile venture indeed).

I also have another story percolating which I'm very excited about. That will be pitched to a market I haven't sold to in the past and is on a topic very much in keeping with the craft brewing industry's current focus. More on that as it happens...or doesn't.

For now, let's talk about those fine beers I consumed since last we met, as well as other matters of varying consequence, including, of course, the story behind the mysterious bottle pictured above.

Growlers in the sun.
The unseasonably warm early November weather gave us one more day out on the patio at Sly Fox last Monday, and that bonus was celebrated with three growlers and three bottles shared by eight participants and bartender-to-the-stars Corey Reid.

Richard Ruch contributed a growler of Selin's Grove Harvest Ale, a tasty "wet hop" brew that I've been anticipating since I missed out on the Ruch-Joe Meloney trip to the Selin's Grove pub a while back due to a conflict.

Rick and Jeanne Smiledge brought along a growler of Dogfish Head Prescription Pils (scroll down). I've been all over the lot on this beer, not liking it a bit the first time I tried it, being basically non-committal on the second go-round and more favorably impressed recently. The trend stops there, though, and I think I'm settled in at non-committal. I just don't see the point.

On the other hand, Buckeye Brewing Barleywine, our third growler, was the Beer of the Day, in my opinion, smooth, drinkable and warming, but without an overwhelming alcohol presence in either aroma or flavor. The Smiledge's brought this as well, but since it was a gift from the brewer to Sly Fox's itinerant Brian O'Reilly, I suppose he properly gets the credit.

Joe Meloney brought Avery Brewing's The Czar, a big, black Russian Imperial Stout (12.2% ABV) to which you could probably convince me to switch my Beer of the Day vote without too much effort. Mike Murphy, who will, he tells me, be flying back to his brewery in Rome on the same transatlantic flight as Lew (Choir Boy) Bryson next weekend, contributed two beers from Flying Fish, the popular Grand Cru Winter Seasonal and Pale Ale. The former is one of my favorites from the New Jersey brewery.

Why are Murphy and Bryson going to be on a plane bound for Rome, you ask? Well, Mike, as I understand it, will be deciding just how involved he's going to be with Roma Brewery/Starbess from here on out and attending a beer festival in Milan; Lew is gonna sing for the Pope. I don't make this stuff up.

When you're hot, you're hot. Tom Peters is hot.
I wrote last year that the series of brewpub dinners at Monk's is a great thing for local beer geeks, giving us a chance to taste beers from places around the country that we've heard of but not visited (yet--they're all in the Grand Beer Excursion Plan which is keyed to my winning the lottery or something).

So when Tom Peters scheduled Elysian Brewing Company, I was delighted. Heck, why not? Elysian was the GABF Small Brewpub of the Year back in 2001. Like the heading says, though, when you're hot... Monk's put up the Elysian dinner listing a couple of weeks prior to GABF 2003 and the Seattle pub proceeded to win again, this time as the Large Brewpub of the Year.

David Buhler, who handles the sales end of things and is better known in these parts as "Sebbie's brother," was here for the dinner while partner and brewer Dick Cantwell stayed home at the kettles, and he brought along six beers (seven, if you count the bottles of Pumpkin Ale he poured for tasting midway through the evening) to go with one of the finest meals I've yet had at Monk's. And, yes, I characterized the last meal I had at Monk's in those same terms, and both are true. Not only have the portions served been reduced to consumable sizes, but chef Adam Glickman is clearly at the top of his game of late.

I sat up front at that round table just inside the door which is usually saved for the press and the evening's guest. Since David sat elsewhere with sister Seb, their parents and other family members, this time our group consisted of Lew and Cathy Bryson, Nancy Rigberg and George Hummel of Home Sweet Homebrew, me and the Joe Sixpack Memorial Chair (we figured Don Russell was out getting beaten up by union thugs at the polls and hoisted one in his honor).

It was a grand evening all 'round and I offer the photo below in evidence of that fact. I'm not sure exactly what's going on there but Tom, Dave and Fergie (Fergus Carey) are clearly have a good time doing whatever it is. What Fergie's new wife thought of it all I can only imagine.

Things started with Golden Gorgon Ale as the pre-dinner beer. A malty, Belgian style golden ale, it was easily drinkable at 5.2% ABV. The beer Buhler termed its "big sister," Bete Blanche Tripel was served with the first course, Baked Oysters with Saison Sauce, top with a dollop of Tennessee Sturgeon Roe. These were marvelous and well matched with the tripel, which came it at a relatively mild (for the style) 6.9% ABV.

The next course was Smoked Duck Breast with Pomegranate Sauce; the accompanying beer was Saison Elysee. The duck was prepared perfectly, rare and juicy and the saison the right beer to be served with it, although in and of itself, probably my least favorite of the evening. Then again, I've been drinking Heavyweight Biere d'Art and Sly Fox Saison Vos of late and am hard to impress.

The evening's main entree was a Wild Boar Carbonnade and was served with two beers, The Wise ESB and BiFrost Winter Ale, hoppy brews well suited to enhance the very good and rapidly devoured stew. The Winter Ale in particular was a very well made beer and the evening's most potent, at 7.5% ABV.

Desserts at Monk's are always worth saving room for. Bittersweet Chocolate Toffee Cake was all that and more, lots of chocolate bits in a round and very light vanilla cake, topped by a toffee coating that was almost too hard to break through unless one really, really wanted to consume the thing. Which I definitely did...and did. The final beer of the evening (except for one which came afterwards and is reported on further down) was Perseus Porter, a deep, dark brew with chocolate overtones. I've been aware throughout writing this that all too many of my impressions mirror those posted by Bryson on his site earlier in the week (I mean, where's the fun if we both agree?), but I do differ from him on this last match. Where he found the porter somewhat overwhelmed by the cake, I thought it held up very well indeed.

If you pour it, they will come.
O'Reilly had been bugging me all week. Do you think we've done enough to promote Friday night? Will we get a crowd? Shall I wear my trousers rolled? Do I dare to eat a peach?

Okay, maybe not the last two, but you get the idea. The boy was nervous. Every "Incubus Friday" of the year had been a success and here he was, about to introduce the 2003 Incubus and to serve up vintage versions of some of his most popular beers as an added inducement, and he was worried nobody was going to show up. Brewers, man, they are so insecure.

Lots of people showed up. the place was packed. The photo at right gives you some idea, despite rude gestures being made therein by a few malcontents. The room was already near full when I arrived with Steve (the Other One) and Joy (the Other One's Better Half) around 5 PM. O'Reilly was still hiding back in the brewery, together with Scott "The Dude" Morrison of McKenzie Brew House but we eventually coaxed him out.

Here's the truth of it. I drank all too many beers over the next few hours to give an coherent account of what went on, secure in the knowledge that we had Joy to drive us home safely. I can tell you that this year's Incubus shows great promise and I suspect it will get better and better in the months to come and the first Friday of each month will continue to be a destination evening at the Fox. Saison Vos, mentioned above, continues to change and mature; at this point it is a strikingly dry beer, not quite as noticeably spicy as before (at least in this draft version).

C-Quest Dubbel (which needs desperately to be renamed) may have been the beer of the night, very smooth, very complex, very nice. If it wasn't, Renard d'Or was. This Belgian-style golden ale is, together with the Saison, going to be very, very good in the bottle when the new brewery gets off the ground. All these beers, in fact, will likely be well served by aging in the bottle, but I am looking forward to those two in particular.

Over the course of the evening, many old friends were greeted and a few new friends made. The lovely young lady in this picture, for example, is a freelance writer who allowed, at one point, that her dream was to become the "female Jack Curtin." Hey, I have witnesses. But yes, I find that as startling and incomprehensible as the rest of you surely must. I admire her creativity, though, and suggest that her real future may lie in writing fiction. Anybody can aspire to be a rich and successful writer, but it takes a truly original perspective to opt for the other end of the spectrum. You go, girl.

We did it all for Dave.
That mystery bottle up in the first paragraph is Brother David's Belgian-style Double, a special brew done in 2001 at Anderson Valley Brewing Company and named in honor of David Keane, proprietor of the famous Toronado Pub in San Francisco. Here is the Immaculate Concoction, a photographic record of its creation, for anyone who's interested.

"Brother David" gave it to Matt Guyer and me at the 2003 Toronado Barley Wine Festival last February, with the proviso that we bring it back to Tom Peters and that the three of us drink it together. Believe it or not, this Tuesday at the Elysian dinner was the first time that the three of us (attractive, ain't we?) were together in the same place with both the time and the opportunity to follow those instructions.

The beer? Just a bit past its prime, methinks, with a touch of that cardboard-y mouthfeel that turns up on the far side of the hill. Not bad, understand, and perfectly drinkable, but you had a sense that we maybe should have gotten around to it sooner.

Brandon did it all for us.
Those paying close attention, aside from likely getting excellent grades in the final exam next month, will recall that I ran into Nodding Head's lovable brewer Brandon Greenwood slumming at Victory last month and he talked up a lager he was in the process of brewing and promised to let me (and you) know when it was on at the pub. Well, as it turns out, that would be "never." Here's Brandon:

...I destroyed the beer. It's no secret that when I feel that a beer is not up to snuff that it does not make it to the public. As I am sure you are aware we have very exacting standards at the Nodding Head!

Anyway, the beer was a bit of an experiment in that I used a dried yeast to ferment with. This is something that I would almost NEVER consider doing a few years ago but the technology behind the drying process has since improved greatly so I figured I'd give it a shot. I should have trusted my instincts.

The beer fermented beautifully but the flavor profile was dominated by an unpleasant aroma very much like that of leavening bread. Oh well, live and learn.

Live and learn, indeed. And what we learned about here, boys and girls, is "integrity." It's a grand concept, and entirely too much out of fashion these days.

Buzzin' Bryson bugs beer boys.
Ruch got a bit of a contretemps going on BeerAdvocate last week, when he reposted this month's The Buzz from Bryson's website. That initiated Lew Bryson's Revelation, a thread which totals 91 messages as of this morning (I seem to recall it being slightly longer a few days ago, but I could be wrong). I don't know that anyone will want to take the time to read through the whole thing, but it is fascinating stuff. For now, I commend it to you without further comment.

Ho-hum. Another week just like the other week.
This past Tuesday it was a fine meal and fine beers at Monk's. This past Friday, it was a big beer blowout at a local brewpub. Hey, guess what? It was so much fun we're gonna do it again.

Stephen Beaumont's Exotic Meats Dinner at Monk's this Tuesday, which I originally had a few doubts about, now looks like it might be the beer dinner of the year so far. I've posted both the menu and the beers over here (you all do know that the Beer Yard site is your best up-to-date source on the web for local events and news, right?) so you can see why I'm looking forward to it so eagerly.

Almost equally attractive is the Friday night GABF Medal Winners Celebration at Iron Hill's West Chester pub, which will feature the award-winning beers of all local breweries and pubs. This is a great idea and I hope it will become an annual event.

[Posted 3:40 pm est;
Edited and Reposted, 3:25 pm est, 11 November 2003

16 November 03
Man, did I have some good and interesting beers this week.
Yeah, that happens a lot, a condition for which I am eternally grateful, but the last seven days turned out to be something special. From the regular tasting at Sly Fox to the back bar at Monk's to the GABF celebration at Iron Hill West Chester, and twice here in my own living room, some very good and memorable beers warmed my cranky old soul....and not always the beers you, or I, might have expected.

I know it goes against the tradition of this august site to actually talk primarily about beer, but let's give it a try this time and see how it all turns out.

Poor O'Reilly missed out. Again.
Brian went to California last weekend. Shocker. And that little journey meant that he wasn't here for the best Monday Tasting Session yet. I'd feel sorry for him but a man's gotta follow his...um...heart.

What did he miss? Well, let's see. One guy showed up with a vintage bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter, another guy brought a bottle of La Chouffe and yet another (most unlikely) guy presented a bottle of Brouwerij Van Steenberge's Piraat... and those three finished in the middle of the pack of a 7-brew tasting.

Would I lie?

We opened the session with a bottle of Reissdorf Kolsch, courtesy of Rick Mayberry, and it was in many ways the best made beer of the entire group, eminently drinkable, soft and pleasant on the palate with a touch of both hops and malts. It's a beer you could imagine using to drink away a quiet afternoon. It would, sadly, soon get overwhelmed by the power lineup which followed.

What followed immediately was, in my opinion and I think it was the consensus, the best beer of the day, a growler of Buckeye Brewing Frankenbock (making a Buckeye growler the top pick for, I believe, the third time in three tries). I'm not nearly as enamored of bocks as most beer geeks of my acquaintance, but this one I could drink for a long time (okay, an internet check just showed that it's 8%, so maybe not so long a time). It was smooth, malty and slightly sweet, not nearly as complex as the best of the style, I suppose, but like I said, the style isn't my favorite in any case. Rick and Jeanne Smiledge, our peripatetic duo, brought this one and are on the road again this week, so who knows what's next?

Next up was the Alaskan Smoked Porter, a 1996 bottle long promised and finally delivered by Richard Ruch. I doubt it's necessary to say much about this classic except that age has not withered nor custom staled its delights, as the Bard might have said.

That was followed by my second favorite of the day (just a tick ahead of the Kolsch, if anyone's keeping score), a 1997 bottle of Brother Adam's Honey Bragget Ale from Mount Desert Island's Atlantic Brewing Company, brought by Joe Meloney. Joe has given me a couple of bottles of more recent vintages of this wonderful almost-but-not-quite barleywine in the past, for which he has surely build up much good karma, but this was my first chance to taste a sample from the good old days (before they changed the logo). Mature, complex and sweet from the huge quantities of honey added to the boil, this one was probably in the 11-12% range.

Mike Murphy added Lost Coast Brewery's 8 Ball Stout to our mix. This is a black, roasty and chocolate-y brew which would be nicely suited for an extended drinking session of a long cold afternoon and which was also nicely placed in our lineup, giving what was coming next.

Piraat? Brought by Karl (I'm always here, get used to it) Shoemaker? How far we have come. He who laughed at the geeks has embraced their religion. Granted someone gave him the bottle, but one step at a time, ya know? As with the Alaskan beer, this big, hoppy Belgian amber ale likely needs no further comment from me. It was there and it was good.

We opened with a Mayberry-provided beer and we closed with one, La Chouffe. Soft, malty and, despite its 8% ABV, all too easy to keep on drinking, this Belgian blond proved to be a perfect ending to a Tasting which we'll be hard pressed to top any time soon.

See what the boys in the back room are having.
They changed things around a bit at Monk's this Tuesday, moving the ink-stained wretches of the press from up front to the round table in the corner of the back bar. I liked it. The move was made in part, I suspect, because they finally (I say, finally) had a working sound system which made it possible for those in that room to hear the speaker up front. That was the idea, anyway, but we more than "heard" him; we were damned near blasted out of the room by him. Until the inventive Fergus (Fergie) Carey began tossing jackets over the huge new speaker to the left of the bar, it was almost enough to drive a man to drink.

Fortuitously enough, we were in the right place for that.

The speaker whose mellifluous tones almost knocked us off our chairs was Stephen Beaumont and the event was the Exotic Meats Dinner. The press portion of the "press table" consisted of the inimitable Lew Bryson (the one person on the premises who might have been able to match the sound system in volume), the soft-spoken Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell (who did an interesting column about the hypocrisy of college administrators on the subject of alcohol this week which you can read by clicking on his name) and your ever-lovin' and ever-humble correspondent. We were joined by Nodding Head's tormented twins, Brandon Greenwood and Curt Decker, who proceeded to point out our many failings in covering the beer world, as is their wont.

The last two beer dinners at Monk's I've termed among the finest to date. This one, while quite good, didn't rise to that level. Then again, how could it, given that Chef Adam Glickman and his staff were working with entrees they'd never done before. In that sense, this might have been the most accomplished of the Monk's dinners I've attended.

The evening began with Fantome Pissenlit, an 8% saison-style beer made with dandelions, which received a mixed reaction from the imbibers. I found it rather nice, with a pleasant herbal aroma, maybe a touch more sour than I'd expected but with a good hop character. The first course was Kangamaki, which was rare and very tasty kangaroo meat wrapped in Japanese sticky rice, with wasabi and nori. The accompanying beverage was Morimoto Ginjo Sake, which is, of course, a beer made from rice. A good beginning.

The second course, from what I could determine, was the most popular of the evening, Gator Piccata, which was alligator tail meat sauteed with lemon and capers. The only complaint I heard was one person saying there was too much lemon and he was, let me tell you, wrong. I think many people were as surprised as I was that this turned out to be basically two small and very good filets of fish rather than, oh I dunno, something more lumpy and chopped up like crabmeat. The accompanying beer was Allagash Triple, an excellent choice.

Next up was Japanese Kobi Beef (which is, best as I could determine, an Australian version of Kobe with an "e" beef). Whatever. It was well prepared, rare and juicy. I may be in the minority, in fact I'm sure I am, but this style of very tender, very soft textured beef ("filet mignon" in our lexicon) is not particularly appealing to me. I prefer my steaks with a bit more character and taste. Call me crazy. The beer that came with it, Hopback Entire Stout, was one of the most enjoyable of the night. Fergie apparently had to drive up the New Jersey Turnpike to pick this one up from distributor Dan Shelton, who met him halfway. It was well worth the trip.

Before the next course appeared, Tom Peters did, arriving at our table with samples of the just tapped Grotten Brown Ale, a cave-aged treasure from Pierre Celis by way of St. Bernardus Brewery in Watou, Belgium. I'm tempted to give it "Best of Show," even if it was "off menu."

The main entree was African Eland. Eland is the largest antelope on the African continent, hunted for both its hide and its meat, and moving all to close to the endangered species list from what I've read. It was served as a grilled chop, accompanied by truffled duchess potatoes. Many around us seemed to think that the truffles were a bit overpowering. I didn't mind that, but I thought the meat itself was the least satisfactory of the night. It was served with Southampton Publick House Trappist Pale Ale, which I learned (from whom I forget, though it might have been Beaumont), that Phil Markowski developed using a yeast strain culled from Orval.

It's pretty much a given at Monk's that dessert is gonna be wonderful and is, more often than not, also gonna be chocolate. This time, it was a sweet mousse which was cleverly named Chocolate Moose, in theme with the evening, and came with its own chocolate antlers. Two beers accompanied: the very good Unibroue La Terrible (can these guys make a bad beer?) and a less satisfactory recent release from Colorado's New Belgium, Transatlantique Kriek.

I first tasted this collaborative brew, made in conjunction with Brouwerij Boon and the legendary Frank Boon, during GABF in September as part of a press tour of New Belgium. At the time, we tasted both Transatlantique and the extremely fruity base beer made by Boon using Polish cherries. It was aged two years before being shipped to New Belgium to be blended with a strong golden ale created by New Belgium brewmaster Peter Bouckaert. In that context, Transatlantique seemed pleasant enough, but here the cherry flavors were just overwhelming. Sipped quickly after a spoonful of the Moose, or even with the Moose still in the mouth, it was okay, but that's not the way most people are going to do it, right?

All in all, another very good night at the city's best beer bar. Given that, I'm thinking of withdrawing my law suit for damaged eardrums.

Winner's Ball.
As I said last week, Iron Hill's decision to invite all the local GABF medal winners to offer their wares at a celebratory event on Friday night is something I'd like to see become a tradition. Granted, it's inviting as hell to throw such a party when you've garnered four medals of your own, as Iron Hill did, but let's hope they, or somebody, will do this again, no matter what.

Ten award-winning beers were poured in the back room at the West Chester pub, including a sampler which is pictured at right. I'll use that to go down the roster but first a look at medal winners which weren't present, since there were actually 12 winning beers among the six breweries and only nine were on hand. Both the Nodding Head Berliner Weisse and the Stewart's Barleywine have all been drunk up by you greedy people and not represented. This is also true of Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, but O'Reilly, never one to miss a party, volunteered his 2002 Bronze winning French Creek Helles in its place.

Okay, turn your gaze to the photo. Reading top of the left-hand row of six beers and then down from the top of the four beers on the right, this was the sampler: McKenzie Trappist Pale Ale, McKenzie Saison, Iron Hill Dunkel, Iron Hill Lambic de Hill, Iron Hill Russian Imperial Stout, Iron Hill Tripel, Ortlieb's Select 69 Lager, Nodding Head 60 Schilling Ale, Stewart's Oktoberfest and Sly Fox French Creek Helles (for the record, by the way...wait just a minute....Ahhh!....the final sip of the final half pint pulled from the last keg extant of Pikeland Pils--unless there is still a keg unkilled at Johnny Brenda's, the new "sister" bar to Standard Tap--was just now consumed right here at LDO, at 4:33 pm est).

Not a bad beer in the bunch, obviously, and it was, as it properly should have been, a real showcase for the Iron Hill brews. I really wanted to try their Lambic de Hill (if only so I could do another shout out to Bill "drbill" Sysak, who touted it to me in Denver roughly an hour before it won the Gold) and was not disappointed. The Russian Imperial Stout, which I did get to try out in Denver, was better than ever; the Dunkel had an interested, almost mealy texture and was very good. My initial reaction to the Tripel tasted from one of the little sampling glasses wasn't much more than "okay," but when I said that to Iron Hill's Director of Brewing Operations Mark Edelson, he looked at me like I was crazy and handed me his goblet of same to try. Hmmm... A goblet of my own later left me more than convinced. Iron Hill Media brewer Bob Barrer told me that this one has won the Bronze two years in a row now and he's looking to move it on up to Gold in 2004.

I didn't stay more than about and hour and a half and spent much of the time talking rather than drinking. I did a pint of the McKenzie Trappist Pale, which caught my fancy in the sampler (on the other hand, I thought the Saison might have gone a bit sour). Plus I had a couple of pints of 60 Schilling and Brandon actually introduced me to his parents as I downed the first one. They seemed like perfectly normal people. What's up with that? And wherever was Decker?

Good beers begin at home.
On the advice of Guyer, who apparently brought out and shared his bottle of AleSmith 2000 Grand Cru after I'd left Monk's Tuesday night, I opened my own on Thursday (these are part of the beer exchange we do with the aforementioned Bill Sysak every couple of months). That meant depriving the Monday Tasters of this one but, in Matt's words, "it's all about you." I can live with that, and the guilt. Especially after the first sip of what may have been the best beer yet received from "drbill." Subtle, with (contradictory) vanilla aromas and chocolate flavors, it was a very well balanced and oh-so-drinkable big beer (10.6% ABV). Oh, yes. I enjoyed every drop.

I had never tasted Liefmans Goudenband. My bad. Happily, it was the latest shipment from the Michael Jackson Great Beers of Belgium Beer of the Month Club, which arrived last Monday, and so I decided to open a bottle last night. I share the club membership with Brian O'Reilly and Corey Reid and we only got eight 12oz bottles, so this meant I was cutting my supply in half (two bottles for each of us, another that we will share together and the last will appear at a Weekly Tasting one of these nights), but, given the successful way the week had gone, it seemed the right thing to do.

Oh my, yes it was.

Goudenband is the classic Belgian Brown Ale, sweet and sour all at once and redolent with cherry notes to the degree that it is sometimes mistaken for a fruit beer. All of this works together in ways that mere man can only wonder at, and keep drinking. This was more than just a good beer.

In a week of very, very good beers, it was the very best.

[Posted 5:40 pm est]

23 November 03
Hello. Goodbye.
Upper management is under the weather once again (or, still) and LDO will not appear today. Since I already had planned to skip the holiday weekend next Sunday, it won't appear again until December 7. See you then.

[Posted 12:45 pm est]

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

--A. E. Houseman


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