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

29 November 2007
What's going on.
I'm adding an Amazon store to the site and working up the energy to take another whack at WordPress. Those are debilitating things, they are. The way my schedule has broken, December looks to be a month I can pull off a couple of major efforts like this without hampering my income-producing (I always giggle when I type that) efforts. It all helps to set the stage for....well, that would be telling.

As for the store, I hope to make some order and sense out of it all in coming weeks, but right now it's just a long list of books about beer. You can check it out at the link to the left or the cooler one at the bottom of this page, (scroll way, way down). The way it works, if you're gonna buy one or more of these titles anyway and you do it by clicking from here, LDO benefits in a very minimal financial way. Never gonna make anybody rich, but it helps.

This is all part of the thinking that led me to add the <tip the bartender link several weeks back. This site serves me in many ways, from personal gratification to professional recognition (when a lady came up to my cleverly disguised self in New Orleans and said "Hey, you're that Liquid Diet guy!" I figured both those benefits were working just fine), but, you know, a little cash now and then don't hurt neither.

I'l be back with some news, thoughts and maybe even a fantasy or two about beer over the weekend, promise. For now, though, mull this over: Craft Beer, Signature Cocktails and Organic Wine Top List of RestaurantBeverage Trends (my emphasis added).

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[Posted 5:00pm est]

26 November 2007
Sixpack sez.
Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell broke some big news about Philadelphia's newest brewery over the weekend:

Just got word that the new Philadelphia Brewing Co. expects to be brewing by the second week of January. This is the new brewery that will take over at Yards Brewing’s current location in Kensington. (Yards is moving to Delaware Avenue in Kensington).

Co-owner Nancy Barton reports that Josh Ervine and John Rehm, both now working with Yards Brewing, will be the new company’s brewers. The company is in the process of obtaining needed state and federal licensing approvals. And they’ve got a new web site and logo.

Here's the website and logo.

The Bartons are starting out with a fully functioning plant with which they are entirely familiar, with a pair of talented brewers who know their business and will a plethora of contacts (read "potential tap handles") around the city.

This will not be your usual brewery start-up, in other words. Not at all.

What it will be is very, very interesting.

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[Posted 9:00am est]

25 November 2007
Drafting Room Saturday.
The day before Thanksgiving I received a call from the Inevitable Ruch who was perched, inevitably, on a barstool at the time. Not the stool you might think, however. He was at Drafting Room Exton and, knowing my affection for good porters, wanted to alert me that Left Hand Smokejumper Imperial Smoked Porter was on tap, as well as their Goosinator Smoked Doppelbock. Yesterday, I decided to go see about that, having stumbled into an afternoon during which there was nothing looming over me to be done. Free at last, free at last.

It was a lovely drive down. Or over. Whatever. Usually takes me about half an hour, give or take, but it was closer to an hour as I chose to do some exploring and perhaps find a better shortcut over to Rt. 113 than the one I now use. Did that, but not before some meandering, most of it in and around downtown Birchrunville, such as it us, and some of the loveliest landscape and nicest homes in this area. Folks with money and land, they do live right.

The Goosinator had kicked, sadly, but I ordered up a pint of Smokejumper (9.2% abv) and was somewhat taken aback, I was. I'm a fan of smoked beers, I am, but this one was just a bit aggressive for me. A later conversation with Richard and some online reviews I've seen suggest that my reaction is not the norm, so take that for what it's worth.

The featured beer style of the month at TDR is Brown Ale, so I took advantage of their sampler offering and tried 5.5oz pours of Bell's Best Brown Ale (5.8%) , Lost Coast Winterbraun (6.5%) and Ft. Collins Big Shot (6.2%), along with a cup of wild mushroom soup, half a turkey and Brie sandwich on whole wheat and a small pasta salad. All three are good, easy drinking examples of one of the most drinkable of styles, but I was again somewhat put-off by the light smoke flavors in the Winterbraun, dunno what's up with that, unless it's some sort of hangover from my flu/cold.

I also had a taste of the Dock Street Pumpkin Ale, just enough to know that it is indeed pumpkiny if that's your thing. Pumpkin beers are really not to my taste, although I did enjoy my last bottle of Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin quite a lot on Thanksgiving Day, pre-turkey, while I picked at cheeses and did the cooking (Sly Fox Saison Vos was the beer I had with dinner, 'cause saisons are swell with turkey). I assume the Dock Street brew was one done by the Dude, but don't know for sure. Patrick Mullin, who showed up mid-way through my lunch, told me he has a keg of their Rye IPA (that appears to be the official name, not the oh-so-neat RYPA we beer writers tried to christen it with) waiting in the wings and doesn't know who brewed that one either. I think I'll go to the source and find out.

A word needs to be said here about Drafting Room Exton. Back in the late '90s, after I had moved to Oaks, it was about as close to a local as I had (although nostalgia and good memories often drew me back to Billy Cunningham's Court (now gone) in West Conshohocken and Dawson Street Pub in Manayunk) and I would marvel at this place, out in the 'burbs no less, where you could go of a Sunday afternoon and find it crowded with football fans kibitzing back and forth (Cowboy fans are annoying and ubiquitous), all the while enjoying good beers. If only it could be like this everywhere, I used to think...

Well, these days, if not everywhere, it's a scene you'll find more and more often. Good beer, and good beer bars, are all over the place. And sometimes, we...I...in the midst of this good and wonderful scene, lose sight of the guys who were there all along, the ones who fought the fight when there was a fight to be fought.

Sitting there yesterday, it struck me again, finally, just what a good, maybe great, bar/restaurant Drafting Room Exton is. The tap selection is always broad ranging and well thought-out (you can check out the current offerings here, although it's slightly out of date). Bottle selections are among the best in the region. The food is as good as the beer.

The place is beer friendly, obviously, and draws a beer-oriented crowd. Mullin, who's been there nearly ten years now, is a local treasure. A guy named John (I think) came an sat down next to me at the bar, ordered up a four-beer sampler with three of the hoppiest beers in the house "and Sierra Nevada as a chaser." Then, with Patrick's help, he put together a list of six bottled beers to take home with him, all at excellent prices.

Speaking of prices, my Smokejumper 10oz glass and three beer sampler, along with lunch, amounted to around $17, which is pretty reasonable, considering the quality and variety.

Drafting Room Exton. About as good as it gets. I should say that more often.

Having now done so, my tale moves on. You see, it takes a strong man to venture the half hour or so to the Drafting Room from where I live and not succumb to the temptation to head another four miles or so farther west to Victory Brewing in Downingtown. And I am not a strong man...

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[Posted 12:30pm est]

Moving on down the road.
I further surrendered to all-too-human frailty on the way to Victory, popping into Wegmans for a few packages of the wonderful Bourbon Pecan Biscotti they carry, along with a loaf of Banana Nut Bread and some small Fudge Brownies (I have become a chocaholic in my decline years, needing just a taste after dinner if at all possible; I blame in all on those dinners at Monk/s), along with more necessary if mundane items as milk (for my daily four or five Cappuccinos), fresh orange juice, bar soap and a few unmentionables.

I arrived at the brewery around 3pm and Sir Richard was, as expected, in his place. Well, not quite. He was sitting two stools to the left of the Official Ruch Stool, next to Sly Fox "Mr. Fix-It" Karl Shoemaker. Since I am a big fan of old, white-haired people gathering together in public as often as possible just to remind you young bastards that we are still around, I quickly joined them despite their protests.

With a small glass of the 2007 Hop Wallop in front of me--my first of the year and a quick impression is that it's the best batch since the first--I watched with some degree of awe as Richard soaked his hands alternately in a warm bowl of HopDevil to relieve the strains of a long week of spamming his bestest pals and ordered a Slow Pour glass of water from the befuddled staff. It was both terribly sad and highly amusing and I opted to go with the latter emotion rather than spoil the day.

We chatted a bit about the increasingly legendary Baltic Thunder, generally agreeing that its appearance in December seems more unlikely than ever, especially with the holidays making things problematic after mid-month or so. I noted, though, that Patrick had told me back at TDR that "they can release it whenever they want and we'll be here to hold the event; I'd prefer a Saturday but any day will do, even Christmas Day; we'll be pouring and the beer geeks will come, trust me." The great joker in this deck at this point, it seems to me, is that this first batch, having aged longer than some of you reading this have been old enough to drink, is surely going to be notably different from all the batches to follow. Many a bottle will surely be squirreled away for vertical tastings in the years to come, I'd guess, and having one from Year One, whatever year that turns out to be, will be special badge of honor.

Of course, they could just never release this first batch at all, merely continue to pour off samples from the tank for the select among us, thus turning that sacred vessel into a holy place where only the chosen few may venture, the ultimate geek nirvana. I envision Tom Baker on a stately but not overly ostentatious throne beside the tank, handing down the good beer word, with Lew Bryson at his feet, capturing each tidbit of wisdom for all posterity. And outside the doors, stretching across that huge parking lot, a vast array of weeping and wailing non-admittees, their BeerAdvocate shirts rent into bitter shreds, their lives ruined and self-esteem crushed.

But I do digress...

My second beer was a right tasty ESB from the handpump and I took a moment or two to ponder, as I sipped same, whether this would turn out to be my last time in this particular spot, at the far end of that long and beautiful bar. Renovations on the pub and kitchen will begin in January and everything will change over the following months. Then I ordered up three bottles of Saison to bring home and was gone.

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[Posted 12:30pm est]

Beer notes.
In a final bit of catching up around here, just a couple of brief notes on two other beers of note which I tried this month.

Brewer's Art Green Peppercorn Tripel, a 750ml bottle which I was lucky enough to score from that nice Mr. Tim Ohst at Sly Fox Royersford following the brew and bottling, ranks right up there with the Tomme Arthur / Dirk Naudts Signature Ale from the DeProef Brewmaster's Collection series which I raved about in September. Now, I am a pepper fanatic so my viewpoint may be somewhat skewed, but I got a lot of pepper and really thought this was top-notch. Sadly, the laws of supply and demand have forced Brewer's Art to withdraw from the Philadelphia market for now, so this will a hard-to-get. On the other hand, I've already chatted with Volker with doing a night at Phoenixville a la last year's with Southampton after they've brewed a couple more beers at Royersford and he's more than game. Guess I should mention that to the Sly Fox guys, eh?

Le Grande Blanche is the fourth beer I've tried from that DeProef collection mentioned above (my thoughts on the first three are at that link) and it was probably my least favorite so far. It's a 7.5% Imperial White Ale and just didn't seem to have the kick I expected. Not a bad beer, understand, and my judgment may be slightly clouded by having downed the whole 750ml bottle on my own. I suspect just a small glass of this as part of a large sampler or at a dinner would strike a much more favorable note.

That's something all of us need to think more about, the how, where and when of each sampling on which we report. I enjoyed my bottle of Lozen Boer from the DeProef collection quite a bit, but I suspect I'd have enjoyed it even more under the ideal conditions wherein the Big Guy downed his.

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[Posted 12:30pm est]

24 November 2007
With great power comes great responsibility.
And the same, it appears, is true with minimal power wielded by the likes of me. I may not have much to say, as many charge, but if I'm not saying it every day and in every way, great empty holes apparently emerge in some people's lives. At least, that's what all the emails have been saying.

So I'm back. Sorry for the prolonged absence but a lot of factors kept me away, not least of which was something akin to the flu which I neatly contracted just 24 hours before I was scheduled to get a flu shot. It sapped me of energy and drive and those conditions persisted even as I recovered.

I blame the cough syrup. On the other hand, I also love the cough syrup. It's like barleywine for the infirmed.

And now, once more into the breach....

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[Posted 11:40am est]

Besides, it's not like I stopped drinking or anything.
Shhh, don't tell the doctor. You know how they get. A quick bit or research confirmed that the old saw about how alcoholic beverages decrease the effectiveness of antibiotics is totally off base and I figured a beer or two along the way could only make the path back to good health a more pleasant journey.

A day or so before my personal bit of the plague descended, I arrived at the Beer Yard for my weekly penance and found a carton of seven or eight beers awaiting me, courtesy of Tom Buonanno, allied brand coordinator for Muller Distributors, who has been making a dedicated effort to get me familiar with his brands.

Among those in the stash were 12oz samples of Stegmaier Holiday Warmer (which I'd already tried, courtesy of the brewery, and which is well made but a bit thin for a winter warmer), Spanish Peaks Winter Cheer, Erie 'Ol Red Cease & Desist Scottish Ale (yes, that's where they put the ' and, boy, would I like to know the story behind that label), Otter Creek Raspberry Brown Winter Ale and JW Dundee's Special Edition Festive Ale.

I didn't take extensive notes--hell, any notes--but all of them had their merits and serve as more examples of how it's damned near impossible not to find a decent beer these days. The pick of the litter, though, was a bit or a surprise, the JW Dundee Festive Ale. Well balanced, flavorful (spiced, but mildly so) and nicely drinkable at 6.2%. You "big beer" guys would probably want to latch onto the Erie Scottish, though, which comes in at 10.1 and should probably be classified as a Scotch ale.

There were a pair of 22oz-ers included as well, both from Otter Creek/Wolaver's. Otter Creek Otter Mon, a "Jamaican-style stout," is part of their "World Tour" branding, the ninth beer in the series, and was quite nice if not striking (in addition to being "Lager Land," this area produces some damned fine stouts, so I'm, kinda hard to impress, I think; Wolaver's Certified Organic Farmhouse Ale celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the country's best-known organic brewer and is a very nice, very drinkable Belgian-style ale, although its doesn't hit the malty, yeasty notes of the style. I wouldn't mind having several of these in the 'frig year round.

That same day at the Beer Yard, I picked up, as planned, as case of Weyerbacher Winter Ale, a pleasant, malty dark brew which, at 5.6%, I generally make one of my winter house beers. Not only is a good beer for a winter's night, I get a real kick out that label with the snowmen running amuck, who knows why?

The very best beer I've had since we lasted talked, hands down, was one I actually dragged myself out of the sick bed to have, Sly Fox Oatmeal Stout on the handpump at Phoenixville, the featured beer at this month's Third Friday Firkin Fest. Fox regulars know that (dare I call it?) Ohstmeal Stout is a real, and too rare, treat on draught, but on the pump it was truly sublime, rich and chocolatey and something I was willing to risk (and achieve) a bit of a setback in order to partake of its goodness.

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[Posted 11:40am est]

So, you should maybe want a little smear with your beer?
I stumbled across this yesterday afternoon and it's pretty neat.

Haaretz.com is the world's leading English-language Website for real-time news about Israel and the Middle East and, in this case, that means about five beer bars in Israel. The page reads a little strangely now and again, mostly I think due to having captions for non-existent photos. You just gotta love a guy who built a brewery on top of his personal sauna, right?

I'm thinking road trip.

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[Posted 11:40am est]

13 November 2007
It's never too late to say you're sorry.
Still, this is pretty late, innit? Consider it an apology for disappearing for a week, but I got caught up in work that needed to be done last week and then was blown away this weekend by a surprise family event which involved the installation of a brand new, faster and more extensive computer system here at LDO World Headquarters, which involved the consequent of finding and downloading software and software patches for make everything work right again.

Pause here for rant: Why the hell is that developers insist on "improving" software by removing many of the functions which I most employed and admired and replacing them with new capabilities about which I don't give a damn?

Okay, that's out of my system.

The weekend also involving seeing Villanova's opening basketball game of the season from the third row off the floor and the Flyers/Pittsburgh hockey game from right on the glass just to the right of the Flyers net (I'm not a big hockey fan, but that is definitely the way to see a game) and a late night outing to Teresa's Next Door. All that kinda slowed me down some too, but it a most definitely good way. As is the computer, now that I'm beginning to get comfortable with Windows XP after all those years with Win2000.

I got the last of my overdue writing assignments, bumped from the weekend, finished today. Tomorrow will be a Beer Yard day, where I will catch up on the website and pick up installation disks for the last piece of software I'm still lacking, Photosuite, a PhotoShop clone which will, or shoul, allow me to use my scanner again to edit images efficiently rather than struggle through the annoying and frustrating work-around I now face (and that only because I was lucky enough to find the downloaded driver for my outdated but perfectly suited scanner tucked away on my old hard drive).

All of which is a the long way around toward saying that I'm back, but not quite. It will probably be the weekend before I start posting here regularly again. That's also when I'm going to take another hard look at WordPress, one last once, to see if I should be going that route here and over at Mermaids Singing.

I mean, what's the sense of just rolling along smoothly now that I'm caught up when, with only a few crazed decisions, I can throw everything into turmoil again?

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[Posted 3:50pm est]

5 November 2007
Who are all those people?
I've had a lot of messages asking for the identities of all the folks in
yesterday's lead photo, and I am nothing if not a full-service blogger.

Starting from the right (just because I can):

Gregg Glaser (Yankee Brewing News) in prison stripes; Ed Westheimer, (Cincinatti beer writer) as a Belgian monk; yours truly; the fetching Sheryl Barto (PR person & trip organizer) and the not-nearly-so-fetching Tom Dalldorf (Celebrator Beer News) in a kilt;

Videographer Dave Rosner (in bright green wig and barely visible in rear); a young brother and sister combo who are not of legal age and whose identities are therefore embargoed; Deborah and John Slaughter (he's the new Texas sales rep for Distinguished Brands International, Dixie Brewing's national distribution representative), and Joe O'Grady (DBI's East Coast sales manager).

Two members of our traveling party were missing in action: writers/contrarians Kerry Byrne (Boston Herald) and Bill Brand (ANG Newspapers). That's probably for the best.

The bonus photo included here was taken by Gregg Glaser (thanks, pal) and is for those who have been screaming for the Full Monty (as it were) of me as HopMan.

And, obviously, it's also an act of pure self-aggrandizement.

I'm not so sure that latter is going to work out, looking at it.

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[Posted 7:45am est]

In a more serious vein...
...an actual, real live news story about Dixie Brewing and its plans for the future has been posted at
the Beer Yard site.

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[Posted 7:00am est]

4 November 2007
I went to New Orleans and all I got were these lousy photos.
And so we went off to New Orleans for Halloween and dressed in silly costumes...


...to visit this classic old brewery, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina but is now on the road back, where they were celebrating its 100th anniversary.
This photo is taken on the roof the building and we are dressed in protective gear because, well, it's a mess inside.


We were guests of Joe and Kendra Bruno, who saved Dixie from bankruptcy in 1987, and their granddaughter, "a brewery owner in training."


We shared a birthday cake and partied through the night in the ruined brewery building, quaffing Dixie Lager, Blackened Voodoo and Jazz Light, currently being contract brewed at Huber Brewing in Wisconsin.


Before that, we got to see some of the damage wreaked by Katrina
(note lawn chair still on roof)...


...including one very famous house which has been restored...


(this is the sign on the house above).


At the party, we saw a grandmotherly beer can and a sexy martini glass...


...and I found a fellow superhero to help me fight bad beer. We searched and searched for Yeast Girl to fill out our team (hold the "infection" jokes, please),
but to no avail.


All the while our deadly enemy, Diacetyl, was also in the house, hidden away in the middle of a wandering street band.


And there was, of course, Bourbon Street.

More to come, promise, but I came home to find that my oldest relative, the last link to my father's side of the family, had died and a Friday funeral, plus a missing box of several hundred dollars worth of comics that I needed to ship out this weekend, plus all the usual stuff that has to be caught up with after a trip. In short, I be hassled and discombobulated for the moment.

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[Posted 10:50am est]

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

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

--A. E. Houseman