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Here's what we got today.
Today's posting is my GABF report and few other bits of news/commentary. It lacks photos at the moment; I'll try to add a few of those over the coming week.

My account of the trip to Germany and England will be put up in installments during the coming week, with a link and brief introduction posted here. Apologies for being late again (I think I'm being punished by the internet gods for having ragged on Bryson for taking so long to post some of his tales) but I'm trying to catch up for nearly a whole month's worth of time away from the desk and it ain't easy. Check back later in the week or wait until next Sunday when everything should be in place.

Meanwhile, on Thursday I finally posted my piece about my brother's memorial service here for anyone who cares to read it. My thanks for all the kind remarks emailed me by those who have already discovered and read it.

Great American Beer Festival 2003 (Day One).
This was, oddly enough, my first GABF. Given that I wrote my first serious beer article in the summer of 1995 and have been writing about brews and brewers ever since, you'd think I'd have made the journey before, but timing and circumstance were never right until this year.

I traveled out with Sly Fox's Brian O'Reilly and shared a room with him on and off, as he disappeared into the mountains there for a while. Anyone who's keeping score may note that I tend to have this effect on traveling companions (see the report on last February's California sojourn wherein the always mysterious Matt Guyer disappeared with some regularity). I'm not quite sure how I came by this unusual skill but I fine it most rewarding and plan to cultivate and employ it henceforth, except when traveling with a person of the female persuasion should that improbable situation ever arise again.

Ortlieb Brewery and Grill brewmaster Bill Moore and his wife were on the same plane to Denver from Philadelphia. He'd rented a car and graciously offered to drive us into town and our hotel, thereby earning much good karma which served him well a few days later. At the hotel, O'Reilly found his good buddy Bill Bryson of Ohio's Willoughby Brewing Co. and they were ten "dudes" into a conversation so quickly I didn't have the heart to remind them that the term is oh-so-last-century. Bryson wants it known, by the way, that he is not in any way, shape or form related to our own Lew Bryson, and is both happy and relieved about that.

Wednesday night was the private Brewers Reception at Wynkoop Brewing . Sly Fox Pikeland Pils was one of several beers being poured there so we naturally gravitated to that table first, soon to be surrounded by a bevy of familiar faces: Phil Markowski of Southampton Publick House; Brandon Greenwood and Curt Decker of Nodding Head Brewery; the ineffable Tom Dalldorf from the incomparable Celebrator Beer News; Chris Black, owner of Falling Rock Tap House, where we would spend much of time over the next three days; Sebbie Buhler of Rogue Ales, Bill Moore and likely others whom I've forgotten.

A bit later, while wandering about before splitting with Brandon and Curt for a quieter and more comfortable place to drink and talk, I heard my name being called out and turned to find...my Southern California Connection: Doc (the manic one), Steve (the long-suffering one) and Lucy (the pretty one), all of whom I'd met (along with Chris Black) on the California trip linked above. Handshakes and hugs all around (you figure out who got what) with assurances by Doc that exciting beers would be flowing each night at Falling Rock. Trust me, he's a man of his word.

The Nodding Head duo and I found a bar and spent an hour or two talking current politics, finding ourselves in general agreement on most things. This all came to an end when Brandon invited a well-oiled patron who'd been hanging on our every word to join the discussion. He began with his solution to all our country's problems: "Take everybody's social security number and thrown them into a hat. Whoever's name is picked out becomes president." With that bit of wisdom ringing in our ears, we left for Falling Rock.

It's an amazing place, previously (I presume) a garage or warehouse with huge rolling doors up to the ceiling so that the entire front is open. The building is set several yards back from the street so you can't even see it until you're standing in front of it. There's outside seating in front. Inside, there's a long bar to the right (69 taps), a line of booths down the center and both seating and a stage area to the left. At left front is a stairway to the lower level, which is a large room with pool table and series of smaller rooms or areas around the right perimeter.

We got a space up front and had a couple of beers (the best was a very good Avery IPA) and greeted our pals as they arrived. Suddenly Doc was at my side, lugging a 9 liter bottle of Stone Brewing's Fifth Anniversary Ale, which he seemed to be pouring for anyone who'd have it. Shortly after, another 9 liter bottle, this one Brasserie St-Feuillien Abbey Ale, was poured.

We were there for quite a while and I'm sure other things were drunk and other things happened, but it's all fuzzy at this point and I'd stopped take notes early in the evening. All I know is that O'Reilly and I eventually walked back to the hotel and hit the sack.

Great American Beer Festival 2003 (Day Two).
Having slept too late for the hotel's complimentary breakfast, we walked up to the Denver's neat 16th Street Mall (a free bus roams along the street, which is otherwise closed to traffic) and had muffins and coffee at a place called the Paradise Cafe. After that, he was off to buy a $200 sleeping bag and god knows what, as he, Markowski, McKenzie Brew House's Scott "The Dude" Morrison and some others were planning to go sleep in the mountains that night after the opening GABF session and then climb at least one, maybe two, 14,000 footers in the morning. Hey, whatever turns you on.... I grabbed the book I was reading and found a nice bench in the sun in Writer Square on the mall and figured I could hide away there for a couple of hours. Yeah, right. Sensing danger, I looked up to find my Nodding Head pals trying to sneak up on me, who knows why. We killed an hour or so chatting and made tentative plans to meet later in the afternoon (they were off to see if the always affable Tom Kehoe of Yards, the nationally famous Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head or the quiet and unassuming Tom Peters of Monk's Cafe had yet made their way into town; I was off to maybe grab a quick nap.

No such luck, O'Reilly was back and the new plan was to go over to the convention center and make sure everything was set up, then grab some dinner before things got started at 5:30 p.m. I was also awaiting a call from my son, Christopher, who lives in Grand Rapids and was coming in to use one of our extra tickets (my new favorite PR person in the whole world, Sheryl Barto, who lives in Aspen and about whom much more will be revealed if I ever get the damned Europe trip story posted, was supposed to join us as well but had to back out for personal reasons. With Bill Bryson in tow, off we went.

After things were set up, the three of us, along with Manayunk Brewery's Larry Horowitz, who may or may not have been around the night before, found a place to eat nearby. I finally got in touch with Christopher by phone and made arrangements to meet him outside the convention center, which I did.

GABF is overwhelming. All those breweries, all that beer. I decided I wasn't going to try and make sense of it, certainly wasn't going to try and sample every beer. For the most part, I didn't even take notes, to be honest. I just wandered around aimlessly, trying beers here and there and seeing old friends when I could. Caught up with Fal Allen at the Anderson Valley booth, for example, and then ran into Michael Jackson, who I'd seen in London exactly two weeks earlier (see my story on the European...oh wait, that's not up yet, is it?), wandering the floor much as I was, albeit with more purpose and dedication. I got a chance to introduce my son to him, which was nice.

As for the beers, I know I had all five of the Flossmoor Station beers as sort of a personal homage to Todd Ashman, who's leaving there for Green Bay (probably already has left as this is posted). I was really taken with a pair of offbeat beers from Southhampton, Peconic County Reserve Ale, fermented with Chardonnay grapes, and Wit Passion, fermented with passion fruit. I was very impressed by Saison de Brooklyn, which proved to prophetic. I tried several saisons and pilsners from breweries in the western U.S., the latter as part of a story idea I have percolating and the former because it's one of my favorite styles. I did my duty and sampled a lot of the brews from back home here, Yard's Thomas Jefferson 1774 Ale, Nodding Head 3C Extreme IPA, McKenzie Brew HouseTrappist Pale Ale and Manayunk Lager. And O'Reilly's beers, of course. Somehow missed Iron Hill Brewery. Bad move, that.

Somewhere in there, Larry Horowitz allowed as how he'd love to go climbing with the wild mountain boys if only he had an appropriate sleeping bag. Whereupon Christopher piped up, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "I've got a zero degree bag in my trunk. Want to use it?" I figure that ought to get me a few freebies at Manayunk, right, Larry?

After the ball was over, those of us who weren't heading for the hills headed for, where else, Falling Rock. Well, okay, to Rock Bottom and then to Falling Rock, the former because Dalldorf (who by the way was omnipresent throughout the four days) insisted, and who am I to deny the man who signs the checks. We had a couple of beers and some food there and then moved on. It turned out to be the least crowded night of all at Falling Rock, as it was on convention center floor. I had a chance to introduce Christopher to Stone's Greg Koch so he had a chance to tell him how delighted he was that Stone beers are now available in Grand Junction. I found Steve and Lucy, but not Doc, a most unusual situation. Usually he's wandering about looking for them while they've slipped away and hidden (in fact, I never saw either of them again after that night), but they assured he was there somewhere, wreaking havoc. I went downstairs for the first time, watched Christopher work his way into a pool game and get his butt kicked, and then a large bottle of Chimay Grand Reserve 1998 magically appeared (whether this was Doc's doing wasn't clear) and the fun began. Where it took us, who can recall?

Great American Beer Festival 2003 (Day Three).
Okay, the title on this section is somewhat misleading, because I actually didn't attend GABF on Friday. There was a special press junket to Fort Collins and New Belgium Brewing Company for the Seventh Annual Realbeer.com Vertical Tasting. With O'Reilly off trying to catch his breath on mountain tops and a decent night's sleep behind me, I did manage to make the complimentary breakfast, which was surprisingly extensive and good, and ate with Doc. This was both entertaining and useful, providing me with an opportunity to meet Vinnie and Natalie Cilarzo of Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California. A lot of the West Coast guys, not least Pizza Port's Tomme Arthur, had been telling me that Vinnie is destined to be the next hot brewer from the Left Coast, so that is definitely a Good Thing. Doc told me he's getting married in 2005 and will have a bachelor party in Belgium in May of that year. I think I'll have to wangle me an invitation to that one.

I later had lunch with Christopher, who'd decided to blow off the Friday night session, and came back to the room to find O'Reilly returned, all full of himself for having been one of two in the party of six to have climbed two 14,000 footers, Democrat and Cameron. "The Dude didn't make it all the way up the second," he crowded, "you gotta get on him about that." That attitude would come back to bite him on the ass, as we shall see.

I caught the bus for the hour-plus ride to Fort Collins out front of the hotel around 3:30. My seating partner for the ride was Chuck Cook, another beer writer (Celebrator, All About Beer) whom I'd not met before (well, we met the night before on the convention floor, but you know what I mean). He'd been a participant in the whole Jack-on-a-stick thing while I was in Europe and promised to send me pictures (which he did, see next week's posting). I also had a chance to meet Pierre Celis, who was sitting across the aisle.

At New Belgium. which is a beautiful brewery, the vertical tasting session, conducted by Michael Jackson, consisted of 1993 and 1998 Thomas Hardy Ale and 1999 and 2002 Chimay. The Thomas Hardy part turned out about as you might expect, with the '93 having a near barleywine character and wonderful nose. Michael said he tasted figs (he does that, you know). The '98 was fruitier (even my defective palet noticed the orange peel) and not nearly so intense. The Chimay samples, on the other hand, went against the grain. The 1999 had lost something, I thought (confirmed by MJ, which was comforting), while the 2002 was nicely carbonated and pleasantly drinkable. Dalldorf, who sat next to me, was part of the minority opinion which found it too effervescent and preferred the older vintage.

We then split into groups for three other tastings. We got to try both the new Transatlantique Kriek, a lambic brewed in conjunction with the legendary Frank Boon and Brouwerij Boon, blending his lambic with an original New Belgium brew. New Belgium brewmaster Peter Bouckaert also gave us samples of the original lambic that Boon had sent over, a heavier, sweeter brew than the blended version.

Next pit stop was a tasty bit of salmon served with Saison de Brooklyn, which Garrett Oliver then told us was "my favorite beer that our brewery has ever made." We'd all remember that, come Saturday, when the beer won a Gold.

Along the way to our final stop, we had a quick look at the new Merlin wort-heating system which New Belgium has put in. It's an energy and time saving system developed in German in which beer is dispersed over a heated cone and then circulated for 35 minutes, allowing New Belgium to brew 12 times in 24 hours. I believe that there are only one or two others currently in this country.

The last mini-session was a sampling of three different brews which are used in making New Belgium's popular La Folie wood aged beer. One sample was very young (and tasted it), one was a three to five year old, smaller barrel which had a striking aroma and nice peppery notes to it and the third was a carbonated barrel, something they do for every GABF for Falling Rock, where it is labeled (as it was at the brewery's own bar) NBB Love. I talked for quite a bit about the character and characteristics of beer with the New Belgium sensory analyst who gave the presentation and then with fellow beer writer Alan Moen. Finally, we settled in for dinner, which I enjoyed with pints of Porch Swing Single and Blue Paddle Pilsener.

The bus got us back at around 10:30 and I got off at Falling Rock, hoping to find a familiar face. The place was jammed, so jammed I couldn't even get to the bar for a beer. Nor was anybody I was looking for to be found. Downstairs in one of the small side areas, there was a table of big hitters I was invited to join, but it looked like that was going to be very long night, so I demurred, after stopped to say hello to David Keene, owner of the Toronado Pub in San Francisco and assure him that I had faithfully delivered the bottle of special ale he'd given me for Tom Peters back in February but that Tom, Matt and I hadn't as yet gotten together to drink it and then walked back to the hotel.

Great American Beer Festival 2003 (Day Four).
This was THE day of course, with the medal ceremony schedule for 1:30 p.m. The session opened an hour before that and I decided to take advantage of that nervous hour to catch up with some things. That meant heading for the Russian River booth first thing, where five beers were available. I tried Temptation, a golden ale aged in Chardonnay barrels for three months; Salvation, a strong golden ale, andPliny the Elder, an Imperial IPA (a very hot style on the West Coast at the moment). All were splendid. I hit several other places (Snake River Brewery, Elysian Brewing Company, and Alaskan Brewing Company). I ran into Tom Peters, who'd arrived the day before and apparently "refreshed" himself memorably. Christopher showed up, with two friends he was staying with. And then, as the magic hour was almost upon, there was Doc, at my side again (beginning to see a pattern here?), this time with words of wisdom, rather than beer.

"You have to talk to the folks at Iron Hill. Have you had Lambic de Hill?" He didn't even wait for me to stop shaking my head. "It's the best American interpretation of the lambic style I've ever tasted. Now they're all out of it and say they don't plan to brew it again. You have to tell them to. It's a great beer."

I couldn't find any of the locals when I got the area around the stage where the medals were to be present so I ended up standing with groups from Texas and Wisconsin, well removed from any opportunity to take any decent photos as well. Ah well... I was interested in all the awards, of course, but focused on the local guys. The first one called the stage was McKenzie's "Dude," a Bronze for his Trappist Pale Ale, his first ever GABF medal. For another story idea I'm working on, I needed medal wins by him, O'Reilly and Phil Markowski. A third of the way home. By golly, O'Reilly and a Bronze for Pikeland Pils come up three categories later. Two down. The Southampton medal I still needed, a Gold for its Trappist Pale Ale, wouldn't come for another 37 categories but I stopped thinking about the story as an amazing local story began unfolding.

Bill Moore's Silver for Ortlieb's Select 69 Lager was a great moment, a return to the winner's circle for a really good guy who's been through some tough times since he was garnering all those medals for Stoudt's Brewing Company over a decade ago.

The Lion and Stewart's Brewery came up with Bronzes, then Penn Brewing a Silver and Iron Hill a Bronze. This was followed by a lull until Nodding Head and Brandon Greenwood racked up two Silvers in not much more time, for 60 Shilling Scotch Ale and Berliner Weisse.

Another Bronze for McKenzie and suddenly it was the Iron Hill show. Gold Medal, Saison. Bronze Medal:Tripel. God Medal again: Russian Imperial Stout. And just to put a capper on it all, Gold for Stewart's Barleywine. Eleven medals for Pennsylvania, 14 for the region when the three Delaware wins were added. Good show.

A couple of things about this year's awards. A single medal for New England states. No medals for John Harvard's--when's the last time that happened? Budweiser finished second in the American Style Premium Lager category to Wisconsin's Stevens Point Brewery. How cool is that?

Afterwards, of course, there was a mad rush to drink as many of the winning beers as possible. I avoided the urge, but did try the Ortlieb winning lager and a Kriek they were pouring at Iron Hill in lieu of the lambic. And I found Doc and congratulated him on his prescience about that beer and assured him that it would now be brewed again. We all trekked back to Falling Rock for the final time and got there early, capturing a booth and eating dinner there. We eventually gave that up and moved to tables outside. Christopher and his hosts showed up and planted themselves downstairs at the pool table, next to the little room where Doc was holding court for his Burgundian Babble Belt buddies.

Eventually thee came a priceless moment. O'Reilly was back on the mountain-climbing kick and pointed out one more once that Morrison had not made the second climb. The Dude leaned back with that oddly beatific smile of his and replied. "Okay, Brian, you got two mountains, I got two medals. We're even." Ouch. What do the kids say? Burnt! In any case, Morrison immediately felt bad but O'Reilly just laughed. "Hey, it's true," he said. "If I were him, I'd have said it too."

We had a 6:30 a.m. flight home, which meant getting up at 4:00 a.m., so I was drinking cautiously and, as midnight approach, determined to leave. I asked O'Reilly but no dice. And outside on the street temptation raised its ugly head in the form of Peters, Greenwood and Decker, wanting to know if I wanted to keep on keepin' on. No sir. I grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel to get my four hours sleep.

O'Reilly was close to a basket case at 4, having wandered home lord knows when after Christopher lured him to the pool table and more beers. But, good guy that I am, I dragged his sorry ass to the airport and our ride home.

Topping Off.
A couple of quickies before I quit...I finally got to taste the new Kolsch from Victory Brewing, thanks to good buddy Rich Ruch, who brought me a growler (part of which I used to good advantage in bribing Dan, The Big One, to bring his truck over and help me move a couple of couches yesterday). I see what the fuss is all about: one damned fine beer...I posted a whole buncha lotta upcoming beer events at the Beer Yard site over the last couple of days, so if you're looking for something to do, give it a look. There are about a bazillion Oktoberfest listings, with the series of dinners at Teikoku Restaurant in Newtown Square particularly intriguing to me. And I must admit that, prejudiced though I might be, this one strikes me as an absolute "Must Attend"...While you're at the Beer Yard site, also check out the News (German brewers visit Victory, Penn Brewing set to expand) and Store Notes (what's coming up from Dogfish Head, notes from GABF. All good stuff, even if I do say so myself...Finally, look for news about the signing of the lease for the new Sly Fox brewery to be announced Real Soon Now. And, yes, it will be in Oaks, just like the rumors have been saying.

[Posted 7:00 pm edt]

LDO in Germany & England: Getting There
My eight day-sojourn in Germany and Italy was as part of a press junket, the trip paid for my our hosts, Distinguished Brands International, a new, Colorado-based beer importing and marketing firm. It's probably wise to keep that in mind if I start gushing too much over the trip and the breweries visited, although I suspect you'll recognize as the story unfolds that gushing is an entirely appropriate reaction. This was one entertaining, informative, enlightening and valuable adventure. So what if it damned near killed me?

DBI was created and is headed by Jeff Coleman, one of those guys who seems to have been around the beer world forever and who knows everybody. He was president of Paulaner North America and grew it into the ninth largest beer importing firm in the United States before he and his whole team lost their jobs when Heineken USA took over Paulaner's marketing arm.

With contracts in hand, or about to be in hand, with Erdinger, one of Germany's leading wheat beer breweries; Veltins, a leading German pilsner brewery and England's Fuller, Smith & Turner, one of that nation's great independent breweries, a trip by Coleman and several of his top sales and support people to cement relationships and discuss plans was in order. In his wisdom, Coleman asked PR whiz Sheryl Barto to also add some members of the beer press to the traveling party.

Sheryl arranged similar trips for Coleman when he was head of Paulaner North America (hey, last year, her press group for an Oktoberfest trip included Our Pal Lew Bryson, and if that didn't break her spirit, nothing will) and therefore had accumulated a list of some of the nation's top beer writers. Shocking though this may be, I wasn't on it. Fortunately, my esteemed editor at Celebrator Beer News, Tom Dalldorf, was. Since he was going to be tied up at deadline time blue-penciling all of my best lines, he asked if I wanted to go in his stead. Yeah, I did.

I left from Philadelphia via British Airways (with which I was very impressed: comfortable, friendly and the best airline food I've ever eaten) at 7 pm on Thursday, September 4. We arrived at Heathrow Airport shortly before 7 am Friday, UK time...well, make that arrived "over" Heathrow. We had to circle for over an hour before we got clearance to land and I never saw so many planes in the skies in my life. Heathrow, I've been told, is the busiest passenger flight airport in the world, which was part of the problem; a deep and troublesome fog was even more so.

When we landed, I had roughly an hour to get my bag, go through security once again and catch the Lufthansa flight to Munich. That was complicated by the fact that I was in Terminal 4 and needed to get to Terminal 2, then more so by the fact that the Heathrow Express shuttle train announcement at the first stop was only for Terminal 3. Terminals 1, 2 & 3 are, however, all right together and that was the only stop (terminal 4 is newer and about a five minute train ride away). I discovered all this as the doors slammed shut and I found myself on the way to Paddington Station in London, 15 minutes either way.

After than round trip, I got back just about the time the flight to Munich was scheduled to take off. Not to worry. That flight, as well as at least three other Lufthansa flights and who knows how many from other airlines, were postponed three hours and longer due to the fog and subsequent backup. The terminal was one huge mass of humanity, probably a dozen or more lines for the Lufthansa counter alone, some as much as 100 people deep, were jammed together. A little bit of hell, it was.

I somehow got through that mess with still well over an hour to go and sought out an airport pub where I enjoyed a pint of John Smith's Extra Smooth Bitter. Luckily, I didn't stay for a second because when I walked back out into the terminal I discovered that the flight had been advance half an hour and would leave at 11:30 am.

I made my way to the proper gate, wondering how I'd make contact with anyone else on the trip. Turned out to be easy. No sooner had I found a seat in the waiting area than I heard a woman behind me explaining patiently to a guy across the aisle that she had too sent him an email two days earlier asking if he'd received his tickets via FedEx, even as he complained she hadn't. I stood, turned and introduced myself to Sheryl Barto and announced that I had definitely gotten my email and tickets, and appreciated it, a comment to which she smiled gratefully. Hey, ingratiate yourself when you can, my old daddy taught me, you never know when you'll need it.

Not long after, they called our flight and we were on the way to Germany. To find out how it went, start with this link:


The unlikely and tragic fate of Jack-on-a-stick.
The greatest achievement in Lew Bryson's checkered career, the creation of Jack-on-a-stick, came to a painful ending on Thursday, September 18, as reported in this email from Steve (The Other One) Rubeo:

It is with deep remorse that I must announce that the original "Jack on a Stick" is no more. He met his untimely demise this morning when our dog, Jake, unceremoniously ripped Jack on a Stick to shreds. I received the news at work this morning, apparently Joy could not do anything to stop this horrific event.
The good news, of course, is that JOAS had a helluva lot more fun than I usually do during his brief, well-traveled existence. As soon as I get entirely caught up around here, I'll be putting up a photographic record of his adventures. The photo to the left (courtesy of Chuck Cook) is just to whet your appetites. (I am told that there are many such photos in existence, some having appeared on BeerAdvocate.com in the days shortly after Bryson came up with the idea. If anyone reading this has such photos and is willing to share them, please send 'em along.)

All things come to he who waits.
The story I wrote about a visit to Anderson Valley Brewing Company lo those many months ago finally makes its appearance in the current Ale Street News. I of course commend it to you attention. In those same pages, Bryson blurts out the story I've been sitting on for months because I was sworn to secrecy. Yep, Nodding Head is the brewery looking for a spot in Philadelphia to set up a facility to make beer for off-premise sales. Given the way Brandon Greenwood is piling up awards for his beers these days, let's hope they get it going real soon.

[Posted 1:00 pm edt]

The Europe trip, one more once.
The final segment of my report on LDO's European junket is finally up and you can read it right here. Or you can scroll down to last week's installment and read the entire story in sequence beginning right here. Whew! That should be the end of this seemingly endless series of postings about the trip, although I will be organizing it into a separate, free-standing document (ditto the California trip from last February) and I will ever so discretely post links to both and bring them to your attention when they're ready. Now, for heaven's sake, let's move on.

An afternoon in Adamstown.
"Moving on" yesterday meant a trip up the turnpike to spend the afternoon at the third and final 2003 session of Stoudt Brewing's 12th Annual Great Eastern Invitational Microbrewery Festival. Well, not quite up the turnpike. I arranged to make the trip with Richard Ruch and met him Saturday morning in the parking lot at Victory Brewing Company (and exactly where else would you expect to find him but at Victory?). We then traveled hither and yon, up hill and over dale, made two lefts and a right and arrived at the home of Joe Meloney, somewhere out in the middle of East Bejezus.

With Meloney in tow (a very good thing that, as he gifted me with a bottle of the absolutely wonderful Brother Adam's Braggot Ale, a barleywine from Bar Harbor, Maine's Atlantic Brewing Company, the second such he's put into my hot little hands), we took a similarly circuitous route to Adamstown. I noted that, even if I had been dropping bread crumbs along the way, it would take me a week or more to find my way back home should they toss me from the car along the way. Whereupon Meloney, using up some of the good karma he'd just earned, muttered "Now there's an idea." Hmmph.

We arrived just before the doors opened at Noon and avoided the long, long line of people waiting to get in by going over to the bakery to load up on "Eddie's Breads" and, in Meloney's case, a four-pack of bottle-conditioned ales. When we got inside, I made a beeline to the left where three Ohio breweries were lined up opposite the food area: Willoughby Brewing, Great Lakes Brewing and Rocky River Brewing, not just for the beers, but because I working on a proposal to visit Cleveland next month and do a story about those three and also Buckeye Brewing. I renewed acquaintances with Willoughy's Bill Bryson (whom I already seen at Sly Fox on Friday night, desperately trying to convince people he was in no way related to Lew Bryson) and Great Lake's Luke Purcell and introduced myself to Rocky River's Matt Cole and warned them of my imminent arrival.

I next caught up with Karl Melissa at the Bullfrog Brewery table, where his selection of beers did nothing to change my opinion that I need to get up to Williamsport real soon now. Said beers were Susquehanna Stout, Flanders Golden Ale and Old Toad Barley Wine. After that, I spent a while catching up with the usual suspects and usual brews from the aforementioned Victory and Sly Fox, as well as Troegs, Heavyweight and Bethlehem Brew Works, all of which were neatly lined up together for my convenience.

Two interesting things happened during the afternoon. One was just a bit of news from Heavyweight. Tom Baker has not yet done a second, eagerly-awaited brew of Biere d'Art, but it will happen as time and finances permit. The second was a controversy that arose about Dogfish 120 Minute IPA. With the exception of Dale Van Wieren of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, everyone I talked to, and this included several knowledgable beer geeks, a couple of brewers and one or two folks selected at random, did not recognize the beer being poured as anything like the 120 they were familiar with. I had but a sip or two, but have to agree. I am far, far from a fan of this beer, but I think I do know its characteristics and they seemed singularly absent. I'll see what I can find out on this for next week's LDO.

I mentioned the beers I enjoyed from Bullfrog. Here are some other beers I had during the afternoon that made the trip well worth while: Golden Avalanche/KutztownTavern Old Brick Alt Bier, Bethlehem Brew Works Fegley's ESB, Stoudt Harvest Ale, Heavyweight Old Salty, Troeg's Oatmeal Stout, Victory Grand Cru, and, from the Cleveland trio, Willoughby Abbey Road Dubbel & Railway (Raspberry) Razz, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Rocky River Dragon's Milk Oatmeal Stout & Old Detroit Alt Bier.

Mornings with Steve.
Okay, actually it was fifteen minutes or so, but a most productive fifteen minutes it was. I arrived at the Victory parking lot well before scheduled to be picked up by Ruch (knowing how anal he is about such matters) and was pleasantly surprised as I sat in my car reading my mail by the arrival of Victory Sales Manager Steve German, one of the real Good Guys in this business. He took me inside the brewery to show me some of the damages caused by the flooding a few weeks back. It was a lot more extensive than I'd been led to believe. That's a story I admit to having missed, both here and, especially, on The Beer Yard news pages, and I apologize. I'll catch up with it and other goings-on at Victory in the next Celebrator Beer News "Atlantic Ale Trail" column.

Turns out Steve is also good buddies with Fuller's North America Export Manager Stamford Gallsworthy (who you can get to meet in the England section of the European travelogue linking in today's first paragraph) so we spent some time trading stories, none of which I'm allowed to repeat, says Steve, or he'll see to it that I'll never be permitted to drink at Victory again. Too bad. You would have liked the one where Gallsworthy rose to his feet at a youth hockey game and screamed "Mr. Referee? Mr. Referee? You, Sir, are a wanker."

Finally, when I mentioned my anticipated Cleveland trip, Steve put me on to the Winking Lizard Tavern, which sounds like another story just waiting to be written. And then it was exactly, I say exactly, 10:45 and here came Richard. Some guys are so predictable.

First sign of the Apocalypse.
Surely you didn't think I was going to be that close to Victory and not stop in for a beer or two, did you? Have you no faith? Listen, even if for some weird reason I'd pass on the chance for a pint, no way would I miss the opportunity to capture this photo:

Yes friends, there is--finally--a Beer Board posted at the Victory pub! I'm pleased and proud. Bill Covaleski told me many months ago, amidst my ongoing complaints about the lack of such a board, that I'd end up trying to take all the credit if they did put up a board. Well, yes.

The battle, though, is but half won. The current board is on the brewery wall overlooking the dining area in back of and to the left of the bar and pool table area. Anyone sitting there has a fine display of available beers. Anyone at the bar, however, is still left to the Kindness of Strangers. That there is not a similar board in the obvious place on the wall opposite the long section of the bar (which would be readily visible for almost every bar seat) is unfathomable to me. I swear they're doing this just to give me agita.

The Kolsch, on the other hand, was just perfect. If I still did such things as posting an annual awards list, and I just might, it would be my Beer of the Year 2003 as things now stand.

Speaking of beers...
The Monday evening tasting sessions at Sly Fox have been really quite amazing these last few weeks. Heck, this past Monday, even Karl, termed forever more our "reluctant beer geek in waiting" by the surprisingly eloquent Ruch, showed up with a pair of beers from North Carolina's Weeping Radish Brewery, an Oktoberfest and a Dark Lager. I think he's ours now, a blank slate to be filled. And Tom Foley broke away from his television set long enough to bring us his homebrewed Belgian Strong Ale, which was one of the top two entries for the week. For them as cares about such matters, I've asked Tom to provide a recipe and notes. To wit:

Ten pounds of dry malt, and a pound of Special B, Fuggles and Kent Goldings for bittering, Styrian for flavor, two pounds of clover honey added for the last ten minutes of the boil. Wyeast Forbidden Fruit yeast. fermented three to four weeks at 68 to 70 degrees, can't remember if I transferred to a secondary. Bottled in December of 2001 and stored in the basement. Another batch is planned for November/December; bought all the ingredients last month. Not sure if you had heard with all the conversation that evening, I had brewed an identical batch a month later, but used the Wyeast Trappist Ale yeast to ferment it. I have a ceramic bottle of it somewhere.
The other top beer of the night, if I do say so myself, having brought it, was the brand new Rogue Imperial Pilsner, which came in a striking ceramic bottle. I have all sorts of doubts about the current trend toward "imperial" versions of various styles, most especially of a delicate and balanced stye such as Pilsner, but hI have to say this one was very enjoyable, maintaining discernible Pils characteristics despite its 8.8% ABV.

I'd brought another Rogue entry the previous week (I should acknowledge here that both these were due to the generosity of The Beer Yard's Matt Guyer, a Tasting Session Guy in exile due to his odd commitment to work), Black Brutal Bitter, Batch #2. This was an Imperial Schwartzbier and was the 2003 entry in brewer John Maier's program of doing a new beer every year for the Oregon Brewers Festival which is held in Portland every summer. Very good, very big (9% ABV, maybe more). Interestingly, the 2002 Oregon Festival beer, Chamomile Ale, won Gold at GABF a couple of weeks back in the herb beer category.

A quick rundown on some of the other recent beers we've tasted: Selin's Grove Hefeweizen (growler, brought by Richard Ruch), Victory Storm King Imperial Stout 2003 (growler, brought by Rick Mayberry), Smuttynose Big IPA (Joe Meloney), Stone Smoked Porter (Mike Murphy) and others I'm surely forgetting, with apologies to those who contributed them.

Special personal thanks to Joe Meloney, who in addition to the Brother Adam's Braggot yesterday and Tasting Sessions contributions in recent weeks such as Avery Ten and Gritty McDuff's Best Bitter, has also provided bottles from Atlantic, Geary's , Long Trail and Woodstock Inn Brewery for my winter stash. Youse is a good boy.

Meet the brewer. It's a small price to pay to enjoy the beers.
Because I know that not having at least one mention of Brian ("I'm back from California") O'Reilly this week would shatter the vision of How-Things-Work-Around-Here which is held by Nodding Head's Brandon Greenwood, I suggest everyone click here immediately to learn where you can hang out with O'Reilly and five of his beers come this Wednesday night.

Speaking of meeting brewers, Greenwood was one of the folks drinking at the bar when we got to Victory last night and he told me he has a lager in the tanks right now that promises to be so good even he will be impressed. I'll let you know when he lets me know that it's on tap, which he will surely do.

Jack-on-a-Stick Stuff.
This week's entry has gotten quite long enough, so the photo upload of Jack-on-a-Stick's many adventures, prior to his unseemly demise at the teeth of the Other One's vicious dog, will be done next week. Shortly thereafter, look for news of our new ideal Christmas present for beer geeks everywhere, Lew-on-a-Shoe. Our motto: "you're stepping in it again."

What I said may not be what I meant. Or something like that.
Two weeks ago, I wrote this right here in LDO: Finally, look for news about the signing of the lease for the new Sly Fox brewery to be announced Real Soon Now. And, yes, it will be in Oaks, just like the rumors have been saying. Upon further investigation, I now append the following advisory: believing in rumors is usually a fool's game.

[Posted 1:00 pm edt]

Feeling a bit peaked....
(that's pronounced "peek-ED") and it's a Victorian era term for being under the weather. I might have avoided the pronunciation issue by saying I've suffered an attack of the "vapors" instead, but I suspect that one has certain sexual connotations I have no desire to deal with (only ladies in bustles ever seemed to be so stricken and you know what that means). In any case, I've had better weekends in my day that this one and am therfore laying low.

Not to worry. It's nothing serious, more like I'm on the verge of becoming sick enough to be concerned. Blame it all on Dan, the Big One. My body recently has been showing signs of trying to replicate whatever it was that left him flat on his back in bed and with walls unpainted all over Pottstown during much of the last week or two.

Given that I have two stories due Celebrator Beer News this coming week, a third story to be done for another magazine (not quite finalized yet so no names) and two proposals for which I have high hopes about to be decided upon, I'm not taking any chances.

So why exactly should you give a damn?
No real reason, aside from your admirable concern for your fellow man (I assume all LDO readers are imbued with the milk of human kindness; it helps me to sleep at night), except that one result is the paucity of information in this week's entry.

I bagged both the usual Friday night gathering at Sly Fox and the Foley Halloween party last night (just a guess, but I suspect I could have gotten a whole column out of that one, not to mention all sorts of incriminating photos) and have left the posse to its own devices for most of the week. That's not always a wise course; given too much free time last month, they got into all sorts of trouble and fell under the spell of a malevolent force, the end result being Jack-on-a-stick.

Speaking of my well-traveled alter ego, I'm taking it as a sign from the gods that I should forgo my long unfulfilled promise to post a photographic record of his brief, happy life. That ship has sailed and, to tell the truth, I don't have that many good photos in hand anyway.

Like I could ever avoid him, ya know?
What I did get to do before things went south, God help me, was meet the brewer. Sly Fox's very own Brian O'Reilly was the featured guest at a "Meet the Brewer" evening at the Exton Drafting Room on Wednesday night (another familiar brewer pal will be featured this Wednesday).

This was a curious affair. The room was crowded but seemed to consist of two disparate groups: Sly Fox regulars, who came out en masse to see "their" brewer and drink his beers, and Drafting Room regulars and/or dinner guests, who seemed singularly unaware of what was going on. Even late in the evening when there was a trivia contest with Sly Fox tee-shirts as the prize, no one from group two participated as far as I know (then again, the original questions were so obscure nobody could answer them anyway and had to be dumbed down for a second go-round).

I'd have to chalk that up to lousy promotion, such as it was, at the Drafting Room end. Aside from a handout sheet which, by virtue of poor design, would lead the casual reader to think it was entirely about this week's event rather than both of them, I don't know that anything else was done to try and attract an audience. I'll really be curious to see what happens this week.

The beers, on the other hand, were swell. I concentrated on four of the five offered, all no longer available at Sly Fox itself. Cask-conditioned Sly Fox Pale Ale was smooth and drinkable, not quite as hoppy as I had expected (Brian said the use of Goldings rather than Cascades gave it a "tea-like" character); Rt. 113 IPA, on the other hand, was the usual hop fest in a glass. Oktoberfest, which I've been consuming regularly since its debut a couple of weeks back, had kicked at the Fox Monday night and I had a final pint to bid it fond farewell. Instigator Doppelbock, now eight months old, was the star of the show, going down all too easily.

I skipped the fifth Sly Fox beer, Abbey Xtra, which just went on at the Fox a weeka go Friday and which awaits me there. I'll be giving it a thorough sampling later this week (I hope). Brian changed things for this year's brew, using all Belgians malts rather than the German and British malts he'd used previously. I've only had one small glass to date and am not sure I like this version as much as last year's. We shall see.

Calling DrBill, Calling DrBill...
The Sly Fox Monday Tasting Group loves ya, pal. I've seen a lot of reactions to new and different beers at our sessions in the past, but nothing quite like this. A bottle-conditioned California ale stunned the group this past week. AleSmith Brewing Co.'s Speedway Stout, a big, black, toasty, coffee and chocolate delight that literally exploded on the taste buds, had everybody clamoring for more.

Even Reluctant Beer Geek Carl kept running inside (we've being holding these sessions on the patio but I'd guess that's done until Spring) to share his sample with anyone he could find (or, as he likes to refer to them, "my closest friends"). Bartender-to-the-Stars Corey Reid, who takes his own sample off the top before he sends most bottles to out table, came out holding his glass, smiling and asked "what the hell is this?"

This was one fine beer.

The bottle came into my possession as part of my ongoing beer exchange program with Bill Sysak, the well-known Southern California beer geek extraordinaire who's known on the internet as "DrBill" and can most often be found here. How good was Speedway Stout? Richard Ruch, who's somehow tearing himself away from spending nearly every waking hour at Victory Brewing Company early next year for a trip to Pasadena and environs is plying me with beer to try and get DrBill's address. Rick and Jeanne Smiledge, posse and tasting members whenever they're in the continental United States (that is to say, not very often), have promised to try and find bottles to bring home when they travel to Arizona later this year. God only knows what Joe Meloney has in mind. And I'm staying way clear of Carl.

Other beers this week: Glencoe Wild Oat Stout from Scotland's Bridge of Allan Brewery, an organic oatmeal stout brought by the always enigmatic Tom Foley; Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale, a Scottish (sorta) Red Ale from Healdsburg, California which Meloney contributed; a growler of very good Selin's Grove Porter from Ruch, and the Smiledge family offering of Left Hand Sawtooth Ale and Bethlehem Brew Works Rudolph's Reserve , the 9.5% ABV Belgian-style seasonal which is being bottled for them by Weyerbacher.

On another front, Rick Mayberry, who has been striving mightily to work his way up the posse ranks (I think it's his military training), is convinced we needs must get ourselves an official Monday evening name, logo and some sort of garb (okay, that's definitely his military training). So far he's come up with LOADS (Loyal Order of Amiable Drunken Sots), which doesn't quite work for me. Nominations are therefore now open. Come up with an acronym and name that strikes my/our fancy and win a copy of "Check Your Gravity," the world's first (only) beer-centric rap CD by The Pain Relievaz.

By the way, if you're stuck somewhere wretched like, oh I dunno, New Jersey, and eating your heart out that you can't attend a Monday tasting, consider this. A late arrival this week, for the first time ever, was The Beer Yard's Matt Guyer. The sad truth is, even during the brightest moments, there's always a dark cloud.

The Raison behind that strange 120 Minute IPA.
Last week I mentioned that there was much discussion at one point during the afternoon session of the 12th Annual Great Eastern Invitational Microbrewery Festival about what purported to be Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA and clearly wasn't. As promised, I followed up and got this explanation from the peripatetic Sam Calagione:

Kevin, our brewer who worked the fest, said that he took a break right when the 120 was going on tap. He cam back half an hour later to find that the volunteers had tapped a sixtle of raison they that thought was the sixtle of 120. so we were serving raison as 120 for a bout a half an hour. we've had three e-mails in addition to your own regarding this mistake. Ooops..
Okay, I only had a sip so if I now say it really didn't taste like Raison d'Etre (one of my favorite beers) either, I'm just gonna get into trouble, right? Since I'm feeling sickly, I think I'll just go lie down instead....

[Posted 1:10 pm est]

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

--A. E. Houseman


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