I drink no cider,
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in a letter to his wife Abigail


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28 September 2004
Bryson does Victory.
Okay, I was indeed outta here (not to mention damned near destroyed by trying to install a new internet based phone system on the fly) but I had to pause in the mad rush for this.

Lew Bryson's interview with Victory Brewing's Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski.

Great stuff. Nobody else but Lew could have packed all that information (and he cut out the good stuff for a New Brewer piece, he says) into such a breezy, readable story. And with Covaleski and Barchet opening up on the record about as candidly as I've ever heard them, the result is one helluva piece.

Lew just raised the damned bar again.

[Posted 7:05 pm edt]

The about to hit the road posting.
Okay, I really won't hit the road for GABF until tomorrow morning but this looks like the last chance I'll have a free minute to post before leaving and figured it was my duty to inform those what have been waiting eagerly...

Tom Baker and Peggy Swerver of Heavyweight and Bill and Nancy Barton of Yards will be going to Slow Food International's Terra Madre in Turin, Italy in late October, as representatives of Slow Food Philadelphia. That's all I have right now, but I'll get the full story when I return and post it at the Beer Yard site. Nice news about a couple of breweries we don't have the opportunity of giving props often enough.

Fuggle Anniversary IPA went on tap at Sly Fox Phoenixville today. I was over there this morning to check in with soon-to-be-room and assistant brewer Tim Ohst and had me a sample. Very, very nice. This one, the last of the IPA Project varietals, is gonna be a lot of peoples' favorite of the bunch.

That's it. I'm outta here...

[Posted 1:45 pm edt]

25 September 2004
GABF bound.
The LDO staff will be off to Denver Wednesday morning for the Great American Beer Festival. Whether or not I'll have the ability or opportunity to post here during that sojourn won't be determined until I'm on the ground.

If I have internet access, I'll definitely be able to post at the Beer Yard site and will get a list of local medal winners up there as soon as I can on Saturday. If all else fails, I expect to be home and settled in enough by late next Sunday to fill in any blanks on both sites.

Next Monday, presumably, I'll then get back online and clear up all the errors that my frazzled brain will have led me to make.

Sly Fox update (one of a series, collect them all).
The redesigned Sly Fox website went "live" yesterday, although it's still in a very rudimentary stage. Click on Phoenixville to get to the most complete page so far. The beer links are also working so you can see what's on tap.

O'Reilly assures me that brewing in Royersford will begin next week as he's been saying all along. Plans for the opening of the pub there, still tentative, have been pushed back about ten days. Tuesday, October 19 now looms as a likely date.

No such thing as a free lunch...and don't think that doesn't annoy the hell out of Big Dan every single day of his life.
As happens around here every now and then when we find ourselves getting painfully boring, we open the pages of local guy Duane Swierczynski's The Big Book O' Beer for a touch of fun or enlightenment.

This excerpt from the Beer and Food section provides both:

FREE LUNCH
To attract customers in the late nineteenth century, tavern owners would offer a "free lunch"--a fairly expansive spread of delectable foods and snacks: slabs of bologna, pickles, nuts, pretzels, radishes, salted fish, cheese. If you wanted to partake, all you had to do was purchase a glass of the tavern's proprietary or favorite brand of beer. [For example, if a tavern favored Bud, it was known as a "tied house," since it was "tied" to Anheuser-Busch.)

So what's the catch? You might notice that the items at the "free lunch" tended to be high in salt, which would make customers thirsty, which would encourage them to buy more beer. After the turn of the century, these free lunches were banned, since certain lawmakers believed that this kind of marketing promoted excessive consumption of the "tied" beer. This is where the expression "there's no such thing as a free lunch originated, and it's also why brewpubs had a hard time establishing themselves. The food wasn't the problem; it was the single, proprietary brand of beer that ran afoul of the old "tied house" laws...

[Posted 2:40 pm edt]

24 September 2004
The tradition continues. Granted, it's one of procrastination, unfulfilled promises and delayed gratification, but what the hell, a tradition is a tradition.
Which is my way of allowing as how we once again find ourselves confronting the Friday Morning Monday Night Tasting Notes.

It is what it is.

Well, except maybe in this case, when it will be what I can piece together out of my aging memory cells.

Seems the actual notes, those scraps of paper I scribble on and hope to decipher in a more sober moment, done got themselves laundered. In the pocket of my shorts. Destroyed, in other words.

Not to panic. It was another small gathering this week and, with what I can remember and a bit of Googling based upon what I can remember, I think we can make it through to the other side.

The motley crew on hand in addition to myself included Bafflin' Billy Bob Huber (who led us in gentle but hilarious dissing of brother Bobby Bill in addition to providing a beer of sorts), The Mighty Mysterious Mayberry (come out of his hidey-hole and, thank goodness, worming his way back into our affection with the night's best beer), Ramblin' Joe Meloney (fresh from a debriefing by his secret masters at some undisclosed location) and, sitting off by hisownself in surly splendor but ultimately contributing a brew, Kapricous Karl Shoemaker.

Missing in action were the Traveling Smiledges, the Preparing (for Denver) Foley & Limper, the Parenting Johnston and Rowdy Richard Ruch, who was reportedly either ill or playing golf or both, but who some suspect has been instructed to no longer associate with the likes of us.

Sorry. I was channeling Stan "The Man" Lee there for a moment.

Oh, before we get to the beer, allow me to clarify that "parenting" thing re: Ted Johnston (notice that I'm vamping here; I got nuttin). Ted emailed me this very morning to explain that he did in fact show up on Monday, "at 7:30 with beer in hand" after everyone had left. Why so late?

Problem is soccer practice every Monday and Wednesday at 6 with Alex's team (9 year olds), so no early drinking. I would have a word with the head coach about changing the practice schedule, but so far I have not been listening to myself (must not have been drinking when I agreed to that job). The worse part is that with three kids on different three teams, I haven't even had a chance to brew.

Ted Johnston
Homebrewer/sober soccer coach

As I noted in my response to him, soccer is truly the devil's work. That said, I do believe that his may be the first email LDO has ever received from someone claiming to be sober.

We started our tasting with the beer I'd brought, Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest and I recall many happy comments about its malty and striking nose and pleasant carmel character. Good stuff.

The Lone Huber then presented a 750ml bottle of Dogfish Head Pangea, the ale brewed with ingredients from every continent, which brings to my lips the same question every time. Why?

Now came Mayberry, beaming happily, as well he should. His offering was Harpoon Scotch Ale from the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series, which, like the Clipper City Heavy Seas Series, is a limited edition single batch brewing program that creates big beers aimed at geeks such as us. They hit the target with the 6.9% abv beauty, our Beer of the Night.

Meloney, who claimed to have been in New England for the previous week, brought along evidence to bolster his story, a beer none of us had ever heard of which he claimed came from Maine's Atlantic Brewing Company. It was called, as best I can recall, MacFoochie's Scottish Ale. I found no record of it in an internet search and given the events recorded a bit down the page under Paranoia Is Our Friend, I'm not at all ashamed to say I'm wondering what exactly he tricked us into putting into our systems under the guise of beer.

Even more disturbing was the fact that he told us this beer was "hopped with Heather." This comment was clearly meant to distract us, conjuring up images of a chick named Heather standing around watching sweaty brewers tossing hops into the kettle and then morphing into Heather herself, perhaps more scantily clad, hopping up and down...

Thank heavens we're not such crass and easily manipulated sorts.

As noted, Mr. Shoemaker, the official Monday Tasting trainee, did not deign to join our table during the evening but did, after having moved inside from the terrace where we sat, send out a bottle from Brasserie Gambrinus in France, a pilsner which bore the label L'alsacienne Sans Culotte which was designed around a drawing of a saucy young lass who was clearly sans Culotte (here's a badly censored version of the same label). This brew is apparently and not surprisingly known as "Fannie beer" in Europe.

And if that's not a note upon which to take my leave, I don't know what is.

[Posted 12:45 pm edt]

21 September 2004
Paranoia is our friend.
I was going to post last night's Tasting Notes here today but a most unsettling event this morning has left me barely functional. I walked into my new dentist's office around 10 am and...

There's no way to put this without it sounding like a fabrication, so I'll just say it outright.

Ramblin' Joe Meloney was sitting in the waiting room.

It took a minute to recognize him, of course, since it was the first time I've ever seen Meloney in a venue where beer wasn't present, but it was indeed he.

This sort of disturbance in the natural order of things is mind-boggling enough, but the manner in which he was called into the inner sanctum and then returned after only five minutes, smiling (Does anyone come out of a dental office smiling? I think not), raised other concerns.

Had I stumbled onto a hidden agenda?

Could Meloney be....stalking me?

How else to explain his presence in a small, obscure dental practice in Phoenixville, miles from where he works, more miles from where he lives? A long, nervous and convoluted story that he offered when I asked about that did little to calm my fears. And he immediately rushed out the door before I pushed the issue.

Now I'm wondering if he's even worse than a stalker, perhaps an agent of...Darker Powers.

Joe Meloney, minion of John Ashcroft?

Or worse. Does Dick Cheney have minions?

I'm skittish, friends, hustling about the house destroying the evidence on the off chance that a cover has been blown and discussions may be underway as to whether or not I should be "disappeared" forthwith. Tasting Notes will have to wait another day.

A bit of good news, though. I managed to hold things together, mostly ignoring the urge to probe with my tongue for a hidden transmitter behind that tooth in the back that tingles sometimes, just long enough to post the story of why Weyerbacher Heresy may win a medal in Stockholm over at the Beer Yard site.

Hey, do you hear a strange clicking sound on the line? Uh-oh...

[Posted 2:25 pm edt]

19 September 2004
Staff notes.
The editorial staff here at LDO wishes to correct an oversight and note that the photograph of Whomever That Is which ran here yesterday and which can be seen by scrolling down a wee bit, was provided to us in a clandestine meeting in an alleyway by Mr. Jeffrey Norman of Kennett Square Microbrew Festival fame (which, should you not have determined the identity of the gentleman in the photograph, might provide a bit of clue...or maybe not).

Moreover, the entire staff--not just editorial but also tech support, human resources, janitorial & (it is to laugh) financial--wishes to note that, after having finally stepped away from its desk and meandered outside into a lovely autumn day, the corporate decision not to attend today's Sippin' By the River (especially in light of the many entreaties telephoned in at 15 minute intervals this morning by a brewer who shall remain nameless) would seem to have been extremely poor judgement. Much work, some of it almost surely profitable, was achieved here over the past several hours, but visions of beer...wine... sunshine...the river...young lovelies... They now haunt and taunt us in our solitude. Mistakes were made. Heads well might roll.

[Posted 4:20 pm edt]

18 September 2004
"Truth is stranger than drinking."
Big Dan checks in (again! this is getting to be a habit) with an abject apology for his misinformation sent me on Thursday (scroll down to the final two paragraphs under Those Phoenixville Rumors):

My humble apologies for the misunderstanding. I too was checking around, and nada thing. So I ask today, hey what paper was that in? His reply was "I said I heard it at poker last night" OOPS!...So there you go. Truth is stranger than drinking.
Actually, these days I suspect things picked up during poker games are at least as reliable as what we get from the newspapers.

But that's another blog, innit?

Who is this man?
Riddle me this: if a brewer shorn brews beer, can a shorn brewer still brew?

[Posted 10:25 am edt]

17 September 2004
Sly Fox update.
Since the Sly Fox website remains in a holding pattern while the new, improved version is under construction (look for the first sections of that new version to start showing up online next week), I figured I'd use this space to update you all on some things which do not quite rise to the level of "news" (if they did, I'd post them here) but which I assume are of interest.

It seems almost a sure thing at this point that beer will be being brewed at the Royersford site by month's end, possibly as early as the end of next week. More tentative, but still currently scheduled, is a "soft" opening of the Royersford pub on the weekend of October 8. A lot of factors can go awry at the last moment, of course, but it's safe to assume the pub will be functioning in October for sure. The bar is in place, walls painted, carpets may be down by now, the brewery is almost up and running and staff is being hired.

Also, the last of the varietal IPAs brewed for IPA Project 2004 will go on tap in Phoenixville around the end of this month. It's made with Fuggle hops and, like the earlier seven special brews, will be on tap until it's gone except for one keg saved for December 10 when all the varietals will be on draft at once to welcome Odyssey Imperial IPA (I think this is the first public use of that name so let's hope I'm right).

There's also another early December event in the works involving the IPA Project which hasn't been firmed up as yet. Stay tuned.

Those Phoenixville rumors.
Everybody in Phoenixville seems to know the story so it seems silly for me to keep not talking about it here.

Reasonably sound rumors have Kildare's, a small Irish pub chain which has locations in West Chester, King of Prussia and, just recently, Manayunk, moving into the historic and recently restored Foundry Building just off Bridge Street, the original site for Sly Fox's brewery and second pub before negotiations fell through. A second version of the same rumor has them doing so using a different name and concept than the other Kildare's locations and sharing the space with The Point, the excellent live music venue in Bryn Mawr which is a modern-day version of the legendary Main Point.

This is great news for Phoenixville if it happens (nothing has been signed as yet, I'm told) and especially for Bridge Street, which is ready to break out as a hot suburban destination.

Bridge Street is already home to the wonderful Colonial Theater, a restored 1903 Burlesque and Opera House which now shows independent and art films and old classics and is host each July to the Blob Festival, celebrating and recreating a central moment from the classic and cheesy 1958 SF film which was made in Phoenixville.

A few doors down is Steel City Coffeehouse which regularly features live acoustic music, poetry readings and other good stuff. Between the two is the new and developing Phoenixville Village Arts Center. A few blocks up the street is the Black Lab Bistro, a great BYOB dining sport. All are key elements in the street's new monthly First Friday event, along with an array of shops and other dining and drinking establishments.

The potential fly in this ointment, I'd suspect, could be the inclusion of The Point into the Foundry planning. I can't help but think that its presence would drastically undermine the efforts at Steel City and perhaps even take the coffeehouse down. Maybe not, since their following appears to be extremely loyal. Personally, I consider Steel City and the Colonial as the linchpins of the whole Bridge Street revival, so I hope everything works out, if work out it does, for the best.

The caveat in that last sentence is because--remember this now--everything so far is but rumor and conjecture (albeit from pretty good sources).

One last thing. There's another recurring rumor about new construction on Bridge Street which was "confirmed" for me by Big Dan Bengel in a telephone call yesterday morning. Said confirmation, unfortunately, consisted only of "some guy where I had breakfast yelled to me that he'd read it in the newspaper as I was walking out the door." Y'know, that's just not enough, especially since I checked every paper imaginable and found nothing.

This is a definite possibility nonetheless. I was sworn to secrecy when I got the information which allows me to say that, so no names will be revealed for now. But if it happens, it will be huge.

Dead tree report.
This week's City Paper offers up The City That Loves Your Beer by someone named Brian Howard who seems not to know any brewers to interview when writing a story about, you guessed it, breweries. Yeah, that's kinda snide. Live with it.

Meanwhile, our buddy Joe Sixpack chimes in this morning with details about Tom Peters and Eddie Friedland being inducted into Belgium's Chevalerie du Fourquet des Brasseurs on September 3 (here's the Beer Yard story I did at the time). A fun read, with the added information that, in addition to Peters, Friedland and Ommegang's Randy Thiel, Joe Lipa of Washington's Merchant du Vin importers was a fourth American inducted this year.

[Posted 12:50 pm edt]

15 September 2004
Monday Night Tasting:
Is this the beginning of the end?

What if the likes of Richard Ruch and Billy Bob and Bobby Bill, the Huber boys, have a more interesting and varied life than we do? What would that tell us about our empty existences?

Those were the questions I asked a little coterie of losers as we sat at a table surrounded by mostly empty chairs on the Sly Fox terrace two nights ago. This was the moment which perhaps marked the death throes of our long-running Monday Tasting event.

The degnerates who once vied fiercely to be part of our regular gathering had apparently found better things to do. And only we four were left to mourn.

Tom Foley.

Lori Limper.

Karl Shoemaker (who probably shouldn't even count since he's always there and disdains everything about the Tastings except for the, y'know, free beer).

Me.

That was it.

The meager turnout could, of course, have been explained away. We could have chalked up all the missing faces to the absence of Wanderin' Joe Meloney, off to Maine on his annual search for birds, boulders and beers. Such an excuse played perfectly into the universal suspicion that he is the glue that holds our disparate parts together with the purity of his love for beer.

But blaming Joe, however convenient, would have been wrong. Better to wallow in our own perceived insufficiencies and lack of self esteem. Lori did this particularly well, I must say, assuring the rest of us several times that it was all her fault.

She had arrive uncommonly early and suspected that seeing her seated at the bar avidly concentrating on an electronic game as soon as they came in the door sent several potential Tasters running back to their cars. We argued with her, of course, but down in the dark little corners of our hearts, I suspect we each in his own way wondered if we might get away with laying the blame entirely on her shoulders when we talked of this embarassment somewhere down the road.

Our drab gathering was picked up just a bit when Karl's sister showed up, expressed great relief at the absence of Ruch, and joined us briefly to tell engaging tales of of wild goings-on in hotel rooms and airports which cast her in an entirely different light. But that was but passing moment.

Because it's what we do, beers were eventually poured and sampled amidst the gloom. Here then, are what may be the last ever Monday Tasting Notes.

Certainly the shortest.

We began with my contribution, a bottle of Faro Pertotale from the near-legendary Boon Brewery in Belgium. It was of undetermined age but nicely buttery and semi-sweet. Lowly carbonated, as you'd expect, and perhaps moving onto the downside of its life, but very drinkable and very pleasant.

Foley then brought out two of his homebrews and proceeded to confuse the hell out of us and himself. The Failed Weisse that he said he was pouring first turned out to be instead an Irish Red in intent, a Pale Ale in fact. Then came the Weisse which, he explained, suffered because the yeast had settled out when he transferred the batch before bottling it. Whatever.

Our final bottle (four beers, can you believe it?) was Lori's offering of Old Engine Oil from Scotland's Harviestoun Brewery, a tasty. nearly black winter ale (6% abv) which was clearly the beer of the night (of course, that's a bit like writing the best modern Samoan novel, in this instance).

We amused ourselves with Sly Fox Saison Vos and White Horse Wit for a bit and then faded sadly into the night. Who knows when, or if, we shall meet again.

[Posted 2:20 pm edt]

14 September 2004
The Secret.
I have to admit this one slid right by me, but Phil Markowski at Southampton Publick House has begun contract brewing a beer for retail sale in New Uork City and on Long Island which Brian O'Reilly told me this morning is the best Alt beer I've ever tasted.

Even granting O'Reilly's tendency toward hyperbole and his great respect and admiration for Markowski (his mentor), I suspect he's probably not pushing the reality envelope too far out of line on this.

Seems to me we needs us a New Yorker to be showing up in these parts real soon now with a sixpack or two in hand so we can make up our own minds.

Davo?

[Posted 12:28 pm edt]

13 September 2004
A hairy man of principle. Or, a man of hairy principle. We report, you decide.
You can't imagine how easy this beer writing gig would be if everybody in the industry was like Bill Moore.

Aside from being a man whose affableness is matched only by that of Yard's Happy Tom Kehoe (I'm thinking it may have something to do with their body shape), Bill is amazingly forthright and always willing to go on the record. I've never once talked with him for more than few minutes without coming away with a good story of some sort.

Today was no exception.

As I reported here--or maybe at the Beer Yard site, who can keep track when doing four websites and two blogs?--Bill hooked up with the guys at Legacy Brewing in Reading in a sales capacity following the shutdown of Ortlieb's. And thus it was that he showed up at the Beer Yard this morning, looking all spiffed up and salesman-y and giving me a welcome break from whatever it is that I do there on Mondays.

After we'd chatted a bit, I asked him about a rumor I heard over the weekend.

So, Bill, is it true that you were out in Las Vegas last week looking for a job?

Not Las Vegas. I was in Laughlin, Nevada talking to the people at the Boiler Room Brewpub which is in the Colorado Bell Hotel and Casino. And, yeah, I was interviewing to become the brewer there.

A friend of Bill's saw an internet advertisement for the position (as Bill says, I don't do the internet or email or that stuff) and they agreed to fly him out after he faxed his resume. Apparently the previous brewer left early this year and the assistant brewer has been trying to hold the fort but everyone agrees the beers have gone way downhill.

They only had one that was drinkable when I was there. The good thing was, they knew it.

The Colorado Belle is a replica of a 19th century Mississippi paddlewheel riverboat over 600 feet long and 6 decks high which is situated on the Colorado River in the center of casino row in Laughlin. The Boiler Room microbrewery and restaurant is one of several dining and drinking facilities which serve the hotel and casino. A cool place, Bill acknowledged. And they offered him the job.

But there was one hitch.

What was that? They wouldn't allow you to commute from Pottstown?

Not quite, but you're going to laugh when I tell you.

So...?

They said I'd have to shave my beard. It's been company policy since 1997. No employee can have a beard.

Whoa!

Didn't we get past all that stuff, like, a decade or two ago? Well, maybe not at Disneyland, but in a brewpub?

Still, that's how it went down. Bill told them that he and his wife liked his beard just fine and thanked them for the trip out.

So, I asked, was it because they just didn't offer enough money to get him to shave or was he a complete hard-ass on that issue? He laughed.

I'm a hard-ass. Wouldn't you be?

Yeah, I would. Good show, Big Guy.

[Posted 4:25 pm edt]

10 September 2004
Growlers at McMenamin's.
There's word over at BeerAdvocate.com this morning that McMenamin's Tavern in Mt. Airy is now filling growlers--and at great prices to boot.

McMenamin's is, in my opinion, the best Philadelphia beer bar that I rarely get to. It's one of those psychological block things, because of some...um...odd adventures I've had on Germantown Avenue, which I'll reveal one day down the road.

Time to get over it. One of my resolutions for this fall is to somehow work out a satisfactory way to make the jaunt from here to there on some sort of regular basis, including a stopover at General Lafayette, another excellent spot I visit all too infrequently.

Especially since I can now bring home great beer from both places. That's a very good thing.

[Posted 9:10 am edt]

8 September 2004
My family expands on Incubus Friday.
The weather was beautiful, Incubus was pouring and a happy band of miscreants was gathered on the patio at Sly Fox. Even O'Reilly showed up and was recognized by a few of the old-timers.

Shoulda been perfect, right?

Instead, the festivities marked the beginning of what might be best described as a weekend-long Rubeo Rampage through my fragile existence.

The Other One's wife, Joy, after first declaiming her fears that I am currently living homeless on a park bench, then proceeded to reveal the existence of a daughter and grandson I never knew I had.

Seriously.

Explicating all this is far beyond my meager powers, trust me. All I got is this, which will probably only confuse matters more.

At least the beer (including the just-released White Horse Wit) and the food (Mmmm, Chipotle Chicken Salad on Nine Grain Bread) were excellent.

Rubeo-d at Camp Terry.
Come Sunday, the Other One hissownself applied the killing blow. He invited all his bestest pals and me to a pig roast at his beloved sister-in-law Terry's house (or is that his sister-in-law Terry's beloved house?), known to one and all as Camp Terry.

Sixtels of Weyerbacher Black Hole and Sly Fox Rt. 133 IPA were pouring. O'Reilly (obviously trying work his way back into the neighborhood) showed up with growlers of the aforementioned Wit and I dug out a bottle of 2003 Black Raspberry Wheat, so there was good brew to accompany the unfortunate pig, whose carcass was stripped clean faster than seemed possible.

There were also horseshoes.

You remember, I'm sure, that I gave up that game forever this summer after a debacle at Camp Terry that need not be gone into. Nonetheless, I was pressed into service and managed to drag a partner down to defeat in two games, albeit not by embarrassing myself nearly so much as I had last time around, so I wasn't feeling all that badly.

Until Rubeo struck.

His cruel moment came when I threw my only ringer of the afternoon and was immediately stripped of same by an arcane "house rule" that he had been holding in reserve for just such an occasion.

Homeless, ringer-less, burdened with what appear to be at first glance somewhat peculiar new offspring...I had been thoroughly Rubeo-d in a matter of 48 hours.

Pilgrims in Foley Land.
Rather than gather at Sly Fox for a Monday Tasting, we took advantage of the holiday to traipse out to East Bejesus to romp and play on the extensive but not overly ostentatious grounds of Foley Land, home of Tom and Lori. Romp and play we did not; drink good beer and eat good food we did.

Avoiding Rubeos as best I could, and being more than a little late for an ersatz Tasting which just sorta happened (meaning no Tasting Notes this week), I got to explore Foley's near legendary cellar, almost steal his book of homebrew recipes and otherwise make a nuisance of myself, which put me back in a better mood after the weekend travails.

The beers? Foley had a British Mild, a Dunkel Weisse (or was it a Dunkel Bock? The mind falters) and a Belgian Pale Ale on tap (the latter, dominated by its Amarillo hops was more IPAish, truth be told). He wandered about with bottles of other of his brews, one of which was his Mead.

And he had, hidden in plain sight, a treasure trove that we finally got to plunder once we discovered the scam.

Here's how it worked. There were a pair of coolers sitting under a tree next to the food table. One of these was an attention-getting red in color and had a bold white sign taped to its top. The sign read, in large letters "Sodas and Water." The other cooler was a subdued brownish gray and it had a sign of almost exactly the same color attached to its top. It was facing away from where most people would see it, so getting to read that note, which was done in neat, small print, took some effort.

That second cooler, of course, contained bottles of some of Foley's finest homebrews, roughly 18-20 of them.

Once we had discovered it and read the note on its lid, which was a list of the beers inside by name and number, a discussion ensued about which ones we should try. I finally suggested I could reach in blindly and pull out a bottle and then did so. Damned if it wasn't the Strong Saison that I had been arguing for.

We followed that with the Strong Dubbel that Ramblin' Joe Meloney wanted and then somebody, I think it might have been The Other One, in which case he redeemed himself somewhat, pulled the Biere de Garde. Finally, I did another blind pull, on behalf of Bob Riker, who doesn't like to bend over, and got the Strong Golden Ale.

It would be redundant, given Foley's clever naming process, to note that these beers were, y'know, strong. Let's just say they were damned good and let it go at that.

Man, I hate doing this.
Honesty and honor compel me to acknowledge that an internet search for the rules of horseshoes has uncovered three things.

The first is that there is probably not a game ever created that has more different sets of rules in existence; you can pretty much pick and choose what ya want.

The second is that, although this has never been the case in any the hundreds of horseshoe games in which I have participated, all the rule sets call for each player to throw both his shoes in succession, not for players to alternate.

And thirdly and most disturbingly, yes, there are some rule sets that contend, as does Mr. Rubeo, that shoes which hit the wooden sides of the pit before coming to rest are in fact illegal and not to be counted. Of course, bouncing off the ground outside the pit, other shoes and the neighbor's fence, all staples of his game, are verboten as well.

Nonetheless, I was incorrect in protesting his "house rules" and stand properly abashed.

Finally, about that short story thing...
I noted here in late July my participation in the Summer 2004 24-Hour Short Story contest at writersweekly.com and would be remiss if I didn't report how it all turned out.

As I said back then, I had high hopes for the story I submitted, "The Recovery," but those hopes were overblown as it turned out. I didn't do all that badly, getting an Honorable Mention, which won me a prize worth more than the entry fee, and I had fun as always putting a story together under time and wordage constraints, so it wasn't a total loss.

If so inclined, you can read my story here and the three prize-winning stories here.

[Posted 1:20 pm edt]

7 September 2004
Hey, it's easier than writing.
Explaining the, um, unusual lives of some of our regular characters (I repeat again, I do not make these people up; I'm not that clever) in terms of contemporary comic strips proved to be so popular among a small group of readers with equally empty existences that I think we'll do it again to start our post-Labor Day reports.

Please note that these strips are linked to their creators' pages and copyrighted by same and their syndicates and that you should click on and visit each site immediately and give those folks all due praise.

Besides, they're easier to read there.

Dan (The Big One) has re-examined his life following our last entry and...well, decided to move on:

It's sort of touching that Dan would remember that high school counselor, but I have to say that anyone whose optimism so blinded her to reality probably shouldn't be advising kids.

Not to be outdone, Steve (The Other One), who's off for a camping trip with various undesirables this coming weekend, came home the other day to find that his shirts, shorts and other paraphernalia weren't all already ironed, folded and packed for him and threw a bit of a snit:

We won't even go into the sad story of Pottstown Bob who apparently tried to do a wash once and almost blew up the house.

Husbands and Laundry: threat or menace?

Never fear, we'll get back to beer.
On the morrow, when we discuss this weekend's activities at Camp Terry and the Foley Estate during which brews of all sorts were consumed in quantity. You expected something different?

[Posted 9:10 am edt]

4 September 2004
If these are the Monday Tasting notes,
then this must be Friday. Or maybe Saturday.

There was a GABF feel to last Monday's Tasting gathering at Sly Fox, and not just because it was held indoors (due to torrential rains) for the first time in many a week. The evening's tone was set by the pouring of three beers destined to be judged at the Great American Beer Festival at the end of this month.

We started off with what was the favorite beer of the day, McKenzie Biere de Garde brewed by Scott "The Dude" Morrison. Basically, the reaction from everyone, even including one Brian O'Reilly, who used to brew at the Fox but is merely a laborer at the Royersford site these days, was He's gotta send this to GABF. A later email from the Dude confirmed that sent it will be.

Richard Ruch brought this beer and basked every so proudly in its reflected glory.

Recalling his own glory days, O'Reilly then brought out old and new versions of his Incubus Triple and Saison Vos and asked the group to choose between them to determine which he would send to GABF. He, of course, paid no attention to the vote, but then again, it's his beer. All four pourings were well received and Joe I'll-Be-In-Bar-Harbor-Real-Soon-Now Meloney probably summed it up best when he held up his glasses of Incubus and said I figure we got a Gold and Silver right here. Send 'em both.

At this point, Ruch began accosting customers as they arrived and telling them he'd brought the night's best beer.

The chronicles grow somewhat murky on the other items, testimony to my battered state of mind. Here's how it might have all gone down.

Regular Ted Johnston offered up the nicely drinkable Dominion Summer Wheat (5% abv) and New Guy aiming for Regular status Eric Gajdzis followed with the surprisingly hoppy Firehouse Amber from McNeil's Brewery in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Ruch began wandering from table to table between pours, regaling strangers with stories of his triumph in having brought the Dude's beer to us.

Tom Foley opened his bag of tricks for the evening and pulled out Bitter and Twisted a strong bitter (4.2% abv) from Scotland's Harviestoun Brewery Ltd. Johnston came right back with Holy Grail Bitter (4.7% abv), which was brewed under a special commission at The Black Sheep Brewery in Yorkshire to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Monty Python.

Ruch was himself becoming somewhat bitter and twisted, having failed to achieve his holy grail of universal acclaim due to one table's ignoring his entreaties in the dining room. Even ripping off his shirt to reveal the giant V tattooed on his chest hadn't helped.

We moved on to New Belgium Trippel (8.5% abv), which I'd brought, and Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout (9.5% abv), offered up by Meloney, before turning to two, count 'em two, beers brought by Rick & Jeanne Smildege, who'd been off enjoying themselves instead of sitting around waiting for Monday nights. Some folks have no perspective.

From Ruch's perspective, it was time for us to hoist him on our shoulders and carry him around the room. We considered it, but declined. He sulked.

The Smiledges continued the big beer trend with Cooper's Vintage Ale 2000 from Australia and Lagunitas Olde Gnarleywine 2003 (roughly 10% abv), the latter being preferable to the former.

And when we looked up, Ruch was gone. Some say he could be heard shouting I am The Man! at the guy behind the counter at the pizza place down the way a bit, but I can't vouch for that.

Big Dan's dream.
Dan (The Big One) Bengel sent along this cartoon with the implicit suggestion that it represents a microcosm of his life:

As you can tell, he's one of those guys who really thinks size matters.

On the other hand, his gal pal, Pookie, while admiring the perky breasts of the young lady in the above bit of art, tells me that its depiction of their life together is all wrong. She says it's more like this:

I cam see both sides of this argument, yes I can.

Big Book O' Beer excerpt.
Here's another tantalizing bit from this enjoyable new book:

Catalina Blonde
Anheuser-Busch test-marketed this low-calorie, low-alcohol brew to appeal to people over 50 years of age. Like marketed to senior citizens (denture cream, adult undergarments,
Matlock), it is a matter of embarrassment.

Archived.
The complete August postings have been archived here.

[Posted 3:00 pm edt]


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

--A. E. Houseman

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