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28 September 2005
The last angry man redux.
When Brandon Greenwood called me last week to give me this story (which I agreed to hold until it became official, which it did yesterday, via Lew Bryson, conduit for the establishment, I kiddingly told him that we need the Angry Brewer back in town to liven things up. His reply: "I'm back, and you can tell everybody the anger's back too. I'm motivated and pissed off." Let the fun begin.

Brandon called again this morning and was less certain that his future lies in Philadelphia. "I've had conversations with people there, and I've had conversations that some people don't know about, but it could be that Philadelphia will not work out for me." He laughed when I told him some of the speculation I've heard--and contributed to--about where he could end up if he were to return to the city and knocked down each wild idea I offered in turn. "One thing you can assure everybody," he finished, "I will never brew for a chain of brewpubs, large or small."

All things come to him who, um, sits his big fat ass down. In the right place, of course.
That was the word from interlocutor George Hummel at Monk's Cafe last night in his introduction of what turned out to be a memorable dinner featuring the cuisine of chef Brian Morin and the drink pairings of beer writer Stephen Beaumont, founding partners of BeerBistro in Toronto. "There are a lot of good beers out there and a lot of places you have to visit to try them," said Hummel, "but if you just sit your fat ass down at Monk's and wait long enough, it all comes to you."

The boy do have a way with words, don't he?

BeerBistro came about after Morin and Beaumont became acquainted and Stephen began inviting the chef to beer tastings at his residence. Morin became so enthusiastic about good beers that they formed a partnership (including, rumor has it, some investors from Philadelphia) and opened their restaurant devoted to beer cuisine.

If last night was any indication, and I presume it was, folks in Toronto are likely delighted with that decision.

Our dinner started with Pilsner Maki Roll, Spicy Crab Salad Tempura and Wasabi, accompanied by a Czech-style Pilsner from Toronto's King Brewery. For me this was the high spot of the entire meal, a delicious combination, each item made with beer rather than any other liquid.

Next up was a Chicken Liver & Fois Gras Mousse, served with a chocolate stout jelly (!) (made with Rogue Chocolate Stout) and banana onion Raison d'Etre jam. The accompanying beer was the wonderful Belgian ale, Vapeur Cochon, from Brasserie de Vapeur in Wallonia.

The entree course was Roast Fruit Beer Marinated Veal Loin, served with sweetbreads, wild mushrooms and smashed potatoes, serve attractively rare on plate (perhaps a bit too rare, something I, um, rarely say, but the meat could have used a bit more texture, which further cooking would have provided, to match the "oomph" of the sweetbreads and mushrooms. The beer for this course was La Roja from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Michigan, an amber biere de garde which was nicely fruity and spicy and well-matched with the complex flavors of the main dish.

There followed a wonderful cheese plate which featured Le Grand Chouffe and Le Fatard, artisanal cheeses from Quebec, accompanied by Rodenbach Plum Compote. The eminently drinkable Ridgeway Bitter from Britain, a perfect choice.

Dessert was another winner, Chocolate Framboise Mousse accompanied by a broken up Skor Bar topped with Dragon Stout Ice Cream. The ice cream really stood out in this dish; Stephen told us that Dragon Stout, brewed in Toronto, is a relatively thin-bodied stout which he enjoys. This was accompanied by a drink called Any Port in a Storm, which the Monk's menu went out its way to note was a Beaumont creation.

It was blend of Taylor Fladgate Port and Victory Storm King Stout and was, how you say, interesting. Stephen is big into "Beer Cocktails" and we had a semi-spirited discussion about the concoction, me suggesting that either a good Port or Storm King would work very well with the dessert, so why screw around? and Stephen agreeing but arguing that blending to the two together created something different that he found intriguing. He said it was very popular at BeerBistro (to which I snorted, Canadians! but, in the end, I admit that I consumed most of the glass.

The beat goes on.
Next Tuesday at Monk's is an Urthel dinner that I'm really looking forward to. In case you hadn't heard, however, for the second straight year, the Southampton Dinner schedule for the following Tuesday, October 11, has been cancelled because of the unavailability of Phil Markowski. Bummer.

[Posted 4:25 pm edt]

25-26 September 2005
Editorial Note.
To make for easier reading, I have put today's posting (25 September, Bocco. Day Two.) at the end of yesterday's, editing and combing the two into a single post with a photo break in the middle. If you already read Day One just scroll on down. Thanks.

Bocce. Day One.
I arrived at Dogfish Head Brewery & Eats in Rehoboth Beach last Friday around 2:30 in the afternoon to find much confusion, so I knew I was in the right place. When there appeared to be no room at the inn (the motel next door) for me and one or both my Philadelphia teammates (Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell and George Hummel, neither of whom was there yet), I did what you do when you're in a resort town at the shore. I shrugged and walked down to look at the ocean, which is five of the longest blocks in America southeast of the pub. I was the problem, not the solution. That was somebody else's concern. I'd embraced my seashore mentality.

Still no Russell or Hummel when I got back to the pub (I was originally gonna ride down with them but decided that it was easier to just jump in my car and drive down), so, with some trepidation, I climbed into one of the several vans waiting for me and the horde of BeerAdvocates who would comprise the competition and moved on to the brewery in Milton.

Beer, you will be astonished to learn, was flowing when we arrived. The scoreboard on the wall informed me that we'd be playing teams with names like Motley Brue, Alpha Males, Midas Touch My Balls, Flaming Sample Cocks, Mama's Roast Beef, POOP..the Musical and my personal favorite, Punk in Drublic. Our team, enthusiastic captain and ersatz beer writer Sam Calagione proudly informed me, was called Legion of Boom. Whatever.

He also thrust into my hands an attractive but synthetic-material scratchy and itchy shirt, one of a set made for us by our sponsor, Yakima Chief, and made it clear that wearing same was mandatory. So I searched out an air-conditioned conference room--all big corporate breweries like Dogfish Head have them all over the place--and beat the thing into submission so I could put it on.

When I emerged, Russell and Hummel were there, the former having gone out and bought a car for the drive down, a previously-owned by shiny new looking white Cadillac no less. Damn. If I'd taken up the offer of a ride down, I could have been the guy sitting in the back, being chauffeured around. Missed opportunities...

Eventually, the matches began. If you're not familiar with Bocce, it works this way: there's a 60-foot long, roughly six-foot wide court; teams of either two or four players; a member of whichever team wins the original toss or scored last tosses a yellow wooden ball (the Pallino out on the court and so long as it passes a minimum-distance line about 20 feet out, it becomes the target; that same time throws or rolls one of the four, larger wooden balls given to each team, toward the Pallino and sets a mark (in the end, the team balls closest to the Pallino score points); the other team then throws or tosses and keeps doing so until they have at least one ball closer than the original toss and so forth and so on until all eight balls have been put into play.


Actually, I like that set-up a lot. If you're the second team to roll and that first ball is really, really close to the Pallino, you are forced to decide, certainly by the time your team is down to its last two tosses, whether to still go for it or instead try to get reasonably close to offset a late scoring surge by the opponent. To be more specific: if my team throws the first ball and then your team does not beat it with any of your four balls, I have three more chances to score. In matches like ours, of 11 points, that's a serious hump to get over if you let it happen.

We set up with Don and George at one end, Sam and I at the other. Somehow we managed to win our first game, our end scoring virtually all the points. Don came in late with a point or two, possibly even the winning ones, as I recall; George threw like he didn't quite understand how the game was played or what he was supposed to do. Which, he acknowledged later, was true. He had a remedy in mind, though, which he would introduce on Saturday.

We lost our second match, barely, to those Flaming Sample Cock people, a quartet of Dogfish employees headed up by lead brewer Bryan Selders (who, I'd wager, was responsible for the name as well). This set up an intriguing possibility: with them in the winners bracket and us in the losers, this two-elimination tourney could still come down to us against them in the finals. I don't know about anybody else, but I was thereafter consumed by a driving dream to make that happen, just to watch Sam sweat as he tried to explain to those BA types how come it was that two Dogfish teams were in the finals and shutting them out from all those swell prizes. Of course, being Sam, he'd pull it off just fine and have them cheering about it in the end, but it would have been fun to see.

We were back in Rehoboth by around 9, where it turned out that there was a room for Russell and me in the motel after all, while Hummel would be taxied at evening's end to luxurious accommodations in nearby Lewes because it was his birthday and, I'd guess, he begged some. He followed us to our room and puppy-dog-eyed us until we let him shower. Dinner and drinks at the pub followed, of course, where the high spots were Russell's sudden decision that he need to go from table to table to take a survey of public opinion on our Steely-eyed War Pres-nint (the results were something like 28-2 negative, which certainly upped my opinion of BAs) and, you should have figured this out by now, copious amounts of beer. Then off to bed.

In closing for now, it strikes me that I should remind everybody one more once to go over here to read a more fact-oriented report on the weekend. It might shock some of you to learn that, in this little corner of the internet, data is sometimes cleverly distorted and manipulated by our crack staff of unemployable malcontents just for the hell of it. Not to worry, though. Even if it's not true yet, it eventually will seem to be after we repeat it often enough.

Bocce. Photo break.
To ease your tired eyes, yere are some photos of the event for your amusement. They can hardly capture the warped reality that was the weekend, but they will give you a taste

The photos are my responsibility, unless otherwise credited.

Motley Brue and, of course, Sam, celebrate their undefeated run. They are standing on a giant toilet. There is no rational explanation for this.
photo by Christian (Rossy) Ross

You can't knock POOP..The Musical for not being clever as hell. Early on, they broke out into an impromptu concert by the side of the Bocce courts, likely inspired by their realization that they weren't going to win many matches, so it was now or never. If it isn't clear, those are toilet plungers they're waving around.

I wrote in Celebrator Beer News last December that I'd never seen Sam Calagione happier than when DFH won a GABF Gold Medal for Midas Touch. Allow me to amend that here and now. When the third launch of a 30-pack of Bad Beer hit the giant toilet 100-yards away, I think the guy might have had a...well, you know. This catapult is apparently a low-level, bring-it-out-for-the-amateurs weapon in the armory of World Punkin' Chunkin' Champion Frank Payton. Slower Delaware is a weird place.

Still, you grow up in the environment you got, not the one you'd like to have, y'know? And Jessica Reid's parents are preparing her for life in a region where firing stuff off into the air is not only cool, but reputation enhancing. Here, her father sets the beer can she will shoot into the Wild Blue Yonder in place while she gets "into the zone."

All just for fun, right? I took this shot of The Orf and Rossy, two of the Motley Brue crew, at dinner Friday night. Does this intense pair look like they're cool, laid-back guys just fooling around? I don't think so.

This is one-half our team, in competition against Motley Brue in the semi-final game in which they eliminated us. Is that Hummel asleep in a chair? You bet. You'll learn why in the Day Two report. By the way, that's superstar Matt Webster in the red cape, with his Mighty Measuring Stick in hand. Not that he ever needed it in this particular match.
photo by Don Voth


This is the other end of the court, same final game, where I'm about to throw while Sam is desperately trying to remember where the scoreboard is. Since neither he nor I scored a point in our humiliating 11-2 route, it was undoubtedly a poor toss.
photo by Don Voth

Bocce. Day Two.
Russell and I got up around 8 Saturday morning, walked down to the beach to a nice coffee stand I remembered to get my morning cappuccino, then had breakfast at a restaurant close to the pub and read the newspaper before catching the vans to Milton to join our teammates and began a nice run toward (ultimately unattainable) glory.

We won three games under a broiling sun which was made bearable by a periodic cooling breeze, the shelter of tents alongside the courts to which we could repair to watch other matches when we weren't playing and that old elixir, beer. Mostly we won by taking advantage of our opponents' errors, hanging around a point or two ahead or behind, never more than three, until they left us an opening.

Remember that comment I wrote yesterday about how a team could score as many as four points in a round if the other side left the gates open? It happened for us in two of the three wins and, neatly, we spread the achievement around, each of us getting crucial points at crucial times.

Hummel, apparently celebrating his birthday from the moment he awakened in his grandiose surroundings in Lewes, chose to periodically "enhance" himself through the day (not with steroids, of course; those are illegal), a practice which had some interesting consequences. He laid his final throw right up against the Pallino to win one game for us; he dragged a chair out onto the court, sat down and rolled his ball at another point.

In yet another series, while we were all screaming "Hit the wall! Hit the wall!" at him (meaning to bank his throw off the side to circumvent all the other team's blocking shots and sneak up close to the pallino), he blithely continued rolling both attempts straight down the middle. "I thought you meant hit my personal wall," he explained later, "and I was trying." Yes, he was. Trying. "they're playing 5 against 3 out there," offered Matt Webster at one point.

In between all this, there was the catapult stuff, firing off 30-packs toward a giant toilet over a football field away by World Punkin' Chunkin' Champion Frank Payton (using one of his smaller catapults; he used an actual air cannon to win his world title), who was set up to the rear of the courts. The first two shots were wide left but the third was dead on, smashing just inside the front lip of the ersatz toilet bowl. The crowd went justifiably nuts, especially Our Man Sam. What ever turns you on, they say, and this clearly worked for him.

Slightly behind Payton and his dangerous weapon (the cable which flew about wildly for about a minute after each toss could do serious damage if anyone walked within its range), a six-year old Jessica Reid, with the help of her father, followed each 30-pack shot with one of a single can; the last of these flew so far over and beyond the giant toilet that I have to suspect we were seeing a future world champion in the making.

Later, by the way, while we were awaiting what was to be our final match, I was standing under the tent with several people when Frank fired the catapult again and the watching crowd began shouting and running away, yelling. Something had obviously gone awry and the "ammunition" had slipped the sling and shot high into the air straight above us. We all looked up to see, of course, only the roof of the tent. Run? Which way? What to do? Was a 30-pack heading right for us? I finally opted to head back inward, toward the courts, just as the failed shot came crashing down... It was a only pumpkin, which splattered to earth just outside the rear frame of the first court. Had it whacked me top of the head, I think I might have removed "only" from that previous sentence.

Came now the moment of our inglorious demise. We went up against Motley Brue, the eventual undefeated champion, in a semi-final match. This match was played on the far court, where we'd never played, as a result of a rigging of the schedule to preclude our possibly meeting the other Dogfish team in the semis and one of us sneaking into the finals. If our match had been more competitive, I'd have bitched on and on about that change today, but... Motley Brue took us down 11-2. They were very good and we were awful; Sam and I in particular, scoring nary a point, not even threatening, comes to that.

Allow me to digress briefly here, to comment on the performance of our teammate and host, Mr. Calagione. It would be fair--indeed, absolutely obligatory--to say that, as the day wore on, Sam lost focus. A lot. Throughout, he acted as scorekeeper when we were playing, running over to the scoreboard mounted on the outside wall of the brewery, to record the results of each round. Invariably, he'd get there, turn around and yell back "What color are we?" Every single time.

Now, in this ultimate pressure-cooker, he ran to the scoreboards (there were two, one for each court) after the first round and didn't ask any questions at all. He just posted the score...on the wrong scoreboard, wiping out the record of the match on court one. Once we'd straightened things out, I had no choice but to take scoring responsibilities away from him (it wasn't easy, understand; I had to scream "Don't go near the scoreboard!" regularly). Here's how that worked out. After Sam got to bask in the spotlight of posting all those victories, I suffered the ignominy of posting our meager 2 points against Blue's triumphant 11 in the ultimate match. Thanks, pal.

We were duly gracious losers (except for Russell, who immediately left for home in a snit...er, his new Cadillac) and joined the crowd under the tent to watch the finals, Motley Brue vs. BALCO Bowlers, a team whose one loss had come at Motley's hands. The crowd was strongly behind the eventual champs, in large degree, I think, because there would have had to have been a second, deciding match had the Bowlers won, since each would have had a single loss. Motley fell behind early, then pulled out a victory on the final toss of the match.

We proceeded down to the giant toilet, awards and prizes were given, Sam gave an emotional speech inviting all 64 participants back again next year (since cast aside in a BeerAdvocate posting by Webster, since it would effectively have made the tourney a closed competition if every team returned intact) and headed back to Rehoboth. There, Hummel commandeered our shower again, but first managed to spill beer on himself, soaking his shorts and leaving him with nothing but a bathing suit to wear for the evening. Eww.

We decided to refresh our palates with a nice crisp lager (there is only so much Punkin' Ale any man can consume, even when it is offset with periodic pints of 60 Minute IPA, and that had been the course of the day) and so walked beachward again to visit the Rams Head Tavern, Fordham Brewing's pub. Since I'm in a forgiving mood here, enjoying memories of the weekend as I record them, I'll just say that this was a very bad idea and let it go at that.

The closing dinner was held upstairs at the pub and Hummel proved his mettle by choosing our table. "They'll put the beer right there," he said, point to a counter to the table's left, "and the food right there," pointing to a table set up a few feet to its read. Dead right on both counts. We were joined by his wife, Nancy Rigberg, who drove down after working all day to help him celebrate his natal anniversary and, eventually, by Sam hisownself.

It was a pleasant night, the high spots being sampling several vodkas, especially a chocolate one, and hop brownies, courtesy of distiller Mike Gerhart and aasistant Kati Muleh. And, oh yeah, watching some of the larger BAs ordering up hamburgers from downstairs when they found the meager fare (small salad, half a small pizza per person, brownie) not adequate for their needs.

I was off to bed at a reasonable hour and up at 8 again in the morning and, fighting off the urge to go stare at the ocean one more once (those are really long blocks), drove home. Oh yeah, I'd purchased a mixed case at the brewery on Friday and already had Chicory Stout on tap at home, so my Dogwood weekend continued through the Eagles route of San Francisco. Hey, I'm nothing if not committed once you get my attention.

[Posted 4:03 pm edt]

22 September 2005
Bits & Pieces.
Allow me to call your attention to a couple of Beer Yard postings from yesterday, just in case--for shame--you don't check out the news there daily (or more often--tell Matt I sent ya). Go now and read about this great showing by Weyerbacher Quad in a recent beer tasting and this deserved award for the Kennett Square Microbrewery Festival. I'll wait.

Then there's this Victory story. I don't miss much in the local papers, but I missed this one (it was inside a special regional supplement about Downingtown which was neatly hidden among all the advertising circulars in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer), and I'd wager that the Inevitable Ruch, who sent it to me, missed it too at first, given how late in the day it arrived. Anything that mentions Victory anywhere in the world which Richard can find during his all-night Googles is usually waiting in the email box first thing.

Actually, I'd mentioned to Richard during the Heavyweight event at Drafting Room Exton on Monday night that he'd used up his weekly quota of exclamation points that morning in his excited email about this Lew Bryson exclusive (scroll down to just below his item about Weyerbacher). But I guess we'll give him a pass this time, what with his being quoted in the Inky story and all that.

Anyway, here's a tip of the hat to Dan Weirback at Weyerbacher and Jeff Norman at Kennett Square and a good on you to Bill Covaleski and Reinhold Barchet at Victory.

[Posted 10:55 am edt]

20 September 2005
I've just now put up a good-sized news story at beeryard.com about this past weekend's Big Battle at Dogfish Head. Earlier today, I sent off a 300-word story and photos to Ale Street News, which editor Tony Forder will try to squeeze into the issue due out in early October. And, before week's end, I'll get a longer, more detailed, uncensored report up right here.

For now, let me just say this: Sam Calagione, Don Russell and George Hummel are high maintenance. Seriously.

[Posted 6:55 pm edt]

15 September 2005
A swell St. Feuillien's Dinner at Monk's (although Bryson was a little embarrassing).
Further evidence that I lead a good, honest life and am therefore rewarded was offered Tuesday evening when Monk's Cafe started up the 2005-2006 Beer Dinner Series with a wonderful evening featuring the owner and beers of Brasserie St-Feuillien and effusive (to put it extremely mildly) importer Lanny Hoff of Artisanal Imports. Of course, with that Pride Goeth Before a Fall thing in mind, the universe gave me a bit of nudge as if to say Don't get too full of yourself, pal.

The "nudge" was large and loud and seated right next to me (fortunately, wife Cathy was across the table, so it weren't all bad, especially after she offered to let me and my dogs live in their basement, next to Lew's office, if the movers and shakers ever get around to selling my homestead out from under me as they've threatened for two years now).

Owner Dominique Friart was on hand at Monk's to talk about her beers and be nice to us, visiting each table as the night progressed. That gesture allowed Big Lew to do his thing...which we'll get to that soon.

We started off with petit bol d'exrevisses waterzooi (a small bowl of Crawfish soup or stew), with which they poured '05 St. Feuillien Triple. The second course, chapon de bresse aved tuffle noir (Truffled Capon Breast), was also accompanied by the Triple, but this time it was from a 20-liter keg which made its way to these shores inside a special suitcase created by a Virginia engineer (who was present, but whom I didn't meet). The beer, bottled last month in Belgium, arrived at Monk's at 2:30 that afternoon and its pouring was, of course, its U.S. debut. The '05 St. Feuillien Brune was also served with that course.

The next three beers were all hand-carried into the U.S. by Dominque. She arrived with two suitcases and I had to unpack them, said Tom Peters earlier today when I called him to check a few facts.

A Salamazar (9 liter bottle) of (what else?) Triple was served with salde de lotte au curry (Curried Monkfish Salad); St. Feuillien Noel, the 2005 version just bottled and not due in the U.S. until December, accompanied rable de chevreuil au pesto a'la sauge (Sage Pesto-encrusted Venison with Brussel Sprouts Au Gratin and Stoemp, and Grisette Fruits des Bois, a St. Feuillien fruit beer, made its U.S. debut with the cleverly named Blanche Du Bois, a biscuit topped with a cream puff topped with whipped cream and white chocolate tubes, the whole drizzled with raspberry sauce. Interestingly, this latter beer was poured from 8oz, maybe smaller, cans.

Midway through the Venison course, the nice Mr. Peters repaired to the cellar and brought up 1999 Noel, which had aged very, very nicely.

It was the usual fine time all 'round at Monk's. Good beer, good food and...oh wait, I promised you a Bryson story.

When Dominque reached our table just after the Monkfish had been served, she asked whether we preferred the draft Triple or the version we were currently drinking, from the Salamazar.

The consensus, with which she agreed, was for the bottle but Lew demurred (he's so cute when he does that). I'd really need another big glass of the draft to be sure, though, he told her shamelessly, sending the poor woman scurrying away to get it for him. When she brought same to him, he sipped both side by side, looked sheepish ('cause he knew I was on to him), hesitated and then ignominiously caved: Okay, okay, the bottle's better.

Just a cheap trick to get extra beer, y'know? He should be above that sort of thing (or make sure his pals get extra too so he won't be ratted out).

Bocce Weekend.
As I mentioned a few posts back, I'm off to Rehoboth Beach tomorrow for a weekend of Bocce and Bad Beer Flingin'. If you missed it, here's the link.

There's been a change in our team since my first mention. Ken (Travels With Barley) Wells is tied up with his real job at the Wall Street Journal because the mess down south and had to pull out...or else he realized that a weekend like this could rip away the last facade of respectability he has--not an issue to concern us regular beer writers--and made up the story. Whatever. His replacement is George Hummel of the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and Home Sweet Homebrew. Whether this is an augmentation or a despoiling of our chances to win the competition remains to be seen. I have my suspicions...

The trash talking has already started via email and can only get worse. I'm already practicing how to pull Don (Joe Sixpack) Russell off of some 300-lb. Beer Advocate when the guy gets into his face once too often.

Potentially the most fun of all, aside from massive beer consumption, could be what is described as

the Cirque du Soleil-esque spectacle of World Punkin' Chunkin' Champion, Frank Payton, launching 30-packs of cheap domestic lager into a six foot wide toilet bowl over one football field away.
This is not a joke, of course. Via email, from Dogfish's Matt Webster, just minutes ago:
... just launched the first 30-pack here in Milton. It was sick. To quote Sam Calagione: "I wonder what they are doing in St. Louis right now?"
And, shortly thereafter, from Sam:
It sailed at least 100 yards and there was a 20 foot mushroom cloud of crappy light beer at the point of impact, it was awesome.
Oh Yeah!

A full report when I get back. And recover. Make that "if"...

Hilarious? We report, you giggle. Or maybe not.
Top 10 Reasons Wine Outshines Beer. Here's Reason #4:

Jesus didn't turn water into beer; he left that to Miller and Anheuser-Busch, which proceeded to get the process backward and turn beer into water.
And that's the funny one.

[Posted 3:10 pm edt]

11 September 2005
Smoke and mirrors. Oh, okay, smoke and beer. And Oktoberfest too.
The Smokin' Beer Dinner at Sly Fox Phoenixville this past Thursday night was pretty much an unqualified success. At least three of the pairings were so perfect that it's hard to single out the best of the night.

I sat with Hans Werlen, A Swarthmore College professor who heads up Philadelphia Slow Food; a couple named Todd and Debbie who spend a lot of time checking our local beer lists and dining options, which is a Very Good Thing To Do; Steve (The Other One) Rubeo and his work pal, Bill, who served as living proof not only that Steve has a friend other than Dan (The Big One) Bengel and turned out to be, well, memorable in his own right. You folks think I have a severe antipathy for George "Worst. President. Ever." Bush? This guy makes me look like a rabid fan of White House incompetence and chicanery.

We started out with St. Charles Bohemian Pilsner and a smoked cheese plate, the weakest entry of the evening. Not bad, just nothing really striking among the cheeses. Gotta get these guys on the Di Bruno Bros fast track.

The first course, very good House Smoked Oysters (which brewer Brian O'Reilly, in his introduction, suggested would become a house item, which would call more attention to the pub's under-publicized smoker out back), served to help introduce Prometheus Smoked Imperial Porter, which was scarily drinkable despite an 8-plus% ABV, especially as it warmed up and the complex coffee and alcohol notes at the center became more evident. More than a few guests walked out with growlers of this one post-dining.

Royal Weisse was absolutely grand with the Smokehouse Waldorf Salad, an Apple and Walnut Salad topped with Mesquite-smoked Turkey and drizzled with Raspberry vInaigrette, which served the fruity brew well.

Stuffed and Roasted Pork Loin was the entree. The stuffing was made with Granny Smith Apples and the whole thing was topped with slow-cooked Onion Gravy and accompanied by crisp green beans. The recently released Rauch Bier was served with it and the dish brought out all its subtle smoked flavors. The word Bamberg was heard around the room from those familiar with the style.

In his introduction this time (he did one for each beer and course), O'Reilly noted that, while he always enjoyed making the beers people like and asked for, he'd always wanted to do a rauchbier and "this one was for me." Let me go on record here as noting that self-centered behavior is definitely appropriate and defensible if it produces these kind of results.

I was sitting there debating whether the Weisse/Salad or the Rauch Bier/Pork combination was the most satisfying of the evening when dessert arrived, Christmas Ale matched with a mind-blowing Smoked Apple Tart laced with Makers Mark Icing (from the Bakery At Chester Springs a couple of miles west on Rt. 113). Whoa! Another contender. This paring was another amazingly effective one and a great ending to an very impressive dinner.

O'Reilly finished out the night by introducing the serving staff, which did a great job; bar manager Corey Reid, who talked him into doing the dinner, and most especially, Sous Chef Brandon Tracy, who put it all together.

You know, reading back, this is about as effusive as I've been in quite a while about a beer dinner. This will undoubtedly give ammunition to the little people (you know who you are) who are convinced I'm in Sly Fox's pockete because I write much of the copy on their website, but what can I tell you? I really enjoyed the evening. Either I'm out of practice given the summer lull (if so, I have a spate of Monk's Cafe events coming up to get me back in form) or it was That Good. Until somebody convinces me otherwise, I'm going with Option Two.

As part of the (I presume) Sly Fox Initiative To Take Over The World, Friday night brought Oktoberfest at Sly Fox Royersford, with the tapping of the 2005 version, the music of the Emil Schanta Oompah Band (of Goat Race fame) and a special Wurst Menu. They were also shooting a TV commercial during the fun (for spots on ESPN Thursday Night NFL Football), but were careful to avoid evern filming the afore-mention Big Dan and Kelly, his Evil Sweetie, who were seated at the bar.

The Oktoberfest (surprise!) was dead on, to the point where I pulled O'Reilly aside and suggested that he eventually retire to Germany (we have use for him for a while yet) and brew there since he's got German styles knocked. With that, the guy seated next to me jumped into our conversation, noted that he'd just gotten back from Bamberg and began raving about the Rauch Bier.

If this keeps up. Mr. O'Reilly, no walk-in-the-park as it is, will become even more difficult to deal with. Maybe we need to hope one of his beers turns out be, I dunno, Not So Good, or...

Geez! Wash out my mouth with soap!

[Posted 5:30 pm edt]

7 September 2005
Why we love the big galoot.
The inestimable Bryson, in his monthly email newsletter, The Occasional Pint, has the answer to the question of the summer: "Yo! Wha's up with PubCrawler?"

That mystery has been troubled beer geeks hither and yon (none more so that those at BeerAdvocate.com, who are wondering whether the disappearance of the competitive site is a signal from God that they are indeed destined to rule the earth and tell brewers how to brew and all that good stuff):

ABOUT PUBCRAWLER: a number of you have e-mailed me to ask if I knew why the PubCrawler website had disappeared from the Internet, I presume because I'm the most prolific reviewer on the site (a guy needs a hobby...). Here's the story. PubCrawler got hacked by parties unknown and trashed pretty badly. The owner of the site, Paris Lundis, had to rebuild the site from archives, and while he's at it, he's taking the opportunity to beef up the security and the server capacity. I hope to see the site back up this week or next, but...you never know.
You can sign up for Lew's newsletter by sending him an email at his site saying something clever like sign me up for the newsletter. Be prepared to sit down before reading each issue, however, because you'll find yourself week-kneed and exhausted as he goes through all the stuff he does. The man be indefatigable.

[Posted 2:22 pm edt]

5 September 2005
Laboring on Labor Day.
I've put up several more items on the Celebrator Beer News Archive today, two more Atlantic Ale Trail columns from this year, the story of my visit to Budvar in the Czech Republic, a pre-Craft Brewer's Conference piece in which I suggest the beers and places industry professionals ought to look for and a book review of Sam Calagione's Brewing Up a Business.

That's all of my already published published CBN material for this year. If all goes well, another three pieces will go up here in early October after the next issue appears and a couple more in December.

That's it. I'm done.

[Posted 2:45 pm edt]

1 September 2005
The days grow long...
How in the hell did it managed to be September already? Ah well, at least there's the holiday weekend to soften the blow. Or not.

I've just accepted an invitation to join the beer writer team for this likely-to-be-great-fun event. The "writer" team will consist of me, Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, the Wall Street Journal's Ken Wells (author of Travels with Barley) and Dogfish Head's Mr. Sam Calagione hisownself. Notice any ringers in there? Geez, let a guy write one book and he starts horning in on our side of the bid-ness. Man, if he thought beer brewers didn't make much money...

I also had a long conversation with runaway brewer Brandon Greenwood yesterday and he gave me the skinny on the Stegmaier Anniversary IPA which The Lion will release in September as part of its 100th Anniversary Celebration. Look for a story about that to appear at the Beer Yard site Tuesday or Wednesday next.

Finally, I've added a link to the Celebrator Beer News Archive at left. I hope to more columns and a story or two up there over the weekend.

Aside from that, chances are I won't be posting again until after the holiday. Hope it's a good one for all of you.

The complete August 2005 postings have been archived here.

[Posted 12:05 pm edt]

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

--A. E. Houseman


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