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30 September 2007
Seven Days With Michael - The 60th Birthday Bash.
Given that tonight is the night for the
National Toast to Michael Jackson, this seems the appropriate time to post the final installment of my report on spending a week following him around in this area and then in Washington, DC (the subject of this posting) back in 2002. If you haven't read the earlier material, the first part is here and the second part is here.

I didn't seen Michael at all on Monday, March 25, the break day between his time in Philadelphia and a two-day stint in Washington, DC, where he would make his fifth straight appearance at the National Geographic Society before a sold-out crowd of 380 guests and then be the Guest of Honor at his 60th Birthday Party at the famed (and equally sold out, and then some) Brickskeller on Wednesday, March 27. We did exchange several phone calls during the day, however.

Michael was worried that several Czech lagers, not then available in the U.S. but being brought in for his National Geo talk, were having a problem getting through Customs in New York, and about the arrangements for the arrival of his longtime partner, Paddy Gunningham, on Wednesday. There was nothing I could do to help him with either issue, nor could I travel into the city to join him for lunch when he asked because I was trying desperately to catch up with other writing and web obligations after four days devoted entirely to my story about his week. Turning down that invite made me feel both sad and uncomfortable at the time because I knew he just needed someone to act as a sounding board for his concerns. The feeling continues to this day.

I took the train down to Washington Tuesday afternoon and made my way to the Brick the legendary Dave Alexander, who had generously comp-ed me a room upstairs. There was no sign of Michael even though Dave said he had arrived. I suspect he had squirreled himself away in his own room preparing for the night's talk. I don't believe I've mentioned yet how he managed to keep up with things as he went from one event to another almost without pause. Each night, his assistant in London, Owen Barstow, would email him his prepared research material for each presentation and anything else he'd determined he'd need for other things he was working on.

As has been noted in many remembrances of the man, he always managed to find a part of each day for writing. "A week ago I was sitting in a hotel room in New York writing an article on where to drink in Tokyo for an Italian magazine," he told me when we finally did have a chance to talk a bit Tuesday. "Yesterday, I was in a hotel room in Philadelphia writing about which beers go best with Indian foods."

Dave Alexander was the guy who was trying to get those beers into the country in New York and he told me how he had finally achieved the task as we drove over to the National Geographic building early in the evening. "I went up there yesterday afternoon and just waited around," he said (this is not verbatim, but the gist of the tale from my notes). "The first Customs agent I saw was this middle-aged woman with her hair in a bun and who never cracked a smile. I passed on approaching her. The next guy was all buttoned-up in a three-piece suit and tie and had a crewcut to boot. Pass. Then I saw a guy with hair down to his shoulders, in jeans and a flannel shirt and with a gun clipped to his belt. That, I said to myself, is my man." And he was.

The beers, by the by, were arriving via the machinations of Hanza Kocka, a Czech national whose full-time job is with an airline and who has appeared in these chronicles several times previously, most recently in this account of my trip to the Czech Republic in 2005. That night at National Geo was the first time I met him.

My notes from that evening are sparse, probably because it was, well, the Night of the Digression of All Digressions. Michael went a-wandering in the first few minutes of his presentation and never really got back on track.

Beers presented for the talk were Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, Staropramen Gold, Dark & Millennium (the latter on draft), Pivovar Klasterni Golden Lager & Dark Lager (both draft), Cerna Hora Kvasar Honey Beer, Bernard Yeast Beer and Pardubice Porter. Available for take home on each table were five bottles each of Hejtman Semidark and Primator Nachod. When Michael's long rambling presentation was brought to a halt after two hours, he had talked at length about Czech history and its beer culture in the main but rarely about the beers at hand. He was actually holding up the second or third beer of the night when told the room had to be closed down.

No one left unhappy, understand, but many did so assuming that he was drunk. Having talked to him a hour or so earlier, I knew that was not the case. It was probably the first time I'd seen him seriously affected by his Parkinson's although that thought never crossed my mind.

The night wasn't over though. The woman who was executive director of the National Geographic turned out to be, or have become, a bit of a beer geek and Michael, Dave and I joined her and a few other in her offices where she proceeded to produce a whole series of both American craft and rare imports from a large refrigerator in the back. It was great way to wind down.

I spent much of the day Wednesday wandering around Washington and the rest of it sampling some of the beer fare at the Brick. The only time I saw Michael before his party was when I ran into him, with Paddy on his arm and smiling happily, as they walked out of the Brick when I was coming in.

Dave and Diane Alexander were the hosts for the evening's event, of course, and Bob Tupper was the Master of Ceremonies. The seven-course birthday dinner, "60 Years of Cheers," was prepared by Master Chef Geert Piferoen from the Belgian Embassy. Michael sent the tone for the evening right from the start. "Turning 60 in public?" he said as we settled in at our tables. "I may well get rather refreshed." His comment was greated great laughter and applause.

Our meal consisted of Crab Salad, Buttermilk Potato Soup with Smoked Salmon, Mussels with Straffe Hendrick Sauce, Grilled Scallop with Orval sauce, Pennsylvania Dutch Sausage, Oud Veux Chimay Cheese on Baked Pear and Chocolate Cake.

The beers, aside from a special bottling of Anchor Steam Beer which bore a "Michael Jackson, Born March 27th, 1942" label, were presented and talked about with each course. Staropramen Cerny and Millennium were the first served, and Pilsner Urquell Export Director Miro Jersak presented Michael with 6-Liter drinking vessel "to remind you of how we drink beer in the Czech Republic." He was followed by Kocka, who gave him a more standard flip-top stein. Standing up and placing his hand on the large vessel while holding the second one high, Michael quipped, "I use this one for training purposes before I tackle the other one."

Rob Mullen, who'd been the brewer for the next beer, Tuppers' 6X Old Ale, explained that it was a special brew of Hop Pocket with the standard 60 IBUs spiked up to 90. Bill Madden of Capitol City used the serving of his award-winning Wee Heavy to talk about how Jackson's writing had influenced him. Merchant du Vin's Rick Hamilton introduced Pike Brewery's Auld Acquaintance and gave Jackson a tap handle with his picture and the beer's logo on it. And Nick Funnell of Sweetwater Tavern paraphrased W. C. Fields as his High Desert Imperial Stout was poured: "Michael Jackson drove me to drink and I never even got to thank him for it."

We finished up with a poem from Sam Calagione as Dogfish Head Raison d'Extra was poured and then enjoyed a perfect match of Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and "ChocolateChocolateChocolate Cake." Eventually the whole crowd sang "Happy Birthday" and things wound down. As the room slowly emptied, Michael sat alone at the head table, Paddy having gone off to their room, and chatted with people as they came up, often signing a book or whatever they presented to him. That was surely a quintessential Michael Moment.

I went up after the line had dwindled and plopped myself down on the chair beside him to chat a bit, mostly to exchange our thoughts about the party and all his friends who had shown up for it. Finally, I shook his hand, thanked him for letting me tag along for the past week, and headed off to my room.

My Seven Days with Michael were over.


[Posted 1:45pm edt]

29 September 2007
Beer Notes: Lozen Boer Abt, Saison Imperiale & Signature Ale.
The beer sample package which I received earlier this month from SBS-Imports was about as professional as it gets.

It had been preceded by emails from owner Alan Shapiro to alert me that it was coming and those emails included complete notes on each of the six beers included, along with full color label logos. The six 750ml bottles from De Proefbrouewerij were packaged in a great shipping carton (which I will re-use to fulfill an obligation to get some local beers down to North Carolina and, upon its return, to send my son's Christmas present to Idaho in December). There was an additional information sheet about the DeProef Brewmaster's Collection packed in the carton.

For no particular reason, I decided I would not open or comment on any of the beers until someone else did. I get weird that way sometimes. It wasn't much of a risk in terms of having to wait an extended period, though. Come last Sunday, the First Taster spoke up. You can usually count on some people.

Free at last, I opened the Lozen Boer Abt, an Abbey-style Ale, later that day. I enjoyed i as part of a leisurely consumption of a light dinner consisting of an assortment of goat, bleu and cheddar cheeses, the quite good and recommended Trader Joe's hummus (which I scooped up with pita bread) and a small bowl of garlicky olives. This beer is named for a famous restaurant in West Flanders and is as big (10%), rich and complex as you'd expect from the "Abt" designation. It was nicely spicy and complementary to the cheeses in particular, again as might be expected.

Lozen Boer Abt features a fun label for them as cares about such matters, showing a man walking on a moonlit road with a spotted cow, which the SBS-Import notes say "tells the story of the restaurateur's father who smuggled cows from Amsterdam to Belgium." In this country, of course, it's more common to overlook the rustlers and con-men in ancestry; it's nice to see that other cultures celebrate their past rather than hide from it.

This past Wednesday night, I opened the Saison Imperiale, a Belgian Farmhouse Ale which De Proef first brewed last year. It is, as Lew made clear in his comments linked above, not exactly your father's Saison (which I knew going in because I, unlike he, read the accompanying notes). Big (8.5%) and robust, it's what the brewery calls a "mega" interpretation. The Saison style is perhaps my favorite of all and I appreciated this yeasty, spicy and surprisingly malty brew in every which way for its broadening of my perspective on the possibilities of the style. I drank it without any accompanying food, nursing the bottle through another Phillies win on the way to whatever will be resolved tomorrow. It's lovely in the glass as well, one of those "appeal" factors which are sometimes overlooked.

In between those two, I brought what I considered the prize bottle of the sextet to the Monday Tasting Group which gathers at Sly Fox Phoenixville each and every week without fail.That prize was Signature Ale, a collaborative effort between DeProef brewmaster Dirk Naudts and Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing. If I tell you this is the best collaborative beer I've ever tasted I suppose you can argue that there are very few such with which to compare it. That's true. Still, this is the best collaborative beers I've ever tasted. And it's certainly one of the best beers I've tasted this year.

Signature Ale is the place where the two current trends in craft brewing--big, massively hopped, intensively flavored beers and funky, complex Brett beers--meet and fall in love. It is a romance for the ages.

This truly great beer is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale hopped up with, as is evident in the nose early one, a whole buncha-lotta Amarillo. Arthur's brewing notes indicate that British Phoenix and German Brewer's Gold hops are also added to the boil and that all three varieties are employd for dry hopping as the beer conditioned. Four different malts were uudr and the beer was fermented using both saccharomyces abd brettanomyces yeast strains. The overall picture, which was reflected in the comments of my Tasting pals as we drank: a great and intriguing nose, lots of complex flavors on the palate which build to a tremendous finish where everything I mentioned above all comes together. Out of eight or so of us who sampled the beer Monday night, I'd guess at least half said something along the lines of "I didn't want it to end." I was one of them.

Beer is the drink of conviviality, something meant to be shared with friends. It really is best experienced that way. And I always enjoy the kick of showing up with something to stir the beer-loving hearts of the Monday Tasters, who are a fine group of human beings all in all except for the ways in which they aren't. But, I gotta tell you, way back in that dark and evil part of my heart, I did kinda wish I'd saved the whole bottle for my ownself as we happily consumed it on a sun-dappled patio of a near-perfect September evening.

Then again, I know what I did was one of those things which might get me into heaven. The way I see it, when I show up at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will stare down at that long list of "the devil made me do it" stuff on my Permanent Record, purse his lips tightly, and finally raise his head to ask the obvious. "And why exactly should you be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven, my son?" I will be more than ready. "I never, ever roller-skated," I will say and watch his head nod approvingly. "And, when push came to shove, I shared my only bottle of Signature Ale with my friends." That ought to do the trick if there's any justice at all, unless it turns out that one of those guys is so purely evil that bringing any joy to him at all might be considered a mortal sin.

Here's the bottom line: all three of these beers, along with the others I was sent (and which I will comment on as I open and drink them)---Reinaert Flemish Wild Ale, Zoetzuur Flemish Ale and the new-this-year Le Grande Blanche (an Imperial Wit!)-- are being introduced into the Mid-Atlantic market beginning in the last quarter of 2007 and are expected to be in Pennsylvania early next year. You don't want to miss a one of them.


[Posted 9:20pm edt]

28 September 2007
Walking the walk.
A few weeks back, ever so discreetly, I added a
Tip The Bartender link to this page. A few of you have found it since then and I appreciate the generosity you have shown. One of the more recent tippers, however, had a complaint to proffer along with his token of appreciation. To wit:

Why are you pussyfooting around with this, putting up a little dinky link thing that nobody will find? Is this some secret or something? If you think what you do is worth some monetary acknowledgement, say so and do it upfront where everybody can see. If you don't, if you're embarrassed or ashamed to say that, then you shouldn't have that link at all. Talk the talk and walk the walk.
Well sir, that was definitely a "you pays your money and you speaks your mind" message.

And I guess, though it goes against my instincts to speak of such things so forthrightly, he is correct (although, if he thinks "upfront" will be a big, screaming banner asking for money, we are on different tracks altogether).

So here goes...

If you can now and then contribute to the ongoing health and vitality of Liquid Diet Online, I would be very grateful.

Simply put, maintaining this site and writing the three-quarter million words or so posted on LDO since the fall of 2002 (that's a guesstimate but I think it's close, maybe even low, or will certainly be by the end of this year) is work. It's fun work, self-serving work, sometimes rewarding work (I get to meet people in the industry because of this site, I get story leads and interviews because of this site, I am better prepared to do my job as a beer writer because of this site), but it is work. LDO takes time and it take energy, neither of which I seem to have enough of these days.

So, if you come here regularly, if you've learned things here (be it hard news or wild rumor or cock-eyed fantasy), if you've gotten a chuckle or an idea or even had your ire raised, if any of that has happened, or for any other reason you might have, you are inclined to now and again buy the management a pint to show your appreciation by using that link, I would be very grateful.

And if not, that's okay too.


[Posted 3:45pm edt]

As long as I'm pimping myself, here's a word for brewers, wholesalers and importers.
Another link I added at the same time as the one mentioned above was
this one, which allows as how I would not raise a fuss should any brewers, wholesalers or importers feel the urge to put one or more of their products into my hot little hands now and then.

Whenever that happens--and it is happening more and more often these days, which is Very Nice--it certainly broadens the coverage here and keeps me better informed about what's out there. For example, come back for my posting tomorrow when I discuss three of the six beers recently sent me by importer Alan Shapiro (SBS-Imports), including one which I took over to share with the Monday Night Tasting group this past week to get a broader range of opinions. Those beers will be in this market in early 2008 and readers here will have some idea what to expect beforehand.

As I also mentioned at that link in passing, and since I also create and post most of the content at the Beer Yard site, brewers, wholesalers and importers would also serve both their causes and my own by sending me jpg or other images of new beers as they are released into this market, along with product descriptions or any other useful information about beers, breweries or upcoming events and releases. You can send that sort of information to me directly through my Beer Yard email, but I'd prefer, especially for images and other visuals, that you send me a copy here as well (Email Jack), since I do much of that Beer Yard work from my office because I have more and better capabilities on my computer system.


[Posted 3:45pm edt]

The Michael Jackson Toast.
I'll be at Sly Fox Phoenixville Sunday night at 9pm for the National Toast to Michael Jackson, which will honor the man and also raise funds for the National Parkinson Foundation.

Sly Fox's contribution to the fund will be all of the proceeds from what sounds like a great eight-item raffle. Bar manager Corey Reid is raffling off copies of four MJ books: Ultimate Beer, Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, Michael Jackson's Complete Beer Companion and Whiskey: The definitive World Guide, along with one rare beer each from his cellar and the cellars of both O'Reilly and brewery operations manager Tim Ohst, plus a case of Sly Fox cans.

Tickets are $5 each and each item is being raffled separately (tickets are already being sold at the pub) and the winners must be on hand to claim the prize. Additionally, there will be a drawing at the end of the event from all the tickets (you are asked to sign yours when you submit it) for a $50 Sly Fox Gift Card (you need not be present to win that).

Things start at 8pm and raffle winners will be announced for most or all of the items by 8:30, when the Eagles game starts. At 9pm, the sound on the game will be lowered, the Toast will be held and the Grand Prize winner will be drawn along with any items not completed in the first half hour.

Everyone reading this needs to be there, or someplace, to honor Michael. There are, to my knowledge, at least 13 other locations in the this region where the Toast will be offered at 9pm:

Monk's Cafe
Nodding Head
Grace Tavern
The Belgian Cafe
Standard Tap
Johnny Brenda's
Grey Lodge Pub
The Drafting Room Taproom & Grill
(both locations)
Union Jack's Inn on the Manatawny
Stewart's Brewing Company
Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats

For Philadelphians, the evening will also be a chance to celebrate the Phillies winning the National League East and the Eagles pounding the Giants (hey, why not?).


[Posted 10:55am edt]

A chance encounter yields news.
I happened to run into Bill and Nancy Barton briefly this week and get an update on what's happening with their prospective new Philadelphia Brewing Company--not a formal interview, no notes taken, but a ten-minute or so chat out of which I gleaned the following.

They expect all licensing for the new brewery to be complete at the end of October or soon thereafter and to begin brewing in January. That start date could be earlier, depending on the timing of Tom Kehoe, who is still running Yards Brewing Company out of the plant. Kehoe has a lease that runs through December but could leave earlier if he had a site and his new brewery ready to go (why he would do that seems to me to be the question),

Because they are moving right into an existing plant with an existing brew crew who are familiar with it, the Bartons expect and should be able to deliver a faster start-up than the normal standard. Yes, I said "existing brew crew" because they told me all the current brewers will stay with the new company. Equally important, perhaps even more so, is the fact that Chris Morris signed on with them early this month and is out working the streets, maintaining relationships and laying the groundwork for the release of their new beers.

Those new beers? A Pale Ale (one suspects it might taste pretty familiar, if marginally different), an IPA, a "dark beer of some sort" and a Belgian-style to start.

The last time I talked with Kehoe, he was still working on leasing a building and hoped that would be done by, well, now. He already had a brewhouse he'd bought on the way up from Florida. It sounds like he's going to need some brewing and sales people as well. And he's promised to call me first thing when there's news so we'll all have to wait for that.

Unless, of course, I happen to have another chance encounter.


[Posted 10:53am edt]

26 September 2007
The circle never ends.
There is some sort of mystic link, it seems, between the sites of Philadelphia's first great brewpub and of Philadelphia's most spectacularly failed brewpub.

The folks who are now operating successfully at the original Dock Street location at Two Logan Square where the group that bought it from Jeff Ware and Rosemarie Certo left the original and concept smouldering in the ruins of "we didn't have a clue" are now going to take over the site of the recently shuttered Independence Brew Pub, which was also taken down by the same clueless gang, or a successor group of equal incompetence.

Brian Harrington and Gary Cardi are the new leasees for the Filbert St. locale (these are the guys I've been hinting about being interested for a couple of weeks now) and their intent is a "high-end sports bar" with the same sort of fare as their successful Public House at Logan Square. I'd say that their upscale concept should prove successful with both locals and tourists/conventioneers from the nearby Convention Center, especially since the new guys are already proven entities.

The Independence brewhouse? It's been sold. Or maybe sold. Or maybe in the process of being sold. Nobody seems quite sure. One way or another, though, it is outta there. And soon.


[Posted 10:55am edt]

24 September 2007
Monday Morning Beer Notes.
I've been waiting to see who would be the first of the lucky recipients to tap into and write about the impressive six bottle sampler of De Proef beers from importer Alan Shapiro which arrived on several fortunate doorsteps a week or so back.
I should have known. The cherry having been broken, I opened the Lozen Boer Abt last night to celebrate the Eagles blowout of the Lions. Notes to follow later this week. Lew wrote that the selection included "some De Proef/Lost Abbey collaborations," but--unless there were different selections sent to different people--there was only one of those. I'll be bringing that beer to share with my buddies at the Monday Night Tasting real soon now but am holding off until the Official Recording Secretary gets back in town. Someone among the regulars please let me know when that's happened. You'll be glad you did.

Michael Jackson's funeral was held in London a week ago this past Friday. Among the attendees, of course, was Carolyn Smagalski who posts a report here of the ceremony and the subsequent reception at the Hock Cellar at Fuller's Griffin Brewery, a perfect choice I'd say. Definitely worth a read as we all prepare (we all are preparing, right?) for this Sunday night's 9:00pm Toast to Michael. I'll be participating at Sly Fox Phoenixville where bar manager Corey Reid is trying to put together some of Michael's books to auction or raffle off as part of the effort to raise money for the Parkinson Foundation. I hope to see some of you, a lot of you, there or hear that you were somewhere. And generous. It's a damned shame that the Eagles are the NFL TV game that night, against the hated NY Giants, no less, but that's why god invented Tivo and VCRs.

I hear that the Beneluxx Tasting Room at 33 S. Third St. in Old City only needs a final city inspection to open the doors. This is the second location for Mike Naessens of Eulogy Belgian Tavern and will feature small tastings of beer and wine, matched with cheese and chocolate, at tables which have built-in glass rinsers to facilitate the samplings and allow the customer to make sure his glass is pristine for each. I'm really looking forward to seeing how that all works out. Sounds cool.


[Posted 8:40am edt]

23 September 2007
They had me worried for a minute there.
You see the headline--Fremont Oktoberfest: Smells like pumpkins and gasoline--and you think, "well, that can't be good, now can it?"

Turns out it can.


[Posted 9:30am edt]

22 September 2007
Mr. LaBan gives TND a beer-y thumbs up.
Teresa's Next Door in Wayne gets a
two-star rating ("Very Good") from Craig LaBan in tomorrow's Inquirer. More importantly for this crowd, while he has some reservations about the some of the entrees and desserts, he'd likely give the beer selection and presentation three-stars ("Excellent") or even four-stars ("Superior") from the way he raves about them.

A goodly portion of the piece is about the beer and is both knowledgable and informative. Along the way, nicely, he gives some props to the man behind the curtain...

With the Beer Yard, one of the region's best specialty distributors, nearby for a supporting role, it's no wonder Teresa's beer program is strong...
...and several suburban and downtown beer spots:
There are a handful of farther flungbeer destinations like Ortino's Northside in Schwenksville, the Sly Fox brewpubs in Phoenixville and Royersford and the Drafting Room in Exton. But none were built with quite the same homage to [Philadelphia gastropubs] as TND, which co-owner and chef Andrew Dickerson says was inspired by Monk's Belgian spirit, Standard Tap's dedication to fresh local beers, and Tria's focus on artisan cheese and wines...
Go read it. It be good.

Thank God LaBan got there before the ravaging hordes arrive on the morrow to fight over the first ever keg of Founder's Kentucky Bourbon Stout in Pennsylvania.

Believe it or not, one of the BeerAdvocate anal retentives actually posted the tapping of that keg tomorrow morning as an "event" an the site calendar.

Sunday brunch at TND should be interesting.

And maybe a little frightening.


[Posted 9:00am edt]

21 September 2007
Hoist on my own petard. Again.
So I posted a noted on the restricted access Brewers Association Forum asking for input on a story I'm working on. First thing, I got back a snide remark from Bryson, viciously attacking my editors, but since I'd pretty much implicitly done the same in my original post, I gave him a pass.

A couple of brewers soon chipped in with some useful stuff, as they always do. And then came this, from another compatriot, Virginia-based beer writer Gregg Wiggins:

Talk to Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head. It was MJ who, while talking with the Penn archaeologists who'd dug up the tomb of the inspiration for the Midas legend at a The Book & The Cook dinner, suggested they talk to this "little brewery in Delaware" who made adventurous beers and might be willing to try recreating the drink based on the residue in the cups found in the tomb.

Yep, that was the birth of Dogfish Head's Midas Touch and, in a way, of their Chateau Jiahu as well, since that later beer was a result of the successful collaboration on Midas Touch.

I've attached the piece I wrote on this for Celebrator Beer News back in 2000. At the time, what's now called Midas Touch was going to be a one-off project and was being called "Origin Ale."

To which I replied, in part:
Good idea. Sam was on my list. Weird, though--I would have sworn that *I* wrote about the Midas Touch release for Celebrator. Must have been for either Barleycorn or Mid-Atlantic.

And that first batch of MT, poured that afternoon at the Penn Museum (before the "real" intro at dinner that night) was the best version there ever was. Just as the first unfiltered Golden Monkey from Victory (another supposed "one-off") was the best ever version of that beer.

I don't recall anything about "Origin Ale" at all; it was always Midas Touch in my recollection.

I told you Gregg was good, right? It is apparently due, at least in part, to his meticulous records and fantastic memory. This was his responding email:
Ummm, can I...direct your attention to the fourth paragraph [of this story] where an excellent beer writer named Jack Curtin wrote:
"The story behind Midas Touch is a fascinating one, too long to go into here (it can be found in great detail in Gregg Wiggins' "East Coast Brewer Has the Midas Touch" in the December 2000/January 2001 issue of Celebrator Beer News). It was originally brewed last fall by Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione to be served as "Origin Ale" during the initial Midas feast recreation at the Museum. It was first tasted, however, at a small gathering in the back bar at Monk's shortly before that official debut. At the time, the beer was not considered a potential commercial product, especially given the cost of producing it. However, the interest generated by the beer's unique history and genesis convinced Calagione to press on, with the Museum's support, and bring a renamed and somewhat different version to market."

Don't you hate it when somebody quotes you like that? >grin<

I agree with you; I tasted some of the first batch at the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth. I understand why they modified the Origin Ale recipe somewhat as they turned it into Midas Touch but the original Origin Ale was superior.

Well, in answer to that >grin< question, of course I generally delight in being quoted, but I will admit that this time it's something of mixed blessing.

Nah, scratch that. I still enjoy being quoted.


[Posted 7:05am edt]

19 September 2007
Photos. I took 'em, gotta post 'em.
These are from the Brewers Reserve at Iron Hill Phoenixville last Saturday. I brought my camera along as part of a new promise to myself that I would try and post more photos here to offset my often long, probably too long, postings. Went there, did that...and promptly forgot I had them when I reported on the event on Sunday. Well, better late than never.

At right, Iron Hill's Mark Edelson explains to a two customers that there will soon be an Iron Hill pub in their neighborhood as well. Considering that they live only two block away, that's a bit of a surprise. It all has something to do with having five kids all bent on going to college or something like that.

The above was taken from the entrance side of the bar and features Steve (The Other One) and his not-Big-Dan pal, Brandon, front and center. Note how Steve's head naturally tilts upward as a result of having hung around with the Big Fella all those years. Maybe a chiropractor would help.

Finally, look past the pretty girls up front in this one and you can see none other than The O'Reilly way there in the back, bothering a table of people who just came in for the beer. No, on second though, just stay with the pretty girls. Trust me.

There now, wasn't that an improvement over all the usual blather? I'm told by some people that almost anything would be.


[Posted 1:15pm edt]

18 September 2007
The Memorex question: is it the malt or is it the lagering?
The mad genius we all know and love as "Scoats" takes a minute or two away from the kinky laboratory wherein he concocts all the mind-boggling events and holidays and promotions which have earned his Grey Lodge Pub national fame and acclaim to raise a question about my referring to myself as a "malt maven" when I expressed my love for Fest beers
in this post:

Regarding Marzens, is it the malt or the lagering that you love? I am just a huge fan of lagers; there's a deep mellowness there. Victory St. Boisterious, which Tracy gave us a wedding present, has become one my favorite beers. I don't love malty ales same the way I love malty lagers.
Hmmm. He has a definite point there. Maybe I needs must start calling myself a Malt Maven/Lager Lech.

Yeah, I kinda like that.

Mr. Scoats, by the by, should be getting some props on another website with which I am intimately familiar either later today or first thing tomorrow. I'll let you know when and where if and when.


[Posted 11:30am edt]

16 September 2007
Iron Hill Phoenixville: News & Brews
The news from yesterday's Brewers Reserve Oktoberfest event at Iron Hill Phoenixville is just that, I got me some news as well as fine brews during a brief stay. That makes it officially a "work" afternoon, by the way.

For the first time since...well, since forever, I think (although there might have a revision or too early on back in Newark), Iron Hill will be changing its standard house beer lineup.

Lodestone Lager will be replaced by a new Vienna Lager and Anvil Ale will be replaced by "a rotating series of Belgian beers," Mark Edelson told me after partner Kevin Davies spilled the beans in a casual conversation. "People want Belgians these days, so we'll do a Dubbel, Triple, some of the more 'standard' styles as part of the regular menu."

I arrived right on time, 4pm, because I could only stay a couple of hours due to baby-sitting assignment from my daughter which began at 7. I was, in fact, a few minutes early, and walked in to the bar to find Steve, the now oft-forsaken "Other One," already ensconced on a stool, accompanied by his "non-Big Dan pal," Brandon. There are things you can just count on, you know?

I had to drink cautiously given my upcoming "adult in the house" duties, but I figured a pint of Tim Stumpf's Oktoberfest (6.5%) wouldn't hurt me and that's where I started. Fests are one of my favorite styles, malt maven that I am, and this one did nothing to change my mind about that.

Tim soon came over and joined us and I was thus able to sample his Forbidden, a new beer I'd been hearing about but hadn't yet tried. In fact, I didn't even know what it was. Now I do. This is Tim's interpretation of Hoegaarden Verboden Vrucht ("Forbidden Fruit"), an 8.5% dark ale which is rarely seen in this country. I've only had the original once that I recall, so I can't really compare the two, plus Tim said he'd played around with the recipe a bit, so I'll only say it was pretty damned nice. I'll probably have a full serving in a few hours (see below, I have a plan) to confirm or change that opinion. I'm betting on the former.

The Oktoberfest, by the way, was brewed by Justin Sproul in Newark. I followed it up with 12oz glasses of two of Tim's beers, Roggenbock and Doppelbock. The former is a 7.8% rye beer based upon the Roggenbier he had on this summer. As I said to somebody yesterday, he may just convince me that all beer ought to be made with rye, these two were so good. The doppelbock was the biggest beer in the house, 8.7%, and a reminder to me that I should start consuming lots of water and move down the abv scale a bit. I did just that, making my last beer of the afternoon (and the day) a 12oz-er of Larry Horwitz's Altbier from North Wales (I did cheat a bit and take a sip of Maniac Alt, a 7.4% "double" altbier concocted by Crazy Bob Barrar at the Media pub).

Beers I didn't get to were Tim's Maibock and a Munich Dunkel from Brian Finn in Wilmington, Missing action, as far as I could see, was anything from the West Chester pub and Chris LaPierre. That just ain't right.

Since I was there early and not-so-long, most of the Usual Suspects were just starting to turn up as I was leaving. Grumpy Bob and Barbie, Tom and Lori and IH regular Ted Johnston (who's also a Sly Fox Phoenixville regular--how does he DO that?) were gathered around Steve as I went to the door and, since Pikeland Pils was the day's Guest Beer, the O'Reilly and clan were in the house as well. Around the corner in the restaurant area, hiding from the hoi-polloi, Horwitz was holding his Natal Celebration and I stopped to wish him well and then was gone.

Here's my plan. I'm going to proofread this (I do proof, I really do, I just suck at it) and then finally sit down to breakfast (I've been up for five hours now, for the record) and then drive myself back down to Phoenixville and have that glass of Forbidden and decide which of the Oktoberfest brews I want to have poured into my growler to come home and enjoy an afternoon of further posting (not here), eBay uploading and baseball and football on TV with me. Since the Phillies are playing the Mets (heretofore to be known as the "Pets," which I stole from this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer, because they've been beating the New York frauds like a drum over their last seven meetings, I'm leaning toward either the Doppelbock or the Maniac. Win or lose, a big beer will probably be called for.

And I can save what I don't drink today for tomorrow night's Eagles-Washington NFL game.

Told you I had a plan.


[Posted 10:45am edt]

ADDENDUM - Iron Hill Phoenixville: News & Brews
Just returned from the promised return visit to Iron Hill Phoenixville and let me say right up front, before Lappy and the LaPierres come and kick my ass (in the real sense, not the George W. Bush "If I believe it, it must be so" sense), that there was too a beer from Iron Hill West Chester on tap at the Phoenixville event yesterday, a 4.6% German Pilsner. I misread the little beer list sheet that I brought home. My bad.

Let me say next up front (does that make sense?) that things must have gotten really wild after I left. There was a guy from the kitchen who'd been working Saturday night at the bar while I was getting my growler fill and he said it was "crazy." The "On Tap" board offered strong evidence of that: the Oktoberfest, Maniac Alt, Maibock, Doppelbock and Pikeland Pils were all gone (it indicated) and some of the remaining special brews were on the last legs, I was told by the bartender (John).

I asked him to fill my Iron Hill growler with Roggenbock and received another nice surprise. Rather than fill my empty, he pulled out a fresh new growler and filled that in exchange for mine. "The brewer wants us to make sure your beer is in a clean growler," he explained. I think this is a new (and very welcome) policy, 'cause I don't remember it ever happening before. So thanks, Tim, or management, if it's an across-the-company policy. It's brilliant and the sort of attention to detail I expect from you guys (so why am I surprised?).

As John and I chatted while he served other customers and filled the growler and I sipped my 12oz-er of Forbidden, he proved to be very informed and conversant about the beers (again, why am I surprised?) and I asked him about the customer reaction to Forbidden so far. I had grabbed a coaster and noted that the beer was "sweetly sour" and added "with grapes?" and "German chocolate cake!" beside that, matches that struck me as appropriate. Forbidden, which is served unfiltered, starts out sweet and closed with a real tartness and those conflicting characteristics remain in the aftertaste. My feeling was that rich cake, one of my favorites, would be well served if accompanied by such a brew.

John's answer surprised me. He said, essentially, "well, it's been two different beers so it's hard to say." Turns out that Forbidden was originally served filtered and was "crisper and cleaner," he said, acknowledging that he preferred it in that original form. He added that "we" (I assume the bar staff) got to taste it during various stages of its fermentation and development.

That's really smart management, getting the people who are out front selling and explaining your beer to customers involved, turning them into informed representatives who have a personal investment in the product.

Have I asked yet, why am I surprised?


[Posted 1:45pm edt]

Getting the message out calmly and rationally.
I like
this link a lot. I found it with one of my automatic daily Google searches, I want to make clear, lest you think I go searching out sites about saving money. Hey, I make my living writing about beer' I don't have any money to save.

Anyway, the link appeals to me because the guy who's site it's on shows the class here to acknowledge that his original opinion might reasonably be challenged and the willingness to post such a challenge. And it appeals to me because Al at Hop Talk's explanation of why just thinking about beer as a cheap commodity and his ten points for finding decent beer to enjoy is calm, direct, uninsulting and exactly the way to get the message across to the uninitiated. Notice, for example, how he mentions proper glassware but doesn't get bogged down on the issue and lose focus. First you lead 'em to the lake, then you teach 'em how to drink.

Hop Talk, by the way, has been part of LDO's ever growing links list for a while now. It was one of those that snuck on and I forgot to call to your attention. Consider that now done.


[Posted 10:46am edt]

15 September 2007
When gods play and mortals tremble.
I like to think of myself as, while brave enough to face up to the vagaries and unexpected conflicts of daily life, also wise enough to be nervous about occasions and venues which have the potential for exacerbating the ordinary to the degree that it could become a "situation."

That's why this day scares me more than a little bit.

The release of Baltic Thunder is being anticipated with an almost religious fervor by local beer geekdom. It will be the Second Coming, nothing less.

Now, thanks to the machinations of St. Patrick (Mullin), this will be not just the Day of The Beer. It will mark the Return of The Creator to work his miracle of Loaves and Long-Gone Brews.

Consider the possibilities.

Baker and Covaleski, mere humans, infused with the Power of the Gods.

Ruch rising toward that great Corner Barstool in the Sky in a state of pure ecstasy.

Bryson sinking to his knees in tears, overcome with emotion.

Screaming BeerAdvocates rending their clothing in frustration as they have to wait for a taste (okay, you can see that one weekly at any decent bar).

Big Dan...well, just Big Dan.

None of that may happen. All of that may happen.

I am not ashamed to admit that I fear The Day.

Of course, there's a simple solution.

Just don't go.

Yeah. Right.

See you there.


[Posted 10:50am edt]

12 September 2007
Quick Note, then off to the dentist's.
I missed the Allagash dinner at Monk's last night 'cause it didn't seem like a good idea to eat and drink a whole bunch and be out late since I have serious dental stuff going on today (in a few hours, not quite oral surgery but close enough for gummint work), but it
sounds like it a was a great time, even for the late-arriving. Ah, well...

The day will be pretty much shot, and I probably won't be posting again. Never fear, though, I won't leave you entirely to your own devices on this beautiful September day.

Conveniently enough, good ol' Dan Weirback checked in this morning with the UTube links below, which record the first Annual Human Foosball Tournament at this summer's Weyerbacher Picnic (another event I missed; I'm beginning to sense a pattern and it isn't good):


Semifinals 2

Championship Game & Awards

Championship Game & Awards 2

Brewers is a strange breed, ain't they?


[Posted 10:00am edt]

11 September 2007
"Stella!" "Stella!" Where's Marlon Brando when you really need him?
No, I don't expect you young whippersnappers to have a clue what the heading is all about. Just move along. Things will get (marginally) clearer from here on out.

Or not.

One of the fascinating things about writing regularly on a website (although it's something you just have to not think about or you end up paralyzed by the enormity of it all) is that the potential audience for each posting is in the millions. Billions, actually. And you never really know just who in that great mass of humanity might find his or her way to your tiny little corner of cyberspace.

I was reminded of this rather strikingly shortly after Michael Jackson died and I had posted my first reaction to that sad event here. Within a few hours, I received some very private emails from individuals quite close to him, one even correcting, or at least asking that I change, something I had written (which I gladly did).

But a post a about the death of a great man is one thing; this post from late last month seemed an unlikely one to stir up a comment from anyone other than the Usual Suspects.

Not so.

A gentleman who wishes to be known only as "Jack" (a good solid name which bespeaks well of his family and culture) and who is the webmaster at the (quite well done) Stella Artois blog which is "companion" to a forthcoming Stella cinematic website, turns out to have once spent an afternoon drinking at the Welsh pub which was recently named Michelin's "2007 Pub of the Year" and was moved to email me some reminiscences:

I have been reading your blog with interest over the last few weeks, especially your post on The Bell at Skenfrith, as bizarrely I was at university in Swansea in Wales and have actually frequented said alehouse! Small world, eh?

I don't recall everything about my visit, it was a few years ago, probably around 2002. Myself and some friends were driving back on a Sunday after spending the weekend back in the Midlands, UK, where our family homes were at the time. Stumbling across the place quite by chance (my friend Dave was probably driving and his directional sense is inept), we spent a very pleasant afternoon...that turned into an evening, drinking pleasantly chilled pints of cider, mixed with the odd ale, in the lush surroundings. Unfortunately, being students we were a little too poor to invest in what looked like a quality meal there, but a good time was had by all.

I have never been back since, but let me know if you're even Skenfrith way,and we'll meet up for a pint or two!

Nice. But the lad had an ulterior motive, he did, beginning with buttering me up about having been beaten in reporting the settlement between InBev and Shangy's by Don Russell:
And fear not about missing the InBev scoop, as I would like to offer you an official invitation to the exclusive online premiere of the new Stella Artois cinematic website on 15th September, 3 days before it screens to the rest of the world.

I will send you a promotional pack to accompany the mise en scene of the site, and a private access password. You will take to the misty streets to embark on an adventure formidable. Encountering an eclectic host of characters and challenges on the way, will you risk thwarting the gods of thunder in 1366--or take on the 9 step pouring ritual to produce the perfect virtual chalice of Stella Artois?

Will I? We shall see. The packet with the private access password arrive yesterday.

If I should not be heard from again after this Saturday, consider me lost in the great battle with those 1366 gods of thunder.

Or, you know, just kickin' back, chillin' out and like that.

Whatever that stuff means.


[Posted 5:00pm edt]

10 September 2007

Seven Days With Michael - The Long Weekend.
When I awakened on Friday afternoon (the morning was long lost) following this very full day, Michael and the rest of the crew were already up and about, and on their way to visit Manayunk Brewing. Good for them. I nursed a headache, consumed lots of Cappuccino and prepared for the weekend, which I knew was going to be a long hard marathon rather than the sprint we'd managed the day before.

The dinner at the Museum that night set the tone for that part of the weekend, which was "Ales and Lagers." There was one of each served with every course, the most notable, for me, being the first, which was smoked Tilapia paired with Heavyweight Cinderbock and Unibroue Raftman. That's the course I remember best because it was there and then that I began to truly appreciate smoke beers. The second course was a Pork Roulade with sausage, leeks and other goodies, paired with Victory Dark Lager and Rogue St. Rouge Red Ale; dessert was Black Forest Chocolate Cake with Celebrator Doppelbock and Lindeman's Kriek. There is a cryptic scribble at the bottom of one page of my notes--"Why Doppelbock and a Kriek? Is Kreik an ale? Well, kinda," which I assume summed up Michael's conclusion/argument for the selection.

That was the night that Michael responded quite comically to someone from the audience who asked how much a certain beer he was talking about might cost, a story I already told in my Beer Yard story announcing his death. He was in very good form that night, very funny and mostly on point, and when he did wander a bit, he recovered with one of his more famous explanations (I don't think this was the first time her ever used it), "I do tend to digress and that's one of the benefits of beverage alcohol." He also managed to enjoy most of his meal amidst a crowd that was perhaps more genteel and polite than most of those he encountered at beer events. I had been seated next to him the previous year at a Monk's dinner and been stunned by the half-eaten courses and double row of barely sipped glasses of beer that remained at his place in the end, because of all the interruptions. At the Museum dinner, it was almost like I was seated next to just another guest. Almost.

Next day's three-session tasting event also had the Ale/Lager theme: "What Difference Does The Difference Make?" There were ten beers, mostly local, at the tutored part of the event: Manayunk Kellerbier, Independence Kolsch, Nodding Head Monkey Knife Fight, Iron Hill Grand Cru, Penn Pilsner, Stoudt American Pale Ale, DeGroen's Marzen, Brooklyn Brown Ale, Victory St. Victorious Doppelbock and Southampton Barleywine. I was too busy moving around taking photos to sit down and listen.

Michael always said that this day was the most difficult one he had each year, going all the way back to the first ever such, which was held outdoors in a tent, on a cold and rainy day, with helicopters from the nearby University Hospital drowning out much of what he said, all that complicated by the fact that he was wearing a summer-weight suit and near freezing by the time he was done. He staying at the home of Museum Catering's Bruce Nichols that weekend and he recalled that when they got there afterwards, he collapsed on the living room floor and demanded "bring me wine." When Bruce came back with a glass, Michael snorted, "I meant the entire bottle."

I can tell you, having stayed through it all (and I wasn't working in the public sense Michael was), it is a very, very long day.

Sunday dinner at Monk's had as its theme "The New Breweries of Belgium." We went through five courses and 12 beers, which is probably why my notes are so sparse and my memory even more so. I had dragooned Tom Peters into putting me next to Michael again because of the story I was writing (Tom likes to move us writers around some, with only George Hummel, who earns his keep by being the toastmaster for every Monk's affair, the only permanent fixture, along with wife Nancy). I don't seem to have taken any notes on anything private that happened during the meal. Here, though, was Michael addressing the crowd that night with one of those comments that they ought to put on a plaque and mount at Monk's:

The most avant-garde, most advanced tastings are those here at Monk's, some of the most unusual in the world. Sometimes they are suggested by me--I say let's get this which is impossible to get and Tom goes and gets it.
And here he was that same night offering an opinion that maybe should be on a similar plaque in every brewpub and good beer bar in the nation:
The country which has the most diverse selection of beers anywhere in the world is America.
The night's beers, you ask? Kerkhorn Bink (draught) and Drie Fonteinen Gueuze (a blend of half Drie Fonteinen Lambic and half Giardin Lambic) as an Amuse Bouche; Duysters Loterbol (draught) and Achel 8 Trappist Ale with snails in hazelnut butter; Ellezelloise Saison 2000 and De Proef Flemish Primitive with a Scallop and a Salmon Mousseline; Val Dieu Brune and DeRanke XX Bitter with Veal Cheeks braised in the Brune; Uitzet Driuven abd Boelens Bieken with a cheese plate, and Ellezelloise Hercule Stout and Dri Fonteinen Kriek with Chocolate Cake filled with Chocolate Espresso Ganache filling.

Yeah, wow.

It was the previous year, I think, that Michael reall laand I can't let the story go untold. Michael told Tom that, for the "All Trappiste Dinner" which was to feature a beer from every current Trappist brewery, that he knew it would be impossible for them to get and pour Achel, which had only recently been certified Trappist and which, even in Belgium, was rarely poured anywhere but at the monastery. As Tom told me back then, "I looked at Fergie, he looked at me and we both said 'Road Trip!' The truth was, I hadn't even heard of Achel until Michael told us about it, but we flew over there, carrying some containers, got them to let us visit and talked them, finally, into allowing us to fill up our cans. We carried them home, stored them in the basement for a couple of wee and here we are."

Indeed. And there we were. But that evening was over and Monday would be a day of rest, before I followed Michael down to Washington, DC for two more major events, including his 60th Birthday party. There would be a series of telephone calls in-between s Michael fretted whether or not the beers he wanted would waiting in the nation's capitol to greet him when he arrived and used me as his sounding board for his concerns.

That's coming soon in the third and final installment of "Seven Days With Michael."


[Posted 5:20pm edt]

9 September 2007
Digressing, but not nearly so well as The Master.
I dropped by Sly Fox Phoenixville early yesterday evening to purchase a growler of the just-tapped Oktoberfest for consumption during today's initial NFL games, the Eagles-Packers one being the focus of the afternoon. I also paid the requisite "Incubus Friday" devotion by consuming a glass of same, along with a pint of the O'fest and a glass of Grisette (which will soon be gone for another year).

I was joined briefly by The O'Reilly Himself, who was in the house to give the nightly beer presentation to the waitstaff. Ah, the sight of all those young eyes fastened in rapt attention and with deep admiration on the man as he spun his verbal web of breweriosity might have brought a tear to the eye of a lesser man than I. We then had a pleasant chat about the goings-on in the local brew scene and it was all good, although you'd think the brewer might stand a man to pint, wouldn't you?

A Fox regular came in and took the stool to my right and ordered an Incubus of his own. When he had it in hand, he raised it in our direction and said "To Michael Jackson. I just heard the news today." Quoth I, immediately after we all had sipped, in that style which makes so endearing, "Good lord, man, where in hell have you been." "Colorado," he said. Now Colorado might be one of the three or four least likely places in the world where the news of Michael's demise would go unmentioned, but it turns out he'd been wandering in the wild, deliberately blotting out all contact with and news of the workaday world.

Two decades back, in the company of my then-wife's family, I went on a rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho and we had done the same, avoiding all contact with the outside world (never mind that the company running our venture had to helicopter us in a new supply of beer and tequila on the third day since we had already consumed the quantity they thought would last us five; that was an emergency). Because the birthday of the patriarch of that clan, a man named Wheeler, fell during the trip, we celebrated it around the campfire and I wrote an appropriate song/poem to recite which I called "The White Water Wheeler Blues." It built up to a line that read something like "the world could end tomorrow and we'd be two weeks getting the news," so I could appreciate that isolation thing.

Himself repaired out to the terrace to await wife Whitney and daughter Patience in lieu of buying me that beer and when I departed, growler in hand, they hailed me over to say hello. I can report that Patience is developing her mother's features rather than her father's, which only bodes well for her future. They, as proud parents will, wanted the poor girl to show off, to high-five me or say hello, anything. Patience instead eyed me with that look of concerned and disdain which I am so familiar with, having received it with regularity from women of all ages. It was still quite warm there in the sun, but what I saw developing on mommy and daddy's brows was, I am pretty certain, flop-sweat rather than a reaction to the heat. There is nothing so desperate as a parent whose offspring will not perform.

Not to worry. Glancing down to the growler in my hand, Patience pointed (or perhaps reached out to grab for, it wasn't entirely clear) and said, very distinctly, "beer."

What this might tell us about the parenting she is receiving I leave for you to decide. My work here is done.

Coming Tomorrow: "Seven Days With Michael Jackson - The Long Weekend" (part two of a three-part recollection)


[Posted 10:00am edt]

7 September 2007
We received at the Beer Yard site this week an email from Jon Medlinsky, a bartender at Chick's Cafe & Wine Bar in South Philadelphia, asking us to list on the Calendar there an "Italian Beer Dinner" on September 24. He attached a Word document with details.

I was blown away.

Here, from the recently launched I'll Have Another STOUT, the beer blog of Suzanne Woods, founder of In Pursuit of Ale, Philadelphia's really cool women's beer club, Sly Fox sales rep and erstwhile bartender (who had the energy to put all this online which I lacked) is the skinny (slightly edited to fit our format):

Curriculum di Birra

Birrifico Italiano's La Flourette (3.8% abv), alight yet wonderfully complex, multi-layered beer brewed with whole roses, violets, elderberry,honey and black pepper, paired with Oysters on the half shell, elderberry mignonette.

Birreria Baladin's Nora (6.8% abv), a tripel-style beer made from an ancient Egyptian recipe featuring unmalted kamut, this triple style brew uses a bare minimum of hops as a preservative, instead utilizing ginger, myrrh, and orange peel for its spicy character, paired with Grilled swordfish with an orange and ancho chile glaze, micro arugula salad.

Birrifico Montegioco's Demon Hunter(8.5% abv), a malt-driven, dark amber, strong ale with flavors of plums, caramel, toffee and chestnuts, that finishes on decidedly dry hoppy note, paired with Slow braised wild boar, porcini mushrooms, creamy polenta, and

Birrifico Italiano's Scires (7% abv), a blend of young and old sour beers, that is brewed with wild yeast and seasonal sweet black cherries. The result is a fairly dry, slightly funky, fresh cherry ale with a lingering sour finish, paired with Cherry and ricotta tart, pistachio crumble.

The beers are all from B. United and rep Jon Lundbom will be on hand for both seatings (6:30 and 8:30), plus Medlinsky promises "a couple additional surprise beers for sampling after each session."

Amazing? How's this? The price for the meal and beers is $45.

I rarely pimp beer dinners but this one definitely caught my attention. When asked for some background, Medlinsky (who owned up to being a regular Beer Yard customer and part of a beer club which gets its brews there) responded most enthusiastically and extensively. I'm going with his spelling for now but will do some checking and, if necessary correcting, later:

I am really excited for the Italian beer dinner. It could be a nice introduction to these fabulous brews for a lot of people. We plan to do a different beer event every month (last Monday of each month, I think). The next one will be a Michigan beer dinner(Bell's, Jolly Pumpkin, Founders, Arcadia, etc.) beer dinner i think. We have ideas for a French beer dinner, a second Italian tasting (more beer, less food), then a Belgian Trappist dinner.

We have a small but growing beer list, with many interesting, and diverse choices. Our drafts currently include: Abbaye de Leffe Blonde, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Sly Fox O'Reilly's Stout and Helles Lager (soon to be either Oktoberfest or Incubus Tripel), Bell's Two Hearted Ale and Oberon(which will probably turn into Ramstein Winter Weisse when available), Weistephaner HefeWeise (maybe turning into an Italian microbrew pilsner called Tipopils or La Flourette) and Peroni (we have a strong Italian American following)!

Our Bottles include Rochefort 6, Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere, Chimay Cinq Cents, Alhambra Negra, Jever Pilsner, Clos Normand Cider, Cherish Framboise and Brooklyn Brown Ale, among others.

I have a lot of work to do on the list, but I'm confident that in a month or two, Chick's will be a really interesting beer destination. Chick's is a special place, in that it has a rich history and a strong commitment to providing great wine (50+ by the glass, all from France, Italy, and Spain), beer (my job), and Cocktails (we have an amazing bartender named Katie Loeb, who fashions historically minded, yet very creative, hand crafted cocktails).

Our food menu has many small plates to complement these interesting beverages, and the atmosphere is friendly, welcoming and romantic. I have high hopes for the place, and hope you will come check it out sometime soon.

Oh, you can count on that, my friend. In fact, within the hour I'll be talking to some folks to try and convince they we ought to be there on the 24th.

I used to joke that, given my heritage, I enjoy the best of all possible gustatory situations, with an appreciation for Italian food and Irish whiskey (beer doesn't fit that little paradigm, so don't get all hissy), which may be why this place sounds like a little bit of heaven to me.

To be fair, though, I should note that there's another neato-swell Italian Menu/Good Beer event listed in great detail on Suzanne's site as well, a a Sly Fox dinner at James, at another very good price, $65, and happening the week prior to the one at Chick's. And she also has the story on the forthcoming Maker's Local, which promises to be another destination for beer lovers.

I've added both Another STOUT and Chick's to our Links list. I mean, why wouldn't I?


[Posted 4:08pm edt]

Feeding the rumor mill.
The entity I am not yet allowed to reveal which will likely take over the site of the former Independence Brew Pub has put the brewhouse up for sale and I am told that a local brewery, not the one you might expect, is seriously sniffing around. Then again, I'm told that the local brewery which you might expect is doing the same. At least one of the two suitors is apparently very anxious to keep it all very quiet.

Okay, not much in the way of facts there, I admit, but it will give you something to talk about. Feel free to email me guesses at the "Add A Comment" link below.


[Posted 11:10am edt]

6 September 2007
On Distribution: a posting and an apology.
The story at the Sly Fox site I promised to post yesterday didn't make it until just a few minutes ago. Even I can't do all the things I think I can do as fast as I think I can. 'Tis a puzzlement.

Anyway, you can read it here. Note also that draught 2007 Oktoberfest and Black Raspberry Reserve in 750ml bottles are now available at both pubs. Could make for a fun Incubus Friday tomorrow.

Seeing the Fox brand now in the hands of two of the largest distributors in the East, nay, the nation, reminds me of something. Remember when we were all really bent out of shape because Victory switched from Friedland Distribution to Penn? Not all the emotional reaction because of the "dance with the one that brung ya" mindset we had (which is another story), but the augments that the brand would get lost in a big Bud house and they'd regret the move sooner or later.

We were, of course, dead wrong and Victory was right. They saw before most of us where things were going and acted. I give a lot of the credit to sales guy Steve German (who came from Gretz) but, in the end, it's Bill and Ron who deserve the kudos...and, I guess, this apology.

Don't tell Covaleski, though. I'm not sure I could stand it next time I saw him.


[Posted 12:22:pm edt]

Hard to believe.
Lew gets lucky. I know, I know, it's a damned disturbing image but it's not what you think. To understand my clever little joke, though, you'll have to read "Buzz" all the way to the end. Or just skip down. Whatever.


[Posted 12:21pm edt]

5 September 2007
News: Belgian Cafe opens Sept. 12, Sly Fox moves to Manhattan Beer Distributors.
Joe Sixpack has spilled the beans about The Belgian Cafe opening next Wednesday, so who am I to sit on it? That's their "ready for the public" date Tom Peters told me last night, although there will be a soft "friends and family" thing earlier in the week. Peters' schedule for the next ten days or so is amazing. He's off to Belgium tomorrow to Sunday, then back for the Allagash dinner at Monk's Tuesday night and the Wednesday opening, then to London for the Michael Jackson funeral, (which is going to be a small affair with a limited number of guests invited).

The distribution change story I said yesterday would come out this week is the acquisition of the Sly Fox brand in New York by Manhattan Beer Distributors, the fourth largest wholesaler in the country according to Beverage World magazine. Manhattan recently created a Specialty Beer division, in part as a reaction to losing the InBev brands a la Shangy's. I'll have a story up on the Sly Fox News Page later today. With the largest distributor in the Philadelphia region (Origlio) and now the largest in New York out there pushing the beers, Mr. O'Reilly and the gang will really be under the gun trying to produce enough to meet the demand. There are worse problems.


[Posted 9:55am edt]

4 September 2007
Slipped right by me.
Remember how I was teasing you all last month about a big legal battle in this area had been settled but it wasn't the one that you'd all assume? Well, the news is out. I got distracted in there someplace, lost my focus, call it what you will, My bad. Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, on the other hand, got the scoop.

It will be interesting to see where all this leads.

Another distribution story, about a local brand shift, will be announced this week, by the way. I won't miss that one. Promise.


[Posted 8:40am edt]

3 September 2007
The beat goes on.
Michael Jackson memories continue to flood the web (including more of my own, in the posting following this one).

One I should already have brought to your attention is Michael's final column for All About Beer. It is one of his best ever, I think, even if some of the impact comes as a result of his dying so shortly thereafter. This one may bring tears to your eyes.

Two important visual contributions have been posted recently. There is this nearly ten-minute video preview on UTube of an interview conducted by Dan Shelton in early August which provides a look at Michael's famous London office and his thoughts on his career, on Parkinson's and his somewhat prescient comments on his looming demise. This is only part of their talk, with the whole thing promised soon. Thanks to Lew for the link.

And over here, the photos dated September 1, 2007 are likely the last ones ever taken of Michael, although where and for what occasion isn't identified. They were taken and are copyrighted by "rbisilva" are some are among the best recent ones of Michael I've seen.

I keep telling myself that enough is enough and that I should stop posting these links and references but so many are so good and so touching that I expect I'll just keep going until the pain goes away.


[Posted 11:28am edt]

Seven days with Michael - Easton, Bethlehem & Really Big Beers in Philadelphia (a recollection in three parts).
In late March of 2002, Michael Jackson was scheduled to come to Philadelphia for his 12th Tutored Tasting at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology (he came 18 years in a row, I should note, having written 17 earlier) and second or third annual dinner at Monk's Cafe, both as part of the long-running The Book & The Cook event each year.

I was already scheduled to write about the B&C part of the trip for Celebrator Beer News, but knowing that Michael would proceed from here to Washington, DC for his annual beer presentation at the National Geographic and his once-in-a-life time 60th birthday celebration at the Brickskeller, I figured I could do more, perhaps a piece for a mainstream magazine to whose audience all of this would be pure and new and perhaps even informative. A brand-new magazine in Philadelphia signed on for that and, if I was a bit nervous about the fact that my "editor" was very young and perhaps not possessed of as much authority as I might have liked, I bought into her enthusiasm for it all set up with Michael, through his long-time assistant Owen, to follow him from his arrival in the area on Thursday, March 19, through the final party on Wednesday, March 26.

As it turned out, I was right to doubt that the magazine commitment wasn't worth very much, but I had one of the most amazing weeks of my life preparing to write a story which never saw print. I have salvaged enough of it, including what I am now writing here, to not feel all that bad about how it turned out, but I always regretted not living up to Michael's claim throughout those seven days that I would turn out to be his "Boswell" ( explained here for those of a non-literary bent). C'est la vie.

New Jersey beer writers Mark Haynie and Gary Monterosso were in their second or third year of being Michael's voluntary chauffeurs that spring, and I arranged to meet them at Metropark, an Amtrak stop on New Jersey which is nothing but a glorified parking lot (one used by some 4 million commuters each year), where Michael would arrive from New York City. He was running late and when he finally arrived, hoping to keep within striking distance of our schedule, we hustled him into the car rather unceremoniously and set out for and jumped into the car and set out for Easton and Weyerbacher Brewing Company. Along the way, Michael pumped me for information about our destination brewery and a clearer picture of what I was attempting to achieve with my intended story. I answered the latter inquiries as clearly and truthfully as I could; as for the former, I tried my best to prepare him for Dan Weirback without scaring into leaping out of the car.

A properly excited Dan insisted on showing him every inch of the brewery and then led us to long table laid out with a bottle of all nine beers that Weyerbacher had available (as I've written before, Dan Weirback never met a beer he didn't want to brew). Michael dutifully tasted each and every one, asking questions about most and writing down notes in that famous notebook of his. We were there for nearly three hours.

Then it was back into the car for a mad dash down to Bethlehem and Bethlehem Brew Works, roughly two hours late, a figure which went to four hours after we spent another two at BBW. Not that anyone was complaining. For me, and perhaps Mark and Gary, it was a first visit there since they'd created the Belgian bar in the basement, so while Michael once again work at his craft interviewing brewer Jeff Fegley(and I took some notes as well, which should be obvious as this account progresses), we took to sampling some of the more exotic imports, including a 1999 Framboise. Thankfully, we got some food into our stomaches as well.

The last leg of the journey was an even madder dash down to Philadelphia , where we first got Michael registered at his hotel and then head to Nodding Head where Ale Street News was sponsoring "The World's Strongest Beers" competition, hosted by Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione and Boston Beer's Grant Wood. We arrived just in time for the final showdown between Sam Adams Millennium (205 abv) and Utpopias (24% abv) and Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout (18% abv) and Raison d'Extra (20%). And, Sam, lord love him, had some of the new Dogfish Rum with him just in case...

I don't remember much after that, except that I somehow got home alive.

NEXT: A Weekend in Philadelphia.


[Posted 11:26am edt]

2 September 2007
More Jackson Obits & Memories.
The death of Michael Jackson has finally leaked out to the mainstream press. Among the obituaries so far, The Washington Post has the longest and most comprehensive one I've seen, adding several specifics and some, to me at least, new information to the picture of his life.

Reminiscences among the beer bloggers also continue apace. One of the most memorable has been written by Tomme Arthur:

That bottle is still staring me down and in no time flat, I might be walking away from what promises to be an amazing booze experience. I steel my nerves. I had been mulling over a plan in my head. Suddenly, Michael spins back around to his laptop to save his work for the night. I instantly grabbed the bottle of Scotch, rip off the cork and pull the largest swig I thought my mouth could handle. Ambrosia never felt so guilty, so good or so stolen. My amigos stared in disbelief as I calmly replaced the cork in the bottle, set it on the table and rubbed my now fiery belly to let them know I was satiated. 1963 Macallan. Yep! I could cross that one off my list. And it was AMAZING!!!
You'll have to go read the whole thing to see what that's all about. It's worth your time, trust me.


[Posted 12:25pm edt]

I don't want to get you all agitated (a little agitated? Maybe.) but there's another blockbuster story developing in these parts (just one of a set, collect them all), this time in the suburbs. It may be another month or two before anyone's ready to spill the beans on the record, but you'll be the first to know....aside from me and the person who told me, of course.

It is, you will be pleased to know for now, Very Good News.


[Posted 12:23pm edt]

The complete August 2007 postings have been archived here.

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

--A. E. Houseman

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