Excitement for Twin Leaf Brewery 

Twin Leaf Brewery LogoWe were down in Asheville a couple weekends ago, visiting Steph, Tim and Jake, and drinking in (quite literally) all that the mountain town had to offer. Steph and Tim were great hosts, and we were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at their brewery, Twin Leaf, set to open in early 2014.

Steph and Tim have some fantastic plans for their South Slope location, but I’m not going to share them here … instead you’ll need to get your butts down to Asheville in 2014 to see for yourself! Instead, I just wanted to say how excited we are for Steph, Tim and our cute-as-hell nephew Jake, and how proud we are of them. They have worked EXTREMELY hard to get to where they are, with construction officially beginning, now that they have their federal brewing license (there were some tense weeks for them as the government shutdown threatened to wreak some real havoc with their plans). And I’m sure they’re going to meet more challenges in the future as they work to launch their dream.

But they can do it. They’ve gone to school for brewing, they’ve done the math (and I’m sure there was LOTS of it). They’ve made plan after plan after plan. But most importantly, they’re passionate about beer and brewing, and they have a lot to offer Asheville.

To Steph and Tim: You guys got us started on our own homebrewing journey. We love you and can’t wait to sit at your brewery and have some official Twin Leaf beers.

Twin Leaf




Plan Your Brewery Trip With Ease 

Brew TrailsYou all know how much Ray and I love a good beer excursion. Our most recent one was to Asheville, where aside from drinking all of Steph and Tim’s beer, we managed to go to 7 different breweries/brew pubs in less than 3.5 days. We’re overachievers.

So when the following press release landed in my inbox today, I knew it was something worth sharing.

Beer lovers, your prayers have been answered—visiting breweries just got easier. Brew Trail, the ultimate compilation of brewery information, has launched and promises to make beer tourism a one-stop planning experience.

According to the Brewer’s Association, there are 2,538 breweries and brewpubs operating in the country (the most since the 1880s) and only Brew Trail has tracked them all, including meticulous key details like brewery tour and tasting room schedules. Never before has so much detailed brewery data been available on one site.

With Brew Trail’s Trip Planner, aficionados can plot out a multi-state tour or simply check out some new breweries in town, easily incorporating each brewery’s schedule to cover ground most efficiently. It’s all free, and it’s optimized for mobile devices. From pilsners in Portland to stouts in St. Louis, Brew Trail will help plan a fantastic expedition along America’s beer trail.

“It’s been a true labor of love.  A very, very detailed labor of love,” said Brew Trail co-founder Chris Margonis. “Why did we start the site? My buddy and I love beer, it’s as simple as that. And when we realized there weren’t any sites like this—a one-stop spot for all the brewery details along with brewery tour and tasting room times, we devoted ourselves even more to our hobby. We want Brew Trail to be seen as a promotional asset for all craft breweries – to help them level the playing field and gain recognition among the big boys. And we think Brew Trail also has the potential to become an excellent tool for state and local tourism boards as more and more localities launch their own beer trails.”

The US craft beer movement has been exploding, with an astounding 10% annual growth—even while overall beer consumption has been declining slightly in favor of wine and spirits. Although it makes sense given that craft beers have similar complexities and food pairings as wine. Five out of 10 fastest growing beer brands are craft (Dale’s Pale Ale, Lagunitas, Ranger, Torpedo, Shiner) and several of them  have been seeing a mind-boggling 45% growth in sales. With this new, overwhelming beer awareness, Brew Trail arrives at the perfect time to make a potential mark on the scene and establish itself within the craft beer culture.




Lording Over the Chicago Brew Scene: Three Floyds Brewing Company 

Up Kilt

This guest post is from Instawares Restaurant Blog, an online publication here you can keep up to date on all the latest in the food service industry.

Three Floyds Brewing Company is located in Munster, Indiana. Distributing its craft beer locally to Northwest Indiana and Chicago, Three Floyds has become internationally known for its exceptional Dark Lord Imperial Stout, a brew that is regarded as one of the world’s best beers. The brewery also features its own pub that looks onto the brewery’s huge kettles. For beer enthusiasts visiting the Chicago area, a trip to Three Floyds is a must.

The brewery was founded in Hammond, Indiana in 1996 and is a family-run business.  Brothers Nick and Simon Floyd along with their father, Mike Floyd, have seen their brewery go from a modest warehouse venue to a new 15-bbl brewhouse. The facility is now located in Munster, Indiana where it has been concocting unusual craft beers since 2000. In 2005, the brewery opened a pub on the premises; it serves exceptional pub fare with a vast selection of imported craft beers and, of course, Three Floyds various beers, such as mainstay beers Alpha King (American pale), Gumball Head (American wheat), Robert the Bruce (Scottish ale), and Dreadnaught (Imperial IPA). These beers are bottled and are distributed locally. However, the pub also serves limited brews that are not available anywhere else.

For instance, the award-winning Dark Lord is only available one day a year—on Dark Lord Day held annually in the spring. This peculiarly wonderful Russian stout boasts Intelligentsia coffee and Mexican vanilla. Beer enthusiasts rave about its outstanding taste; the Dark Lord festival is held at the brewery and tickets are required.

Other seasonal beers also attract beer lovers to Three Floyds:

  • Munster Fest is a Bavarian-style beer brewed specially for Oktoberfest, containing traditional German ingredients; its bold taste harkens back to barbarian days of old.
  • Apocalypse Cow is a double IPA with a rich malt body complemented by floral and citrus flavors.
  • Rabid Rabbit is styled after Franco-Belgian farmhouse beers and features a complex array of spices.

These beers tend to boast higher-than-average alcohol content, but are also known for their intense flavors and superb crafting.

As for food, the pub menu changes from time to time, but popular mainstays include scotched eggs with pork and chicken sausage, mussels in mustard beurre blanc, pretzel roll burgers, and goat cheese pizza. The menu also features gourmet specials that pair exquisitely with Three Floyds beers. Although microbreweries are relatively common around the Chicago area, Three Floyds is a stand out that is growing in fame.




2014 Brewhouse Rarities Series Announced by Flying Dog 

Flying Dog BreweryThe Flying Dog staff have returned from the annual Brewhouse Rarities pitch session at Gambrill State Park, and craft beer enthusiasts can rejoice. Brewmaster Matt Brophy and his crew of brewers have evaluated the suggestions and selected eight to brew in 2014.

According to Brophy, the “pitches range from unearthing ancient beer styles to experimenting with new and innovative ingredients.”

Starting Jan. 1, Flying Dog will release a new Brewhouse Rarity every six weeks, exclusively in the mid-Atlantic markets (lucky us!) The chosen 8 are:

  • Mango Habanero IPA
  • Mint Chocolate Stout
  • Ginger Beer
  • Agave Lager
  • Lemongrass Rice Ale
  • Hoppy American Wheat
  • Honey Ale
  • Dopplebock

Of the 8, all will be available on draft, and Mint Chocolate Stout, Agave Lager, Hoppy American Wheat and Dopplebock will be available on draft and in 6-packs.

I’m really excited about getting my hands on some of these beers, especially the mint chocolate stout (oh, the things I could bake with it!)




5 Fall Brews You Need to Try 

Southern Tier PumpkingThere’s a lot to love about the fall season: the more comfortable clothes, the smells of chimneys and grills, and, of course, the autumn-only brews. And what better way to enjoy those beverages than by having a few while catching up on your gaming catalog? That goes for both console and online gamers, though especially the latter if you dabble in gambling. Online casino Betfair, for example, allows all the luxuries (i.e., winning money) of going to an actual casino without actually going to a casino. Because who wants to deal with parking, crowds, and lackluster beer selection. Also, when you stay home to do a bit of gaming, you’ll be able to enjoy tastier (and cheaper) brews than those available at a smoke-filled venue. Now let’s get to the brews:

  • Sierra Nevada’s devESTATEtion: Despite having a lackluster estate ale this year because of a bad harvest, Sierra Nevada went back to the drawing board and churned out a superb IPA with citrus notes and great hop flavor. The only problem is that it’s super-limited, so you might have some trouble finding a bottle. If you do, though, don’t pass it up.
  • Southern Tier’s Pumking: We just had to have one pumpkin-flavored beer on here. The ale is easily the best pumpkin-related brew you could imagine thanks to its caramel notes and one hell of a kick. Unlike others of its ilk, it boasts a strong ABV at 8.6 percent.
  • Avery’s The Kaiser: In addition to a pumpkin beer, we needed to include at least one Oktoberfest. And without question, the Kaiser is the way to go if you’re a fan of these full-bodied and toasty brews. It’s also got a huge kick to it at 10.2 percent ABV, so pace yourself.
  • Sixpoint’s Autumnation: If you like your beer to have a nice dose of bitterness in addition to citrus/berry notes, you need to try the Autumnation. What’s especially fun about this particular brew is that Sixpoint allows its fans to pick the hops used in the batch. The Mosaic hops chosen give away to the taste we just described.
  • Founders’ Breakfast Stout: Chocolate and coffee-flavored beer drinkers: You better be enjoying this brew or else you are seriously missing out. If you’re unfamiliar, save it for a cold and rainy day and it’ll for sure warm you up.

If you get your hands on one of these, let us know what you think in the comments!




Enjoying Flying Dog’s Brewhouse Rarities Green Tea Imperial Stout 

Flying Dog Brewhouse Rarities Green Tea Imperial StoutThanks to the generous folks at Flying Dog, I was able to try 1 of the 3 bottled Brewhouse Rarities, the 10% Green Tea Imperial Stout. The beer was released in February 2013 and follows the simple criteria that all the rarities are held to: “Too weird to live, too rare to die.”

Ray and I sat down with a 750 mL of the beer Wednesday night, and here are our thoughts:

The beer pours jet black and opaque with a fluffy mocha head that lingers. I picked up sweet chocolate notes in the aroma, while Ray found nutty and crisp notes.

There was a medium mouthfeel, and I found that the stout coated my tongue, but pleasantly (no motor oil slickishness here).

I found the Green Tea Imperial Stout to be mega chocolatey, yet still balanced. Ray noticed a lot of dark fruit and molasses, as well as chocolate.

Unfortunately, neither one of us could pick up any green tea notes.

As I let the beer warm in my glass for 15-20 minutes, I thought I dedicated a slight herbal bitterness, but it was so hard to tell. I had Ray check and recheck, because he drinks green tea regularly, while I do not. He was unable to taste any green tea.

That said, this is an excellent imperial stout. The higher ABV is obvious, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. Ray felt that this style wasn’t the one to pair with green tea—maybe a pale ale would have been better?

Either way, I’m excited to work this beer into a baked good, which I plan to feature on my baking blog, Cupcake Friday Project. Stay tuned!

Disclosure: Flying Dog provided me with two bottles of Green Tea Imperial Stout so I could review it and develop a recipe for it on Cupcake Friday Project. My opinions are my own.






ACHIEVEability’s Food for Thought 2013 Event Is a Tasty Success 

Food for Thought

Saturday night, Ray and I attended ACHIEVEability’s Food for Thought 2013. Hosted at Urban Outfitter’s GORGEOUS Philadelphia Naval Yard headquarters, it was a night full of amazing food, drinks, and charitable giving.

After looking at the list of Philadelphia restaurants and chefs participating, we were extremely excited. Our favorite dishes included:

  • Foie gras soup with rose petal garnish and pumpernickel garnish from Kevin Sbraga of Sbraga (this was our ULTIMATE favorite … so luscious and flavorful)
  • Salmon tartar with lentils and blood orange vinaigrette from Peter Woolsey of Bistrot la Minette
  • Duck foie gras meatballs (in a super tasty broth!) from Ben Puchowitz of Matyson/CHeU Noodle Bar
  • Mortadella hot dog with spicy pickles and cabbage relish from Alla Spina, paired with Yards Brewing Co.’s IPA.

Mortadella hot dog and Yards IPAThe pairing of the mortadella hot dog and the IPA was great, though I wish they had stationed the two next to each other (Shake Shack was wedged in between, which was a little confusing). After we finished sharing our half of a hot dog, Ray said, “I want more. I want another hot dog.” So that means we’ll need to finally get over to Alla Spina!

Marcie Turney of Barbuzzo, Lolita and Jamonera also had two amazing offerings at her station: her famous  salted caramel budino, as well as a small bite that was composed of bread, a fresh cheese and cured pork that she was carving right at her table (I don’t have the specifics of the dish because her table was signless and she was near the band, so we couldn’t quite hear her). It was absolutely delicious, with so many developing flavors that you didn’t want to stop chewing to swallow. Marcie always wows us, and I was glad to see her at the event, along with all the other chefs who took the time to serve guests their fantastic food.

Disclosure: ACHIEVEability gave Ray and me 2 press passes to attend the Food for Thought 2013 event.




Beer Serves America … Literally 


[Editor’s Note: While AB InBev and MillerCoors are known as the main funders of the Beer Institute, I still found these numbers to be interesting and wanted to share.]

Washington, D.C.—A new economic impact study released today shows America’s beer industry—made up of brewers, beer importers, beer distributors, brewer suppliers and retailers—directly and indirectly contributes $246.6 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

The American beer industry includes:

  • 2,851 brewing establishment
  • 3,728 distributors
  • 576,353 retailers

Jointly commissioned by the Beer Institute (BI) and the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), the Beer Serves America study shows that the industry generates more than two million American jobs, accounting for nearly $79 billion in wages and benefits and more than $246.6 billion in economic activity. The industry also contributed $49.1 billion dollars in the form of business, personal and consumption taxes in 2012.

“Beer serves America at virtually every level of the economy, from the two million employees, to the small businesses in middle class communities, and the important tax revenues at the local, state and national levels,” said Tom Long, CEO of MillerCoors and chairman of the Beer Institute. “From farmers to factory-workers, from brewery-hands to bartenders, beer puts Americans to work.”

“As independent businesses, America’s licensed beer distributors are proud to provide more than 130,000 quality jobs with solid wages and great benefits to employees in every state and congressional district across the country,” said Bob Archer, president of Blue Ridge Beverage Co., Inc. in Salem, Virginia, and chairman of NBWA.

According to the study, the beer industry directly employs nearly 1.1 million people, paying nearly $31.8 billion in wages and benefits, among brewers, distributors and retailers, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants, bars and stadiums. Indirectly, the industry generates nearly $153.2 billion in economic activity in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation and other sectors.

“In addition to providing quality jobs with solid wages, the independent, three-tier beer distribution system provides transparency and accountability and works to ensure alcoholic beverages are sold only to licensed retailers who in turn are responsible for selling only to adults of legal drinking age,” added NBWA President Craig Purser.  “This time-tested system, in which America’s beer distributors play a critical role, ensures that brewers of all sizes can reach a wide network of retailers and American consumers can enjoy tremendous choice and variety—13,000 different labels of beer—at a great value.”

“These numbers demonstrate that our industry continues to create quality jobs, build our economy and generate important domestic revenue in an economy that needs every job we can support,” said Joe McClain, president of the Beer Institute. “For this reason, it is important that state and federal officials consider equitable tax policies and avoid harming an industry that is so effectively aiding economic growth.”

The Beer Serves America economic impact study was conducted by John Dunham & Associates based in New York City and covers data compiled in 2012. The complete study, including state-by-state and congressional district breakdowns of economic contributions, is available at

The Beer Institute, established in 1986, is the national trade association for the brewing industry, representing both large and small brewers, as well as importers and industry suppliers. The Institute is committed to the development of sound public policy and to the values of civic duty and personal responsibility:

The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) represents the interests of 3,300 licensed, independent beer distributor operations in every state, congressional district and media market across the country. Beer distributors are committed to ensuring alcohol is provided safely and responsibly to consumers of legal drinking age through the three-tier, state-based system of alcohol regulation and distribution. To learn more about America’s Beer Distributors, visit




Yards Brewing Co. Steps It Up as Food for Thought Beer Sponsor 


On March 23, ACHIEVEability is hosting its 2013 Food for Thought fundraiser in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The night will be filled with amazing small plates from more than 25 of the top chefs and restaurants in the City of Brotherly Love, and for all you beer lovers out there, you’re not forgotten: Yards Brewing Co. is the event’s exclusive beer sponsor.

If you’re a Philly beer fan, then you know and love Yards–their beers are solid classics. Not a lot of muss and fuss, no strange ingredients, just hitting all the notes in styles ranging from pale ales to stouts and porters and a spring-time favorite, saison.

The brewery with its brewing roots in British-style ales will be pouring 2 favorites: the Philadelphia Pale Ale (a favorite of mine … so crisp!) and Brawler.

But here’s an even more exciting tidbit: If you happen to find yourself attending Food for Thought (which you really should … it’s SUCH a great cause), then don’t miss the pairing that Yards and Alla Spina have in store for you. Yards will be pairing their IPA with Alla Spina’s mortadello hotdogs, which are typically served at the restaurant with spicy pickles and cabbage relish. And we all know how well IPAs pair with spicy foods, so this is going to be a real treat.

Food for Thought

ACHIEVEability is an agency that permanently breaks the cycle of poverty for low-income, single-parent and homeless families. ACHIEVEability provides housing and supportive services so parents can pursue higher education and become self-sufficient. Everything the organization does promotes accountability for families. This year, ACHIEVEability is celebrating 31 years of helping families achieve self-sufficiency.

The event is a dream for those who love the great food of Philadelphia. Attendees will be able to sample food, using sustainable VerTerra plates and flatware, from more than 25 of the top chefs and restaurants in the city. There are a lot of my favorite restaurants and chefs on the list, but I’m most excited to check out some that are new-to-me:

Jonathan Adams / Rival Bros 
Joseph Baldino / Zeppoli
Michael Deganis / Alla Spina
Dana Herbert / Desserts by Dana
Karl Isaiah / Cake Boulangerie
Ben Puchowitz / Matyson and Cheu Noodle Bar 
Kevin Sbraga / Sbraga
Sylva Senat / Tashan 

Aside from Yards being the exclusive beer sponsor, Capital Wines & Spirits is the wine and spirits sponsor for the event.

Now, on top of all the food and beverage goodness, there will be music and dancing, and an auction containing fantastic prizes, such as a romantic week for 2 in Belize.

The event is hosted at Urban Outfitters’ headquarters at the Naval Yard in Philadelphia (check the site for driving directions).

Purchase your tickets here and be prepared for a wonderful evening benefiting a great cause and a full belly!




Watknee’s Cream Stout Homebrewing Kit from Midwest Supplies 

Watknee's Cream Stout Brewing Kit from Midwest Supplies

We were recently approached by Midwest Supplies about reviewing one of their many, many brewing kits. While we haven’t purchased from this particular homebrewing and winemaking company before, I had heard good things about them, so I figured, sure! Plus it’d been awhile since we brewed, and even longer since using a kit.

Midwest has a very large selection—more than 100!—including kits that are good for beginner, intermediate and advanced homebrewers. I picked the Watknee’s Cream Stout kit, a clone of the British Watney’s Cream Stout. We’ve had some tough times with our own stout recipes, so we thought the kit might be good practice, and I’ve never worked with maltodextrin.

Watnee's Cream Stout Kit pieces

The kit arrived in a perfectly packed box—Midwest doesn’t mess around with unnecessary shipping materials! We received the key ingredients of DME, specialty grains, hops, yeast, maltodextrin … and we even got Irish moss, a muslin bag, and priming sugar for when we bottle! The instruction sheet has both a “quick” to-do list (for those of us familiar with brewing) and a longer set of instructions, which are quite thorough.

Box close up

I’m a sucker for design, but I really like the packaging Midwest uses for their kits. They use almost every available surface to communicate with the homebrewer, providing the kit’s info (ingredients, brewing info, etc.), a handy brewing calendar, and at least 4 different ways for customers to get a hold of Midwest if they have any questions.

Since we’re pretty busy through November, we’re looking to brew this kit in December, bottle before the New Year, and enjoy the stout in January … maybe for my 31st birthday party? So stay tuned!

Disclosure: I received a this homebrewing kit for free from Midwest Supplies. However, my opinions are my own.