Sep

28

2010

Denver 2010 — Days 5-7 

It’s actually Day 11. I’m on a plane heading back to the City of Brotherly Love and Beer, experiencing turbulence, wearing my Great Divide Hops Disciples t-shirt, sipping a Coke with too much ice. I’m listening to Death Cab for Cutie’s Plans album and trying not to rock out too hard. So it goes.

Day 5
Zebra at Denver ZooOn Sunday following GABF, Ray and I decided to take it easy. We had both sworn off alcohol until dinner, that is, until Ray ordered his first Bloody Mary from Olivéa, which has the No.1 Bloody Mary in town (good enough excuse), with breakfast. We took the day to tour the Denver Zoo, bummed that the sea otters weren’t cute-ing it up, but pleased to see the mama tiger and 4 cubs playing.

Following the zoo, we headed over to the Highlands area for dinner at Root Down, a restaurant that sources at least 80% of its produce, meat and dairy locally, serves reverse osmosis water, and is just generally hip. We made a meal of small plates, thrilled with the organic carrot and red Thai soup and the carrot gnocchi with wild mushrooms and baby zucchini. I enjoyed one of the beer specials, which was Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A (Rye IPA) from He’Brew (a brand from Shmaltz). It was my only non-local beer the entire trip (aside from GABF) and was rather good. Ray enjoyed Odell’s IPA.

Day 6
Mountain Sun ChalkboardOff to Boulder! Our first stop was the Pearl Street Mall as we waited for Mountain Sun Pub to open for lunch. We poked in and out of shops, but we were mainly there for Mountain Sun. 11:30 hit and we headed in for an early lunch: I enjoyed a Resinous Rye, while Ray had the Illusion Dweller IPA. To get to the restrooms, you walk by the brewery. I highly recommend breathing in deeply on the way to the loo … it’s heavenly.

Then, it was over to Redstone Meadery, also on Pearl Street, but on the opposite end, away from the “main street” hustle and bustle. Nestled between an auto body repair shop and an oil change joint, Redstone Meadery is a gem. We just missed the noon tour, but had the chance to sample 4 Nectars, Black Raspberry, Bosenberry, Sunshine (Apricots) and Nectar of the Hops (dry hopped with Amarillo and Centennial); 6 Mountain Honey Wines, Traditional, Juniper, White Pyment, Pinot Pyment, Blueberry and Plum;  and for a nominal fee, we purchased 1 oz tastes of Redstone’s reserves, 2005 Black Raspberry, 2004 Cyser and 2003 Boysenberry, all of which were phenomenal.

As we mulled over our samples of the Reserve selections, Ray and I played a rather un-cutthroat game of Scrabble, where French, Spanish, slang and abbreviations ran wild (we also didn’t bother to keep score). 3:00 came and it was time for another meadery tour; this one we didn’t miss. It was interesting to hear about the process, and see how the owner was able to use a variety of brewing and winemaking equipment for his meads. After listening to his entire talk, we decided to skip buying the Sunshine Nectar (which we had fallen in love with at GABF and again at the tasting room) and instead purchase a bottle of the Traditional mead.

Day 7
Triceratops TrailWe originally decided to stick around town on Tuesday, opting for yet another mind-blowing breakfast at WaterCourse Foods. But then, instead of exploring more of Denver proper, we decided to head out to Golden to hike Triceratops Trail (basically a trial run before our Thursday hike to see if my knee and healing ACL was up for it) and check out the town.

The trail was a bit hidden, but definitely an interesting 1.5 mile hike. I enjoyed geeking out over dinosaur tracks, raindrop and frond imprints, and the various flora and fauna we came across. After working up an appetite, we headed into town, and upon a suggestion from one of my fellow Ladies of Craft Beer Micki, we made a beeline for Woody’s Woodfired Pizza in Golden. We shared an excellent Whiskey King pizza, and I enjoyed Dale’s Pale Ale straight from the can (my dad always said ladies drink from a glass, but he wasn’t there, so straight from the can it was!), while Ray had yet another Odell’s winner, 5 Barrel Pale Ale.

Possibly the best thing about Woody’s was the local honey they brought to the table for the crust. We were BLOWN AWAY! I wanted to make a mead with this honey, stat! I kidded with Ray about stashing the bottle in my purse; little did we know how lucky we were going to get.

While Ray was in the restroom, the general manager came over to ask me how the pizza was (it was a new addition to the menu) and compliment me on my beer selection. I told him how much I enjoyed Oskar Blues beers and how it was hard to find them on the East Coast. I also complimented him on the honey, and that’s when I found out that not only was it local, but Woody’s had invested in the beekeeper’s business in order to generate the amount of honey the restaurant would need. Awesome! Small business helping out a small business, Love it.

I told him how much we loved the honey and found out that its a blend of 2 hives in the area. Then I found out we could buy it and I was overjoyed. We didn’t buy enough to make a mead, BUT we got a bottle for ourselves and a bottle for our foodies friends who would appreciate the local gift.

What could be better than local, delicious honey? Local, delicious BEER. A short drive took us to what looked like a house—it wasn’t. It was Golden City Brewing, proudly hailed as the “Second Largest Brewery in Golden” (the first is Coors. Yuck). We sampled tastes of everything on tap, missing out on the Evolution IPA and Mad Molly’s Brown Ale that had been cleared out by GABF, and selected a pint of Legendary Red for Ray—their most popular—and a snifter of Cuvee #1, a bourbon barrel stout.

Game of Sorry! at Golden City BrewingWe grabbed the travel edition of Sorry!, pulled up a table in the shade of the patio and settled into our beers. We were wowed by what we had in front of us, and after a lot of back and forth, I finally kicked Ray’s butt in Sorry! GCB was a real gem, and it was nice to see that even on a Tuesday afternoon between 2:30 and 5, the place could draw a crowd with pints and pitchers, and even a few well-behaved dogs.

Finishing our beers, it was back to Denver to rest and hit Euclid Hall for a late night supper. I was excited to visit, reviewing their menu online and considering the options. Unfortunately, it didn’t do it for us. Euclid Hall is not only a pub, but a rather well-known building. According to the website, Euclid Hall was built in 1883 as a house for Dr. Byron Albertus Wheeler, Euclid Hall has been home to the Masons, the Colorado Women’s Relief Corps, The Cootie Club, Maudie’s Flea Market and is even rumored to have once been the very fancy headquarters of a brothel catering to government officials, law enforcement and members of the media. The decor is cool, but the big screen TVs boasting a variety of sporting events and the schizo music selection were major turn offs.

The prices on their list of “special” beer bottles was outlandish, and their regular bottle list had a pretty hefty markup. We stuck with drafts to keep our wallets a little less squeezed; I opted for Ska Brewing’s Buster Nut Brown and Ray has Boulevard Brewing’s Tank #7, a farmhouse ale. We tried poutine for the first time, which was pretty good, and noshed on sandwiches. While the service was good and the food was perfectly fine, we found ourselves disappointed. It was as if Euclid Hall wanted to be both Tria and The Dive Bar at the same time, but it just didn’t work for us. That said, we definitely want to give Euclid Hall a second chance the next time we’re in Denver.

Sep

24

2010

Clark’s Ale House Closing 

After a 4-hour hike with Ray, I found myself cruising my social media hotspots and nearly choked when I read Iron Hill Brewery’s Chris LaPierre’s blog post about Clark’s Ale House in Syracuse NY:

A little part of my (beer) childhood has died. Or will die very soon that is.  Clark’s Ale House in Syracuse, NY will close its doors this Saturday with no immediate plans to reopen. When I first read about it on Jack [Curtin]’s Facebook page, I thought “bummer, always sad when a craft beer bar closes”. I’m a Syracuse alum, so I know Clark’s pretty well. But then I really started thinking about it. Not only was it a craft beer bar, but it was my first craft beer bar.

Clark's Ale HouseI startled Ray as I let out a mournful noise reading this. How could this be? Like Chris, I can point to Clark’s as my first craft beer bar as well. And even before hitting the legal drinking age, I remember accompanying my dad and his boss to the pub’s upstairs for sandwiches—possibly THE BEST roast beef sandwich on the planet.

When you go to Clark’s website, similar information is posted, giving tribute to the loyal patrons of 18 years, and a slightly vague comment (at least to me, I haven’t been back to Syracuse since February): We apologize for the short notice but circumstances related to the expansion of the Landmark Theatre were beyond our control.

Finding another link in LaPierre’s blog took me to the Syracuse.com website, which shed some additional light on the situation:

A note to customers from owner Ray Clark apologizes for the abrupt closing, and says it’s due to the need for the Landmark Theatre, which houses the bar at 122 W. Jefferson St., to begin work on its planned expansion project.

Clark’s had nearly two years remaining on its lease, and Ray Clark had previously said he would continue to operate at that location through the end of the lease while seeking new quarters for his bar. The Landmark Theatre bought out the remainder of Clark’s lease.

“I and my crew would love to keep serving Syracuse ‘til the end of Clark’s legitimate legal lease — 8-22-12 — but I must do the right thing and not fight the troubled Landmark Theatre and let them go ahead with their massive expansion, as it should be good for Syracuse.”

For those who never knew Clark’s Ale House, you may be thinking, “Big deal … bars close all the time.” But Clark’s was definitely more than a bar to me. It was classier than any of the rowdy sports bars lining the streets of Armory Square—Clark’s has no TVs, no music. Instead it has some boardgames, dartboards, and one of the most beloved things to me: Wednesday Night Trivia.

Clark's Ale House's Chalkboard

See that chalkboard? That's where the scores for each round of Trivia Night were recorded. Team Beer Goggles might have been made up of a pretty smart group of SUNY Bport kids, but we were no match for The Librarians.

This is where I spent my Wednesdays the summer of 2003—planted in a chair on the “patio” sidewalk with the rest of Team Beer Goggles, going round for round in the weekly trivia competition. I don’t remember ever winning, but it was what made the week. I would squirrel my way out of Wednesday night shifts at Carousel Mall, just so I could meet up with friends, wrench my brain, and enjoy a pint of Lindeman’s Framboise or Woodchuck Raspberry Cider on draft.

True, these aren’t your typical craft beers, but for me, it was one step closer to where I am now. My friend Eric, whose brother works for Middle Ages Brewing Co., would almost always have one of their brews in hand, and I would always try it, from Wailing Wench to Druid Fluid (“Such funny names!”). And it was at Clark’s Ale House that I got to try Swallow Wit from Middle Ages during a release party. I remember trying my sample and thinking, “Huh…so this is beer? It tastes pretty good!” Then there was the night I won a Middle Ages raffle, with my prize being a 6-pack of their SPA (Syracuse Pale Ale). It was great to win something, but I had no clue about the beer (and how delicious it is!) so I passed it along to Eric. I know he drank it well.

Then, after learning about craft beer from Ray 3+ years later, I was even more excited to bring him home and take him to Clark’s. He reveled in the tidy, quiet British-pub-like atmosphere, the excellent tap selections, and the roast beef sandwich? He possibly died and went to heaven. This would become a place that was a must-visit anytime we came to see my folks.

Roast Beef and Cheddar Sandwich from Clark's Ale House

Best. Sandwich. EVER. Clark's Beef & Cheddar Sandwich on warm onion roll with horseradish, spicy mustard and red onions.

But now it looks like our visit in February was our last. I remember we got to Armory Square early on a weekday, and headed straight to Clark’s. Ray’s beer was the first pint of the day, so it was on the house. We both ordered the roast beef and cheddar sandwiches and chortled with glee over the juicy meat and flavorful onion rolls. But it will be our last.

Clark’s, I raise a pint to you. You were ranked as one of the best bars in the country and effectively made Armory Square a better place to drink for 18 years. I can only hope that owner Ray Clark can find it in himself to relocate his red British telephone box (yes he had one in the pub), his taps and amazing sandwich to another location. If he doesn’t, Syracuse will forever be at a loss.

Ray and Clark's Beef and Cheddar Sandwich

Such delight

Sep

20

2010

Denver 2010 — Days 3 & 4 

First off, if you’re in Denver and you see a guy exclaiming every few minutes “Holy shit I LOVE this place,” that’s Ray. I have lost count how many times he’s exclaimed this and other devotions of love to the Mile High City.

FreshcraftOur vacation continues to be amazing. Friday we toured the Capitol Hill neighborhood and had coffee at Illegal Grounds before hitching a bus to Freshcraft for the Beer for Boobs Brunch that the Ladies of Craft Beer were putting on. Half of the ticket sales went to a local breast cancer charity, as well as the sales of discounted pints. Freshcraft is just shy of being a month old, and the breakfast buffet was nicely put out. I grabbed a can of Ska Brewing’s Modus Hoperandi, a 6.8% American-style IPA that hit the spot nicely. Ray was able to snag a bomber of Ska’s Nefarious Ten Pin 8% imperial porter (for only $3!!!). We enjoyed the patio, but were missing out on what was happening inside (mainly talking, eating, drinking and raffling). We chatted with one of my fellow LadiesOCB Micki and Craige, an east coaster like ourselves whose husband is behind the film Beertuality.

Stranahan's Colorado WhiskeyAfter hanging out there, we grabbed our GABF tickets from Will Call at the Convention Center and then snagged the light rail south to Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey Distillery. Now, Ray will find some time to geek out about Stranahan’s, but I have to say, it was one of THE best tours I’ve been on. Our tour guide Kristin (or Kristen?) was full of info, and while some of us (liked Ed Stoudt—yes, we were on the tour with Ed and Carol and Randy Mosher!) kept asking questions that would have led to proprietary information being divulged, she shared everything she could about this most fascinating process.

Stranahan's Whiskey Label

We love Creedence Clearwater Revival

The tour concluded with a tasting, and even I was able to enjoy the vanilla and spice flavors (and I’m sensitive to most spirits). We decided to bring home a bottle, of which Ray was allowed to select his own after reading the labels. This is where the distillers have a little fun—jotting down comments, sometimes about what they’re listening to or thinking or doing. When Ray saw that label, he knew we had to have it.

After the tour we stayed on at the Rackhouse Pub (basically attached to Stranahan’s) and had an early dinner. My bison burger blew my mind, and the side of mac and cheese was decadent and perfectly portioned in a metal measuring cup. We caught the free shuttle back to the Convention Center, saw the mayhem as the second night of GABF began to start, and headed over to the Tattered Cover, an indie bookstore with a lot of personality.

At the Tattered Cover, we snagged a comfy couch, beverages, and settled in for a little relaxation time. Then, bringing the evening full circle, we met up with friends Jesse and Lindsey at Freshcraft for a pint and to chat about what it’s like living in Denver; they’ve lived here for over 2 years now, and are apparently loving it.

Water Course FoodsThen Saturday, GABF day, we started off with breakfast at Water Course Foods, a vegetarian restaurant that made me swoon over their homemade raspberry jam and biscuits. The NYC scramble I had (with sundried tomatoes, spinach, onions, roasted garlic and brie) was out of this world and the sweet potato home fries: YUM. Ray also had a scramble with carrots and zucchini and sheep-milk feta, and he opted to have the homemade bread, which had a wonderful beery-quality to it.

Then it was off to the AHA members-only GABF session. And you know what? That’s worth it’s OWN post.

Jan

20

2010

Honeymooning in Denver: A Homebrewer’s Dream Part II 

In Part I, I covered our visits to Great Divide, Boulder Beer and Oskar Blues. Now, on to the remaining 4 breweries/brewpubs that we visited on our Denver honeymoon back in November:

Left Hand's tap room was PACKED!

Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, CO: Ray and I are big fans of Left Hand’s Milk Stout, and because they were only a 15 minute drive away from the Tasty Weasel, we knew we had to drop by. The taproom was bustling, and it looked like they have a steady stream of regulars that keep the bar stools warm — always a pleasant thing to witness. I grabbed a table that reminded me of the octagonal lab tables I used to sit at in high school biology, and Ray ordered a sampler. Aside from the fantastic Milk Stout, we got to sample beers like Sawtooth Ale (ESB), Black Jack Porter, Polestar Pilsner, and Fade to Black — a Foreign Export Stout and new seasonal for the brewery.

Mountain Sun served up a fierce burger.

Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery in Boulder CO: It’s hard to recall Mountain Sun because it was the last stop on our whirlwind 4-brewery/pub day. We stopped in for dinner and the place was hopping! Ray wrestled his way over to the bar and returned with a Raspberry Wheat for me (I always like to check out the fruit beers and I needed something light after the day of drinking). Twenty minutes later we snagged a table and happened to mention we were honeymooning in Denver. This resulted in the bartender removing our first round of drinks from our tab, saying they were on him. Score!

I wish we had stopped by Mountain Sun a different day so we could have tried more of their beers; judging from their beer menu, they’re a pretty creative group there. The burgers we ordered were excellent, and most likely contributed to heartburn, but that was our own damn fault.

Wynkoop's gernerous sampler

Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver, CO: We had possibly one of our best meals of the week at Wynkoop, but before having dinner there, we had stopped in for a quick pint earlier in the week at the bar. There was a home game that day, and I found it interesting to watch Denver and Steelers fans sit shoulder to shoulder in the pub without even a sneer or growl (I’m used to Philly fans I suppose). We ordered the Mile HI.P.A and Monkeys Fist IPA and were pleased with both. Following up our hop bombs, Ray obtained a sample of Patty’s Chile Beer, which was surprisingly balanced and had just the right amount of chile.

A few nights later, we treated ourselves to one of the best dinners in Denver. I had the Venison Bourguignonne, braised in red wine with mushrooms and onions and served with mashed potatoes. The venison simply melted in my mouth and the sauce was delicious. But what topped that was Ray’s entree, the Colorado Lamb Sirloin. This dish is made with local lamb that has been marinated and grilled, served with a creamy mushroom risotto. Ray described it on the comment card as the single most perfectly prepared piece of meat he had ever had. A total show stealer, so much so that I can’t remember a lot about the beer we ordered. Ray had the Silverback Smoked Porter, which wasn’t too smoky and fairly balanced, and I — out of character — ordered the Drunkin’ Pumpkin ale.

Bull & Bush Pub & Brewery in Denver, CO: We visited the Bull & Bush our last night in Denver, after hearing how great the beers are. Though the pub’s exterior seemed to be more reminiscent of a German-style pub, the interior was most definitely English. I could have done without the multitude of flat screen TVs plastered all about, but we were here for the beer.

To get acquainted with Bull & Bush’s offering, we ordered a sampler that contained Big Ben Brown Ale, Stonehenge Stout, Allgood Ale (amber ale), The Tower ESB., Patio’s Vat-Dunkel Weiss and a couple others … probably an IPA of sorts. I really enjoyed the Big Ben Brown Ale, which had a lot more complexity than most browns — thick and chewy with molasses, pit fruit and toffee. Ray had the ESB to start, and I remember finishing the night with the MAN BEER, which was a citrusy IPA.

The night ended with us stepping out into more than 3 inches of snow, which was a bit of a shocker because less than 2 hours before the ground had been dry. Oh, and the rental car didn’t have any snow clearing equipment, so Ray used his corduroy coat to beat the snow off the car while I shivered in my snow-soaked Chucks. We laughed a lot on the car ride back to the hotel.

Jan

11

2010

Honeymooning in Denver: A Homebrewer’s Dream Part I 

GreatdividepintsWhen it came to planning our honeymoon, we decided Europe was out — we didn’t have enough time to do it justice — and a cruise was out because nothing left the same weekend as the wedding (there was NO way we were going back to work for a week!). So what to do?

Honeymoon in Denver.

Think about it: mountains, fresh air, great restaurants, and breweries and brewpubs. How does that not make for a great honeymoon for a couple of mountain-loving foodie homebrewers?

While in Denver, we visited:

GreatDivideTaproom

Great Divide's bustling taproom

Great Divide Brewing Co. in Denver, CO: On our first full day in Denver we hoofed it over to Great Divide’s tap room and brewery. We were able to take a quick tour, sample a variety of their beers, as well as buy a couple of pints.

GD’s Yeti Imperial Stout (both regular and oak aged) was fantastic to have fresh off of the tap. For the heck of it we sampled Samurai, which is hailed as an unfiltered rice ale. A little too close to the mass-produced macro brews for my personal taste, but the flavor was clean. Ray fell in love with Hibernation, a bold and chewy old/strong ale, while we were both pleasantly surprised by Wild Raspberry Ale, which had a lot more to offer than most fruit beers.

Bouldersampler

Boulder's sampler of delish

Boulder Beer Co. in Boulder, Co: For some [stupid] reason we had always underestimated Boulder Beer. Maybe it’s because we don’t tend to see a lot of it out on the East Coast, but let me tell you, our eyes were opened.

We ordered a full sample of everything they had on tap, as well as a few pints. From flagships to seasonals, we had a fantastic time with these beers. Ray declared Planet Porter as one of the best he’s tasted; my pint of Cold Hop, an English-style ale that danced on the edge of pale ale/IPA, was refreshing with just the right amount of hop bite; and we both loved Obovoid (oak-aged oatmeal stout) and Killer Penguin (ruby-red barleywine-style ale).

Never again will we underestimate Boulder. In a fitting sense, we stopped in at the Boulder Beer pub in the Denver airport on our last day of the honeymoon for a goodbye pint and lunch.

OskarBluesTapRoom

Tasty Weasel Tap Room: Home of Ten Fidy, Gordon and Barrels of Awesome

Oskar Blues Tasty Weasel Tap Room in Longmont, CO: Great space, eclectically decorated, with high ceilings shared with the brewery located right behind the tap room wall. We sat down to a full sampler of everything that was on tap: Mama’s Little Yella Pils, Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub (Scottish-style ale), Gordon (imperial red/double IPA), Ten Fidy (imperial stout), the last three of which also came in barrel aged versions.

It’s quite possible that Ten Fidy stole the show — viscous and black like motor oil, the imperial stout instantly won us over with its roasty-chocolate-coffee-bomb. I don’t think I have ever seen a beer poured with such a dark head.

Next up in Part II: Stay tuned for the rest of our escapades at Left Hand Brewing Co., Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery, Wynkoop Brewing Co. and Bull and Bush Pub & Brewery.

Jul

6

2009

Session #29 — The Marketable Mecca 

Session Logo -- High-ResWelcome to The Session, a monthly event for beer and brewing bloggers! This is Session #29, for which Beer By BART writers Gail and Steve have chosen the topic, “Will Travel for Beer.”

As if our recent road trip wasn’t enough, we spent a 3-day weekend at the end of June in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to relax our way up and down the boardwalk and partake liberally in the offerings at Dogfish Head’s brewpub, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. Over the course of two delicious meals, we got to try several Dogfish rarities.

I started with a pint of 90 Minute IPA, already one of my favorite Imperial IPAs, piped through Randall the Enamel Animal. After a trip through Randall, a lot of the carbonation is lost due to the turbulence, which allows the malt to shine through a bit more, and the extra helping of whole leaf hops adds a pungent flowery, citrusy aroma and flavor that takes a beer already cranked up to 11 well beyond the next level.

Dogfish Head Yum YumsThen there was Mel’s pint of Grau Dunkel, a German style Dunkelweizen brewed with wheat malts smoked over the oak chips that Dogfish uses to age their Brown Honey Rum, giving the beer a complex combination of smokey vanilla, honey, and molasses flavors that could not compliment each other better.

Finally, Pale India Ale was a Belgian style pale ale brewed with Fenugreek, Big Elachi, Green Elachi, Kalonji Onion, Garam Masala, and Tamarind Paste. I don’t know what most of those are, either, but the result is nothing short of fascinating, with sweet, Belgian pale malt flavors and neutral hop bitterness mixing with prominent Indian spices, of which I found the two Elachi spices (cardamom) to be the most pronounced.

Each beer was completely unique, and only available at the brewpub. These were alongside various vintage beer offerings and Dogfish Head’s extensive line of delicious spirits. We picked up a bottle of Squall IPA, Sah’tea, a 2006 bottle of Immort Ale, and a bottle of BE, a distilled honey mead. These exclusive items got Mel and I thinking about the business strategy of building a wide-spanning bottle distribution while also maintaining a pub to call home base.

When it comes to raw numbers, I can’t imagine that Brewings & Eats contributes more than 10% of Dogfish Head’s yearly revenue stream. That may even be a bit high, actually. On paper, the pub appears to be nothing more than a nice little value-add for the books.

But man does it ever please the fanboys. Many, many people enjoy Dogfish Head’s beer; that is a given. Most of them will probably never go to the trouble of trekking through Slower Lower Delaware to get to the pub, but for potential hardcore fans, Brewings & Eats provides a sort of Mecca to which one can make a rewarding pilgrimage, drawn by visions of exclusive beers and unique souvenirs.

After a weekend of feasting on the pub’s excellent food and limited edition brews, weighed down with t-shirts and branded glassware and high on beached relaxation, patrons return home transformed into loyal minions spreading the news of just how very immensely great Dogfish Head is. If each visitor convinces even one acquaintance to take a trip to the pub for themselves, the word-of-mouth will explode into a cascade of consumer awareness.

As far as buzzwords go, you can’t get much more apt than “viral”.

Apr

22

2009

Walk for the Cure and The Belgian Cafe 

bagpipesOn Saturday, Ray and I participated in The Parkinson Council’s 8th Annual Walk for Parkinson’s in Philadelphia, along scenic Kelly Drive. As Team Betty—in honor of my grandmother Betty Ward who battled Parkinson’s for probably close to 20+ years—we raised $725 through the donations of friends and family, which will help with Parkinson’s research and education. We also were walking in support of our friend Alex Forte’s father, Michael Forte, who also has Parkinson Disease. According to the Council, a total of $131,902 was raised, which is more than 2008′s total. [Note: As of 6:30 AM 4/22, the total has climbed to $134,345.]

finishIt was a beautiful morning, and Ray and I got to see Boathouse Row, as well as some sort of rowing competition—we even spotted the UD and Cornell women’s crews. We completed the 10 miles in 2.5 hours, and by the end we were seriously feeling it. All in all, we walked probably closer to 12 miles, because we spent the afternoon in the Fairmount neighborhood at The Belgian Cafe.

The Belgian Cafe is the brainchild of beer great Tom Peters, of Monk’s Cafe fame. As a treat for our hard work we had a leisurely lunch, beginning with a pint of Avery’s IPA for myself and Kira Wit for Ray. Both were wonderfully refreshing, and exactly what we needed after all that walking.

lunchSince we weren’t quite ready to dig into lunch, we began with the pommes frites. It would be criminal to enter either The Belgian Cafe OR Monk’s Cafe and not order a basket of their frites, which are double fried, fresh cut fries served with Monk’s Cafe’s famous bourbon mayonnaise and The Belgian Cafe’s smoked ketchup for dipping. They were wondrous, and hit the spot.

We then placed our lunch order, which was the Brouwer burger for me (sauteed onions, mushrooms, and goat cheese) and the Delvaux burger for Ray (beer brined cheese and spicy sprouts). I ordered a bottle of Dr. Fritz’s 1809 Berliner Weiss, which was tart and refreshing, and Ray went a little more local with a pint of Philadelphia Brewing Co.’s Rowhouse Red. The burgers were delicious, and our beer selections provided to further pump the live back into us.

ipasSince we just couldn’t resist one more round, I ordered a glass (most likely a 12 oz serving) of Dogfish Head’s Aprihop, a strong IPA brewed with apricots, and Ray had a glass of Avery’s IPA. Both were an excellent way to end our meal.

After paying the check, we limped down the street to the car and headed home. Though we were both sore as all hell, it was an accomplished soreness. I look forward to the walk next year, and hopefully by then I’ll have some better sneakers (and won’t be tromping about in my Doc Martens).

Dec

10

2008

Jury Duty Led Me to the Hippos 

I stepped through the metal detector and out the door of the Burlington County Courthouse, savoring the dry, wintry air that was my reward for having weathered a morning of lines, forms, introduction videos, more lines, more forms, and waiting (oh the waiting!) for an invisible judge to decide that she needed more jurors for her trial. My coccyx forcibly reprimanded me for the hours of sitting as I looked around and attempted to take in the unfamiliar surroundings.

I took out my GPS and searched my bookmarks for a place to get lunch. The device locked onto the satellites, and at the top of the list returned to me, I saw High Street Grill, not a block from where I was standing.

If I had known that the courthouse was 200 feet from one of our favorite taverns ever, I’d have asked for jury duty sooner.

I crossed the street, entered the tavern, and took a seat at the bar, ordering a Founders Breakfast Stout to sip while I read the menu. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich. While I waited, I struck up a conversation with Mike, the friendly bartender. After I coaxed a taste of Southern Tier’s Phin & Matts Extraordinary Ale out of him (which turned out to be sort of a Saison but hoppier), I finished the last of my Breakfast Stout and ordered a pint of Founders Curmugeon. As he poured my beer, Mike pointed out to me that River Horse’s head brewer, Christian Ryan, would be having a little meet ‘n’ greet at the grill that evening to introduce Hopalotamus — River Horse’s new Double IPA — and an Oatmeal Milk Stout.

I texted Mel and told her that we now had plans for the night.

We returned to High Street Grill at about 7 o’clock and sat at a four-top near the bar. Mel started with the stout, and I started with Hopalotamus.

The best way I could describe River Horse’s Oatmeal Milk Stout is to call it assertive. This is a beer that, as soon as it gets within six inches of your face, tells you in plain, uncertain tones, “Ahm a big damn stoht, ya li’l Jessy.” A big blast of roasty chocolate and coffee aromas and flavors are coupled with a medium-heavy body and a smooth, milky finish. Coyly subtle figgy notes round the whole thing out.

I’ve said for a while now that American IPAs lack balance, for which people criticize me on the grounds that this is like saying that a particular brand of socks is bad because people keep putting their feet in them. I invite my detractors to take a sip of Hopalotamus. Behind a ton of Perle hops lies an entirely separate ton of caramel malts, both sets of flavors playing back and forth on each other as if to invoke images of Olympic table tennis. The sweet caramel, toffee, toasty malt notes accentuate the citrusy, grapefruity, piney hop notes, and vice-versa. Neither half of Hopalotamus can shine without the other. That, dear readers, is how you balance a Double IPA.

After finishing a plate of wings, a pulled pork sandwich for Mel, and an ostrich burger for me, I set to figuring out which back to slap for these two outstanding beers.

Head brewer Christian was nice enough to sit down with us for nearly an hour to talk about beer and brewing. A striking departure from most of the other brewer’s we’ve met, Christian was dressed in jeans and a hoodie, with short, messy hair, an unshaped beard, and hipster glasses. I’d be surprised if he’s any older than 35.

After complimenting him for the stout and 2xIPA, we talked briefly about the quickly fading hop shortage, which, in Christian’s words, “blew.” Christian also filled us in on some of River Horse’s plans vis a vis the Brewer’s Reserve. A promised huckleberry wheat was particularly enticing, as was the news that the Double White would become a regular offering soon.

Particularly intriguing were two small experimental beer batches that Christian brought to Kennett Square this year: a green tea ale, and a strange monstrosity called Honey Bunches of Ants, an ale brewed with Mexican black ants. The latter drew a long line of curious festgoers, who mostly described it as, “Huh. Interesting.” Christian himself said that it was just a silly experiment, but all three of us agreed that silly experiments are one of the greatest joys of brewing. It doesn’t have to be delicious, as long as you’re having fun doing it, but if you do end up with a happy accident (which is what Hopalotamus was), then all the better.

Mel and I swapped our journeyman homebrew stories with his expert ones for a while longer before the school night got the better of us and we headed home.

River Horse distributes throughout the mid-Atlantic and southern New England regions. I highly recommend anything you can find made by them.

Nov

10

2008

Tria’s Sunday School—Part II 

My last entry about Tria was really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the late Sunday afternoon we spent there. Aside from the Sunday school beer and cheese offerings, Ray and I ordered the Herbed Potato Chips with Truffle Aioli and Roasted Beets with Bulgarian Feta Cheese. The beets had a very earthy-topsoil aroma that was very interesting, but I was not crazy about; Ray, however, quite enjoyed them. The herbed potato chips were simply divine and could easily be eaten by the pound, with or without the aioli.

For my entree I ordered the Mixed Greens with Mission Figs, Gorgonzola, Pine Nuts and Gorgonzola-Pine Nut Vinaigrette. It was the perfect portion, had just enough vinagrette, and extremely crisp greens. The only issue I had was that I think I reacted to the pine nuts — the roof of my mouth felt quite funny, and Ray’s mouth also reacted. Oh well. I ate it anyway, and rather enjoyed it. Ray ordered the Spanish Tuna with Black Olive-Red Pepper Tapenade and Arugula Sandwich and was also happy with it, despite having to spend five minutes in the bathroom trying to wash all of the oil off. For beverages, I ordered Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout, which came in a fantastic bottle. At 6.1 ABV it’s not too strong, and on the web site it’s described as “sweeter and smoother than the Kalamazoo Stout.” Well I was sold.

Ray was able to order a brew he had been very eager to try: Weyerbacher’s Harvest Ale, and he did a proper tasting of it:

Appearance: White head with lots of lacing. Clear amber gold.
Nose: Super-floral and sweet. Hops are clearly the focus, but are somehow mellow.
Taste: Bitterness is subdued, giving the stage to the hops’ flavor, which is citrusy and slightly earthy/grassy. Again, subdued despite being so prominent.
Mouthfeel: Crisp, bitey, very refreshing. Hop bitterness lingers on the back of the tongue and throat.

To end our trip, we ordered dessert, as well as the Meantime Coffee Porter to share. We ordered the Rogue Chocolate Stout Bread Pudding with Allagash Cherry Sauce and the Nutella Panino. According to the bottle, each serving of the British coffee porter is equal to one cup of coffee, caffeine-wise. We noticed it had a hint of sour to it, but were not sure if it was intentional. I think Ray enjoyed the beer, while I wasn’t terribly crazy about it.

Our servers were knowledgeable and friendly, and we even scored some swag! Cape Ann’s brewer Jeremy had one of Tria’s staff bring us a baseball cap and a t-shirt from the brewery. “For the homebrewers …” the staff member (I feel like he might have been the owner?) said with a smile. So cool!

We joined the Tria loyalty club, paid our affordable bill, and then headed out into the early autumn night, elated that we found a new place to get lost in … maybe every Sunday.

Oct

17

2008

The Kite & Key 

Roughly a week and a half ago I decided to take a venture down to The Kite & Key on the corner of 19th and Callowhill in Philly for lunch. I was promptly met by one of the staff when I entered the main dining/tavern area and told I could sit anywhere, so I chose the hightop by the large doors that had been opened up allowing the server to pass from the bar to the outside tables easily. Unfortunately, she had to close those doors after the group sitting outside deemed it too cold (wusses), came in, and asked her to close the doors behind them.

Nevertheless, I had a fairly extensive draught list to choose from, as well as a bottle list. I went with Sly Fox’s O’Reilly’s Stout and paired it with a mixed greens salad with grape tomatoes, goat cheese and raspberry mint vinagrette. Delish.

The Kite & Key’s interior is dark wood, and it has another dining area that extends past the bar area. The bar itself seats about 12, and has several tables located in the front room with it. On one side of the bar was an authentic brass hand pump on display (sadly, not in use), and the chalkboard by the door had a lengthy lunch special list that looked inviting as well.

All in all, it was a nice 15 minute walk down to the pub and an excellent lunch. Makes me wish I had more than 45 minutes for my lunch break!