Mar

25

2013

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.

Nov

23

2010

Denver 2010 — Days 9-11 

More than two months later, and I’m still trying to wrap up our Denver trip—yes, it was that epic.

Oskar Blue Sampler

Oskar Blue Sampler. Top (l-r): ODB Barleywine; Velvet Elvis; Some High Grade Smoke; Columbian Supreme; Ten Fidy. Bottom (l-r) Priscilla Wheat; Hoppy Seconds; Redbeard's Love; Gubna Imperial IPA; S-bus Imperial Brown

After visiting New Belgium on Day 8, we headed over to Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids. We enjoyed 2 sampler trays filled with beers that don’t tend to make it into cans—these were draft specialties. The ODB Barleywine was intense, and I remember being fairly impressed with Some High Grade Smoke, especially since I’m not much of a smoked beer kind of gal (maybe someday). The imperial Redbeard’s Love was very caramely and S-bus Imperial Brown was my first exposure to the offbeat style, and I liked it.

Day 9
Once again we hit up WaterCourse Foods for breakfast, because, simply put, the food there is mind-blowingly phenomenal. Get on a plane NOW and eat there. Your stomach will thank you.

After a 6+ mile hike at Elk Meadow in Evergreen, Co., we met up with my fellow Lady of Craft Beer Micki at Great Divide. And, unfortunately, it was between these two activities that I found out that my beloved Clark’s Ale House was closing—making me a sad panda that could only be cheered up with excellent GD brews.

Day 10
Friday saw us head to Snooze for a light breakfast (1/2 orders of Bennys and coffee only for us). Our plan for the day was to go neighborhood hunting, nap in the park, have lunch at SAME Cafe, and basically just play it by ear.

We found that the neighborhood just south of the state capitol seemed to be our best bet, even with a street full of apartment complexes called Poets’ Row (I’m such a geek). I discovered a cool hair salon sporting posters for Roller Derby and discovered WaterCourse Bakery’s location, so I knew this would be a perfect spot to settle down in a few years (hair salons and bakeries … my only requirements).

Lunch at SAME (So All May Eat) Cafe was delicious and meaningful (read more about it on MelBee Says …) and reading and napping in Cheeseman Park was delightful.

Great Divide Yeti and Wild Raspberry

Great Divide Yeti and Wild Raspberry soon became one as I mixed the two samples to become the Wild Raspberry Yeti.

Ray called for Happy Hour at Great Divide, so we hoofed it over there, and we enjoyed a few samples and pints and our books. There was an excellent vegetarian food truck doing their thing right outside the patio, but we resisted the temptation and held out for WaterCourse (yes again!) and their delicious pastas for dinner.

Day 11 saw us checking out, dropping off the rental car and heading to the airport. But before we shimmied through security, there had to be breakfast, and once last beer at Boulder Beer in the airport. I enjoyed a Mojo IPA with the same southwestern chicken salad that I had a year ago, while Ray enjoyed a Planet Porter with a burger.

And then it was off to our gate to head back to Philly. Every time we leave Denver it gets a little bit harder, but one day the tables will turn and we’ll be leaving the Mile High City to go on vacation and not the other way around.

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

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.

Sep

17

2010

Denver 2010 — Days 1 & 2 

As Ray snores gently beside me in bed, I thought I’d check in from Denver. We touched down Wednesday a little after 10 AM MT, wrangled our rental car and headed into the city to our budget hotel. They let us check in early (bonus!) and the room is small and tidy, with a decent AC and good water pressure (good enough for me).

Yesterday we parked the car in an affordable lot (almost unheard of in Philly) and headed straight to Wynkoop for lunch and a few pints. We sat at the bar and enjoyed salads: I had a smoked chicken salad with mango and hearts of palm, while Ray dined on a Buffalo taco salad in a crisp and non-greasy taco bowl. The food was excellent, as always at Wynkoop, and we had some phenomenal beers.

Tut's Royal Gold—WynkoopI started with Tut’s Royal Gold, an “Imperial Egyptian Ale” that is unfiltered, made with pale malts, honey, and a blend on ancient Egyptian grains and spices, like chamomile. The flavor was outstanding, and the beer was in honor of the visiting King Tut exhibit. Ray started with the Harvest Ale and loved it, but was further blown away by the Orville Belgian-style ale. He described it as plummy and a tad sour … it really knocked it out of the park for him. I had the London Calling IPA next, and then we shared a pint of the Silverback Porter on handpump (25% of all sales of Silverback goes toward gorilla preservation).

Great Divide Brewing Co.We wandered the 16th Street mall a bit, then headed over to the mecca that is Great Divide. We shared a table with a Ph.D. student (I think her name was Claire) and talked about homebrewing and living in Denver. 8 samples, 4 pints and one food-truck wood-grilled pizza later, it was time to go back to the hotel and pass out, of course, not without watching the first half of The Fifth Element first.

Snooze An A.M. EateryThursday was welcomed with an outstanding breakfast at Snooze, best breakfast joint in town. They have an excellent system for doing 1/2 orders, so I had a 1/2 order of the Backyard BBQ Benny, which was housemade corn bread topped with slow-cooked Niman Ranch BBQ beef, poached egg, smoked cheddar hollandaise and diced pickles, and a single Machu Picchu pancake: quinoa and cornmeal with fresh blueberries, sunflower seeds, agave nectar drizzle and whipped butter. De-lish.

Ray dined on the Bella Benny, containing thin slices of prosciutto, brie cheese, and perfectly poached eggs on a house made English muffin, topped with cream cheese hollandaise, balsamic glaze and arugula, and ordered 1 pancake of the day, which was in honor of GABF. The pancake was wheat based, and had a Tripel syrup infused with orange. You could really taste the beer in the syrup, bravo!

Jonesy's Eat BarWe then walked all over the Cheesman Park neighborhood, took a nap in the park, swung on swings, made note of various apartment buildings, made friends with a baby squirrel, and basically had a great time during such a beautiful day. We came back, showered, then had an amazing meal at Jonesy’s Eat Bar, a few more beers, toured the North Capitol Hill neighborhood, then came back to the hotel with the full intention of going out to meet some fellow beer bloggers at Uptown Brothers, but that didn’t happen, and that’s okay.

Sep

3

2010

Cambridge Brewing Company — Geek’s Night Out 

On my visit to Cambridge this past weekend for Boston GameLoop, an annual video game developer UNconference, I got to spend an evening with my fellow game geeks at Cambridge Brewing Company, located at 1 Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where we got to buzzily dissect myriad issues relevant to the modern game dev over CBC’s excellent selection of beers and pub fare.

Exhausted and ready to unwind after a long day’s conferencing, I (and surprisingly many others) boldly and bravely went straight for CBC’s 14% ABV seasonal barleywine offering, Arquebus, brewed with local honey and white wine grapes and aged over French oak. Served still, the result was peachy and just barely tart, with not very much oak flavor, but all the mellow smoothness of a well aged spirit.

While we all chatted, I took the opportunity to (sanitarily, I like to think) sample my colleagues’ beers. The Hefe Weizen had the expected spice notes, mixed in with an unexpected wild yeast funk. The house Amber Ale was fruity, caramely, and finely balanced. Finally, the Heather Ale, bittered with heather and — I think — lavender, opened a lot of eyes to the joys of the woefully under appreciated gruit style.

My second proper round was Three Rings Belgian Pale Ale, a spicy, fruity, hoppy contrast to the beastly Arquebus. Dry and refreshing, I could have had five pints without getting tired of it, and it went magnificently with the house burger I ordered.

And what a burger it was! I first have to point out the doneness: I ordered my burger medium, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t exactly medium. It’s been a long time since a cowardly restaurant gave me a burger that wasn’t overdone, especially since the weather has been so hot. But this beef patty was bright pink and juicy. It came with a cold and crunchy pickle, and a generous scoop of some of the best, certainly the crispiest, fries I’ve ever had. Other individuals at my table of 20 had similar luck with their veggie burgers, fish tacos, and pork barbecue.

Given that I was really only there for the conversation and to stop feeling so famished, you can imagine my delight at what an impressive offering Cambridge Brewing Company presented. If you crave perfect pub food and love some innovation in your beer, CBC is one great excuse to visit beautiful Cambridge.

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.

Aug

31

2009

The Genius of Iron Hill’s Mug Club 

The Mug Club at the new Iron Hill in Maple Shade is already proving to be a great deal. The ceramic mug you get when you join is probably enough to offset at least $10 out of the $35 membership fee, and then you also get 24 oz beers for the price of a pint as long as you maintain your membership every year. If you figure on $6 per beer, you’re effectively saving $3 every round, which means you’ve broken even after 8 1/3 beers.

That should have already been enough to justify joining, but then Iron Hill held their first Mug Club Party this past Saturday, offering free appetizers, t-shirts, door prizes, and an exclusive beer tasting to any Mug Club member who cared to partake. If they keep throwing these shindigs every quarter like they’re promising, then the club will prove to be an even more tremendous value than we expected.

Mind you, we’re under no illusions that we’re spending less money by being in the Mug Club, but it sure feels that way. We just prefer to, you know, downplay the fact that we’re going out for beer twice as often as we normally would.

It’s a pretty brilliant strategy, and almost resembles a sort of perverse bonds program. From our perspective, we buy into the program for a nominal fee, and essentially get a larger payout from it the longer we stay invested. For Iron Hill, though, they’ve effectively convinced the public to pay them for the opportunity to spend money there more often.

Genius.

Head brewer, Chris, serving the ravenous hoards.

Head brewer, Chris, serving the ravenous hoards.

Commentary aside, there were two exclusive beer offerings at the party, available only to Mug Club members. The first was a Cherry Vanilla Porter, aged on whole Mexican vanilla beans and concentrated sour Montmorency cherry juice from King Orchards in Michigan. It tasted like Cherry Garcia. They also had a grotesque chimera of a beer called Entirely Inappropriate, which was made by priming Octoberfest with actively fermenting Tripel wort in a firken, and then dry hopping it with Amarillo hops. I bet it was delicious, but unfortunately, the last person to get to try it was the guy in front of me in line.

The beers were not free, but the food was. At the far end of the bar area, the staff had set up a spread of hummus with feta and tapenade, nachos, and HUGE, inch-thick sweet potato fries with dipping sauce.

'Twas of the tasty persuasion.

'Twas of the tasty persuasion.

The party was capped off with a very limited tasting of a 2003 bottle of Barleywine. Throw a steak into a cage of hungry lions, and you’ll get an idea of how this played out, but those who held their hand out quickly enough (I managed it twice, once for me and once for Mel) were treated to a smooth, complex elixir of malt and alcohol that had clearly weathered the last six years in that bottle with great enthusiasm.

Theoretically, one could have spent $7 that afternoon on an entire, albeit not very healthy, meal, but once we were in the door, it was pretty hard to resist the siren’s call of a juicy burger, a portabella mushroom sandwich, and a growler of IPA for the ride home, proving once again that the best way to get people to part with their money is to make them pay for the privilege.

Aug

12

2009

Beer and Talula’s Table 

Talula's TableA little over a month ago, Ray and I were given the immense privilege of sitting down to a farmhouse table with 8 other individuals — sounds nice, but no biggie, right?

Wrong.

We were dining at Talula’s Table. The same restaurant that is considered one of the five toughest reservations to get. And we have our friends Jen and Derek — the latter of whom is the mind behind The Best Food Blog Ever — to thank for it.

Now, I’m not going to regale you with what possibly was the most amazing meal of my life — not because I can’t, but because I think Derek says it infinitely better. And he took notes, so he gets the credit. But what I will tell you is how excellent an opportunity it was to bring four 22 oz bottles of our beer to a table of strangers (save J & D) and have them give us honest opinions. And these were not all necessarily beer geeks.

Natural Chester County Veal Cannelloni, Chanterelle Blanquette, and Ricotta Stuffed Squash BlossomsI had spent an afternoon of my daily train commute pouring over The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver, comparing Talula’s menu to the book, cross-referencing and jotting notes. It wasn’t the easiest thing to pick out four perfect pairings, but I heeded Oliver’s advice, and more often than not, went with my gut. I asked myself “What would I want to drink with the Wild King Salmon, Smokey New Potato Sauce, and Red Trout Caviar? Hmmm … salmon … our Dry Humour Dry Stout should go well with that.” And it did!

Along with the stout, we brought our Bee Sting Ale, Sweetheart Kölsch and Hefe the ORC. The pairings all went surprisingly well, and both Ray and I had the chance to formally introduce each beer to the table as it was served. And that was possibly one of the coolest things I have done all year.

For an in-depth look at the evening, including descriptions of each course and the beers we brought with us, check out Derek’s post at The Best Food Blog Ever.