Monday, March 31, 2008

Picture Post #2

Went to State Line for the illustrious, the elusive, the illicit Iqhilika Herbal Blossom (only three weeks after i was supposed to make the trip) and came home with some other goodies. And took some pics of other bottles around mi casa.

*No isomerized hops were harmed in the lighting of these photos.
Read more!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Moment Ends the moment ends the moment ends

In the last week or two i have somehow been in the midst of serving temperature conversations everywhere I turn. Personal conversations, overheard conversations, the usual suspects. A lot of chatter, a lot of opinion, a bit of science; all this over a few tallies of Fahrenheit. So let’s follow that trend then and take a look at drinking beer at different temperatures.


A beer that’s too cold is going to numb your taste buds and prevent you from tasting a lot of what makes some beers special. Other beers- dumb, ugly, bastardizations of beer- depend on this so that you drink more and do so more quickly, they want you to drink more and taste less. I can’t think of many other food products that fly by this logic.

A beer that’s too warm just isn’t going to work either. Sure certain styles benefit from warmth or even warming (which I’ll get into momentarily), but there’s got to be a line here too. Cellar temperature has its limits and if your cellar is your back porch in July, well, you got problems buddy.

The effects of warming on a glass of beer can be great for the beer drinker who is paying attention. You pour or are served your beer and you unconsciously submit to the routine of eyeballing it, getting a nice bit of it’s aromas up your nose (maybe repeating this a few times), before taking that first sip. And with that you have your idea of what this beer is all about. You’ve got a feel for the hops, you’ve got a feel for the flavors that the fermentation kicked out, but hey, not so fast there. With warming some of these flavors are going to change, more are going to poke out and make themselves known. This is especially true of many Belgian styles of beer, where the yeast creates phenols and esters that give off both the aroma and taste of fruit and spices. Many styles of dark beer also bring late greatness to the table. Roasty characters as well as tones of chocolate, smoke, wood, and even licorice will start to show themselves as a nice stout or robust porter warm in your glass.


A good cold beer on a hot day can be extremely refreshing. Of course, and there are styles that just beg for this, most of which are easy drinking with moderate ABV. A nice wheat beer in the summer, for me, is just a beautiful thing. The crisp, clean finish of a Weissbier is great on the palate in any season, but with their great hints of fruit, spice, and doughy yeast these bright yellowish orange treats are garnish to an outdoor bar or patio. Many styles of session beer seem to work great cold. I am not talking about frost brewing blah-blah here (nor should anyone else be), but if a fine glass of beer has enough character and flavor upfront, a little chill isn’t going to do it too much harm.

Flip the coin. Give me a dubbel and i’ll show your glass both of my palms. I love a nice dark Belgian ale with a bit of warming; so much flavor comes out of it sip by sip. When you are experiencing something like this for the first time it almost seems magical. Very specific tastes begin to pop out at you with great distinction. Cherries, figs, candy, the list could go on and on. Similarly, a stout can get poured and just sit for 10 minutes as far as I’m concerned. You get so much more out of a dark beer that’s warmed up, this is probably the most obvious example of why all beer shouldn’t be served at the same temperature. A creamy imperial stout at 30 some degrees would probably taste like some perversion of soda more so than beer.


Heat can’t be destroyed, only moved, so since many fine beers are scant on preservatives (aside from those qualities being contributed by hops) and most of the good stuff doesn’t go through pasteurization, placing them in a cool (and dark, if in bottles) area for storage is about the nicest thing you can do for your beer. You’ll get a longer shelf life as the chemical compounds (over 1,000 of them) will be in their ideal storage conditions. Brewers choose the finest and freshest ingredients they can to give you the finest and freshest beer they can, so with a little care on your end every bottle can and will taste great. Like a fresh loaf of bread, you’ve got your window until it goes stale and mishandling can make that window close more quickly. Luckily with beer that window is typically several months for even the tamest of beers. The big boys: high alcohol brews or those that are very dark, age quite well and in these same cool conditions can go for years becoming more complex and yeast still living in the beer can continue to consume leftover sugars creating more alcohol and more texture of flavors.

So then, the last thing you’d want to do is have this information and give great care to your beer only to turn around and numb your taste buds to the point that you cannot fully taste it. Rate has a great little chart here that will give you the classes of serving temps and recommended temps for each style of beer. Of course, what tastes best to you will ultimately be the best temperature, this chart is a darn good guide to getting the most out of each glass you pour.

So why am i saying all of this?

Because i had a beautiful experience with a beer the other day, that’s why. Poperings Hommelbier is classified by some in this newer category of Belgian IPAs and others are simply ranking it as a Belgian Golden Ale. Regardless, i think it’s a great beer. It is crisp and very refreshing on the palate. It’s not too high in ABV at 7.5, but its no lightweight either.

Now i’d bought a case of this at the Beer Yard and enjoyed bottle after bottle (the labels are very easy to get off for use in homebrewing as well) this previous fall. When it was time to pack up and move to a new place last month i discovered four bottles still sitting in my stash. Out of curiosity, i popped one open the other day without even bothering to fridge it. My beer space has been quite cool since i moved in and i wanted to give it a little test.

This was the most magnificent bottle of Hommelbier i have ever had. I decanted off of the yeast into a tulip glass and there was a fervent head that bubbled a good two inches throwing out nothing but the smell of green apples and hops. Incredible. For a beer i’d sat on longer than intended it had such punch in the nose and such beauty in the glass. I took a sip and immediately forgot all i knew about this beer. I’d always enjoyed this beer much colder than this, at least 5 degrees if not more towards the low end. I am thinking i was definitely upper 40’s, if not right on the bicentennial this time around.

Gone was the yeastyness that prevailed in many of the others, gone was the sharp bite and the end of each sip. I fell into this glass like a needle on a record, right into the groove. I mean, how can you drink something so many times and have an experience like this by just changing a few degrees? Keep your chatter, keep your opinion, keep your science. That beer was magical.

Sure you can study all there is to know about yeast, about proteins in sugars, and about units of CO2 (lord knows I’m trying), but once that bottle leaves the brewery it is on its own individual ride. So many strides are taken to keep the taste of beer consistent, which is quite important, but what is so great, so beyond any brewer’s planning, so left completely up to chance, consumer knowledge, planning, and luck, is that every time we sit down to drink a beer we will never be able to replicate that experience ever again. Every beer you drink from a case will be younger than the one that comes after it, every sip a touch younger than the next, every day in the vessel another chance for that beer to live and grow. Barleywines become deep, strong sippers. Stouts develop into smooth roasty, smokey velvet. Dubbels become fruity silk. Now tell me this, who still wants to drink boring beer?
Read more!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Season Is The Session

Now that winter is in the backfiles with all the other crimes of the moon, i'll let you in on a little personal exercise that i developed way back in November. Each season i plan to pick a style and sample at least 20 different examples in an effort to learn and understand the differences and similarites in a class of beers style by style. To see what winter was all about, click to

So i started with Barleywines. For me it was an obvious choice, i'd had many and liked most, but i was definitely ready for a bit of a deeper understanding. It would have been easy to start with stouts or porters and i'm sure it won't be too many winters until i get there.

But Barleywines just have this hold over me. They stand alone. The aroma draws your mind to a fargone time, one of wood and iron, one of hard work but delicate craftsmanship. A good barleywine is like and weekend i've always wanted to have: some cabin somewhere, heat from a fire, snowed in and slowly working through the rations, luckily there's a record player and a box of albums to take my mind off things.

That's a time to sip a barleywine.

Now if i was in a different situation, had a bit more access and funds maybe i’d dig even deeper and have stuck to English Barleywines. Or maybe i'd have isolated one Stateside region. Someday, i will set about that task for sure. I could only imagine 20 aged English style barleywines all in a winter's work. Maybe i should start a wish list.

In all, I went with what i could get my paws on and didn’t do too shabby of a job.I wasn't going to let a dinky bit of cold air stand in my way, so i started off in Chicago with the Illinois Craft Brewer's Guild at their 5th Annual Wood & Barrel Aged Beer Festival and later caught a great list of vintage bottles at Teresa's Next Door.

So, the list…no order, no ranking. JW Lee owns you clowns. Started at the fest in November of ’07 and finished at Craft Beer Fest in Philly on March 1st ’08.

1. Three Floyds Behemoth (aged on wood w/ cherries)
2. JW Lee’s ‘99
3. JW Lee’s ‘00
4. JW Lee’s ‘05
5. JW Lee’s ’06 (Port)
6. JW Lee’s ’06 (Calavados)
7. JW Lee’s ’06 (Lagavulin)
8. Rogue Old Crusty 2004
9. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot ‘06
10. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot ‘07
11. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot ‘08
12. Green Flash Barleywine
13. Arcadia Cereal Killer
14. Great Divide Old Ruffian
15. Stoudt’s Old Abominable
16. Anchor Old Foghorn
17. Victory Old Horizontal
18. Stone Old Guardian
19. Rock Art Ridge Runner
20. Rock Art Vermonster

I've got a big project going for spring that i just started in celebration of old world brewing seasons, more on that when i check in sometime in spring / summer. So stay tuned.
Read more!

Catching the Bug

Very interesting conversation going on here. It's Stan Heironymous' blog, if you are not familiar with Mr. H, there's plenty to get familiar with. Read the quote then click into the comments to read it all.

A bunch of guys who write about beer writing about writing about beer. Jack Curtin linked to it after commenting, now i am doing the same. I think there's a lot of good opinion being thrown around here and if you're the kind of person that reads a lot of beer press this is a cool chance to see some pretty big names in conversation mode rather than article mode. Read more!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pulling up to Dock Street and Nodding his Head in Triumph - Joe Sixpack's Philly Beer Week Interview

Don Russell, the man known as Joe Sixpack deserves a break. He was a key organizer for that swaddled newborn: Philly Beer Week, he played the role of golden boy as he and his book were everywhere for the 10 day toast, and he's been one of Philly's favorite voices for decades. What started as a big precursor during the hype and anticipation of Beer Week got lost somewhere between CNN, WIP, and MSNBC, so now that all the big boys have had their way with him The Grain Bill is back to get Joe Sixpack's take on Philly Beer Week. The Draught Lines cover model emerged, liver and equilibrium restored, to talk Beer Week via email.

Joe Sixpack 03/20/08

How exciting was it for you, as long as you have been in town and as involved as you have been with its bars, drinkers, and citizens in general, to have the kick off event at the first ever Philly Beer Week?

The kickoff reminded me of my wedding day. You work for months planning the whole thing, then on the big day everything is such a rush, you don’t even get to taste the cake. In my case, that meant I missed about half of the 20-plus beers that were pouring. But the event was a blast. I was proud as hell to have so many beer fans enjoying all of these great beers. Plus, Mayor Nutter was an absolute star, tapping that first keg. To me, it was recognition that Philly is, indeed, America’s best beer-drinking city.

How did you choose your venue, The Marketplace at East Falls?

We had bounced around with several venues. But I’d visited the marketplace last year before it had opened and it was obvious the place would make a great site for a beer fest. Jeff & Lisa Baskins, who operate the place, were a little nervous going into the event because they’d never done a festival before. But Chris DePeppe, Andy Calimano, Ken Correll of Shackamaxon Catering and all of the marketplace’s great vendors came through. It turned out to be the perfect place, and they’ve invited us to do it again next year.

The tap list was a far cry from flagships and standards. What were you trying to say about the craft beers of the area with your list of beers?

I chose each of the beers because they’re among my personal favorites. But more importantly, I was trying to speak to Philly’s diversity. We had everything from pilsner to lambic, although looking back on it, there were probably to many bocks. That just happens to be one of my favorite styles.

What can you say about your other events? A lot, I’m sure. What were some highlights for you from the point of view of event host?

My single favorite event outside of my own was the brewers pub crawl in Center City on Wednesday night. I only caught up to the end of it at McGillin’s, but it was a blast. Seeing Casey Hughes in his Steve Mashington t-shirt was a riot, and McGillin’s owner Chris Mullins couldn’t wipe the smile off his face, he was having such a great time. Otherwise, the highlight for me was getting word on how crowded all of the events were. We had over 230 events, and some cynics were saying that was too many, that everyone would be fighting for patrons. Nonsense. The lines were out the door at many locations. Next year, we’ll have even more.

What else were you up to when you weren’t at your own events?

Unfortunately, I was suffering from this lousy cold that seemed to be sweeping the city. Most of my work was done BEFORE the week. Between promoting the week plus my new book, I think I did about 1 dozen TV and radio interviews, and several reporters got the bright idea that it would make a good story to go drinking with Joe Sixpack. So Philly Beer Week lasted about two straight months for me.

Do you think many Philadelphians are walking away from Beer Week with a new buying agenda? Was new interest in craft beer a focus during your planning or was it more about serving those in the know?

I sure as hell hope so. Primarily, I wanted Philadelphia to take pride in its beer scene. In addition to discovering the beer, people were exposed to the city’s unparalleled tavern scene. Most people discover different varieties of beer for themselves, but they need a little nudge to check out a new joint. Hopefully, PBW introduced them to a few new places.

How much did you have to work with the city on Beer Week and how much of a help were they? You had Michael Nutter in pocket, so it couldn’t have been that tough…right?

Most of our work was with the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corp. which is a quasi-governmental agency. I’ve been talking to them for more than two years about promoting beer, and they absolutely get it. We’re hoping to attract more involvement from tourism agencies at the state and local level. As for the mayor, I’ve known him for about 10 or 12 years, and I was very hopeful he’d agree to tap the first keg. But I didn’t get final word on that till 10 days before the event.

The timing of many things, Philadelphia Brewing Company’s first round of beers, Sly Fox / William Reed’s Standard Ale, Joe Sixpack’s Philly Beer Guide, just seemed to work out perfectly in conjunction with Philly Beer Week. Do you think Beer Week will give breweries a bit of a deadline in rolling new beers out in the future? I mean Standard Ale was brewed specifically for Beer Week, the possibilities could be endless.

Amazing, huh? Don’t forget, we also managed to pull four major festivals together over two weekends. Personally I was astonished that you could put 10 beer drinkers in the same room and they’d agree on anything. Some of that was happy coincidence, and some was hard work. But I’m hopeful that now that we have a track record, we’ll also be able to be a bit more organized. But not too organized – the chaos is kind of fun.

Anyone who drinks in Philadelphia knows that it is the best beer city in America. What sort of impact are you hoping to make by putting this fact on the cover of your book?

Look, I’ve been a newsman for 30 years, the past 20 at a tabloid. I know one thing: controversy sells newspapers. Make a ballsy claim and you’ll have a bunch of people trying to shoot you down, sure, but you’ll sell some books, too. The thing is: Philly has the nuts. It’s not just opinion, we proved we are the best beer-drinking city in America.

A man cannot possibly write such a comprehensive guide with Google alone. Will there be a book that’s even more fun to research and compose than Philly Beer Guide in the Joe Sixpack cannon?

Coming this fall: Merry Christmas Beers: The World's Cheeriest, Tastiest and Most Unusual Beers of Christmas (Rizzoli USA). It’s the first ever book on Xmas beer.

During the Michael Jackson Tasting at Penn last weekend, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “What would Beer Week be like if Michael were here?” Maybe you could help answer that question.

I actually spoke to that during one of the sessions at the tasting. We might’ve been able to pull off a big beer fest, but it would be absent the diversity of beer styles. That’s the number one thing I think Michael gave us: a recognition of so many different types of beer. And I think it’s the one thing Philly has that no other city in the world can match: pure diversity.

Is it too early to tell how much of a success Philly Beer Week was? It seems like many of the events sold out. I know Tria had an outstanding week and many of the pub reports I’ve heard have all been very positive.

We’re surveying all the participants, asking them for feedback on attendance, etc. I’ve heard of only one event that was canceled, stupidly, and that was 2 weeks before PBW even started. The venue, out in the suburbs, was afraid it wasn’t selling enough tickets. Big mistake.
Read more!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Everywhere I wanted to be, they were...

Heard of the Brew Lounge? Probably. The expansive beer blog is one of a few great sources for Philly Beer stuff. I think we only had one event of crossover during all of Philly Beer Week, so their coverage is way different than mine. Check them out, i just sat and read all of the PBW coverage in one shot (49 minutes, thankyouverymuch). Today is the day i try to figure out how to put links to other blogs on my blog. Read more!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Michael at the Museum, Fermentation at the Fountains

Saturday was my last big bang for Philly Beer Week this year, Sunday was all about family and putting my new kitchen to the test. Real Ale Festival sounds like it was great, i can only imagine based on the list of beers that were available.

Things started off at the Penn Museum of Archeology for the 19th Annual Tutored Tasting, this year dedicated to the legacy of the Beer Hunter, Mr. Michael Jackson. I got there a bit later than i would usually ever get to anything (i beleive i have previously mentioned my super powers in this regard), but still managed to get a seat betwixt some nice folks pretty close to the front. The panel was announced, the beers were announced, and the chatter began.

From left:
Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head)
Don Russell (Joe Sixpack)
Tom Dalldorf (Editor/Publisher: Celebrator Magazine)

The Panel

From left:
Andover Arms Ale (Nodding Head)
Saison Dupont (Brasserie Dupont)
Old Companion (Pike Brewing)
Smooth Hoperator (Stoudt's)
Oatmeal Stout (Samuel Smith)
Three Philosophers (Ommegang)
Palo Santo Marron (Dogfish Head)

The Beer

It got noisy in the room in a hurry the moment people had to start pouring beers for each other. There was a lot of discussion around me about the beers themselves, which is great to hear people doing, but there happened to be a really great discussion going on in the front of the room by the panel at the same time.

For the most part i was able to hear the tutoring and they had some really great things to say about Michael and how each beer in the list related to his life and his work.

The trio was very quick to mention that Michael believed in drinking a beer in it's proper setting, that being pulled from a cask while sitting in a pub. Sam, Don, and Tom had many things to say about who Michael was as a person and how that can be seen and learned from in his writings.

It was remarkable to learn about his impact on brewing culture and brewing industry and hearing the stories behind his impact on the survival of styles like Saison and Oatmeal Stout made the event feel like a true dedication to his life's work.

Afterwards there was a great pouring of about 150 more beers in the museum's rotunda. Sam was pouring, Rob Tod was pouring, Scott Baver was pouring, Tom Peters was pouring, the list goes on and on. Some serious pours going on as well...Nodding Head Berliner to name just one. A great 2 hour session sent me on my way to my next destination: Tria.

Well...not without a few stops along the way. First stop Grace Tavern, then to Monk's for a pre-class sip and basket of frites. Met up with Philly's premier frite connoisseur and we built a base for the amazing tasting that would follow.

Fontein Tria

This is Armand Debelder:


Armand represents the 2nd generation of Drie Fontein (Three Fountains) Brouwerij in Beersel, Belgium. He hosted a very lucky classroom full of people with Dan Shelton at his side for Tria's final beer week event. He brought along with him 10 lambics for tasting, some pulled from barrels and bottled up specifically for his Beer Week events.

Armand spoke softly, but passionately about how he produces lambic and how much of a truly gentle process it is. Drinking lambic can be as much of a delicate activity as producing it Armand explains, "There is always mystery in making lambic, you have to admit that. You have to live with that. I am very proud that my father taught me to taste first, that is the most important part: Tasting."

Armand has forgone further education on the subject of lambic so as not to lose any of the teachings of his father. His approach to lambic makes the beer very personal, for him as the producer, for his region as producers, and for lambic as a product that decides as much for itself what it will taste like moreso than maybe a brewer ever could.

"It is very complex fermentation, if we try to do something we cannot do it. It is necessary that you learn the quality, you have to discover taste."

Seeing Armand, a man who had never been to America before Philly Beer Week, come in and captivate a room was just simply incredible. It was my assumption that he and Dan Shelton would bounce ideas back and forth and that Shelton would act as a moderator in some way, but Armand took center stage and didn't come up for air until more than 2 hours later. Speaking with him afterwards was not unlike speaking with any of the countless other brewers i spoke to since two Fridays ago, same passion for beer, same excitement about everyone coming together for Philly Beer Week, same inpsiration through simple conversation.

Bring Me Your Brett

At Joe Sixpack's Philly Favorites 11 days ago, something very special began. A community of people that transcends every mortal difference between man came together to celebrate something so different than it's common perception. We came to drink beer, we didn't bring clydesdales, we didn't bring some mutt, we didn't bring the twins: we brought history, we brought passion, and we brought togetherness to the greatest beer drinking city in America. We invited our neighbors and we told our friends: Philly Beer Week has arrived!

I realized this during my last beer in the city for Philly Beer Week ( a pint glass) sitting with Ryan of the Shawn, King of all things Frite & Agave, and Katie, Queen of the Frites that sometimes something can be so good that you have to surrender all inhibition and manners to it and just lick the plate clean.

King of all things Frite

Read more!

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Measley Little Travelogue

First off: Sorry about that Bonnaroo thing. Second off: Why have i not taken more pictures? I'll cut you just with words.

I'll move backwards through my Philly Beer Week if it pleases the court, then come with some bang up coverage of the Michael Jackson tasting on Saturday. Just click to

Teresa's Next Door, TND, it's like my living room, my office, my clubhouse, my burger joint, my mussel joint, my great pairing joint, my buffalo strip steak joint. I've been there in my bathrobe. I'm there every Thursday night hanging with my long time friend & brewing buddy in the Stout Yeoman Brew Club and whomever else we get to guest star with us for the night. The staff does a great job and there's always friendly people drinking at the bar.

So last night Geert Lindeman of Dirty Hoe fame was there. Surely i jest. (But i did ask him about his thoughts on Dirty Hoes.)I wasn't planning to speak with him in an interviewer's sense because, frankly i didn't think i had all that much to ask him , but an introduction was made and i found that i had a lot to ask him about. Really nice man, working the family trade in Vlezenbeek, Belgium. He spoke to me about their aging process, his thoughts on Philly Beer Week and American beer in general. It was fun. Various folks were feeding him some really interesting beers and i was having a good time watching his reactions to as many as i could. All sociological and whatnot.

TND is gearing up for Bobo tonight and a big Stone Brunch on Sunday. I may stop by for Bobo, but i will be missing Stone to celebrate the woman who brought me into this world.

You're just a dream, oh Marlene

Back the train up to Monday night (no Tuesday? no Wednesday? Sadly, a recent Earthquake in my life has left me poor as can be dear readers) in the Tria classroom with Mr. Larry Bell. "Go Yeast, Young Man" was the name of the class and Larry brought 8 Bell's beers with him for discussion. Class was a fun time, i learned a lot about Bell's production and quite a bit about yeast in a huge operation like Bell's.

Larry brought and discussed (shooting from memory here):

Winter White Ale
Sparkling Ale
Batch 8000
Lager Beer aka Lager of the Lakes
Consecrator Dopplebock
Bell's Amber
Two Hearted Ale
Kalamazoo Stout

The 8 beers above only employ 4 seperate yeast strains...very innaresting. It was a fun class and Mr. Bell headed over to Tria's bar afterwards where they were pouring nine of his beers, i had to hop back on the train because i start working before the sun every morning.

Back to the city we go for Sunday, after what used to be a semi-traditional Sunday beer at TND (read: Earthquake) i hopped on the R5 with Mr. Steele and headed into town for The Brewer's Plate. I had only a few things on my agenda for the Plate:

Get another taste of Rowhouse Red, the awesome Biere De Mars from Philadelphia Brewing Company and meet Garrett Oliver to say thanks for everything he does. I did both in the first five minutes. So that left the better part of three hours to see what else was going on.

Chocolate Thunder with Tiramisu was a major highlight for me. It was such a great pairing, frost on my tiramisu or not, it was delicious. There was a copious amount of great beer and food and some of the real treats were upstairs where all the wrists were dressed in red. Southampton, Brooklyn, and Victory were pouring a bunch of beers way above the madness that was the pairing floor. DiBruno Brothers had a pretty amazing spread.

This is where you kick me in the shins. I was able to pull Garrett Oliver aside for about 10 minutes of interview. He was firing gems, i was recording. The jist of the conversation was that Philly Beer Week is really cool, it could never happen in New York, he's got a big three year dedication to the Oxford Companion to help assemble their Beer edition. He's a fan of Nodding Head.

But wait, why only the jist...i should have an MP3 sitting here.

Here's your stinkin' EmptyThree. I recorded silence.
The recorder i used is the one i most commonly use for phone interviews and there are apparently a few extra switches and levers that need to be flipped and pulled to record audio face to face. What a kick in the teeth. File under mistakes i'll never make again.

Oh i caught up with Carol Stoudt in some sort of closet (literally amongst a mop and some other supplies) for a great chat about Beer Week, Garrett's cheese pairings, Stoudt's position in Philly and the 'Burbs and how Craft Beer is working towards great placement on the menus of great restaurants.

Playback: Silence.

Wait, (cue diversion) Garret Oliver did a cheese pairing? You bet yer bottle caps he did. In a small tent, maybe 35 people or so, he explained his pairings, told some stories, and answered some questions. He put together some really major pairings. See for yourself:

Beer 1: Southampton Double White
Cheese 1: Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog

Beer 2: Brooklyn Local 1
Cheese 2: Brillat-Savarin

Beer 3: Victory St. Victorious
Cheese 3: Ossau Iraty/Vielle

Beer 4: Southampton Biere De Garde
Cheese 4: Epoisse (also served with a Triple Cream)

Beer 5: Victory Twelve
Cheese 5: Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Beer 6: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Cheese 6: Colston-Bassett Stilton

There were a lot of actual brewers pouring their beers at this event and i saw a ton of familiar faces, met some new folks, caught up with a few friends i haven't seen for a long time. It was a great event, albeit a bit hectic on the floor.

Backwards we go again to Friday, the kickoff event, Joe Sixpack's Philly Favorites.

Escuchela...La Ciudad Respirando

You could see it in peoples' eyes: the excitement, the anticipation. The first Beer Week, anywhere, ever. The Joe Sixpack event was a perfect kickoff to the Week. In true Philly fashion, the drinking began before the mayor came to officially get things started, the mayor arrived late, he told everyone they had to start drinking all over again, the room glowed a communal haze.

The Marketplace at East Falls turned out to be a really awesome venue for the event. Three deposits of brewers and their appointed wares were spread amongst vendors, a band, and Joe Sixpack's book signing. (Sidenote: Get yourself a copy of the book...right now.) And there was some great beer being poured:

PBC's Rowhouse Red
Triumph's Rauchbock
Dock Street's Illuminator and St. Alban's
Michael Nutter tapped a firkin of ESA that was self-serve for the rest of the night.
Troegs, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher, all the local favorites were on hand.

For some people it was their first of many stops for the week, for some it was one of just a few select events. Regardless, spirits were high as can be and Mr. Sixpack himself seemed quite pleased with the event and Beer Week in general. Check out his blog for the scoop on all things Sixpack.

Catch up with you folks (is anybody actually out there? If so, did you actually just read all of that?) after the Michael Jackson event with some honest to goodness blog coverage.

Read more!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Philly Beer what's happening anyway?

Philly Beer Week has gotten off to a huge start. Event after event comes up and event after event is talked about by folks who were there, folks who organized it, and folks who are kicking themselves for missing it. If ever there was a wet dream where you were able to have a complete beer experience with your favorite brewery (or region, or beer style, or pairing, or speaker) one night and then open your mind to a completely new brewery (or region, or style, or pairing, or pub) the next night....then Philly Beer Week is it. I hate to make the comparison, but seriously, this is the Bonnaroo of Beer. At that dirty, sun soaked festival in Tennessee there are upwards of five or six bands playing at the same time (at least that's how it was when i was a dirty hippy, who knows what's going on there now) and you have choices:

You can invest in something on a big stage and work your way up front, surrendering yourself to all of the other madness around you for a while OR you can hop from stage to stage, a couple songs here, a couple songs there, taking in as much as possible and hopefully being in the right place at the right time.

Whether getting your taster glass filled or dancing in the grass, you meet people, you have your own experiences, you overload your senses a bit, but you have a time that is unforgettable. I haven't hit nearly as many events as i wanted to this week, but really, i've met a bunch of great people, tasted a ton of great beer (thank god a bunch was local stuff i haven't had and can get my hands on), and gotten reports from others on just how well this thing was organized and is coming together. It's a great week to be a beer geek.

So what have i done? Where have i been? What am i still planning to do? Whose interviews didn't actually record?

Tune back into Grain Bill later today for the full report. If you like beer then you'll read something that will make you want to kick me in the shins next time you see me. And i'll deserve it.
Read more!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Adam Avery - From Boulder to Broad Street

Philly Beer Week isn't all about Philadelphia you know. While we'll be soaking in plenty of our own suds, we're also taking the chance to celebrate great beers from all over the world. Colorado, being the brewing behemoth that they are, has three events highlighting beers from the state. If anyone stands tall in their land of giants it is Adam Avery. Best known for his line of big beers, Avery also has a great line of delicious, sessionable craft beers. He had a few minutes before skipping town to head to Philly and The Grain Bill caught up with him. If you just see empty boxes below, hit your refresh button and the divshare streaming things will show up.

Part 1

Part 2

Read more!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Seen Through His Glass - Lew Bryson Interview

If you're unfamiliar with the name Lew Bryson, don't worry, you can get inside of his head in a jiffy. He is the Philly region's premier beer writer, he would be in a class of his own if we didn't have such other great beer writers around town to join him.

His books individually highlight the breweries and brewpubs of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. His magazine articles cover, well...everything. Check out the latest issue of All About Beer for a thoughtful history of craft beer. His blog, Seen Through A Glass is a daily stop for Philly beer drinkers. From news to opinions to tastings, Lew keeps us all well informed. He's an advocate of the little guy and gets us great details and interviews with brewers tucked away in the tiniest of corners. Lew is also a whisky enthusiast and writes on the subject extensively.

He has an amazing line up of events planned so check the calendar and get to them. These will be some of the coolest events of the week.

I caught Lew in some rare downtime just before Philly Beer Week gets its start tomorrow night. To read the interview, click the link to

So Philly Beer Week is just about here, I'm sure there is a lot of last minute, behind the scenes scrambling. Are you ready for this thing?

Not at all! We're still pulling beers together, I'm still cramming for my Tria presentation on the new research on the origins of stout and porter talked to Brit blogger Ron Pattinson ("Shut Up About Barclay Perkins")at the Zythos Beer Festival in Belgium last week, and tried his historically brewed porter), and changing some things on the fly. But that's normal.

Overall? Yeah, it's going to come together.

Do you think Philly Beer Week has come up at just the right moment, industry
wise, or do you think something like this could've have come together with
as much hype and participation say, 5 years ago? 10 years ago?

Maybe three years ago, but not five, and not 10. There were just not enough people interested to even think about pulling off something like this 10 years ago. Back then, the only thing that really drew folks was a beer festival. Philly Beer Week is a lot more than that, although we have...what, three or four beer festivals included in the events? Philly Beer Week is the sign of a beer culture that is finally reaching some kind of maturity.

Regionally and nationally, what kind of impact do you hope Beer Week has?

Regionally, it's already started to do what I hoped for: put beer and Philadelphia's love of it in front of a lot of mainstream press readers. The coverage has been great in the past two weeks, and it's going to get better. Nationally? It's making cities that thought of themselves as the best beer city in America look to their laurels, a friendly competition that I hope will encourage people to think about what makes a local beer scene great. In Portland's case, for instance, it's a plethora of excellent brewpubs. In Philly's case, it's the easy availability of an incredibly wide variety of types of beer. One is not necessarily better than the other...but it's our Week, so we're saying we're better!

In putting your own events together for this, what led you specifically to host the type events that you are? Was it availability of the topics, maybe beers from your personal stash that are ready to be shared? You've got such an array of things going on. The Grey Lodge stuff is downright mouth watering.

Some of it was venues coming to me and asking what I wanted to do, some of it was sitting down with folks and discussing ideas, and with Jay Misson at Triumph, we both wanted to do the same thing: that one was EASY. And I've got a whole list of ideas and venues for next year, including one that I really wanted to do this year, but just couldn't pull together quickly enough. There are going to be more people playing next year. Some venues will drop out, more will join in, and we'll have a better idea of what works and doesn't work.

With the schedule that you have as it is, plus all of the other events going on (plus recovery time) should we just plan to catch up with Seen Through A Glass some time around the end of the month or are you going to try to blog through the madness?

Oh, I'll do a little bit, but I've got a fair amount of work to do while I'm doing Philly Beer Week, plus I've got Holy Week: I'm a Catholic cantor, and there's a LOT of singing in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, which starts on the last day of Philly Beer Week. Blogging takes last place. I'll get something up for The Session tomorrow, but otherwise, it's going to be just here and there.

What events are you really looking forward to checking out as just a beer drinker, not a host?

The Real Ale festival, for sure, and I'm really looking forward to the Lager Gala, period, whether host or drinker. I'm also curious to hear what my wife thinks of the Ladies Beer Tea!

Do you see a lot of crossover between those who prefer craft beer and those who prefer fine whisky or is that just a John Hansell thing?

I'd wouldn't say "a lot", but it's definitely there. I think it's more an interest in flavorful and different drinks than a malt connection, though. I know a fair number of craft beer drinkers that like fine wines, too, for instance. I'm starting to get that way myself, and I'm developing a love for aged rum. Good stuff leads to good stuff.
Read more!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We Can't Stop Here, This Is Bat(dog) Country


With that call, Hunter S. Thompson (portrayed by Bill Murray) sends his snarling dog straight at a Richard Milhous masked tackling dummy to deliver a blow that would surely alter any man’s religious beliefs. The 1980 film, Where The Buffalo Roam is a pure recap of Gonzo past.


And with that, the crew of the Flying Dog Brewery charges towards Philly like a visor topped, Cabana clad wanderer with briefcase full of goodies. The brewery, the beer, and their throng of supporters are pure Gonzo present and future.

With a schedule fit for spreading the word and painting the town, the crew that brought you, “Good Beer, No Shit” is bringing their line of bold, braggadocious beers to Philly Beer Week. The fear and the loathing will be reserved for the ride home.

Check the calendar for their events on March 10, 13, and 15.

I caught up with Neal Stewart, Head Honcho of Marketing at Flying Dog HQ this week over email for a quick Q & A. Click to

With the move of the rest of your production to the East Coast recently, do you think Philly Beer Week is a bit more of a bigger deal for Flying Dog than it may have been if you were still Colorado based? Colorado in general will be well represented throughout the week as it is, but now you guys have sort of split ties to both areas I suppose.

Yeah, I would say that with our new home being in Frederick, MD, it is a bigger deal. We see Philly as a great craft beer market and we are going to be placing more emphasis on that area in the next year. One of our sales people is from Philadelphia and is returning home to manage that market for us.

How has the full move to Maryland improved operations for you?

The move has gone extremely well. The East Coast welcome has been amazing and we’re excited about our new home. We have a lot of great plans for the brewery and tasting room and we invite everyone to stop by and check on our progress. We host tours every Saturday at 1:30.

Giving Flying Dog’s allegiance to Hunter S. Thompson, your beer event at The P.O.P.E. looks to be one of the most unique events of the week. How did the whole thing come about?

It was pretty simple – the owner of the bar stopped by for a tour of the Denver brewery at GABF last year. From there, he contacted us to see if we wanted to get involved.

Could you tell us a bit about your efforts towards the Gonzo Fist Memorial?

A portion of the profits from the sale of Gonzo Imperial Porter are still reserved for HST memorials and events. This past Summer, we worked with Juan Thompson (Hunter’s son) to host a Hunter S. Thompson symposium in Aspen. The theme of the event was: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and focused on Hunter’s political writings, learnings and viewpoints.

It was a great event with a great cast of participants, including Carl Bernstein, Douglass Brinkley and more.

What are some of the Flying Dog crew’s favorite beers from the East Coast? Have any Philly favorites?

I was on the East Coast last week and enjoyed some Terrapin Rye Pale Ale and Victory Pilsner, both of which were very good. We also had a bet with Harpoon during the World Series where the loser had to serve the winning brewery’s beer in their tasting room. The Rockies lost, but we got a keg of Harpoon IPA out of the deal! Sounds like we might have come out ahead on that one.

The endless cache of Flying Dog videos available on the internet shows a pretty rowdy bunch, what kind of trouble do you guys plan on getting into while in Philly? Are you attending any events other than those featuring Flying Dog?

We will definitely have a contingent of people in town for the festival, but the beauty of Flying Dog is that you never plan for things to happen. Planning things like that just wouldn’t be Gonzo would it?
Read more!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Craft Beer Fest: Not A Disaster

Craft Beer Fest, oh the controversy, lo the speculation.

Philly Craft Beer Fest, despite the monumental eventery of the impending Philly Beer Week, was one of the most talked about events that has come in front of me in a little while. Rightfully so, there are a lot of moral issues up in the air that can be read about in far finer venues than this, but i went, i walked, i talked and darn it- i had fun.

Due to my superhuman ability to arrive early for everything that i do, i got to the Cruise Ship Pier of Philly’s Navy Yard before a bunch of the brewers had even shown up. I made like i belonged and strolled in to take some pics.

A nice set up that was packed to the gills last year. This year got crowded but seemed manageable through and through. What looked like long lines were actually just clumps of people hanging out close to the tables. In retrospect there were a few things i regret not getting to, but i certainly got my fill and then some.

I have to admit, i thought a lot of breweries were going to bring their B games either to stick it to the man or play towards winning new sales (not to say that some breweries didn’t), but there were some awesome beers to be had.

Highlights of the day for me were Lakefront, Ithaca, and Lagunitas. Brooklyn was pouring Extra Brune and Double Chocolate tucked way away in their corner. Best beer of the fest for me was Southampton’s Saison, i can’t wait to get some bottles for home. They were pouring a great lineup of beers (Secret Ale, Biere De Mars, Double White) and were doing a great job of hanging with the big crowd. I had a great Scottish Ale from a guy in a kilt, can't remember the brewery for the life of me though. Arcadia was pouring great beer including Coco Loco, Weyerbacher had Merry Monks and Double Simcoe, Troegs had a Scratchy little secret, Smuttynose was pouring an awesome lineup including the first batch of a Wild Rice Beer, Rock Art had two Barleywines in tow. Unibroue brought the whole brewery with them. I finally got to try the Great Divide Robust Porter which doesn't leave many of their beers left untapped (or i guess uncapped in this situation) for me. Which is exciting, if you're a big nerd.

The list of people who i was asked if i was on Saturday:

Peter Jackson
Michael Jackson
Lew Bryson

So that was the first session. The second session began with a line of police tape and a bunch of thirsty people (seen just in the offing here):

As it turned out, some really kind people talked to some other kind people and i was able to help out Scott and Kim of Legacy Brewing Co. at their table for the second session. This was my post:

Great people, Scott was great to talk to and Kim was a lot of fun to pour with. I got to have a lot of fun pouring beer that I really like. They had kegs of the delicious Midnight Wit, a year round favorite of mine: Hedonism, and finally the big boy, Hoptimus Prime. Their beer was flying the whole time and their spigots spent very little time closed. I couldn’t ask for cooler people to pour for and if you haven’t gotten your hands on any of the Legacy beers you couldn’t have a bigger recommendation coming from this guy. These are full flavored ales that don’t hold anything back made by good folks that love good beer.

So that was the marathon that was Craft Beer Fest. No one ran Chris DePeppe's boxers up the flag pole, the crowd was large and friendly, it'll be back in the same room next year, and it's over- so we can all get on with Philly Beer Week now.
Read more!

Blind Pilots: We Love To Taste and It Shows

So i'd say the first tasting at my new place went well. If you forgot the deal, this is the deal. Time, responsibility and what clear headedness remained in the room grounded Flight Great Divide before it even hit the tarmac. We got to do all of the blind stuff though. The tasting panel was a perfect combination of tasting experience, beer geekery, a fiancé full of adjectives, and a man who is actually allergic to Barleywine. In all we tasted twelve beers in four flights, took notes, discussed and had a fun time.

To see the list and recap,

Round 1 – Malt’s Got Your Tongue

1. Penant Ale ’55 (English Pale Ale) – Brooklyn Brewery (retired beer)
2. Palo Santo Marron (unfiltered Brown Ale) – Dogfish Head
3. Firth of Forth (Scottish Ale) – Harpoon 100 Barrel Series

Round 2 – Cool Ship, Rocket Man

1. Collaboration Not Litigation (blend of Golden and Dark Ales) – Avery / Russian River
2. Oude Geuze – 3 Fontein
3. Oerbier Special Reserva ’06 (Oud Bruin) – De Dolle

-- pallate cleanser --

Round 3 – Out of the Basement

1. Racer 5 IPA – Bear Republic Brewing Co.
2. Green Flash Barleywine – Green Flash Brewing Co.
3. Old Curmudgeon (Old Ale) – Founders Brewing Co.

Round 4 – Knock Your Lights Out

1. Lion Stout (Export Stout) – Ceylon / Lion Brewery
2. Morimoto Hazelnut Ale (Brown Ale) – Rogue Brewing
3. Nor’Easter (Barrel Aged Strong Ale) – Captain Lawrence Brewing

Most interesting for me was watching people taste real lambic for the first time. For the second week in a row i have shared (last week Cantillon Broucsella and this week Fontein Oude Gueze) a beer with some serious pucker action to see a friend give the lemon face, but then comment minutes later that they could see themselves getting into a beer like this. I think it speaks a lot about the style. Despite a sour or a lambic’s bold taste up front, there is an earthiness that people are able to connect with surprisingly quickly. Wild beers can be a bit of a shock, so it was very cool to have someone (the feelings were certainly not unanimous) understand the beauty there, it made the inclusion of Drie Fontein definitely worth it.

I had the added thrill of knowing what people were tasting as they were trying to figure it out and waiting to see the bottles, but for me just sitting and discussing with everyone was the biggest highlight. Making people taste and formulate opinions on beer with no preconceived ideas about the style or brewery was extremely interesting. It was great to see people look at three beers and make strong decisions about them, casting aside beers made by highly rated breweries because they just didn’t stack up to other beers in the flight.

I'll definitely be doing another one of these again soon. Maybe each pilot brings a flight so we all get to go blind next time. I'm up for suggestions.

Thanks to Mike Romando at Cheese! for a great 3 year cheddar which we enjoyed after the beer.

Read more!