Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Woe is Me

I don’t get a rush of comments on this site, but maybe this post will open the floor up a bit, who knows.

I’m not really held back by much in my dining / beer drinking adventures, I don’t meet any resistance when I want to go out to dinner and have a good beer at the same time. I realize this isn’t the case for everyone. Be it families, girlfriends, business partners or what have you, sometimes you end up at a place that just doesn’t serve any beer you’d like to drink.

Looking at the list of beers can be a little disappointing when you realize that some restaurants are stocking virtually the same beer just with six different labels. This is not to say that their customers don’t buy enough of all six to keep them re-ordering from the distributor, but the fact that there are about 100 styles of beer is hard to get by when you are staring at a menu full of beers that all look and taste the same.

In some cases, restaurant owners may not see the big deal in bringing in what may sound like another fad that they’ve fallen for in the past (malternatives, et al) and in other cases they may feel a bit intimidated by the risk of a higher priced product that they may not be able to move. They may just not want to fix what they might not see as broken.

Distributors are a big key here and in this area they have been stepping up well over the last few years. More and more restaurants and chains are looking at the numbers (double digit growth through the industry, increased market share) and seeing the obvious benefit of putting something, anything on their list. The sales forces of PA’s local breweries do wonders for their brands and get actively involved in the beer drinking communities that support them.

Yet still, not everyone is with it and the potential for bigger things within the spectrum of beer is stifling. Sure not everyone is going to be all that excited by craft beer and by imports, but as the numbers show- the customer base is getting bigger and bigger and all those folks have to go out to dinner sooner or later. Right?

Here’s the thing. As new restaurants open up and really now I speak about the suburbs, in Philly its become kind of automatic that you at least have something for the good beer drinkers (which makes Don Russell so, so right), they come up with their shtick and they try to be a million appealing things and then fall flat with their beer offerings due to a simple lack of education, effort, or understanding (assumption on my part).

Putting together a decent list of beer offerings is pretty easy if you know what to look for. Every restaurant can’t be the next great beer bar nor should they, but looking at what you have on your menu or your theme, or whatever defines you as a restaurant will dictate what beers make sense for you. Example. A new restaurant opens up in the town I grew up in. It’s a pretty cool building, they’ve got more hours than most places in town, their menu is nicely sized with something for everyone including a variety of Cajun/Creole sandwiches and wraps.

16 taps and 20 bottles later and nothing that really links up. Sierra on draft, check. Hoegaarden on draft, check Blue Moon, check. Sam Adams, check. The thing is, you just opened up, you’ve got a menu full of food to please an Italian craving, a Spanish craving, a seafood craving and a beer list that’s practically lifeless. I’m not saying it’s a short coming of the restaurant, but this is a gap that would be easily filled. Sure Sierra Nevada, and Hoegaarden are beers that I’ll happily settle for in such a grim case as this, but it’s just so hard to trust draft beer in a place that carries so little good beer. A bottle of Sam Adams is probably what I’d settle for here. Is that what you want to feel like when you sit down to dinner? Like you just settled for something? Not when there’s 36 beers on the menu.

My point, scattered as it may be becoming, is that if you take these 16 draft lines and these 20 bottles and pour them all into their own glass and line them up on the bar, all but 6 or 7 are going to look the same, barely identifiable from one to the other just by looking at them. After putting together 12 varieties of sandwich, 8 different tortilla wraps, and 5 steaks and 5 salads for the menu you are going to let 30 beer choices battle it out in your coolers waiting for the Bud bottle drinker, the Bud draft drinker, the Miller Lite bottle drinker, the Miller Lite draft drinker, the Michelob Ultra bottle drinker, the Michelob Ultra draft drinker, the Michelob Lite bottle drinker, and the Michelob Lite draft drinker to walk through the door but you won’t take a chance on a beer that’s a little different or exciting? It’s all a big mystery to me. You’ve got 7 beers that you offer both on draft and in bottle? Why? What do they all have to do with what defines you as a restaurant?

In this case something as simple as an offering from Abita or Dixie can sell you some beer in your restaurant with the slightest effort on your part. It’s not an expensive case, it actually fits into one of the themes that’s running straight through your food menu, it sounds just right to the guy about to order lunch:

“What’s that Ab..Abita beer all about?”

‘Abita is a brewery from New Orleans, their Amber Ale goes really well with our Bourbon Street Chicken Sandwich actually.’

You don’t have to spell it out, you look clever for offering it and any Amber Ale is gonna go just fine with chicken fingers and coleslaw in sauce on a bun. Can you really do that same thing with those 30 look alikes that we poured and set up on the bar?

I know, I know. Not every restaurant wants to make their staff memorize facts about beer or wine or booze, but one small piece of info like that can cover a bunch of their menu items and pulls their theme together. People now remember their little Louisianan experience and to them and the friends they tell, you’re the Cajun place with that New Orleans beer. Those little differences, having what nobody else does aren’t hard (especially in Pottstown) and they’ll bring some people back for more.

So where am I going with this? I dunno. Is it ok to just ramble for a morning? Hope so, because that’s what you’re getting out of me today. Share your thoughts or go drink a beer. Or do both.

Oh right, to leave you with a question. Is it just overthinking the whole thing to wonder why a place would carry 20 macro lagers and not make an attempt at something more interesting or carry something with an allusion or tie in to the menu? Is the line of thinking that if you don't carry Miller Lite in a bottle and on draft that you are really going to take that big of a hit?

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Outer Styles - Maibock

You might not know it by looking out the window this week, god forbid you go outside in this mess, but it’s just about May out there. Brown things are turning green, green things are turning all kinds of colors, people are peeking their heads outdoors. Despite the fact that it’s pretty darn cold out there right now, the sun is gonna be out before you know it and you’ll be forcing yourself off of the couch with any excuse you can.

Beerwise the obvious choices will start popping their heads up as well. There’ll be a wheat beer for every day of the week, maybe a pale ale here or there, we should all be drinking Saison until October. But what’s that you hear in the distance? Is it a tractor stuck between gears? Is it a chainsaw? A gattling gun? A ring tone?

It’s a goat.

May. The brewers have been lagering a beer away for you for two months or so and now it’s time to give them their due. It is Maibock season my friends, time for Munich’s first craft beer. A bit lighter than your typical bock or a bit stronger than that Helles you like so much, Maibocks rely on a lightly kilned base of Pilsner malt usually, though some use Vienna and you’ll find a bit of Munich malt (which other, heftier bocks rely more heavily on) to get a nice base that’ll contrast with a noble hop aroma and flavor.

Maibocks are just right for the time of year that May should be showing us as it arrives. Crisp and refreshing, they aren’t a one and done beer; whether you’re on your porch or a picnic bench they’ll see you through the duration. Without a lot of big flavors coming from the fermentation, you’ll get a great idea of how malt and hops combine and compliment each other with a nice Maibock.

Plus, it’s a darn festive beer. And a fest’ing it will go. Below is a small guide to the Maibocks of our fine land:

Iron Hill – Phoenixville -Tapping 4/29 (oops May 1st, sorry Kevin!)

Stoudt’s - Double Maibock
-Just nabbed 2nd place at the Manayunk Brew Fest

Victory – St. Boisterous -All German malt and hops. On draft here and in further lands, bottles are only in PA

Union Barrel Works – Maibock
-Like Stoudt’s they soothe the higher alcohol with honey

That’s the short list of what I’ve dug up. If any of the other local brewpubs brew one up i’ll be sure to add it to the list. Enjoy your Maibocks people, the wheat beers can wait and you don’t have to break the lawnmower out just yet. It’s strange though, i just can’t help but feel like i’m forgetting something. I dunno, i guess i can come back for an edit if it comes back to……OH!


The annual Sly Fox Goat Race / Maibock Festival is this Sunday, May 4th. Food, Music, Six different Bocks for the tasting.

A goat race decides the name of this year’s Maibock and let me tell you, the competition is going to be fierce. Stories of horn sharpening, muscle enhancers, and loads of trash talk have all been circulating at Goat Competitor and I think this is gonna be a race for the ages. The event is from 11 am – 7 pm and I hope to see you folks there. Important parking info here.

Enjoy your Maibocks everybody.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Sometimes You've Just Got To Say It

Man, we've got it good.

Despite the bumps in the road caused by the lumps on the log that run the drinks game in this state, we really do have a good thing going for ourselves. Every once in a while you've just got to sit back and sort of reflect on a few things, look at the world around you and say, "Jeez, this is kinda incredible."

And say so i will.

I live in Phoenixville, PA. There used to be a really fun brewpub a block from where my apartment is. Now when i want to get something good and fresh i take the 1202 ft walk to Iron Hill. Tim Stumpf is doing really good things there. His dry hopped cask conditioned Iron Bound Ale is a masterwork. I'll be stopping by for the Maibock tomorrow after work if anyone cares to join me.

Now i admit, i was at first not sold on Iron Hill. The food at the three i've eaten at (West Chester, Media, Phoenixville) is always really good, but in my younger beer drinking days i didn't understand why there were no all out hop bombs, nothing crazy, nothing out of the box. Then i actually learned a thing or two and realized that they do such service to styles like Wee Heavy, Roggenbier, and classic Stouts. Their attention to classic styles is worth tasting and when they do step out of the box, they do it their own way. They attract more than just beer drinkers and make them drink beer. It's a good thing. In this beer drinking world of big, different, strange, and varied it seems almost a gutsy perspective to be the normal, classic, to the letter guys and Iron Hill does a darn fine job of it.

If i just feel like 1200 feet is too much, i'll cut my losses and square it off at about 980 feet at Cheese! While i feel like Phoenixville is still a few years and a few key businesses away from coming into its own, i've gotta say Mike Romando typifies what the town is all about. He's excited about local business, he stocks a lot of local goods, he's got a cheese in mind for any occasion, and oh yeah- he likes beer. He's homebrewed and he's versed on the flavor components that make his cheese match what you want to drink. Sometimes when the timing is just right, an impromptu beer and cheese session can hop off after hours and suddenly your must have cheese list triples before your eyes.

Speaking of bringing your own bottle, the Black Lab Bistro has got some serious chops in the kitchen. While i'm sad to see my longtime favorite, the braised short ribs, gone from the menu, i am looking forward to heading back in for a bite.

Ok, let's travel off of Bridge Street. We're talking Phoenixville, so by law, we're talking about Sly Fox. Firkins on the third Friday of the month, the IPA Project, what Jack Curtin reports as a hopeful cask renaissance, Corey behind the bar, and oh...when you catch a really fresh Royal Weisse, holy moly. I still haven't checked out the Monday night crew there. Maybe next time i find a few bottles of something really special i'll head in.

I've never had a young beer at Sly Fox. Never. Their beers are always worth every well priced penny. I'll be interviewing goats on Sunday for some of the best Goat Race coverage that you ever did see. I was very excited to find out it's on a Sunday this year as i've always had to work when they were doing Saturdays. See you there.

From here it's just a matter of which way you want to drive. Keep heading down 113 and you've got Ron's Schoolhouse with their deep beer list and all new bar followed by The Drafting Room in Exton who need absolutely no explanation (followed by Victory, followed by the Flying Pig, by TJ's, by TND...get me?) or you could turn back towards town and the Epicurean's bottle shop for some nice prices on singles like Brooklyn Brown ($2.50), Schneider Weisse ($4.50), or Orval ($6.50) before striking out in a different direction. I'm partial to the back roads that lead me all the way to Wayne (about a 20-25 minute jaunt) for Teresa's whose Brunch (Sundays), Flight Night (Mondays), Tasty Tuesdays (special pairing menu on Tuesdays), or my weekly residency (Thursday) are always worth the trip. Plus with a nice bottle shop (Landis) and the cream of the distributing crop (Beer Yard) both less than a mile away, this is a 'can't go wrong' situation.

Point of the story folks, is that we've got a really healthy thing going here on our side of PA. This is just my little neck of the woods. We haven't even talked about other stretches of the suburbs, let alone the 309 divider line, let alone the city. Feel free to share your local joys in the comments section.
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

It all comes East Sooner or Later

Humulords and Ladies,

Exciting news today from the West Coast. Nothing breaking for the first time, the chatter is out there, but one in the form of a quote and one in the form of an announcement from my bunker today.

Hop Head Red, the multi-award winning, initially draft-only beer from Vista, CA's Green Flash Brewing Company is heading to Philly and it's coming in botttles and it's coming on draft. Some East Coast hop heads have held a watchful eye over the Red since it grabbed silver at GABF earlier this year. I love a beer with some mystique behind it, and the HHR has the sauce. Not listed as an offering on the Green Flash site, all of us cold winter folks were left scratching our heads a bit.

I touched base with Green Flash earlier this week and got word from a Mr. Mike Hinkley:

"Yes, Hop Head Red Ale will be in Philly soon. Hop Head Red has been a local favorite on draft in San Diego. When Hop Head won silver at the Great American Beer Festival in September, we decided to start bottling the beer in 6packs so more Green Flash fans could join in the excitement. With our first scheduled bottling set for this coming Monday, we were blown away to win Gold at the World Beer Cup last week. It is truly a great beer that we are very proud of and Philly will surely enjoy the beer which will also send in kegs for draft in that fine city’s best beer bars."

Perfect. Mr. Hinkley, we await.

And from Sierra Nevada comes news of a transcontinental Harvest Ale. Pretty cool news from the West Coast big boys.

-I'm lifting this quote from Beer Advocate which was lifted from the Sierra Nevada site. If anybody comes calling, i will track down a direct link and post that way.

"Sierra Nevada Brings Fresh Hops Year-Round With the Release of Southern Hemisphere Harvest

Sierra Nevada, the pioneer of fresh hop ales in America, has expanded its Harvest Ale Series with the release of another ground-breaking product introduction, Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale. This marks the first time in known history that a fresh hop ale has been available in America in the spring since hops are harvested in the fall in the northern hemisphere. The inaugural ale will debut in early May.

- full article

To make this project happen, Sierra Nevada traveled to New Zealand to harvest fresh hops, and then transported them from the southern hemisphere to Chico where they were immediately used in brewing. Like their award-winning Celebration Ale, the fresh hops in this beer are dried right after being picked then shipped immediately to Chico for brewing, so that they retain their peak aromatics and flavors. Freshly harvested hops are richer in hop oils so they impart more hop aroma and hop spiciness into beer.

"We love fresh hop ales, but until now fresh hops were only available here once a year - during the fall hop harvest," said brewery owner and founder Ken Grossman. "So we journeyed to the southern hemisphere to catch their hop harvest, which occurs during our spring." The result is the North-by South fusion of fresh-picked New Zealand Pacific hops with the finest North American malts. Southern Hemisphere Harvest will feature fresh Pacific Hallertau, New Zealand Motueka and New Zealand Southern Cross hops, all from New Zealand.

The introduction of Southern Hemisphere Harvest gives Sierra Nevada three fresh-hop ales in their Harvest Series. In addition to Southern Hemisphere Harvest, Sierra Nevada produces Chico Estate Harvest in late summer and its original Harvest Ale in early fall.

Chico Estate Harvest is one of the very few estate harvest ales produced anywhere in the world today. All the hops in the beer are grown organically on the premises at the Chico brewery. The brewers pick the hops themselves and then take them directly to the brew kettle, without being dried, just after picking so they retain nearly all of their natural oils and resins. It is made with Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. Until now, this beer has only been available in draft. Starting this year, Sierra Nevada will bottle it on a very limited basis (Chico only this year) with plans to expand its availability as they expand their Chico hop field in the coming years.

The cornerstone of their Harvest Series is the beer that started the modern-day fresh hop ale phenomenon in America, the original Harvest Ale. Created in 1996, Harvest Ale features Cascade and Centennial hops from the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. These hops are harvested and shipped as "wet," i.e., un-dried hops--the same day they are picked--to their brewery in Chico where the brewers eagerly wait to get them into the brew kettle while their oils and resins are still at their peak.

Representing the journey following the hop harvest around the globe, the Harvest Series includes hops sourced from new regions and brewed using new methods in an effort to maximize the oily, resinous qualities of the hops from each harvest as they transported them to the brewery in Chico, California.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was founded in 1980 and is one of America's first microbreweries. It is regarded as the standard of quality for American craft brewers and has won numerous awards for its beers and ales. Its flagship product, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, has been the number one selling craft beer brand in America for the past five years according to IRI scan data. The brewery is still 100% owned by Ken Grossman.

In addition to Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada makes a Wheat, Porter, and Stout year-round, a host of draft-only specialty beers, and offers five seasonal beers. Harvest Ale will be available in limited supply nationwide in 24-ounce bottles and draft. The cost is slightly above Sierra Nevada's year-round products."

That is all. Cheers.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Everybody's Firkin For The Weekend

Troegs Brewing Company from Hustlin’ Harrisburg has hit the firkin scene hard this year. There’s a firkin scene? Yes friend, there is a firkin scene and they are all over it. As the radius braces for another season of Nugget Nectar come and gone some have begun to question their own existence, others are hot on the trail of the freshest beer they can taste.

And the brothers Trogner deliver. Touted as a Chris event, they threw a fresh off of CBC San Diego John Trogner at the happy and thirsty crowd at Teresa’s Next Door on Wednesday. Armed with a ton of cool news to share, John and Mid-Atlantic sales dude Nick Johnson worked the room and watched glass after glass of Hopback drain from their firkin.

The Hopback got a bit of a boost from a bag of Palisades floating on the beer and the brownish-amber ale was far from the hoppiest thing in the house (upon sitting down i had a full pour of Lagunitas IPA as well as a side-by-side of Nugget Nectar samples from the tap and from the cask), but it was darn good drinking. Along with the Hopback on gravity and both Nugget Nectars, Teresa's also had Sunshine Pils on tap to give folks a nice variety of Troegs to choose from.

Beer packaging and market placement seem to be fresh in the minds of our local brewers, John picked up right where the Victory crew left off last week. One thing that seems less apparent sometimes to us as we sit on our barstools and wax romantic about how cool the brewing industry is is the fact that a lot of these guys have to live and breathe the industry 24/7. The tireless efforts and travel of these guys isn't something that gets mentioned all too often.

John talked a bit about his time out in San Diego last week as well as some very cool upcoming projects that are about to start rolling forward at the brewery. Some are as simple as two or three degrees celsius and others involve a certain award winning beer getting the bomber treatment.

Despite the crowd gathered at the end of the bar (including the likes of Mr. Charity himself, Wayne luminary Matt Guyer) it seemed as though plenty of Hopbacks were being served to tables and down the bar. Three hours after tapping the firkin had run dry and everyone was in high spirits. Another fine showing from Troegs and another event in the books for Teresa's summer schedule.

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Get Real

Let this be a preview to you lot out there privy to peruse my public picklebox of personal ponderings. I plan to run a few recurring series here on the Grain Bill, I am pretty excited about some of them, but with my summer gig starting tomorrow night I don’t know exactly how much of a chance I am going to get to pull them all off. But the plan is there, and when the iron is hot I will strike.

The first series I’ll clue you into is called Know Your Blogger, and basically it’s just a chance to put someone else’s blog in the spotlight for a day. I plan to talk about their site and interview them to give you folks a bit more insight into the people behind the rants, reviews, previews, and posts. That said, this is not one of those posts, however, but I am going to do a bit of highlighting anyway.

Real Ale, Cask Ale, CAMRA, beer engine, hand pump, cask breather? Firkin?! Pin?!!! What does it all mean? Beer in all it’s glory James, that’s what it means. Real Ale is more or less beer to be dispensed from a vessel without the force of CO2 or Nitrogen, therefore it is the closest representation of the beer that has been brewed…no filtering, no pasteurizing, no nothing. Hops and a bit of priming sugar are sometimes added to a cask as the beer will still be maturing and finishing even as it arrives at the pub.

And you know what? Pennsylvania has more of it than any of other state on the map. PA accounts for 12.8% of the country’s cask ale outlets with New York right behind it spurred by the amazing work of Mr. Alex Hall.

Of the 65 different bars serving cask ale you can catch a daily report of about 25 of them on Kevin Rowe’s site, Cask Ale Kev. Through a network set up by Kevin he is able to provide daily updates of who’s pouring what in Philly, Delaware, Montgomery County, Chester County, and Delaware County. It is a great resource site that I visit often and think you should too. Whether you love yourself some real ale or have never tried it, Kev’s site is going to steer you towards your local options.

If you’re new to real ale and are thinking about taking the plunge, the following are a few tips as prescribed by me in hopes that your first experience will be a good one:

*If they have Nugget Nectar on cask, just get it and ignore everything below.

*Cask Ale is going to have less carbonation than you’re used to in a beer, remember the only carbonation in Real Ale is created naturally by yeast consuming sugar. To a new comer the beer may seem ‘flat’. Conquer this by getting all of the beers aromas up your nose and concentrating on flavor as you swoosh and swallow your beer.

*Real Ale is going to be served a bit warmer than you may be used to as well. This is a great thing. We discussed temperature big time here, but as a quick line- beer that’s a bit warmer with release more aroma and there will be no coldness to numb your taste buds and/or mask the actual flavors of the beer.

*Unless the bartenders are extremely busy, don’t be afraid to ask questions. One I’ll usually always ask is how long the cask has been on for. Sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t, but it is good information when you can get it. Real Ale won’t hold up more than a few days once oxygen has been introduced to the beer. This is called oxidation and it basically just means that the beer is going stale. It is the risk we take for the glory of cask ale. If you are out for your first pint from a cask and you know it’s been on for like 5 days, maybe you want to hold off.

-Side note: Many places are wise to the beauty of the cask breather which introduces a blanket of nitrogen over top of the beer, not allowing oxygen (which is lighter) to come into contact with the fragile beer. Genius.

-Sidier side not: The same happens in a beer fermenter, but naturally as yeast consumes sugars creating alcohol and releases CO2 upwards.

It’s been a great couple of weeks for Real Ale in my neck of the woods, Iron Hill’s Phoenixville location has been running a dry hopped cask version of their Iron Bound Ale which has been just delicious (along with English and Dry Stouts on nitrogen) and Teresa’s Next Door has a great cask of Nugget Nectar on right now. I’ll have to go check out Kevin’s site to see what else is being pulled around these parts.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I've been sitting here all morning thinking about life, about what the future will hold, about the fact that i want to do a really big post on my blog about some really bad and really good beer coverage in the mainstream media, but don't have the time....and what am i forgetting?

Troegs will be tapping a firkin of Hopback at Teresa's Next Door in, like, a couple hours dude. I'm going, some of my favorite people to chat over beers with are going, Chris Trogner will be there, Nick Johnson will be there, it's gonna be a darn good time.

Nick will be giving a brief dissertation about a new product he is developing and rather than link i will quote and italicize myself.

"I also understand Nick has been in development with some company overseas to develop just about the coolest thing i've heard of in a while. He's calling it a Firkegskin and its modeled after that almighty feast the Turducken.

Basically it's a vessel that will hold a pin inside of a cask inside of a half barrel. It's got two taps and a handpump and allows you to taste a beer all three ways. He keeps sketches of the prototype in his pocket and will talk your ear off about it all night."

That is all for today good people. I have some stuff in the works. I promised to praise a local blogger, which i will do tomorrow. I've got some more pictures to post undoubtedly. I'm outta here, meet me at the end of the bar.
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Winner's Dinner

Victory Brewing Company from out in Downingtown enjoys success in the craft beer industry on two levels – on one hand they have a line of award winning beers with recognition worldwide as witnessed by judges from Los Angeles to London. On the other hand they treat their hometown crowd to a host of exciting beers on cask and in smaller release. Their lineup leans towards Germanic influence, but certainly doesn’t stop there; two of their most popular beers would be flung far from the HofbrÀuhaus. So how do you really get a feel for what Victory is all about without bar hopping for a Boisterous here and a Victorious there?

Well, you go to a Victory beer dinner of course. Master of Ceremonies himself, Bill Covaleski gave a nice preview to Grain Bill here, in case you missed it. Armed with his master of marketing and a very boisterous restaurant manager the Victory show rolled into Wayne, PA on April 14th and set about pairing five of their beers with five plates from the kitchen of chef Andy Dickerson and company.

The evening kicked off with the customary Welcome Beer (one of my favorite beers in the whole beer game) and for this the delicious Moonglow, Victory’s weizenbock was chosen. It’s not every beer dinner you go to that offers up an 8.7 % welcome beer, but hey, this wasn’t every beer dinner. Seating was arranged ahead of time, as were all ticket sales, and for the sold out gathering of 25 or so, the whole thing was rather communal. Each table got to know each other as Teresa’s deft staff poured a bit more welcome into everyone’s glass. This would be the trend through the night and i don’t think i saw a glass empty for more than a second or two as pitchers and bottles came as if from a well. As the chats and introductions died down Bill Covaleski took to the floor with a few words about the brewery, the beer, and how much he enjoys beer dinners. From there it was all business in a dinner kind of way as each course followed right on the heels of the one it was trying to catch. Covaleski worked the room and the conversation at my table never seemed to cease.

The menu had the Teresa’s Next Door fingerprint all the way. As i have come to expect from Wayne’s first Belgicana gastro-pub, a lot of amazing things happen when you close the menu and open your ears up a bit. Sure, i’ve got a ton of favorites in the book, but between specials and their weekly pairing menu, a lot goes on there that people just seem to miss. Not to mention the late night staff meal. This being a case as such, the menu put together to pair with Victory’s offerings was a very good fit.

Moonglow Weizenbock
Welcome Beer

St. Boisterous
Victory’s Hellerbock paired with a seared day boat Scallop, preserved meyer lemon Boisterous butter and baby watercress.

St. Victorious
Dopplebock paired with an aged goat cheese puff pastry with French morel mushrooms on top.

Baltic Thunder
Baltic Porter with Grilled kangaroo loin, salt crusted fingerlings, baby leeks, asparagus, and porter reduction.

Old Horizontal
Barleywine with Colston-Basset stilton balls in a honey and grain cradle.

Homemade bourbon vanilla ice cream with V-Twelve soaked apricots, candied almonds, and a V-12 syrup.

Little known fact coming to light: i don’t think i have had a scallop in at least 15 years. No exaggeration. It might even be more. Certain things just don’t have an appeal to me and scallops are one of them. In my mind i just associate them as the rubber of the sea, little white pucks of chewiness that are basically an excuse to eat bacon. I don’t need excuses when bacon is around.

But I’ll be darned if i didn’t dive right into the scallop and Hellerbock pairing. The more i read about food and the more i read about beer, i really see that i have some opening up to do. So many fine pairings come recommended or by way of the reading i do and i am closed to them because i think i don’t like something i wasn’t into during the wise ages of my early teen years. So many chances to eat a beautifully cut piece of salmon or tuna have just passed me by. I read about their delicate flavors and i have just tuned them all out. Bad joel, you need to stop that. And so i will. I got 99 problems, but a fish ain’t one.

One thing is absolutely certain though. i will never eat yogurt again as long as i have a breath in my body and full function of my hands. Long story, one you certainly do not want to hear.

At the conclusion of the meal Dickerson’s kitchen staff was brought out for a well deserved round of applause which they seemed to enjoy. That is of course until a few insensitive individuals had to show their impressive understanding of the Spanish language. I could feel my skin tighten after a half heartfelt, “Gracias amigos” was followed by a few more ridiculous phrases bounced naturally off of well lubed tongues. Kind of a shame.

In all, the night seemed to be a hit. A lot of good conversation about Victory, about the beer industry, about the food sitting in front of us. It’s nice to experience beer on this level when you can. At the least it’s just not something you get to do everyday, at the most it’s a chance to see that beer is the almighty punctuation; capable of stealing the show, providing a foundation, or singing harmony.

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Oh the hours we've wasted.

Wrapping up all of that Pliny business, all i can tell you is that these two kegs must have fallen from the sky because what looking into things i did do (read: World Rabies Day) turned up conflicting stories about keg departures, keg arrivals, kegs etcs.

And truth be told, i don't care nearly as much as those posts below might imply. Just having some fun and screwing up google searches from the West Coast to the East. I was asked if that whole mishap in Walcott, IA actually happened or not, which i guess is a small triumph for my cause.

So to the three of you who actually read this blog: Let's get back to business as usual.

Ortino's Northside was quite busy on Friday and for good reason- they were pouring some great beers. I just didn't want to leave.

The Pliny was tasting very nice, whenever it was from. Plenty of fun for the nose, plenty of tongue smacking hops. It was certainly more Pliny than the last one we talked about. Ditto Perkuno's Hammer. Held up really well and was a going down almost too easily. Alongside of the Stone Black IPA and Founder's Dirty Bastard, Ortino's was looking like the place to be on Friday. Plenty of friendly and familiar faces around the bar and some good chatter in every direction. Assuming everyone had a good time is something i feel i can do in safety.

So where do we go from here? Well all of the reports on Russian River, including word from Vinnie himself, are that we'll have more beer at some point this summer. I can live with that. I mean, from a few days shy of May until they fire the school busses back up in September is about as big a gap as a lot of folks have between Russian River stuff anyway, so really those that didn't get a taste over the past two weekends shouldn't feel terribly left out. I don't think i'll be tracking any delivery trucks across country for a long time, but if i do get word on any RRBC beer headed our way i will be sure to share the news.
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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Quick Update....On The Move

Just popping in quickly here with an update and a preview.


Pliny The Northside in far better shape than TDR.
Perkuno's Hammer was mighty fine.
Teresa's Next Door has a really nice keg of Deranke XX on at this very moment.

What are you doing tonight? If you want to watch the Sixer's playoff game on a mega screen and drink all of the Brooklyn, Oskar Blues, Erie Brewing Co, and Hook & Ladder you want than come on down to the Full Mooner in The Garage @ Ugly Moose in Manayunk. Bring $10 and an illegal smile. I'll be pouring beer and juggling kittens from 6-9 pm.

PREVIEW - This Week on Grain Bill:

Wrapping up that Pliny thing.
Victory Beer Dinner Recap from Teresa's.
Praise of a local blogger.

That is all. Read more!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Path of Pliny

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Ok look: You’re a truck driver, the road is your disco. Dance floors, headlights, in your blood there’s gasoline. You can only hit so many truck stops before you’re tempted to buy at least one of those CD’s, you know them, most likely contain any configuration of these tunes.

Who could blame you? But really, you’ve got a bit more outlaw in you than that. Your daddy taught you well. So as you pull out of York headed East for an 11 hour run, you slip in your copy of Waiting For Columbus and settle into one of the finest trucking songs that’s ever been written:

I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I'm drunk and dirty don't ya know, and I'm still, willin'
Out on the road late at night, Seen my pretty Alice in every head light
Alice, Dallas Alice

I've been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
and you show me a sign
I'll be willin', to be movin'

I've been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
Had my head stoved in, but I'm still on my feet and I'm still... willin'
Now I smuggled some smokes and folks from Mexico
baked by the sun, every time I go to Mexico, and I'm still

And I been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
and you show me a sign
I'll be willin', to be movin

(Lowell George)

The long road will give a man a lot to think about. Getting out of Nebraska in route to Toldeo, OH with a clear mind and the warmth of Iron Skillet still coursing through him, day three of the trip probably had Pliny The Northside just a little ticked off, but not ready to declare war. Pliny The Springhouse? None the wiser. All hopped up and ready to roll it’d have to have been the Miller Chill that everyone had their eyes on.

Rolling into Iowa not a whole lot was cooking on the left side of the state, so our driver probably had smooth sailing straight through until just before he hit Davenport. Now with these times of ours being what they are you never know who is going to see something and completely overreact without taking a second to think or investigate further.

That friends is what happened in Walcott, Iowa on the afternoon of September 9, 2007. And I will recount that tale in full with foot prints, dog smelling prints, and twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one right now.

You see it was a normal afternoon, optimism smelled like tulips and everyone was in the garden. Home to the annual Truckers Jamboree , this is a ceremonial stop for trucks and due to our driver’s schedule he’d have to save his visit for the return trip. For a sleepy town Walcott, Iowa sure does have a buzz about it. People seem busy here, well, busier than Durant, but as the locals would tell you, that isn’t much of a feat at all. In this buzz and busyness is a feeling of community, Waclotts stick to themselves and take their disruptions quite seriously. Unfortunately, a disruption is just what they got on this unseasonably warm September’s day.

Neighbors and businessmen alike started spotting fleets of planes in the distance. Some seemed to be headed straight towards Walcott, others dovetailed and spun around as if they were engaged in a serious fracas over Davenport. After they’d seen enough dogfighting and barrel rolls for one day the citizens of Walcott hit the phones. Emergency numbers, government numbers, their green oasis was one giant airwave.

Some folks began to leave town driving West ahead of the pack while others stocked up on potables at the local Super Wal-Mart. As investigations began and schools prepared for evacuation one savvy member of the local government called over to Davenport to see what was going on.

And with egg on their faces the citizens of Walcott laid birth to a story that will live on for years to come. They’d been sent into a defensive chaos all on the count of the 10th Annual EFLIOWA. How they’d avoided disaster for the previous 9 years will remain a mystery forever.

This slight stir strained traffic a bit, not because of the few who fled, but local police set up a brief roadblock on I-80 just before Walcott. Once scooting through town and around Davenport itself, our driver enjoyed a smooth ride into Illinois. As he always does, he made ready for his trip through the Chicago suburbs with a stop off at his Vegas away from Vegas, Joliet, IL. A guy’s gotta stretch his legs somewhere, right?

So one last stop before the haul across Ohio. That stop is Gary, IL. In Gary our driver parks up at the historic steel docks and wanders over to Marquette Park to stand and stare out at Lake Michigan asking himself, “What if?” over and over and over again for a while. It’s very therapeutic for him. After an episode like the one in Walcott, IA he surely had a lot for the pondering.

And really from here on out I’d have to assume the whole trip ended rounded out quite unmonumentally, I mean, Gary to Toledo is a breeze and Toldeo to KOP can be done in the same time that some beer loving blogger who sits at a crummy day job asking himself, “What if?” over and over and over again can put in a full shift. And really is driving beer across country that different than a desk job? I mean I’ve got..err some guy at a desk has google images, he can imagine they’re whizzing by at 70 mph, he’s got music, he lets his mind wander into endless daydreams as he stares forward at the same thing ALL DAY LONG.

Anyhow, Pliny, Perkuno, Black, & Bastard tap in a few hours. Our glory awaits.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tale of The Tap

April ’08 – Pliny vs. Pliny – The Tale of The Tap

So what do we know about these two kegs? To hear one keg tell it, he wasn’t quite feeling like his normal self and still managed to blow in half a day. Round two is just a few days away and we’ve got a contender waiting who’s hungry, who’s heavy, and who’s ready to pour. Let’s go to the stat sheet:

Pliny The Spring House

Age from Brewery Departure: 31.14 Weeks
Weight: 159.977 lbs (seriously)
Diameter: 16.5 inches
Gallons: 15.5


Pliny The Northside

Age from Brewery Departure: 32 Weeks to the day
Weight: 159.977 (for real)
Diameter: 16.5 inches
Gallons: 15.5

So how did these kegs get here? When did they arrive? Today we’ll look at the first leg of delivery, the rules governing it, and the wild ride that would eventually pit Pliny against Pliny.

Here’s the cold hard facts. Russian River last shipped beer to the East Coast on September 7, 2007. At the time, Kunda Beverage in King of Prussia was the only destination Russian River was delivering to in PA. Now we can’t know everything that happened on board the truck, like other deliveries and stops, but we can certainly use the internet to lead us towards some general guesses and assumptions.

View Larger Map

This is the path from Russian River Brewing Company to Kunda Beverage. If a truck left wine country on September 7th traveling East on Route 80, one thing is for sure: he’d be cranking the AC. A brutal heat wave had just let up in California, with temperatures well past 100 degrees. All that air conditioning is gonna cause a stop off for gas sooner than later. At maximum, my research shows a 300 gallon fuel tank on the smallest truck available with a cabin for the driver. If the guy is hauling from coast to coast, I’m assuming he has a cabin. Let’s also assume that some fuel was gobbled just getting to Russian River and call the Initial Fuel Reserve (IFR from here on out) 285 gallons.

My reading shows that mack daddy truck drivers get 7 miles to the gallon, but can we assume that the driver of the Pliny was indeed a real mack daddy? No. I don’t know how many drivers out there are getting 7 miles to the gallon. More reading shows about 5 - 6 to be a bit closer to reality, so let’s give this guy the benefit of the doubt and call it 6 mpg, even with the heat situation that was going on at the time. Now with an IFR of 285 it looks like that truck should have gotten about 1700 miles from Russian River before needing to refuel. That’s just about halfway.

I know, I know. I’m doing an awful lot of assuming here. I mean what if he didn’t leave straight for Kunda from Russian River, in all likelihood he didn’t. But play along, won’t you?

Driving a sled like that is big business and as with most things in big business we have to assume a certain amount of regulations and blanket requirements. So let’s assume that drivers are required to fuel up around their last 100 miles of gas or in this driver’s case, about 17 gallons. This would put our driver in York, Nebraska for his first fuel up.

But we’ll get back to York later. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

I’d say it’s a far stretch to believe that any human, let alone a non-mack daddy trucker, would drive 1,585 miles non-stop. I mean, let’s be serious. Not to mention more legality and regulation. Again, we’ll have to make some assumptions here. We’ll say our driver was on the job for one hour when his cross country travels began. Assuming that the hour officially started when he left for RRBC to pick up Pliny and any other charms that Vinnie was sending our way.

At most this guy could only drive 14 hours total for the day, before having to rest for 10 hours and with one down he’s got 13 hours ahead of him on the first leg of the trip. Like anyone in their right mind, this guy is gonna have to at least stretch his legs, go to the bathroom, splash some water on his face. Using time as our measurement, we’re gonna give him about an hour total stop time in this thirteen hour stretch. For a trucker, I’m saying that’s three stops. Two just to stretch the legs and one for a proper meal.

With all this in consideration the truck could technically make it to the Evanston, WY area before our driver would be forced to take his 10 hour rest. For some very simple reasons though, I doubt he’d have gone that far. He’d have had to take very brief breaks and with a man driving cross country I’m sure timeliness is one thing, but it’s not the kind of trip for an all out spring. The last stretch of Route 80 out of Utah would leave him with very little option for his reprieve, so I think it best to assume he saved the state border for the morning. This puts our man in a part of Utah that gets little recognition, a part that sits in the shadows of Salt Lake City and Wyoming as if it were some cruel valley in a Townes Van Zandt tune. I am speaking of course about the town of Echo, UT., famous only for its reservoir and its tavern. With 10 hours rest to kill for a man who can probably survive on 6, this is the place to be.

Echo, UT (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there’s a truck in each one of those pictures.) This is probably a traditional stop for our driver, who probably knows the staff, menu, and jukebox at the tavern as well as he does his own hometown. So the assumption is that he, all of the Pliny on board, those antagonizing cases of Miller Chill, and the rest of his cargo holed up in Echo for the night.

In the morning after a quick bite in the truck he hit the road for York, Nebraska and the first fuel up of the trip. My understanding of the regulations on our driver are that after 14 ours of service and 10 hours of rest, his next work day can only last 11 hours.

View Larger Map

As you can see this was a long day for our beer driving buddy. With only 20 minutes of breaks, a good stop for fuel at a nice, reputable truck stop would be a just reward for time served. The final stretch of the first leg could have been slowed by several events, no doubt irritating our driver and making him scramble to make up time elsewhere as he worked against the clock.

The drive across Wyoming is normally a breeze at just over five hours, but in Cheyenne, some guy was having serious issues surrounding his local library. A surprising amount of footage can be found here.
Across town at Frontier Park, Rib Fest was in mid-swing tying up traffic in and out of the city. Luckily for our driver, anyone heading East towards Lincoln, NE would have already been out of his way if they were traveling to town for any events surrounding World Rabies Day .

Once into York, odds are that our guy chose to stop in at Petro Stopping Center instead of Sapp Brothers because of Petro’s easy access right back onto Route 80, not to mention their superiority in food offering. Sure a sandwich from Subway in a pinch is good, but to travel a half-mile or so away from the highway when you’ve got Iron Skillet just past the exit? No question. Two words: Salad Bar.

So that’s leg one in the books. Despite his tireless efforts and cheetah like energy, the driver is forced into another 10 hours off the clock. He was well entertained in York though, with attractions like:

Chances R Restaurant and Lounge
Sunset Bowl & Lounge
Sun Theater

Tomorrow we will keep trekking on until we have the kegs tracked fully to their final destinations. If you're still tuned in to this post, i owe you a beer.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pliny - Real Talk

During this brief intermission between Pliny events (I mean, let’s be honest Pliny is the big bait on the hook here) I think it only fair to take a good hard look at something that has been, unbeknownst to me, bubbling up for the better part of seven months now.

As the craft beer industry sees changes and challenges every single day, we as drinkers and supporters of this clandestine mission of the mash sometimes stick our noses in every nook and cranny of the industry. In a way it is easy and innocent, there are so many friendly people in the trade that everyone just gets chatting and before you know it word and words travel quickly.

Take for example the roller coaster of this Pliny business. Two bars tapping in less than a week of each other, initial excitement by most, those who know the ins and outs of things for a multitude of reasons know that PA hasn’t received any Pliny for a good long while, we all resolve to take what we can get and move on. Many had a taste at The Drafting Room’s Hop Fest on Saturday and noticed a big void in hop aroma and flavor, many also noted that a Pliny past its prime is still a darned good beer.

But beneath the surface there is something going on here dear readers. Something that is more serious. Due only to lax regulations, planning specifics, and a segment of the industry that is very adamantly debated do I bring you the coverage that I offer today. If you live in a wishy-washy world of every beer being the experience of a lifetime and every tasting note ending in exclamation then please do not click forward into the rest of this post ‘cuz I’m about to ruin the image and the style that you’re used to.

April ’08 – Pliny vs. Pliny – The Gloves of Repeal


With one Pliny tapped and another making his way towards the ring it’s come to light recently that there’s a certain half barrel whose mouth is a bit bigger than his ball lock. (Rumors of overcompensation due to a less than standard dip tube are already flying.) It seems as though Pliny the Northside, waiting in the wings alongside the Bastard and the Black IPA, is talking a good game. Now I don’t have any quotes, but the streets are talking and they’re saying they’ve heard some serious trash talk wafting up from Ortino’s cellar.

Apparently agitated that he’d been ducked for recent events and feeling like he should have been tapped during the fall months, Pliny Northside has now issued a challenge to the drained Spring House keg. He wants a fight to the finish.

Pliny The Spring House has already responded with his recap of how this beef began. “We were coming over from Sonoma on the same pallet and the shrink wrap was a little tight on his side. He was pressed right up against a stack of Miller Chill cases and they kept taunting him and threatening to ‘salt his rim’. He really had it bad from the get go. I guess he’s lashing out at me now because he thinks I got some sort of free ride.”

When asked why he wouldn’t just take the high road and roll away, Pliny just replied, “A keg’s gotta do what a keg’s gotta do.”

Pliny The Spring House is the first to admit that he wishes he had more time to train for a bout like this, but he absolutely refuses to back down. “I felt a bit out of step when I went on Saturday at Hop Fest. My hop flavor had faded big time and all those piney aromas were gone. I couldn't even smell myself.” He’s quick to diffuse any allegation that maybe he’d been beat before even stepping into the ring. “I’ve got a strong backbone,” he exclaimed. “I’m a 2-row boy and I’m .86 of a week younger. If he thinks he’s just gonna wander into the ring and beat me he’s got another thing coming. 12 hours is the real deal.”

That’s right folks you heard it here on the Grain Bill first (if you haven’t heard it already), The Drafting Room – Spring House kicked their keg of Pliny in about 12 hours. It is safe to say that Ortino’s Northside has their work cut out for them.

So there you have it: A challenge has been issued, not from bar to bar, please don’t make that mistake, this is a challenge from one keg of Pliny to another*. Tune in to this merry little blog tomorrow for the full Tale of the Tap where we look up close and personal at the stats on these two kegs, make unwarranted predictions, and take a look at just how these kegs got to where they are today.

In the mean and between time, this is an open call to my comments section for anyone who wants to leave tasting notes on Pliny The Spring House. They may be evaluated once the Northside keg has come and gone in the event of confusion, inebriation, or a recount.

* - Feel free to remove your disbelief from suspension at any time, sometimes I leave mine there for weeks on end.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Hop Fest, TDR Spring House, a roundup.

The Drafting Room's Spring House location rolled off of their firkin of Bitter and robbed the hop farms leaving a wake of ethanol seeds in their dust. Their 3rd Hop Fest showed a great and varied list of beers from around the US and celebrated two of my favorite well hopped Belgian ales as well.

Spring House had their pre-planning hats on for Hop Fest. Guests had their choice of full 12 oz pours (for almost everything), 10 oz tastes, and 5.5 oz sample glasses ordered Sushi style in any configuration they pleased. It was really nice to be able to taste those beers I was curious about and have all of the must haves without having to get rolled out of the joint.

I actually took some notes on Saturday, so here was my schedule:

Nugget Nectar (on cask) - this was trailing off a bit, good but i've had fresher casks of NN in my day.

Pliny - the big boy. Everyone knew this keg had been waiting a while. Darn if old Pliny still doesn't taste really good. It lost a lot of flavor and aroma in the months. (Tune in tomorrow for some hard hitting, breaking news on this front)

Houblon Chouffe - oh yes. I love this beer and this keg was pouring wonderfully. Of my first three beers, the one that travelled the farthest tasted the freshest. Go figure.

On to the flights...5.5 oz'ers

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
Sly Fox Sterling IPA
TDR 13th Anniversary (brewed by Troegs..Imperial Pils with Nugget, Warrior, Hallertauer, and one or two more varieties). This was one of my favorite beers of the day.....of the week.

Then something dangerous second flight arrived. In 10 oz glasses.

I looked at the table and knew it wasn't meant to be. Especially with Maximus as the day's finale`.

Dock St. Rye IPA
Great Lakes Elliot Ness
Green Flash IPA
Lagunitas Maximus

We had some food somewhere in the middle and in that regard TDR has never let me down.

"That's a lot of beer on the table."

A lot of familiar names and faces out on Saturday. Some just a few feet away without my realizing. The hard consonants were in full effect: Capone, Kolesar, Chandler. Soft cons didn't slouch either: Med, Ms. Hugger, and Michaelson all great folks to chat with.

Meeting of the minds.

Next stops...Victory Dinner, Ortino's Northside, Full Mooner (at which i believe i'll be pouring. This Sunday, Ugly Moose garage. I think its DFH, Sly Fox, and Weyerbacher. Factual details to follow, or email me.)
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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Devils and Saints on the Main Line (Bill Covaleski Interview)

Most of us can clearly remember some of the best meals we’ve ever had. Those meals stand out as peak moments in our lives. Unfortunately, modern life, for most Americans, provides too few moments like these. Even those of us who cook seriously go through times when all our meals seem rushed and our food is little more than fuel. Even when the meals are good, there’s often something missing. This is where beer comes in.
- Garrett Oliver

Beer Dinners. This is where we as craft beer drinkers, makers, and manipulators put on our best and take ourselves seriously. And for good reason. A chef with a mind open to good beer brings a bevy of flavors and textures into his kitchen. Whether these dinners teach you something or just please your palate, they shine a light on the efforts of two hand crafted worlds and put their convergence on the main stage.

Bill Covaleski, co-founder of the Victory Brewing Company is no stranger to beer dinners. With a host of regular and seasonal releases at his disposal, he’s got Victory booked up with events from intimate 5 course meals to beer and tapas pairings all over the area.

Most immediately, Bill will be sharing some of Victory’s finest and most interesting beers with a dinner menu put together with Teresa’s Next Door chef and co-owner Andy Dickerson. The sold out dinner is right around the corner hitting plates and pints this Monday, April 14th. There will surely be leftovers on tap throughout the week, so if you don’t have a ticket to the big table, then definitely show up for leftovers.

Covaleski had a few minutes away from his massive construction project at VBC to provide the A’s to my Q’s.

How’s construction coming along?

Very well. All on the construction crew are still talking about May 1 finish. These will be two crazy weeks ahead!

Are you maximizing dining space, brewery space, or both with these renovations?

The dining area is swelling into space that was dedicated to brewing, before we expanded in 2004 with a new brewhouse in a new portion of the building. We'll increase seating significantly, like double! We got so tired of watching young couples arrive on Friday and Saturday nights, one kid in a baby carrier and one over their shoulder and get turned away with an hour plus wait. Those are precious moments of relaxation for young families. We know, we've been there. If those folks choose to spend their precious moments at Victory, then by all means we want to accommodate them. No new brewing areas need be developed at this time as the 2004 renovation bought us excess capacity.

So what can we expect at the Victory Dinner this Monday at Teresa’s Next Door?

You can expect some great creativity from Chef Andy as well as our great beers. How does St. Victorious Doppelbock with morel and aged goat cheese puff pastry sound to get you interested? Five courses of such delight, including a V Twelve dessert.

What is it about a beer dinner that allows a brewery to connect in a different way with the people that enjoy their beers than they get to through marketing or beer festivals?

Well, it's more intimate. A much better forum to exchange information and insights between the creators (brewer and chef) and the appreciative audience. I, personally, enjoy and appreciate the audience's insights. Also, the timing allows the conversation and relationship to evolve, rather than the quick hits of a beer festival. And, no one at a beer dinner approaches you and says "what's your strongest?"

What do you enjoy most about doing beer dinners?

The interactive nature of them. First, our beers inspire the creativity of the chef. Then, their dish with our beer causes sensations for the consumers that they, hopefully, share with us. The tongue is a reference instrument so every new sensation is evaluated against the last input. So, fireworks can fly!

I’m sure practice makes perfect, but can you think of any definitive, perfect pairings for some of your beers? Maybe things from past dinners or things straight out of your kitchen?

HopDevil Ale with a really great cheddar like Cabot Jasper Hill clothbound is just so right, every time. But, that said, the fun is in discovery. When a Chef picks out flavors in our beer and brings them to life in an inspired dish, that's the moment that rewards everyone.

A very memorable dish was prepared by Chef Aaron Wilson at the Dilworthtown Inn's Innkeepers Kitchen a few years back when he took on Hop Wallop, not a beer of immediate subtlety. Aaron picked up on the refreshing menthol flavor in the hopping a spun out a savory, spiced lam ragout over mint taglietelle noodles. I was floored and licked my plate.

With summer right around the corner what should we be keeping our eyes open for from Victory?

Throwback Lager, available now, is our lager send-off before all of the ales of summer like Whirlwind Witbier and Sunrise Weissbier. Now, bear in mind that our renovated bar will feature 20 draft lines and you can imagine that there are fun things bubbling away in the cellars right now to make the draft line up exciting. Maybe even a dark and delicious return of something somewhat between the lager and ale world...
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Friday, April 11, 2008

The Pliny and the Pity

Two days, two taps, two Pliny’s. That’s what we’re down to here in the ‘burbs. Unless someone has something hiding there are two kegs of Pliny left for quite some time in these parts. While construction, mail order, and distribution are picking up and giving Russian River a well deserved spreading of their wares, we East Coasters will have to sit back and wish them well.

You could, of course, go to Savor and catch Pliny and Supplication, but as far as tavern accounts go, the word on the street is that we got nada for a while.

So if you want to get in on this hopped up wonder of a beer, then you best make your way to The Drafting Room, Spring House or Ortino’s Northside on the 12th and 18th of this apey month, respectively.

The Drafting Room is having Pliny guest star amongst a host of lumulites this Saturday at their 3rd annual Hops Fest. The list is ‘killer’ as you’ll hear me say most times we’re drinking good beer together. See for yourself:

Green Flash West Coast IPA
Sierra Nevada Celebration
Drafting Room 13th Anniversary Ale
Lagunitas Maximus
Bear Republic Racer 5
Dogfish Head Aprihop
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
Russian River Pliny the Elder
Victory Harvest Pils
Avery the Maharaja
Dock Street Rye IPA
Sly Fox Sterling
Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen
Boulder Mojo Risin
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Founders Devil Dancer
Troegs Nugget Nectar (Cask Conditioned)

Plus Great Lakes will have a surprise keg-o-somethin’.

Lets focus for a second here…Pliny, Houblon, plus Nugget Nectar on cask. This is merely the tip of my iceberg friends. That’s a healthy dose of humulone, holmes.

So from there we’ve got to take a look at Big John O’s, Ortino’s Northside.

At a 4pm Friday tapping of this as yet unnamed event the swankiest of the Schwenk will tap a year old Founder’s Dirty Bastard (shimmy shimmy ya), Stone’s delicious 11th Anniversary Black IPA, Pliny The Elder and a few other so far-unannounced beers as well. Last time I was in they had Bruscella on tap and Dulle Teve bottles priced in a most friendly way. I can count in years how long it’s been since I’ve had anything to eat at the Northside, so I am looking forward some great food to go along with these superb offerings.

But then what? Well if you’ve got friends in warm places and haven’t already worked a deal with them then your boat has sailed my friend. Russian River’s mail order stash of Beatification, Supplication, and Temptation is no longer available. I suppose we’ll just be watching these bottles of Damnation dribble away until our river runs dry, as they say.
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Friday, April 4, 2008

A Mish Mash of Melangica

I missed The Session this month. I started in on it, a blistering bio of Bob The Beer Hero, but things just didn't pan out. Sometimes they don't. Check out Stonch though, he runs a great blog and is hosting The Session this month. Visit a few times today as i'm sure the posts will be pouring in. There were a ton last month.'s been a while since a proper post, so i'll just give a quick round up of what is on the horizon for me and for Grain Bill.

I really wanted to get an interview with Rob Tod in before he hit town, but i got the dates screwed up and thought i had more time to contact him and try to set it up. He might be doing a night at Teresa's Next Door this summer and if so i will try to get a hold of him beforehand. Anyhow, Mr. T is at Tria tomorrow night. Info here. If you haven't done a Tria class, seriously, pony up the dough and check one out. I'm hooked. Jon and his folks do a really good job over there.

Next weekend is starting to look like a big one for me. I think i will take a maiden voyage to The Drafting Room's Springhouse location for Hop Fest. Mr. P is making the trek from wine country along with a really nice lineup of other beers, so it feels like the place to be.

That Monday is the Victory dinner at Teresa's, looks to be a good one and especially so for the price. Bill Covaleski will be in the house and he'll be bringing some serious beers along with him. Should be a good one, hopefully an interview will develop on here before or after the event.

So that's it really. Incubus Day at Sly Fox today and then a big night of nothing major. If you're so inclined, i am bartending at the Tiki Bar's original location tomorrow night. Always a good time to be had there, so come say hello.

Oh also, i have visions of a bi-monthly beer tasting series in my sleepy town of residence and have the first one lined up. Earthmart, a great store with a focus on health, conscious, and environment is into the idea of organic beer. So on June 5th, a Thursday, The Grain Bill will be pouring beers from Peak Organic Brewing and Wolaver's, Peak may have a rep in the house, it'll be a very small donation (i'm thinking like $3) to hang out and taste from 6 - 9pm. More info as it rolls in and gets closer to the date, but i just wanted to put a feather in yer caps.

My sister is under the knife as i type so i am waiting for the 'all clear' call from Mom.
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