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I drink no cider,
but feast on
Philadelphia beer.

--John Adams,
in a letter to his wife Abigail

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Updated 11 June 07

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June 2007

Updated 29 May 07




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What's New Onsite.
New postings or changes elsewhere on this site are indicated by the date shown beneath the appropriate link in the left-hand column.

14 June 2007
Coolest. Beer. Dinner. Ever.
No, it wasn't Tuesday night's 20th Anniversary bash for Stoudt's Brewing at Monk's Cafe´, although that was a right nice evening and is, in fact, the inspiration for this posting. It just will, as it sometimes does, take me a while to get around to the point.

The coolest dinner ever wasn't even the grand and historic all-lambic dinner at that same venue a few years back, a night when all who were in the house could periodically look around and think "this will never happen again, this is a singular moment in beer history," a thought which, finally, the legendary Mr. Jackson finally spoke aloud, between digressions.

And the coolest dinner certainly wasn't some trumped up event singing the praises of Extreme Beers or Session Beers or All The Beers In-Between.

It was, in fact, a 10th Anniversary dinner for Stoudt's, held back in 1997 (which, of course, is exactly when it should have been held).

That momentous event occurred at, of all places, the Dawson Street Pub, an establishment which someone very close to this column saw fit to proclaim the world's greatest bar back in those simpler times, a proclamation he sees no reason to change now.

The inimitable Dave Wilby shut the place down one evening and Jake the cook whipped up a fine steak dinner at which the attendees were Dave, Jake, Carol & Ed Stoudt, me and...the Fat Dog, in whose honor the wonderful Stoudt's Fat Dog Stout is named. Both Carol and Ed thought, last night when we were reminiscing, that the label had not yet been created nor the beer named on the night we dined, but I believe that it had been because, having not met either Sebbie Buehler or Michael Notre-Dame at the point, I recall thinking that this was the first meal I'd ever shared with someone who'd appeared on a beer label.

It was hardly the most elegant of surroundings, but that night, crowded around a small table in an empty barroom with a big dog at our feet, was, just like the all-lambic dinner, something that will never be repeated.

And it was just so damned cool.

Which brings us to this Tuesday night, ten years further on, in a more sophisticated venue and featuring a menu that Jake, for all his skills (and some amazing good grub came out of the Dawson St. kitchen in those days) could never have managed with his resources, some of which were up the street and in his own apartment.

Tuesday was cool in its own way, because it celebrated true pioneers in the craft beer movement, our best and brightest in a time when pioneers were needed. Tom Peters recalled a prescient comment by Carol way back in 1988 and dug up a clipping on the internet to make it part of the dinner program because it served as an indicator of how far we, and they, have come:

"Beer is just coming into its own," said Carol Stoudt, who has come a long way from the day she cringed when her fiance (Ed) ordered a beer with his meal. "I can see the day when you have a dinner party with different types of sophisticated beers. that's the type of beer we're trying to make."
As the evening proved: Mission Accomplished (are we still allowed to use that phrase today without everybody giggling?)

We started off with Stoudt's Pils, waiting for the Stoudt party to arrive through rain and wind-swept rush hour traffic (complete with downed trees in many areas). The wait meant we got to sip several glasses and I was reminded that I could, and it would be no inconvenience at all, spend the rest of my beer-drinking days just enjoying Pilsner and other Lagers produced here in the Delaware Valley and be perfectly content. This one, of course, was the first of a line that now extends through Victory Prima Pils, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Troegs Sunshine Pils and all the beautiful Bock beers and other variations being turned out by local brewers, not least of which, in fact perhaps the antithesis of "least," are the various unfiltered, Keller versions.

But I, you know, wander off the path here (there really ought to be a word for that)...

Joining the Pils eventually was a delightful Amuse Buche of Asian Tuna, grilled asparagus and sauerkraut, the tuna a spicy delight which left me, uncomplainingly, picking whole black peppercorns out of my teeth through the rest of the night. That was followed by a grand Chilled Melon Soup (with an unexpected and most pleasing bit of heat at the end of each spoonful), perfectly accompanied by Stoudt's Weizen. Then came Chicken Terrine with Stoudt's Blonde Double Maibock, a great beer which I hadn't had in quite a I had two.

Monkfish, braised with tomatoes, fennel & Vidalia onions, batted fourth in the six-course feast and Stoudt's Aged Belgian-style Tripel was poured with that. We'd seen dessert arrive as we enjoyed the fish but one last entree´ stood between us and what we'd agreed would likely be a bit of chocolate heaven.

That last course was Veal Cheek Carbonnade, braised with morels and fiddlehead ferns, accompanied by the brewery's latest release, Stoudt's Smooth Hoperator, which led to the highlight of the evening's discourse as Ed took the microphone in hand and tried to support the brewery's argument that this beer is really an "Americanized Doppelbock" (i.e., hoppier than you'd ever expect). I still ain't buyin' that; for me Hoperator is rather a Double IPA with more malt than you'd ever expect. Whatever you choose to call it, Hoperator was perfect with the veal.

Stoudt's Fat Dog Stout on cask came with Chocolate Coffee Mousse to close out the meal. I probably don't have to tell you what a really good idea this was, now do I?

What else? Included in the Stoudt group for the evening were daughter Carey Stoudt Matson, who's the one responsible for their refurbished and greatly improved website design (check it out!), and brewer Joe McMonagle Jr., part of the three-man Stoudt brewing team (John Matson and Brett Kintzer are the others). There were two or three others as well, but I never got to chat with them.

A bit of beer news: McMonagle told me that Joey's Saison is due to be released late this month, and Brett's Scotch Ale is currently in the tanks. They are the next beers in the "Brewer's Reserve" series that Stoudt's has established to allow its brewers to "have some fun," a damned fine idea and yet another sign of how the brewery, which had become "yesterday's news" to a large extent as this century began, has reinvented and revitalized itself to the point where it now almost seems to be the newest kid on the block.

The first of the Brewer's Reserve brews, which are available in limited draught release and even more limited 750ml bottle release (there are some bottling issues at present and the Saison may be entirely draught), was a little something called Old Abominable Barley Wine, which, if you missed it, shame on you. This was one of my favorite beers of last year; with any luck, we'll see it again come 2008, albeit without the extensive aging that the first batch enjoyed.

[Posted 5:10pm edt]

10 June 2007
Sunday morning beer and brewery notes.
Since it's leaked out elsewhere, I suppose it's kosher to reveal that Dock Street has a brewer. It's supposedly a temporary arrangement (which means a lot of people might readily guess who) and they are "seriously interested" in another brewer for the full-time gig. Brewing should start by the end of the month with the place opening later this summer. More soon as we see how all that plays out...Things are going so well at Iron Hill Phoenixville that they'll be removing some small fermenters and replacing them with larger ones in the near future. Quite simply, Tim Stumpf can't make enough beer to meet demand with the equipment he's got and they have to bring some in from other locations on a regular basis. As I said to director of brewing operations Mark Edelson, the arrival of those new tanks definitely sounds like a photo op. Meanwhile, try and hit one of the Iron Hill locations while their new Roggenbier is on tap; I had a pint at Phoenixville this week and it's delicious. I wouldn't kick the Saison off my bar stool either, comes to that...

More Iron Hill: this year's Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers Festival at Iron Hill Media raised over $15,000 for the Media Youth Center. Congratulations, guys. You know, a lot of festivals and beer events claim to benefit charities, but few of them ever announce what the proceeds were and, in some cases, even exactly which charity received all or some of those proceeds...Among those who do provide the facts is Victory Brewing, which supported nearly 200 organizations last year with events like the Victory Fall Fest, scheduled for Sept. 29 this year and supporting local fire companies. Another big one is their Oktoberfeast, not yet on the calendar, which raised nearly $9,000 last year for the Brandywine Valley Association and its efforts to protect Chester County's rivers and streams...

I've just added the blog of Tomme Arthur, brewer to the stars, to our links column to the left. Why? 'Cause I can and because it's good fun. In fact, I'll be seeking out other brewer blogs to join his and Fal Allen's on our roster, to balance out the blather of your humble host and other beer scribes...Speaking of blather, it's beginning to look like we'll all soon be able to spend hours a day just keeping up with that which emanates from Bryson. No sooner did I mention to him at Teresa's Next Door the other night (see posting below) that I'd discovered Ken Well's beer column for Conde´ Nast's new Portfolio magazine following this suggestion from Stan Hieronymus (see how easy that linking is, Stan, although of course I could have just done this if I'd wanted), than he leaned over and whispered in my shell pink ear (Whispered? It is to laugh. He boomed) that he'll be taking it over and it'll become biweekly. Dunno if the link will be the same or when Lew will start but I'll considered adding it to the links when that happens, even though I'm really think the guy's getting entirely too greedy, you know? The rest of us gotta eat too.

[Posted 10:15am edt]

9 June 2007
About Teresa's Next Door (I let the other guys do the heavy lifting).
A few weeks back, I was getting depressed about this whole gig, realizing that there are so many people posting (and well) on the local scene these days, it's hard to stay out front. Then my natural indolence and apathy set in and I realized that being out front only means you're a better target. So my new approach? Slow and easy on the stuff everybody's got.

Excessive Volume Man (I sat next to him and my ear hurt for two days after, no joke) and Brew Lounge Brian caught you all up to the soft opening this past Tuesday evening (or will if you click on the links), so I'll keep it simple.

An impressive performance all in all, with work still to be done but a clear intention and attitude toward getting that done. Service was good at our dithering table once we got organized. Several shared dishes--a Bread Board, a Gouda Cheese Plate (young, aged and smoked), a fantastic Scallop Brochette--and my entree´ of a Rabbit Dijon Sausage with roasted garlic goat cheese (perhaps a touch too much of that) on a baguette were proof that the kitchen is ready for this Tuesday's Grand Opening.

I started off with a pint of Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale, had Charles Welles Bombardier and Rodenbach during dinner and topped off the evening with a pint of Troegs Nugget Nectar from one of the two handpumps. And speaking of beer, one of the serving touches that showed me a lot of attention to detail has gone into the place was the way the servers were careful to place each glass so that the beer logo was facing the drinker. Good stuff.

Brian gave you lots of photos with his report. I got some more:

From the top: That's Teresa's beer cellar, where you can see the tap lines mounted directly under the taps on the wall behind the bar, insuring a minimal amount of old beer in those lines at any time. It's being explained to Ted Johnston's bald head, Steve Rubeo's attentive stare and Dan Bengel's standard smirk by a person who dare not be identified.

Owners Mike Ellis (who also owns Teresa's) and chef Andy Dickerson behind the bar two days before the soft opening.

The first of (my count, Matt will correct me if I'm wrong) 12 double door beer boxes behind the bar, and the only with an empty section.

A shot of the interior from the front (our servers were significantly more attractive than the ones shown working the cheap seats) and a shot of the interior from the rear which features, from left: Ted Johnston again, a (fuzzy) shabbily dressed Patrick "the Tom Peters of the suburbs" Mullin in the rear, an infant getting a good early education, the Beer Yard's Mark Sauerbrey and the back of the lovely Megan, his long-suffering sweetie.

Retail store sixpack sales coming?
A story in Thursday's Harrisburg Patriot-News by reporters Charles Thompson and Erica Dolson provides a good overview of story that has Pennsylvania beer geeks all a-twitter, a proposed law change which would allow the sale of sixpacks by wholesalers.

Personally, I'd make it 70-30 against this ever getting passed, but I've been around along time and am downright cynical. I guess we'll see after all the lobbyists on both sides (including those for the "Big Box" stores who are also pushing for sixpack sales and are not covered in this law)check in with wallets open.

There's lots of good information about the bill that was endorsed by a State Senate committee so it's definitely worth your reading. Two comments in particular caught my jaundiced eye. First of all, this guy shows some understanding of the needs of the craft beer guys, something which is rare among politicians:

Sen. Sean Logan, D-Allegheny County, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said smaller-quantity sales should encourage more beer drinkers to sample beverages produced by Pennsylvania microbreweries.

"People are often afraid to try new beers because you have to buy a 24-pack, and it is too expensive," he said.

And then there was this:
A spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, another group that has opposed efforts to make beer and alcohol sales more convenient, said it had no problem with the six-pack bill.

When consumers are allowed to buy the quantity of beer they want, there will be fewer leftovers in households to tempt underage drinkers, state executive director Rebecca Shaver said.

"It's a good idea to be able to purchase a smaller quantity," she said.

Who would have imagined comments approaching the reasonable coming from that misguided pressure group when the topic is beer?

The wholesaler's side of the story.
In a current thread at that online beer group site, George from Westy's offers up a reasoned and thought-provoking argument in favor of the three-tier distribution system, especially the so-called "second tier," beer wholesalers. It begins like this:

The 'second tier' is the one that's always the one that's under the most fire. Any business course worth its salt usually tells you that 'a middle-man' is a bad situation. In the beer business though, it does have merit.
Read the whole thing (and Dan Weirback's response as well), because we rarely get to hear this part of the story. I've written a lot about wholesalers over the last year, especially for American Brewer, which meant talking to several of them around the country, as well as other beer insiders who see the whole picture, and I have to admit I have a lot more favorable opinion of that side of things that I did before.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Brewspapers have arrived.
Speaking of American Brewer, the next issue isn't due until July, I believe, but current issues of the ones that you fine folks get to pick up for free around the area are all available as of this week.

Celebrator Beer News has the usual brilliant "Atlantic Ale Trail" column by yours truly, this month leading off with a lengthy piece about Weyerbacher and devoting the second half to new Belgian places opening in the area this summer (it almost looks like that section was cribbed from this recent "Joe Sixpack" column, but it was actually written four weeks early, honest). It also has a story I wrote about Michael Jackson's time in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and Monk's Cafe´ and serves to alert the rest of the country to the planned 2008 (and beyond) Philly Beer Week next March. That one was cut from last issue due to space issues.

Ale Street News has has a long story I wrote about wholesalers scrambling for craft brands these days and a sidebar updated the role played by the Anheuser-Busch/InBev distribution deal made last year in all that (see posting above).

Neither Mid-Atlantic Beers News nor Beer Advocate Magazine has any of my priceless prose (their loss) but lots of other good stuff.

[Posted 1:05pm edt]

3 June 2007
Why I'm late.
Okay, I wanted to lead off this week (back when last week was this week) with a report on the Memorial Day Monday Tasting at Sly Fox Phoenixville, a super-sized extravaganza the sorts of which mortal men rarely get to see, much less participate in. To do that, since I took no notes and was there for only about half the fun, I was depending on the weekly report from unofficial Tasting Group recording secretary Dell Massey, who usually gets his email summary out with 24 to 48 hours and this time assured me I'd likely see it Tuesday early because he was taking the day off from making other people rich (and not doing so badly himself).

It arrived Friday.

So don't blame me, all you frantic LDO fans. Yell at Dell next time you see him and tell him about how he's ruining your lives and messing up your schedules.

I be innocent.

Herewith follows the Massey Report, with his comments on the 22 (!) beers. In the posting below this one, I'll add some of my own:

Firestone Walker Firestone 10 - a blend of different Firestone barrel aged beers (Barley Wine, Imperial Stout, Brown Ale)
Hair Of the Dog Experimental Ice Double Bock - vintage 1988, that's right 88' - given to Joe Maloney from Jim Anderson of Beer Philadelphia fame back in 1999. Thanks for sharing, Joe
Victory Brewing Experimental V-Ten - vintage 2000 - this bottle was acquired by Richard Ruch prior to V-Ten going into production
Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat Maredsous 10 - vintage 2005
Stone Brewing 04-04-04 Vertical Epic
Stone Brewing Co - 05-05-05 Vertical Epic
Parkerford Brewing Co (Tom Foley Homebrewer) #60 Flemish Red - vintage 2005
Iron Hill Old Ale - vintage 2002
Dogfish Head Midas Touch - vintage 2001, first bottling (750ml clear bottle)
Nodding Head Prudence Pale Ale - cask
Nodding Head All Night Ale/Espresso Mild - cask
Southampton Publick House Cuvee Des Fleurs
Brouwerij De Ranke Kriek De Ranke - vintage 2005
Edenton Brewing Surrender Monkey Farmhouse Ale - - bottle # 78
Highland Brewing Imperial Gaelic Ale
Alesmith Brewing Horny Devil
Bison Brewing Reunion: A Beer For Hope
De Struise Brouwers Pannepot - Old Fisherman's Ale
BFM/Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien
Parkerford Brewing Co (Lori Limper Homebrewer) Double Bock
Adherbrew Brehm's Urbier Dunkel
Dachsenfranz Weisbierpils
Dachsenfranz Waize
Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck Kasteel Bier Triple - vintage 2000
Yards Brewing Saison - vintage 2001

It's all about the beer.
The beers on that list from Edenton and HIghland, both North Carolina breweries, were sent to me, along with several others, by the Beer Advocate known as (for no discernible reason) "Afatty." He asked that I make sure and share some with Richard Ruch and Victory sales gal Tracy Mulligan (wanting to impress Tracy I can understand; why Ruch is one of those mysteries with which life sometimes confronts us), which I made an effort to do.

I brought another bottle he'd sent, Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale, to a Monday Tasting earlier last month, at which Ruch was present. It was, shall we say, disappointing, tasting more like vanilla extract than anything. Since it's a spiced annual beer which they change regularly, and since they've got an excellent reputation and all the other beers from there I've had were quite good, I have to assume this was an aberration.

This time, I alerted both Mr. Ruch and Ms. Mulligan at Ortino's Northside two days earlier (during the Summer Session of Love finale on Saturday) that I would bring these two other large bottles (the rest Afatty sent were 12oz) on Monday and urged both to be there. Ruch was, Mulligan not so much. I do what I can do.

Surrender Monkey proved to be a quite tasty, true to style Farmhouse Ale, packaged in a 22oz corked bottle with a wax covering, drinkably smooth at 8% abv. Very good. Imperial Gaelic Ale is a one-off. a special, ramped-up version of the brewery's flagship Gaelic Ale, packaged in a flip-top autographed one-liter bottle to celebration the opening of Highland's new plant. Wonderful. Excellent.

Neither of those beers are available in Pennsylvania and the latter, I assume, is no longer available anywhere at this point, with most bottles still stored away awaiting the appropriate special occasion, so this was a rare opportunity for those present on Monday. Thanks from us all to Afatty (your return shipment will be on its way in a bit, pal; I'm awaiting the release of the new Perkuno's Hammer from Victory).

The two Dachsenfranz beers and the Adherbrew were on the table as a result of the recent Victory Pils Tour and are not available in the US. The Weisbierpils, best I can understand it, is a combination (not a blending) of a Pils and Weisse, both brewed separately and then combined. You can clearly taste both styles and it's most interesting. And yes, Dachsenfranz Waize is spelled just that way. It's a very nice unfiltered Helles (5.1%).

Other comments on beers I remember tasting, doing the best I can do without notes: I was very taken with the Southampton and Firestone beers, blown away by how well the Hair of the Dog had held up and really do need more of Foley's Flemish Red. Sorry but that's all my addled brain retained.

In other tasting news, however, Tasting regular Ted Johnston was kind enough to give me a bottle of Brugse Zot after I'd told him I'd never tasted it, for which my thanks. It's a fruity brew (6%), made with four malts and two aromatic hops, pale in color with a very nice nose. Good drinking, and yet another reminder that I have to get myself down to the new Belgian restaurant in Philadelphia of the same name, about which I hear nothing but raves, the latest from Sly Fox Phoenixville bar manager Corey Reid, who was there for "research" recently.

Also, remember this heartwarming story in which Chris LaPierre went and got me a bottle of Iron Hill Fe10 (the tenth anniversary brew by all three founding partners) because I'd never tasted it? Well, what should show up on my doorstep a mere two days later but another bottle from the brewery. Such a deal. That freed me up to drink one and save the other for a forthcoming Monday Tasting to share with the gang. I'll save my comments until then, except to say, this is a right good Belgian-style beer and I'm delighted to see it added to the Big Bottle offerings at the Iron Hill pubs.

Airbag saves windbag.
Richard Ruch arrived on the scene on Memorial Day with a tale to tell. The night before, on his way home from an evening of carousing, he was involved in a head-on collision with a car driven by lady who was, he said thankfully, "so drunk they didn't even bother to check me." His car was demolished, but he was unhurt, thanks to his seat belt, airbags and the vast array of Victory Brewing paraphernalia which he often fondles as he drives. Indeed, rumor has it that he was unconscious for a few minutes after the accident and only identified by the Property of Victory Brewing tattoo on his chest, but we've been unable to confirm that.

We're all delighted that Richard was unscathed, of course, and happy that he can afford a new car. His survival also gave everybody around the Monday table a new insight to what happens at the moment of a near-death experience. Richard explained that it was not his entire life which flashed before his eyes, but rather the list of hundreds upon hundreds of spam email he has yet unleash upon the world. He has rededicated himself to the task as many of your inboxes this past week have reflected.

A terrific Philadelphia craft beer resource.
I finally got around to getting me a PDF copy of Rich Wagner's Craft Brewing in Philadelphia, 1985-2005 and a quick run-through of the file indicates it's going to be the time-saver and go-to research tool I fully expected it to be. It's over 200 pages long and is comprised, for the most part, of excerpts from local brewspapers, with additional material from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News and a few other sources. He particular thanks Jim Anderson, Bryson, me, George Hummel, Kitsock, Don Russell ("Joe Sixpack") and Dale Van Wieren for giving permission to use our work.

I will find this especially useful in going back to find out what I said and when I said it and to compare that with what others were saying at the time, making the use of previous material for reference and support purposes a great deal easier. Anyone who writes about or comments on the local beer scene regularly, whether in a professional capacity or just in web postings on various sites, would do well to obtain a copy. For that matter, anyone interested in contemporary local beer history ought to have one.

The good news is that you can get it at the link above for a mere $10 (plus $3 for shipping if you opt for a CD-Rom rather than PDF). Same price, same deal, for Wagner's Philadelphia Breweries During Prohibition (none of us were around to contribute material for that one, though some people suspect I might have been), which I'll be buying myself soon. This stuff is useful, it's interesting and it took a helluva lot of work to produce. AT this price, pretty much everybody reading this ought to grab a copy, says I.

Contretemps in a pint glass.
Speaking of things pretty much everybody reading this ought to be doing, you really ought to be reading Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin. The piece linked, in which Jay smacks around the author of this way off-base story, is typical of the sort of detail and thoughtfulness he brings to his daily posts. I stand in awe.

We all have our niches in this beer writing game, of course. Bryson is the loud, cuddly one; Sixpack and Kitsock are the ones with great gigs with mainstream papers; Beaumont is definitely the most Canadian; Hieronymus is the guy who wants everybody to get with the program...and on and on, with, of course, The Great One ruling over the roost.

Me? I'm the grumpy one (but in a nice way).

The smash comical closing.
One of my things, I guess you could call it a half-assed hobby, is noting craft beer sensibilities whenever they show up in newspaper comics strips. I've done it here before with both Get Fuzzy and Edge City; today's entry is from the relatively new Barkeater Lake:

The onsite biography of creator Cory Pandolph says that "when not producing cutting edge funny for the population, Corey can be seen with "his people" at Gritty McDuff's in downtown Portland." My kinda guy.

[Posted 11:15am edt]

The complete May 2007 postings have been archived here.

Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

--A. E. Houseman

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