Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Adventures in Homebrewing: Brew Target

While anxiously awaiting my pumpkin ale I've been trying to decide what to brew next. The homebrew contest at The Draught Horse has encouraged me to go with a brown ale next so I've been working on coming up with a suitable recipe. For a novice like myself this can be a little daunting. Yes I have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing but I'm not trying to act like an expert here.

That's where Brew Target comes in to save the day. Brew Target is a very useful program that allows homebrewers like myself concoct their own recipes while the software takes care of the sometimes complicated calculations. I would encourage anyone to double check the calculations but it is a great tool to formulate a recipe. Input all of your ingredients and particulars and Brew Target will give you an estimated read out of how your brew will turn out. Once all of your ingredients and procedures are in the program it will tell you the estimated IBUs, SRM, ABV, and more. If you have even the slightest idea about brewing then the application is pretty self-explanatory. It's rather fun to make up recipes without having to worry about spoiling a whole batch. Of course there are some improvements to be made but nothing's perfect. I would assume this would be quite useful to seasoned and amateur brewers alike. The best part about it is that it's free!

Here's a video demonstration of the program:

You can download Brew Target for yourself here.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Brewery Tour: Troegs Brewing Company

I went camping with majority of my family this past weekend out in Manheim, PA which is only 20 minutes or so outside of Harrisburg where the brothers Trogner have been brewing since 1997. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit one of the breweries that helped me get into craft beer a few years ago so I took a break from the wilderness and headed for the capital.

Luckily my girlfriend is used to these sorts of diversions on vacations (visiting Maui Brewing Co. when we were in Hawaii this summer was a priority) so she was my brewery co-pilot. We drove over the railroad tracks to find Troegs nestled away all by it's lonesome. I spotted a Troegenator van and got very excited about it, somehow I haven't become jaded yet and each new brewery I visit gets me all a twitter.

We had reservations for the 1:30 tour so with a little bit of time to kill we checked out the gift shop which had one of the biggest selections I've seen. They have a t-shirt and a glass for nearly everyone of their beers. Everything was priced pretty reasonably which made my decision on what to buy all the more difficult. I ended up grabbing a brewery work shirt for $10. They have a bunch of used work shirts with employees names still on them which I found to be much cooler than the regular swag.

Our group was called in for the tour which I was excited to realize would be led by Chris Trogner himself. I really appreciate when a tour is led by a brewery's founder or brewmaster rather than a schlub that works in the tasting room. Chris led a pretty standard tour, starting with the labs and mill room. There was one guy in our group that was constantly interrupting with completely irrelevant questions. I think he saw that they offered something free to do on a Saturday and decided that he should bring his entire weird family who couldn't have cared less about what was going on. Even Chris couldn't hide his annoyance with this guy, there always has to be "that guy" on a tour I guess.


The tour carried on and Chris led everyone through the whole process, handed out some grains and hops for everyone to see, told us that the spent grains get picked up by some farmer for his cows, same old same old. One exciting moment in the tour was when we were shown the hopback chamber. They only use it for a few of their brews (obviously Hopback Amber is one of them) and when Chris mentioned that that was where Nugget Nectar was born, all of the beer geeks started smiling and nodding their heads while their girlfriends just stared at the stainless steel chamber.

We ended up on the other side of the facility near the bottling line where they have a number of barrels stacked against the wall where they have some exciting experiments going on. These barrels are home to their Splinter Series, barrel aged brews that are only available at the brewery in very limited quantities. What we saw aging was their Russian Imperial Stout which after maturing for 8 months will be available around Christmas. The way Chris talked about it I really wish I lived closer because it sounded like it is going to be delicious.

The tour winded down and Chris stuck around for any lingering questions so I asked him about the big move to Hershey. He said that things were going well and as of right now they are on schedule and should be brewing by June 2011. I was shocked to hear that they were taking the entire operation to Hershey but from what I've read the new location is going to be much more spacious which will be great improvement because we were quite cramped on Saturday. The tasting room is going to have large windows which will allow visitors to watch while they brew, something that I can't wait to check out.
A mock-up of the new brewery
After the tour we grabbed a sampling tray since my girlfriend wasn't familiar with their selections. For $7 you get to try all 7 of their drafts which that day included their year rounds plus Dead Reckoning and Scratch 34, a Belgian style brown. The samples were pretty generous but I was really hoping they would have Mad Elf on tap, but alas. They also have Philly soft pretzels available and you can fill your growler for pretty cheap but of course I neglected to bring mine along for the trip. We finished our sampler and I picked up a bottle of The Flying Mouflan before we headed back to the woods.

The Troegs variety pack was one of the first few cases I bought when my roommates and I were starting to explore the world of real beer so it was a pleasure to visit it's home in Harrisburg. I'm also glad I got to visit their original location before they move out but I think their new brewery will be bigger and better so I would recommend planning a trip next summer. If you happen to find yourself in our state's capital, a place that can get pretty boring pretty quickly, head over to Troegs for a beer because they won't be there for long!

800 Paxton St
Harrisburg, PA 17104


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yuengling Homebrew Contest

The Draught Horse is teaming up with Yuengling for another homebrewing contest! They had their first competition during this year's Philly Beer Week and I actually ended up winning the thing with the Imperial IPA, "Hop & Circumstance", that my roommates and I brewed in the Spring. I still have yet to schedule the private tour of the brewery that was part of the prize but am still pretty excited for that.

This time around they are calling for all entries to be Brown Ales. I already had plans to brew a Red Ale next but I might squeeze a Brown in for this competition. The competition will take place on December 7th at 8pm. They are giving prizes out for the top 5 brews so it couldn't hurt to enter!

If you plan on entering just email them at, they'll give you all the details and requirements that you'll need.


The Draught Horse is located on Temple University's campus at
1431 Cecil B. Moore Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19121


Monday, October 18, 2010

Adventures in Homebrewing: Bottling Day

My Blazing Pumpkin Ale has been bottled and is currently lying in wait in the laundry room. In a couple weeks it will unleash all of it's spicy Halloween goodness upon the taste buds of my family, friends, and most importantly, myself. That is of course if I didn't screw it up too much.

I had my friend Fae over to help me bottle and things couldn't have gone smoother. I'm so glad that I invested in that auto-siphon because it has quickly become one of my favorite tools. Bottling is the most enjoyable and least stressful step in the whole process for me...besides the drinking part. I decided to give labeling a shot and I think they look great. A label really makes you feel much more legitimate than you are.

The beer itself has a great color, really deep copper-orange. Once I took the airlock off I was immediately hit with a wonderfully spicy pumpkin aroma. I am quite pleased with the strong aroma because I find that to be especially important to a good pumpkin ale. We'll see how it turns out once it's ready for indulgence later this month. Fingers crossed.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yards News 

Some exciting news from Yards Brewing Company Founder and Brewmaster, Tom Kehoe. The Philadelphia brewery is planning a major expansion at their Delaware Ave. brewery that will have a nearly 50 percent increase in production. New fermenters are on their way which will enable Tom and his team to brew around 24,000 barrels, up 8,000 from their current output. This is great news for Yards lovers far and wide, distribution will surely expand as they are able to produce more beer. Unfortunately there is no timeline available at this time.

Love Stout is out breaking hearts all over the city. Yards took a bit of a break from this oyster stout but it is back and it is mighty fine if I do say so myself. Here is a list of bars which have Love Stout on tap:
  • Brigid's
  • City Tap House
  • Dawson Street
  • Irish Pol
  • Jose Pistola's
  • Local 44
  • London Grill
  • Rembrandt's
  • Southwark
  • Swift Half
And of course you can get it at the Yards tasting room which is open Monday - Saturday from 12-7pm and Sunday from 12-4pm except for this upcoming Saturday, no tours or tastings on the 16th!

Lastly, Yards sent their barley over to Percy Street BBQ to be smoked for their Grodziski Smoked Polish Wheat. I had this on tap at The Hulmeville this past summer and I would recommend everyone to at least try it once it is out again. It is truly one of the most interesting beers I've ever had. You've got your wheats and you've got your smoked beers, I had never had the two together before this and was really blown away by the flavors that came along with this combination. It is not for everyone, the smokiness is quite prominent, but if you want to try something incredibly unique make sure you grab a pint next time you see it at a bar.

Yards Brewing Company
901 North Delaware Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19123


Thursday, October 7, 2010

No more Yakima Twilight?

Victory Brewing Company rarely disappoints me so when I heard there would be no more Yakima Twilight Ale I was more than distraught. Yakima Twilight is a Dark IPA that was released just about a year ago. I was lucky enough to try it at The Draught Horse before it was officially out and I fell in love immediately. I still think this is one of the best Black IPAs out there, much more balanced and fully flavored than most others that I've tried. It would be a real shame for Victory to lose this from their seasonal lineup.

But fear not! It is true you won't be able to get Yakima Twilight this year but only because Bill and Ron have decided to rename this brew, Yakima Glory.

I haven't decided which name I like more. I suppose it does deserve a triumphant name like 'Glory' but 'Twilight' has a nice ring to it as well. It really doesn't matter though, this sort of thing only concerns nerds like me. The important thing is that you'll be able to get this delicious beer on draft and in bottles this November through January, I highly suggest that you do.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Upcoming Events

There are quite a few events coming up this week in the area, here's a run down of the ones worth noting.

  • Smuttynose Firkin at Devil's Den
    • They're gonna a firkin of their Big A IPA along with their Pumpkin, Robust Porter, and Finestkind IPA on tap. They have a great happy hour with half off drafts from 5-7pm followed by $1 off Smuttynose drafts from 7-9pm.
  •  Dogfish Head Dogtoberfest at Kite and Key
    • Some of the rarer Dogfish brews will be on tap including Red & White, Palo Santo Marron, Theobrama, Sah'Tea, and Black & Blue. Starts at 5pm.
  •  Sixpoint Takeover at The Hulmeville
    • Kevin The Big Beer Guy will be there with a Sixpoint rep and a firkin of their Brownstone Brown Ale. They really want to beat the current record for kicking a firkin in under 31 minutes. Yards' Old Bart Barleywine is the current champ, I was there that night and if the Hulmeville crowd can slam down a barleywine that fast this shouldn't be a problem. Free glassware when you get a pint from the firkin as well as a chance to win a $25 gift card if they beat the record. They'll also have their Old Krusher Barleywine and Sehr Crisp Pilsner on tap. The madness begins at 6pm.
  • Victory Takeover at Varga
    • This is going to be a real takeover, every single tap will be a Victory brew including some brewpub exclusives. This event starts at 9pm, not a bad way to spend a Friday night.
  •  Great Lakes at The Hulmeville
    • They're gonna have Commodore Perry, Oktoberfest, and the tasty Nosferatu on tap. Specials on drafts and giveaways start at 8pm.
  • BeerFest at Bolton Mansion
    • They're 4th annual fest will feature some great breweries, live music, and food. Proceeds will be going to Friends of Bolton Mansion and The American Cancer Society of Bucks County. Tickets are $30 online and $35 at the door. Starts at 12pm...too bad I'm working.

    • Another BBQ celebrating Steve Hawk who will have a charity keg on his back with proceeds going to pancreatic cancer research. Lew Bryson will also be there signing copies of his new book, The 4th Edition of Pennsylvania Breweries. As of right now the insane tap list looks like this: Sculpin, Rock Art Pumpkin Spruce, Bourbon Plead the Fifth, 5 AM Saint, Allagash Bourbon Black, Port Older Viscosity, Rodenbach Vintage 2008, Victory At Sea, Brooklyn Detonation, Green Flash Le Freak, Chocolate Yeti...with more to come. They'll be cooking up free burgers and dogs and they'll be opening up the deck so bring your beach chairs. Everything starts at 12pm, I'm also working all day can hopefully swing by after.
What a week for beer!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brews For Boobies Recap

This past Saturday was Philly Beer Scene's 3rd Annual Brews For Boobies, 4 pub crawls throughout the city with proceeds going to The American Breast Cancer Foundation. With a handful of my closest friends, I drank my way through the Center City crawl that eventually ended at the after party at Varga with the rest of the crawlers. This was the first year I had participated in B4B but after all the fun and debauchery we had on Saturday I cannot wait until next year's crawl.

The way this event works is, you make a $25.00 donation which gets you the official Brews For Boobies t-shirt which gets you special discounts at each of the bars on the crawl. This year there were 8 bars in 12 hours plus the after party which went until closing but I really have no idea what time I left.

The day started at the legendary Monk's Cafe who actually offered no discount but it's Monk's so my friend Steve and I splurged on a couple bottles to kick off the festivities. I thought I would try to keep track of all the beers I had on Saturday in my phone but when I looked at my phone the next morning I saw that that strategy went out the window after Monk's. Oh well. From there we headed to Cavanaugh's at Rittenhouse followed by Nodding Head. On our way to Nodding Head we ran into a number of camera crews waiting for the Redskins to arrive at their hotel so some of the group waited around for them but I carried on, I was on a mission. Jose Pistola's was up next where we were lucky enough to have the elusive Yards Love Stout on nitro, a beer that I've been waiting to try for a few years now. We moved on from Jose's to the underrated Misconduct who offered half-price draughts, my kind of special. Good Dog was up next where I thought it was a good idea to play pool which did not work out so well after 8 hours of drinking. After that embarrassing display we headed to McGillin's which was packed, all I really remember from there was singing along to a couple U2 songs, probably as embarrassing as my pool game. I ended up getting separated from my group with a dead phone so I had to head to Fergie's alone and wait for them. At that point there was no need for us to continue on but we had made a commitment so we toughed it out and headed to Varga where all 4 crawls were meeting up. After some catching up Mat from the magazine we headed back to Temple where I slept on my girlfriend's brother's freshman dorm floor. I awoke to find myself in an awful state of disarray and pain but was comforted by the fact that it was all for a good cause.

Despite one of the worst hangovers in recent history, it was a fantastic event to partake in. This was something I had looking forward to for months and it did not disappoint. I highly recommend signing up for Brews For Boobies 4 once they announce the date for 2011, I can't think of many better ways to spend a Saturday than trekking through Philly's unbeatable bar scene with some great friends and raising some money for an even better cause.

There were some people on the crawl who hadn't officially registered but were still able to make donations throughout the day. If you would like to make your own donation to The American Breast Cancer Foundation you can do so here via their PayPal account.


Friday, October 1, 2010

The Case For Pumpkin Beers

Now that it is officially October I thought it would be a good time to talk about a seasonal favorite of mine, pumpkin beers. I know that there is a lot of hate for this style but I think it is unwarranted. Of course there are some lesser examples of pumpkin brews but I think the good ones need more respect. Understandably, people get very upset when they see Fall and pumpkin beers on the shelves in August, it is no different than decorating for Christmas in October. This jumping of the gun turns a lot of drinkers off to the style in general which I think is a damn shame.


Besides arriving in stores in the summer, a bad pumpkin beer can be an understandable turn off to the style. There are plenty of weak pumpkins that give the style a bad rap, I get it. It does bother me when someone is down on pumpkins but they're only basing that off of Jack's Pumpkin Spice. Just last night at The Craft Beer Outlet I had a number of customers who had had Jack's but were looking for something more flavorful and I recommended some of my favorites. By the end of the night we were all sold out of Fegley's Devious and Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin, two much more impressive brews. Just like any other style of beer, there are great examples and there are unfortunate examples of it, try more than one before you write off all of them.


There are few things I enjoy more than sitting by a fire on a brisk Autumn eve with a glass of good pumpkin brew. Throw some Neil Young on ('Harvest Moon' should do the trick) and you'll be set for a great night. The spices and flavors obviously go perfectly with this type of weather, no one can deny that. A lot of folks also complain about the lack of actual pumpkin in these beers. I think this is simply a marketing/semantics snafu. Nobody would want a beer that actually tastes like pumpkin, they're not that tasty by themselves. It's when the touch of pumpkin aroma and flavor mixes with other various spices that you really get that warm and fuzzy feeling of Fall.

I say give these worthy beers another shot if you've had bad experiences in the past. They can be a delicious treat for this time of year. I understand that they seem to be a bit of a fad and marketing ploys by the bigger companies but there are some great beers that you'll miss out on if you avoid the style. Grab a few bottles to share with friends and enjoy. They also make a great beer for your Thanksgiving dinner!


For a chance to try a wide variety of pumpkin brews, check out The Institute's 2nd Annual Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin Event this Saturday. Pumpkin beers take over the taps and the menu. I went last year and thoroughly enjoyed my trek through the pumpkin patch.

Pumpkin Brews To Avoid: 
  • Jack's Pumpkin Spice
  • Saranac Pumpkin Ale
  • Post Road Pumpkin Ale
  • Wolaver's Will Steven's Pumpkin Ale
  • Harvest Moon
Pumpkin Brews To Pursue: