Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Hulmeville's Glorious New Beer Garden

If you know anything about it me, you know I love myself some time at The Hulmeville Inn.

Simply put, it is the best damn bar in the area. I could go into a long essay about why that is but I'm not going to do that, if you are a respectable beer drinker who lives in vicinity then you already know why the Hulmeville is the bee's knees. Somehow though, owner Jeff Lavin and gang have made me fall into an even deeper love affair with the historic drinkery with the opening of their brand spanking new beer garden.

Without much fan-fare and after a couple delays, the Hulmeville's beer garden opened this past Saturday where Meridith and I were the first official patrons. With an all new grilled food menu and an impressive list of over 50 canned beers, the beer garden offers an entirely new experience for fans of the Bucks County classic. This will be a great change of pace from the dark and smokey innards of the Hulmeville which I love...but sometimes you just want to be outside. Once summer hits I can see myself spending quite a bit of time at one of the eight or so tables out-back amongst the fountains and tiki torches. It's going to be hard to pull myself away from this awesome addition.

Matt, the Hulmeville's longtime cook, had been teasing me with hints at the garden's new menu and it did not disappoint. On Saturday we started off with the chips and salsa which was made with Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe IPA which just happens to be one of my favorite IPA's around. As I browsed the menu, the grilled wings with Weyerbacher Insanity BBQ sauce was the obvious choice for my meal they were as delicious as they sound...especially paired with a Tallgrass Oasis. The girlfriend opted for the grilled chicken sandwich and an Avery White Rascal, admirable and something I will most likely be ordering myself. The rest of the menu looks quite tasty as well and I can't wait to give the rest of the new items a shot myself.

There was a pin of Sly Fox's Phoenix Pale Ale tapped in celebration of the garden's opening and was free while it lasted, what more did I need? The crew at the Hulmeville have really put a lot of effort into the beer garden and it shows. It is a must for any lover of craft beer. There is one thing that is a bit of a shame, as of now you will only be able to order from the list of cans and NOT from the 20 or so rotating taps inside which are often why I end up there in the first place. I suppose I'll be able to deal but perhaps they'll allow drafts if you use a plastic cup, we shall see.

The staff was equipped with iPone credit card swipers that sent a copy of your bill to your phone immediately, quite high tech for the down and dirty likes of the Hulmeville. It was kind of amusing to see Bruce, usually found yelling behind the bar, outside in the sun acting as concierge/waiter. They've pulled out all the stops folks. The beer garden will be open Thursday through Sunday for your outdoor drinking pleasure.

Get there...now...that is all.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rant: American Craft Beer Week


The self-proclaimed "Mother Of All Beer Weeks" started in 2006 as a national campaign to celebrate and raise awareness of our nation's rapidly expanding craft beer scene.

Now one would think that Philadelphia, the birthplace of America and a booming craft beer destination, would revel in this sort of celebration. There's even a "Declaration of Beer Independence" that breweries and bars are encouraged to hang up for patrons to sign, that sounds like something Philly would come up with. But as anyone who lives in the area knows, there isn't much going on here in the City of Brotherly Love this week when it comes to craft beer.

I do have to mention that the fine folks at DrinkPhilly.com have partnered with a number of bars around the city to offer $3 American craft beer pints from 5-7 pm all week long. Other than this wonderful deal Philly, beer drinkers are hard pressed to find any sort of fanfare in regards to ACBW and I would think that was a real shame...if Philly Beer Week wasn't right around the corner!

I appreciate what ACBW stands for and obviously support their cause but Philly simply has too much on their plate with their own beer week coming up. It appears that we just can't be bothered with this national holiday when everyone know Philly Beer Week quite superior in every way. It's hard to see the point of American Craft Beer Week, I could appreciate it more if it were in the fall or winter but right now my sights are set on PBW and I think that's how much the local scene feels at large.

When you live in a city that really celebrates American craft beer on a daily basis it's kinda tough to get excited for this.
But by all means, cash in on those sweet $3 pints!

End rant.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Washington Crossing Brewfest Recap

This past Saturday marked the first annual Washington Crossing Brewfest held to benefit the Friends of Washington Crossing Park who promote and support the park as one of Bucks County's historic landmarks. The weather left much to be desired but with just over 50 breweries represented I for one was not concerned with a little bit of rain sprinkled throughout the afternoon.

As if there was any doubt that I was going to have a good time, as we were waiting for the gates to open there were a few gentlemen dressed in their Colonial best acting as sentries and helping directing cars. This pleased me to no end. Everyone got their little sampling glass and the four hour free for all had begun. The event was held right along the Delaware River in a heavily wooded area of the park, not what I had imagined but it ended up being a great location. The breweries were set up in a long line of tables with food carts, tables, and plenty of water stations throughout the rest of the event area. Of course there was the obligatory porta-potty compound at the far end that got progressively more crowded as the day went on. I was glad to see the band set up on a stage totally separate from the rest of the tents and what not, they were a little more than background noise. The whole layout of the event really made for a great day, everything was so spread out and lines never got to be unbearable. There was plenty of space for everyone to hang out if they weren't getting more beer, I was worried it was going to be handled like the Yardley Beer Fest under one large and inconvenient tent. They really seemed to be very well organized and knew what they were doing with an event of this size and I say kudos to everyone who put it together.

As I've said before, the list of breweries represented at this festival was really impressive. It's a testament to the Philadelphia area that a first-time-out festival like this was one was able to get such a variety of breweries. Sure you had your usual suspects and local favorites but there were some breweries like BrewDog, Firestone Walker, Dark Horse and Cigar City that aren't always represented at these smaller events. Luckily with a distributor like Bella Vista, this is changing and won't be as uncommon as it may be now. There was one brewery that I missed out on trying, East Coast Beer Company. One of the region's newest breweries coming out of Point Pleasant, New Jersey wasn't set up right away and once they were a huge line formed to try this new brewery's Beach Haus Classic American Pilsner. I just didn't feel like spending that much time waiting around for 2 oz. of it and I'm sure it'll find it's way into my glass at some point in the near future.

There weren't too many beers being served that I hadn't had before but that doesn't detract from what was available. I got to share some of my favorites with others who hadn't ever had them and got to give some other beers another shot. I was also able to check off Nebraska on my Red, White, & Brew page with Nebraska Brewing Company's EOS Wheat, a hefeweizen I would love to try again. Things always get a bit blurry towards the end of these things and your tastebuds end up working overtime trying to sift through all the different beers.

All in all this was a pretty successful beer fest, one that Bucks County is lucky to have and will hopefully stick around for years to come. The crowd seemed to be relatively idiot-free as well with the short, stout, and slurring Rangers fan who was a little too enthusiastic over the sight of a dark beer in some folks' glasses. There's always gotta be that guy.

If you're in the area and missed out on this, make sure you get your tickets early next year!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Like Drinking God's Tears"

I'm usually not one for these types of videos but this managed to get a few chuckles out of me so I thought I'd share.

Here's the video for "Beer Song" by ElbowSkin, a comedy duo, who wrote this ode to beer in honor of Australia's Good Beer Week. The song was put together with The Crafty Pint where you can find all your Australian craft beer news.

Beer Song by ElbowSkin from Alister Robbie on Vimeo.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Day At The Goat Races

As you can see by my new and rather awesome beer mug, the annual Sly Fox Bock Fest and Goat Race was held this past Sunday. The girlfriend and I got up early to drive out to Pheonixville to partake in the festivities and with this being our first goat race, excitement filled the air.

The festival is held every spring in the parking lot of Sly Fox's Pheonixville location and features a handful of bock beers, some German grub, and live polka music. It's become one of the most renown beer events in the area and now I see why. It's not a day for beer snobbery or geeking out, just a good reason to get outside and enjoy a few brews with friends of both the human and goat variety.

We arrived at the brewery around 11:30 as the crowd was already forming. This was the first year patrons had to buy $5 tickets that would be redeemable for any food, beer, or even souvenirs which seemed to help quite a bit as the lines never got to be unbearable. While it was a bit cloudy out the weather was nearly perfect and I started the festivities with a mug of Slacker Bock. There was a lot of time to kill before the races so we milled around the grounds basically looking at goats and of course, as one often does, discussing goats. This became a little easier and more interesting as the mugs were being refilled.

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of families in attendance. I had the overwhelming sense that this is a real community event that just happens to place at a brewery, the "Bock Fest" was almost secondary. There was little to no douchebaggery to be found here except for a few unfortunate ladies who seemed to have a hard time controlling the volume of their voice and the pseudo-hippie girl who butted in front of everyone in line for the porta-potty.

I had run inside the brewhouse to use the facilities and fill up with one of the beers not available outside (I went with their Saison VOS, perfect for any sunny day outside) where the lines had grown substantially with people wanting to get one more beer before the races started. I made it back to our viewing spot just in time and the multi-heat races began. Goat racing is an interesting sport. In some cases, the human counterpart ends of dragging their goat down the track by the neck or tripping over the leash as the goat decides to turn around mid-sprint. I was honestly impressed with some of the goats abilities to run, maybe it was just motivated by fear as a couple thousand humans cheered and yelled at them.

There was a clear crowd favorite in the three legged goat named Peggy who was sponsored by a team from Weyerbacher Brewing Company. She garnered quite a bit of attention before the race as she was paraded around with her other three legged companion. Then of course there was Dax, the winner of the 2009 and 2010 goat races whose owner was a bit of a showman sporting a NY Giants that upset the crowd only slightly. As if written by the fates, both Dax and Peggy made it into the final race but the three-legged newcomer ended up winning the whole thing...and there was much rejoicing.

Immediately following the race, Peggy's owner and Sly Fox brewmaster Brian O'Reilly tapped the ceremonial first firkin of the newly coined Peggy Maibock with all of the pomp and circumstance you would expect. They let the firkin flow freely as the crowd rushed forward to fill their mugs. The Emil Schanta Band continued playing their celebratory tunes and there were plenty of Ein Prosit chants throughout the rest of the afternoon.

We decided to grab a late lunch in the restaurant but given the circumstances, I couldn't really tell you what this place is like on a normal weekend. I was surprised at how small the actual brewpub is. It lacks a certain flair that I had come to expect from Sly Fox, it just didn't have as much character as I had hoped it would. My pulled pork sandwich was fantastic and the beers followed suit so I would most definitely give it another shot and I would love to get over to the Royersford location for a full brewery tour.

This was a unique and wildly entertaining way of spending a Sunday afternoon and I hope to make the trip again next year. I would recommend bringing some chairs and setting up your own little compound with a good view of the race track. People are in pretty high spirits but get a little pushy as the race gets closer. Overall though it was a great time and something that any local beer (or goat) lover should strive to experience!

Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,
Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,