Thursday, June 23, 2011

PBW Recap: Homebrew Competition at The Draught Horse

I had a hard time pulling myself away from The Forum of the Gods but had to get up to Temple's campus for the wheat homebrew contest at The Draught Horse. I gulped down the last of my Bitches Brew and hopped on the subway, I must say those SEPTA Independence Passes really came in handy during PBW. It's always nice to be back on campus for whatever reason but it's especially nice to be back in the neighborhood for a homebrew contest, oh how we've grown.

This was the third homebrewing competition held at the Horse, the first was back during PBW '10 where my roommates and I took 1st Place with our DIPA 'Hop & Circumstance', the second was last winter where I came in third with my coffee-brown ale 'Ugly Mug'. These contests are especially enjoyable because they are not BJCP sanctioned and are run a bit differently than your normal competition. They're much more laid back and everyone actually gets to try the different entries which is an added bonus.

There were about 15 brewers this go-around, each bringing some kind of wheat beer with them. I ended brewing my Drachentöter Dunkelweizen specifically for this event and I was really pleased with how it turned out. Head retention wasn't exactly what had been hoping for though, it doesn't have that big frothy head that you've come to expect from a dunkelweizen but it still tastes great. This was my first foray into wheat beers so I wanted to do something classic without any fancy additives or anything, some styles just don't need it. I would say that a majority of the other entries were Belgian Wits with only a few other dunkelweizens in the mix. There were also of course a few standard hefeweizens in there along with not one but two kiwi-wheats. I work with one of the guys who brewed a kiwi-wheat which he decided to do to stand out from the crowd 
and while that didn't exactly work out I must say that his was much better than the other.

Luckily the brewers didn't  have to give a little speech about their beer this time so things went along a little smoother than the last competition. I sampled each beer, feeling out the competition of course, found a few  that stood out to me along with a couple that, let's say...confused me a bit. After the judges had sampled and scored each beer there was a break before the winners would be announced so I enjoyed some $3 drafts from Coronado Brewing Company who sponsored the event along with Philly Beer Scene. That Idiot IPA is 

Prizes were awarded to the top 3 brewers. After third place was announced, my name was called for the second place brewer...sweet! I went up to the judges table, shook some hands and took my prizes back to my table feeling pretty good. A minute or two later, I'm called back up to the table because there was a "mistake" and thus I return my prizes in a rather sheepish and embarrassing display. While I was still up there, fellow ALEien John Yeomans was called up for the real second place. Feeling just a bit awkward I started to head back to my group but was called back because I had actually won the contest! Nathan, the bar manager, apologized for the mix-up and that he knew immediately after he called my name the first time that it was a mistake. Woo! I really wasn't expecting to be called up as the winner so it was a pleasant, albeit overly-dramatic, surprise indeed.

I actually just picked up part of the prize, a case of steaks from US Foods, a randomly wonderful bonus. They also gave me a gift card to for The Horse, a $100 gift card to Wine, Barley, & Hops homebrew shop, Philly Beer Scene pint glass, shirt, poster, and a pretty nice looking plaque to hang on the wall with pride. Apparently there will also be a little article about my beer in the next issue of PBS so make sure you keep an eye out for that. It was great meeting all the different homebrewers and getting to talk about our beers, the tips and compliments were really appreciated. Much thanks to The Draught Horse, sponsors, and the judges...especially Matt Konopka who gave me one of the best compliments on his scorecard, "I want to buy this beer."
I'll take that.


Monday, June 20, 2011

PBW Recap: Forum Of The Gods

Here's an event I nearly missed. I skipped last year's Forum but knew for a while that I wanted to attend the 2011 event but I'm really good at procrastinating and so I kept putting off purchasing my ticket. Then, much to my dismay, it sold out before I got my act together. Knowing it was my own damn fault I put a couple desperate messages out on Twitter asking if anyone had any extra tickets and I got a 'maybe' from Doug of Gateway Beers. After a few days I hadn't heard from him so the morning of the event I sent out one last tweet to see if anyone had an available ticket and luckily Doug got back to me saying he did in fact have an extra. Huzzah! This was probably 2 hours before the Forum was starting and I was stuck at home with my car in the shop so I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to get myself all the way down to Philadelphia Bar & Restaurant in Old City. Luckily my Dad was able to drop me off at the train station and I just made the R3 to Center City that was set to arrive at 2:55 with the event starting at 3. For the first time ever SEPTA was running a bit ahead of schedule, I arrived early enough to hop on the subway and made it to PBR at approximately 3:01. Close call.

This year's Forum featured Carol Stoudt of Stoudt’s Brewing, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, Brian Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing, and Larry Sidor of Deschutes Brewery with Don Russell and Tony Forder of Ale Street News moderating. Not a bad lineup. PBR had a few special selections from each brewery on tap including the Russian River and Sierra Nevada sour brown brewed for the 2011 Craft Brewers' Conference, Symposium. Everybody got a single separate ticket for that beer and it was the obvious first choice for me. After the hectic afternoon getting into the city, that first sip of sour-goodness came as quite a relief. Full of currant, earthy funk, brown sugary sweetness, and a mildly citric tartness with a pretty light body, this was a highlight of my entire Philly Beer Week and not just because it was "rare", it was just that damn good.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lyford
The place was packed but I managed to secure my own little spot in the corner as things got going. Don and Tony began picking the brains of the panel, letting their own beer geek flags fly. Early on Larry was asked about bringing Deschutes to Philly, after the London Grill dinner I was beginning to feel bad for him, and he jokingly replied, "If we can handle Utah, we can handle Philly." Just another reminder of our ass-backwards laws when it comes to beer in this state. Discovery Channel's 'Brewmasters' was also brought up and Sam was asked what ever happened to the short lived show but he could only give us some vague remarks on the subject, only able to say that more than ever you should be supporting your small or local breweries. Sounds to me like Miller-Coors' advertising was the real death knell for the series. Sam of course lived up to his frat-boy image, even cursing off a heckler at one point, good stuff.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lyford
One thing I was hoping to hear a bit about was the new collaboration between Russian River and Sierra Nevada, I think most people would be surprised to see anything with brettanomyces coming out of the Chico brewery. Apparently it was a long struggle with Ken Grossman to finally give the okay are introducing the wild yeast to their equipment. Vinnie and Brian hounded him and, luckily for all of us, he eventually gave in and is now "totally into it" which has me rather excited to get my hands on this beer. Another beer I was anxious to try was Exportation, the Exporter brewed for PBW 2010 at Sierra Nevada aged in Russian River wine barrels. Really light bodied for the style with aging adding a bit of sourness to the roasted coffee flavors. There were some what I could assume were oak flavors that came through as well. I wish they had the original on tap as well to compare but now I'm just getting greedy.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lyford
Carol Stoudt was quite passionate about the legislative side of things and the promotion of local breweries. She expressed her worry over the next generation who has to carry the torch and hopes they realize that you can't sell beer over the phone. It was great to see someone who has been in the business for such a long time maintain that fire and still care so much about it much like her husband Eddie who left me with the same impression when I visited the brewery.

The crowd slowly became a little more rambunctious as the beers flowed which got pretty annoying. A lot of people were starting their own conversations despite the fact that they had paid to go and hear other people talk, that didn't make much sense to me. I just stood in the corner quietly as the panel came to an end after they made the mistake of opening up the floor to questions. Someone had given me a couple extra tickets for beer so I was able to try everything I wanted including Stoudts 2X Chocolate Porter and a little more Obsidian from Deschutes on nitro...DELICIOUS. The brewers stuck around and mingled with the mortals for a bit so I figured I would say hello to Vinnie and Brian, thanking them and all that standard geeking-out kind of blabbering. They both seemed pretty genuine in their appreciation and love of Philly, specifically Beer Week which they were kind of in awe of. I was impressed Larry had actually remembered me from the London Grill dinner the night before, he was definitely the quietest up on stage but was much more open one-on-one. 

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lyford
This was the first time I had made it to PBR and I look forward to getting back there for a normal drinking session. Seemed like a bar I could fall in love with in area that already has so many must-see bars already. It was an awesome experience to be able to drink these beers with the people who made them and for that I have to recommend getting tickets to next year's Forum. Given the caliber of brewers and beers there, the $20 ticket price is a great deal but make sure you buy your tickets early! You don't want to end up like me making that last minute dash, Beer Week is already hectic enough.

Thanks again to Doug from Gateway Beers for hooking me up with that ticket! Check out their website and all that good stuff, they're a great resource for seasoned drinkers or if you're just entering the wide world of craft beer.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

PBW Recap: East Meets West: Deschutes Dinner at London Grill

Getting to have my birthday in the middle of Beer Week sure does have some perks. My ever so generous girlfriend told me I could pick a beer dinner to go to for my present, really a win-win for both of us. The Deschutes Brewing Co. dinner hosted by London Grill stood out to me as I was browsing the PBW website and so my decision had been made. This sought after brewery is only available in the area during beer week so I figured I couldn't pass it up.

After making the foolish mistake of attempting to find street parking off of Fairmount Ave., we eventually ended up in the parking lot. We had arrived an hour before the dinner for what was billed as the 'reception' which featured some small appetizers and the like but the place was packed with regular happy hour folk and we didn't get to indulge in everything. Getting a beer became quite a chore as well but working in a six-pack shop I've made some friends with some people in the industry so luckily a Muller guy was able to get us a couple beers but even he had some trouble.

Now Ex-Deschutes Brewing Co. Brewmaster, Larry Sidor
My first taste of Deschutes was their Inversion IPA, a wonderfully subtle take on the style. Boldly hoppy without being overpowering or overly bitter, just a really well balanced beer. We did manage to snag some of the smoked salmon schmear going around at this point, after a long day at work we were both pretty content with just this. Before dinner got under way I had a smaller glass of their Twilight Summer Ale, a light and refreshing beer with a strong malt backbone. I remember it being pretty crisp with just a bit of citrus hoppiness to round things off. Pleasant enough but just not something I would usually go for. At this point I got to meet Jason who runs the brewery's Twitter account, an amusing encounter since he had falsely informed me earlier in the day that tickets for The Forum of the Gods were still available when in reality they had sold out a few days before. But enough schmoozing, onto the dinner!

Everyone settled into their seats and the big-wigs of the event were introduced, mainly Deschutes' brewmaster, Larry Sidor. Oddly enough he announced he was leaving the brewery to start his own just a few days after this event. I'm thinking he didn't want to miss out on all the Beer Week fun so he held off on the announcement but that's just my theory. First up on the menu was a locavore salad with a passionfruit vinaigrette made with their Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Now I have no idea what 'locavore' actually means but I don't really care either, I'm a salad kinda guy and this was one of the better ones I've had. This was of course served with a Mirror Pond Pale Ale, a full-bodied and piney pale ale that works that delicate balance between hops and malts just right. At the start of a big meal like this it was just mild enough.

Next on the menu was a soft shell crab, something I've never had before and still don't fully realize why some people "freak out" about. I didn't find it that odd to be eating the whole thing, in fact it was delicious and could have had another. Served on top of some coconut jasmine rice, I was a big fan of this dish. This was paired with two beers, the first being their Obsidion Stout. While I'm no sommelier by any stretch of the imagination, this pairing seemed a bit odd to me. No matter though, the beer was so fantastic it could have been paired with Easy Mac and I wouldn't have said a word. Dark roasted coffee is the prominent player here with an emphasis on the roasted part. A very deep stout with just enough hops to give it a bitter finish but nothing too aggressive, the chocolatey espresso flavors were the focus here and I loved it. They also brought out Hop In The Dark, Deschutes' "Cascadian Dark Ale" or a black IPA or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods. I don't care how popular this style might be right now, I always look forward to trying a new one. This one had a fantastic nose to it, lots of tropical fruits and grapefruity hops. The flavors pretty much followed suit but with a well rounded chocolate malt presence as well. These two beers were my definite favorites of the whole evening.

The next course however was the standout amongst the food, Black Butte braised Goat Mole served on top of a corn arepa and a dollop of goat cheese to top it off, paired with a Black Butte Porter. I have to say, my ladyfriend really has to walk me through food like this, I had no idea what I was getting into in that department. Basically this was the most savory version of pulled pork I've ever had, although it was goat...not pork. If you know me well then you are well aware of my affection for such dishes so I was clearly in a good place throughout this course...I don't think I said too much during it. Not to be completely outdone, the porter was richly sweet and creamy. I got some cocoa and brown sugar out of it which worked wonders with the mole, another food word I don't understand. I could go on about the wonders of goat but I'll spare you.

Last on the menu was of course, dessert...and a little beer called The Abyss. I wasn't a huge fan of the dessert, ginger gelato with Abyss caramel and a lychee berry on top. It was so rich I had a hard time enjoying it, I'm sure I'm offending some foodies out there but I honestly didn't eat very much of it at all. The beer, however, more than made up for it. The Abyss lives up to its name, pitch black with oak and chocolate dominating the aroma, with a hint of booze coming through as well. Dark fruits and molasses, smoke and wood, coffee and bourbon...this imperial stout has it all! Luckily for me Meridith isn't the biggest fan of this style so I basically got two helpings of it which I gladly took advantage of. This was the only way the dinner could have ended, a top notch beer that lived up to the hype.

This was most definitely one of the best beer events I have been to. Despite the confusion in the beginning, everything else fell into place and I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time. Even the fact that there were people whom I had interviewed with in the past (obviously not very successfully) could not deter from the night. Getting to talk to Larry Sidor for a few moments was also a real treat, a very friendly and down to earth guy who clearly loves what he does...who wouldn't? Of course the question of coming to Philadelphia was raised and was shot down with the skill of someone who had surely been asked the same question hundreds of time but when that time comes I'll be ready for it.


PS: I have to mention that even when London Grill isn't hosting a beer dinner or other event, it's an awesome corner bar with a very nice selection of rotating taps. They've also got some rather handy happy hour deals as well so if you are ever in the Art Museum/Fairmount area be sure to stop in!

Also, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I did not come home with a Deschutes glass of any kind. I suppose I just was not on my game. I did however get a pretty cool leather Deschutes coaster which I had never seen before. It'll do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

PBW Recap: Saturday in Northern Liberties: Part 2

And so, my journey through Northern Liberties continues. After throwing back a couple at good old Standard Tap we made our way across the street to The Foodery. I give this place a lot of credit for pushing me over the cliff as far as beer goes, this is where the courtship between craft beer and myself really started so I'm always trying to stop in whenever I'm in the area despite my general lack of monetary means. In any case, it's a great place to grab a beer whilst waiting for friends to arrive.

It just so happens that there was a complimentary Allagash tasting going on inside...don't mind if I do. We caught the tail end of the event so I didn't get to sample everything but perhaps they were saving the best stuff for last...Curieux and Odyssey. The Curieux was smelled quite sweet which was totally undercut by the very prominent bourbon flavors. I believe this was the first time I had tried a bourbon-aged tripel so I was really impressed by how well the Belgian spices complimented the bourbon. I wish I had gotten some more but the sample gave me a good idea of just how smooth and delectable this beer is. I wasn't as head-over-heels with Odyssey, the oak aged "Belgian-style" dark wheat. It was an aggressive mix of roasted coffee, bitter chocolate, and oak, reminded me of a lot of Quads and the sample was all I really needed of this one.

A couple of my friends finally met up with us but we were still waiting on one more so we all grabbed a beer to tide us over. I went with Illumination, the Double IPA from Central Waters Brewing Company. I neglected to jot anything down regarding this beer but from what I've gathered from memory...I was a fan (give me a break, Beer Week is a long 10 days). Once our whole group was together it was time to find some grub and get away from the crowds for a bit. On our way to our next stop we stumbled upon this empty Nugget Nectar sitting alone on the sidewalk, a sure sign that Philly Beer Week was in full swing.

Beer Week is a great time to try new things so we decided to head over to The Abbaye, a spot neglected by everyone in the group before. We snagged a table outside and ordered up, the perfect setting for a few evening beers. My clear choice from the draft list was Brotherly Suds 2, the collaboration beer brewed for PBW 2011 by Yards, Troegs, Nodding Head, Victory, and Stoudts at their Adamstown brewery. This clear golden lager's aroma reminded me of a farm, lots of straw and light malt with just a bit of a funky kick somewhere in there. The hops add a floral touch and come out a lot stronger on the tongue. The brewers said this was a beer FOR brewers, not the beer geek crowd, but I really enjoyed it. Perfectly balanced, clean, crisp, and refreshing with the slightest bit of fruitiness made for a well rounded beer that is just one example that proves not all "yellow fizzy beer" is bad. 

My buddy Steve had gotten up from the table to make a phone call and wandered off, seconds later I realized he was calling me into the bar where he had ordered up two pints of Victory's Summer Love. I'm not sure why this was a secret mission but it was one I was happy to take part in. This is just a good standby beer for this time of year folks. Nothing to write home about but an American blonde ale that I've been enjoying quite a bit this year now that they have released it in bottles. It's a light-to-medium body beer with a stronger malt presence than you might expect, pale malt with some wheat characteristics as well. The hops add some light touches citrus flavors along with a bit of earthy spice to finish things out, a very accessible beer to share with your more tepid beer drinking friends this summer!

I really enjoyed The Abbaye, it was a quiet little spot just a bit off the beaten path. They're not running any gimmicks and there was no snobbery to be found. Exposed brick, hardwood flooring, outdoor seating, great beers, very reasonable pricing...pretty much everything I look for in a bar. They also have a lot of "U Buy The Glass" nights where you buy a pint glass for $10 and get free refills for 2 hours, not too shabby at all. We weren't all quite ready to head home yet so for some reason we went all the way down to South Street for a couple nightcaps at Brauhaus Schmitz, Philly's one true German beer hall. 

There aren't many other ways I would have wanted to end my first day of Philly Beer Week.

Next Up: The Deschutes beer dinner at London Grill


Monday, June 13, 2011

PBW Recap: Saturday in Northern Liberties: Part 1

As prior engagements prevented me from going to Opening Tap on Friday night, Beer Week 2011 started for me on Saturday. With a couple friends coming in from out of town (one who had spent the past 6 months in Spain) it was quite serendipitous that there was plenty for us to do in the city. We had decided that we would plant ourselves in Northern Liberties/Fishtown for the day instead of trekking all over, sometimes limiting your options during Beer Week just makes life easier.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lyford
First up was Johnny Brenda's "it's a FiRKin RiOT!" for some real ale and lunch. Despite the fact that I had passed this place countless times driving to and from Temple over the past 5 years I had never once stepped foot inside. The British inspired event featured over 15 firkins that would be tapped over the course of the day, some standard English menu items, and of course UK rock blasting all day long. It was tough deciding which brew to go with since so many were  quite rare but I opted for the Dock Street Curried OMG Pale Ale first. We had this beer on tap at work and I had really enjoyed it so I was expecting to love this incarnation but didn't get too much out of it. I was expecting the curry to come through a lot stronger than it had but still...a damn fine beer to have on a humid day sitting outside as we were.

I've been on a bit of a hummus kick lately so Meridith and I had to give thier plate a taste which was really fantastic, I could've scarfed it all down by myself. The obvious choice for lunch however was the fish and chips complete with a cup of vinegar, just the perfect meal for the occasion. We were there a little on the earlier side and some of the firkins that I was initially looking forward to wouldn't be tapped until later so I went with one I had already had, Flying Fish's Wild Rice Double IPA, Exit 16. A little lighter in appearance than most DIPA's but it doesn't hold back in the flavor department. Medium bodied, grapefruity, hoppy, and deceptively smooth, this is one of the best beers Flying Fish has ever made so if you happen to see it out at any point you'd better order up! We couldn't stick around too long so it was farewell to the folks at Johnny Brenda's although I was a bit disappointed I was missing Victory's Yakima Glory firkin. I also wish they had been pouring full pints from the firkins, I don't think the Brits would have appreciated the smaller serving sizes...just saying.

Photo courtesy of Standard Tap
We made our  way to Standard Tap were the annual Kingpin contest was already underway where everyone's favorite local breweries compete to see who can kick their pin first. This year's lineup included Yards Brawler, Troegs Hopback, Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale, Philadelphia Brewing Kenzinger, Dock Street Summer Session, Flying Fish Exit 11, and my personal choice, Weyerbacher's version of a Black & Tan i.e. Double Simcoe IPA and Old Heathen Imperial Stout. Double Simcoe is possibly my favorite DIPA so I wasn't going to pass up this behemoth concoction which did not disappoint at all. While either one of those beers would have probably been too heavy for a mid-afternoon brew, combined they balanced each other out just fine. This seemed to be the crowd favorite and the most interesting choice there but I later found out that Dock Street ended up taking the grand prize, that Summer Session does go down quite easily so I'm not surprised. Pours from the firkins at Johnny Brenda's were $5 as they were at Kingpin, the difference being Standard Tap pouring full pints of local goodness...thanks for that.

It seemed like everyone was at least stopping by this event with reps from nearly all of the present breweries and other beer scene notables mingling about including the legendary Hammer Of Glory which I got an obligatory picture's just something you need to do. Meridith wasn't too fond of the pin offerings but they had Weyerbacher Blanche (her favorite) on tap which made her happy while I snuck in a glass of Sly Fox's Saison VOS before we left to meet up with the rest of our group.

This was a good start to Beer Week 2011 and the day continued on with a few more stops before heading home but I'll save those for the next post.

Until then...cheers!

Philly Beer Week 2011 Recap: And So It Begins...

Another Philly Beer Week has come and gone.

Now the city rests as the good people who imbibed their way through 10 days of celebration, inspiration, and debauchery get back to normal life. I had decided before the week started that I wouldn't even attempt to write anything as Beer Week was happening rather wait until I could actually rest and gather my thoughts. It was a fantastic 10 days for me, getting to try a slew of new beers, visiting some bars I've been meaning to get to, and of course enjoying it all with friends, new and old.

I'll be recapping the good, the bad, and the ugly that I experienced this year so bear with me as I attempt to recall everything. If you didn't make it out to any events, the next week of posting is for you to live vicariously through me. If you were out there drinking with me, you'll be able to help me piece everything together and revel in the joy of the past 10 days. It will be a nice little stroll down recent memory lane as I look back on the Beer Week that was so stay tuned!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Draught Horse's PBW Homebrewing Contest

Between work and Beer Week taking over my life I probably won't be putting up any posts about the events and what not until after all is said and done while everyone's livers and wallets take some time to recover.

That being said, I wanted to send out a reminder about The Draught Horse's Homebrew Contest which is taking place TONIGHT JUNE 7th at 7 pm! This will be the third time I'm entering one of their competitions and while they're not officially sanctioned BJCP events they are always a damn good time. They're a little more laid back than your typical homebrew competition which is just what I like. They have wisely dropped Yuengling as a sponsor and tonight Rick Chapman, President of Coronado Brewing Company, will be on hand to judge the beers. They're offering $3 Coronado drafts all night so even if all of our homebrews end up sucking that deal will make up for it.

Here are the judges for the competition:

  • Rick Chapman, CEO of Coronado Brewing Company
  • Neil Harner, Philly Beer Scene Magazine
  • Steve Hawk, 2010 Beer Geek
  • Bill McGeeney, BJCP judge
  • Matt Konopka, USFood
  • Jeremiah Wood, Draught Horse MBA Club member

The Draught Horse has a surprisingly impressive beer selection and awesome starving-college-student prices so if you don't make it out tonight, keep this Temple University bar in mind for the future.

If your Philly Beer Week dance card is clear tonight, hop on the Orange Line and stop by to throw yours truly some love. I'm bringing some of my Drachentöter Dunkelweizen which I finally tried a couple nights ago and am quite pleased with so wish me luck.


PS - I must say that my beer has a pretty bad-ass label, I'll put some pictures up later.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Philadelphia History of Beer

With Philly Beer Week quickly approaching, the ever so helpful folks over at Drink Philly have put together an iconograph depicting the history of beer in The City Of Brotherly Love. Take a look and get excited to become part of the story as PBW starts this Friday!

If you think you'd like to have this hanging on your wall there is a poster version available here for only $12!