Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mancation 2011 Recap: Part 2

We awoke Sunday morning in great distress with the realization that we aren’t in college anymore, this weekend’s sort of behavior isn’t as regular anymore and our bodies were in revolt. I knew we had some plans for the rest of the day but I was ready to cancel everything but after a bit of rallying, food, and a glass of my Mancation Maple Bacon Porter I felt relatively good considering the circumstances. I always find a beer to be a sure fire way to beat an intimidating hangover.

After taking down our tent and cleaning up our site it was decided that we needed to stop at a bar or even better, a brewery. Luckily Stoudt's was on our way back to to the Turnpike and the obvious choice. I'm sort of proud to say that this wasn't the first time I had arrived at a brewery only to find that they weren't yet open as was the case this day so we wandered around the grounds and the Wonderful Good Market to grab some food. My breakfast sandwich was just what I needed, eggs and Stoudt's own three cheese blend on fresh beer bread. I was content. I totally bypassed the market on my previous visits but will be sure to check back in to sample more of their rather tempting cheeses. After a bit of stalling, the bar finally opened at 11:30...about time.

Being familiar with Stoudt's regular lineup I knew I would order any limited batches they had to offer. The first was the Smoked Helles Lager, it was a weekend of all things smoked so why stop now. Served in a tall tulip, this one was a clear golden straw color with a bright white head that faded quickly. A strong grainy aroma was accompanied by a strong smoke presence but nothing too obnoxious. The toasted biscuit malts and smoke flavors lingered on the tongue but didn't have that "shoveling hot coals into your mouth" thing going on. This was a slightly sweet and light bodied smoked beer, just well balanced and well made.

The only beer on tap that wasn't one of their usual suspects was a Vanilla Almond Porter, not exactly what I was in the mood for but not something I was about it pass up since these limited Stoudt's batches aren't too plentiful here around home. This porter had a lighter brown body and cream colored head with a rich aroma of vanilla coffee. There were some dark chocolate flavors but mainly a roasty coffee profile accented by and dose of vanilla bean to smooth things out. The almond came through only (luckily) slightly, offering a nutty and earthier profile. Medium bodied and real smooth, I definitely thought this a good beer but just not something I'd go for again, for whatever reason it's just not my bag. We wrapped things up, settled up with our oh so patient waitress, and hit the road for home.

Or the Hulmeville Inn. I'm always happy to take out-of-towners to my favorite local bar and they were more than happy to take me up on the offer. Sunday afternoons at the Hulmeville is one of my favorite times to stop by because of the $3 cheesesteaks but also because it's just so damn laid back. I spotted Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Grand Cru on the bottle list and immediately knew that that's what I would be drinking. I had this blend once before on tap and enjoyed it just as much this time around. The combination of oak-aged Bigfoot, Celebration, and the good old Pale Ale sounds a little wacky to me but it really works wonderfully. Citrus hops, rich toffee, spicy, bitter, smooth vanilla/oak, and a pleasant bit of booze make for one awesome beer. I just might have to grab a couple to take home and stow away for a while. This was a one and done visit though, the Mancation had finally come to an end.

Sort of. I had to rush home to clean myself and get ready to head to a fundraising event for my friend Jeff's brother who passed earlier this year which was being held at Yards. Not only was it great to be able to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness but it was also a chance to catch up with some friends that I haven't seen in a while. It was a private event but the Yards tasting room was packed with friends and family, the brewery was a perfect setting for the night. Yards' Smoke Em If You Got Em event was just a couple days before so they still had one of the beers they brewed for it on tap, their McDouglas Scotch Ale. I have strained relationship with this style, I rarely find one that I really love, but will give anything Yards brews a shot. This was one of the tamer interpretations I've had but not in a bad way, it was just a more balanced and approachable version. Sweet and caramel maltiness followed up by a subtle smoke flavor that lingered. I've had some scotch ales that are cloying and over the top which made them unenjoyable but this was definitely a nice change of pace. They offered a couple tours throughout the night and even though I had been on the Yards tour too many times to count I took advantage which I'm glad for because it was one of the best brewery tours I had ever had. It's always nice to actually learn something new despite having heard the same old lines countless times on other tours. Our guide doesn't normally give the tours so I think he was trying extra hard but I hope he starts getting to do some because it was really engaging. Eventually it was time to go but there was no way we were all ready to part so we all met up at the Standard Tap for a night cap.

At this point I was just ready to get my hops on, not really in the mood to commit to something new I went right for a Weyerbacher Harvest Ale. After picking the hops for that beer I feel obligated to get it whenever I see it. I followed that with Manayunk Brewing's California Dreamin Double IPA, a delectable West Coast Style DIPA that never fails to please. They also had Dogfish Head's Black & Red on tap which I had heard was so undrinkable that many bars were returning their kegs to wholesalers, I had to get a sample. This a confusing beer, it pours a deep and dark ruby red color and smells of roasted mint...and it's a stout. I nervously sipped at the sample, a minty bitterness along with a strange raspberry tartness and a bit of an alcohol burn. What the hell was that? It reminded me of carbonated Robitussin, not something I would ever want in my glass. I could definitely why see why bars would be returning this, I bet it's still on tap down at the Standard Tap because I can't really see anyone drinking a whole glass. You can't win em all I guess.

Finally after a very long and exhausting weekend I got back home to retreat into my bed. I do believe that hitting four breweries in one weekend is a personal record so I was quite pleased with that accomplishment as I prepared to enter back into the real world the next morning. The weekend reaffirmed what we all already know which is that beer can be much more than just a drink but instead something much more important. Over the course of 2 days it brought so many different people together and was the catalyst for a slew of great conversations and new memories that won't fade quickly.

Now that I got all deep there I will finally stop typing and move on.

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