Monday, December 12, 2011

Mad Mex Willow Grove: Now Open For Your Drinking Pleasure

There a few things that I can't get enough of. Obviously a tasty brew is one of those things but Mexican food also makes that prestigious list. Naturally with an affinity for such things I was a happy to hear that Mad Mex would be opening a new restaurant in Willow Grove which is much closer to my house than University City, their next closest location.

The only Mad Mex I had ever been to was the one in State College while visiting Mer but I knew that they all prided themselves in having an extensive draft list. It seems a bit strange but I can even remember being shocked and excited by seeing Great Lakes Nosferatu on special the first time I had been there for dinner, not something I had expected from any sort of chain-type restaurant.

The lady and I had the opportunity to check out the new spot over the weekend while we got some Christmas shopping done. Much like the State College location, the decor and atmosphere have a great 'Day of the Dead' theme. The place seemed busy but we were seated right away without a wait, wasn't expecting that from a new restaurant on a Saturday during the holiday shopping season. Once we got seated in our really-excessively-large-for-two-people-but-I'm-not-complaining booth I grabbed the beer menu which featured a great deal, $5 Sierra Nevada Celebration 22 oz drafts! Not something I would normally pass up but when there are 23 other beers beers on tap I can't in good conscious go with something so familiar.

The rest of the 'Mad Draftos' consisted of a variety of microbrews, primarily of the hoppier variety, including a few surprises like Avery's 16.8% Belgian Strong Dark Ale, The Beast. I wasn't feeling that ambitious so I went with Stone's 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale which was a Belgian Strong Ale brewed with chilies and cinnamon which seemed fitting given the food. This was supposed come in a smaller 12 oz glass but I was pleased to see our waiter bring me out a full shaker full, nice move guy. There was unique dichotomy between the Belgian yeast esters and the pepper flavors but somehow they worked together in what I thought was a fine beer. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did and it paired quite nicely with my meal.

With such an impressive draft list I had a hard time choosing a follow up but the lure of Firestone Walker's Double Jack proved once again unavoidable. I hope everyone out there understands my adoration for this beer, it is one of if not THE best Imperial IPA around if you ask me. The beer is a thing of beauty for hop-heads but it is incredibly well balanced and smooth considering. Get it, drink it, love it.

While the beer selection is what really made the evening stand out for me, our meal didn't disappoint either. I'm no foodie and usually end up sounding like even more of an idiot when I start talking about food so I'll spare you. I do have to say that if you like your queso super spicy than this is the place to get it, lot's of heat in there. The whole experience was really quite pleasant, our waiter was great, the food came out at just the right time, and the music was fantastic...what more can you ask for? Thanks to Monica and Jordan for setting the whole thing up, I really appreciate it and will definitely be back for some more!

Mad Mex is one of the few chains that have full embraced the world of craft beer and offers something for every kind of drinker. Options for a good beer for suburbanites like myself can sometimes be quite hard to find so I'm going to go out to a restaurant like this I want there to be some interesting beers on tap and not just your typical macro choices. I can't always have my way and go to a real beer bar for dinner so alternatives like this are a must. In this day and age I think it is just embarrassing when a restaurant has a lazy beer selection but luckily, more and more are grasping the fact that we want some variety. Mad Mex Willow Grove is just the latest to do so, here's to many more.

Mad Mex Willow Grove
2862 W Moreland Rd
Willow GrovePA 19090


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Victory Brewing Co.'s Dark Wednesday

Sure Thanksgiving was last week but the real holiday came the day before on Dark Wednesday in Downingtown, PA where I joined hundreds of other thirsty folks for the 2nd (and possibly final) release of Victory Brewing Company's Dark Intrigue which is the bourbon barrel aged incarnation of their already delectable Storm King Stout. The first batch was released last year and having thoroughly enjoyed the two bottles I was lucky to grab there was no way I was going to miss the event so I could grab myself a case.

The brewery's retail shop would not open until 11:30 am but Mer and I set out alarm clock a bit earlier so we could get in line around 9 am. Obviously I have the greatest girlfriend in the world, she came along even under the threat of thunderstorms. The parking lot was nearly filled when we arrived and as we walked up to the brewery we saw a pretty substantial line that had already formed. We wound up being numbers 132 and 133 in line, a comfortable spot with 300 cases to be sold.

I have to say that Victory handled the event magnificently. A few minutes after arriving we received wristbands with our numbers on them which would hold our place in line as well as serve as our tickets for the raffle prizes which were handed out every 10 minutes. If there is one way to keep hundreds of bored beer geeks happy, other than beer, it would have to be beer swag. One Village Coffee was also on site providing free coffee and snacks to the masses. These are the same awesome people that Victory teamed up with to brew their Victory Village, an equally awesome coffee-brown ale that actually inspired my own Ugly Mug.

The sense of comradery and enthusiasm amidst the crowd was not unlike that of a line for a midnight movie premiere. Luckily, the kind of douchery that can taint such events was totally absent. We made friends with the guy in front of us who left his New York home at 5 am to be there. I figured he had fallen in love with it last year but was pretty shocked to hear that he hadn't ever had it but heard such good things that he needed to make the trip. Not only was he getting a whole case but once he realized that Mer was just along for the ride he asked if she would grab him a case as well. So he went home with two cases without even knowing if he would enjoy it. Quite a leap of faith and quite the commitment, cheers sir.

A few sporadic showers soaked the crowd but by the skies had cleared by 11:30 when the doors opened and the first people in line (who arrived at 4:30 am...yes...4:30 am) got their hands on their beloved cases. We didn't reach the door until 12:30 or so. Seeing the receipt for $190 was a little staggering, I never thought I'd drop that kind of money on a case of beer but it just felt like the right thing to do. Needless to say I was a little excited. I picked up my case and made the very very careful trip back to car to lock it away. We headed back inside for some much needed nourishment and beer.

Dark Intrigue was also available on tap so my first choice was a no brainer since no bottles were allowed to be opened. After one sip I was quickly reminded why I had just waited in line for nearly 4 hours for some beer, it is just delicious. Not only do you get the roasty chocolate character of the Storm King but there is that umph of bourbon and vanilla that make it oh so delectable. You'll definitely get a boozy burn on the finish but it is full bodied enough to back it up and deliver a rich, creamy, and still pretty hoppy stout. I'm obviously a big fan of this one and can't wait to stow a few bottles away to see what happens.

After another 45 minute wait we were more than ready to sit down for lunch. My smoked BBQ pork sandwich hit the spot like none other while Mer enjoyed her mighty cheesesteak, the leftovers were lovingly offered to me so I can assure you that it was in fact mighty. Our booth was at the end of the bar where the line for growler fills was positioned, this was the main focus of our meal. I could not believe how long people were waiting to fill their growlers. People were coming in with 3 or 4 growlers and were waiting at least 45 minutes to get them filled. They weren't doing Dark Intrigue fills so I'm not sure what all the fuss was about but it was impressive and/or crazy.

This was my first big beer release event, us East Coasters don't seem to get the chance to line up for this stuff all that often. I have to give it up to Victory for handling it so well, with that many anxious people milling about it could have gone either way but the whole event went quite smoothly. Some of my bottles are reserved for friends but I look forward to enjoying some over the holidays and of course stashing a some away for a few years. If this is distributed in your area it should just be hitting the shelves so I would definitely recommend seeking out a bottle or two and "discover the dark intrigue" for yourself.

Victory Brewing Company
420 Acorn Lane
Downingtown, PA 19335