We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

So I’m planning a business trip to Pittsburgh in a few weeks, and I want to show my co-workers (who are also my friends!) a nice time.  One of our only free moments is Tuesday night, so I thought we could relax and enjoy an evening at Church Brew Works, however, it will be Tuesday, November 6 – Election Day in Pennsylvania. 

For a moment, my heart stopped…please don’t tell me we’re going to have to go to Eat ‘n Park!  (Kidding!!  If we had to go to a dry restaurant, I would have chosen La Feria.)

Now, understand I’ve been working EVERY Tuesday night for at least four years, so I haven’t had an opportunity to experience Election-night imbibing.  But I do recall one of my first post-drinking-age election nights when I was shocked that they couldn’t serve me simply because it was Election Day.

Well, we’ve come a long way, PA, because apparently in 2000, Act 141 lifted those restrictions (wahoo!)  Perhaps I new that, and simply forgot.  It looks like we’ll be visiting The Church!

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Are You Experienced?

The Flying Mouflan Experience (a.k.a. Tröegs 10th Anniversary Scratch Beer Fest) was billed as “a joyous day of brewery mayhem featuring live music and for the first time ever, the opportunity to enjoy all the Scratch Beers in one place at one time,” and it did not disappoint!

Troeg’s Poster

I moved to the area almost 10 years ago and have been waiting for something like this – a festival at the Tröegs brewery – and it was orchestrated so well.  Tickets sold for $10 in advance ($20 at the door), and I believe they limited it to 800.   Parking was free, easy to locate and plentiful.  The weather was cooperative (rain would have made this a completely different experience!)

The crowd size really was perfect for the limited space, and although the beer lines were a bit long, there were plenty of friends to chat with, and we quickly caught on that more than one beer per person could be had when you reached the front!

Tröegs employees and volunteers were pouring the full line-up of 2007 offerings:

  • year-round beers
    • Tröegs Pale Ale (5.4% ABV; 45 IBUs)
    • HopBack Amber(5.6% ABV; 55 IBUs)
    • Rugged Trail Ale(4.4% ABV; 28 IBUs)
    • Troegenator Double Bock (8.2% ABV; 25 IBUs)
    • DreamWeaver Wheat (4.8% ABV; 15 IBUs)
  • all four seasonal brands
    • Nugget Nectar (7.5% ABV; over 90 IBUs) 
    • Sunshine Pils (5.3% ABV; 45 IBUs) 
    • Dead Reckoning Porter (5.8% ABV; 53 IBUs)
    • The Mad Elf (11% ABV; 15 IBUs)
  • Naked Elf(limited brewing; ABV varies (6.8% – 8.5%); IBUs unknown)
  • and all five 2007 Scratch Beers
    • Scratch Beer #1– a hybrid California Common Beer (5% ABV; 35 IBUs)
    • Scratch Beer #2– a hoppy porter (5.9% ABV; 55 IBUs)
    • Scratch Beer #3– a Belgian style triple (9.5% or 10.1% (depending what you read); 28 IBUs)
    • Scratch Beer #4– inspired by barleywine, but really more like a double IPA; dubbed The Flying Mouflan (9.3% ABV; over 100 IBUs)
    • Scratch Beer #5 – released on the day of the festival; Imperial Oatmeal Stout

I’m a big fan of Naked Elf, and the Scratch Beer #5 was well worth the hype!  I especially enjoyed getting to do side-by-side comparisons of Nugget Nectar and Scratch Beer #4 (this is, I believe, the best beer they ever made!)  And it was really nice to revisit Scratch #3.  I forgot how much I enjoyed that one.

There was plenty of great food for purchase, but disappointingly, I saw nothing vegetarian-friendly.  I especially enjoyed the Mad Elf ice cream featuring vanilla ice cream with Belgian chocolate chips, dark cherries and Mad Elf sauce, and brought to us by Handel’s.

Crowd Shot

The bands were all really good; I was too busy chatting with friends and making new ones instead of paying attention to who was playing at which times, but it was great music for the day.  The pre-event posted line-up was:

  • God Bless Our Mobile Home (12:30-1:15 p.m.)
  • Suburban Transit (1:45-2:30 p.m.)
  • Julian Fist (3:00-3:45 p.m.)
  • Frog Holler (4:30-6:00 p.m.)
  • Mecca Bodega (6:30- 8:00 p.m.)

There were plenty of BA people there (we did a group photo which I hope someone posts!), and I was surprised to run into several friends from my hometown area.  I was most excited because my friend B-Susan came along (another librarian who loves beer!)  Instead of leaving at 2PM with D, we ended up staying until 6 PM (when it finally got too chilly to hang outside.)

Hopefully they raised a significant amount for the Harrisburg River Rescue.  I know I didn’t spend much more than my initial ticket purchase, cases of Scratch #5 to take home and a t-shirt.  Between the samples inside the brewery tasting room and using the tickets for 4-oz samples outside (a few extras from friends), I was thrilled with the amount and variety I got to enjoy.

Chris and John Trogner pulled off a great one, and I hope it isn’t ten more years until we can do it again!

New Breweries in South-Central PA

I doubt much will get us back to those regular visits to Hanover – since becoming a CREF, we haven’t frequented the beer-bar-which-shall-not-be-mentioned.  But it’s been interesting to read this thread on Hanover Brewing Company.  I will keep an eye on what is happening there.  And I look forward to seeing what comes out of Spring House and Swashbuckler, both of which are about the same distance as Hanover for us.

Meanwhile, Lancaster Brewing is advertising a move into the Harrisburg market, and the Patriot-News confirmed that Marzoni’s will have east and west shore locations.  Hopefully the competition will get Appalachian to step it up a notch.

Six Degrees of Sam Komlenic

I’m not really sure that this is the concept at work here, but there is a story to be shared and a big thank you to send along.

The short version of this story is that we were sitting at Otto’s on Saturday afternoon debating how we would spend the rest of our weekend (after the Real Ale Fest at Zeno’s) when a man walked in to pick up kegs for his party.  Overhearing him talk about the bands, the cauldron of soup and the bonfire, it seemed natural to pull the old bar joke of, “where’s the party?,” which generates a laugh and everyone goes back to their old lives.

Before I could ask, “where’s the party?,” D blurted out, “what’s the address?”  In seconds, he rattled off his address, which D carefully scribed into his notebook, and we exchanged first names with our new acquaintance, Sam (no last name), and said good-bye with a, “perhaps we’ll see you later!,” tagged on the end.

Hours later, after enjoying the Real Ale and filling up on the lovely vegetarian soup/stew and a selection of other munchies at Zeno’s, we were not quite ready to turn in.  So we called our host to tell him we wouldn’t be out too late, but were going to try out this party at a stranger’s house.  I’m sure he was on the other end of the phone just shaking his head.

We plugged the address we were given into the GPS, and drove a few miles into the country.  Lo and behold, along a lovely wooded road lined with lit pumpkins, we found a small field converted to parking, and a welcoming crowd in the yard at Sam’s house.

A band jammed on the porch.  As promised, a cauldron of soup was cooking on a small fire.  And the kegs of beer were lined up in front of the food table.  The bonfire was going to be set later in the evening.  We located our host, and much to our surprise, Sam remembered our names!  

He and his friends were very chatty – I need to dig out their card to check their names (and may issue a correction), but I believe the people we talked to the most were Jim & Linda Lipman.  Jim & Linda are bourbon enthusiasts from Cincinnati, and this hobby is how they met Sam.  Knowing the circle a bit, we asked if they knew Lew Bryson, and of course, they do. 

We didn’t stay very long (we weren’t hungry or thirsty, but the band was good and there were plenty of people to talk to), but the whole time we were there we never did learn Sam’s last name.  

So, tonight, the librarian in me had to search for an answer, which wasn’t very difficult.  I put all of the facts I had together, and used Google to track him down.  And…this leading to six degrees of Sam…Lew Bryson’s blog is one of the sources I used to confirm that Sam has a last name and it is Komlenic.  I had read these stories before on Lew’s page, but I would have never made the connection without the other clues.

I know that’s not really six degrees, but I’ll bet there are many other people in the world who know Sam through six-people channels.  Now we know Sam first-hand.  Thanks, Sam, for making our night!  It was a short visit, but will remain in our memories for a very long time.

Holiday Ales in PA

As the crisp air of autumn begins to fall upon Pennsylvania, the mind wanders to beers of the season. 

On Friday, and again today, D and I made it to Selin’s Grove Brewing Company for the annual tasting of Pumpkin Ale.  The ’07 version was made in a bigger batch than any previous, so the spices came out a bit differently – much stronger than ’06 – but certainly not in a bad way.  Cinnamon is the primary essence that comes through on the nose.  A nitrogen pour gives this ale a creamy head, and a smooth mouthfeel.  It’s reminiscent of the creaminess of pumpkin pie (or the whipped cream on top!)  It has a beautiful dark copper hue and is a real treat for the season.

Now, just because the batch was bigger, don’t think you can delay your visit!  When we arrived today with a table of 8, Derek got the first pour and Ellen got a half…it looked as if the rest of us might be out of luck.  But Steve came through and put on another within minutes.  That’s three kegs of it kicked already, and they are dissuading people from filling growlers (because of the nitro), so this is going fast by the pint.

The Hop Nouveau was still on as of today, and there are many things to look forward to: Saint Fillin’s Scotch Ale in November, and in December, Kriek and Old Frosty IPA (the only thing better than the regular IPA!)

Back at home tonight, we gathered at Scott’s house to brew the second of our two Christmas ales (the first – made with cinnamon, fresh ginger and orange zest – was brewed on a camping trip at Watkin’s Glen; this second one is made with star anise and honey.)  As we brewed, he popped the cap on one of our ’07 pumpkin ales.  Scott and I agreed our ’06 was a really good pumpkin ale (sort of a pumpkin IPA.)  Our ‘o7 has a wonderful aroma.  It’s still a little young; it’s thick and has a biting tingle right now, but with a little mellowing from age, it should be good.

Also worth mentioning…  Troeg’s released Mad Elf in 12-oz bottles last Monday and will release it in jeraboams before the end of the month.  Otto’s is serving Five Year Ale – a sweet and spicy ale that comes in around 10.5% – and, on cask, the deliciously smooth and light Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale (not holiday related, but worth mentioning since I’ve had about 5 glasses of it this week!)

Real Ale Fest at Zeno’s

I’m blogging from Zeno’s in State College where we are in the midst of a Brew Fest celebrating Real Ale.  Dave brought in a total of 10 real ales – two served up last night, and eight today.

The two from last night (Mt. Nittany Pale Ale from Otto’s and Troeg’sPale Ale) were in firkins and went on at 8 PM and kicked at 1:55 AM. 

Today, starting at 3 PM and continuing until 8 PM you can purchase a goofy wristband for $25 and get ten 10oz tasters of the real ales, and dinner (no idea at this time what that means exactly.)  Five of the ales are in firkins and three are on handpumps.  My guess is that anything still here after 8 PM can be purchased by the glass.

Here is what’s on for Saturday night:

  • Victory Donnybrook Stout
  • Legacy Pale Ale (pretty good for a Legacy product)
  • Otto’s Double D IPA (WOW WEE!)
  • Troeg’s Hopback Amber (on handpump)
  • Sly Fox Red (very malty)
  • Lancaster Hog’s Milk (a rare treat)
  • Otto’s Imperial Stout (on handpump)
  • Victory Hopdevil (on handpump)

D will likely rate these on Beer Advocate, but I wanted to make sure a list got posted. 

It’s always a great time at Zeno’s – great beer selection (on tap and in bottles), but this is a special treat AND it’s not a home game weekend.  Super time to be here.

Librarian’s Night out at Otto’s

How nice that 35+ librarians from south-central PA were able to join together at Otto’s Pub & Brewery in State College, PA.  We couldn’t all sit together, but we had a grand time All the Alesvisiting and enjoying all of the great food, craft-brewed beer, and hand-made sodas.

Thanks to Amy and the others for taking such good care of us.  The Apricot Wheat was a hit with many (even the non-beer drinkers wanted to take in the scent!); Mom’s Elderberry Stout was roasty and delicious; Amarillo Pale Ale on cask and Jolly Roger Imperial Stout on cask were both highlighly appreciated, as was Double D IPA.  The non-alcoholic favorite was Ginger Beer.  And the Ponzu Tofu – a new addition to the menu – had such a lovely flavor to compliment my beer (others raved about things like barley walnut burger, grilled veggie & goat cheese salad and Arturro’s burro.)

Best of all, Otto’s is completely non-smoking!  An excellent night…

Great Smokies Brewgrass Festival

I’m so behind on posting about this fabulous event, held back on Sept. 22.  My tardiness is based on several factors:

  1. we had such an AMAZING time over a period of five days in Asheville that I don’t even know how to begin writing about it all, who to thank, or how to fit, in all of the beer,
  2. there was no time to post during the weekend,
  3. and the days following were spent driving the Blue Ridge Parkway (so peaceful) and then back to my hectic job.

Now that I’m done whining, let me shout out my heartfelt thanks to John & Melissa for playing host to us.  They were so kind to open their home and I really enjoyed getting to know them.  They have an amazing family, and it was so nice to spend time together.  It was relaxing to be in their home, and they treated us to some fabulous beers.  I hope one day we can reciprocate.

Credit for our great weekend goes to Bruisin’ Ales, too.  Not just for having the best beer selection in the east (we shopped there EVERY DAY because every day we realized there was something else in stock we wanted to get our hands on), but also because Jason and Julie are such fun people; full of enthusiasm for great beer.  We always enjoy hanging out with these Asheville “beer-lebrities”.

We were also pleased that we got to know James and Michelle over the course of our weekend.  It is always so interesting to read everything he has to share on the Asheville Pubcrawl blog, and they are such terrific people – our weekend in Asheville ended on such a nice note enjoying brunch at Tupelo Honey with them.

Our other group of new acquaintances is almost too large to mention.  I felt like I met all of Alabama that weekend, and we spent time with many people associated with Free the Hops.  “Uncle Jedi” is one of the ringleaders – BTW, he can’t be thanked enough for sharing a 1996 Samiclaus with us (1996 was the last year it was brewed at Hürlimann) – Brent was great to chat with, and KP organized the very nice Friday pubcrawl which was a nice way to meet up with other beer lovers.  I also met another AL girl who loved IPAs and I dragged her through a few lines with me while we chatted – never did remember her name.

Yeah…so about the beers.  Really, reading posts in other blogs or at Beer Advocate and Rate Beer you’ll find more comprehensive lists and descriptions.  Asheville Beer Blog covers it well, FastFreds has great photos including D’s butt and Julie’s panties, Mountain Xpress gives a preview run-down on Asheville locations associated with the event, and I located 48-seconds of video coverage.

  • I couldn’t wait to try Sexual Chocolate from Foothills.  I had it back in February, and it was pretty young then.  It was so smooth and perfect now.  Heavy for the hot day (84F), but it just danced on my tongue.  I loved it.
  • Imperial Kashmir IPA from Highland Brewing was such a treat.  It made a debut at the festival, and sold the next day ($8 for a 22-oz bottle; 10.2% ABV) during a very sedate release event at the brewery.  The brewer of this delightful treat was on-site (he’s as cute in person as he sounds in his podcast; couldn’t find a link to that, but found the article.)
  • Duck Rabbit and Pisgah were both there, and as always, they served up some of the finest beers in North Carolina.
  • Brooklyn served up Schneider Hoffen-Wiesse (mmm, mmm, good!)
  • The controversial Sweetwater Donkey Punch was a lovely barleywine

Then there was the music.  I REALLY enjoyed Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand and enjoyed what I heard and saw of Carolina Chocolate Drops.  The event was held in a terrific venue, except it was hard to enjoy the music AND the beer AND the people all at the same time.

Well, now I have to get back to my busy life, but I feel less guilt that I’ve posted something about this weekend that I’m STILL talking about every chance I get!