Microbreweries Inspire PA Potato Vodka Distillery

Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka (PLCB No. 005936, 80 proof; $29.49) – made with central PA potatoes at the first* vodka distillery in PA since Prohibition – is now available in south-central PA!

According to a report by KDKA, Prentiss Orr was inspired by the craft beer industry, and paired with pharmacist Barry Young to formulate this product, which is named after Mr. Young’s late father-in-law, James Boyd Rafferty, and Mr. Orr’s great-grandfather, William Wightman Blair (details on these two characters can be found on the Boyd & Blair website.)

The distillery is located in Shaler, PA in the former Glenshaw Glass warehouse, and the completely hand-crafted product comes in clear 750 ml bottles sealed in black wax.

Orr and Young’s company, Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries LLC, fulfilled an initial order of 240 cases with the PLCB in an 18-month trial run. It will be sold at Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits stores throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of the Philadelphia area, and expansion plans will take them into Ohio.

The potatoes are from Keystone Potato Products in Hegins, making this a true Pennsylvania product. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, this is the third potato vodka distillery in the United States. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gives a great explanation of how the hand-crafted process is carried out, and why the choice of potato vodka is such a good one.

* I read somewhere that Philadelphia Distilling, the first craft distillery in the state of Pennsylvania since Prohibition (maker of Bluecoat American Dry Gin) will soon be creating vodka and absinthe. The American Distilling Institute also names Keystone Distilling in Media as maker of Black Rose Vodka, which makes me question the label Sarah Bozich and others have put on Blair & Boyd as “the first”, but I also can’t find further evidence of the distillery or the vodka at Keystone. Can anyone out there confirm?

Going back to the title of this post, it was interesting to learn that Robert Cassell of Philadelphia Distilling came from a microbrewing background with Victory and Harpoon under his belt.

Since it’s stopped raining (for now), I might just go out and get me a bottle. If you do, take a word from Jan Szyrocki, founder and former conductor of the Szczecin Polytechnic Choir – my potato vodka mentorserve it cold and have a shot for each leg! (I’m thankful he didn’t teach me “”God likes a Trinity”, “a good table has four legs” or “see you under the table”!)

Na zdrowie!


Brewgrass Festival – 2008

The thing about this festival is that it is so much MORE than a festival.

Yes, a huge part of being here is attending the Great Smokies Craft Brewers Brewgrass Festivalon the grounds of the Martin Luther King, Jr. ballfield, with (as parsed out by Anne Fitten Glenn at Mountain XPress) 40 craft breweries, more than 200 beers and 5 musical acts all spread over a 7 hour period. There are 3,500 people in attendance, with plenty of security and port-a-potties. And the breweries of western North Carolina are certainly the big draw.

But also on this weekend, there is a release event for Highland Brewing Company. Since 2006, Highland has been releasing an imperial version of one of their regular brews at Asheville’s Brewgrass Festival, and then selling it on Sunday at the brewery. In 2006, it was Imperial Gaelic Ale, followed by Imperial Kashmir IPA in 2007. This year Imperial Black Mocha Stout is the beer, which we tasted (and tasted, and tasted, yesterday) and it is worth standing in line for today!

The brewery describes it as a “hearty stout, rich with coffee and chocolate notes, blending the velvety sweetness of specialty grains with the creaminess of a strong stout.” It will be sold in 22 oz. bottles, at $8 per bottle, and this year there are no limits on the number of purchases. They produced 476 cases, and we’re hoping to score two.

In addition to these two events, there are people and things all over town. Most of it very casusal, and some of it extremely well planned. For instance, Bruisin’ Ales held a special Friday night tasting from 5-8 PM, where Devin, the Dogfish Head rep, served up five brews by DFH including 60-Minute IPA which was run through Randall (with basil, mint and coffee), Festina Peche, Aprihop and Black & Blue. The $4 entry fee went to Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. That 60-minute through the Randall was just outstanding – full of fresh, herbal goodness and topped off with a mild coffee tang – and perfect with the berries Julie prepared on the side.

With less planning, we had fun times running around town. We found ourselves all over (but certainly not everywhere) – gatherings at The Thirsty Monk, Barleys Taproom and the new Wedge Brewing Company, a private Westy 12 tasting at John & Melissa’s house, and an evening with the brewers at the soon-to-be-open Craggie Brewing Company. We even found time on Friday to run down to Greenville for lunch at Blue Ridge Brewing Company and a “hike” to Caesar’s Head State Park for birds and a benchmark.

And then there was the festival… Beer of the day? Well, one of the leading favorites was Rye Knot Brown Ale from Coast Brewing Company. Valdez at Pisgah was certainly a leader (and we finally got our tie-dye t-shirts!), and so was Sexual Chocolate at Foothills. Crazy Train from Depot Street was a favorite among the lighter brews, and of course, Devin was there with the 60-minute through the Randall again. If there were bad beers there, I was smart enough to miss them. We did miss Heintzelmanchen – if they were there, we never saw them.

There is no time for proofreading or posting photos right now because we need to get checked out and off to Highland, but hopefully I’ll have time to do that soon – check back, okay?

Sexy Glasses at NY Craft Beer Week

Sexy Glass!

Sexy Glass!

And it’s not too late to get yours! From an email:

Tickets for each of the nine neighborhood bar crawls are still available. If you don’t get a chance to purchase them online prior to 7pm the night before your intended crawl, don’t worry you can still buy them on the day of at each of the following locations with all of the tickets specific to their neighborhood. All tickets pre-purchased online will also be available at these same bars for Will-Call pick-up.

  1. Upper West Side Crawl – Dive Bar
  2. Midtown Crawl – Heartland
  3. West Village Crawl – Chelsea Brewing Company
  4. East Village Crawl – Jimmy’s no. 43 Open at Noon Everyday!
  5. Lower East Side Crawl – Puck Fair Please Pick Up Tickets Before 7pm
  6. Greenpoint Crawl – The Diamond
  7. Williamsburg Crawl – South 4th Bar & Cafe
  8. Downtown Brooklyn Crawl – Waterfront Ale House
  9. Park Slope Crawl – Beer Table

 If you’re more interested in staying put in one place rather than exploring the best of a neighborhood, then be sure to check out the Manhattan Cask Ale Festival taking place Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Noon to Midnight. A great selection of cask ales will be available all at once until they kick, so there will surely be something to everyone’s liking.

NY Craft Beer Week commemorative event glassware will be also be sold at the Chelsea Brewing Co. during the Cask Ale Festival. Each glass can be purchased for $3 allowing you the chance to enjoy the diverse selection of cask ales from more manageable serving sizes. Holding a full 8 oz pour, the glasses give the opportunity to sample twice the number of beers and breweries at the event as one would through full pints. Not to mention a nifty keepsake to take home with you if you don’t already have one from one of the crawls.

Steel Drivin’ Stout

Some news from back home, which I hope it’s okay to be spreading…

Mike Hiller started brewing Steel Drivin’ Stout in the last week.  We’re told that he threw in some oatmeal, some chocolate malt, and plenty of caramel malt and that the aroma in the mash is just sublime! It’s going to be 6% alcohol, so it’ll be a nice treat for these chilly fall evenings.

This will be beer #5 in Bavarian Barbarian’s line-up. If the quality and popularity of his other beers are any indication, this is a beer not to be missed!

I’ve got Scurvy!

Ahoy, tis’ post mid-night, which means tis’ September 19 and tis’ International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I’m celebratin’ by drinkin’ Tyranena Scurvy, brought t’ Ashe’ille compliments o’ Jim ‘n’ Joan!

We had a great afternoon / evenin’ in town, startin’ with a shoppin’ trip at Bruisin’ Ales (the best place to crawl for a salty bottle ‘o grog), followed by a few hours in the new tastin’ room at Pisgah with Dave – the man with the bloody birthday, dinner at Ed Boudreaux’s with John and Melissa, and some sour Belgians at Thirsty Monk (including Cantillon Lamnivus.)

Aye, I’m expectin’ another great day tomorrow – the actual TLPD-2008! Maybe I’ll scrawl some news ’bout that Vortex III…

The Road to Asheville

We’re on the road again – traveling to Asheville, NC for Brewgrass (we made the papers before we even left home!) Last night we had dinner at Cally’s in Harrisonburg, VA, and stopped for a few $3.00 pints at Blue Mountain Brewing Company in Afton, VA.

Every beer we had was enjoyable, but the one of special note is Summer Haze Dry Hopped Pale Weizenbock(at Blue Mtn.), which was rich and spicy with clove and well balanced by the hops, yet retained traditional banana and bubblegum notes.

We’re looking forward to the rest of our trip – eating some good “Q”, tasting some great beers and visiting our Asheville friends and fellow beer travelers. Hopefully I’ll find a moment to log in and write about it, but if you don’t hear from me, assume I’m having way too much fun!

My Presidential Selection

Vote for Real Change!

Vote for Real Change!

I wanted to catch Sarah Palin’s speech tonight because, like the rest of America, I know little about her and what she believes in. In order to prepare for the evening, D got us a growler of Pliny the Elder.

Well, Palin (McCain, Obama, Biden, Barr, Baldwin, McKinney and Nader), I think I’ve found myself a party I can really stand behind – one with a strong candidate that holds true to my values and speaks volumes to me….The Keg Party.

Here is just a clip from the August 12 press release:

The Keg Party has officially announced their candidate for the 2008 Presidential Election is none other than Pliny the Elder!

Naturally, Pliny has chosen Blind Pig as his running mate. Together, they are campaigning on the Brewer’s Platform and plan great changes in our beautiful country if elected on November 4th!

America needs a good strong leader to “Bring Our Troops Foam, provide Hopcare For Everyone, and do away with IRS and provide more IPA!”

Having just enjoyed a few pints of Pliny myself (at 8% ABV and 100 IBUs), I’m absolutely behind this candidate 100%. I’m a bigger fan of his nephew, Pliny the Younger, but I have a feeling the 11% ABV and “gobs”of IBUs is too radical for most.

It’s going to be a very interesting election year!

A Basement Full of Beer: One Good Thing

My sister called me to report that she was spending her Labor Day cleaning the “back porch-ish part of the house,” and that things weren’t going so well. I was attempting to empathize, because, REALLY, I can relate to the marital strife that comes with attempts to rid our lives of clutter.

But the poignant thing that she said to me was, “but I know that there aren’t thousands of beers behind MY piles!” At first, I thought that was a vote of solidarity on my Take Back the Basement in 2008 campaign (which I am losing in a major way following that trip to Wisconsin.)

But, no, she clarified, how wonderful it would be to have those beers to enjoy after a full day of cleaning.

Thanks to my sister for putting it all in perspective. A good day of cleaning deserves a great beer. I should take her a couple of cases as a thank you gift!