It’s Over for Zima

Some of my friends who are reading know that my feline companion of fifteen years, Zima, was not doing so well in late September / early October and, frankly, I was a little scared he might not be with us to see the new year.  Thanks to a terrific veterinarian, who takes a holistic approach to pet care, he’s gaining weight and performing as sprightly as I expect from my old friend.

At the same time, the powers at MillerCoors were plotting ways to announce the demise of my kitty’s namesake. Yes, as much as D likes to deny it, his wife named the cat after a malt beverage.

Zima - the Cat
Zima – the Cat

It was an inebriated moment in 1993 on the night just before getting the kitten “fixed”, and there was that bottle of clear, sparkling beverage sitting on the bar at The Old Corner Hotel. The rippled glass with a distinctive and, compared to other bottled beverages in the bar, distinguished silver and metalic blue label got my mind churning.

Zima - the Beverage

Zima - the Beverage

While I really didn’t want to name my cat anything, the vet would insist he have a name. And there it was before me. He’s a Russian Blue, and Zima is a Russian word (well, actually, I knew it was Polish and assumed it might be the same.) The beverage Zima has a silver and blue label, my youthful Russian Blue kitten was a beautiful silver grey. My brain made connections, and the cat was named right there in the bar.

Jump ahead 15 years, and found myself with a sick cat named Zima. And the Associated Press released the news on October 20, ten days after Zima, the beverage, was officially pulled from the MillerCoors line-up. Judging from my Zima the cat’s health in the last two weeks, I think he will be with us for quite some time. For those who enjoyed the beverage, you’re not so lucky. If you find it, buy it, because it isn’t coming back.

Selin’s Grove on Facebook

Selin's Grove Brewing Co.

Are you kidding me? No – Heather and Steve are too busy working to do Facebook, I am sure. But since I spend too much time at both of these places (Facebook and the pub), I wanted to create a Fan page for everyone who love Selin’s Grove Brewing Company. I couldn’t create a “fan page”, because I’m not an authorized agent for them, but I could create a Group.

If you are on Facebook, consider joining and contributing to the group page “Find me at Selin’s Grove Brewing Company“. If you go there, or you would like to go there, come be part of our group. Ask nicely, and I might make you an Officer. If you know about events, you can add them. And you can chat on the wall with other Selin’s Grove lovers.

And don’t miss Freaky Firkin Friday at Selin’s Grove. The 2008 Hop Nouveau will be released with a firkin tapping next Friday at 3:30pm, which also happens to be Halloween. This beer is made with the hops harvested on site at the Staff Hop Drop 2008. The specials are Anti-Vampire Soup, B.A.T. Sandwich and Blood Velvet Cake. If you love real ale, you need to take the afternoon off and be there.

8th Location (and Counting) for Iron Hill Brewery

Iron Hill BreweryWe were just discussing the Phoenixville Iron Hill’s release of Berliner Weisse this evening, when I opened my email to find this press release information:

In May 2009, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, will open their eighth location in Maple Shade, New Jersey (124 East Kings Highway, 856-273-0300). The new outpost will mark the group’s first foray into New Jersey.

“We hope that beer and food lovers in New Jersey will enjoy our house-brewed beers and delicious cuisine as much as our fans in Pennsylvania and Delaware,” says Iron Hill founding partner Kevin Finn. Along with co-owners Kevin Davies and Mark Edelson, Finn has continuously sought out thriving suburban locations for their award-winning concept, beginning in Newark, DE in 1995. The Maple Shade location is made even more special by the fact that all three owners hail from New Jersey.

The executive chef and head brewer have not yet been named, but will no doubt continue Iron Hill’s tradition of culinary and brewing excellence. The new location will accommodate 280 guests and serve Iron Hill’s menu of new American favorites including their signature Brewski Burger, with mushrooms, bacon and a choice of American, sharp cheddar, Swiss, provolone or muenster cheeses; Fish and Chips, North Atlantic Pollack battered in their own Vienna lager and served with French fries, cole slaw and malt vinegar; Black Pepper Crusted Ahi Tuna with a salad of lentils, spinach, grape tomatoes and shallots and a port wine vinaigrette; and Pan Roasted Chicken Breast with smashed Yukon gold potatoes, crispy friend onion rings, asparagus and thyme pan jus. Iron Hill will be open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

Iron Hill Maple Shade will also offer an impressive selection of their house-brewed beers, including: Vienna Red Lager, an Austrian lager with bread-y malt aroma and a clean, crisp finish; Pig Iron Porter, dark, flavorful and chocolate-y with good balance and a slight bitterness; Raspberry Wheat, a filtered American wheat beer with a touch of natural raspberry flavor; and Ironbound Ale, a celebration of American ales made from the nation’s finest hops varieties such as Cascade, Crystal, Centennial and Chinook.

Iron Hill is poised for even more impressive growth in the coming years; Citibank recently approved them for $10 million in funding for six additional locations throughout the mid-Atlantic region by 2011.

Since 1996, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant has consistently been recognized for its outstanding beers and cuisine, accruing over 100 “Best of” awards from regional magazines. Their hand-crafted beers have also won acclaim and in total, they have received 39 medals from the three most prestigious beer events, the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and Real Ale Festival.

Iron Hill currently operates seven locations: Newark, DE; Wilmington, DE; Media, PA; West Chester, PA; North Wales, PA; Phoenixville, PA and Lancaster, PA. With 6 additional locations planned between now and 2011, this should be a lot of fun!

Filling in the Holes: New PA Brewpubs

Right now the websites are a little lame, but hopefully the beers won’t be if you make the trip to Titusville or Danville for two new microbreweries (don’t go to Danville just yet – they aren’t ready for you!)

Blue Canoe Brewery opened in late August, filling the space of Four Sons, and apparently features Matt Allyn’s beers. I understand that he is the brewery manager, which confirms what I seem to remember Matt telling us back in April at Zeno’s Cask Ale event, although after a night like that, I don’t trust my memory. I can not confirm whether or not we’ll see the beers from Matt’s Voodoo Brewing Co. at Blue Canoe, but it sounds like many of the old Four Sons recipes are reappearing! I can’t wait to get back that way again to check it out.

A lot closer to home (for me), it sounds like the space on Mill Street in Danville where La Playa Cancun Mexican used to be will soon be opening doors as Old Forge Brewing Company. My hometown paper reported yesterday that the tanks have been moved in, and they are looking at a December opening. Maria and Damien Malfara are responsible for this venture, and the most detailed information can currently be found scattered throughout the Beer Buzz blog. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes open for this one!

Yup – I drank it: Budweiser American Ale

While D was beer traveling all over southeastern PA this weekend, I was enjoying special family moments with my nephews, cousins, and lots of other friends and family at the Creek House. This special piece of property along Lycoming Creek populates several times a year with loads of adults, children and dogs (7 to be exact!) who really know how to laugh, play and love. Oh, and they know how to eat!

One thing I’ve learned, though, is to bring my own beer.  Not that it is ever a problem finding any there; its just not beer that I care to drink (Bud Lime, Natural Light…you get the picture.) When I leave from my own house, I arrive packed (in fact, there was speculation about what crazy beers I might show up with), but this time I didn’t leave from my house…  I started the trip with three empty growlers, one of which broke two minutes after I walked into the pub for a fill (sorry!), another that I filled with awesome root beer (made with raw organic cane sugar and unsulfered molasses) from Selin’s Grove Brewing, and the third which I filled with Steel Drivin’ Stout from Bavarian Barbarian and decided to save to share with D.

So this is how I managed to get my hands on my first Anheuser-Busch product in 15 years (not QUITE true – a few years ago someone at McGrath’s tricked me into drinking a Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale by telling me it was from a “small brewery in Missouri” – I think I had three sips before sending it away.) When I heard about Budweiser American Ale, I kept saying I wouldn’t buy one, but if I was offered one, I would try it. This was my chance.

My first sip was straight from the bottle – the way it really should be with this beer. But the “beer advocate” in me felt the need to have it from a real  glass.  At first glance, I was impressed.  It poured a nice amber color with a medium head. There was even a slight hint of citrus from the cascade hops, but really just barely there.

Like the disappointment that comes from a weak cup of coffee at a mediocre restaurant, the hint of caramel malt and flash of hop bitterness left me thirsting for more. It was a bit malty for my palate, with a dash of bread, but honestly, it featured an all-around light flavor – nothing prominent at all.  It had a watered-down mouthfeel. Only the color and the carbonation seemed to be just right.

This ale is an improvement over previous A-B brews – the appealing color, malt sweetness and suggestion of hops sure beat the fizzy yellow, rice sugared lager this company is famous for producing. Still, I admit that I stuck to the root beer for the rest of the weekend.

Coming home to a growler of Homegrown IPA from Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks made up for all the flavor I missed out on over the weekend. Now, THAT is an outstanding brew! But that’s a post for another day.

Beer Goggles for your Gmail

My passions for beer and technology collide!

Jon Perlow at Google is looking out for those of us who enjoy alcoholic beverages – especially the ones who imbibe to the extreme and then get grand ideas of contacting people by email – with the introduction of Mail Goggles.  To help prevent the sending of emails that look so good after a few drinks, but make everything so bad the next morning, Google Labs is testing this option, designed to stupefy the intoxicated emailer using basic math problems.

Gmail Goggles

Gmail Goggles

I haven’t tried this service out yet.  My alcohol intake has been limited, and it’s only available by default late night on the weekends (Jon says, “the time you’re most likely to need it” – obviously he doesn’t know my friends!), so I can’t speak from personal experience. But it appears that Gmail users can adjust when it’s active by day of the week and time frame, and also request more difficult questions.

Seems like a nice control for those who can not control themselves.