Today in Philadelphia

For our last vacation day, D and I decided to hook up with friends and travel to the Philadelphia area for – well, if it’s on this blog, you already know – beer! What a nice day and some fine beers to be had.

Brandi celebrates a birthday tomorrow, and as a member of the Mug Club, Rock Bottom Brewery gave her a $10 credit. This chain brewery, located in the King of Prussia Mall, was our first stop of the day, and D and I made a point to join (FREE) the Mug Club as well. It was also their 5th visit, so Ffej and Brandi were allowed to choose logo pint glasses from the merch case.

Today at Rock Bottom, we tried two beers (in 22-oz mugs, since we’re members!) – the “rotating dark beer,” which was Chocolate Milk Stout, and the cask ale, which was Prussia’s Pride IPA. The stout was not bad, but it had extremely light body for a stout and very little chocolate flavor came through. The Prussia’s Pride was a favorite from November 15 Brewers’ Reserve Black and Tan Cask Event at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Newark, DE and it held up to my memory. It has a great combination of citrus and pine flavors and aroma from the hops, and caramelmalt. On cask, it is a smooth and flavorful beverage. We also really enjoyed our appetizer – Chips & Guacamole, which consisted of homemade malt kettle chips andtortilla chips served with a wonderful quac, andsalsa made with Roma tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and spices.

Next we headed into downtown Philadelphia to Triumph Brewing Company, located in Old City near the intersection of Chestnut and 2nd. It was a quick visit, but enough to know that it’s a beautiful location to sit and have a beer, and the beers we had were very nice. Triumph does 10-oz glasses as well as pints, and offers a sample tray. I had a 10-oz Jewish Rye Beer (5.5% ABV), and shared a 10-oz Winter Wonder (8.25% ABV) with D. The Jewish Rye had a strange sweetness to the start, and a lovely pumpernickel flavor to the finish. The Winter Wonder was really interesting. It had a pleasant aroma of orange spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and the flavor was full of citrus hops and sweet, toasty malt.

The only thing that turned me off at Triumph was the “uni” restroom. It’s not that I object to sharing with men, rather that the men that used each stall I approached were apparently pigs. Okay – I’m blaming the men, and perhaps should not. But all week I’ve been using ladies rooms that have been clean. I finally located a clean uni-stall after three tries, and while each stall has an individual sink, that one had no operational water faucet. Yuck.

We left Triumph and crossed town to meet up with our friend Laura, who is in from Colorado for a few days, at Dock Street Brewery in West Philly. It was great to see her, and to enjoy a glass of Rye IPA (6.8% ABV). It is a terrific American Pale Ale brewed with Simcoe and Amarillo hops, and contains 20% rye. D andI shared a hardwood-fired pizza withmade with mozzarella, herbs, crème fraiche, tomatoes and caramelized leeks which was super! Also at our table, we enjoyed Hop Garden Double IPA (9% ABV and 76 IBU’s) – a double IPA which contains 12 different hop varieties – and Prince Myshkin’s Russian Imperial Stout (9.5% ABV). And eventually we needed to move on…

We really wanted to head on over to the northeast corner of 44th & Spruce Streets in West Philly to check out Local 44, but it appears we were a day early. This creation of the genious group that started up Memphis Tap Room, which we enjoyed so much this summer, should be a real asset to the city beer scene.

We crossed town quickly, due to D’s navigational skills, and arrived in Mt. Airy to check out Earth Bread + Brewery for a second time.  Last time it was so crowded, so we thought a weeknight might be a better opportunity to visit the bar. The downstairs bar was filled, and they seated us at a table upstairs where there was an empty bar at first (but not for long!) As on our previous visit, the table was very nice, and the place is so attractive – a contemporary cottage feel and walls laced with local art for sale. I won’t write about it, since you can read about it on their website, but it is outstanding to see what Earth Bread is doing to promote sustainability and environmental friendliness.

Earth Bread + Brewery has a similarity to American Flatbreadin Burlington, VT, which our friends affectionately call “American Flatbread & Daycare.” There was only one other table in the place that had no children – most tables had two or three children – and most of the children were under the age of 5. Perhaps it’s a indicator that we are of a generation that enjoys brewpubs, and part of me thinks it’s great that parents venture out to brewpubs withtheir children in tow, but when the whining / crying / running around starts up, I do start to wonder where can I go to eat in peace with other adults. It’s a classy brewery; not Friendly’s.

The food at Earth Bread was outstanding. Last time we shared flatbreads (pizza) and the olive appetizer, all of which was lovely and tasty. This time we had salads and soup. The food lived up to our expectations! The appearance was attractive, and the flavors were fresh and wholesome. It is clear that a lot of thought was put into the simple, flavorful menu.

The beers were alright. I had a 13-oz glass of Berkun’s Finger, a Baltic Porter that weighs in at 7% ABV, and D had a 13-oz glass of Santos L. Halper, a dark mild at 3.7% ABV. Both were somewhat bitter and thin. After two visits, it seems there are only ever four house beers on at a time, and a list of great guest taps. And the wine list is lovely!

Our last stop for the night was out Germantown Pike at General Lafayette Inn & Brewery, where I was contemplating a Sampler Round, until I learned they were out of two selections. Instead, I had a small glass of Holiday Cheer – a spiced holiday beer with tart cranberry, a hint of cinnamon and clove, and faint floral hops. This beer is cited at 6.1% ABV and 24 IBU’s, and had an enjoyable flavor profile.

So while I probably should have been hiking or housecleaning today, I’d say this was a much more fun way to spend the last day of vacation. I’m so unfamiliar with the Philly beer scene, and it has me itching to check out Philly Beer Week.

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Catching up with December

Between a real breakdown in our home technology (i.e. we needed a new computer) and technology overload at work (i.e. I’ve been working overtime on a project at work), I’ve had time to do some beer traveling, but no time to write about it. The work project lives on, but I’m now the proud owner of an Acer Aspire One in pink, so I have reliable and speedy Internet access at home again. Maybe I’ll be a better blogger…or at least write more frequently.

So there is a lot to catch up on, and I hardly know where to start.

  • I have more Pennsylvania Brewery Roadtrips up my sleeve, which are a special tribute to my sister.
  • There was a fast-paced and fabulous “Dark Side of Michigan” trip over the Black Friday weekend which I didn’t even mention on here (but I will in another post!), where we visited many great Michigan breweries.
  • We got to try out Old Forge Brewing in Danville, not just once, but twice, and we finally made it to Spring House Brewery in Connestoga.
  • There are a few Iron Hill and Sly Fox stories to be told. Among them, a gathering of 31 librarians at Sly Fox in Royersford, a cask ale festival at Iron Hill in Newark and the Sly Fox IPA Project in Phoenixville.
  • We combined the Iron Hill trip with a visit to a great beer bar called Quotations (where I had Pumking on nitro!) and the new Earth Bread + Brewery (where I didn’t mean to downplay the beer, but loved the McManis Viognier 2007.)
  • Brass Rail Beverage finally opened the deli, where great beers are constantly rotating on the five taps, and the bottle selection is outstanding for this area (the website does not reflect the awesomeness of the store.)
  • For the first time in 11 years, Appalachian Brewing Company brewed a beer that I could recommend to a friend.
  • Our friend Julie stopped in unexpectedly turning a growler sharing evening into a full-blown tasting night, and that same weekend we attended “Firkin Winter Solstice Sunday” at Selin’s Grove Brewing to help them celebrate their 12th Anniversary.
  • And then there has been the past week which has afforded many opportunities for sharing and tasting good beer.

I think I’ll start with the Appalachian Brewing Company beer, since it appears to be an anomaly that isn’t even acknowledged by the website. I was visiting the Abbey Bar at ABC on December 13 for the Herbie Christmas show, and my friend Brandi offered me a sip of her beer, saying, “Have you tried THIS? It’s called Batch 666 and it’s really good!” This was not a beer available on their board – it was only advertised on a single poster behind the bar – and to this day, has not appeared on the website nor have they responded to email inquiries about it. It was delicious! Labeled by the bartender as a Winter Warmer, my five acquaintances who had it all agreed it was more like a dark lager, Munich dunkle lager or dopplebock. It was medium dark in color and had a light body, but carried strong coffee, caramel and chocolate aromas. There was a hint of citrus hops and strong roasted malt flavors. It was a seriously well done beverage. I hope they will tell the world more about it, and continue to produce it, because it is seriously the first really great thing they’ve produced since I first started going there in 1997.

The weekend of December 19 was a fun one for us. It was the Harrisburg Christmas Bird Count weekend, so we were in the area, and decided to spend a quiet Friday night at home, joined by Brandi and Ffej, to share some recently acquired growlers. D made dinner, which we had just sat down to when the phone rang. It was a most unexpected call from our friend Julie of Bruisin’ Ales fame, whose flight was diverted to Harrisburg because of ice. How fortuitous, since we didn’t think we’d get to see her at all during the holidays. We opened growlers of Cape Cod Berry Merry Holiday Ale – an amber infused with cranberry, orange and cloves – and Spring House Two Front Teeth Holiday Ale– a Saison withsubtle cherry; but this was just the start. It was a fun night with the opening of multiple bottles:

  • Bullfrog Beekeeper
  • Green Flash Le Freak
  • Midnight Sun Sockeye Red IPA
  • Russian River Pliny the Elder
  • Three Floyds Moloko Milk Stout
  • Pisgah Valdez
  • Great Lakes Barrel-aged Blackout Stout, and
  • a 2005 bottle of Stouts Old Abominable Barleywine.

And the most fun was hanging out with good friends, sharing stories and listening to music. It was a late night, especially with an early-morning bird count ahead of us, but worth losing a little sleep!

This week of Christmas has also been delightful for many reasons, but since this is a beer blog, I’ll focus on that. First, our Christmas surprise – Spoetzl Shiner Holiday Cheer– which we shared on Christmas Eve. This is a Dunkelweizen made with Texas peaches and roasted pecans, and it was quite delightful! Unfortunately, it ended up being spilled during an exhuberant gesture, and we lost most of it, but it was great while it lasted.

The night before Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a growler of Roy Pitz Truly Honest Ale with D’s family, which was part of the growler-fill half-price sale on December 22. For Christmas day, we cracked two of our homebrewed beers – the NyQuAle, which became drainpour (the other bottles will sit for a few years before we try it again), and our COW Stout (Chocolate Oatmeal stout on toasted Walnuts during secondary fermentation.) We also opened the traditional Harvey’s Christmas Ale.

The day after Christmas we started our “Golden Triangle of Beer” tour (encompassing Selinsgrove, State College and Williamsport).  On Friday, we drove up to Bavarian Barbarian Brewing to taste, and buy growlers of, First Snow Ale. This is my favorite brew from this place so far. It is described as a smooth, dark winter warmer with caramel and chocolate notes, and weighs in at 7.5% ABV. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger flavor this beer, which has the same flavors I savor in my homemade molassasginger cookies. Mike hit the nail on the head with this one! After getting a second growler for my cousin, we headed off to Danvilleto have dinner with Ffej and Brandi at Old Forge Brewing Company. This was our second visit since they opened, and things were hopping! The place was pretty full, but we found a table upstairs. The same four beers were on – nothing new yet – so I had the T-Rail Pale Alealong the spicy carrot ginger soup and veggie quesedilla. Old Forge beer still has room to grow, but the food, atmosphere and service are right on. I’ve got faith things are going to get even better, and this place will stay on our agenda.

Later that night, at a party with our friends Jason and Megan, we cracked our second Roy Pitz growler – the Daddy Fat Sacs Imperial IPA. Several other good beers were brought out, including my first beer from Copper Kettle Brewing – the Celebration Wheat – and Brouwerij de Molen 1914 Porter.

On Saturday, D had another Christmas Bird Count and I had a lie-in, but we met up for lunch with my parents at Selin’s Grove Brewing Company. My parents had not had the IPAsince it was reformulated to be a bit more citrusy, and D got himself the 2008 Saint Fillian’s Wee Heavy. From there, D and I headed north, back to Bavarian Barbarianto get more growlers filled with First Snow Ale for family members, and later met up with Heath and Kim for dinner at Bullfrog Brewery. It was during that visit that we learned of the Sunday night Pub Club potluck dinner. Since it was already our plan to be in Williamsport for a Christmas Bird Count the next day, and the wrap-up was at the Bullfrog, we were perfectly placed to attend, and so we did. We’ve always been out of state during this time, so we were unaware of this annual event where members supply the food and Bullfrog supplies the beer.

This year, Terry broke out preview bottles of a few coming attractions:

  • Beesting Saison
  • Houblonium P38
  • Barrel-aged Old Toad Barleywine
  • Barrel-aged Wolfsblood Scotch Ale
  • Saison Noire

Also, we were able to get 2005 Old Toad Barleywine on tap, Bruggetown Blonde, and my favorite – Edgar IPA.

It’s worth mentioning that during the bird count, we did stop in at the Valley Inn for a taste of Abbey Wright Brewing Company’s Vanilla Latte Stout. This is a 5.8% ABVale brewed with five pounds of Grigg’s dark roast coffee and vanilla beans. It was served on nitrogen, and overall, a very good beer. Not too sweet, and very creamy. Unfortunately we observed the same as previous visits – there are no other Valley Inn patrons drinking Abbey Wright beers, and the staff don’t know anything about it (one staff member said to another, “I thought the stout would taste more like the IPA!”) Ugh.

To finish out the triangle, today we decided to drive over to Otto’s Pub & Brewery. I enjoyed a glass of Appel Trippel, and D had the Winter Warmer, both of which were served in 12-oz goblets.  The trippel weighs in at 9.5% ABV and is a tasty drink. There is virtually no hop profile, and the apple is subtle beneath the malty, honey flavors. The winter warmer is 11.5% ABV, and it is spicy and tart with sour cherries.

So that’s what we’ve been up to… I hope to get details and photos of the Michigan trip up this week, and will make a New Year’s Resolution to be better with the blog. It will probably last as long as my diet, but I’ll try!

Old Forge Brewing is Open!

I think several of us were disappointed that we didn’t know about the soft opening of Old Forge Brewing Company on Mill Street in Danville, PA.  Apparently they opened quietly over the weekend, serving up three beers (below) with plans for at least four year-round and six seasonal/rotating beers:

  • Old Forge Inaugural Ale (their first batch of beer; a brown ale)
  • Endless Summer Ale (a pale golden)
  • T-Rail Pale Ale (American pale ale)

Old Forge will be open at 11 AM each day – Wednesday through Saturday – serving meals at lunch and dinner. It includes a kids menu (which is also made available to adults!) and house-made sodas. The menu consists of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches (hot and cold) and burgers.

There is a mug club, which includes a customized, personalized, hand-made 20 oz. mug (and I assume from the links that they paired up with a local artisan for this feature…) among the many benefits.

The website doesn’t appear to have information on beer prices, serving sizes or the possibility of growler fills at this time.

I wish Damien Malfara luck in this adventure, and look forward to making the trip soon!