The Road to Brewgrass 2009

Julie said it all so well when she talked about the night before Brewgrass Eve.  As one Ashevegas local put it last night as she stood in line to get her BrewDog tastings, “Thursday night is ‘going out night’ in Asheville”, and there was plenty to do!

Bruisin’ Ales was just the start of a great night – the Scotland brewery was well represented with Jason and Julie talking up the seven different BrewDog beers available (I think the site lists 5, and then there were two of their Paradox beers as well – smoked and unsmoked.) Everything was really good, but I was most impressed with Dogma – a 7.8% ale brewed Scottish heather honey and a blend of guarana, poppy seeds and kola nut. Five malts and both Bramling Cross and Amarillo hops contribute to the complexity of this easy-drinking ale.

From the tasting, we headed over to the Thirsty Monk for the 7 pm tapping Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout. Just when I keep thinking, “Enjoy this – you’ll never get it again!,” the seemingly impossible happens, and someone else is serving it! The Monk also featured a cask of New Belgium Hoptober and a keg of Ballast Point Sculpin. It was great to catch up with all of our friends who came into town for the night and enjoy these three terrific beers!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few other stops on our way to Asheville. It was enjoyable, as always, to make a stop off in Afton, VA at Blue Mountain Brewery where the Big DIPA was on tap, as well as the Nitro Ale Imperial Porter. We ended our enjoyable evening at Blue Mountain by sharing a bottle of Mandolin – a 9% Tripel named for the brewer’s wife (Mandi Lynn).We pulled in at the same time as Uncle Jedi and Purple Hat Joan (as planned!), so it was great to catch up with them over dinner.

That evening, we were sleeping in Blacksburg, so we decided to check out The Cellar, which had Blacksburger Pils on tap – served in the proper glass! – and also, Shooting Creek Rebel Ale. It was a quiet night in the college town, and I’m pretty sure we closed the place.

So then it was back to the hotel, where Jim shared a growler of Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale with us! I was tired, and frantically searching for my driver’s licence (which I seem to have lost or forgotten…), but kept pulling myself out of it to enjoy this Imperial Belgian Porter brewed with chocolate malt, dark candi sugar, vanilla bean, and tangerine peel, then aged on French Oak chips. This 8.7% beer boasts chocolate, tobacco, molasses, vanilla and hints of banana and clove. It was a great finish for the night!

Finally, one more stop to boast about on our way out of Blacksburg – Vintage Cellar – where we found an amazing selection of wines and an outstanding beer selection. In the hundreds of beers there, I managed to seek out the one we thought we’d missed out on…a stray six pack of Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier!

It’s raining in Asheville this morning, so we’re making a lazy one of it, but look forward to visiting Pisgah (just ’cause we love it!), Highland (for the special release of 2009 Tasgall Scottish Ale at 4 PM today!) and Wedge, among other things we’ll do in town on Brewgrass Eve!

Hop Harvest

Sprouting Hops

In the beginning, there were sprouts…

This is year three of our hops growing project, originally planted for beauty and shade but finally this year, they will be used for a beer!Growing Hops

These “sprout” photos were taken on April 18, just around the time we were keeping the crops intentionally thin and using the extra shoots as meal supplements (there are all kinds of hops shoot recipes on the web!)

Hop Harvest

Unfortunately I’ve misplaced the photos of the fully grown plants and some beautiful close-ups I took of the flowers, but today – after we realized our homebrewing group just isn’t going to have time for this one – D put a call out on Beer Advocate to see if any homebrewer would like to use our fresh Nugget and Cascade hops.

He picked about 3.5 pounds of them, and shipped them off to New Cumberland, PA where they will hopefully become part of a Harvest Ale homebrew.

Pizza by a River: The One Guy Experience

Pizza and a RiverWhen I first visited One Guy Brewing Company  just a week after the opening,  I knew it was good enough to make it. Approximately 19 months later, I’ve seen an amazing transformation!

From one room with plain walls, a simple bar, a unisex bathroom, a small brewery in the back – a place that only sold simple hot dogs and encouraged you to bring your own food – Guy has created a space to accomodate all of his fans!

This spring, the inside had a great expansion which included a second room, a women’s restroom and a funky paint job. And outside, Guy graded and gravelled an area overlooking the river.Beer Garden

At approximately 40′ x 80′, fenced on two sides, lined with tables – some under tents – and adorned with a variety of torches, this is a great outdoor space! Steps in the back The Beer Windowcorner lead to a serving window for beers, and bathrooms (currently porta-potties, but planned expansion for plumbing) are available on the opposite side. And there is room for bands (and now, a zoning permit allowing music until 11 pm!), as well as expanded parking.

If you were following the stories, you may have heard about the hoops it was taking to get this beer garden open, but patience and persistance prevailed, and it became a treat to end the summer!

In addition to the fabulous expansion of the facilities, Guy acquired a Blodgett commercial pizza oven creating a new layer of love for the pub. On Friday, we were able to try out the pizzas along with a couple of beers while enjoying a beautiful late summer evening on the river.

We enjoyed a Margherita pizza and the Steve-O Inferno – covered in fresh vegetables, including some nicely hot peppers – which were hand-made and delivered to the table by Guy. The thin crust and light homemade Hondo Pintssauce was just perfect. Along with it, we had a couple of beers: Hondo Keller, Atomic Punk IPA and Oktoberfest. Everything was perfect!

Growlers!We didn’t take any beer home this time, but were thrilled to see Guy is using the Nalgene growlers (or as Dave Hoops, co-founder of Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth, MN calls it, the “Adventure Growler” – introduced in response to the glass restrictions in the nearby Boundary Waters, a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking and camping.) Perhaps when the Peach Wheat comes out (and it will…it’s back there just sitting…), we’ll need to add to our growler collection!

I couldn’t help but notice that Berwick looked just a little bit brighter and a little more progressive on this visit. (Is it a coincidence that I thought about writing this a day before the Press-Enterprise wrote in the Roses and Thorns column, “Raise a glass to Guy Hagner, who has turned his dream of being a brewmaster into a growing business in Berwick…Because he took a chance on himself, Berwick is a better place.”?)

If you’ve never been there, why not try getting there for the brewpub’s first Oktoberfest, slated for Oct. 8-11 and 15-18!?!

NY Craft Beer Week 2009: September 11-20

NYC_Beer_Week_passport_coverA couple of weeks ago I wrapped my hands around the NYC Beer Passport and after looking it over, I am convinced this is a “must have” for anyone planning to be in New York for Beer Week or anyone new to drinking New York City.

This 160-page pocket guide contains details on everything that is happening around the city, but it’s so much more! Beer dinners, beer walks, articles on beer, an index of venues, an index of breweries (and where to find those beers) and a listing of styles that shows which beers (by style) will be found during NYC Beer Week.

82 pages are dedicated to participating bars. Each has a page, color-coded by borough, with maps, transit stops, hours, information about special features at the bar, a listing of featured beers, deals provided to passport holders, events at the bar and kitchen information. It’s a great tool for NYC Beer Week – good for deals throughout the city including event discounts – but it’s also helpful for return visits to the city. Some of the deals are available through Labor Day 2010!

During NYC Beer Week, the passport gets you $2 pints at each of the participating bars, a complimentary 8 oz pour of NY3 – the official beer of NYC Beer Week (a Farmhouse Ale brewed with local honey from each of the three brewers – Ithaca, Captain Lawrence and Southampton – which is dry-hopped with hops from Pedersen Farms) – at the Gotham Cask Festival, reduced rates on reservations for Beer Walks and the Brooklyn Brewery Scavenger Hunt, discounted entry to any of the Deconstructing Beer events or the Women in Beerspeakers panel, an additional complimentary beer at the Zagat House Specials dinners, and a souvenir glass at A Walk in the Park at Studio Square – the official closing event which boasts 40+ rare & special craft beers, the premiere of Beer Quest (soon to be found at beerquest.tv) at 4 PM and 8 PM, local foods and music.

By now, if you haven’t purchased a passport, you probably missed out on the pre-sale specials, but there is plenty to be gained by getting one of these, and you can pick them up all over the city!

Bullfrog Releases

Bullfrog Brewery just announced details on the latest bottle release – French Kiss – a 7.2% ABV Biere de Garde.  Brewer Terry Hawbaker describes it as

“Full of luxurious richness with an aroma akin to candied apples. The palette is full of expressive malt yet finishes dry and spicy with dashes of tartness from the yeast.”

Bottles of French Kiss will be available as a pre-release exclusively to Pub Club members on Thursday, September 3, and then to the general public on Friday, September 4. There is a limit of 4 bottles per person per visit, and the cost is $16/bottle.

This same announcement tells us the following draft beers will be on in October:

  • Coffee Cream Stout – made with 10 pounds of freshly roasted Sumatran Mandling coffee and 55 pounds of lactose for a smooth and creamy coffee flavor.
  • Oktoberfest
  • Hop Harvest – a fresh, wet-hopped ale

The bottle release for October will be Undead Ed (the oh-so-fabulous Edgar IPA bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces) but also in October, we can expect bottles of Wolfsblood Scotch Ale and Busted Lawnmower(keg conditioned with Brettanomyces) to be available!

If I Could Walk That Way…

Did anyone else read about this, and better yet, catch the video footage?

A Louisiana woman was caught on surveillance tape waddling out of a grocery store with a case of Miller Lite between her legs. That’s right. She wore an oversized house coat, and managed to stuff the beer up her dress, and tuck a couple of sodas in there, too!

I could understand if it were, say, Carlsberg Vintage No. 2 (which sells for ~$367 USD per bottle) or even a case from Abita Brewing Co.  But Miller Lite?  How much did she spend on the ThighMaster in order to do this?

Summer of Beer

Nothing posted since June?!?! Really?!?! WOW. I think Facebook has stolen all of my leisure Internet attention, and a total web site redesign at work zapped my energy for writing on the web. Or maybe I can blame it on the budget (today Pennsylvania is on Day 62 without a budget –  one of two states in the country without a spending plan and there is no relief in sight.)

So, where have I been pubcrawlin’ all this time?

Our summer big-beer-trip – the start of which was my last blog posting – was with the destination Fargo, ND in mind. Why? So D could have a beer from his 50th state (for me, it was #49 – I still need Arkansas on my “drink a beer from” list; we both have a couple left on our “drink a beer in” states.) Did you know that ND only has one brewery, and sadly, it’s a Granite City?

We also got up to Winnipeg, after a bit of delay at the border (she wasn’t buying the backpacking, birdwatching, beer-traveling librarian story.) The goal there was to visit Half Pints Brewing, an excellent brewery run by one of our favorite brewers in Canada. We enjoyed that visit so much (yes, yes, I need to post about it alone!) and also a side-trip to Kings Head Pub for half-pints of Half Pints and great food (pakora with tamarind chutney, vegetable spring rolls served with plum dipping sauce, Scotch eggs with mango chutney and samosas with tamarind chutney.)

Our other big beer adventure this summer was Great Taste of the Mid-West in August. Eight people traveled for 5 days in a van called Mangina from Harrisburg, PA to Madison, WI and back. Chicago brought us down a bit with bad weather and deplorable traffic conditions, but the beer on our travels, and the glories of the destination made it all worth it! There were some CRAZY beers there. I need to find a way to retrospectively blog about this one…it was too awesome to be forgotten. We couldn’t have had six better beer-traveling companions!

Summer adventures in Philadelphia included the Royal Stumble with Ray and Cornelia (and a variety of great pubs and people fell into that weekend!), Christmas in July at Grey Lodge, and just last weekend, Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout and more at Teresa’s Next Door.

Back at home, I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at the 2nd Annual Hops, Vines & Wines Festival  in Selinsgrove, PA. What a fabulous festival in my home area! I was glad to be there to help serve Iron Hill beers, and the next morning, pinch hit to sing the anthem at my parent’s church.

These are just the major summer adventures. I can’t even begin to dream up all of the minor ones right now. And soon it will be time for New York City Beer Week and Brewgrass. Oh boy…time to call on that second liver…