Dreaming of Chocolate

Tonight I’m escaping the cold, driving rain by sitting inside enjoying a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (limited bottling – vintage ’04-’05.)  It has a rich,  sharp and roasty chocolate flavor. The complexity of chocolate, hops, and a subtle alcohol bite is exciting to the palate, and stimulates my brain to consider the number of lovely chocolate-inspired beers out there.

One of my new favorites is Southern Tier Imperial Choklat Stout, which is part of the Blackwater Series of big beers. Weighing in at 11% ABV, this amazing beverage is brewed with bittersweet Belgian chocolate, and while loved by many, is a polarizing brew. People who love it, LOVE it. Others say it is too sweet and not appealing at all. My initial impressions were that it is a smooth, creamy chocolate flavor, much like a Frosty(TM) or, as I drank more of it, the chocolaty center of a Tootsie Pop – the chocolate ones, and just at the point where you cross over from the pop to the Tootsie Roll inside. I actually loved this anonymous review in Motif magazine:

You might be seeing Oompa Loompas if you don’t treat this 11% ABV Wonka bar with care. Most chocolate stouts hint at the chocolate, Choklat puts it right up front and it slides right down yer hole. The milk chocolate is balanced nicely with some piney hops, and hints of roasted barley and coffee.

And then there was the recent announcement of Dogfish Head Theobroma which will debut during Philly Beer Week.  This is a 10% ABV brew based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras and will contain cacao powder, cacao nibs, honey, chilies and annatto (an aromatic seed.)  Patrick McGovern, senior research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (and acquaintance to D through the birding world), performed the analysis. He is the same man responsible for DFH Midas Touch Golden Elixir, and ancient honey beer based on analysis of contents found in the tomb of King Midas, and DFH Chateau Jiahu – a rice, honey and fruit beer with it’s foundation in ancient China.

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed the Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence on tap.  This is a lighter stout made with Belgian dark chocolate. It was lightly bitter and not at all heavy or sweet. And it is hard not to enjoy the well balanced Rogue Chocolate Stout, which was originally created for export to Japan (What’s that all about?!? Create it and export it to MY house!)  This is one I recently enjoyed from the bottle with friends.

In December 2007, I was thrilled to find Choco Latte Porter from San Diego Brewing Company which is poured on nitrogen (the tap handle at Liar’s Club was a Hershey Bar!) This thin porter had surprisingly strong chocolate overtones and hints of dark-roast coffee.  And I’m always pleased to be presented with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. This thick, black beverage features a fabulous blend of chocolate and coffee bean, while maintaining a sweet, smooth body with a modestly warm alcohol burn.

I’m hoping that a creative brewery like Pisgah or Weyerbacher might try a chocolate stout sometime soon. Maybe for the next cold weather season?  Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the day we get to brew our own next concoction – C.O.W. Stout – an oatmeal stout brewed with chocolate and put into secondary fermentation on a bed of toasted walnuts.

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Foothills (Winston-Salem, NC)

I’ve found some time to post more notes from Thursday, so here is my report from our lunch at Foothills Brewing Company. There hasn’t been a whole lot of change since our last visit, so I won’t ramble on here about it. As expected, the draft selection was fabulous, but to start our day off slowly:

  • I only had one – the Seeing Double IPA(9.5%; 110 IBUs), which is just a wonderful example of a double IPA. Nothing overpowers (other than the fact that it is a double IPA!); it’s just a warm, sweet nectar. It is served in a 10 oz glass, and the deep copper color is just beautiful. It has a light citrus aroma, and a pine hop bite. Cloudiness in the glass adds to the mystery of this double IPA.
  • D had the Hoppyum IPA(6.75% ABV) to start, while his Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout had time to warm. This is so different from the Seeing Double IPA. It is a clear copper color with a crisp finish. Simply a pleasant American IPA.
  • The Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV) was so much better than last February. Last year it was really hot – really to the point that I couldn’t drink it – it ruined my taste buds. This year, it still has an obvious high alcohol burn, but the rich flavors of chocolate and roasted malts, and the sweetness of dark fruits come through well. This beverage has a strong alcohol burn, which will mellow out over time. I believe last year I called the aroma flammable, but this year’s brew is sweet to the nose.

The best thing about our visit was that we got to meet Jamie Bartholomaus, the owner and brewer of Foothills, and a Pennsylvania native. It was so kind of his wife, Sarah, to stop by and check on our table. She talked with us a bit, and picked up on the fact that we were interested in meeting him. He was able to sit down, taking time to chat for awhile.

We learned his interesting history in brewing, and one of his former brewing experiences was at Olde Hickory Brewing Company, and the former brewing facility (now more of a restaurant and small batch brewing facility) was on the way out of town.  We confirmed our suspicion that the Sexual Chocolate was brewed a little earlier this year (October) and tweaked just enough to make it more enjoyable in February (in time for the bottle release, although our bottles will certainly sit for awhile longer!) It sounds like it will be easy to find a glass in Asheville (and other locations for anyone not visiting Asheville!), but he held back at least 12 kegs for aging and release throughout the year. Naturally, Foothills will be at Brewgrass, but also he mentioned a food/beer pairing he’ll be attending called Savor in DC. He gave us a sample of the People’s Porter as well. It would have been lovely to stay longer and drink a whole glass, but we needed to move on.

But I would be remiss in ending this post without talking about the food. Our waiter, Stephen, was quite conscientious despite the busy lunch crowd. He talked to us about some of the menu changes (they dropped the salad with chevre, oranges and snow peas that I loved so much!), but he made other recommendations. I had the Greek salad made with romaine and spinach, topped with balsamic onions, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and feta. The green goddess dressing (made with cream cheese) was a bit too thick for my taste, so I had the balsamic vinaigrette. Along with it, I enjoyed a cup of the creamy She Crab Soup, which had a little zip to it, and small pieces of shell, just so you know it’s authentic! D had the Cuban sandwich, which came with some terrific fries and a wonderful garlic dill pickle spear.

It’s hard not to enjoy yourself at Foothills, but do take quarters for the meter (only 25-cents an hour) and keep it fed!

Firkin Friday (trying again) at SGB

Well, I don’t know what happened to the text of “Firkin Friday and One Guy Saturday,” so I’ve tried to recreate the post and will break it up into two posts.  We’ll see what happens.

Firkin Friday at Selin’s Grove Brewing Company was the impetus for traveling north on Friday. I was looking forward to an evening at the pub with fresh beer off the firkin (even though they didn’t announce what it would be until that day…I knew it would be great!) Unfortunately, I got out of work late and almost missed my chance at this wonderful tasting opportunity. The weather was just terrible in central Pennsylvania – heavily pouring freezing rain made the world miserable, so I couldn’t wait to get inside the cozy confines of SGB and enjoy some fresh Organic Baltic Porter.

Friends Brandi and Jeff got there first, and when I approached their table, they exclaimed that the firkin had kicked – behind me I saw guys tipping it forward to get the last drips into a glass and my spirits just fell. Jeff offered me a taste from his glass, but I thought I should speed up to the bar just to be sure it was gone. At the bar, I found my good friend in beer, Jeff Reed, who was finishing one of several glasses he had of the porter, and saint that he is, he offered me the single, full glass he still had in front of him.

The Organic Baltic Porter was served in a tulip glass, and had absolutely no head and no lacing.  The appearance was that of unfiltered apple cider. Light filtered through the very top edges of the beverage, and the rest of the glass had a muddy thickness to it (in my head, I was thinking “is this Mudpuppy Brown?!?!”) Coming from the firkin, it was the perfect temperature and drank like a breakfast juice, with a smooth, light mouthfeel.

The flavor was atypical for a Baltic Porter. There were no hints of smokiness, roastiness, or coffee. It was fruity and spicy, with flavors of plum, caramelized brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla…maybe a little sweet chocolate from the alcohol in the start, but finished with a sour fruit and yeasty flavor. Many of the flavors took me back to fall and the SGB Pumpkin Ale.

I didn’t ask this year, but the December 1, 2006 firkin tapping of Baltic Porter at SGB contained 100% Amarillo hops. I can’t confirm this year was the same, but the light hoppiness that was present in the taste was really pleasant – not bitter, but complimentary to the fruit/spice tones.  Hopefully this will show up on the hand pump in the near future and I can ask more questions!

In addition to the porter, I enjoyed a “shorty Frosty” (Olde Frosty IPA is still on…yum, yum!) and a glass of Razzmerry, and even more, I enjoyed hanging out and talking to other enthusiasts.  Despite the weather, the place was generally crowded – a table of ten from Harrisburg, many of the regular firkin enthusiasts, and a steady flow of traffic.  A special thanks to my parents who showed up unexpectedly and let me impose on them for a ride home!

Firkin Friday and One Guy Saturday

Oh the insanity…  I wrote a long, and (I think) interesting post reviewing the Organic Baltic Porter at SGB’s Firkin Friday and my Saturday trip to One Guy brewing with full descriptions of the really great beers I had there, and…poof….it’s gone.

No time to recreate it now.  We’ll see what happens later. Ugh. Sorry.

Bavarian Barbarian Uncle Richard at Bavarian Barbarian (where I also wanted to go!)

One Guy Brewing Company - Outside View One Guy – Outside

Inside One GuyOne Guy – Inside   One Guy Menu

One Final VICTORY for Heavyweight

Both running on very little sleep these days, D and I arrived early at the “One Final VICTORY for Heavyweight” event at The Drafting Room in Exton with an expectation that there would be a line of people.  

At that hour (just after 11 AM), there were only a few people inside, and they weren’t serving beer or food, so we scored a good table. Thank goodness, because the room filled quickly, and the event became standing room only for many. We had an enjoyable time drinking some excellent brews with a table of friends, and talking to acquaintances who passed by, and got home in time for D to get a full nap before work.

This was the official release for Victory’s Baltic Thunder, and also a last(?) opportunity to get a selection of Heavyweight products in bottles (750 ml bottles for $14.95.)  Baltic Thunder was on tap, but also available in bottles for $7.95 (Ouch! It was only $34/case at Victory, so we were really thankful that Kim made the beer run to Downingtown!)

Event signage     Drafting Room Drafts     Bottles at Drafting Room   Peche?

[Perhaps it was the alcohol, but we were particularly amused by the Lindeman’s Pêche description, which went something like, “flavored with fresh raspberries to complement the tartness.” Ooops! Who’s the editor?]

We asked for our Heavyweight bottles just a little too late, missing out on Black Ocean (a schwartzbier.) Friends at our table bought and shared a bottle of Slice of Bread (a pungent and sour rye), which also ran out before we could get one to take home. Our table did obtain the last two bottles of Jakeldricka which we shared (a spiced herb ale, which I didn’t love, however, I went into this one with a bad attitude after reading descriptions like smokey, bacon bits, boiled cabbage and freshly chopped wood.) I believe this is the one that had a “lava lamp” quality to it, in that thick waves of sediment rolled through the glass during the entire time we were drinking it. D brought home a bottle each of Biere D’Art and Doug’s Colonial Ale.

Bottles of Heavyweight             “Lava Lamp”

On draft, also from Heavyweight, we had Perkuno’s Hammer (2006)– a Baltic porter brewed collaboratively with Lew Bryson (who defined it as, “a train wreck between a doublebock and an imperial stout,”) – and at our table (but not tasted by us), the Lunacy (2006) – a Belgian-Style golden ale.  As far as I know, no one at our table attempted the Baltus O.V.S. (2006), which was labeled “OXIDIZED – DRINK AT YOUR OWN RISK!”

I particularly enjoyed the Seven Threads Symposium Ale.  This dark brew was a blend of 8 locally-crafted ales, served only in 10-oz glasses for $2.95. D and I decided to share one glass, and I have to say I monopolized that glass!  Here is the description they provided:

Blended for 2005 Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia, this amalgamation consists of Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, Flying Fish Porter, Independence Oatmeal Stout (RIP), Iron Hill Pig Iron Porter, Nodding Head Grog, Stoudt’s Fat Dog Stout, Victory Storm King and Yard’s IPA…

I’ll have to see if D took any notes on it…I was too busy trying to maintain possession of it to write anything down!

Don’t worry about D not getting any beer, though! He started the day with Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, of which I got no more than a single sip.

Everything else we drank was from Victory, and my favorite of the list was the cask-conditioned Hop Wallop. The 8.5% ABV was masked by the smooth drinkability. I enjoyed it so much and was disappointed that I’d only ordered a 10-oz, but in terms of minimizing the alcohol and calorie consumption, it was a good idea. We also had the Harvest Ale (2007), and as mentioned earlier, the Baltic Thunder.

I know it sounds like a lot, but we did stick to the 10-oz glasses, and did lots of sharing, so with lunch and a couple cups of coffee, it really wasn’t overwhelming at all.

                        Crowd shot

This was my first trip to The Drafting Room, where there are 14 rotating taps, one cask-conditioned hand pump, and over 100 bottled beers. I especially like that the menu features “tapped on” dates (the website does, too, but it’s all out of date!) The food menu was also excellent. I really enjoyed my Moroccan salad, and the other plates looked yummy, too. And I like that they never add more than $10 to the PA sales price of a wine. This is a great place to meet with good friends for a good beer!

Liar’s Club – Alpine, CA

This morning we got up and did a little last-minute shopping before heading for the desert. Because we got out of town so late, we had an opportunity to stop for brunch in Alpine at the Alpine Inn.

It is a funky little place – dark inside, and made me think it’s where the old people go – but we really enjoyed our “Sunday Country Brunch”.  For $12.95, we had a choice of one of many menu items. D had the huevos rancheros, which came with rice, beans and hash browns. I had the seafood omelette with the tomatoes substituted for the potatoes. All brunch meals come with biscuits and gravy, and handmade Bloody Mary’s on the house.  Pretty good food, and very interesting place.

Heading toward the highway, we decided to check on the Liar’s Club (located at 2806 Alpine Blvd, Alpine, CA 91901) – did they open last night? Are they open now?

The answers were Yes, and Yes!  It was 11 AM, and they were just opening for the first full day of business.  What a great time we had there, too.  There were 32 active taps, and a few in reserve, as well as a large bottle selection.  They offered 10-oz glasses and pints, and the selection was terrific! We had a few things from the taps:

  • AleSmith Speedway Stout (awesome!!)
  • San Diego Brewing Co. Chocolate Porter (on nitrogen with a Hershey Bar tap handle)
  • Fox Barrel Cassis Cider (yummy!!)
  • New Belgium La Folie
  • Rubicon Wheat Wine

We really enjoyed the people, too.  Pete, our bartender who moved with the business, and Heidi, a bartender in training, were great with us and all of the incoming customers, and we met Louis Mello, the owner, and a guy who I suspect may be Al Guerra, the new business partner. Despite the first day hectic feeling, they were all very willing to share information about the place, the beers, and the beer scene.

                    Liar’s Club             C and D at Liar’s Club

I know I’m not “from here”, but I can say with conviction that this is a great beer bar and so very worth the beautiful drive from the city. The selection is amazing – anything you could want (except a macro) – and the food looked great. It will get louder once televisions are installed, but otherwise, it’s got everything going right for it. Oh – and best bathrooms of the trip! The ladies room was really pretty, with a feminine selection of hand soaps and lotions. Hooray for a beer bar with a beautiful head!

C at Anza-Borrego

I’ve got some photos of the new place, and perhaps I’ll get some links and/or descriptions up later, but after a day in the desert (Anza-Borrego), and a long drive back to La Quinta, I’ve got to get to bed.

Congratulations on your opening, [New] Liar’s Club – we hope you are still around on our next visit!  BTW – anyone have a phone number for this place?

Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks

The so-often-mentioned-by-me “golden triangle of beer” in Central PA has become a trapezoid. That is my official position after spending Saturday night at Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks in Millheim, PA.  Tim Bowser, an owner, joked with me that perhaps it is now more like the Bermuda Triangle, which may be true as people taking the time to visit Selin’s Grove, Bullfrog and Otto’s will be drawn into the center to take in Elk Creek.

The PLCB came through late last Friday, and Elk Creek had a quiet opening.  Sam Komlenic reported the details of his visit and tour to Lew Bryson, but because of a heavy work and vacation schedule last week and my focus on Christmas shopping and Firkin Friday at Selin’s Grove, I wasn’t keeping up on my reading.  I learned about it via text message this weekend, and just happen to be staying less than 30 miles away so I jumped on the opportunity and my parents came right along.

Knowing the area well, I was surprised by the metropolitan flair of this place (the last great restaurant in the area – The Hummingbird Room – closed in 2005.) It’s a few doors down from the quaint Millheim Hotel where, at least when I was growing up, the salad bar is in a claw-foot bathtub (another interesting fact – this circa 1794 hotel is haunted by the mistress of President Millard Fillmore.) It, too is a fun spot to dine, but it’s charming in a small-town kind of way.

From the large windows of the Elk Creek Cafe, I watched at least three Amish horse and buggies pass by the other two restaurants on the main street – Brownies Valley Tavern and The Pizza Shop. Their polished black boxes connected by strong wood and leather strappings to a single horse offered a glimpse of women and children wrapped in blankets and men in suspenders and black dress hats. I challenge you to name another brewpub where you can see that!

Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks is located in the former Equinox Cafe location – it can’t be missed in such a small town, but just in case you decide to visit, the intersection is routes PA-45 and PA-445 (the only stoplight in town) and the address is 100 W. Main Street.  The street view is full floor-to-ceiling windows and the brightness of the interior lights up the downtown. It has a beautiful yellow glow, which reflects off the honey wood floors, and colorful displays artwork throughout the restaurant add an interesting aspect to the otherwise simple decor. There is a real feeling of openness to the restaurant – we weren’t crowded, although the tables were nearly full.

Elk Creek - Exterior at Night     Elk Creek Selections

We did not sit at the bar, but it looked very nice with the handmade cherry and iron barstools.  The beer menu was on the table, and a chalkboard presentation of the beers and specials was on the wall. The food menu was printed just for the weekend, and I assume this will be a trend, as they feature fresh, local products (seen in italics where I’ve copied the menu at the end of this post.) In addition to “fresh and local”, this place features some of my other favorite buzzwords: organic, smoke-free and vegan. Chef Mark Johnson describes the his preparation style as Nouveau Dutchie Cuisine.

Brewer Tim Yarrington, who was dining two tables away with his family (but I was too shy/polite to interrupt them), has outdone the Penns Valley beer scene with his nice selection of ales. I didn’t ask if there are plans to put on a cask, but heard there are plans to expand the number and variety of offerings. I also am left wondering about the ABVs and IBUs…  Five beers were on tap yesterday, served in 5 oz glasses for $1 or pints for $3.95.  The selections were:

Winkleblink Ale– a light, perhaps kolsch-style, ale named for a nearby mountain. On the map, you will see it as Winklebleck Mountain in the Bald Eagle State Forest (the Mid-State Trail crosses this mountain when hiking from Hairy John’s picnic area to Raymond B. Winter State Park), but because of a lighted tower, the locals know it as “Winkleblink Mountain.”  The name is a bit esoteric, and should they ever look to rename it, let me offer up “Winklebleck Light.”
Great Blue Heron Pale Ale – an American Pale Ale that didn’t quite meet my expectations for flavor. It was lighter in color and lacking in the hop flavor and aroma that I expect in a Pale. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it – I did – I just didn’t like it enough to indulge in a pint.
Elk Creek Copper Ale – this is the kind of flavor I’m looking for in a session beer. It had a stronger hop profile than the Pale, and the darker color was visually more appealing.  Toffee sweetness complimented the floral aroma.  Elk Creek, by the way, is an important area waterway which once hosted mills and now provides recreation through kayaking and fly fishing.
Brookie Brown Ale– the big surprise of the night! Pop usually avoids browns (too sweet!), but based on the description, decided to try it. His first pint was a mis-pour of the Copper and he had to send it back, so when the Brown arrived looking much like the Porter, we suspected another mistake.  Not so! This did not have the hop aroma or full-bodied roastiness of the porter, but the chocolate and caramel malts kept the flavor strong and the color dark. It was an excellent and atypical brown ale.
Poe Paddy Porter– nostalgia abounded in the name alone, and then we tasted this beer based on Tim Yarrington’s GABF award winning porter recipe. It is a perfect porter – dark, smooth and roasty with an extra hint of hops in the aroma and the finish. It could only be better if only it were on cask…  I had my pint of porter with desert, and it really complimented the bread pudding (a small slice of bread pudding (which didn’t have the taste or texture of old bread!) topped with raisin sauce, citrus zest and vanilla ice cream.) Poe Paddy is a favorite local State Park on Penns Creek and near the Paddy Mountain Railroad Tunnel, which is a favorite Mid-State Trail day hike or bike ride for our family.

Our meals were just as good as the atmosphere and the beer. We started with the chicken liver toast – a lovely pate preparation best shared by the three of us. It was a wonderful treat that melted in my mouth. Pop had the Steak Frites (a pasture-raised grilled strip steak served with steak butter and  a generous portion of fries with aioli.) Nana had the pasture-raised burger, also served with the hand-cut fries. I had the potato-crusted wild Alaskan salmon, which was balanced over roast beet cubes and topped with horseradish sour cream and chives. It was perfect in flavor, but the presentation was lacking (dramatic, yet it looked lonely on such a big plate – a few greens or something scattered on the side would make all the difference!)

Our only real complaint was the waitress assigned to our table. The other wait staff seemed to be very friendly and efficient, but ours was inattentive, extremely soft-spoken, and generally not prepared to work with the public.

Two things I neglected to do is find out a phone number for this place, and whether or not they fill growlers. All of my searches for phone numbers come up with numbers for the Equinox (it rings busy at all times), and two personal phone numbers which I found on things like the State Inspection report. I’ll want to know those things eventually.

If I lived near Millheim, I would visit at every opportunity.  As a beer traveler, I hope to get back as often as possible.

TAVERN TAPAS

  • Cream of Broccoli + Parsley w/ Cheddar Soup
  • Elk Creek Flatbread + Hummus w/ Kalama Olives (vg)
  • Belgian Style Hand-Cut Fries + Elk CreekAioli or Tofu Mayo (vg)
  • Olive Salad Bruschetta (vg)
  • Mac + Frank + Fontina
  • House-Cured Gravlox + Poppy Crackers w/ Dijon Drizzle
  • Local Apple, Bacon, Cheddar + Baby Lettuce Salad
  • Roast Beet Salad w/ Toasted Caraway Vinaigrette (vg)
  • Mixed Baby Greens, choice of Vinaigrettes (vg) 

ELK CREEK ENTREES

  • Pasture-Raised Burger + Hand-Cut Fries w/ Elk Creek Aioli
  • Roasted Pepper + Marinated Portabella Sandwich w/ Hummus Mayo
  • Valley Ham + Swiss on Gemelli Ciabatta
  • Fillet of Beef Salad w/ Grilled Gemelli Ciabatta, Mixed Lettuces + Roasted Peppers
  • Bucatini w/ Elk Creek Puttanesca (vg)
  • Pasture-Raised Grilled Strip Steak + Fries w/ Elk Creek Aioli + Steak Butter
  • Butter-Basted Over the Moon Farm Chicken w/ Broccoli + House-cured Hog Jowl + Potato Gnochi 
  • Tender Callahan Pork Shoulder + Pork Belly w/ Butter Beans + Roasted Root Vegetable
  • Skillet Trout w/ Crispy Potatoes in a Brown Butter, Capers, + Lemon Pan Sauce  
  • Potato-Crusted Wild Alaskan Salmon, Horseradish Sour Cream + Chives w/ Roast Beets

Countdown to Christmas – Week 3

The third 7 days on the Advent Calendar of Beer

Dec. 15Old Fezziwig® Ale  (Samuel Adams) – Winter Warmer

Dec. 16 – Carolina Winter Porter (Carolina Brewing Company) – an American Porter created with Simcoe hops.

Dec. 17 – Christmas Ale (Corsendonk) – Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Dec. 18 – Winter Ale (Wyerbacher)

Dec. 19Cherry Vanilla Maple Porter (Brutal Deluxe Brewing) – our 2006 homebrew Christmas beer.

Dec. 20 – Anise Spruce Ale (Brutal Deluxe Brewing) This the second of two Christmas beers we brewed in 2007, and it’s possible there is a better name and I just don’t know it.  We were really looking forward to the spruce essence, but the star anise completely overpowers it – a bit reminiscent of NyQuil, unfortunately.  Hopefully it will mellow with time, but not in time for Christmas.

Dec. 21Gray’s Wassail (Gray’s Brewing Company); Olde Frosty IPA from the Firkin  and Solstice Dubbel (Selin’s Grove Brewing Company) – yes, it was a busy day of beer drinking on Friday. D had the Gray’s Wassail at home because he had to work, while I took the afternoon off and camped out at Selin’s Grove for six hours. 

I can’t speak for his Wassail, but I thoroughly enjoyed Olde Frosty IPA from the firkin! It was tapped at 3:30 PM, and kicked in 1.5 hours.  I had the honor of finishing off the last 1/2 pint! It had a piney hop character with hints of caramel sweetness, and the flavors of the wood really came through (apparently it was only in there for 4 days.) This is a beer I’ve looked forward to tasting all year, and I wasn’t disappointed. I brought home a growler of Olde Frosty on CO2 for D to try, and it will be interesting to compare.

Also, Selin’s Grove brought out the Solstice Dubbel on this special day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The Pumpkin Ale was still on (but I bet it isn’t any longer), so I had a 1/2 pint of that, as well as a glass of Razz Merry.  My holiday favorites – all in one place!

Countdown to Christmas – Introduction

Give it to D to find a creative way to clear out some of the inventory…  How about a new and/or different beer each day between December 1 and 25?  He calls it his Advent Calendar of Beer.

Instead of little candies, we get little beer surprises each day.  I’m not exactly sure what the rules are – perhaps he’s making them up as we go along – but it’s been fun trying.

We kicked it off with a weekend away on December 1 and 2, joining up with friends and traveling the “golden triangle of PA beer,” which includes Otto’s Pub & Brewery in State College, The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, and Selin’s Grove Brewing Co. in Selinsgrove. 

In addition the the three brewpubs, we enjoyed several additional stops including Zeno’s Pub in State College (where I picked up my St. Nicholaus Brewer’s Reserve in the pretty velvet bag!), a private tasting with the Ferry’s, and an extra visit to Bullfrog for Sunday Brunch (yummmm – beer and eggs – the last time I did that was at Holy Cow in Las Vegas.)

Over the course of the trip, we consumed the brews below.  I know the list looks long, but remember that there were 4 of us traveling, 8 of us at the tasting, and the three brewpubs all offered half-pints. 

At Otto’s – they had 10 beers on tap plus 2 on the handpump

  • Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale on cask
  • Mom’s Elderberry Stout
  • Ottonator Doppelbock
  • Apricot Wheat
  • Jolly Roger Russian Imperial Stout on cask

At Zeno’s – so many taps and bottles, we can’t count that high…3 cask beers (there is a good reason this place was placed in the Top 50 Places to Have a Beer (#41))

  • Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale on cask (again!)
  • St. Nick Bock – Penn Brewing
  • Gouden Carolus Ambrio
  • Bell’s Two Hearted – featured on the TODAY show this week
  • St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – this is the first year available in US in bottles, and was the honorary first beer on the Advent Calendar.

At Bullfrog – they had 12 of their own (2 on cask) and two guest taps; unfortunately the Hop Harvest kicked the previous day.

  • Blue Collar Brown on cask
  • Wolfsblood Scotch Ale
  • Lights Out Imperial Stout
  • Edgar IPA
  • Inspiration Red

In bottles at the Ferry’s house (I think more were consumed – these were just for the tasting; many more were not consumed!)

  • Strawberry Creme Ale – Brutal Deluxe Brewery (our homebrew)
  • Mount Desert Island Ginger Beer – Atlantic Brewing Co.
  • Black Raspberry Reserve – Sly Fox
  • Christmas Ale – Great Lakes Brewing Co.
  • Old Man Winter – Southern Tier Brewing
  • Scratch Beer #4 – Troegs Brewing
  • Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2006 – Anchor Brewing Co.
  • 2007 Smoked Porter – Alaskan Brewing Co.
  • Hibernation Ale – Great Divide Brewing Co.
  • Old Abominable Barrel Aged/Bottle Conditioned Barleywine – Stout’s Brewing Co.

At Selin’s Grove – there were 8 beers on tap and 2 on the hand-pump

  • Pumpkin Ale on nitrogen
  • Mud Puppy Organic Brown Ale on cask
  • Mud Puppy Organic Brown Ale on nitrogen
  • India Pale Ale
  • St. Fillian’s Scotch Style Barleywine on cask; the second beer on the Advent Calendar

Thanks to Heath and Kim for keeping a great pictorial diary of the trip (most of the photos I’ll use in this post are his…they still need to be edited before they get added…)  It was great fun to travel with them. 

Dave and Pascha went out of their way to make our trip complete by hosting the tasting, providing a nice assortment of finger foods, and allowing us to sleep over (and Pascha sent me home with a great reading list!)  Thanks SO much to them, and their entertaining children. 

Mary and Steve were delightful company for the tasting, plus I got to see Mary’s Galapagos program, which was cool.  It was really fun to see them again.

What a nice way to kick off the month!

Cleaning Out the Basement

We’ve had a friend in town for the week, and on Thursday evening, while sitting at the Brewhouse Grille enjoying Russian River Pliny the Elder, D turned to me and said, “Let’s have a party – tomorrow night!”  And so we did…

We called a few friends – some who were free and unfortunately, some who were not – and picked up the worst of the clutter.  Jerry brought veggies from his organic garden in Venango County (romaine, celery, shallots, red onions, acorn squash), so D whipped up a salad and put together a great stew in the crockpot (I turned the squash into a fabulous soup for Saturday at the hawkwatch.)  

We thawed out a loaf of Zingerman’s farm bread.  D went to Wegman’s for cheese, olives and the like, and he scoured our basement looking for a few prize bottles of beer, as well as a few certain to please the palates of our intended guests.
Smoked Porter
This resulted in a great group of friends from birding, beer drinking and concerts gathered around our table for hearty food and a lengthy tasting.  Below is a complete list of the bottles opened for the table tasting:

  • Russian River Brewing – Damnation
  • Brouwerij Het Anker – Gouden Carolus ~ Carolus D’Or– Grand Cru Of The Emperor(brewed once a year, on the 24th of February, birthday of Charles the Fifth)
  • Alaskan Brewing Co. IPA
  • AleSmith IPA
  • Butte Creek Organic Revolution 10th Anniversary Imperial IPA
  • Moylans Hopsickle Imperial Ale (Triple Hoppy)
  • Cisco Celebration Libation (no year at the moment…no active website found)
  • Alaskan Brewing Co. Smoked Porter * (2006; yummy with nova lox and bread)
  • AlesSmith Speedway Stout
  • Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout

The only disappointment of the night was Victory V-Ten (brewed and bottled September 12, 2002) – this beer was corked, caged and carious (I know…that word applies to teeth, but it sounds good here!)  This was, unfortunately not well aged, which resulted in a big bottle of vinegar.

D and the Line-Up

And of course, we poured several other interesting things – bottles for individuals to enjoy.  We also tasted boilo (boilo : a popular homemade Yuletide beverage – ingredients include orange and lemon juice, honey, cloves, caraway seeds, and large amounts of whiskey; served hot in shot glasses) from a friend in the coal region, D’Reyes Peach Liquor which we brought back from Mexico and St. Clair Vineyards Port from NM. *There was also Glenlivet Nadurra single malt Scotch which paired so well with the Alaskan Smoked Porter.  Thanks, Dakotablue!!

The “starter” hit food was Nancy’s yummy salsa, and Marcy brought an array of beautiful and tasty desserts from the Pennsylvania Bakery which made a lovely finish to the night.