Yes…I’ve Been Drinking!

Has it really been 9 months since I posted anything? Yeah – I’m sorry to say it is true. So what have I been up to, you ask?

Drinking! Of course! My personal highlights over the past 9 months are listed below, with not nearly enough time or energy to detail, but in the future perhaps I won’t fall so far behind.Shorts Fest - August 2011

We’ve taken multiple beer-cations, with the following standing out:

There have been a myriad of local changes and releases including:

We’ve also had some great tasting experiences with friends, including but not limited to:

  • a clean-out-the-cellar event in our own backyard (we didn’t make a dent)
  • a night of Bullfrog rarities from the cellars of Team D(r)INK members (YUM!)
  • the 15th Anniversary of Selin’s Grove Brewing Company, plus releases of their first Sour Red and Black IPA
  • Gueuze-a-Palooza – an amazing night of soursBullfrog - from our basements!
  • our second annual Imminent Liquidation event
  • the Hill Farmstead Mimosa release (and fabulous winter weekend in VT!)
  • a weekend in the Finger Lakes (I know you are thinking “wine country”, but guess what?!?)
  • and our first Weekend Starts on Thursday event at Backstage Brewing Co.Hill Farmstead in VtAt Russian River with Vinny and Natalie

Thanks to those who have been asking, “When are you going to post an update on your blog?” My typical response is that there are so many excellent beer bloggers out there, I’m not sure I make much of a contribution. It is your interest that brought me back, and hopefully I’ll keep it up!

Changing Taps: River House and Bullfrog

“Bart doesn’t brew here anymore.”

River House Beer List (July 21, 2011)

River House Beer List (July 21, 2011)

It’s a little bit third hand, but three independent (and reliable) patrons of River House Brew Pub chatted with me this evening and said they were told this today while patronizing River House, and I see someone also posted a comment to support it. Funny. I just saw Bart at the Selinsgrove Hops, Vines and Wines Festival last weekend, and there wasn’t a hint that anything was amiss.

I heard a bit of the story on what happened, but since it is all rumor, I’ll just let the image back up the fact that he’s gone. I’ll disagree with the poster who said, “Crap on tap is back,” – these are some very nice taps – but it’s disappointing to see that things didn’t work out.

On the other hand, things didn’t work out back in April at Bullfrog with Nick Micio, but by May, it was all straightened out.  Although I haven’t had time to write about the fabulousness I discovered there in June, brewer Nate Saar has stepped in and stepped right up, brewing tasty treats like Somnus Viduata (coffe saison brewed with a variety of specialty malt and aged on 9 lbs of Colombian Magdalena coffee), Peche Panache (saison with bret, brewed with wheat and oats plus 80 lbs of peach puree), Stark Weiss (a German wheat with hints of chocolate covered banana), and Captain Drinkable (Czech-style unfiltered pilsner.)

If things really come in 3’s, I’m really hoping that the news out of Berwick is the other story of change for our Susquehanna River based breweries.

Without change, there would be no butterflies. ~ Anonymous

Taproom – Spring House (Lancaster, PA)

We made it to the Taproom at Spring House for the grand opening – a little late, but it sounded like the actualSpring House Tap Room - King St opening was delayed by a bit anyway.  And we were glad so many friends, and future friends, were able to be there too – that place was PACKED!

Today isn’t a good day to put in a whole story of our adventure, but I wanted to share a few photos, and simply state that everything was going smoothly!  There were 5 taps on last night – they seemed to change as the night went on. We had the G2 (a sorachi ace hopped version of Seven Gates Pale Ale) and Kerplunk! (a chocolate imperial stout), Spring House - approach from Central Marketwhile our friend who showed up much later was able to have Robot Bastard (Belgian IPA) on nitro.

The staff were handling things really well, especially considering that it was opening night and there was barely space to stand after 5:30 PM. We foundSpring House - Taps seats at the bar, where we could observe all the fun!

They are doing pints and half-pints, as well as growler fills, and I have yet to try the food.

My only disappointment…no purse hooks (bar fail!) Maybe they come later?Zoltar at Spring House

Great job, Matt!

Let’s Try This Again

Beer & Cheese pairing at World Cafe LiveI needed a little break. I took a long break. So, yup, you missed out on all my beer adventures over the last 10 months. Just of the top of my head, they included:

Obviously, it’s been a busy 10 months. And this just scratches the surface. But it brings me up to speed so that I can get back to the business of writing instead of feeling like I need to play catch-up.Selin's Grove 14th Anniversary

Thanks to those who encouraged me to take this back up – I hope I don’t let you down. Thanks to my many designated drivers for getting me to and from events. And if you are reading my blog for the first time, welcome.Picking Hops at MoonlightA wine stop on our NoCal Beer Trip

East End Brewing - GratitudePizza Port - San ClementeJackie-O's

Yard’s Tasting Room is Open!

I failed to post about our late-October weekend in Philadelphia, hanging with our friends from Asheville and our friends from the Philly area (that particular miss was due to scheduled surgery following weekend.) One of the many fun things we did was go tasting at Philadelphia Brewing Company, which has a beautiful tasting room that includes artwork for sale, terrific bathrooms (you wouldn’t guess this when you pull up to the building!) and great views. We also toured and tasted at Yards Brewing Company, which had good beer, a fun tour guide and one great house dog, but no atmosphere.

However, on our visit to Yards, we could see the beginnings of a very large and interesting room through the glass doors. We learned that it would be a tasting room with a kitchen, and eclectic decor would reflect their commitment to sustainability (for instance, the bar tops are made from old bowling alley lanes and the booths are recycled).

Well, as of this week, it’s open! Joe Sixpack’s Beer Radar reports the news first-hand, so I’m just passing the word along. I don’t really have any additional news about it, but thought it was something interesting to share. I can’t wait to check it out – beer, food and wine – what an interesting twist on a tasting room!

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!

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!

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…

Right Brain Brewery (Traverse City, MI)

With 13 beers available, and flavor combinations like parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, grapefruit, beets, lemon, maple, chocolate, ancho chili, vanilla, bourbon, cherries, and oranges, who wouldn’t be happy at Right Brain Brewery? I’m so glad this is where we chose to end the night. It’s a pub that, from a visitor’s perspective, gets overlooked by the very awesome Shorts Brewing in Bellaire. Granted, Shorts has a menu of delicious sandwiches and bottles for take-out, and they are pretty creative themselves (with 20 taps to choose from!) but Right Brain still wins for creativity.

We just missed a pale ale brewed with grilled asparagus and lemon peel, but we go the ancho chili dutch double chocolate porter, the Scarborough Fair spiced ale (brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme), a cream stout brewed with orange marmalade and peel, a wheat brewed with oven-roasted beets, an amber brewed with chocolate malt and cherry juice, a cream ale with maple syrup, barleywine aged seven months on Madagascar vanilla beans in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels…it just goes on!

Right Brain Beer List

A staff member told us that the brewer has produced approximately 90 different beers in the year-and-a-half they’ve been open! For instance, the Pale Ale is a new recipe every time – practically every two weeks!

Right Brain is in the warehouse district of Traverse City, MI and located behind Salon Saloon, where “you sip, we snip”.  It’s non-smoking, and the menu is limited to popcorn, tortilla chips and hummus. You are encouraged to bring your own food from outside, and sit at the bar, at one of the tables, or in a barber chair. There is no television, but they play music and have darts. There is a mug club, and the mugs are colorfully displayed on the wall. Windows also overlook the Salon Saloon.

Right Brain always has one beer on cask, and will serve Pints for $4.75 and half-pints for $3.25. Also, there are sample trays of six 8-oz pours for $15. Happy Hour on Monday – Friday from 3-6 PM means $3 pints, and there are growlers to go (and they will fill ANY growler – not just their own!)

If you find yourself anywhere near Traverse City, this place is absolutely worth the stop for rare and creative beers!