Mid State Trail Ale Debut at Elk Creek

Be among the first to try Elk Creek Café + Aleworks Mid State Trail Ale at the 40th Anniversary party for the Mid State Trail. 

On Sunday, July 12th, 2009 from 2:00PM to 4:00PM, the Mid State Trail Association is sponsoring a party in honor of the trail. All are invited to join the MSTA for this mixer and to share experiences on Pennsylvania’s wildest footpath.  A portion of the proceeds from each beer sold will be donated to the Mid State Trail Association.

Mid State Trail Ale is a Northern English Brown Ale, described by brewer Tim Yarrington as a beer with a profile designed for balance in a quote for the Summer 2009 MSTA newsletter, the ‘Brushwhacker’:

“The Northern English Brown Ale style is a rich yet approachable English style ale, brewed with English malt and Fuggle hops. The Mid State Trail Ale will be well balanced, with moderate alcohol content, making it a drinkable and satisfying beer.”

Brown Ales pair well with all types of foods, but I will highly recommend the tofu sautéed with spinach and caramelized onions, any trout dish available or Chicken Liver Toast. Also for sale that day will be the trail map and guide.

Make a day, or a weekend, of it – take a hike and go for the beer!  

The Mid State Trail System (MST) is Pennsylvania’s longest and wildest footpath, suitable for day-hiking and backpacking. It is now more than 300 miles in length, beginning at the Mason-Dixon Line near Artemas, and traveling through the Seven Mountains and Pennsylvania Wilds Regions to end in Tioga County. It travels through the Bald Eagle State Forest, including Harry John’s picnic area, Poe Paddy State Park or R.B. Winter State Park – all within 30 minutes drive of Millheim.


Local 44 (Philadelphia, PA)

I just got back from Disney World. What do I want to do next? Make my first visit to Local 44, of course! It just opened on New Year’s day, and I’ve been itching to get there after reading all of the coverage.

D picked me up at the airport, and we were early to leave the city for the Seventh Annual Robbie Burns Birthday Bash at Sly Fox, so we decided to check out Local 44, which is one of West Philly’s newest pubs. It is located at the corner of 44th and Spruce, and there was plenty of street parking on our visit.

Local 44 is owned by Leigh and Brendan. Brendan is a proprietor of Memphis Taproom in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, and this space has a similar corner bar charm. The neighborhood is a safe and friendly residential area, and the plain storefront look hides the classy charm inside. The colors are sleek and rich, and the place just feels very comfortable.

When we first arrived, we were two of just a few other customers, so we had some nice conversation with Leigh. And when it got more crowded, she still did a fantastic job of making everyone in the growing house feel welcome and appreciated as a customer. It was obvious that most of the people were from the neighborhood, already embracing Local 44 as their “local” in the few short weeks it’s been open.

Local 44 specializes in session beers, serving mostly brews under 5.5% ABV and higher gravity beers in smaller quantities. Leigh was also happy to serve me half-pints, which was a welcome treat. There were 17 taps of goodness, and two PA beers on the handpulls, plus bottles of Orval – plenty of selection for beer drinkers across the spectrum – and the list is kept up to date on the website. Leigh was making fine recommendations to any neighborhood macro-drinkers who walked in the door, and could talk about breweries and fermentables with the geeks. This girl knows her beer, and she was a wealth of information.

The taps we enjoyed were:

In addition to the beers, I snacked on the tacos, which come in fish or tofu (both sounded delicious, but I opted for plantain-encrusted mahi mahi with guacamole – check out a photo on the Beerlass blog.) The whole menu was mouthwatering, and there was a smooth way about placing salt, pepper and Sriracha on the bar for use while food was present, then slipping it away at the end of the meal.

Getting to the Local 44 from our home won’t be easy, but when I’m in the neighborhood, it may be difficult to keep me away from that place. If you have SEPTA transportation available, use the 42 bus or the 34 trolley and have one of everything. They are all worth it!

Mo’s Place has a Website

I don’t know when it happened, but Mo’s Place in Beaver, Kansas now has their own website.  WordPress reports statistics back to me, and our report from Mo’s Place Grill and Brewpub is one of the most visited on this blog.

Located in an unincorporated town of about 30 people, Len and Linda Moeder live the dream of owning their own business.  They’ve operated the restaurant since 1999, and in 2004 they obtained a microbrewery license and became a brewpub.  In 2006, when we visited, they were brewing on a half-barrel system and had quite a following among the locals.

In addition to owning the restaurant/pub and a house nearby, they bought the defunct bank – the only building in town with a basement – to use for beer storage.  And it’s not just the tiny brewing system that makes this place unique.  Where else can you find “gizzards” on the appetizer menu?

R.I.P. R.P.A.

I attended a beautiful event tonight – a wake for our dear Remote Patron Authentication server. Since 2002, it has provided well for us. But every computer has it’s time. I was just so glad they were able to put it down with care, rather than allowing it to end life with a crash…

Out of respect and remembrance, we gathered at Alibis for a fine memorial dinner. Around the table, we enjoyed Ithaca Apricot Wheat, Troegenator Double Bock, Legacy Hedonism and Lion’s Pocono Pale Ale.

Only kind words were spoken for our former RPA server, and it brought back fine beer memories such as a 2001 pre-server training in Pottsville (home of Yuengling) and a 2002 technology conference in Seattle (which was fully educational, but included evening visits to Elysian, Pike, Pyramid, Red Door and the now-defunct Redhook Trollyman Pub.)

Thanks, my friends, for taking great care of our computers and for enjoying good beer!

D and Zeno’s BrewFest

The most frequently asked question of me at Dark Lord Day was, “Where’s D?” Several of the men commented that their wives wouldn’t go to DLD for them… 

Honey, I didn’t go FOR him – I went in spite of him! I went for myself (although the truth is I probably wouldn’t have gone if Heath and Kim hadn’t included me in their ride.)

Anyway, he had to work all weekend, but did get the day off on Saturday to attend Heather & Jake’s wedding. And since he was in State College, that provided an opportunity to attend Zeno’s Belgian Brew Fest, which ran from 3-8 PM on April 26.

Looking at the full list of 70 bottles and 6 taps of Flemish, Wallonian, Trappist and Farmhouse beers, it does sound like a good time!  Here is what he enjoyed:

  • De Dolle Dulle Teve
  • De Rank XX Bitter
  • Duchesse de Bourgogne
  • Gulden Draak
  • Melbourne Cherry
  • Petrus Aged Ale
  • Piraat

Am I jealous?  Absolutely not… That same night, I was drinking Hoppy Chick IPA on cask at The Livery, and I had both a Vanilla Porter and a blended glass of Rubaeus/Imperial Stout at the new Founder’s location.

The new Founders Brewing

Derek, Heath and Kim also introduced me to Culver’s that day, where we got the family-sized order of Dairyland Cheese Curds. My life is forever changed (and my cholesterol is forever high!)Yummy Curds!

Real dairy-fresh white and yellow cheddar cheese curds breaded and cooked to a gooey, cheesy golden brown. These curds are made in Wisconsin just for Culver’s!



Pilgrimage to DarkLord Day

Just a brief note before getting a good night’s rest for DarkLord Day…  Our road trip has taken us from Harrisburg to Cleveland last night, and through Michigan and Indiana today. Stops included Great Lakes Brewing Company, Kuhnnan, Dragonmead, Dark Horse Brewing, Bell’s and Three Floyds.

They have been brief stops, but enough to enjoy many new brews, and a few old favorites.  For instance, last night I started at Great Lakes with the Grassroots Ale. At 4.8% and only 20 IBUs, it was a light, refreshing treat on a warm spring evening. The ginger and lemongrass give this beer an interesting complexity, and I remembered why I liked it so much the last time. I followed that up with a Blackout Stout, which was served in a snifter glass. In contrast to the first beer, this Russian Imperial Stout is 9% ABV and 85 IBUs. It has a rich, roasty flavor that coats the top of the mouth, but the hops come through nicely and the alcohol is subtle.

At Kuhnhen (Warren, MI), we intended to have lunch, but the menu wasn’t really appealing so we only drank. This was a strange little place – half of it is a pretty decent bar with seating for 14 and the brewing equipment all located behind and beside it; approximately 12 high wooden tables with chairs in that room. The other half looks like the wall was knocked out and a warehouse converted into a bingo hall serves as the seating area. A piano sits along the wall, boxes are stored under plastic, and the ceiling is either going up or being taken down.  Kuhnhen had 11 different taps, most served in 12-oz glasses, some available in bottles and sample glasses available for a small fee.  I had a 10-oz glass of Simcoe Silly (8.5% ABV) which was more Belgian in nature than hoppy. I’m a big fan of the Simcoe, but there was such banana in the nose, and as they describe, bubble gum flavor, to this one that I was not impressed. My 3-tablespoon sample of Tenacious Cassis (16.5%) was plenty – this is a very sweet and highly alcoholic concoction, which I later learned we have at home in bottles. And finally, the Crème Brule Java Stout in a 12-oz glass. This was the first thing Derek had, and Heath and I followed suit. It was so lovely with vanilla flavor – it made me incredibly happy!

Dragonmead (Warren, MI)was a lot of fun, and certainly a place to which I must return. Unfortunately, the fryer was out of commission, so most of the menu was unavailable, but Kim picked out a lovely roasted red pepper Jack cheese for us, served with a sleeve of crackers, which the four of us could share. I had a nice conversation with Larry Channel – one of the owners – and enjoyed the beers I had and those I tasted from my friends. Dragonmead does offer half-pint options, which was great because there were so many different types! There were approximately 37 beers on tap (12 on nitro, but nothing on either of the handpumps), and four house soda pops available as well. My beers were the Honey Porter, served on nitro (which was spot on and delicious!) and Broken Paddle IPA (which paled in comparison to their Crowning Jewels IPA; both are American IPAs, but mine was simple, while Derek’s was fragrant and full of flavor.) Dragonmead looks totally boring and industrial on the outside, but inside it is colorful with flags and awards, stained glass (made by one of the owners) and lots of locals stopping by, many maintaining their passports. We sat in front of the doors to the brewery, and because they had the back entrance open, the wind blew a constant Grape-Nut breeze of fragrant wort through the place.

We made a short stop at Tim Horton’s, and then headed of to Marshall, MI for dinner at Dark Horse Brewing Co. The place still looks very much the same – like a double-wide trailer holding a yard sale inside – but it was so much more pleasant with a new non-smoking rule. There were only five beers on tap, so I stuck with an old favorite – Crooked Tree IPA. And while the menu is simply, I really enjoyed my toasted sub, and Kim’s pizza looked terrific. Dark Horse is such a great place, so we had to go into the new gift shop across the parking lot to buy a few souvenirs.

The merch shop was our first stop at Bell’s in Kalamazoo, MI. We stocked up on t-shirts before going in for a beer. I was really excited to find Wild One – a Belgian-style fruited beer made especially for Eccentric Day. They have a few extra barrels left over, and will roll them out periodically. I was glad this was one of the days! Wild One comes in at 6% ABV, and is served in 12-oz glasses for $4 and 16-oz glasses for $5. It was very similar to the Kriek made by Selin’s Grove Brewing, but lighter in flavor and lacking the color – this was more of a dark amber with an orange aura. Most beers at Bell’s are available in 12, 16 and 20-oz pours, but we all had smalls. Derek got the Poolside– a cherry wheat that was outstanding (this is saying a lot coming from me – I don’t generally care for the cherry wheats!) It was 5% ABV, which is a little high for a session beer, but I could see myself drinking lots of it on a hot summer day. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t stay, because a funk/fusion band called Spare Parts was playing – three keyboards, a bass guitar, drums, trumpet and simple vocals – and I was enjoying watching the bass player. But we needed to get to Indiana in reasonable time.

So here we are…  we made it to Three Floyd’s, and all of the excitement for Dark Lord Day is building.  We won’t get in the door tomorrow, I am sure, so I was glad to get in tonight for a Topless Wytch Baltic Porter. It was rich with coffee and chocolate, and a nice way to end the night. I need to get some sleep now so I can sample like crazy tomorrow at the festival and still have the strength to enjoy The Livery and Founders in it’s new location.

Great Dane Pub & Brewery – Madison, WI

We drove to Madison, WI for dinner at Great Dane Pub & Brewery where I failed to take any notes. And, in reality, it wasn’t a noteworthy experience. That’s not to say the location was unacceptable or that the beer wasn’t decent. Even the food, and the menu, overall, was noteworthy, but our service was extremely poor and the entire experience was simply “ho-hum.”

Great Dane Brewing Company is located in an old corner hotel building, and has retained much of the historical charm on both the interior and exterior. It is just one block down from the capitol building, which sat up on the hill, well lit and rising above all other buildings.

We ordered four beers from the selection of 15 (two of which were on cask) along with dinner. I was highly interested in the IPA, which on the printed menu, stated that the style varies from time to time – sometimes an English IPA, sometimes an American IPA. So as instructed, I asked the server. She was terribly confused by my question and couldn’t really help answer, so I just ordered it. I figured something called Texas Speedbump IPA would probably be American, and it was. In fact, it was a very solid IPA – extremely hop forward with a strong citrus nose and powerful hop flavor.

The other beer I had was Black Watch Scottish Ale on cask, and this was a deep copper color with an incredibly smoky finish. The smoke flavor was too much for me, and I gave this one up to D.

My trade was for his Black Earth Porter, which also had a smokiness to it – a sort of burnt malt quality, but I found it to be more smooth and drinkable than the Scottish.

D’s other choice was the English Special Ale on cask, which disappointed him quite a bit. It was a dull choice, and the beer delivered on that note. There was very little suggestion of hop flavor, which was balanced with the lack of malt body.

As for the food menu, everything read like an appealing dish. Vegetarian items were indicated with a carrot icon, and I only read the carrots…with such an extensive range of choices, I never got to the others – my mind was already swimming. And our waitress never filled us in on the specials, which in the end may have been a good thing because everything sounded great to me!

As much as I wanted the Inner Warmth Peanut Stew (butternut squash, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, Habanera Pepper and cilantro with a zesty peanut sauce, served over rice) I went with the healthier alternative – Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (handcrafted fresh Mozzarella with asparagus tips, yellow and red tomatoes, roasted peppers, virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper blended with sea salt, all on a bed of spinach.) I ordered the balsamic vinaigrette on the side, which was a wise choice. D had the Brats & Mashers, which were a pair of beer-and-onion-marinated bratwurst over Scotch Ale sauerkraut with smashed red potatoes and hot apple “sauce” (which was really super-cooked apple chunks with cinnamon…)

Great Dane is certainly a place we’d like to try again – maybe with a different waitress or at one of the other two locations we will have an improved experience. As I said, it wasn’t awful, but the experience didn’t leave me wanting to send a friend to Madison.

Moose Jaw Brewing – Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wisconsin. It’s cold here.

Yeah, it’s cold in Minnesota, but at least there is stuff. I guess in Wisconsin there is stuff, too, at least up by the lakeshore. But the part we have been seeing is just cold. It snows, and then it snows more. It’s not even beautiful, because there is no geographic relief.

But there are birds – we’ve seen multiple Bald Eagles, plenty of Sandhill Cranes on the ground and in the air, and a Rough-Legged Hawk. And did I mention snow?  We’ve seen lots of that.

What brings us to Wisconsin is that we “fell for” one of those resort preview deals, where we pre-paid a small amount for a stay in exchange for previewing their property. Tomorrow we do the tour, but I’m already a grump because the Best Western is actually where they put us up for the three nights, and it isn’t a very nice BW. In fact, it’s the kind of place I would vacate after one night if I had a choice.

Making the best of the situation, we located the nearest brewpub, which is Moose Jaw Pizza and Brewing Company. It’s a great big showy lodge-style building with a restaurant and bar area downstairs and the brewing area in the upper loft. It looks very touristy, so our expectations were lowered. It actually turned out to be not that bad!

D ordered the Imperial Winter Warmer (8.5% ABV) which was brewed with peated malt, and aged in oak barrels. It was served in a snifter, and was quite impressive!  They have a female brewer (which I found very interesting), and she claims this may be the best beer she’s ever made.

I was too chicken to commit to a single beer, so I had the Six Point – a sample tray of six 5-oz glasses which I got to choose. I eliminated the lager, the gold, the pilsner and the winter warmer. So what I had was:

  • Honey Ale (4% ABV) and made with Wisconsin Honey – this was surprisingly drinkable; light and sweet
  • Dell’s Chief Amber Ale (5% ABV) – could not finish even five ounces…
  • Raspberry Crème Ale (4% ABV) – brewed with real raspberries – not extract; this was refreshing and tasty, and had a fabulous aroma of fresh fruit!
  • Kilbourne Hop Ale (5.5% ABV) – brewed with locally grown hops for Brownie Zinke’s Hop Farm; my favorite of the Six Point; nice hoppy flavor!
  • Stand Rock Bock (6.8% ABV)
  • Milk Stout (5.8% ABV) – a little thin, but otherwise really well done stout

We ordered a little snack – D had the Wisconsin cheese and beer soup, which included nice chunks of vegetable and little chunks of bratwurst; I had a side house salad (boring, but an excellent choice as my breakfast really stuck with me!)

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery – MN

We checked into the hotel late in the afternoon and took time to freshen up a bit, then drove across town to Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, which is located at the corners of S Washington and S 15th Ave.

We love this place because they have cask ale at all times, but today they had Masala Mama IPA on cask, and THAT was just what I needed! The glass arrived with creamy foam suspended from the bottom of the glass. The orange color with white creamy head was so beautiful, and as I was thinking, “Where is my camera? I must get a photo of this beautiful beverage!,” D was scribbling in his notebook “Appearance = 5! Perfect!” The foam settled, and I touched it – it pushed back like a Tempur-Pedic® foam mattress, and stuck to my finger, creating a stiff peak.  That same, amazing thick foam had the drawback of masking the aroma – the piney, citrus notes of this same beer on draft just don’t come through on cask. And the foam never ends. While it doesn’t really lace the glass, it remained there, all the way through my drawn out session with this ale. In the end, I tipped the glass back to enjoy a mouthful of foam that was left long after consuming the beer.

Additional beers we enjoyed at Town Hall (which does, by the way, serve half pints) were Pot of Gold Potato Stout (4.9% ABV, brewed with chunks of Yukon Gold Potato in the grain mash), Black H20 Stout and Masala Mama on draft (which was so fabulously aromatic and the hops flavor just bursting in the mouth!)

Town Hall, like Herkimer and Stub & Herb’s, is located on a corner with two walls of windows, so we could look out on the world. The sun was shining when we went in, and then snow began to fall. Then the sun came back out, and then the snow returned. Then sun AND snow…it was ridiculous. Wondering what I’ll do for footwear later this week when I chose skirts to wear at my conference, I was observing everyone on the streets. Not a single woman in a skirt or dress! They just don’t do it here!

We were warm and toasty inside, and not rushed at all. A steady stream of bar patrons, including many people with empty growlers in hand, came in and out of the place. We enjoyed a few hours of beer, basketball and the food. Unfortunately, the grilled tilapia tacos, served with cilantro rice, black beans, mango salsa and guacamole plus sweet potato fries was crossed out on our menu, so I assumed they didn’t have it (they did, and our neighbors go it – they looked wonderful!) D had the fish and chips – perch in a thick, roasty beer batter – and I had the chicken burrito which was as big as a loaf of homemade bread!  It was ridiculously large, and we will be enjoying half of it at a later time.

The beer and the atmosphere at Town Hall are so enjoyable. This really a great place to come hang out. Especially on a sloppy snow day like today!

We had plans to continue our evening by going downtown for Surly Smoke, but since the bar we knew of was out of it, we returned to the hotel to turn in early.