Bullfrog: Change is Brewing

In the recent invitation to the “Say Goodbye to Terry Hawbaker” party, it was announced that Nick Micio has been named the brewer to succeed Terry at Bullfrog Brewery. He comes to us from Fegley’s Brew Works (Allentown), and from what I’ve scoured off the Internet, he has a pretty nice resume.

Micio is a graduate of the American Brewer’s Guild and apprenticed at Russian River Brewing Co. Prior to his stint with Brew Works (September 2009-present), he brewed at Moat Mountain Brewing Co. in North Conway, NH.  Some of the beers in his portfolio include Moat Rauch n’ Rye (a German-inspired lager) and Lefty’s India Brown Ale (a deep brown beer with citrus hops and dark malts.)

He’s got big shoes to fill, following in the steps of some terrific Bullfrog brewers: 

  • Charlie Schnabel (1996-2001, owner of Otto’s Pub & Brewery in State College, PA)
  • Carl Melissas (2001-2004, who crafts such fabulous beers that we followed him to Green Man, and now Wedge Brewing Co. in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC)
  • Terry Hawbaker (2004-2011, moving on to brew for a new place at 1113 Walnut St. in Philadelphia, PA – first known as “The Grainery” but just last week announced as “Philadelphia Grain Exchange” now known as “The Farmers’ Cabinet” – where he will brew small batch artisan sour, wild fermented, barrel aged and saison style beers for 4 of the planned 24 taps.)

When Bob Koch, his late wife Harriet (1943-2010) and their son, Steve, opened the doors of Bullfrog Brewery in 1996, there was nothing else like it in the area. An explosion of brewpubs and breweries has cropped up in the area over these 15 years, and Bullfrog has kept a stronghold on the attentions of the eager public and beer enthusiasts across the country.

Despite the fact that I live 90 miles away, Bullfrog played a part in bringing my husband and I together, and served as a place where my family congregated to celebrate both life, and the ending of life, many times over.  People who know how much we love Terry and his extraordinary wife, Sam, have asked if this will be the end of our allegiance to Bullfrog. Alas, I view it as an opportunity for a the Koch’s to embrace change, for a new brewer to shine, and  for our dear friends thrive in their innovative Philly venture.

I can’t wait to hug Terry (and give kisses to Sam), shake hands with Nick (and possibly meet his wife Dorienne?), and celebrate with all of the Kochs on Sunday night!


Carnage: Taking Back the Basement in 2008

Just a few of the smaller bottles

Just a few of the smaller bottles

It was a great evening to host a party in the yard on Saturday night. People brought great food, and some even added to the beer line-up. Thanks especially to Sean for the tenderloin, Jen for the cake, Karen for the tortes, Frank for the pizza, Marcie for chocolate, David & Sara for the salad, Adam & Kate for the awesome bread and dip, Ffej & Brandi for the chips and hummus (but not for those hot, hot peppers!) – these were just a few of my favorite things!

I don’t have time to do a full report, but thought I should give a little update to those of you who are following my campaign to Take Back the Basement in 2008. I’m losing, but our guests that evening, including our guest of honor (Jerry) and our dear friend Pam, helped go through bottles of the following:

  1. Supplication (Russian River Brewing, CA)
  2. Vortex II (Pisgah Brewing, NC)
  3. The Mad Elf Ale (Tröegs Brewing, PA)
  4. Pale Ale (Tröegs Brewing, PA)
  5. Christmas Ale (Abita Brewing, LA)
  6. Light Ale (Sprecher, WI)
  7. Germania (Eder & Heylands Brauerei, Germany)
  8. Gratitude (East End Brewing, PA)
  9. Black Marlin Porter (Ballast Point Brewing, CA)
  10. Hop-15 Ale (Port Brewing Co, CA)
  11. Happy Ending (SweetWater Brewing, GA)
  12. Infusco (Rock Art Brewery, VT)
  13. Hoptimus Prime – Double IPA (Legacy Brewing, PA)
  14. Gemini (Southern Tier Brewing, NY)
  15. Crème Brulee (Southern Tier Brewing, NY)
  16. Grand Cru (AleSmith Brewing, CA)
  17. Speedway Stout (AleSmith Brewing, CA)
  18. YuleSmith Holiday Ale (AleSmith Brewing, CA)
  19. Guldenberg Belgian Abbey Beer (Brouwerij De Ranke, Belgium)
  20. Stateside IPA (Mikkeller, Denmark)
  21. TEN (Ithaca Beer, NY)
  22. Redbach (Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V., Belgium)
  23. Anniversary Ale Part Deux 2007 – Grapefruit (Short’s Brewing, MI)
  24. Brown Ale (Duck Rabbit Brewing, NC)
  25. Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale (Two Brothers Brewing, IL)
  26. Cane & Ebel (Two Brothers Brewing, IL)
  27. Cold Mountain Winter Ale (Highland Brewing, NC)
  28. Oatmeal Porter (Highland Brewing, NC)
  29. Wisconsin Belgian Red (New Glarus Brewing, WI)
  30. Raspberry Tart (New Glarus Brewing, WI)
  31. Hearty Hop (New Glarus Brewing, WI)
  32. Berliner Weiss – Unplugged (New Glarus Brewing, WI)
  33. Rübæus (Founder’s Brewing, MI)
  34. Breakfast Stout (Founder’s Brewing, MI)
  35. Red’s Rye (Founder’s Brewing, MI)
  36. Gorch Fock (Three Floyd’s Brewing, IN)
  37. Dreadnaught (Three Floyd’s Brewing, IN)
  38. Oaked Arrogant Bastard (Stone Brewing, CA)
  39. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (Brauerei Weihenstephan, Germany)
  40. Phoenix Pale Ale (Sly Fox Brewing, PA)
  41. American (Pittsburgh Brewing, PA)
  42. Eleven – Triple IPA (Weyerbacher Brewing, PA)
  43. Hopslam (Bells Brewing, MI)
  44. Winter White Ale (Bells Brewing, MI)
  45. Hop-ocalypse (Clay Pipe Brewing, MD)
  46. Sterkens Dubbel Ale (Brouwerij Sterkens N.V., Belgium)
  47. Gavroche (Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre, France)
  48. Fred (Hair of the Dog, OR)

We started with a “bobbing for beer” bucket, where there were some real winners, and some real losers. D called it “Dip & Deal,” and people were allowed to trade if they could talk someone into drinking a beer they would rather not have (someone actually drank the American which we own to use as a compost starter!) After that, we attempted to share the range of selected bottles among everyone interested.

Check out this line-up!

Check out this line-up!

The beer of the night was definitely Vortex II from Pisgah, which we compared to Speedway Stout from AleSmith, but still preferred the former.

Another top-rated beer was Crème Brulee from Southern Tier – some of us finding that it went perfectly with the torte (even dipping the torte in the beer…a bit extreme for me!) Two of my favorites were the Redbach (supplied by Karen) and the Anniversary Ale Part Deux 2007 – Grapefruit Version, which is apparently a bourbon double IPA.

But wait...there's more!

But wait...there's more!

Thanks to Brandi’s help getting the dishes and food put away, I was able to get myself out of bed and off to HersheyPark in the morning for a full day of roller coasters (where we rode in the front seat of every one!) Despite the carnage, I don’t think anyone was too bad off!

Whiskey Older than Me

Let me state right upfront that I’m not suggesting I am old, nor that I am a whiskey drinker. It’s not something I have much experience with, other than tossing out all of the Wild Turkey my grandfather stashed around his trailer and a tour of Jim Beam (no tasting allowed!) with my grandmother. Maybe a few shots here and there over the years, and a bottle of Maker’s Mark unopened in my basement, but truly very little experience.

On the 5th of July, we celebrated my cousin Jim’s engagement with a long-standing tradition of passing a bottle of Crown Royal Special Reserve, and I was surprised at how very wonderful I thought it was. It was the first time I had a whiskey drink that I really found appealing.

Relaying this story to my friends, Brandi spoke up and told the story of how she acquired a 51-year old bottle of Crown Royal. It was stored in an appropriate place, and she recently gained ownership of it (I won’t tell the story, but suffice to say, don’t cross this girl – she’s got a feisty side!)

Now, if you do a search on Crown Royal from 1957, the advice seems to be “drink it!”

And at Ffej of July – an annual party with food, bands and beer (and featuring Herbie) – she broke it out! It was amazing how beautiful and smooth this was. And most amazing that it was older than all of us.

I’ll stick to beer and wine, but I won’t shy away if this opportunity ever presents itself again!

Officer Sassy and the Dark Lord

I’m not going to waste my time and energy posting negative thoughts on Dark Lord Day 2008 – I certainly had some, but plenty of people have posted the whiny thoughts and I’ll be happy to point you there (see this post, which will link you to griping on the forums.) I can’t disagree with most of it, but I also can’t see dwelling on it. Besides – don’t I look happy?

Waiting for Dark Lord  That’s not a photo of drunk – that’s exhilaration (many thanks to Ev for the costume inspiration…after the hat exchange, my companions started calling me Officer Sassy. With a Troeg’s work shirt, a little bedazzling and a Marshall’s badge from Dark Horse, I was set!)

Overall, I had a FABULOUS time! I traveled with fun people, we stopped at some great breweries along the way out and back, and it was my pleasure to catch up with fellow beer enthusiasts in the parking lot of Three Floyd’s. It started out as a chilly day (or, as I pointed out, cellar temperature), and I was thrilled that I purchased a cozy long sleeve t-shirt from Bell’s – I needed it with that wind!

Derek, Kim and Heath

I owe a heap of thanks to Kim for being our able (read sober) driver and trip coordinator – she did a super job at both! Heath and Derek were great traveling companions, making sure we didn’t miss a single thing (well, Cereal City was a miss for now-obvious reasons, but all of the beer stops were right on!) There are a lot of terrific beer people in the world, but this was a crew I was more than happy to spend four days in the car with! 
Jim and Joan sharing Pisgah Baptista!

Uncle Jedi and Joan (aka Mrs. Jedi) get the hospitality prize for making a place for us in the line. They are always a treat to hang out with, as are the entire Free the Hops clan (not all of them are in the photo below…just the ones wearing kilts!)

Free the Hops!

Speaking of the line, a couple of bloggers mapped the beer line, and this was one of my favorite renditions. I just couldn’t get an accurate photo of it, which I estimated to be 4500 people stretched over no less than 1/2 a mile. I was so glad to get my six bottles of Dark Lord Imperial Stout, and also my allotted two bottles of Hvedegoop Wheat Wine (a surprise for D.) When we packed it all in the car, it was obvious we weren’t even going to attempt getting more.

It\'s full  Me with Officer Hall  PA Girls love beer!

Meeting Officer Hall and collecting his trading card made my day (next time, I’ll need an “Officer Sassy” card.) And I thank Aaron for introducing me to April (and April for the photo with an inebriated stranger!)

Everyone at the event in a brew-sharing mood gets a big thank you, too! I shared my Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, but kept looking for an opportunity to pop my bottle of Otto’s Double D and just never saw an opening (no offense to Otto’s, but the bottles being passed around we far superior!)

There are some additional summaries blogged here and here, and a little video coverage.

One of my favorite summaries of the event was on the Vagoscribe blog– it is both poetic and completely descriptive of the experience. There are no expressions of detestation, anger or even elation, which is kind of how I left this year’s experience (last year, I departed full of elation and urine – thanks, FFF, for the improved toilet situation this year.)

By 2:30 on Saturday, I did say, “where is the get-the-hell-out-of-here line?,” simply because the lines were so disorganized. I felt like a character in Hope for the Flowers (read pages 12-17 and you’ll understand what I mean!) – it was impossible to tell which line led to which final destination or how long it would take to get there. We decided to find food, clean bathrooms and great beer, which I will talk about in my next post…when I get to it.

Until then, I hope you, too, have found some good beer with good friends!



Oh, What a Night!

We can’t thank the Kledis family enough – really for ALL of their hospitality, but also for putting on a great gathering last night. It was so much fun to join with people we met last year, and make a few new friends, during this major tasting. Everyone brought something great either to eat or to drink (or both), and I believe there were five cases of beer in total. We didn’t drink all of it, thank goodness, but we put a dent in the collection.

Here is the list that D came up with from his notes and I will back up with photographs.  They appear in no particular order, as we weren’t exactly careful about that:

  • Westvleteren 12
  • Southern Tier Gemini
  • Southern Tier Choklat
  • Voodoo Brewing Voodoo Love Child
  • New Glarus Belgian Red
  • New Glarus Raspberry Tart
  • New Glarus Copper Kettle Weiss
  • Mikkeller Black Stout
  • Sprecher Abbey Tripel
  • Dogfish Head World Wide Stout
  • Dogfish Head Palo Santo
  • Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine
  • Catawba Valley Whiskey River Stout
  • AleSmith Speedway Stout
  • AleSmith Yule Tide
  • Lost Abbey Lost and Found
  • Lagunitas Under Cover Shut Down Brown
  • Pisgah Cosmos
  • Pisgah Baptista 2006
  • Pisgah Baptista 2007
  • Pike Old Bawdy Barleywine
  • Fonteinen Oak Aged Kriek 2005
  • Pizza Port Old Viscosity
  • Pizza Port Santa’s Little Helper
  • Alaskan Barleywine 2007
  • Old Dominion Oak Aged Millenium Barleywine 2006
  • DeSchutes Abyss 2007
  • Saint Somewhere Saison Athene
  • Jolly Pumpkin Bier de Mars
  • Atlantic Brewing Company Cadillac Mt. Stout
  • Fantome Chocolate
  • Abbey de Saint Bon Chien 2005
  • Three Floyd’s Dark Lord
  • New Holland Dragon’s Milk
  • Moylans Hopsickle
  • Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock
  • Surly Furious
  • Lakefront Fuel Cafe
  • Brutal Deluxe Dark IPA

So, on the way out of town, we will stop off at Over Easy for brunch with the Raiford’s, Bruisin’ Ales for one last purchase (yes, we always think of something more, and that store is so awesome, it’s hard to pass up a visit!), and Barley’s for a final glass of Pisgah Valdez.

Two Generals, an Elk, and a Dog in a Cog

I know the title of this post sounds a little bit like one of those Rozerem commercials, but it describes a great bit of the time I spent this weekend. Thanks to Andy & Emily for entertaining our four-legged friend so we could be free to run and entertain.

General Sutter Inn

Friday night we made it out to Lititz for the Cask Ale Friday event at General Sutter Inn. There wasn’t an extra seat to be had, and the line wrapped all around the Sutter Cafe as people waited for Ridgeway Oxfordshire Blue and Tröegs Nugget Nectar Ale.

Ridgeway Bitter is the flagship ale for the Ridgeway Brewing in Oxford, and it was a terrific example of a session beer. Low in alcohol with a crisp hop bitterness, this was a very nice treat. But I was glad that I stuck to a small glass, because the Nugget Nectar blew me away! The piney nose, the grapefruit coating and the explosive hop flavor of this imperial amber ale is always very exciting, but from the firkin it was PERFECTION.

It was a great time at the General Sutter, and once the Nectar kicked, Paul brought out some great bottle selections, including Hook Norton Double Stout. We stayed for dinner, which was also quite tasty, and then enjoyed the rest of the night hanging out with friends (which I may or may not post about later…so much to write about, so little time!)

General Lafayette Inn and Brewery

On Saturday, we attended a superb event at the General Lafayette– the 2nd Annual Stone Soup Gathering was an awesome opportunity to meet lots of BA folks, and to both share and try beers from the collections of people who appreciate beer as much as we do.

The selection was amazing, but I was most pleased during the first five minutes when DarkerTheBetter (Ed) broke out Surly Darkness. After reading the forums and watching the videos (yes, videos – these are just two of them), I never expected I’d get to try this – ever – so I was really thankful to try it first, while my palate was still clean and I had all of my sensibilities.

From 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, we tasted and talked beer.  No tasting notes, just tasting. I had more than 33 beers in 3 hours…that’s just crazy.  There was so much to try that I had to  record it all in photos. And much of it, I appreciated. Here is what I tasted (you’ll notice they are in no particular order), and later I’ll post photos of the “dead soldiers” so you can see what else I missed out on.

  • Surly Darkness (bottles numbered in the mid-100’s)
  • Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra (2003?)
  • Bar Harbor Brewing Cadillac Mountain Stout
  • Goulden CarolusGrand Cru of the Emperor (2000)
  • New Glarus Raspberry Tart
  • Three Floyd’s DarkLord (2007)
  • Westvleteren 12
  • Traquair House Ale (1982)
  • Ithaca Brewing Co. Kaffinator Double Espresso Bock (bottle #1164 of the June 2007 batch)
  • Three Floyd’s Behemoth Barleywine
  • Stone Vertical Epic (05-05-05)
  • Unibroue Terrible (2004)
  • Allagash White (Batch 9)
  • Brouwerij De Ranke Kriek
  • Lost Abbey Angel’s Share
  • Left Hand Smoked Goosinator
  • Highland Brewing Imperial Gaelic Ale (limited edition 2006) *
  • Allagash Dubble Reserve Belgian Style Ale
  • Firestone Walker Firestone 10
  • Allagash Tripel Reserve Belgian Style Ale
  • Alesmith Speedway Stout
  • Olfabrikken Wit Hvedeol
  • Hoppin’ Frog Mean Manalishi Double IPA
  • Frank’s 12-year old Spruce Ale (very nice homebrew, and we got a bottle to take home…thanks Frank!)
  • Konings Hoeven Triple Trappist
  • Alesmith Decadence
  • Selin’s Grove Brewing Olde Frosty IPA *
  • Magic Hat Thumbsucker (2000)
  • Bullfrog Brewing 10th Anniversary Bourbon-Aged Tripel *
  • Alaskan Smoked Porter (2006)

Stone Soup Line Up #1Stone Soup Line Up #2

Stone Soup Line Up #3Stone Soup Line Up #4

Luckily we had time to enjoy a nice dinner at the General Lafayette, and afterward, the five in our vehicle all did the pocket breathalyzer test. Kim won (or lost) at .02 and got to do the driving. I so very much appreciated her ability to do that!

No one was out of hand drunk, but as “Officer Sassy”, I took the responsibility to get everyone home safely quite seriously. And I knew I wasn’t the one to do it.  (PS – Ev, if you’re reading this, thanks for the hat!)

Officer Sassy     What’s that?!?!     The Carnage

* We brought the three starred items in the list. D kept promising something “no one has ever had,” which was mostly true. Above is a photo of our friend Frank showing his emotions over the Bullfrog 10th Anniversary Ale…

An Elk, and a Dog in a Cog

Sunday morning I had to transport a friend from the hospital in Harrisburg to her home approximately 70 miles to the north. While she thought it was an inconvenience, we looked at it as an opportunity to get D up to Elk Creek Cafe & Ale Works in Millheim. And brunch was a great time to go! We picked up my parents and headed out Rt. 45. With the fresh blanket of snow covering the mountain forest and the farmland of Penns Valley, it was a beautiful drive. We were really surprised that the owner, Tim, recognized us when we came in the door, and D enjoyed chatting with him for the first time.

At Elk Creek, we were pleased with the breakfast and lunch selections on the menu, and the addition of a seasonal beer (Olde Millheim Strong Ale) to the regular line-up. I thoroughly enjoyed the scrambled tofu, which wasn’t a fake, crunchy type of fake egg, but rather soft tofu morsels sautéed with spinach and caramelized onions. It was served with the crispiest, most lovely (and probably most fattening, but no complaints here!) potatoes and vegan bacon. D had the beef and bean chili, Pop had the cherry tomato omelet, and Fran had the eggs and bacon platter. Everyone was really loving the food, and we had an array of hand-crafted beverages: Strong Ale, Poe Paddy Porter, Elk Creek Copper Aleand Great Blue Heron Pale Ale.

Elk Creek Cafe

As I exclaimed in my last post, where else can you enjoy great beer and watch the horse-and-buggies go by? I watched 7  during the course of our lunch. We had a great waitress, the place was adequately filled with patrons and it looks like things are going really well for them. D picked up a growler of Porter to share, and we headed out with hopes of returning soon.

We dropped my parents off at home, and headed to Selin’s Grove to fill a growler with Olde Frosty for Adam, who had it at the Stone Soup event and was looking to score some more (it is that good!) Naturally we had to spend a little time there waiting for the fill and talking to friends – me with a glass of Razz Merry, and D with a glass of blended Razz Merry (1/3) and Stout (2/3). It looks like Steve has been doing well keeping the taps active – just about everything was on today, including barleywine on the handpump.

I had planned to go to a concert in the very late afternoon, but I just couldn’t sit in a car for one more mile after the weekend we just had. It was a terrific time, but I’m glad to be home with my dog and a cup of hot cinnamon spice tea.

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.

Six Degrees of Sam Komlenic

I’m not really sure that this is the concept at work here, but there is a story to be shared and a big thank you to send along.

The short version of this story is that we were sitting at Otto’s on Saturday afternoon debating how we would spend the rest of our weekend (after the Real Ale Fest at Zeno’s) when a man walked in to pick up kegs for his party.  Overhearing him talk about the bands, the cauldron of soup and the bonfire, it seemed natural to pull the old bar joke of, “where’s the party?,” which generates a laugh and everyone goes back to their old lives.

Before I could ask, “where’s the party?,” D blurted out, “what’s the address?”  In seconds, he rattled off his address, which D carefully scribed into his notebook, and we exchanged first names with our new acquaintance, Sam (no last name), and said good-bye with a, “perhaps we’ll see you later!,” tagged on the end.

Hours later, after enjoying the Real Ale and filling up on the lovely vegetarian soup/stew and a selection of other munchies at Zeno’s, we were not quite ready to turn in.  So we called our host to tell him we wouldn’t be out too late, but were going to try out this party at a stranger’s house.  I’m sure he was on the other end of the phone just shaking his head.

We plugged the address we were given into the GPS, and drove a few miles into the country.  Lo and behold, along a lovely wooded road lined with lit pumpkins, we found a small field converted to parking, and a welcoming crowd in the yard at Sam’s house.

A band jammed on the porch.  As promised, a cauldron of soup was cooking on a small fire.  And the kegs of beer were lined up in front of the food table.  The bonfire was going to be set later in the evening.  We located our host, and much to our surprise, Sam remembered our names!  

He and his friends were very chatty – I need to dig out their card to check their names (and may issue a correction), but I believe the people we talked to the most were Jim & Linda Lipman.  Jim & Linda are bourbon enthusiasts from Cincinnati, and this hobby is how they met Sam.  Knowing the circle a bit, we asked if they knew Lew Bryson, and of course, they do. 

We didn’t stay very long (we weren’t hungry or thirsty, but the band was good and there were plenty of people to talk to), but the whole time we were there we never did learn Sam’s last name.  

So, tonight, the librarian in me had to search for an answer, which wasn’t very difficult.  I put all of the facts I had together, and used Google to track him down.  And…this leading to six degrees of Sam…Lew Bryson’s blog is one of the sources I used to confirm that Sam has a last name and it is Komlenic.  I had read these stories before on Lew’s page, but I would have never made the connection without the other clues.

I know that’s not really six degrees, but I’ll bet there are many other people in the world who know Sam through six-people channels.  Now we know Sam first-hand.  Thanks, Sam, for making our night!  It was a short visit, but will remain in our memories for a very long time.