Yup – I drank it: Budweiser American Ale

While D was beer traveling all over southeastern PA this weekend, I was enjoying special family moments with my nephews, cousins, and lots of other friends and family at the Creek House. This special piece of property along Lycoming Creek populates several times a year with loads of adults, children and dogs (7 to be exact!) who really know how to laugh, play and love. Oh, and they know how to eat!

One thing I’ve learned, though, is to bring my own beer.  Not that it is ever a problem finding any there; its just not beer that I care to drink (Bud Lime, Natural Light…you get the picture.) When I leave from my own house, I arrive packed (in fact, there was speculation about what crazy beers I might show up with), but this time I didn’t leave from my house…  I started the trip with three empty growlers, one of which broke two minutes after I walked into the pub for a fill (sorry!), another that I filled with awesome root beer (made with raw organic cane sugar and unsulfered molasses) from Selin’s Grove Brewing, and the third which I filled with Steel Drivin’ Stout from Bavarian Barbarian and decided to save to share with D.

So this is how I managed to get my hands on my first Anheuser-Busch product in 15 years (not QUITE true – a few years ago someone at McGrath’s tricked me into drinking a Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale by telling me it was from a “small brewery in Missouri” – I think I had three sips before sending it away.) When I heard about Budweiser American Ale, I kept saying I wouldn’t buy one, but if I was offered one, I would try it. This was my chance.

My first sip was straight from the bottle – the way it really should be with this beer. But the “beer advocate” in me felt the need to have it from a real  glass.  At first glance, I was impressed.  It poured a nice amber color with a medium head. There was even a slight hint of citrus from the cascade hops, but really just barely there.

Like the disappointment that comes from a weak cup of coffee at a mediocre restaurant, the hint of caramel malt and flash of hop bitterness left me thirsting for more. It was a bit malty for my palate, with a dash of bread, but honestly, it featured an all-around light flavor – nothing prominent at all.  It had a watered-down mouthfeel. Only the color and the carbonation seemed to be just right.

This ale is an improvement over previous A-B brews – the appealing color, malt sweetness and suggestion of hops sure beat the fizzy yellow, rice sugared lager this company is famous for producing. Still, I admit that I stuck to the root beer for the rest of the weekend.

Coming home to a growler of Homegrown IPA from Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks made up for all the flavor I missed out on over the weekend. Now, THAT is an outstanding brew! But that’s a post for another day.

Drinkin’ Hop Juice – Ought’a be Packin’

At the same time I wrote the title for this post, D said, “You know, we really should be packing for our trip!”

Ah…yes…we should, but we received a growler of Two Brother’s Hop Juice today, which means the world has stopped and I am enjoying a pint. 

Hop Juice

This is a beautiful double IPA from a family owned and operated brewery just outside Chicago. The growler, which was fairly generic, had a nice foam in the neck, and poured with a head like that of an ice cream float. As I sip this ale, a thick lacing lines the sides of the glass.  The color is a beautiful amber-orange. The big, frothy head is deceiving, because the overall carbonation is actually light in the mouth.

The nose is pleasant and light – like the freshness of a forest after spring rains. I’m really enjoying the flavors of citrus, herb and and pine. It has the sweetness of brown sugar and a bit of resin and bitterness from the hops.

The website informs me this is a 2008 seasonal artisan release for February and is brewed to 9.9% AVB, 100.1 IBUs, and dry hopped with a pound of hops per barrel. I’m glad to be enjoying this extremely drinkable ale this from the comfort of my home, as I think I’ll be enjoying another pint while I pack!

If we can’t finish it tonight, we’ll have to find a friend willing to stop by the house to finish it for us…volunteers? Thanks, S-Man, for sending this our way!

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

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

8 Year-Old Adam

It is the end of an era…  On our second date, after a day on the lake, we stopped off at KClinger’s in Hanover.  D was eyeing up this 3-litre bottle (probably more than he was eyeing up Hair of the Dog Adamme!), and he bought it for, like, $100. or something ridiculous like that.  Ever since, it’s been properly stored in the cellar, just waiting for the moment to be enjoyed.

This past weekend, we spent time with some Beer Advocate folks at a party hosted by Matt and Grace.  It was a really enjoyable time with others who really appreciated the complexities and flavors of craft brewed beer.  I’ll write more about the party, but right now, I need to talk about our old friend Adam.

Everyone was asked to bring things to share to this party, and D decided D opens Adamwe should take Adam along.  I’ve been begging to drink it before it just goes bad, but admit I was reluctant to share it with strangers.  I’m so glad we did…we enjoyed it, and we enjoyed sharing it with such delightful beer enthusiasts.

Adam, from Hair of the Dog (Portland)  is a thick, viscous liquid that is dark in color. The mouthfeel of this treat was creamy and smooth – it coated the tongue and had very little carbonation. The taste was dark brown sugar, molasses, figs, dried plums, spice, and a hint of smokiness.  But not a bad smoky flavor (I don’t care for smoky beers…)  It was warm and sweet and an absolute delight.  Thanks to Hair of the Dog posting brew and bottle dates, we verified that our batch 37 beer was 7 years and 51 weeks old (from 1999; brewed on Feb. 17 and bottled on March 10.)

Well, here’s to eight more years!

Beer Information @ Your Library

Barbara was cataloging books the other night, and something of interest rolled across her desk!  Apparently my library ordered The Essential Reference of Domestic Brewers and Their Bottled Brands (known in the industry as DBBB.)

She sent me a catalog link to the item, and I’ve found a few reviews (here, here and here!)

Bourbon Barrel Beers Abound!

This weekend we stopped at Otto’s Pub & Brewing Company on our way to northwest PA. The choices were GREAT, and I was excited to see two Bourbon-aged beers on tap.

I immediately ordered the Bourbon-Aged Jolly Roger Imperial Stout (on the hand pump – how fabulous is that??), which is one of his great stouts – full of roasted maltiness, and pumped up with smokey chocolate flavors – but taken one step closer to the edge by aging it for 6 months in Elijah Craig 12-year barrels. It was 9% ABV, and you can see how beautiful it was below!

Bourbon-Aged Jolly Roger Imperial Stout at Otto's

D’s first beer was the Bourbon-aged Hellkat, a Belgian-style golden ale aged 6 months in Elijah Craig 12-year barrels (I see a trend…note my post on the Anniversary gift at Bullfrog.) ABV 8.4%

D drinks a Hellkat

We were also excited to try a new Otto’s beer (for us) – Aurthur’s Mild Ale – which was a true British-style mild coming in at 3.2% ABV. Low in alcohol, but pleasant in flavor.

I finished my day with Mt. Nittany Pale Ale, which is an American Pale Ale that measures 5% ABV. It’s brewed with Centennial hops, and hopbacked with Cascade [Hopback – A vessel that is filled with hops to act as a filter for removing the break material from the finished wort. – from www.howtobrew.com/glossary.html] It has a spicy citrus aroma and a nutty malt flavor. I enjoyed it more than D’s mild, but I also know I can get it anytime I’m in the area.

We filled two growlers for the camping trip. The Apricot Wheat (ABV 4.7%), part of which ended up accompanying breakfast the next day, and the Double D IPA (ABV 8.1%).

Charlie may make one of the best Apricot Wheat beers I’ve ever had (I’m not a fan of fruited beers, but his has lead me to try Apricot Wheats all over America…his is certainly the gold standard!) Double D is an Imperial IPA made with Nugget, Palisade and Amarillo hops. It was good. It was really good. But there was just something that wasn’t quite perfect. I wish I could put my tounge on the flavor that was missing…

Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery (Flossmoor, IL)

It was extremely easy getting from Three Floyd’s to Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery.  We pulled into town, and found the brewpub right along the railroad tracks at the train station.  The building was built in 1906 by the Illinois Central Railroad, and the first thing I noticed was that it is still an active train station.

The second thing I noticed was the Public Library– prominently seated off the traffic circle and advertising free WiFi and Coffee, I was drawn to visit.  Continue reading