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!

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!

Original Gravity Brewing Co. (Milan, MI)

It’s the beginning of a “beer-cation”, and we travelled straight to Michigan for the start. There’s a little brewpub in Milan, Michigan that we have missed out on so many times coming through this area. We made it a point to get here today, and Original Gravity does not disappoint!

One block off what appears to be a “town square” (or maybe it was my sleepy-eyed perspective), at 440 County Street, is a little brick building with a packed parking lot. Arrive between 3 and 11 on Monday, and it will be Happy Hour all day. On Tuesday through Friday, it goes from 3 PM – 6 PM (and they remain open until 11.) Happy hour means a tall (20 oz) for the price of a small (10 oz.) We missed that, but it’s okay because neither of us needed talls…there are so many good beers to choose from!  BTW – Original Gravity also keeps Saturday hours from 11:30 AM to 11 PM, and the owner/brewer told us he will often “open” when he’s here other hours.

Original Gravity (Milan, MI)

Brad Sancho is the owner/brewer, and he was fairly quick to come and greet us. He seems to be friendly with all of the customers, and willing to make recommendations up and down the bar.  The bar seats about 15 people, and wraps around the taps with the brewing area behind. A larger L-shaped dining room wraps around the bar, and some of the tables stick out as being unique – doors refurbished as tables. A shelf of games gives the impression that you are welcome to come and stay awhile, and outdoor seating to the back of the place looks welcoming on a warm, dry day.

Original Gravity (inside!)Currently on tap are seven beers, and so far, not a bad one among them! We’re finding the following (I’m stealing some of the descriptive language from the web site):

  • Southpaw IPA (O.G = 1.064; ABV 6.6%) has a pronounced hop flavor and aroma. It’s deliciously citrusy from tons of Cascade and Amarillo hops.
  • Belgian Training Wheels (O.G. = 1.054; ABV 5.7%) is a Belgian Golden Ale brewed with Belgian candi sugar, wheat, and pilsner malt. The unique Belgian yeast strain gives this beer a citrusy and slight tart finish.
  • Mason Brewer (O.G = 1.050; AVB 5.2%) is an English style Special Bitter named after Brad’s son. It is brewed with a variety of English malts, including wheat and rye.
  • County Street Amber (O.G. = 1.054; ABV 5.5%) is a roasty Red Ale with caramel notes, balanced with loads of Cascade and Amarillo hops. With OG’s opening during the hops shortage, this was his substitute for an IPA for some time, and it holds up the hops!
  • Primordial Porter (O.G = 1.058; ABV 5.3%) was the very first beer brewed here, and it is a robust porter! Almost black in color with a complex malt profile, it balances chocolate and coffee roastiness.
  • Orange Peel Wheels(O.G. = 1.054; ABV 5.7%) is the Belgian Training Wheels infused with dried orange peel. It has a delicate citrus flavor and aroma, lending to a delicious starter beer for the evening.
  • Vanilla Java Porter(O.G = 1.05O8; ABV 5.3%) has a description of “beer, coffee, vanilla… Mmm” on the board, menu and web site. It is a slightly aromatic and sweet porter, so dark that not a speck of light comes through. The roasty quality of the porter is strong enough to keep this from being a sugar-coated girly beer.

There is a nice menu of sandwiches, and fortunately we were attracted to the same thing. Not only did they let us share, but served the halves in separate baskets with a pickle for each of us (no fighting!) Our mesquite-smoked turkey with guacamole and Vermont cheddar was served on panini bread with a bag of Brickman’s Original Kettle Crunch chips (made in Grand Rapids.) On the side, we shared a Landjaeger* Sausage (yummm!)

Original Gravity beers range from $3 to $3.50 for a 10-oz pour and a $4.50 – $5 for a 20-oz.  In addition to the sandwich menu (which includes deli and veggie combos, grilled cheese and PB&J), there are peanuts, pretzels and chips with salsa. Additionally there are Sprecher sodas available (root beer, cream soda, cherry cola (Dain, I think you owe me one of these!) and orange cream.

We had a really nice time at OG – the bartender, Stephanos (sp?), took great care of us and the locals were all chatty. It’s down on our list of places that “if I lived here, I would come here all the time!” I hope if you are reading this and you live there, you go often. It’s worth it!

* pork and beef, garlic, coarse ground, semi-dried German Hunter sausage from Usunger’s summer sausage collection, served in bite-sized slices for $2.50.

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.

Wolaver Beer at The Wave (Disney Contemporary Resort)

Our first meal at Disney World was outstanding. We went to The Wave at the Contemporary Resort, where I was looking forward to the flight of Orlando Brewing organic ales they advertised on the website. Not that I thought they would be very special – probably not as interesting as some other beers, but more interesting than a regular A-M-C line-up.

As it turns out, The Wave JUST (like, in the last month) changed their organic beer carrier, and it’s now Wolaver ales from Middlebury, VT – the organic line of Otter Creek Brewing Company. Last night on the menu, they had the Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout.

Hearing this news, I decided not to pay Disney prices for beer I know I have either had or can get elsewhere, but I was pleased to see the quality of beer was worthy of such a nice restaurant.

We chose a lovely wine for the table, which paired well with my “Sustainable Fish of the Day” over edamame stew with cilantro chutney (this was outstanding!)  I enjoyed the multi-grain bread with red wine sea salt butter, and mini-deserts like lemon yogurt sorbet with blueberry compote and chocolate-mint mousse made for a nice finish.

We don’t even go into the parks until Tuesday, and already, it’s simply magical!

No Beer in Disney?

I knew there isn’t any beer in the Magic Kingdom, but I was doing a little search on beer at Walt Disney World in preparation for my upcoming trip. I’ve been to the Big River Grille & Brewing Works at the BoardWalk more than once. And from both experience and the BeerTravelers website, I knew that in Epcot several beers are available:

  • Dos Equis Lager in “Mexico,”
  • Ringnes Lager in “Norway,”
  • Becks in “Germany,”
  • Tsingtao in “China,”
  • Kirin in “Japan” and
  • Moosehead, Labatt’s and several Molson ales in “Canada,”

but wondered if anything new cropped up in the past 13 months.

Then I read this disconcerting blog post from May of 2008. (Spoiler alert – click to read the post before you read on here, or you won’t get the same effect.)

Cinderella's Castle at Christmas      Epcot

Yeah – it’s a joke. A very funny joke, indeed! And because my last visit was December 2007, I almost fell for it, except that my sister mentioned certified organic ales from Orlando Brewing are on the menu at The Wave. It turns out I will get a chance to try one or more of these three:

Also on the menu is gluten-free Redbridge lager, produced by A-B; I won’t be having that.

The thing about Disney is that there is SO MUCH to see and do, it’s hard to find time to sit and enjoy a glass of beer. But if I do, you’ll probably read about it on here.

Destination Madison – Already Behind

It’s only day 2, and I just can’t keep up.  Drink beer or blog – those are my choices, and I choose beer.

So for those who care, let me just tell you where we’ve been, and not elaborate on how much tremendous fun we are having (or how horrible the traffic has been.)  We are heading into Madison tonight, but our day went something like this:

  • Liquor Stop distributor in Highland, IN was our first stop for bottles of Three Floyd’s and other things we can’t get in PA (I also got a good deal on Chateau St. Jean CabSav – 2003)
  • Piece in Chicago for awesome (AWESOME!) beer and pizza
  • Lakefront in Milwaukee for a tour and tasting (where I got to be “Shirley” (of Laverne and…), and we got lots of free beer and a pint glass!); you can take your own tour at their site
  • and now we are sitting at Tyranena, using the wi-fi and enjoying Scurvy IPA

Tonight we will end up in Madison, where there are many, many special release parties all over town, 105 breweries represented at the festival tomorrow, and more parties in town again tomorrow night.  Hooray for a town with fabulous public transportation!

I’ll write when I can, but don’t hold your breath!

Six-Pack Sales in a PA Grocery

If you are reading this from a state that allows grocery store sales of beer, you might not understand the significance of this, but two weekends ago we took this photo of me (shortly before 11 AM on Sunday, so I couldn’t actually buy.)

Beer Sales in a PA Grocery

Beer Sales in a PA Grocery

Wegmans in Williamsport (PA), as well as Bethlehem, Dickson City, Lower Nazareth, State College and Wilkes-Barre, received approval for a restaurant license, which allow beer, wine and hard liquor to be sold for consumption inside an eating establishment, and the equivalent of 12 16-ounce containers of beer for takeout. Our local Wegmans, in Silver Spring Township, applied for a similar license ans the application is currently pending.

Although the arguement was made that Wegmans offers a restaurant that happens to be based in a grocery store, not a grocery store selling beer, I really see it as the latter, and find no shame in that.

Wegmans customers do have to pay for their beer inside the cafe, not at normal checkout lanes with other grocery items. The clerks need to pass LCP training and a mandatory course Wegmans offers on how to identify a false ID, spot signs of intoxication and prevent third-party sales to minors. And the company requires cashiers to “card” everyone, no matter what their apparent age. Even Uncle Rick!