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What I Was Up To

Second Half of 2005 Archive

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(if I have any; these are thumbnails, click for larger images) 

What I Was Drinking


Mr. Bryson Goes to Harrisburg

I mentioned in The Buzz a few months ago that I might be testifying against keg registration at hearings held by the Pennsylvania legislature.  Well, this past Monday, I did. 

I'd heard about some hearings that would be held about a package of proposed underage drinking laws, including a keg registration law, and wrote to my local Assembly member, asking him when the hearings were. I wanted to hear what was said about the keg registration proposal. He passed my name on to the chairman of the hearings, Senator John Rafferty, and his executive director, a guy named Mark Meyer, who promised he'd get me information on when and where the hearings would be held. ( He did, and I went to the first round. It was...educational.) Then he asked me if I'd want to testify about keg registration. Would I? You bet! He said he'd get me in. Cool! 

Well, that fell through. So many folks signed on, industry folks, that there was no room left for me. I was bitter, mainly because the industry folks (sorry, but it's true) tend to knuckle under to the anti-alcohols, and never go to the mat with them -- more on that later. But I stayed civil, and didn't say much about it.

Out of the blue, Mark contacted me again. A third round had been added, did I still want to testify? Yes, I did. And this time it happened. Of course, it was the day after Cathy and I dragged our exhausted, smelly selves home from the Ommegang weekend, and the bathroom's still being renovated, so I wound up driving to Harrisburg and stopping at my parents' place in Paradise on the way to take a shower and put on my suit. Sheesh. 

Unfortunately, I ran a little bit late, and missed the grandstanding antics of two SADD students, a high schooler and a college student, who showed up to testify bearing a keg to demonstrate how easy it was for underage kids to get a keg. Cute. But the keg was empty, according to newspaper reports, which makes it just pathetic. 

I slipped in as Clinton County DA Ted McKnight was starting his PowerPoint presentation on what seemed to be an absolute epidemic of underage drinking in Lock Haven. To my dismay, I soon started recognizing McKnight's statistics, some of them real howlers that have already been disproved in the national press. He showed sexy booze ads that he said were aimed at "youth," without saying what magazine they were from, or admitting that it's impossible to make an ad that appeals to a 21 year old but not a 20 year old. Same old, same old, in other words. And it went on a loooong time. 

Next up was a guy from York, Mark Mummert, who had lost his son in a drunk driving accident in late May. He told his story in deep detail. It was horrifying, and I felt very bad for him. But...he told his story to the York Daily Record a month ago, and in that version, he knew that his son was drinking: "He told us time and time again he knew how much he could drink" is a direct quote. But now, in this testimony, he was shocked to find ten empty liquor bottles in his other son's closet, and the other son saying they belonged to him and his dead brother. Which was it? 

Mummert asked that the legislators raise the legal drinking age, and tag every bottle of liquor and wine sold at State Stores, every keg and case sold at beer distributors, on credit or cash, so that any empty could be traced back to when/where/who bought it. Well, welcome to Nazi America! The legislators, to their credit, didn't seem overjoyed by those ideas.

His MADD handler, Rebecca Shaver, took over, and said she didn't see any need to repeat what MADD had said at the other two hearings...and then did, a little. I've talked to Rebecca on the phone, and she's nice, but she's ruthless in these situations.

A couple college types talked about drinking on campus, one of them, Donald Godwin, from Marywood College in Scranton, warning against unexpected and unfair consequences of overly draconian underage drinking penalties: bravo, Dr. Godwin. 

Then it was my turn.  I got up, and walked up to the table, and man, did I get nervous. Bright lights, all alone, can't see nothing but guys staring down at you from about 5 feet above your eye-level...good thing I'd taken the time to write a script. I gave them the whole thing, about six minutes worth, about how the aim was good, but the plan was unworkable. They thanked me. No questions. Of course, no questions, we were 30 minutes late and it was lunch time!

(Apparently, either I had some effect or the legislators were already clued in on keg registration. Read this from a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on the hearings the next day: "Some committee members were hesitant. They say keg registration is a good idea in theory, but it doesn't necessarily target underage drinking problems, and that there might be better solutions. "It sounds simple, but when you talk to the brewers, it's not as simple a system as the students made it out to be," Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins, a member of the special committee, said after the hearing. Costa said he would push for a study on keg tagging to see whether the system works in other states where it is required.)

I shuffled to the back of the room and re-joined my good friends John and Edith Lelak, who'd driven up to see the hearing and give me moral support. The court reporter hailed me, and asked if I had a copy of the script: sure, have this one. Then Mark came up and introduced himself. Nice guy, and we thanked each other. He apologized that I was essentially all alone with the neo-drys, that the alcohol folks had all come the previous hearing. No sweat. He invited me to join them for lunch, but I wanted to get the hell out of Dodge first, and then have lunch.

I have a little list...of bars I want to get to in PA. One of the places on that list, McGrath's Pub, was a short walk from the Capitol on Locust Street, so we went there. Very nice! Four Tröegs beers on tap, some other good stuff (I got a Tröegs Sunshine Pils), nice whiskey selection, and a Tröegs Ginger Beer tap that they use for Moscow Mules. All right! It was hot stuff, that ginger beer. Food was good: I had a Cashel Blue Burger that was delish, Edith had a turkey burger that was a bit charred on the outside, but tasty inside, and John got one of the biggest pieces of meatloaf I've ever seen. The beer was spot-on fantastic. 

Bye-bye to McGraths and the Lelaks. Didn't really feel like running straight home...Hmmm. I'm on deadline this week, and yet I had to run up to Harrisburg again later in the week to pick up copies of Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Breweries when they came in on Thursday. What the hell, I'll give them a call on the off chance the book's in. And what the hell, it was! Cool. So I went down to Tröegs to cool my heels till the books were pulled from the warehouse, and to show off my suit; I don't think those guys had ever even seen me in a button-down shirt that wasn't flannel.

Had fun talking trash at the brewery about the hi-jinks at Ommegang (and picked up some photos from Ed Yashinsky), and then I told them about testifying. I got congratulations and thanks, and then John Trogner said, "We should do more of that (we, the industry, he meant), but how do you testify against MADD and not look like Satan?" You just gotta step up and do it. You'd be surprised how many people feel like you, but don't say anything about it. Step up, support your right to drink responsibly.

I left, and drove out to Stackpole. I talked to my editor and his assistant, good folks, and then went home. I stopped on the way at my parents' house, and gave them a copy of the new book. I wanted to do that on the day it came out, because I dedicated it to them. So they were touched. And then I went home.


Sly Fox at The Boathouse with PJ & Larry:

I recently went to a great beer dinner at The Boathouse in Conshohocken, and I meant to write it up a few weeks ago…er, maybe more than that…but got side-tracked. Too bad, really, because I had a great time. It was a Sly Fox dinner, and Brian O’Reilly and Tim Ohst brought plenty of good beers. Manager and host Lee Marren, who had invited me, welcomed me with a glass of Brian’s snappy Keller Pils. Though not quite as hoppy as Victory Prima (and not much lagered beer is), the Keller is equally refreshing and rewarding, and I put it away pretty quickly while greeting the folks I knew.

The dinner moved us upstairs into a cozy and nautical dining room, where I shared a booth with PJ McMenamin and his chef at McMenamin’s Tavern, Larry Melisen; great dinner company, two guys with great wit and appreciation for humor, as well as a pair of excellent palates. Brian and Tim and their girls were at a table mid-room, and Brian got up and introduced each new beer.

The first one we got at table was his Rt. 113 IPA, named both for the road that runs by the Sly Fox pub in Phoenixville and the bitterness of the beer: a calculated 113 IBUs. It is…brisk. It was served with Pacific Rim marinated duck breast, plated out thin-sliced and rare, with a sweet-spicy sauce that left me hungry for more-more-more, well-matched with the wicked hoppy beer. This was about when PJ realized that the main course was salmon. "The one fish I don’t like," he said, with a characteristic rueful grin. Larry told him to shut up and go get him another Pils.

Next was a gumbo, not horribly hot but with a nice, lingering slow build-up burn. Surprisingly – for me, at least – the okra was really good, not all slimy like it usually is when I get it. Larry spoke in praise of okra, said it’s great stuff. Whatever. What was good was Brian’s Burns Scottish Export Ale, a smooth, malty ale that went beautifully with the spicy soup.

The salad course was notable for the dressing, a mint cream dressing that I found unique, delicious, and delightfully different from most other salad dressings. The Royal Weisse was a fruity, spicy counterpoint to the mint cream; a beer that’s always welcome at my table.

When the waitress brought out the Norwegian salmon, I was stunned. It was huge, about two inches high and about six inches long. Some of the height turned out to be a stuffing of shrimp, scallops, and bacon. It was absolutely delicious, one of the best salmon dishes I’ve ever had: tender, smooth, perfectly cooked, and stuffed with big hunks of tasty scallops and juicy shrimp. The beer was Brian's Instigator Doublebock, and while it is a great beer, it was a somewhat uninspired pairing for the salmon.

Dessert was PJ’s salvation. They brought out a beautifully plated chocolate-almond flan, garnished with fresh berries and paired with Brian’s Helles Bock. The bock and the flan were perfect together, the maltiness complementing the luxuriously sweet and nutty custard. The berries were delicious also, but not to be eaten with the bock; like toothpaste and orange juice. PJ scored at least one extra flan, Larry’s, and it disappeared as quickly as if he had some kind of super-Hoover attachment on his lips; I think he cajoled another one out of the salmon-sympathetic waitress, too. It’s good to eat with restaurant people; they know how to work a waitress!

A nice dinner, and a shame it was somewhat lightly attended. If you see a notice for another one of these, grab it: the Boathouse did a great job on this.


Dark Beer, Dark Night

I have an error to report in New York Breweries: I didn’t include the Golden Rail Ale House in Newburgh among the bars. I did what I could to apologize for that error last week. At the invitation of owner Brian Butler, I went to the Golden Rail and led a porter and stout tasting. I love dark beers, and I love a good beer discussion, which comparing porters and stouts always brings out. What is porter? What is stout? What’s the difference? We took that question head-on, and had some fun tasting great beers at the same time. After I’d warmed up with a Brooklyn Summer Scorcher Ale (big hops on a light frame, great quencher after a hot drive), we got going.

We had about 24 people at the tasting, which made for a good room. We started with one of m favorite porters, Geary’s London Porter, a good start for the discussion. David Geary built the recipe for this beer from an 1803 pamphlet on brewing porter (he left out the capsaicin and laudanum mentioned as possible additives), written back when porter was the biggest beer in Britain.

Other beers for the tasting included Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, local favorite Keegan Ales Mother’s Milk Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, Southern Tier Porter, an unfortunately bad bottling of Heavyweight Perkuno’s (personally embarrassing for me, but a perfect opportunity to launch a discussion of how beer really goes bad; thanks to Dave King of Gasko & Meyer wholesalers for that excellent suggestion), Stoudt’s Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout, and Stone Imperial Stout. Really. We sampled all of those, and to tell the truth, I'm not sure that's all of them. I had a ride to my motel, so I tore right in. Dinner came in the middle, with some excellent Guinness-steeped corned beef.

After the tasting was over, and I’d signed a few copies of New York Breweries, we started drinking some other stuff, like a bottle of Neuzeller Kloster Porter I’d picked up at Candlewyck in Buckingham, PA, a while ago (pretty much a slightly beefier dunkel, maybe more like a schwarz, but hardly a Baltic porter like I expected), and a bottle of Scott Morrison’s 5 Czars Imperial Stout from McKenzie Brew House that was quite good, burnt and bitter but still pretty rich. Brian and Dave returned the favor with bottles of Rogue Imperial Stout, Middle Ages Tenth Anniversary, and the discontinued but delicious Rogue Irish Stout.

I also had a heart-to-heart with Hudson Valley Homebrewers president Frankie Flynn about my comments here about the homebrewers at TAP New York. I may have been a bit harsh in my bitterness about the damage to the Jetta two years ago when I wrote up this year’s TAP NY; my apologies to the Hudson Valley Homebrewers, who did put on one hell of a late-night party. I regret the way it seemed that I thought all the homebrewers were in on breaking my wipers; not what I meant at all. No apologies to the two SOBs who hurt my beloved Jetta. Look, guys, next time you plan to damage my car because I wouldn’t let you come up to my room and freeload my beer, just tell me. I’ll buy you a beer. And then Tim Butler and I will kick your ass for you, you beer-scamming stumblebums.

We finally caught a ride back to the motel (Brian’s wife drove; thanks, Anne Marie) at 2:30. I set the alarm for 5:15, and collapsed. It went off, but I guess I was snoring louder than the alarm; I didn’t wake up till 5:49. I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, threw everything in the Passat, and was on the road at 6:01. Very little traffic (and no need to stop for fuel!) got me home at 8:20. I turned right around and took my daughter to camp, drove home, and started writing…an article for Beverage Business about the differences between porter and stout. It always helps to live the story!


Weyerbacher's Tenth Anniversary Beer

Dan Weirback is celebrating 10 years of Weyerbacher, and it looks like they’ve finally found their way in this business. I celebrated with Dan and his brewer Chris Wilson down at the Standard Tap on June 29th, the press pre-release of Decadence, their one-shot tenth anniversary beer.

There were some other beer press folks there (Gary "BeerTV Star" Monterosso, Dale "American Breweries" Van Wieren, Don "Joe Six-Pack" Russell, and Jack "I Fell On My Ass And Hurt My Brain" Curtin) and some of the top Philadelphia beer bar figures (Tom Peters of Monk’s Café (who we suspect guessed the secret spice in Decadence; when he guessed, Dan’s face fell), Scoats of the Grey Lodge, William Reed of Standard Tap (of course), and Big Jim Young (late of O’Flaherty’s and soon to start improving the beer program at the Newportville Inn)).

A wee bit of history: Weyerbacher opened on 6th St. in Easton back in 1995; a small but beloved brewpub was added in January of 1998. The pub was barely ten feet wide, and most of the food was made in the chef’s home and brought into the tiny kitchen in the back, but for three years, it was the hottest spot in Easton. 1998 was probably the brewery’s toughest year, but it also gave them their raison d’etre, and I don’t mean a Dogfish Head beer. They brewed up Blithering Idiot barleywine that year in a defiant thumbing of the nose at tight sales and an uncertain future…and the damned thing sold out in two weeks.

It was Big Beers that saved Weyerbacher. Their growth in the past three years has been in the double digits, and they are showing 28% growth so far in 2005. The 25 bbl. Century brewhouse they picked up from Victory has only made things better, according to Dan. "The new brewhouse has made such a difference in the quality and consistency of our beers," he told me.

It only seems fitting that they celebrate their tenth anniversary with a big beer, and Decadence certainly qualifies. Described as "a 13% amber ale with one rare spice and one unusual botanical," this is only an amber ale in that it is an ale that’s amber in color; don’t expect something like Alaskan Amber! The spice and the botanical are deep secrets: Dan wasn't saying anything and all Chris would say was "Maybe." He said it over and over. "I've been practicing for weeks," he told me.

Decadence reminded me quite strongly of the herbal schnapps that are popular in central and eastern Europe – Enzian, Jägermeister, Becherovka in a very good way. Dan used the word "herbaceous" and it seemed to fit perfectly. The herbal character helps make this very big beer drinkable in the same way as the schnapps, making it great for before or after food, a palate preparer or a digestif. (The bottle Dan gave me expressed something of a pumpkin pie character in a full gulp when Cathy and I drank it on July 4th, but aerated sips brought me back to the herbal schnapps analog. That’s interesting, because the one new beer Dan told us about was an upcoming IPA – Imperial Pumpkin Ale, a big pumpkin beer they’re brewing for this fall.)

Decadence will be available on July 7 in a simultaneous 7:00 PM (7.7.7, get it?) draft release at Which Brew in Easton (a great pub, staffed by many of the folks who used to work at the Weyerbacher pub), the Spinnerstown Hotel (been yet? Get there!), the Drafting Room in Exton, and at Standard Tap (neither of which need any help from me!). It will also come available in PA in 12 oz. bottles and in Weyerbacher’s other markets in 22 oz. bottles. It is a one-shot only. Dan swears that after they make the final batch ("Two. Maybe three," he said) that the beer will "never be made again." Might be worth a trip to pick up some 22s.

Congratulations to Dan, his wife Sue, his partners Barb and Dick Lampe, and to the Weyerbacher crew on making it through 10 tumultuous years in this business. It’s been ten years of ups and downs, but an awful lot of good beers along the way.

Oh, the story’s not quite over yet. I offered to give Big Jim a ride home; he took the train in, and lives just over the hill from me, maybe two miles away. So he’s the first one to get a ride in the Passat. "Come on in for a beer," he said when we reached his place in Oakford. We went back around the house, greeted his two huge Rottweilers ("Real men keep Rottweilers!" Jim said with his huge grin), and went back to his deck, a wooden flat out over the 40-foot drop into a wooded cliff at the back of his land. He’s got a little shed on the deck, where he keeps a kegerator. He tapped up two glasses, and we enjoyed fresh draft Heavyweight Baltus on the deck. Not bad, Jim, thanks!


Only in Pittsburgh

You may have noticed the Vecenie Distributing link on my Drink Links page. That’s there because when I sent out the first issue of The Occasional Pint, the very first response I got back – in only fifteen minutes – was from Tony Knipling, one of Vecenie’s most passionate salesmen. I met the other guys at Vecenie, including Ken Vecenie, at the Victory Hop Wallop release party in December 2003. Five months later I was in Pittsburgh, addressing the Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Distributors Association, at the invitation of Vecenie Distributing.

So when Tony Knipling’s boss, John Manz, called me out of the blue to propose I come out to Pittsburgh in March to do a presentation for Vecenie’s on "Better Beer, Better Profits" for the Pennsylvania Restaurant Expo West, well, I said yes. I’m into the subject, you know, and this was a chance to pass it on to some restaurant folks, just the audience I want to reach, just the audience beer has to reach. And when John called back the next week and asked me if I could stick around and give a presentation on Pennsylvania beer to "some of my people," hey, the more the merrier. I’m there anyway, right?

Which is how I came to be rolling into Pittsburgh around noon on the Monday after Book and The Cook week in Philly, and meeting the owner of, Paris Lundis, at a Mexican restaurant in Greentree, on Noblestown Road. He hopped in the Jetta, and we headed off to Point Brugge, a new Belgian-focus bar/bistro in Point Breeze (401 Hastings St.). It was an interesting drive, both of us talking bars like crazy, good time. I was a little excited; Tony had told me there were 68 people signed up for the restaurant show seminar.

But Point Brugge was closed. Monday! Dammit! I am always running into Monday. Too bad, too, because it was a nice looking place: light wood, clean, lots of glass, looks kinda European. Okaaaay...I’ve been wanting to go to The Parlor in Sharpsburg for a long time, had some good recommendations. Paris pointed the route out, and we went across the Allegheny in the rain, and… Monday!

Okay, I said, to hell with recon, I gotta get lunch before I get to the restaurant show. We’re going to Penn Brewery. And we did. It was good, too. They had Kaiser Pils, delicious, hoppy Kaiser Pils, and I got me one. Mmmm, boy. And Paris tore into the food, man. He’s a vegetarian, see, and he told me that he had a kind of seasonal metabolism and had to stoke in the winter. Wow, did he ever. I got a big ol’ liverwurst sammich and a Penn Dark to go with it. We talked some Pubcrawler stuff, some new ideas, could work out nice.

We got down to the convention center, and Paris said good-bye. I got all registered, and headed into the restaurant show. Things were hopping, it was the last day of the show, the last few hours, and people were grabbing all the swag they could get...including Vecenie’s beers. John was glad to see me, late as I was, he was worried. Not much, though. So we joked around some, we served out some beers, I had a bottle of Bawls (which will really perk you up, believe me, and tastes a lot better than Red Bull), and then we went upstairs.

You know what? No one came. Okay, five people came. Wow. Kind of a let down, to say the least. The presentation? We had a good time drinking the beers we had pulled for the tasting (Erie Railbender was one of them, and Erie Brewing guy Andrew Johnson was one of the five people, so that was kind of cool, and the Railbender tasted good), but I’ll admit, I was not at my best. I was rattled by this big room and the dramatic number of no-shows. I talked too fast, I was sweating, but I got the points across. 

Everyone was pretty let down, I guess, me too. The show was over, and everyone was breaking down their exhibits. I guess that’s why we had no one at the seminar, they all figured to cut out when the show was closing. Dang. Tony and I went and had dinner at a new place in the Strip, on Smallman, Tasca Navarre, a tapas place that turned out to have pretty decent beer, too. Food was good, too, I had paella, and Tony had a couple of small plates. Good, and we had a good chat.

Time to go. The...what, the thing? The thing was at the Teutonia Männerchor, a German singing club on the North Side, a couple blocks from Penn Brewing. We parked, and we went in, and Wow! The joint was jumping, wall-to-wall, full of folks, about 150 of them, and all of them drinking the best stuff Vecenie had to offer. We were all excited about beer, and talking about beer. The Post-Gazette sent their beer guy, Bob Batz, and a photographer. Bob wrote a great story on it that showed up in Thursday’s paper. 

I was blown away. I told the crowd that I didn't care what the size of Pittsburgh was, they were a great beer town. This was a wild event, great beer flowing, everyone digging it, everyone getting along. I saw John Frantz of Lancaster Brewing, who told me the Hop Hog IPA had really taken off for them. Andrew from Erie was there also (double duty!), grinning and talking up Railbender. 

This presentation went better, a lot better. I was stoked, I was excited. I told them all about how Pennsylvania beer was booming, and craft beer was booming. I gave them the "wine did it, we can do it" talk, a good one. All we have to do is get the beer to the people, and their good taste will do the rest. It’s already working. A good third of the people who came up and introduced themselves to me told me about the beers they had at their bars, which were all out in a small town in the middle of nowhere, something I’ve been seeing in southeast PA (Spinnerstown Hotel, O’Flaherty’s, Ortino’s), and upstate PA (Four Sons, Middle Ridge Tavern, Boulevard Grill), and upstate New York (Parker’s in Newark and Auburn, Moonwinks in Cuba). It’s working.

One of the guys there was Jerry Lorenz, who owns the Bierhaus, just down the street from the Männerchor. I found it one year kinda by accident, wandering around from Penn. It’s a little neighborhood place, friendly enough, and with an engagingly weird men’s room…but the real attraction is Jerry’s fabulous collection of breweriana, mostly old Pennsylvana and Pittsburgh breweries. He’s got all kinds of stuff, and only a fraction of it covers the walls of the bar. I put Jerry and the Bierhaus in Pennsylvania Breweries, and met him at a Penn Fest and showed him, and we’ve been buddies since then.

So Jerry says, why don’t we go down to the bar, I’ve got something I want to show you. I thanked Ken Vecenie and John and Tony for having me out, Ken gave me my "honorarium," and I headed down to the Bierhaus. Jerry and his wife met me, all was good, they gave me a Straub Light. Then Jerry took me upstairs to see the breweriana museum he’d put together in three rooms over the bar. It was fabulous! The stuff, the trays, tap knobs, posters, glasses, minikegs, all this stuff! It was a history of Pennsylvania brewing in promotional stuff.

So then Jerry takes me into another room, and he says, the next time I come out to Pittsburgh, he doesn’t want me staying in any hotel, because this room was mine when I wanted it. I was amazed: there was a double bed, under a headboard with lit Ebert & Ober brewery signs. The Breweriana Bed. Very cool!

Well, I thanked Jerry for his hospitality, shook his hand, and then I went to my hotel, checked in, and slept hard. I did Bobs for breakfast ("How are you doing this time?" "Great." "Okay. Just checking." Love that hospitality), and drove on home. The restaurant show could have gone better, but Vecenie’s thing at the Mannerchor was great. Nights like that make this stuff worthwhile.















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7/18/05 -- "No keg registration, I say to you!" 
















































































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6/30/05 -- Brian Butler and I behind the bar at the Golden Rail.

8/17: Stegmaier Porter: Pennsylvania porter, 5.5% ABV, The Lion Brewery, Wilkes-Barre, PA (12 oz. bottle, brewery sample). Well, it's been a while since I had any of this stuff, and obviously Leo Orlandini and Brandon Greenwood have been busy. Steg Porter is the equivalent of most any craft-brewed porter around. A true ale-brewed porter, it's chocolatey yet quenching, drinkable and tasty, clean, and a bit rich. Damned nice beer from The Lion, and indicative of what they can do.  This is light years beyond what they were putting out back in the mid-1990s. Might need to get a case of this for drinking out of hand.

8/13: Sly Fox St. Charles Bohemian Pils: Bohemian pilsner, 5.2% ABV, Sly Fox Brewing Co., Royersford, PA (growler, brewery sample). Misnamed for the Charles Bridge in Prague (the bridge was named for Charles IV of Bohemia, who was a Holy Roman Emperor, but not a saint), but still: this is perhaps the very best beer I've ever had from Sly Fox. I had this with my wife and her brother over the weekend, and we were simply gob-smacked by it. First, the baseline: it's clean, the carbonation is perfect, the hop aroma is there but not over-done, and it's not flawed by sulfur or butter aromas. Fine, lots of pilsners meet these criteria. Where this beer shines is in how its utter drinkability marries a sparkling hop crispness, a smooth and distinct malt character, and a lightness that only an oaf could mistake for insipidity. This is great beer, and I'm gonna go get more. 

Copyright © 2008 Lew Bryson. All rights reserved. 
Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.
Revised: January 27, 2006