March 15 & 22, 2003:
On The Road Again
I took off for Philly at a high rate of speed (no, just
kidding, I was completely legal, honest) last Saturday to meet up with
Rich Pawlak's Golden Age of Philadelphia Beer Tour. This is Rich's 7th
year doing the tour, and it's developed into a real event. Come along,
I'll keep it brief. Maybe. Sometimes these things take on a life of
I met up with the 45 members of the tour at Ludwig's
Garten (1315 Sansom St.), the German taproom and restaurant that is, in
its Germanic way, almost as big a jewel in Philly's beer crown as Monk's
is. True to form, Paul Olivier soon had a liter mug of Spaten Bock in my
hand (jealous tour members looked from my mass to their 14 oz.
pilsners: "It's good to be the king," I said with a
foam-decked grin) and we all trouped upstairs for a luncheon
Paul got carried away on the buffet: there was roast
beef, roast pork, baked chicken, wurst, and fish, along with a groaning
board of salads, vegetables, kraut, and breads. We all stuffed ourselves
like pigs. I gave them a lecture on why Philly deserved a beer tour, a
brief rundown of where we were going, and then put in a plug for my
book. We ate some more, and kept drinking.
Then Paul offered to walk us out his back door and in
the back door of McGillin's, our next stop. This was going to be a brief
and non-required stop, as McGillin's was well into St.
Pat's Day madness, complete with green beer. I went, and we squeezed
in the back door, smiled at everyone, and got a beer (see the Bare
Knuckle note to the right). It was insane, but
fun, especially the squeezing part.
Back to Ludwig's, where Rich and I realized that he'd
screwed up the count, and I would be driving myself, not riding in the
vans (they transport everyone in three big 15-passenger vans). Damn! I
enjoy talking to the people on the tour! Oh, well, nothing to be done. I
jumped in the Jetta and took off for Mt. Airy and McMenamin's Tavern.
McMenamin's is one of the best beer bars in Philly, and
hardly anyone knows about it...except for the people who throng the
place and keep it busy all week long. It is the place I go when I want a
glass of well-kept cask Yards ESA, and that's just what I got.
Delicious, estery, slippery malt body... ah. I greeted PJ and chef Larry
Melison, grabbed some of the great Irish stew Larry makes to PJ's
grandmother's recipe (8 quarts of Guinness to 20 quarts of stew), and settled down to talk to two guys on the tour
from Mahanoy City in upstate PA.
When the Tour arrives at a stop, people kind of spread out all
over the bar, some mingling, some sticking to themselves, and everyone
looking around at what the bar has to offer. That's what I like about the
Tour: it's not just about beer. It's about food, it's about people, it's
People have asked Rich, 'you pick these places because
you know these guys, right?' Let me tell you: half of these places I
found, and told Rich about them, and he went there, and said, yeah, this
place has to be on the tour. Then he makes arrangements. He's
looking for places with good beer, food, and no jerks. Credit where it's due, though: Rich has
known PJ's family for years, and he told me about McMenamin's. As you
can see, I'm glad he did.
Sorry to leave, but it had to be done. I hopped in the
Jetta and took off ahead of the vans: I had a mission. Down the
Lincoln Drive, into Philly on the Schuylkill and the Vine and off at the
Chinatown exit, then up 3rd St. to the corner of Fairmount: I parked and
walked into The Abbaye, one of two new Belgian bars in
Philadelphia. I was doing the kind of recon that evolves into the
Nice place, very clean, and some good stuff on tap: I
got a Brewer's Art Resurrection
(nice beer, but served too cold). The menu, on a big chalkboard, looked
like a combination of Standard Tap and Bridgid's. Hardly anyone was in
the place; not surprising, given it was the first marginally warm and
sunny Saturday we'd had in months. I plowed through the beer pretty
quickly, paid up, and stepped outside, just as the vans drove by, headed
for Standard Tap. They pointed and laughed, I waved, and Jetta'd down to
Standard Tap was a happy time, as always. We headed
upstairs and I got convinced to try a wood cask Heavyweight
Cinderbock: good call, the smoke was good, condition was beautiful,
wood was unobtrusive. And it went really well with the salmon tartare
crostini (okay, they weren't crostini, but they should have been), skirt
steak bruschetta, and the best damned squid I've ever had (and let me
tell you, buster, I've lived on the Monterey Bay, where they know
William Reed came up, hung out a bit, and then told me
about his latest toy and we had to go take a look. See, William is a
beer gearhead. He's got the best draft system in the city, with all the
coolest gadgets and doodads. Makes for damned good beer, too. His new
wrinkle was actually pretty cool: a welded set of keg rails down the
basement steps. Delivery guys just slowly tip the kegs over onto the
rails, and they slide down the rails right to the coldbox door. Sweet!
He said the delivery guys love the thing, and they're bugging other bars
to put them in.
Sorry, got sidetracked. We left Standard Tap and went to
Yards Brewery in Kensington. Things were wide open, it was a beautiful
day. I got me another cask ESA from my favorite Yards volunteer, big
bald Dean Browne (see the picture). We all wandered around the
brewery in a loosely organized tour, at the end of which Bill Barton
"tickled the zwickel" to get everyone an unfiltered tank
sample of Philly Pale Ale, a special brewery-only treat (if you ever
get this chance, grab it: this is the best way to drink beer). I chatted
with head brewer Tom Kehoe, and we all calmed down a bit.
Good thing, cause we had more bars to hit! Off to the
Grey Lodge, where I actually got to have more Yards, a 16-month-old keg
of Trubbel that was just atarting to turn, and the sourness put a
delicious edge on that rich dubbel character. If you can catch
some beers right at the precise moment, going bad can be really good!
Scoats and Billy were ready for us, the beers poured, the mushroom-Swiss
wraps sliced, and the tomato pies were coming out of the broiler.
I understand that some of the people on the Tour didn't
care for the Grey Lodge: "It's just a bar." Oh, dear. That is
its beauty. I go to the G-Lodge and all's well, no pretension. We all
drink what we want, Brooklyn Tripel or Miller Genuine Draft, and we
talk. "Just a bar"? Sir, bars are the glue of a social people,
and the G-Lodge is freaking epoxy!
Anyway. Time to go. Two Tour regulars leaped into the
Jetta (hey, no problem!) and off we went...to get stuck in traffic in
Center City. Car show traffic. 45 minutes to get to Independence. We
finally jammed the Jetta up over the sidewalk into an unattended lot and
ran for it.
We were late, of course, but dinner came out right on
time. Delicious stuff, too, like the roasted Vidalia stuffed with
braised beef, served with Tim Robert's Kölsch. I got the peppercorn
pork loin with bread filling: I don't know why I did this. I hate all
those damned peppercorns. The IPA with it was excellent, though, best
beer I've had at Independence: nice job, Tim! Then it was porter with a
bananas Fosteresque tart, a very nice pairing. We really got down
to talking now, the beauty of the Tour. People were exchanging cards and
making plans (I sold some books!), and starting to head for home.
Seemed a good time to leave. I thanked Rich, said my
goodbyes to people, and retrieved the Jetta. Best part is...I get to do
it all over again this Saturday, when the Tour rides again!
March 18, 2003:
Which Just Goes to Show: Jenever is a
Tom Peters invited me to the latest beer dinner
at Monk's Cafe: a pairing
of beer, cheese, and chocolate, hosted by beer author, cookbook author,
and Canadian bon vivant Stephen
Beaumont. The convincing for this odd juxtaposition of food and
drink supposedly took place at the Jenever Bar in Antwerp, where Tom and
chef Adam Glickman ran into Beaumont. "In our advanced state
of refreshment, we would have agreed to serve horse meat," Peters
said in the evening's menu.
Maybe. But I'll bet it wouldn't be as good as some of
this evening's food and drink. Cathy and I arrived just about on time
for a change, greeted Stephen, Tom, and Monk's partner Fergus Carey,
then sat down with tablemates Don "Joe
Sixpack" Russell, the by-now-all-too-familiar Jack
Curtin, Sebbie "Rogue
East" Buehler, and Monk's (and WhiskyFest) regular Larry
Blinebury just as they were serving the first beer, a
'cocktail' of four parts Hanssen's Kriek and one part Rogue
Chocolate Stout (Sebbie's on the label of this Rogue beer).
Delicious: the chocolate really did deepen and smooth the cherry edge of
the kriek. One for Stephen.
Next we got an insanely delicious BLT sandwich. That's Bittersweet
chocolate spicy mayonnaise, Lobster Mousseline, and Truffled
cheese. I want Adam to come to my house three times a week and make
this. The sandwich was a great idea, a beautiful mix of incredible
flavors...no, I'm going to be honest. Call me a philistine: I don't get
truffles. The cheese smelled and tasted like a good piece of
havarti to me. I hope to get this one of these days. But the lobster and
mayonnaise were outstanding!
The beer choice with this was iffy, in my opinion: Buckeye
Vanilla Stout. I didn't get a lot of vanilla aroma from the beer,
and I didn't think it went particularly well with the lobster. One for
Adam, none for Stephen.
Next was Bosco Stout with a chocolate risotto
topped with a wonderfully tender pice of marinated pork loin, in turn
topped with a raspberry sauce and a pansy, adorned with slices of goat
gouda cheese. Good as the sandwich was, this was my favorite course: my
slice of pork was tender, juicy, perfectly done and cut, and richly
flavorful. I'll have to try that raspberry thing. The chocolate risotto
was mildly chocolatey and very satisfying. The Bosco Stout was a
middleweight export stout, rich in flavor but not overly heavy in body,
and a glorious match for the food. One each, Adam and Stephen.
The main course was a roasted half-pheasant on a
bed of baby spinach and smoked mozzarella, topped with a savory
chocolate vinaigrette, with wild rice and a root vegetable puree. The
puree was good, the wild rice was a bit bland but texturally excellent,
Cathy and I would both have gone for a full dish of the spinach and mozz.
But my pheasant was undercooked to the point of being hard to cut. I like
rare poultry, and have been enthralled by rare duck at Monk's, but this
was too much.
The beers were a great idea: Spezial Rauchbier
and Rauchenfels Steinbrau, smoked beer to match the smoked
cheese. It was not long ago that I'd had Spezial in situ: this
was a pleasant memory jogger. But the Rauchenfels did not hold up
against memory: thin in body and flavor, less than what I recalled as a
bold, almost overpowering beer. Give Stephen one, Adam a half.
Everyone loved the final course, and how could you miss:
chocolate porter cheesecake with Rochefort 8° and cask Victory
Storm King. Full marks to both Adam and Stephen, though I didn't
really find the Rochefort to be the perfect chocolate beer as touted by
Stephen; too fruity, a little too much edge. Maybe it's me, or maybe I
just don't like fruit and chocolate. Maybe I'm just ornery. But the
damned beer's too good to complain much, so I'm not, really.
I do think the best moment of the night for me, though,
was when I overheard Jack arguing with Don and Sebbie about Philly's
failings as a beer town: the same argument I'd had
with him less than a week before, with Jack now taking my side of it!
I'm not happy that Philly's not as great as I'd once thought, but to
hear discussion of it in company like this may actually bear fruit as
people start to consider the possibilities. Plant acorns, and one day
maybe we'll enjoy a beer under a spreading oak.
A great dinner, some excellent beers. Heh. Just another
night at Monk's.
March 12, 2003:
Everybody Must Get Stoned...
I met Matt Guyer
and the gimp-walking Rich Pawlak at the Trenton train
station and caught NJ Transit to NYC: today was Stone Day, the
official launch of Stone Brewing's beers for the East Coast at the Blind
Tiger in Manhattan, and Stone's Greg Koch had talked me into training to
Manhattan for the, er, um, plentiful delicious beer. We talked beer trash on the way up and Rich gave me
plenty of free advice on supporting sales of New York Breweries.
We took the subway down to Christopher Street, and soon we were scarfing
a damned good Cuban sammawich (I had a bowl of cream of spinach soup,
too, very good) at a little Cuban place on Christopher St.
After "laying in a base," we turned the corner
onto Hudson Street and entered the Blind Tiger Alehouse. The Stones were
rolling already, twelve of them on tap: Levitation Ale, Pale Ale,
Smoked Porter, IPA, cask IPA, oak-aged Arrogant Bastard, Ruination IPA, Arrogant
Bastard, Double Bastard, Imperial stout, Old Guardian barleywine, and
the very limited availability 03.03.03 Vertical Epic. Stunning.
We grabbed three glasses of cask IPA, spurning the 4 oz. tasting pours.
Very nice beer, smooth and fruity and obdurately bitter, if not
particularly bright. (BTW, O cynical ones: every beer we had this
day was paid for. Just like you.)
We got glasses of water and soldiered on. To the shallow
end of the taste pool: Levitation (broad, almost English ale character with
bright hop notes), Pale Ale (heavier, but clearly Levitation's cousin),
and a happy bit of excess with the Double Bastard. The big DB was my
favorite beer of the day, and one I would go back to, very fruity
(bright, juicy plum with underlying darker notes) and lively for such a
Who's next?! Ruination IPA, Smoked Porter, and Oak-aged
Arrogant Bastard. The Stone Ruination was vaunted as an IPA with
some hops in it, and it was...but I didn't care for it as much as the
cask IPA. Over the top and into the dustbin, I'd say. The Smoked Porter
was right tasty, though Rich swore it wasn't as smoky as the one he'd
had at the Grey Lodge. The
Oak-Aged...I wasn't nuts about, eventually. It was striking, and the oak
came through (even though it had only been in contact with the wood for
three days--I asked Greg, and he called the brewery to make sure), but I
thought the oak was a little overdone. Maybe not: in a beer that big,
it's gotta be big to come through. Not my cup of beer, though.
The next round was outstanding, though: Old Guardian,
03.03.03, and the Imperial Stout. Power City, folks. The 03.03.03 was
ambitious, a Belgian abbey-kind of beer, big, spicy, should age well. I
dug the Imperial Stout, like heavyweight motor oil and jam-packed with
roasty, bitter flavor. But the Old Guardian remains one of my favorite
Stone beers, because it goes against the grain: it is richly malty and
fruity, a relatively pale amber, and puts me in mind of Fuller's Vintage
Ale. Great stuff.
About halfway through that round we were joined by Jack
Curtin, who couldn't make it up on the earlier train due to
important previous commitments (something about dogs and comic books).
We also met the Alström brothers of BeerAdvocate
fame, who turned out (as Jack said) to be nowhere near as strange as
they seem in their website pictures. I was somewhat disappointed by
this, but also somewhat relieved.
We'd tried almost everything by this time, and although
Jack was valiantly trying to catch up by pouring beer down his throat at
a great rate, we talked him into going on Greenwich Village walkabout
with us in search of fabled bars. A-walking we did go.
We got to Chumley's -- but it wasn't open. The taps were
kind of depressing anyway: all were either A-B distributed or
"house" beers that we assumed were Chelsea contract brews.
Nothing wrong with that, but I can drink Chelsea at Chelsea.
Anyway, I absorbed a certain amount of crap and we went on. Rich spotted
the famous John's Pizza on Bleecker Street and we crowded into a table
for a half-plain half-fungus pizza. Justly famous: the crust is
excellent, and the sauce is alive, NOT mass-produced.
Onward: we stuck our heads in the Slaughtered Lamb, and
just as quickly pulled them out: yeesh, what a crappy tap selection. The
troops were getting restless at this point, so I took a chance on a
jackpot and aimed at Vol
de Nuit. No, sorry, they didn't open for another 25 minutes...
We all visibly slumped. But okay, if you just want beer and frites, I can open for you. So we
walked back into the little courtyard and up the steps into a quiet, dim
comfortable bar, where we were greeted with taps of De Koninck, Leffe
Brune, Lucifer, Het Kapital, and the like.
We relaxed right into this, got frites (delicious, and
so many we couldn't finish them) and beers (I had a De Koninck), and
talked about what a great day it was. It was, too, finally warming up
after a long cold winter; guys were playing handball out the back
window, a cool breeze through the open door. Wonderful time, very nice
place, good beer, funky music.
Restored, we returned to the Blind Tiger for a bit more
Stone. We were joined by my friend Andy Ager of Bierkraft,
Bill "Salty Dog"
Coleman and his dachshund, Ludwig, and beer-food writer Peter
LaFrance, and we all had some Stone. Eventually, Andy and Bill
talked us into joining them at Mugs Alehouse for the meeting of the
Malted Barley Appreciation Society, the Brooklyn homebrew club.
It was a harrowing trip. They took us to Gray's Papaya:
I was hankering for a hot dog but these, pardon me, sucked,
though the papaya drink was good. After a lot of walking, a subway ride,
and a lot more walking (which was rough on Rich, and I publicly
apologize for dragging him all the way to Mugs), we made it, and I got stuck
into a delish cask Blue Point ESB.
Andy and Bill talked Matt and me into going to the
meeting in the backroom, where they were tapping a cask of...water. It
was a demo, I guess, but good Lord, what a disappointment. I finished my
ESB and we split; had to catch the train home.
And we did, without much trouble. We narrowly averted a
horrible political argument on the way home, and instead got into a
snarly argument over whether Philly was a great beer town or not, my
contention being that we didn't have many breweries in the city (noting
simultaneously that I was not talking about the quality of the
ones we had), nor did we have any truly great multitaps (20 or more with
a strong American-micro bent). I freely admitted that we had things
other cities did not -- Monk's, for instance -- but I maintained
that most of what we had and rightly praised was equaled, if not
duplicated, in other cities. As for Matt, Rich, and Jack, well, let's
just say we disagreed and leave it at that.
We left Matt and Jack to catch SEPTA at Trenton, and I
gave Rich a ride home. I got home about 11:00. An excellent day.
Today I got my birthday present from my wife. For the
past five years, Cathy has taken me out on the town for my birthday. We
started at McMenamin's Tavern in Mt. Airy for dinner, as we
usually do. PJ McMenamin greeted me with "Is it your birthday again
already?" Guess I should stop in more often.
I got a mug of Yards IPA off the handpump: good
stuff, good condition, but...it suffered somewhat in comparison to the Dogfish
Head 60 Minute I'd had the day before (see to the right). It was
great with the fresh cream of mushroom soup and wild mushroom risotto
(there is just no
excuse for Philly area restaurants not to have great mushrooms on
their menu). The risotto was robust, nutty, and full of three or four
different kinds of fungus. Cathy had a Brooklyn Tripel (excellent:
creamy, sweet, orangey, and tidied up on the swallow with a slyly bitter
finish), shrimp and crab fritters with a chipotle aioli: wonderful, and
it would have been perfect except the fritters were just a bit too gooey
inside. The aioli was quite zingy enough to spike the doughy fritters,
which were kept light by the seafood.
I got a La Chouffe Bok to have with my eggplant
parmesan on linguini (four thick and discreet slices of baked eggplant
with cheese and marinara) Cathy had an Anchor Porter with fontina
and pancetta saccetti (when did they start calling beggar's purses
saccetti?) in a fantastic fresh marinara sauce. Quite a bit different
from our first birthday dinner at McMenamin's five years ago: deli
sandwiches PJ made at a board behind the bar!
I overheard a guy at the next table order a Brooklyn
Pilsner. He wasn't happy with it. It looked okay: just this side of
transparent with a slight haze, yellow, white head, but he said it
tasted citrusy, "more like a hefeweizen." He sent it back and
got a Beamish: a great safe bet at McMenamin's. I know PJ serves
his hefes in a proper glass, so I was certain this was someone meeting a
pilsner of a type he was not familiar with. Sure enough, as I was
leaving I asked for a taster of the Brooklyn and it looked just like
what he'd had, and it was perfect, a dynamic balance of hop and malt.
On to the next stop, an impulsive duck into Rock
Bottom in the King of Prussia mall. I hadn't been to Rock Bottom
since it had changed over from brew moon over a year ago, which was
truly inexcusable. I made up for lost time. Cathy and I made our way to
the far end of the bar, where I ordered a Double Barrel IPA
(pretty decent stuff: solidly hoppy and with enough body to support it)
and a taster of Imperial Stout (nice: rich, but could have had
more bitter/burnt notes). She got water, she was now officially
saving herself for driving. I got recognized by a couple of people at
the bar, which is still a bit unnerving for me. I also ran into a couple
we'd seen at the Sly Fox at the Burns night, swapped some lies with them
about Brian O'Reilly and Jack Curtin.
Back out into the windy and cold night! We hopped
in the Jetta and aimed it westward: tonight was the 7th anniversary out
at Victory. It was a trip down memory lane for me: I remembered
the first time I visited Victory, on the day of the Big Thaw after the
Big Storm of 1996 (which is looking like a do-over this weekend, glad
I'll be in Fredonia), dodging roadblocks and
pushing the Jetta through 18"-deep water in the parking lot.
Thank God the beer was good, because as a
"happening," this was pretty lame: a few balloons up, and a
sign on the door. But the beer was good: I had a half-liter of
Workhorse Porter, and it was mighty mighty fine, not like a stout, but
drinkable...and I didable.
Back into the cold (it was about 12F by this time) and
onto the road, Cathy driving and me bellowing my love for her, the
night, and anything else that caught my fancy. Not drunk, mind you, just
a bit more blissful than usual. We drove back east and headed down
Germantown Pike one last time to the General Lafayette Inn.
What a pleasant surprise to find my friend Tom and his
buddy Ira, right there in the back bar! Tom's the guy who drew the
caricature you see on all these pages, and a companion on the annual
winter beer hunt. But he was hating it tonight, as we caught him
drinking Stoli Vanilla and ginger ale. What?! He ducked responsibility
for drinking such a foul concoction by saying Chris Leonard's beer was
crap. I threatened to take him outside, but he's nothing if not
stubborn: he bought a round for all three of us (Ira was drinking
beer, I'm happy to say). I had the Union Jack ESB on handpump,
and found no flaw in it. For a change, I found no flaw in the service,
We hunkered down at the bar and blathered with Tom for a
bit, but...Cathy was getting tired, and we had to get home to relieve
the babysitters. So we said our goodbyes, and reluctantly trudged out
across the snow-packed parking lot, our feet crunching on the cold
frosty surface. A great night, but I'm already planning next
February 7, 2003
I have the best wife in the beer-drinking world. Last
night I said, I think we really should go up to the Sly Fox brewpub for
dinner tomorrow. Cathy immediately asked, "Okay, but...can we go to
Victory on the way?"
Is it any wonder I love her?
We did go to Victory, but I have to explain: she was
picking up my birthday present (which I hope is the Victory
glassware I've been hinting about for the part four birthdays (she's a
sweetheart, but she is a bit dense about these things sometimes,
always getting me books and cookware and lingerie for her to wear) Feb.
18: it was! Four 0.5 liter willibecker glasses, exceptional!).
That was the theory, anyway. But when we got into the bar I saw Ron
Barchet sitting there, and just after that I saw that they had the
Milltown Mild on the handpump, and I told her: we're having a beer.
"Okay!" she said.
Is it any wonder I love her?
Ron bought us both a Mild. Let me explain: Milltown Mild
was one of the first beers they brewed, but it didn't catch on, and they
never made it again until now. This was the second runnings from a batch
of V-12. It was delicious, fresh, pure maltiness with a bit of hop and a
snatch of yeast character. My pint disappeared pretty quickly, and at
3.6%, I didn't mind. Then Ron introduced me to the guy sitting beside
him: Brian Hollinger, the brewer at Kutztown Tavern (he's now at
Founder's, in Arlington, VA). I'd actually met
Brian briefly before, back in 1998 just before he quit at Erie Brewing.
I'd spoken to him on the phone a few times since. Good guy, and he was
grooving on Victory's beers. Well, we all were.
Then Bill Covaleski came out (to get Cathy my birthday
present (that she was BUYING, O cynics)), and mentioned something about
tank samples of V-12. I told him to put up or shut up, and back he came
with a delicious beer, all fruity and yeasty and rich and powerful. I
got a grin on my face that was so tight it was painful, a real beer
So Ron says, "is the the 11% one or the 14%?"
Well, it's the 11%, and Bill goes back for more. Good Lord, this
one was a head-knocker, more powerful in its assault. Two different
yeasts, and the plan is to blend them and kräusen them with a third
yeast. It seemed a really good idea to blend what we had: and it was
synergistic, better than either of the two parts. They've got something
We bolted before we wound up spending the night, and got
up Rt. 113 to Phoenixville and Sly Fox. The place was rocking, though
not horribly jammed, and we got seats for dinner right away. I joined
brewer Brian O'Reilly and beer writer Jack Curtin and his
"posse" (hi, posse! Is Joe Meloney part of the posse now?) at the bar for
a quick Renard d'Or, a beautiful Belgian-style golden ale. Tonight was a
"first Friday," when Sly Fox taps a keg of Brian's Incubus
triple, but it was also the launch of Sly Fox's first bottled beer, a
whopping monster Brian calls Ichor, after the blood of the Greek gods,
so they were celebrating by pouring a bunch of Belgian styles. Whew,
what a selection.
I joined Cath and the kids at table, where she had
ordered an Incubus. We shared sips, and ordered dinner. The Incubus and
Renard were delish (see at right). Then it was time, and I ordered up a
big bottle of Ichor. Whew! That's a lotta beer! Dark, heavy,
sweet, tasty, this one rang all the bells. Like to side-by-side it with
something like a Chimay Grand Reserve or Westvleteren 12...and since I
took two bottles home (thanks, Brian!), I can. But not tonight. I'm
I went to the second annual Groundhog Day
festivities at the Grey Lodge Pub
in northeast Philly today. Scoats (Mike Scotese), who owns the place,
has a knack for generating excitement around minor days of note on the
calendar (he also does a cask ale event every Friday the thirteenth:
Friday the Firkinteenth). On Groundhog Day he serves a free breakfast
(frittatas this year), we have a Hawaiian shirt contest, and and there
is a beer
prognostication from The Inner Circle, four people who communicate with
the bar's mascot, a porcelain "lucky cat"
named Wissinoming Winnie.
Really: I am one of The Inner Circle,
along with Scoats, Yards partner Nancy Barton, and Peggy Zwerver, wife
of Heavyweight brewer Tom Baker. We mumble a lot, then announce that
spring beers will be coming soon, or that there will be six more weeks
of winter beers.
So I went down, dressed in my Full
Force Productions Hawaiian hops shirt (way cool!), shorts, handsewns
w/no socks, and a straw hat I got in Rosarita, Baja California. Ah, at
11:00 on a Sunday morning. And I was about the 16th guy there! I got
right into some Victory Dark Lager, a beer I'm always happy to see make
its seasonal arrival in February. Then I had to try some of the
newly-arrived-in-Philadelphia Brewer's Art Cerberus Triple (get it?
Cerberus, three-headed dog, triple, nudge-nudge), and some
cask heavyweight Baltus, and it was all good. You bet. But I
didn't have the hair on my ass to try the Yards Saison
Curtin showed up, and Eddie Friedland (of Friedland Distributing,
Philly's foremost GoodBeer wholesaler), Friedland warehouse guy and
former Manayunk brewer Jim Brennan (with his pretty little daughter), local beer enthusiast Dan Berger
(the Dan & John Beer
Site), Yards brewer Tom
Kehoe and Yards partner Nancy Barton, Jon Zangwill of Flying
Fish, and a whole bunch of people just having a great time drinking
beer on a Sunday morning. Of course, when Jon showed up, I had to try
the special dry-hopped Flying Fish XPA, and it was great.
kept waiting for Tom and Peggy of Heavyweight to show up so we could get
down to the prognosticating, but they didn't, so we drafted Jack into
the Inner Circle (for which he will be eternally grateful), and went
into a quick huddle around the porcelain Winnie.
there's some Spring beers coming out soon," I said, "screw 'em,
I like winter beers."
piped up with "Victory's got the two bocks coming on."
time?" asked Jack skeptically.
what they told me," Scoats confirmed.
good to me," Nancy said.
turned to face the waiting, mock-serious crowd, and Scoats announced
that "Spring beers are just around the corner!" There was loud
cheering and a chant of "Bock! Bock! Bock! Bock!"
fun event at the Grey Lodge!