PA Breweries updates       NY Breweries updates            VMDDC Breweries updates

Seen Through a Glass blog                PLCB blog                 Contact Lew

What I Was Up To

Fall  2003

Return to The Latest.


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

What I Was Drinking


Delicious Dave

11/4: A beer dinner at Monk's Cafe again. Darn. HA! I did have the pleasure of joining Tom Peters and Fergus Carey for a delightful dinner featuring the beers of Elysian Brewpub, GABF's Brewpub of the Year in 2001 (Small Brewpub) and 2003 (Large Brewpub; they grew). What was kind of fun is that Elysian partner Dave Buhler is from around here, and much of his family showed up, including Rogue rep Sebbie Buhler, Dave's sister. 

It was a fun evening, made more so by Dave's revelation on Sebbie's name. "It's Susan Elizabeth Buhler," Dave said, as if we were idiots not to have guessed it. I guess we were, no one I know of ever asked her. So...what do we do with this kernel? Keep calling her Sebbie, I guess. 

 Cathy and I sat with George Hummel and Nancy Rigberg of Home Sweet Homebrew, and the ever-present, ever-pleasant Jack Curtin, of Jack Curtin. Jack had made a late entrance with Beer Yard potentate Matt Guyer. 

We chatted while enjoying the pre-dinner beer, Golden Gorgon. Elysian does mostly West coast-style ales and Belgian styles; "We leave the real experimental stuff to people like Dogfish Head and Pizza Port," Dave said. Jack asked him how he preferred to have "Elysian" pronounced. "Well, I don't like 'uh-LEE-zhun,'" said the big guy, because it sounds like 'a lesion.' I guess I prefer the French 'eh-lee-zee-EN.'" Fair enough.

Golden Gorgon is the little sister of Elysian's tripel, Bęte Blanche, with the same yeast, different hops (Saaz), and a big helping of malted wheat, coming in at 5.2% ABV. I liked this one a lot, a nicely drinkable beer with just a bit of sweetness and a little bit of "Belgian" character.

Chow arrived, in the form of six beautiful roasted oysters in a creamy saison sauce. One oyster was topped with a spoonful of roe. "Tennessee sturgeon," Tom said when I asked. Caviar was about four times as expensive, and (to be honest) the difference would have been wasted on me. We all slurped and munched, as we accompanied the ersters with the afore-mentioned Bęte Blanche (if you were wondering, yes, it is a play on bęte noir). 

It was good, a tasty thing, with the orange-candy character of a tripel. Dave told us that when his partner, brewer Dick Cantwell, first had the Blanche he drank off a whole pint of it quite quickly, then realized he had pounded a pint of 7% beer. "You lying bitch!" he exclaimed, speaking of the beer's deceptive strength. The name least around the brewery.

Dave poured us some samples of Elysian's Pumpkin Ale. This is where our table disagreed a bit. I got definite pumpkin meat aroma and flavor -- "I got gourd in the nose, here!" -- whereas Jack and George only smelled the spices. I thought the spices were pretty restrained, given how these things are usually done. Jack said he was smelling pumpkin by the third sip. Not bad, as pumpkin beers go.

Next came Saison Elysée with smoked duck breast with pomegranate sauce. The duck was delicious, smoked with alderwood ("Alderwood is Adam (Glickman)'s latest thing," Tom told us, and it's fine by me), rare, and with a nice juicy ribbon of browned fat. The pomegranate sauce perked up the duck, and it all went pretty well with the saison, which is brewed with an addition of cumin. The saison was okay, but I thought it was a bit over-hopped. I liked the cumin edge, and the yeastiness was well-done. 

Main course: Wild Boak Carbonnade! Wow. Jack was dumbfounded. "Where's the big honking piece of meat?" he exclaimed. "I've got those words on my computer as a macro for Monk's dinners!" It was a lot of stew, an interesting blend of boar (not like pork, to our surprise), potatoes, carrots, and taro root. My only complaint was that Cathy's boar (which I finished up for lunch today) could have been a bit better trimmed. Otherwise, a delicious hearty stew that I sopped up with bread.

The beers were the hoppy boogers Dave had been hiding on us: The Wise ESB and BiFröst Winter Ale. "The Wise" is a reference to Athena, "BiFröst" is the rainbow bridge between the worlds of mortals and gods in Norse mythology. Why they suddenly switched mythos on us is beyond me, but I liked it. I liked the beers, too. The Wise was described by Dave as "a malt monster with hops," but it seemed just pretty damned hoppy to me. We talked afterwards and he said that the hops had come though a lot more in this batch, maybe because it had traveled. Good, anyway, real good, but not what I'd call an ESB. "It's a west coast ESB," Dave said with a big grin, and there's more than a little truth to that. 

BiFröst was the real 'lying bitch,' far as I was concerned. I could not believe this hoppy refresher was 7.5% ABV! Banged up with Centennial, Cascade, and Amarillos, you better believe she was hoppy, and sparkly and light...impressive job of brewing, no doubt.

Dessert arrived, and with it porter. Perseus Porter, to be precise. The dessert deserves top billing: a light cake, about the size of two hockey pucks, and studded with bittersweet chocolate, topped with a hard layer of toffee, drenched in a mirror-finish topping of more bittersweet chocolate, topped with whipped cream and crushed toffee-chocolate bars. The toffee was so tough that I flipped it on its back like a turtle and ate the cake out from underneath.

The porter was a bit overwhelmed, which is too bad, because this was a good porter (I got a sample or two after finishing the cake). Quite dark, a bit roasty (good dose of chocolate malts), smartly bitter, and, I imagine, quite a pounder. 

We got a chance to chat with Tom and Fergie, meet Fergie's (relatively) new wife, and talk to some fans of Pennsylvania Breweries (God bless 'em). We admired the new taps at the front bar (including a dedicated one for Monk's Flemish Sour), and heard Tom's tale of woe over how just as he was putting in a new walk-in to have two, the old one died. "It was scheduled to be replaced in two weeks, so I couldn't see paying to have it repaired," he said, a move that made him very unpopular with his staff. "Really unpopular," he said, with a rueful grin.

Well, that was the evening. We thanked our hosts and Dave, said goodnight to Curt Decker and Brandon Greenwood of Nodding Head, the whole Buhler family, George and Nancy, and Jack, and wandered out into the mist. Quite a night. And next week, it's the "Exotic Meats" dinner with Stephen Beaumont. Should be entertaining.


That Dinner With Beaumont...

11/11: Yes, I had to have dinner at Monk's again, and yes, the meat was exotic. Tom and Fergy hooked up with beer writer Stephen Beaumont again for an evening of exotic meats and drinks. I got there in time for a pre-dinner drink at the bar: I had the tart, tasty Monk's Flemish Ale, the house beer Tom has made under contract in Belgium. Very nice. 

I talked with acquaintances at the bar, including fellow New Jersey Association of Beerwriters members Gary Monterosso and Mark Haynie. Then I started swapping lies with Matt Guyer and Mark Sauerbray of the Beer Yard, who told me I was seated in the back room, with Jack Curtin, Curt Decker and Brandon Greenwood of Nodding Head, and Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, the beer columnist for the Daily News. A manly table indeed. I went back, said hi to WhiskyFest and Monk's regular Larry Blinebury, and joined them for the opening beer, Fantome Pissenlit. 

Pissenlit, Stephen was good enough to tell us later, means 'pissing the bed.' How nice. It's made with dandelions, and sure enough, it had a somewhat rough, faintly mustardy herbal aroma. Good aperitif beer. Then it was the first course, "Kangamaki," kangaroo meat with Japanese sticky rice, wrapped sushi-maki-style in nori, with wasabi. This was really great, chewy, meaty, really got the juices flowing. Stephen's choice for drink with it was the ethnically appropriate sake (Morimoto Ginjo Sake), which did nothing whatsoever for me: sweet, not much else. Bleh. Is it me, or does the sake emperor wear no clothes? Dunno, but Jack took a picture of his kangaroo rolls.

Next came a Gator Piccata, two chunks of alligator tail sauteed with lemon and capers (with a nice piece of grilled polenta and some very tart sauce). This was also delicious, flavorful, good texture, and no, it didn't taste like any chicken I've ever had.  We got Allagash Triple with this; the alliteration might have been too much for Stephen to pass up, but the straight gator (sans sauce) with the Triple was delicious, best pairing of the night for me.

The third course was, as Curt said, the loss leader. A piece of seared Kobi beef (yes, Kobi: it was raised in Australia, and Kobe is an appellation), touched with red miso- and chervil-infused oils, sliced and just barely rare. I've heard a lot about fork-tender beef, but this...I didn't even pick up my knife, it easily divided under fork pressure, and the flavor and texture were just wonderful. Imagine beef with the texture of veal, with a full beefy flavor... "Put it on a roll with a slice of onion, tomato, and maybe some salt and pepper," said Jack, and we all drooled a bit. 

The beer was Hopback Entire Stout, on cask. Kudos to Tom for getting this, and though Stephen didn't think it went that well (he'd evidently wanted one of Hopback's lighter, hoppier beers), our table was quite pleased with it. It was my favorite beer of the night: elegant, smooth, medium-rich, and just suave to the last drop. 

What was going on at the table with all those beer guys? Well, first off, we were nearly deafened. Tom finally fixed the sound system. Did he ever: the speaker was right by our table, and it sounded like George Hummel was shouting into our ears through a megaphone. Someone draped two coats over the speaker, which helped, until Beaumont took it into his head to jerk my chain by loudly asking me to shut up, not that he could hear me. Couldn't handle the competition, no doubt. The applause in our room was deafening...the only thing louder was my own laughter. I can handle abuse, buddy, bring it on!

Otherwise...we were mostly saying a bunch of things that don't bear repeating: some were legally actionable, some were stupid, some were grist for stories I'm going to write and you'll see them later. I won't repeat Jack's statement about getting home; I only wrote it down to make him nervous.

Main course met mixed reviews: eland. Stephen had wanted to get horse (fine by me; I've never had horse and would have liked to try it), but that's illegal in the U.S. for some reason, even though we feed it to our pets. So instead we got eland. The meat was flavorful, though overpowered somewhat by the truffled potatoes. It was also a bit fatty, but I liked it so much that I picked up the bone and gnawed it. Others at the table were more fastidious, but I figured a rib was a rib was a rib, and I liked it. It was great with the beer: Southampton Trappist Pale Ale, another work of genius from Phil Markowski. Real Orval-ish flavor, dry, brett-laced, and well-paired with the eland's sweetness.

Dessert was another animal: chocolate Moose. Tom's little joke, and Stephen had one as well: "You'll notice that there is a tiny piece of meat in the center of the mousse. That is moose." Silence, as people frantically pawed through their desserts. "I'm kidding!" the mad Canadian admitted. The "moose" did come with chocolate antlers, a cute touch. Delicious, of course. 

The final beers of the evening were Unibroue Terrible and New Belgium Transatlantique Kriek. The Terrible was good, rich but not overpowering, kind of like a larger version of Maudite. The Transatlantique was a bit disappointing, one-dimensional cherry with a sour wrapper, almost like a tart Lindemans. Beautiful label, though, with an old-style ocean liner.

After some witty repartee, I headed out front to talk to Stephen. I was surprised to be introduced by him to New Belgium marketing head Greg Owsley, who was in the bar completely by chance, in Philly for a meeting. "Going to tell him the truth?" Jack murmured behind me, referring to the Buzz that he thinks will be a self-hung albatross about my neck. "If he asks," I replied. Of course, the first thing Greg said was "How'd you like the Transatlantique?" so I had to tell him I was disappointed. He accepted that graciously, if not happily, and pointed out that the beer had induced huge numbers of people to try kriek for the first time. That's a good thing, for sure, but...I wish the beer was more complex. For me!

I was ready to leave, but Matt invited me back to the back room to try a bottle of Alesmith Grand Cru. Thanks, Matt! This stuff was delicious, funky, boozy, strong and characterful, an almost sloppy beer. Great night cap. Now I finally did leave, made my way to the car in the cool November rain, and drove home. 

I leave for Rome on Friday, so this will probably be my last entry for a few weeks. Be well, and have a drink every now and then, will you? Have something good!


monkdave.JPG (293062 bytes)

11/4: Dave tells us tales of Greek myth and beer.











































monk3guys2.JPG (234705 bytes)

Tom and Dave laugh as Fergie does his Chuck Berry 'duckwalk' imitation.






mxmbmont.JPG (403327 bytes)

11/11: Stephen Beaumont, in a pensive profile (and looking quite Gallic, eh?).




mxmjackroo.JPG (215103 bytes)

Jack immortalizes his roo rolls.













mxmtable.JPG (204548 bytes)

Brandon shows us his hilarious Elizabeth Smart imitation.














mxm3beers.JPG (195054 bytes)

That's Mark Haynie and Gary Monterosso behind Brandon Greenwood (and Larry Blinebury behind them)


11/4: Shiner Light -- Some of you probably know by now that I have a friend at Gambrinus who sends me samples of Pete's, BridgePort, and Shiner beers pretty often. I can't complain, especially since so many of them are so good. Some aren't -- I just can't get used to Pete's Strawberry Blonde, for instance -- but most are. I was somewhat apprehensive when he sent me some of the new Shiner Light. Shiner, like Yuengling, is an old regional that has held off from light beer. But now they've taken the plunge. What's it like? Well, my wife said it best, I think: "It tastes like frathouse beer." And it does, it tastes like plain old mainstream American beer...which is a compliment, a deep one, because it doesn't taste like light beer. Shiner Light really has all the flavor of a full calorie mainstream American beer, something Michelob Ultra certainly hasn't pulled off. If that's what you like, this is gonna satisfy you. Me, I'll probably stick to BridgePort IPA.  

11/4: Rittenhouse Rye, Bottled in Bond, 10 Years Old -- I've been looking for some of this rye for years, finally had to break down and beg Heaven Hill for some, and bless their hearts, they came through. It's a deep amber, and smells great: grassy, sweet, spicy, and a little fiery. Sipping time: wow, oily rye flavor, a  spread of hot sweetness, and a delicious full body to it. Busy whiskey, and yes, it's got the rye punch. Not as caramel-full as most bourbon, and the spice is different, hotter. Hard to beat this overproof stuff, a bottled in bond beauty. Well-worth looking for.

9/29: Singha
-- I've been meaning to write this one up ever since I did the story in Beverage Business about beer myths, where I doused the enduring horsecrap about Singha being made with formaldehyde...unbelievable. Anyway, Singha pours clear and golden with a beautiful white head, a quite impressive head, actually. There's a big hoppy nose, with just a hint of sweetness. The flavor is surprisingly sweet at the start, but the hops kick in quickly, an almost Frisian rush of icy bitterness wrapped in a persistent sweet malt body...then the malt flashes down the throat, leaving only the bitterness behind (and it says to your mouth, "let's do dat again!"). Now, if I were a ding-dong wine writer, I'd blather some nonsense about how this beer goes great with Thai dishes, "the hops complement the spicing of pad thai so wonderfully!" Spare me. It's not Thai beer, adapted to Thai cuisine. It's German beer, brewed by a Thai brewer in Thailand. So it does go well with fried foods, Asian and otherwise, because of the sharp cleansing cut of the hops. But this will also pair beautifully with a rich roast duck or steamed crabs, anywhere you'd put a hoppy pilsner. Good beer.

Copyright © 2008 Lew Bryson. All rights reserved. 
Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.
Revised: January 08, 2004