|It's pronounced hue' guh|
After a big breakfast at home, we hit the rocky road at around noon and were off to our first of a handful of beer destinations for the day. We started things off at the now thrice-visited Bar Hygge, a recent favorite of ours. Last time we swung by was back in January when I was a bit under the weather. (You can read all about that excursion here.) Hygge (pronounced hue' guh, not hoo gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary, as "cozy, charming or special."
This place is all three.
Since we've been here a few times and already provided the lay of the land in previous blogs, I'll spare you the specifics and just get right down to the nitty gritty: the beer. Sadly, we weren't up for any food just yet, as our hearty breakfast was still coagulating in our guts. Bar Hygge boasts a fantastic brunch menu; one that we wouldn't be partaking in this time around. In typical fashion, I'm usually thirsty for a hoppy beer out of the gate, which is what I found with my first selection: Princess Peach, a pale ale brewed with white peaches. While peach season is at its peak in July and August, it's always in season with me. The juicy peach is easily my favorite stone fruit of all. White peaches are softer and sweeter than traditional yellow peaches, and also less acidic. This beer delivered a citrus-forward hop profile with just a kiss of sweet peach around the edges. Overall, it was quite pleasant and a good way to kick off the day.
|Helpful tip: There's also bathrooms downstairs!|
Brewslut recalled having an enjoyable past experience at Bar Hygge with a blood orange sour beer called Low Hanging Fruit, so this time she reached for another blood orange beer, this time a Gose named Aything Gose. This one didn't wow her as much as Low Hanging Fruit, but it was still tasty. Blood oranges are less "orangey"(for lack of a better term) than traditional oranges and also impart a distinct raspberry-like note.
Meanwhile, I was scoping out our next beer, which I figured we'd share because we were just getting started and had a long day ahead of us. Enter Let's Go Bowling, an 8.5% ABV Belgian style Super Saison. The prefix "super" in reference to a saison is synonymous with "imperial" placed before "stout," or "double" before "IPA." Basically, it all boils down to a higher-than-usual ABV percentage. This beer was pretty chewy and grainy with a toasty pumpernickel rye malt character and a dry, peppery finish. I'll admit I was expecting something a little more Tired Hands-esque (i.e. citrusy with some funk) but it was still pretty solid. I'll also admit that I probably ordered it based on the name, which I assumed was a reference to The Big Lebowski. "Fuck it, Dude..."
|Pleeps says: "Let's go bowling!"|
Things were pretty poppin' at Yards when we arrived. After snagging two seats at the bar, I quickly realized that this was likely due to a televised sporting event (in this case, the World Cup). Yes, that's right. Soccer. I guess Eagles fans are still riled up from the recent Super Bowl win that they'll stoop so low as to watch soccer to try and re-live the glory of their beloved team's victory. Unfortunately, Germany was pitted against Sweden. Didn't matter. Although 75% of the people enjoying the game probably couldn't locate either country on a world map, it didn't stop them from simultaneously bellowing out in suspense when something "exciting" happened on the field. With all that said, I will admit that soccer (or as every other country correctly calls it - football) is a pretty legit sport based solely on the stamina it takes to play the same. But technically soccer isn't even a real sport, at least according to George Carlin. "Anything where you can't use your arms can't be a sport," he exclaimed. "Tap dancing isn't a sport. I rest my case." Why do I believe this to be true? Because comedy trumps sports (especially this particular weekend). However, I do believe that Gymnastics is a sport despite the fact that Romanians are good at it. In recent years, though, they haven't fared very well at the Olympics. I happen to know this because Gymnastics is the best sport ever... or maybe second behind Goat Racing. But I digress.
Anyway, back to beer.
Yards now boasts an impressive new facility over on Spring Garden (just a few blocks down from where my friend Matt used to live and where we used to stay when visiting Philly). They also seem to be putting out a lot more seasonally rotating beers these days. I was surprised to see about a dozen or so beers in addition to the usual suspects of year-rounds and Ales of the Revolution that are always available.
|I call this one "Beerhouse Row."|
I was most excited about the Coffee Love Stout, a variation of arguably my favorite Yards beer aged on coffee beans. It's amazing what a simple name change can do to a beer. Over a decade ago, this same beer used to be called "Oyster Stout," but beer drinkers largely balked at ordering it because most couldn't fathom why a brewery would put oysters in a beer. What did Yards do? Change the name to Love Stout and - WALLA! - it's one of their best-selling beers. This coffee version was quite enjoyable. Love Stout is a fairly thick beer despite its 5.5% ABV tag. For some reason, I always think of it as a heavier beer, but it's smooth and goes down easy. It's a Yards staple and rightly so. I'm glad it didn't fall by the wayside due to its original name, as matter-of-fact as it may have been. In lieu of sharing a pour of this, Brewslut and I each enjoyed a full 20-ounce tumbler to ourselves.
|My view from the bar at Yards.|
For round two, I kept things light and opted for a new-to-me offering called Loral Lager, a pilsner. Since PA is blessed with such a fine stable of pilsner-style lagers (you all know which ones I'm talking about), I figured Yards would also be capable of brewing a winner. Turns out my instincts were correct, because this was a crisp, refreshing beer with a good bit of floral and citrusy hop character that hit the spot and paired nicely with our mid-afternoon snack of steamed mussels bathed in leek and parsley broth with grilled bread.
|Pleeps getting to know my Loral Lager a bit.|
Brewslut decided on another new beer called Haunted Forever, a Black IPA with big pine notes and rounded out with some citrus rind. She surprised me by ordering this, as she rarely goes for something dark and hoppy. Dark and bourbon-y, yes. But Black IPAs just aren't high on her list. I found this to be a delicious take on the style. This guy was creamy and not too roasty with lots of hop flavor and aroma but only moderate bitterness. Plus Yards gets extra bonus points for the 6.66% ABV tag. Why? Because Satan, of course!
On a quick aside, if you have yet to visit the new Yards facility, please note that they do have a big off-street parking lot behind the building that is free for patrons. There is also free parking on Spring Garden right outside the brewery, but just a block away are rows of old-school meters that only take quarters, and they cost $2.50 per hour. Of course, we discovered this after we'd already fed the meter. The more you know...
After Yards, we decided to skip Urban Village and head straight to the Philadelphia Record Exchange to get my vinyl fix. Brewslut has pretty much accepted that she's in for at least one record store visit per beer trip. (I actually got two in this weekend, but more on that later.) The shop is situated in Fishtown, probably our favorite area of the city for its eclectic beer, food, and nightlife scene. The Fillmore (where we'd be attending the concert in a few hours) was also within walking distance, so we thought we'd save $15 and park for free. I still can't believe that parking is free in Fishtown after all of the gentrification. Good for you, Fishtown! Let's keep it that way, eh? For those of you who are also music fans, I picked up a nice copy of the original Queensryche 4-song EP as well as the hard-to-find indie pressing of Sink Your Teeth into That by a band called Talas (Billy Sheehan, anyone?) and Lita Ford's Lita record (one of the women who helped me navigate the wonders of puberty).
Again, let's get back on track.
|I love mosaics and stained glass, so...|
Brewslut and I both wanted to try the same beer: Cool Beans, a sweet golden ale brewed with wheat, oats, lactose, vanilla, and cold brew coffee. We settled on full pours of our first two beers so we could share them and still enjoy more than a few mere sips. The other beer we chose was Down Under IPA, a variation on one of the brewpub's house beers, Subterranean IPA. This version keeps the same malt bill but swaps out its usual American hops in favor of varietals from the Southern Hemisphere. This one drank more like a West Coast IPA than any other IPA style with its fruity, citrusy flavor, strong hop aroma, slick mouthfeel and moderate, dry bitterness. To quote my buddy Jim, "The west is the best."
|Might be the highest taps I've ever seen!|
Getting back to Cool Beans, though, we both absolutely loved this beer. Readers of The Pour Travelers may recall our trip to Portland, OR two summers ago (there are multiple parts, so I won't link to them each here), where we encountered a variety of golden coffee ales and coffee cream ales; basically other coffee-forward beers not in the "dark beer" category. I'd hoped this trend would make it back east, and it appears that more and more East Coast breweries have latched onto this newly emerging style. Fine by me, because I love 'em! Keep 'em coming, breweries!
By this time, we were really enjoying our visit. The bartenders were extremely talkative, attentive, and friendly. They also loved Pleeps! We were also getting hungry. The menu looked amazing, so we decided to have dinner. Sometimes I forget to plan ahead for meals because I tend to focus on the beer. Luckily, Fishtown boasts a bangin' menu with lots of veggie options. While a few dishes jumped out at us, it was the Roasted Beet Burger that reeled us in. The tasty patty, formed with red quinoa, roasted beets and chia seeds, was accompanied by house pickles, sunflower feta and vegan turmeric ailoi. All this was served betwixt an "everything" Philly muffin (think ciabatta meets an everything bagel minus the hole). Brewslut got the side salad and I, of course, opted for the fries. Money!
Since we enjoyed the Haunted Forever back at Yards, we opted for a pour of Fishtown's Black IPA, Beatrice-Marie, for our final beer. This dark, hoppy treat is brewed with a variety of specialty malt, oats and lactose, and hopped with Motueka and Citra. The description also mentioned it was "dry hopped with a heaping helping of cryogenically frozen Citra hops." That's the first time I ever came across the term "cryogenically frozen" in a beer description before! Maybe referenced in Megadeth lyrics, but definitely not a beer write-up. Nevertheless, this beer was met with equal enthusiasm as the others we tried, and by now we were sold on this place.
|Pleeps had an all access pass at Fishtown!|
Pleeps was really photogenic on this particular day, and we captured so many good pictures that we decided to include a few more than usual. Always monkeying around, he is!
|Pleeps needed a booster seat to get some Down Under.|
We spent a little extra time at Fishtown, so we decided to skip Urban Village because we didn't want to arrive late to the show. Walking from the car, we came across a place called Bottle Bar East. I was familiar with this establishment, as Tröegs has done some beer events there in the past. I originally just wanted to swing by and take a peek at the bottle selection. Turns out they have an amazingly diverse curated draft line-up of some hard-to-find beers. So we decided to grab one last quick one before heading to the Fillmore, which we figured would have craft beer, albeit a more pedestrian selection. We were correct in that assumption, so we'd made the right decision.
After perusing the impressive tap list, we settled on the following two beers: Venus Rising from Foreign Objects, a NE-style IPA brewed with Citra and Calypso hops, and Overdrive by SingleCut Beersmiths, a tropical DIPA blended with massive amounts of organic peach and mango. We were familiar with both breweries and based on past experience, I knew I'd made a sound decision. Meanwhile, Brewslut made the journey to the restrooms, which actually took her through the kitchen! Both beers were pretty remarkable, although I'd have to give the nod to Overdrive with its abundance of fleshy fruit juiciness. I'm glad I started with the Venus Rising, though, because its more delicate hints of tangerine, mango, and creamsicle weren't as overwhelming as the overripe, pulpy character of Overdrive. These were two winners in my book, though. I will say that, while the selection was superior, the prices were a bit dicey. I saw some 16-ounce cans for as much as $10 each. Yikes! Still, where else are you going to find a bunch of rare or sought-after beers in one spot? You'd likely pay just as much after shipping and packaging supplies to arrange an Internet trade. So I suppose you're paying for the convenience. Makes cents... I mean sense, right?
|Bottle Bar East is serving up some legit liquids!|
Over at the Fillmore, we balked on getting a beer. I mean, we were already a few hours in and the selection was - as anticipated - pretty hackneyed (man, I haven't used that word since high school creative writing class). So a two-hour break was nice. As expected, the show was hilarious and we left the venue in a jovial mood. I commented about how I could get used to comedy shows because they start early, don't last too long, and I'm not deaf afterward! Plus you have seats. Of course, when I'm at a concert, I absolutely loathe sitting down (unless it's folk, jazz, or classical music, which I rarely experience in a live setting anyway).
So it was only 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in Philly. What are we going to do?
Get tacos, of course!
We were beginning to feel the early onset of hunger pangs, and Brewslut recalled passing a food truck called Heffe Tacos. Its slogan of "tacos that don't suck" jumped out at us, so we were sold. They were also open until 3 a.m. Yup. We're definitely not in Annville anymore, Toto. We happened to get there just before a rush of annoying Millennials, so we didn't have to wait too long for our food: crispy chicken thigh tacos with cabbage, ancho mayo and queso, and a side of rice and beans. Bangin'! This really hit the spot and gave us a bit more fuel to forge on.
We checked in at Barcade, but it was really busy and the tap list was kind of bunk, so we decided to just head back across the street to Fishtown Brewpub for round two. Brewslut liked the Cool Beans so much that she wanted to revisit it with a full pour of her own. Can't blame her for that; it's an awesome beer!
Although I was thinking about a return visit to the Down Under IPA, I played an audible and settled instead for a pint of Lupulin Lager, a pilsner-style lager aggressively hopped with Meridian and Hallertau Mittelfruh. This was not quite enjoyable as the aforementioned IPA, but it had a nice citrusy hop profile with hints of exotic perfumes and wildflowers while still maintaining some semblance of crispness that you'd expect from a pilsner.
In an unpredictable turn of events, I decided to forego a second beer, instead opting for a glass of spirits. Say what?! While enjoying my beer, my eyes began to wander around the room. I eventually landed on a few spirits bottles nestled high on a shelf above the bar when one in particular captured my attention. It turned out to be Hudson maple cask rye whiskey from Tuthilltown Spirits of NY, and it was perhaps the best $17.50 I ever spent on 2 ounces of liquor! It is indeed a rare occasion when I splurge on a drink, but in this case I'm glad I did. While Brewslut worked on her beer, I enjoyed the nuanced layers of vanilla-kissed, whiskey-soaked oak, caramel soft candy chews and, of course, lush maple syrup. One word: wow! I need to procure a bottle of this exquisite liquid immediately!
And with that, folks, it was time to retire to our hotel. Brewslut made sure we phoned ahead to make sure we actually had a room this time. (Check out our last blog post for that reference.) Thankfully, we did. Zzzzzzzz...
First thing's first, though: breakfast and, more importantly, coffee! We found a local breakfast place called the Towne & Country Cafe, which was minutes away from the brewery, and we timed breakfast to end shortly after the 2SP opened for the day at noon. I enjoyed a honkin' 4-egg turkey sausage omelette with rye toast and a side of grits.
Once we arrived and settled in at 2SP, I noticed that the tap selection was quite expansive. I had the feeling that we might be there a while. Turns out I was right. There were too many beers we wanted to try, and Brewslut wanted to try all different beers than I. Quandary aside, it was time to put on on drinking hats for the day and dig in to 2SP's eclectic bag o' beers.
|2SP from our view at the bar.|
The first one to jump out at me was Inner Peach, a saison brewed with wheat, rye, and oats, and hopped with Japanese Sorachi Ace. The notes for this beer indicate it was fermented at extremely warm temperatures with 2SP's house saison yeast. Sounds good so far, right? To put the icing on the cake, the beer then underwent a second fermentation atop of 500 pounds of peach puree. Yowza! As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I'm a sucker for peaches and peach beers in general, so this one was a no-brainer for me. I enjoyed this more than the Princess Peach at Bar Hygge (although I realize they are different beer styles), but this one just had way more peach in the aroma. The saison yeast really coaxed out some nice flavors including toasted coconut and a hint of black pepper, giving the beer an underlying complexity that went beyond just juicy, slightly tart peach.
Meanwhile, Brewslut worked on a pour of No Show, an interesting collaboration with Hardywood Park Brewing; "interesting" in that the collaboration occurred via email. So now the name No Show makes sense, doesn't it? Brewed with an experimental hop variety known simply as "YCH003" and a unique blend of yeasts, this beer boasted subtle citrus and pomegranate notes with a touch of lemongrass. It was definitely a subtle beer, and I found most of the flavors to be rather muted. Perhaps this beer will give way to similar collaborations via text message or fax. You never know.
One beer that we both really wanted to try was something called Pink Lemonade, a cask conditioned IPA on the beer engine. This limited beer is a variation of Up & Out IPA infused with lemon and hibiscus. The hibiscus gave the beer a lovely pinkish hue, and the pour off the handpull produced a creamy, supple crown of froth that looked delicious. A little tart, a little hoppy, this beer was really pleasant overall, and I must admit that this was the first time we'd come across an IPA moonlighting as pink lemonade. Great for summer, right? We thought so!
|Another coaster shot with Pleeps!|
Speaking of a refreshing summer beer, enter Cucumber Wit. Originally brewed for the Extreme Beer Festival in Boston, this blast of mouth-puckering joy features over 1,000 cucumbers added to the base beer, Weiss Wit. The cucumber flavor and aroma of this beer was quite authentic and prominent, with a pinch of lemon and coriander adding a hint of tartness. Overall, this was a really well-executed beer. Don't fear the cucumber!
By now I was in full-on DIPA mode, so I was scoping out Bellcracker, one of 2SP's year-round beers. Until now, we'd completely ignored the flagship beers on the front side of the beer menu. It was time to change that. This actually might have been my favorite beer of the bunch (which is saying a lot, because everything was solid). Bellcracker is a juicy West Coast style DIPA with loads of citrus and tropical fruit notes, a hint of pine, and a dry finish. I liked this so much that I grabbed a 4-pack of cans on the way out to take home.
We could have ended right there, but there were a few more on our "to-do" list, so we carried on. Brewslut opted for the Weiss Wit, which is a blend of two different styles: Berliner Weiss and Belgian Wit. Brewslut loves her some Berliner Weiss, so I knew she'd pick this one sooner or later. Similar to the Cucumber Wit minus the cucumber, this was tart, lemony, and refreshing with a hint of coriander.
I must have had a death wish, because I decided to end with a beer called Bronson. This sucker is a blend of two burly 2SP favorites: The Russian (an award-winning Russian Imperial Stout) and English Barleywine. Two of my favorite styles merged into a single beer. I couldn't help but think, "Hey, you got your stout in my barleywine." I'd had The Russian before, and it's definitely worthy of all its praise and accolades. Sweet and smooth with liquid caramel and chocolate bliss, this one went down all too easy despite its 10% ABV. And with that, it was time to move on.
|Pleeps was definitely feeling it after that lot!|
Up next was the nearby Aston Abbey, also situated in the suburban town of Aston. This place was new to us, and by the look of the logo and styles of beers listed on the web site, this place has a Belgian flair. The brewery and tasting room are located in a large industrial complex similar to a multitude of breweries we'd encountered many times in San Diego. The place has a typical garage feel, and sadly there was no stained glass as depicted on its brewery logo.
We snagged two seats at the bar among some older "regulars" (they were all drinking out of fancy stoneware mugs) and did our best to fit in. After perusing the menu, I settled on a pour of Saison de l'Abbey, a 5.5% ABV farmhouse style ale. I found it to be a pretty decent interpretation of the style overall. The flavor profile was quite grainy with pumpernickel notes, spice, and moderate bitterness for the style. It finished quite dry. Overall, it reminded me of the Super Saison I'd encountered the day before at Bar Hygge.
Brewslut was faring much better with her Berliner Weisse, a straight-up, no-frills German style sour wheat. Well OK, potentially some frills; they serve the beer with a choice of ligonberry, blueberry, or elderflower syrup. Brewslut asked about woodruff syrup, but the bartender wasn't familiar with it. So she opted for the "no frills" version, because that's the way she rolls: woodruff or bust!
Before we left, the bartender was nice to give us a splash of a brand new beer called King George, an Imperial English IPA. My only comment on this beer is: keep working on this one. 'Nuff said.
While both beers we tried showed promise, neither inspired us to delve into a second round, so we bid adieu and headed to another new-to-us brewery in nearby West Chester.
|Mural at Levante.|
|View from the bar at Levante.|
First up was a beer called Tickle Parts, which two nearby customers recommended immediately. That name sounds kind of dirty, or at least kinky. I just chuckled and thought of a Tickle-Me Elmo doll. This was one of about seven available New England IPAs on the board at Levante. Dry-hopped for enhanced aroma and minimal bitterness, this beer boasted a soft, billowy mouthfeel amid a tropical fruit-forward flavor hinting at pineapple and fruit juice. So far so good!
Meanwhile, we decided to grab some food at the on-site taco truck, and scarfed down a pair of chicken burritos filled with black beans, rice, queso and salsa. We definitely fulfilled our Mexican food quota on this weekend!
Since Tickle Parts hit the spot, I decided to forge on with a few others in the same wheelhouse. Next up was Cloudy and Cumbersome, Levante's flagship IPA. Hazy, soft and fruit-forward, this NE-style IPA is hopped with Mosaic and Idaho 7, boasting notes of passionfruit and orange pith. Flaked oats and wheat provide a silky smooth texture, allowing this to slide right down the ol' pipes. This is a fine IPA that would make an excellent fridge beer for anytime drinking. Nicely done!
|Pleeps was feeling a little cloudy and cumbersome by now.|
Moving on, I decided to end with Omega Juice, a bold NE-style IPA that was clearly hoppier (and pulpier) than its predecessors, with copious amounts of Citra and Centennial hops at the forefront for a big smack of grapefruit intertwined with mango and papaya notes. While bitterness was dialed back, the aroma was huge. According to the beer's description, one can expect "a honey-sweet malt body layered with fresh-pressed citrus, pulp included." That's pretty spot-on.
While Green Horizon was on tap, we opted to grab a 4-pack of pounder cans to go. While we didn't enjoy at the brewery, we cracked open a can once we got home, so I'll include it here. This beer is a limited DIPA released in celebration of Levante's anniversary. Loaded with hops from the the Northwest U.S. and South Pacific, tropical fruit and citrus notes take center stage while a sweet malt backbone supports the moderate hop bitterness. This one felt more West Coast in execution; curious, because I enjoyed the other three more than this.
We had plans to check out East Branch in Downingtown, but we decided to hit the trail and head home (although we made a quick detour to a record shop in West Chester about half an hour before they closed). We'll have plenty of opportunities in the near future to check this one off the list. For now, it will have to wait. Sorry Pleeps. Until then...