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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birthday Weekend: Part I

Brewslut and I decided to take a long weekend to celebrate my 37th birthday, which occurred on March 26th... a Saturday this year.  I had a gig at Bube's Brewery on Friday night, where I enjoyed some pre-game Victory and Stoudt's beers (thanks Corty and Dinse) as well as one of Bube's house beers, Crazy Eights DIPA (thanks Ted).  I must admit that I haven't been thrilled with Bube's recent output, but I was pleasantly surprised by this hoppy offering.  While it wasn't anything mind-blowing, it boasted a sharp blend of citrus and piney hops and a sweet malt balance, and went down pretty easy for an 8% ABV brew.  (Sorry, folks... no BA review for this one, as I enjoyed it while on stage.)

After the gig, I managed to get only a few hours of sleep Friday night, because on Saturday morning, Brewslut and I were heading up to NEPA for the Annual Beer Fest at Shadowbrook Inn & Resort in Tunkhannock.  Our friends Bruce and Carrie (our hosts for the weekend) joined us, with Carrie graciously offering to "DD" for the event.  Tickets to the event were only $20 each, which I thought was quite reasonable for a four-hour event.  While I was a bit disappointed with the amount of "good" beer at the event, it was still pretty well organized, with live musical entertainment, some food and merchandise vendors, and even a hot dog eating contest (kind of dangerous, I thought, for a beer festival).  Perhaps my favorite aspect of the festival was chatting with local celebrity Bill from My Beer Buzz, a fantastic NEPA-based beer blog that was actually one of the two sites that influenced me to take up beer blogging (the other being Carolyn's great Pub Crawlin').

Enjoying some Breaker Brewing Co. beers with Bill from

For most of the afternoon, Bill, Brewslut and I were parked beside Breaker Brewing Company's display, a relatively new brewery based out of Plains, PA.  The one aspect that stuck out to me were the names of Breaker's beers and how they all incorporate a coal theme.  This struck a chord with me immediately, due to the fact that I am a bona fide coal cracker from good ol' Shamokin, PA.  I first enjoyed a few of their beers during a visit to Elmer Sudds in Wilkes-Barre, PA, about a year ago, including the cleverly named Malty Maguire (its moniker is taken from the infamous Molly Maguires, a secret group of Irish-American miners situated in the anthracite coal region who participated in militant labor union activism).  Since then, they have been on my "beer"dar, even though their beers are only scattered throughout NEPA in small quantities.  Breaker was serving four draught selections at the festival: Anthracite Ale (their flagship pale ale), I Love PA (an IPA), Black Diamond (a black IPA) and Goldies Blonde Ale (a Blonde Ale).  My favorite of the lot was Black Diamond, which boasted a damn fine hoppy aroma for a black IPA.  Typically, I find that most black IPAs feature the roast and chocolate malts more prominently, but Black Diamond was brimming with hop goodness.  The flavor was equally as hoppy, with a solid backing of coffee and chocolate, as well as slightly smokey and woody notes.

Breaker Brewing's cool coal-themed tap handles and display.

Aside from Breaker's solid line-up I was pleased to see Victory's Headwater Pale Ale and Ithaca's Flower Power IPA and Cascazilla (bottles only).  Ithaca was also pouring Ground Break on draught, an American-style Saison, which I'd never had before.  Several Sam Adams and Magic Hat offerings were also available, albeit all in bottles.  Even local yokel Stegmaier was featured prominently with a few bottled selections, including an IPA, which I was surprised to find they even brewed.  However, I was a bit perplexed by the inclusion of such offerings as Twisted Tea and Moosehead Light Lime. 

After the festival, we headed over to Perkins for a much-needed meal.  Afterwards, we stopped by the Lovelton Hotel for a few drinks, including Lionshead from a can!  I had fun playing (and winning at) darts, even though I haven't thrown darts in many years.  With cheap drinks flowing and the jukebox pumping (my tunes), we finished our night at the hotel and headed back to Bruce's well after 1am.

Stay tuned for Parts II and III of my birthday weekend to come later. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Great Stop Between Selin's Grove and Bullfrog!

Relatively new to the Central PA / NEPA beer scene is River House Brewpub, situated smack dab in the middle of my two favorite brewpubs in PA (see title of this blog) in Milton, PA.  I had the chance to stop in and sample some of their beers while en route to Terry Hawbaker's farewell party at Bullfrog.  Now, fans of local craft beer may notice some familiar names of River House's flagship beers - Alpha Deuce IPA, Vanilla Latte Stout, etc.  This is because ex-Abbey Wright brewer Bart Reippel is at the brewing helm.  While it appears that they are still working on an image for the place (it still looks like a slightly upscale pizza joint), they definitely appear to have a handle on the beer... and that's the important thing, right?  I enjoyed a 10oz. pour of Alpha Deuce IPA, and absolutely loved the Vanilla Latte Stout to the point that is one of the best nitro-poured stouts I think I have ever tasted.  Simply delicious!  (Sorry folks, no pictures this time!)

On a different note, an interesting fact about River House is that apparently it is the first brewery in Northumberland County since F&S (Fuhrmann & Schmidt Brewing Co.) in my hometown of Shamokin, PA stopped making beer in 1975.  My brother actually remembers watching the brewery burn to the ground while sitting on our front porch!  So congratulations to River House for bringing in some much needed liquid nourishment to the citizens of Northumberland County for the first time since I was only a year old! 

Check out my reviews of two of River House's beers...
Vanilla Latte Stout
Alpha Deuce IPA

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Imminent Liquidation - The Aftermath

First off, I'd like to extend personal gratitude to Paul Pendyck and the staff of The General Sutter Inn and Bulls Head Public House in Lititz, PA for hosting the inaugural "Imminent Liquidation" bottle share event.  Also, a big "thank you" to my fellow Team D(r)INK members Brandi, Dan and Kristen, Dain and Jill, Heath and Kim, and Deuane and Carolyn for assisting me with the planning and execution of this event.  Finally, a shout-out to Dean for coming early and helping out!

OK, now that the formalities are out of the way, let's talk beer.  And let me tell you, there was PLENTY flowing on Saturday afternoon in little ol' Lititz, PA!  Brandi, Dean and I arrived at The General Sutter at around 10:30am on a misty March 5th morning to set up some things for the event.  Dan, Kristen, Dain and Jill met us there early to help out, but to my surprise, the folks at the General Sutter were about three steps ahead of us, having already set up the water and rinse stations, seating, greeting table, raffle tickets and gift cards.  Paul was also preparing a special firkin of Jolly Pumpkin Nightmare Before Vicious (a sour wheat IPA), which Al's of Hampden in Enola, PA graciously donated for the event.

Firkin of Jolly Pumpkin "Nightmare Before Vicious"
  After enjoying a few samples (and getting in my lone beer review of the afternoon), people started to arrive, bottles started popping, and beer began to flow.  At first, it was extremely difficult to actually enjoy a sample of beer, because as soon as I'd pour something, somebody would come over to me with another awesome bottle.  When attending an event like this, you really need to avoid getting caught up into the "quantity over quality" competition, because you will surely LOSE!  Indeed, it is extremely difficult to pace yourself when ten beers you've never had before are suddenly flowing before your very eyes!  Needless to say, I'm not the "noob" I was a few years ago, so I was able to be a bit more selective, thus reducing my chances of becoming too inebriated to really enjoy the event.  Some of my personal highlights of the day were: East End Gratitude '05 (Al from Al's of Hampden brought a vertical run of '05 through '09!); Ithaca 13; Captain Lawrence Smoke from the Oak aged in Rum Barrels; and Three Floyds Broo Doo (I actually brought this... never had it before!).  Check out some pictures of the spread below...

Beer aside, it was also a fantastic, incident-free social event that brought together lots of folks from all around Central PA.  I received tons of positive feedback from all attendees about the venue, staff and food, so I am confident that "Imminent Liquidation" will become an annual beer event and gathering.  If you missed out on the festivities, never fear... things look promising for the Second Annual Central PA Bottle Share Event!  Cheers!
Me, Dan, Paul and Deuane

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Imminent Liquidation is upon us!

On Saturday, March 5, The General Sutter Inn will host the inaugural "mother of all bottle share events" in the Central PA region.  Assembled for members of Beer Advocate and local craft beer enthusiasts, the event - dubbed "Imminent Liquidation" - allows participants to dust off rarities from their collective beer cellars and share them with fellow beer geeks.  Over the course of four hours (from 12 noon to 4pm), the event will allow participants to share and sample a variety of beers from potentially all over the world. 

While there is no admission per se, participants will be required to purchase a $10 gift card to The General Sutter Inn / Bulls Head Public House, which can be used either at the event for food or during a future visit.  Aside from the beer tastings, each participant will receive a free raffle ticket upon entry, and throughout the afternoon, several beer-related items donated from Beer Advocates and local businesses will be raffled off.  Some of the items include: a free overnight stay and breakfast for two at the Central Hotel and Conference Center in Harrisburg, PA (courtesy of the hotel); a 3L magnum of Stone Double Bastard (donated by Al's of Hampden) and a 2001 vintage 750mL Stoudt's Abbey Triple (donated by Mastracchio's Lounge).

If you plan to attend, please be sure to BRING YOUR OWN TASTING GLASS... preferably a small 4- or 5oz. tasting glass.

For more information, please visit The Bulls Head Public House or the official Beer Advocate event listing.  Hope to see you there!