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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

...and the winner is?

Al's of Hampden held its first-ever homebrew challenge last night (Monday, April 25, 2011), and I was proud to have been selected as one of the judges for the event.  All in all, there were twenty-five entries in the competion.  The eight participating judges were given 3- to 4oz. samples in mini snifters and rated each beer on five key attributes: Aroma, Appearance, Taste, Mouthfeel and "Overall Balls," the latter a term used by Al to describe the potential palate-wrecking ability of each homebrew.  Each category was then weighted accordingly, with Taste being most important (20 points), followed by Aroma (12 points), Balls (10 points), Mouthfeel (5 points) and Appearance (3 points).  If my math is correct, a perfect score would yield 50 points.

Photo by Matt Ney
The entries ran the gamut of very good (there were a few that I wanted to finish, but I knew I had to pace myself) to undrinkable (one sip was all I needed).  Still, I commend all of the brewers who submitted entries for taking part in this contest.  Homebrewing is indeed an art, and, as the old addage goes, practice makes perfect.

Al provided the judges with two huge plates of cucumbers, plenty of drinking water and even fresh bread to cleanse our palates.  Afterwards, as a thank you for our efforts, the judges were treated a pair of cheesesteak pizza pies, two piles of wings and a chicken sub.

Photo by Matt Ney
The Top 3 brewers were as follows:
1.  Brad Moyer (BA Bmoyer0301) and Troy Gadberry (BA TroyG2352)
2.  Adam Stakem (BA stakem)
3.  Joel Bigler (BA Idesofmarch89)

Brad and Troy's winning beer (described as a Mango IPA brewed with 6lbs. of organic mangoes) will be used by Troegs Brewing Company as the basis for an upcoming Scratch beer release, which will eventually become the house Triple IPA at Al's of Hampden when the brewing equipment arrives later this summer.  So, exciting things are boiling up at Al's for the near future!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Beer Engine in Central PA!

I am happy to announce that the beer engine has gone live at O'Reilly's at the Central PA Hotel & Conference Center (previously the Four Points Sheraton) off Union Deposit Road in Harrisburg, PA.  Bar manager Chris D'Puia busted its cherry with... what else... Troegs Hopback Amber!  Nice to see O'Reilly's keeping it local for the inaugural cask beer offering.  I'm not sure what else is in store for the new beer engine, but all you H'burgers should definitely keep this place in mind (especially if you are looking for somewhere to go on, say, Thursday nights between 7 and 11pm... wink wink, nudge nudge).  They have a surprisingly good rotating tap list.  For example, the current draft selection (featuring twenty-odd taps) includes Saint Somewhere Saison Athene, Founders Double Trouble, Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura, Dark Horse Perkulator Dopplebock, Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, Breckenridge Regal Pilsner, Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabit and The Bruery Rugbrod.  WOW!  They also keep a decent stock of bottles if you can't find anything on tap to you liking (however difficult that may seem given their selection).

I also understand that Chris has several rare Ithaca selections waiting in the wings, including the awesome Ithaca 13, a hoppy wheat wine!  I had some of this beer over at Al's last week, and I can't wait until this goes on.  Keep you eye on O'Reilly's web site, as Chris always does a great job keeping the beer list current.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beer with a side of fish

While I'm not the avid angler by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy the occasional fishing trip to (I swear I'm not making this up) Crotch Lake in Canada with my family.  I also enjoy eating fish.  So when a beer friend of mine, Stakem, invited a group of us to his house in Tower City for a "Fish Fry and Beer Tasting," Brewslut and I made plans to attend.  The event was held on Saturday, April 2, the regional opening day of trout fishing in select PA counties.  Well, unfortunately the morning fishing excursion proved less than fruitful for Stakem and his angling cohorts, meaning they didn't return with much yield.  I think it's safe to say, "Hey fellas, stick to homebrewing!"

Where's the fish, Stakem?
In all seriousness, it was a well-attended event, with Team D(r)INK members Deuane, Carolyn, Dan, Kristen, Brewslut and myself all in attendance, as well as Matt and his wife and new baby, plus some of our NEPA beer buddies Stakem (obviously), Jason, Leon, Cory and a few others I'd never met before.  Even my friend Kramer (from up near my old stomping grounds) crashed the party when he found out that Dan was bringing a growler of the new Spring House Hickory Smoked Bacon Porter.  He, as usual, was the lone guy amongst a mob of BAs.

Some of the highlights of the evening were Cigar City Brandy Barrel Aged Marshal Zhukov Imperial Stout, Lost Abbey Red Poppy, and the growler of Lost Abbey Brandy Barrel Angel's Share that I picked up the previous weekend at Sabatini's).  Oh yeah, and a sixtel of New England Imperial Stout Trooper on TAP.  Wow!  Huge props to Stakem for throwing a great event, even though there was an obvious shortage of fish!

Me and Dan after an entire day of drinking... m'wah!
 Check out some beer reviews from the evening...

Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout - Brandy Barrel Aged
Lawson's Finest Liquids Maple Nipple

Monday, April 4, 2011

Birthday Weekend: Part III

We got a good night's sleep on Sunday and awoke to be treated to a fine pancake breakfast, courtesy of Bruce.  After showering and packing up, we said our goodbyes and left Lovelton, PA for good ol' Annville... but not before making a few stops along the way!  Bill from suggested we stop at Sabatini's on our way home, if time permitted.  Of course time permitted, since beer was involved!

Similar to one of my favorite beer spots, Al's of Hampden, Sabatini's is a pizza joint with an amazing beer selection including twelve well-picked taps and a pretty ridiculous bottle selection.  They even have an updated bottle list for your perusal, as they don't have everything that is available in their cooler upstairs.  The tap list was quite diverse and featured something for everyone, including Port Wipeout IPA, DFH My Antonia, and even Lost Abbey Brandy Barrel Angel's Share (of which I took home a growler for the insanely reasonable price of $30)!  I also picked up a few bombers to go, including Left Hand Wake Up Dead (named after the great Megadeth song) and some Terrapin Side Project beers. 

Our next stop was Krugel's Georgetown Deli, and I was flabbergasted to find that they just about tripled their floor space, it seemed!  We first visited Krugel's on one of our last outings to Bruce's based on the recommendation of a beer friend (thanks Jason aka BA clockworkorange!) and even back then I was impressed by their beer selection and friendly service.  Well, now they have expanded their floor space and even added draft beers, which you can enjoy by the pint or growler.  Their vast selection included just about everything you can find legally in PA, conveniently organized by beer style (ie. all of the IPAs are side-by-side on the racks).  Additionally, they have a nice selection for mixed six-packs, which is always a big plus in my book.

I was glad to find a 2-pack of Cigar City's "Either Or" black ale and quickly grabbed one from the shelves to take home.  While their prices are a bit higher than I found at Sabatini's, there is no denying their selection, which is truly fantastic... even if they were located outside NEPA! 

Well folks, that just about does it for the birthday weekend trek to NEPA.  Until next time... cheers, and keep drinking beer!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Birthday Weekend: Part II

Back when we first began visiting Bruce in Lovelton (or Mehoopany, as we typically tell people), I was surprised to find that there is an abundance of wineries nearby, all sprinkled throughout NEPA!  So, each time we travel to Bruce's, we make it a point to visit a few of the wineries.  On the agenda were two we hadn't visited before: Pickering Winery and Antler Ridge Winery.

OK, I know you are probably thinking, "Wait a minute... this is supposed to be a beer blog!"  Well, ever since I began enjoying barrel-aged beers, I have crossed over into the world of dry, oaky red wines.  This is starting to cut into my beer drinking time, but never fear... my drink of choice and true love is undeniably beer!

Our first stop was Pickering Winery, nestled in the heart of the endless mountains in Wysox, PA.  With a penchant for sweet and fruit wines, their list boasted everything from peach and blueberry to an apple spiced wine.  However, I opted for their dry offerings.  I really enjoyed their Pinot Grigio, which was a gateway wine for me into the realm of semi-sweet and dry wines.  I was glad to take home a bottle of this!

Pickering's flagship house wine, FranCat, named after their mascot cat!

Our second stop was Antler Ridge.  While they have three locations throughout the NEPA valley, we visited their main location in Rome.  And when in Rome (even if it is Rome, PA)... one must IMBIBE!

We sampled a variety of their offerings, and I opted for all of their dry varieties.  My favorites were their oak-aged Chardonay and a Chambourcin, and I took home a bottle of each. The Cabernet Franc was on the list, but owner and wine-maker Steve informed me that it wouldn't be ready for about two weeks.  I guess I looked somewhat disappointed, because he offered me a sample right from the barrel, and it was delicious.  I will definitely need to make another trip soon to procure some to bring home (or get Bruce to pick some up for me... wink wink nudge nudge). 

Unfortunately, we couldn't stay too long, because we had to head back to Bruce's for a quick bite to eat, and then hit the old dirt road again to make it to the "jam session" at 6pm.  Still, Antler Ridge left a good impression me (as all of the wineries have in this region), so I'm sure we will return in the not-so-distant future.

Later that evening, Bruce was able to borrow a drum set for me so we could perform with some fellow musicians at a local watering hole (damned if I could remember the name of the place or even the town for that matter... Lake Something or Other, I think)*.  Even though this was little more than a glorified open mic night jam, my duties behind the drum seat awarded me with free beer for the entire night... and that's a good thing, because I'm not sure I would have paid for any of it!  All joking aside, I threw back several Michelob Lager bottles, a Yuengling Lager and a few PBR cans.  I was actually thirsty for Lionshead... yes, LIONSHEAD... but alas they didn't have any, much to my dismay.

Editor's Note: Leave it to Brewslut to remember the name of the place... Beynon's Lake Sheridan Pub in Nicholson, PA!

That's Bruce in the middle and me on drums!
Anyway, we played three sets of music that ran the gamut of classic rock and country... everything from Bob Seger to Buck Owens.  While the drum kit was... well, let's just say that I've played on nicer kits, it was still a fun evening of music and I was glad to share the stage with some fine musicians.  Afterwards, I really wanted to swing by The Tombstone Inn in Lovelton and WOOT it up, but alas I was too tired and had turned into a pumpkin during the 40-minute ride back to Bruce's after the jam session.  Oh well... next time!